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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 18,889

Journal Archives

A Pome: "Officer Friendly Killed My Brother"

My sister died because the medicine cost eighty-four thousand dollars
I can't breathe

My father was turned away at the voting place
I can't breathe

They took my aunt's house
I can't breathe

"A fund has been started to help the family pay medical expenses"
I can't breathe

My grandmother is still working--they privatised her pension
I can't breathe

My cousins got turned away from the public swimming pool
I can't breathe

My brother was beaten for holding hands with his husband
I can't breathe

My sister was killed for "looking like a ho"
I can't breathe

They put my neighbors in jail instead of treating their illness
I can't breathe

The sky is dark with soot and the land is slick and oily
I can't breathe

Officer Friendly killed my brother
I can't breathe

My voice is unheard
I can't breathe

Listen Up, You Oligarchs and Your Helots: It's a Stark Choice

It's also very simple.

We are reaching a tipping point. Enough "unimportant people" are finally pissed off to be demanding change in no uncertain terms. We believe:

  • Black lives matter
  • Our grandchildren should have a planet that supports human life
  • There really ARE alternatives to fossil fuels and they CAN make our lives better
  • Wall Street does nothing connected with us except steal from us
  • The terrorists who are hurting us most are already here in America-- and they wear suits
  • Who marries whom is a private affair between the parties concerned
  • Health insurance should not be another cover for stealing from us
  • Health care should focus on making us well, not keeping us sick for your profit
  • The outcome of our elections should be determined by our votes, not your money

We don't all believe all of these things with the same fervor or passion, but enough of us believe some or all of them with enough passion to demand change.

You have two options:

1. Stop the smash-and-grab raids, prepare to give up some of your ill-gotten gains, consolidate the rest and begin paying a share of the infrastructure and community expenses proportional to the gains you've wrested from it; or

2. Keep smashing and grabbing, clench tighter around control and try to keep change from happening.

Choose "1" and you'll get to keep some things you value, you'll still be more or less at the top of the food chain, and you'll live to steal again a couple of generations down the road.

Choose "2" and blood will flow. Some of it will be yours. No one will be able to predict the outcome, who will end up on top, who the new oppressors will be, how things will shake out. It's a risk.

That's the choice.

There is no option 3.

The time is growing short, and if you don't choose the choice will be made for you. Another risk.


FatalEncounters.org: Info Law Enforcement Doesn't Want You to Have

Journalists, protesters, activists and even historians attempting to summarize factual information on the number of people killed by law enforcement officers in the course of their duties have all encountered it: The brick wall of "No Information."

No one in America-- Not the FBI, not the Justice Department, not even (so far as we know) the NSA, the ultimate Agency that Sees All and Knows All, collects this data and/or is willing to share it.

When we ask "how bad is the problem?" we must accept the answer "we don't know."

Knowledge is of course power. And no law enforcement agency in America apparently wants the citizens it works for to have that power.

So we have to do it on our own.

And we ARE doing it on our own, via crowdsourcing, with FatalEncounters.org, a website created by D. Brian Burghart to compile this information from citizen sources.

Go look, it's worth seeing. Fifty-seven in New Mexico so far, the oldest going back to 2000.

It's even more worth donating.

Because who actually HAS this information? We do. We whose family members, neighbors, fellow-citizens have been killed, who read the newspapers, listen to the radio, monitor what's happening in our communities. We HAVE the information.

Let's put it together, so we can USE the information.

Thanks, Mr. Burghart. I WILL be donating.


Preventing Fergusons: A Modest Proposal

Dearly Beloved Oligarchs,

While I know you're not overly concerned about the rising tide of protest against police violence and racism (because, after all, you've made sure the heat have the very best military-grade hardware to deal with such obstreperous impertinence,) I imagine it's a bit annoying, and possibly even a setback to the Invisible Total Fascism (ITF) agenda. In order to continue pretending that they're doing their jobs, the media can't completely ignore what's going on, nor are their efforts to re-write the actual events and issues entirely successful.

It's definitely a setback.

