Why The Republican Budget Will Kill

I have always worked with disadvantaged Americans at the American Red Cross, other voluntary agencies and as a disaster caseworker for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is a subculture of working poor who can’t afford a disruption in their lives. They work one, two and sometimes three jobs, they have to make choices between food and medicine, utilities and insurance, gasoline and clothing.
These people regularly barter their skills and possessions with other working poor. “I’ll fix your plumbing if you fix my car.” “I’ll cut your hair in trade for those tomatoes”. All it takes for these hardworking families is one upset, one large expense, one doctor visit to spiral them into poverty and homelessness.
I see it again and again.
When a disaster hits, despite assistance from the Federal Government, owners become renters and renters become homeless. Elderly folks who have paid off their homes can’t afford insurance. So when a tornado or a flood or fire strikes, they have zero resources. The same thing happens with catastrophic illness and injuries. They lose function, they lose work and they lose their resources.
These are the people who have been told they would get tax deduction for a “health insurance savings account”. They make too little to file taxes and can’t afford to put aside even the $25.00 it may take to start any sort of savings account.
I’ve seen an elderly woman sitting on the porch of her storm damaged home, roof mostly destroyed and her home filled with mold. She can’t afford to fix her home, even with assistance from FEMA. She can’t afford to rent a home because she’s on a limited social security budget. And so she will live in that home until the mold, or the cold, or the hunger eventually kills her.
I’ve seen an elderly man who’s roof is leaking and windows are broken, walking to the nearby service station every morning to clean up because he can’t afford to pay his utilities. The $800.00 per month he receives from Social Security goes to medication, medical treatments, doctors appointments, car payments (to get to the doctors’ appointments), gasoline (to get to the doctors’ appointments), registration, inspection and liability insurance for his car (to get to the doctors appointments).
He eats once a day when volunteers deliver his Meals on Wheels lunch. His expenses are $900.00 per month. He makes it because he “borrows” $100.00 per month from his sister, who is also, by the way, on social security.
I’ve seen a young single mother, herself and her children sick from the mold growing in their flooded rental apartment. The Head Start site where her children go during the day is unavailable. She misses work. The family loses money.
She can’t return to work until she can find child care, which is an additional expense on her already overburdened budget. If she misses too much work, she can be fired. And in order to move to a safe, dry apartment she needs first and last month’s rent, a security deposit and utility hookup expenses. This can add up to three to four times her previous monthly rent, all due at once. Her family is separated, children gone to stay with relatives while the mother lives in a shelter until she can make enough to rent again.
I have hundreds of these stories. I have relatives with these stories. You have relatives with these stories. This health care plan from congressional republicans cuts even these small benefits. And not hundreds, not thousands, not tens of thousands but millions of Americans will suffer. And they will die.

The Razor’s Edge

still_waiting_by_katiejo911-d2ym38s

Hurricane Katrina Survivor

This article is in response to women who did not participate in the recent Women’s March (which is their right) and begrudge participation from others.

For almost sixty years I have either been or worked to assist people (which includes women) who are living on the razor’s edge of poverty. I see it all the time. There is a subculture in the United States of people who are one illness, one rent payment, one plant closing and/or one disaster away from ending up on the street. The majority of them are women. Nearly all of them are Americans. They work hard for minimum wage or less, they can’t keep enough money to open a bank account, they barter work and goods for staples. Many are chronically ill because they don’t have insurance and can’t afford to get emergency care from physicians, much less health maintenance.

Many of these people are elderly. They’ve worked very hard all their lives and paid into social security. If they have homes, they might be paid off, they might not.

But on $800.00 per month (payment to single male non-veteran on Social Security income in Mississippi in 2013) it’s impossible to pay for all the expenses: Home insurance, real estate taxes, car payment, insurance and registration, mortgage/rent, gasoline, doctor visits, medications, utility bills, clothing, food. When your bills outweigh your income, you have to make choices. Car or taxi? Insurance or taxes? Doctor or heat? Medicine or food?

I’ve seen poor and elderly people who let their utility bills go unpaid so they can have their life-saving medications. That means a walk to the nearby service station to get cleaned up and use the bathroom daily. Or spending the day at the public library because there’s no heat or air conditioning. Or eating one meal per day instead of three.

