hi folks! i started a podcast, here’s the feed, i’ve already submitted it to google and apple for inclusion in their services so it’ll be available on Google Play and iTunes within a few days. In the meantime, check out the first episode.
Been away a while, sorry folks. Had some bits and bobs published places I couldn’t share them here. I got a bunch of pieces mostly finished, though, so i’m’a get back to work.
Also gonna redesign the site probably.
Recently, I read about the Rolling Jubilee – an offshoot of the OWS organization that focuses on buying up debt and forgiving it entirely – giving random Americans in crisis a surprise that could spell the difference between prosperity and a lifetime of poverty. (News article here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9666748/Occupy-Wall-Street-campaigners-buy-up-debt-to-abolish-it.html , read more about the organization here http://rollingjubilee.org/ .) An idea struck that by attaching a significant tax benefit to this, we could encourage wealthy Americans to invest a small amount of their resources in America itself by helping its most financially vulnerable citizens on the road to solvency. Rolling Jubilee estimates that with $50,000, they can buy up one million dollars of debt and forgive it, no strings attached. That is a remarkable return on investment. If the IRS considered debt forgiveness of this nature a charitable donation valued at the full value of the debt being forgiven, that would give debt forgiveness a compelling tax incentive for those in a position to donate. To this end, I have sent the following letter to my Senators and Representatives, and to those entering office:
Recently, I read about the Rolling Jubilee project ( http://rollingjubilee.org/ ) – an effort by citizens to buy up debt of Americans in crisis for pennies on the dollar, and forgive it – giving a much-needed hand up to Americans working hard to maintain solvency. This is a bailout of the people by the people – and it’s not costing Uncle Sam one dime.
I have a proposal that could make this charitable option very attractive for those Americans blessed with more disposable income than most – categorizing no-strings debt cancellation as a charitable donation for tax purposes, valued at the full value of the debt, not the price paid to purchase it. This would allow wealthy Americans to see an immediate tax benefit to voluntarily sharing their wealth to assist those less fortunate, at a much greater return on investment than traditional charitable donations.
This would, of course, represent less tax revenue for the federal government over the short term. However, the assistance this would provide to Americans in financial crisis would allow them to step out of poverty and rely less on government-funded social programs and community-funded charities, and perhaps allow them to use their resources to become small business owners – thus decreasing the cost of social programs, and increasing tax revenue overall in the long term.
I urge you to consider proposing legislation that would give wealthy Americans a strong tax incentive to cancelling debt. It benefits the wealthy, it benefits those less fortunate, and it benefits America.
If you think this is good for America, I strongly urge you to send a letter (feel free to use the above) to your Senators and Representatives asking them to please consider it. This could benefit us all.
If you need help finding out who your Senators or Representatives are, visit http://www.senate.gov/index.htm and click the Find Your Senators area in the upper right of the page. For Congresspersons, visit http://www.house.gov/ and type your ZIP code into the ‘Find Your Representative’ area in the upper right of the page.
Here’s the thing.
The American Dream has been twisted around and built up and made so impossible that not only is it something that can never really happen for most Americans, but it also lends itself to poisoning our sense of community. After all, if ‘you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it’ is true, then those less fortunate must not have tried, right? If the only thing required for reward is ambition, then the homeless must just be lazy. The jobless must not want to work, and the working poor must find it easier to complain about their lot in life than try to improve it. This is all self-evident from the ‘effort equals reward’ concept that lies at the core of the current American Dream.
And that dream is bull.
We simply don’t live in a world where all efforts are rewarded, where you can do anything you want in life if you want it badly enough and try your best, where we have fairytale endings. We just don’t. We live in a world where you can study hard, throw yourself into your education, and finish the first in your class – but still accomplish nothing because you’re not able to get enough scholarships to cover college expenses and your parents are working-class citizens who simply don’t have the resources to help. We live in a world where you can refine your craft and be the hardest worker in your field, and still never be taken seriously because you’re a woman in tech. We live in a world where you can do years of soul-searching to find out who you really are, find that one special someone who makes you feel complete, and still not be able to marry them because your state doesn’t think gay people deserve rights. We live in a world of random chance, bigotry, and institutionalized injustice. We live in a world where the original American Dream can only come true for you if you are either born rich and white, or born very, very lucky.
