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Monday, Aug 31st 2020

A bead of sweat dropped off Fred’s nose onto the homemade bomb. His knees were damp in the pile of amber and brown leaves. His hands felt as though he had thick gloves on covered in oil as he fumbled with the wiring one last time. His lungs filled with the cool air and then he blew dust out of the hole in the ten-foot stone wall. Dogs barked an alert on the other side. A radio transmission crackled and a spotlight shone over Fred’s black ski-mask covered head as he stuffed earplugs in. He lit the fuse, forced the charge into the hole, and his feet began to try to catch up with his mind. A siren joined the muffled cacophony of foot pattering, heavy breathing, dogs barking, shots cracking and bullets striking the earth behind him and splintering the tree trunks around him. Inches from death, yet he hadn’t felt this alive in years. Then the shockwave tripped Fred up and ringing alone replaced the hideous symphony.

Friday, May 15th 2020

Laughter mixed with cigarette smoke found its way out of Odette’s mouth as it often did when Fred did an impression of the President. “Tremendous win,” he enunciated. He was trying to read her green/grey eyes. Was she…mad at him and about to tell him why in so many words? Relaxed and maybe even a little aroused? He had no fucking clue. That’s what was so vexing yet alluring about the woman. She let him wonder for a few seconds more for dramatic effect before unleashing a torrent of insults at him, his character, and his family in at least three languages. He was almost relieved that one of his guesses was correct, but it brought him small solace against the barrage of emotional missiles. Then he thought, maybe she’s just messing with me, she can’t mean that! Yet she did. In her heart of hearts she had pointed out a good number of devastating flaws that he had and his mother, aunt, and father all bore. His eyes focused on the (fake? he assumed) plant in the corner of the room.

“Odette” … she hated it when he said her name in basically any context. Then he returned fire in kind until he brought her to her emotional knees and a tear formed in her left eye. He was satisfied, but also mortified. He was better equipped to handle such a barrage due to his many friends and solid family whereas she was nearly a lone wolf at this point–he knew this all too well. She put the cigarette into the ashtray half-heartedly as she always did and the smoke continued to rise from the abandoned cigarette above the purplish lipstick-stained filter. He had just ruined his chances of hooking up with her that night and felt slightly defeated, but also dizzy and warm all of the sudden.

She looked at him dead eyed and said, “You look pale as shit, what’s your sugar at?” He blinked his eyes and felt around for his kit. She picked it up from the table and handed it to him. He tested–342. He loaded up a shot of insulin and gently stabbed it into his side. A blessing and a curse, this mortal act always brought them back to square one and erased all scars from previous fighting. She came and sat on his lap. “Do you want coffee,” she asked.

“Yeah, later,” he said and began kissing her shoulder and neck.

 

 

 

 

Democracy

testimony and questions

skeptics and bias

rallies and riots

ballots and delegates

lies and deception

demagogues and populists

elitists and insiders

jail and immunity

signs and shouting

chants and marches

police and protestors

 

 

The Time for Courage is Now

Our country is facing an enormous lack of leadership right now. Sure, the corporate elite are tacitly running the show, but the loudest voice of all has remained relatively silent. That voice is that of the people, the working people, of the United States of America. The people who really run this country–only they don’t know it. By the force of our labor, we keep the wheels turning. Nothing gets done without working people. The richest three American men (without whom everything would run fine) own significantly more wealth than the bottom half of Americans–about $90B more.

Meanwhile, there are people being price-gouged out of affording life-saving medicines and others who go to bed in the streets and/or hungry. This injustice is egregious. The wealthy let their money work for them while the poor (in some cases literally) break their backs working everyday. The corporate elite have provided a seemingly endless series of distractions as well as employed other tactics to keep the working class ignorant of their daily atrocities. They’ve also bought and paid for the mainstream media which, despite 45’s ranting, actually is biased, but not against his stupid, inconsequential self. Do they entirely fabricate stories? No. However they do focus on drivel when more humanitarian and legitimate stories should be under the spotlight. Or, if they do cover such stories, they slant them towards the interests of the American Military Industrial Complex.

Are you satisfied with the way things are going? No? What are you going to do about it? Vote? That won’t be nearly enough even if, God-willing, we get a true non-establishment candidate. It’s time to organize to use any means necessary to end this national order. We may be best-off by working within the channels of law and civil disobedience to achieve a more egalitarian society. Yet we must not falter now. We owe it to our working brothers and sisters to lift them up. The wealthy must be knocked down in order to accomplish this. Withholding labor is the key to bringing the wealthy to heel. With no one to wash their Porsches, cook their meals, or build things for them they will quickly realize how helpless and worthless to society they are.

