Thursday, November 22, 2018

Can You Imagine?


Can You Imagine? 
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

If you are incapable of using your imagination, then, you likely are not intelligent enough to read further and understand what is written usefully.  If you can imagine, then, bear with me and open your mind.

Imagine, if you will, being a child with parents who are functionally illiterate and were pushed through school with poor grades showing they never understood but the teacher wanted them to go through the facade of pretending to have been educated in order to support the status quo and delusions regarding efficacy of education services whether publicly or privately provided to those with limited resources.  Now, imagine there were no books in the home and your parents didn't place any importance on literacy or were too ashamed or afraid of being challenged by a better educated child.  It is possible that they thought they could read and write well enough and may have even taught you incorrectly prior to entering school. 

For the above situation and prior to going into the extended trajectory or potential trajectory for such an individual, what would you do to solve the problem?  Hillary Clinton would suggest removing the child from the home with the illiterate parents and putting the child in a behavioral work camp so they learn to be productive citizens.  Of course, this is horribly short-sighted and results in further exploitation rather than advancement of literacy and human rights.  But, it is one option.  Others might suggest doing away with education altogether or full privatization.  But, more ignorance and illiteracy is not going to lead to a safer, more harmonious, and more enlightened world.  So, what's the answer?

It seems addressing the failures in educating earlier generations by offering free basic education even to those the system pretended to educate while not doing so, particularly in the case of parents or parents-to-be who clearly need help, would address part of the issue.  While there are a number of free literacy and basic education services available throughout the US, it seems those who need the help are least able to navigate the system or even begin to know where to go for help as a result of illiteracy.  In addition, they may be in exploited job positions and working 60+ hours per week and have no time for pursuing basic education unless their employer requires and/or authorizes it.

In addition, even with homeless populations, job services and training offered often do not include literacy, civics (basic navigation of government services for aid, redress, etc.), or math, and are run by people looking to profit off the continued exploitation of the populations to be trained without also being informed of their rights or legal remedies in the event of exploitation. 

So, the facade of barely passing every grade with D's or worse and graduating without actually being educated creates a scenario in which people have the diploma without the value of an education.  Exploitative employers accept it and are polite enough not to suggest someone could use additional academic services since a better informed employee might report illegal or unconscionable practices of the employer or be able to figure out swiftly what remedies exist for the exploitation.  And, with behaviorism as the primary tool in US schools teaching obedience, unquestioning response to positive or negative stimuli, and acceptance of token rewards never to be expected but always accepted with appreciation, the employee is prepared to compete in the race to the bottom on quality of life in modern global imperialism.  So, people like Hillary Clinton will say that's working for Wall Street and good enough for her.

Now, still imagining you're the child with overworked, functionally illiterate parents who own no books and didn't prepare you for school in any way other than obedience training, you start kindergarten without the benefit of even any home-schooling for pre-school.  And, your parents can't help with homework.  No one considers hiring a tutor and the school doesn't offer tutoring supports.  Even if the school does, the parents who are functionally illiterate don't understand the option exists.  You do your best but are found too far behind to be with your peers and put in special education where basically warehoused until graduating if you make it.

You get a job like your parents and continue life as usual.  You don't know any other way of life and even though you see people living different and arguably better lives, you attribute it to luck or a fortune of birth.  Now, what if you lost your job or never found one?  Imagine you end up homeless due the circumstances as described thus far.  What do you do and how do you want to be treated?

Most people in the above described situation have no idea where to start to get help or get what they need going forward.  Most of society (including supposed do-gooders) assumes they are equally educated and choosing poverty or too lazy to get a real job.  This is denial of the reality of the disparity in academic resources and practices between affluent and impoverished community schools as well as the historical reality of said disparity and the resulting generations of ignorance and exploitation resulting from said disparity. 

We can blame the victims of generational exploitation as a result of historic and modern failures in distribution of basic resources to provide for truly equal opportunity from an equal position in regards to understanding the basics of reading, writing, math, and civics, or, accept that as a society we are failing our most vulnerable in not simply making sure everyone has equal opportunity and a basic understanding of how to protect themselves from fraud, abuse, and exploitation.

Perhaps all public schools should offer parents basic reading, writing, math, and civics lessons who may otherwise not be equipped to assist their children with homework or effectively demand redress if exploited by their employer.  Another option would be for those with time and resources to offer in-home tutoring for the whole family in these areas for free or through a non-profit in which the families in need don't have to pay for help, but, society contributes for the greater good.  See, if a kid sees his parents taking learning seriously, struggles with them to learn certain things, and is a better student as a result, everybody wins!

