Uncle Sam on the Lam

by Lansing Scott

Uncle Sam drinking
Drunk Uncle Sam is on the lam. He escaped from DC and has been hitchhiking across the country, sleeping under bridges, & drinking his Thunderbird for months now. Hes almost reached Vancouver, BC, where he will formally apply for political asylum.

Asked to explain his sudden departure from his job as personification of the United States of America, Sam said, “Are you fucking kidding me? Like anybody would want this job right now? They wanted me to lead a campaign encouraging ICE agents to separate babies from their mothers. That was the final straw. Luckily Id skipped town before they could make me recruit support for that rapist judge Kavanaugh.”

Asked why he was seeking political asylum in Canada, Sam said, “I’ve been in an abusive relationship with this government. I cant take it any more! Were all in serious danger unless we vote against Republican control of government on Nov. 6.”

Pointing his finger at the camera, drunk Uncle Sam said, “I WANT YOU to get out the vote in this election! Im not fucking kidding! DO IT!”

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On political struggle and spiritual acceptance

Ady Barkin wrote an essay in The Nation, I’m Dying. Here Is What I Refuse to Accept With Serenity, about politics, spirituality, and dying. At age 32 he was diagnosed with ALS, and within a few years he was unable to feed himself. He dictated the essay to a friend because he was unable to write or type. He wrote:

Like many people suddenly confronted with agonizing loss, I looked for answers in Buddhism. Pema Chödrön teaches us that when the ground disappears beneath your feet, the solution is not to flail around in a desperate attempt to find a handhold; it is to accept the law of gravity and find peace despite your velocity. Leave the mode of doing and enter the mode of being. Accept things as they are, rather than yearning for them to be otherwise.

Such radical acceptance is in tension with my identity as a movement builder. Activism is precisely about not accepting the tragedies of this world, but rather on insisting that we can reduce pain and prolong life. Social justice means creating a stable floor beneath our feet and then putting a safety net under that, to catch us if it suddenly vanishes: universal health insurance, affordable housing, unemployment benefits. Being part of a progressive political movement is about fighting back and building toward a better future. “Acceptance” is not part of our vocabulary.

The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr—whose most famous disciple, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would become the patron saint of American organizers—sought to resolve this tension in his Serenity Prayer: asking for the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is something I have wondered about for a long time: how to harmonize letting go and selflessness, on the one hand, with the obligation to work — indeed fight — for what is right and just.

For the things that we can  change (for the better) we are obligated to fix them; since we know that we can change them, it’s presumably not that difficult.  The challenging issues are the ones on the borderline between what we can change and what we can’t.    It’s not just a matter of wisdom. It’s also a matter of action: we don’t know if we can change them if we try, but try we must.  And we may stumble or go in the wrong direction, since our information is imperfect.

Barkin concludes his article like this:

Sometimes, though, our struggle is not enough. ALS destroys my body, no matter how many medicines I take or exercises I do. Sometimes, oftentimes, white supremacy, violent misogyny, and rapacious capitalism rip apart our families and destroy lives, regardless of how well we organize. And sometimes, oftentimes, our stories are not powerful enough. Despite our best efforts, Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed, and will do lasting damage to America and its people.

Yet it is in these moments of defeat that hopeful, collective struggle retains its greatest power. I can transcend my dying body by hitching my future to yours. We can transcend the darkness of this moment by joining the struggles of past and future freedom fighters. That is how, when we reach the end of our lives and look back on these heady moments, we will find peace in the knowledge that we did our best.

There is a seeming paradox embedded in the third part of Niebuhr’s prayer, because the wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change can only be earned through struggle. Neuroscientists seek a cure for ALS because they do not accept its inevitability. Organizers rage against the machines of capitalism with that same determination. It is only by refusing to accept the complacency of previous generations that the impossible becomes reality. For me, Niebuhr’s prayer is most true if rearranged: Collective courage must come first, wisdom second, and serenity at the very end.

Buddhist teacher and author Jack Kornfield wrote an essay  Dharma & Politics on the same topic.   He calls on people to act from a place of love and peace. Find peace within and then go out into the world.

The Buddha’s teachings of compassion and wisdom are empowering; they encourage us to act. Do not doubt that your good actions will bear fruit, and that change for the better can be born from your life. Gandhi reminds us: “I claim to be no more than an average person with less than average ability. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have if he or she would simply make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.”