Which is why I'm offering you this Modest Proposal, with the intent of avoiding future "Ferguson" powderkeg incidents. I figure you'll be able to implement it with a minimum of trouble, since your purchase of both houses of Congress has been completed. The solution is very simple:

Just bring back the death penalty for misdemeanors, and ensure it's applied to minors!

It's worked before... Heck, in 19th-Century Britain it took decades of coverage by the newly-established and inadequately controlled mass media to even gin up any outrage against it!

Now that you own the media, it should be a doddle.

Cops will no longer have to gun youngsters of "dark complexion" down in the streets where mobile phone cameras can capture images and use social media to provoke hysterical overreaction by unreasonable serfs who still believe in that silly "due process" fiction. They can just pop the little criminals into a Black Maria, hale them off to a star chamber, and shift them quickly to the gallows in a nice, private prison yard where no disruptive influences can witness "the drop."

Problem solved!

You're welcome, and I'm hoping you'll remember this favor when it comes time for dishing out the gruel. Seconds would be appreciated!


(P.S. For anyone who still can't figure it out: )

"War": I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Oxford posts one main and three subordinate definitions for the noun:

1. A state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state:
Japan declared war on Germany

1.1 A particular armed conflict:
after the war, they immigrated to America

1.2 A state of competition, conflict, or hostility between different people or groups:
she was at war with her parents

1.3 A sustained effort to deal with or end a particular unpleasant or undesirable situation or condition:
the authorities are waging war against all forms of smuggling

I would like to propose a more accurate definition set:

1. An indefinite state of lavish subsidy for favored industries, businesses, and government contractors:
war produces excellent quarterly earnings

1.1 A particular contract or boondoggle:
the war allowed us to develop a new corporate division

1.2 A state of indefinite suspension of oversight:
the war budget continued to expand

1.3 An effort to sustain profitable conditions based on a public perception of an undesirable situation:
the war on drugs creates a higher yield than the war on povery


Aux Barricades?

Let's start with this: Michael Brown's Mom Laid Flowers Where He Was Shot—and Police Crushed Them

Which is, quite simply, disgusting.

And while I was reading it, I began to hear music.

The music I was hearing?

And I began to see a vision: People blockading the ends of that block of Canfield Drive with homemade barricades, to keep the police away from the memorial created by the people for one of their own.

This would probably not end well, so I don't really hope they do it.

But it could happen.

And if it did, what would be my response? Your response?

Would we be contacting our elected "public servants" to say PAY ATTENTION TO THIS AND BE ON OUR SIDE, because it's finally becoming clear where the sides are: The people of Ferguson are my side, the 99%, the ones who get robbed and suckered and exploited by our corporate overlords. And the police of Ferguson are NOT my side-- the are demonstrating, over and over and over again, that they are the ones perpetuating that robbing and suckering and exploitation.

Now, should this be so? Should law enforcement not be on the side of all of us?

Indeed, it should not be so. Law enforcement, theoretically, works for the people.

But until my elected "public servant" and every other elected public servant in this alleged democratic republic walks in fear of losing their goddamn jobs, it will continue.

It's a bigger fight. It always has been.

I hope it doesn't take barricades to bring that home.


A Promise. From Me.

The public spotlight is not focused on where I live right now.

There are "issues" connected with racism, police brutality, militarization of law enforcement, and protection of civil and Constitutional rights practically everywhere in America, now. Where I live is no exception. But at the moment, the fights that matter, the places where we need the eyes of the world looking, are not here.

What I can do, and will do, I promise, is this:

I will keep MY words and MY focus on where it needs to be: An unarmed black man was murdered by police.

I will do MY best to speak coherently, simply, and firmly about what needs to happen in America: justice, law enforcement reform, and civil rights.

I will remind anyone who speaks to me about these issues, and who has been distracted by the noise machine, of where the fundamental injustice rests in our society.

I will pay attention.

I will do my best to be aware of, and counteract, my own assumptions of white privilege.

