Slavery Is A Zombie That Won’t Die

Any “original sins” Eve may have committed were literary. America’s original sin — slavery — was absolutely for real. America remains a great idea thus far poorly executed. We’re an experiment in human self government going through a very rough patch because of a design flaw at the beginning. The white, Christian, land-owning men who wrote or stood by “All men are created equal” didn’t mean “all men” though they did mean “men only”. Some of them, to their credit, did grasp where the correction to their fumble would come from when they made “E Pluribus Unum” our country’s motto. But, even those white, Christian, land-owning men who hated slavery — they still sat down and made a deal with slavery when they allowed it to exist at all inside the new country they were creating. Ever notice how, when you make a deal with “the devil”, it’s always the devil who makes out? Same with slavery.

America made a deal with slavery that slavery is still winning. It’s a zombie that will not die.

The incentive to enslave people is the same as the incentive to get people to work for nothing. Or next to nothing. Free labor is slavery’s one, true goal. All its associated costs (food, shelter and clothing for the enslaved) are just part of the larger equation: what it costs to have the slave versus the slave’s productivity. If the difference between those two numbers is great enough? Slavery is profitable. That’s its bottom line. If slavery wasn’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

The nations of Europe saw the Americas as a money-making venture first and foremost. That there were humans living here wasn’t a problem for long (thanks to European pathogens, not European cultural superiority). Capitalism was always the driving force behind colonization. As soon as the Europeans who first colonized America realized how well tobacco, sugar cane and cotton grew here — all being in high demand back in Europe — the race was on to produce more of those things as cheaply as possible. If we look at it from production’s point of view, the land is a hard cost. It’s non-negotiable. Same goes for whatever the “machinery” costs are to plow, sow and harvest the crops the land produces. The one big variable — the soft cost — is the human beings needed to do the actual physical labor.

If all the other costs of getting finished sugar cane to market are, at best, minimally negotiable and therefore baked into the cost of doing business, then the one place “the money” has to negotiate with is the soft cost: labor. From management’s point of view therefore every penny spent on workers is a penny less of profit. In a fair world, management wouldn’t see this as a zero sum game. They’d have foresight that projected their thinking beyond the next quarter and well into the future. And they’d see themselves and their product in the far larger perspective of the commonweal and the Greater Good.

Too bad crony capitalism is so much more attractive than plain, old, boring regular capitalism.

Take stolen labor off the table and there’s no way the Confederacy rises. Hell, if the money that first seeded the Confederate states’ agrarian economy had paid its labor fairly on principle, they might have founded an actual workers’ paradise. Alas, not only didn’t that happen, but the slave economy that dirty money built continued on even after slavery itself was theoretically made illegal. The greed at slavery’s root grows well in a potting soil of racism. Racism justifies both the greed and the slavery to the racist. Thus is the “slavery zombie” born inside the conservative brain. Inside the conservative-money brain.

No one makes a Nike sneaker — or a Tesla or a Blue Origin Rocket — all by themselves. No one alone can fix anything. Even if an Elon Musk “eureka’s” a great idea, ideas minus execution in some practical way are worth bupkis. They’re just “ideas”. To get from great idea to money-making product in the marketplace takes hundreds if not thousands of other peoples’ input and work. Yeah, sure — in the absence of the great idea, none of this work happens. But, by the same token, in the absence of the work to manifest the great idea here in reality, the great idea doesn’t happen either.

Good capitalism recognizes it must spread the profits generated much more equitably amongst every person who made those profits possible. The idea may get a bonus — an extra point or two perhaps. We do want to incentivize great ideation. But great ideators need to see their work in perspective. Remember: insulin’s creator, Sir Frederick G. Banting wanted insulin to be free to anyone who needed it. He refused to put his name on the patent, feeling it was “unethical for a doctor to profit from a discovery that would save lives. Banting’s co-inventors, James Collip and Charles Best, sold the insulin patent to the University of Toronto for a mere $1. They wanted everyone who needed their medication to be able to afford it.” A great idea in context!

But the three companies that currently cover 90% of the worldwide insulin market (Novo Nordisk, Eli Lily and Sonofi) have tossed the intent of insulin’s inventors aside especially inside America’s borders. What costs $8.81 (in 2018) outside America costs an American $98.70.– almost nine times higher. The cost of health care gobbles up much more of an American’s paycheck and wealth than anywhere else on the planet. Nowhere else (that’s civilized) can a cancer diagnosis result in a family going bankrupt and losing their home and generational wealth.

This is how slavers think and do business.

The Civil War may have formally ended slavery but it didn’t end the sentiment that made slavery possible. If anything, the end of formal slavery made informal slavery much more successful and far-reaching in America than actual slavery ever was. Modern day slavers may not be allowed to pay their workers nothing, but paying them next-to-nothing isn’t actually an improvement from the slave’s point of view. If slavery has any “benefits” (and it doesn’t of course), it’s that its workers (slaves) don’t have to feed, clothe and house themselves. The slave master takes care of those expenses. Freedom from slavery — such as it is — makes those expenses the former slave’s responsibility. They better earn enough money — now that they earn money for working — to pay for all these things!

That’s where the slavery-zombie suddenly pops into frame.

America used to foster “company towns” — places where “practically all stores and housing were owned by one company who also employed pretty much everyone in town” Pullman, IL, Hershey, PA, Steinway, NY and Roebling, NJ all were famous company towns. Wages in a company town were just enough to pay the bills (at the company stores) but not enough to ever build any wealth. That way, the workers would always be renters with no assets to speak of, real estate being the basis for all great wealth. That is exactly what institutional racism has done to Black wealth in America — made it almost impossible to acquire and absolutely impossible to maintain.

I know exactly on whose behalf the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is negotiating. I count myself as one of those people. The Democrats therefore are negotiating on my behalf. The Republicans are the most dishonest actors to ever take up acting. They’re cynicism on the hoof (so is the news media that covers them like they’re honest actors). They represent bullshit, criminality and treason. I’m not sure why any Democrat would negotiate with that. I completely disapprove of the Democrats negotiating away the things I want my government to do with my tax dollars especially since I don’t see who exactly we’re negotiating with here as it’s not the Republicans.

There are no Republicans in the room with the Democrats trying to make a deal for Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. There are Progressives and their agenda — the President’s — and there are… “moderates”? Is that what people who negotiate against their constituents’ best interests are called these days? I hear Joe Manchin stamping his feet that “his number” is $1.3 trillion and he won’t budge from it but I don’t see for whose benefit here Joe is “negotiating”. Joe seems to think that taxpayers demanding their tax dollars benefit them is “entitlement” while rich guys putting our tax dollars into their pockets isn’t.

Greed is a foul, foul thing. Like a virus, greed turns those infects “into” it. Even good people suddenly get greedy. They may justify it a thousand different ways but that’s just the virus — their greed – talking.

Being undead, Zombies crave brains. Being greedy, slavery craves free labor — and if slavery can’t get the labor it needs for nothing, it wants to pay that labor as close to nothing as possible.

Okay – What IF America Split Into Two Countries?

In a very real sense, we’re still fighting the Civil War. And, we fought the Civil War because, though we aspired to E Pluribus Unum, we tripped over “All men are created equal” because we didn’t mean “all” men and by “men”, we meant only “men”. America has always been a great idea poorly executed. Or… “not yet executed to its intended specs”. Let’s put it that way. “America is a country still aspiring to reach the potential of its aspirations”. And those aspirations can (and, I believe, will) be achieved if we simply hew to our own founding principle: through many, one.

