Questioning Group Think

When I was a young hippie woman I used to wear a button that said, “Question Authority.”  Questioning Authority seemed like the best policy then and it still does.

It is one of those rules  like, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Every single day for the last six months I have been getting 20-40 emails from various elected officials telling me how the sky is falling and how we are doomed if I don’t give them money I don’t have.

My partner and I are really going through some hard times after a series of minor disasters combined into a major disaster.

Things are bad to the point of my selling off my trans-library and archives on  eBay and our looking for things to sell on Craig’s List/FaceBook Swap Meets.

Mostly though,  the pitches combined with a growing feeling that both the Democrats and the Republicans actually represent the interests of Wall Street, the Banks, and the ultra rich  leave me feeling apathetic.

It sometimes seems as though the two parties met in a big board room and dealt out a bunch of cards with freedom denying special interests on them that became the make or break issues.

I’m old enough to remember when both parties had leaders who banged heads of their parties various morons and stubborn jerks until the two parties were able to work out compromises.

But then too I’m also old enough to remember when there were actual newscasts on television instead of propagandists pounding their particular messages in to the heads of the sheeple that follow them 24/7.

In June we were doing a swap meet in a small town where the cable service in our hotel room was out.  I picked up a trashy action thriller paperback and realized I actually enjoyed reading something other than “non-fiction” propaganda.

Face it many of the social critics wrote one book which they issued under many different titles.  Considering the stress we are under I’d much rather read formula fiction from Lee Child or some other fiction writer.

I mean it doesn’t take some genius prognosticator to see that mankind has totally fucked up and we are rapidly heading into what preppers call TEOWAWKI (The End Of the World As We Know It) and the SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan).

Butter has gone up some $2 since the start of the year.  Our food supply is being impacted by major drought.  We have well over 7 billion people and most people seem unwilling to recognize that population is at the root of all the multitude of disasters that are coming home to roost.

At the same time activism has fallen victim to the false allure of Identity Politics, where allegiance to and commitment to the group and group think has replaced individual thought and any questioning of authority. Woe unto the person who deviates from the Stalinistic approach to group think.  People who are wannabee activists, aka make a middle class living doing activism will mount Twitter Campaigns and troll you into submitting to criticism/self-criticism, aka forced confessions, or face social ostracism for heresy.  I know about such campaigns.  Nearly 15 years ago I was subjected to one that lasted over two years.  I came very close to suicide.

When it comes to Transgender Group think, I am a heretic, an infidel, a non-believer.  I honestly don’t give a shit.  Rights are rights and bullshit is bullshit.  I support the rights and try my damnedest  to ignore the bullshit.

We divided people up into these identity factions, told them that is the be all and end all of their existences.

When someone asserts we must be “out and proud” trans-women, I am forced to ask, “Why?”

Being transsexual/transgender isn’t the same thing as being gay.  It just plain isn’t.

For us coming out equals transition and living the sex/gender of our core being.  That doesn’t equate with being out and proud.  That equates with living the sex/gender of our core being.  They are two different things.

I have a lot of trans-friends on FaceBook and when they aren’t posting about being trans they aren’t really different from non-trans-folks.  Those of us who are old have the same problems as old non-trans-folks.

I realize there are trans-folks out there who want to celebrate their trans-ness and that’s okay but lay off the trip pushing.  Your trip is not my trip. Trans-folks are very diverse people with diverse politics and likes/dislikes.

We face a very hard future.  Identity politics has been a major part of the problem that has got us in the situation we are in.

I really don’t give a shit if a change of direction and way of doing political activism means the whole current crop of activist suddenly winds up working the floor in big box stores.

We need a new direction.  We need to rethink the dogma.



Islamic State Militants Execute Female Iraqi Human Rights Activist

From Huffington Post:


BAGHDAD (AP) — Militants with the Islamic State group tortured and then publicly killed a human rights lawyer in the Iraqi city of Mosul after their self-proclaimed religious court ruled that she had abandoned Islam, the U.N. mission in Iraq said Thursday.

Gunmen with the group’s newly declared police force seized Samira Salih al-Nuaimi last week in a northeastern district of the Mosul while she was home with her husband and three children, two people with direct knowledge of the incident told The Associated Press on Thursday. Al-Nuaimi was taken to a secret location. After about five days, the family was called by the morgue to retrieve her corpse, which bore signs of torture, the two people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears for their safety.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, her arrest was allegedly connected to Facebook messages she posted that were critical of the militants’ destruction of religious sites in Mosul. A statement by the U.N. on Thursday added that al-Nuaimi was tried in a so-called “Sharia court” for apostasy, after which she was tortured for five days before the militants sentenced her to “public execution.” Her Facebook page appears to have been removed since her death.

“By torturing and executing a female human rights’ lawyer and activist, defending in particular the civil and human rights of her fellow citizens in Mosul, ISIL continues to attest to its infamous nature, combining hatred, nihilism and savagery, as well as its total disregard of human decency,” Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. envoy to Iraq, said in a statement, referring to the group by an acronym. The statement did not say how she was killed.

