Thursday, June 25, 2009


It seems I'm bugged and saddened at every turn lately by the persistent Every Man For Himself ideological streak at the center of this country's political culture. It may have served [SOME OF] us rather well in the pioneer days or whatever, but it's so directly counter-productive to so many of the nifty, modern things we American humans are trying to do with our lives/society now! It makes no sense that we've been so willing to embrace technological advances that improve outcomes while reducing the grueling/impossible amounts of effort people formerly had to expend to get something done, yet so UNwilling to embrace technologies of cooperation and infrastructure that do the same thing on an equally large, sweeping scale.

Why can't we get it through our heads that we would get more productivity and better-quality work out of every worker if we had nationwide childcare, so people wouldn't be constantly called away and distracted from their jobs?

Where is the logic in funding schools with the property taxes of that school's neighborhood, when the children growing up in failing, dangerous schools are going to live in the same space as kids in rich schools, and their parents -- does it not occur to people that maintaining a poorly educated, opportunity-deprived underclass is dangerous for everyone?

Why do we not seem to get that diseases don't know or care if you have a job with health insurance? They spread among everyone in a population - even you - and they cost everyone money no matter WHO gets them. Isn't 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' supposed to be an American maxim? Aren't we supposed to be, like, a really thrifty bunch of people? 'Waste not, want not,' anyone?? [See here for how we are throwing away disgusting amounts of money now]

My point is that you don't even need any humanitarian, bleeding-heart, pathos-based feeling or opinion about 'the poor,' 'the children,' human suffering, or any of that to argue for further collectivizing the funding and the administration of these basic needs. They make sense on a purely utilitarian level.

The reason for so much bias against them, I think, is that Every Man For Himself streak that has me so bugged -- the deeply ingrained belief in American culture that in an ideal world, one would get nothing from others, and give nothing to others in turn. And if you have children, who by their nature suck up a lot of resources, and can't contribute any to their own upkeep, sorry, but you're on your own. And I'm sorry, but no -- that doesn't work. Our economy and our world are too big for that to work. We have tons of jobs we need done that, for tons of global reasons, are never going to pay wages high enough for one or even two workers to be able to keep their kids out of serious educational, health, and social peril without some basic infrastructure in place.

The cultural value we place on Keeping What You Earn (or at least exclusively benefiting from it) and never, god forbid, having it Go To Take Care Of Someone Else Who Didn't Earn It strikes me as anti-civilization. What is a civilization if not everyone pooling some resources together so we don't ALL have to spend EVERY daylight hour just hunting our next meal? (As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "I like paying taxes. With them, I buy civilization.") Has it really not occurred to well-off Americans that by putting some of their hard-earned money towards education and medical care for Other People's Children, and not just Theirs, they'd be drastically reducing the chances of those children growing up to steal their children's stuff, or worse?

Of course, I think there's a darker side to our individualism at play, too, that overrides all the nice utilitarian arguments I'm talking about. We are such zealots about Every Man For Himself that, often without even realizing it, we attach a moral value to economic success -- we kind of believe in this country that if you make less or have less, you are Morally Bad and you deserve to be punished, to be forced to wallow in your Badness without the things those of your neighbors who've Made Their Own Way enjoy, like child care or health insurance or safe schools.

This Badness that we attribute to the economically unsuccessful seemingly extends to their children, as well. Knocking on doors for Obama in suburban Las Vegas, I had people tell me straight up that the children of uninsured parents did not deserve health care -- because 'those parents should get a job.' Gee, I hope the people who said this to me haven't lost their job and consequently their children's health care!

Our Every Man For Himself streak also shows itself in the way we are predisposed to consider just about anything to be Good if somebody is doing it to make a profit. Consider the comments from Republicans about health care in this brilliant Jon Stewart bit from the Daily Show - it starts about 2 min. 30 seconds in:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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As Jon Stewart hilariously points out, these Republicans going on about a 'government bureaucrat between a doctor and a patient' are FINE with the PRIVATE insurance bureaucrat who now sits between every patient with private health coverage and every doctor -- and that bureaucrat's job is explicitly to deny the patient health care coverage ("It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses").

