Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thus Ends 2014

It wasn't the best of times, although there were good moments to enjoy.

2014 was more CRAZY than anything, and tragic with the scale of death and war both here and abroad.

The coming year doesn't hold much promise.  With the Republicans in full control of Congress, there's the dread of them delving further into the wingnut hate against Obama, with all the risks (for them and for our nation) that entails.  We haven't resolved our issue of out-of-control police, and while the fighting has officially ended in Afghanistan it really hasn't, while Syria remains in Year Four (FIVE?) of its civil war with ISIL leveling carnage in there and in Iraq, with Libya's civil war stewing and due to get worse.  There's still the Ukraine/Russia standoff, the Greek debt crisis (alongside the ongoing EU recession), and the ebola crisis in West Africa.

One can hope that sanity for 2015 is on its way, that it can't stay this crazy forever.  But the social and political and natural forces are out of control right now.  Just hang on tight to the roller coaster safety bar and pray for a safe ride.

On a personal note: I am invested in getting a novel written soon soon very soon, to keep up with all the epublishing I've been doing lately.  For this political blog, I am looking at doing something I really shouldn't do: diving into the 2016 primary madness and using Professor James David Barber's Presidential Character traits to map out the major candidates to determine which ones are Active-Positive (yay) and which ones are Active-Negative (ack) and which ones are Passive-Positive (meh).  Passive-Negatives are so rare it's unlikely.  Anyhoo, that's my projects for next year.

See you on the other side of the calendar.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Anniversary: The Christmas Truce

This is, as noted before, the 100-year anniversary of the first year of World War I.

History is made of competing forces.  Between the Great Man and the Social Movements lie all the conflicts of both.  By 1914, these forces had congealed on the European continent through a combination of set nations - France, Germany, Russia, the UK, Italy, Austria-Hungarian Empire, and Ottoman Empire - and a burgeoning psycho-social ideology of Nationalism fighting over pride and global power.

It had been 100 years in the making by then.  In the aftermath of the Napoleonic empire and swath of republicanism, Europe suffered through a period of nation-building border wars - the Greek independence war, Italian reunification, Prussian unification of a greater Germany - that concluded with the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71.

What had been viewed at the time as a likely win for France - larger armies, better organized - turned into a full rout in Prussia's favor in a war that barely lasted a year.  France was abjectly humiliated as a result (this is where the meme of France being terrible in wars started), Germany rose up to disrupt the standard balance of power - once it was England vs. France, no longer - in Western Europe, and the Victorian Era switched from being a period of scientific advancements to one big mechanized military arms race.

The problem was that the Victorian (and later Edwardian) Era became this period of an idealized, improved social condition.  Things like personal honor, stiff upper lip, gentlemanly codes became more fetishized.  A lot of it had to do with the literature of the time.  Some of it with the changes in economic and social fortunes creating a middle class striving for cultural norms of its own, to where the upper classes indulged in sharing the more romantic elements of their lifestyles.

By the time the fighting in World War I actually started, nearly everyone went into it with these grand notions of honor and soldiering.  That it was all parade marches and sacrificial charges into waiting hordes of bayonets and swords.  Nobody really thought about the improved rifles and automatic guns, or the advancements in artillery fire and targeting, or the armored tanks that were new to the battlefield, or the effectiveness of barbed wire and hand grenades and poison gasses.

By the end of the calendar year of 1914, Western Europe's battlefields were basically two extended mud trenches and two massive armies - Germany in one trench, UK and France in the other - staring at each other across a cold no-mans-land.  The Germans were the ones who made the efforts to decorate their trenches for the holidays, and via the honored soldiers' code of "Live and Let Live" (under which both sides agree to temporary cease-fires to recover wounded or personal belongings), the Germans sent messages to their British and French counterparts about holding a truce - THE Truce - during Christmas Day.

There aren't a lot of documents about it, mostly from a good number of diary entries and remembrances of those who were there that day, so a lot of the Christmas Truce has fallen into legend.  Above all the legend of a football (soccer to us Yanks) game being played between the two armies.  There's no evidence it happened, but the story is that Germany won 3-2.  It'd have been tied but that damn ref called Blackadder offsides.

Whatever history there is of this - the legends still tell us - the generals were not amused their soldiers weren't killing each other.  When the areas where the Truce were continuing on after Christmas had passed, the chain of command ordered artillery barrages and switched out the divisions stationed there with fresh troops to ensure the fighting started up again.  By 1915, the generals planned ahead and made sure they had artillery barrages scheduled for Christmas to prevent the troops from making another try at a truce.  By 1916, they didn't bother: the bloodshed between both sides - and the use of chemical gas weapons - ensured the troops were in no mood for cease-fires.

Looking back on the Christmas Truce, it reminds us that the war was fought by men looking not for glory - that madness was left to the generals - but because it was expected of them.  Where the soldiers in the trenches had more in common with each other than the officers in their headquarters five miles back.  The Truce was part of an era of that Victorian/Edwardian mindset of honor between soldiers regardless of which flag they fought for.

It was an era that was dead in the trenches by 1918.

And yet, we remember.  We remember the Truce as a good thing, a moment in human history at the edge of a terrible war where there was still hope and the potential of friendship past the hardship.  As a nice little Christmas candle shining in the darkness of the 20th Century.

Merry Christmas to ye, fallen soldiers of that and all other wars, before and after.  The Truce remains to us as a memory of what we all can achieve some day.

A chance of playing an honest game of football and not get shot at for it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Brief Thoughts On Cuba, Again

I'd written about Cuba before (back in 2008), noting how the 50-plus years of sanctions and embargoes had proven to be a colossal waste of time and resources:
...The big reason why there won't be any change is because of us, the United States. Our stance on Cuba has not changed in 49 years (then), and at some points have even worsened, simply because of ideology and stubbornness. While we have legitimate grievances against Castro's communist (and post-Soviet authortarian) regime, we've never attempted genuine diplomacy and dialog. Instead we've forced embargoes, sanctions, denials, covert ops, basically every hardliner stance we could think of. We'd also tried invasion once. We'd also tried exploding cigars and Nair assaults on Castro's beard (I'm not kidding!).
The problem is that all our efforts are wasted: other countries do not observe the sanctions and embargoes, so Cuba stays afloat (barely) financially. Castro and his buddies, meanwhile, use our bullying ways to act defiant and manly, and they get to look good while they do it. And what's worse, we know it's working for them, and not for us.
But we can't change, can we? Even with all the expert advise, all the obvious clues, we can't change our behavior towards Cuba because no one in D.C. wants to upset 200,000 plus Cuban exiles sitting in South Florida... even though a growing number of them think the sanctions and embargoes need to go...
This month, President Obama changed the rules: he's making open gestures to the Cuban government to work towards ending this half-century of hostility (via Jeffrey Goldberg):

...Critics of the Obama administration, and critics of the Castro regime, will say that today's decision to normalize relations between the two countries represents a victory for one-party rule. I think they are wrong; there is a very good chance that the U.S. comes out the winner in this new arrangement, and not only because Alan Gross is now home.
It is difficult for a Castro to agree to normalized relations with the United States; anti-Americanism is a pillar of the regime. But looking around Cuba earlier this year, it was apparent that there was an opening for the Obama administration to change direction and actually influence the course of events inside Cuba.
President Obama—and Benjamin Rhodes, the National Security Council aide who led the negotiations with Cuba—saw an opportunity to open up Cuba to American influence, and they took it. They will be criticized mercilessly—they already are—for giving too much ground to the Cuban regime. But Obama and his team knew something that many previous administrations before them also knew: U.S. policy toward Cuba was self-defeating. Five decades of an embargo, five decades of hostility, had not dislodged the Castro brothers, and had not brought even a suggestion of democracy to the island...
At first, my immediate response was to think - and claim elsewhere - that 50 years of sanctions had not worked.  But... kinda... in a way it did.  While the embargo and open hostility made the United States into an international bully picking on our neighbor state, and while it made Cuba under the Castro brothers into an intransigent one-party dictatorship with a horrible record of human rights violations, it also made Cuba into a very weak, economically unstable regime.