This, really, is what America is now fighting about. Donald Trump’s presidency — the circumstances that made him president (they don’t include freely or fairly winning election) — exposed the Republican Party for the anti-democratic, permanent minority rule desiring thugs Newt Gingrich dreamed they’d be. In Germany, after WWII, it was against the law to display swastikas or any Nazi symbols because of what they represented. In America, OTOH, we never stopped glorifying treason: that’s what a confederate flag is — a symbol of treason. This is what happens when you compromise with evil (as America did when it cut a deal with slavery).

Our current chaos flows directly from the gross mistake of writing “All men are created equal” but only meaning “white, Christian, land-owning men”. Also, this is what happens when one side loses the war but wins the peace that follows. Whatever the Confederacy lost at Appomattox Courthouse, it regained not very long afterwards: they destroyed Reconstruction (and any chance America had to right a terrible wrong, level its racial playing field and demonstrate just how great an E Pluribus Unum America could be) and stole the narrative. A war exclusively about slavery (that’s according to every seceding state’s secession docs) was repackaged as a war about “states’ rights” — as if the Confederacy was actually fighting a “good fight” about freedom and liberty.

Not only was the Confederacy racist, it was incredibly full of shit.

So is that portion of America that still supports what the Confederacy was after. But then, it’s just conservative standard operating procedure to bullshit everyone including yourself. Right now, red states are howling how much they want to secede from the blue states. That’s so sweet: a bunch of impoverished red necks who can’t take their toothless maws from the federal money teat thinking they could do anything on their own other than fail. Okay, white supremacists — have at it! Show us what a white supremacist super state looks like here in reality!

Confederacy, The Sequel will probably include all the confederate states minus Virginia but plus Oklahoma and probably plus Missouri too. It will also include all those vast tracts of red real estate out west. Idaho, Wyoming, most of Montana and western Washington and Oregon. Far Northern California too perhaps. At first.

Even as the red-hatted yahoos fill the streets with drunken brawling and celebrations, a brain drain will begin. By the same token, plenty of blue state ultra conservatives also might look red-ward. Their blue dollars will be worth far more in those less economically dynamic red states where real estate and life are cheaper. The educated will abandon red America in droves. So, too, will the innovators and problem solvers. Women in those states unfortunately will face some hard choices that dictate staying versus going. Those that go will thrive while those that stay behind will sink deeper and deeper into despair, drudgery and depression because they live in a country that hates them — hates everyone not white, Christian, male and land-owning..

All Red America — The Confederacy, Part Two — can ever be is a poor man’s Gilead.

Being racist and paranoid and short-sighted, Red America will weapon up, their lizard brains aflame with bunker mentality run amok. They’ll see the “same-ification” of their country as success. The white faces all around them will reassure them that they really have achieved the white homeland of their wettest wet dreams. But, within weeks the brain drain will hit them as systems malfunction or break down and the few people capable of fixing anything get stretched thin. The power grid will go first, then other big pieces of infrastructure. Remember — the red states have always relied on the blue states to pay for them. Take the blue states and their money out of the equation and the red states will find themselves broke at the start. Failing roads and bridges on top of unreliable electricity will screw with Red America’s already sketchy supply chain.

Next thing ya know, Red State Americans aren’t just sitting in the dark, they’re hungry, too. And thirsty because the water systems also need maintenance and improvement. And — because their sewage systems also aren’t performing as needed anymore — Red State Americans are now swimming in shit. Still choosing “freedom” over vaccination or mask mandates, variants that, at most, inconvenience Blue State America kill Red State Americans by the refrigerated truckload. Because they refuse any sort of vaccination (or health care) protocols, Red State Americans aren’t allowed to travel to Blue State America — or anywhere for that matter.

Their isolation will increase their paranoia. They’ll saber rattle that much more but with that much less gravity (though they’ll still be Kim Yong-Un style dangerous). The divide between haves and have-nots will expand in Red State America. What remained of the middle class will finally collapse. Ninety-nine percent of Red State Americans will be poorer than they are now while the richer-than-rich one percent get richer still.

The rest of the world will view Red State America suspiciously because Red State America is so corrupt. Corruption will be why so little international money lands in Red State America. Also — the leadership of Red State America will be outlaws from justice in Blue State America where they’ve all been tried for election fraud, obstruction of justice and treason in abstentia. Red State leaders will be as welcome in Blue State America as Jefferson Davis.

Before long, Red State Americans will march toward their border crossings with Blue State America with the same grim determination that Central Americans and Haitians do today. Like those poor souls, Red State Americans will have literally nothing left to lose.

Meanwhile, across the border in Blue State America — where Joe Biden’s agenda got fully funded in large part because the moderates suddenly had nothing corrupt to compromise with — not only are Blue State Americans happier and healthier than Red State Americans, they’re living longer and they’re all wealthier. Every American will have full health CARE (not the health insurance we mistake for health care), free pre-school and community college. Affordable (if not entirely free) public colleges and universities will produce diverse problem solvers as will trade schools and other skunkworks that innovate away our challenges. Blue State Americans will see both the benefits of their citizenship but also its responsibilities — which they will embrace as a matter of civic pride and patriotism.

Give these two countries a decade — just to drive the point home — and two very different-looking countries will result. One will be a lot closer to realizing the full potential of our experiment in self-governance. The other will be an authoritarian shithole with a giant, fake-gold “T” over it. .

“U” For “Unvaccinated” IS The New “Scarlet Letter”

In the month since I first published this post (then it was “Should Be The New Scarlet Letter” vs “IS”), the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant has become its own little pandemic here in America — among the belligerently unvaccinated.

Remember Hester Prynne? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester is forced by her intensely religious Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter “A” as punishment for having committed adultery. To the sin-hating Puritans, adultery wasn’t just deeply sinful, it was virtually unforgivable.

Jump forward several hundred years to now. America has made peace with all sorts of sins. Even the Arthur Dimmesdale’s of the world — in the person of religionista, pastor, former Liberty University president and super proud cocksman Jerry Falwell, Jr — have come out from hiding. Jerry Junior isn’t just unashamed of his adultery, he’s openly boastful about it!

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian and conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., posted this photo on social media Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, with the caption: “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

That expression on Jerry-Junior’s face? It’s shouting “Hey, see the smile on this young lady’s face? I put it there!”

These days, we’re more likely to force someone to wear a scarlet “A” because they’re a raging Asshole. Which brings us to anti-vaxxers — another “scarlet A”. Were it not for anti-vaxxers and their relentless spew of bullshit into the info stream, America would have gotten atop the coronavirus already. We probably wouldn’t be talking about “booster shots” because we would have achieved herd immunity within our borders. All that excess production would have already gone into making vaccine for the rest of the world — and, perhaps, that would have spared us the Delta and Mu variants and everything before and in between. Our economy would be more settled, its improvements more sustainable and reliable. And, instead of still dying in droves, Americans would be helping to restore our image across the globe as the main engine of the world’s recovery.

Too bad about the “forces of darkness” within our midst.

Pathogens are by far the most potent weapon on the planet. Throughout human history, pathogens have relentlessly culled the human herd without us even fully understanding how they were doing it to us. The native population of North America wasn’t conquered by European guns or steal. European pathogens did all the hard work. The guns and steel were there for the mop up operation.