The Republicans are fine with this, seemingly, because an insurance company is making a profit off of it -- even though, perversely, the way in which they are making a profit is by obstructing the delivery of health care. Replace it with an entity that's publicly as opposed to privately owned, whose motive is simply to distribute health care as opposed to getting rich, and Republicans tell us we as Americans are supposed to find it very suspicious.

(Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be working!)

Most ironic of all, of course, is that these very lawmakers all get their doctor visits paid for under... government-run health insurance.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Be a part of it, New York, New York!

The message I just posted to everyone I know who lives in the state of New York:

All my people in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, Long Island, upstate, and Manhattan, too: New York's only chance to not be monumentally disappointing and fail to get gay marriage before 2010 is NOW. How embarrassing would that be, to be *behind* the tide of equality that's sweeping the nation?! Gov. Paterson's bill to institute gender-neutral marriage equality is in heavy lobbying in the State Senate, and it's going to be really, really close.

If you live in New York state, PLEASE, JUST GO HERE:, put in your zipcode, and find out your State Senator.

THEN GO HERE:, and see how they're expected to vote. If they're a supporter of the bill, shoot them an email and thank them! If they're undecided or against - especially if they're leaning, not firm - get on the phone or email and give them your most impassioned, most personal pitch as to why they should change their mind! Then tell your parents, friends, classmates, co-workers, cousins, anyone you know who lives in the state of New York - especially upstate and the outer boroughs! - and supports gay marriage to do the same.

I feel so homesick to be missing this fight, all the way out here in CA. As we learned the hard way out here (ahem, Prop 8), it would be SO MUCH easier and better to pass this democratically, with the state's popularly elected legislators, then to have it FAIL and have to rely on a series of court cases down the line! The No on 8 movement out here was disorganized, clueless, and un-courageous -- we failed to have those tough conversations with our neighbors and family members who are of a different class, or a different color, or a different religion, or a different political party from us, BEFORE the vote, when it would (not could, would) have made the difference. The right-wingers are orchestrating a well-organized push and dropping huge amounts of money on this late in the game, too, just like they did out here.

In the hot-and-heavy lobbying that's going on in NY right now, constituents' voices ARE the thing State Senators are listening to. What's changing State Senators' minds IS direct, concrete, anecdotal, personal appeals, like the ones described here:

Just take a second to double-check where your State Senator stands and email anyone you know who lives in a wavering State Senator's district.

I want this so bad you guys - I'm legally married in the state of New York, and I want to be able to feel proud, not sketched out and angry and ashamed, of that and of my state! Let's do this -- get on the email and the phone if you <3 NY!!

I wanna see THIS on the steps of City Hall!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

supreme court weltschmerz - it ain't over

So I love how the central thrust of the Republicans' bashing of Sotomayor as a Supreme Court nominee is telegraphing, loud and clear for the whole country to see, their fundamental belief that ONLY white men from privileged backgrounds can ever possibly be 'objective,' or be qualified to do anything, really, without being labeled scary-fringe-affirmative-action-whatever!

The number of times this judge's "life story" is juxtaposed with scary paranoid ranting about her "ideology" in the conservative media is really telling -- OMG she is sure to be BIASED! Towards POOR PEOPLE, because, you know, she WAS ONE!

Note how conservatives with similar life stories (Thomas, Alito) are lauded as self-made go-getters. And I WISH that some day we would have a discussion about how growing up rich/ white/ straight/ male/ in a prep school bubble/ in a cushy home with every comfort, etc. affects judges' and politicians' ability to do their jobs, whether it would, you know, be a terrible handicap to have a leader who doesn't have any first-hand experience of what MOST of the people in this country go through - dealing with at least one major, systematic kind of discrimination or oppression, all of the time.

The brilliant Bitch, Ph.D. breaks it all down for you here:

Also, I love that this tool is actually saying we should all be intentionally mispronouncing our names if they don't happen to be Anglo in origin - really, this has to be seen to be believed:
Earth to this guy, Judge Sotomayor is an American, born in the Bronx, not a "newcomer."

Gah. At least they're showing themselves for the horrible, fearful little racists they are.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

police beat the shit out of 12 year old girl (they mistook her for a prostitute), charge her with assault

I would echo the comments I've read on the internet: I don't know why the national media isn't on this story. I found out about it from boing boing here. It has received some internet coverage over the past month, and you can read the facts for yourself at the Houston Press blog, and The Agitator.

