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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Midland Avenue

by Amy Miller

A few days ago I saw posts on Facebook that a community run relief hub at 489 Midland Avenue in Staten Island is being evicted by the city, with an ask to call the Public Advocate's office.

The next day, I received an email forwarded to me from someone who knows I know people at Occupy Sandy. It was from a staff member for the Public Advocate's office asking for more details about the hubs and why they are being shut down. They were concerned and want to help.

The phone number for Aiman Youssef, mentioned in the Facebook post about 489 Midland, didn’t seem to be working. I wondered why they didn’t ask the Mayor directly, or go to Staten Island to find out more themselves.

Yesterday, I got on the subway and the ferry and the Staten Island subway and got off at the closest stop to Midland Avenue.  I saw rows of empty houses, people cleaning them out, and piles of pieces of houses and people's lives.  I came to 489 Midland and tables with clothes and other supplies, a big sign that said Free Food, and a colorfully painted van giving out more food and supplies - it is a church group from Rochester.  Volunteers with yellow t-shirts saying Yellow Team.

I was there for 10 seconds when a reporter with a camera walked up to a gentle looking middle aged man standing eating mashed potatoes and meatloaf off a paper plate. The reporter asks him what organization he is with. He said no organization, "just people." They asked him again, is it a church? He's says "people, churches, everyone."  They asked him where Occupy Sandy is and he directed them to a building a few blocks away, and they left.

I walked up and said hi, and said that I found it funny that some people can't understand why you aren't with a group. He told me that the day after the storm they asked him who he was and he answered, "I am a man with a half-table."  I asked if they are trying to shut him down. He said they tried, but they couldn't. I asked why they would shut him down, he said that he thinks they are embarrassed, that they were not providing help themselves.

He told me proudly about Thanksgiving, saying that they had planned for 800 but had 4,000 show up. He said "Turkey's were coming from everywhere."  Today the group came from Rochester, yesterday from New Jersey.  He was worried about the kids who lost everything and trying to collect them toys. He did not seem worried about being shut down. He said "How can you tell a person not to help another person. You can't."  

I was about to leave and thought I still wasn't sure if this was the man the Public Advocate's office was looking for. I stuck out my hand and said "I'm Amy."  We shook hands and instead of giving me his name he asked me if I was on facebook, then pulled out his phone and searched for me. I said goodbye and as I walked away I accepted the friend request from Aiman Youssef.

I walked a few blocks passed the "restricted use" signs and saw a community center with tables, a few white tents like at a fair, a sign that says "free store" and some men BBQing and handing out food. I got closer and there was a phone charging station and guy from a phone company standing at the table. He smiled and said "I can charge your phone. And they are Occupy Sandy."  I went inside the gate and noticed some familiar faces.

Conversations are happening.  I hear there has been difficulty getting information out to neighbors and tensions involved in any diverse community, especially when emotions are high and resource scarce. Volunteers and community members in the free store are discussing what it means to take what one needs.  A friend is brainstorming with me about how to communicate needs and organize systems with so many sites, Occupy, other sites, and everything in between.

A few hours later I received another email forward from the Public Advocate's office with information from the Mayor's office. It denied that the sites are to be evicted, and explains that they are going to be condensed. It said that the city is concerned for the safety of volunteers, that hubs will be moved inside for the winter, and that volunteer hubs will be combined with city hubs.  It says that the need for food and clothing has dropped and "the city would like to get things back to normal."

What I saw today on Midland Avenue, is that everyone needs so much, because they have lost everything.  Things are not and cannot get back to normal. When you walk and see house after house that are uninhabitable and business after business that are closed, the most normal thing to come across is a group of tables with household items, clothing and food.  With donations coming in more slowly, the rest of the city forgetting about the storm, these hubs are literally life
savers to meet people's basic physical, emotional and social needs.  

A month ago, the government was unprepared for the seriousness of the storm or unmotivated to help those in the most vulnerable, far from the power centers of city and state.  Local communities and Occupy Sandy have been almost universally praised for immediate and respectful mutual aid efforts. They say now that what people need most is food and safe, healthy, warm, places to live. The government and large relief organizations who intend to help must prioritize respectful on-the-ground communication and community buy-in when making their logistical plans. The leaders of Occupy Sandy who are working in places like Staten Island, and men with half-tables on the sidewalk, are not only the heroes of this disaster but the experts.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hard Work

There is a myth floating around about Americans ability to "do work" that looks at the number of hours worked compared to other countries, the focus on jobs and professions, and the innate ideological "frontier" type rhetoric that assumes that American's are self made "hard workers".  Simply put, that those that work hard are destined for success in America.  This of course is a fallacy as there are myriad factors, both social and individual, that play in.  Perhaps a more constructive way to examine the individual's role as a worker would be to look less at what an individual themselves contributes in effort, but more at what or who their contribution is for or on - how targeted, well-placed, and strategic their efforts are.

