Unfocused Rage Is Not a Strategy

It’s hard to be hopeful when the left seems to think we can pass gun laws by wishing and hoping, and that anger, nastiness, and personal attacks can defeat Trump.

After Newtown, I looked around at the facts, concluded new gun laws weren’t going to happen, and said so. I was excoriated for it (anyone who votes against new gun laws will lose their seats in 2014!), but I was right (they GAINED seats). The votes weren’t there. Too many members of Congress had A or B ratings from the NRA. We’re not a democracy where public will calls the shots; we’re an oligarchy where the rich and powerful few do. The same is happening now. A couple states are strengthening gun laws, but at least as many are moving them in the opposite direction. Congress isn’t about to do anything.

The left is excited about the 2018 elections. The right was excited about the 2010 and 2014 elections. Republicans made major gains those years but still couldn’t defeat Obama. Democrats are poised to make major gains this fall, but again, that says little about their ability to win a presidential election. Run another campaign like 2016, especially with another piss-poor candidate, and you will get the same result. You can’t apply the same actions and expect a different reaction. The left’s response to Trump now reminds me a lot of the right’s response to Paul Wellstone when he was in office. They were apoplectic and tried throwing everything they could at him in the desperate, random, undisciplined hope that something would stick. They never bothered to figure out what he was doing or how. So they never defeated him, as liberal as he was. If you pre-emptively declare all Trump voters evil and unworthy of campaigning to or persuading, you can’t get enough votes to win an election. And you don’t have to win all of them–just enough to get 270 Electoral Votes. No Nazis required; just win back Obama’s voters. If you’re too proud to care about those Obama-Trump voters, you’ll have to endure 8 years of Trump. And you’ll share responsibility for making it happen. Calling them names, applying double standards you don’t hold yourself or your allies to, demonstrating ever-increasing levels of baseless hyperbole–and abandoning your most fundamental values of logic, fairness, and civility in the process–will only alienate more people further and cost you the moral high ground. Fight on Trump’s terms, and Trump will win. He will always be able to out-divide and out-hate us. It’s a fight we can’t win, and a basis so disgusting and antithetical to our oldest and most important principles that such a victory wouldn’t be worth it.

That doesn’t mean excusing, ignoring, or pandering to hate. I grew up Jewish. Like any Jewish American born in the 70s, I had Holocaust teachings beaten into me. And I’ve always objected to *and studied* the scapegoating of minorities and the forces that lead to genocide. (I truly cannot implore you strongly enough to read Richard J. Evans’ history of Nazi Germany) From the KKK in this country around the Civil War and civil rights movement, to Hispanics, Catholics, to LGBTQ people, to Nazi Germany, to Rwanda, to Sudan; one truth emerges consistently. The fear and hatred of minorities usually comes from roots in economic suffering and desperation. That’s not to say it’s okay; it’s a horrific unjust failure of morality, conscience, and humanity. But the best predictor of how humans will act, or explainer of why they act as they do now, is usually history. America has never been good at teaching, learning, remembering, or applying the lessons of its own past, and we’ve gotten worse with the constant focus on whatever is happening RIGHT NOW to the exclusion of thoughtful analysis and discussion. We have even less memory of the past or sense of history than we used to before push notifications and BREAKING NEWS on every screen. I even had an attention span before 9/11. While we must do all we can to ensure equality and protect vulnerable groups of people, we also must finally address and ameliorate the underlying economic problems misleading people down the path of scapegoating and hate.

Why do you think Bernie Sanders did so well with people who later voted for Trump? Or that, once Hillary clinched the nomination, people chose a fascist demagogue over an establishment corporatist? Progressive populism works, and people choose it if given the chance. As Wellstone did. As long as no one really speaks to their financial pain, as neither corporate party has in my lifetime, many get swept into the hate. It’s easier to ignore the real problems in your own economy and blame “those lazy foreigners” (who are somehow taking your jobs with their laziness), just as it’s easier to for Democrats to ignore any possible fault or responsibility of Obama’s and lay all blame on Republicans, however dishonest or counterproductive. It feels good temporarily, but it doesn’t solve the problem. And on some level, I think people realize that. Offer to do something about wages that have stagnated for 40 years, the obscene debt you have to take on to get a college degree, the appalling lack of health care for tens of millions of Americans, the grim future we face as we can’t afford to retire, the communities betrayed by both advancing technology (closing coal mines) AND poor trade policies (Rustbelt manufacturing), the third world destitution we gratuitously condemn huge swaths of the country to, the creeping dominance of the working poor and idle rich–and you will earn those people’s support. AND YOU WILL WIN. Blaming the Russians, hoping for impeachment, or throwing your most creative insult-laced personal attacks at Trump supporters won’t get us anywhere. Progressive economic populism will.

We haven’t rejected an incumbent president since George H. W. Bush in 1992. If we stay on our current path, 2020 is going to look more like 2004 than 1992. Unfocused rage is not a strategy. We’re going to have to strip away our preconceptions, listen to people we don’t agree with, and do SOMETHING to address their legitimate concerns.