Sure, things would get ugly, but if the working class held firm and only worked to directly benefit their own class and let the wealthy “eat cake,” things could change. If we seize their properties, all the better. They need to learn the lesson that no one earns anything. The overwhelming majority of American society is entirely dependent upon itself. It needs food raised or grown elsewhere in the nation. Some say we aren’t ready for a revolution for this very reason. Bullshit. We are the ones who grow and raise the food. We are the 90% and the 10% aren’t going to be able to kill us all. They will realize they’re hopelessly outnumbered and relent, or suffer the consequences if they don’t. But aren’t they us too, just more lucky and greedy? Perhaps, but it is that greed and economic system which bears no relation to merit which must die.

Automation is only going to make this crisis worse, as those who own property will be able to produce goods and services without human labor. This is why we should seize the moment now and start a national strike. This would be a working strike, using old fashioned barter and trade instead of a currency which has been so ill-distributed that it should be meaningless. People don’t need much; safe food, shelter, and water are basic human necessities that are currently being denied too many people in our current system. Poor cities across the country are struggling with water quality issues and this is unacceptable. Why hasn’t the work been done, the pipes in Flint replaced? Because no one is paying for it. Flint probably doesn’t have the funding for such a large infrastructure project. So one of two things should happen, A) a larger government such as Michigan or the federal government should provide financial aid for the project, or B) infrastructure workers should come to an agreement with the citizens of Flint for compensation. This would require the seizure of farm and ranch properties by and for the people of Flint. Obviously doing away with traditional currency would complicate trade, but the benefits of equality would be worth it. Money is often misspent on things people don’t need.

The whole developed world is going to need to change its lifestyle to accommodate the growing population and adapt to the effects of the climate crisis. We mustn’t be afraid of enormous structural changes to society–they will happen to us if we don’t make tough decisions now. Forget Andrew Yang’s $1000 for those 18-60 or whatever his plan is. Let’s go out and take that over $1000 worth of resources for every single person that Bezos, Buffet, and Gates are sitting on.

Sexuality in Oz and the Handmaid’s Tale

While at first glance, sexuality may seem to be treated entirely differently in the two shows Oz and the Handmaid’s Tale, there are also striking similarities when viewed with an objective eye. This is true despite the fact that Oz centers on men and The Handmaid’s Tale (THT) mostly on women. Sex in Oz is often violent rape whereas in THT, sex is usually coerced. In both universes, sex is forced by one party onto another the majority of the time and both societies are very structured ones within larger, more lawless worlds. The outside world of Oswald State Penitentiary is the fictionalized version of the 1990s-early 2000s law and order justice department of the United States of the time. The outside world of the infant nation of Gilead in THT is Canada, the colonies, and ostensibly the rest of the globe who is steering clear of America’s nuclear civil war.

Sex in Oz is often gay sex which cannot produce children, which is somewhat similar to the futility of “the ceremony” in Gilead of which the rare pregnancies bear a one in five chance of producing a child healthy enough to survive. Sex in both societies reinforces the hierarchy of the society, both of which are ruled by men–in Oz the ultimate rulers are the male warden and mayor and Emerald City director Tim McManus, in Giliead the leaders are the male commanders. One might also say the C.O.s in Oz are “rulers” or even that the heads of the prison gangs are rulers, too, with some justification. In Oz, sex is forbidden, but in the Handmaid’s Tale, sex is a privilege. The C.O.s have the privilege of having sex with the inmates in Officer Howell’s case and in the case of the officers who had sex with Shirley Bellinger, the female death row inmate. While commanders explicitly carry the privilege, the C.O.s in Oz can get away with having sex with those of lower status as well as of their own. Some characters in each show are prohibited from having sex altogether.

The quintessential example of this is the priest, Father Mukada in Oz, however THT has entire classes of people who are forbidden to have sex. These are the Marthas, those sent to the colonies, men who haven’t been assigned wives, and the Aunts who are akin to the C.O.s in Oz in other ways. These characters provide a contrast with the overtly sexual nature of each society. The status of women in each show is somewhat similar. Women are treated as sex objects in both shows–in Oz, all women implicitly are because the men are around women so infrequently, whereas in THT, only fertile women are explicitly sex objects. The treatment of sexual assault however is much different. In the Handmaid’s Tale those who are sexually assaulted are blamed and shamed and the perpetrators put to death, whereas in Oz, it is either a fact of life that is accepted as part of the natural hierarchy or a crime which can lead to punishment of the perpetrator. The purpose of sex, though, is one of the most notable differences in between sexuality in the two shows.

