MATT SHEA, OUR OWN PERSONAL BIG OL’ SACK OF CRAZY

Matt Shea, in case anyone cares, is currently representing the Spokane Valley’s 4th district in Olympia. THANK GOD he is up for reelection this term, and hopefully he will be replaced in said workspace at that time! Because, he is a freaking head case! Granted, the Valley has an uncomfortable propensity to vote overwhelmingly for anybody with an “R” or “GOP” after his name (and it is invariably a “he”). But, come on, Valleyites! You can do better! Write in your dog’s name!

Matt is a totally clean-cut white boy, pure as the driven. He likes to spend his vacation down on the ranch – Clive Bundy’s ranch, that is. Clive, in case you haven’t been buffeted by this news yet, is an unapologetic racist. In fact, I don’t think he even reflects on some of the stuff he says as kind of, out there. Like the “Black people were better off as slaves” remark. That seems a little loaded, but he felt totally fine about laying it out there, because he doesn’t get it. “Not getting it” isn’t stupid exactly, but it’s somewhere in the ballpark. It’s only when you don’t learn from the reception of your egregiously asinine comments that you prove yourself irredeemably stupid. Clive is not a learner.

Matt isn’t much of a learner either. In 2009 Larry Stickney and Gary Randall founded a new organization to try to repeal Washington’s recently passed domestic-partnership bill, according to records filed with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. They called the group “Protect Marriage Washington”. Three lawmakers joined them on the board:  one of whom  was Representative Matt Shea (R-4).

I guess “Protect Marriage Washington” wasn’t a winner, because the last time anybody posted on their official site was 2012. But the tone of the whole thing was decidedly homophobic, in that the gays had a “lobby” and were gonna inundate good God-fearing government representatives like Matt Shea.

Plus, you’d think that Matt would’ve soured on the whole marriage thing because of his knock-down, drag-out divorce with wife Lisa.  Lisa had to invoke not one, not two, but three restraining orders against pro-marriage dude Matt, plus a protection order. In Washington, restraining orders tell you to stop doing something that is bugging another person. Protection orders tell you to stop hurting another person, which, I suspect, includes saying threatening things to that person that scare the shit out of them and makes them think they’re gonna die.

So, Matt loves marriage so much (and hates gays even more), he wants other people to experience the delights and pleasures therein, such as fear, threats, and legal intervention. Long story short: Matt is a domestic abuser.

Ick.

Then there was the messy election cycle of 2012, where a cute little CPA name of Amy Biviano decided to run against him. Things deteriorated. In May of 2012, Shea’s campaign signs were vandalized with swastikas and profanity, and he saw it as a hate crime, kinda like lynching black people and sending Jews to concentration camps. (Just so you know, it doesn’t make the cut.) “This is clearly an attempt to threaten, harass and intimidate me and my family,” he wrote on his campaign site. Biviano later accused Shea of “intimidation” when he posted photographs on Facebook of himself smiling outside her house and refused to remove them.

So let’s see here. A bunch of wild cards run around the streets drawing graffiti on Matt’s signs. Okay, but I doubt Amy Biviano was on her knees in the weeds with a spray can full of black Rustoleum, and probably had nothing to do with the vandalization. Judging from the amazing things Republicans do and then blame other people for – like starting the impeach-Obama natter that promptly backfired on them big time, so they had to offload responsibility in a hurry – it would not be a stretch to think some of his own people did it, just to make the news cycle.

But the Facebook thing? Maximum creepiness. Controlling, smug, self-righteous, and completely unprofessional.

Double ick.

But then Matt IS creepy, controlling, and self-righteous. There was that gun thing, remember? In November of 2011, Shea “pulled a gun during a confrontation with another motorist…in what police reports describe as a road rage incident.” As this speeder guy Leroy approached the stop light at Main/Monroe, where the street widens to four lanes, a truck-drivin’ Matt Shea sped up and cut him off. Leroy honked his horn and cut in front of Matt, who then flipped him off. Leroy said that the truck then pulled behind him and he could see Matt pointing his finger at him. As Leroy described Matt pointing his finger, Matt simulated a gun with his index finger and thumb. Leroy told us that when he saw Matt pointing his finger at him, Leroy flipped Matt off.

Okay, stupid driving, guys flipping each other off. Happens every day. But then …

Leroy said Matt pulled into the lane beside him and reached behind the passenger seat of his truck. Leroy saw Matt pull what he believed to be a gun, out from behind the seat. Leroy described it as a “black, semi-automatic” handgun. Leroy said, “I freaked out”. . .said he was driving, “crazy”. . . When Leroy saw the gun, he accelerated and began swerving around cars to get away from Matt. Leroy said that he feared for his life and his only goal once he saw the gun, was to get as far away as possible. Leroy said that he broke the law in his attempts to get away because he was scared.

With little or no concern for the safety of other motorists, pedestrians, or kids playing in neighborhood, Republican State Representative Matt Shea chased Leroy with his illegal handgun up South Monroe to 29th Ave. The gun was loaded. One or both cars were traveling through the residential area in considerable excess of the speed limit.

That’s the important part. And doesn’t mention til later that Matt’s weapons permit was years out of date, and thus, invalid. Of course, Matt engaged in the usual slimy-politician game of claiming another witness that would repudiate all the worst stuff about him, but Matt never was able or willing to produce this mythical person. But the bottom line? MATT SHEA WAS BEING A TOTAL JERK. Just who I want making laws for me – a guy who doesn’t follow laws AT ALL.

Gosh, sometimes people get caught up in the heat of the moment, y’know. But sometimes there’s a pattern, too. Like: Shea has also been the focus of news articles related to angry outbursts at his legislative office and a report that he was disarmed by a commander while he served in Iraq due to anger management issues.

This is one pissed-off hombre. And now, the latest on Matt Shea: In a criminal investigation “done by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office last month, police records show a woman was dining at the Rancho Viejo in June when she overheard a group of men talking. She told investigators they were talking about “the Bundy Ranch, the Militia, snipers, special forces, churches [and] Oath Keepers.” She says they were talking about a “thermal night-vision monocular and were passing it around for everyone to look at.” The woman says she heard the names Stewart Rhodes and Ryan Payne and upon searching them on Google, she found Rhodes was the man doing most of the talking. Rhodes is the founder of the Oath Keepers. According to the report, the woman “didn’t hear all of the conversations, but said she heard enough that it concerned her and she thought maybe these guys were planning some kind of attack.” The woman took pictures of the group, which includes Matt Shea and Rhodes, and reported the incident to sheriff’s deputies. The sheriff’s sergeant who investigated wrote in his report that he was passing on the information and pictures to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Jeepers. They tell us all the time, “See something? Say something!” I salute this fine citizen for trying to look out for my best interests! Because I would’ve been totally creeped out too! Shades of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, which killed  168 people and injured more than 680 others, in case you forgot!

