Infectious Fascism and Someone Else’s Beer

Our local liquor store had been in business since the early 1980s, when the shopping center was built. The original owner passed it along to his 3 sons when he died, many years ago. There was nothing special or fancy about the shop, which had long, wide shelves stocked full of not-too-high-priced wines and liquor that tended to come in the Handle Size. They did a brisk trade in beer, $1 shooters sold out of an empty fish tank on the counter, and “Oh, jeeze! We’re all out of vodka/wine and I’m almost home!” purchases.

It had a coveted corner location on a major intersection with high visibility, and was next to a busy grocery store. The long floor-to-ceiling windows faced due west, which meant high cooling bills as the high altitude sunshine blasted in year round, roasting  the products on the front shelf and raising the temperature unbearably during the summer. A few years ago the Brothers balked at the raising utility prices from keeping the store cold enough to properly store their inventory, and slowly adjusted the thermostat upwards. The heat coupled with storing the wine upright – as one would store a fine vintage Yoo-Hoo – served to spoil their wares.

As if wine bottles that were warm to the touch weren’t enough, over the years the shop developed a nose-curling funk stank from their dogged insistence upon carpet, which served as a 1-way booze sponge when a bottle or case was inevitably broken, and because one of the brothers smoked indoors while doing the books afterhours.  Mmmm… the cheeky bouquet of nicotine braised in sour carpet wine!

We began shopping elsewhere, save for the times we emerged from the adjacent King Soopers, arms full of groceries (yes, we brought our own bags), and too tired or lazy to drive 6 miles round trip for a bottle of wine to go with dinner. Don’t judge me! The cork that crumbles like The Mummy is punishment enough.

Just before Valentine’s Day we found ourselves lacking the fortitude of an additional errand, the grueling 15 minute drive more than either of us could possibly handle, and so found ourselves choosing from wine bottles with dust on them.  I noticed a marked lack of champagne and other bubbly beverages appropriate for a manufactured holiday. “This is weird,” I told my husband, “Why aren’t there cases of cheap champagne stacked 5 high and 2 deep in here? In fact, there’s almost no champagne at all,” I gestured to the picked over front shelf, which was normally full of the boxed wine and cheap champagne that the Brothers counted on their clientele not being able to suss out were treated to daily solar pasteurization. It was a minor curiosity, one I chalked up to a screw up in ordering and went on with my evening.

A few weeks later, before St. Patrick’s Day, it was obvious something was up. The store was still very busy, but their stock had visibly dwindled – the shelves were no longer full, with empty spaces behind the wine and spirits.

“What’s going on?” I asked the young woman who worked there. “Not much,” she replied absentmindedly. “No – I mean ‘What’s going on here?’” She stopped and looked at me in confusion. She really had no idea what I was talking about. I gestured with my arm, “The shelves aren’t fully stocked…” She had a blank look on her face. “Are you guys remodeling? Selling?” Again, the clerk had a blank look, “No…” I left it at that, but told my husband changes were coming.

I wondered if they were going to finally move the stock out of the beating summer sun in the front window… Maybe they were going to set up a Growler station, or a tasting counter – moving forward  with the upwardly mobile neighborhood and appealing to the higher income residents who were replacing the middle income folks that had been a staple of the area when it was built 35 years ago. I had mentally moved the first row of shelves, replaced the nasty carpet with some easy-to-clean wood flooring that would brighten the space up, and show off the better selection of wine they would carry. I couldn’t wait.

At the end of March the only vodka left was bubblegum or peach flavored, the Bourbon shelves were flat-out empty, and most of the decent wine was gone. The Smoking Brother told me they were having distribution problems, but they would be getting a shipment in the following week. What he was telling me didn’t feel right – but I had been doing business with him for 16 years and gave him the benefit of the doubt by allowing him to assure me I wasn’t seeing what I was looking at.

We were gone most of April and upon returning we immediately noticed the barren shelves. Most telling is there was not a whiff of the upcoming drinking holiday Cinco De Mayo: No cut-outs of busty Latinas shucking gag inducing Lime-a-Rita beer, no garish plastic Papel Picado banners stamped with ‘Corona’, or posters of a Sombrero-sporting mustachioed stereotype peddling rot-gut tequila. You know – The Free Crap distributors beg store owners to take and give a price break for the best placement. But, there was still lots of beer – a good deal of it craft beer from start-up breweries & local brew pubs.

Several customers walked in and stopped dead, looking around at the long, mostly-empty shelves. They would do a 180 or full 360 to take it in; most left empty handed. It was clear the store was closing, but no sign indicated a last day or what was going on. I asked the only employee (someone I’d never seen before) what was going on and was answered with ‘Dunno’.