Goldberg's own article opens with him showing his kids around the backroads of Cuba, where poverty was constant and nearly everything rusted out and worn down.  Where most other Caribbean and Central/South American nations have at least kept up with economic growth and the Internet thanks to various trading deals with the U.S. as a major partner, Cuba's been stuck - literally - in 1959.

The only things keeping the Castro regime in power - after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 - were its ardent anti-American stance, and an alliance with Venezuela that kept it supplied with oil to keep up with energy needs.  And now with Venezuela facing dire bankruptcy problems of its own, Cuba is running out of trading partners - other nations don't respect the embargoes too much, but those sanctions have crimped how much they can do with Cuba - to keep it afloat.  In this regard - economics - the sanctions did have an effect.

Where the sanctions failed was forcing the Castros and their leadership partners into any kind of political reforms.  As long as the sanctions were in place and as long as the anti-Castro forces poised along the Florida coastline stoked with anger towards them, Fidel and his brother Raul were in no rush to do anything like open elections.

The current push for openness between Cuba and the United States is noticeably limited and still requiring a lot of negotiation.  This is where diplomacy - actual dialog, not gunboat - comes into play.  If the United States deals from a position of respect - not strength, which was how those sanctions have been viewed all these decades - with the Cuban leadership, they can craft a decent economic and cultural deal that can directly impact the nation towards a path of media and social openness in ways to affect the political.

Goldberg's follow-up article covers why diplomacy with Cuba compares a lot to the U.S. dealing with other one-party (formerly Communist) nations like China and Vietnam, with one notable exception where U.S. intervention might help:
There will be many ways to test whether the Obama administration, and those who support its decision to reestablish ties with Cuba after a half-century hiatus (including yours truly), are correct in arguing that broad exposure to America, to its people and to its businesses, will translate into greater openness and freedom for ordinary Cubans. One of the most important ways to measure this will be to watch levels of Internet connectivity—open, affordable, unfiltered connectivity. Many Cubans I've met have quite literally never been on the Internet. In two years, if rates of exposure to the Internet remain the same, then the great Obama experiment could be judged, provisionally, a failure.
Critics of Obama's overture to Cuba argue that close U.S. ties with Vietnam and China are proof that exposure to America does not translate into political freedom—it translates into greater access to Coca-Cola products, but not to the spread of American ideals of free speech and pluralism. These critics have a point, of course (though critics of these critics also have a point: If the U.S. can have normal diplomatic and commercial ties with China, a terrible violator of human rights, why should it not have normal diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba, a country ruled by a government that is less malignant than China's?)...
Cuba, of course, is not China, and it is not Vietnam: China is large enough to create its own weather, and Vietnam is 8,000 miles away. The U.S. will have influence in Havana—a 45-minute flight from Miami—in profound and useful ways...
What Goldberg is getting at is how the United States' influence on Cuba will be overwhelming, not just economically but culturally. It's the closest Caribbean nation to us where tourism will become a major industry practically overnight (since all the others already have it): considering the curiosity factor alone, the first year of open travel would be huge.  Take the tourism numbers (and dollars) of places like Jamaica and Bahamas (two of the biggest destinations for Americans), and add them together to consider how many will travel to Cuba as a bucket-list thing to do.  Cuba's not part of the cruise line stopovers: once a deal's in place, every line will bid like mad for friendly ports (and a lot of construction at those ports for hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, shopping venues.  Infrastructure such as roads, water and sewage, communication networks will see a huge business boom).

And more than just the massive influx of tourism dollars, it will be the exposure to Americans and Cubans, person-to-person in ways we don't do enough with China and Vietnam (literally half the world away).  I'd like to think enough decent Americans visiting over there will meet enough decent Cubans to where Cubans will see American attitudes - and, let's be blunt, our bluntness - as our way of being open and honest with ourselves and with others.

And that's just the tourism bit.  One of the big benefits of ending the hostility will be the chance of families - the Cuban exile community - divided by decades of political bullheadedness having a chance to go home in peace, or at least visit regularly and rebuild lost legacies.

Again, a lot of this is going to have to involve delicate dealings with a lot of egos on both sides to soothe: the pro-Castro regime is not going to like any demands from the anti-Castro exiles and vice versa.  The sticking point will be settling reparations or restorations of properties/businesses from the 1960s.  The anti-Castro groups will most likely insist on criminal charges for human rights violations as well (as anyone fighting over the U.S. torture regime and our failure to indict any of those criminals will attest, it's a messy argument).

Thing is, let's face facts: the Cold War is over.  We won.  Yay capitalism.  Our ongoing hostility towards Cuba was really going nowhere in terms of our international standing.  Out of sheer spite - out of America's paternalistic political world-view of North America as our personal playground - we've been perpetuating an economic lockdown of a nation that could prove a solid trading ally and a force for regional good instead of evil.

It's been eleven Presidnets - Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Lesser, Obama - since those sanctions were placed.  Ever since Bush the Elder's tenure, when the Soviet Union fell and Cuba lost its protector, we should have been making this effort to normalize relations and use peace to end the Castro regimes.

At least Obama is making the effort now.  While the Republicans and the Far Right (among them the exile hard-liners) will scream bloody murder about this, nearly every other player involved - our allies, local nations, a majority of Americans a lot of whom weren't even alive when the Cold War ended - will see this as a good thing.
via Huffington Post

And with luck, Disney will be smart enough to keep the 1950s Art Deco retro look when they turn all of Havana into an Epcot Center.

(caveat: I am writing this from Florida.  Any Floridian will tell you: Do Not F-CK with Disney.  They're like Hyman Roth, only with better PR.  If they wanna turn all of Havana into an Epcot, nothing's gonna stop them)

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Saturnalia Wish List of 2014

'Tis the season to bring back the pagan rituals of our Roman ancestors!  'Tis the moment to slap Bill O'Reilly and the morans of Fox Not-News for their evil WAR ON SATURNALIA by breaking out the mulsum and wrapping the trees with togas!

And it's time to beg Saturn, the pagan God of the Temporal Vortex, to grant us boons in our dark hour of need:

1) Arrest warrants for every goddamn bastard responsible for the Cheney/Bush torture regime.  Especially Dick Cheney, who is out there lying and shilling for his regime of evil.  There is no excuse or justification for torture.  Ever.

2) That Rick "No Ethics" Scott's efforts to ignore the state's public records laws with illegal email accounts lead to felony charges.  PLEASE LET THERE BE FELONY CHARGES...

3) That some goddamn common sense and awareness of their voting base's needs wake up the Democratic leadership to run campaigns for all offices at all levels - federal AND state - and in all districts for 2016.  The pitiful turnout efforts this year sucked rhino.

4) That the movies of 2015 - Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, Fury Road, Tomorrowland, Star Wars VII, and the third Sharknado (maybe) - rock the f-cking house.

