Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"One person, one vote," an idea that is pretty much toast

     At the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association luncheon recently, we had a choice between three different desserts -- cheese cake, chocolate mousse or both.  I voted for both.  We also had a presenter who spoke on the subject of voting access and gerrymandering in America.  The speaker made some very interesting points.

     "The democratic concept of 'One person, one vote' has actually never been applied to American voters on the federal level.  Ever.  Perhaps it applies when we vote for members of the House of Representatives, but as for our vote for who will represent us in the Senate?  Not so much -- because voters in rural states such as Wyoming have far more voting power than voters in urban states such as California."  Or words to that effect. 

     So from the very beginning, our founding fathers made it impossible for "One person, one vote" to actually ever happen.  A New York voter, both then and now, only has 78% of the voting power of an Alabama voter due to Senate restrictions.  Interesting for sure.

     "And Republicans are better at gerrymandering than Democrats.  In the 2012 elections, Dems got 51% of the vote but only got 39% of the representation."  Then he talked about something called "the efficiency gap" -- which involved higher math so he sort of lost me.  "In Wisconsin, the voter efficiency gap was 10 to 13 percent, guaranteeing Republican wins even in a Democratic state.  Our system today is profoundly under-representative."

     However, we can't just blame it on the Repubs.  "If the Dems were the ones doing the gerrymandering, the Republicans' love of it would go the way of their hatred of the deficit."  Out the window in a New York minute.

     "And what about Citizens United?" I asked myself.  "That ruling gives a small handful of rich people a hecka lot more votes than the rest of us poor schmucks."  Citizens United should be illegal for that reason alone.  And apparently the US Senate should be illegal too -- from the perspective of keeping America a democratic country.  But if you want America to be an oligarchy, then it's hardly worth rocking the boat about any of this stuff.

     But even though the speaker didn't have time to discuss the effects of voter identification laws, the New Jim Crow laws or electronic vote-hacking, his message was still crystal clear.  The idea of one person and one vote in America?  That ship has pretty much sailed.

     So what can we do to save the American ship of state from being run aground by vote-pirates?  Make sure we are the ones who count the votes?  Use only paper ballots?  Don't let dead people vote?  Make voting a legal requirement if you want to get a driver's license or whatever?  Reconfigure the US Senate to represent all of us?  Go after the oligarchs with torches and pitch forks? 

     There are all kinds of ways to make sure that Americans actually get "One person, one vote" -- and we can do this.  But the only real way to never ever allow "One person, one vote" to become an actual reality in America is to stay silent and do nothing.

     Damn it.  I am an American.  I vote.  And I want my vote to count.  I want a choice of three desserts in my ballot box -- not just one slice of dry toast.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I had the flu once, back in 1973...

      It had been a rather cold winter that year plus I had definitely burned the candle at both ends -- working late every night at the local folk-music coffee house, getting up early to take my daughter Ruby off to pre-school five days a week, spending weekdays over in San Francisco's Castro District as a docent at the Upper Market Street Gallery, hanging out with the Floating Lotus Magic Opera crew at the Woolsey Street House, playing on the Caffè Mediterraneum soccer team and spending time at the Albatross, the Midnight Sun, Brennan's and dancing to Commander Cody at Mandrake's whenever my parents could babysit.  Plus I had a Tibetan Buddhist boyfriend named Peter and also demonstrated against the corrupt Republican government in Washington during my spare time.

     And it was always cold during the winter of 1973.  And I was always exhausted.  So I dragged myself and little Ruby down to Puerto Vallarta for two glorious weeks in the sun on the beach at Yelapa.

     We got as far as San Diego before the flu struck.

     Good grief, do I remember having that flu.  And I vowed never to get the flu ever again.  And I haven't.  And it wasn't because of having no damn flu shots either.

     "Your mind wants to keep going going going like a robot," someone told me back then, "but your body needs rest.  So your mind and your body have a big struggle over this and your mind always loses -- because your body simply goes out on strike.  And that's exactly what a flu is.  It's your body going on strike until it finally gets to rack up more hours in bed than your mind thinks that it needs.  That's why, ultimately, there is no real prevention technique for the common cold.  Or for the flu either."

     "But what about germs!" I replied.

     "Flu germs are constantly with us, 24/7.  Constantly.  They are everywhere.  But they can only actually get to us when our body's defenses are down."


     So from that day to this, I have always made sure that my body has no real reason to go on strike.  And I never got the flu again.

PS:  It also helps a lot that I also wash my hands.  Back in the day, when terrible diseases were rampant, the average American worker avoided baths, lived in unimaginable squalor, had no proper sewage or indoor toilets, survived on bread and potatoes alone and worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week.  No wonder diseases were rampant.

     Thus it sort of pisses me off that Big Pharma is taking all the credit for stopping all their big long lists of hundreds of diseases -- when soap and water (and those brave labor unions that gave us the weekend) are often the real stars of the show.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Crazy Rich Saudis: Weird new happenings in The Kingdom

     After a whole shite-load of oil was discovered under the desert sands of Arabia (and long after Lawrence of Arabia had turned in his camel), unimaginable mountains of moolah started pouring into the treasury of the royal House of Saud.

