Monday, August 31, 2015

An Appeal: Help Us Get Our Family Back Together

This month has been one of the worst months of my life.

So as has been mentioned, Chris landed a new job in the Boston area, looking to be closer to his farher, who recently had a massive heart attack. We wanted the boy to know his family, and to have time with his grandfather.

He received his job offer in the first week of July, replied very quickly, finished the required paperwork, the whole deal. The contract was signed, July 11th, the paperwork finished by the 18th in theory. The contracting agency gave him a start date of August 3rd, so he turned down the other two job offers he had pending, and flew up to Boston on August 1st raring to start his new job.

... Except the end client wasn't ready for him. In fact, they hadn't even started the paperwork to get him a start date, and THEIR contract and purchase order had only been signed on the third. The subcontracting company had lied about the start date in order to keep Chris from taking another job. Then the start date was August 10th, then August 17th, then last week it came down that MAYBE in 6 weeks he could start...

The contracting agency was supposed to make partial payment to him for the delay, but that's still "in process" more than a week after saying they would do it, and at best wouldn't be "through the process" until the next pay period on the 15th... frankly, we don't believe it's going to happen, they just keep trying to delay so Chris won't take another job. 

Meanwhile, we have burned through everything we've got, he's not getting paid, and we have to move out of our house in a few weeks.

At this point we're completely separated as a family, because it took all we had to get him to Boston in the first place... So our son and I were left behind in Florida, helpless and 1400 miles apart.

After the contract startup delay extended more than a week, Chris started actively pursuing other opportunities. In addition to waiting out the contract delay, he's currently actively working 7 different job opportunities that might actually end in an offer. He has had several interviews already, withe more this week.  Two of the recruiters are confident he will have an offer, possibly next week.

In the meantime, I've been in Florida, with a toddler, having continuous and severe panic attacks and recurrent PTSD episodes, from past abandonment and emotional abuse. Not a good thing, and something I'm now somewhat heavily medicated for, just to function. So in other words having the family split apart by circumstances and lying contracting agencies, is literally making me insane.

It's the 31st and he still hasn't started the new gig. The contracting company straight up lied to him and left him holding the bag. It's also the day we expected to receive his first paycheck. He did everything right, had the paperwork returned within 12 hours, managed to get to Boston for his start date and... got completely screwed over.

Early in the month I used donated airline miles to book tickets for the child and me to visit him in Boston, expecting that he'd be paid by now and... he's not. He also lost his place to stay in all of this. I've been dealing with constant panic attacks and PTSD episodes. We can't afford to keep the house in Florida, particularly with no housemate to split the rent with anymore. We're beyond broke.

Our original plan was for him to find us a rental as soon as he had income and move the family up then. I can't wait that long. This has become a crisis for me. Any of you who saw me disappear from Facebook for weeks... this is why. I have been in continuous panic freakouts all day long, almost every day, for weeks. I NEED to be with my husband NOW. As long as I'm with him, I can control the panic attacks... without him, I need to be medicated or they get out of control.

Fortunately Chris has found a friend who will let us live with them until we can get another place. Which is good because it will cost less to move than to pay full rent (we split it with the housemate until recently when the housemate moved out) and electricity and cable and everything else that goes with staying in the house. However I need to actually manage to fly up there to meet the possible housemate, make sure everyone gets along, etc etc. This is especially important because I'm literally going insane from the lack of my husband. Fortunately I already have plane tickets for Christopher and me.

Our current plan (if everything goes perfectly) is that I go through with the intended flights, make preparations on that end, then come back and load what we're keeping into the rental truck, get the car onto a trailer to be towed behind the rental truck, load up the dogs, and head north.

We already gave notice to vacate on the house (because we can't pay for the rent anyway, and we'd already paid last month's rent upon moving in) and they have nee tenants altrady lined up... and now we have to get out by the end of the month. I've been packing and cleaning like crazy while handling the toddler and dogs by myself, while having major anxiety over the whole thing.

So Chris is focusing on getting new work, and trying to find temporary employment. I am focusing on getting the house ready and moved, and getting it paid for while he does. The only problem? We literally don't have the cash to accomplish this. I don't have the cash for the bills, the necessary medications, the gas to get to the airport, the rental truck, the trailer, the cleaning supplies necessary or even that small thing called FOOD. This should have been fixed by now. And if Chris hadn't been completely screwed over it wouldn't be a problem at all.

We did the right thing... we did everything right, and we SHOULD have been paid by now... and be well sorted in a few weeks. Instead were being punished again, for I don't know what. We just can't seem to catch a single break.

So at this point, we need the $3,500 to fund the move, the final bills, pay for the medications that keep us alive, and food and other essentials; until the entire family is moved to Boston and back together and Chris begins work. So... as much as I never wanted to do anything like this again... I need to ask for help. Because we need the family back together, both to keep our costs down, and so Chris and I don't go insane over months of separation.

Honestly, I can't take any more time apart... this is absolutely killing me, and I can't take anymore. We NEED to be back with my husband right now... 

So please, please help us. I know some of you ask for a PayPal link whenever we do this, so here it is:


Otherwise please email me at melody DOT byrne AT gmail DOT com and we can arrange something. Thank you so much. I can't even tell you how much any help at all means.

Mel

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A hard road out...

With two very notable exceptions, the 2010s have been a pretty horrible decade for us so far...

Those notable exceptions, would be me not dying in 2012, and the boy being born in 2013.

The rest though? It sounds melodramatic to say I know what hell is like... but there are days it feels like it.

September 2010 is when everything really started going completely to hell... the girls being taken, and my health getting so bad I was on sudden death watch for six weeks at the end of the year.

Then my brother dying and finding out it was cancer in early 2011. Leaving Wells Fargo late that year and starting contracting again as the cancer worsened. Commuting from Idaho to SFO every week while I got sicker and sicker.

Trying to go to GBR in Reno that year, and I managed two whole dinners, and a couple hours at the range one morning... and the rest of the time I was stuck in my hotel room, in pain.... not even able to sit up in a chair to be with some of my best friends...

Honestly, that was in September... and I don't even remember the rest of the year after that... My sleep apnea from the tumor was so bad that even with the cpap and the meds it was depriving my brain of oxygen. My thyroid and adrenals had pretty much stopped functioning by then, but we couldn't supplement because it might have made the cancer worse... and the tests said I wasnt actually critically hypothyroid but they were wrong, because of the weirdness of the cancer... and I was just getting sicker and sicker, and stupider and stupider.

Then early 2012 my mom dies, and the IRS decides to screw us over, and seizes our accounts while we're visiting Boston for her damn memorial... The memorial that never happened because... things were screwed up with that side of my family... Then I get a great new gig, that turns to hell, as my cancer decides to go stage 4 and almost kill me.

Then it's good news, as we find out Mel is pregnant with the boy... and bad news as we find out how bad the malignancy was, and the metastasis, and how much radiation I would need... and the radiation... I spent three months completely in bed... the cancer and the radiation were so bad I'm still not recovered fully from it.

And 2013 rolls around...

December 1995 to December 1996 used to be my worst year ever... It started with a motorcycle accident, losing my fiancee, losing my home, and losing my job, all on the same day, ended with the man I loved most in the world dying, and in between, my house burning down, and several friends dying ..

Now... my worst year is April 2013 to April 2014... not even a question.

In 2013, we finally run out of resources... and we lost the atv, and the boat, and the car, and most of the guns, and almost anything of value we had...

But we get a bright spot in March because the boy is born... and we live for him for the next few months, until we finally lost the house at the end of August...

Meanwhile, Mel has SEVERE pre and post partum issues, and our community of friends is torn apart by... nasty things from nasty people... and people we love are badly hurt, and friendships are lost and... things just go from bad to worse.

This is the point where stuff could have started turning around... but instead it turns out we made the wrong decision, and everything just kept getting worse... Because instead of going to my family in Boston, when they were asking us to, and could help us... We made the incredibly stupid decision to go back to Arizona.

... in the middle of nowhere, with limited phone and Internet, 80 miles from any employment or friends, and Mel's autistic hyperreligious father...

And we just got stuck in a hole for a few months...

But I was stupid enough to think I was recovered enough to work again... and so, with the help of vast quantities of pharmaceuticals, come November, I start a new job that requires rapid relocation entirely across the country to New Hampshire... while I'm trying to work 60 to 80 hours a week... and traveling back and forth from Arizona to Vegas, then to New Hampshire, then Chicago, Arizona, New Hampshire, Connecticut, back to New Hampshire, back to Arizona, to Seattle, and then what was supposed to be a final trip back from AZ to NH... all in a matter of a few weeks.

Only the company (who went half bust and were acquired soon after by the way) decided to screw me over relocation expenses, because the CFO and I didnt get along and never wanted to pay relo anyway... and they left us stranded in the middle of a transcontinental relocation... no home to go to, unpaid and unreimbursed, out of pocket to the tune of almost $20,000...

And my health, which had not been good to begin with... after months and months of travel and overwork, and stress... just collapsed. I got pneumonia in late January while I was still travelling, and I kept working through it because we needed to survive...  and it didn't clear up until early March... by which time we ended up stuck back in one little room in Arizona.

... and for its second.. or third maybe... encore, my destroyed endocrine system and the abuse I'd been heaping on my body for so long, finally caught up... and I spent 10 or so days going into and out of a myxedemic coma.

.... at the same time, Mels relationship with her father rapidly deteriorates, to the point where they are never going to speak again... and there I am... can't work, can't take care of my family... helpless, and homeless.

Thank God friends were able to help us out... and after a few days with good friends in phoenix.., Once again, rather than go to my family in Boston, we make the wrong decision... and go to Florida. No offense to the great friends who helped save our lives... we are grateful in ways we can't even express... but it was the wrong decision.

The last 15 months... they were better than the previous three and a half years absolutely, but they were the wrong move. After the first few months, things stopped getting better and just sort of oscillated around a low baseline.