Among Muslim hard-liners, apostasy is thought to be not just conversion from Islam to another faith, but also committing actions that they believe are so against the faith that one is considered to have abandoned Islam.

Mosul is the largest city held by the Islamic State group in the self-declared “caliphate” it has carved out, bridging northern and eastern Syria with northern Iraq. Since overrunning the once-diverse city in June, the group has forced religious minorities to convert to Islam, pay special taxes or die, causing tens of thousands to flee. The militants have enforced a strict dress code on women, going so far as to veil the faces of female mannequins in store fronts.

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The Tamale Underground

From In These Times:

Street vendors must skirt the law to make a living.

BY Rebecca Burns
September 8, 2014

Each afternoon in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, 70-year-old Cuala resumes her quiet game of cat-and-mouse with police. After spending a few hours openly hawking cool drinks or hot chocolates from a cart, the street vendor (who declined to give her last name because of legal concerns) stocks an unmarked cooler with tamales, making furtive lunch sales to customers in the know. The stealth tactic reduces her profits, but lessens the chance that she will be arrested and ticketed: While the sale of drinks and packaged desserts is legal, street vendors like Cuala are prohibited from selling prepared foods in Chicago.

Though carts offering tamales, elotes, cut fruit and other treats are a common sight on Chicago streets, the Windy City is one of the few major metropolises that won’t grant such vendors business licenses, citing the difficulty of regulation and potential health concerns. As a result, street vendors, many of whom are poor immigrants, are subject to harassment from police, arrest and punishing fines of up to $1,000.

Some, like Cuala, resort to subterfuge; others vend only in the early morning, when police officers known for targeting vendors aren’t on the beat; others dash off the street whenever a police car approaches.

Whatever the strategy, the result is the same: Vendors, many of whom have already been shut out of the formal economy because of their age, childcare responsibilities, language barriers or immigration status, are forced to remain in the shadows. Street vendors and their advocates say that the ongoing threat of arrest represents a major barrier to growing vending businesses enough to make a decent living. It also takes a psychological toll on vendors.

Cuala once worked temporary jobs, but can no longer get hired: “They don’t want anybody old,” she says. She began selling tamales seven years ago. But one day last year, as she was handing tamales to a customer, a police officer grabbed them, threw them back at her and threatened to arrest her if she continued to sell on 26th street, the bustling thoroughfare that runs through Little Village.

Since then, Cuala has been in “constant fear” when police pass by and sells her tamales more surreptitiously. But her new strategy can yield as little as $80 each day, she says, whereas when she sold in the open, she made up to $200. The result, she says, is that it’s now impossible to save money, and she and two adult nephews whom she lives with must get by “day by day.”

All this could change soon. Arguing that street vending is an inextricable part of the fabric of city life, a coalition of vendors, labor activists and community groups are advocating a City Council ordinance that would legalize vending.

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America’s Political Spectrum Is Not Left to Right, It’s Top to Bottom—And It has Failed the People

From Alternet:

Every day, there are populist uprisings, both large and small, all across this country.

By Jim Hightower
September 17, 2014

My father, W.F. “High” Hightower, was a populist. Only, he didn’t know it. Didn’t know the word, much less the history or anything about populism’s democratic ethos. My father was not philosophical, but he had a phrase that he used to express the gist of his political beliefs: “Everybody does better when everybody does better .

Before the populists of the late 1800s gave its instinctive rebelliousness a name, it had long been established as a defining trait of our national character: The 1776 rebellion was not only against King George III’s government but against the corporate tyranny of such British monopolists as the East India Trading Company.

The establishment certainly doesn’t celebrate the populist spirit, and our educational system avoids bothering students with our vibrant, human story of constant battles, big and small, mounted by “little people” against … well, against the establishment. The Keepers of the Corporate Order take care to avoid even a suggestion that there is an important political pattern — a historic continuum — that connects Thomas Paine’s radical democracy writings in the late 1700s to Shays’ Rebellion in 1786, to strikes by mill women and carpenters in the early 1800s, to Jefferson’s 1825 warning about the rising aristocracy of banks and corporations “riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman,” to the launching of the women’s suffrage movement at Seneca Falls in 1848, to the maverick Texans who outlawed banks in their 1845 state constitution, to the bloody and ultimately successful grassroots struggle for the abolition of slavery, and to the populist movement itself, plus the myriad rebellions that followed right into our present day.

WHAT POPULISM IS NOT: An empty word for lazy reporters to attach to any angry spasm of popular discontent. (And it’s damn sure not Sarah Palin and today’s clique of Koch-funded, corporate-hugging, tea party Republicans.)

WHAT IT IS: For some 238 years, it has been the chief political impulse in America’s body politick — determinedly democratic, vigilantly resistant to the oppressive power of corporations and Wall Street, committed to grassroots percolate-up economics, and firmly rooted in my old daddy’s concept of “Everybodyness,” recognizing that we’re all in this together.