Seriously, Lord Saturn, they should have had this Falcon in stores for Christmas THIS YEAR...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Just Want Some Sweet Love From A Saturnalia Honey, Is That So Wrong?

I haven't done a Roman-style orgy in ages:

Although knowing my luck I'll probably be the one asked to oversee the vomitorium rooms.

This is why you'll never win, Bill O'Reilly, in your evil War On Saturnalia!  We got hotter Vestal Virgins than you! BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Keep the festive in your pagan hearts and IO SATURNALIA!

Monday, December 08, 2014

A Winter Grayer Than Before

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said:
 "For hate is strong,
 And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
- "Christmas Bells," Longfellow

Thing about Christmastime, of December and the coming of winter.  It's a season of falling into the Gray Mood.  They call it the Winter Blues but it's really all Gray: the sky is gray, the ground is dead, the people are dour and burdened while the pressure builds to be festive and light-ful.

This year feels grayer than before.

Part of it is due to witnessing yet another disastrous midterm election.  Getting stuck in a state full of partisan morans voting that damn MEDICARE FRAUD back into the governor's office.  Banging my head against the desktop as voter turnout dropped to its lowest level since World War II.

Part of it is watching any semblance of justice in my own nation - land of the free and home of the brave - get flushed down a toilet as violent cops get let off for shooting unarmed teens and using illegal choke holds on guys whose only crime was not submitting to another round of public humiliation.

Part of it is realizing that the current political and economic landscape is about to get darker and nastier.  There's been buzz about a shutdown over Obama's attempts to reform immigration policy via his executive order powers.  There's concerns of a shutdown if there's a fight over a budget proposal that's top-heavy with corporate tax cuts and public sector spending cuts.

There's the growing realization that no matter the injustice of it, the insanity of it, the criminality of it... the Republicans will not rule even if they have the political power, they will ruin all.  They will twist the laws of the states they control to make it harder to vote, harder to complain, harder to stop them commit acts of graft and corruption.  Why listen to the critics or even the experts when there's no accountability for the sins they commit?

It's gray outside right now.  It's going to get darker, and I worry we won't see the sunshine any time soon.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

What The Hell Is Wrong With America

What the hell else can be said after watching a grand jury refuse to bring a (white) cop to court on obvious evidence he used an ILLEGAL CHOKE HOLD to kill a (black) man on the mere suspicion of selling individual cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island.

"No reasonable cause"?!

There's video of it, where Eric Garner is arguing about what's happening to him but being non-violent about it, still getting caught in the cop's chokehold and begging for life gasping "I... Can't... Breathe..."

The official coroner's report came back as a homicide.

What part of "Illegal choke hold" is getting overlooked here?

That old "joke" that a grand jury - basically a tool of prosecutors to sort out the evidence useful to bring charges on a suspect - would indict a ham sandwich?  That's two grand juries in a row refusing to bring a white cop to trial for killing a black man.

That's two different prosecuting attorneys - both of whom deserve to get disbarred for their bias or ineptitude, take your pick - who basically controlled grand juries into doing nothing.

That's two groups of fellow Americans either buying into the "Blue Wall" excuse granting cops full immunity to kill all in their path, or else refusing to see the injustice of not bringing killers to any accounting for the lives they've taken.  Lives that happened to be black men.  Lives taken by those who happen to be white.

Anybody who claims we don't lynch blacks in this country anymore ought to take a look at the body count the last 5 years.

I've said this before: Our cops are not supposed to be executioners.  Our cops are supposed to follow an oath to Protect And Serve.  It's their job to bring the suspects to trial and have the juries and judges determine the guilt.  It is not the jobs of cops to execute with lethal force.  Our cops do NOT have a license to kill.

There are so many legal and effective means to arrest anybody without resorting to pulling out a gun or a taser or a baton or the use of a lethal hold.  GOOD cops do that every day of the year, and we don't hear about those arrests.

What does it tell you that we're hearing and witnessing more and more BAD cops on a weekly, now daily basis, beating the crap out of people, smashing in car windows, blowing up baby cribs, and outright shooting 12-year-olds the second they arrive on scene?  We have one cop shooting a teenager even after other cops - GOOD cops - had stabilized the confrontation, saying "We don't have time for this."  We have cops shooting a guy holding a BB gun in a Wal-Mart, all because some jackass claimed the guy was threatening people with it (in-store video proved he wasn't).  In the only good news out of all this police misconduct, there was a recent incident where the cops arrested and pepper sprayed a black foster child in his own home.  If you can call that good news.

And now our cops are out in the streets blockading the marches and protests, now in New York City as the outrage over Garner's death takes over the city, much like Brown's death took over Ferguson.  

We've got prosecutors who won't hold anybody accountable for death after death after death, after maiming after wounding after false arrest after false reports after lie after lie after more lies.  We've got police departments arming themselves with firepower that matches our army, rolling heavy through our own communities as they escalate the violence trying to impose order in response to the injustice they're refusing to recognize in their own actions.

Don't be surprised if our nation's faith - not just Black folks who'd figured out a while back that their lives don't matter, but Whites who genuinely want this nation to work for ALL its citizens - in the very concept of JUSTICE is dying in the streets just like our own citizens.

What the hell is wrong with America tonight?  We're living under a cloud of fear, living with a legal system skewing more against its own people.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Edit: I really should call this Pagan Turkey Sacrifice Day. If I say it as Turkey Pagan Sacrifice, it reads like the turkeys are sacrificing the pagans, right...?

To refresh:

...Now, about the proper way to sacrifice your turkey to the pagan Gods of the Harvest...  First, lay out a table in a geometric pattern with silver stabbing weapons and ceramic plates in which the ritual offerings can be placed.  Light some scented harvest-themed candles in the center of the table... Have the participants sit within an order decided by rank and by age...  Bring forth the SACRIFICE!  Offer a prayer to the appropriate deity of the house...  AND BEGIN THE CUTTING...!
Multiple sacrifices AKA seconds may be granted depending on the satisfaction of the house deity. 

Also, this as always:


Tuesday, November 25, 2014


So that happened.  It was kinda expected that a cop would not answer for shooting an unarmed teen all because of (insert our nation's racial fears here).

What horrified me and what still sticks with me is how that prosecutor was so eager to blame everyone BUT the guy who pulled the trigger and killed someone.

McCollough blamed social media for angering up the protesters calling for some form of justice.  No.  The protesters have been marching and calling for justice since before any of us were born.  They've been marching and rising up for justice ever since the chains were put on them as far back as the Roman Republic.  This is still Jim Crow.  This is still political leaders calling "Segregation Forever" and South Carolina's Declaration of Keeping Our Slaves and Redlining and Ghettos As Policy and This Land Ain't Your Land.  This is still the heavy chains of racism that 400 years of this nation's history from colonies to empire has not removed from its own people.

McCollough: the grand jury "gave up their lives" to deliberate on the matter.  NO.  The only one who gave up his life here was Michael Brown, that unarmed teenager.

Call Brown what you want, haters, that he was a thief or a thug or any other kind of racist label you can put on him.  The one label that speaks to the facts is "unarmed civilian".  The one label that speaks of Michael Brown is "dead on the street with an entire clip emptied into him."

The labels "excessive use of force" and "deadly force" and "fearmongering" should apply as well.