Getting off the medication that was killing me, and onto the right one helped, but not enough... and Mels mindset and health deteroriated, and after some improvement mine plateaued way below where it needed to be... My inflammation was out of control, and the pain was... I just kept getting sick over and over... and in between I worked until I dropped... and I dropped and stayed down for weeks, then I'd work for a bit again, and then I'd drop again...

Then finally I made enough of a recovery, that I could commit to a full time job... and I did... in fact I overcommitted. 80 plus hours weeks for months, for low pay... because I believed in what we were doing, where we were going... and I get bronchitis, and work through it for three weeks, and kill myself crawling around a warehouse in 105 degree heat and humidity with it... I work for 70 hours straight through one time... but the CEO decides he wants to go in a different direction, and he can't afford me...

...and my dad has a heart attack... the day before my birthday no less... and I don't find out until the day of... from facebook no less, because apparently, everyone in my family had my old phone number from two years before... and it's a 98% blockage, and he actually died on the way to the ER and... it was really bad.

..And that has to be one of those not so gentle hints you get every once in a while that you're doing the wrong thing.

We lost the Idaho house the end of August 2013... and have gone through hell since...  We should have come back to Boston two years ago.

If we had gone back to Boston after the boy was born, as we should have... April 2013 to 2014 never would have happened. I wouldn't have ended up in a coma... Instead of struggling with intermittent contracts and friends and family helping and generally being a damn burden on everyone... I'd have been working in a good high paying job, that didn't require 4 hour round trip commutes, or airline commutes, or 80% travel... and we would have had my family around to help and support us.

Instead we spent a year in a holding pattern, while Mels own issues get worse and worse, and we get more and more isolated, and...

And then my dad has a heart attack... and it's pretty damn clear we have to go to Boston, to be around him, and my family, and to make sure my son knows his grandfather and...

So I look for jobs up here, I go through interviews, I get some great opportunities, I spend most of June and early July hustling a new gig... I even get a choice of potential offers... And one of them looks like a really great gig, and it's only a few minutes from my dad, and they want me to start right away, and GREAT... I take the offer, I sign the contract, I let the other employers know I'm unavailable, and I start getting ready to come up here.

That was July 11th...  I was supposed to start on the 3rd, and I've now been up here 19 days and I'm still waiting to start, and even then after that I won't be paid for four weeks...

...meanwhile I haven't been paid since May...

...and I'm getting jerked around because "the process" is so badly broken, that I may not start until some time next month, and then not be paid until a month after that...

So, as soon as I found out that I was misled about the start date, I started looking for other  jobs, and in fact I've had several phone interviews already. Im on second interview phase on four different... really good... jobs in the next few days.

... but even if I get a new job next week (unlikely), or the week after (possibly); the start date won't be until mid September, or even first of October... and then I won't be paid for 15 to 30 days after that.

And my wife is stuck back in Florida with the toddler, and it's coming up on the end of the month, and her state of mind is NOT good, and getting worse every day I'm not home...

... and when I get here, I find out my dad is FAR worse than I knew about... my grandmother dying last year after three years of taking care of her through the decline, and then the heart attack... his PTSD has got so bad...

And now... this delay, and my money situation, and Mel's stress and bad reaction, and my dad's issues, and... and as pathetic a tale of woe as this is, I've left out most of it... and just every damn thing.

Apparently my family have had enough... because... well there's no more help there... that was made clear to me today... yesterday.. whatever... and things are starting to get nasty, and I have no right to ask anything of them anyways... and apparently, none of any of this has actually happened, and I'm just... yeah... it got nasty.

...and we've already lost almost everything, several times over...

... And I keep trying to do the right thing, or anything I can... and I keep getting hit in the damn face... Sometimes it's my health, sometimes it's my own fault from my own bad decisions,  sometimes it somebody else, sometimes it's just the way things go...

And I'm writing this... half of me doesn't want to post it, because it's too damn much of a tale of woe... and the other half has to write this down, because it's just too damn much and I've got to get it out,

We have got great friends who are doing what they can to help us, and people who love us... and God knows I appreciate that... and they've been with us through this whole process, even back to the custody battle for the girls...

...But I haven't breathed a single breath that wasn't under imminent threat of our life being ruined, or even dying, since... I don't even know... what year did the custody case go federal? 2007? 2008? I haven't been healthy since even before that, and I have only been healthy enough to actually work for... less than a year now really... I have been in a non stop life and death struggle since September 2010, and every time it gets any better, I keep getting knocked back down.

My personal favors, my relationships, my resources, my reputation, my honor, my pride, and now both Mels family and mine... they're... just gone...

I keep seeing the light at the end of the tunnel... and I keep getting hit by the train that's behind it...

... and I am badly, badly burned out, and exhausted, and I just need to rest, and I can't... I haven't been able to rest since 2010... or before...

Now, it's mid... I guess late now... 2015... August 20th 2015... in two weeks it'll be five years since the girls were taken...

I no longer have a "worst year"...

I now have a "worst five years"... September 2010 through August 2015...

Maybe September 2015 will be better... I really hope so...

Critical Process Capture

I'm going to illustrate for you how process capture, and broken processes, have real world consequences, for the success of your organization, as well as for the people in it.

At the very end of April, my father had a serious heart attack. In the wake of that, my wife and I decided to move back to the Boston area, to be closer to him.

I start looking for jobs up here, I go through interviews, I get some great opportunities, I spend most of June and early July hustling a new gig... I even get a choice of potential offers...

One of them looks like a really great gig, and it's only a few minutes from my dad, and they want me to start right away, and GREAT... I take the offer, I sign the contract, I let the other employers know I'm unavailable, and I start getting ready to come up here.

That was July 11th... 

Now, it's mid... I guess late... August... August 20th to be exact. Six weeks after I signed the contract... and now tied for the longest time I've gone between signed contract, and start date.

When I was recruited, this was a critically urgent... in fact months overdue... requirement. And they had a very quick process for interviewing and hiring me... It was two weeks from first phone call, to signed contract, with a projected start date another two weeks out... "Maybe three at the most".

At this point, "the process" got started... and the failure started along with it.

A two week out start date, became the first week of August... Then, after my tickets have been booked for two weeks, and I'm a day from travelling, I get a phone call... It's not gonna be the 3rd, it'll be a meeting on the 5th to get my badges and paperwork done, and then I'll start either the 6th or the 10th.

Ok, that's annoying, but I can deal with it... a few days of hanging out with my family, seeing my friends... It's a big pain losing a week of billing, but we'll live.

Then I go to the meeting on the 5th expecting to be ready to go... get my badge, fill in my final paperwork... This is what my recruiter and contract manager said the meeting was supposed to be about...

Except "the process" had other plans.

I talk to the hiring manager in the meeting that Wednesday,  and I find out that due to "delays in the approvals process", even though I had signed the contract on July 11th, the actual PO for the first phase of the engagement, had only been signed that Monday... and, because it is a completely serialized process, with no parallel work streams allowed, the SOW hadn't even been signed or approved yet.

At that point, they hadn't even started the paperwork to get me cleared to start, never mind a start date, a workspace, a PC, ID'S etc... and in fact, because of "the process", they weren't even allowed to START the sub process for doing do.

But "they're working on it"... "it should be the next week, assuming all goes well, or at worst, the 17th", because "someone will be working "the process" the whole time".

Only the week of the 10th the hiring manager goes on vacation... and I find out that nothing even got started the week before, except my background check...

... Which I told them at the first meeting would pop an issue if they did a credit check, because of the medical issues and losing the house etc... and which they said wouldn't be a problem, there was an exception process and they'd get started right away...

Remember, I signed the contract July 11th, and was told by the contracting agency, that the background check had cleared, THREE WEEKS BEFORE, or I never would have got on a plane in the first place...

And, of course, there's an issue with my background check, because they are one of the few companies that still does a credit check for pre-employment screening ...even though I'm just a subcontractor... and they have arbitrary rules about what's "clearable",  so there's a problem...

...but there's an "exception process", and I need to wait for the paperwork from the background check company in order to do my part of the process... Which by the way they send to Florida instead of here, and which doesn't get to Florida, until this past SATURDAY, more than a week after the background check was initiated.

...Meanwhile my hiring manager needs to start the exception process... which can take 10 to 15 business days... which he was supposed to do after the meeting on THE FIFTH...

... Only he's on vacation, and he didnt start the "exception process" because they can't start the exception until the background check starts being processed and comes up with a problem... and that didnt actually happen until he was already on vacation... and the person who is supposed to be "working the process" isn't "working the process", because only the hiring manager is allowed to start the "except process"...

...but the manager "knows about it, and will start on it as soon as he gets back".

... yeah...

The hiring manager finally got back from vacation on Tuesday, and apparently NOBODY understands the damn process, because four different people in four different groups have a different idea of what needs to be done by who...

...and there can't be any separate work streams, it's all serial...

...and unless they can "expedite the exception process", it may be ANOTHER 10 TO 15 BUSINESS DAYS before the EXCEPTION can be processed... and that has to be completed before the REST of the on boarding process can even START...

... which may take 10 to 15 days beyond that...

... Unless they can "expedite the on boarding process"...

That's been my last few days... and in fact, my last few weeks.

Yesterday, I got a call from the contact administrator, the hiring manager says it's absolutely critical to get me on boarded as soon as possible, and he's working the exception process but needs me to go back to the group that told me that I need to have the hiring manager work the "exception process".

They're now six months overdue on the requirements I'm supposed to be filling, and every day I'm not working they fall further and further behind...

... but "the process" must be obeyed, and there is no way around it except "the exception process", which is really just another part of "the process".

Later today, I talk to that group again... I tried working with them again yesterday, but the guy who was supposed to be working with me, was out the last few days, and their backfill person had no clue what to do... except to "start the process over again" from scratch, which would take... you guessed it... another 10 to 15 business days.

This friends, is process capture... I'm almost tempted to say at its worst... but unfortunately, I've seen worse...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Proof and Motivation

Almost everyone I love or care about, suffers from depression, anxiety, addiction or substance abuse, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or some combination thereof.