That's all I can usefully do now. But here is a further promise:

If, and when, it becomes possible and/or necessary for me to drag my sorry old white ass out into the street where I live, and stand with my black--or Hispanic, or Native American, or whoever the brown punching bags of the month happen to be-- brothers and sisters (oh, hell, who am I kidding... "my black grand nieces and nephews" would be more accurate...) for justice, I WILL DO IT.

And if that means sitting down until some po-po has to pick me up and drag me, well, I been there, done that. I can do it again. It's worth it.

It is time.

The back of this beast must be broken, once and for all.

I will do what I can, and must.

I promise.


"Cowardly, Selfish"

(Trigger warning: I will be discussing suicidal thoughts.)

Right here on DU, someone explained it: Suicide is an inherently selfish act -and in that one, there's the implication of cowardice, as well. ("never allows for resolution of issues for that person or others around them".)

And someone else here on DU noted that the Guardian's science blogger is wrong about it not being selfish.

I acquit folks writing such stuff here on DU of malice. I don't think they intend to hurt, denigrate, or perpetuate stigma.

But such a monumental lack of understanding and unwillingness to even nod in the direction of empathy is part of a problem for me today.

For me, and many others who suffer from chronic brain disorders-- particularly depressive disorders-- Mr. Williams' widely-reported and -discussed suicide is like having a scab ripped open. It exposes, suddenly and searingly the pain of a wound I am dedicated to healing.

I totally understand Mr. Williams' coping mechanism of humor although I've never been bright or desperate or creative or witty enough to use it successfully myself. But, damn, do I ever do a topnotch impression of "normal." Pulled-together, organized, thoughtful, pleasant, blah-blah-blah... on the rare occasions I have to acknowledge my disease to comparative strangers they are utterly gobsmacked-- they never imagined.

But under the mask I wear, just like under Mr. Williams' more flamboyant, beloved mask, and under masks worn by so many of my fellow-sufferers, the jerkbrain is still trying to kill me.

It's powerful, insidious, and effective. It's nearly succeeded a couple of times. What stopped me wasn't any altruistic impulse or sudden access of courage. Something closer to Divine intervention, maybe.

Be that as it may, here's what I was doing, those times when I decided not to continue breathing:

I was ending pain. I was ending weariness. A seemingly-endless weariness that offered no hope nor joy nor light nor love, nor even real pain or desire or strong feeling of any kind other than desperate, overwhelming gray numbness.

And I knew, because my jerkbrain told me so, that my misery was a drag on everyone else, too. People had to pretend to be nice to me. They had to consider my feelings, even though, lets face it, it had to be a terrible effort for them. Because being around me had to be an awful downer for them. How could it not be? Being around me is a terrible downer for ME. The voice of my jerkbrain tells me:

They would be so much better off without me.

Without my pain intruding on them.

Without my ugliness, my awkward attempts at humor, my fumbling and pathetic attempts to be "one of the gang"-- the human race, that is. Really, much better to leave them to get on with the living that seemed to work pretty well for them, and not have to try and fit such an un-fit-able object as myself into their lives.

And it would be a two-fer! In addition to giving others the gift of not having me around anymore, I'd be done. The effort of rolling the god-damned boulder of existence up the rocky, dusty, acid slope of life would be over.

The jerkbrain comforts me: You never belonged here, anyway.

It unrolls before the long history of rejection, bullying, every pain and every disconnection from the rest of you smooth apes. I am not of the tribe, clearly. I was a mistake.

Each breath continues the mistake of my existence and existence is a wearing, dragging agony of tiredness and numbness and tunnel vision into an endless future of more of the same.

This is not "selfishness." It is an act of altruism to allow the rest of you to continue without having to deal with my pain.

This is not "cowardice," it's just the last erg of energy leached from a weary existence, acknowledged.

Oblivion looks sweet, and beautiful, and NOTHING, a consummation devoutly to be wished, indeed.

If you were the wretched thing I am, you would do this, too. And yes, it may jolt you for a while, temporarily, that I chose this last act of controlling my destiny by ending it, but you will get over the jolt, and the shadow my existence, that interfered with your joy, that will be gone and the sun will shine fully upon you.

