Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dear Google Reader

For the most part, I love your little explore button. It's how I've found most of the art and design blogs that keep me sane when I can't read one more thing about politics or economics or crappy things going on in the world and I just want to look at pretty pictures of things people have made. You deserve mad props for that.

However, please stop suggesting that I read stuff from people I hate. I'm not not reading them (wait, if I'm not not eating donuts means i am eating donuts then skip that whole line, this momentary lapse in content is brought to you by GRAMMAR). They aren't on my reading list not because I don't know about them, but because I do know about them and I think they are dillholes (that would be John Arovosis of AmericaBlog and Greg Mankiw who holds a freakishly strong grasp on the college economics textbook market, in case you needed to know)

You know what would be nice, a NEVER SHOW THIS TO ME AGAIN button in explore. Or a YOU MISSED THE MARK TOTALLY button.

But keep sending me pretty pictures, I like those. I am particularly fond of regency era architecture filled with modernist furniture, cause I'm contrary like that. And more Swedish design. If that helps.



Friday, April 09, 2010

Sweet! Teasing lawyers wins you books!

I won But I Did Everything Right's book giveaway and will shortly be the proud owner of Econned by Yvves Smith!

Perhaps it is not just Other cousin who has lucky boobs?

Dear People Who Voted For Obama and Still Believe the Hype

Lemme clear up a few myths for you.

1) I am not a Republican. I did not want the Republicans to win. If I had wanted the Republicans to win, I would have voted for the Republicans. But I didn't.

2) I am not a racist. Well, everyone is a little bit racist, though i work really damn hard to overcome all that (not needing a cookie for that work, btw). I don't dislike Obama because he is black. I dislike him because he's a corporatist dillhole with a giant letter D after his name. As a matter of fact, the person that I did vote for looks just like this

If I had wanted to vote for a white person, I certainly had an option to do so. But I wanted to vote for the person and party that actually represented my values and issues best. It was giant bonus that she happens to be both female and black. (But actually those two oppression points may explain why her values are closer to mine than Obama's are).

3) I know the I told you so's are hard to take. Suck it up pooh bear.

4)If the only pressure we, as individual citizens, can exert on the system is with our vote, then why do you keep giving that vote to people who don't believe in the same values that you do? I know, winning seems important, but what you're really showing is that your vote has no value. You will give it to someone who will work against your best interests, against your beliefs, as long as sometimes your party can come out on the winning side.

Didn't you ever watch an 80's teen flick? Did you not get the often used message that staying on the assholes side just because he's a winner never makes you cool?

Student Loans Vs. Taxes

One of the big reasons I have never finished college is money. My grants ran out with a quarter left before finishing my transfer degree, and without transferring to a university, I'm not eligible for more money. My college, for very good reason, cut out the student loan program over a decade ago. They found that access to student loans didn't actually increase graduation rates, and instead just left already low-income students with a huge debt and no degree. They worked pretty hard at keeping tuition rates under the pell grant amounts instead.

I could have gone to another community college and gotten a student loan. And once I transfered I could have gotten more student loans to offset the huge economic cost of not being able to work full time and going to school. But I have a child who in 3 years will also need to go to college, and racking up a mountain of debt for college leaves me in a shit of a place. If I do that, I need to make sure that as soon as I get out of college I can get a job that pays well enough for me to both pay off my own student loans AND pay straight out for the Kid's education because a job that pays well enough to pay off college debt will make the kid less eligible for financial aid and my having a degree makes him less eligible for financial aid (kids with parents without college degrees get more aid for being the first in their family to go to college, even if their parents went to college and didn't finish). A BA in poly sci will not pay for those things. Without already being part of the power structure, a BA will only make me eligible to drive a cab. And there is no way I could even think about grad school until after the Kid is fully launched into the world. My plan instead is to 1) stay dirt poor 2) stay un(der)educated 3) get Kid into college the old fashioned way, with pell grants.

So no degree for me. Also, no college debt for me. Uhm, yay me!

But I know a gazillion people with college debt that is crushing them and have no job to show for it. The amounts that they owe for an education that is not serving them is staggering. It may be the single shittiest investment ever. Maybe worse than handing over money to Bernie Madoff. I'm not saying college isn't good and useful and people shouldn't go. I'm saying that the way we pay for it stupid.