Although it was organized into a formal movement for only about 25 years, Populism has had an outsized, long-term, and ongoing impact on our culture, public policies, economic structure and governing systems. Even though its name is rarely used and its history largely hidden, and neither major party will embrace it (much less become it), there are many more people today whose inherent political instincts are populist, rather than conservative or liberal.

Yet the pundits and politicos frame our choices in terms of that narrow con-lib ideological spectrum, ignoring the fact that most of us are neither, or a bit of both. Our nation’s true political spectrum is not right to left, but top to bottom. People can locate themselves along this vertical rich-to-poor spread, for this is not a theoretical positioning: It’s based on our real-world experience with money and power. This is America’s real politics.

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Transparent? Meh…

I haven’t watched “Orange is the New Black.”

I don’t spend money on Netflix and have no intention of starting.  Actually I wouldn’t watch it if it were free on a channel I do get.

“Transparent” has zero appeal.  I probably wouldn’t be bothered watching it if I were paid to do so.

I honestly have no interest what so ever in the fictionalized drama of elderly/middle age transition.

I have far more interesting stories in real life.

Seriously at any particular time I have at least a couple of people on Facebook who have friended me because I am a pioneer of sorts and honestly I’d much rather put energy into giving a real person a few words of encouragement than get into some sort of fictionalized character.

My world doesn’t revolve around the trans-community to the exclusion of other communities, nor do my cultural interests.

Telling someone to hang in there and that things will get better might be enough to get them through a bad patch.  A helping hand, even a place to crash for a night or two, encouraging some one to start 12 stepping or seek help if they are on a kamikaze course might just save a life.

But when it comes to movie I tend to like stupid action flix with lots of car chases, kung-fu, explosions and gun fights.  I’d rather curl up with an Andrew Vachss or Lee Child’s book than yet another trans-book.  I groove on outlaw country and hard core roots music along with jazz.

Sometimes I think the whole idea of “trans-identity/trans-community” seems way too obsessive.

I guess what I’m saying is that I like what Laverne Cox has to say as an activist but there isn’t much chance of my reviewing or commenting on “Orange is the New Black.”

As for “Transparent”… Don’t get me started on the drag face aspect and don’t hold your breath on me ever watching it much less reviewing it.

There is more chance I’ll watch “Dallas Buyer’s Club” mainly because it is free on demand now and because I like Matthew McConaughey.


Friday Night fun and Culture: Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger

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4 Ways Amazon’s Ruthless Practices Are Crushing Local Economies

From Alternet:

The price of Amazon’s success is worker exploitation, the destruction of local enterprise and the creation of a corporate oligarch.

By Jim Hightower
September 25, 2014

Even by the anything-goes ethical code of the corporate jungle,’s alpha male, Jeff Bezos, is considered a ruthless predator by businesses that deal with him. As overlord of Amazon, by far the largest online marketer in the world (with more sales than the next nine US online retailers combined), Bezos has the monopoly power to stalk, weaken, and even kill off retail competitors—going after such giants as Barnes & Noble and Walmart and draining the lifeblood from hundreds of smaller Main Street shops. He also goes for the throats of both large and small businesses that supply the millions of products his online behemoth sells. They’re lured into Amazon by its unparalleled database of some 200 million customers, but once in, they face unrelenting pressure to lower what they charge Amazon for their products, compelled by the company to give it much better deals than other retailers can extract.

Lest you think predator is too harsh a term, consider the metaphor Bezos himself chose when explaining how to get small book publishers to cough up deep discounts as the price for getting their titles listed on the Amazon website. As related by Businessweek reporter Brad Stone, Bezos
 instructed his negotiators to stalk them “the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” Bezos’ PR machine tried to claim this sneering comment was just a little “Jeff joke,” but they couldn’t laugh it off, for a unit dubbed the “Gazelle Project” had
 actually been set up inside Amazon.

This top-level team focused on doing 
exactly what Bezos 
instructed: Pursue vulnerable small 
publishers and squeeze their wholesale
 prices to Amazon down to the point of no profit, thus allowing the online retailer to underprice every other book peddler. When Stone exposed Gazelle last year in his book, The Everything Store, the project was suddenly rebranded with a bloodless name—“Small Publisher Negotiation Program”—but its mission remains the same.

Today, Amazon sells a stunning 40 percent of all new books, up from 12 percent five years ago. It is even more dominant in the digital book market, which is fast catching up to the sales level of physical books and is widely perceived as the future of publishing. Electronic book sales were non-existent just seven years ago; today about a third of all books sold are e-books, and Amazon sells two-thirds of those. Of course, Amazon also owns Kindle, the largest-selling device for reading digital books.

With his market clout, deep-pocket financing, and ferocious 
price-cutting, Bezos has forced hundreds of America’s independ
ent bookstores to close and has humbled the superstore
 book chains that once preyed on the independents and dominated the market. Borders, the second-largest chain,
 succumbed to bankruptcy in 2011. Now Barnes & Noble, the largest brick-and-mortar bookstore, is stumbling. It has lost millions of dollars, closed dozens of stores, shrunk most others, and suffered the embarrassment of its own board chairman frantically dumping big chunks of Barnes & Noble stock.

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