Meanwhile, we've got cops shooting kids who are running around with toy guns.  We've got cops bullying bystanders, and bullying families at traffic stops, and just plain old bullying.  At what point does the intimidation efforts go from harassment to assault?  Whenever the cop feels threatened.  At which point there's nothing the rest of us CAN do except watch as the legal system washes their hands of the misconduct and carries off the bodies.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?  Who guards the guardians?  Who polices the police when the police are the lawbreakers?  Because while the letter of the law may protect these trigger-happy bullies among the enforcement profession, the spirit of the law - the purpose to SERVE AND PROTECT the citizenry regardless of race or gender or age - is pretty much dead on the streets alongside Brown.

Lemme caveat: obviously, not every cop is bad or a bully.  A lot of them are doing their jobs and checking themselves in check.  It's the fucking bad apples abusing the rulebook, and then a goddamn culture of complacency - the Thin Blue Line of "Us vs. Them" - that blemishes the entire profession of being a cop.

I've had that quote at the top of my blog banner since the first round of protests in Ferguson: We should be rolling lighter than this.  In our own cities, in our own communities, among our families.

We should be doing a better job upholding Justice For All.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Anniversary: Our Nation's Darkest Day

This is November 22nd.

Our nation's darkest day.

I speak, of course, of the Buttfumble.
...what, there's more?

Oh.  Right.  That.

Soon, those who remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy will fade into history.  All who remain behind will know only of the Buttfumble this dark day (It already has its own separate Wiki entry!).

Feast well, this coming day of pagan sacrifices to elder gods seeking the meat of turkey.  I will post more on that when the time comes.

Also, I'm currently at 40,000 words on NaNo and aiming for 42,000 by tonight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Though Poppies Grow

The poppy flower grows when the seeds are disturbed, and the ground is turned, when a war rages.

Today is Veterans Day.  Generally recognized as a day of remembrance for the soldiers who fought and for the ones who didn't make it back.  On this day, the poem In Flanders Fields is read, and the red poppy flower worn.
And as always, the final clip of Blackadder Goes Forth, one of the downest of Downer Endings a show ever had:

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  It meant an end to the fighting, but it didn't mean an end to all wars...

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Anniversary: Berlin Wall 1989


The Berlin Wall was a big damn deal: a symbol of the Cold War struggle between the western democratic-republican nations and the Soviet-Russia dominated authoritarian regimes.

The fall of the Wall signaled the beginning of the end of the Eastern Europe communist bloc (it wouldn't be truly finished until the failed August coup of 1991).

It's difficult to describe to anyone who hadn't lived through the Cold War era: the minor but constant dread that war between East and West would flare up; the constant proxy wars in foreign lands that perpetuated social ills for Third World nations playing up to their First World paymasters; the ideological sterility of two opposing political philosophies...

The fall of the Wall changed all that.  We could see in real time as it happened, as people celebrated on a barricade over which people died trying to cross, as they began bringing pickaxes and crowbars to start carving chunks of the Wall out, taking down entire sections, brick after brick falling away...

It's still one of my biggest regrets, not getting a chance to travel to Berlin and leave some graffiti on the West's side of the wall.  Ah well.  This is a better result.

And damn, I'm getting old...  TWENTY-FIVE YEARS already?

Edit: I KNEW I had written about the Wall before on my political blog - back when this was under a different name - and found the article I wrote five years ago.

FIVE YEARS!  I'VE BEEN BLOGGING THIS SH-T FOR MORE THAN FIVE YEARS.  Dammit, y'all, pay up, this gig ought to be earning me something by now...

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Angry Moderate Blues

I know it's a fault of myself when I sit here and look at the world and think "what the hell is everyone else thinking when they can't see what I'm seeing?"  I know people will have their own life experiences informing them of what choices to take.  I know people will have their own opinions.


So here I am, fuming at an electorate that damages itself by voting for partisan Far Right hacks, suffering yet another bout of Angry Moderate Blues.

Yeah, Moderates can get angry... We certainly feel the blues.


I get the occasional troll on this blog - rare, considering the few comments I ever get - and I got a couple of them during my post of the Sample Ballot for the Florida midterms:

Wow - you are exactly what is wrong with America today. An ideologue that appears to have no clue about what made America great - diversity. Clearly you hate the Republicans more than you love America. Too bad. As an independent thinker, I prefer to vote based on substance not on ideology. Unfortunately neither party has many options when it comes to people of integrity, which is what many of us really want.

Getting called an ideologue is a new insult, but getting accused of not knowing about diversity is a twist. Considering I've posted my support for gay marriage, the free and open practice of all religions, my horror at seeing Blacks and Hispanics and Women getting treated like shit by the authorities and the overlords... Best I can say is that the guy posting that never read the whole of my blog, and thus didn't realize I am all about the diversity. Also, that I *do* love America: he must have missed the posts I add of the 4th of July, the celebration of Gettysburg and Woodstock, the occasional cultural milestone of Americana.  He's the one without a clue (psst, bro: next time READ THE BLOG BEFORE YOU INSULT THE BLOGGER)...

The next one was pretty straightforward:
I'm voting Republican straight ticket you useless liberal.

That's been the standard insult I get from the trolls.  You don't see most of them posting because I do have an administrative setting to filter all Comments.  Not for pure censorship, mind: It's because for a few years I was getting hit with Chinese Spam.  I'm not kidding.  The Chinese were spamming me, and I was like dudes I can't read Mandarin I can't tell what it is you want me to buy, stop it.  Anyway, I have the filter so I see a couple of Comments once in awhile in my Inbox and check them out.  Most of them are Anonymous, which tells me all I need to know about how cowardly they are, and they're pretty much calling me a libtard/librul/marxist/socialist of some kind.  I don't post those because 1) they don't contribute to the debate and 2) Anonymous posters are cowards.  I posted those two above because at least they put a name to the insult.

It's not that I'm bothered by the insults: Hell, I survived Tarpon Springs Middle School.  I've heard worse.  What bothers me is how wrong they get it by insulting me by something I'm not: Liberal.

For one thing, it's not an insult.  It's no more insulting than calling someone Conservative (if you try to insult me as a Conservative I'm going to look at you funny and give you the same retort).  The second thing, I've always considered myself a Moderate:

...Moderates support competency. We support things THAT WORK. If it doesn't work (example: THE WHOLE BUSH ADMINISTRATION) we don't support it. So there... Moderates recognize not so much the NEED for bipartisanship (or compromise) for the SAKE of bipartisanship. Bipartisanship and compromise between opposing factions are welcome when the end result will be something THAT WORKS...

If I look and act like I'm a Liberal, I'm really not. I'm looking and acting like someone who hates the Republican Party, by extension the whole of Conservative, Far Right ideology that has consumed that entire party.

And I hate the Republican Party because I used to be a member:
Actually I'm former Republican and I prefer to consider myself a moderate. I'm one of those dreaded RINOs you and yours drove out of the party. My hatred for the GOP is more despair at how broken and dogmatic it has become.
Calling me a liberal just shows how out of tune and extremist you've become, 'cause everything in opposition to you can only be a "socialist" or a "marxist" or a "liberal". All complexity of issues boiled down to just the hate.
Well, now you know why my ranting here on the blog is so one-sided against Republicans: because I came from there, it's all you had to teach me and I learned it from you. The only difference is I hope my hate for you will protect the rest of the nation and the world from your ruin.
When I first registered to vote I was a Republican.  I came from a Republican household - I've mentioned that more than once, especially about how old-school my dad is about Nixon - and so grew up in an environs of respecting such conservative principles as skepticism, desire for limited government, acceptance of liberal capitalism, and an overall avoidance to any aggressive radical change.