In August, 2006, a 12-year-old girl in Galveston, TX, Dymond Milburn, was sent out into her front yard at 7:45 in the evening by her mother to flip a circuit breaker. Four plainclothes police officers jumped out of a blue van and grabbed her, saying "You're a prostitute. You're coming with me." She hid behind a bush, grabbed onto it, and started screaming for her Daddy.

The police were responding to a call about suspected prostitution 2 blocks from Dymond's house. They were looking for three white prostitutes who were supposedly soliciting a white man and a black man. Dymond is a black little girl, who was in her front yard 2 blocks away. They said they thought she was a prostitute because of the "tight shorts" she was wearing.

As Dymond held on to the tree, these four men beat and slapped her on the head, face, and throat with a flashlight -- she was hospitalized that night with two black eyes, head injuries, a ruptured eardrum, nosebleeds, and countless bruises, lacerations, and sprains all over her body. Her parents came outside and begged the police to stop, saying she was their daughter and she was 12; they said they didn't care if she was 22, 32, or 46. Her 5-month-old puppy ran outside and started barking at the officers; they threatened to shoot it.

Her father was arrested the next day and charged on very sketchy evidence with drug possession and assaulting an 'officer of the peace' -- when it doesn't sound like, from the court record, ever actually touched the cops. He pled guilty to the lesser charges in order to get the assault charges dropped.

And three weeks later, the police came to Dymond's school, where she was an honor student, and arrested her for assaulting a public servant in front of all her classmates. She was tried for assault once and the case ended in a mistrial on the first day because of a remark made by an officer on the witness stand (the remark obviously isn't in the public record but I would love to know what it was). She was tried AGAIN, for assault, this week, and her trial ended today in a mistrial -- 5 jurors wanted to acquit her of the charges but ONE holdout would not relent - that person wanted to see her convicted of assault.

Her family has a high-profile ACLU lawyer - thank god - and has filed a federal suit, which you can read in full here. The details of the beating and the psychological trauma she continues to undergo from it are even more sickening than what I've just written out, so be warned.

Does something like this even need my commentary?

I could write something about how No -- even though we have this wonderful President who got elected even though he's black and everybody loves him, we do NOT live in some kind of 'post-racial society.' About how the number of people bandying around that phrase, coupled with the reality of what has (surprise!) kept happening since Obama's election, in Galveston and in Oakland, makes me want to puke. I watched the video of the point-blank execution-style murder of an unarmed man lying on his stomach on a BART platform (also be warned: it's really horrific), and now the cop who did that is out on bail when he already tried to flee the state once.

Do I even need to comment on the outrage of four cops seeing a 12 year old black girl and thinking "prostitute" -- because of her "tight shorts," that was their excuse -- when they were
specifically looking for white prostitutes?

a lot that's really suspicious about the dad's subsequent drug charges, as well as the possibility, if you look at the entire court record, that these narcotics officers were actually trying to kidnap the girl to interrogate her about her father or just to get access to him by provoking him.

What this says about children, about little girls resisting when strangers try to grab them from their house, about race and the law and parents trying to keep children safe, depresses me beyond words.

The liberatarian magazine Reason ('Free minds and free markets') has done substantial coverage of this as a violation of constitutional rights, and to their great credit, even they are saying things like, 'I hate to say it, but I honestly believe if this family was white, this wouldn't have happened.' The commenters on Reason who have expressed (honest, Texan) sentiments 'wishing Mr. Milburn had had a clean shot' at the cops and attesting that if they were in his place, 'there would be a bunch of dead strangers decorating the front lawn' have even been called out and reminded -- NO, this family was black and there would have been no defense, no sympathy.

This story makes the most perverse contrast to the back-and-forth exchange about children and violence I was recently reading on this well-known mommy blog, in which parents end up agreeing that they want their kids to be taught smart, watchful self-defense tactics and encouraged to "use your fists, heels, knife, whatever you've got" if, god forbid, they were grabbed by a stranger. That that basic right to self-protection is a privilege only white parents can safely teach their kids makes me sick.

Four men jump out of a blue van, grab your 12 year old daughter, and tell her she's a prostitute and she's coming with them -- what would you want her to do? Law enforcement officers damn near killed this 12 year old girl as she held on to a tree, screaming for her father, then charged HER with assault and defended their assessment of her as a prostitute by her SHORTS -- and we wonder, when we hear about a girl or woman being raped, why she didn't "just report it"?!