Matt Shea. In the news AGAIN. What the HELL does it take to convince people that he is the WORST kind of politician to crawl out from the scum and scurf of the slimy-politician’s muckhole?  It is DISGUSTING.

Quadruple ick with extra vanilla. ICK ICK ICK ICK ICK.

And the big question is: WHY OH WHY does anybody VOTE for this character? He’s a horror show. Just because he sports an “R” does not make him worthy of office.

WHY?

 

A FIELD GUIDE TO ASSHOLERY

There is a very specific definition for the word “asshole”, and lately, there have been so many excellent examples of said affliction, it is getting hard to keep up.

Now, there are people who ACT like assholes, but aren’t necessarily so. Generally, we are just ignorant, and can be trained out of our ignorance with some judicious help. Like, the kid I had working for me a long time ago – Jason was his name. He was a nice kid, a hard worker, up-front and honest, and he happened to be a pretty dark shade of African American. Then, one day, he and his buddy were doing something for me, and I happened to say something along the lines of “Hey, when you boys are done there, can you do this XYZ thing for me?” Jason gave me a loooong look, and said, “Maybe next time you could call us ‘young men’.” Yup, I stepped in it, felt kinda awkward, and corrected myself from that moment on. “Boy” was a loaded word: I used it inappropriately, got spanked, and fixed it.

But there are people who fail to see a problem with using the word “boy” in that particular context. These also happen to be the people who don’t see why they can’t splash the N-word all over their conversations because they heard a (black) rapper on TV say it like, a thousand times in one song. These people are assholes.  When you deliberately do something other people are uncomfortable with, just because you can, you are the textbook definition of an asshole.

Like Joe the Asshole-Plumber. When 6 kids get gunned down in Santa Barbara, he says THIS: “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” Gosh, is it really much of a stretch to comprehend how some people – like, maybe, the families and friends of the victims – might really not want to hear that before the murdered bodies of their loved ones are even cold? Ol’ Joe wanders far into distant left field, becoming not just a textbook asshole, but a grim and creepy asshole. And then there are those bug-like supporters that come out to echo those very grim and creepy sentiments that normal, non-asshole people will give a pass on saying at the particular moment, no matter how they feel about it.

Lots of people say liberals are “weak”. They don’t like the fact that a liberal President (not that there’s ever been one) would not be caught dead on an aircraft carrier parked off the coast of California in a flight suit with a sock stuffed in his pants beneath a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished”. Because that is an asshole thing to do. Liberals are good at something that assholes are terrible at: the art of the self-check. That’s when Ann Coulter or some equally unbalanced circus performer spouts whatever she’s spouting, she doesn’t miss a beat whether she’s exaggerating, lying by omission, flat lying, or just bullshitting. Anybody can point out her obvious and egregious errors and she just keeps on a-going, like an Energizer bunny. That’s why liberals seem slow and uncertain sometimes. When Ann Coulter says something like “Liberal Senator X is bad for puppies, bad for ducklings, and bad for America” – obviously a fact-free stream of consciousness blab that came straight out of Ann’s amygdala – Senator X takes time to regroup. What is she talking about? Did I do something to a puppy? Maybe I AM bad for puppies. What, over my long career, have I done to a puppy besides accidentally stepping on a tail once or twice? True, I don’t like dogs generally, but puppies? Oh! Wait a minute!  She’s full of crap – AGAIN. Of course, by that time Ann has bulldozed on to some other nonsensical claim or another, and Senator X is sadly behind the curve. But that’s because an asshole deliberately set him up.

This happens all the time. It happens to me, and it happens to people I know. But it is all part of NOT BEING AN ASSHOLE. Obama is not the POTUS I wanted, but at least he isn’t an asshole, like the infernal George Bush was, and Dick Cheney still is. He is thoughtful and reflective, and has found ways to keep us out of international bloodbaths. He got that dude out of Afghanistan. He sent Bill Clinton to get those chicks out of North Korea, which was, let me tell you, a real feat because Kim Jung-il was a major asshole. Obama stayed his hand in Syria, stayed his hand in Ukraine. All around, I think he’s been admirably slow with the trigger finger, and assholes HATE him for it. As William Tecumseh Sherman said – and if anyone knew bloodbaths, it was Sherman – “War is hell. It is only those who have neither fired a shot not heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation.” That pretty much ID’s draft-dodging hawk assholes like Cheney and Limbaugh right there.

So, let’s recap: what makes an asshole an asshole?

  • Unwilling or incapable of self-reflection and self-check
  • Unwilling or incapable of figuring out a way to do something differently
  • Self-involved to where the asshole thinks his or her point of view is the ONLY valid point of view (See N.R.A.)
  • Completely impervious to facts, and, by extension, reality
  • Though an asshole may not be especially pissed off as a given moment, they SEEM pissed off all the time, ready to pull a Spokane 4th District Republican State Representative Matt Shea stunt, yank out a handgun, and start waving it at people who may or may not know what he’s mad about THIS time.
  • Exaggerated sense of victimhood. The Men’s Rights Movement is chock full of these guys. If the hot blonde model isn’t going to come rock your 5’2″-stained T-shirt-beater 90’s Toyota-split-shift at the 7-11 at $300 a week world, it’s because SHE’S SUCH A BITCH! So now our asshole isn’t just pissed, he’s also a victim. What a terrible condition to be in – for all of us. And, speaking of victimization, this is a favorite ploy of conservative politicians to make people feel sorry for them. Awwww! Poor Chris Christie, people are so MEAN to him, using all those FACTS to make him look guilty! Waaaaah!
  • Not only ignorant, but proudly ignorant, happy to let the International Brotherhood of Stupid flag fly at the top of the pole.

What a bunch of whiny assholes.

 

 

 

 

GRASS ROOTS, MY BUTT

Let’s talk about “grass roots politics”. From my understanding, it is when the populace as as individuals decides which way they want politics to go, and shell out cash money to support their preferred causes. Supposedly, Obama was elected on a massive groundswell of little old ladies and long-haired students donating time and money to getting the guy elected.

Of course, nobody can CONDEMN the fact that citizens actually got somebody elected, because in our national mythos, that’s how it is supposed to work. Democracy, right? But I’ve been wondering for a long time now, if Obama got elected by all these citizens, then WHY OH WHY isn’t he doing more for them legislatively? Why do we have the student loan interest rate approaching 9%, an outrageously exorbitant surcharge on a person  getting an education? Why is he talking about “chained CPI”, which will certainly hurt those little old ladies who oftentimes survive on Social Security?