We need a new dream. We need to admit to ourselves that sometimes effort does not equal reward (though reward does still require effort), that the world is not a fair place, and that only a few dozen people will ever be astronauts, and chances are one of them isn’t going to be you. We need to admit to ourselves that the less fortunate didn’t do anything to cause or deserve their situation in the vast majority of cases. We need to admit that many who lose themselves in alcohol or drug abuse don’t choose their lives, they wind up there either through mental illness or the entirely understandable desire to just escape for a few minutes, and never realizing until it is too late the lasting cost of their escape. We need to understand that the woman selling her body to afford food and shelter for her child needs options, not a sex offender rap (Thanks, CA Prop 35). We need to finally admit to ourselves and to our next generation that sometimes, no matter how hard you try or how much you want to succeed, sometimes it isn’t going to happen, and that it is not a personal failure. It’s just how it is sometimes.
We need to make our American Dream a little more real if we want to pass it on to future generations without setting them up for failure and misery. We need to reach out to those less fortunate instead of shunning them for imagined offenses. We need to remember that we are members of a society, and that we all benefit when ‘yucky’ problems like fiscal injustice and worker exploitation are fixed. We need to remind ourselves that not everybody needs to be a doctor or a lawyer or a fireman. After all, someone’s got to be the sanitation worker or the electrician, and these are also worthy careers – and in fact pay pretty darn well if you have the skill and drive. And as long as you are succeeding by whatever ambitious but realistic goals you set for yourself, and you’re being a helpful member of your community by helping who you can, how you can – well that sounds like something worth dreaming about.
Back in 1919, a German gentleman named Anton Drexler and five associates founded the German Worker’s Party, hoping to represent the downtrodden workers of Germany: the poor, the unrepresented, the working classes sick of a government ignoring their needs and complaints. Fairly early on, it was infiltrated by a member of the German army sent to spy on the group and subvert it, largely to keep it harmless and stupid. Drexler and his associates swiftly found their party, which was intended to benefit all Germans by empowering and fortifying its lower classes, turned into the nightmarish Nazi Party, one of the very few groups in all of history who qualifies for the descriptor ‘evil’.
Ninety years later and five thousand miles away, another group of citizens was becoming displeased with what they saw as a government that had ceased to represent their interests. Protests were popping up all over the country, with a core message of holding the American government accountable for what the protesters saw as blatant disregard for the needs and concerns of the working classes. Over time, the Tea Party drew more and more supporters – many of which didn’t seem to fit in, like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers, hardly working-class material. Accusations of their true motives have been bandied about ( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/opinion/13krugman.html?_r=1 ), but as yet no real resistance has been put forth to keep outside interests from steering the Tea Party movement from its stated course.
I do not at all intend to compare Tea Party members with Nazis – I simply draw the parallel because both started as populist, working-class social and political movements, and both were or are being subverted to other ends. One ended up causing World War Two and being responsible for the deaths of millions. What will the other accomplish when it becomes a perverted version of itself?
Back in Germany after the end of the First World War, many were placing the military defeats and national weaknesses largely at the feet of social groups considered ‘Un-German’: Jews, Socialists, and people not showing sufficient amounts of patriotism. Pluralism – or the idea of cultural or ethnic groups inside a host country keeping their cultural or ethnic identity – was coming under fire as an example of insufficient national pride. After all, shouldn’t they be Germans first, and Jews or Russians or whatever second?
You don’t have to swap too many nouns around in that previous paragraph to strike a chilling resemblance to the rising movement of ‘America for Americans’. Again, I cannot stress strongly enough that I am not comparing the rank-and-file Tea Party members, or any man or woman acting on their conscience and protesting what they see as mistreatment by their government to Nazis. I draw these parallels to show how easily the movement was subverted from a populist movement demanding the return of government to its roots of representative democracy to a plutocratic (in the case of the Tea Party) or fascist (in the case of National Socialism) coup.