But by 1992 I noticed the party getting meaner and darker.  Not just a response to the rise of Bill Clinton as a political entity but just to nearly every issue.  Social conservatism went from being about compassion and charity and more about ostracism and pushing Christianity as a political force rather than a social foundation.  Economic conservatism went from respect for regulatory protections of the Eisenhower era to mass deregulation and unbridled laissez-faire.  Political conservatism went from diversity of opinions to adherence to dogma.  All of it wrapped into one big package of Fear-Mongering against the Other.

The key moment was Pat Buchanan's speech to the 1992 Convention.  Railing about a "culture war" and that "Clinton and Clinton" - fueling the Far Right fear that Hillary was going to be a Co-President of feminist intent - were going to destroy "God's America," Buchanan created a political identity of Republicans being hard-Right ideologues.

That moment - and the end of Bush the Elder's one-term tenure - began the purity purge against RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) as the extremists began targeting Moderate Republicans to push out and replace with more extreme, more Far Right candidates.

There were efforts to try and stave off the Club for Greed types that backed the purge, such as Main Street Republicans, but by today those moderate groups within the GOP are minorities - 46 Representatives out of 220-plus House Republicans, just 3 Senators out of 52 - within the ranks.  The purity purge by now has pretty much claimed full control of the Republican Party.

I did what I could to stay Moderate within the ranks meself.  I wasn't happy with the party's growing enthusiasms for the death penalty, massive deregulation in spite of historical evidence that deregulation was reckless, a pursuit not for small government but NO government, voter suppression efforts (yes even in the mid-1990s they were pulling that shit), and an eagerness by the leadership to pursue fiscal corruption that would make the Gilded Age look reformist by comparison.  While the Democrats weren't angels either, I loathed what the Republicans were revealing themselves to be.  I wasn't thrilled either by how the Republicans were crafting some fantasy-world dogma revolving around idol worship of Reagan and demonization of non-believers.

By about 2000, when Bush the Lesser became the candidate of choice (and despite his "compassionate conservative" platform he was the candidate of the purist ideologues) I pretty much gave up.  The disaster of the 2000 election results - and watching Republicans riot and get away with it in the Dade County elections office - sealed the deal.  I switched my party affiliation to No Party (I briefly flirted with being a Modern Whig back in 2009, maybe 2010, but that went nowhere).

The thing about becoming NPA (No Party Affiliate).  I still can't bring myself to make a full switch to becoming a Democrat.  It's not that I don't fully support Democrats - I have to, because they're the only actual alternative to the Republicans - it's that having been burned by one party I'm not keen on getting suckered into another.

What you see here on the blog when I rail about Republicans - when I cry all "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN" - this is an act of an Apostate.  Word for the day, kids: Apostasy is the renunciation or denial of a religious (and nowadays political) group that the denier once joined.  It's at the point where anything the Republicans are for - a horrifying Far Right conservatism that is more radical and destructive than actual anarchy - is something I would strongly argue against because I dread the party's true intent (usually having to do with ripping off taxpayers and blaming others for the impending disasters).

I'm at heart still a Moderate.  I don't want Small Government (or the No Government of the Tea Partier mindset), nor do I want Big Government: I want Effective government, one responsive enough to ensure people's rights and safety, yet streamlined without bureaucratic knots.  I want fair taxation (if that means bumping up the rates on the billionaires 2-3 percent and the economic models prove its effectiveness, so be it) based on the burden, not the rate.  I want deficit reduction but not at the expense of massive spending cuts that would harm families and children.  I want government to stimulate the private sector into genuine job growth and wage increases while ensuring that the market doesn't overreact to the costs of such moves.  I believe in Jesus but I don't want to shove Christ into our public schools, nor do I want Creationism - a foolish attempt to make the Bible literal fact rather than spiritual truth - overwhelming our sciences.  I don't buy the War on Christmas because there's still 300 million people in America who are not being forced at swordpoint to celebrate Saturnalia.  I know we need a strong military but I hate the wasteful spending (we bought a fleet of airplanes for billions and pretty much turned those planes into cheap scrap metal!).  I respect our need to forge strong alliances with foreign nations, but we don't need to bomb everybody into submission.

If that stuff makes me "liberal" then you've got a problem with your dictionary, 'cause I'm still Moderate.

I'm just an Angry Moderate.  Which isn't a contradiction in terms.

Note: Rude Pundit pretty much explains why the 2014 midterms went the way it did.  Part of it tribal BS, part of it ignorance.  All of it self-destructive.

We are as a nation voting not for the right reasons.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Liveblogging 2014: God Help Us All (UPDATES)

Polls are closing here in Florida within the hour and across most of the East Coast.  There's going to be a lot of local, state, and national elections to keep track of.  I got a link to the NBC News tracker here, and a separate link for the Florida elections tracking here.

I will update here from time to time, so please check back in.  I will be stressing mostly over three issues: Crist beating Scott, the fate of the three Florida amendments, and the fate of the US Senate.

I hope we got enough sane voters out there today, and via the Early Voting and Absentees.  Hope hope hope...

Update 7:17 PM EST - well that was quick.  The BayNews 9 website is showing Crist up 58 percent (528,000 votes) to Scott's 38 percent (346,000).  That is, oddly, with ZERO percent of the precincts reporting in.  I'm wondering if that's the Early Voting or the Absentee Ballot counts.  I'm thinking this is good news, but MSNBC is reporting that there are problems with voting machines in South Florida and the Panhandle, so the results are not solid and this is still up in the air.

Update 7:25 PM EST - in better news, the BayNews polling on the three amendments are solid.  Amendment One to fund our waters and ecosystem is up by 78 percent!  Well above the 60 percent needed to pass.  Amendment Two on medical marijuana is at 61 percent, which is unsettling but it's a good sign.  And Amendment Three to preemptively pack the courts is losing with the No count at 54 percent.

Here's hoping, Florida.

Update 7:30 PM EST - in the WTF category, Pam "Friend to Lobbyists" Bondi is leading Sheldon 51 percent to 47 percent for the Attorney General seat.  This is where things are questionable because you'd think the pro-Crist voters would be pro-Sheldon (and as anti-Bondi as we are anti-Scott).  The hell, Florida?  Bondi has been a disaster as AG and she's still on the edge of winning?!

Update: gimme 15 minutes to get some NaNoWriMo writing in!  BRB

Update 8:20 PM EST - well hell in Kentucky Grimes lost to McConnell.  It's looking like McConnell has it won handily too, which is sad because otherwise McConnell's not exactly the most popular guy in his own state.  By the by, got to 7000 words just now, hope to get 8000 by end of the night.

Update 8:25 PM EST - SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SCOTT IS UP 48 to 47 percent right now with 39 percent of the precincts in?!  NO NO NO NO NO NO NO OH GOD TELL ME THEY GOT THE PROBLEMS WITH BROWARD MACHINES RESOLVED...

Update 8:30 PM EST - they called the vote for my congressional district, my neighbors went with Ross (R) over Cohn (D) by 61 to 39 percent.  (insert headdesking here)  Meanwhile, the Medical Marijuna amendment slid under the 60 percent threshold and is at 57 percent YES... the water and ecology funding is steady at 75 percent, and the court-packing amendment is pretty much lost.