So, whether I would otherwise or not... I do too... It's different for me of course, but I do too.

And if you are in the same boat, so do you.

And if you are a primary sufferer, remember... those who love you are suffering through it too.

You may not see it, they may be hiding it from you, they may show it in different ways... and they most likely will not tell you, because they know you will just use it as ammunition against yourself.

And when you feel like you're alone, and nobody loves you... the fact that they are their suffering with you, is the most tangible proof you will ever have that you are loved and you aren't alone.

Tattoo it on your forehead if you have to, so every time you look in the mirror you'll be reminded.

Don't use it as an excuse to feed your depression and anxiety and pain even more... Don't use it as an excuse to justify the evil thought "they would be better off without me". Use it as proof that you're loved, and not alone, and motivation to drive on and live your life as best you can.

When you love someone... their pain, is your pain... And their "not wanting to hurt you" or minimizing or "leaving for your benefit" or anything else... I doesn't stop the pain, it makes it worse.

Use it as proof, and motivation.... it's the best that you can do.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A valuable lesson in how not to govern a state

So... if you weren't paying attention... and most haven't been and have little reason to... the state of Connecticut is in serious trouble. They're effectively not just bankrupt, they're in the hole so deep they can't even see the top.

20 years ago, they were in great shape, and looking to get better...

So, what the hell happened?

Basically, Connecticut has been a textbook case for "how to kill your economy with government".

...This is gonna be a long one, because I'm not kidding, it really is a by the numbers lesson of exactly what not to do...

CT is in trouble explicitly because of its government.

This is one that even the liberals can't deny... and if you've read much from regional media, even they are generally placing the blame, at least close to where it belongs.

This all started about 20 years ago...

After some rough years in the 70s and 80s while their legacy manufacturing and fishing industires dramadically contracted, and 10 years where their core insurance and financial aervices industries had plateaued; Connecticut went through a huge economic boom in  the mid 90s (as with most of the country, but as a percentage more than anywhere other than MA, CA and TX)

This was primarily due to massive expansion in the financial services sector; as well as the overall technology boom and .com bubble, and smaller booms... or at least swells... in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, certain elements of the communications, defense, aviation, aerospace, and light manufacturing sectors; and a HUGE boom in the high end commercial real estate and development sectors; all of which CT has traditionally been strong in.

In response to this, the state and local governments very rapidly spent...not just their increased revenue... but decades woth of future revenue as well.

They made revenue and growth assumptions, based on continued growth at that explosive boom rate; creating legislation and programs that depended it... and worse, taking on HUGE amounts of debt, with the assumption that it would be easily paid back with future revenue growth.

At the same time, they made regulations that made it much more difficult and expensive to do business in the state... Because, after all, business was booming, and they could afford it, right?

Well, actually, no.

The state and local governments had increased the burdens of doing business so much, that they made it  nearly impossible for those businesses not in a boom.

They made it particularly difficult for small and medium businesses not primarily driven by discretionary consumer spending; which form the long term economic base of a healthy local and regional economy (about 30% of all private sector employment in this country is from businesses of this type).

Local property taxes and assessments shot up precipitously. Insurance rates skyrocketed. Business to business overheads went up without increased productivity. Legal ahllnd compliance costs went way up. Various individual and business taxes and fees on both the local and state level went up far faster than inflation, or income and revenue growth.

Commercial property costs and new commedical property development went way up in "desireable" areas (even though there wasn't a big increase in demand in most areas). Worse, even though occupancy rates remained stagnant or even crashed, costs still increased significantly in most "less desireable" areas as well.

Similarly,  housing costs and new development shot up in "desireable" areas, even though there wasnt very much overall population growth (CT lost population over the decade), and costs in "less desireable" areas still rose even though occupancy rates fell.

A lot of small businesses, struggling business, and less established businesses just failed. Their costs just became too high for marginal operations to remain viable. At the same time, a number of large legacy business that had been barely viable, became non-viable and finally folded (or in a lot of cases were acquired for short money, then operations were relocated to lower cost markets, contributing both to unemployment and population los).

It became difficult even for established and successful businesses outside of the boom to grow, and very difficult for new businesses outside the boom to get established. The barriers to entry and costs to grow, we're just too high.

In fact,  as early as 1998, it had been noted that in some areas, costs were too high, even in comparison to neighboring or nearby Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey (with few attractions and advantages to offset those burdens).

The government forgot something critical... They forgot that things change, and people and businesses change and move, in response to changing conditions and incentives.

They forgot basic economics.

Businesses need incentives to stay, that are greater than their incentives to leave. They need incentives to start or grow in one place, that are greater than the incentives in another place. Otherwise they're going to go elsewhere. Simple as that.

When your state is more expensive and difficult to do business in than New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California (every state other than Hawaii in fact)... You're doing something very very wrong.

So, businesses started leaving... or were started elsewhere... or expanded in other states.

The big employers and established big revenue companies were able to leverage their size, power, and government relationships, to get some relief from certain burdens (particularly in the defense, financial, and pharmaceutical industries)... and in general were better able to absorb them... So, for as long as the booms lasted, they were happy to keep doing business. But they weren't actually making sustainable long term business growth and investment in Connecticut.

This of course made the government keep thinking that everything was good, and they kept running up their tab, and tightening the screws on businesses and citizens.

...and then the boom slowed

New and small business development essentially halted. Larger established businesses did not bring more business into Connecticut or grow their operations in the state, and started contracting and relocating operations elsewhere. Businesses outside the state chose not to bring new operations there...

...Unless of course they could wangle a legislative favor and get some incentives and relief...

Which of course the government were all too happy to continue doing... After all, it gave them more power, and more money, and more secure political positions.

And from the government's point of view, all was still rosy...

But those companies still made preparations to move their operations out of state the second anything changed... and they expanded operations anywhere other than CT.

... and then the boom ended.

It actually ended right around October of 2000 or so... though most didnt notice it until mid to late 2001, when both companies and governments, came to the inescapable conclusion that actual realized revenues as of the end of q1 and q2 (as opposed to booked revenues, which may be commonly booked from 30 to 180 days before they begin to be realized... or longer... or in many cases never) were down well below their estimates for 2000, and were tracking lower for the rest of 2001 and into 2002.

... and then September 11th happened...

At the same time, the fed cut interest rates to effectively nothing (anything lower than inflation is actually effectively lower than nothing... which they've mostly been at since then by the way, minus a couple years at "slightly more than nothing" from the end of 2004 to the beginning of 2008. It's been at an actual 0% since 2008), and the property boom that had started in 1996-7 with the .com bubbles halo "wealth effect", suddenly kicked into ludicrous speed.

Between 9/11 and the property bubble... somehow people didn't notice that we were actually in a recession in every sector not dependent on the "wealth effect" or debt driven consumer spending.

After the .com bust and 9/11, most American and international big businesses (outside of certain elements of the financial, mineral extraction, energy, transportation, housing, consumer goods, luxury goods and retail sectors, all of which were riding the bubble), changed their operational patterns dramatically to cut costs and reduce risk (as had happened in the early 70s and mid to late 80s in response to major changes in the marketplace). 

At the same time, small business growth slowed dramatically across much of the country, in response to shifting geographic patterns of development, increased risks, and higher costs of doing business. Small businesses that were not driven by the "wealth effect", were largely stagnant. The startup market collapsed, and outside of a few momentarily hot sectors and minibubbles, became nearly dormant in comparison to what it had been between 1989 and 2000.

Venture capital went into a strange mode where capital pools were building, and risk aversion and command and control mindset dominated... But at the same time, in an effort to drive market beating returns, crazy amounts of money would be pumped into anything analysts thought would be a market maker or primary sector driver, without regard for underlying value... Chasing issues up high and fast, and then dumping them hard once profit taking hit (essentially a legal form of pump and dump).

Everyone's risk tolerance went WAY down, except for those in active bubbles.

Most big businesses started aggressively reducing their exposures to risk, and slashing their legacy and high cost operations, especially in high cost markets like the northeast. High cost low margin operations and businesses were divested or shut down. Big companies got bigger, seeking to leverage scale and reduce risk by acquiring viable but marginal operstions, and small but growing operstions. New development was directed to lower cost, lower risk markets like Texas, Florida, south Dakota, and to a lesser extent Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Meanwhile,  collectively, Americans were going insane, and running up a massive property and debt bubble,  peaking at the end of 2006 and just kinda floating there til 2009, before popping completely, in the banking bust.

... And during this time, the CT government spent even MORE and took on even more debt, and turned the screws even tighter on businesses and citizens...

...all in expectation that the "prosperity" of the property and consumer spending bubble would result in significantly increased revenues.

It didn't.

In fact, the insurance and other financial services industries that had long been the core of Connecticuts revenue base were damn near destroyed between 2005 and 2009.

Discretionary consumer spending driven businesses had massively over expanded in the bubble, and suddenly began to contract, or fail, wholesale.

Most of the legacy heavy industry of Connecticut manufacturing cities was killed off in the previous 20 years, except those dependent on government contracts.

The fishing business had long been non-viable because of poor catch rates, high costs, and crippling regulation.

And of course, the property development business completely collapsed.

Between 1997-9 or so and 2009, most viable medium and large businesses (outside of a boom industry) that could leave... did.

Well... unless they got a special incentive from the government to stay (Pfizer... you wouldn't even believe....)

Basically, the entire states primary industries and major private sector employers; failed, contracted dramatically, fled the state, or got special considerations which made them revenue neutral (or even net negative due to state spending or subsidy comittments).

Between this and the collapse of consumer spending, small business failures and contraction, high unemployment, and all of the other ripple effects; Connecticuts economy has contracted by between 11% and 15% overall from its peak in 2006-2008 (depending on how you calculate it and  whose numbers you believe).

That's the worst in the country by a large margin by the way.

