16 July 2017

18 June 2017

Happy Father's Day

If you still have one, make the most of it, he won't be here forever.

Now, fuck off please.

13 May 2017

Regulations are the workingman's friend.

Regulations are not your enemy.  I know; that runs counter to everything you were ever taught about how the world works, but it's true. In fact, most regulations are job creators rather than job killers.

I saw a news item the other day about regulations being overturned ending over four million hours of paperwork, and saving -presumably for the owners of whatever enterprises were being deregulated- almost as many millions of dollars each year.

That sounds to me like the sound of many people losing their jobs at once, as if a million voices cried out, "Oh shit, we're fucked!"

Deregulation, like automation, and nearly every other efficiency improvement in business or industry, is the enemy of the working person, no matter the skill set or level of education. under a capitalist system.  It is simply the nature of the beast.

Automation, miniaturization, mechanization; all of these and many other evolutions of human industry ought to benefit all mankind, but under capitalism the opposite occurs.

Efficiency leads to a reduction in the number of human workers needed to perform any given task. Those workers lose their jobs, only today, unlike in decades past, there are no new jobs waiting for those workers. They're simply obsolete. Redundant. The jobs are gone, and they won't be coming back.

Efficiency and technology today primarily benefit a tiny class of wealthy investors.  They reap immense wealth while thousands of workers are reduced to poverty. Many eventually find themselves among the legions of underemployed workers at the bottom of the world's largest pyramid scheme.

Until we find a way to motivate enough working people to turn against the capitalist system of exploitation, this is what we're stuck with.

24 April 2017

My father's hands

Sometimes I look down at my hands
and see my father's hands instead,
almost as big, a little bit darker, 
from my mother's side, 
his just the same.

He's been gone, two years now, later
this week. I can't say it's gotten any
easier, but at least now the open
sores and blisters have grown 

into scars and callouses.

My hands will never be that big,
nor able to hold so much.

North Carolina's state constitution is broken.

North Carolina's state constitution is broken.  I think it may even have been broken on purpose, but I cannot say by whom or why. Well, that's not entirely true. I think I know why.
Article II
Sec. 3.  Senate districts; apportionment of Senators.

The Senators shall be elected from districts.  The General Assembly, at the first regular session convening after the return of every decennial census of population taken by order of Congress, shall revise the senate districts and the apportionment of Senators among those districts, subject to the following requirements:

(1)        Each Senator shall represent, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants, the number of inhabitants that each Senator represents being determined for this purpose by dividing the population of the district that he represents by the number of Senators apportioned to that district;

(2)        Each senate district shall at all times consist of contiguous territory;

(3)        No county shall be divided in the formation of a senate district;

       (4)        When established, the senate districts and the apportionment of Senators shall remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census of population taken by order of Congress.

See the error?  Here it is:
"Each Senator shall represent, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants, the number of inhabitants that each Senator represents being determined for this purpose by dividing the population of the district that he represents by the number of Senators apportioned to that district"
See it now?

As with our federal government, North Carolina's House of Representatives is the people's house, with districts apportioned based on population so that each representative serves an approximately equal number of constituents.

The United States Senate was designed by our founders to be a counterbalance to the popularly elected House. Each state receives equal representation in the US Senate, regardless of it's population.  Originally, federal senators were elected by state legislatures as yet another counterweight against the popular will of the people's House.  That changed about a century ago and today United States senators are elected by popular vote in statewide elections.  It's very difficult to gerrymander a district that encompasses an entire state.

The current constitution of the state of North Carolina (we've had three) was ratified in 1971.

According to Wikipedia:
The draft that later became the Constitution of 1971 began with a study into needed changes by the North Carolina State Bar in 1967. The study outlined a vastly improved and easily ratifiable document. The draft constitution logically organized topics and omitted obviously unconstitutional sections. The language and syntax was also updated and standardized. The study separated from the main document several amendments that it felt were necessary, but were potentially controversial. The main document passed the General Assembly in 1969 with only one negative vote in seven roll-call votes. On November 3, 1970, the proposed Constitution of 1971 was approved by a vote of 393,759 to 251,132.
I believe that in the process of 'updating and standardizing language and syntax', the language of Article II, Section 3 was overlooked and left identical to that of Section 5, which details the method of apportioning representatives to the House of Representatives.  The wording is identical except for the words senator and representative.

This was a mistake, though I suspect quite intentional.  Districts and representative apportionment tied to population make any given district far easier to gerrymander for a specific outcome.  Just look at our current state house districts, or our US House districts to see the lengths that partisans on either side have been willing to go to give themselves a competitive advantage. Our districts are so bad that federal judges have repeatedly ruled them unconstitutional.  We haven't had a legitimate election in this state since before 2010, probably a lot longer.

If a senator is supposed to represent a geographic area, not a specified number of people, then we've obviously been doing it wrong for a long time, but there is a simple and obvious remedy to the problem: strike the wording from Article II Section 3 that ties our state senate districts to population.

Without that stipulation, drawing district lines becomes a much easier task because in North Carolina we have 100 counties and 50 state senators.  Easy peezy! One senator to every two counties, and since "no county shall be divided in the formation of a senate district," this eliminates gerrymandering almost entirely from the North Carolina Senate.

Obviously, this change would give whatever party finds itself in the minority at any given time a viable shot at maintaining control of at least one house of our legislature. Doing so would force ideological thugs like the ones currently running amok in Raleigh to act like statesmen and negotiate in good faith for the people of North Carolina.

I said the fix was simple, and it is, but I didn't say it would be easy.

While our state constitution is fairly easy to modify, all amendments must come from the legislature. In North Carolina we do not have the right of referendum like our fellow Americans in other, younger states, so we can't just go get a bunch of signatures on a petition and put it to a vote, but this is a change that needs to be made for the good of our state and the future generations who will inherit the mess we've made of the world.

17 April 2017

Karl Marx pissed me off!

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago when a new acquaintance described herself as the angriest person in the room.  I like meeting other angry people; they make me feel less alone in the world, especially when we're both angry about the same things and generally on the same side.  Those people become allies, comrades, and sometimes even good friends.

