Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ramping Up My Activism: Calling US Senators and Congressperson

The last week or so I've ramped up my political action. It's been a rollercoaster of emotions journey and has given me some challenges to overcome and to learn from. My actions have included:

  • Calling my Senators and Representative in the US government to register my support, my discontent, and my thoughts on some of the legislation and actions taken by the Senate and the House of Representatives
  • Started volunteer work for the Ameya Pawar campaign for the Illinois Governorship
Frankly, both activities go against my somewhat shy nature. Maybe it's my empathic nature where, for myself, I prefer certain contexts for being solicited or approached by someone else, and I don't have many contexts where I like being approached by most strangers (even when I'm shopping or something like that). So if I don't like being approached, why would I approach someone else in that context?

Calling the office of a Senator or Representative doesn't necessarily make me so prickly. Their job is to represent me and my fellow citizens in their state and districts, so part of their job is to know what me and my fellow citizens want and need for them to do in our governmental institutions. Plus if they didn't want to make direct contact with someone, they can hire someone to take calls and messages for them. Honestly, I would be fine just leaving them a voicemail if my opinion and feelings reached them.

My challenge comes down to location of where I would make the phone calls. Let's just say TPTB at my 9-5 don't have the same political sympathies as me, so I don't want them hearing my political business. The summer has made things a little easier (especially at this point when the humidity and heat has calmed the hell down, at least had for a few weeks. . .), so I found somewhere outside to get away to. I'll just have to see what happens when the cold weather sets in.

I delayed making the first call because I had to get organized. I wanted to know what I wanted to call about and what I wanted to say. The first part gave me little trouble: [45] deciding to end DACA in six months triggered my rage to ramp up a couple levels. I tried writing a script for myself then said screw it. I didn't want to sound wooden and didn't really think a phone call was the appropriate time/space for some rando citizen to go on a minute long tirade or diatribe. I didn't think of it then, but I also figure that the number of callers play a more important than necessarily the eloquence of an individual caller.

Instead, I looked up the Senator I wanted to call and DACA/DREAM Act and saw that they were involved in the committee that dealt with these topics before bringing it to the rest of the Senate and that he supports the passage of the DREAM Act. I called, reached the person who answers the phone and records the sentiments of the citizen calling, told them how I felt, acknowledged that they recorded how I felt, then we hung up.

I feel like I only made one mistake: referring to the Senator by their first name. The person I spoke with did a favor and politely referred to them as Senator, which helped me realize the mistake. I resolved to keep in mind not to do that again and refer to a Senator as Senator [last name] and Congressperson as Congressperson [last name]. Didn't dwell on it much more than that as I chocked it up to inexperience and nervousness.

That night, I set up a spreadsheet (because that's what I do these days, set up spreadsheets to stay organized, don't we all?). On the left side, I type in the causes/acts/actions, list on the top Senators and Congressperson, then type in N/A for nothing to call them on or write in the date I called them to discuss. At some point, I want to add my state government officials representing me to do the same thing, maybe also my county and city officials, too. Look out, government officials, I'll be calling you.

Something else occurred that night that helped develop the tactics for the next day. I had originally planned to call my other Senator, but looking through my e-mails from the organizations that I have regular donations set up, I learned that in a couple days, the House would be voting on HB3697 The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act and everything about it sounded horrible. I called my Congressperson the next day, told them that I appreciate their support for the DREAM Act and wanted them to vote against HB3697 because it felt cruel, unAmerican, and inhuman since a lot of action in it just required suspicion, not actual evidence or proof.

To build on some type of interaction feedback loop, the person at the Congressperson's office I spoke with notified me that it's offically called the DREAM Act of 2017 since there are DREAM Acts from previous years, too. Using that information, I called the other Senator the next day and made sure to tell them that I supported their stance on the DREAM Act of 2017. In the meantime, though, I had learned the radio that day or the day before that the Far Right in Congress want to attach funding for the Mexican Wall and more Border Security in the DREAM Act of 2017, so I made sure to let them know that I was against all that and that I wanted a good, reasonable and moral/ethical DREAM Act of 2017, not one that will make things worse.

It feels like I'm a node or hub of intercourse for all these matters as I listen to the news, read up on my e-mails that provide news and information on these acts and legislation up for debate and votes, keep up with friends and others affected by the actions of Congress and the President, and even listening to people I'm speaking on the phone at the offices of my Senators and Congressperson. By the last phone call to one of my Senators for the week, I actually felt like I was providing information to the office that they may not have had on hand (unless they just had a really good, personable person on the phone who knows how to make a person feel valued and worth listening to).