I don't pretend to speak for others who have been to that gateway, neither those who have turned back, nor those who stepped through. Nor is that voice "me."

That voice is my jerkbrain, my disease, the thing inside my head that wants me dead.

I choose not to let it win, each day, twenty-four hours at a time. Because twenty-four hours is all I can manage, even with medication that does help, even with a Program that functions as a lifeline, even with the love of friends, family, and dearest soulmate.

THIS twenty-four hours, I choose to keep the jerkbrain from winning.

Not from altruism, not from courage, but because I have given up. I am no longer fighting, I am no longer trying to control it, I have given that control over to a Power Greater than myself, and that Power gives me each twenty-four hours as a precious gift.

So when discussion like today's rips the scab off, I want to share a little of this experience for you, for others, because understanding of WHY suicide happens is so very necessary to helping us KEEP it from happening.

Saying it's about being "selfish" or "cowardly" does not help. It does not make me feel challenged to prove you wrong, or to 'buck up' or to stop being what I am-- a person with a chronic brain disorder. I have no control over that, and your ignorance and lack of understanding does nothing but convince me that the gap between my reality and yours is so wide and unbridgeable I might as well not even try. It gives the jerkbrain one more tool to use against me.

Please think about that, before making assertions about that of which you obviously know nothing.


How NOT to Deal with Credit Card Fraud: A Case Study

First, a disclaimer:

In general terms, I like my locally-owned and controlled bank. Because I have both personal AND business accounts to manage, with an array of services and needs that are beyond many smaller credit unions and "alternative" financial services providers, I've stuck with them. It's been a good trade-off for me. They support local charities, engage in volunteer projects, and work hard to be good community citizens. As banks go, they're less toxic than most. So I'll change their name, here, while I eviscerate their bad choices in fraud management strategy.

My partner and I live in a small city, barely a city at all- more of a somewhat urbanized small town. And I bank at a locally owned and operated bank, "Nortera Bank," because I want my money locally managed. Nortera has our personal joint checking account, our savings account, two small business checking accounts, and extends us a line of credit for cash management. It also supplies us with Visa debit/credit cards, free of charge, no fees, attached to the checking accounts.

We use the cards for just about everything, because it makes record keeping easier. We do have a classic credit card account, used mostly for business travel, but the Nortera cards are in pretty much daily use. Since we've had them (nearly ten years now,) we have twice had episodes where card numbers have been stolen and misused, not for vast sums (once for about $1700, once for about $300, IIRC,) but productive of much annoyance and hassle all around.

So when Nortera sent us a notice last month telling us that they were implementing a new fraud protection system, we said, "Great, fine, yay! Well done, Nortera."

Until yesterday, when I encountered it, thusly: I needed a new doodad. It was an essential doodad, used daily for personal and business use, and the loss of the old doodad had been most stressful. So I got online to order the new doodad from DRU (Doodads R Us) a reputable national online retailer, one I have an established account with, and use fairly regularly, although at erratic intervals. I ordered the doodad, and entered my Nortera card number.

DRU appeared to complete the transaction, but a few moments later an email popped into my inbox: The card had been declined.

My first assumption was that I hadn't been quite quick enough clicking on the anti-script-blocker plugin on my browser during the transaction, and I'd messed it up somehow. So I put in a call to DRU customer service, left my order number for a callback, and 15 minutes later I asked them to repeat the charge, explaining about the browser thing. No prob, DRU said they'd run it again, but couldn't tell me whether it went through or not over the phone because it took a few minutes. They'd email me verification.

The email arrived but it was not verification. Again, declined.

Fortunately, it's during business banking hours, so I called Nortera and got quickly connected to the credit card customer service department (which, as far as I can tell, is three women all named something like Moira.)

"This is Myra, can I help you?"

"Yes, I had a charge declined, and it shouldn't be."

(Various back and forth about account number, secret authorization codes, etc.)

"And the specific charge that was declined?"

"It was fifteen minutes ago... the $76.99 charge from DRU."

"Oh, yes, THAT one. Well, it's from California."