Karl
Another person at the table stopped our new friend when she made her assertion and said, "Hold on, sister, you may be angry, but sitting next to you is the angriest person I know," and she pointed at me.  I was a little embarrassed, more at being singled out than the fact that I probably was the angriest person in the room. Anyone who knows me at all knows that.

I could point to many things in my past as the source of my anger today: teachers, parents, schoolmates, former co-workers and employers, even kids and ex-wives, but the one person most responsible for my rage at the world today is Karl Marx.

I first heard the name Karl Marx in the sixth grade.  I remember my teacher, Mr. Nifong, explaining to the differences between a representative democracy, socialism ("like the Scandinavians") and the evils Soviet communism.  I'm certain that his descriptions were colored with Cold War propaganda of the times, but I distinctly recall thinking that I saw nothing wrong with socialism, and no reason why it shouldn't work. Nobody living in poverty; no one forced to work a shitty job for shitty pay sounded pretty good to me.

Over the years, after my school days were done, I studied on my own. I read Marx and Engels, Goldman, Rand, Keynes, Paine, Smith, and many more scattered across the spectrum of socio-politico-economic thought.  I am still reading Marx today, and others such as Wolff, Foster, and Eagleton, and long ago concluded that Marx was right.

Once I began to understand how the world we live in operates, and realized that you and I everyone we meet has been and is being exploited for the enrichment of a tiny number of people who do little, if anything productive at all; that most of us will be worked unto death or disability and then cast aside on the dung heap of history like garbage, that we are all little more than slaves in a planet wide economic gulag, then I became angry. 

Karl Marx made me angry, and for that I am grateful, because anger is a gift.  Marx showed me the truth.

16 April 2017

Killing capitalism one tomato plant at a time.

This spring I sprouted a lot of tomato seeds, at least thirty I'd guess. I decided to plant a garden this year, in a one hundred square foot raised bed that I built last fall.

I planted the three tomato plants I wanted to grow for my family in the bed about three weeks ago, before the end of March; at least three weeks before last frost in a "normal" year, and brought them through a three day spell of sub freezing nights under drinking glasses.

Knowing that I might lose a plant, during the cold snap, I decided to plant a few extras. A few became over two dozen plants potted up in recycled yogurt cups.

At first I thought about selling them, but then I thought about what I was thinking: capitalism!  Ack! Spit! Get thee behind me Satan!

So I wondered, why not give them away? And as I was walking home from leaving the last four anonymously on a neighbor's front porch I thought, what better way to kill capitalism than to give people the means to produce food?  Jesus Christ, Himself, was crucified for preaching such heresies as feed each other like family.

I ended up distributing four tomato plants to each of six homes around us on our block.  That's six families who will produce at least some of their own food for the next few months. And that warms my cold black little heart.

07 April 2017

Oh, Capitalism, how I do loathe thee.

Rent too high? Blame capitalism.

Pay too low? Blame capitalism.

Climate out of whack? Blame capitalism.

Democracy no longer working? Blame capitalism.

This is my problem: I have reached a point in life where I can tie pretty much every social ill and climate/environmental issue to capitalism/the profit motive. All of it. It's not even a stretch, but I can't make anyone understand without either boring them to tears or making them read something just as likely to lull them to sleep.  Most people are too damned lazy to read, and those who don't have that excuse are too damned busy just trying to survive.

How did I arrive my conclusion, that capitalism is the root of all our ills? By studying and reading, and thinking.

I read Ayn Rand, and Milton Friedman, and then I read Marx - lots of Marx, but not nearly as much as I should have. So when I reject capitalism, it isn't just a knee jerk reaction; it is a well considered opinion based on studying both sides of the issue and interpreting the facts.

Capitalism will destroy us, and it may already have done so.  We simply haven't had time to fall down yet.

Capitalism and it's endless thirst for more and more and more, ever expanding, always starving for more, is the root of all evil.

No one will ever convince me otherwise.

26 March 2017

Walking dead.

Sometimes I feel like I'm already dead; dead inside.  Like I almost don't care at all anymore, but for that little cluster of threads still clinging to me; holding me fast to this life I never asked for.

My son has become aware of the dire state of his planet. He turns sixteen tomorrow.  He has little interest in the driver's license I ate, slept, and breathed for when I was that age, some thirty odd years ago.

I expected civilization was going to crash and burn in some apocalypse or another by the time I was his age; I can't imagine what he must be thinking, nor tell begin to tell him what I think he should do.

14 March 2017

Your job ain't coming back.

The only immigrant taking your job
is that machine made across the ocean,
or that bit of code written on another continent.

Automation took your job.
Efficiency took your job.
Innovation took your job.
Capitalism took your job.

That guy with the accent
didn't take your job,
unless he was your employer.

06 March 2017

Try to enjoy the hangover.

Everything began to change (for the worse) after 1965.  That is SO comforting to know, being a 1966 edition baby.  All I have known in my lifetime is the disappearance of that generosity the author (at the link you might have noticed at the beginning of this post) references from the Roosevelt Era.  All I've ever seen is rising prices, stagnant wages, and excuses for why my generation can't have it half so good as our grandparents did short of criminal behavior or an advanced degree in just the right discipline from just the right school.

Here's the reality folks, no matter where you live, the jobs are gone, mostly to automation, and they aren't coming back. It's only gonna get WORSE.  There may be areas of growth here and there, but over the long haul that's the truth.

The 1% gets bailed out every time they screw up don't they? File bankruptcy, rinse and repeat. Remember the Savings and Loan bailouts, and Chrysler's problems a few too many decades ago now? If socialism is good enough for Wall Street banks and other industries, why isn't it good enough for the rest of us?

It's time to get behind the universal basic income movement, and Richie Rich and Donnie Dollars are gonna have to suck it up and live with paying for a big chunk of it. If you want to live large, sooner or later you have yo pay for your prosperity.  I do, even when it hurts, cause I ain't all THAT prosperous.
And no, we're not all going to march out in droves and die in a war like our forebears did twice last century, just to save capitalism, the free market or anything else the oligarchs deem necessary.

You had a good run, but it's over, and it's nearly destroyed the ecosystem we all depend on to live.  I'm sure it was a great party, but it's time to get to work, try not to enjoy that hangover too much.

