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!
































PROJECT UPDATE AND POLITICAL THINKING: FIGURING OUT HOW TO MAKE ELECTORAL POLITICS WORK FOR MY SIDE, THE LIBERAL SIDE

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



























































































































Thursday, August 24, 2017

Small Political Speech: Economics and Identity Politics Not Mutually Exclusive, We Need to Unite, We're With You!


Bannon IS right when he doesn't say the whole thing: if the liberals keep talking about identity politics [vs the economy], they'll lose.

Liberals need to unite, focus on state elections (remember gerrymandering), & focus on the whole working class, not just white working class. Economics and "identity politics" are not mutually exclusive. When I say Sanders & Clinton didn't get it, I'm not saying stop talking about the economy and jobs. I'm saying they're not connecting & reaching out to marginalized people. They're trying too hard with All Lives Matter when if they acknowledged that marginalized people get screwed & it needs to be addressed, it helps everyone to fight oppression & welcome everyone into society. We all want good jobs, and we're working on that, but we'll all benefit by freeing our marginalized citizens to work alongside us, but we can't do that unless we work on ourselves and help pull each other up rather than knocking each other down & and killing each other out of fear and to get a leg up. We're hear for you, & and we want to stop the hate and the killing, so we can start working together on jobs & work on bringing this country together into a community for you, me, & each other. Who's with me? We're with you!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Would Abigail Adams be Worthy of a Statue?

Someone who might be worthy a statue: Abigail Adams.

A couple quotes from her Wikipedia entry:

'A notable incident regarding this happened in Philadelphia in 1791, where a free black youth came to her house asking to be taught how to write. Subsequently, she placed the boy in a local evening school, though not without objections from a neighbor. Adams responded that he was "a Freeman as much as any of the young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? ... I have not thought it any disgrace to my self to take him into my parlor and teach him both to read and write."'

'In one of her more famous letters she implores her husband and his colleagues, all of whom were male, to, "...remember the ladies . . .If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."'

Monday, August 14, 2017

Thoughts on Historical Revisionism on Social Media Regarding USA Entering World War II because of Nazis

I don't just give permission to share this post. I encourage it.

Re-post of a comment I made on someone else's wall about a lot of the revisionism I've seen about US involvement in WWII being about the evils of Naziism:

If we're telling them to familiarize themselves with history, we should, too. Let's not forget that before we entered WWII, our country was plenty racist and a lot of people supported the Nazis. A lot of current state of mind among our white population that is anti-Nazi & even WWii came out of us being attacked by the Japanese and a lot of women & marginalized people working white men's jobs during the War. The U.S. did not enter the War on the principle basis of Nazi evil and the genocide of 6 million Jews and other non-Germans. That came after we entered the War.

And how many Japanese Americans did we put into Internment Camps?

Let's not also forget that Hitler and the Nazi's were inspired by US Manifest Destiny, in which  the American Revolution was fought partly to expand West, which seemed to require the genocide (which we are still doing now) of countless Native Americans.

I have some difficult feelings about how German citizens were treated after WWII. It's truly amazing how present day Germany has chosen guilt over shame/resentment & making sure that keep Naziism out of their country after ways they were treated by the rest of the world.

And just because: an interesting book about how social surroundings do a lot to manufacture horrible behavior out of people who would act perfectly sane in healthy situations. 

The Power of Others: Peer Pressure, Groupthink, and How the People Around Us Shape Everything We Do

Let's not erase white US complacency with Hitler and Nazis until we were attacked. I'm not saying that we coddle these people, that we praise people who have recovered from racism, but honestly all us white people have some level of culpability, especially if we take into account the casual prejudice we engage in everyday. We need to improve ourselves and our society and laws to make sure that this BS is not tolerated.

I say the last couple paragraphs because I've reached the tipping point of people revising history & basically holding white US blameless from the extension of WWII and allowing Hitler to perform genocide (even I don't know how much of that was public until the Nurembourg Trials).