I found out why! There’s this guy, Lawrence Lessig, who is a Harvard professor. He’s considered “liberal”, if by “liberal” it means he is anti-corruption and anti-dark-money. (Of course, it’s “light money” now, since the Supremes argued about it and 5 out of 9 of them made the monumentally misguided decision that because huge amounts of money come from corporations, who are “people”, ya know, and as “people” , are entitled to “free speech via tons of money”, then “tons of money equals free speech”.)

Anyway Lessig did a little looking-into the whole edifice of political money. Guess what he found out? All but a small proportion of political campaign contributions are made by “the tiniest fraction of the one percent.”

Allow me to repeat that. All but a small proportion of political campaign contributions are made by “the tiniest fraction of the one percent.”

If you happen to be a member of the one percent, you pull down – on average – over a million dollars a month: $1,318,200, to be exact. Your household net worth – that is, your house and all your stuff – $16,439,400. That is SIXTEEN MILLION dollars and change. And your non-home wealth – your bank account, your investments, your Learjet and your fourth home in the Swiss Alps, for example – $15,171,600. Fifteen million bucks and then some.

So, one out of 100 people in America are living at these stratospheric heights, like Mitt Romney. I suppose they think it’s normal, and I bet they don’t ever consider themselves “fucking rich beyond all reasonable belief”. They probably think they are “not too bad off”, or maybe “comfortable”.

Meanwhile, down here with the hogs are a bunch of the rest of us. The bottom 4 out of 10 Americans have an annual income of just $17,300. Meanwhile, they are in massive debt – their household net worth is negative $10,000, and their assets are negative $14,800.

FOUR out of TEN? I kind of see where all this Romney “you people are takers” is coming from. Four out of ten Americans in poverty is an awful reality, and there is no way that even half of these people are there because of bad habits, violent proclivities, or poor decision-making. They were PUT THERE by the economic policies of the United States of America. And the economic policies of the United States are WRITTEN by the one percent. What do you think ALEC is there for? Rich people pen all the policies that will benefit their class, pay Congresspeople to introduce, endorse, and vote for them, and presto! A country where people think there’s democracy, but there actually isn’t! What a tricksy turn to bring about! Create poor people and then make everybody hate them too!

But of course it takes loads and loads of payola to do it. Payola that isn’t supporting families or helping small business-owners to innovate, but going into the pockets of extremely rich people to make them even richer, and able to buy even more Congresspeople, and write even more laws that will benefit specifically them.

America. So much promise and so corrupted. Sad, sad, sad.

 

REPUBLICANS… SIGH…

To be a Republican running for office these days, and not just a Republican-In-Name-Only, one must be:

A global warming denialist
Anti-environmentalist
Anti-healthcare
Anti-science
Anti-gun control
Anti-government
Anti-safety net
Anti-immigration
Xenophobic (you’re scared of strangers)
Homophobic (you hate gays)
Anti-choice (you can’t stand women making their own reproductive decisions)
Anti-division of church and state (you think organized religion would do a swell job of running the country, kind of like the Catholics did in Spain during the Inquisition)
Anti-education (Let’s privatize all of it, kind of like we’re doing with prisons! It works so great!)
and, yes, racist.

All or nothing to be a true member of the cult. It also helps to be a Palin/Bundy style blitherer. It helps even more to be an off-the-wall conspiracy believer – birthers, “the gay agenda”, “the liberal agenda”, “Obama wants to take your guns”, “FEMA is building prison camps”, and so on. And it’s also mandatory to think that for-profit corporations will do a better job at governing than actual non-profit government, which is an interesting concept, and absolutely devoid of supportive evidence.

Please, Republicans, take an honest look at yourselves and see
what’s happened to your party. It has truly become an American tragedy.

 

SOMETHING I NEVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD – UNTIL NOW

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Okay, I will be the first to admit there is a lot in the wide world that I do not understand. And even that statement is complicated because it is different from saying something like, “I don’t understand why a kazillion billion dollars is not enough for some people.” I totally get why they want a kazillion billion dollars – because for some people, all the money in the freaking world isn’t enough. What I DON’T get is why some people are built that way. And that’s a whole different level of non-understanding.

But here’s something I am having a comprehension problem with right at the moment – how come some people in our country are getting so rich when a bunch of others are staying poor? Why isn’t it the economy working for everybody, like, trickling down, or floating all boats, or whatever? I found an article that claims to simplify this question, but even it was too complicated for my tiny feeble brain to process. So I had to make it even MORE basic, just so I could get it. And here it is.

There’s this word: “stagpression”. It is a combo word of “stagnant” and “depression”. “Stagnant” is when nothing happens because the economy is just sort of sitting there. A “depression” is a sustained, long-term downturn in economic activity. So far, so good. We are definitely stagnant, and definitely in some kind of depression event, judging from a lot of people’s circumstances. Thus – “stagpression”. Got it.

How can this be happening, though? Housing is coming back, the job market is increasing slowly but steadily, corporate profits are at record highs, and the stock market is off the charts. So how come so many of us are still stuck in stagpression?

Well… THIS is why. There’s still a lot of unemployment, and stagnant wages haven’t shifted since Reagan was Prez. The middle class’s wealth is being methodically stripped away until the thinnest of shells remains. Massive student loan debt ties young people to servicing loans instead of buying houses, having families, and spending money on stuff, which puts those dollaroos back into circulation. All this leads to consumers with zero confidence in the future, at least as it seems likely to play out for them.

But on paper, the economy should be booming, right? Look at the profits! Look at the stock market!  And it IS booming … for really, really rich people. They are doing GREAT. But the vast majority of Americans who AREN’T fabulously wealthy have been economically laying around like logs in the woods. Nothing changes, except for inexorable slow decay. No movement, unless something bad happens, and then it’s straight into poverty.

Why are we stuck here?

Observe: a chart that measures”free cash flow.” According to Investopedia, “free cash flow” is “measure of financial performance calculated as operating cash flow minus capital expenditures. Free cash flow (FCF) represents the cash that a company is able to generate after laying out the money required to maintain or expand its asset base.” Okay, I think I get this definition – free cash flow is the money that a business has AFTER it pays out all its expenses to maintain the business – like wages, raw materials, operating costs, etc.

Chart 1

Wow, look at that peak! Cash flow is at an all time high, right? Lots of dough to reinvest, make the business better, hire more workers!