The long arc of justice is slow.  Despair is not an option. Selfless sacrifice is needed.  We must fight without becoming monsters ourselves.  But how to retain inner serenity in the midst of our sacrifices and struggles — both personal and societal — requires wisdom and maturity indeed.

I’m glad, by the way, that Kornfield descends from his spiritual heights — concern for one’s spiritual growth can be selfish, though they say that meditating for hours a day for years is for the benefit of others too — and addresses social justice: “America has sometimes confused power with greatness.”  “[I]f we envision the fulfillment of wisdom and compassion in the United States, it becomes clear that the richest nation on the earth must provide healthcare for its children; that the most productive nation on earth must find ways to combine trade with justice; that a creative society must find ways to grow and to protect the environment and sustainable development for generations ahead.”

Political activism may be a form of Karma Yoga (service). But because of the overall ugliness, anger, and impurity of politics — no politician is perfect — political activism doesn’t feel spiritual.

In short, what I liked about his article was (1) His eloquence and grace in the face of death, (2) his comments about the tension between spirituality (letting go) and political struggle, which is all about GETTING and DEFEATING, and (3) how it addresses a spiritual dilemma: the inability to surrender or let go or accept. Life can be a constant ego struggle to succeed. What can one surrender to if one is an atheist?

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The Logic of Lesser-of-two-evilism

Suppose you are being held hostage by deranged criminals who give you an ultimatum: tell them your bank pin number, social security number and other identifying information, or they’ll rape your wife and daughters and mutilate you.

As a matter of principle, you oppose giving away your money to criminals — a clear evil. But you realize that the alternative is worse. So you settle for the lesser-of-two-evils.

Here’s another example. Suppose you’re terminally ill and in constant pain. You can’t walk, enjoy food, or enjoy sex. Your doctors tell you that your condition will worsen. In such a case, ending your own life might be the lesser-of-two-evils.

Here’s a more whimsical example: you’re a young man “in love” with a woman who insists that you marry. You kinda think marriage is evil, but the alternative — being alone — is worse. You settle for the lesser-of-two-evils, marriage.

Now for a serious, political example. Suppose that you lived in Louisiana in 1991 and had to choose between virulent racist David Duke and flawed, corrupt corporate Democrat Edwin Edwards in the race for the governor. Not a pleasant choice. But, as did a broad coalition of Louisianans, you could, with a clear conscience, vote for the lesser-of-two-evils, Edwards. That example is from Alfred Reed, Jr’s convincing article Vote for the Lyinc Neloiberal War Monger: It’s Important.

Quoting from that Reeds article again:

I assume readers get the allegorical point of that story [about Louisiana]. Just to drive it home, here’s another, more dramatic one that Harold Meyerson adduced last month in The American Prospect: in the early 1930s, as the National Socialists gained strength, Ernst Thälmann, the Chairman of the German Communist Party held to the line that the Social Democrats were a greater threat to the working class and to the possibility of revolution than were the Nazis. The Communists’ conflict with the Social Democrats was both not without justification and mutual. Some Communists believed that the elements of the working class who were drawn to the Nazis, e.g., those in Ernst Röhm’s Brown Shirts, could be won from them. In 1931 some sought to collaborate with the Nazis to bring down the weak Social Democrat government. In expressing the conviction that the Social Democrats were the main danger in German politics, Thälmann uttered the quip that has long outlived him as a cautionary device: “After Hitler, our turn.” His point was that a Nazi victory would expose them as fraudulent with no program for the working class. What Thälmann didn’t count on was their success at criminalizing and liquidating all opposition. He died in a concentration camp.

Indeed, many leftists who hate the Democrats often say similar things about the Democratic Party: they’re as corrupt as the Republicans.  Or they even claim that the Democrats are more dangerous, because they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. I hear such claims all the time online, particularly on OpEdNews. (I expect comments to that effect on this article.) Proponents of such claims say that the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans because  — take your pick — Bill Clinton approved NAFTA, Bill Clinton overturned Glass-Steagall, Barack Obama prosecuted whistle blowers, Barack Obama supported drone wars, Barack Obama continued the Bush bailouts of Wall Street, Hillary Clinton was hawkish, etc., etc.