02 March 2017

Tired

Tired

Feel like I been dragging a plow
Sun up to sundown, every day
For as long as I remember
And it never gets any lighter
I just get older and more tired
Sick of the bullshit and ignorance
I'm tired of dragging this plow
Tired of constant fear and anxiety
Sick of never being able to shake
This endless sense of dread
I've Been running from so long I don't
Remember how to stop

I'm so tired

25 February 2017

Ain't no denying.

It's 7pm Eastern US time zone, February 24, and it's 80 degrees; Eighty degrees! and it's been about like this now for most of the last few weeks.

I'm in North Carolina, US, +/-36 degrees N. latitude.

This.
Should.
Not.
Be.

Why aren't more people marching on our capitals, calling and visiting elected officials, and demanding immediate and drastic action to address our common threat, the fossil fuel industry.

Fuck anyone's profits, this is life or death for half of humanity if not more. I have children.  They deserve all that we are capable of doing to leave them a better home than we have.

Only a fool stares at the mountain of evidence for human causes of clime change, and at this point, willful ignorance is criminal.

23 February 2017

What the Democratic Party needs to do.

There was a conversation the other day on Zuckerberg's cash cow, about what reforms the Democratic Party needs to undertake in order to remain viable, much less relevant, much further less, oh, right, we're gerrymandered to death, so just fuck it all; it's useless.

No, actually, it not useless. In fact, now is the time to stand and fight, to get active in your local Democratic Party. Over the next few weeks county parties across the state will be holding precinct organizing meetings and selecting delegates to their county conventions in a few months.

Now is the time for all good people to get off their asses and get busy.  I don't care if you're a centrist, or a hardcore socialist, or any other left of center persuasion; GET THY ASS TO A MEETING AND TAKE OVER THE FUCKING PARTY!!!!

Sorry, I tend to get wound a bit tight, but seriously if you show up with dozen or so of your neighbors, and some of you want to be delegates and have a say, it's doable.

The point of this post wasn't so much about the so very important precinct meetings that you'd damned well better get your ass to very soon.  It was supposed to be about two excellent comments in the aforementioned conversation that I latched onto.

The first was made by the person who started the thread, a man who ran for Congress last year and lost, because - gerrymandering, but I digress.
"What it comes down to is Democrats won't have any credibility if they aren't who they say they are. If they claim to be against big money in politics, they must get out of bed with Wall Street. If they believe church and state should be separated, they should take religion out of party meetings. It's that simple."
I couldn't agree more.  Senator Sanders proved to us last year that Wall Street is no match for masses of citizens actively involved, networking and basically donating all their spare time and change to the cause.

The other choice comment, again, not mine, was as follows.
"The constant pledging [of allegiance to the flag] and praying also represent a greater problem: it's apologetic. We all know we love our country, why else would we bust ass to make it better for everyone? If we are secure in that and secure in our own religious beliefs or lack thereof then what is it for? It's a defensive move to defend against accusations by the Rs that we are all atheists. Well, many of us are! As well as agnostic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and others. It's just a relic of the past, and it's not endearing for younger people who want to attend these meetings. It's bad enough they do it at city government meetings, there is zero reason that Dems should be opening meetings that way."
That is exactly the way I feel, and I have no reason to apologize. Neither do you.

Until this country begins showing me something to be proud of again, I will be refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance and/or any public prayers, especially at party functions. In fact I may even write up a resolution to halt the practices of prayers and pledges in our party meetings; not to disrespect anyone's feelings about either subject, but because the Democratic Party is supposed to be a big tent open to everyone, including atheists and those of us not-so-proud of our tarnished nation these days.

I already don't bow my head for prayers anywhere, and I never will again. I am me, and I am moral and ethical enough as I am. I love my country, but I love the earth - the only planet we've got - even more.  I have no need to speak empty incantations in order to prove my loyalty to anyone.

I wish the same things for the people of all nations that I would have for my own:  peace, elections untainted by money, a living wage for all workers and a safety net for those unable or between jobs, affordable health care for everyone no matter one's station in life, and above all justice and equal treatment for everybody, no matter who, how, or why, or where from. 

17 February 2017

Possibly the most frustrating two weeks of my life.

I own a small business.  No employees; just me by myself.  I operate scientific instruments that allow me to find things underground.  How I ended up here is a much longer story, but I've been doing this thing on my own now since the end of 2010.

On Tuesday, January 31 of this year, one of my primary electronic instruments suffered a hardware failure that rendered it inoperable.  It took another 48 hours to acquire the proper authorization to return the instrument to it's place of origin, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, for repairs.  Then it took another five days, due to a weekend, to reach it's destination.

Last Friday, February 10, I finally received a repair estimate and immediately signed, scanned, and returned the authorization form.  I also received a credit card information form used to pay the technicians for their work.  Obviously I wasn't going to fill out all the information and return the form to them as a blank check, so I withheld that bit of paperwork for later.

This time of year in my business can be fairly slow when the weather is cold and wet outside, but thanks to the very real phenomenon of human-induced climate change, temperatures here have been reaching into the sixty and seventy degrees Fahrenheit range for most of the last few weeks.  In other words, it's warm; people are working. Projects are moving forward, and my phone has been ringing constantly since the day after the equipment failed.

I probably watched four to six thousand dollars pass me by over the last two weeks, from clients who couldn't afford to wait.  I've also amassed more than a week's worth of work from clients who willing to wait.  When work piles up, I get stressed out.  I don't like leaving people waiting and having obligations hanging over my head.  I prefer to get things done and keep moving to sitting still, and that's almost all I've done since the first of the year.

So Wednesday afternoon, I got desperate for answers.  I tried calling and kept reaching voicemail boxes, and Canadians don't like to make international telephone calls, apparently.  My emails were not responded to consistently either.  The few times I did get a response it seemed as if no one on the other end could read English, because the answers I was getting didn't match any of my queries.

Desperate, I finally called again and literally begged the receptionist to put me through to the CEO to help me save my business.  She put me through to one of the people I had been emailing instead, and I explained all of the above to her.

Finally something clicked!  She checked my work order and said they would be able to ship it back to me on Thursday (yesterday), with delivery scheduled before noon today.