Eek. But here’s what is happening instead …

Chart 2

What the hell is “non-residential fixed investment” anyway?  In economic theory, non-residential fixed investment is “the amount purchased per unit time of goods which are not consumed but are to be used for future production (i.e. capital).” So,in other words, those high points in the chart represent money being plowed back into the economy. The low points are money stockpiled by businesses, or, the equivalent of being buried in a Folger’s can in some rich person’s yard. And don’t tell me, “Oh, it’s getting better!”, because even on an upward trend, it is STILL lower than it has ever been!

We have dropped taxes on businesses to alarming lows – in fact, many of the biggest, most wealthy businesses pay no taxes at all. There is less regulation (think “Freedom Industries”, responsible for the poisoned Charlottesville water debacle), and many tax funded price supports ( aka, subsidies). Unions have been shackled, so wages dropped. Technology developed by tax-supported government programs is distributed to businesses for free.  And STILL, business is investing less.

Jeepers! Big business is sure saving a lot of money these days! What the heck are they doing with it, anyway?

Glad you asked! Rather than invest in plants, equipment, or hiring, businesses are using most of their funds to repurchase their own stocks in order to boost management earnings (CEO bonuses!) and ward off hostile take-overs (which is when other, even bigger and richer companies try to grab enough stock to control the company they are taking over – excellent strategy to reduce competition!), pay dividends to stockholders (those wealthy stockholders again), and accumulate large cash and bond holdings. In other words, businesses are “swimming in money, and they haven’t shown the slightest inclination to use all this cash for investment or employment.”

We work, buy their products, and most of the lucre we give them goes into that Folger’s can, which they then bury.

This does not help the nation – at all. No matter how good your small-business plan is, if most of the nation’s capital is tied up in bonds, dividends, and CEO bonuses, and regular people are making the same wage as they did in 1980, there aren’t going to be a lot of customers for you. When money is cycled to the bottom, it circulates. When it cycles into the bank accounts of the rich, it just sits there.

Here’s what’s been tried …
1.Price and pay freezes (Let’s play the austerity game! You be Greece and I’ll be Spain!)
2.Government set and regulated prices. (Regulations: source of ENDLESS business bitching and moaning)
3.Lower tax rates.
4.Cash incentives from taxpayers to reinvest.
5.Pleas and entreaties from the Oval Office. (Yeah, like THAT ever works. The leaders of giant corporations are paid bales of money to disregard shame. In fact, many of them are SELECTED for their complete imperviousness to negative public opinion)
6.Higher marginal tax rates. (“Marginal tax rate” is the fancy way to say the more money you bring in, the higher your tax rate goes)

The only one that has worked is HIGHER TAX RATES. When a business invests in itself, it earns a lower tax rate. When it just grabs money from a lot of other places – like taxpayers, and bailouts and subsidies and slackening regulation – why bother with reinvesting in your company? You have the cake, and you can eat it too!

Look at the Fixed Investment chart. Rates of reinvestment climbed during each of these presidencies: Eisenhower, Kennedy-Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. Each time, Congress legislated higher marginal tax rates.

Remember Bush 2’s tax cuts? The ones that big business went into whining-overdrive about, and Republicans practically killed themselves to defend? The ones Obama held on to? Reinvestment sank like a rock, and is barely rising now.

Are you starting to get it? I am.

I guess corporations are a lot like people – for some, everything is still not enough. And who cares how many people have to scrabble, so long as the money keeps flowing to the top.

It’s the American Way!

SNAKES VS. CHRISTIANS

Dedicated Christians who put their lives in God’s hands. Deadly poisonous vipers with 200 million years of evolution behind them. Gee, put these two together and how could anything possibly go wrong?

Well, it did. Jamie Coots, age 42, died Feb. 15 of a snakebite that occurred during church services, or whatever it is snake-handling Christians call these get-togethers. He was also a TV star of his own show: “Snake Salvation”.

The snake, I believe, was a 2-1/2 foot-long timber rattler. That’s on the small side for a timber rattler. The average size is three to five feet, so this must have been an adolescent or young adult. These snakes range all over the Eastern part of the country, from Minnesota and New York State, all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. They generally eat small mammals – voles, mice, rats, gophers.

The outstanding characteristic of a timber rattler is its “relatively mild disposition”. Rattlers evolved to eat small things and scare big things away. That’s why they have rattles – to warn off creatures that might like to dine on a piece of tender snakemeat, or just clumsily step on the rattle’s owner and damage him or her. Vipers did not develop venom to hunt down and kill big creatures: they developed it to incapacitate small creatures. The timber rattler would much rather scare you than attack you, and then, when you are at a safe distance, get the hell away from you and into the shrubbery.

Very few creatures in nature attack people. Horses attack people, and dogs attack people, but these are not natural creatures: they have been totally refined and changed by human manipulation. There have been cases of lions, tigers, European wolves, pumas, etc. attacking people, but that’s because humans were considered prey. Humans will also blunder into jellyfish swarms or wasp nests,and perhaps be attacked defensively. But it’s nothing personal. No natural species hunts humans just for entertainment. In fact, there is only one animal species that actively hunts and kills humans for purposes besides food – and that would be other humans.

But back to the snakes. As a person who kept a variety of snakes for several years, I feel like I got to know my charges fairly well. Snakes are not killing machines, nor are they malevolent. They are natural creatures that have been well-adapted to the lifestyle of hunting and capturing prey: there are no herbivore snakes.

Snakes are deaf. In fact, they are not just deaf: they have absolutely no equipment that could be construed as “ears”. Instead, they rely on different means to sense their environments: heat, taste, smell, and vibration. So, trying to recognize the mind of a snake is impossible, if you insist on the standards that apply to a typical domestic animal. You speak to a dog, he wags his tail. Speak to a snake, and he acts like he didn’t hear you – because he didn’t.

Einstein pointed out that  ‘… if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ Or, in this case, us believing that other species are intellectually vacant. However, over last few decades, humans have discovered some surprising things about other species that tend to challenge our sense of specialness. Chickadees can speak other bird languages. Elephants recognize themselves in mirrors. Dolphins have personal sound name-tags.

And snakes are not stupid. Snakes recognize their keepers. They know how to indicate to the keeper that they are hungry, which is a form of communication. A snake can analyze a threat and act in accordance with that evaluation.

I used to take my snakes into the public schools to show kids. I had one big fat rat snake that really did not like kids grabbing at her. Did she bite? Did she flail? Did she threaten? None of the above. She would tolerate about three minutes of handling, and then make a colossal effort to issue a huge, stenchy poop onto the tabletop, whereupon the mortified keeper would scoop her up and stick her back into her box, which was exactly where she wanted to go. One could chalk this up to coincidence, but not after the fifteenth or twentieth time. She never pooped on people, and never went more than three minutes of kid-handling. I call that some pretty sophisticated analytic thinking, for a creature with a brain the size of a black-eyed pea.

