The Myth of Efficient Private Industry

square820I always get a kick when people tell me that private industry always does things better than government. Consider this true story: A couple of weeks ago, our microwave began acting funny. First, the clock slowed down. Then the timer began exhibiting one of three behaviors: Sometimes it would operate correctly. Sometimes it would turn on the timer, but not microwave. And sometimes it would start to microwave but then become stuck somewhere in the cycle — if you weren’t looking, it would burn the food. So we called our insurance company to see about fixing it. A repairman came, checked things out, and told me that he had to order an inexpensive part.

A week later, I get a call from Sears informing me that the part was no longer being made and therefore the microwave was unfixable. My insurance company was buying me a new one. OK, if you insist, we thought and agreed to their selection for the replacement. Now, I know what you are thinking: they came with the microwave one day, installed it and hauled the old one away. No, it doesn’t work like that. First, Sears delivered the microwave today. They put it under our dining room table and had me sign for it. The next step is for the installer to come in tomorrow — always “sometime” during a four hour long block of time. Once they have done their job, the old microwave goes into the box that the new microwave came in — to wait. Yes, wait until a third party comes to haul away the old microwave for a fee of $30.

The moral of the story is this: Any organization run by accountants and/or Republican politicians is going to take the least efficient route to getting the job done. Corporations want us to think that they will do it better, but examples like this and like the privatization of things like toll roads, prisons, and parking meters show that their rules can be even worse. You may not have much say over the quality of service in private industry but you can choose representatives who don’t pull tricks like Darrell Issa did on the post office so his pals in UPS and Fedex could seize some of its market. Insist that government is run right and run well. Don’t let things get managed in the public realm like they are in business today.

No Politics at Thanksgiving Please

square819It never fails at many homes across the nation. We are ostensibly brought together to experience gratitude as families. We sit down at the table, watch as the turkey is carved, pass the cranberry sauce and the stuffing, eat, and then listen to a harangue by one member of the family about the current state of politics in our country which, inevitably, is countered by another, driving many to the kitchen or the living room while the dinner table was dominated by the venomous talk. Some people stay away from their families at this holiday precisely because of it. It is even worse in households where one party is outnumbered. A pack mentality emerges and that one person is battered by words and quotes from Fox News into silence. When the person fails to come at future Thanksgivings, either nobody notices or they are excoriated for not wanting to be with the family. So much for this family holiday, when the ties that bind us are severed in the name of our own political egos.

While I still enjoyed thanksgiving at my mother’s house, we had a rule: no politics at Thanksgiving. This didn’t make certain people very happy because they seemed to live for strife or the sound of their own voices having little or no effect on the state of affairs in the country, but I enjoyed the feasting more. So did others.

This year try no politics at Thanksgiving and see how much better a time you can have.

Accountability and Loss of Memory

square790I’ve seen many people in bipolar support groups counsel the newly diagnosed not to feel shame for things they did while they were in episode: it was the disease that did it, not them is the reasoning. This cleaving of the self, I think, does not help us get a handle on the illness and its effects on others in our life. In fact, it strikes me as downright irresponsible: you never have to make amends1 for anything you did.

Too often, I have seen people who say this to themselves relapse repeatedly. Perhaps it is due to the fact that they do not understand the seriousness of their disorder. Or maybe they desire license to act on impulses that they would reject on moral grounds if they were in their better minds2

I take a different approach: I am responsible for my actions even when I do not remember them. Because of my denial of my illness, I harmed others. Therefore I either make peace with them or avoid them so they are not disturbed or shocked by my return to their lives.

But there is a bonus: because I am accountable, I get to own the good things I did with more resolve. I get to own the steps I have taken towards resilience3.

Here is the grim truth: if I do not take ownership of the bad things I did while in episode, I cannot own the good things I accomplished. To claim otherwise invokes a socipathy that case workers and other mental health practitioners best not encourage.

  1. I have heard from some that making amends has nothing to do with apologizing. By some warped logic, it means for some trying to avoid the full impact of our illness nothing more than admitting to yourself what you did without making restitution or apology to those we harmed while addicted or in the throes of mental illness. I find this cheap recovery and I am suspicious of anyone who flaunts it. []
  2. Families might find it better for their sanity to forgive things done in episode for the sake of their sanity while expecting the patient who now knows better to take proper steps to minimize further recurrences. []
  3. I believe that one cannot recover from mental illness. What one can do is do a number of things such as taking one’s meds, exercise, cognitive reform, etc. to lessen the frequency of my episodes and decrease their intensity. []

The Real Depravity of 2012

square781Let me get this clear: I am not gay. But according to the Radicals of the Tea Party (who really don’t care about gay marriage except to excite the fear-driven) I must be homosexual because I support same sex marriage. And I have supported it for many years — about 24 to be precise.