I plan to make more phone calls to my representatives as weather and opportunities give me opportunities. I'll probably even rehash one topic with the first Senator's office as I have refined my knowledge and the situation has developed more then move onto some additional topics that have come to my attention over the weekend. I might actually enjoy becoming known and friendly with the people who answer the phones. For the most part, my Senators and Congressperson generally stand for the things that I do, so, if anything, they'll appreciate getting my support not just in the voting booth, but also over the phone. They may even get familiar with my name, as they hear it over the phone and through petitions, faxes, and other forms of communication they receive from me.

We'll see what happens there. For now, though, I'll have to end this blog entry. I had planned to get into volunteering for the Ameya Pawar for IL Governorship campaign, but it got late. I didn't expect to write so much about calling my representatives. You should do it, too. I want to write about volunteering for the campaign sometime later this week, though. That work really gave me the emotional roller coaster and has done more to develop my thinking on electoral politics and citizenship, so the next one will get into some amount of political philosophy wonk. It should be interesting and emotional.

I hope to see you come back!

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Project Update: Republicanism and Contributing to Society

I have accumulated a few things to blog about. I originally thought about posting it under one entry, but

  1. That would take a huge block of time and
  2. It would break guidance that I had given myself and blogged about in the past. When possible to break a topic or chunk of writing into multiple parts, do it. For one, it allows for releasing something in the first place rather than just keep adding to it preventing it from release. Two, it shows some type of progress. And three, holding back parts and future releases provide incentive for people to come back.
That being said, I'll post things piecemeal.


Over the last few weeks, after finishing The Healing Power of Doing Good, I started reading Citizenship & Community: Civic Republicanism & The Modern World by Adrian Oldfield (side note: Holy Crap! This book goes for $170 new on Amazon, and I'm able to borrow it from the Chicago Public Library. Love the library). For those who blanch at seeing me reading a book about republicanism, note that I'm reading it to get a better understanding about why many of the early citizens of the US really liked republicanism and tried to get the rest of the population into it.

You might blanch, however, in that Oldfield has made some good arguments to make republicanism appealing. Disclaimer first: I've only read about one third of the book so far, and I've run into a couple statements that strike me as a little problematic and seem to make some form of exclusion as inherent to republicanism. Oldfield has already alluded that he will address the matter of how to include and exclude entities into citizenship of a republic, so I will hold my judgment until I'm done reading the book.

I think some excerpts of my words on social media about the topic will help paint a picture of my thoughts on republicanism:

From this point, I'll quote my own words from the Facebook thread on the topic because the interesting conversation that coaxed my thoughts out on the topic happened there. People posted their own thoughts, so I expanded on my interpretation of republicanism and how the Republican party did or did not fit the definition, at least, as I understood it.
Well classical liberalism basically comes down to "get off my lawn and let me do what I want, and I'll stay off your lawn, too!" aka protecting negative rights.

Republicanism is definitely a trickier one ro define. Some say it's government without a monarch. Others will say it's government of the people FOR the people, meaning that the republicanism is about people engaging in civics, government, and politics as a form of duty for the betterment of their nation, and also acting on the local level to build community and strengthen the web of society.

Frankly, I see the difference between the GOP and DNC is the GOP has a little trouble saying "get off my lawn" or even "get out if my town/country" while the DNC says "let's figure the best way to provide for everyone, so we can minimize how much we have to go onto eaxh other's lawns."

Between the two, I prefer the DNC approach. Nonetheless, both of them really do neglect that we are social creatures and we would benefit ourselves if we worked directly and personally to benefit each other, along with some of the government programs. Some current day Republicans believe that and the GOP may have a better handle on the propaganda, but both parties could work harder to encourage it.
Someone else showed curiosity about the hypothesis, but they wanted more examples and concrete discussion to show how well the hypothesis actually fit reality. Could be an interesting task, but I don't have the time for it, especially with how social media arguments can drag out forever and require plenty of research and link hunting. LIke I said, I don't have the time for it and have a lot more other things I would rather be doing. That being said, I responded as follows:

The reasoning is mostly based in definitions, mostly implicit, but also explicit as exposited by Wikipedia, some books I'm reading to understand American culturo-political history, and smatterings of discussions here and there.

And I guess I could drag out examples upon examples of how the political do and don't meet these definitions, but honestly, I don't have time. It would mostly be done to back up a FB assertion, and an FB debate on this topic could easily take up days, if not weeks. . .I'll just rely on group think here.