Let’s be crystal clear: anti-vaxx sentiment is based on zero science and a clear misunderstanding of how people need to approach science. Because anti-vaxx sentiment doesn’t need science to undergird its call to action, it can recommend anything. It can advocate for utter bullshit because nothing is there to check its work — and point to how bullshitty it is.

Hester Prynne’s community had nothing whatsoever to fear from Hester. Adultery was not going to spread like a virus (although, to be fair — though it wasn’t their intention — if adultery didn’t spread like a virus, venereal diseases, crabs and pubic lice sure did including syphilis — the one potent pathogen the New World sent back to the Old). Perhaps in the Puritans’ worst nightmares, adultery had the potential to do what pathogens can. There’s a big difference between nightmares and reality though. And Colonial Americans weren’t strangers to the harm pathogens could do. George Washington — following the science of the time — had the Continental Army vaccinated against smallpox. We’ve known what pathogens do and how and why for a couple hundred years now. We KNOW how to protect ourselves from them; that should be the basis for OUR “morality”. Sex as the basis is simply too complicated and hypocrites are everywhere.

Hester is a strange mix of sexually liberated woman and mousey good-girl gone wrong. Anti-vaxxers are zombies. The pathogen has already eaten their brains and now is using the anti-vaxxers as their ride while they come for the rest of us. That’s why we NEED to make every single anti-vaxxer wear that “U” they seem so proud of right there on their person. Let’s tattoo it across their foreheads — it won’t be the ugliest tat on any of their bodies.

President Biden led the way, making vaccinations mandatory for federal employees and the military. Even big corporations appreciated on a granular level how devastating the pandemic’s been to their bottom line. Our consumer economy depends almost entirely on people buying things. Poor people can’t buy anything and rich people — they pretty much have everything they need. They’re not the market products and their manufacturers rely on for long term health. That’d be the middle class. America succeeds best when its middle class is healthy and thriving. That, really, is the whole point of Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. It ain’t “socialism”, it’s a robust middle class driving a socialized capitalism that understands it MUST have limits because integrity matters. And so does having a habitable planet with a habitable environment.

It ain’t vaccinated people stalling the economy — preventing people from getting back to work and their lives back to normal — it’s the unvaccinated. Money is everyone’s bottom line. You threaten our wallets and pocketbooks long enough and you will get our attention. That is the massive pile of shit anti-vaxxers (and, in turn the Republican Party for thinking it could ride the anti-vaxx movement to permanent political power) stepped in. And, if your bullshit threatens our kids?

“U” for “Unvaccinated” IS our new Scarlet Letter.

I bet they’ll not only wear their Scarlet Letters, I bet they’ll compete with each other to make THEIR scarlet “U” bigger than everyone else’s. What point is there in being just “full of shit” when you can be the “fullest” of shit?

Just like Hester was stigmatized, so too should every “U” wearing anti-vaxxer. That U should be why they can’t get hired, get get loans, can’t get service at a restaurant and can’t get former (now vaccinated) friends to return their calls. Pariah-hood is almost too good form them.

I’m torn about what to think of the “former” anti-vaxxer putting his new-found faith in modern medicine on social media as he dies painfully from the very disease he boastfully claimed couldn’t hurt him. America has a strange history of willful ignorance. The “Know Nothings” were an actual political movement starting in the 1850’s. They were anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-immigration, populist and xenophobic. They were neutral on slavery (which makes them pro-slavery by default). Their answer to any question was simply “I know nothing”. Though the movement died within a few years, the sentiment zombied on.

Maybe that’s what the Scarlet “U” actually signifies: the zombification of a third of America. They’re not just unvaccinated; some part of them is “undead”. Oh, great — another “U”.

Show Me A Republican, I’ll Show You A Koch Whore

Here’s a dirty, little secret: having money doesn’t make you smarter than anyone — even if your money bought you a first class education. Harvard and Yale graduate plenty of morons — most of them white — who got in on the strength of their name and connections, got graded on a curve because of donations and graduated because it was always a fait accompli. Being smart and having great ideas is incredibly important , the caveat being that different people are smart in different ways (we don’t value their smarts the same but that’s our failing, not theirs). But not even the greatest idea can get from idea to the idea’s profitable exploitation without plenty of other people making that exploitation possible via their direct contributions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with capitalism. There’s everything inherently wrong with crony capitalism. Our democracy is being threatened as much by crony capitalism as by racism (and racism is at the core of everything wrong with America). And atop the corruptest of the corrupt of crony capitalists, the capo di tutti capo himself is Charles Koch.

Corruption, thy name is Koch

Koch Industries — the engine that powered the Koch fortune — was started by Fred Koch who opened shop as an oil refinery and chemicals business. When Fred Koch died in 1967, his sons David and Charles INHERITED the business. The Koch Brothers expanded into other industries including pollution control equipment and technologies, polymers and fibers, minerals, fertilizers, commodity trading and services, forest and consumer products, and ranching. The businesses produce a wide variety of well-known brands, such as Stainmaster carpet, the Lycra brand of spandex fiber, Quilted Northern tissue, and Dixie Cup. Having been born into oil money, the Kochs have always been generous funders of think tanks that lobby to oppose environmental regulation. In a world that’s rapidly overheating because of all the carbon the Kochs’ businesses have put into the air, it’s beyond disgusting that Charles Koch continues to insist he’s entitled to do what he wants because he’s rich.

Charles and his brother are both libertarians. That means they think Ayn Rand can write — the first giveaway that they have terrible judgment. Libertarianism is all about stroking the individual’s ego. It’s not shocking that the overwhelming majority of libertarians are men. It is a profoundly selfish way of seeing the world. A profoundly self-delusional way too. The rugged individual is nothing more than an overgrown ten year old who thinks “freedom” is “you’re not the boss of me”. He wants all the benefits of freedom but has zero interest in any of the responsibilities.

That’s the thing most conservatives don’t want to talk about when it comes to freedom — the part of freedom that’s NOT free — the responsibilities. There will always be and must be dynamic tension between individual freedom and collective freedom. While the goal is to have as much individual freedom as possible, individual freedom must always be balanced with collective freedom. Too much collective freedom will harm personal freedom. But too much personal freedom will destroy collective freedom completely. That’s where “personal responsibility” comes in. Our freedoms rely on other people respecting ours. If we don’t respect theirs then ours are already compromised.

For the record, “owning” a gun is not an enumerated freedom. Citizens — per the Second Amendment — can “keep and bear” arms if the well-regulated militia says they can. If the militia says they can’t, they’re shit outta luck.

It is a stone cold fact that Koch money is making our environment uninhabitable. It’s killing wildlife and destroying ecosystems. It’s denying the very factors that are costing not just Americans but people all over the globe their property, their hopes and dreams, their lives. Environmental disasters are going to create a diaspora unlike any other humans have ever seen before or inflicted on each other.

And Charles Koch wouldn’t have it any other way. He’ll tell you he “knows better”. The basis for his knowing better (he thinks) is that he’s got more money in his bank account than you. It’s the only fact he’ll set down on the table. He thinks it makes his opinion more right than yours.