The function of sex is completely opposite in each show. Sex in Oz is about dominance and or pleasure whereas in THT, sex is supposed to be a duty and purely for procreation. Gay sex is forbidden in Gilead, as is sodomy, both of which are commonplace in Oz. Both shows put their characters in extremely structured societies with clear rules about sex. Emerald City is a prison within a prison–consequences of sexual impropriety are swift and heavy yet don’t lead to death sentences. Gilead is a post-apocalyptic nation governed by religious extremists and the consequence of having illicit sex could be death. In both series’, consensual heterosexual sex is rare where the drama is centered and often clandestine when it occurs. The natural consequence of heterosexual intercourse is treated very differently in each show–in THT it is supposed to be a miracle and a blessing, but in Oz, procreation is either not allowed in the case of prisoner Busmalis, or an accidental inconvenience in the case of Officer Howell’s pregnancy.

Both shows depict sex as restricted and complex in the confines of the highly structured society, one governed by religion and the other by justice. In each show the people are not truly free so sex is a privilege. Hierarchical societies create boundaries around sex and obliterate other boundaries. Both shows are critical of the idea that sex should be restricted for some people and argue that doing so causes more problems than it solves.

 

Gestation

IMG_2540send in the clowns with the shoes that are brown

surrounded by the hoodlums and the rats

in the city where people beat on each other with baseball bats

fractured mind in the warm dark womb

above ground graves tied in with leaves to tombs

body language says it all

people shooting up Wal-Marts in malls

and they say they’re not political?

or am I mis-remembering.

 

 

Should You Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

(image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France – Le Penseur d’A. Rodin (MAMC, Strasbourg)

I will apply normative ethics to this situation. Normative ethics assumes that there is only one ultimate criterion on which moral conduct can be judged e.g. the “golden rule” i.e. “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The two major ethical schools of thought that I will apply to this dilemma are, utilitarianism, which bases ethical decisions on the consequences of the act, and deontology, which is concerned with the purity of the motive behind the action. I will be using the framework of the United States federal election system to address this question using the different ethical methods. What complicates this question is the fact that one has several choices and not one binary choice. One can choose to vote for the greater of two evils, the lesser of two evils, not vote at all, write someone in, or vote for a third party candidate. Obviously voting for the greater of two evils is unethical.

Consequentialism

act utilitarianism: a tallying of the pleasure versus pain an act produces.

Voting for the lesser of two evils would be morally correct under act utilitarianism, because if one does not vote for the lesser of the two evils, it is more likely that the greater of those two evils will win and everyone will suffer those consequences. Under this ethical method, one would be obligated to set aside their personal dislike of the candidate they find less objectionable and vote for that candidate in order to increase the overall happiness of society by preventing the election of the worse of the two.

The problem here is that this will never lead to better choices of candidates to vote for, because one is never voting based on who they really think would be best to lead the country–the choice is predetermined based on whichever two candidates run. If both candidates are awful and one cannot distinguish any significant advantage one has over the other, it would be morally correct to not vote, write someone in, or vote third party.

rule utilitarianism: would the action lead to more happiness if it became universal law?

If everyone voted for the lesser of two evils, the lesser of two evils would win every time. One problem here is that which candidate is the lesser of two evils is supposedly objective. So really, this would lead to what most people currently do. In 2016, according to a Pew study, the majority of voters chose their candidate primarily because they were the opponent of the other candidate.

The second problem with deciding who to vote for based on this criterion is that, again, it will never lead to achieving better candidates for office–better meaning candidates running on policies more in tune with the goals and dreams of the people. As a rule, it leads to worse outcomes in the long run. Now if everyone boycotted the election, wrote someone in or voted third party, either there would be no winner and the country would be in a state of turmoil–which could easily have negative consequences–or we could have the first third party candidate in decades which could only be a good thing due to the two-party gridlock that has been plaguing our political system. Therefore rule utilitarianism dictates that one should write-in or vote third party, provided they think that choice would be better for the country than the top democratic and republican candidates. Otherwise, there really is no ethical choice to be made, aside perhaps from not voting. If a large enough number of people don’t vote, the candidates should realize that they do not have the mandate of the people to govern as they see fit, but again if no one votes as is the circumstance rule utilitarianism would require, the consequences would be negative, so it would be most unethical not to vote.

Deontology

Kant’s categorical imperative: Treat people as an end, and never as a means to an end.

The opposite of this is using someone as a tool to achieve something. This means one should vote for the candidate they actually believe would be the best leader. If one votes for the lesser of two evils, they are using their vote for one candidate as an instrument to keep another candidate out of office. Voting for someone you actually want to win, rather than against someone you want to lose, accounts for the intrinsic merit of the candidate. This of course could mean writing a candidate in or voting third party. The danger here in the federal election system of the U.S. is that, unless a large portion of the electorate happens not to vote for one of the top two candidates, which is highly unlikely, your vote is not helping the lesser of two evils win. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the same as helping the greater of two evils win. It is wrong to vote for one candidate who you believe to be the lesser of two evils because it would be using them to beat the candidate you are most afraid of which is morally unacceptable under the categorical imperative.

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