I suddenly realized: They must have sold the liquor license to King Soopers, the grocery store in the same complex. A recent change in the law allowed grocery stores to sell liquor, but only if they buy an existing license. I was happy for them in the distant way you can be when you hear good news from a stranger you’ve known for 15 years: It doesn’t change your life, but it gives you a pleasant feeling.

A few weeks later they were still open – somehow defying retail gravity. Richard walked the empty aisles with a curious expression on his face as he passed islands of bottles neatly arranged – 6 Rieslings here, 4 Moscatos half an aisle later, a lone bottle of gin in the next aisle. What stock was left would have neatly fit in 12 or 15 feet of shelf space, but instead was spread around the empty shop with the fastidious denial of a screamingly bad comb-over.

“When’s the last day?” I asked Morose Brother who spent a decade and a half demanding I show my ID every time I used a credit card. “Before the end of the month,” he answered with his usual dourness. Looking into my eyes he said “We sold the business,” and then spit into his dip cup.  “I… did you sell the license or the business?” “We sold the business and we’ll be closing sometime before the end of the month,” he repeated with a finality that forbade further discussion.

“How could they be selling the business?” I asked Richard when we were in the car, “When there’s no business to sell? I mean… there’s no inventory – and they lease the space. The only thing of value in that store is the license on the wall.” I chalked it up to him being contractually prohibited from discussing the details of the sale.

The very next day the City seized the store for failure to pay Sales & Use Taxes.

A quick call to City Hall revealed that they hadn’t paid a dime of the taxes they’d been collecting since January, and they’d been sending in partial payments for months before that.

It suddenly became clear that the inventory sell down was really them stiffing their suppliers – everyone from Coors to small craft brew companies struggling to make ends meet – and pocketing the money.

They stole not only from their liquor distributors and the city, but from their customers as well, by not submitting tax revenue that keeps schools open, roads paved and a live voice when you dial 911.

In retrospect it was quite obvious what was happening, but I didn’t want to accept the grand theft in front of me, so I provided pretty stories about Growler Stations and wood floors that morphed into them cashing out big by selling the license for a keen profit. None of it made sense to the scene in front of my eyes, but I held on to the fable rather than accept the felony.

I had been performing Olympic-quality mental gymnastics trying to explain away the obvious because the obvious made me uncomfortable.

It was a personal microcosm of what’s happening around the country: How we’re all staring in disbelief at the emerging Fascism around us, willing it to be something else.

We’ve watched fanaticism morph into a Fascist Cult of Personality, yet refuse to name it as such because then we have a REAL problem on our hands.

We’ve heard friends, family and colleagues embrace a man whose beastly policies call for banning Muslims, gutting the EPA, drilling for oil in National Parks and Monuments, building a useless Wall, disenfranchising women, and simultaneously cancelling the insurance policies of 23 million Americans while making it unaffordable for tens of millions more.

These aren’t policy differences on things like how to best fund infrastructure improvements or whether schools should focus more on science and less on the arts. This is the fundamental rejection of the invisible frame of our Social Contract by an alarming number of Americans.

They *like* the idea that ICE officers ate lunch in a café before arresting the kitchen staff.

They’re THRILLED journalists are finally getting the beat down that’s coming to them.

They’re relieved they can stop acting tolerant and want LGBTQ folks to climb back in the closet and for anyone darker than a flat white to know their place.

These people who benefit so much from the Public Commons of Society honestly don’t care if you lose your job, house or insurance – they don’t give a tinker’s damn for anyone who loses their disability, Medicare, Social Security or any other safety net program.

“I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING” they shriek like a misunderstood teen, unironically running the Social Contract through Mom & Dad’s shredder after they’ve slammed the office door.

The toughest thing about watching acquaintances and those we love support such heartlessness is when we finally realize they understand fully what they’re doing. It’s much easier to deal with people when we convince ourselves they are ignorantly supporting evil policies, and that if it was properly explained they would be enlightened. Otherwise, we have to accept that an uncomfortably large chunk of America is okay with a semi-literate bully dragging us backwards 6 months for every day he is in office.

Accepting that this is actually happening is a real hurdle. None of wants to stare into *that* abyss and it’s ever so much easier not to court discord and just let sleeping dogs lie.

Please don’t be like me, though, when I watched the local liquor store go under and cheat its vendors, and I chose not to see it because I couldn’t accept the Brothers could do that. Don’t imagine people are constrained by your sense of decency, however well or little you know them.

