posts tagged with 'politics'

a tough week

The election was kind of terrible, and its aftermath pretty much cast a pall over the whole past week. I didn't write about it much here, but I was all-in on voting for Clinton—excited by her policies but even more by the tone of her campaign, and of course by the chance to have a woman in the White House. And naturally I'm disgusted by Trump and everything he seems to represent. So the results were hard to bear, even before I started to hear that friends are wondering if they should leave the country.

Other minor things contributed to my feelings of dislocation. I made some stupid mistakes in trying to bring my computer into the current decade through a series of updates—until a few days ago it was pretty much stuck in 2007. Despite that it was at least deeply familiar to me, and fairly well-customized; now with the botched update it's still out-of-date but strangely unfamiliar. And my camera's not working, so even when we did have moments of delight this past week I wasn't able to capture them for posterity (except with my crappy phone camera).

I don't mean to suggest those little annoyances are anything like our national catastrophe; far from it. But as I wandered around the house in a stunned daze I often found myself sitting down in front of the computer only to realize I basically couldn't do anything useful with it—it had no comfort to offer me. It didn't help that I've sworn off the news, because it turns out reading about politics online occupied maybe 20% of my time over the past couple months. Avoiding it now leaves me with lots of time to wonder what I'm doing with my life.

But we had a good day today, even if I didn't manage to photograph it. And I'm beginning to accept that my elderly computer is as updated as it's ever going to be, and make my peace with that. At least it won't ever change again! The national picture's no better, but I'm encouraged by what I hear from friends in person and online about how the election results has made them think harder about what they're doing to be kind to people and to make the world a better place. That's small consolation in the face of Tuesday's catastrophe, but at least it's a start...

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there's this election campaign going on

So I've had things I wanted to write about here, but instead of concentrating enough to find words I've been reading about the presidential election—and, last night, watching the debate. I never watched a debate before; why on earth did I think it was a good idea to watch this one?! I'm so ready for this all to be over. Or really, I'm ready to cast my vote in a cathartic rejection of the horrible Donald Trump. And more: I'm really looking forward to voting for Hillary Clinton.

I've never voted for a Democrat for president before, since I've always felt like there were better options and—especially since I've only ever voted in Massachusetts—I don't see any need to worry about tactical voting or even electability. But this time, not only do I want to send the Republican candidate to a crushing defeat in which every vote counts, I'm actually excited about voting for the Ds. Clinton may not have the best music (though you'll notice that her media and design team is immeasurably better this time around!) but as I slog through the disgusting rhetoric swirling around the campaign I'm more and more convinced that only one candidate this year offers a truly hopeful message of what we can accomplish all together.

I voted for Jill Stein last time, and I agree with her positions and respect her passion—but for whatever reason I've found her frustration and aggresiveness off-putting this cycle. I figure: Greens can't win, so why don't they take the moral high ground and talk about how their policies for saving the human race will bring us all together? As it is, maybe if we smash the Republicans enough the next four years will give politicians an opening to start seriously addressing climate change—to say nothing of racial and economic inequality. That's where we're at for national politics.

There's lots more to say on the subject, but my point here is really that politics is occupying too much of my time and brain space lately. So enough for now!

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some political statistics that have nothing to do with tomorrow's poll numbers

Because I grew up in a politically liberal town, and because I do a poor job of socializing with people unlike myself, I have been saved the awful Facebook badgering that my friends have been complaining about in the run-up to this presidential election. I have not been confronted with any distorted pictures of the president with ugly font lettering superimposed calling him a socialist or some other term I might find flattering. I have been spared. Mostly Facebook has provided me with a steady stream of baby pictures or news that the remainder classmates are finally getting married. So it was with a naive level of shock that I read the following awful thing yesterday:

At Market Basket....and if one more white trash pos hipchecks me 1 more time theres gonna be an Issue! Also if you insist on using my tax dollars on your Snap card don't f%$&@*&$ wear chanel boots and rock your Michael kors bag or expect to get spoken too! This has been a service announcement by the overworked, underpaid and fed up...

(ed note: Thank God copy and paste worked on this, I would have had to hold my nose to re-type it.)