A quick google tells me ( and since I am not sure of the sources, I am not linking) that the average student loan debt is about $20k (not including all the fat interest the students will pay over the lifetime of the loan) and that over 100 BILLION dollars worth of federally backed loans are made every year for college.

This is where the Costco analogy for taxes comes in pretty fucking handy. Did you go to college, do you want to go to college, do you have children that you want to go to college? Then perhaps instead of paying full retail price plus all that fucking loan interest, you'd like to join our bulk buyers' club. It's called Taxes Pay for Really Good Shit for Much Cheaper than Market Rate.

Here's how it works. You pay a little bit of your income out over the course of your lifetime, like those membership fees you pay at Costco only instead of Costco you write out a check every year to the IRS and lucky you, you already have a membership card. It's that weird blue and white paper card that you're not supposed to laminate. Yeah, that one. Then when you need it, right next to the 8 thousand pill bottle of Advil, is OHHHH AHHHHHHH Super Cheap or Nearly Free College!

And here's the even cooler thing, it's still there if you're middle class and your kids don't qualify for pell grants. It's still there if you're super poor and pell grants won't pay for everything. It's still there if you're a brown kid in my old neighborhood considering walking into the Army office because you know your momma don't have no way to pay for you to go to college when she's still got 2 other babies at home. Ohhhhhhh Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

Now this might make those of you who are middle class a little uncomfortable. I know, you put yourself through college by eating ramen noodles and taking out giant loans and dammit those poor brown kids could do the same if they just opened a book instead of playing basketball with their friends all the time./snark.

Look, if you still need to feel superior to poor/brown people, I am sure colleges will be more than happy to assist you with that through their admissions requirements. But dude, I have a fucking 3.8 gpa. And I can't finish college. So suck it.

Wouldn't you rather feel superior without a gazzilion dollars in student loan debt than with it. It just makes way more sense, and I'm the un(der)educated one.

(This post was inspired the frequent bitter ramblings of the good peeps at But I Did Everything Right, who, from what I have read, do not feel the need to feel superior to brown people. They are lawyers. They are used to being made fun of. Even by people who like them)

A Quick and Dirty Primer: Political Science & Legitimacy

Political science is the study of how we delegate power. That's it. It's just a way of figuring out the systems and tools we human beings have designed and used in order to decide who gets to have power and who does not.

First things first- what is power? Power in less complex (meaning less specialized, less stratified, more egalitarian and usually pastoral) societies is generally a matter of respect given to a Big Man (or Big Woman) known to be wise and just. This is the person who recommends how to divide up food stores to insure against famine and settles disputes between neighbors. They do not have coercive power, meaning they cannot enforce or police their suggestions. But their decisions are usually followed anyways.

In a more stratified society, power means coercive authority. It is who we decide has the ability to tell us what to do and to punish us when we don't do it. This is why politics is a big fucking deal. It's almost like choosing your parents, but you don't get to move out when you're 18 if they are douchebags.

There are different types of power structures, straight up democracies, republics, monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies, etc. The major difference in these is how the elites are chosen. Are they elected? Do they rule through divine right? Through military force? (A note on elections, just because it has elections does not actually make it a democracy or a republic, more on that later). Legitimacy, or the the belief the people have in the rulers right to rule, is a key part of this process. If you are in a country that has been traditionally ruled by a monarch with divine right, it will take a revolutionary act to get people to believe that they could choose their own leaders instead of letting god and dna do it for them. A leader who takes power without legitimacy is going to have a boatload of trouble keeping it. This is why secret police exist. Or George Bush's Free Speech Zones.

For a system to be considered democratic (or republican, the more complex sibling of direct democracy) requires several things: free and fair elections, a choice of more than one party, and wikipedia says equal access to power. Than last one is a load of shit though. I mean we've been a democratic country for how many centuries now and no one that looks at the members of our government would think there is equal access to power for anyone who isn't a white dude. You can be in a country that looks like a democracy, what with the voting and all, but if you only have one party to choose from or if your are going to get beaten to a pulp for not voting the right way or if you cannot be sure that your vote will be counted or that the ballot box has been stuffed, then you're not living in a democracy.