Once we see the hard truth of Trumpers actions, we have to either accept this Fascist Cult of Personality or fight it. There is no middle ground. When you stop selling yourself on proverbial Growler Stations and wood floors to brighten the place up, you can’t unsee the unsavory and uncomfortable truth that 45’s followers heartily approve of a stratified society that plays out like Lord of the Flies – only, in this story line there are no adults to step in to save the day when things are at their bleakest. There is no higher authority to appeal to, because our current POTUS thinks laws are impractical to follow (his words, not mine).

Make no mistake that we are in dangerous territory with 45’s spreading Fascism, and we ignore it at our own peril.

During the election 45 promised the state sponsored murder of children, he promised to crack down on Freedom of the Press, and he promised to violate the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 14th amendments, as well as end abortion, civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality and the EPA.

When you look at it this way 45 had a spectacularly successful first 100 days, now didn’t he?

Trumpers voted for him *precisely* because he promised to abuse other people and break things. They are the groupies that enable a bully to prevail, and who become emboldened by their support of him.

Trumpers like the chaos, the angst and the destruction they were promised when they voted.

It’s hard to see friends and family infected by Fascism. Worse – when they demand our tolerance while spreading this virulent disease of hate.

But, it is no longer possible to separate the Message from Man or the Masses – they own who they support and his policies, and anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you someone else’s beer.

Happy Trumpers Day

My mother died with no regrets, incapable of imagining there was anything she had to apologize for – and yet my 5 brothers refused to speak to her as she lay dying. She died certain she was a Good Mother when she had been anything but that in the privacy of our home.

My mother was a sociopath & a narcissist who believed the world was hers and lacked the capacity to empathize with how her behavior affected others. It was a tough upbringing, but it taught me the skills to spot what an unforgivable monster 45 is. He really has no remorse about anything – and most people have never met someone like that.

These last 7 months have been an exercise in patience as people begin to understand *There is NO negotiating with someone who so capriciously changes their mind and never acknowledges it, nor can you hold a person to their word when their word is no good*

Dealing with people like 45 or my mother is crazy making. They accept no appeal to logic or goodness, their decisions are made solely on what fills their pockets, pleases them in the moment – or how best they can hit back or punish during one of their many rages. The abuse these people are capable of heaping on others is mind boggling.

And the Gas Lighting!! Oh, my! The Gas Lighting!!

Their continual need to insist facts are not facts, and lies are the truth is exhausting. They scream at you that you can’t believe your own filthy eyes, and if you do insist on what you know is true you’re disloyal and worthy of banishment.

It has been interesting to see people grapple with such an unforgivable and unrepentant monster. They so much want to believe there is a heart to appeal to in 45 – but there isn’t. Narcissists have no humanity because they can’t recognize it in others. They enjoy the chaos, and the more you explain how their actions hurt you the more they smile in glee.

Most people don’t want to believe there are Bad Mothers: They want to believe that deep down in their heart everyone has good waiting to get out. It’s not so – and in a larger sense the future of this country is teetering on people who want to believe the best in folks accepting that a toxic person is POTUS and we are in very real danger.

My own mother made me work from the age of 3, and stole most of my earnings – more than $1M. My. Own. Mother.

Now, ask yourself: If a Mother can do that to her own child, what will an Entitled Rageaholic Narcissistic Sociopath do to strangers he holds in utter contempt? He already thinks he can murder with no repercussions.

45 is the creepy, vulgar and hurtful Step Dad who is abusing you and your siblings while Mom – Congress – looks on with stars in her eyes, smiling and nodding while 45 refuses to give your sister her insulin, just said your brother’s boss can fire him for being gay – and your cousin isn’t allowed to visit this summer because he comes from a middle eastern country that doesn’t have a Trump hotel. You know it’s eventually going to be your turn in this predictable game of Civil Rights Musical Chairs, where every new  loser faces horrible consequences. Meanwhile, Momgress is getting a brand new Tax Cut and turns a blind eye.

While I wait for a goodly chunk of America to accept that America is THE very definition of a dysfunctional relationship, I will be prepared for the Threats that come when Gas Lighting fails.

Bank on this: The closer 45 feels the walls are getting the more he will threaten. (See his Comey tweets)

I shudder to think what 45 will threaten the American people with if he is rightly Impeached and prosecuted on any number of Emoluments Clause violations, let alone something from a vigorous Russian investigation. But, we must disregard the fury of 45’s threats, and continue to speak truth to his Cult of Personality that too many have subscribed to, and has led to his wholescale abuse.

I have absolutely no clue how the Russian investigation will shake out.  None.

At this point Momgress is still sweet on the monster, and doesn’t see any reason to make him follow the law. So, for the time being we’re still at his mercy, and there’s precious little of that.