The picture is much worse when you look exclusively at the private sector economy, which has contracted over 20% (it may be more than 25% or even more depending on whose estimates you believe)

Excluding those companies in the financial sector and other large businesses whose revenues are primarily realized out of state, and those with negotiated tax breaks... Who knows...

The states taxable revenue base has certainly fallen dramatically, by any measure.

... but the government kept spending as if the state were growing, while massively increasing state debt year over year. In fact, state employment and state expenditures INCREASED EVERY YEAR since 2006.

After 2009, any sane government would have slashed the burden and expense of doing business in their state in order to promote growth and attract new business. That's exactly what most of the states I noted above did (all but Virginia, which made it harder, but boomed on increased government spending).

After 2009, any sane government would have looked at their situation and said "hey, those big expensive projects and new spending that we'd planned on? Yeah, we have to put that on hold".

Again, that's what most states did, outside of the "stimulus money".

Not Connecticut.

From 2008-2010, Connecticut lost 120,000 jobs... about 8% of total jobs in the state. During those same two years, government sector employment (outside of indian gaming industry employment, which is counted as government employment) ACTUALLY INCREASED BY 9%

In the face of total collapses in private sector employment and revenues, and an already overwhelming debt burden, Connecticut actually INCREASED spending, and acquired MORE debt... Counting on state and federal government spending to "stimulate the economy" and Kickstart growth.

It didnt.

Then... and this is my favorite bit....

....when some folks both at the city and state levels, finally woke up and tried to restore some rationality and sanity to the situation... cut spending, layoff non essential staff, cancel new programs, reduce scheduled spending increases, put pending projects on hold etc...

THE GOVERNMENT SUED ITSELF, IN ORDER TO FORCE ITSELF TO KEEP SPENDING MORE MONEY THEY DIDN'T HAVE.

That's not a joke... look it up... and it's not just once either... the absurdity of it would be hilarious, if it weren't tragic.

Now they have the worst debt to revenue ratio in the country... and it's not getting better anytime soon.

Regardless of what Connecticuts government officially says (they concluded they had 0.6% net economic growth in 2014), they are facing what everyone honestly examining the situation knows to be net annual outflow of private sector jobs, income, economic output, and population; with resulting decreasing revenue, and increasing debt load. They're in a coffin corner.

In the next two years, large job losses at GE, Pfizer, General Dynamics, and Sikorsky, are going to stagger the states economy even further

... and rather than stop the bleeding and make it attractive to stay in or come to CT, they have doubled down and continued making it worse.

Rather than cut their regulatory and tax burden, making an overall lower cost to do business for ALL businesses, they are desperately trying to o woo specific large employers to come to the state, with tax and regulatory breaks.

The employers weren't biting, because CT did that before and then screwed those companies 4 to 12 years later.... And besides, there's really no advantage to doing so.

Even if they offer a company 100% corporate income tax free operations, and free land to build their facilities (I did mentione Pfizer earlier didnt I?); CT can't give employers the advantages they get in Texas or Florida:

A government they know actually is pro business, and a generally low cost of doing business; lower total tax burden, lower regulatory burden, lower property costs, lower development cost, lower insurance and benefit costs, lower legal costs and risks; and most significantly, a much easier time (and therefore much lower cost) attracting and retaining quality staff at substantially lower cost per employee (because in addition to lower overheadsm these states have a much lower cost of living, much better weather, and much less constrained lifestyles, providing a considerably higher effective standard of living for a given salary).

Of course,  Connecticuts government somehow never got the lesson, that if you took the same breaks from the ridiculous tax and regulatory burden you were going to give to a company promising to bring 5000 jobs into the state.... and you gave them  to EVERY company in the state already... you wouldn't have to beg big companies to come in, and then have to pander to fhem for decades... Small and medium businesses would flourish again, while costs to everyone for everything in the state would go down, and the economy would not just recover, but soar.

... because they just don't think that way...

It's not command and control, it's not collective, it's not a single big thing they can take credit for, it's not one guy they can cut a deal with, or one guy they can control...

... it doesn't fit the narrative...

But... It actually works...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I am annoyingly expensive to keep alive...

Earlier, my wife posted on Facebook about our monthly prescription drug costs... It got me thinking about our total medical expenditures, and what it takes to keep me alive and functional over and above the "normal" persons needs.

I came to the conclusion that I am rather expensive to keep alive...

At this point I take 7 different daily or weekly prescription medications.

I normally take 15 prescription pills total per day, plus one injection per week (which is way down from the 23 pills a day I was taking at one point).

As of right now, we pay about $350 a month for just my scrips (down from about $600 18 months ago), out of pocket, using several different pharmacies and several different prescription discount plans (it would be three times that price if we didn't).

I think the retail on them combined, used to be around $1500 for generic, but over the past two years, it's gone down to about $900-$1000... Which is still ridiculous. Thankfully, the discount plans really help a LOT.

Name brand, DISCOUNT (never mind retail) cost on my scrips would be several thousand dollars; as name brand retail on just one of those scrips is something like $900, and a couple of the others are $300 to $700.

Oh and that doesn't include the Provigil (modafinil generic), which I have been prescribed, but don't take, because it's INCREDIBLY EXPENSIVE. It used to be $750 with the discount, and it's still $400 with the discount ($1018 retail) for a 30 day supply. And of course, that's generic... name brand is $1350 AFTER DISCOUNT!

Even when we had insurance, Provigil is only covered for narcolepsy and other sudden sleep disorders, not for what I need to take it for (sudden overwhelming fatigue and loss of mental acuity and alertness, with occasional daytime somnolence; due to endocrine dysfunction); so at best, I can get it at the discounted price.

Since I can't afford the medication that actually works.. pretty much I just gut it out. When I have the sudden fatigue etc... I take another adderall and another cytomel, and try to do things that don't require much brain function... or nothing if I can, or if I'm at home try to lay down or nap... until my endocrine system and other meds catch up and my brain works again (it can last for anywhere from 20 minutes, to 2 hours).

And of course, that's just the daily and weekly prescriptions; not the periodic or as needed scrips, or the other OTC meds and supplements that I REQUIRE... Require as in NOT OPTIONAL... necessary for life.

It doesn't include the incidental OTC medications that I need (if I were a low deductible insurance patient I'd get scrips for them, but as a cash patient OTC is cheaper). Mostly prilosec, nasocort, and zyrtec. Those run something like $100 a month for both Mel and I together, so $50 a month for me alone.

It doesn't include the appx. $200 a month in OTC vitamin and mineral supplements I have to take because my body doesn't absorb, retain, or use the amounts I get in my diet properly (megadoses of calcium, potassium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, vitamins A, b1, b2, b5, b6, b12, C, D, and E; and creatine).

Again, these are NOT optional, or I become severely vitamin and mineral deficient, and the medications that keep me alive don't work.

It doesn't include the as needed scrips for allergy and sinus medications (about $50 a month when I need them, several times a year).

Finally, it doesn't include the medicated shampoo, steroid foam, medicated oil/cream, and periodic antifungals and antibiotics; that I need to suppress or relieve certain unpleasant side effects of the cancer and endocrine issues*** (see below). Those run about $300 for a 3 month supply, so $100-ish a month... but I can live without them for a few months at a time.

Basically... I am extremely expensive to keep alive, to the tune of about $650 a month extra just to survive, another $150 on top of that to not be miserable... and $400 on top of that to be awake, alert, and functional full time.

...$1200... a month...

As I always say folks... Cancer sucks, I strongly recommend not getting it. 

*** Because I am immuno-suppressed, have endocrine dysfunction, and because my body doesn't absorb or use vitamins and minerals properly; there are a number of other unpleasant but not life threatening... mostly cosmetic and minor irritation... medical issues I have to deal with.

I suffer from moderate to severe hyperkeratosis and seborrheic dermatitis, and mild angiokeratoma and angioectasia; on my scalp, sometimes my face, and in some other "senstive skin" areas.

At times, as a complication of these, I also develop folliculitis, sebaceous cysts,and cellulitis in those areas.

It's unpleasant, but usually I can deal with it without medication, unless the infections get severe. It does mean I have to shave my head frequently, and severely scrub my scalp, among other things. Also, I've added some more gnarly scarring to the collection that had already graced my skull. 

Acronyms, and Zebras, and Quarter Billions

Hah.. remember how I've mentioned that my cancer was not only incredibly rare in and of itself, but that I had an incredibly rare form of it (which is one reason why it took years to get a diagnosis)?

Well, today I was looking up some of the long term side effects of the cancer in question, and I actually found a paper about the specific incredibly rare presentation that I had... Which was really cool, because it even has an acronym.

In particular, I had atypical Multi-Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN... tentatively classified as an atypical MEN2 presentation), presenting with primary thyroid carcenoma, and non-metastatic undifferentiated micro-lesions (meaning they were only a few cells each, and couldn't be biopsied or typed accurately) of the pituitary, adrenals, and other endocrine tissue.

These microlesions, and possibly the specific type of primary cancer, also caused associated paraneoplastic syndrome, Basically, they makes your endocrine system go out of control, and make your body act like it has other diseases that it doesn't have.

Most prominent in my case, I developed many of the gross symptoms of Cushings disease; so much so that they attempted to treat me for Cushings at one point. However, the treatment actually made me worse, and the next series of tests showed that I absolutely did NOT have Cushings (but at that point, they still had no idea what I actually had. It was another 2 years before they found the cancer).

Notably, while I had microlesions of the parathyroid (along with all my other endocrine tissues), and reduced parathyroid function (I still do in fact, but I have enough that I can metabolize enough calcium as long as I drink a lot of milk or orange juice, or have a few calcium tablets a day) I had no significant parathyroid masses, and no pheocrtomocytoma (I had microlesions, but not large tumors).

These are atypical for MEN2... and for MEN in general. In addition to the currently formally classified MEN1, and MEN2a, MEN2b, and MEN2-FMTC (which is still controversial and not universally accepted),  they are considering making classifications for MEN3 and MEN4 variants which include such presentations.

