A Liberal Christmas Thought from Mary (Via Slacktivist)

Fred Clark at Slacktivist – a liberal evangelical Christian blogger with some appropriate, if under-shared Christmas song from Mary.

Lifting up the lowly and bringing down the powerful from their thrones

Who is Jesus? What did he do? What did he teach? Why was he arrested and tortured and killed? And how is it possible that wasn’t the end of his story? Those are the questions, long after that first Christmas in Bethlehem, that the Gospel writer was trying to answer. And right off the bat, in the very first chapter of Luke, we are given a summary of “all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” 

Luke 1:46-55

Mary’s Song of Praise

 And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

We hear endless talk, this time of year, about “the true meaning of Christmas.” But for all the laudable, wonderful things that are usually included in those discussions, we rarely ever hear that the true meaning of Christmas involves scattering the proud, bringing down the powerful from their thrones and sending the rich away empty.

That suggests that somehow we’ve got it into our heads that we understand the true meaning of Christmas better than Mary did. That seems unlikely.

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Property Should Be Verified Before Any Citizen Speaks to the BOS

OK, that is absurd.  but imagine that for a moment.

Imagine if a citizen wanted to go before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, they would first have to attest, under penalty of perjury of all their property.  “You say you had a bank account that you closed?” …  “Well we have a record from 2 years ago that says otherwise, so unfortunately you will have to provide verification that that account has closed.”…  “That stock you haven’t touched in years?  Yep.” …  “Your third home in Baja? Yes please, everything.”  And this is a process which could take hours, days, weeks or months depending on how compliant the citizen was and the bureaucratic process.

But this may be an absurd proposal but why shouldn’t we?  I think we can demonstrate that our political system favors those with property, in effect a subsidy paid in general tax funds.  Seems logical, especially given how we treat those on Cash Aid (aka welfare) and how we treated all Medi-Cal recipients before 1/1/14 when the ACA became a thing.

I ask this question because I’d like to frame what a big deal the ACA, the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare has been to those in the lower middle class and below.  And this is a story which simply is not being told, and I think it’s a crying shame that it hasn’t.   The story is short and simple and it is this.  Medi-Cal eligibility (most) is based on income.  Property is not a factor.  (there are exceptions)

What this means for the application process and therefore for the bureaucracy and the time spent applying for Medi-Cal is the whole process is that much simpler and fairer.  Where else in our society are people expected to disclose all their financial information?  Taxes are income based, there are certain property taxes on homes, etc., certainly.  But when hitting bottom, or requesting aid, to go through this final humiliation, one, btw, that had very low thresholds to be found ineligible – to me, it is unconscionable.

Now, for that one conservative who is reading this, I can hear you thinking – they are asking for aid, they have relinquished any rights that property owners whose interests are subsidized through our current political system where we have defined money as speech and corporate entities as legal persons.  (I may have embellished your thoughts a little dear reader, sorry).

Here’s the thing, here is what you demonstrated in your arguments (or lack of them) and votes here in Eureka last November:   We as a society are OK with not paying salaries that will afford an individual or family health insurance – even for a full time job.  We are OK with this because we will tell ourselves that such jobs are really taken by youngsters just getting a start -or- people who just haven’t excelled in life anyway – “better yourself damnit – learn then practice a trade like I did” – or – some people have to earn below a living wage because I am on a fixed income.

I disagree.  Our economic system that values capital has unduly affected our political system which should be valuing OUR values and principles – which, btw, do not exclude capital.  From the under-reported perspective from the innards of one of our grand bureaucracies – the ACA is revolutionary.  It’s beginning to change what was a broken health system as costs spiraled out of control and out of reach of a growing percentage of our population.

On small measure of this is decoupling property from eligibility formulas.  I for one think this should be a bigger story.  If we put it in context, maybe it could be.

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The Politics of Policing

As we are on the cusp of a new era in Eureka politics, as a frequent critic of our police force, I’d like to entreat those on the left to have empathy for our peace officers.

Why?  The impetus is political.  It’s very clear what a political loser it is to attack our police force with monotonous anger.  We have a tough enough time as liberals or progressives dealing with the inevitable return of the Taxed Enough Already crowd with the powerful elite, we don’t need to donate political capital by alienating an important and necessary function of government.

While the impetus is political, the reason we should be very concerned about tone is … it’s the right thing to do.  I’m not saying we forget about the clear inequity in justice, what I’m saying is we approach real problems civilly, in a way that will not encourage the frequent voter to revert to their political camps while further alienating the non-voter/non-public institution participator.