What I do know is that whether 45 is removed from office in handcuffs or serves 2 terms, he will never ever, ever, EVER admit that he has ANYTHING to be sorry for. Ever.

The Frogs Have Come Out To Play

pepe-the-frog-nazi

There is quite clearly a link between the election and a sudden rise in cyber-harassment, which I have personally experienced. In the four days after the election I received more hate-tweets and garbage posts on my Twitter feed that I have in the previous 7 years combined.

My FaceBook wall has been rummaged through by Trolls, Frogs and hateful, spittle-flecked shrieking strangers who tell me to grow up, get over it and to leave the country.

‘Frogs’ is my label for the hate-filled Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) mostly found on 4Chan who are proudly racist, bigoted, homophobes that think women who have been raped have been done a favor. They are open Nazi supporters who use Pepe the Frog as their mascot: An image designated by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol alongside swastikas and burning crosses.

In short: The people who embrace this image are Trump’s red meat base.

Frog is my ‘Fetch’, and I’m trying to make it happen.

It is not a pejorative – because it’s based on something people have control over: Their embrace of hatred, and the willingness to disenfranchise marginalized minorities and women.

pepe-the-frog-kkk-nazi

A no-longer-silent dog whistle was blown when Trump was elected, and now the Frogs think the internet belongs to them.

I had one rude crazy woman go to my FB page and assume my post about a rude crazy woman was about her. She became incensed – took a screen shot. Demanded… I’m not sure what. But, she seemed to think that screen shot was something valuable. It seemed an oddly appropriate metaphor to what has been happening on Social Media these last few days.

I’ve been physically threatened posting in a general forum, being told my mouth was writing checks my ass couldn’t cash – when I was reciting facts. (not ‘truths’)

I’d call them Poor Winners – but that  would imply that there isn’t REAL violence going on right now across the country.

pepe-the-frog-confederate-flag

Regarding my Twitter account, some quick research shows that this is a targeted attack to specific high traffic websites. Yesterday I tweeted 10 times (before the shitstorm – and NO I’m not proud I fed the trolls), yet I received some 50-odd tweets back regarding an original post on that had only received 60 views  in 12 hours. (96 views 24 hours later) That site? The New York Times. The Tweet for which I received the second biggest hate-spew was to USA Today, whence I was told to delete my account, take benzodiazepine, fuck myself and leave the country.

Yesterday’s provocative tweet?  “Yay for Gerrymandering and Voter suppression”, in response to an article about our deeply divided nation that is half conservative and half liberal, but nearly all levels of government are run by the GOP.

That’s pretty normal for me – I’ve been tweeting like this for years with a collective yawn by the internet. Yet, amazingly I’m getting all kinds of negative attention, and the only thing that has changed is the President-elect.

pepe-the-frog-massa

This morning I got up to find a ‘friend’ of a childhood friend has tracked shit on my wall because he didn’t agree with an opinion that I left on my friend’s page – FWIW she and I are horrified at the results. He felt the need to mock and belittle a total stranger. There was no attempt at dialogue or even arrogant fact reciting. It was just pure vitriol: Being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. I’ve had it happen with at least 5 total strangers in 4 days.  Not to mention said crazy woman above.

I had a peer seek out my page to start an argument after I walked away from her utter lack of compassion regarding my taking Trump at his word when he promises to end the ACA, and with it my pre-existing condition exclusion. After telling her in great detail how this would mean bankruptcy, divorce (sign away assets to get Medicaid) or become a medical refugee, her sentiments (if not exact words, because I refuse to bugger myself by going back to that awful conversation to quote her exactly): Your insurance is not my concern.

I refused to engage further with someone who could reduce that situation to: Not My Problem.

I decided to unfollow her for a few weeks until things calmed down – that way she wouldn’t see my posts, I wouldn’t see hers, and we could go back to being civil. Instead, she decided to take the fight to me by seeking out my page to read what I was writing so that she could be offended.

As is habit with these folks, when faced with something they don’t like they change the subject at the top of their lungs. I don’t play the Red Herring game, though.

Her Waterloo was a post where I said that Trump voters fucking OWN the KKK Victory Parade celebrating Trump’s victory. Without irony – this woman who supports a candidate that blames all Muslims for the actions of a few – took umbrage at holding people accountable for voting for a man who campaigned on racism, bigotry, homophobia and misogyny.

She refused to defend any of the dozen or so direct Trump quotes that show what a horrible shit-bag he is – including the one where he pretends he doesn’t know what the KKK is. She sidled right up to an Ad Hominem attack, and decided calling the *conversation* stupid was more diplomatic than outright calling *me* stupid. She then did the most adult thing she could think of to do – she unfriended me.