If a person wakes up in early in the morning and finds a job to do around the house and works hard at it until it is completed successfully they can sit back at the end of the day with satisfaction of a good day, that they worked hard and accomplished something.  This is the same if a person wakes up, gets themselves ready for, and then heads to work at office jobs, construction jobs, as project managers, engineers, retail, whatever.  These individuals go to work where success is measured less in terms of the effort put in, but through daily affirmation from colleagues/customers, in upward mobility, future career standing, etc.  While hard work may gain them this affirmation, it is not as much about how hard they work, but rather by how specific and strategic they work.  Both of these people have put in a solid days work.  But our society values one more than the other.  Working at home is not a paying position, thus does not carry financial value in the same way as work for pay or with a career orientation.  It is not just that you work hard, but what you work at and what the outcomes of those jobs are.

It used to be that a person could live off of the land and work done anywhere had a value in terms of satisfying life's needs.  You produced your own sustainable existence   That is no longer the case for virtually all of America and much of the world.  We now live in a "capitalized" world.  Our society is no longer based on "use-values" but strictly on "exchange values".  And the means of this exchange is based on money.  You have to make money to be able to exchange it for things even to barter with (or you can use debt, but that is another story, and still requires monetary capacity to obtain debt).  Thus if being able to have things is paramount to success and even more so to survival, whether you are a hard worker or not does not matter.  It is in fact whether you are the "right" kind of worker.

The capitalist system is based on capital being distributed throughout a local area, the globe, whatever and finding the cheapest or most efficient way of producing marketable things.  This capital - or the ones that control this capital - have power in this situation and can dictate what needs to be done both on a macro scale and in individual projects (companies), and jobs.  Thus if "the boss" or "the man" tells you this is the way something has to be done, or what needs to be done, then that is what is important, that is where your value as a worker comes from and where your value as a business asset lies.  It is not in your ability to work hard, this is a secondary factor.  For if you work hard, but do not do the job the way it is asked to be done, you are not a good worker.  You may be given some respite if they saw that you worked hard, but you will not find long term success if you keep doing the job "wrong" or for the "wrong" people, i.e. not the way the powerful capitalist reigning over you deems "right".  Therefore if you want to be successful, it is not about working hard, but continually doing what you are told and then working hard at doing it the way you are told.

This differentiates a lot of people in our society.  A hard worker does everything with a sense of drive and pride in their "productive output" whether their "job" is for "the man" or simply for themselves, their family, friends  whoever.  They approach even the mundane task with a sense of urgency and care that is guaranteed to do a decent job that doesn't cut corners or leave things undone.  A strategic worker works hard when it benefits them directly, and slacks off when it doesn't benefit them.

The problem here lies in that the strategic worker is one that will garner success in the capitalist system.  They do what they must to move forward in the capitalist system, yet may lack the integrity to move forward in another system.  Yes integrity is a strong word.  But isn't putting a genuinely solid effort into everything you do about the integrity of what you are as a human being?  When no one is watching do you cut corners, do you work hard?  When it "doesn't matter" financially or socially do you "work hard"?

No our society isn't made up of hard workers, it is made up of "strategic" workers.  They work when they must to move ahead - or simply survive - in this society.  There are plenty of workers that are actually much harder workers than so many other people but end up with little to show for it in material terms, lagging behind others of perhaps more questionable effort and principle.  The hard worker works hard at everything, and gains satisfaction from the mirror - not the pocket book.