2 people like this. One says "Lol...so true." Another says: "don't forget about there (sic) lexus and/or mercedes are (sic) parked outside"

Now, it's not really a good use of one's energy to engage in political discussions via Facebook status updates, let alone in the COMMENTS of Facebook status updates. But since I have unlimited space here, on the blog, I'd like to shed some real data-driven light on the subject of SNAP benefits and the white trash who receive them.

1) Are you really overworked and underpaid? Maybe YOU should consider applying for food stamps. To qualify you must have income not greater than 100% of the federal poverty line. For a single person like yourself, that means you're taking home $931 a month or less. For a family of four, like us, we can make up to 200% of the poverty guideline and still qualify, that's $3842 a month. With no more than $2000 in savings. I know, doesn't it sound like living the dream?

2) SNAP benefits can only be used for food you cook at home, not prepared food or coffee or a party platter from the supermarket or anything like that. But thankfully, the DTA does not monitor the way you spend your other money OUTSIDE of the food stamps program. That $931 a month, when you're done paying rent and utilities and fuel for your lexus and/or mercedes, you're free to take it over to Marshalls and score some great deals on late-season Michael Kors. Those ugly bags are super cheap over there, I promise.

3) But as the dis-fluent commenter highlights, some taxpayers might worry that SNAP dollars are going to people who are not truly needy. Who are committing FRAUD as Sandy Martinez would have us believe in the one billion leaflets she's sent to our house this campaign season. Well, what does the research really show?

The USDA audit for 2011 showed an error rate in SNAP dispersions of 3.8%. The total amount the federal government spent on SNAP in 2011 was $78 Billion, which means SNAP fraud cost the country an estimated $3 Billion. (Those bitches driving their lexus and/or mercedes to Market Basket must be in among this group.) By contrast, the IRS estimates income tax noncompliance at 16.9%, which adds up to $450 Billion in tax fraud. For those of you who are innumerate or who read this paragraph like "cost the country an estimated BIG NUMBER... adds up to BIG NUMBER" I'll say it more simply: The overworked underpaid taxpayer is fucked nearly 150 TIMES HARDER by rich tax dodgers than by white trash pos'es.

Or to put it another way, the amount lost to tax fraud each year is over 5 times the amount spent on SNAP programs. Total.

But, you know, your scapegoat or mine.

And anyway, rich assholes don't shop at Market Basket, so they're less likely to get in your way at the checkout.

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three paragraphs, three different ideas

I'm kind of stacking up potential blog posts in my brain, so instead of picking just one this evening here's three, minus some of the usual development.

One
We got some lemongrass from the food pantry, so I needed to find out how to cook with it. Leah is feeling a little bit under the weather so I was happy to learn that it's just what you need to make some sustaining Thai comfort food. Zion and I enjoyed it as well, healthy as we are. My only complaint was that I couldn't taste the lemongrass enough: it smelled so delicious as I was chopping it! I saved one stalk and am trying to get it to root in some water, in hopes of having a personal supply next year.

Two
I don't like to comment too much on mainstream politics here, but I have an observation on this Romney "47 percent" thing that's too long to tweet or whatever. I don't think that it will matter as much as Democrats hope, not despite but because of the fact that, regardless of income tax status, nearly everyone pays taxes of some kind. The Republicans are actually targeting poor people with that rhetoric, because the last thing a disadvantaged social conservative wants to hear is that the government is doing something for anyone other than him. "I may be poor," the Romney campaign hopes such a voter will say, "but at least I'm doing my part, not like those 47 percent people." They don't even have to say that those 47 percent are probably mostly black! It's the classic American political tactic of getting poor whites to vote against their own economic interest by pitting them against an imaginary "underclass", employed by the Democrats from 1877 to 1964 and the Republicans thereafter.

Three
Leah's post about Harvey and kids' church, accurate as it was, missed a crucial piece of context. Harvey is now working his uncertainty about the whole setup into regular conversation with people who aren't us: Grandma, his friend Will, a random mom at the playground. All are nonplussed. The last conversation went something like this:

Random Mom: "How old are you?"
Harvey: "I'm three."
RM: "Wow, you're big for three!"
H: "Yeah, but I'm a little bit scared of kids' church. I went but now I'm a little bit scared."