That should be a comfortable meeting the next time we show up for the advocacy group we both volunteer for and donate to. With her being in a position on the board I don’t worry at all that she’ll be punitive. Nope. I don’t worry that the woman who couldn’t let a disagreement go and needed to turn it into a full-fledged drama complete with unfriending will hold a grudge.

pepe-the-frog-nazi-shirt

I don’t ever remember the trolling ever being this bad. These hate-filled pus bags have been emboldened and their racist, bigoted, anti-Gay MRA agenda has been validated. They emulate the bully they voted in.

Not everyone who voted for Trump is a Neo-Nazi -But, they ARE totally okay with belonging to a group that not only tolerates, but encourages them.

The hate speech will continue because Trump refuses to say during his 3 am Rage-Tweet sessions: “I don’t want the support of the KKK and renounce racism and bigotry.”

He’d still have 72 characters left to tell us how big his hands are or “Grab Them By The Pussy!!”

But, he won’t – and that’s why the Frogs have come out to play.

It’s going to be a long 4 years.

“I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. … I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.” Trump on the Klan 2/28/16

pepe-the-trump

Infant Mortality & Immoral Cash Cows

Infant Mortality Rate Black Denver

Colorado is a healthy state, with the fewest obese people and the fifth lowest infant mortality rate in the nation; but the odds of making it to your first birthday are better if you are born in rural Cuba. Even more shocking: A black child born to a middle class family in Denver faces an 18% greater risk of infant death than a child born in Libya – ground zero for ISIS.

Child ISIS

 

The US has the largest GDP in the world, but the shameful truth is that 57 countries and the entire European Union have a lower infant mortality rate than us.  What they all have in common is Universal Health Care – the desire to provide all citizens with basic health insurance, and protect them financially from the burdens of illness or accidents.

 

Amendment 69

 

This November Coloradans will get to vote on Amendment 69. I’m hoping we choose to show the United States how Universal Health Care works. Colorado has successfully implemented the country’s most progressive ideas and, in some cases, even made them profitable. Our quality of life is unparalleled due to forward thinking and planning, and the willingness to pay a bit more to ensure it stays that way.

 

Light Rail

 

Denver’s Rapid Transit system of commuter trains, light rail, bike highways and paths, buses, HOV and HOT lanes has been named the finest in North America. Our State Parks, Natural and Wildlife areas are the envy of the world, providing access to millions of acres of spectacular wilderness. Decades ago Colorado’s cities and counties set aside funds to buy hundreds of thousands of acres of open space, as well as money to develop and maintain City Parks and Recreation Districts. By 2025 our ‘Colorado the Beautiful’ project will ensure that every resident will live no more than a 10 minute walk from a park, a trail or open space. Proposition 64 has been a model for how to intelligently implement legalization, and has brought the state $135 million in direct taxes and fees in 2015 alone, and helped increase tourism to 72 million visitors who spent more than $20 billion dollars.

It is natural that Colorado embrace Universal Healthcare so that we can further secure our superior quality of life. We wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel – rather, we can implement the kind of health care delivery system that works all over the world, and costs less than our current system.

Unfortunately, Amendment 69 getting on the ballot means Colorado is getting pummeled with astroturf movements: the fake political groups which are made to look like grass roots activism. They look local, but are entirely invented and well-funded by the Big 5 health insurance companies (United Healthcare, Anthem, CIGNA, Humana, & Aetna). The Big 5 *need* single payer not to work here, because that would be the end of them.

Their big cry is the cost: By focusing on what will surely be at least 8 figures for Colorado alone, they are ignoring that we’re ALREADY paying more than any other industrialized country in the world for health care – and not everyone is covered. In fact, we’re the only developed nation in the world without universal health insurance. Moreover, the Big 5’s stock values have quadrupled in last 5 years, making them $14+ BILLION in profits in the last year – and an average projected 5-year growth rate of 12% annually. The resistance is them seeing their obscene profits and stock values dry up. These are the same companies that used to cancel the policies of the sick and those who would *dare* to use their benefits. Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how Obamacare forcing them to cover pre-existing conditions would destroy profits? Tell me how that worked out as they generate $45 *per second* in profit.

I find it unscrupulous and ethically repugnant that these businesses have a model based on squeezing as much as they can from sick and dying people. It’s immoral – and I think our way of providing health care should be viewed as profiteering and should be made illegal.

In an effort to hold on to their cash cows, the Big 5 insurance companies will misdirect attention from their obscene profits by invoking the politics of envy, and trotting out the Red Herring of the ‘Zero Sum Game’ fallacy. That’s the despicable practice of telling one group they will get less if another group gets something more. It is a contemptible lie that economic systems are incapable of growth, but too often it is an effective one.