UPDATE 8:32 PM EST - this is a heartbreaker.  Pam Bondi won re-election handily (WHAT THE HELL, FLORIDA), and in Pinellas County the Greenlight Pinellas alternate transit plan has gone down to defeat 62 to 38 percent.  It wasn't even close, for a county that has massive traffic woes crushing a plan that could have generated jobs and boosts to the local tourist economy.  Because, what, there was a tax hike involved somehow?  What the hell is wrong with people...?

UPDATE 9:02 PM EST - we're at 93 percent of the polls reporting and Scott is up by 123,000 votes over Crist.  I'm still getting told that the Broward and Dade results aren't in, that there's still a chance the urban (Democratic-heavy) votes will get counted soon and that Crist may yet prevail... BUT WHY IN THE NAME OF GOD WAS THIS EVEN THIS CLOSE?!  We've had 4 years of Scott lying, ignoring questions, selling out to his business cronies, breaking transparency laws, slashing our education funding, refusing to protect our environment... I mean, we've got 75 percent of the voters backing Amendment 1 to keep our waters clean, and yet there are enough of those voters still backing a crooked governor who would eagerly pollute that all for money in his own pocket? (his blind trusts are nothing of the sort)  How the fuck is this disconnect between one issue and the other even happening?!

UPDATE 9:32 PM EST - Still waiting on Broward and Dade counties apparently.  This is still too disgusting to realize that there were not enough registered voters willing to make the effort to turn out the vote.  I get the impression far too many moderate voters were tuned out... too many Democratic voters were tuned out... the hell?

Update 9:52 PM EST - BayNews 9 site is calling it for Amendment Two.  It won't get enough votes to get past the 60 percent requirement, even though it's at 57 percent approval.  Just not enough people believing in medical marijuana or even in the need to shake up the screwed-up War on Drugs.  Still waiting on the governor's race.  There's still a slight lead to Scott by about 100,000 votes over Crist and there's still 2-3 percent of the precincts yet to report in.  Somehow Scott keeps clinging to that 100,000 vote difference like it's some kind of artificially-generated buffer...  As for the national scene, it's looking like the Republicans win gain a slight lead in the US Senate, meaning the GOP will control both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006.  The hits on Obama are gonna get worse...

Update: I'm gonna take another NaNo break to write.  When I get back the rest of Florida better F-CKING have voted Crist about 300,000 votes to beat Scott.

Update 11:00 PM EST - I've spent about the last 40 minutes trying to comprehend how in God's name 2,8 million people voted for a GODDAMN MEDICARE FRAUD like Rick Scott.  Again.  And I'm horrified by the failure of the Democrats and moderates and No-Party-Affiliate voters who failed to show up to vote for Charlie Crist.  What the hell, Florida?  What the fucking hell?

Rick Scott has been a liar since Day One, he's been avoiding his duties as governor, refusing to deal with our ecological concerns, slashing funds for our schools, cutting social services for women and families, he's been caught using secret emails in violation of our Sunshine laws, he's been trying to wreck our legal system and fill the courts with his pro-business cronies.. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU FLORIDA?  You WANT to live in broken communities and low-paying jobs and no Medicaid help for your elderly and disabled relatives?  YOU WANT THAT KIND OF HELL?!

I'm done for the evening.  I will post later about why I'm this angry, why I'm this pissed off at the Republicans and why I'm pissed off at voters who DON'T FUCKING CARE.

Election Day 2014: Reckoning

To the news that absentee balloting and early voting was higher than usual, I can only say WE STILL NEED TO GET THE VOTE OUT.

To the news that the Republicans are poised to take control of the U.S. Senate I can only say WE STILL NEED DEMOCRATS AND INDEPENDENTS TO GET THE VOTE OUT TO STOP THE GOP.

Today is Election Day.  November 4th.  Find your precinct, get your vote in.  Vote for fairness and justice, vote for open government and the public trust.  GET THE VOTE OUT.


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Midterms 2014: One Thing Left. VOTE

We're gonna get hit between now and Tuesday Nov. 4th with a ton of negative ads and BS from the pundit echo chambers.

Power through it.

We're gonna get told to vote Republican because "Obamacare Ebola Benghazi Marxism" threatens our God-given right to have the social safety nets cut away while billionaires get their tax breaks as the oil companies pollute our drinking water and the coal companies pollute our air.

Stay focused.

We're still getting sold the lie that Charlie Crist killed jobs in Florida while Rick Scott SAVED US ALL, ignoring how a Republican-fueled deregulatory sh-tstorm crashed the entire global economy - something outside of Crist's control - while Scott's promise to generate 700,000+ jobs couldn't even happen with the economic recovery - well, it COULD have if Scott kept the federal-funded high-speed rail program as well as agreeing to a Medicaid funding program that would have boosted our healthcare jobs - progressing on its own.

Why is anyone even believing a word out of that Medicare Fraud who wouldn't even recognize his own signature during the HCA deposition?

There is one thing left to do here in Florida.  This Tuesday November 4 2014 WE VOTE.

Vote FOR Crist.  Vote FOR Sheldon for Attorney General.  Vote FOR Amendments 1 and 2.  Vote FOR Greenlight Pinellas (alternate rail transit).  Vote FOR every Democrat on the ballot to get the crooked Republicans out of office at the state and congressional levels.  Hell, vote for the Green candidates if there are no Dems to vote, Hell vote for the Libertarian candidates just to kick the goddamn GOP incumbents out.

And for the rest of the nation, to all America... why the F-CK are any of you voting for any of those GOP Senate candidates?!  The modern Republican Party is willfully obstructionist, racist, classist ("kill the poor" has pretty much become the party motto), incompetent, beholden to the uber-rich rip-off artists, and just plain old dangerous.

America: For the LOVE OF GOD Vote Democrat where you can.  If there's no Democrat choice on the ballot and there's a Republican and a Libertarian (or a Green) sitting there, vote the Libertarian (or Green) just to mess with the GOP incumbent.  This current status of having the Republicans controlling the House has got to end.  Having these Republicans ruin their states has got to end.

The midterm votes are just as important as the Presidential election cycles.  I wish to God more voters realize this.  AND THAT THEY VOTE THIS TUESDAY.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Should Have Told You About What Happened Last Hallows Eve

I mentioned last year that I lost a close kitteh, Tehya.  Still miss her and I miss the other kitteh Page...

I don't think I told you about what happened the Halloween that followed Tehya's passing.

I was at my apartment complex at night, waiting for kids to trick-or-treat.  I knew there were kids who lived in the complex, there were families there... yet, nobody knocking on the door.  Had the pumpkins out, and the hall light on, and signage... and candies...  Nope, no knocking.

But sitting there next to the door, in front of the laptop as I was prepping for my NaNoWriMo novel run for another November, I heard a kitten crying.

At the base of the apartment stairs was this small tuxedo (black with white patterns) kitteh meowing and meowing.

I knew there was a cat colony who lived in the complex.  We were near the woods and the woods were near a bike path and the bike path was near shopping centers etc.  Lots of abandoned kittehs too, left to fend for themselves.

She was this tiny thing, hungry and meowing.  Since I wasn't getting any kids for the candy, I went out to the Publix down the street and bought a box of pouches, poured one out on a paper plate, and served it to her.

Three other feral/abandoned kittehs jumped out for the plate from the nearby shrubbery.

