Half Awake In a Fake Empire

Stay out super late tonight
Picking apples, making pies
Put a little something in our lemonade
And take it with us

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

Tiptoe through our shiny city
With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice
Bluebirds on our shoulders

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

Turn the light out, say goodnight
No thinking for a little while
Let’s not try to figure out everything at once
Its hard to keep track of you falling through the sky

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

I’ve been listening to The National’s album Boxer as it was suggested to me by a friend.  Knowing what little I know about The National, being an indie band from New York, you could see the song as a critique of hipster culture, or one of those songs that is about the age when partying starts to lose its luster.  However, I couldn’t help but think of American exceptionalism while listening to it. Although there have been a couple big wins for sanity in the last week, we still are a country that has an absurd divide between rich and poor.  We are still poisoning the only earth we are ever going to have.  Yet we constantly distract ourselves with a mainstream culture that is largely a wasteland, a senseless circle jerk.  Fame without talent or accomplishment, facts without context, people that talk constantly and yet seem to say nothing.  What good is wealth if it is created at the expense of others?  What good is fame if it is not married with any value outside of itself?  What good is knowledge if it is just the accumulation of board game trivia answers, a collection of the useless?  What point is speaking if it is only to spread misinformation?  Who cares how someone looks if their brain is full of spiders?  “We’re half awake in a fake empire…”

Obama to Unveil Plan to Extend Overtime Pay to 5 Million

Obama to Unveil Plan to Bring Overtime Pay to 5 Million

Another interesting article, this time a headline over at Huffpo.  If you look at the widening wage gap between owners and workers, especially if you look at it over the course of history in the last hundred years, you will see that things have gotten completely out of whack.  Don’t take my word for it, do the research.  This looks to be a way that Obama is looking to help lessen the outrageous disparity that has arisen in this country between rich and poor.

My Voting System

There is a meme going around on Facebook right now where Texas Governor Greg Abbot is quoted:

“Marriage is defined by God, no man can redefine it.”

Then it shows the three women Supreme Court Judges and below their picture it says: I Am No Man.

I loved it.  I wrote below it on my Facebook page:

I couldn’t help post this. It made me laugh thinking how certain heads would explode. As a straight white male maybe you think I shouldn’t be laughing. But after centuries of war, environmental destruction, and economic injustice (just for starters!), I figure it’s time to let some other people drive. We have three women on the Supreme Court and a black president and we got affordable healthcare and tolerance that just a few years ago seemed a dream.

I don’t usually like to post those memes on Facebook, but sometimes you have to break your own rules.  But anyway, it made me think of my voting system that I use if I am not sure of who to vote for.  Let’s just be honest, sometimes you go to the polls in those off years and you just don’t know all the races.  So you have to have a system.  So here is mine (I will explain after):

1.  If there are different parties I select the most liberal party.

2.  If there are not different parties I will vote for a woman over a man.

3.  If the candidates are all one sex, then I try to see if one of the candidates has a name that looks like a minority name.  If so I vote for the minority.

4.  If the only name present is a white Republican male, then I write in a candidate.

5.  If there is no one that I can think of that is breathing to hold an office other than a white Republican male, I then write in a fictional character.

Basically, in my opinion, George W. Bush doomed white Republican males until the end of time.  The Republican party, which was the party of my grandfather, and used to feature sensible moderates at times, spent the years between Reagan and W. driving all moderates out of positions of power in the party.  (I know many of you are still out there in the wilderness.  Stay strong!)  Somehow this thinning of the moderate heard reached light speed under George W.  Now that party’s leadership seems to be left without any candidates that aren’t anti-science, religious freak, free market fundamentalists.

It’s not that I think that all liberals, women, and minorities are great.  Not by a long shot.  It’s only that I am willing to bet they will be better than the WRM alternative.

In life the driving forces should be love, tolerance, and peace.  I don’t mean that in the kind of utopian sense than many on the right would call, “hippie bullshit.”  I just mean that we should strive to be tolerant of those individuals who are born differently from us and that as a society we should only use violence as a last resort.  As much as I would like to believe otherwise, if you put Hitler at one end of the human spectrum and Martin Luther King Jr. at the other, I would probably be somewhere in the middle.  But I’m trying.  It’s striving to be loving, tolerant, and peaceful that is important.  Many of us will trip along the way, but we must get up and try harder.

I feel like more often than not, those that have struggled have more empathy for other people that are struggling.  Unfortunately, right now, in our society, on average, women and minorities have more roadblocks in their path than white men do, despite whatever bullshit Fox News tries to sell you.  (You will see all kinds of “traditional values under attack” over at Fox News after the gay marriage vote.  Fox News viewers will be made to feel like victims, again.  Please, gay people are just being allowed to marry someone they love, not being given free mansions.)  There is no promise that any kind of person is going to be loving, tolerant, or kind, but again, I’m playing the odds at the voting booth on occasion.  If you’ve been shit on by the system, the odds are you are going to extend a hand to others that have faced similar problems.  And that’s what this whole life thing is about, making sure that as many of our brothers and sisters get a fair shake as possible.

Now granted, occasionally my system could vote in Clarence Thomas in a whig, but whoever said life was without its risks?