 

With Universal Health Care some will pay more, of course. Some will pay less. But, all will be covered. Doesn’t a just and civilized society take care of the least among us? Who wants to live in a country where we let the poor die from easily treatable diseases – or those not so easily treated? Who yearns to live in a country where the wealthiest among us is at greater risk of dying in our first year than children born in countries synonymous with genocide?

Our GDP is $1.5 trillion bigger than the entire European Union’s combined. That gap represents more than the current GDP of Australia, yet the EU manages to fund universal health care and paid parental leave for more than half-a-billion people (compared to our 318 million) – and their infant mortality rate is 47% lower than ours. Hell, even Australia has universal health care and paid family leave – and their infant mortality rate is 34% lower than ours!

Healthcare is a right for all, and not one that is based on a tax bracket – just like the right to clean water and air, and the right to free speech. The United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t recognize that right, and Colorado is working to change that with Amendment 69.

Amendment 69 3

In an effort to sew fear the Big 5 lobby is flogging the idea of ‘Rationed Care’. Care is already rationed: It is entirely rationed AWAY from the uninsured. It is rationed from people who face paperwork designed to discourage them, multi-hour telephone wait times, and web sites with outdated information and broken links. Care is rationed with the automatic rejection of a doctor’s order for a procedure or expensive medication; when a perfectly valid medical directive is over-ridden by a policy written by an accountant and the appeal is handled by an uncompassionate desk jockey who never went to med school. Care is rationed at most doctors’ offices where hour-plus wait times to get into the exam room are common. It already takes months to see a specialist, and days to get an appointment with a GP for a serious issue. If you need help urgently you are encouraged to go to the ER, which generates a multi-thousand dollar bill the moment you walk in the door. Make no mistake – we *do* ration our health care, and not very well.

Will it have problems? Of course it will. Any new business, cabinet or venture has rough patches. But, Good is not the enemy of Perfect. We should not forgo making things better because we cannot attain absolute perfection. I see this as an attempt to move forward, and a way to take the Big 5 insurance companies and their unethical profits out of our Right to Life.

As for those who call this Unconstitutional? Please go back and read your Preamble: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

It’s right there in black and white: In order to protect our Inalienable Right to Life the Government (notice the capital G) may create institutions through the will of the people to secure our Right to Health.

Amendment 69 means my inalienable Right to Life supersedes any insurance company’s Right to Profit, and Coloradans can finally take medical profiteering away from the Big Insurance.

The question is will Coloradans embrace universal health care as a right if it benefits the poor?

Too many people would rather cut off their nose to spite their face, in that even though it would be cheaper and it would lower our infant mortality rate they would reject universal coverage because it would mean the poor might get something ‘they didn’t pay for’.

If we pool our resources we can cover everyone for less than the majority of us are paying now. Sadly, there are many Americans who don’t want equality and just want to punish the poor – or, at the very least have the poor ‘know their place’.

Ultimately, the question Americans need to answer is: Are we OK with the fact that a child born in Beirut has a better chance of seeing its first birthday than a child born in Washington, D.C.?

 

Dying For Health Insurance

Health Care

There’s nothing like being really sick to remind you of how great it is to have health insurance. The last month has really driven that home for me. Believe me when I say I am glad we are insured. I’m glad I was able to get the help I needed.

Yet, there are people who, even now, would prefer for Americans to go without insurance rather than have any government involvement. What they want is a free market free-for-all.

The world didn’t end when the ACA went into effect. Tens of thousands of people didn’t lose their health insurance, as predicted. The specter of death panels never materialized and, in general, things were better for those who were able to get insurance for the first time.

Then, there are people like me who have preexisting conditions who were precluded from shopping for health plans, and paid exorbitant premiums (try $1,400 per month) for bare bones coverage with outrageous deductables. With the ACA passing we were able to decide what plan worked best for us, and weren’t forced into plans that didn’t offer the coverage we needed.

Americans don’t have the kind of coverage found elsewhere in the world. I remember talking with a roomful of English people about the insurance industry in the United States. They honestly didn’t believe my husband and me when we explained policies, plans, and the ability of an insurance company to raise rates with impunity, and cancel your coverage if you had the audacity to actually use it. They were incredulous when we explained how people went bankrupt from medical bills, but were unable to discharge that debt when they filed. They thought that perhaps we had our facts wrong, and we were met with many skeptical, “Are you sure that’s the way it is?” They thought it was barbaric. (Their words, not mine)

The fact is our health insurance before the ACA was barbaric. The notion that a sick person could be denied benefits and treatment, and then kicked off of their plan for getting ill is brutal and merciless. We as a society deserved better than that, and we got at least a measure more of humanity than existed.