They kinda came and went.  The tuxedo kitteh and an older grey tabby stuck around and got friendly.  The kitteh was a rolly, body rubbing kitteh that I nicknamed Wiggles.  She was friendly and fearless enough to approach me without a problem.  She was eager to enter my apartment and check things out.  It was like she wanted to hang out with me on a professional and personal basis.

By Thanksgiving, after checking around the apartments to see if Wiggles was already claimed, I wrapped her up and took her to the vet and adopted her.  Gave her a more formal name of Ocean.  Ocean the Wiggle Cat.

Mal and his 5 siblings came later.  More on him in the next post.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Calling Out to the Florida Groups That Get Amendments On Ballot: I Got Ideas.

Okay, so I wanna get three amendments on the ballot for 2016 here in Florida.

  • First, if we can get an amendment that requires any Florida election for local, state, and federal offices to remain open for balloting until at least 55 to 60 percent of registered voters can submit their ballots.  Voter turnout sucks otherwise.
  • Second, if we can get an amendment that puts a None Of The Above option on each local and state elected office, and require that if the NOTA gets the most votes that a special run-off for that office be held with brand new candidates (and that NOTA remains on the ballot even for the do-overs just in case the parties decide to try to nominate someone worse).
  • Third, if we can get an amendment that guarantees every legal resident of Florida has a right to vote unimpeded by these -ssholes running around screaming 'voter fraud' when there's no f-cking voter fraud.  Okay, so the wording on this one needs to get cleaned up a bit...

It's doable under the Initiative Petition system.  The state allows an outside group - an established non-profit that can hold petition drives - to gather a certain number of signatures across the state (has to be state-wide, not all from one area) within a set time period (deadlines are a b-tch) for submission and approval by the state's State dept. (with approval/oversight by the courts to ensure the wording is easy-to-read and fits within legal parameters).

Thing is, I'm looking for the groups who are most capable and active in getting these initiative petitions going.  I think I find them on the websites but when I try to contact or send email, there's no reply back.

I tried FIVOrg but haven't heard back... if they emailed me I hope it didn't get filtered to the Spam folder, lemme go check...  And for that "None of the Above" option there was a Floridians for Political Choice group from more than a decade ago, but that's CLOSED probably defunct...

I might not be looking in the right places.

So if any of these petition groups are surfing the Intertubes and they come across this blog entry, can I just say DUDES AND DUDETTES CALL ME I GOTZ IDEAS.

If not, I'm gonna need to see if any of the kids I knew from high school that became lawyers can help out set up a PAC...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In the Onset of the Election Doldrums... STAY FOCUSED, FLORIDA

Welcome to the moment in the election cycle when it's the tail-end of the years-long marathon and the fatigue and anger are just blending into a mindless fugue state.

All the yelling and shouting about how bad Rick "No Ethics" Scott has been, and how tone-deaf and sadistic and corrupt the Republicans have been just blurs into a repeating loop of outrage where the outrage doesn't feel potent anymore.

This is the point where you gotta push past all that, to stay awake and refresh yourself with the understanding that this election is not over yet, that there's still the big day itself - Tuesday Nov. 4th - where voter turnout is still a key, still a necessity, still a priority for the Democrats and the No-Party-Affiliates to turn out and vote out the crooks like Scott.

If Scott wins, there's the fact he's going to use the next four years to f-ck the state of Florida even further.  THIS MUST NOT PASS, FLORIDA.  For the love of God, we've had 4 years of him killing jobs-worthy programs like the high speed rail, we've had 4 years of him ruining our employment benefits and social safety nets, we've had 4 years of him undercutting our schools and hospitals and child care services, we've had 4 years of him hiding his business dealings among his cronies with secret emails and refusals to answer questions, we've had 4 years of him avoiding our state's needs for Medicaid funding for our elderly and our families...  And Scott is still in this?

To hell with partisan bias, that mindset of voting for one party because you dare not think outside the lies and distortions of the party's reinforcement echo chamber.  LOOK AT THE STATE, people, LOOK AT THE DAMAGE DONE.  We're still one of the worst states for job growth and employment opportunities, we're still one of the worst states in getting our kids educated, we're still a state burdened with high utility costs and homeowner insurance rates, we're still coping with mass foreclosures and banks dragging in honest homeowners with bad paperwork...  Scott and the Republicans won't lift a damn finger about any of that, the Attorney General Bondi won't do a damn thing about any of that, and there's still enough Floridians willing and eager to vote for those frauds?

This is WHY Floridians need to turn out for these last few days of Early Voting (Saturday Nov. 1st is the last Early day).  This is WHY so many of us need to turn out on Tuesday Nov. 4th and vote for Charlie Crist for Governor and George Sheldon for Attorney General.  This is WHY Floridians need to Vote NO on Amendment 3 (regardless of who wins, that court-packing amendment is a disaster).  It'd be nice to have Floridians vote YES on Amendment 1 (to fund our environment cleanups) and YES on Amendment 2 (Medicial Marijuana is a necessity for treating the ill, and it brings us closer to a more just legal system).  Still and all, this is WHY Floridians need to vote for fairness, for a responsive government, for an end to the cycle of Republican obstruction and corruption.

And even if Crist and Sheldon win, there's still a lot of work after the election, because this never ends...

If Crist wins, there's still the fact he's up against a Republican-controlled Florida legislature: because rampant gerrymandering and Democratic cravenness pretty much left 65 percent of the state seats unchallenged.  That has to change for 2016: EVERY SEAT ought to be challenged, every illegal district redrawn to make the seats honestly representative of the residents of this state.

There's work to be done to get referendum amendments offered up in 2016.  We need an amendment to the state constitution protecting our residents' rights to vote (no more of this goddamn 'voter fraud' lie the Republicans keep shilling).  We need an amendment to the state constitution requiring a vote-count percentage of the majority of registered voters before an election can close (to ensure genuine voter turnout of an actual majority: this 24-to-39 percent turnout is KILLING US).  We need an amendment to the state constitution requiring competitive general elections or at least a None Of the Above option on the ballot when neither choice is acceptable.

The marathon goes ever on.  I know it seems tiring, but the other side won't rest and the greedheads and con artists running the show from their SuperPAC shadows threaten everything we should hold dear - our families, our children's futures, our jobs, our health - in our lives.

One more plea: GET THE VOTE OUT.  And for the Love of GOD DO NOT VOTE REPUBLICAN.

Friday, October 24, 2014

State of Florida 2014 Midterms: Early Voting in Tamarac

Used to live here in Tamarac, when I worked for the library system between 1994-2003.  I'm visiting today for personal reasons - to absent friends - but needed a place to wait for the afternoon services and so as a librarian would I made my way to the local branch.

I forgot a lot of the Broward libraries offer themselves up for Early Voting polling areas.  Tamarac branch no exception.

What was nice was running into a set of volunteers for the local and state issues on the ballots: you know, the sign-wavers standing outside of the 75-foot perimeter away from the front door.  Especially a group of pro-Amendment 2 canvassers:

Big props to anyone and everyone who's taking the time to canvass the polling places anywhere out there in Florida (and all other states) this time of year.  This is civic participation, this is the free speech and public assembly the Founders wanted for their posterity.

Inside they've taken a whole corner of the library floor to set up the polling booths, with an elaborate queuing line into a meeting room where the optiscanners and ID stations are set up.  I don't think I can take pictures of it, only to tell you that they've got more polling booths set up here than I've ever seen at any other Early Voting spot in the last 12 years.  And this is just Tamarac: the other libraries must be set up the same way.  Have to expect a lot of people, I suppose...