I am convinced those people are wrong.  Yes, those Democrats pursued some evil policies. But the Democrats are much better than the Republicans: on women’s rights, on the environment, on taxation, on gay rights, on unionism, on education, on the Supreme Court, on civil rights, on voting rights, etc., etc. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a right wing troll or is deluded.

Gore was an environmentalist and a moderate Democrat. Bush and Cheney launched the immoral and disastrous war in Iraq; they transferred trillions to the rich and gutted environmental regulations.

Obama did many bad things, but he’s nowhere near as bad as Bush, Cheney, or Trump. I needn’t tell you how much damage Trump and the GOP Congress are doing now.

So, in response to:

Warning to Democrats for 2020

I suggest:

Welcome to Bust

I could show dozens of other examples of how Trump is far, far worse than Hillary would have been. Only on militarism is it unclear whether Trump is worse. Hillary is a neocon. But Trump may start a war with Iran, North Korea, or China; and he is giving billions more to the military. And he is pulling out of the nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

But I understand where such Bernie-or-Busters are coming from.

Virtue scale

If we could rate politicians on a scale of virtue, with 0 being pure evil and 100 being pure good, we might rate dictators such as Hitler and Stalin in the low single digits. (They didn’t murder everybody.) Let’s say Dick Cheney is a 10, George W. Bush is 15, Bernie Sanders is 75, Dennis Kucinich is 85. What’s Trump? 20? What’s Hillary? 30? 40? 50? 60? What’s Obama? 40? 50? 60? Your ratings will differ. But given your ratings, suppose you’re voting in an election in which the two leading candidates are on the evil side of the scale: under 50. Suppose that one candidate scores a 10 (very evil) and the other scores a 35 (somewhat evil). Would that difference be enough to warrant voting for the lesser-of-two-evils? How about if their ratings were 10 versus 48? 10 versus 15? 30 versus 40?

Perhaps it would take a 20 point spread for you to vote for the lesser-of-two-evils.

Of course, the logic of lesser-of-two-evilism should take into account not just the two leading candidates but also third-party candidates, their chances of winning, and, most importantly, the effect of our votes on future elections. Such considerations greatly complicate the reasoning and weighing of effects.
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If the third-party candidate has a decent chance of winning, then it might be a risk worth taking to vote for her.

In 2000 and in 2016, everyone knew there was virtually no chance that Nader or Stein would win.

But someone can argue it’s better to vote for a third-party candidate because that will send a message to the future: we will not vote for an evil candidate — at least not one who scores less than, say, 45.

Such reasoning is like a sacrifice: I’m willing to suffer for the next four years (or next 40 years, realistically, given the judicial picks) so that future politicians will think twice before crossing a line.

Such a strategy might work. It can be quite costly. It’s not clear that future politicians will hear the message. I suppose it’s like the decision a general in a war needs to make: should I sacrifice these troops to set us up for victory in the future.

I suspect, though, that the votes by leftists for Nader in 2000 and for Stein in 2016 sent the following message to Democrats: “We Nader and Stein supporters are fools. Ignore us.”

There’s yet another way to view lesser-of-two-evilism. Instead of looking at the consequences of your vote, look at the virtue of the candidates. In such a case, one could have a principle: I will not vote for candidates who are less than, say, 40 on the evil scale, no matter how evil the more evil candidate is.  Such a view of voting largely ignores consequences.  It’s not a view that I support. How about you?

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Repugs, Dumbs, and Dumbers: a rant

Repugs, Dumbs, and Dumbers: American politicians

If you have half a brain and half a conscience you know that most Republican politicians promote repugnant policies that increase inequality, bankrupt the economy, destroy the environment, and promote militarism. They lie, distort and resort to racism, xenophobia, dirty tricks and criminal activity.  They put children in cages. They antagonize our allies and cozy up to Putin. Still, tens of millions of Americans have been brainwashed to vote for them.

The mainstream Dems are far from perfect on policy — they’re often too hawkish and too compromised by corporate money — but they’re far better than the Repugs. Unfortunately, the Dems are usually dumb. Bill Clinton was dumb enough to ruin his presidency by having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, by getting caught, and by lying about it.  He also unnecessarily sold out — on NAFTA and on dismantling Glass-Stegall and welfare programs — thereby causing Nader and progressives to oppose him.

Hillary was so dumb she forgot to campaign in the swing states.