Make English Great Again!

Language is supposed to be written with capitalization and punctuation–at least to be correct–which ultimately is so it can be read and understood. It honestly is harder for me to comprehend the more common poorly written language, like this:

this is the typical writing we see not only on social media but on blogs and even news sites or sites that purport to be news. it is basically English with no capitalization and very infrequent punctuation and it is harder to decipher and follow it just doesn’t flow the way language should when you read it there also tend to be spelling syntax and grammar errors which I wont try to imitate HOWEVER what it does retain is the ancient and very helpful convention of inserting spaces between words we can thank the ancient greeks for that thanks ancient greeks but in all seriousness as long as we are giving up quality and clarity and millennia of learned lessons incorporated into the conventions of language in exchange for speed and volume what is to stop us from regressing even further and shedding these useful ancient greek spaces between words.


Trump Immigration Policy Hinders PTSD Treatment

On a separate track from the medication issue (unresolved), I met with a new therapist who does EMDR, which is one treatment for PTSD. She seemed good and thought I’m a good candidate for it based on initial screening. She did her master’s at Case Western, so we’ve both lived in Ohio. The catch is that she’s foreign, and the government rejected her visa application, so she has to leave the country. I don’t think many capable health providers with advanced degrees were kicked out of the country under previous presidents. I apologized. Treating low-income trauma patients isn’t exactly a job Americans are clamoring to do. In fact, this would be my first treatment for PTSD after more than 3 years seeking it in at least 4 different clinics. 
She’s the only clinician at Rainier Beach who does EMDR, so she’s referring me to Renton or Des Moines to see another one. I think those are accessible from the 106 and A Line, though Des Moines is probably a long trip for weekly appointments. I’ve never really been there. I’ll see this therapist again after I get back to follow up on the referral. 
I also got my passport application printed and photo taken, but they stop processing them at 4:00. So I’ll come back tomorrow or Monday to finish that, then I can take my Scandinavia trip. Trying to keep the productive momentum going. New couch coming tomorrow before a night watching Bella and Milo.

Food Stamp Fraud? Yeah, Right!

I’m doing paperwork to get food stamps back. There’s a 1 page form I had to partially fill out then forward to the temp agency so they can sign that I haven’t worked for them since February. Monthly bank statements January-April 2016 for both my credit union (8 pages total) and my online bank (12 pages total). DSHS wants my self-employment income separated by month for the last year, so I’ll have to gather and print lots of PayPal records. Or perhaps my 17-page tax return for 2015. Then they want a copy of my new lease showing my rent (which I just found out today isn’t done). Each document has to have your Social Security number or Client ID number.
You can’t just email them PDFs–they don’t use email yet. You can fax them, but the free online fax services only let you send 1 page per day each, then you start paying. So I end up using slow, tree-killing snail mail.
All this to get a paltry benefit that doesn’t cover a month’s groceries, with a card that stigmatizes you as a food stamp recipient, heavily restricts what you can buy and where, isn’t getting a security chip, and doesn’t work in mobile/virtual wallets.
AND THEY’RE WORRIED ABOUT FRAUD??? It’s long past time this bureaucratic, complicated, uncoordinated, slow, inefficient, ineffective, classist, demeaning rigamarole got replaced by a simple guaranteed basic income for all.

Impossible Decision Point

The Social Security Administration limits disability applicants to earning $1130/month for 2016.
If you make any more than that in a calendar month, you’re automatically disqualified from getting disability. 
Well, by working at Taco Time doing boring mindless work for a lower nominal (let alone real) wage than I earned in 1999 before I had any professional work experience, and which I had to commute 75 minutes each way to get to and from, it turns out that my February earnings were…$1131.27. Of course, I’ve since lost that job for being sick too often (embarrassing, stigmatized health issues like PTSD with no coverage to speak of from Medicaid), but that extra $1.27 does me in. After 20 months of bureaucratic nightmare trying to get disability, including a trumped up arrest dismissed by the prosecutor (only arrest in my life), and their loss of my birth certificate for 7 months and claim it was my fault, my application is now automatically disqualified. This is the great vaunted social safely net in America. I can’t hold a job but can’t get disability. I can’t have a stable home, pet, girlfriend, any of the physical or mental health treatment I desperately need–no matter how hard I fight for it or how many times I seek it out. Or how clearly and certainly I know exactly what I need–the poorer and less powerful you are, the less anyone bothers listening to you. Including friends and family, if you have those. I have nothing but inadequate food stamps, which will be taken away soon–because under their standards, I’m an able body adult w/o kids. (Since I’m not approved for disability) 
The only thing we do for people in need in the US is blame them, judge them, ignore them, castigate and excoriate them, and pretend everything bad in their lives is their own fault. Never mind systematic classism. Because we can’t possibly admit that the US is not a perfect meritocracy which deliberately and systematically exploits the poor to feather the nests of the Super-rich just a little more–in fact, no advanced nation is as anti-meritocratic or anti-utilitarian as the US. We make sure to maximize the number of people suffering and the depths of their suffering–see Where to Invade Next. It doesn’t have to be like this at all–we choose it consciously. But pretty lies always trump ugly truths in our land of denial and magical thinking. It’s far easier to blame victims and cast them as immoral, lazy, weak, undeserving, etc. than to acknowledge or fix problems. 