I was sufficiently far away that I wasn't prompted to offer any clarification.

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local action

Local politicians in Bedford are working on the town's latest 10-year comprehensive plan, and since we have an open town meeting that means everyone! Or at least everyone who was willing to come out at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. Like us! Except we were like 20 minutes late. Oh well, they still let us in.

the transportation session at the Bedford planning meeting

concerned citizens

That's a picture of our breakout session, which covered transportation issues. As it turns out, everyone interested in transportation planning is pretty anti-car, which is kind of cool. It also makes sense: the only complaint that car-exclusive folks have is that there's too much traffic, and the only way to deal with that (in our little town at least) is to make it harder for any individual to drive here. Rational actors obviously recognize that and are thus committed to the status quo.

Among the crazy hippies at the meeting, though, the general consensus was we need to do a lot to make the town more walkable and bikeable (and better connected to public transportation). I'm sure the political process will water down some of our more fervent desires—car-free days? passenger travel on mail trucks? neither particularly likely to become reality—but the strength of desire for something other than more parking spaces was pretty heartening.

The other sessions were pretty cool too. Folks looking at land use reported wanting more scope for agriculture, and a kitchen incubator (which I didn't even know was a thing) for the commercial district right around the corner from us—totally awesome. There was also a lot of talk about increasing density in a few areas while keeping open space, and about preserving the small-town feel we've got going on while keeping things moving forwards in other ways; pretty good all around. Who knew we lived in such a progressive town?! Go Bedford.

Zion playing with a meeting handout

he's a pro with the paperwork

Oh, and Harvey and Zion were perfect angel children throughout the whole three-hour meeting. The New Jerusalem is imminent.

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prevolution

The Occupy Wall Street protests are slowly infiltrating our consciousness here at the squibix household, leading to an above-average amount of angry political discussion. Angry at other people, that is; we're pretty much in agreement amongst ourselves (though I'm not sure what Zion's position is vis-a-vis the potential inflationary dangers of vastly increased public spending and whether higher inflation might actually be a positive at this point).

At this stage my rage is still too inchoate to be neatly expressed in a blog post, but I would like to note a couple things. First, there are folks who say that, while they agree with the protestors that some things might need to change, they need to be presenting specific policy suggestions rather than the variety of aspirational demands currently being proposed. Yeah, because our congressmen would love to do something about the problems facing our country, if only they had an idea that would help! Note: that's not actually true. Also, congressmen historically have a poor record of taking policy suggestions from hippies.

Even worse are people who suggest that, if they really wanted to make a difference, the protestors would try and work through existing political channels. I don't know, volunteer for a campaign or something. They point out that in the United States it's only the government that makes the kind of changes the protestors are looking for. At least since 1775, that is. That completely misses the fact that no changes get made at all unless social pressures force the government's hand. Do you think the New Deal was enacted because politicians' hearts were bleeding for the poor? No, it was because if they didn't do something they would have had a revolution on their hands.

Not that we're ready for revolution yet; too many people are more concerned about what's on tv (or if their neighbors will be allowed to get abortions) than they are about their social and economic well-being. But protests put pressure on the system, they change the terms of the discussion, and they help crystallize a society's generalized grievances. I don't agree with everything the New York protesters are saying (nor do I think they're even speaking with a unified voice themselves) but I love that somebody is out there saying something.

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go ahead, throw your vote away

Among the sites on the internet that I try and often fail not to visit is MetaFilter, "a community weblog whose purpose is to share links and discuss content that users have discovered on the web" (thank you, wikipedia). Twice in recent weeks political discussions on the site have turned to the 2000 election, and the role played by Nader voters in denying Al Gore the presidency. A majority of MeFites, as they're known, are fierce partisans for the Democratic party, and as such are virulently opposed to any criticism of the Democrats from the left; not because they disagree with the criticism, though they may, but because for them voting is purely a tactical game. Since no one other than Republicans or Democrats can win elections, they reason, a vote for anyone other than the Democrats is in fact a vote for the Republicans. And naturally, the notion that leftists (loosely defined) might contribute to Republican electoral successes drives them absolutely, frothing mad. Anyone who knows me very well will know that I think that whole argument is nonsense.