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Lexdate: THE Project, Activism, Quantifying the Activism, & Activism Tweets


PROJECT UPDATE

All that stuff in the last entry about working on continuing education to maintain my insurance producer license, I slacked a bit on it. I started in on a jag of project research after a gaming session where I had a can of Mountain Dew after an advisable time.

Ended up staying all night and the night after doing some major online research into some social history in the colonial and antebellum United States regarding slavery and prejudice. It became a major focus over the the last two to four weeks. The research became really productive when I got into the rhetoric before the Revolution, a survey of British political history since the Magna Carta, and Classical Replubicanism.

It took a few weeks how using the word 'slave' as justification for colonists to revolt exposed their hypocrisy about slavery. to the Northeast. . .though it didn't do much to fight actual prejudice. . .and also the extent to which the fervor of sentiment for Classical Republicanism really invigorated the Colonies and even the country for years after. It took me longer than I feel it should take an American to get this stuff, but at least I got there.

Friday I think got to where I needed for this tangent of thinking. I familiarized myself with terms such as ethnocracy and state capitalism. Having terms such as these will help me with this one particular community to conceive and discuss some tensions in it and around it.

As I've heard in the academic and fantasy words, if you name it, you tame it. I still have a lot of work and other aspects to research. On top of that, I've had my hopes raised too much on this project to let myself get too wxcited now. A question could raise itself at some point, toppling this house of cards.

POLITICAL & SOCIAL ACTIVISM UPDATE

I haven't done the best job putting myself into any line (front, back, or wherever) in the realm of political and social activism. I've done plenty of armchair politicizing signing online petitions, discussing and arguing on social media and with real live people, sharing news articles and petitions, and tweeting at my elected officials (and maybe a few other ones) to at hopefully have my thoughts reach them.

Once I tried calling one of my representatives, senators, or something like that, but I just got a voicemail that stated it was full and wouldn't take any more additional. Admittedly I made that call at something like 6 PM or 7 PM CST, so everyone could have gone home for the night or been in some late night session.

I've told myself that my long working hours in, frankly, a conservative office has tired me out for anything like that. I also don't feel comfortable making political phone calls while walking the streets. Now that I think about it, though, I can think of a place or two where I would feel comfortable making some phone calls.

And wow. . .do I have some calls to make, just to my Illinois politicians. I don't know how well known the new "education budget" controversy is to the rest of the country/world, but whoo! There's a ton of other things on the docket to bother our politicians about: Minimum Wage Hike to $15, Closing Corporate Loopholes, urging them to adopt progressive income taxes, closing carried interest loopholes, and plenty of other things.

On the Chicago front, there's the Cardenas-Garza TIF Ordinance to require the City to use surplus TIF funds for social funds rather than as a the politicians' slush funds.

Trying to push politicians in the right direction takes a lot of work!

QUANTIFIED OUTPUT FOR POLITICAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVISM

All that said, I can at least feel good about setting up monthly donations, a couple one-time donations, using http://smile.amazon.com to direct a portion of my purchase price to organizations that do good, and even labors of love. I feel that financial contributions do as much good as calling our elected officials, but doing them both does an even better job. After all, these profressionals getting to address the politics and social ills full time rather than, like me and others, when they can slip away from their day job (and some even have to do a day job and this good work on an extra curricular level).

I want to repurpose how Pat Flynn over at Smart Passive Income does his Income Reports. Instead of for reporting on how much I bring in from projects and investments, though, I like the idea of reporting my output to organizations for the social good. I don't really have an overarching motivation other than maybe encouraging others to open their wallets and get up to make the world a little better of a place.

Before getting into the report, though, the Freakonomics Radio had an interesting episode called "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask". The guest on the episode wanted to make up the fewest, easy to remember rules about money, so he wrote nine of them on an index card (he added a tenth one that almost didn't need to be written: remember these rules). Most of the rules don't work for me, but they make a good base for people who don't know much about money and aren't comfortable when it comes to finances.