This is even further exacerbated if they work hard in some capacity that runs against the social grain; that someone works towards altering the flow of the capitalist torrent.  Then no matter how hard they work, they are virtually guaranteed "failure" (as per our neoliberal societal measures).  There is no money in changing the system, no matter how hard you work at it.  It is inherently contradictory for a system not to maintain itself, to not self-perpetuate itself through its own unique and intricate system of social and cultural mores, rewards, and controls that maintain and expand upon its own unique status quo, its "equilibrium".  In Capitalism it is wage-labor, career success.  We also wrestle with religious and social factors, nationalism, prejudism, sexism, classism, etc.  But logically, any agent that works to change a system will not inherently be rewarded by that concurrent system unless that current system is in fact change itself.  That actor is bound to struggle and in our society today that individual is bound to be looked at as someone that "can't just put their head down and work hard".  That can't just "fit in and do as their told".  No, maybe they can't do that, but it is because the concept of a hard worker and "putting your head down" does not take into account what they're working on, only that someone in a position of (currently) Capitalist power deemed to be important.  If you're not working hard for them, as they want, you are looked at as not being a hard worker.  This is however so tremendously far from the truth.  Hard workers work hard no matter what they do or why, not just because they are told to or it strategically benefits their broader interests.  It is simply the way they do things.  If only our social and economic systems could perpetuate hard honest work over strategic shortcuts that don't bare as nice a reflection in the mirror...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Real Demographic Shift

Much of the analysis of last Tuesday’s election results has centered on the need for the Republican party to "reinvent" itself with respect to the changing demographics and the evolving electorate in the United States.  The main crux of the discussion has centered around Hispanic and woman voters, who overwhelmingly cast ballots for Democratic candidates, and with women in some cases voting against female candidates running on the Republican ticket.

Yet this demographic critique dismisses an analysis of the changing socioeconomic demographics of this country.  The disparity of income between a CEO and the average worker has exploded since the 1970s, from roughly 20 to 1 then to as much as 500 to 1 by some current measures.  During that same period, real wages have gone down by most measures despite worker productivity having increased exponentially.  Productivity and pay had tended to rise mostly in unison in the years following World War II, however they diverged around 1970. As productivity continued to rise (over 100 percent to present day since the early seventies, real wages stagnated, with virtually zero growth. While the country has become more prosperous in many ways, the average person has not.  This is especially true in the last few years of recession, as the median income in the United States has dropped. In a place like New York City--where the median income of $49,461 is now below the national average of $50,502, despite having the highest cost of living in the country--life is becoming more and more difficult to maintain for the general populace.  To put it bluntly, Americans are becoming poorer in real terms.  The cost of goods continues to rise, yet incomes are not keeping pace and people are having to work harder to keep up, resorting to more incomes per household, more jobs per person, more education for getting ahead, more loans for investing in a future that no longer carries the same probability of success that it once did.  

All of these issues are having a real effect on people's views and political desires, and especially on Americans’ beliefs for the future. Several recent polls have shown that fewer people now believe in the American Dream and its promise of “making it” through individual hard work than they did just a few years ago. And they should be less optimistic about their future and current economic realities as well, especially comparatively: it is now statistically more prevalent for individuals in Europe to move up the class ladder during their lifetime than it is in the United States.  The “dream” is beginning to show cracks under an increasingly difficult reality.  Whereas previously many people opposed taxing the rich because they believed that perhaps one day they too could be wealthy, those beliefs are coming more and more into question as that reality is not materializing.  If this trend continues (and the realities of globalization, climate change, increasing debt levels, and myriad other economic realities weighing down individuals and families leave little doubt it will), then this go-it-alone myth—one of the great obfuscations within Republican party ideology—will finally come further to light and bring the party fewer and fewer votes as the future trends away from them.  

People can talk about Arizona and Texas being swing states in eight years based on their rising number of Hispanic voters, but what will the entire nation be by that point if real wages keep decreasing, disparity of incomes keep rising, and the general public can't get out from under school, house, and credit card debt?  Demographic proportions are shifting: we are trending in a poorer, more indebted direction.  Yet despite this, the Republican party's ideology has even further embraced an idyllic pathway toward success that favors the wealthy.    

If the Republicans continue to be "the party of the rich" while more and more individuals slip back a rung or more on the standard of living ladder and see their prospects for regaining that ground fade away, then the GOP will certainly be on the wrong end of any future voting demographic.  They will slowly become less and less favorable—not based on the color of people's skin or which restroom they use—but simply based on how far underwater people's mortgages, student loans, and general existence have become.  If the Republicans are to move forward in America as the country becomes comprised less and less of the rich, then the party needs to redress first and foremost its views on poverty, working families, and lower income America. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Law and Disorder

 [This is the text of an article I wrote which appeared in the MetroOccupied's second edition in June.]