I had another grizzled veteran, a corn snake, who I acquired full-grown, kept for about 15 years, and then passed along to another snake aficionado for his kids. This snake was gentle and kind-hearted, and the only person he ever bit – or even threatened to bite – was someone I had really developed an intense dislike for. Nice work, Corny! But Corny was an escape artist, and routinely would find a way out of his enclosure to hide in the house somewhere. Then, when he got hungry, he would find his way to the potato drawer in the kitchen and lay in there waiting to be discovered. Over and over and over this happened. He knew the drill – be discovered, returned to his cage, get fed, and a day or so later, vanish again, only to reappear among the potatoes a couple months later. This was not a coincidence – he learned what to do from his first accidental experience, and thereafter applied his learning with consistency.

Along these lines, people have noted that vipers generally, and rattlers in particular, have a tendency to “dry-bite”. That means a snake might bite someone, but choose to withhold its venom. Or, possibly, partially-dry-bite a person, and inject just a small portion of venom and not the full load. Constant experience in snake-handling services would doubtless familiarize a rattlesnake with what’s probably going to happen, and after a few run-throughs, they might feel relatively uncompelled to issue a bite, particularly a “wet” bite. I suppose if you were religious, you’d say something like “God protected me from that hideous reptile, because it bit me and I lived!” Well, give the snake some credit because it was the SNAKE that chose to let you live, not God.

Mr. Coots was not dealing with just some rubber animal that God was gonna guide, kind of like a scaly hand-puppet. He was dealing with a creature that had a different mentality, but not an absent mentality. Plus, it was a young snake, which are typically less experienced and less predictable, and tend to unleash their full venom loads because they are small and want to be absolutely sure of neutralizing the threat. In this case, the threat neutralized was Jamie Coots.

This little incident capsulizes the thing I detest most about Christianity. If you are going to sell the concept that people are supposed to  “fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground,” then you cannot grant any kind of independent validity to the natural world. Christians think they are the boss of everything, because God told them so, in that musty old book that about a thousand people wrote in at all different times, each throwing out the parts they didn’t like, and adding in new parts that they approved. What is it about the Bible that starts killing your brain cells the instant you open it? Sorry, Christians, you just aren’t that special. You can TELL yourself you are, but you aren’t, and any lightning storm, swollen river, tainted water, or poisonous snake would be happy to instruct you as to the actual measure of your own specialness..

Meanwhile, Nature continues to motor along at its stately rate, ignoring the concepts of god or gods or books or bibles or karma or sin or deservingness or undeservingness. Nature is its own entity, just as a snake is its own microcosmic entity of Nature. Mr. Coots learned that the hard way.

But don’t blame the snake.

 

 

 

THE STUFF REPUBLICANS SAY

Back in the early 1900’s there was a woman doctor named Sara Josephine Baker. She wrote a book called “Fighting for Life”, which was about public health, although public health in the absence of  modern medicine and antibiotics was kind of iffy at best, particularly with the waves of European immigrants – Irish, Italians, Poles – that were jamming themselves into inner-city New York. She was hired in 1902 by the NYC Department of Health, and in 1908, she was put in charge of the health Department’s new Bureau of Child Hygiene.

She promptly changed the mission from treatment to prevention. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, poor mothers love their children as much as any other mother, and these poor mothers were willing to try anything to save their infants from an early demise. In her first year, Dr. Baker sent nurses to visit new mothers within a day of delivery, encouraging breast-feeding, fresh air, and cleanliness, and also to discourage such practices as letting babies drink beer, for example.

The first summer after Dr. Baker instituted her new program, 1200 fewer children died in that district compared to the year before. Anti-choicers, pay special attention to that statistic – 1200. Fewer. Children. Died.

(The point here is, anti-choicers, that you must care for children after they are born in order to consider your job well done. Otherwise – all you accomplish are a bunch of super- late-term abortions.)

The home-visit program was expanded city-wide. In 1910 a network of “milk stations” was established. At these stations, nurses and doctors began offering regular baby exams and safe formula for older children and infants of women who could not breast-feed.

Result: in just three years, the infant death rate in NYC fell by 40%.

So, in the late 1910’s, Baker and others wrote a legislative bill to create a nationwide network of home visit programs, along with maternal and child health clinics modeled on the ragingly successful New York model.

Enter the Republicans. The American Medical Association was then backed by wealthy Repubs, who then, as now, hated spending money on social welfare. They claimed the program was tantamount to “Bolshevism”.

Ring a bell, anyone? Bolshevism, communism, socialism, really doesn’t matter what the words actually mean, so long as Republicans can find a way to spook people with them. Here’s what an A.M.A. doctor said to explain their position to a Congressional committee:

“We oppose this bill because, if you are going to save the lives of all these women and children, what inducement will there be for young men to study medicine?”

Senator Sheppard was the chairman of this committee. “Perhaps I didn’t understand you correctly,” he said. “You surely don’t mean that you want women and children to die unnecessarily or live in constant danger of sickness so there will be something for young doctors to do?”

“Why not?” said the fine young A.M.A. shill. “That’s the will of God, isn’t it?”

Oh, so Republican. Who cares who suffers, if we get what we want, while clothing it in the garb of Almighty God? And, as so often happened then, and happens now, Republican money and misdirection killed the bill.

Fast forward to Richard Nixon’s day, early 70’s. Poverty was getting worse. A group of Washington officials and their allies from the civil rights movement drafted the Comprehensive Child Care and Development Act, which would have created a nation-wide system of high-quality day-care, pre-school, and home-visit programs envisioned by Baker and allies 50 years back. It passed both houses of Congress with strong bipartisan support.

Guess what happened? Right-wing Republicans, using language highly similar to that which was used to crush Baker’s national proposal, pressured Nixon to veto it. Pat Buchanan, then a Nixon advisor, encouraged conservative journalists to write commentaries with headlines like “Child Development Act – To Sovietize Our Youth.”

Of course, Nixon vetoes it and this is why – straight from Wikipedia:

“Nixon’s veto and his accompanying rationale reveal several staple thought processes of Cold War politics in the United States. He said that the bill would implement a “communal approach to child-rearing,” tying it to broad-based fears of Communism. He also said it had “family-weakening implications.” The idea that America was distinguished by strong traditional families was often used (by Nixon and other American leaders) to contrast it with the USSR and to resist feminist demands for greater equality for women. … The bill (also) incited some political backlash from anti-welfare and anti-feminist activists who opposed the idea of women in the workforce and who were leery of allowing children to be partially raised outside of the home.