A recurring theme in my writing, and much of my philosophy, is that one should do one’s own thinking, and never ever allow someone else to do their thinking for them. My problem with the Tea Party has nothing to do with its actual members, and everything to do with how it is being exploited by corporate and other interests to enact policy change designed to benefit not the working class, but the upper class. Tax cuts for the rich benefit only the rich, after all.
Now, we have the Department of Defense spending untold amounts of money to purchase an entire print run of an Army Reservist’s memoir, only to destroy it – claiming that the information contained therein was a threat to national security. ( http://us.cnn.com/2010/US/09/25/books.destroyed/index.html ) This is despite the fact that the author and publisher were exceedingly careful to make sure the book had no classified or sensitive information in it, even going so far as to submit a copy to the author’s military chain of command for review, and proceeded with printing only when the Army Reserve Command gave its blessing.
A second printing is on the way ( http://us.macmillan.com/book.aspx?isbn=9780312603694 ), rife with DoD-requested changes and line after line of blacked-out redactions. Free-journalism superheroes Wikileaks claim to have an unedited copy, and I hope for America’s sake they do.
Also, in submitting a request for dismissal of a federal suit ( http://static1.firedoglake.com/28/files/2010/09/100925-Al-Aulaqi-USG-PI-Opp-MTD-Brief-FILED.pdf ) demanding that the US not assassinate a US citizen without due process, the CIA, Secretary of Defense, and the President himself state in so many words that "not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are "state secrets," and thus no court may adjudicate their legality." (Glenn Greenwald, salon.com, link http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/09/25/secrecy ) One of the arguments in the request for dismissal I found interesting was that the case should be dismissed because it wasn’t brought to the court by the assassination target himself – after all, it would only make sense for the target of an assassination plot to walk into the den of their would-be murderers and ask them nicely not to hurt him.
We have a government banning books and attempting to murder its own citizens under the aegis of national security, and refusing to explain any further, as if the words are a magic spell that ends any line of questioning. President Obama was elected largely on a platform of change in government, an end to the opaque decisionmaking and stone walls preventing American citizens from being allowed to see the inner workings of American government. Although only a fool believes all of a politician’s campaign promises, I had hoped that this one at least would bear more fruit than it did.
A functioning military demands a certain amount of secrecy, this much is obvious. You can’t exactly attack an enemy by surprise if they know where you are and what precisely you’re going to throw at them, after all. But bypassing due process for American citizens – a right insisted upon in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution – is something that demands further explanation than a weak ‘national security’ handwave. Mr. President, if you or those you choose to lead other departments are intending to murder one of your citizens without granting him the fair trial guaranteed by the document you swore to uphold, then you have some explaining to do.
It is worth noting that Anwar Awlaki, the alleged assassination target, is a dual US – Yemeni citizen, and allegedly a key decision-maker in Al-Qaeda. It is also worth noting that there has not yet been any concrete evidence shown to prove Awlaki’s involvement in Al-Qaeda. No matter how terrible the man’s crimes may be, he – like any other American citizen – has the right to due process. The fact that the man stands accused of treason does not remove his right to due process – in fact, the Constitution specifically demands due process in cases of alleged treason, in Article III, section 3.
Article I, section 9 of the Constitution also forbids the use of writs of attainder – in a nutshell, an act of a governmental body declaring someone guilty and demanding a punishment without benefit of trial. There are multiple reasons why Awlaki’s assassination without trial cannot be allowed to happen while we as a nation claim to uphold our Constitution. Regardless of whether or not the man is guilty of working with Al-Qaeda, the very founding documents we claim to hold sacred demand we grant him the rights he has as an American citizen. As he has not yet forfeited his American citizenship, nor has he satisfied the conditions for having his citizenship revoked ( http://travel.state.gov/law/citizenship/citizenship_778.html ), we as a nation are forced with a choice: Grant him the rights he deserves, or turn our backs on our nation’s most sacred beliefs.