So what does this have to do with our little red, white and blue republic? Let's go back to legitimacy. We have exactly one option for exerting coercive force back on our little band of elites, voting. That's it. Sure you can write letters, give money, throw public tantrums on the internet that may influence power, but the elites are not required by law to follow any of that. They are only required to abide by who the voters say gets to be there (or who the Supreme Court says gets to be there).

Nowhere in the constitution does it say anything about 2 parties. Nothing in the idea of democracy says there has to be only 2 parties, and as a matter of fact, most democracies have 3 or more. The only reason we have only 2 major parties comes from legitimacy. We do not give other parties legitimacy because we refuse to vote for them. Period. Third parties don't win because we don't vote for them. And that won't change until we start to vote for them.

(you should at this point be able to see the circular logic we employ en masse on that- third parties don't win so I won't vote for one so third parties don't win ad nauseum)

But we're supposed to have 2 parties that represent the two polar views on governance and government happens somewhere in the middle of those two sides? Right? Uhm no.

The elites have one pretty fucking handy trick that gets overlooked. The elites decide what the topics of government are going to be. We don't have a national referendum or initiative system. The only power we have is in who we choose to vote for . I can't say this enough times. The only power we have is who we choose to vote for. We don't get to decide what the most pressing issues are. We have no say in what bills get brought to congressional vote. We have no say in what orders the president signs or vetos. The only power we have is in choosing someone who will (we hope) bring up issues that mean something to us.

Political parties are not like sports teams. There is very little luck involved, first off, and when your party is having a crap year continuing to support them actually makes the problem worse. The only thing that changes political parties is who is voting for them. Political parties get to decide what the conversation is going to be, but we get to decide if they even get to talk in the first place.

Lemme give you a pretty concrete example of how parties (and their extensions) get to set the conversation. Blue Lyon got her blogger blog shut down during the primaries because she wasn't full of unity pony sparkle. (Somewhere there is still a backup word press blog for this one should I ever get booted). Most of the contributers at Corrente have been kicked off the big access blogs at one point or another for questioning the Dems seemingly drastic shift in platform to a much more conservative track. And these are Dems. They didn't vote for McCain. Never had the intention of voting for a Republican. But because they aren't sticking to the dominant theme of "If the Dems do it, it's for a a good reason but look over there, there's a rethuglikan sex scandal" Anyone not sticking to the dominant political themes gets silenced. Not by police, but by other citizens.

If you love the Democratic party, but are disturbed by the rightward route it is taking, there is only one action you can take to change that. One. Don't vote for the party until it moves in a direction to your liking.

Look, I've said about a gazillion times that the elites never do anything against their own self interest. Progressive action is against their own interest. It cuts directly into their pocketbooks (for both the corporate thieves and their underlings, politicians). The Democratic party will not act progressive unless it is threatened with a serious power loss. They have to be scared of another party taking their place. For generations, Dems have been able to rely on women and minorities to vote for them without hesitation because the only other viable option is so much worse for them. Because we are such reliable voting blocks, the party has no interest and no reason to cater to us. Period. We have been there and have always been there and will always be there because, what are we going to vote for a Republican? (How many times have we heard that tired refrain? Cause I've gotten it more than a dozen times in the last week).

But Republican is not the only option.

What I am, what you need to be if you are really committed to progress, is willing to lose in the short term for long term gain. Yes, that means we may end up with more rethuglikans in office until the dems come back to progress or until a third party (like say the Green party) becomes powerful enough to win.

But neither of those things are going to happen if we keep voting for dems as they are. And political infrastructures do not spring up overnight, but are grown through the blood, sweat and tears and most importantly VOTES of its members. If you want a more progressive political state, you have to vote for one.

You can't wait for a legacy party to change. It's not in their interest to do so as long as you are still willing to vote for them. They got what they want from you, and it didn't cost them a damn thing. Obama (quoting Ghandi) said "Be the change you want to see in the world". So be the change. Go vote your conscious. Vote your values. Vote in your own best interest. And chances are that your conscious, values, and best interest don't lie with either the Republicans or the Democrats, but somewhere else.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

All poor neighborhoods start to look alike when they are anchored by military recruiters

Sylvie dropped this in comments on the My Old Neighborhood Post. (I love you Sylvie!)