As it happens, I voted for Nader ten years ago. Since I live in Massachusetts it didn't matter, but as I would probably have voted for him in Florida too I should point out that in my case—and I imagine I'm not alone—I approached his campaign from the left rather than the right. Voting for him was tactical, to my mind: in every other presidential election of my adult life (all two of them) I had voted for some variety of socialist. In 2000 I just figured that, with Nader, there might be enough third party votes to make a difference, and I wanted to cast one of them. And guess what, I was right!

But aren't I sad, today, that Gore didn't win? Of course not. He may have been the more leftist candidate of the two put forward by the major parties, but to suggest that his views then had anything in common with mine would be ridiculous. The same is true today—to an even greater extent, if possible. At present the Democrats have become convinced that the country is largely conservative; either that or they're taking the votes of leftist voters for granted because they figure folks like our MetaFilter friends will vote for them no matter what they do. In any case, the result is that political discourse in this country is moving steadily rightward. Since I am in no way a conservative (at least when it comes to politics) I refuse to follow. I will vote my conscience and attempt to elect someone whose positions I actually agree with, at least in part.

As for helping the Republicans to victory when I dislike them a great deal more than I dislike the Democrats, I am soothed by the happy knowledge that the country gets what it wants and what it deserves. In my innocent Marxist-Leninist days I backed up agitators who argued against improving conditions in prisons on the grounds that those improvements would prevent the minority prisoners from overthrowing the machinery of the capitalist state that oppressed them. Though I no longer think, if I ever did, that Marx—much less Lenin—correctly analyzed either the problems or the solutions of the modern world, the idea of allowing a situation to progress to its logical conclusion without imposing any superficial palliative measures still holds a tremendous appeal to my anarchist mind. As I have mentioned, huge traffic jams fill me with a sort of glee as I consider the inevitable result of our reliance on the automobile. This is especially the case when I'm on my bike.

The analogy is perhaps apt. We are rather poor, and yet we do not receive any government assistance that would be improved under a Democratic administration or dis-improved under Republicans. The Democratic health care "reform", for example, is a useless disaster. We will continue to do our small part to try and improve society, and if society is more visibly broken and unjust than perhaps we'll have an easier time convincing people to try something different; just like being stuck in traffic every day might make them reconsider how they get around. And if it doesn't, hey, no harm done: the country will have the politicians that it wants, the ones people vote for. Far be it for me to try and subvert the will of the electorate.

Not that I'm entirely above the concern of the tactical-voting Democrat. I will be bitter, bitter if Obama isn't reelected in 2012, not because I like him for anything but his graphic design team and the fact that he managed to break the color barrier in the White House, but because watching Glenn Beck and his television audience crowing about it would make me very sad. Very very sad. But ideally politics, even presidential politics, is about policy rather than personality, and even in a close race I will feel obliged to vote for my policies rather than against the "other side's" personalities. Is that fair?

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they're angry and they don't care who knows it

anti-Obama grafitti on a stop sign

is that "Obama" in the accusative or the vocative?

Sometime in the past month some graffiti appeared on the bike path in Lexington that's a little more political than the random obscenities and drug references that our local teens usually produce. Naturally, I wondered. Were the Young Republicans at the high school getting riled up? Were rich white professionals so driven by hate for the Democratic administration that they've taken to carrying spray-paint in the glove boxes of their Mercedes? Or was it just anarchists, as determined to resist this administration as they were the last one?

Certainly, the "Stop Obama" messages pictured above (and that's only one of many: almost every stop sign along the path in Lexington has been so tagged) mirror similar anti-Bush graffiti from a few years ago. More pointed, and thus more difficult to explain, was the accusation spray-painted on the guard-rail on the side of the trail at one point: "Ted Kennedy was a hypocritical fat-cat," it read. Right on! Way to stick it to the man! I would have loved to get a picture of that one as well, but before I remembered to bring my camera it was gone, painted over in white paint. I guess it hit a little too close to home for some folks.