There you go. Nixon’s veto was shit-stained from the beginning, the Child Development Act smeared by Republicans who were then, as now, riding their anti-Communist, Joe McCarthy, keep-women-in-the-kitchen-barefoot-and-pregnant high horse. Result: now we have millions of American kids being raised outside the home by other street kids or by themselves, because their parents work two jobs each for minimum wages that still aren’t enough, because Republican fear-mongering consigned a great idea to the garbage can of history. Thanks, Republicans! We were just that far from a better nation for all!

REPUBLICANS AS A PARTY HAVE NEVER BEEN REASONABLE. THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COMPLETELY DEDICATED TO THE CAUSES OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL. They have been using the same rationale, with virtually the same language, to  deny American citizens the privilege of healthy children that the rich enjoy from being – rich. This crock of Republicans-have- family-values baloney has been spread around for over a hundred years now! Wise up, America!

And you want to know the irony of all this? There is ONE segment of American society that enjoys all the advantages and privileges of what Josephine Baker envisioned all those hoary decades ago.

THE MILITARY. That should warm the Repub cockles, for sure. Maybe it can explain why military kids score higher on tests in math and reading than public-school kids. Maybe it also explains the lower black/white achievement gap in military families.

Since the military child-care program was created in 1989, the government repeatedly denies requests to fund an in-depth evaluation. You know why? Because if Americans knew about it, they’d insist on these programs for THEIR kids too. And Republicans certainly don’t want THAT for the general run of Americans. It only occurs in the military because the Repubs SUPPORT the military, always, unquestioningly, and with lots and lots of money. If they only knew – or thought about it.

I am tired of having these freaking Teabaggers telling me what to fear all the time, like Bolshevism and Commies. I KNOW what I’m scared of – the place the Right wants to drag us down to. THAT’S scarier than anything a horror movie could throw at you.

Believe it.

 

 

 

THE APPALLING CATHY MCMORRIS TURNIPHEAD RODGERS

I guess it had to be this way. MY representative in the House is universally regarded as the loyal dog of the Republican Party. Similar to Lassie, she kind of hangs around the action looking pretty with all that flowing Collie hair, until Timmy falls into the well, or in this case, John Boehner. Then, she leaps into action! But also like Lassie, her “action” comprises a whole lot of aimless barking, which requires some skill to interpret – in other words, to pick out the dog-whistles from the generally pointless noise she generates.

I have previously pointed out that Cathy MM Rodgers is not bright. She may hang around the Republican talking heads, attempting to impart the message that yeah, she’s female, and yeah, here she is in the thick of the political stew. But notice she obediently keeps her trap shut – good little girls are seen but never heard (especially if they are stupid), and Cathy is very well-trained and predictable. She writes like a sixth-grader, judging from her prose printed in generally bottom-tier conservative websites. Her speaking skills are nil: clearly, she is a student of the rote memorization school, heavily augmented by the teleprompter. Her “town hall meetings” are memorable in two major ways – the first being that she doesn’t tell anybody about them unless they are diehard Repub warhorses. I’ve been on her mailing list for ages, and never do I hear peep-squat about her showing up in Spokane. This is because she prefers to populate these meetings with people who will agree with her and won’t ask questions that she is not equipped to answer: AKA, questions that aren’t on the Republican talking-points list.

However, since these ARE supposed to be public venues, people DO  show up to ask her about her complete screaming hypocrisy on any of dozens of points. The meetings then devolve into Cathy spouting the verbatim party line over and over, despite the fact that what she is repeating is irrelevant to the question posed, and the audience getting more and more frustrated with the fact she is pretty clearly ducking and diving. So then, since Cathy cannot afford to showcase any form of disagreement with conservative policy, she NEVER uses her town-hall meetings as a source of pride, publicity, or connection. What she does is film these little canned fireside speeches, where any kind of public input has been deftly dodged. THAT’S what she shows people on TV, and it is all completely staged horse manure.

Of course, it HAD to be her giving the rebuttal to Obama’s state-of-the-union speech. First of all, for whatever reasons I cannot fathom, people keep electing her. NOT people from Spokane, though! People from the outlying regions to the north and south, regions sprinkled with voters who think whatever she says about apple pie and our American way sounds pretty appealing, on a visceral level. Of course, the Republicans are screwing them, but a lot of them don’t understand that part. They just hear the litany of scary brown immigrants, the deficit (which, incidentally, has been reduced to the same level as it was in the late 50’s Eisenhower years – not that you could convince these people of it), and the horrible menace of some guy in Pittsburgh marrying his boyfriend. Aiee!

Many have commented in other venues about the McMorris rebuttal, and more completely and insightfully than I could. However, there are some points she made that bear some scrutiny.

1) Bette, the woman who thought Obama screwed her on her health care. You know, Bette, there was a reason your policy was cancelled. It was complete CRAP, and if you tried to collect on it after your cancer diagnosis and then had to go bankrupt because of your shitty health insurance, guess who picks up your bills? Right – WE DO. (Details regarding Bette’s cluelessness here.)

2) WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID FAMILY. SHUT UP ABOUT THEM. WHO CARES THAT YOU PICKED APPLES AS A KID. SHUT UP ABOUT THAT TOO. (More about how biography does not have ANYTHING to do with policy here.)

3) The stuff you said in your speech was in COMPLETE opposition to the facts in your own half of the state – where you always win majorities in elections. “Why?” is the great mystery, because YOU say:

“…a nation where we are not defined by our limits but by our potential, and a nation where a girl who worked at the McDonald’s drive-through to help pay for college can be with you from the United States Capitol.”
I am curious. When was the last time somebody had a PRAYER of “paying for college” from their McDonalds’s job they hold in high school? Yet you completely OPPOSE any efforts at raising the minimum wage.

“…people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world, people who come to America because here no challenge is too great and no dream too big. That’s the genius of America.”
Oh, Cathy. Upward mobility into better incomes is commoner in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland than in the US. Does that mean those countries are bigger “geniuses” than the US? Such you do imply. Not to mention the fact that people in those countries are far less pessimistic about their children’s futures than in the “genius” USA.

“If you would have told me as a little girl that I would one day put my hand on the Bible…”
CHRISTIAN DOG WHISTLE, DUH.

Here’s a long dead spot as she natters on about her biography…

Then: “Because a job is so much more than a paycheck: It gives us purpose, dignity and the foundation to build a future.”
This woman went into state government right out of college (Pensacola Christian College, a then-unaccredited Independent Baptist institution. I have never heard of it, and I bet you haven’t either.) She knows NOTHING about working for a living! The taxpayers have been footing her bills for over 20 years! Jeez! What malarkey!

Blah blah blah, more inane biography. Just SHUT UP about yourself already!