Are we allowing fear and hate to infiltrate our national conscience and subvert it, as the German Worker’s Party turned into the Nazi Party and the Tea Party is slowly but surely changing into an astroturf movement for corporate interests? Are we going to wake up one day to find that our nation no longer resembles what we thought it was? Or, even more horrifying to consider, has that day already come?
“Say: O ye unbelievers!
I worship not that which ye worship,
And ye do not worship that which I worship;
I shall never worship that which ye worship,
Neither will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your religion; to me my religion.”
The Qur’an, sura 109
There’s a church in Gainesville, Florida ( http://www.doveworld.org/ ) that’s planning on burning as many copies of the Qur’an as they can find on September 11. They’ve even set up a Facebook group to boost participation all over the globe. They claim that although they realize their actions will offend millions – many to the point of armed protest and military response, if General David Petraeus’s warnings are to be heeded ( http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/09/07/florida.quran.burning/index.html ) – they feel their message is more important than its possible consequences. They claim that their message, aimed at radical Muslims only, is not one of hate, but one need look no further than their own website ( http://www.doveworld.org/blog/ten-reasons-to-burn-a-koran ) to see that their reasons to burn the book are based primarily on xenophobia and hate – and if you dig a little deeper, bald-faced hypocrisy.
Their reasons include such gems as number six, decrying Islamic law as being totalitarian – that those under its rule, willingly or not, must obey without question or criticism. This is particularly interesting, given that in an interview, Emma Jones, daughter of Dr. Terry Jones, head of the Dove World Outreach Center, stated in an interview with the Gainesville Sun that “they used mental violence. They’d say, ‘If you’re not obedient, God will punish you.'” (http://www.gainesville.com/article/20090719/ARTICLES/907191005 ) Jennifer Engel, who moved from Germany to work with the church, had this to say after leaving the church: “We had no friends, and also everything was very controlled. We aren’t allowed to say any critical things. […] They started to preach about total obedience. No matter what they say, we have to do it.”
It’s also worth noting that Engel and her husband left the church after they discovered grave financial inconsistencies. Dr. and Mrs. Jones, the leadership of the church, also own a furniture business in Gainesville named TS And Company. During the Engels membership in the church, they handled finances and bookkeeping. There were regular payments from the furniture business to the church, and also unexplained payments from the church to the furniture business of at least $15,000.00. What’s more, the furniture business is staffed entirely by ‘volunteer’ labor from the church, much of that from the Dove World Outreach Academy. Students at the Academy live and work on grounds owned by the furniture company, and their curriculum includes material intended to “break their pride” and “humble themselves not only under God’s mighty hand but under the hand of man” ( http://www.dwocacademy.com/about ). Part of that, apparently, is working long hours for the furniture company without pay, and without the ability to contact friends and family outside the church for any reason whatsoever, according to an academy rulebook acquired by the Gainesville Sun and verified as legitimate by Pastor Stephanie Sapp, VP of the Academy.
That’s not all – the furniture company also purchased properties in low-income housing projects to house their unpaid workers. In a city where 13.2% of the population lives below the poverty line and a county where nearly nine hundred people are homeless, is it truly just for profit-seeking businesses to buy up low-income housing? (2008 census estimate, http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/ACSSAFFFacts?_event=Search&_cityTown=gainesville&_state=04000US12 , and 2010 data from annual report on homeless conditions in Florida, http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/homelessness/docs/2010%20Homeless%20Conditions.pdf ) Furthermore, the Lisa Jones House, described by the church as an outreach program to the poor, provides meals for at least some of the unpaid workers for the church and, by extension, furniture company. Where does the Lisa Jones House get the food for these meals? Why, the local food banks, according to the Gainesville Sun. A request to DWOC for rebuttal on this point was not answered.