Society is said to be based on the maintenance of law and order for its social “stability”. This is done through either the creation, or the appearance, of legitimacy and “order”, and usually is forced upon others: policing, war, colonialism, globalization. The key to winning over the people in these instances is said to be winning “hearts and minds” through control of the flow and content of information. Today this is done through a limited few powerful mass media outlets deciding what information is to be disseminated.

Looking at the media's relationship to the Occupy movement brings to light a double pronged repression of both information and free of speech. The NYPD has increasingly cracked down on Occupy protests through violent repression and a squelching, or perhaps even an altering, of the media’s reporting at a grassroots level. Through these oppressive tactics the NYPD has directly changed the presentation of issues; in essence controlling information and the public’s understanding of the Occupy movement.

A recent federal lawsuit Rodriguez v. Winski illuminates these concerns in claiming that 15 plaintiffs, from city council members to journalists to veterans to Occupiers, had their 1st amendment right to free speech violently and systematically squelched by the NYPD. The suit asserts that the department can no longer police itself, thus should be placed under federal oversight. The lawsuit also alleges that TIME magazine, at the urging of the NYPD, changed an inflammatory picture of NY City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez being arrested.

Are the police and other powerful interests meddling in the coverage and choice of stories that are reported on and become “news”? Reporters from two major publications - the NY Times and MSNBC.com - have told this writer that despite their personal interests, there is no editorial level interest in the Occupy movement and they have been told not to cover it.

On May 1st this became very apparent when the NY Times, buried their story as the 12th article in the city/region section of the website and on page A24 of the print edition. The article also lead with arrests and bloodied protesters rather than why they were protesting, the numbers in the streets, or that there were hundreds of protests globally celebrating international labor day.

It is not difficult to connect the ground level repression by the NYPD, and the higher level aversion to covering the Occupy movement, to more systemic governmental and private desires to control both the flow and type of information consumed by the public. By emphasizing arrests and violence in their coverage, the media portrays Occupy as a lawless threat to the maintenance of social “order.” This portrayal easily constructs negative opinions in the minds of Americans taught to respect social order and the law. If the media was to cover the actual reasons why Occupiers were in the streets and why these people were willing to be arrested and beaten, there would be no mystery why the 99% should stand with Occupy.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Free Speech

I wanted to quickly examine a statement I read this morning from an article on an increase in legislation banning begging in many American cities. 
"Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, has appealed, arguing that begging is not protected speech."
How is asking people for help not free speech?  And how can you even begin to quantify and codify any act of asking for anything in a way that is anything but grossly subjective and completely up for individual interpretation?  The article continues to discuss that a major issue of it is the manner of asking, that people are being very "aggressive".  As if asking for help in the form of begging is anything short of an act of desperation.  The act of a person that has lost a sense of humility, and is beyond worrying about society's general concepts of dignity and what others think of them.  To a place were they are simply begging for help (listen to the first ten minutes of this radio spot).  If pan handlers are aggressive its because they are hungry and desperate.  Its the same as a person standing on top of a cliff and shouting at the top of their lungs that they can be anything if someone, anyone, will just give them a chance.  How is it possible that a desperate person asking for help is not free speech?

Lets also examine this from another stand point.  Many from the right wing and conservative establishments, and increasing amount now from the American left, are pushing for decreases on state aid and dependence on the social safety net.  They want individuals to be able to reach out to private means for help:  friends, family, random others/institutions, what have you.  They want the needy off the state roles, yet with this stance on begging they are taking a major avenue away from people in need.  This brings us to the paramount issue of and with homelessness; politicians and the public don't want solve the issue.  They want to ignore it, sweep it under the rug, and pretend that it is solely the individual's own fault rather than a structural issue that they and their lives are a part of.     

The fact of the matter is that we as people seem to feel awkward when someone we don't know asks us for something.  Skeptical, mistrusting, defensive.  Especially when that is a beggar on the streets.  They need something, and I think most people feel a slight tugging at their hearts and emotions.  We want to help a human in need.  And this to me is the core of this problem, we can't look individual people in the eye and abandon them.  So we as a society try to marginalize the homeless and keep them away from the areas that "we" and tourists traverse.  We push them out of sight, so we don't feel bad that we are doing nothing to solve a problem that is endemic within the way our society is constructed.