MEN2 is in itself incredibly rare... Something like 1 in 500,000 people have the genetic anomalies for it, and most with the anomalies don't ever present with the symptoms necessary for diagnoses. Most doctors... even most oncologists and endocrinologists, will never see a case of MEN2 in their practice. Then further, MEN2-FMTC may be as few as 1 in 20 million.

...But that wasn't the new info.. I already knew about MEN2 from way back. The FMTC part IS new, because that has only provisionally come into use in the last few years, and as it happens I had what appears to be a further sub-variant of FMTC, based on the type of primary thyroid tumor I had.

Because what made my presentation atypical (and difficult to classify properly) and even more rare, was the type of primary thyroid cancer I had developed.

The most common types of thyroid cancer are papillary (about 70-75%), and follicular (about 20-25%), with all other types representing less than 5% combined. Of those, medullary is the most common (about 3%), with anaplastic cancers conventionally considered the rarest (less than 1%).

There are a few more rare presentations however, particularly "mixed" or "complex" presentations, where two or more different types of cancerous cells (mixed), or two or more different types of anomalous cancer cell structures or structural abnormalities (complex) occur, within the same tumor. When these happen together, it's a "Mixed complex" presentation.

My tumor exhibited complex mixed papillary, follicular, and parafollicular (medullary) structure, poorly differentiated, with grossly enlarged and malformed nuclei.

As it turns out, it's possibly the rarest form of thyroid cancer... So rare that they are not sure if it should have its own classification, or not... But they made an acronym for it anyway: MMFC (Mixed Medullary and Follicular structure with C-cell presentation... Which may also include papillary and non-epithelial structures as well. These are WEIRD tumors).

How rare is it? As of 2000, only 40 cases of my primary type of tumor had been confirmed and documented world wide... and of those, only 2 were in males, both of whom had MEN2 (as did about 1/3 of the women).

40... total... ever.... (or at least since 1908 when the first was recorded)

According to the best estimates I can find, approximately 10 billion people have lived on earth between 1900 and today. 40 in 10 billion (well... 41 including me, but we'll round off)...

That's 1 in 250,000,000

 Basically, 1 case in America alive today... me... and another 25 or 30 all around the whole world.

...Though to be fair, it's likely there were more, they just weren't documented; either because they died quickly and their COD was just listed as "natural causes" or "thyroid cancer"; or because the disease was treated before it progressed to the point where MMFC could be diagnosed.

...Or they just didn't notice that it was MMFC, because the presentation is so rare, that histologists and pathologists don't look for it, and assume it's a bad test when they see it (it can look like a bad sample, or one that's been contaminated with cleaning solution or something similar).

My first biopsy in fact, while it showed this unusual presentation, was also annotated by the lab as "inconsistent and unreliable", and they considered it "inconclusive". The pathology wasn't confirmed until the post-excision analysis.

Of all the documented cases, those that progressed far enough, ALL had the same tumor progression. They began as relatively slow growing mild malignancies through stage II. Then after reaching between 10 and 15cm, they exhibited rapid anaplastic transformation, reaching stage IV in a matter of weeks or months. At that point they became extremely aggressive and invasive undifferentiated anaplastic malignancies, with lymphovascular infiltration, and invasion of nearby tissues.

... Which is exactly what mine did.

My cancer had aggressive vascular infiltration by the time they excised the primary mass (the doc said it had built its own blood supply with a couple large blood vessels, and dozens of small malformed blood vessels in and out of the capsule) but thankfully hadn't gone aggressively lymphocytic, because the tumor had remained encapsulated. There were a few small clusters of small speckles of cancerous tissue throughout my body, and LOTS of tiny speckles all over (I lit up like a Christmas tree on the body scan), but there were no large distant masses, or large or dense clusters of cancerous tissue.

When they did my post surgery followup, and got the pathology report, they told me that it was the strangest (with the mixed complex structure) and most aggressive anaplastic thyroid cancer they had seen. They said if I hadn't caught it right then, I would have died in as little as a few weeks to at most 3-6 months, depending on how long it took for the capsule to burst, and for the cancer to completely metastasize through the lymphatic system.

That was when they decided I had to have the most aggressive radiotherapy option... which I'm still suffering side effects from almost 3 years later. Because with that type of cancer, you either nuke it hard, or it kills you more than 90% of the time.

Anaplastic thyroid cancers are generally considered effectively untreatable once they invade other tissue, or if they exhibit lymphocytic metastases.

They have a very very poor survival rate... 4-7% survive five years after SUCCESSFUL treatment, because the cancer aggressively returns, even with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy...

....Unless the tumors are encapsulated...

Thank God mine stayed encapsulated.

By God I am so lucky, and so blessed, to be alive...

... But anyway...

I now have the right acronym for my MEN subtype:

MEN2 - MMFC

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SOS...

Chris has been offered, and accepted, a job in Quincy, MA that is totally within his wheelhouse and actually pays enough. His stated start date is August 3rd.

Problem is, we're in Lakeland, FL. And we don't have enough cash to get him there and ride out the month until he gets paid on August 30th.

That's a problem. We need to pay a very pressing bill, get him to MA, make sure everyone has meds refilled, and make sure we have food and transportation for him in MA, and food and gas money for the toddler and me in FL (we'll be moving once we have a place in MA, and our rent in FL is already paid).

It's a lot smaller gap than it was, but it's still a gap.

So if anyone can help us in any way at all, anything would help.

Last time I went without telling everyone I ended up raked across the coals, so this time I'm just going to come out and say it: we're very very close, and just need to make it just a bit longer, and any help would be greatly appreciated.




If you're uncomfortable with using PayPal (and I know a lot of you are) you can also drop me a line at Melody DOT Byrne AT gmail DOT com


Mel

Update: Got the plane ticket, but things like food, ground transport in MA, gas money and travel incidentals are not as of yet.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Moving Towards Post Scarcity

If you want a world where no-one is poor, or hungry, or suffers... It's impossible.

However, a world where poverty and hunger are rare is entirely possible. In fact, we could do it right now, today.

... Though not through the means that most of those who loudly claim it as their goal, would think... or approve of.

The way to get there is by moving towards a post scarcity economy. Not to redistribute material wealth, but to make everyone so materially wealthy, that there would be no point.

And that IS possible.

We already live in a world where we can produce enough food, cheaply enough, for no-one to ever be hungry again.

... but most of it is wasted (seriously, most... between 60% and 80% of all food grown in advanced economies is wasted), because of government corruption, stupidity, or outright tyranny (most famines are not the result of nature, but of government).

That wasted food isn't given away for free, because high energy costs make transportation too expensive, and because government makes laws and regulations against doing so,mor that make doing so too risky and expensive.

What about other goods?

The three biggest components of the cost of most material goods, are labor, energy, and legal and regulatory costs (including taxes).

Material costs for most goods are a small fraction in comparison, rarely exceeding 20% of the total cost of an item, and often comprising less than 5%.

...And even then, much of the costs of the raw materials are themselves, labor, energy, and legal and regulatory costs (including taxes).

It's not greedy evil profit that makes and keeps things expensive... It's the cost of energy, the cost of labor, and the costs imposed by government and the legal system.

Right now, today, we could dramatically reduce the wasteful overheads imposed by government and the legal system, without hurting safety a single bit.

We could dramatically reduce taxes, and regulations, keeping only those that demonstrably improve safety to a reasonable degree for the costs they impose.

We could make industries far more competitive, by reducing barriers to entry created by governments.

We could dramatically increase employment at the same time, and wages, as businesses competed for workers, who had more money to pay those businesses.

We know all of these things work, because they always have, and always do. When we get out of the way.

But the single biggest thing we could do, to dramatically increase the material wealth of the world, and to dramatically improve the human condition...

Cheap energy.

If we could deliver energy so cheap that we didn't have to bother metering it, then we could achieve a near post scarcity economy, almost immediately.

With enough energy, cheap enough, we can achieve matter synthesis for many substances relatively easily.

With enough energy, cheap enough, aluminum, copper, gold, silver, silicon, and many other currently expensive materials, become dirt cheap.

With enough energy, cheap enough, plastics and anything derived from petrochemicals or other hyrdocarbons, become so cheap as to be effectively zero cost.

With enough energy, cheap enough, we have effectively unlimited clean fresh water, and can easily clean the air.

With enough energy, cheap enough, we can synthesize whatever fuels we want... Or mostly not bother, because the only thing we'd need chemical fuels for anymore was highly efficient long distance bulk cargo transportation, and air travel.

If you're really worried about carbon output from the human race... How about eliminating more than 80% of it, permanently?

With enough energy, cheap enough, we don't have to worry about efficiency of transport and storage technologies... though we will still develop them so that we can replace chemical fuels in air travel and bulk cargo transport, and to improve range and grid independence.

With enough energy, cheap enough, the cost of manufactured goods falls anywhere from 20% to more than 80%... and employment booms, and economies boom, and everyone gets much wealthier... rich and poor alike.

With enough energy, cheap enough, about 90% of the world's troublespots, stop being troublespots, and most of them we wouldn't have to care about.

If you want to "end war" it's impossible, but if you want to make it much rarer, smaller scale, and less destructive... cheap energy is the best way to do that.

Guess what?

We could do most of this, in less than 20 years, simply by deploying a widely distributed localized grid, of thorium reactors (technically, encapsulated pebble bed, low temperature and pressure gas coolant, thorium reactors... and/or natural convection, low pressure thorium salt reactors).

They have functionally negligible waste, their fuel cost per gigawatt is negligible, and they are many times safer than current coal and natural gas power. They are incredibly cheap to build and operate, they can't be weaponized, they can't have a meltdown or other destructive catastrophic failure... if you don't believe me, don't believe the propaganda, go an do the research yourself.

If we decided to get out of the way and get behind this entirely, we would have power at a cost of pennies per megawatt hour... a tiny fraction of a percent of the cost today (in the U.S. average is something like $0.13 kwh right now with taxes and fees adding about 20% on top of that. Some states run several times that, and much of Europe several times that again).