I really, really, really liked his ninth rule: "Do what you can to support the social safety net." Since Trump was inaugurated into office, I've come to believe in the importance of this rule increasingly more each and every day, even before I heard it. The guest has his own story about taking on the responsibility of taking care of a relative who couldn't take care of themselves, and the guest wouldn't have been able to take care of the relative without the web of governmental social safety nets and probably non-governmental safety nets.

As for me, it's terrifying to me to see how it just takes one man, their cronies, and the cooperation of people who just plain don't give a shit about other people, the environment, or just plain the betterment of existence. These people will not just keep the world a bad place, they will work to hurt people and destroy the environment for their own profit and ideology. Thank goodness we have the current courts keeping things relatively sane, disagreement amongst the conservatives and ultra conservatives, and that some people are starting to see that the current agenda being realized will only lead us backward and may even destroy many peoples' lives in the present and the future, let alone say what it will do for civilization as we know it, in just the next 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 years. We all have to get involved to prevent or, where not possible, reduce the damage that these horrible people will do.

Now onto my Political and Social Justice and Safety Output Report:

  • Uncanny Magazine: Uncanny Magazine: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy doesn't hide the fact that they advocate for intersectional representational and social safety nets. So far this year, I estimate that I've invested 8 hours to reading unsolicited fiction submissions to judge whether they fit the needs of the magazine at the time or not then send them up to the Editors, if they are, and also helping to do some final proofreading on the final proof.

  • Fair Elections Legal Network crowd source campaign called Restore Voting Rights in Florida!: $25 one-time pledge that helped them surpass their goal of $25,000. This campaign is to assist people who served jail time to restore their right to vote in Florida when they leave prison. As it stands now, they have to take a lot of extra steps, not just registering to vote, to get their right to vote back. If the Fair Elections Legal Network succeeds at their campaign, they should make the return of voting rights return automatically after someone leaves prison and has successfully served their time.

    This one came as an impulse donation because I had made a big argument about the injustice of voter suppression in our country, and I felt the need to put my money where my mouth was.

  • The Sierra Club Foundation via http://smile.amazon.com: $5.67 in 2017

    I think a little bit actually went to the ACLU at the beginning, but a lot of people around me have been donating to the ACLU, and I had read soon after about how much the Sierra Club had been and is doing to fight Trump and the GOP trying to destroy environmental protections that were put into place previously for the profits of large corporations. I'm sorry, that's disgusting, even if someone's using a "jobs argument". If we destroy clean water and the environment, those additional jobs won't mean shit. As an additional note, the Amazon Smile program has raised an aggregate of $24,364,61 for the Sierra Club so far this year. I tried finding the tally for ACLU but gave up after a little bit. Anybody in the audience use AmazonSmile to donate to ACLU and able to look up the total amount they have received so far in 2017?

  • VstheUniverse: $2 per month, $12 so far in 2017.

    VstheUniverse doesn't fit the description of political or social justice/safety net organization, but they do promote a lot of local Chicago nerdy personalities that play a fair part in fighting the good fight for social and intersectional representation justice. They also help me laugh, whether live at their live "Geek Show" or through their various nerdy podcasts and Youtube videos.

  • American Public Media's Marketplace: $7 per month, $49 so far in 2017. I started donating here in 2016.

    Not directly an activist organization, but you can get plenty of commentary about politics and how business and economics work in our nation and world. Since Trump entered the campaign, they had a lot of educated opinions on how much he doesn't seem to understand the economy and how his policy ideas won't have the positive effect that he hopes. There's also plenty of interesting stories about international politics and financial stuff. This donation comes down to supporting the need for good information needing to get to the people, and well, I listen to many of the podcasts this organization puts out.