So let’s get this all straight – a church sends its youth to study at a private academy, whose curriculum is based in large part in working without pay for a for-profit furniture company owned by the pastor and his wife. Other members of the church also chip in, working long hours to sell furniture, pack and ship orders, and handle bookkeeping (which could generously be described as creative writing). Many of the workers are put up in low-income housing – bought and paid for by the furniture company (which, by the way, is looking for an apartment manager! http://www.christiancareercenter.com/jobs/job/management/1675 ) – and fed with food appropriated from local food banks. Instead of providing service to the community, they are in fact draining limited resources intended to help the poor – not boost profits for a company that has figured out how to avoid paying its employees. In addition to all of that, much of the furniture company’s activities happen on land owned by the church, and therefore tax-free. If a scenario like this were used as a backdrop for a television show, it would be dismissed as unbelievable. And yet this is the church claiming that Islam is “of the devil”, claiming that the prophet Muhammad was “corrupted by power and worldly ambitions”, and that Islam is “not compatible with democracy and human rights”.
Given that this is a nation based on democracy and human rights (though we are far from perfect in either regard), I want to make my position clear: I am strongly against the burning of the Qur’an, but I do not challenge DWOC’s legal right to do so as a form of free expression. I am strongly against the burning of any book, because it is an attempt to destroy an idea. Any idea has a right to exist and be discussed, even and especially those we find distasteful and monstrous. By discussing and considering ideas we may not agree with, we gain enlightenment and understanding of our own ideas on a deeper level. I am not calling for the legal right of the Dove World Outreach Center to burn the Qur’an to be limited; I am only trying to shed some light on their motivations and some of their other, potentially illegal activities they would rather not discuss.
On the flip side, the hate and xenophobia being spread by the Dove World Outreach Center is inspiring a flood of counter-protests all over the country. Churches, interfaith groups, and secular organizations nationwide are organizing events to help calm the fears of their communities. Qur’an readings, interviews and discussions with imams and other Muslim clerics, and explorations of Islam in America are popping up all over. What will I be doing on September 11? Instead of burning a Qur’an, and trying to silence an idea that will surely outlive me, I will be reading it. Though I do not share the Islamic faith, I respect its right to exist and its role as a part of American culture, and wish to know more about it.
Life happened so it’s been tough to find time to write. I’ve got a few articles in the draft stage, though, including one on the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which governs the behavior of collection agencies) that I’m pretty excited about. Stay tuned.
what is this, what is going on here
Hello! Welcome to my WEB SIGHT. I write things and I hope you like them or at least they make you think.
why did you call it the bourbon pulpit. are you some kind of degenerate
Some of the best discussions I’ve ever had and some of the deepest friendships I’ve ever forged have come from the chats you have when you’re relaxed, you have something tasty to drink (not always alcoholic! I actually drink pretty rarely), and you feel secure enough in your surroundings to be honest about your deepest darkest whatevers. I think the world would be a pretty great place if more people chilled out and invested some time and attention in their fellow humans.
this is mostly about politics isn’t it
It sure is! The odd post that isn’t about politics is generally going to be stuff like ‘hey here’s a weird thing i learned the other day, check this action out’ or ‘here is some information you might find useful’ or ‘here is a long rambling story that ends up with some sort of pro-social moral’.
can i spread this stuff around or link to it or share stuff
Absolutely! If you’re just copy-pasting text vs. posting a link somewhere, I’d appreciate it if you included a URL. 🙂 I like to think of my blog posts as conversations instead of unassailable screeds, and I actually read the comments.
i’m pretty sure you didn’t take that photo you’re using in your header
You’re absolutely right! I got it from pixabay, a depository of public domain imagery. The font, because i am cheap and not a graphic designer, is Niagara Engraved, which came with Windows. The background audio in the podcast is from freesound.org.
so what’s the deal with the podcast
Every two weeks, we’ll put out an episode of our podcast where we talk about politics over drinks. Most of the time it’ll just be my wife and I, but we don’t agree on everything so it’s not the usual mindless echo-chamber noise. Once in a while, we might have a guest or two to yap at. Doing it every two weeks gives me time to research things so I’m not just talking COMPLETELY out of my hat.
how do i get in touch with you, i have Opinions or want to talk to you about licensing
My facebook and twitter should be over there —>
Also you can email me, popecrunch at gmail dot com. my writing and podcast are under a creative commons “Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International” license, more information about which is located here.