"No, it's from DRU. On the internet. I ordered something on the internet."

"Yes, but the charge originated in California. There's a LOT of credit card fraud originating from California. Like, more fraud than valid charges, even."

"Seriously? You guys blacklisted the WHOLE STATE of California?"


"So... anything I order online from someone based in California... or anything I order over the phone from someone there... or if I'm traveling there... it's going to be automatically declined?"

"Well, if you plan to travel there, you need to let us know in advance. Like, tell us how long you plan to be there and what days and cities you'll be visiting, and then we won't decline stuff from there. On those days."

"Wow. Umm... well. I buy things from DRU several times a year. Can I have them whitelisted, so I don't have to call you every time?"

"No, we can't do that."

(Thumping sound, me banging head on desk.)

"And this is going to save the bank money in fraudulent charges."

"Oh, yes, we lose a lot on fraudulent charges."

"But you don't mind paying people to answer customer service calls every single time someone wants to order something online, or over the phone, from the ENTIRE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, or any time someone with travel plans needs to give you their itinerary in advance, or any time someone is traveling and FORGOT to give you their itinerary in advance."

"Well, we're not a very large bank."

"And god help anyone who's traveling and forgot to submit you their itinerary and discovers it when they're standing at the rental car counter at 7:30 pm on a Saturday night, is that it?"

"We have an automated service you can set up to verify with your smart phone using security codes, but it's not online yet."

"And if you don't have a smart phone?"

"It would be good if you remember to let us know when you're traveling."

"Have you ever heard of this thing called a 'microchip?' Advanced nations with modern financial networks put them on credit cards and have practically no fraud."

"We can't afford that."

"But you can afford to lose customers who make lots of online, phone, and other out-of-area purchases and don't want to have to go through the process of phoning you to enable every transaction."

The sad thing is, I think Nortera probably CAN'T afford to upgrade to a microchip-enabled VISA network. They're a small local bank, and they don't want to implement extra fees to the customers. And right now, VISA and the other big credit-card networks are dragging their heels, kicking and screaming, at the cost of upgrading those networks to enable reliable fraud protection. It would, after all, cut into their already obscene profits. And the banks are between a rock and a hard place.

So, for now, I'm hanging tight. I think Nortera is going to figure out the downsides of this new fraud protection system pretty quickly, and we'll be back to something closer to normal within a couple of months. If not, I WILL be re-evaluating how we bank. But we'll cross that bridge down the road.

For now, I just wonder why the BIG banks, who must be absorbing MASSIVE fraud losses (while passing as much as they can along to the customers in fees and jacked-up interest, etc.) aren't putting the pressure on the big credit card networks to upgrade.

Anyone know?



Proofs, Disproofs, Labels and Semantics

First a couple disclosures and some shouts-out.

Disclosure: I'm a bit of a crank on the topic of semantics, because it is an article of belief for me that the words we use, and how we use them, both reflect how we think and shape how we think. And since that's a key to motivation and behavior, I look at semantic issues as a place to address cultural change. So if discussions of semantics seem superficial, pointless, or ineffective to you, skip this post and/or trash the thread-- if any thread develops.

Also, I think most regulars in this forum are aware I'm a theist, but that should also be disclosed.


Thanks to Htom Sirveaux for starting the discussion in this thread, which raises a few very important semantic issues.

And thanks to Trotsky for this VERY enlightening contribution in the discussion there:

"Why is there conflict? Because there are centuries of hatred, distrust, and persecution associated with the word "atheist." Some of us want to take the word back. Others want to continue hanging the negative baggage on the word. There's your conflict."

And finally to Brettongarcia for a thoughtful discussion too long to quote here but very worth reading, on the next level of "action choices" inherent in the semantics.

From reading in this forum and elsewhere, I perceive two aspects of focus in connection with the ongoing conflict between a theoarchic culture and an atheist minority, and they both relate in some way to the whole "burden of proof" issue.