Too few people get into public service to make the world a better place. Too many get into it because they see it as the first stop of a money train. They see public service as a way for the public to service them. Ask yourself — how did public servant Mitch McConnell get to be such a wealthy man. Yeah, sure, his rich wife (Elayne Chao) brought plenty of dough to the marriage, but Mitch was a rich man before that happened and Mitch did not come from any kind of wealth. Mitch didn’t invent anything or come up with ideas that could go viral. Even Mitch’s military service was truncated (and why does mentioning Mitch’s military service record and the word “sodomy” make Mitch go quiet?) How did Mitch McConnell become wealthy enough that Elaine Chao didn’t pre-nup a wall around all her dough? The question stands exactly the same if Elaine did pre-nup that wall.

The Koch Brothers and the Mercers (Robert and daughter Rebekah) have always had it in for democracy. It’s simply too unreliable a vehicle for aspiring authoritarians and establishment white supremacists (and there most definitely IS a wide beam of quiet white supremacy in the Republican Party). Their preference is for politicians to choose their voters and not the other way around. As money does in a political system that gives money all the advantages, Koch money has always bought all the influence it needed. As big a problem as all that Koch money is, the much bigger problem by far is the willingness of all those Republicans and too many Democrats to stuff that money into their pockets.

We’re all clear, I hope, that every penny of that Koch money comes with strings if not ropes. It comes with greedy (albeit legal) expectations and none of them is concerned with the common good. They’re concerned with the Kochs getting their way — forever if possible. As the Reagan years waned, the right wing money saw a rapidly diversifying America which meant looming demographical extinction for white power. Being as pragmatic with their politics as they are with their money, the Kochs and their think tanks saw that the presidency was almost entirely beyond Republican reach. Minus Bush v Gore and Russia cheating on Trump’s behalf, the GOP couldn’t win a presidency if their lives depended on it — and that’s even WITH the Electoral College’s heavy tilt toward rural voters and away from urban voters. In the Legislative branch, the right wing money saw hope. The House is too mercurial what with having to run for office constantly. The Senate — also heavily weighted away from the majority of Americans (Senate Democrats represent 41.5 million more Americans than do Republican Senators) — would be easier to dominate. The Koch dollars have flowed accordingly — buying pretty much every Republican vote.

Ah, but Koch dollars — like the Koch Brothers — are very pragmatic. The Kochs always know which Democrats are approachable and which aren’t. Figuring it out isn’t rocket science. They’ve always seen Joe Manchin, despite the “D” beside Joe’s name, as one of “their guys”. As far as we know, Joe has never let his benefactors down. Joe has always behaved like the “Koch whore” the Kochs pay him to be.

“Drop down on all four, Joe! Now bark, bitch — and bark like ya mean it.”

Didja hear that barking sound?

That was Joe Manchin being the dog in the Koch Brothers Dog & Pony show. That was him being a dirty, little whore.

Being Republican Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

Anyone’s who’s ever raised a child knows what can happen when a five year old gets crazy belligerent. Trying to reason with them is pointless on steroids. They act and argue like five year old’s because that’s what they are. Republicans can’t claim the same excuse though that doesn’t stop them from arguing like five year old’s anyway. It’s how five year old’s think. Especially five year old boys. That doesn’t get any better with age. By the time they’re ten, they understand control of their lives this way: “Are YOU the ‘boss’ of me?” Or, as it’s stated in context, usually with lower lip thrust forward, “You’re not the boss of me!” That’s something they’d never say to a parent because their parents ARE the boss of them. So’s their boss and anyone above them in the pecking order as they perceive it. Someone with more money, a better car, hotter arm candy — those people are the boss of every sniveling Republican.

The ultimate bottom line for our story — the thing driving all the worst behaviors — is corruption. Ours is a story of what happens when corruption threatens to overwhelm everything good. Republicans want to overturn every election they lose — in other words, toss democracy entirely. Oh, sure, we can have mock elections that look like the real thing, but the outcomes would always be pre-determined with whole blocks of voters simply dropped from the system because they’re not white and won’t vote for Republicans. One does not gerrymander voting districts or suppress Democratic voters because you believe in your cause. You do it because you’re a criminal intent on circumventing the will of the people.

Part of our problem here is that, all along, Republicans have helped us define what “normal” is or what “acceptable corruption” is. It’s remarkable what white people get away with compared to everyone else. Lanisha Bratcher was on parole in North Carolina when she voted in 2016, unaware that she was ineligible because she was still on probation. Her vote never counted anyway. A Black woman, Lanisha faces two felonies and years in prison. Crystal Mason (also Black) faces five years in prison if her appeal loses for voting in Texas, also while under probation. In fact, the kind of voting fraud Republicans rail about is extremely rare while Republican voting fraud goes on like a bad habit. Republican election fraud actually changes election outcomes.

There’s not a single issue facing America where the Republicans stand upon sound logic and reasoning — or legal logic and reasoning. Not on voting, not on the economy, not on climate change, not on Russia’s takeover of our country which the January 6 insurrection was very much a part of. Considering how deep Russia’s tentacles run throughout the Trump White House, it would beggar belief that that Russia played zero part in this particularly war-like action. It is a simple fact of life that Russia helped make the insurrection happen. Perhaps some of their money paid for it. If I’m right in any way, shape or form, that means the insurrection isn’t just sorta, kinda treasonous, it’s one hundred percent treasonous.

Well played, Republicans!

The point of this disgusting exercise is permanent minority rule — a thing for which Republicans feel no need to apologize. They want US to apologize to them for being here in America and for not being them. They will never say “Sorry for racism — building an economy on stolen labor and destroyed lives was no way to build a country.” They will never say “We apologize deeply for the whole offensive idea of “manifest destiny”; seriously, how could grown adults with even a lick of perspective have gone along with that horse shit? Ah, but when you’re invented god tells you you’re entitled to anything you want — cos God says so — that’s not really God smiling on you, that’s you smiling on you and calling it “God”. Which means it’s you speaking as God.

As I’ve written here, monotheism is damned dangerous. Republicans prove the point. Monotheistic gods, being “perfect” and “divine”, don’t make mistakes and if they do, their mistakes aren’t mistakes. They make up rules as they go along and change them on the fly just because they can. They get to make up prophecies that justify their continuing hold. When a believer thinks God — a powerful deity who, the mythology says, created everything — speaks to them or that they (better than others) understand what this fundamental universal force wants, it’s not just because they’re “special”. Oh, they are “special” but it’s not because this God character speaks to and through them. It’s because, if you peel off the “lives in the clouds” window dressing, the “God” you arrive at is them.

It galls white people more than they can bear to watch 3oo years of white hegemony finally slip away as it should have long ago. There never should have been any sort of white hegemony on this continent. If not for the success of our pathogens (much more than the success of our guns and steel), white people may have never gotten much more than a toehold in the Americas. A trading hub.

Thinking you’re God is a massively corrupt way to think but plenty of people do it. To think your hold on America is justified simply because white people came up with a good idea that they executed poorly is, well, soooooo “white people”.

Republicans feel entitled to undermine the rule of law in service of themselves. They feel entitled to run America. That’s what “originalism” really is — a statement of white entitlement.

Frankly, I’d prefer it if not a single Republican ever apologizes or takes real and true ownership of their diabolical behavior. That way, when we get to the punishment phase, we can throw the book at them, hard. The fact is, Republicans feel entitled to do whatever they need to to hold onto power. They’ve always felt that way. That’s why they never apologize for anything and why the press never asks or expects them to apologize. Because Republican entitlement is baked into our architecture.