Late last evening I received a tracking number and receipt.  This morning, I checked the package and it had already made it to Memphis, Tennessee, but stalled at a customs checkpoint.  Someone in Canada hadn't dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" just right.

So now I'm sitting here, a little over two hours left until noon, refreshing the tracking page constantly, waiting for my livelihood to come home so I can get back to work.  I feel like I have been held hostage for a month.

13 February 2017

Walking with the dead.

I live in a small town of under 2,000 people,  The town itself takes up less than two square miles and sits along a major US highway that commuters to and from Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina travel daily.

I live down the street from the municipal cemetery, and walk my dog there, usually twice a day.  As such, I am more or less aware of the endless stream of burials that take place here.

By my estimation there is space in the grave yard for about 2,000 individuals, and probably three quarters of the plots are now occupied.

We seem to have about two burials a week on average.  Last week there were three; two the week before that.  Sometimes there will be no burials for several weeks, and then a minor flood of death rolls through and we'll have nearly a half dozen in ten days.

I notice names and dates as well, during my walks among the dead.  One young woman was born a few years after I was, and died the day after her twenty-first birthday, probably in a tragic accident after a night of celebration.  Seeing the forgotten memorials to lives cut so tragically short helps me remember to appreciate the fifty years I've managed to live through.  Many don't make it half as far.

A family burial group I often notice is a man buried beside and sharing a headstone with his grandson.  The younger man was born less than six months before I was, and died just nineteen years old.  The family, faced with such an unexpected tragedy and expense, must have elected to use a plat purchased for the grandmother beside her husband.

To one side is another burial, a woman, probably the older man's daughter.  I once thought surely she was the younger man's mother, but recently I noticed another burial, behind the grandfather/grandson's marker.  The grave is that of another woman, with the same birthdate as the woman I assumed was the mother.  She had a twin sister.  Either could be the nineteen year-old's mother.  Perhaps someday I'll dig into these stories and find the truth behind my imaginings.

Last week I think I witnessed the first cremation burial I've ever seen.  I noticed that the grave opened was a much smaller hole than usual, and the next day a service was held, so I assume the remains were ashes.

I actually kind of like the side of using the space one coffin would occupy to place the cremains of an entire family together in one plot, if that sort of thing is allowed in a place that tends toward backwardness and conservative superstition.

I enjoy walking among the graves.  The residents are usually quiet, and in a small town like this one, there's a lot of history to be found there, if you know how to read the signs.

11 February 2017

Snippet from a work in progress.

That instant from her earthly frame a demon howling fled.

"Trump!

The Devil herself would run from you!  Strangle your howling
crude and common tongue, and cease your childish tweeting!"

Donald Trump

He tells it like it is, does whatever he wants, when he wants;
fuck everyone else, get outta his way!

And yet, somehow, he's never been arrested or shot, yet.

Donald Trump is every high school drop-out
working stiff's wet dream come true...

we are so thoroughly fucked.

09 February 2017

Public education matters.

There's this 'schools you went to' thing going around on the social network lately. I suppose the point is to promote awareness of how important free public education is to this or any nation.

My list of schools is almost embarrassingly short:  two elementary schools (only because a new school was built), one middle school, and one high school.

I dropped out of one community college twice before earning a vocational diploma from another, and even managed to flunk out of a four year school once.  All public, state supported schools.

My educational record sounds like I'm a loser, and according the small fingered orangutan occupying the White House, I am a loser, but fuck him. His opinion is useless.

I'm successfully self-employed, going on seven years now.  Sure, I could be doing better, but I'm satisfied with where I am for the most part.  I've done well with the foundation I took away from public schools, despite my consistent failure to apply myself.

Sadly, I fear my son's public education has been even less demanding than mine was.  The world has changed, maybe it's just me.

Having an adult child who is a newly minted public school teacher is entirely different enlightenment experience.

She reports that she isn't allowed to practice half of what she learned as an elementary education major at a respected state university, but if she can't bring several children that began the school year with second grade reading skills up to fifth grade standards, the threat of unemployment is ever present.

We need our public schools, and we need to do a much better job of funding them and the professionals who staff them.  Unfortunately, the functional illiterates have been placed in charge for the foreseeable future.

Fight fascism! Plant a victory garden today!

I started work on my victory garden this morning.  I wouldn't normally use such an archaic term, but since we've got Nazis and openly fascist wannabe-dictators running around all over the place recently, I figured, what the hell, let's just go all in.

Anyway...

We've been building a raised garden bed in our front yard since last fall.  Which is to say, I built a one-hundred square foot raised bed box, ten feet square, roughly a foot deep.

There is a maple tree stump in the center of the bed, but the soil covers it. We're doing a 'square-foot' garden system this year, breaking the space into four, sixteen square foot units, which conveniently leaves room for a two foot wide path across the center of the be in both directions, enabling us to access the interior of the garden.

We live in a half acre lot in the middle of a small rural mill town, sans mill. There are three of the biggest willow oaks I've ever seen, standing watch as I'm certain they have for at least a century or more.  Unfortunately that leaves very little sunny ground to garden, but we have a few things going on.

We planted a couple of pawpaw trees in the grove last year, and both seem to be doing well.  I hope to plant a strip of pumpkins, sunflowers, and pole beans along the back fence, behind the trees.  Coming up the west side we have a lone blueberry bush left by a previous occupant.  Until this afternoon there were three apple trees of some sort next in line, planted about six feet apart from one another - far too close.  I cut them down this afternoon and my son and I stacked them at the street for removal.  We plan to plant several more berries in their place.

Last year I planted a small garden directly behind the house in what, at the time, was the only sunny spot in the yard.  It was a failure in many ways, but I did manage to harvest a good crop of potatoes from it, so this year we plan to grow sweet potatoes in that spot (last year was Idahos).

Last summer we had two trees in the front yard professionally removed; a fairly young, healthy maple someone planted in a very unfortunate spot below the power distribution lines, and a huge willow oak, comparable to the ones in the back, except it had been topped  several times by the electric company and was beginning to present a hazard to the house. Now we have a bright, sunny, open front yard.