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local politics goes worldwide

It's election time here in Bedford, and the race seems to be a little more, ah, contested than usual. Which is to say that it looks like there are more candidates than positions. So hey, we're seeing some campaigning! Some of it is being done along traditional lines—front-yard signs, operatives going door-to-door—but this year we've also seen an explosion of local politics into cyberspace. Yes, our humble candidates for local office are presenting their arguments to the whole wide world on the world wide web. So who has the best site?

The incumbent, Cathy Cordes, presents a solidly web 1.0 design. At first glance it appears underwhelming, but closer examination reveals strengths that demonstrate her campaigning acumen. The site has an attention-grabbing masthead that matches her other campaign material, it unambiguously announces the date of the election, and it features a list of Bedford residents who are proud to stand up and show their support, in solid Times New Roman, for Ms. Cordes.

Bill Moonan's site, on the other hand, is a bit more modern-looking, but rather curious is the absence of any title or even design in the masthead. Perhaps it's blankness is a sign of Mr. Moonan's willingness to be, like Paul, all things to all men. On the plus side, the site has tons of content for the curious voter to peruse.

Finally, there's, Robert Avakian. He's the outsider in this race, the one the political establishment doesn't want involved in town government, and he shows it with a sleek design featuring the catchy slogan, "Elect Robert Avakian for Political Office." Let's hear it for generic Google Sites templates! At least he has a relevant title tag, not to mention a totally sweet zooming-star-underline logo (though the designer in me positively cringes at the visible catch between the straight part of the underline and the beginning of the curve). There are some things I'm curious about, though; for example, the mysterious box on the front page of the site headed with the single cryptic word, "Why":

An independent voice who will be:
Hard on the issues and
Work with people to
Find Common Ground

"Why" indeed! Why the colon, why the line breaks, why the capital letters? Is it some sort of poem? An acrostic? A secret code to his supporters? What does "AHWF" really stand for?!

Actually, I don't really care about any of that. In his platform Mr. Avakian says he will "oppose unnecessary tax increases" and calls for a "moratorium on affordable housing". So he wants rich folks to keep their money and poor ones to stay the heck out of town. Alright, in a race with three candidates for two spots that's all I need to know!

Election is tomorrow, Bedford residents: see you at the polls!

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in which I finally comment on the election last Tuesday

It was ironic—or at least darkly amusing—that Tuesday's ill-fated election came the day after Martin Luther King Day. At least in the public schools, MLK Day is a celebration of the purest idealism: Dr. King fought the all evils of the land while preaching love and non-violence, and he died a martyr's death to ensure that all his dreams for Americans would come true. You too, children, can change the world through the purity of your belief! Or you can vote for Martha Coakley because she's not a Republican.

Some folks must like Coakley, because I'm told she won some sort of "primary" election a couple months ago; I don't know, I wasn't paying attention. By general election time, however, I couldn't find anyone who would confess to it. Plenty who told me I was crazy for contemplating staying away from the polls, sure—including my darling wife—but none who argued that Coakley was anything more than a sure vote for national health insurance reform.

Only, the Democrats' prior behavior doesn't suggest to me that it would actually have mattered that much. First, as Leah pointed out, the plan under consideration isn't really all that hot. Maybe better than nothing, but not by much. Second, I may be crazy but it really doesn't look to me like anyone in power actually wants to see any sort of reform pass. Why not? It seems to me it must be one of two things. Either the legislators feel that their constituents are opposed to reform, and fear angering them by pushing for it, or they are completely under the control of lobbyists with a vested interest in the current system. Or maybe both!

Certainly, there are alot of people in the country who have been expressing their concern about the reform agenda. Plenty of commentators have tried to explain why this might be, either crowing about the wisdom of the common American or castigating him for acting against his own economic self-interest. The only thing I can think of is that too many Americans are dumb as posts, but that's hardly a polite nor an egalitarian idea, so I will refrain from expressing it too vigorously in public. Happily, I am removed from too much distress at the situation by my firm conviction that we get the government and the laws that we deserve: if the people don't want healthcare reform, they won't get it! And that's fair. And I will either watch happily for the signs of revolution when the long-term impact of that choice begin to hit home, or silently admit that I was wrong and enjoy whatever good outcome may arise.

See how much fun it is being a cheerful anarchist? Especially if my family and I manage to stay healthy for the next five to fifteen years.

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