Otherwise, the alternative...  Imagine you never get the academic support or education needed to even begin to navigate life responsibly as an adult.  You are abused and exploited and have no idea who to call for help and are under the impression based on the behaviorism in schools that no one cares what happens to you anyway.  You try to get work, but, people say you are unqualified.  So, you go to a farm and see if you can do manual labor and find out you actually need some skill for that too.  And, your asthma and allergies due to being from a neighborhood with toxins in the water and air from industrialization make any real physical labor, especially in the outdoors, untenable at best.  Maybe you end up on the street and get hassled, abused, or even locked up a few times for "loitering" when you just needed to sit for a minute.  You might feel the world is against you and intentionally making your life miserable.  Do you think you may become violent as a result of systemic failures in addressing the historical imbalances of opportunity for socio-economic mobility as a result of what appears from some perspectives to be an intentional perpetuation of that inequality masquerading as mandatory education?  If so, is your solution to criminalize anyone who didn't have the luxury of your upbringing and academic resources?  In that case, you have it coming.

Now, if you believe the answer is to fight ignorance with true comprehension, critical thinking, and understanding of the basic skills everyone needs to succeed or even have a legitimate chance at success, then who do we trust with the task?  The public schools have been failing in this regard for some time and the private/charter schools are often fraudulent and fail to educate effectively as well.  Is it how teachers are trained or the schools themselves?  Well, having prepared some in college for a career in teaching, I must say it wasn't the college or university materials that were the problem.  During my time as a student teacher, I saw what was going on in the classroom and school.  In history class it was an episode of Oprah, no books at all, and an assignment to take notes on the episode to write a paper on it later.  Nelson Mandela was the topic of that Oprah.  But, the assignment didn't suggest any library work or further exploration on the topic or historical significance.  The teacher I "shadowed" told me I would be a great educator, but, the school wasn't about that.  This was a public school in a middle class neighborhood.  So, maybe if we make public school about actual education, where true comprehension, critical thinking, and understanding of the basics, including how to navigate the government for redress and to enforce individual rights and liberties, we can honestly say that we provided all the basics and encourage people to use existing and available resources to effectively engage in upward mobility.

And, continuing to blame victims and tear apart families while institutionalizing and basically enslaving the youngest family members is really evil and likely to result in more violence and social unrest.  But, hey, that's how we keep prison slavery a thing, right?  More money, more problems.  But, having basic reading, writing, math, and system navigational skills, is truly priceless.  Knowledge is power.  Power to the People!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Los Angeles Measure B and The Public Banking Solution?

Los Angeles Measure B and The Public Banking Solution?
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

I had the opportunity last night to catch up on some of The Jimmy Dore Show on Youtube and saw the segment (available here https://youtu.be/wotbxvukJjA) on Los Angeles' Measure B.  One of the first things I noticed was that Madeline Merritt was well composed and had prepared talking points.  I read the poster describing the measure shown in the background of the clip.  And, it said the measure would permit the city to explore the creation of a public bank and remove one of the impediments for setting up a public bank in the city.  See segment linked above to view the poster.

Initially, I was excited.  I support making the Federal Reserve a public utility, but, that was as I understood it and perhaps not as Ellen Brown meant it.  See, Ellen Brown has set up the Public Banking Institute and supported the Los Angeles Measure B efforts.  And, historically and to this day I support my understanding of the intended or stated purpose of a public bank, but, remain concerned that bankers and not the public or those holding deposits would retain a say in how the funds generated through such a bank would be distributed and invested.  With a credit union, the funds would go directly back to the members (i.e. any and all account holders) and as members they would have voting rights, elect the board from their own members/account holders, and be non-profit.  See: https://www.calstatela-fcu.org/about-us/credit-union-difference  The difference between a credit union and a bank is that a credit union gives control to the people and a bank gives control to bankers.  It would appear that the solution for better democratizing the economy, as is the stated goal of the Green Party,  would be to establish credit unions at the local level which would do all the good of any proposed public banking solution without creating another loophole for exploitation and corruption by those who claim to be the "new and improved" banking elite.

Now, the Public Banking Institute claims that a credit union is not lawful for cities or states to create, or implies as much, and that a credit union couldn't handle the transactions of a large city or state.[1]  The largest credit union in the world, Navy Federal, has 5 million members.[2]  Los Angeles has 4 million people.[3]  So, a city credit union would work and be a more democratic solution.  And, 27 states in the United States have less than 5 million as their whole population.[4]  So, both states and large cities could run an effective non-profit credit union that would help further democratize how funds are spent and give the people the power to elect the union board and control how union funds are used through a representative process and direct voting rights.  This is a much better solution than any public banking option if the goal is to expand freedom and power to the people.