However, feel free to provide counter examples against my assertion. And I'm not saying counter examples of individual outliers. I'm talking examples from party stances and leadership.

In some ways, though, I would say Obama tried to encourage republicanism in his farewell speech. Hillary even tried to point out her republicanism, especially on her younger years of pro-bono work & things she did to help families & women.

Heck, part of me wonders now if the problem some people had with Clinton was too much true republicanism & that she was calling people of this nation to duty.
My readings into republicanism also sparked the next post:

Someone made a cynical remark on Facebook that if we followed that rule, "all the Republicans" wouldn't meet the definition, so I responded with the following:
I wouldn't say ALL. There are at least a couple who sincerely believe in dedicating themselves to the good of the nation (and I expect voted against Trump). For instance, interview I heard of Rep Adam Kinzinger (David Axelrod interview of US Congressman Adam Kinzinger for a district in Illinois) leads me to think he might be one of the good ones. Nonetheless, they're few and far between & I'm learning a little more that Republicanism may actually have requirement to be based on the exclusion of non-citizens at certain times, and they have a too easy time deciding when non-citizens don't matter.
Also, in that thread, I started ruminating about a couple problematic issues regarding the initial post.
And now I've already the problematic in this statement: What about people without capability to contribute & help because of disability or just plain opportunity or skill? Republicans would probably argue my original point (work requirement to get welfare benefits, etc).
Followed by
I guess one answer to allowing disabled people into citizenship would be that it gives able people an opportunity to contribute.

And as for people without opportunity or skill, working on research, education, or job skill training with a contributory plan/goal could be a worthwhile requirement.
So republicanism as a concept compels me. I feel pulled to the end of this book figure how Oldfield goes about explaining the process of determining who is and who is not a citizen of a specific republic.

I appreciate the aspects of repbulicanism that argue that citizens have a duty to contribute toward crafting the social fabric and political fabric to give them their character and make it a positive thing. Over the last a couple months (unfortunately the last couple months), I've come to take on that duty as an imperative responsibility that we should all take up.

Frankly, I've gotten a little disappointed in the lack of response to my latest activism in electoral politics (more on that in future) because I've seen plenty of complaints that people need to do more than social media activism and voting. They seem to believe that going to protests and rallies and calling their elected representatives to provide support or recrimination will do the work they see needs to happen. I believe the good of the social fabric requires more, including participation in electoral campaigns, and I hope to goodness that others will see it, too.

I still hesitate to fully stand behind this republicanism, however, for the reasons that I pointed out: some people don't have the capability to contribute and participate. Some people receive recrimination and even violence when they try to participate or even when they just want to live with affecting other people, so they don't have the opportunity to really participate. When people receive that kind of treatment by a social fabric or a political system or execution of said political system, I can't get behind it.

For all I know, I'm a convert to socialism, communitarianism, Associationism, or some other system that has more of an inclusive and welcoming approach to the people involved in it. I still have more research to do, but the idea that people who have the ability and opportunity have the duty and responsiblity to participate and contribute to the social fabric and politic system, rather than just to seek liberty from it and other people, really attracts (even though some amount of liberalism needs to be included, too). As I said a time or two in my social media posts and threads: A poltiical and social system BY the people FOR the people.

Also seeing Oldfield discuss the differences between republicanism and liberalism has given me some material to use for my current essay. People's reaction to the community does have some origin in the tension between republicanism and liberalism. It will still require some work to mold this argument and attach concrete history to it. On the bright side, my first draft just needs the argument and trace concrete history. I had most of the examples later while doing rewrites.

Interesting project experience that loops back to the last entry: Earlier this week and many times in the past, I ruminated a lot over my definition of utopia and dystopia, how they related to all the different facets of diversity discussions and activism and the different arguments involved, and also the basis of good/evil and right/wrong in these types of situations when the mighty who keep winning can easily fall back on might makes right.
Then I remembered my main goal: emotional attunement. Without emotional attunement or at least the possibility of it (since individuals on their own can fall out of emotional attunement by no fault of society then cause the people around them and throughout society fall out of attunement for all the wrong reason), people feel wrong and seriously wrong. I also need to work to understand emotional attunement more, so I can discuss this matter more. Nonetheless, at this point, having it as a goal at least, helps a lot when having these tough questions running through my head and I don't have a "logical" or "provable" answer.