Is it the best system? No. Would I rather see single payer? Of course. But, we do ourselves a disservice when we refuse to accept anything less than perfection, and as a result pass up progress when we don’t get everything we want.

How defeatist to not bother making the world a better place when we know that utopia is not reachable. What kind of spoiled children refuse to play when they find out they can’t be assured an absolute victory?

Rest assured that Republicans, with no plan of their own, would happily kill the act which has provided relief for the uninsured and the previously uninsurable. In the last few years Republicans have tried 56 times to completely repeal or undermine the law. They keep touting the phrase ‘repeal and replace’, but their slogan is as empty as their hearts. They have no plan, but simply want to kick millions off the rolls, with no remedy.

Now the ACA faces a new challenge: The Supreme Court has heard arguments on whether the federal government can provided subsidies for consumers to purchase healthcare coverage in states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges. The case of King vs. Burwell could very well be what brings down Obamacare.

I am one of those people who will find themselves without insurance should this happen. I will be kicked off, left out in the cold and have nowhere to turn should insurance companies return to their former practices. I have preexisting conditions that no insurance company will want to take the chance on.

The Supreme Court has already voted on this issue, but we will have to wait until June for the decision to be announced. We could find out in 3 months that things will go forward as they are. Or – what worries me so much – we could find out that Obamacare has been overturned.

Then what? Well, to tell the truth I have no idea what I’ll do. I really don’t. I’d like to ask the people who want this program to go away to tell me – in detail – how I am supposed to get the health insurance I desperately need? The sad truth is that most subscribe to the ‘Screw you – I got mine, you get yours’ school of philosophy. They actually feel no compassion for their fellow humans, and don’t really care if someone can’t afford insurance, or is denied it completely because they would use it.

I’m sad that so many in my country doesn’t see health care as being part of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It’s depressing that virtually every other industrialized nation has better health insurance than we provide our citizens. Having a heart attack shouldn’t bankrupt you, nor should it be an excuse for a heartless corporation to maximize their profits.

So often we are told by politicians that the United States is an exceptional place. It’d sure be nice if we acted like it now and again.

All I can do is cross my fingers and wait until June.

Justice Denied

Scale

How often have you heard someone decry the fact that they have jury duty? I can think of half a dozen times in the last year where people have complained about their civic duty. I can’t think of one time – ever – that someone has been happy about getting jury duty.

It’s crazy. These same people would want the best minds on their trial, but somehow have a disconnect about the need for them to show up and take part in the process. It’s become a past time to complain about having to participate in one of the most important thing we do as citizens (let’s not even talk about voting). Why do so many people have such a negative opinion of jury duty?

For the most part people just think they’re too good to do it. They’re under the impression that the world will grind to a halt if they don’t show up for work. It’s a self-important way to view your contribution to the world: That somehow things just won’t get done if you’re not there to do them.

Well, in a way it’s true. If you don’t show up to court and try to give the best you know how for someone who’s facing trial things are definitely not getting done. You are definitely failing the person who’s facing civil or criminal charges.

There’s an old saying about trials being decided by 12 people not smart enough to get out of jury duty. What a shitty way to look at it. How much do you have to think of yourself – and how little do you think of anyone else – when you parrot those ideas? Do you really think you’re too important, smart or valuable to participate in the effective governing of this country? No, no, really, you are that special.

It’s a privilege to be on a jury. It’s one of the defining measures of our democracy that we all get to participate. Some would have a system of professional jurors replace a jury of our peers. What a staggeringly bad idea. Professional jurors would bring their prejudices with them to each and every trial. Part of what makes our system work is that there is a new group – new eyes, as it were – to judge the facts for every case. Professional jurors would run the risk of having seen so many similar cases that there would be a rush to judgment amongst some groups. Being a juror would be something to aspire to for a long-term career path, and as such, potential jurors would be tempted to rule to favor whomever it is that hands out those jobs.

You would see pools of jurors conforming to the wishes of the people who held power over their careers. The toadying and ass-kissing you see in a regular office would exist in court, only the consequences would hold so much more weight. It could literally mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment or possible financial ruin.

Professional jurors would open the door to corruption, as lawyers and defendants could potentially target jurors to affect the outcome of a case. It is a certainty that if there were professional jurors that within a year you would have a case of a juror accepting payoffs for a favorable ruling.

Avoiding jury duty is so prevalent that Wikihow even has a popular page called ‘How to get out of jury duty,’ that outlines 8 steps to take to avoid your civil duty. The suggestions range from lying about hardships and pretending to be stupid to saying you have your mind already made up. Shame on Wikihow for having this page, and shame on anyone for using it.