I'm only about 20 minutes into it, but you should all go watch it.

My Old Neighborhood

My old neighborhood in Seattle, where the Kid went from tiny boy child to a young man. Where we knew all the grocery store clerks and the pharmacist and who to watch out for on the street. Where our neighbors looked out for us and we looked out for them. We traded flour and sugar and eggs and bus fare and cigarettes. Where we were just a 7 minute walk from my work or Kid's school or the the grocery or drugstore and a bus ride to everywhere else. Where the spectacle had a hard time taking hold because we all knew the realities of the world and couldn't afford the cushioning to hide ourselves from it.

Where sometimes (and more often than sometimes as the Kid grew big enough to be easy prey- people will stop a stranger from hurting a small child in public but teens and near teens don't have that layer of protection) bad shit happened. Police raids with those big things they use to ram doors, multiple shootings, a domestic dispute where my neighbors beat each other's cars with baseball bats till there wasn't a window or light intact. I think domestic violence is more obvious in poor neighborhoods, where small apartments can't hide the screaming and constant financial stress leaves everyone more angry.

That long intro was just so i could show you all a video. I am homesick tonight.

Blue Scholars: Back Home

Certain scenes from this video (the girl walking past the construction site, for example) were shot right across the street from our old apartment. The grocery store where all the clerks knew the Kid's name was in the same shopping center as the recruiting offices for each fucking branch of the military. They were well placed. That shopping center was were all the neighborhood high school kids, the ones who weren't white kids bussed in from fancy craftsman homes in the north of the city to go to the AP program, would congregate when the afternoon bell rang at Garfield high school (which is also in the video). The kids would get their afternoon sugar fix at the Red Apple store or the AMPM, or the lucky ones with more than a buck or two would get a Starbucks coffee. And the recruiters were there. Just waiting for those black and brown and "other" kids to realize there wasn't much else for them. There's no college scholarship. There's no job. But if you sign up, oh that can all be changed and you can be all that you can be.

When we moved into the big fancy craftsman house with Ruth and Bernard in the north of the city for that last year, we lost all that. We lost the neighbors and the grocery clerks and the friendships and the sense of community. We also lost the high likelihood of violence aimed at the kid. (Though I still saw plenty of cops doing crappy shit to brown kids in the fancy neighborhood, that didn't change).

And nowhere near the shopping center that housed the new grocery store (Whole Foods) and the drugstore and the super expensive kitchen gadget store, and the Dania furniture store, was a military recruiting office, even though the high school was right there.

The kids in that neighborhood were paler and richer. College was inevitable, though which one was the question. There wasn't going to be a hard awakening for those kids about the realities of the world that would drive them into the Army recruiter's storefront. These are kids for whom the afternoon Starbucks is a mandatory expense along with music lessons and sports teams and SAT tutoring. In my old neighborhood, coming up with the testing fees alone would have been a challenge. Tutoring was out of the question.

But the real issue is, for those poor kids whose reality doesn't include SATs and college applications or even the possibility of a living wage job, is it really a choice when the only option left is military service. Is this kind of disparity it's own sort of underhanded draft in order to, once again and as always, pull poor boys and girls into fighting with and the killing of and dying at the hands of other poor boys and girls, all while the strings are pulled by the parents of the kids who can always afford an after school Starbucks.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Allegiance to a label is not a substitute for actual integrity

I get how hard it is to separate yourself from a political party you have been a member of for your entire life, cause I was a member of that same party since I was old enough to know that there were 2 choices.

But when that party no longer holds firm on any of the things that used to make up its core beliefs, when it betrays the people who have made up it's base and shits on things that should be sacred, it's time to give up the allegiance to the label, or change what your definition of Democrat is and embrace the neoliberal.

The right of a citizen not to be executed without a fair trial: unless you're a muslim.