Well, there's that update. I'll have more project updates at some later date. Sooner than that, though, I plan to provide some updates on activism and an essay I'm forming in my mind about the housing bubble burst ten years ago, how high and low taxes can help encourage or discourage such phenomenon, and how this argument actually makes for an interesting argument for higher taxes on risky entrepreneurial behavior. Stay tuned for more!

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Goals, Intention, and Emotional Attunement

I plan to get a little personal this time, but I do it in service of expounding on my projects and activism. The last month or so has woken me up into a combined flurry of rage (at the government), research and learning, and processing projects, life, my goals, and my relating with other people. All this reminds me and teaches me the reason for doing all this.

My focus and goal is to understand people’s need for emotional attunement and how society, cultures, communities, families, and other social institutions assist people to feel attuned. Studying and writing utopianism and dystopianism, especially with a focus on the reasons for people wanting to be in them or not, has an obvious connection to try to understand emotional attunement. The same goes for activism, the desire to increase emotional attunement in the world. I can’t say I have all the answers from these ventures, or that I have many answers, but maybe I’ll figure a few along the way with a couple questions to add to the world, too.

I’ve focused a bit on the personal level of emotional attunement over the last week. Without getting into details, I’ve run into a situation or two in which I’ve felt a little more excluded and isolated lately. I have had a little comfort that a fair share of married men around my age feel this way. It also makes a little more sense of why men have a higher mortality rate after the loss of a wife, usually from their death but maybe also from divorce. Suffice to say, I’ve gotten lazy about meeting new people and have gotten a little too dependent on my wife for meeting new people and making connections.

Probably the biggest issue I’ve had lately comes down to my mind going blank in social situations. I wouldn’t call myself shy or anything because I don’t get anxious in anticipation of social situations or while in them. My mind just goes blank because I can’t come up with anything to say, like I don’t have the knowledge available for a conversation or the data to break the ice. I’m probably dealing with a confidence issue, but it’s not because of emotion but because of lacking knowledge and practice.

When my social experiences don't make sense, I find myself scouring the Internet, typing all types of questions into handy dandy Google. Part of this scour session settled on tips for questions to ask and things to say about yourself when at networking events.

One of the suggestions really struck me as useful: After saying hello and/or exchanging names, say something like “I’m here to [state your intention], how about you?” Extrapolating on that for a social party, you can say something like “I know [host/relate connection to host] through [reason for connection], how about you?” I really like this approach for social situations because if you don’t share something about yourself, it could come off as gatekeeping. An old habit I used to have at parties was grilling people to find something in common, but I could see them getting the impression that they're being gatekeeped or interrogated, too.

Then it hit me: having and knowing your intention, what you want to do in the moment, what you want to do in your situation, what you want to do in the medium term, what your goals are in life goes a long way. I don’t mean in any spiritual way, but maybe in some profound psychological way, both in the way we think of ourselves and the way we project ourselves.

Honestly, I feel silly realizing this at age 39. Teachers, parents, attempted role models try telling us to figure this shit out, so we can pave a path for our careers and college paths. This evening, I witnessed on the 'L' an older man lecturing a couple of high schoolers about the importance of doing good in school, staying in school, staying out of the gangs, doing well in college, then getting a good career. His focus for them was to get the girl, which makes for a deficient goal to me. Sure, having a good relationship helps with happiness, but (thinking the kids want a girlfriend and settled down with a girl jumps to an assumption -- what if they're asexual or homosexual and) this kind of advice doesn't go far enough. Kids need enouragement to think about things more concretely and come up with more specific but grander goals and plans.

Through privilege, my focus on reacting to my environment rather than acting on it because I didn’t have perspective, and just having the right amount of mental stimulation without concrete inspiration or steady emotional attunement, I didn’t fully understand the consequences of mortality, the vastness of potential out there, and the limitations that come from human prejudice, lack of imagination, and ignorance. Without that kind of persective, I couldn't understand my potential to affect the world or become more attuned with it. Now I plan to have goals and intentions in mind, from why I'm walking from one side of the house to the other to what I plan to accomplish with my life.

And I believe this goal setting for discovering what does and does not work for emotional attunement will have twofold results. First, it will provide me concrete goals to aim for (even though I may need to work more on benchmarking). More importantly, though, I feel like it will help me attune to society and other people better. Seeing a goal and working toward it will provide focus and flow. It will also help to connect with people and institutions/organizations that connect with my goal (and who doesn't connect with wanting emotional attunement?), which I believe will load to more flow and attunement with other people and enjoyment from interacting with them. After all, what is more compelling and attractive than someone with a plan and the humbleness not to be boring about it?