Is it worth trying yet a third time (with another 18-24 month wait) to apply for disability anew with all its impossible endless bureaucracy and total lack of guarantee you’ll get a fair hearing, let alone benefits? Is there any job I could possibly get and keep–one with a reasonable commute that uses my “huge Aspie brain” and lets me advance social justice in some way, paying well enough not to need help from poverty programs, but rather let me enter the middle class for the first time in my life at 39? Am I truly better off killing myself, since that’s clearly what every institution of any power or significance in the US really wants of us? Or is there any plausible way for me to emigrate to the vastly more advanced, fair, humane, egalitarian, happy, functional, democratic countries of northern Europe where people are treated with dignity and opportunity? My inclination now is suicide, unless emigration gets simpler, faster, and more feasible in short order.

A Look at Inequality from a Temp Job in Payroll

I had a temp job today that was kind of cool. It paid more than the mailings they’ve sent me on before, though it’s in Renton with an hour commute (would be 90 minutes on 2-3 buses from the building SHA wants to put me in). It was at a payroll company whose office suggests they’re new or expanding. The other temp and I had to enter a bunch of payroll data for about 100 employees at a yacht club. I was slower and clumsier than usual with my cast, but numbers and data entry are up my alley, as temping goes anyway. Memorizing random numbers is easy for me. My coworker was bored to death by it, and I think made more errors than I did. It’s not as meaningful as social justice work, or as exciting as a lot of other jobs, but I found it at least tolerable–if I kept doing the same thing and got in a groove, it’s something I could do while listening to podcasts or audiobooks. I was tempted to offer that I’d be happy to return if they wanted. There’s a lot of making sure numbers on the page match what you enter(ed) in the computer, then some less fun reconciliation when they run the aggregate report, and you have to hunt down various errors. (In one case, we were a penny off on someone’s Medicare deduction, but we didn’t know whose) They had 3 rounds of paychecks to enter for this client, and they didn’t seem to know how far we’d get. We finished 2, the second one much more quickly.

Of course I’d never heard of the client or any of the employees, but it was telling, validating, and disconcerting to see up close what we already know and experience of the larger economy. The pay, benefits, and I think job security were very pyramidal–lots and lots of people at the bottom, very few at the top far above them. This place must not be in Seattle or SeaTac based on many of the wages. They had a bunch of sailing instructors earning what struck me as a surprisingly or dangerously low wage considering the importance and safety issues involved in sailing (I assume–I can’t even swim). These people earn above the poverty line but definitely not enough to live on in Greater Seattle. Lots of $10-15 an hour. A few servers/bartenders make low wages and rely more on tips, but they still don’t come out much better. A few people make about $15-22 an hour, which is better but still too little, and too few workers make that. Then there is the small handful of more professional workers on salary. They might start around $35,000, but what jumps out at me is the very few people who get almost $100,000. Or the guy (you can’t be surprised it’s a man) who makes ~$125,000. I don’t know their family or financial situations of course, but that kind of money strikes me as having it made. They can afford all kinds of things and not have to worry about money. They can basically afford the best of everything this country has to buy. But I have a hard time understanding how a couple people deserve 6 figures while many more of their workers are barely above minimum wage. It shows up in the deductions too, which must hint at their qualities of life. The low-wage people mostly just have workers’ comp at about $1/paycheck, and federal income and payroll tax. As you get into the white collar people and highest earners, they have those plus 401(k)s–Roth and conventional–health insurance premiums, medical savings accounts, bonuses, 401(k) loans, probably more vacation time… Not only is their pay better, but their benefits are much better, and with the ability to save or invest for different purposes or lengths of time (in tax-advantaged instruments!), they’ll also remain secure in the future. It’s as economically myopic as it is morally wrong and cruel. Part of me is tempted to redistribute numbers from higher to lower paid workers. Of course, your job in payroll is just the opposite; total accuracy. The one partial comfort is the progressive income tax, where poorer employees have little withheld, and I feel safe assuming that when someone has a lot of withholding, it’s because they can afford it and deserve to pay that. But ultimately, we need Bernie Sanders. At this point, as fucked as we are, he is this country’s last best hope.

11 Year Old Girl Raped, Disbelieved, Arrested


This girl was a crack baby abused as an infant. She was raped twice when she was 11, but the police never investigated either because her story–confused by trauma and mental illness–had inconsistencies common to trauma survivors. Instead, they arrested her and had her convicted for filing a false report. More than a decade later, justice has not been served. There should be no surprise whatsoever that rage at the police in this country has been brewing for a long time and is finally rising to the surface.