To tell you the truth, the idea of sleeping with a man repels me. I much prefer checking out women — adult women. But I accept that there are people who are drawn to their own sex and that it is innate to them, not the result of rape or poor parenting or whether they drink lattes at Starbucks. I do not accept marriage as a child-producing union, though it is probably a better idea that you have a partner when you start having children. This idea categorically places Lynn and I out in the cold, yet we have remained partners for 25 years.

Marriage is about choosing a person to be a relative that transcends blood relations. It cannot change facts of fatherhood: one DNA test can undo the presumption of parenthood. But what it does is ensure that my wife and I can form a financial corporation of a sorts together. It lets me say that Lynn can make medical decisions for me — recognize the fact that I trust her before most of my own blood relatives in these affairs. When I die, it ensures that my share of the wealth generated by our household goes to her. Where do there need to be children in this?1

Why not let people of the same sex have these same contracts without resort to legal legerdemain? Homophobia — which is hatred and fear, nothing more — just isn’t a reason.

But let’s get back to the real issues: we have a candidate for office who is a corporate raider. To hide his moral depravity, he trots out this issue. He has put people out of work, destroyed companies, and wrecked communities for the purpose of amassing wealth. Mitt Romney is a dangerous man and he is playing a dangerous game by playing the gay card.

Focus on him for what is he is: the champion of the 1%, the man who picks your pocket and wrecks your home life with his financial manipulations and favors to the rich and corporations.2

  1. Though marriage does help recognize children and preserve family wealth for them, too. []
  2. And if you are religious, God does not like the rich. And He expects the state to protect the poor. Read the prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the minor prophets. To believe otherwise is heretical and unChristian/unJewish/unMuslim. []

Bachmann’s Migraines: New swing on stigma

square761Once again, I find myself in the position of having to run to the defense of someone who I detest. Michelle Bachmann has migraines. This has instigated widespread tweeting on her fitness to be president. Never mind that Thomas Jefferson and John F. Kennedy both suffered from these headaches1 . Now people who would just shrug their shoulders if this were Obama suggest that this disqualifies her for office.

There are plenty of reasons to want Michelle Bachmann at any address other than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is mean-spirited. She hates gays and women who want control over their bodies. She rails on about pornography but has no workable plan for ending unemployment in this country. She takes her marching orders from her husband who we will not get to vet2 . She has lied about her qualifications for the job and about her relationship with the 23 foster children who marched through her house. She eagerly hopes that she will lead our nation into the Apocalypse. The list goes on. But migraines should not be one of them simply because we should not be in the habit of disqualifying people for every little sniffle that plagues them. Either there will be no one to elect or we will elect liars.

Stigma should not be the basis of an electoral decision. Did we not end a fight to put a black man in the White House in 2008? Are we progressives and liberals the ones who fought the hardest for the Americans with Disabilities Act — to put the disabled into the workforce? I can think of no reason to disqualify a migraine sufferer from office. If John F. Kennedy could get us through the Cuban Missile Crisis with the threat of migraines hanging over him, this issue should be dead, cremated, shot into space, and buried in a black hole.

But there’s another reason that my progressive and liberal allies can better understand: it has to do with the average voter. Our aim must be to get the average voter to concentrate on whether Bachmann will make a good president. If we raise the hype about migraines, all she needs do is assert that they don’t affect her. So what message does the average voter get? That nothing should bar Bachmann from becoming president. That’s not a message we should allow to develop. We must emphasize the issues that make Bachmann and the rest of her Tea Party host a very dangerous proposition for this country. It’s not about migraines, it is about destroying the government. Bachmann has voted repeatedly to steer us toward default and collapse of the central government. She wants to end Medicare and Social Security. I do not doubt that she would like to see the Americans with Disabilities Act repealed in full or in parts. These don’t disqualify her, but they amount to solid reasons for voting her out of any kind of government job. Michelle Bachmann is one of the worst candidates for the presidency at this time. If her migraines miraculously disappeared, she would still be. Her politics should be what we focus upon, not the pains in her head.

  1. And what about Lincoln’s depressions? []
  2. If he wants the power so badly, why isn’t he running for office? []

An open letter to Ed Schultz

I wrote to concerning recent events. You should, too.

Doubtless you will be all over Obama for his dealing with the Republican House. But we would not be in this place if it hadn’t been for you telling people to stay home in 2010.

I am 53 years old and disabled. For ethical reasons, my wife and I have chosen to support ourselves rather than take money away from people who might need it more. Now they will have even less. Our retirement plans include Social Security. (We are not rich.)

Because we knew so much was on the line, we made sure we voted in 2010. But I kept running into people — followers of your show — who chose to punish the Democrats for not going all the way with health care. They sat out the election per your exhortations.