God Goes On A Job Interview: A Sketch

SETTING: A long, featureless, fluorescent lit hallway that seems to go on forever. Approaching footsteps and heavy breathing. Whoever’s approaching must be late — and worried about it. God steps into frame, a slip of paper clutched in his powerful (to hear him talk about it) hand. He peers at the number scribbled on it. It matches the room number above the doorway. This MUST be the place.

God straightens his tie. Gives his mighty (him again) head a shake as he clears his throat in a long roll of thunder. The timbre seems right. Reminding himself that he’s the one who created all this in six days damn it, he reaches for the door knob and steps into the next room like the monotheistic deity he is.

God comes up short on the other side of the door though. He wasn’t sure what to expect here. A respected bible scholar trying to make sense of unfathomable times or a world leader struggling with a terrible choice. Or a pope maybe. He definitely wasn’t expecting the attractive but business-like young woman seated across the very plain desk, a clutch of papers in her hands. From the look of the papers — the extensive wear on them, the young woman has gone over them relentlessly.

Like she was looking for answers on them. “Sheila,” she says, extending her hand toward God like he wasn’t the deity who created literally everything.

“Erm,” says God, uncomfortable but trying not to show it, desperate to do anything but shake her hand. The Young Woman has seen his discomfort. She withdraws her hand, never taking her eyes from his face. Finally his eyes meet hers.

“Sheila,” she repeats. “I’m Sheila.” She points to the folding chair on his side of the desk. Sits in the much more comfortable rolling desk chair on her side. The one with lower lumbar support.

God looks again to the folding chair, not quite sure how to fit his enormous, glowing magnificence into it. But, he’ll try. He reminds himself again, he’s the deity here. “Nice to meet you, Sheila,” he says, smooth as the Red Sea before it parted, “I’m God”. He sits, knowing it’s just a matter of time before he wins over Sheila–

“I know what job you’re here for,” she’s halfway through saying as God snaps to, “But god’s just your job description. It’s not actually your name.”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, over time, I’ve gotten used to it. We all have–“

Sheila’s looking at her smart phone. She’s found a source. “Says here your name’s Yahweh.” Sheila focuses on the fine print. “Yeah,” she says confidently, “Yahweh’s your name, not ‘God’.” She points her phone’s screen (with the “receipts” on it) toward God. “God’s” just your job description,” she says. “Is that true?”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, I did create everything,” he says, a little less ironically than he’d hoped to. “And that,” he says, leaning forward, “Is why I think you’d be crazy to believe in anything else but me.”

Sheila stares back, hard to read. Finally — “You probably know that members of my family believe in you”.

God leans forward even further, seizing the opening. “Of course I do. They’re great people. That’s why I love them–” He knows immediately: too much.

“Do you think my family believing in you speaks well of you?”

God hesitates. He’s sure of it: that was a trick question. “Perhaps,” he says, hedging, “We could agree that being a deity is hard and sometimes you have to move in mysterious ways?”

“Uh huh,” says Sheila, unimpressed. “Did you tell my Tanta Louise that she got cancer because she fooled around so much when she was younger?”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Erm,” he says (looking as uncomfortable as he feels), “Was I supposed to get some sort of notes about this?”

“You’re God, aren’t you?” says Sheila, making God feel much more like he was on a witness stand instead of a job interviewee’s chair.

“Is that a question?” asks God.

“Then you’re all-knowing, right?”

God knows exactly where this is going. He rolls his eyes. “There’s ‘all-knowing‘ and there’s “ALL-KNOWING“, know what I mean?” He hopes like hell the extra boom in his voice took a little of the wind from Sheila’s sails.

“So you don’t know my Tanta Louise or, at least, you don’t remember her, is that right?”

God studies his hands. They don’t feel very mighty right this second. His cuticles are looking rough. “What was that again your…”

“Tanta. Tanta Louise. She was my favorite aunt. She taught me how to live. But, smart as she is in some ways, she makes no sense in others. Like believing you gave her the cancer that nearly killed her.”

God squirms despite himself (flashes of lightning shoot this way and that). “Can we… talk about… you?”

She stares back, a little incredulous.

God presses on. “Things were different back when your beloved auntie was trying to figure things out. It’s true. People weren’t as broad-minded as they are now.”

“By ‘broad-minded’, you mean they don’t believe in you?”

God looks down. Stepped in it. “Now that door’s open,” he starts to tell himself–

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” says Sheila. God raises a hand to object. “Don’t,” says Sheila crisply. Down goes God’s hand. “Do you honestly think if no one mentions atheism that no one will think it?”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.” God looks down. Clears his throat — this time holding back on the rumble. “Know what special dispensation is, right?” He knows she does. She’s Catholic. “I’m taking it,” says God. “Different time and place.” He catches Sheila’s eyes. Holds them. “I, uh — I think I might remember this aunt of yours and, yeah — I might have said something along those lines — but there was context!”

Sheila and those damned eyes.

“She needed an explanation.”

Did you give her the cancer?”

“What? No!” Suddenly God’s all knowing: “The office building she worked in was on a super fund site. Honestly, it wasn’t my fault. I’m sorry I said anything–“

“You couldn’t tell her the truth?”

“Nobody knew it then — Google it!” God sits back a little. Feels the first hint of breathing room. “Google it”, he chuckles to himself, “Man, that was genius.”

Again with those damned eyes.

“Are you all knowing or aren’t you?”

God’s been in this minefield. Doesn’t make it any easier. “Depends”.

“When my Tanta Louise asked you why she got cancer, did you tell her it was because of the building she worked in? No. You told her a lie — even though you knew the truth.”

God sits back in his metal folding chair. He tries to. Finally, he fixes Sheila with a stare of his own. “You’re very good, know that?”

“I’ve thought about it, yeah,” says Sheila. “I’m thinking about it now. What should I believe? What seems most true to me?”

“And that is why — if you’re looking for Truth, you can’t not go the monotheism route — sticking a pin in your Tanta Whatever — not literally of course!” Her eyes say “continue”. “Go with me here,” he says, kicking into full salesman mode, “Take it from a deity — all those other deities? They’re not deities. The don’t think they’re better than you, for one thing!”

He turns up his palms. Slowly realizes his faux pas. “What I meant was polytheism’s small because all its gods are small. You don’t want to believe in a small god, do you?”

“Why should I believe in any god?”

“First cause,” says God, throwing down the words like it ended the argument.

“Bull-shit”, says Sheila. “Where’d YOU come from then? Who created you?”

“Nothing did, don’t you get it?” says God. “I’m the first cause. The alpha, the omega, the beginning, the end, the peanut butter and the jelly.”

“I’m allergic to peanuts”

“Figures,” God starts to say, catching himself immediately. “What I meant was I know you’re allergic to peanuts because I know everything.”

“What’s on the other side of a black hole?”

God hesitates. “What’s–“

“On the other side of a black hole. You know what a black hole is, right?”

Pride a little wounded: “Yes, I know what a black hole is, I invented them, right?”

“If you invented them then you know what’s on the other side of one, right?”

“Well…” God stammers, “Some of these inventions of mine — they’re works in progress, know what I mean?”

“They ‘evolve’, you mean?”

“Exactly,” says God, not catching himself in time, “They evolve.”