This isn't some pie in the sky dream, it doesn't require 50 years of engineering work or basic science. There are no breakthroughs required... Unlike EVERY OTHER FORM OF POWER that could possibly be an alternative to today's power infrastructure. Solar, wind, geothermal, none of them could ever be more than a fraction of our needs at ridiculously high cost. Fusion requires both basic science breakthroughs and much more engineering work to be viable (if it ever is). It's all decades away at best, if ever.

We could do this today.

Not 50 years from now... TODAY.

The 20 years isn't for more development, it's just how long it would take to complete the world wide economic transition to a cheap energy economy and infrastructure.

So, if what you really want, is to make a world where no-one goes hungry, and no-one is homeless... Then work for cheap and safe energy, and a huge reduction in government induced overhead. And it will happen.

Otherwise, what you really want, is a world where everyone is poorer, but where "evil profit" is eliminated, and "the rich" are punished, and everyone is economically "equal"; where the "right people are in charge", and will arrange the world the way you think is right, and punish the people you think are wrong.

Because that's all you're ever going to get, with more expensive energy, higher taxes, more government, and more redistribution.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sometimes we forget people want to help

I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

So it doesn't surprise anyone when my uberpost goes live tonight and so I don't get a million messages asking me why we didn't mention anything: 
We, as a household, are in temporary dire straits. The short length of the last job allowed us to catch up on bills somewhat, but not get us ahead. 
So we're almost out of food and almost out of meds and need to figure out how to pay the phone bill in the next 5 days so Chris has a way to contact possible employers. 
The way things are looking right now the situation should be resolved in about a month (very likely there will be one or more job offers this week) but in the meantime between the car being undriveable and the lack of cash and food, we're kinda screwed. It's not a situation in which we can tighten our belts on either food or medication, or we risk Chris's health backsliding. 
So, yeah... 

A reader commented:

So, put up a Pay Pal link on one or both of your blog pages, note that here along with the reason(s) and make it as easy as you reasonably can for others to contribute to your continuing "adventures". Not to be crude or dismissive of either of your feelings, but it's disturbing and kinda annoying to read about the travails of people whose personal story you have read about and followed for literally years (and in my own case, actually experienced the briefest moment as a bit player in) and not have any practical mechanism to help keep the story in production (as it were). I strongly doubt I am alone in feeling this way. 

We weren't thinking those terms. Honestly, we've gotten so tired of being bad news all of the time and weren't looking for help. We were so VERY close to being out of the woods and, hopefully, in another month the past couple of years of struggle will be rapidly fading behind us. We'd forgotten that maybe people *want* to help. So as requested, here is the easy button.

If you'd like to do something more snail-mail in nature, please drop me a line at melody.byrne AT gmail DOT com. Thanks everybody for still being out there.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Anxiety, Failed Methods, Helpful Methods, and ACT

(this is cross-posted from Renaissance Wife)

Hello there random reader-person,

My name is Melody, though everyone calls me Mel. I'm a wife, a stay-at-home mom (what a misleading term), and a professional assistant. I'm a writer, a geek, a baker, and a lover of pretty shoes and designer lingerie.

I'm also anxious as all hell, practically all the time. And I'm going to do something that pegs my anxiety to an incredible degree, all the way to the red zone.

I'm going to write about anxiety.

My experience with anxiety

I'm not a doctor. I don't have initials behind my name.

... but if you're anything like me, you're sick of dealing with doctors, and counselors, and psychologists and psychiatrists anyway.

What I am is a long-time sufferer of anxiety who spent much of her life undiagnosed and misunderstood. I've tried many methods, watched many methods fail, spent thousands of dollars on therapy, spent hundreds on self-help books, and finally figured out some stuff that actually worked.

The technical list of psychiatric ailments I've been diagnosed with (in order of diagnosis and age):

Depression (15)
Bi-polar Disorder (17)
PMDD (psychiatric symptoms are part of the disorder) (26)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (26)
Social Anxiety Disorder (26)
Panic Disorder (26)
ADHD (30)

Only one of those diagnoses is inaccurate (Bi-polar Disorder). The rest were incomplete without the full list.

I've seen a lot of psychiatrists and counselors and taken a lot of different combinations of medications.

As for when the anxiety started, it took my now-husband watching me go into a panic attack before anyone figured out that's what my "tantrums" were. Watching my then 3-year-old daughter suffer through a panic attack, my mother remarked "oh, we just thought those were tantrums".

In other words anxiety and panic attacks became my companions at a very early age and, evidently, have a genetic component.

Why am I laying this out on the table like this?

I dealt with enough psychiatrists and counselors and well-meaning people who just DID. NOT. UNDERSTAND. Frankly, if you've never experienced a panic attack then you don't know how it feels, how out of control you feel, how ashamed you feel, how crazy you feel.

That leads to getting several "helpful" suggestions that are anything but.

So when I say I've found some methods just don't work, and some methods actually do, I've personally tested everything listed. When I say I've managed to significantly reduce the suffering that comes with my anxiety and the impact anxiety has on my life, that also means something.

Well maybe your anxiety is mild, and that's why it's so manageable...

My life went from being a "normal" amount of anxiety-inducing events to a raging flood of doom in September 2010, when my ex-husband tricked a judge into letting him take my daughters out of the country.

In January 2011 my husband's brother died suddenly. In February 2011, while we were at the memorial service, the IRS started auditing my husband due to lost records and seized all of the funds in our bank account. Also in February 2011 we found the cancer that caused my husband's health issues. In May 2011 we found out my husband's job of 6 years would be disappearing due to workforce reduction. In October 2011 the job officially ended. Contract work would be sporadic after that, and still is. February 2012 my husband's mother died AND the IRS seized our bank accounts, again. In August 2012 my husband went in for cancer surgery 2 days after we found out I was pregnant. We found out a few weeks later that he'd been close to dying. September 2012 saw radiation treatment and the repossession of one of our vehicles. Between September 2012 and February 2014 my husband's health fluctuated so badly that he came close to dying multiple times. In March 2013 our son was born. In August 2013 we were so financially strapped we had to leave a place we loved and move in with my father. In November 2013 we moved across the country for a job that ended up lasting only a few months. In January 2014 we ended up back at my father's while my husband struggled with health issues that almost killed him. In May 2014 we moved across the country again to live with a friend.

It is now June 2015. Work has still been sporadic. We've lost another vehicle. My husband's health is finally somewhat under control. I'm handling a hyperactive hyperintelligent 2-year-old on a daily basis. We're broke, we're almost out of food, income is another month away, our car is currently undriveable, and yet THIS IS THE BEST WE'VE BEEN DOING IN YEARS.

I know about anxiety and stress y'all. The very fact that I'm not hiding in bed 24/7 is an indication of how far I've come in managing my anxiety.

10 years ago this level of stress and anxiety would have had me popping Xanax like mad in order to not be a completely non-functional shaking mass of human hiding from the world.

I know of what I speak.

Methods I've tried and discontinued for various reasons

Counselors
Life coaches
Psychiatrists
Talk therapy
"Parenting myself"
Several antidepressants
Xanax
"Working through it"
... all forms of navel-gazing


Seriously, if it involves "tell me about your mother" I've done it. Identify the causes. Figure out the past. Find out why I am the way I am. Try to fix my brain. Try to undo the damage. Blame other people. Blame myself.

None of it worked, and I was on a timeline.

What actually started working

My mother's anxiety kept me socially isolated and therefore badly socialized.

I wanted better for my kids.

So despite the fact that social interaction caused me varying levels of anxiety ranging between "get me the hell out of here" and "full-blown panic attack" I did what I needed to give my kids the socialization they needed.

I interacted with the other mothers at school on a daily basis. I talked to the teachers. I volunteered at the school. I took the kids to after school activities, playdates, and birthday parties.

I started to notice something.

Every time got a little bit easier. Not no anxiety, just less anxiety. Like a person with a phobia going through aversion therapy, my anxiety became more and more manageable.

Not gone, just manageable. Like my threshold increased.

The panic attacks started to diminish in number and intensity, but still plagued me.


Aversion therapy was not enough

Aversion therapy didn't get me all the way there. We moved during this time, and leaving behind old patterns and habits helped. Continuing the aversion therapy through social interaction helped, as long as I kept pushing my limits. Knowing my limits and not pushing too far past them helped. Self-care and proper nutrition and rest helped. Self compassion helped as well.

The anxiety still plagued me. I still wanted to be rid of the anxiety and panic attacks forever. I wanted to be "normal", to not be "sick", to be "healthy".

So while I reduced my anxiety, life circumstances never let up and I was always one more major problem away from rolling panic attacks. I'd made tremendous progress but life seemed intent on throwing even more anxiety and panic inducing circumstances my way.

While my ability to deal with the anxiety increased, the physical symptoms of the anxiety also increased and made me utterly miserable.

Sometimes you just need to ask the right person

In this case the right person ended up being a friend who is a doctor who told me to look into an alternate therapy concept called ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

ACT ended up being extremely helpful, and while I still end up in occasional panic attacks (low food supplies mixed with lack of cash mixed with changing life circumstances outside of my control is my panic-causing kryptonite) the panic attacks have gone from controlling me to being annoying. If one more major life stress is resolved I expect the panic attacks to leave me be until something else potentially life-ending occurs.

But isn't the goal to get rid of the panic attacks and anxiety?

That's an awesome, noble goal. I've spent years of my life chasing that particular goal.

I've got next to nothing to show for it, other than an empty bank account and a huge stack of self-help books that didn't help at all.

Learning to live with the anxiety and manage how it affects my life, well, that's actually improving my life.

That's the goal of ACT: learning to live, function, and pursue your goals despite the anxiety

Remember when you thought figuring out why you were the way you were would suddenly resolve the issue and make you a healthy person without insane levels of anxiety?

How well did that work?

It doesn't. That kind of navel-gazing makes the assumption that your anxiety somehow responds to logic and conscious attempts to change.