I planted approximately forty-eight feet of onion seeds in the square bed today, and about twice as much lettuce and salad greens. I have a warm, sunny back porch where I've established a seedling greenhouse.  today I planted a couple of brassicas, just to see if I can manage a small spring snack.

Did I mention that it's not quite the middle of February, and the temperature the past few days has reached into the seventies fahrenheit.  I was outside today, all day, in a loose t-shirt and shorts. In North Carolina. In February! 

Don't let the assholes get you down. Fight back!


08 February 2017

Keep yo' Nazi-loving ass away from me.

If you walk into a room wearing a shirt that reads "Deplorable Motherfucker" across the front, don't be acting all surprised when I decide not to listen to anything you have to say anymore. You support the agenda of racists, xenophobes, and other undesirable malformed humans. You were warned what and who they were, but you voted for them anyway.  They made it okay for you to call people nigger, wetback, faggot, and worse, in public, and you ain't got no fucking problem with that?  You still support them?

I have a problem with you.

07 February 2017

Clovis

Winter rains and howling winds pull back centuries of silt,
winnowing soil from fallow fields

until the bones of ancient cultures lie exposed, naked upon
the ground; gifts left by unknown ancient hands,
unwrapped one grain of sand at a time.

Sandinista!


Numb, uncomfortably.

I have been numb for most of my life.

I smoked pot the first time when I was thirteen years old.

I became a steady smoker by sixteen, when I got old enough to drive myself to work.

I picked up cigarettes around that time too, but quit them for good by about age thirty-five.

I smoked weed in the morning before school, and in the afternoon before work.

Roll another for the ride home, and sneak a toke in my bedroom after my parents went to bed.

I am addicted to cannabis. I have been for a very, very long time.  I smoke in the morning, usually within the first hour of the day.  I typically smoke five to seven times daily, depending on the quality of my on-hand stash.

I quit once before, after many failed attempts, and lasted over eight years before the urge overtook me again.

I remember the first time I smoked again after so long away.  I smoked a tiny little ugly, almost black nugget of what must have been cheap Mexican brick weed, in a pipe I had carved from an old piece of cherry.  I decided then that if it ever took much more than that tiny amount to get me that high, I'd be doing it wrong.

Well, I'm doing it wrong again.

What started as an occasional toke turned into buying small quantities, led to buying better and better quality, and ultimately to today, when I find myself spending three figures at a time more than once each week.  The cheap stuff - even the "better" cheap stuff - is almost totally ineffective to me now: I am immune to all but the loudest, skunkiest buds.

I am addicted.

I have been high for more than thirty of my fifty years; literally stoned for decades.

I was high both times I got married

I was stoned at the births of both of my children.

Birthdays, weddings, funerals, surgery vigils, holidays, vacations, you name it.  If I was there I was getting high somewhere.  For a while I infused it into butter, to avoid smoking.  But eventually the old smoking habits and rituals became to powerful.

Cannabis isn't supposed to be addictive, and it isn't for most adults, but for me and my particular history, it very much is addictive.

I have been a very stupid, selfish  man.  Lucky not to have lost everything I own many times over.  I need to stop this shit. I have other things to do.

The last time I managed to stop for any length of time, I began drinking heavily at night. I became what I would call an alcoholic.

I can't do that again.

I have so much emotional baggage lashed to my back.  Deep seated trust issues, insecurity, self-loathing.  I need therapy, but trust no one. I embarrass myself. Who but the biggest pussy on the planet gets "addicted" to weed?  People get addicted to meth, to cocaine, to opiates; not pot!

But I'm addicted to pot. It has imprisoned me.  I need help.

This is going to take a lot of therapy...

05 February 2017

Steve Bannon is trying to engineer another Holocaust.

As I have been saying, they want a war, preferably with Iran. The bloodier the better, in their view.
"A war would underscore his contentions that his critics are weak, his rivals myopic, liberals perverse, immigrants suspect, leftists metastases, journalists -Fox News and Breitbart excepted - subversive, anti-American, knowingly and treasonously and shrewdly deceitful. 
A war would make it clear that it's not mass casualty shootings by loner white males that makes Americans unsafe. It is, rather, the specter of the swarthy Muslim we have never met, which should keep us up at night - even if that Muslim is in actual life a saint among physicians or a decorated former brother-in-arms of U.S. troops overseas."
Tillerson and others want the oil fields, obviously, but Bannon has genocidal tendencies and subscribes to some fucked up "Fourth Turning", eighty year cycle theory, which is about the amount of time it takes for all the generations that remember the last really terrible blood-letting to all die out.  Bannon is a big part of the problem.
"In a speech to a Christian conference held in the Vatican in  the summer of 2014, Bannon declared that "we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years."
At the time, Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs banker, headed the far-right, white nationalist-friendly Breitbart News, and was also a producer and director of films.
"We're now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism," he said."
You see, Bannon is the real deal, a genuine fascist of the old world variety, right down to his hard-on for killing people based on their religion.  Bannon's got to be removed.  Somehow.  Otherwise,  here we are again, on the eve of a great global war, ostensibly against fascism, but it's not.

This is a war being instigated by American fascists, for their own self-enrichment, just like both world wars of the last century.  It's always the fascists who instigate war, because war is always about controlling resources, whether those resources be minerals, ports, or populations.

I'm not even sure if Islamic fascism is possible.  What most Islamic states resemble more is a theocracy, although, we do have our own special Christo Fascists in America, so anything is possible I guess.

Islam bans usury, and that fact prevents a lot of greedy American capitalists, like Trump, from doing much business in many Islamic countries.   They simply will not accept enslavement to our financial institutions, and non-Muslim oligarchs have a real problem with that.  This is why Islam and the west have a problem with each other, but the problem is and always has been of our own creation.

Capitalism creates poverty.


How long until I can retire?

I just watched Ben Sasse, Senator from Nebraska, on ABC's This Week program, trying to make a case for raising retirement age.  His argument seemed to hinge upon the fact that average life expectancy in the United States has gone up.

Apparently, when "retirement age" and social Security were being set up, average life expectancy was about 62, three years younger than the age people begin qualifying to draw benefits from the system we spend our entire working lives paying into. Fact is, life expectancy has skyrocketed... for those with high incomes, great retirement packages, and/ whose working life mostly involved light manual labor, if any.  Higher incomes mean access to better health care, and more tie to recover in the event of illness or injury.