Measure B was fairly stupid as was the promotional poster for it.  For one, apparently the council had already been discussing the possibility (exploring the creation) of a public bank for at least a year when they voted on the ordinance to get the measure put on the ballot.[5]  Now, the ordinance just says to put a question on the ballot to Los Angeles voters and doesn't explain anything about what type of bank, who would run it, who would pay for it, or who would control it.  And, the voters voted no for the most part as they should.  And, the question was, "Shall the city charter be amended to allow the City to establish a municipal financial institution or bank?"  The city charter does not need to be amended to establish a non-profit credit union.  Any purely commercial enterprise, like a sports arena (my guess), requires approval by popular vote of constituency.  But, there appears to be no rules in the city charter against the city establishing a credit union or non-profit community bank.  And, cities around the country have established credit unions.  And, even Washington State has a statewide credit union that is non-profit and a cooperative of those who choose to become a member.[6]

So, states and cities can and legally do establish credit unions.  And, these are better for the people than any public bank option.  So, for everyone who wants to start fixing this shit, moving to a credit union or establishing one, is the smarter and better choice.  It would also seem a plan the Green Party would support.  At least Republicans respect our troops and my family is all four branches.  Navy Federal wins.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Going Dutch? Advice for Dating on a Budget


Going Dutch?  Advice for Dating on a Budget
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

Referenced in previous posts, "going Dutch" means to split the cost of the check, typically when speaking about dating.  In the event you or your date are on a tight budget, you may need some suggestions for having an inexpensive interaction that is enjoyable for all.  Again, to avoid promoting gender inequality, it is best to "go Dutch" until everyone is comfortable having an adult conversation about personal physical boundaries and delights.  It is unfair for one party to a date to cover the entire cost while the other party's only responsibility is as an escort.  And, when that is the standard it leads to misunderstandings regarding what to expect out of the encounter.  To avoid injustice on all sides, it is best when starting new relationships or even going out once or twice that everyone split the check.  This will show both people are truly interested in spending time with each other and getting to know each other rather than some form of passive prostitution or a situation that could be understood as such given historical and socio-environmental factors.

Even if you and/or your date are not on a tight budget, you may wish not to spend a lot to avoid setting up expectations for continued expensive outings early on in any relationship.  And, in the event your date likes to spend beyond their means or expects you to do the same, it will likely end poorly.  The double entendre is intended there.

Now, when two individuals find that splitting a check may require a more frugal approach to chosen activities for the first few dates (or more), what activities might be best on a budget?  Below are a few suggestions:

1.  Go for a Walk or Hike Together  (FREE Depending on Location and Time of Year)

2.  Go on a Picnic  (INEXPENSIVE: You bring food, date brings wine/beverages, etc.)

3.  When Comfortable Enough, At Home Activities (i.e. Your or your date's home split food and entertainment costs.  Such as ordering delivery and watching a film or playing a game already available without further expense.)

4.  Volunteer Together  (Lots of ways: Soup Kitchens, Beach Clean Up, Animal Sanctuaries, just to name a few direct care and service options for volunteering.)

5.  Free Events (i.e.  Run a search for free events in your area on http://www.google.com or your favorite search engine and see what you find.  If in the Seattle area, you might find this page: https://www.greaterseattleonthecheap.com/free-and-cheap-things-to-do-in-seattle-this-weekend/  (Includes free and up to $10 live music and free dancing, inexpensive international film festivals as well.)

6.  Going for a Drive?  (If so, split the cost of gas.  That's true regardless of whether you are carpooling to a chosen activity or simply going for a drive as the activity.)

7.  Going for a Train Ride or Boat/Ferry Ride?  (Split the cost or everyone pays for their own fare.  This is fun.  Under $10 for adults for Ferry Ride in Puget Sound area.  You could bring a picnic with you depending on the rules of the particular venue.)

8.  Take A Class Together Of Interest to You and Your Date  (Seattle Central College offers short courses on a number of things including gardening and basic home repair and maintenance, crafts, food and wine, and more.  The gardening course I checked was only $29/person.  Home repair and gardening are skills most should have if planning to be self-reliant or share responsibilities at some point.  See: http://learnatcentral.org/lifelong-learning/home-garden-classes/)

9.  Library or Bookstore Challenge  (You and your date go to a bookstore or library and try to pick out each other's favorite author based on what you know.  Could be fun and tell you and your date how well you know each other at the given point.)

10.  Museum or Gallery Visit (Depending on the museum/gallery, it might be free to view the art.  Many museums and galleries offer free admission days, so, check the schedule.  And, even Seattle Art Museum is only $17-$25/per person depending on exhibits.  But, given location there may be parking and transportation costs.)