But more importantly to my point is that to say that asking for something, anything, is not covered as free speech is to say that questions themselves are not free speech.  It is to say that social engagement involving speaking to another person, interacting with them verbally, is somehow allowed to be judged as to the merits of what you are or are not saying to that other person.  It is in fact to be saying we are going to assess and regulate what we the people can and are allowed to say to other people and even how we express our speech.  This to me is so fundamentally the heart and soul of what free speech is.  If I can't ask you or anyone else for anything - especially help - then I don't live in a society, I live in a vacuum.  Just as language without an outlet is communication with myself and a question without a questioned is unanswerable, I need to be able to freely express myself to be considered to have freedom of speech.  If I want all my questions to remain in my head, all my solutions to come from within, and all my speech to go unheard, then I don't want to live in a society with others but rather I want to live in my own world, my own vacuum.  This is not the world we live in.  We live together with others and can't act alone without affecting others.  If I live with you and can not ask you question, I am not free to speak as I please.           

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


So I've got to weigh in on this gun debate given the rash of large scale shootings that seem to litter the news every other day now.   At what point are we going to stop saying that these are individual actors acting singularly and in isolation?  There is just too many of them:
"More than 32,000 people in the US die from gunshot wounds yearly—five times the number of US servicemen and women killed in over a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another 70,000 or so are wounded by guns presenting the troubling statistic of an average of 280 Americans shot daily."
America has a societal problem, and it's of epidemic proportions. We have a society that is rotting from the inside, and practically handing out the lethal tools to act out our angers and aggressions.  But, this issue is so much deep than the economy or guns, its about a country and a society in decline.

Lets just take this most recent rash of incidents.  A doctoral student reportedly to have schizophrenia loses it and kills/wounds over sixty people trying to watch a movie.  Then a white supremest kills another six "dark people" while they're trying to exercise their religious freedom and go to the equivalent of church on a Sunday.  Today, a man starts firing indiscriminately when someone tries to show up to evict him from his home?  Doesn't take much to put together pieces of a decrepit puzzle together here.

I have a cousin with schizophrenia that lives in Colorado.  The care is atrociousness.  He just can't really get any.  He hasn't been able to get on disability, can't keep and income or a home, has gone after his mother with a knife, and was found naked in over a foot of snow having walked up a mountain in the Rockies.  He thinks he is Jesus Christ, King James, and himself all together as if time was nonlinear.  But even with all that, he can't get proper care.  He's tried going to Minnesota and California but still can't sort it out.  I wonder what kind of care the Aurora shooter was getting?  I also wonder how much student debt he had (or that his relatives now have as it can roll over with death).  What do you think his job prospects were for when he finished school?  Or those around him that he cared about?

Fast forward to Wisconsin and we find a white supremacist trained by the army to kill, and perhaps even trained in the army to kill "colored" people.  A whole army base becomes notorious for issues with basically breeding white supremacist communities in the nineties, yet has anything been done about it?  And what about his life now?  He lost his home not to long ago, foreclosed on of course (at least he didn't shoot the people that came to kick him out - they were probably white).  How did this happen?  He couldn't stick in the army long enough for a pension, reportedly due to his racist tendencies (but maybe due to spending cuts). So he's thrown out to the wolves, but he's trained to kill, he should be fine, right?  So he struggles to make ends meet as a truck driver, ends up down on his luck.  Hate fostered deep within him, a scapegoat right around the corner, and what it seems he must have thought was nothing to lose.

Now what about Texas today?  "You aren't gonna evict me from my house!"  I can just hear him yelling out the window.  How do you think he felt about his luck?  About his prospects for the future?  What do you think his socio-economic situation was?  I'm pretty willing to bet he wasn't so close to the 1% (despite apparently living on George Bush Blvd).

It's pretty obvious here people.  What we have is a society in decline and disrepair.  Disparity of incomes have sky rocketed over the last several decades, poverty is rampant - 15% of the population, almost 50 million people (most of which are children).  Unemployment nationally is above 15% when you include everyone not working that  wants to, but some places like California have unemployment rates over 20%.  All these numbers are pretty similar to the numbers of people that have no health care.  Sadly, these are not all the same people in each of these statistics.  House after house is being foreclosed upon, job after job is being shed, a drought stricken heartland is collapsing while the government subsidizes making fuel out of corn to feed our car addiction, our inner cities are seeing rising poverty levels, epidemic crimes statistics, brutal police repression, and overflowing prisons, while everywhere is seeing shrinking service programs for the needy and plummeting education budgets.  Yet our "leaders" go on vacation while their approval ratings have flirted with single digits.  And lets not even get started on 20% of our GDP going to servicing a national debt mostly owed to China and various middle eastern enclaves that we claim we need to defend ourselves from, or on the walls we are putting up around our boarders, or definitely on the rich sitting on their verandas buying political power.