Obama had the chance to prosecute the Bush administration war criminals and the Wall Street crooks. Instead, he wanted to “look forward.” He should have looked forward to Trump. He prosecuted the whistle blowers, not the war criminals. He compromised early and often. He was a great orator and was much beloved by the people, who, in 2008 were disgusted with Republican criminality and stupidity. But Obama didn’t fight and didn’t lead. He allowed the Repugs to set the narrative and to Swift Boat both him and Hillary.

Here’s a particularly outrageous example of Obama’s dumb choices.  As reported in Politico (Biden: McConnell stopped Obama from calling out Russians), three weeks before the 2016 election, Obama and Biden wanted to inform the American people about Russian interference in the election. But they allowed Mitch McConnell to veto the announcement.

Biden said he and former President Barack Obama worried that without a united front of bipartisanship, speaking out before the election would undermine the legitimacy of the election and American institutions in a way that would play into the Russians’ larger ambitions. (source)

This is the same Joe Biden who, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was holding hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, decided against allowing women other than Anita Hill to offer testimony about Thomas’s sexual harassment.

Why don’t Democrats fight?

Republicans in Congress had opposed virtually every policy position of President Obama. The Senate threatened filibusters on numerous bills. In March of 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court; the Senate, under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, refused to hold hearings on the nomination. Yet three weeks before the 2016 election, Obama and Biden still wanted to be bipartisan and still deferred to Mitch McConnell?!

There are dozens of similar inexplicable cowardice or excessive moderation on the part of Obama. See this petition.

If Obama is a closet conservative, then some of his choices make sense. But from a purely political, strategic point of view, many of his choices were just dumb and naive.

As for Nader and Stein, their stubbornness, and that of their supporters, led to the election of Bush and Trump. They did not help the progressive cause at all. They’re now laughingstocks.

I might even include Bernie Sanders among the Dumb group. He unnecessarily calls himself a “Democratic Socialist” when, in fact, he’s really a social democrat.

Let’s hope the Dems stop being dumb. For now, they’re all that’s left to save us from the Repugs.

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Why Some Women Still Vote Republican and What Can be Done About It

by Valerie Tarico

Cross-posted from ValerieTarico.com

Republican women 2Lists of crazy comments about women by Republican men have been an internet staple for years. If the party agenda were to alienate as many females as possible, they should be doing quite well.

Worse yet, from an impact standpoint, the policy priorities of Republican electeds match their expressed attitudes. Equal pay? Contraception? Abortion? Paid family leave? Childcare support? Forget it.

And then there’s behavior.

As Leonard Pitts Jr. put it, here is where we stand:

After supporting senatorial candidate Roy Moore (a credibly accused child molester) President Donald Trump (a confessed perpetrator of sexual assault) has nominated to the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh (a credibly accused attempted rapist) who would, if confirmed, serve alongside Clarence Thomas (a credibly accused sexual harasser).

The Grand Old Party isn’t much of a party for women; it’s more like a frat party—a power-drunk letch-fest. The Grand Old Boys Party.

One might think by now that Republican and woman would be a contradiction in terms. Granted, college-educated women are trickling away from the GOP; that should be no surprise. The head scratcher is that any stay. WTF. Before you decide that all female Republicans must be brainless or bad, and therefore hopeless, consider the following:

Dominance Hierarchies—Left-leaning activists often want to upend traditional power structures, but all of our nearest animal ancestors and many other social species are hierarchical—most often with dominant males at the top. Hierarchy is adaptive for them, and the preferences that create it are rooted deep in evolutionary biology. There’s reason to believe that we humans carry some of the same instinctive social dynamics. That is not to say we have no alternatives, either as individuals or as societies. One of the awesome things about our capacity for higher-order reasoning is that we don’t have to live according to instinct. But it should come as no surprise that some not-brainless women find traditional power structures efficient, familiar, comforting, or otherwise attractive.

Religion—There’s a reason that devout religionists are fundamentally conservative. Religion takes instinct and transmogrifies it into immutable rules and rituals. What may have started out as a biologically-based inclination or simply a practical part of life at a given time and place (like gender roles in the Ancient Near East 2500 years ago) gets locked in as self-perpetuating, inflexible dogma.