The thing those who favor raising retirement age conveniently overlook is the fact that those of us who maintain the infrastructure, build things, work in factories, and who basically do the hard manual WORK of this world still die young.  Many of us don't even make it to sixty, so when some millionaire senator or billionaire executive tells me that raising the retirement age is a good idea, all they are really telling me is that they want to steal the money I've been forced to pay into the system all these years for themselves.

With luck I'll make it to seventy, but the odds aren't in my favor, and if you work for a living, especially in construction or manufacturing (yes, they still exist), they don't much favor you either.

If anything we should be talking about LOWERING the retirement age to sixty, and perhaps even lower for those in the most physically demanding jobs, and open up more job opportunities for younger people.

Think about it. It's the only realistic option short of starting another world war to kill a few million of us off, like they did a few times last century.  We have more people today, but more work is done by computers or robots, so there are fewer jobs available to begin with.  The jobs aren't ever coming back, unless we, as a civilization, take a giant step backward and wipe out a lot of technology and people in the process, Backward, towards slavery and feudalism is not the direction we want to go, but it's where the oligarchs are dragging us, whether we like it or not.  Resist!

04 February 2017

A fascist on the SCOTUS


Death Letter (not today)

I'm going to kill myself.  Not any time soon,
but I will, someday.  I've felt this way for

a number of years now, and tried to deny it,
but there's no point.  One day I will wake
up and find that I've had all I can stand.

I never loved this world. No, if anything
I despise it; full of ignorance - willful

or not - and unnecessary pain.  Humanity
doesn't deserve our place at the top of
the animal kingdom.  We are deplorable.

We're shallow, hurtful, thoughtless beasts
most of the time.  We make up utterly
preposterous stories to explain everything

from bad weather to bad behaviour.  Hairless,
hormone-driven, clever apes, that's all we are.

One day I will wake up and discover nothing
left but pain, no joy, no hope, no love, and
when that day arrives, I shall cease being;

But not today.

I think I must be cursed.

We started trying to put up the panelling in our attic this morning. By the time we hung the third sheet (have you any idea how hard it is to hang panelling at a 45-50 degree angle?), I found that I had nothing left to nail to on one edge. The rafters were not measured and set at equal intervals, so some are 16" apart, others 15", still others 17", and yet others at even odder distances.

I remember being told how I would appreciate knowing how to do all this shit when I was a kid, but the thing is, I don't know how to do this shit! I can fake it to a point, but my projects are never level, plumb, flat, smooth, or any other adjective you would choose to describe well done, skilled work.

So, after a couple hours of everyone in the house literally screaming at everyone else - except the dog, who was smart enough to stay well away from the war, er, I mean, work zone - now I'm back to square one, sitting on the couch, trying to figure the best way to resolve yet another obstacle in the path of the upstairs room that doesn't want to be.

Stray

I've been an inmate in the asylum of my mind

Trapped inside a dungeon of my own unknown design

03 February 2017

Getting tired of the small biz bullshit.

Every construction company I work for is different. One pays with a credit card, no receipt needed. Others like invoices, need only my W9, while others want that plus a certificate of insurance. No problem, both are common practices.

The state contradicts itself, allowing sole-proprietors, like me, to waive workman's compensation insurance, unless one works for commercial construction contractors; then you have to carry it.

Now, business owners are exempt from workman's compensation policies unless you're willing to pay extra, but why would I do that?  I have personal health insurance (for the moment), and I have no employees. Just me. Workman's compensation insurance is a useless tax deduction to me, but I get in the pool like everyone else and do my part.

Some clients are special snowflake clients; they pour salt in the open wound that is the above described extortion. They want additional special forms and waivers of subrogation and signed exemptions...

Shit to print, scrawl, scan, and trash.  A total waste of my time, not to mention perfectly good paper.. 

And they never pull this shit until after the work is done and invoice received, and some office minion peeps.  

I'd charge extra for this garbage; sign the ones I can - some you just don't ever sign - but it's hard to re-submit an invoice with an extra $200 for bullshit added after the fact.

Solidarity

All workers bleed RED,

No class but the working class.

We have nothing to lose but our chains

... and perhaps your shitty boss.

Solidarity is everything.

We are all workers.

We are many.

Solidarity!

The battle of Stalingrad.


02 February 2017

It just doesn't matter!

I am sick to death of hearing about the damned three million votes.

It just doesn't matter! Move on!

The Democratic Party abandoned the working class, slowly, over several decades. They played identity politics and meritocracy and 'fuck you, you shoulda gotten a college degree' and finally lost it all.

Quit whining about the God damned popular vote and get busy doing something constructive.

01 February 2017

Freedom

Freedom doesn't come dressed in a business suit, carrying a briefcase;

Freedom shows up wearing a tshirt and brandishing a guitar!

31 January 2017

Prophets of Doom: Trump Version

My words, someone else's Photoshop skills. Go on, click it!

I don't usually post other people's words directly, but this is too fucking important not to repeat. Click the graphic to read the whole article. Trust me, you need to see this coming before it hits you.
"I’m reading this as “1933 playbook continues on schedule, pace slightly higher than last time: something between maybe 1.2x and 2x, but without the possibility of a major land war to show up on the horizon.” For foreign-born Muslims and Latinos who are undocumented, related to someone undocumented, or who might be confused for undocumented, I’d say that the red flag is up, and it’s time to consider exit strategies with a 6-month window. US-born Muslims, Latinos who have more stability inside the country, and Jews have a somewhat longer time horizon available, but I’d start quietly thinking about options for when things change. Advice for the black and trans communities is simpler, because everyone already knows it: Organize! The advantage there is in numbers and shared strength, and in community. That’s also good advice for all of the other groups: even if you’re thinking about your exit strategy, you have very good reason to make common cause, and for everyone to work and pull together. That’s the thing that has a chance of preventing all of this, and of saving the most lives when that fails."

Second verse, worse than the first.