I look forward to it.

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Sunday, September 03, 2017

Take Me Out on a Lexdate: Buy Me a Coffee! and also Project Update and A Week of Armchair Tweets


As you can see all over The Lextopia and my social media, I have generated all these links about buying me a coffee. My wife, Michi Trota, turned me onto Ko-Fo, a service that allows for one-time minimal-cost low-amount support from people who love a creator's content. In general, the idea is that a supporter is buying the creator a cup of coffee (though I don't object to receiving more!).

I wrote the following as my elevator profile:

Spiritual, communitarian geek ruminating on culture, writing & utopia. Also an amateur science fiction and academic writer and activist (stress the amateur for activist).
My message to petition for support:
For many years now, I have been working on an ambiguously dystopian novel and a collection of essays on utopianism and dystopianism, as assigned to me in college, but I hope to make a product for public consumption someday. I have also posted and written for my blog, The Lextopia, which I hope has entertained, educated, opened eyes, and raised questions. I may engage in some social and political activism while I'm at it.

Upon completing the novel and collection of essays, I would love to make a career in writing, fiction, non-fiction, and maybe academia.

My current projects don't pay the bills, so I have to work the day job. Neither does a writer necessarily make a living wage without making it big or working long long hours. It takes a fair amount of time and effort to produce and release my work. Not only should we all get paid for good work that is enjoyed, but money helps free up time for me to actually make it. Working a day job pays the bills but does leave me with little time and energy. You can help make more for you to enjoy.
So if you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee. I appreciate any and all support that you can provide.


I've had a strange flurry of online research and organizing my thoughts over the last month or so. At some point on this here blog, I wrote something about my research about late 18th-century and 19th-century US politics and bits of history has informed my understanding of today while today's annoying state of things has influenced my understanding of the times I'm researching. My big advances here involves electoral politics and how the census gets involved in determining the number of seats in the House and Electoral College, especially the bits about how even people that get counted in the census but can't vote still enter into the count to determine the number of seats.

Knowing that aspect also sheds a lot on the competition that states can have against each other to compete for people to live in their borders. Or on the other hand, the underhanded and, as I see it, immoral and unethical actions to increase the population by putting into law and practice actions that go against populations (such as voter suppression, doing things that encourage as much pregnancy and birth as possible, fighting against birth control, etc. etc.).

But I fear that the above has re-hashed some stuff I've mentioned in a previous entry.

I think my biggest accomplishment over the last couple weeks has been to come up with mapping thoughts and ruminations in an orderly fashion through what I can best call an argument flow chart. It comes down to putting the main topic on the top left side then writing lines to the right with branching topics then connecting topics/facts/arguments that support the levels above it. I hope it will help organize and provide me with sense of the topics that I'm wrestling.

Other than that, doing a lot of reading of many library books that I've taken out over the last few months and just keep renewing. Hopefully they will make even more sense of things along with my new strategy to order information, so I can actually write something that I feel confident about.


If you like what you see here and in the past and want to free me up for more, support my endeavors by Buying Me a Coffee.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Essay on Taxes and Seeing the Privilege in Paying Them

I believe I posted the following Tweet in the last Lexdate, but I think it's worth posting again as intro to today's entry where I philosophize about taxes.

People can get emotional about taxes. Some people really hate them. A few people even feel real good about paying them. I probably fall in the middle with some leanings to feeling good about them. Let’s explore some of the reasons for these feelings and see if anything interesting comes.

A dichotomy comes to mind while reading The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and. Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others by Allan Luks with Peggy Payne: Choice vs Obligation. When it comes down to it, taxes are an obligation put onto us by the State under which we live. We have no real choice in the matter, unless we have no problem going to jail, some other penalty, or willingly leave the country. In general, people would rather choose something rather than feel obligated to do something, though exceptions may exist. Nonetheless, many likely dislike taxes because they're an obligation and have no direct choice or control in the matter.

An argument against taxes that follows from the lack of control and obligation aspect of the matter: the tax payor may not get something in return for their taxes. This case probably holds most true for adults without children or never had children, rich people who have money that won't need to go onto welfare and can pay their way through life, and other services that person doesn't see, but they have to pay taxes, anyway. Don't worry, after listing off reasons for people not liking paying taxes, I will try to argue against such reluctance.