Oh, and one of the cops who did this was named a Galveston Police Dept. "Officer of the Year" in June (from Reason - p.5, here).

Friday, February 6, 2009

awesome stuff the fed. govt. has bought with our money

Watch the beautiful slide show and read this great article about how American socialism has gotten us some truly excellent stuff!

Forward to anyone in your family and community you hear bitching about the so-called 'pork' or 'tax and spend'-ing or 'socialism' yadda yadda in the stimulus package!

You also might want to forward them this - 'Throwing Schools Out the Window':

and this - 'GOP's Nutso Anti-Stimulus Stance':

As my friend M. recently opined in her facebook status update, 'Republicans - the train has left the station!'

Friday, January 23, 2009

blogging for choice a day late

Hooray to President Obama (god, how beautiful those words look!) for UN-GAGGING THE FREAKING GLOBE today:

This insane so-called 'policy' from 1984 has always been one of the #1 reasons I could never stand to hear my friends on the left talk about how maybe a moderate Democratic candidate like Hillary Clinton, if nominated, or even Obama, if he ran too close to the center, needed to lose the Presidency in order to 'send a message'...

LIVES -- thousands, probably millions, of women's and babies' LIVES WILL BE SAVED in the (god-willing) eight years and more that we will not have this literally murderous colonialist policy governing what basically every health-outreach organization ON THE PLANET can and cannot do for its clients. We -- the world, humans, who care about the suffering of other humans -- could not have afforded for America not to get a Democrat back in office.

And what a Democrat! Check out our President's spiffy new website, including the awesome feminist agenda for "Women":

I myself feel willing and ready and able to bring a new person into this world now, in this new political climate, in a way that I would not necessarily have felt if we had not won this election.

This is my blog for choice post, cribbed from a pair of text messages I received from my friend A., on Election Night:

OMG our future children will most likely be OBAMA BABIES!

But if we do not want those Obama babies we will not be forced to have them!!

Amen to that. God bless America, and may every child in it be a wanted child.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama is cheap! AND - they care about DC!

Two relatively unsung bits of the Obamas' interview on 60 minutes that I LURVE:

1) The President-Elect is one cheap-ass motherfucker! Watching this with my husband, he was like, "He's cheaper than you!"

On the hovel he lived in in DC, which nearly burned down (but he moved back in after the fire!):
Michelle Obama: It reminded me of a little better version of the apartment you were in when we first started dating. That was a dump too.

Mr. Obama: Right near Harold’s Chicken Shack.

Michelle Obama: Yeah.

Mr. Obama: Yeah. That’s when I had the car with the hole in it.

Michelle Obama: And you could see the sidewalk, because the rust had gone through.

Mr. Obama: The air-conditioning.

Michelle Obama: So that was my side. I would look and see the ground going past.

I [HEART] a President who uses shit till it FALLS APART.

2) -- and this one seriously makes me stop and have one of those 'Whoa, we really get this President!?' moments -- We're going to have a President who gives a shit about DC!

Michelle: I, both Barack and I, believe that we can have an impact in the D.C. area. You know, in terms of making sure we’re contributing to the community that we immediately live in.

Do you guys get that, what she said just there? The President is going to care about DC. The President is going to give a shit about that poorest, blackest, most fucked-over, disenfranchised colonial territory of the federal government -- the junkies and tranny prostitutes and immigrants and service workers and struggling families who don't even get an autonomous city government or representation in congress -- the fucking President of the fucking United States is going to GIVE A SHIT what happens to them, how they are.

I was making my coffee this morning and I remembered this, as it crosses my mind periodically, and I stopped - as I stop every time I remember it - and just sobbed. I'm crying right now, at my keyboard. The President is going to give a shit about DC. Unless you're way older than I am, you've never seen that. I don't know if we've EVER seen that in the whole history of this republic and that poor, fucked-over city.

I love cities; the very best of America to me is embodied in its cities. To have a President who is of the city, who is aware of the city he lives in, and who loves cities too -- well, it's even better than having a President who once drove a car with a HOLE in it (and that's pretty great)!

It still seems too good to be true, y'all, but it isn't -- we worked our asses off and we earned ourselves the chance to make a new country.