I took off down the road, went out to do some work
But all my tools were busted, so I nearly lost my shirt
The client got pissed off, and started acting like a jerk
If things don't change direction soon somebody's gettin' hurt

30 January 2017

Bad lyrics

I woke up much too early, on the shitty side of bed
Too much pain and suff'ring going on inside my head
Tried to read the morning paper, but all I see is red
Things don't change direction soon, I fear we'll all be dead

Keep it.

I woke up this morning shortly after midnight; laid in bed, awake, until after 3:30, thinking about all the insanity, worrying about when the people I worked for last year are going to pay me so I can pay my taxes this year, wanting to stop living in this shitty world, but still tied to enough people I care about not to leave, yet.

I live in a community that prides itself on its "traditional family values" and Christianity, but these people voted for the Nazis in the White House. They would kill Muslims if they thought they could get away with it. Gays and Mexicans too. They'd kill unbelievers like me too. It all disgusts me. I've never fit in, and now I'm beginning to be glad I never did, in spite of the pain ostracism causes. If this is the kind of world your Christian values create, keep it. I'd rather burn in Hell.

29 January 2017

The art of Fred Ellis.

I came across these "cartoons" while looking for words and imagery to devour the other night.  The artist was an American named Fred Ellis

Fred Ellis was born in 1885, in Chicago.  He worked at a number of different jobs as a young man, and participated in the 1905 Chicago packinghouse strikes. 

He saved $100, over three years, and enrolled himself at the Chicago Institute of Fine Arts, which lasted all of about two months.

At this point, Fred became a sign painter, specializing in large outdoor signs, and worked for twenty-one years at this trade.

In 1919, while working for the General Outdoor Advertising Company, Ellis slipped and fell five stories from a scaffold.  Miraculously, he survived, breaking a mere thirty-two bones when he bounced off the asphalt below. 

Recovery began with six weeks in a hospital, followed by two years during which he was forced to use crutches and/or a cane. 

During this period, Ellis became familiar with a weekly magazine called The New Majority.  The publisher reprinted artwork by such leading radical artists of the day as Art Young and Boardman Robinson, so the injured sign painter began submitting his art to The New Majority.

Ellis drew extensively for the Communist movement from 1923 onward, contributing material to The Daily Worker, The Liberator, The Labor Herald, and other publications. From 1930 to 1936, Fred lived in Berlin and Moscow, where he worked for Pravda, Izvestiya, and the Moscow Daily News.  In 1936 he returned to The Daily Worker and began teaching at the American Artists School, retiring in 1955, ten years before his death.

28 January 2017

A reaction toward proto-feminism?


Everyday revolution.

Our world revolves once 
every twenty-four hours, 
a new revolution every day. 
Every day, a revolution.
A new revolution every day.
Everyday revolution.

Revolutionary!

May every revolution you witness
be as revolutionary as you
need it to be.

May every revolution we witness
be as revolutionary as our children
need us to be.

The legend of the pregnant Easter donkey.

Since no one has asked, I thought I'd go ahead and explain a bit about the pregnant Easter donkey, and how she got that way.

April was called Eosturmonath ("Easter-month") because in pagan times the month was dedicated to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. When Christianity infected northern Europe and England, Easter was co-opted by the blood cult of Jesus.

Painted eggs are part of the Iranian holiday tradition surrounding the beginning of the Persian new year, celebrated on the day of the astronomical Northward equinox.  The ancient Zoroastrian tradition has existed for at least 2,500 years and continues to this day.

So, what the fuck does that have to do with a donkey, right? I'm glad you asked.

The donkey, or ass, is a member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, E. africanus,, and was probably first domesticated in Egypt or Mesopotamia.

Donkeys have been used as a working stock for at least 5,000 years.  Most of the more than forty million donkeys in the world today are used principally as draught or pack animals in underdeveloped nations, often by those living at or below subsistence levels.

A male donkey, or ass, is called a jack, a female a jenny.   Jack donkeys are often bred with female horses to produce mules; the biological "reciprocal" of a mule, from a stallion and jenny, is called a hinny.  Donkeys typically gestate for about twelve months, though the period can vary from ten to fourteen months, and usually results in a single foal.

None of which has a damned thing to do with Easter or eggs, other than perhaps the possibility that  by Easter we might all wish we had a donkey or two, perhaps a few egg-laying hens of some kind, or even some toilet paper, vodka, or pain killers for barter if the Republican Death Squads in Congress, and the out of control Toddler in the Oval Office aren't brought to heel soon.

Remember the Challenger Seven.


After Blake

Petrified against infinity, the watchman forsook his ancient
mansion; driven out in dismal torment and bended down,
sought solace in the harlot's false virginity.

The Trump of doom wraps itself in the harlot's womb, until
charity become injury; generosity a science by which men
grow rich, and empires rise and fall, and rise again.

The villain preaches abstinence, consumed by devilish hands;
dignitary of a demon soul, trapped in finite revolutions, sentenced
to an uncertain future on this, our Alcatraz.

Awaken, thunders of the deep, lovers of wild rebellion, let us
laugh at war, and take refuge from our oppressors and
revel in this finite wall of flesh.

Man became a transgressor of gods.  No more let us follow;
no more obedience pay.  Empires of blasphemy rise from
bright ruins, and God, the tyrant, died.

Morning comes, the starry night decays, the watchmen
leave their stations.  My lover lingers, the Earth trembles
beneath, howling across centuries long unraveled,

A ray of darkness glittering along the time-space continuum,
dancing the spiral of infinity.

27 January 2017

Employment questions from a 1950s federal application.


It's not the regulations, Stupid.

'Corporate America' makes everything more difficult and more expensive for everyone.  Layer upon layer of tape - red and many other hues - to fight our way through; time wasted on asinine procedures that create jobs for people otherwise unqualified to wipe asses in a daycare center; not to mention legalese ad infinitum.  A simple one hour service call to a local facility requires two hours of professional gymnastics in the back office just to authorise the project.

This is why you can't have nice things.

25 January 2017

International solidarity, now more important than ever.


I cannot believe that I am living in this world.

When I was in middle (junior high) school we had a music teacher whose family had obviously been through, and was deeply affected by, the Holocaust. I witnessed her broken down in tears almost daily for three years, all because some heartless, cloven-hooved redneck kids heard about her "triggers" and could always be counted on to come running,  push her buttons, and make the old lady cry.  All for a cheap, ugly laugh.