And God forbid a tornado takes their home. With the home paid for, you don’t have to pay rent. When that home is gone, that expense is added to the ones you already can’t pay.

If you think everyone in America has the same advantages as you, you are mistaken. You should be thankful your biggest problems are who’s going to drive the SUV to soccer practice and bring treats for the kids.

But do not deny people the dignity of standing up for themselves because of what they lack. That is their right.

And thank God for that.

How Investigative Journalists Failed America

 

Today news agencies are reporting that President Elect Trump has mob ties.  Some of these ties are Russian mobsters.  In August of 2016, Ben Schreckinger reported in a Politico.com article that Felix Sater, a Russian mobster had a secret meeting with the candidate at Trump Tower.  Schreckinger reports:

Sater was convicted for stabbing a man in a bar fight in the early ’90s, and pleaded guilty to racketeering in 1998 for his role in a mob-orchestrated stock fraud, according to The Washington Post.

Sater also donated the more than the maximum amount allowed to the Trump campaign, which was forced to return the overage.

Why are we hearing  this from mainstream media just now?

Trump’s campaign was supported and guided by the actions of Russian activity ordered and monitored by Vladimir Putin.  Our current president decided this was information should not come out until after the election.  Why not expose the corruption?

This is information we needed while we still had a chance to vote.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) reported they knew they were being hacked since the middle of June, 2016.  At this time, the DNC reported an intrusion into its computer network.  The cyber security firm CrowdStrike released their analysis, stating publicly That Russian hackers were behind the attack.  In May of 2016, they released the following update:

CrowdStrike stands fully by its analysis and findings identifying two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries present in the DNC network in May 2016. On June 15, 2016 a blog post to a WordPress site authored by an individual using the moniker

Guccifer 2.0 claimed credit for breaching the Democratic National Committee. This blog post presents documents alleged to have originated from the DNC.

In a report from 1992, Wayne Barrett, an experienced investigative journalist from the Village Voice wrote, “throughout his adult life, Donald Trump has done business with major organized-crime figures and performed favors for their associates.”  

On July 31, 2016, CNN published Barrett’s findings on its website, but the story never got any airtime.  Why is that?

Joel Gerstein reported in an October 21st, 2016 in a Politico article entitled “Trump seeks to keep groping claims out of Trump University suit” states:

Trump’s legal team is asking U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel to rule that lawyers and witnesses at the Trump University trial be prohibited from making any reference to “audio and video recordings made or publicized during the campaign” as well as “personal conduct accusations” leveled at Trump.

 Trump’s attorneys also want to bar discussion of allegations that Trump may have paid no federal income taxes for as long as two decades, his personal charitable foundation, bankruptcies of various companies he owned or managed, and a series of comments he made alleging that Curiel was irredeemably biased because of his Latino background.

Ultimately Trump settled this case for 25 million dollars, but not until after he was elected.  Steve Eder, reporter for the New York Times wrote in his article entitled

Donald Trump Agrees to Pay $25 Million in Trump University Settlement:

the position of Mr. Trump and his legal team appeared to soften soon after his election victory on Nov. 8. At a hearing last week, Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, expressed interest in moving toward a settlement. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were seeking to delay the trial in one of the California cases until after his inauguration on Jan. 20, while also requesting that he be allowed to testify on video.
During an May
Trump also refused to release his tax returns during the election.  But Lauren Carroll, in her article for the Pulitzer prize winning Politifact reported:
As it turns out, the 1995 returns also show it’s possible Trump was able to avoid paying federal income tax for as much as 18 years, legally.
 Why was this not leading, detailed news on our major media outlets?
During an on-camera interview in May, 2016, George Stephanoupol0s questioned Donald Trump on Good Morning America asked about his tax returns.  Stephanpoulos asked candidate Trump,”Yes or no, do you believe voters have the right to see your tax returns before they make a final decision?”
Trump made claims about not being able to release them due to an audit.  When Stephanoupolos stated the IRS had no law against releasing audited taxes, Trump became increasingly angry.
“What’s your tax rate?” Stephanoupolos finally asked.
Trump stated emphatically, “None of your business.”
Except, yes, it is our business.
Leading prime time journalists should learn a lesson from this interview.  It seems most were cowed by Trump’s wrath and the possibility he would refuse interviews in the future.
Americans rely on these outlets to seek out and give them the truth.  Investigative journalists are supposed to search, verify and report.  Instead, they covered Trump’s tweets and outrageous behavior.  Sensationalism won out over fact finding because prime time new programs are dependent upon financial sponsors.  There’s no free press unless the press is free.