It's a cloudy day today, threatening to rain and all.  Weather gets to be like this in late October in South Florida.  Still, today's a good day to GET THE VOTE OUT FLORIDA!  Don't forget to vote YES on 1, YES on 2, NO on 3, YES on Crist and NO on every Republican from Rick "I Ain't Testifying Today, Judge" Scott down.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

If This Doesn't Make You Angry Enough, You're Willfully Allowing The Death of the Middle Class To Continue...

There's another chart or three detailing just how f-cked a majority of Americans are right now in this ongoing - yes, this ain't over kids - recession.

Here, take a look at this (via the Washington Post):
The dark blue line represents what we'd consider the Middle AND Lower Class here in the U.S.  Essentially the botton 90 percentile of families based on real average wealth (with wealth defined by income, equity, et al).  Starting off at the post-WWII spot of 1945, you'll see the three tiers of income - Bottom 90, Top 10, Top 1 Percent - all going upward during the 1950s and even improving for the Bottom 90 in the late 1980s and 1990s (when Reagan's income tax reforms kicked in, property values went up, new technology jobs started).

Up until about 2005-06, near about the start of the Great Recession that we're still in.

Everybody dropped.  Every market got hit - stock market, commodities, property market - and there was a massive downturn.  It looks like the downturn took a two-year, three-year dive before flattening out for the three years following... except for the 1 Percenter track.  Where the Bottom 90 AND the Top 10 Percenters flattened, the 1 Percenters went up, and went up sharp.

What the hell happened there?  Referring to that Washington Post article:
...The problem was that middle class doesn't own that much in stocks, but went into debt to buy lots of housing. So the housing crash turned their biggest financial asset into an albatross, wiping out their equity but not their debt. And the housing recovery hasn't done much to fix this, since it's struggled to move beyond the "nascent" stage.
Stocks, meanwhile, collapsed during the crisis, but came back soon thereafter. The middle class, in other words, missed out on the big bull market in stocks, but not on the even bigger bear one in housing. That's why the recovery has restored so little of the wealth that the recession destroyed. In fact, the bottom 90 percent have actually kept losing net worth the past few years, in large part, due to rising student loan debt...
Not all recoveries were made equal: the stock market flourished, the investment population flourished, the rest of us got screwed with debt up to our ears.

One thing I keep seeing from the hate-the-poor tweeters and Facebook posters on the Intertubes is how it's the poor people's fault they don't invest in the obviously-successful, will-always-go-up stock markets.  I keep replying when I can to let them know that not everyone can play the market: even a MENSA member like me can't make heads or tails of stock profiles and investment surveys.  Every poor person simply can't afford to pay into stock ownership, no matter how smart they are, because stocks themselves get expensive.  And most middle-class Americans didn't have much free money on hand to dabble either.  If the middle class invested in anything, it was in something tangible and focused: their homes, and they left the stock market stuff to their pension plans and 401(k)s.  For the 1980s and 1990s, the system worked after all: property values increased, and most Americans thought themselves well-off regardless of how much wealth they really controlled.

Which leads to the second chart from that Post article:

The Bottom 90 Percenters - 90 percent of ALL Americans - saw their percentage of the nation's overall wealth drop from over a 1/3 (37 percent) of everything down to less than a 1/4 (23 percent) of everything.  We never really had all that much, but we had enough to spread around and feel secure.  Now 90 percent of us aren't getting as much of the pie as we used to get.

Meanwhile, look at the Top 10 Percenters.  Sure, the 10-to-1 Percenters dropped as well, but not as sharp as the Bottom 90.  And the Top 10-to-1 holds 35 percent of the share.  Add that to the Top 1-to-.1 Percenters who hold 20 percent, and add again to the .1-to-.01 Percent (the REALLY rich) also 11-12 percent and then add the .01 Percenters themselves (the UBER rich) at 11 percent share and you've got 77 PERCENT of total wealth held by the Top 10 Percenters.  The Top .1 Percenters at roughly 42 percent - nearly double of 90 PERCENT OF ALL AMERICANS - of all total wealth.

We haven't seen income disparity like this since the days of the Great Depression, when the poor were REALLY poor and the rich were REALLY rich.

And this recession - where wages for the middle classes and the poor have stagnated for years, even more than a decade by now - isn't over yet.  Debt for lower-income families- for even what we'd still consider the middle class - remains crushing and getting worse.  We've taken some of the debt woes from healthcare finances out of the equation but not by much, and we're looking at increased debt woes from higher education costs.  Piling on-top of that is the fact our housing industry hasn't improved and the foreclosure problems - with banks still bad-faith actors - remain a threat.

So what if anything are we doing as a nation about the massive personal debts - mortgages, college costs, other costs - we have threatening what's left of our middle class?

Nothing.  Not a goddamn thing.

Angry yet?

Just a Reminder to All Florida Voters During This Early Voting Cycle

If Rick "No Ethics" Scott wins this November, and if prominent Republican governors like Scott "John Doe Investigation" Walker and Chris "BridgeGate" Christie either lose this November or end up indicted... then Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott becomes a front-runner for the GOP nomination for the Presidency in 2016.

Think I'm joking?  If Scott wins, it will be even against all evidence that Scott has run a mismanaged and corrupt governor's office.  It'll be in a state where the enthusiasm for Scott isn't even all that great among the average Republican voters (and where the Far Right are more fixated on just winning at all costs against the dreaded Obama).  He would win in a state that voted for Obama twice and has a 500,000 voter advantage for Democrats over Republicans (if you're thinking "oh well maybe the 3 million NPA voters will all go for Scott," no f-cking way).  And winning in a state where the libertarian candidate (who would traditionally pull away votes from right-leaning candidates) is seemingly getting enough votes (8 percent, maybe?) to prevent anyone from getting a solid 50 percent or more turnout.

If Scott wins it will be due to his getting the wingnut factions of the state to turn out in enough numbers to overwhelm what should be, what has been a vociferous and angry left-centrist faction (the hostility I've seen on the anti-Scott webpages is on par to the hostility I've seen directed at Obama: I've never seen other former governors like Jeb Bush mocked and despised at such a level...).  While Scott's victory may be blamed on the Dems stumbling (oh GOD I hope not) over another centrist candidate, that won't matter to the Far Right.  They'll see a Republican governor who won re-election in a state Obama won.  They'll think he won on "the issues" of tax cuts, refusing Obamacare Medicaid funding, and being a swell example of a Randian "make the poor piss for their food stamps" CEO-turned-elected official.

Personally, hopefully, PRAYING that the voters of Florida are angry enough at a bad governor like Rick "Fraud Up The Wazoo" Scott to turn up in droves to drown out the Far Right voters, that Crist is good enough a campaigner to ensure that turnout for him and for the Democrats as a whole.  I am hopeful that we'll see Rick "WHAT PART OF MEDICARE FRAUD DID YOU KEEP OVERLOOKING REPUBLICANS?" Scott running in shame from the cameras after a decisive electoral loss on the night of November 4th.  But hope is one thing, reality another.  The polling has been up and down too much this year to feel comfortable about Crist winning.  WE NEED VOTER TURNOUT PLEASE GOD.  We need 4.5 million registered Democrats AND enough of the 3 million NPA to get out the vote saying "Go to Hell you Medicare Fraud" kicking Scott out the door.

None of us ought to wake up to seeing Rick Scott trolling Iowa for voters in Winter 2015.  /shudder