Religious ideologies can arouse powerful moral emotions in believers so that protecting traditional religiously-sanctioned social structures feels good and righteous. For religious women, this can make ideas like gender equality and reproductive freedom feel wrong. As is clear from stories of those who have left conservative religious communities, no other force in our society so strongly organizes women against women. Even if you think that religions are mind viruses—essentially socially-transmitted infections, some worse than others—(as I do), one can still concede that bad kinds of infections can happen to people who are otherwise decent and healthy.

Tribal Identities—None of us are as independent in forming our political opinions as we like to think. Our sense of reality is socially constructed, and one of the most powerful forces shaping our beliefs is the kinds of reactions we get from people around us. Secularists point out that religious belief is geographically distributed—that most born-again Christians have simply acceded to the beliefs of their childhood communities and if they had been born in India would most likely be Hindu or Muslim. But once we belong to a tribe, no matter how we got there, the worldview of the tribe feels right and righteous.

The same is true of political tribes. About 7 in 10 teens say their political views are “about the same” as their parents. A similar percent say they follow the same religion as their parents. These two facts are not independent. As testimonies of former Christians show, when people change their religion, their politics often change too. Whether this is primarily because their internal world gets reconfigured or because their external world gets reconfigured, we don’t yet know.

Information Silos—One of the ways that tribes maintain separate identities is by regulating information flow—by sanctioning some written texts but not others, elevating some authorities but not others, promoting some information channels (literally) and encouraging insiders to associate with insiders. The Christian New Testament puts it this way: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” But even without the encouragement, we tend to gravitate toward people who think like us and reinforce our existing biases and points of view.

The end result in an age that offers thousands of media channels, some of which adapt content to our individual likes and dislikes, is that Republican women on the whole are living in a very different narrative universe than the one Democratic women are living in. The Donald Trump they voted for is not the Donald Trump you voted against. The Brett Kavanaugh they think they support as a Supreme Court Justice is not the teenage sexual assailant or slippery ideologue you think should be no-where near the nation’s high court.

Left-Wing Excesses—Republicans aren’t the only ones who live in intellectually-gated communities. One of the accusations hurled against progressives is that we like every kind of diversity except diversity of thought. When we isolate ourselves from people who don’t think like us, the stories we tell ourselves about class, race, gender, immigration, the environment—and hated Republican ideologues—become more and more streamlined, less nuanced, and—if we are honest—less reflective of the complicated realities that govern our lives. The robes of our heroes get bleached; those of our opponents get blackened—until we find ourselves in a satisfying world of saints and epic villains. Small wonder, with the narrative world split like this, that there are conservatives who play up our excesses, and middling folks who can’t see past them.

Multifaceted Political Priorities—Even setting aside these factors, identity isn’t as neat and clean as our intersectional grid of oppressed and oppressor identities would have us believe. Yes, women have been subject to men for millennia, with our subjugation sanctified by religion and culture. And yes, women who adhere to this worldview are disproportionately Republican. But even for women who have unshackled from conservative culture and religion—who prefer real gender equality—there is no reason to think that gender issues should dominate their political agenda.

I spend much of my time writing about how Abrahamic religion denigrates women, turning us into literal chattel. I feel so strongly about reproductive autonomy that I once wrote an article titled, “Why I’m pro-abortion and not just pro-choice.” But I think that climate change is the core moral issue of our time; and if I had to choose between a political candidate who would do something about climate and one who would protect abortion rights, I would choose the former. I’m grateful that I haven’t faced this choice. But we need to recognize that women who vote Republican may have to make equally tough choices when their values are in conflict. I need to grant them the same complicated individuality that I grant myself.

So, Simply Accept This Ridiculous State of Affairs?

No. That is not what I’m saying. The Republican Party has become a haven for sexists to the point that hostility toward women predicted Trump support better than authoritarianism and as well as racism.  Some things need challenging, and this is one of them.

People do change, less than we previously thought—and we don’t fully understand the process—but they do. Also, a meaningful shift in policy priorities or candidate preferences may not require much change at all. Because we all contain a myriad of values and priorities, sometimes it’s just a matter of what grabs our emotions or is front of mind. Remember, it’s not always a matter of winning someone over to your point of view or your tribe. Shifts in priorities within the Republican Party are consequential. So, it’s worth doing what we can.