So, were journalists to caught up in the Trump circus to report facts or were they just lazy? No matter which, their lack of due diligence has changed our entire electoral process, and not, I think, for the better.

(Find the original article at:

https://wordpress.com/post/blackdogvoodoo.wordpress.com/265)

Ten Reasons to Stay Home On Black Friday

black-friday

I’ve done Black Friday.  In the past I’ve risen before the sun was up to stand in line at Target to get the newest Microsoft gaming system.  It was dark and cold and windy and unpleasant with no bathrooms for hours.  Or at Toys R Us for a Cabbage Patch doll.  There were lines and people pushing to get into the door. When a pallet of the adoptable, troll-faced little critters were rolled onto the floor, they were swarmed; set upon like secondary characters in a crowd of zombies.

So, the last thing any of us really want is to throw off our sleep cycle to suffer freezing, predawn precipitation one day after a national holiday with agitated relatives to whom we rarely speak the rest of the year.  I really hate the mall on Black Friday.  So here are my ten reasons to avoid all the craziness:

  1. Christmas Spirit – With the turkey just barely cold in it’s coffin-like containers, people go crazy for Christmas.  There’s wreaths on the fronts of Mac trucks, reindeer antlers sticking out of the top of Impalas and Christmas music everywhere.  It’s like everyone has been given a big red and white striped candy stick made of cocaine.   The people are grinning insanely and ejaculating “Merry Christmas” as if they suffered from Tourette Syndrome.  Frankly, it scares me.  Especially when comes to the next category.
  2. Traffic – Yes, the Spirit of Christmas is in everyone, even when driving.  There are long, impatient lines of cars and diesel-spitting trucks backed up across intersections, causing gridlock. Yes, drivers want to be the Spirit of the Season, until a car cuts in front of them at the off-ramp.  This turns them into minions of maniacal Furies who want nothing more than to vent their rage on the next unsuspecting approaching vehicle.  Wrath begets wrath and soon there is a cacophony of blaring horns and screeching tires.  Then we get to the parking lot.
  3. Parking – With lots packed beyond capacity, swirling vultures speed around the parking area looking for tasty tidbits.  They circle again and again, looking for the closest parking place.  Statistics tell us one out of every five car accidents in the US occurs in a parking lot and pedestrian fatalities make up 13 percent of those.  Drivers intent on finding vacant spaces fail to see anything else, especially if those things are people.  Others, fatigued from hours of frantic shopping and feeling pressed by lines of cars waiting to take their place, back up into short, distracted people, otherwise known as children.  In fact, parking lot disputes and the violence they cause can be fatal as well. This year, one man was shot and killed in a parking space dispute.  His brother was hospitalized.  It’s Deathrace 2000 out there, and everyone is a target.
  4. Crowds – After successfully navigating the parking area, the shopper is confronted by more people than they knew existed in the universe.  Black Friday Violence is a new term coined due to the numbers of deaths and injuries that occur when crowds rush willy-nilly in pursuit of the perfect gift.  They all want what you came for and are willing to stop at nothing short of killing to get it.  (or maybe not)  This year, Black Friday shootings in the US killed two and injured four.  Many more were injured in frenzied crowd surge accidents.  Employees and shoppers have been trampled, some to death, at doorbuster openings. Others suffer serious assaults in brawls that break out during the inevitable rush for limited supplies of gifts.  It’s ironic that these are the same people who are loudly wishing everyone they run in to a “Merry Christmas”, presumably perceiving Christmas as a professional wrestling cage match.
  5. Lines – Anyone who has ever experienced Black Friday first hand knows they will have to stand in long lines.  At each and every store there will be as many as two dozen people standing in line for each cash register.  (Unless, of course, it’s Wal-Mart where at any given time there are as many as thirty cash registers, only two of which will be open)  Although most of the year long lines discourage some shoppers, Black Friday is the exception.  Those in front of the line are tired and cranky.  Those at the back are impatient.  If there is a perception that the line is being unduly held up by an inexperienced cashier or a befuddled shopper, the line morphs into the an unruly mob.  There are loud sighs, restless cries and expletives such as: “Oh my god!”,  “What an idiot!”, “Come on!” and “I wish I had my gun!”  Honestly, I’ve seen lynch mobs with more patience.