The fundamental right of women to control their own bodies: While some may say "this doesn't fundamentally change anything" they are generally people without a uterus. And for me, being a woman, who has worked for the party SPECIFICALLY because it is the party of choice, this shows a move away from the moral highground. This is not "Safe, legal and rare". This is "your body is a political football and those of us in power have decided to punt you".

Being anti-torture: Here's the thing, if you refuse to prosecute government agents who commit torture, it ain't much different from just being pro-torture. If there is no enforcement of a law, then it isn't really illegal.

The environment, including no offshore drilling and "clean" coal: it doesn't matter that these projects won't be finished and doing actual harm to the environment until after Obama leaves office. It matters that dems started the projects and that dems sold out the environment. We expect that from rethuglikans, that is what they are. But dems are supposed to be the crunchy granola, protect the spotted owl, Al Gore in fleece and flannel explaining global warming, good guys. But offshore drilling and clean coal are bad bad bad, no matter how many ways you try to frame it.

Social Security is the untouchable third rail, or not: Every time some new right wing bloviator would whinge on about how out of control Social Security spending is for the last 15 years or so, I'd remember that every time I saw a left leaning economist talk about it, they'd laugh at the stupidity. Social Security all ready pays for itself. There mechanisms to keep it paying for itself. Anyone who talks about "runaway entitlement spending" is 1) usually a rethuglikan and 2) usually dead wrong. So what does it say that the person who is going to bring about the death of Social Security is not someone with a George W. privatization scheme, but a Democrat.

Spying on citizens is for rethuglikans, except when it's not:Do I even need to break this down for you all, or is it a matter of IOKIYAR has now become "It's not really a fundamental breach of your rights if it's done by a Democrat". The same can be applied to that fucking Stupak executive order.

How about the Dems are the party of regulating bad boy industries: You know, under Clinton tobacco companies were sued and states got fat wads of money to cover the health problems created by smoking plus insuring children. Under Obama and his merry band of banksters, we get .........

it would create a system highly dependent on the wisdom and good intentions of government officials. And as the history of the last decade demonstrates, trusting in the quality of officials can be dangerous to the economy’s health.

Just to give you an idea of the quality of officials currently running the show, here's a little story about Timmy Geithner and AIG.

i haven't even gotten into things like health care (the bill passed was fine with rethuglikans like Mitt Romney and Bob Dole) and unemployment and foreclosures and tent cities and and and.

And I haven't gotten into things like a Democratic commander in chief should not be the head of an army that kills pregnant women and teenagers and then covers it up.

If you want to keep calling yourself a Democrat, that's fine. But please understand that I am now going to believe that your fundamental belief system is one that is anti-woman, anti-environment, pro-torture, pro-wiretapping, kill social security, love s big corrupt industries and approves of murder.

You can either be loyal to a party or you can have your ideals. But you can't have both, not anymore.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Dear Green Party:

Lemme do some advertising for you. Really.

Blue Lyon has a post up called Where to go from here? that is all about the great big sucking hole of depression that has set in for those of us realizing that there is no hope coming from traditional methods of change.

I'm familiar with that feeling. I get gloomy sometimes. But just for a little bit. Then it's time to pick yourself up and jump back into the fight.

This is what I wrote to Blue Lyon

I am so familiar with that deep crushing sense of despair.
We keep doing what we are doing. We keep holding feet to the fire. We keep on keeping on.
What gives me a wee bit of hope (and I may just be kidding myself, but a girl’s gotta dream) is this: the parties we have now have not always existed, and they have not always been what they are (or claim to be). Republicans started out as radical anti-slavery progressives. Dems were the conservative party.
I think the republicans will eat themselves, because really they don’t have a purpose anymore. The democrats have taken over as the party of corporate interests and screw the little people.
So there is room for a new second party, and that room isn’t being made on the right, but on the left. I still like the Greens. There is nothing in their platform that I disagree with so far. I like their candidates (except for Nader, but that might be residual democratic sour grapes) . I like that they are already established and have a (fledgling) infrastructure. If I am going to put my work into politics, I will put it there.
Otherwise, I’m building a commune in Iceland (or Spain- pro women, pro gays, pro human rights, my favorite wines and nice weather).
Sorry for the long ramble. I’m wordy lately

Neither of the 2 main parties are serving the left in any way, manner, shape or form. I think the numbers of lefties who are disillusioned with the whole process is growing, quietly but fast. I think it's a fan-fucking-tastic time for another party to step in.