People who receive benefits on the taxpayer dole don't deserve it, local charity should take on the responsibility for these people not the State, and/or it's too impersonal. The first one: People who don't take are of themselves are immoral, which blames the victim who had bad luck of the draw or faces prejudice, many who have no fault in their character. Maybe certain local charities can handle their local unfortunates, but many cannot or everyone in a local area might fit under the need for charitable help, so no one has the fortunes to contribute.

Some argue that charity exists to bring people closer together and strengthen the fabric of society, which science, on some level has proven that helping can help the volunteer (see The Healing Power of Doing Good) and the person in need, if provided for respectfully, might feel gratitude for the help that they've received and feel the desire to give back to society, which is great. This one might actually beg a question: How much risk is there of this one becoming an obligation for both sides, compulsory even, losing its spirit? Taking the importance of this one for granted might transition it into a state where people refuse to do it because they feel required to do it, not out of their own desire to act with altruism.

This exploration will focus mostly on American attitudes toward taxes. The American Revolutionary saying "No taxes without representation", I believe, has stayed with us and emboldens us after about 267 years. We really take it to heart, and it makes sense. It makes sense. Why should we have to pay taxes if we have no say in how they're used or if we have no say in how they affect us, if they're just redistributed from us to someone else? I am a pacficist with an exception for self defense, why should I feel comfortable with the government taking part of my paycheck to wage war? I'm against eating meat or ingesting dairy, but my tax dollars come out of my pocket then get used to subsidize ranchers. My work becomes government assets to fund activities that I despise.

To flip the coin, however, look at Shay's Rebellion, probably the most cited insurrection that inspired the end of the Articles of Confederation to be replaced with the original draft of the United States Constitution. In full disclosure, I have a soft spot for Shay's Rebellion because part of it occurred in my hometown, a middle school I attended for about 3 or 4 months was named after a militia man who marched against the rebels (I believe), the name of a road was named after one of the rebels, and the part that really clenches me, I didn't learn about it until I had moved halfway across the country, at about age 32, and needed the Internet to research it.

To sum up Shay's Rebellion: The original states of our early country had taken on A LOT of debt to fight the Revolutionary War. Each state had the responsibility to pay their own war debt. The states raised income to pay that debt through taxes, especially land tax. One characteristic of landowners is that they don't always have liquid assets to pay their taxes, especially if they inherit their land, the economy isn't moving that much, or they have a bad month, season, or year and their land doesn't produce much. The state doesn't care. It needs money. Landowners have land. The state taxes them. And arguably, the landowners have representation because owning enough property, especially property, grants them the vote. Nonetheless, they couldn't get the state off their back from taxing them because the state had to pay their debts to pay for winning their freedom from the supposed tyranny of King George III and the Parliament at the time.

These landowners said screw it and rose up in rebellion. After all, didn't the American Revolution happen for the same exact reason (at least a lot of Massachusetts towns voted for Revolution because of what they saw as unjust taxes. . .other areas of the country had their own reasons, not necessarily as just)? The rebellion was quashed.

The Federalists, however, realized that this way of doing things wouldn't keep the Union together, though. Some states had the wealth and income to pay off their debt, others don't. They had already seen and foresaw many similar insurrections would happen in the future. So after much debate, they scrapped the Articles of Confederation, wrote the Consitution, and decided that, for the war debt at least, they would pool it together on the federal level and charge taxes more equitably among the states. I can see how some might have grumbled about it, since their states paid off their debt well enough, why should they subsidize other people?

One frank argument is that if other states suffer economic ruin, the more successful states will suffer at some point (if anything, imagine an overflow of economic refugees moving between states just looking for better opportunities, definitely advantages and disadvantages, but it doesn't help for economic diversity and states could end up suffering pretty badly in the need for charity for many of these economic refugees).

I want to come back to the present by discussing an issue that Shay's Rebellion brings up: owning land. To me, amassing property and multiple properties feels like a lot of responsibility and risk. I can see that it comes with the chance of reaping a lot of reward, but it comes with a lot of work, back then and now. In my opinion, if you want to own land and reap those rewards, you better know what you're doing, plan well, adapt well, and have backup plans (whether insurance or savings) ready in case shit hits the fan. Just look at what happened to our economy after the Housing Crash and Great Recession. It was more than housing and mortgages, but A LOT of people got screwed by it. They bought into the prosperity that came with land ownership and homeownership. It was a myth that we all ate up and that the home values would just go up and up and up without any top end. As we now know, that's not possible.