That's a faulty assumption.

Don't get me wrong. Understanding the "why" is useful, in that it helps you practice the self-compassion you'll need to manage your anxiety. It's just not the end.

The fundamental assumption of ACT: your brain is a dirty, dirty liar that isn't interested in your happiness, only in avoiding pain

This makes sense. Happiness isn't a survival strategy, Avoiding pain is an awesome survival strategy, if your life isn't complex.

Panic attacks are often associated with the "fight or flight" instinct and tend to happen in situations in which you don't pick either option. Your brain has associated the anxiety-causing situation with pain or fear and therefore tries to get you to get the hell away because it might kill you.

Useful reaction, if the situation is coming across a mama bear in the wild. Detrimental reaction if it's your first day at a new job and your brain is balking at the concept of the unknown. "What are you doing?!?!?!?!?!" your brain screams "we've never been there before and there might be a predator hiding in there!"

Congratulations! Your insanely low anxiety threshold would have made you more likely to survive and have children who survived... when we were still in caves.

Our brains haven't exactly caught up to our new world order.

Even better, our brains can "learn" to identify more situations as dangerous because they cause us emotional pain. Ever been heckled on stage? Stage fright for you from now on. Been bullied? Let's avoid other people, because they cause us pain. Cheated on? Have a freak out every time your new man is out of sight, courtesy of your brain learning that situation causes pain.

There's nothing conscious about this. Your brain would just rather avoid the pain. It's not smart enough to reason through the fact that no risks means no change, and no possible increase in happiness.

In order to convince you that you're better off avoiding those situations, your brain plays a dirty trick on you: it lets you think it's right and that your emotions are right and based on reality. In other words it lies to you and lets you think that your thoughts and emotions are truthful and real.

Thoughts and emotions do not necessarily reflect reality

How much conscious control do you have over your thoughts and emotions?

Try not to think of the pink elephant.

That's how much control you have over your thoughts, next to none.

Ever watch a movie and burst into tears?

That's how much control you have over your emotions, so little that someone who doesn't even know you can manipulate your emotions.

ACT is about recognizing that your thoughts and emotions aren't you and don't necessarily reflect reality.

This is a radical departure from therapies that you may have tried before because...

ACT isn't an attempt to "fix" your brain, it's an attempt to learn to live with your brain

What happens if you accept that your thoughts and emotions aren't necessarily real or truthful and your brain manufactures anxiety based on unconscious assumptions that you don't control?

You stop trying to control it. You accept the way your brain works. You accept that the thoughts and emotions exist but don't necessarily mean anything.

That's the A in ACT. Acceptance. Your brain, your thoughts, your emotions are not "you" and not fully under your control.

Try not to think of the pink elephant. Try to keep the image out of your mind.

Now think of the pink elephant and let your attention go somewhere else.

What took less energy and ended the thoughts fastest? Struggling with them and trying to control them, or noticing and letting them go?

Emotions are much the same. Ever try *not* to be angry at someone? How well did that work? What about just admitting you're angry, accepting it, and moving on to something else?

How much did your anxiety level just drop?

One of the theories behind ACT is that the act of trying to control the anxiety, the thoughts, and the emotions is actually more painful and damaging than just letting the anxiety, thoughts, and emotions happen.

You notice the anxiety, you notice the symptoms, you notice the thoughts, you notice the emotions, you accept that they exist, you let them go (there's several techniques for this that can be found in any book outlining ACT), and you go act in accordance with your values and goals without regard to the anxiety.

ACT isn't about how you think or feel, it's about what you do

What would you do if you didn't have anxiety? Finally finish that book? Get a degree? Ask that person out on a date?

ACT is about learning to do what you want and need to do despite the anxiety, thoughts, or emotions that plague you.

That's what the C stands for: commitment. Commitment to your values and goals.

Is a clean house important to you? Do you go into a panic attack any time you start to clean because of past trauma (I do)?

The goal of ACT is learning to clean the house despite the panic it will induce. Or talking to a stranger, Or being on the stage.

The goal is to act in accordance with your values and goals. The side effect is a reduction in anxiety,

Think about it. Doing things despite your anxiety is just another form of aversion therapy. Every time you do what causes you anxiety and you don't suffer harm, you brain (as stupid as it is) believes in the supposed danger of the situation a little bit less.

Do it enough, and the brain barely puts up a protest anymore.

Keep avoiding it however, and the brain continues to think the situation is horribly dangerous and must be avoided at all costs. The more you think about it, the more anxiety you feel, the more your brain interprets the anxiety as pain and danger, the more powerful the anxiety becomes.

Learn how to push forward despite the anxiety, and the anxiety starts dropping.

Counterintuitive, huh?

ACT is about learning methods for letting go of the thoughts and emotions so you can do what you want to do. There's mindfulness techniques, relaxation techniques, techniques for resolving panic attacks, the whole deal. More techniques than I can list here.

Eventually you get practiced enough that you don't need the crutch in the form of the techniques. You just accept what's going through your head and go on your merry way doing whatever it is you need or want to do.

So why did I spend so much time going over ACT?

Frankly, it's a new way of thinking about therapy, and... well...

Okay fine, Psychologists seem to only speak two languages: jargon, and "woo".

I understand jargon to a certain extent. I hate hate hate "woo".

Jargon makes them sound smart and gives specific words for specific purposes. Woo sells self-help books.

I should know. I have an entire stack of them.

For example:

Developed within a coherent theoretical and philosophical framework, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a unique empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values.
I can't tell if that's a mission statement or a description of a new religion, or both.

I love the book I picked up on the subject, The Happiness Trap, but it even has a sprinkling of the woo, enough that sometimes it sounds like the psychological equivalent of healing crystals.

It's not, it's actually very useful, the techniques outlined are very useful, the ways of looking at things are very useful.

If you're expecting anyone writing a self-help book based on clinical therapy techniques to somehow translate into layman properly, you're expecting too much.

That's why I was asked to write something up from the patient's perspective, and why I encourage you to look into ACT and aversion therapy as techniques for dealing with anxiety. They actually do work, and while my anxiety is not gone with a combination of the techniques I'm improving my life despite the panic.

Rather than wait to be perfectly healthy, I'm doing what I need and want to do the way I am, at this moment.

I'd rather be happier now than keep trying for a perfect that will never happen.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wounds, and Scars, and Battle Flags



Ok... Here's a fun one... Explaining people who support flying the confederate flag, but who AREN'T actually themselves racists... and why it's actually important to understand them.

Yup, this is going to piss EVERYONE off... Which is OK, because hard to hear but important stuff does that.

Stay with me here... Don't just turn your outrage on and your brain off... Actually read and think about what I'm writing here OK?

"Both sides" of this issue, please, just read all the way through,  don't just react... because I'm going to piss EVERYONE off on this one... and I really mean that... Black, white, southern, northern, liberal, conservative... whatever... This post is probably going to piss you off at some point.
... Also, I am putting this note at the beginning so that certain folks don't just stop reading and dismiss everything I say here based on a language choice I've made...
For my readers with formalist, philosophy, racial studies, psychology, sociology, ethnography and other similar backgrounds... 
For most of this piece I am going to use informal and colloquial definitions of "racist" and "not racist", based on direct, personal racism, with racist intent. 
I will do this because even though this is an inaccurate and imprecise basis, it is how the terms are understood by most people not formally trained in the subject, and there is shared meaning and context for it.
I am aware of, and am not dismissing or ignoring that racism and other forms of bias, are not that narrow, nor that simple.
I WILL, further down in the piece, more formally define and clarify "racist" and "not racist" in the context of this discussion, as well as make a distinction between personal and direct racism, and impersonal and indirect racism. 
I will also try, without expanding an already overlong post too much, to give those without formal background, some understanding and appreciation of, and context for, the broader and more complex conception of racism that they are likely unfamiliar with. 
I am not doing so for most of the piece, because it will just confuse the issue even more than it already is, and create more misunderstanding and division. I am including the more detailed clarification and distinction later on, because to not do so, may be considered irresponsible or at least incomplete, given that all of these context are actually important to the issue as a whole.

*****Just to be clear on my personal opinions and background before the meat of it*****

I am a white, northeastern born and raised, overeducated by "elite institutions", white collar professional.

I am neither conservative, nor liberal, I am a libertarian.

That said, I have also lived more than half of my life in the south, or parts of the west that might as well be. I'm a veteran, I shoot, I hunt, I fish, I occasionally blow stuff up, I ride motorcycles and atvs, and drive 4x4s... and my wife listens to country... and I listen with her when she's driving or working around the house (I don't like most modern country).

I think flying the confederate flag (which isn't even actually the confederate flag but most people think it is) is stupid and wrong.

I don't hate the south or southerners, I don't think they are racist (or moreso than anyone else... in fact in my experience the south is LESS racist than the northeast)... even most people who do fly the flag or support it... It's still stupid and wrong.

NOW LETS START PISSING PEOPLE OFF

First, let's piss off the pro flag people... Don't worry, once you get through this part, we piss off the anti-flag people... and really, it's worth the wait.

****FLYING THE CONFEDERATE FLAG IS STUPID AND WRONG****

At the very beginning, It's important to acknowledge that while most are not, SOME people who fl\y that flag, or support flying the "confederate flag" ARE racist... Openly or otherwise.

It's also important to acknowledge that flag in particular, is an important symbol for those racists, and is used almost universally among them, as a symbol for their racism... Openly or otherwise.

No, that's not anti-southern propaganda, and no, that doesn't make everyone who flies the flag or supports flying it, racist... it's just the truth. The truth sucks. Live with it.

If you can't acknowledge that... You're hopeless anyway.

Now... Whatever your thoughts about whether it is a colloquial symbol for "southern heritage", "southern pride" etc...

... It's ACTUALLY an OFFICIAL symbol for a violent and bloody civil war directly killing hundreds of thousands of Americans and indirectly killing many more; conducted by a government that is utterly antithetical to the American ideal (and if you think otherwise, you are either ignorant, or deluded).