     Back then, wealthy Saudi princes merely contented themselves with having huge harems, buying up Manhattan real estate, sending their sons to Oxford and buying Paris high couture burkas for their daughters.  However, after a while this playboy vida loca lifestyle seemed to get boring and these rich Saudi princes decided to try their hands at becoming a superpower instead.  "We've got the money.  Why not?"

     But they went about it all wrong. 

     Instead of heeding the teachings of Mohammed [PBUH], they heeded the teachings of Lewis Carroll instead.  "Off with their heads!" they cried.  No no no!  That's not how you become a superpower.  Trust me. -saudi-prince-helicopter- crash/

     America has already traveled down that slippery slope and look what happened to us -- broke, decaying internally, morally bankrupt and despised by the rest of the world.  "Off with their heads" can only be taken so far in life.  Doesn't anybody read DC Comics any more or go to Spiderman movies?  A true superpower uses its powers for good.

    The Saudis first entered the superpower arena when they got all tied up in the 1990 Gulf so-called "war".  Massacring thousands of Iraqis for fun and profit?  Yummers!  So much more exciting than buying fleet-loads of Bugattis and Ferraris.  But what next?  Buying all those 9-11 "pilots" of course.  Then along came al Qaeda and ISIS, the princes' new toys after that.  Isn't it amazing what money can buy?  Their billions and trillions even purchased them an alliance with murderous Israeli neo-colonialists so that the Saudis too could bomb Gaza (and score all-access passes to Tel Aviv's nightclubs as well as testing their new weapons on people who couldn't fight back).

     What a shame.  All that money -- now wasted on terror and death.

     But wait, things have just gotten even worse in The Kingdom.  ISIS is now a hot mess and Yemenis are heroically pushing back against the Saudis' genocide-for-oil campaign.  And now Arabia's crazy-rich princes are actually fighting each other as well as fighting Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Armani, Prada and the Green Party.  Yikes!

     In the past month alone, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been jailing Saudi princes, assassinating Saudi princes and generally shouting "Off with their heads!" to any and all princes who stand in his way.

     It's not easy being a crazy rich Saudi these days.  However, being a world superpower without a conscience isn't easy either.  Just ask America.


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Sunday, November 05, 2017

Madam Jane predicts -- nothing!

    "I'm all confused about the future," I complained to Madam Jane this morning over a nice cup of herb tea.  "Do you see anything in your crystal ball that can guide me?  Should I travel off somewhere to report on the news?  Should I stay at home and chill out?  And what should I do over Christmas?"

     "Sorry," replied Madam Jane.  "I've got nothing."  You've got nothing?  Zilch?  Nothing at all?  There's no future for me?  Wha?

     I'd love to go down to Puerto Rico and help out.  I'd love to go off to the Philippines to see how that new anti-colonial president is doing.  A trip to Syria is always good.  America and Israel always keep saying that they are closing in on Assad.  Yeah, right.  Seems to me like just another lame excuse to pour more of our taxpayers' money down an already-very-clogged drain.  America's "war" on Syria is just as useless and cruel now as its "war" on Vietnam was useless and cruel back in the day.  America has no business in Syria.  But I have!

     Maybe I could go off to Juarez.  Lots of hot news there about what those NAFTA criminals are up to this time around.  Maybe I could go to Flora-duh.  Or to Washington DC and watch Joe McCarthy's ghost deck the halls.  Or else try once again to sneak into poor sweet Yemen to report on the ugly Saudi/US-driven genocide there.  Or go to almost any place in Africa.  There is such a large number of places in America's worthless has-been outdated dying undemocratic brutal and stupid empire that could use a good op-ed reporter right now -- and I am the best!

     "Sorry," replied Madam Jane.  "The stars are just not aligned in your favor."  And neither is my bank account either.  Maybe I should just hang around here in the San Francisco Bay Area this winter -- which seems to be the only sane place left in the world.

     "Yes, I can see the Bay Area seceding from the rest of the planet," replied Madam Jane.  "Perhaps you might actually have a future here."   Sounds boring.  But I'll take it.  Think globally, act locally?  Better that than no future at all. 

PS:  If I really wanted to write about some of the many lives that have been ruined by the decaying American empire, I would only have to walk down the mean streets of any American city to see thousands of human beings who have been broken by a cruel system that puts the twin evils of power and money above everything else -- and especially above the teachings of Christ, Buddha, Moses, Mohammad and just about everyone else I respect.

PPS:  Maybe I'll just have a merry little Bay Area Christmas this year and take public transportation to the Dickens Fair, the KPFA Christmas crafts fair, the Union Square tree-lighting ceremony and, in the spirit of Jesus, to all the away-in-a-manger homeless encampments that are springing up like mushrooms around here.  And perhaps I'll even buy a tree.  And celebrate Hanukkah, Buddha's birthday, the Hindu Festival of Lights, Mohammad's birthday and any other religious celebration that I can think of. 

     You can never have too many celebrations of hope -- especially when Madam Jane is currently staring off into the void and muttering, "No future.  No future at all.  I see nothing."


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