This last election was decided by turnout more than any other factor. With the Congress we have, there was no other deal that Obama could make. I hold you responsible and I will hold you responsible for his loss in 2012 unless you take responsibility for what you did and tell America that you are sorry. You owe it to us.

UPDATE: The White House made it clear that there has been no change in Obama’s position on Social Security. Which means that any reforms to Social Security should not “slash benefits”. Back in January, he spoke about a bipartisan consensus that would solve the structural problems with Social Security without depriving people. This has not changed, the White House says. So exactly what are we protesting? Is this more tantrumism? Too many progressives are screaming “Obama let us down!” But what do they have to say about the Tea Party Congress they helped elect? Where are their attacks on the GOP? Don’t they remember how bad things were under GWB? (If they don’t, are they really old enough to vote?) This “my way or the highway” is what got the Tea Party in power. Use your freedom of speech to say how wrong it is.

This Ohio Congressman is Dead

square738I saw it over and over again, the clarion call of progressive Democrats angered by the unjust denunciations of Anthony Weiner and his amazing penis. His Monday press conference hurt. Ever since he admitted he lied, progressives have sought to salve their disappointment by reciting a litany of Republican sex crimes.

This particular story blazed across Twitter like a tangible blessing direct from the hand of God: Ohio Congressman Is Convicted in Sex Case, but Aide Says He’ll Run for Re-election. Here on the very day of our disgrace it seemed that the game was even again, even ahead a little. This guy had slept with a 16 year old and he had no qualms about putting his name out before the voters again. The Republicans could be silenced!

If you go to the article and examine the fine print beneath the headline, you will see the date: May 27, 1989. No one noticed this. The matter becomes even more comical when you realize that not only has the Congressman resigned, but he has been dead for over a year.

I hated beating this parrot on the counter, but someone had to do it before we choked on its feathers.1
Continue reading →

  1. I disagree both with the people who are pressing for Weiner’s resignation and those partisans who are trying to even the score. The end of this affair takes place in 2012 when Weiner’s seat comes up. His constituents — not the House or the media — should decide what is to be done with him. []

Do I Engage in Violent Rhetoric?

square676This idea came to me while I was out hiking in the Santa Ana Mountains this afternoon. I have often been critical of the language used not only by Tea Baggers but also by my fellow liberals and progressives. If you’ve visited this blog enough, you know that I have often taken people to task for employing what I call “folk diagnosis” — calling another person “crazy” because they disagree with that opponent’s politics. But the times are calling for another concern: the use of violent, threatening rhetoric against our opponents to intimidate and silence them. It has undoubtably, on the one side, fueled the eliminationalist movement of the Tea Party. On the other, I am concerned that I have done the same at some point on this blog.

So here is your challenge: catch me doing it.

Leave your findings in the comments. Be sure to reference exactly where you found it so I may review the claim.

The Extreme Right’s Plan After Tucson

square675Proposals from Right-wing extremists about Tucson amount to this: Blame the mentally ill for what happened. Stigmatize the mentally ill. Do nothing to help the mentally ill obtain needed health care and medications to contain their illnesses. Cut back on programs for the mentally ill. Do nothing to make it harder for anyone to obtain assault weapons like the 30-round Glock that Loughner used to mow down the crowd. Accept no blame for the violent rhetoric that obviously influenced the gunman to zero in on Gabrielle Giffords. Keep up the same old Tea Party show. Undercut the partisan pause.

In other words, the plan is no plan. Just run on automatic knee-jerk.

Diagnosing Jared Lee Loughner for Political Gain

square674They’re doing it all over again: jumping to the conclusion that Jared Lee Loughner is mentally ill because he is violent. Tea Party minions have been ordered via email to label him as a “liberal lunatic”. Keith Olbermann labeled him a “disturbed person”. I have yet to see a psychiatric report on him, but I have heard plenty of people state with the authority that comes from watching Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street that he is a “paranoid schizophrenic”.

You know me: I live with bipolar disorder. It is there every hour of my day, stilled by [[carbamazepine]] and [[lamotrigine]]. So you know I have a stake in this. Others I know with the disorder also are concerned about the publicity. If they’re new to the diagnosis, they may fear beyond reason that they might go insane like Loughner did. If they’ve known for some time, they are taking a silent breath and saying “Here we go again.” Here comes the need for secrecy, for hiding their illness from the world. Some will not attend support groups out of fear of being seen and others will come, distraught from the fear of what Society will do with them. There are those out there who will say that we have to find the Jared Lee Loughners before they hurt another and that means throwing out the advances of the last fifty years and reopening the mental hospitals. These are reckless times and our fear is not unfounded.