This disaster is of course all happening while we are bombarded with useless distractions throughout our daily existence.  Billboards pollute our eyes with visions of uselessness, TV's fill our ears with aimless chatter of "real" world scenarios that none of us will ever live, medications "alleviate" joint pain only to cause, dry mouth, headaches, runny noses, occasional aches and pains, impotency, possible cardiac arrests, insanity, and in "a very small percentage of test cases" death.  Advertisements for giant manly trucks help dry up the Midwest, toys, clothes, bags, TV's, video games, cars, boats, whatever!  We don't need them all, but our whole lives have become about obtaining them all - consuming them.  The message is all sitting there directly in front of us.  Obtain everything, you need it.  It will help distract you from all the things that suck about the world we live in.

But we don't seem to be able to put two and two together.  To recognize that we have created a cycle of disrepair and disrepute.  This sordid society is eating itself from within, and giving itself the tools to do it more quickly - guns.

Personally, I think a gun is too much power for one person to hold in there hands at one time.  I don't want to have the power to so easily kill in my hands.  A simple twitch of a finger and you're dead.  Not for me.  But I also, who am I to tell others what to do and how to think?  I can only lead by example and express my views with little or no expectations.  So, I'm not going to tell you not to have your guns, but I am going to tell you that you must live with the repercussions of a society foundationally infused with them.  In a perfect world guns could exist, no one would use them.  But we don't live in utopia.  We live in the the real world, and that world is falling apart.  People are desperate, they want, they need, and they can't have - they just simply don't have the means, and it is becoming entrenched.  As a society we are no longer moving up the class ladder in ways we did in the past.  Real wages have been dropping for decades, yet we've learned to live with the expectations of a society built decades ago on different parameters and with different rules.  We have become full of desperate, hungry, angry, disenfranchised people and are having problems with it.  But you give all those people access to guns, and you've got a massacre.  Just like in Aurora, Wisconsin, Texas, and every major city in the US everyday

And this is the saddest thing about the society we've created.  There was on average 280 people shot today in America.  But we only heard about seven of them.  This shit happens EVERY day, all the time, yet we do nothing.  70,000 people a year don't act alone.  They are not isolated individuals.  They are a large part of a society that glorifies guns and criminality, and then gives people every reason and desperate desire to resort to crime, anger, and despair during the last desperate moments of their struggles.

Yes, I AM for much stricter gun control, draconian control actually given the way our society is today.  And maybe it wouldn't always have to be like that.  Maybe someday we could live in a society without the desperation and hopelessness that we see more and more today.  A society that's taken the desire to kill away from people.  If the Aurora killer had proper medical care and didn't think he had to get an advanced degree he couldn't pay for to get a job he believed he had to have to be able to survive, would we still be in this place today?  Would I still be awake writing this crap?  Maybe, because we'd also have to stop creating killer after killer in the name of controlling oil wealth and mineral rights across the world with desperate "volunteers" from our failed education and economic systems.  These issues are so big, so intertwined and never ending.  What the biggest thing I'm for is a country that starts realizing that WE are the problem.  Yes, us, our country, our society, and our choices are creating the images and society we see in the news and the individuals that perpetrate this news.  Is individual choice and culture so different in England where they have 58 something gun murders a year?  Or what about in Germany where the police shoot 85 bullets PER YEAR IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY!!?!  In America we can drop that on one "perp" in one night.

Our society is sick.  It is sick at it's core.  And just as it is rotting away from the inside, we must heal it from the inside.  We have to focus on the sick and gangrenous parts: the unemployed, the destitute, the impoverished, the uninsured, the indebted, the marginalized, the hopeless.  Because they are in fact our brightest asset, the part of America with the biggest up side, the most talent and aspiration left unfulfilled.  Now of course there are a lot of different philosophies on how to do this.  But I can assure you that if we don't start there with every ounce of our efforts, it doesn't mater what we do with taxes, marriage equality, abortion rights, or even guns, we'll go straight downhill no matter what - just like we are right now.  The problem that we're having within all this though, is that we're neither controlling our anger and despair, or what we do with that anger when we are consumed by it.  Until we can figure out how to support and provide for our entire society, we can't allow people the means to so easily take others with them to the deepest depths of their despair.

Oh, and that cop that got shot today, yeah, he had a gun on him - didn't help him much though did it?