To God’s surprise, Sheila smiles. “I’ve come to a decision,” she says, standing. God, feeling like he’s being led here, stands as well. “I’m not hiring you,” says Sheila.

Not the first time this has happened (especially not recently). God lets it roll off his shoulders. “You don’t have to decide anything today,” he says — having answered this objection a few kajillion times before.

“I don’t have to decide anything ever,” says Sheila. She sits back. Studies God. Starts to laugh — not at God, not at anything in particular. Finally, the laugh peters out. “Even if, some day, I decide to look you up,” says Sheila, “It wouldn’t be you that I’d be looking up. It’d be someone better. Something better — a better God, know what I mean? But that’s only if I felt like I needed to believe in a God to begin with.”

“Can I tell you how sorry I am that I lied to your auntie?”

“If I was going to invent a god,” Sheila says, indicating the door behind God, “I’d hope like hell I could invent a better god than you.” Sheila extends a hand. “Good luck in the future.”

God looks at her hand. He knows that she knows he isn’t going to take it. And just like that, he knows: he made her point again.

“Thanks for coming in.”

As Texas’ New Abortion Ban Proves, Right Wing Religionistas Don’t Believe IN God, They Believe They ARE God

No words are more darkly ironic than “pro-life” when seen through the lens of American politics. It’s kinda like the southern states claiming — after the Civil War — that the whole thing was an argument over states’ rights rather than what it WAS an argument over, slavery. The Confederacy still lives, having lost the war but won the peace that followed. They literally rewrote history right in front of us. The most vehemently pro-life also are the most vehement when it comes to denying living, breathing people an iota of human sympathy. These institutionalist Christians have perverted “Do unto others” into “Do what I say — or else”. Not an ounce of Jesus in it. That’s because Jesus wouldn’t recognize the sentiments behind it. He was born a Jew, lived his whole life as a Jew and died a Jew, only ever preaching to other Jews about subjects Jews understood and non-Jews didn’t. His biggest teaching (aside from reminding his fellow Jews that they’re all obligated by “Tikkun Olam” — the responsibility to make the world a better place for having been in it; “Do unto others” is the genius ad slogan for that very human ideal — is anti-corruption. He taught that one doesn’t need a temple or its corrupt priests in order to talk to God. All one had to do is talk to him .

Jesus did not invent Christianity, Paul did — and Paul deserves most of the credit for modifying some old Jewish ideas into a new religion which offered its believers (gentiles with no knowledge of these old Jewish ideas) a way to beat death. If Jesus could do it, so could his followers. All one had to do, the early church said (as it slowly figured itself out) was believe in the Jesus story the way the church wanted you to — to the letter. Do that and, the church promised, just like Jesus, you would “rise from the dead” like Lazarus and live forever in a magical after-life filled with nothing but goodness and all your loved ones. To a world where polytheistic gods had little real impact on human lives — and really didn’t give a toss about humans — a monotheistic deity that cared about them personally was a revelation and a radical, new idea. That this deity could also give you immortality of a kind? It’s genius! But, that it’s still with us is, my opinion, more a testament to the underlying desire not to die than it is to the “truthfulness” of the dogma that gets a believer there.

Who gets to control life and death? Why, God does of course because that’s what God does. The fact that God — a being powerful enough to create literally everything — can’t put that simple idea into literally every human’s head (because aren’t facts facts?) gets tossed down the “free will” rabbit hole. The same institution that invented the idea of “free will” also insisted that the earth was the center of all creation until pretty much now. I’d stick a giant-sized pin in the institution’s hold on reality.

The history of the church itself — of any church — is a proof that the institution itself (and those running it) think THEY are God. Hey, why do you think God talks to them and not to regular people? Because they’re special, don’t ya know. They hear God better than the rest of us. They “understand” what he wants from all of us, but more specifically from them. God wants them to be the tip of his spear. His enforcer. His spokesperson. His raw intent.

Texas took a clever tack to get their law this far. They made all the peril civil. Now, literally ANYONE from anywhere in America can sue anyone they even suspect of helping a woman get an abortion in Texas. They’ve put a $10,000 bounty on literally everyone in Texas who doesn’t answer the accusation. Don’t appear for the shit show cos it’s a shit show? You lose. The fix is built right in. It’s a way for EVERYONE to play God with the bodies of any woman seeking or needing an abortion in Texas. And — count on this — the point of the exercise is to “lead the way” for other “pro-lifers” who think they’re God to force their Godness upon other people.

Personally, I blame monotheism. This kind of egomaniacal free association with the self as deity is baked right in to the architecture. Ask ten sincere theists what “God” is and you will get ten different answers. That’s not a function of the fluidity of God, that’s a function of the fluidity of the CONCEPT of God. It’s the “Get Out Of Logic Jail Free” card that religionistas always have up their sleeve. Magical thinking and their feelings will trump everything — especially facts.

Hey, when you’re God, you get to say what’s a fact and what isn’t. And, in Texas, you get to decide between life and death.

“U” For “Unvaccinated” Is About To Become The New “Scarlet Letter”

Remember Hester Prynne? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, Hester is forced by her intensely religious Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter “A” as punishment for having committed adultery. To the sin-hating Puritans, adultery wasn’t just deeply sinful , it was virtually unforgivable. Jump forward several hundred years to now. America has made peace with what we used to call “sin”. In fact, we’ve gotten damned good at “sinning”. Even the Arthur Dimmesdale’s (he’s the town preacher who’s knocked up Hester) have openly thrown in their lot with greed and lust and gluttony. What is a proud cocksman like Jerry Falwell, Jr if not a prideful version of Arthur Dimmesdale? Jerry Junior isn’t just unashamed of his adultery, he’s openly boastful about it!

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian and conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., posted this photo on social media Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, with the caption: “More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

That expression on Jerry-Junior’s face? It’s shouting “Hey, see the smile on this young lady’s face? I put it there!”

These days, we’re more likely to force someone to wear a scarlet “A” because they’re a raging asshole. Which brings us to anti-vaxxers — another “scarlet A”. Were it not for anti-vaxxers and their relentless spew of bullshit into the info stream, America would have gotten atop the coronavirus already. Though it would still be raging in most of the rest of the world, we would have achieved the herd immunity needed to get our lives and our economy headed back to a new kind of normal. There would have been bumps along that road too. Witness Israel and New Zealand and Australia — places that have fought the coronavirus as intelligently as people can.

Pathogens are by far the most potent weapon on the planet. Throughout human history, pathogens have relentlessly culled the human herd without us even fully understanding how they were doing it to us. The native population of North America wasn’t conquered by European guns or steal. European pathogens did all the hard work. The guns and steel were there for the mop up operation.

Let’s be crystal clear: anti-vaxx sentiment is based on zero science and a clear misunderstanding of how people need to approach science. Because anti-vax sentiment doesn’t need science to undergird its call to action, it can recommend anything. It can advocate for utter bullshit because nothing is there to check its work — and point to how bullshitty it is.

Hester Prynne’s community had nothing whatsoever to fear from Hester. Adultery was not going to spread like a virus though, ironically, the madness behind such close-minded religious thinking did spread with viral intensity Perhaps in the Puritans’ worst nightmares, adultery had the potential to do what pathogens can. There’s a big difference between nightmares and reality though. And Colonial Americans weren’t strangers to the harm pathogens could do — even if they weren’t clear that the harm in question was being caused by such a thing as a “pathogen”. But, we, on the other hand, DO know that pathogens exist. We DO know what pathogens do and how and why. We KNOW how to protect ourselves from them; that should be the basis for OUR “morality”.

