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.

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.