The first clear focus is a very defined, very urgent, and very appealing need to end the institutionalized and systematic discrimination against, and oppression of, those who embrace an atheist identity. I really, really hope this is an unarguable slam-dunk on DU, without any ifs, ands, or buts. We should all, theists and atheists alike, be supportive of this, full stop.

Institutionalized discrimination against atheists-- including "dead letter" laws still on the books, hiring discrimination, disgusting cultural stereotypes and assumptions that seep into housing and access to services and acceptance in all aspects of community life-- needs to be gone, period.

The second focus-- which has much fuzzier edges, as far as I can see-- is the issue of identity itself, and the extent to which it requires shared acceptance of labels, terms, etc. When Brettongarcia used this post title: "This has been partially addressed on DU, as 1) a-theists, vs. 2) anti-theists" I at first misunderstood.

Here's why: To me, those terms "a-theist" and "anti-theist" have a meaning also. I have tagged them in my mind thusly: "An a-theist, or atheist, is a person without belief in the existence of deity. An anti-theist is someone who actively opposes belief in a deity, not only for themselves, but for others-- that is, they are invested in preventing others from believing, or promoting the abandonment of belief."

(Please note that I've specified these are MY semantic tags for these terms, and I'm not making any claims of correctness or appropriateness here.)

However, Brettongarcia then went on to state tags for these terms that differ in subtle but important ways from my own: "1) A-theists were defined as those who "just don't know" ... or care. They just never think about this. They feel no burden of proof.
2) Anti-theists were those who stated positively (or negatively?) that there is no god."

To me, the tag Brettongarcia defines for a-theist is similar to the one that I assign to "agnostic"-- someone who doesn't know, and feels no burden of proof. And the tag of someone who states explicitly that there is no god, is similar to my own tag for "atheist."

Now, why does all of this matter to me? And why am I sharing it here?

Well, I'm sharing it here because I'm both egotistical enough to think others who find the topic of this forum engaging might be interested, and because it helps me clarify my own evolving thought on an issue of importance to me.

It matters to me because I want my grandson's children to live in a world without theoarchy, where neither theists nor atheists experience hatred, discrimination, denigration, and/or negative social sanctions for their belief, unbelief, or lack of belief.

(Aside: This is terrifically important to me as a believer because of the critical theological concept of "free will." That is, if one does not feel a perfect freedom to not-believe, or to disbelieve, then the freedom to believe is similarly compromised. This affects my personal belief about the importance of the quality of connection between humanity and divinity. No one needs to share this belief at all, but it matters to me. A lot.)

So how do we achieve freedom from theoarchy?

There is the long, incremental, imperfect and challenging civil rights fight, changing laws, addressing assumptions, institutionalizing equity and negatively sanctioning discrimination. This is an agonizingly slow process and it seems never-ending. The benefits come slowly and incompletely in any given generation and only a future historian can assess success in any meaningful way.

There is also the dramatic, wholesale, and possibly even more challenging fight to annihilate belief itself, or at least to marginalize it and thus eliminate theoarchy via discreditation. I'm not actually opposed to this, because as far as I'm concerned, believers have it coming to some extent, and also if belief CAN be annihilated that way, it will prove me wrong and I'll convert.

But I think that second one is problematic, to say the least.

(Another aside, here: I do NOT, repeat NOT, believe that atheists who want to annihilate belief also want to discriminate against, damage, kill, etc., believers. It happens sometimes, when a sociopathic tyrant uses the cloak of atheism to eliminate potential opposition --see Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.-- but not even as often as when a sociopathic tyrant chooses the cloak of religion to do the same thing. I think most atheists who want to annihilate belief sincerely feel that to do so will increase the well-being, enlightenment, and humane status of our species.)

I can see the appeal in the second approach AND I think that on some level, it's both viable and necessary. Ending theoarchy doesn't require an either/or strategy choice, it will likely be advanced most effectively by a combination of both.

However, both approaches in my opinion, could benefit from some semantic examination and shared vocabulary, that will allow shared assumptions about identity. I'm not demanding that anyone do anything about this. Just tossing it out to discuss, both to help me understand, and in the hope that my observations will be useful.


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