I have some compassion for people who inherit a home or land and have a strong connection to it because they grew up in it, their parents owned it, and a it carried a lot of memories. Nonetheless, if they don't bring in the income to pay the taxes and maintain it, their pretty damn screwed because the state can take a chunk out of them. There's also Estate taxes. . .why should someone have to pay to inherit property that's always been in the family and they've lost that family? Can't the damn government see that it doesn't even make up for their loss? I get it. I may not have that strong of emotional connections with property, but I can get it. Feelings are strong, and they are real. We feel emotional pain and joy the same as injuries and physical pleasure. Love is real.

I've come to appreciate the fact that villages, towns, states, etc. governments tax us for material attachments to this world to deliver services for the social good (and also to pay back debt taken on to pay for those services when the government body didn't have the assets to use). Much of the time that we get taxed, it occurs because of liquid assets growing, getting liquid assets from selling property, from income because of our labor, or using liquid assets to purchase property through sale. In many ways, as long as we don't overspend and take into account taxes, we won't go into negative territory because of taxes. A portion of the liquid assets that we take in or put out are taxed, not usually more.
Yes, we "lose" value and deal with opportunity costs via gaining and using buying power, but a prudent person who puts thought into it will not go into the negative from income tax, sales tax, tariffs, etc.

Property taxes for land or homeownership enters into strange territory, I'll admit. The land can do nothing, generate no income, but you still get taxed for it. Like I said before, I can understand how owning land and a home can suck like that. It's like paying rent on top of rent. Maybe if a town just collected enough money to maintain the department that handles deeds and other things that directly secure ownership of the property to a particular person or entity, people wouldn't get so worked up about the situation. Sure, they might grumble, but they're paying to keep the records there for their ownership. If they want to start their own town do the work to maintain the validity of their ownership, which could include arming themselves and other things to secure their property in that State of Nature, that would be interesting. . .kinda like The Walking Dead without zombies, if everyone followed that lead.

Some take pride in paying taxes, especially from the good that it can do on their behalf for others. I'll aim that pride in a different angle. I agree that taxes can do a lot for the social good, which I'm in support of, including the maintenance of our currency. The value of our dollar bills come from the fact that our Federal government accepts it as payment for taxes. So arguably the presence of that dollar bill in your hand or the 1's and 0's that get passed around from our bank accounts and taken on as loans comes from us paying our taxes (and our government paying back their debt). We could go back to the gold or silver standard, but that limits the growth and malleability of society and our economy. We could also go back to bartering goods and labor and trading IOUs, which might lead to a more stable economy most of the time (but still has the risk of bubbles popping). But if no use for our goods, labor, and IOU at a particular time, it's practically like having no money. Working that way also requires a big paradigm shift. A single currency has the benefit of fungibility and that, for most people, they will more often than not have a demand for money unless their spiritually enlightened and seeking to let go of their material attachments (which isn't necessarily a bad goal).

But I think being taxed and having the ability to pay them while keeping our heads above water and even successful provides us a reason to feel good and even proud (not in a shameful full of ourselves way, but in a good, healthy way). Getting taxed represents our receiving a benefit of privilege. We are gaining power and means, or maintaining power and means. As you can see from the Tweet at the top of this entry, I don't believe tax should be exacted on someone who would go destitute, can't survive, or maintain a certain minimum quality of life if they had to pay a tax, even if they were to practice prudence and reason (because frankly practicing prudene and reason during times of poverty may actually seems like immoral, unruly, or horrible behavior. . .is stealing sustenance to actually continue living an immoral act or is it someone stuck in a State of Nature who would suffer and/or die if they did not steal).

Paying taxes and continuing to succeed feels like a point of pride to me. You're gaining privilege through a system that is maintained by the currency. The more taxes you pay without actually suffering, the better you're doing and the more you get to enjoy life. Rich, wealthy people might think it's unfair that they have to give up more a share of their property, but do you know what, the bigger numerical share means less to the rich person. It's not a toss up between survival and paying taxes, it's a toss up between more property and paying taxes. Your large amounts of property, income, and STUFF that is maintained by your taxes and, arguably staving off a State of Nature, buys you status, prestige, and other things that maintain the good things in your life. It's an accomplishment of our ancestors, today's society, your family, and you that you get to live this life.