Be appealing. When you encounter a Republican woman online or in real life, imagine that you might end up neighbors or co-workers—or even (radical thought) friends. Comport yourself as if this were the case. Listen, be respectful of what there is to respect, show your own humanity, challenge selectively and carefully within a context of relatedness. You’re never going to complicate the perspective of someone who you don’t like and who doesn’t like you, and a steady diet of disagreement is a formula for dislike. Marital therapists say that we need five positive points of contact for every negative. Even Evangelicals—who are bound by their religion to be constantly on the make—have figured this out and have cultivated expertise in what they call “relational apologetics” and “friendship missionaries.” And who knows? Sometimes even missionaries learn a thing or two.

Challenge the power of religion in society. The gloves come off when it comes to institutions, and to my mind the corrosive power of religion in modern life signals that it’s time to stop genuflecting and start fighting back. As the Catholic pedophilia cover-ups, the political “Moral Majority,” and the emergence of ISIS demonstrate, religion doesn’t deserve the free pass it has gotten for so long.

Because the Church claims to be a fount of truth and goodness, one of the most powerful ways to fight back is to expose the complicated realities that belie these claims. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has long published a “Black Collar Crime Blotter” as part of their monthly newsletter. They also fight in court to prevent aggressive religions from imposing their theologies on the rest of us.

The ACLU has dedicated staff working on the problem of Catholic hospitals, which are more than 90 percent funded by public dollars and patient fees but deny patients the full range of care based on religious theologies. Support their work. Advocate to end the tax-free status of religious institutions, which allows them to rely on public services they didn’t help to fund. Support survivor groups and lawsuits against religious institutions and leaders that engage in bad behavior. The wealth of the Catholic Church, one of the world’s richest real-estate owners, has given them particular undue political influence.  Some of that wealth should be going as restitution to address the harms they have done.

Inoculate your children against fundamentalisms. Your children will be voting sooner than you think. More importantly, they are going to face the challenge of living well in our complicated world. But as they come of age conservative fundamentalists will be targeting them for conversion, offering a simplistic set of answers to life’s big questions. (See Katherine Stewart’s book, The Good News Club, or related articles.) To understand our world, your kids will need to understand how religion works and how science works and why only one of them helps us to understand and solve real world problems. Don’t assume that raising them in a free-thinking or liberal religious mindset is enough. Even good people can fall for bad ideas—and for girls, traditional religious ideas can lead them to loathe their own curiosity and independence, or to support institutions that do.

Create space for flexible men. Right now the left is telling white males that there is no place for them in our aspirational future. You’ve had your turn on top, we say, as if one man were interchangeable with another—as if the son of an unemployed Appalachian coal miner were somehow one of a kind with the coal baron who employed his grandfather. As if he were, consequently, more privileged than the daughter of an Indian doctor with a Harvard degree, and more worthy of our compassion. Roles for men are changing and, yes, some have reacted by retrenching into contempt and arrogance and attempts to reassert old race, class, and gender privilege. But what alternative are we offering them? We’ve spent almost two generations now telling young women that they don’t need to abide by traditional gender roles; that they can be anything they want. But young men haven’t gotten the same message. A lot of young men are trapped in traditional roles, with the culture at large saying those roles are obsolete. Trapped animals fight to the death; those that have other options often take them.

What might it mean to invite both women and men into a flexible future in which they can picture themselves with dignity, respect, and opportunity?

Capture territory. The Right gained a lot of power in the last 30 years by being intractable and irrational, by acting as if the world were black and white. Anyone who’s not for us is against us. At first, the Gingrich strategy of hyper-partisan obstructionism caught sensible people off guard. Think of Barack Obama patiently trying to court Republican support for what had been their own version of healthcare reform. Later, many of us on the Left decided we had to fight fire with fire. We amped up our own rhetoric and intransigence and built communications outlets that—even if they couldn’t out-crazy Breitbart or Infowars or Fox—at least created a counterweight. But the middle couldn’t hold, and that has left some people feeling politically homeless despite the fact that they consistently vote for—or even fund—one side of the aisle.

This leaves a lot of territory—policy priorities, constituencies, and rhetoric—wide open. Who, for example, puts the interests of the middle class above both rich and poor? Who speaks for people who both believe that capitalism improves lives and also believe in market failures—or that greed is destructive? How about those who believe that polities should manage immigration while also believing that our current system is cruel and unjust? How about those who value a social safety net and also worry about national debt? Our rhetoric has become so incendiary that someone espousing these positions is likely to be seen by each side as a member of the other. That’s a problem. It’s also an opportunity, because  family-friendly, woman-friendly economic policies can cross the aisle.

