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.


Pet Sitting Bad for Sleep Disorders

For all the bullshit about sleep “hygiene”–as if it’s an issue of cleanliness or moral weakness–it seems bloody obvious that sleeping in a different place every weekend with different animals, noises, beds, etc. is one of the MOST disruptive things you could do to your sleep. I’ve been pet sitting for 3 1/2 years, but not one health care provider pontificating at me about sleep has bothered to consider that. I need to be at home. Which means I need a different source of income. Which should be SSDI, but you can die waiting for that. I just managed to summon all the energy to arrange a trip to Florida; I’m in no position to fight the disability denials or start something like online editing for hire. I need someone to help me with that stuff, the energy of initial startup, but that would require them to be paid for their time. And a minimum wage sure as hell won’t do that, no matter how high or low. But situations like mine are invisible to those who choose a solution based on ideology, insist it’s perfect and ideal, and blind themselves to the human suffering it causes. I’m just collateral damage.

A Brief Relief?

I saw a doctor and got temporary psych med prescriptions. I’m waiting for them to be ready. That should bring some relief by tonight. This doctor wanted me to alter an existing appointment, I forget why, so I go back Friday to see the kind, understanding, pretty doctor (locum) again. My regular doc is back soon, so she’ll be gone. 

Today’s doc was naturopathic and suggested cranio-sacral therapy (?) for PTSD in Wallingford. I’ll look it up. She says they found a way to get Medicaid to cover it. She also wants to believe my toe numbness is due to high blood sugar, but I’m seeing diabetics online who have the same side effect from the med I take and say it goes away as soon as they switch meds, so I want to try an alternative. I’ll try to do the intake for longer term psychiatry tomorrow. 

A small present I got myself arrived, so hopefully I can get the broadcast TV channels well and watch Jeopardy regularly. 

I got an email blast from a temp agency I worked for years ago, seeking an executive assistant. They’re interviewing me Monday morning. I expect absolutely nothing out of this. They treated me pretty badly in 2012-13 after I did a great job for them in 2011. I mentioned the idea of unionizing temp workers, and they banned me from their Facebook page. It rubs me the wrong way that they’re even open on MLK Day, let alone having people interview then. 

I emailed a bunch of information to the community mental health ombudsman, and he claims interest in helping but won’t deal over email. I’ve emailed and left phone messages for Larry Gossett about a few things, but the man never answers. I’m ready to vote for someone who responds to constituents, rare as that is. 

So call this all cautiously relieved. Never count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

UPDATE: Two meds filled, one not ready until tomorrow.

Income-Based Transit Fares!

Please sign this petition against 2nd class transit. Here are my comments:

ORCA Lift is a great program, and I commend you for taking the leadership to implement a low-income fare in a major jurisdiction like King County. As a transit junkie and advocate, I know there are many good reasons for shifting fare collection away from paper and toward smart cards. One of these is the ability to create just about any fare category you want, and charge it to targeted populations. So I’m interested in working *with* ORCA rather than seeking a step backward (in the long term) toward paper fare media.

I appreciate the rationale for peak-hour and two-zone surcharges; they make sense from a transportation perspective. And I understand the reasons for having senior, disabled, and youth fares too–I use an RRFP myself. But it seems to me that these last three are indirect attempts to help people who really need it, which is mostly people with the least money. And a large share of peak-hour commuters paying both the distance and rush hour premiums are probably employees whose fares are subsidized by their employers anyway, so the surcharges raise more money but don’t have the transportation or location effects desired.

I increasingly believe that simplicity is of great and underappreciated importance, and income inequality nationally and locally has become so great that I think it’s now more important than the reasons for, and effects of, the rush hour and two-zone surcharges. So I propose that, short of violating any federal requirements, Metro end the surcharges, abolish the special senior, disabled, and youth fare categories, and charge fares entirely based on income. We have lots of good ways to verify income for people under 200% of the poverty line; we can use existing infrastructure to charge still lower fares for people below 100% and 50% of poverty. Above that, the County has a large role in health care, and the ACA offers premium subsidies to people up to 400% of poverty. I suggest that the Health Department, perhaps working with WA Healthplanfinder, use that information to verify incomes in the 200-400% poverty range and apply an appropriate income-based fare category. This would be simpler and fairer for everyone.


Never Mind Upzoning; Can’t We AT LEAST Have Backyard Cottages?!

IS1rpku0qpwn030000000000I walked by this house today. It’s quite the sight to behold. What if everyone could live like this? The median home in Montlake is $990,000, and interestingly the foreclosure rate is 12% which is much higher than citywide. A 20% down payment at this price is more than most people can afford as a purchase price. What really sticks in my craw about it is that–forget upzoning the part of Montlake near UW Station–the mayor already agreed to scrap his compromise committee’s recommendation to allow ADUs (accessory dwelling units) in single family neighborhoods. Those are modest, affordable, unintrusive, and can add revenue for the homeowner and diversity to the neighborhood. Zillow says this home’s Walkscore is just 59, but consider all these perks of the site:

*walk to light rail
*shorter walk to frequent bus (48, 271) and several other routes (43, 167, 277, 540, 541, 542, 556)
*walk to campus and UWMC
*adjacent to park
*adjacent to Ship Canal
*ample parking
*right by 520 interchange
*pretty damn private for a major city
*good bike infrastructure around
*walk to library branch
*good boating access
*every neighbor seems to support Bernie Sanders (must be among the 10 richest US neighborhoods to love Bernie)

Ignore the logic of upzoning this area and the wealth (privilege) that prevents it. Isn’t it kind of elitist or selfish to reserve this location for people who can afford well over $1 million on a home, instead of allowing some backyard cottages too? They’re not a silver bullet, but they would definitely help.

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.