Your taxes go to maintaining the social fabric. If you didn't pay taxes, your dollar bills and 1's and 0's would have no value. Sure, we would likely find other things to value, which could include the slavery of other people, but do you know what, that's a whole lot harder to maintain. You would have to put a lot more energy into maintaining your status and property in a State of Nature where someone bigger and badder than you (maybe with an army or even amongst your followers) could just come up to you then kill and/or take all your stuff away. So yeah, you and all your money and all your taxes are what helps keep the world sane, as long as the government and society maintain their sanity, too. And frankly, redistributing your wealth toward services, other people, children, etc. etc. does A LOT to maintaining sanity and even developing the world into a state in which more people can enjoy the benefits of economic privilege and feel secure in a world in which people aren't jealously backstabbing each other to get more and more wealth so they can have more than everyone else and lord it over them.

But hey, if you feel that invested in material attachments as the prime importance of the world and don't want to contribute to the good of other people, you can have the responsibility for contributing to the downfall of society and enjoy the hyper vigilance that you will need to exercise every moment of your life to keep it. In the end, we can all follow through on us all dieing alone or maybe building a world where we all have some sort of authentic, loving company when we pass away.

It's all our choice, we make the world we live in.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Lexdate: #SolidarityAgainstWhiteSupremacy March & Ruminations about Electoral Demographics and Strategy

I had woken up, planning to have a more personally product day, even though I had gotten a fair amount done. Someone at church this morning announced that people were planning to go to the #SolidarityAgainstWhiteSupremacy march today (hashtag mine). Considering my angsty rage about politics and society and my resolution over the last few months to help people and get more involved, I felt that I should put my actions where my words went. Plus, as a white guy, I feel a responsibly to fight bigotry against so many ancestries, religions, sexual orientations, etc. etc. So I decided to go, and I ended up live tweeting it. Check it out below (please reading even further for my ruminations about electoral demographics and strategy behind it).

When I said that Chicago was bigger than both, I meant it had a bigger population than Boston and San Francisco. Chicago is the third most populated city in the US, damnit!


After last night, I planned on writing something about how my project and contemporary life today in the US shit storm have become somewhat intertwined. They have both come to inform each other, learning things about today from early 19th century and making sense of early 19th century based on at least Electoral Politics.

I think I can best articulate it by saying that local and state politics matter A LOT and so does the population of every state, whether that population includes disenfranchised and suppressed voters like children, undocumented immigrants, felons, and populations that those in power stop from voting through administrative requirements. Even though they can't determine who holds an office, that officeholder state gains power from having those disenfranchised people in their jurisdictions.

That being said, the states have some level of unofficial competition going on. Provide a good place to live in and exist in, have politicians agreeing with each other from the local level to the county to the state to the federal politicians, and have them put through good laws and policies that put people first and give them a good experience, and that state will very likely have a happy place. The same goes for many states doing the same thing.

Nonetheless, the politicians in the country and states have shown that they can take away representation, destroy the quality of life, yet increase the population, keep them in a state of a horrible life, yet the politicians continue to gain power. Put marginalized people into states of poverty and suppress their votes by making it hard to meet adminstrative requirements because of the poverty. Take away abortion rights and family planning services, blame woman for being irresponsible and horrible for having sex while at the same time arguing about the importance of preserving life, and the population grows. While at the same time fight against immigration because more liberal and probably more prosperous areas of the country that can use the increased labor from immigrants, cutting down on the populations of those areas that want to increase qualities of life.

And the worse thing: while the states do have a certain amount of competition, it takes a lot to make people switch between states because you know what? Community is important. Family is important. A few people like to move and get away from all that, but most of the time, people tend to like where they are and don't want to leave. . .even though I've heard at least one phone call to the Politically Reactive podcast in which a young woman in the South said that she had enough hearing people in her family and community saying such horrible racist and hateful things that she planned on moving to the North to get away from it. So maybe things have gotten bad enough that following conservatives moving out of liberal states, we'll have liberal people moving out of conservative states.

I used to think that such a move would make for a horrible trend, but it might not. I thought having too many liberals focused in a concentrated geographic location would cause them to loose seats in the House and places on the Electoral College, so their votes would mean less. Based on that thinking, I thought liberals should move to rural areas to taint then change the seats and places toward more rural locations. Now I'm seeing, however, that with enough of a mass move before 2020, the balance of liberal representation could move toward the usual liberal strongholds. Thing is. . .it has to occur by 2020. If it doesn't, then it seems like liberals moving out to rural areas after 2020 would be more effective to spread out liberal political sentiments more throughout the country, which has its appeal, but I don't think individuals would very much like that sort of change and initiative. So I guess we'll just have to see what happens.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Lexdate: Angsty Rage Politicking & Socializing