So, ten ideas or more for things you can do on a date that are respectable, fun, and inexpensive.  The above are less expensive than even most dinner and theater dates.  One might say they are even less expensive than a night of bowling, depending on alcohol consumption and venue.  Some alleys in Seattle cost $30+/hour per lane, plus shoe and ball rentals (for those without their own).  If you add on alcoholic beverages, snacks, or other costs, you might be looking at $75+ for the night.  But, not too expensive depending on your budget.

I sincerely hope this helps everyone who is making plans with new love interests and that everyone exercises a true commitment to equality in romantic relationships by going Dutch and truly showing an interest in your date as a person and not a prop, dupe, or some sort of passive paid escort. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

My Learning Curve


My Learning Curve
by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

I understand most people, even when they care deeply about an issue, do not have the time or desire to invest in honing their advocacy skills to the point of efficacy.  And, that most people expect raising awareness about a problem is the entire purpose of any activist or advocacy group.  I believe that is faulty and based on ignorance and a lack of study.  But, not everyone has the same experience or opportunity I have had to go to college and become as informed or skilled as I am and therefore I do not lay fault entirely at the feet of those who mimic what they see on television as effective activism.

I've found that the rhetoric of achieving a "critical mass" to demand change is inaccurate and flawed.  If you are unfamiliar with this concept, it was touted by activists in Seattle as achieving 10% of the population supporting a specific cause or issue to help pressure government officials to take action on that specific cause or issue.  And, "raising awareness" is the tool used to garner support to build a movement to the point of reaching "critical mass", arguably, in order to create the public pressure needed to influence or effect change. 

I have spent many years trying to build this elusive "critical mass" and rally people to effective action by creating petitions, letter writing campaigns, and reports which provide opportunity for action and greater understanding of the issue if approaching government officials independently or writing letters with the need of facts to support any recommendations for legislators.  And, I've found that "critical mass" isn't necessary for creating real change and you really just need a few dedicated people who can understand politics, policy, existing law, and how to navigate the legislative process.  Bills I've supported or assisted with getting introduced, have often passed and been made law.  There is still work to be done, but, if it is a good idea based on sound information, often you can get the job done working with your legislators.

It is great if people who support your issue or cause will write letters to support legislation and participate.  But, it isn't absolutely necessary and building a "critical mass" can in fact be a distraction from efficacy.  The same is true for organizations that focus on fundraising over advocacy and legislation.  The issue appears to be that most people don't really want to do the research and work to find out where the loopholes or issues exist in current laws resulting in injustice or harm and seem to just want to complain and blame legislators for not getting it right in the first place.  But, finding out the actual problems and providing solutions that legislators can work with so the issues can be effectively addressed is the responsibility of the constituency in a participatory republic. 

But, there are systemic issues of oppression that result in people being conditioned by Machiavellian authoritarians that result in many parts of the constituency suffering learned helplessness and feeling hopeless regarding change because of institutionalized abuses.  And, that coupled with propaganda and "fake news" results in making building a "critical mass" very difficult.  See, people misled by misinformation and disinformation while being overworked, underpaid, generally disrespected and disregarded, and then told they better participate (whether by voting or joining a cause), tend to not have the time or energy to do the research or be effective in addressing the areas of the law needing redress for them to experience any real justice or relief via reforms.  And, people who avoid looking at the suffering caused by their own exploitative practices and greed, tend to focus on issues their friends are into like Animal Rights, rather than helping the less fortunate in their own society. 

There are really only two ways to solve problems legally.  One is to provide direct care or service to the victims of the abuses you want to see addressed.  For example, animal sanctuaries for abused animals and soup kitchens for the hungry count as direct care and service.  Unfortunately, running such establishments require funding and most of the fundraising charities don't focus on or even provide direct care or service. And, if fundraising with tax-exempt status, they are not able to effectively work on addressing issues through the legislative process, so, really nothing more than glorified tax havens and likely or arguably astroturf groups regardless of claims made or praise received. 

If donating, pick a charity that provides direct care and service ethically (check requirements for services to make sure those being served are not being further exploited) or support an advocacy organization that may not be tax exempt but is effective in creating legislative reforms that effectively address the issues you care about as a supporter.

I encourage everyone to participate, check out our videos and legislative efforts that may aid you in creating real change on any issue you care about, including animal welfare/rights, at http://www.heal-online.org/getsmart.htm.  Be sure to get involved locally and at the state level on your issue and don't be fooled by hopes of solving all your problems by focusing on federal legislators and legislation.  And, if you are a victim of systemic oppression, HEAL cares and we understand you may not be in a place to offer any help as a volunteer or supporter.  But, we are fighting for you and will keep fighting!