  6. Rudeness – The acquisition of good manners is the substance with which the wheels of civilization are greased.  Politeness (as perceived in the US) is the opposite of  audacity, that state which produces discovery and victory.  But with Christmas shoppers jostling for the best deals, manners are simply counterproductive.  When stores with doorbuster deals actually open the doors, people actually get busted.  The elbowing, shoving and even trampling of fellow shoppers and staff cause injury and death.  No one thinks to say, “Oh, excuse me.  You go first.  And a Merry Christmas!”  No, it’s more like a pack of starved dogs stampeding over one another to get to that one bone dropped behind the butcher’s shop.
  7. Phones – Now that mobile phones are ubiquitous in our nation, they have become a hazard.  People stop short to text or look at their messages.  This would be fine if there weren’t a crowd of Black Friday shoppers surging behind them, impatient and surly.  Phone users are simply oblivious to what is going on around them.  They bump into people, wander at dangerously slow speeds and run the risk of falling into an uncovered manhole.  Admittedly, that is what other shoppers wish on them when they get in the way.  Additionally, phones are often used to vent frustrations.  While it may be unacceptable to say to a fellow Christmas shopper, “Get out of my way!”, it’s perfectly acceptable to say into a phone, “This moron won’t get out of my way!”  The first is a direct attack on a second party.  The second is considered a private conversation which may not be challenged if overheard.  It’s as if the target of the insult is committing the crime of eavesdropping and therefore forfeits all right to angry retort.  And if there are small children present, the same standard prevents parents from requesting a moratorium on foul language overheard.  “It’s none of your business!  Why are you listening?”
  8. Football – Many people, men especially, would love to spend Black Friday doing anything else than shopping.  The Friday after Thanksgiving is the day many college football games are played.  With a weekday actually off from work, it’s a sports enthusiast’s paradise.  Who wouldn’t rather spend the day watching ball games, snacking on leftovers and enjoying amazing half-time shows with scantily clad cheerleaders bouncing their body parts across the television screen?  Honestly, even if your team loses, if you don’t have to put up with the mania at the mall you still come out a winner.
  9. Amazon – Online shopping is an enticing alternative to fighting crowds and being shot at.  Most online stores offered incredible Black Friday deals with savings greater than those in brick and mortar stores.  Companies like Amazon and Overstock offer a wide variety of products and services without having to travel any farther than your keyboard.  Traditional stores such as JCPenney, Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Home Depot and even Zales posted amazing deals online.  And the beauty part: they are delivered directly to your front door.
  10. Free Time – Begging out of the Black Friday shopper’s experience leaves holiday celebrants free to pursue other avenues than avarice.  The time wasted in the dangerous world of pre-Christmas shopping can be put to better use.  It gives us time to spend with friends and relatives we actually enjoy being with, or time to be alone with someone special.  Maybe you want to read a book or work on a hobby.  Black Friday is the perfect day to spend doing something enriching and fun.  And if you’re a people watcher at heart, you can still go to the mall and just enjoy yourself without the frenzied clamor of trying to shop.  Just find a parking place far from the store.  And be wary of crazed bargain hunters intent on coming home with a kill.

Death

death_by_katiejo911

I think a lot about death.  It sits in the distance, waiting patiently.  It hides along the path.  At some point it’s going to jump out and whisk me away forever.  But still I travel.

Death doesn’t scare me, at least not for now.  The Great Manuring takes everything and returns it all to its proper place on the planet.  Each and every life, be it plant, animal or fungus, crumbles to a reusable form.  We dissipate.  We become elemental.

Is there life after death?  Better to ask, why should there be?  Only humans create gods in their own image.  In no place but the mind of Man does a maker exist.  There is no divinity for slugs or algae.  They don’t worship. And yet they thrive.

In the recesses of my pompous mind a thought sometimes surfaces:  Maybe it’s my own creation.  Perhaps I will persist.  Because I create my own reality, without me my world does not exist.  Therefore I can generate an alternative in which my ka endures.  The thought is almost comforting.

But the logic is cracked and faulted.  There will be a clear edge, a terminus, an end point. And because my self will cease, I do not care.  My sole ambition is to make this space worthy.