Then, here we go… “Republicans have plans…”, “Every day, we’re working…”, “We have plans…”, “We’re working …”, “We have solutions…”
Well? What are they? There’s NOTHING HERE but a bunch of empty promises without a shred of substance to support them. I suppose if when you say “working”, you mean “having vote after vote in useless pursuit of repealing Obamacare even though we knew it was never going to happen” … well … THAT’S not work. That’s just doing the same insane thing over and over and expecting different results.

Then the Bette anecdote, which turned out to be more false than a beefsteak label on a haunch of goat meat. Cathy, check your damned sources.

And then, “...but this law (Obamacare) is not working.”
Question: if the law is not working, and your “plans” are so much better, then why are SO MANY PEOPLE IN YOUR OWN COUNTY signing up on the exchange, or for expanded Medicare? One in twelve!

More biography, some more Christian dog-whistling, and FINALLY, the end. And a greater conglomeration of fakery and false assertion collected into one spot at one time is seldom to be encountered.

Don’t blame Washington State for Cathy McMorris Turniphead Rodgers. Blame all those people from Kansas who happen to live in Eastern Washington, who consistently listen to political promises despite repeated disappointment, who place more faith in “faith” than in evidence, and who insist, against all the rules of logic, to vote against their own self-interest to re-elect this hack over and over.

AN ECONOMIC SYSTEMS FIELD GUIDE

Okay, SO tired of people in the Spokaloo region evidencing confusion about what the hell economic system they happen to be living under. Not that any of these fine folk will change their minds – after all, it is America, and we have a right to be ignorant, a right to ignore the facts, and a right to insult, belittle, and threaten those who don’t agree with said facts. But nonetheless, worth a try.

COMMUNISM – That’s where the government owns everything and dispenses goods an services as they see fit.

SOCIALISM – That’s where the citizens as a group own everything. The government just divvies out goods and services according to the wishes of the citizens.

CAPITALISM – That’s where individuals own everything, and can do whatever they damned well please with it.

Each system has its drawbacks, of course.

COMMUNISM – Centrally directed, thus ponderous, slow to change, subject to takeover by self-centered political figures. See North Korea.

SOCIALISM – Citizens disagree with what comprises “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Arguments and paralysis may ensue. Subject to takeover by self-centered political figures.

CAPITALISM – All wealth becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. See USA and the 1%. Subject to takeover by self-centered business figures.

Sometimes the major political players of the various systems have observations to make, and sometimes these observations have much to say, in few words, about the system they are directed at. For example:

COMMUNISM –
“The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.” – Karl Marx
“Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.” – Frank Zappa
“Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak. In Communism, inequality comes from placing mediocrity on a level with excellence.” – Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

SOCIALISM –
“Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing.” – Vladimir Lenin
“Many people consider the things government does for them to be social progress but they regard the things government does for others as socialism.” – Earl Warren
“Socialism is… not only a way of life, but a certain scientific approach to social and economic problems.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

CAPITALISM –
“We are not in business for our health.” Attributed to J.P. Morgan
“What do I care about the law. Ain’t I got the power?”  – Cornelius Vanderbilt
“The public be damned!” Attributed to Cornelius Vanderbilt’s son, William.
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” Attributed to robber baron Jay Gould.
“In a Republican district I was a Republican. In a Democratic district, I was a Democrat. But I was always for (my business).” – Jay Gould
“God gave me my money.” Attributed to John D. Rockefeller
“What good is $10 million if you can’t have real money.” Jesse Livermore

Interesting. But I found this quote to be quite revealing:

“Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that today is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.” – William Howard Taft.

Taft, for your info, was the 27th President of the US, from 1909 to 1913. He was known as a progressive, and put some energy into busting the big-business trusts of the era. The phrase “enlightened selfishness…” Hm.

“Enlightened selfishness”, to my mind, means that, in every business, there comes a moment to examine the larger picture as opposed to immediate short-term profits.

Let’s say your business makes millions in the production of basketballs. It costs 20 bucks to produce one basketball. You charge 50 bucks for one basketball at Walmart. So that’s 30 bucks of pure profit. But you want more, so you start charging 75 bucks per ball, to up your profit margin. Meanwhile, because you are offshoring your tax burden, or taking advantage of the many loopholes that Congress has provided because of your “donations” to certain Congresspeople for their election, the money to support public basketball courts and parks-supported recreational leagues is cut, and cut again. Not to mention the fact that public workers have been laid off wholesale, so now no one to oversee these public venues, and they are closed.

Basketball sales are going to inevitably start slipping. An “enlightened” capitalist might see this coming, and take steps to avoid it. But not the short-term-profit, quarterly-reports capitalist, because he doesn’t care about the product, and doesn’t care about the customers – he cares about the money. His fondest dream may well be to sell his basketball business for billions, and thereby retire young to the life he is certain he is entitled to. So, the endgame is one really rich guy doing nothing and a giant basketball corporation that can produce a substandard product because they bought up all the competition. Purchase and enjoy your crappy, out-of-round, puncture-prone basketball, or screw you. So lots of people stop buying basketballs and the basketball business suffers. HOWEVER – said business has DIVERSIFIED, and bought up interests in sneakers and ketchup. To do this, they drained the basketball business of its assets, fired all its workers, and started buying their crappy basketballs from China to sell at inflated prices, because those are now the only choice. Now they can go through the same routine with the sneakers and the ketchup.

Somehow this  process reminds me of endlessly circling a drain. Not helpful to society as a whole, yet that’s where we keep winding up.

As an enlightened pragmatist, I am not willing to just write off the best ideas of communism and socialism just because the names are scary and my Tea Party boss told me to hate them. Certain products and services SHOULD be socialized – basic health care, energy, water, education,and food come to mind. Certain others do not need to be socialized – basketballs, luxury cars and private planes, for example. If everybody has what they need of the survival basics, then society is stable. When you start shorting people is when you get what is politely termed “unrest”. So far as societies go, as a pragmatist, I like stable.

China has figured out a way to combine its communist system of government with certain aspects of our capitalist system. Observe: the greatest economic success story of all time. Why can’t American capitalism do that too?

Oh. I remember.

Money.

 

 

MONEY MONEY MONEY

Here’s a concept that I bet no one ever thought of before – if you want to get rid of poverty, then give poor people some money! Actually, a lot of people HAVE thought of this already, including Milton Friedman. But, despite being as obvious as a black fly on a camel’s butt, most people in America have overlooked the perfect good sense of it.

What we have in America is the official 15 percent of people in poverty, with more than 46 million Americans living below the poverty line. And that’s the OFFICIAL rate, with the functional rate probably much higher, because if you’re poor in, say, New York City, you are WAY poorer than someone in Melodious Flats, Minnesota, because it costs a fortune to cover the basics of rent and food in New York. (For purposes of comparison, apartment rentals in NYC average about 750 square feet and cost $2700 per month.)