The people I know who try to avoid jury duty doubtless don’t question their ethics when they lie to get out of it. They think it’s a social norm, and do what others are doing. They feel a greater need to take care of themselves than they do to be a good citizen who participates in the democratic process.

For all the chest beating we do about American exceptionalism, we certainly disdain the things which supposedly differentiate us from less free societies. We don’t want to participate, but by God that’s what makes us great. Or something.

So, forgive me if I don’t give you a pass and say it’s cool to lie your way out of your responsibility as a citizen. Understand that I don’t think you’re special and the world can’t get along without you while you do your civic duty. No, it’s not beneath you to participate in representative democracy.

I have often thought that karmic justice would be served if the people who actively avoid jury duty needed the remedy of the courts and the only people to hear their case were a dozen people as apathetic and disingenuous as they were when called to serve their country.

Poverty of Spirit

Boy Reading

Here’s one that died a quiet death earlier this week:

The majority of public school students are living in poverty. Seems like the kind of thing you’d have heard about, doesn’t it? Yet, it showed up was briefly discussed and fell off the news cycle. We had other more important things to talk about, like ‘Did the Patriots fully inflate the game balls?’

So, here goes one more time: For the first time in 50 years the majority of children attending public schools come from low income families.

The Southern Education Foundation is reporting that 51% of K-12 graders qualify for school free or reduced price lunches. That’s more than half.

It’s not just about the food, though. Because children from lower income families often don’t have the advantages of preschool, and so show up at Kindergarten trailing their more affluent peers. Research suggests that these poorer children never make up that gap. It follows them throughout their school careers, and affects whether they go to college or even finish high school.

The highest concentration of poverty is in the south and the west. In 21 states, at least half the public school children were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches — ranging from Mississippi, where more than 70 percent of students were from low-income families, to Illinois, where one of every two students was low-income.

With figures like these how do we except poorer children to overcome the obstacles they face? We’ve already gutted funding for Head Start, choosing to punish poor children and doom them to the financial strata they were born into.

There seems to be little political will to fund preschool for poorer families, instead letting low income families take the brunt of underfunded programs and curricula.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that as the gap between poorer and wealthier students grows the advantages continue to accumulate for students of better means. As those advantages continue to rack up, those wealthier students will do better in school and college and ultimately in their post-college careers.

We are quite simply dooming lower income children to a cycle of poverty. And it really does seem like no one gives a tinker’s damn.

Republicans are dead set against spending more money on early childhood development, choosing instead to punish poor children for having the audacity to pick poor parents. They prefer to ‘streamline programs’ which is code for cut. They would prefer to give parents vouchers for charter or private schools, a program which itself is not proven to work, and in fact is only an advantage to parents who can physically transport their children to a better school or district. It does nothing to address the fact that many local schools are woefully underfunded and do not have the resources to provide children with an adequate education. It does not answer the question of what we do for children who can’t take advantage of the voucher program. Those children exist and wishing them away won’t work.

This report was released just ahead of the Congressional debate about how to best rewrite the federal education law. Some are asking for the law to focus on schools and student’s needs, rather than them hitting certain benchmarks and being punished or sanctioned if they fail to meet standards. Poorer schools with children already struggling are not able to meet certain standards, and taking resources away from them only serves to punish poor children even further.

It is almost impossible to overstate the impact that poverty has on education. If it didn’t have an impact so many children whose parents can afford it wouldn’t be in private schools. Private schools are able to provide better opportunities for learning through their greater resources, and because often parents have the time to invest in their children’s education. It’s pointless to be angry that some parents do not have the time to invest in their children’s education – often these are parents working 2 minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. Many are doing the very best they can.

And what of the parents many think could do better? What if they don’t? Are you comfortable condemning some poor child who doesn’t know better into the cycle of poverty? Are you OK with that?

What does it say about us as a nation that more than half of public school attendees come to school hungry? It says we have 2 school systems – 2 unique but not equal school systems. One for the poors and one for the rest.

All these 2 school systems will serve to do is further economically segregate our children. We’ve already cut out early-childhood services and after-school programs. What’s next? Cut out the books or teachers until those poor children learn how not to be poor?

We have a problem in this country. We hate our poor, and we blame them for their position in life. We’ve taken that animosity and spread out to poor children, which makes us heartless. Yes, it’s not enough to look down upon and punish poor adults, we need to share that behavior with their children and shame them, too.

So, as Congress reviews the disastrous policies of No Child Left Behind some of us will be hoping that there will be room in school budgets for nutritious food and programs that will help lift poor children out of the poverty of mind and soul.

For truly, how much poverty of spirit must you have to see a hungry child and think that’s something you can live with?