  • The Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness: $5 per month, first donation on 7/31/2017

    Frankly, this one comes from feeling a large amount of guilt about pandhandlers, especially this one I had last week. I don't carry around cash or if I do, it's pretty much earmarked for a purchase that I plan to make. Plus, honestly, most of the money that I don't have earmarked or goes right into savings the day I receive my paycheck, that money goes toward paying down the credit cards. I can handle $5 a month automatically being charged to a credit card, though. Now I feel like I should direct panhandlers to this place. Because frankly, the Alliance probably has a better way of helping these people improve their lives than I do and it will probably help to tally these people into some statistics somewhere, so we can know really how bad the problem of homelessness is in this country.

  • Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago: $5 per month, first donation on 7/31/2017

    Frankly, the economically underpriveleged are vastly underrepresented legally. Getting them money, alone, won't be enough for improving their lives, especially when the law is prejudiced against them. This charity does a lot to help the economically underpriveleged in Chicago maintain rights that they're legally entitled to.

  • The Center for Popular Democracy: $5 per month, first donation on 7/31/2017

    This one arose further out of my Facebook argument point about voter suppression and feeling the need to put my money where my mouth was. This organization fights voter suppression, but that's just one thing that they fight. They're looking for popular democracy to grow in our country. So do I. Maybe my full donation won't go toward voter suppression all the time, but I can feel comfortable that it will go to growing popular democracy in the United States.

    Anybody know of any organizations that focus on voter suppression and accept automatic monthly donations?

  • Chicago Public Media 91.5 WBEZ (NPR): $5 per month, $35 in 2017. Started donating in 2016.

    My rationale for donating to Chicago Public Media is similar to my donation to Marketplace at American Public Media. To be a good citizen, we need good information to make good decisions and judgments and to know what we can do to help improve our communities, country, and the world. NPR provides pretty much objective news (though many will argue that it's either Left or Right, equally so which makes me think it's pretty objective), so it makes for a good start.

  • The NAACP: $5 a month, $35 so far for 2017.

    People of all types of Color have a shitty deal. The NAACP might be a little old fashioned and may not always be in touch with activists of and for color these days. Nonetheless, after hearing an interview about of Cornell Brooks and his emphasis on the importance of forming coalitions with all marginalized groups and people to take on the oppressive behavior of the privileged, I felt that this approach needed my finacial support to hopefully help make it happen. Sadly, I haven't seen this come to much fruition since a lot of Progressive Prejudice is still a norm in the world that makes forming these types of coalitions difficult.

  • Youth Outreach Services: $5 per month, $35 in 2017. Unsure when I started donating.

    Someone interviewed on a podcast inspired me to start donating here and start making donations to charities and poltical activist groups in the first place. The person interviewed had a troubled youth and lived a criminal life in Chicago. At some point, someone from this organization reached out to them, inspired them to fix their life and do more to contribute to society. This ex-con has now gotten very involved with Youth Outreach Services and is working to help others get out of that kind of life or prevent them from even starting it. Some day I hope to maybe volunteer or get more involved, but I feel the need to build more confidence and exposure. Nonetheless, after many stories of how religious leaders have ministered to underpriveleged neighborhoods and seen how they have improved the lives of people in those neighborhoods, I've found this type of thing a strange combination of effective and possibly problematics at some times, but it's a start that I believe shows some real benefit.

  • The National Alliance to End Homelessness: $4.56 per month, $31.92 in 2017. Unsure when I started donating.

    My donations to Youth Outreach Sevices helped inspire me setting up this monthly donation. Helping the youth in Chicago is great and one thing, but nationally, more needs to be done to improve the lot of people in economically underprivileged situations, whether through direct action or lobbying the government to put together programs or laws, especially in this time where we have lawmakers that don't give a shit about people who haven't made it, even though the society created by them and I'll even include an us prevents them from making it in the first place. People all over the place need our help. I don't have all the money in the world, but I like to think that even these small donations can help improve the lot of people in unfortunate situations and hopefully decrease the chance of it happening to people in the future.

  • Per month total: $43.56. Total one time: $25. Grand total as of end of July 2017: $239.92.
MY VIEWS ON POLITICS AND SOCIETY VIA SOCIAL MEDIA OVER THE LAST COUPLE WEEKS