Will I be remembered?  I hope not.  Rather let me be like a tree dissolving in the woodlands: a simple felling that creates a loamy, fecund field.

That is the most I can expect.  That is all I ask.

Killing the Crazies

killing-the-crazies

I just read in an article in USA Today that “people with mental illness are 16 times more likely than others to be killed by police.”  That’s just scary.

Mental illness is still stigmatized in American society.  People are afraid of patients with mental illness.  Stigmatization keeps those suffering from being diagnosed and successfully treated, fearing they will be considered “crazy” and be institutionalized.  In fact, treatment for mental illness today is modern and successful.  Medications and therapy are effective.  Most of those who seek and receive medical assistance lead productive, stable lives.

However, in moments of crisis, police fear what they do not know. They shoot rather than recognize and address the real issue.  They must be trained.  They must be advised.  They must be taught behaviors that de-escalate situations.

In 1849 Edgar Allen Poe was imprisoned for drunkenness.  He died that night in his jail cell of what is commonly thought to have been complications of diabetes that presented as alcohol intoxication.  Hypoglycemia (diabetic low blood sugar)  causes the skin becomes cool and sweaty. The heart rate rises, and the patient may begins to breath with excessive rapidity.  As confusion sets in, the patient may become combative and noncooperative as he loses consciousness.  These behaviors are confused with alcohol intoxication. Hyperglycemia (diabetic high blood sugar) causes the body to excrete ketones by in the breath.  Anyone near them will smell a sweet or acetone scent, often mistaken for alcohol. Lack of knowledge by police contributed to the death of Mr. Poe. Nearly one hundred seventy years later, police are still killing people because they are ill.

Mental illness is physical illness.  It is most often manageable with proper treatment. But consider that instead of bringing sufferers the medical assistance they so desperately need, police deprive these people of their civil rights as they become judge, jury and executioner.  They deliver a death sentence for behaviors, often misdemeanors, that are not capital crimes. This deadly fear of the mentally unwell is a legal injustice.  These patients never get a chance to hear a Miranda warning, consult an attorney or be tried by a jury of their peers.  They’re just murdered.

What can we do?  Educate police about mental illness and how to handle those presenting with it.  Pair them with mental health professionals who can act as consultants.  Develop policies and accompanying training that give police alternatives to pulling out their weapons.  These tools are available and need to be honed.  Maybe then we’ll stop hearing about people being shot for reaching in their pockets for an electronic cigarette or protecting an autistic adult who is acting irrationally.

And finally, learn that mental illness is an illness.  These people are in medical crisis.

Or else start shooting cancer patients.  It’s only fair.

 

Facebook Abuse Today!

So I started out my morning trying to get on Facebook and leave some photos.  I normally spend less than five minutes per day on Facebook checking in with friends or posting pictures.  But my account is locked.

Why, you may ask?  Well, apparently Facebook is cracking down (!) on people who aren’t using their real names.  But I’ve already been through this last week with one of my non de plumes, Perry Tenitiss (Mewsings on the Feline Paradigm).  Perry is a cat.  Now if you put the word “cat” into the search bar on Facebook, you’ll find literally thousands of cats who have their own account.  There are thousands of dogs there as well, and goats and horses and hamsters and snakes and lots of other critters.  If all those animals and Lady Gaga can have accounts under their names (Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta), why are they picking on me?

With my “Perry” account, Facebook wanted me to send them a government issued Identification card.  I wrote back that Perry was one of the names I write under and that I was involved in the OPM hack in which hackers attacked the federal government and got my (and hundreds of others’) name, social security number, address, email and fingerprints.  I posited that if the United States of America couldn’t protect my information, then I sure wasn’t going to trust Facebook with a government issued ID.

Then I told them I was friends with Obama and sent them this picture as proof:

LNOUPCv2.tif

LNOUPCv2.tif

Facebook unlocked my account.  Go figure.

So today I tried to get on my personal account, KateFX.  It was locked.  I sent  them the same explanation and the following photo:

facebook down

So far, I have received no response.

If you’re on Facebook tonight, check KateFX and see if my account’s unlocked.  I’ll be happy to friend you.  And join this: Facebook Hates Your Name.

If only I could unfriend Facebook!

Kate FX

 



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