Slate ran an excellent article, cautioning its readers and newsmen not to jump to the conclusion that Loughner is “mentally ill”. In part the article says:

A 2009 analysis of nearly 20,000 individuals concluded that increased risk of violence was associated with drug and alcohol problems, regardless of whether the person had schizophrenia. Two similar analyses on bipolar patients showed, along similar lines, that the risk of violent crime is fractionally increased by the illness, while it goes up substantially among those who are dependent on intoxicating substances. In other words, it’s likely that some of the people in your local bar are at greater risk of committing murder than your average person with mental illness.

Of course, like the rest of the population, some people with mental illness do become violent, and some may be riskier when they’re experiencing delusions and hallucinations. But these infrequent cases do not make “schizophrenia” or “bipolar” a helpful general-purpose explanation for criminal behavior. If that doesn’t make sense to you, here’s an analogy: Soccer hooligans are much more likely to be violent when they attend a match, but if you tell me that your friend has gone to a soccer match, I’ll know nothing about how violent a person he is. Similarly, if you tell me your friend punched someone, the fact that he goes to soccer matches tells me nothing about what caused the confrontation. This puts recent speculation about the Arizona suspect in a distinctly different light: If you found evidence on the Web that Jared Lee Loughner or some other suspected killer was obsessed with soccer or football or hockey and suggested it might be an explanation for his crime, you’d be laughed at. But do the same with “schizophrenia” and people nod in solemn agreement. This is despite the fact that your chance of being murdered by a stranger with schizophrenia is so vanishingly small that a recent study of four Western countries put the figure at one in 14.3 million. To put it in perspective, statistics show you are about three times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike.

It’s the usual case of the media and politicians finding the explanation for the Saturday’s horror in Tuscon everywhere except in themselves. We need confront the media for its violent imagery and its pandering to the worst in American society. We must stand up to demogogues who employ violent rhetoric, saying “Enough of this talk of Second Amendment remedies and hit lists of liberal politicians. Tone it down. Cool it. The buck stops with you.”

Lightning probably did not strike in Arizona, but hatred did.

Laughner and His Cloud of Unknowing

Laughner may be as crazy as a fox.

square672Where I am now is that there is the usual cloud of unknowing that follows an event like this. Some say it was the Left, some say it was the Right. I reacted as I did because I have seen time and again threats to kill progressives, liberals and moderates here on the Web. Now I have to say that I don’t know what we have in this person.

Laughner loves Mein Kampf. Paradoxically, he’s listed “The Communist Manifesto” as a favorite book1 , too, along with Alice in Wonderland and Fahrenheit 451. He is a gold standard enthusiast. He thinks the government is controlling us through our grammar (shades of accusations of political correctness?). He may be mentally ill.

In this Internet-powered world, it is the first step of news agencies to look for what the person was saying online. I suggest it is possible that Laughner understands this all too well and wrote his Myspace and Youtube descriptions with a mind to confusing the issue. No true Leftist believes in Mein Kampf. It is only the Right wing that insists this is true, so I believe Laughner could be trying to confound us.

I do not condone eliminationalist rhetoric regardless of the source. We have heard a lot of it from the Right here in America. That led me and countless others to rage against Sarah Palin. She is still in the wrong for posting her “target sights” hit piece.

Rachel Maddow wisely says to wait for the truth. I didn’t, but neither has World Net Daily. In the meantime, it is fitting that we mourn the lives of those who were killed in the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gifford.

Rhetoric of violence has no place in American society. We must repeat this so that all hear it.

  1. Anyone who has read Mein Kampf knows that Hitler calls for the elimination of Communists as part of his program []

The Death Squads Arrive

Keith Olbermann wrote on his Facebook page: There is not one liberal page that I have visited that doesn’t have several people on it from the opposing side, that says, SHOOT them all. Get rid of them, “WE want our country back” I’m incensed and so angry as I listen to the horror of this story unfold. John Boehner, go screw yourself, you are a part of the problem, not the solution.

square671John Boehner is “horrified” by what was done to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He had better do better than that. Boehner rode the wave of hate to get where he is today and if he is to have any credibility, he should denounce those who call for killing progressives and liberals.

I honestly do not believe Boehner believes in death squads. He merely used the Tea Party and the John Birch Society to win an election. I do not believe Rupert Murdoch — who said he likes Democrats because their administrations make for better news — wanted this, but Glenn Beck is another matter I believe. No matter how much Boehner and Beck cry, they cannot escape responsibility as long as they do not recognize their own role in this. Witness, too, the Koch Brothers. Witness, as well, everyone who won’t see the Obama birth certificate in front of them like the woman who cried out in the House of Representatives just a few days ago.

Death squads have come to America. Progressives, liberals and moderates, it is time to rise like you have never risen before. It is time to rescue the land we love. Not in our nation!