Hester is a strange mix of sexually liberated woman and mousey good-girl gone wrong. Anti-vaxxers are zombies. The pathogen has already eaten their brains and now is using the anti-vaxxers as their ride while they come for the rest of us. That’s why we NEED to make every single anti-vaxxer wear that “U” they seem so proud of right there on their person. “U” for “Unvaccinated” must become our new Scarlet Letter.

The good news? It’s already happening. France and Italy have already begun culling the unvaccinated from the rest of us. Can’t prove YOU were vaccinated? You can’t eat in restaurants or attend any group entertainments like soccer matches or concerts. In a way, an unvaccinated person’s LACK of a “V” (for “vaccinated”) is the new scarlet letter. But, hey — like I said — the unvaxxed don’t see their unvaccinated status the way Hester saw her adulteress status. I bet they’ll not only wear their Scarlet Letters, I bet they’ll compete with each other to make THEIR scarlet “U” bigger than everyone else’s.

What point is there in being just “full of shit” when you can be the “fullest” of shit?

Both France and Italy are, currently, facing pushback from the unvaxxed. Riots erupted in Paris yesterday. As the unvaccinated get sick and become a smaller and smaller minority, their ignorant way of thinking will achieve true pariah-hood. They will deserve it.

Pathogens really don’t care what magical thinking motivates any human to NOT protect themselves from the pathogen. Their existence is simple: they need us. Their entire purpose is to get inside us and reproduce. That it kills us is beside the point. Before we expire, the pathogen will have used us to infect countless other humans — replacing their silent scarlet “U” (for “unvaxxed”) with a whole other kind of marker: a headstone.

America’s Exceptionalism — Its DIVERSITY — Will Save Us From The GOP’s Authoritarian Power Grab

In his indispensable book “On Tyranny”, Timothy Snyder lays out the fairly predictable tick tock that democracies experience while succumbing to authoritarianism. It’s impossible not to see us well into that experience. Someone claiming to tweet for German film maker Werner Herzog put it this way (Herzog doesn’t do social media: the tweet itself is spot on in its thinking regardless of who really tweeted it):

The lack of literal accuracy aside (a third v a third v a third), that is how authoritarianism ultimately works. A minority of the population declares war on another minority of the population and uses the rest of the population to achieve that goal. In a place like Germany, that was easy to accomplish since the authoritarian minority — Hitler and his acolytes — were going after a genuine minority (and an isolated minority at that) — the Jews. The rest of Germany had zero investment or interest in protecting Jews from the authoritarian minority since, in the eyes of those Germans, the Jews were outsiders anyway. Screw em! Hitler’s brown shirts also were aided in their rise by the general nature of the German character. That “character” was forged over the course of a thousand or so years by the various Germanic tribes — the same ones that brought down Rome — slowly melting together (with a few localized idiosyncrasies) into the nationality we recognize as “German”. The same thing happened across the border in France. Since the end of WWII, Italy has had 66 governments (that’s one every 1.14 years); that’s because Italy is still less a country than a contrived federation of city-states — the same city-states they’ve been for 1500 years; only fascism could hold the federation together). Back in Germany, that thousand years of fusing together produced a “German tribe” with certain distinct and distinctive attributes — like a willingness to go along with the group because it’s the group.

America hasn’t been around anywhere near long enough for that complex process to happen — for a coming together of disparate local tribes to form a true national character. Never mind judging America for what it was or is — that’s like judging a little kid’s future based on what that little kid (precocious as it is) has accomplished so far. It’s premature actually. My suspicion is America is still the diamond before the pressure of the surrounding rocks turns a bunch of carbon into valuable crystals. We’re still a great idea poorly executed. What else can one call “All men are created equal” when “all men” only includes white, Christian, land-owning MEN. Oh, right — we call it “originalism”.

The crisis we’re in flows directly from white panic and rage. Having built the entire southern economy on the back of slave labor, the whites getting rich off that economy were not going to surrender their claim to power just because Lee surrendered their army at Appomattox. The Confederate Army may have shuffled off into history, Confederate ardor, as we know, did not. And Confederate ardor is pure, unadulterated racism. This has always been the wellspring from which undemocratic and anti-democratic ideas flowed — the desire to keep America white (like it “used to be”).

The Right Wing’s money — the Kochs, the Mercers and the rest of their ilk — turns up its nose at such overt racism. They’d never sport a Confederate flag. But they sure do love the Confederacy’s ideals. And the Confederacy’s whiteness. Our founders were racists who sacrificed their higher ideals because they thought one could negotiate with racists and racism. You can’t. Racism automatically won because racism NEVER compromises — especially when it’s riding a cash cow. As the Reagan era — that “shining, racist g city on a hill” — ended with a whimper, the right wing money saw demographic doom ahead. The GOP had finally evolved from the Party Of Lincoln into the exclusively white, Southern-Strategy-Dixiecrat Party. That party, per the recent census, is shrinking. That is, it’s membership pool is shrinking.

What’s a white’s only political party to do in a country that’s diversifying as rapidly as America was and is? If you’re white guys, you do what white guys have historically done back in the white homeland, Europe: you turn fascist. You circle the white wagons around your whiteness and you count on everyone else’s whiteness to pull most of the white population together defensively. It always works.

But, the white guys in America have a problem the white guys in Europe never had: a majority population who ISN’T them. That doesn’t have their collective history. That has zero interest in white guys behaving like bullies, monsters and fascists. In other words, the very “third” the authoritarian Republican third is counting on to do their dirty work simply doesn’t exist in America. Instead of a a sea of compliant white people dully staring back at them, America’s authoritarians see diversity. They see the thing that really and truly makes America EXCEPTIONAL. The thing that never happened in any country in the world before in human history: a gathering of tribes to form a single nation: E Pluribus Unum.

Out of many, one.

E Pluribus Unum was the ingredient missing from all previous authoritarian power grabs. It made the power grab not only possible but likely to succeed. Add that ingredient to the GOP’s power grab and their likelihood of success plunges because there’ll be no minority to stand by silently while the GOP bullies all those other minorities. And all those minorities the Republicans are counting on quietly bullying into submission? They’ve banded together — into a majority! Because that is how democracy works.

If the Republicans do somehow bludgeon their way back into power, they’ll have a massive insurrection of their own to fend off — a democratic insurrection dedicated to wiping out their authoritarian (wet) dream state. And the authoritarians, armed to the teeth, can’t take a whole lot of comfort in being armed to the teeth. This is America. Everyone is armed to the teeth right along with them. And the Right Wing better not count on having America’s professional soldier class in their corner.

These are terrifying times — no argument. But we can project ahead based both on history and how it is on the ground right here in reality. It’s already too late for white male hegemony to succeed long term in America. It was too late at the country’s founding. The majority’s wokeness cannot be un-woked. Every other group now grasps what the radical whites are up to and we will never, ever go along with it.

As I said, America’s diversity is its exceptionalism. It’s also our saving grace, too.