What is clear in Eureka is this a) we have an outsized and growing crime problem.  b) our police force has a very poor record of public safety.  As their boss, we the public have to find ways to optimize their performance, which I hope we would all agree could be improved.

How do we do this?  a)  Have empathy for those serving and the extremely hazardous and thankless job they have.  If you don’t have a family member on the force or in military service, imagine if they were.  b)  We need to pressure our new City Council to be fair but firm in shaping our public institution of law enforcement – there does need to be accountability, especially when we have a history of problems and a large portion of the population that feels the police is working against their interests.  The latter are not just the criminals.  c)  Somehow, someway, we need to be reaching out for outside help to include other communities that have faced or are facing similar problems, umbrella non-profit groups and our state and national legislators – we have a very serious and legitimate problem and we need help and we shouldn’t be shy about asking for it.

Councilwomen Elect Bergel and Arroyo got the balance of the politics of policing right and it was essential to get them elected (at least in Kim’s race).  Without having spoken to them, I’m going to assume that they, more than their opponents, would understand the necessity of keeping our police force accountable to all of us, not just those cheering them on.

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Elections Have Consequences: 2012 Edition

Yep, we are still a month away from the 114th Congress (2014’s elections) taking their seats, and we are still governed by another conservative-dominated house – 2012 General Election’s 113th Congress.  Sadly, last night’s spending bill is what we have to look forward to going forward.

Here are the lowlights to morn from the NYT editorial this morning that characterized the bill this way

“When the long-lost grail of bipartisan compromise finally re-emerged on Capitol Hill this week, the spending bill for 2015 turned out to be weighted with some of the most devious and damaging provisions imaginable for good government.”

No doubt about it, this is another step back for good government at the national level, which is one of the reasons I’ve chosen to focus on local politics.  The cards are stacked against us pretty high given both the tenor and content of right wing propaganda and, now the 2010 redistricting done largely by Republican state governments.

Here is Wiki’s map of the 114th Congress’ House membership by party.  It’s pretty bleak as the Republicans have added 9 new recruits, so don’t expect the 2015 or 2016 budgets to get any better.

114th House *sad face* Bright red are Republican gains, bright blue Democrat (there are a couple, really, squint, see ’em?)

Continue reading “Elections Have Consequences: 2012 Edition”

NEC Hosts “Wrenched” Tonight at the Arcata Playhouse

From an Northcoast Environmental Center e-mail…

NEC Hosting Wrenched

I don’t think monkey wrenches are a sustainable tactic, either in a movement or helping to produce a sustainable environment, democracy or society.  But this movement played an essential role in turning around our careening, early ’70’s industrialization society.  Assuming that is what we are currently in the process of doing, and I have to hope it is.

Continue reading “NEC Hosts “Wrenched” Tonight at the Arcata Playhouse”

Charles Schumer on Good Government

It’s refreshing to hear mainstream Democrats talk about good government.  And Senator Schumer is exactly right to focus on this and every Democrat should have this as their number one talking point.  Why?  Because the goal of Republican crusade that holds Reagan as it’s first saint is to minimize government.  At least that’s the rhetoric.  Of course when government means spending money on their friends in the defense industry or speding on the prison/law enforcement complex, then government is just fine.  But that almost doesn’t even count as government.

In a graph, their goal is to reduce, as much as possible the % of the GDP the government spends.

This alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It fact there may have been a necessary correction in the late seventies and early eighties.  I’d even argue we still need to reduce our defense spending by 2/3.

But as that graph suggests, it’s not like government spending is going anywhere.  It is a necessary part of a modern nation, but to hear the Republican rhetorical debate, it seems like we want to return to the agrarian economy of 1776.

So, if you have time, check out Senator Schumer’s speech.  I don’t agree with all of it as I think a focus solely on the middle class is not something Democrats can do.  Unlike the rich and those living behind their gated communities, the base of the Democratic Party understands we are all of us.  We want and deserve policies that won’t cut the life lines to those in even greater need.

Continue reading “Charles Schumer on Good Government”

Charles Blow on “We Can’t Breath”

I participated in and am still unable to write about the 400+ comment thread on the small protest regarding police brutality and race this past weekend on Lost Coast Outpost.  One thing is certain, if LoCO needs to up their readership to meet advertiser’s demands, writing about local race issues is always a sure winner.

Charles Blow, columnist for the NYT has another must-read opinion column on the subject of race and racism in America.  Reading this post helps to put into perspective much of the comment section of that post

“Biases are pervasive, but can also be spectral: moving in and out of consideration with little or no notice, without leaving a trace, even without our own awareness. Sometimes the only way to see bias is in the aggregate, to stop staring so hard at a data point and step back so that you can see the data set. Only then can you detect the trails in the dust. Only then can the data do battle with denial.”