Hello Greens!

So if I had some $ and some power and the Green Party was listening to me, I would start running commercials. I would focus on the things that Greens and Dems should (or used to) have in common. Talk about single payer health care, talk about finance reform and regulation, talk about opposition to off shore drilling and the environment, a women's right to control her own body. Run a series of images. A child getting a checkup, a bankster going to jail, a gorgeous shoreline nature shot, a middle aged mom standing behind her 20 something daughter.

Then it ends with:

There is only one party that shares your beliefs and won't compromise them

See what else you have in common with the Green Party by checking out

That's it. That's all you need to start with. You just have to remind disappointed lefties that there is another option, and by putting the commercials on you give the party more legitimacy (if they have the $ to run the commericals then they aren't just a bunch of crusty hippies in someone's basement).

PS- Blue Lyon, you have a Green candidate running for governor of your state. I bet he wouldn't mind if you threw all that volunteering muscle you used to use for the Democratic party into his campaign.

Happy Birthday Ouyang Dan!

Since you, so graciously gave me a bloody period cake for my birthday, it's only fair that I return the favor.

Why yes darling, that is a wedding cake made out of tampons.

You have done some amazing shit this year and I am proud as punch to have you as my friend.

Big lip smacking smooches and many many sparkles.

PS- I tried really hard to make sure this posted at exactly midnight oon your actual birthday where you are- did it work?)

(cake is by Vadis Turner at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art)

Monday, April 05, 2010

A Quick and Dirty Primer: The Inevitable Downward Spiral Of Capitalism (now with stick figure illustrations!)

I wrote once long ago about how the Civil War was not really fought for the noble ideal of ending slavery, but because slavery was anathema to capitalism because it does not give the elites the same measure of pressure to control costs such as labor.

In the last week or so there have been lots of outcries about the rise of unpaid internships. It's not surprising that when allowed to, businesses will stoop to not actually paying people for their work. These are the same members of society that brought us child labor, sweatshops, and the romantic lifestyle of the migrant farm workers, after all. The only difference is that unpaid interns tend to come from white, educated, middle class backgrounds. OMG we can't exploit the young white people! That's criminal.

But it was always going to come to this.

First, let's start with some basics. Economists (some, most even) and Libertarians will tell you that the job market is a market just like any other and there should be no restrictions on it because restrictions interfere with competition and the invisible hand. Employees and employers are considered equal in their negotiations.

If you don't like your job, you can find another job.

But anyone who has ever worked knows that's not how it really works.

Despite whatever its mission statement might say, all businesses have one, single, solitary function. To make profit.

First you have to sell something. You have to make something that people want to buy, you have to price it at a price people will pay, and your costs for making a thing have to be less than the price people will buy it at. You will probably have investors, or even stockholders who have put up their own money for your business in exchange for getting a piece of the profit.

Now this might all be fine if there wasn't massive constant pressure to increase profit. The shareholders want a bigger return on their investment, the CEO wants a bigger bonus payout. That screaming man on that money show will insult your company if it's not growing profit margins enough

So things must be done. Companies are always looking for ways to maximize sales and minimize costs

And negotiations between employee and employer end up looking more like this

And since companies compete with each other, not just for customers but for stockholders, all companies eventually end up in the evil labor eating blob phase, unless there is another force at work to keep all companies from becoming sweatshops.

But unions only work if companies can't do seedy shit to stop them. For that we need yet another external force

Government can do things like set minimum wages, create 40 hour weeks, mandate overtime pay and work safety standards. But they don't do any of this unless they have pressure put on them, by say a large group of organized individuals who have people who can lobby for them. Like a union. Government can also set rules for the establishment of unions and make it so that companies can't go around breaking the legs of striking workers.


So with neither the government nor unions working to keep companies from doing everything they can to screw the workers to maximize profit, unpaid interns are inevitable. You can't go lower than zero on labor costs. Well yes you could. If companies start thinking that they would like to take a chunk out of the expensive college ed market by telling prospective students "You don't need to go to that fancy school for 4 years, come do an apprenticeship here. We'll only charge you half the tuition the university will, plus we'll throw in valuable on-the-job experience. Can your uni offer you that?"