How We Think Of “Work” Doesn’t Work Anymore

Back when I was a pup, way, way back in the ancient 1960’s, the “work” paradigm went something like this (assuming you made it to high school): “High School – College – Job At IBM Or Xerox Or Ford Motors For Life – Retirement At 65 – Death Not Too Long After If You’re Male, Not Too, Too Long After If You’re Female”. The work you did was more or less generic. Your whole career, such as it was, was all about taking one for the team because you expected the team would be there for you when you needed it. Your employer (for life) would take care of your salary (of course) and your health insurance. They’d also take care of your retirement — tying their future fate together with your later years. Of course, they’d be there come the day — it’s America, FFS! But, something else was happening meanwhile — something below the surface of it all. While America was working, corporate America — monied America — was working against us all.

Though profits and productivity increased, wages did not. That wasn’t an accident or a coincidence. Back in the 1950’s, when America’s economy boomed, the retail-retail top tax rate for people earning mega-bucks was 91%. No one paid that; when all was done and said, the effective tax rate for the more-money-than-God set was 42%. That’s not too far from today. In other words — the wealthy (having gotten far wealthier since then) could easily pay that difference without even missing it.

Now, let’s be real where the super wealthy are concerned. Nothing any one person does, will do or has ever done could possibly justify anyone having the kind of wealth the super wealthy now possess. Even a great idea born of one person’s verifiable genius demands that countless others get involved in order to shuttle that great idea from the abstract into reality. Contrary to Donald Trump’s thinking, NO ONE alone can fix ANYthing. It’s not just child-rearing that takes a village. Here in the real world, it takes a village to do literally ANYTHING.

The problem is, rich people immediately assume they deserve their wealth (regardless of whether they do or don’t). Whether a trust fund or good fortune have smiled upon them, the rich tend to think their being rich is part of some divine plan. That’s how we ended up with kings and queens insisting (all evidence to the contrary) that their blood was superior to everyone else’s. It’s how we ended up with the idea that an ordinary (fallible) priest takes on the papal robes and immediately becomes INfallible. Um, no, actually — the infallible thing does not in fact happen. The robes only add layers of clothing. Nothing else.

I have spent my entire adult life in the gig economy. It’s not a new thing. What’s new is that more and more people realize they’re living in it, too, now. They realize they’ve been living in it for a while. And they won’t be getting out of it. The gig economy is now THE economy.

America is not prepared for it.

That’s because we keep thinking of “work” in the old fashioned way. We need to stop doing that right bloody now.

Is All Work Created Equal?

Hell, no. But it’s kind of the wrong answer to the wrong question. It should really be framed as “Is all work equal to the worker doing it?” We’d normally ask it in the reverse: “Is the worker equal to the work?” That’s why we insist on resumes and job interviews and character references. We want to make sure we’re hiring someone up to the task. Even better — someone who’ll excel at the task and make us look like geniuses for hiring them. An unemployed rocket scientist or brain surgeon would find their skill sets wasted doing shifts at McDonald’s. But, by the logic of unemployment compensation, you better have a good excuse for not taking the first job offered you.

The brain surgeon doing a shift at the takeout window will walk away with $120 worth of bounce in her step — not much bounce when her monthly nut costs thousands. Yes, she’ll no longer be “unemployed” but her job will both take up her time and fail to pay for her existence. Not exactly the point of the exercise. Let’s say that by hook or by crook the clever Brain Surgeon finds a way to make ends meet on $2400/month (that’s $600/week X four). That wouldn’t be the case, of course — taxes, unemployment, Social Security and Medicare have to be taken out BEFORE any money got to the Brain Surgeon. Take away 25% — what it will likely cost the Brain Surgeon. Working full time, she’s got to make everything in her life fit inside $1800/month.

The simple fact is that no one living in most urban environments in America can thrive on $1800/month. A couple making $3,600/month has a fraction more wriggle room but bigger expenses. Throw in a kid and it would have to be a miracle that this family isn’t living on the street somewhere. Yet, this happens all the time in America. People work their asses off like hamsters in a wheel — getting nowhere, having zero to show for it.

We got here because we love money more than work. We love money more than any work product especially when t’s not ours. We assume the higher one gets paid, the more valuable the work. Spoiler Alert: that’s bullshit. The most valuable work is that which builds, nurtures and sustains us AS a culture. Teachers are incredibly valuable as are any people who chose to work in day care and early childhood development. If we paid people what they were worth in the broadest possible sense to the culture they call home, the distribution of money would be very different from how our society hands out its financial rewards.

The biggest cost in most businesses is labor. The people who “do it all”. That’s also where most businesses try to keep their expenses down. Of course, one must have a budget in order to successfully run a business. But, we’ve loaded businesses up with obligations that maybe they shouldn’t be obligated to — like their employees health insurance. For the record, this anomaly began in America during World War Two. To keep as much money as possible directed toward the war effort, big companies were prohibited by law from giving anyone raises or by luring new hires with promises of more money. The workaround a number of big companies found was offering new hires and valued employees “Hospital Insurance” policies that would help in the event that they or their family encountered a health emergency that put them in the hospital.

After the war ended, these workarounds should have ceased. But a lot of very big companies were now doing it — and, as America had no real health care infrastructure at the time — no system that valued health CARE (not the insurance that covers part of the cost of the care) — health insurance offered by one’s employer became a “thing” in America that Americans expected as part of their employment. That may sound good on the surface, but it’s been nothing short of a disaster for the bulk of Americans and American families who either can’t afford the insurance or aren’t capable of navigating a system that — profit driven as it is — wants to make money, not pay for benefits.

The big companies quickly realized that running a health insurance business for your employees is expensive and unrewarding. The health insurance business was invented to “solve” that problem. It’s utter rubbish that “Americans love their health insurance”. No, they don’t. No one loves their insurance. Insurance companies are GATE KEEPERS standing between an American and the health care of health care provider they want or need. They add nothing except cost. And, while government can indeed be terribly inefficient and subject to graft, so can the corporate world. At least with a government, we can (eventually) vote the bastards out. When a corporation has control of you, of your life, there’s little recourse — except governmental intervention.

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed America’s many flaws in terrible ways. The first question our health INSURANCE (versus CARE) system asks when anyone walks in its door isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s a problem if people can’t pay. They won’t go to get fixed. If they’re sick, they’ll continue to BE sick. They could easily make more people sick. As the delta variant has made clear, viruses untamed begin to mutate making the problem of solving them that much harder. When even the vaccinated can still get sick, we’re in a bad, bad place.

The reason Universal Basic Income has worked everywhere it’s ever been tried — the reason it’s working for us now (despite so many states already reasserting their more Dickensian way of doing things) — is because the money we pay people almost always goes directly into the economy. People use the UBI to pay their bills and buy things. Rather than taking the first job offered them, people receiving UBI (without having to worry about justifying it) tend to wait for jobs best suited to their skill sets and financial needs. When they do accept work, it’s invariably at a higher salary which means they’ll pay more taxes back into the system — helping to keep the whole thing going.

It works. it’s working. And it understands that we can make work and workers and working far more productive by giving work and worker more time to find each other. As more factory and retail work gets robotized, more people will have to find different jobs — maybe even whole different careers. The nature of a gig economy makes that more easily do-able. But that gets both do-able and productive when we stop thinking of work as punishment for not being rich and, rather, as a means to an end.

The rest of the world works to live while most Americans still live to work. That’s another unexpected benefit of the gig economy — it will force Americans to re-think why they work, what they do when they work and how to reap the most possible rewards from their work.