Support bridge builders. If Republican women are going to walk away from fraternity island and settle in somewhere else, they need bridges to walk on, and that takes bridge builders. Some people are trying to play that role, and they need your support or engagement. Van Jones and his work at Rebuild the Dream comes to mind as a smart example. Several smaller start-ups are explicitly working on helping people figure out left-right communications (especially the listening part).

We can write off Republican women if we choose. We can walk away with an incredulous WTF, a shrug, or a sigh of hopelessness. I’ve done this many times. Persisting in an attempt to reach out, either collectively or individually, can be harder than fighting the good fight. It’s viscerally less righteous, and it doesn’t always work. The only thing guaranteed is that we can’t make a difference if we don’t try.

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Freedom Foundation protest coverage by the Bellevue Reporter

On September 28, hundreds of people protested the annual dinner of the Freedom Foundation in Bellevue, where the guest speaker was renowned racist Dinesh D’Souza. The Bellevue Reporter print edition had an excellent piece about the protest, including content critical of D’Souza and Trump.

Freedom Foundation protest coverage by Bellevue Reporter

Oddly, though, the Bellevue Reporter website doesn’t, as of the time of this writing, have a link to the article, and an Internet search doesn’t reveal it.

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On Saving Social Security

The government is now referring to our Social Security checks as a “Federal Benefit Payment.” This isn’t a benefit. It is our money paid out of our earned income! Not only did we all contribute to Social Security but our employers did too. It totaled 15% of our income before taxes.

If you averaged $30K per year over your working life, that’s close to $180,000 invested in Social Security. [This assumes you only worked 40 years prior to retiring; most people work substantially longer.]

If you calculate the future value of your monthly investment in social security ($375/month, including both you and your employers contributions) at a meager 1% interest rate compounded monthly, after 40 years of working you’d have more than $1.3+ million dollars saved!

This is your personal investment. Upon retirement, if you took out only 3% per year, you’d receive $39,318 per year, or $3,277 per month.

That’s almost three times more than today’s average Social Security benefit of $1,230 per month, according to the Social Security Administration. (Google it – it’s a fact).

And your retirement fund would last more than 33 years (until you’re 98 if you retire at age 65)! I can only imagine how much better most average-income people could live in retirement if our government had just invested our money in low-risk interest-earning accounts.

Instead, the folks in Washington pulled off a bigger “Ponzi scheme” than Bernie Madoff ever did. They took our money and used it elsewhere. They forgot (oh yes, they knew) that it was OUR money they were taking. They didn’t have a referendum to ask us if we wanted to lend the money to them. And they didn’t pay interest on the debt they assumed. And recently they’ve told us that the money won’t support us for very much longer.

But is it our fault they misused our investments? And now, to add insult to injury, they’re calling it a “benefit”, as if we never worked to earn every penny of it.

Just because they borrowed the money doesn’t mean that our investments were a charity!

Let’s take a stand. We have earned our right to Social Security and Medicare. Demand that our legislators bring some sense into our government.

Find a way to keep Social Security and Medicare going for the sake of that 92% of our population who need it.

Then call it what it is: Our Earned Retirement Income.

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Here come the anti-I1631 ads from the oil companies

The Western States Petroleum Association sent me a glossy attack ad about the carbon tax initiative:

Anti-I-1631 ad from the Western States Petroleum Association

Inside the fold, it warns of higher prices.

Just this morning I got email from the YesOn1631 group saying:

Big oil is trying to buy this election.

Chevron has contributed $500,000.
Tesoro has contributed $4,362,827.
BP has contributed $6,443,709.
Phillips 66 has contributed $7,201,187.

More than $20 million has been contributed to spread LIES about Initiative 1631. They are just going to keep digging into their deep pockets to keep us down — we have to fight back.

It is noteworthy that while BP is one of the companies donating to the anti-I-1631 effort, Royal Dutch Shell decided not to get involved, according to the Seattle Times. “Shell, which operates the state’s second largest refinery, in Anacortes, has opted to sit on the sidelines of what has emerged as one of the most expensive initiative battles in Washington history. If approved, Initiative 1631 could serve as a model for other states.” But the oil companies now at least acknowledge that climate change is a real problem caused by burning of fossil fuel.

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