(Shit, should not have typed that. Somewhere there is a CEO coming up with fee-based apprenticeships right now)

Some fun for a Monday

My darling friend Spring and I are trying to come up with drag queen themed food.

(There's a wee back story, I've been trying to encourage Other Cousin to use the gorgeous church she owns for drag queen bingo. Spring thinks that Drag Queen Bingo should come with drag queen themed foods. )

Here's what we've got so far:

Spring: Liza Minnelli-Vanelli Shake and anything with sausage

Me: Any female performers name+meatballs, The Dolly Parton Bangers and Mash:two giant mounds of fluffy mashed potatoes seperated by a long pork sausage

(Also said in facebook by me:I am totes seeing a business idea! Quick- gimmme drag queen themed food names. It will be like hooters, but all the boobs will be fake, or wait. That's not right.)

So, gimme your best thoughts, and your worst

Things that are made of lose

So you all know my other secret passion is interior design and architecture? Maybe not. It is a wee bit (more than a wee bit) like lottery shopping, or things I would buy if I had money. And I'm a wee bit ashamed of it because, you know, it's all part of the spectacle. Then I justify it to myself by saying "it's not like I have a house. If I had a house, then I might not spend so much time imagining a house". So yeah, I give myself a pass on the lottery shopping bit because of poverty. Sue me, I ain't perfect.

That was all a long into to explain why I was looking for window coverings that aren't ugly. I was wondering if they made films for windows like they make wall decals, in some fab modernist design.

I have absolutely no idea if they do, because as soon as I saw this the guffaw went off in my head and I was bowled over by the stupidity.

(You know how I said people are rational actors, I still mean that, right up until the time the bong smoke pickles their melon or the 3rd vodka tonic goes to work. That's kind of the point of most mind altering substances, to make you stop being rational).

So imagine this. You are a pot head, a wake and baker, the kind of person who doesn't get out of bed without taking a toke. But right by your bed is a giant window looking out onto the street and you really don't want to get busted by some random cop who happens to see you taking your first morning puff. But you're also a minimalist. You hate curtains, or you're like me and you hate mini blinds, plantation blinds or pretty much any mechanism which is going to leave bar shaped objects over your natural light source thus rendering your home into a glorified chicken coop. So you go searching for another solution.

I give you cannabis leaf window film.

So now instead of the off chance that random Officer Bob catches you taking a long bong toke through the window, you have the guarantee that every cop in the neighborhood plus anyone else who cares knows not only that you are a massive stoner, but you have killed so many of your short term memory cells that you forgot that advertising your pot smoking is probably more likely to get you busted than just getting over your fear of curtains.

And if you're more a drug of the masses type, they've also got you covered. As long as your drug is Jesus flavored. Or your initial is a T.

A Quick and Dirty Primer on Economics and Rational Actors

One of the fundamental principles of economics is this: People are rational actors.

What that means is that we all are always using what information we have to act in our own best interests. And that's true. Rush Limbagh shouts the douchebaggery from the rooftops because he is paid enormous amounts of money to do so. People put off going to the dentist because it costs enormous amounts to do so. People work at crappy jobs they hate because otherwise they would live in the park. We choose food and shelter over medicine because we may be able to skip a few days of our drugs, but skipping a few days of food costs more right now.

Here's where it gets progressive: ALL people, regardless of race or income or social status, ALL people are rational actors. Poor teenage girls getting pregnant and becoming mothers, not actually an irrational choice if you have their information and life experience. Their own mothers are likely to die younger and are more likely to offer support to a young pregnant daughter than an older one. Also motherhood is a reasonable excuse to skip out on the more dangerous actions available to youths. It's not uncommon for a teenage mom to say that becoming a mother "saved her". Because of poverty, their prospects for college and high paying jobs are diminished, it doesn't make much difference if you're looking at a life of $8 an hour retail jobs if you have a child now or later career-wise, but now you have a mom who is both sympathetic and alive. 10 years from now you might not. That's pretty rational.