Ta-Nehisi Coates On Why the Confederate Flag Should Be Taken Down In South Carolina

Take Down the Confederate Flag Now

I would never argue to ban a flag.  Not because there are any flags that I’m expecting to wave anytime soon, but because I believe in freedom of expression, even the freedom to express views that are misguided.  However, there is a big difference between giving people the choice to wave their own flag and putting it up over a statehouse, where it carries the weight of law with it.  I know there are some that say the Confederate Flag carries history and heritage with it, but if you look at that history it is troubling to say the least.  Up above Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the argument that the Confederate Flag should be taken down, with the weight of history on his side.  I picked Coates because I know that he has done a great deal of time studying the history of slavery, The Civil War, and the legacy of those times.  I’ve read him long enough to know that he has done the heavy lifting, the research, on these questions.  Anyone can spout their opinion, but Coates has long been interested in these very things.  I’ve read enough history myself that, while I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on such things, Coates words ring true to me in that they stack up with the things that I have read.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like culture wars for the sake of them and I don’t like acts of symbolism.  I’d much rather know that racism was stamped out than to see a flag taken down.  However, again the fact that this flag is hung up on a public building is what I find troubling.  Taking the flag down in no way means that issues of institutional racism are stamped out.  But at the same time flying a flag that has stood for institutional racism over an institution is a little strange, especially if you are one of those that claims there is no institutional racism.  Taking it down is a symbol and a gesture and no more.  It doesn’t solve anything in and of itself, but it at least says, “we’re working on it,” doesn’t it?

If you want to hang that flag on your house or put it as a bumper-sticker on your car, as they say in Deadwood, “That is between you and your god.”  But I think, given what that flag has represented over the years, taking it down from government buildings is a pretty damn good idea.

Scott Walker and the Fate of the Union

Scott Walker and the Fate of the Union

Above is a really interesting article that talks about Scott Walker’s largely successful campaign against unions in Wisconsin.  This is part of a larger right wing move to destroy unions in this country.  It is done under the guise of “right to work” by methods of divide and conquer.  A sample (The article starts out by following a union worker named Randy Bryce who takes a day off to have his voice heard at a debate in the state government.):

At 6 p.m., Bryce’s name finally appeared on the list of coming speakers. He paced the hallway outside the hearing room in anticipation. But 20 minutes later, Stephen Nass, the Republican senator who is the chairman of the Labor and Government Reform Committee, announced that there was a “credible threat of disruption” and that the hearing would be adjourned so the committee could vote to move the bill forward (it passed). A labor organizer, it turned out, had told The Milwaukee Journal ­Sentinel that some people planned to stand up in protest at 7 p.m., when testimony was to be cut off. (“I went through Act 10 — it was ugly,” Nass said earlier in the hearing, referring to the difficulty some senators experienced reaching various parts of the Capitol after the rotunda was occupied. “We had to go through a tunnel like rats. We don’t want to go through that again.”) About a hundred people were still in line to testify. A chant of “Let us speak” erupted. But Nass quickly took the committee members’ votes and was then escorted out, with his two Republican colleagues, by a phalanx of state troopers.

Bryce still wanted to speak. He had lost a day’s wages, and the committee’s two Democratic senators had remained to hear more testimony. State troopers were now blocking the door to the hearing room, though, so he decided to address a group of protesters in the hallway outside instead.

“My name is Randy Bryce,” he began in a loud voice. “I’ve been a member of Ironworkers Local 8 since 1997. I’ve had the privilege in that time to work on many of Wisconsin’s landmarks, private businesses and numerous other parts of our infrastructure.” As he spoke, the protesters began to quiet. Bryce described how he had wandered from job to job after he left the Army, how Local 8’s apprenticeship program had given him direction, a real career. Finally, he presented the case against what he called “a blatant political attack” on his union. “All of our representatives are elected,” he said. “All of the decisions that we make are voted on. The general membership is given monthly reports on how every dime is spent. Every dime spent is voted on. Unlike what is taking place this week, Ironworkers Local 8 is pure democracy. I am disappointed beyond words at not just what this bill contains, but how it is being passed.”

Two days later, just after the full Senate approved the bill that would make Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state, Scott Walker was in Maryland, attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual showcase for conservative activists and Republican presidential hopefuls. At a question-­and-­answer session, one attendee asked Walker how he, as president, would confront the threat from radical Islamist groups like ISIS. Walker’s answer was simple, and may in the end define his candidacy. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters,” he said, “I can do the same across the world.”

I can’t help but feel that anyone that knows the history of working people in this country should be outraged.

Although the song above is dated, it actually deals with Solidarity concerning workers in Poland during the 1980’s, I can’t help but feel that with a few minimal lyric changes, it works perfectly today.  Only this time the tyrant is more elusive.  Power is with those who exist largely in the shadows and hide behind the utopian myth of the miracle of the unfettered free market.  They use the language of hard work, religion, and patriotism to achieve their aims, although I know of no religion whose text celebrates endless greed, they shamelessly drain the livelihoods of many of those that work hardest, and they preach a kind of patriotism which leaves out a great deal of their fellow countrymen and women, which is no kind of patriotism at all.  Unions, like all things manmade, are imperfect, but they have played a great role in strengthening the working and middle class of this country.  People have literally died to gain the ability to earn a livable wage for an honest days work.  If you find yourself again unions, read the history of the coal towns or read about many early factory conditions.  Find out the things that the American worker has come to take for granted that exist because of unions.  We need strong unions now more than anytime since before the New Deal, when those like Walker stalk the corridors of power.