Okay, so we have lots of poor people. We also have rich people. Nowhere near as many, but collectively, they are pulling in a huge percentage of the wealth generated in America. It takes money to make money, hence the increasing concentration of wads of dough at the highest levels. Here’s a breakdown for you:

 Income, net worth, and financial worth in the U.S. by percentile,in 2010 dollars
Wealth OR
INCOMe class
Mean household income Mean HOUSEHOLD NET worth Mean household financial (non-home) wealth
Top 1 percent $1,318,200 $16,439,400 $15,171,600
Top 20 percent $226,200 $2,061,600 $1,719,800
60th-80th percentile $72,000 $216,900 $100,700
40th-60th percentile $41,700 $61,000 $12,200
Bottom 40 percent $17,300 -$10,600 -$14,800

And here’s another table from the same source:

Net worth and financial wealth distribution in the U.S. in 2010

So far, so good. Rich people have lots of money to spare. Poor people are strapped, we get it. So what’s the best way to fight poverty? Better sit down, Teabaggers, cuz you aren’t gonna like this:

GIVE POOR PEOPLE MONEY.

As  author Joseph Hanlon remarks, ‘Poverty is fundamentally about a lack of cash. It’s not about stupidity. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots.’

Here’s the basic premise: give every citizen in America some basic amount – say, $1000 a month. The exception is if you are under 18 or in jail. Otherwise, everybody, rich people and poor people. That $1000 is not going to benefit a rich person by any significant amount, but to a poor person, or even a middle-class person, it would be HUGE. There are other names for this program: “social security for all”, “guaranteed minimum income”, “basic minimum income”, whatever whatever. All the same concept, all the same benefits.

Next thing: jettison the army of bureaucrats administering the gobs of programs that allegedly are there to “help” poor people, but have the effect of infantilizing them. If you treat people like children, why wouldn’t they behave like children? You scrap the edifices of Medicaid (you would buy your own insurance off the market out of your allotment), welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers, etc. etc. etc, which are in many cases, meager from the get-go. Smaller government, right? Isn’t that what you WANT, ConservoRepubs? This should DELIGHT you guys!

Before you start scoffing, understand that this theory has actually been exercised in the real world. Enter “Mincome“, a Canadian experiment: “Beginning in 1974, Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals and Manitoba’s first elected New Democratic Party government gave money to every person and family in Dauphin (a small town in Manitoba) who fell below the poverty line. “Under the program…about 1,000 families received monthly cheques.”

All the data from this experiment was BURIED and never analyzed. However, after a 5-year battle to get the Canadian authorities to release the paper trail, this is what the initial analysis shows:
1) People still worked. The only two segments of Dauphin’s labor force that worked less as a result of Mincome were new mothers and students.
2)  Mincome had a significant effect on people’s well being. “In the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 per cent. Fewer people went to the hospital with work-related injuries and there were fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. There were also far fewer mental health visits.”

I must say, the second point is clear to anybody who thinks. Being poor is not all donuts and sitting around in your pajamas. It is STRESSFUL. You feel STUPID and WORTHLESS. You have to SCUFFLE, and sometimes that means lying, cheating, stealing, dealing drugs, or standing on the corner with a cardboard sign. The conservative choice of beating people with sticks to make them better people doesn’t seem to work. From what I can tell, the conservative goal is to shame and belittle, and force people to beg in order to survive. Some people won’t beg, but they WILL steal your stuff, get in fights, and go to the emergency room after shooting themselves in the feet with their own guns. And the ancillary result is “welfare psychology”, where these behaviors become generational.

Furthermore, there were four identical Mincome experiments in the US during the seventies, and the results were positive. “Several tens of millions were made available to test the effects of a basic income among 10,000 families in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, Seattle and Denver. The pilots were the first large-scale social experiments differentiating between various test and control groups. The researchers were trying to find the answers to three questions. 1: Does a basic income make people work significantly less? 2: If so, will it make the program unaffordable? 3: And would it consequently become politically unattainable?”

And guess what? Same outcomes as the Mincome study: people did NOT work less, nor did it make the programs unaffordable. ‘The declines in hours of paid work were compensated in part by other useful activities, such as search for better jobs or work in the home,’ an evaluative report of a Seattle project concluded.  A mother who had never finished high school got a degree in psychology and went on to a career in research. Another woman took acting classes, while her husband started composing. ‘We’re now self-sufficient, income-earning artists’, they told the researchers. School results improved in all experiments: grades went up and dropout rates went down. Nutrition and health data were also positively affected – for example, the birth weight of newborn babies increased.

But the politics became a problem – the results of the Seattle experiment SEEMED to show that the divorce rate went up precipitously in the studies, and “gave rise to the fear that a basic income would make women much too independent”.

OH PUH-LEEZE. This supposed rise in divorces was the result of a statistical error, it was found. When the error was corrected – presto, no rise in the divorce rate AT ALL. But it KILLED the program, which bounced back and forth between the Senate and the House until it finally died.

If you give people the opportunity to LEARN how to handle money by regularly HAVING money – they will figure it out. They can make an effort and get things to work, or not – but it is their CHOICE. And there won’t be any more social programs to bail out the asses of the people who DON’T want to learn how to cope with their own financial life decisions. And once the expensive social programs for the poor have been shown the door, the nation can focus all that monetary firepower on mental health, education and jobs, all of which have demonstrated track records in reducing poverty. Because prison is the default mental-health treatment in America, and poverty significantly contributes to Americans becoming mentally unhinged, the expensive proclivity of throwing people in jail for whatever behavior would be much reduced. At the very least, it would reduce the likelihood of incidents like this: Texas woman denied food stamps shoots children, kills self.

So, how do we pay for a basic minimum income for all? Well, a lot of it would come from the scrapping of the ridiculously complex programs presently in place, which make half-hearted and ineffective stabs at rehabilitating the poorest among us. Furthermore, because these programs are so complicated and overlapping, there’s profit to be made by clever poor people who figure out how to game the system. This pisses off conservatives, right? Another problem solved by the Guaranteed Minimum Income: the profit potential to the cunning is entirely erased.

And a lot of the financing would come from taxing extremely rich people. If you disagree with this, maybe you need to go back to the top to check out the tables provided for your edification. And if you STILL have a problem – well, here’s a video for you: perhaps it will make an impact on your resistance.

People rail about politics all the time. They’re mad because the people THEY placed into Congress “have no common sense”. Well, everything above is common sense personified. WHY DON’T WE GO THERE?