LBGT- rational actors. Considering all the pressure, including threats and acts of violence, family ostracism, social ostracism, etc. if they could be another way, many probably would. And many try, if they didn't then there wouldn't be programs to pray the gay away. So coming out (or not coming out) is a rational act. Coming out means that the costs of a life in the closet are higher than the costs of a life lived openly. Reverse that for staying in the closet.

Even drug addiction can be looked at as a rational choice (I know, I know). To the person with the addiction, whatever internal pain has driven them to drug use is a more pressing matter than the fact that they are ruining their lives and destroying their bodies.

Teabaggers fighting on the wrong side of the healthcare debate- not actually an irrational decision (I know, I know). They are middle class white men for the most part. They are seeing their little sliver of advantage (the cough synonym for privilege in economics) stripped away through anti-sexist and anti-racist measures. They are seeing competition increase for resources they used to fully enjoy, and they have never developed the skills to compete fairly. They are not wrong that they are going to be losing something in this fight, but the information they don't have (and that neither major party is willing to give them) is that they will make gains too. Take the five biggest issues in the life of a married, middle class parent: 1) healthcare, 2) retirement money 3) paying for the kids' educations 4) job security 5) housing. All of these things have viable, universal solutions with progressives, but these men's experience is someone always has to come out on bottom, and after centuries of unearned privilege, they are terrified that they are going to be the ones to take the fall. In essence, they are afraid we are going to do to them what they have done to us. Not an irrational belief.

I use this principle of people as rational actors to judge information I receive (ha! that's meta). This is why I get down on the virtuous foodies and the meddling middling middles so much. Both of these groups (and there is massive overlap between them) believes or acts as if only certain types of people are rational. People like them, who only eat organic and did everything "right" by going to college and waiting to have children until they were financially established and married and getting all the preventative medical and dental care available to them. They cannot get out of their own privilege bubble long enough to see that poor people are acting rationally, based on what is available to them. And that is utter fucking bullshit.

I also use this principle to do a little extra work and figure out why someone might act in the polar opposite way that I would (see teabagger description). It also means that I give people credit for figuring out their own lives, and I don't make excuses for the bad behavior of those who govern us. If they are misusing their power (anti-abortion executive order, thankyouverymuch) it is because it is in their own best interest. And since their job is to act in OUR best interest, it is a purely rational act for us to not let them keep their jobs when they fail at it.

There's one more reason to believe in the all people are rational actors principle. If you think otherwise, if you think people are irrational or even that some people are irrational, then you can't believe in democracy. The only solution in an irrational society is some form of totalitarianism, a single person or group or class or even trade group (health insurance parasites)having all the power over the the irrational hordes. And you need to hope that person's (or group's) self interest benefits yours. Otherwise you are just another dissenter, another irrational miscreant, who can't see the hope and change and promise of the the big man in charge.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Real Sunday Shame is.....

Renee at Womanist Musings has a regular feature where every Sunday she calls out some horribly embarrassing behavior.

But today she went too far. She's picking on bacon. Bacon. Sacre bleu! It's criminal. It's wrong in thousand ways. It's bacon for the love of all that is good in the world. It's kinda turning into a round of the dozens over there between the Canadians and their sorry-excuse-for-bacon-but-is-really-ham thing and us USians and our real, delicious bacon.

And she thinks I should be seriously shamed because I am proud of the fact that my home town invented bacon salt. Nope. Of all the things I've ever eaten, bacon does not give me one moment of shame. neither do reliably bacon flavored products, like bacon salt, or better yet steak frites with bacon blue cheese dressing.

It's pretty outrageous. I may have said something about Canada being the land of bad food (dude- cheese curds (cottage cheese) with gravy, nuff said).

But you long time readers know what my real shame food is, doncha.

I freely cop to being embarrassed by my love of vienna sausages. But that embarrassment didn't stop the Easter Bunny (aka- Uncle Jim) from bringing me a six pack of them today. Of course I'll have to hide them in my room and eat them where no one can see me. But..............

(oddly, vienna sausages also feature prominently in the Worst.Meal.I've.Ever.Eaten and one of my funniest travel stories)