Those same kids, I might add, are now all grown up and middle-aged. Many are now grandparents.  More than a few warm a church pew every time the doors swing open or a bell rings, in almost Pavlovian fashion.  I guess it's true, what one of my childhood friends once told me in response to the question, "how come so many old people are so hot to go to church all the time?" When the dick stops working, a lot of men suddenly find the need to find God. I don't know if it's because they fucked over so many women when old Woody still stood tall, or because they genuinely fear mortality.  Either way, it's fucking silly.

Anyway, back to the resurgence of Naziism in the world, here in the 21st century.  There are actual human beings out there DEFENDING ADOLPH FUCKING HITLER today, and openly hoping Donald Trump will, "do a better job" of wiping out the undesirables among us, according to these fascist loving bigots.

Fucking Hitler!!!

My grandparents and yours fought that bastard. Millions of people died fighting that murderer, more died at his hand!  Maybe it is time to leave.

I shoulda been buying houses.

I used to think I own a small business, but I'm really just a subcontractor; a one-man band playing a very unique set of instruments that few know how to "play" and fewer still own.  I still very much work for 'the Man'.

Tax wise, self-employment is a pretty shitty deal.  Don't get me wrong, it beats the Hell out of wage slavery by miles, but if I had it to do over again... I might have tried a few other things.

Think about this:  If I go out and earn $30k in taxable income this year, come tax time next year, I have to pay whatever the going rate in my income tax bracket is, plus I have to pay 15.3% self-employment tax, off the top.

Like I said, my little traveling sideshow gig is better than wage slavery, but there are even easier ways to make a living, if you get started early enough.  For instance, I could have been a real estate investor.

Apparently, to be a 'real estate professional' one need not even become a licensed realtor.  Properly managed, income from real estate investments can require little or no social security/self employment taxes because most of the income is treated as long term capital gains.  For relatively poor married couples, it appears to me that the current long term capital gains tax rate for incomes between $18k and about $75k is 0%. Yes, I said zero percent.

Self-employment taxes do not apply to long term capital investment gains.  Rental income carries the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep until time to sell.

23 January 2017

Now is the time to be unreasonable and hysterical.

I was reading something this morning, an article about living with an autocrat, which is a fancy word for an asshole like Trump.  They listed a number of rules for surviving the coming wave of idiocy we're going to be swimming in.
Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.
See, that's funny, because I've been that guy for thirty or forty years.  I'm good at it.  I've been seeing things before others see them; warning people about climate change, back when we called it global warming and the greenhouse effect; pointing out the fascist elements in both dominant American political parties; calling out even "good Democrats" for their pro-corporate, pro-Wall Street, anti-labor policies, and getting ignored forever.

Yeah, I know the part of contrarian well.  I know how to be the screaming lunatic nobody listens to.

Bring it!

21 January 2017

Welcome to Trumpland.

First they came for the Muslims, but I'm not Muslim, why should I care?
Then they came for the Mexicans. My neighbor's girlfriend was a Mexican, but he'll find a new girlfriend soon, right?
When they evicted all the gays last year, it was hard to watch my friends and family members move away, but I'm sure they'll be happier in the new colony, among their own kind, right?
Lucky I gave up smoking pot when I did. When the DEA swept the neighborhood last month, my neighbor tested positive. They shot him on the spot. I hope his life insurance covered that?
I heard there was going to be a lottery for empty houses next month. I'm gonna try to get that old atheist's place down the road. Hope it's not possessed.
Welcome to Trumpland.

Paranoid?

Yesterday a former coworker from The Old Company called me up. He's now running an office for Master Contractor employed by Ma Bell's latest southern incarnation. They install the cables that make all this internet and telephone stuff work.

Him: I have a job for you if you're not too busy.
Me: Okay, I'll meet you there in the morning.

He sent me a nice construction print, like I used to get to play with all the time, and almost miss. Their job entailed installing cable from a utility pole at an intersection, bringing it under the road and parallel to another road into a small industrial park, and then crossing a wide asphalt parking lot to serve an industrial client. Looked pretty straight forward.
My job is to find and mark underground utilities so that people doing this sort of work can do so safely, without injury, property damage, or service interruption.  I own my own tools, provide my own insurance, pay my own taxes; I am self-employed.
In the US we have a national one-call system, 811, that people can call to get most utilities marked free of charge, paid for by the utility companies that own the lines, or their contractors.  I was that contracted employee for eighteen years; so was my former coworker.  At one time he was my immediate supervisor, despite the fact that I had twice his experience (thus are the peculiarities of American late-stage capitalism). 
We worked under a contract with Bell.  We all learned to despise Bell, because Bell often seemed to go out of its way to make our job impossible, and as contractors, we had none of the protections afforded employees of Bell through their union, the Communication Workers of America.  In fact, many of those Bell employees viewed us as little better than scabs, since we were doing work that used to be part of their job and its security.
Master Contractor, my friend's new employer, owns and maintains a fleet of vehicles and technicians equipped to do the job I do.  Many other utilities to be found on the proposed project site are covered by 811 contract services, so why, I asked myself, do they need me in the picture?
I went to the meeting this morning and discovered the wrinkle. There are several buildings in the industrial park, all served by a central, metered, electrical substation. All the secondaries are privately owned and maintained (not owned by Big Power, as is more typical), and therefore would not be covered by 811 services after all.
Usually, at this point, I would dive into the job and start working, but this is Bell I'm dealing with, and I know how shit rolls off that mountain.

Me: When do you have to have this installed?
Him: Next Wednesday, we've already pushed it back two days.

I looked around at the wet ground, the wet waist deep weeds all around the substation, and then, at the top of the hill, I spotted the crew coming around the corner, ready to begin installing the cable, right now, today.

Me: I'm sorry, I don't think I can take this.
Him, visibly deflating: I can get you some help.

Me, silently: You have the tools and ability to find this stuff as well as I can. You only need me for a sacrifice should something go wrong. 
Me, aloud:  Sorry, I'm not in this thing for kind of liability or stress.

Drops mic, drives away.