He ends with this…

“In this most trying of moments, black men, supported by the people who understand their plight and feel their pain, are saying to the police culture of America, “We can’t breathe!””

What is so meaningful to us locally, especially those on the left, the poor and working class is that many of us understand that there is something wrong with the police culture of America.  We also understand this culture, and our apparent inability to account for law enforcement’s mistakes in judgments and action can be color blind.  In most parts of the country, race overlaps with poverty.  That is much less evident in Humboldt as, by force, law and design we have excluded other races.  (Btw, less evident, but still evident.)

To me, that LoCO thread is another reminder in how pervasively race and “other” overlaps our thoughts and prevents us from working together to solve problems we may otherwise agree on.  Somehow we on the left have to find a way to ask people to find commonalities and brother (or sister) hood even with those who may look different than they do.  In the end, the reason this is so hard to do is we default to our own tribes when resources (ie in our case – living wage jobs) are scarce.

Therefore, often, the poor and the working classes put their trust in those able to supply jobs and willing to silently confirm their instinct to distrust and segregate from those unlike ourselves.

“Give me enough for my labor to put food on my table and give me someone we can blame and we’ll call it good.”

One Way the Right Has Deceived Reagan Democrats…

… and HumCo “Decline To States” (DTS)

In a word (and a pronoun), it’s “the other”.

Locally, John Chiv and sadly EPD Chief Andy Mills have taken to the local intertubes and tweet-o-phere to highlight our fight against Those That Are To Take The Blame, tweakers.

John’s highlighting of an anonymous poster living in a bad and worstening situation in an apartment complex is, like he said, resonating.  It’s easy for someone in Eureka, or anywhere else for that matter, to comiserate with the author.  It’s a horrible situation.

But what we miss in our tabloid press and our natural human tendency to want to neatly place blame for society on others is our own responsibility – society’s responsibility.  Problems like the one described by the HumCo Craiglist writer are much, much bigger than a conflict between an ethical or virtuous citizen and non-virtuous citizen.  It’s about hopelessness; [yes conservatives, you are right (but maybe not why you think)] a break down of families, lack of jobs, a failed “War on Drugs”, etc.

Conservatives, and Chief Mills, we cannot depend on you to be our social safety net.  We also cannot simply kick “the others” to the next curb or town down the line.  They are us we are them, and as they are now failing some of our neighbors, we have failed them too.   We have not found enough jobs, our educational, political and economic system are failing the most vulnerable among us.  This all makes an escape from reality even more motivating.

What does this mean for our politics?  The easy solution sells.  Ostracize, criminalize, and base one’s prison terms on the fact we don’t think you are fit for society rather than simply punishing crimes.  We don’t need a DHHS, that’s what jail is for – now pull up your boot straps.

Continue reading “One Way the Right Has Deceived Reagan Democrats…”

Friday Morning Links on Homelessness (and R)

First, creating an infinite link loop while this post is on LoCO’s blog roll…

‘Til the Dumpsters are Full’: Today’s EPD Purge of the Devil’s Playground Homeless Encampment

I’d like to bring your attention to this quote:

““Both of us have a job. Right now it’s just part time, but we’re trying,” said Gerald who said he worked 17 hours this week at Pacific Choice Seafood. He’s in his third week of work there processing crab. “

Anyone else remember Pacific Seafood’s role in Measure R?  a)  It would have been cool for them to pay wages that might allow them to pay Gerald enough money to put a roof over his head.   b)  Why again is Pacific Choice Seafood a good thing for our economy?  We need a local fish market where local fisherwomen can sell there fish to us.  Think of it as our local twist on the farmer’s market phenomena.  This should be a no-brainer, and should result in local fisherwomen and their employees keeping more of their money.  And apparently it may put pressure on a seemingly corrupt seafood processing infrastructure that depends on paying salaries which do not support one able to put a roof over one’s head.

(Note:  Thank you LoCO for getting interviews.  This is an example of reporting, something our new media models do not often support, let’s appreciated it when it exists.)

Joe Kerr in the thread for this article also noticed this parallel story in the NYT regarding a similar kick-the-bums-out move in San Jose.

Few Options for Homeless as San Jose Clears Camp

Was there some sort of state-wide memo sent out I wonder?  Why are we doing this in December when any shelter may be the difference between life and death?  *represses inner cynic*

Continue reading “Friday Morning Links on Homelessness (and R)”