Certainly, in whole or in part, the confederate naval jack, or Tennessee or Virginia battle flag (what most think of as the confederate flag), or ANY CSA flag; should not be flown by any official or agency, or at any facility, of any government in these United States.

NOT EVER, FOR ANY REASON

The government, laws, and constitution, of the Confederate States of America, should NOT be honored by any agent, official, or government, within or of the United States, in any way.

NOT EVER, FOR ANY REASON

No, that does NOT mean "North pure good, South pure evil"... Don't be stupid. I'm not, and I'd have to be to believe so. You'd have to be, to think I meant so.

... and this is where I piss off the anti-flag people some as well, but they need to listen...

It doesn't mean that we should not respect those men who died fighting for their homes, fulfilling their duty, as they felt their honor required of them; though they were led by misguided or evil  pseudo-aristocrats and politicians, in service of an evil government.

This may be hard to understand for those who hold the simplistic, and false, view of the civil war (which is probably most Americans outside the south, as it's largely what is taught in our schools and in popular culture); that the north was fully good, the south was fully bad, it was only about slavery, and everyone in the south was equally culpable for slavery and the war.

It's also necessary to understand that most people at the time had a very different concept of our nation. Before the civil war, most thought of themselves as citizens of their state first, and the nation second. The average citizen had no contact whatsoever with the federal government, except for a tax stamp on their liquor and imported goods, and voting for their local representative to congress every other year (senators were not elected by the people directly until 1914, and there were no direct personal federal taxes until that year as well... which is not a coincidence).  In the decades following the civil war, this changed to our modern concept of national citizenship first, as the federal government grew and intruded on peoples lives more and more.

It really is very difficult for modern Americans to grasp this and internalize it, but in 1860, a man would feel as deeply committed to being a Virginian, and to serving his state, and defending it; as any service member today is committed to our nation, to serving it, and defending it.

To these men, they were not defending slavery, or even the confederacy. They were defending their homes, which were being invaded.

Robert E. Lee fought for a government he did not believe in, in a war he did not want, because he believed his duty to his state required it of him. He was not an evil man... In fact, he is rightly held up today, as an exemplar for not just his military skill, but his honor, and devotion to duty.

... Absolutely none of which justifies or excuses the war, or slavery, or racism, or the CSA...

... and back to pissing off the pro-flag people...

It DOES mean that the constitution, government, laws, leaders, and many of the actions of the CSA are entirely incompatible with America as she is today, or as she was...

...Well, ever really...

....but certainly after February 4th 1861.

Though many virtuous and honorable men lived in them, and served them; the Confederate States of America were NOT an honorable and virtuous institution, fit to be recognized and honored by our government today.

Get over it.

*****SORRY NO, THE CSA WASNT ABOUT RESISTING TYRANNY*****

While we're here, and since I just said something that's guaranteed to get these people screaming... lets just get the confederate apologists out of the way right now...

Some people have this ridiculously idealized notion about the confederacy being a valid example of resistance to federal overreach and tyranny...

Those people are either ignorant, or deluded.

Again, not "North all good and right, south all bad and evil", that would be stupid, I'm not, don't be stupid by thinking I am saying so...

...but this fairytale notion of the CSA being about freedom, and liberty, and federalism, free from an oppressive central government, is at best a very bad and sick joke.

It's a completely ahistoric revisionist fantasy... But it isn't actually racist in an of itself.

Confederate apologists are mostly ignorant or deluded... But most actually aren't racists.

Hell, most of them aren't even southern. Some of them even think they are libertarians.

Wait... What? Really? How...???

I realize to many people that concept is impossible to fathom... How could someone idealize the confederacy and NOT be racist?

It does indeed boggle the mind... Unless you spend a lot more time and effort studying history, warfare, and economics, than most people will ever bother with.

... and even then, how they can just handwave away the racism and slavery aspect of things is still beyond me, but they do...

There are a lot of "jacksonian" types, who have idealized the notion of federalism, states rights and resistance to "federal tyranny" (and for that matter, a ridiculously idealized notion of Andrew Jackson)... and so they say things like:

"Yes, slavery was wrong, no-one disagree with that. but the civil war wasn't really about slavery, and the actions of the federal government were not justified, and slavery would have ended on its own soon anyway because the economics of it were inefficient and unsustainable".

While there is an actual reasonable argument to be had about all three of those latter points... As a historical question... It's not relevant to the question of the confederate flag.

For some reason, these apologists think that since everyone knows racism and slavery are wrong, they can simply dismiss that factor... like canceling out variables on both sides of an equation...

...but NO, you just CAN NOT do that...

Mostly this thinking... Especially among those who self identify as libertarians... Begins with studying history a bit deeper than the cover sheet, and suddenly realizing that Lincoln wasn't exactly the unblemished superhero that grade school history teaches.

*****THE NORTH WAS NOT ALL GOOD, THE SOUTH WAS NOT ALL BAD*****

There's good reason why many libertarians and some conservatives, or self identified "constitutionalists", have mixed feelings about Abraham Lincoln.

First thing being he didn't really free the slaves... While he was personally anti-slavery, it was not an overriding passion or priority.  He didn't really care whether the slaves were freed or not, if it preserved the union. He didn't free the slaves in the slave states that were not in active revolt, nor those still held in slavery in free states (thank the supreme court for that), and his proclamation didn't have any force in the states not under union control.

If you want to thank anyone for "freeing the slaves" (other than the generals of the Union armies, who freed the slaves at their own discretion in territories they controlled) it's James Mitchell Ashley, and James Wilson, congressmen from Ohio and Iowa respectively. They're the ones that got the 13th Amendment "passed" (the scarequotes are necessary, because how the wartime amendments were passed was largely unconstitutional, however after the war the requisite states ratified them).

Second being Lincoln completely shredded and ignored the constitution as and when he saw fit. He ordered detentions without warrants, screwed with congress and the supreme court as he saw fit (worse than anything FDR or LBJ ever even thought of), took whatever authority he thought he needed to do anything he thought he should do, and then maybe bothered to get it rubber stamped later, if he remembered.

If you think Obama, Bush, Nixon, LBJ, FDR, or Woodrow Wilson, abused the constitution... In comparison to Lincoln, they were utter paragons of righteous virtue.

In today's world, we wouldn't tolerate the kind of abuses Lincoln committed on a daily basis... Even in wartime. Even though it was to preserve the union. Even though it ended slavery.

It's just the same as the notion we hold today, that we are supposed to be above torture, no matter how important the cause... because that is not who we MUST be, if America means anything.

Well, we're not supposed to ignore, shred, abuse, and flatly and flagrantly violate the constitution... Even if it's to keep the union together. Even if it's to end slavery.

Moving beyond Lincoln...

There's congress... and corruption, and deliberate economic warfare against the south prior to the war (and during, and after).

No, it's not just confederate apologism or propaganda, the south really was being deliberately attacked politically and economically; by both abolitionists, and opportunists.

Yes, federal trade policy and tariffs were in fact being corruptly manipulated by northern merchants. Congress, the executive branch, the civil service, and both regulation and legislation... Even international treaties... Were to a great extent, being bought, sold, and apportioned, to the great detriment of the south economically, and politically (One of the precipitating triggers of the civil war was the 1860 census; as southerners believed... Correctly... that reapportionment was going to substantially disadvantage them politically come 1864 or so. They also believed that it would be corruptly manipulated to disadvantage them further... also likely true. If you think congress is corrupt now, you really have no idea what it was like in the mid to late 19th century).

We won't even get into "Reconstruction", and the utterly unconstitutional abuses, corruption, and bare thievery of what little southern resources and wealth remained (to all but the truly wealthy elites who were smart enough to hedge against the CSA, and bribe the reconstruction governments properly... They made out very well indeed, not only preserving much of their own wealth, but scooping up much of what was left or taken from others. In fact some are still among the wealthiest families in the south... and the nation... today)... Except to say that the administrations and congresses of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant are largely considered the most corrupt and abusive in the history of the United States. Far beyond what any congressman could imagine in their wildest dreams today.

Finally, there's the fact that the vast majority of those fighting for the confederacy, really weren't fighting for the CSA. They were not slave holders, most were not even landowners (they WERE racist, but so was almost everyone, north or south), and they didn't want the way anymore than anyone in the north did. But they were convinced by their leaders, that the north was waging war on them, to take their land, and make them nothing but colonies to be exploited for the wealth of northern merchants (which was in fact what much of the north tried to do during reconstruction, and what some were trying to do before the war).

Most whites in the south were both heavily propagandized, and nearly or completely disenfranchised; as, if they were even allowed to vote (most were not due to various regulations designed to restrict the franchise to the wealthy and educated landowning elite), their choices were basically decided for them by the parties (controlled by those same wealthy elites) before any ballots were cast.

Most were also almost completely dependent on, beholden to, or at the mercy of, the large landowners, even if they had their own small farms or shops; because the large landowners controlled the local economies and governments.

When I said pseudo-aristocratic and semi-feudal, I was not using hyperbole or invective. It sounds almost like socialist propaganda against the European nobility... But it's the truth. Get very far outside a major city, and the local large landowners really ran the counties as near fiefdoms.

Those working men of the south weren't fighting to protect slavery... whether they supported it or not... They were fighting to protect their homes, which were being invaded, and for their states, to whom they owed their loyalty and their duty. And they fought, and they starved, and they died and they lost...

...and those left returned home to utter destruction, poverty, abuse, and even more disenfranchisement, this time at the hands of the utterly corrupt federal government and their appointed masters.

Some may say that they deserved all of these things for rebelling... But most of those who feel that way, are probably also those who say... Rightly... that no matter the circumstances we must live up to who we claim to be, and what our constitution says.

This is not some Confederate Apologist fantasy... It's history. And it's history that most in the north never bother to learn, and that our schools never bother to teach...

Most in the south don't really know it either. They just know the mythology of it, passed from grandfathers and uncles and friends, and the popular culture around them, that they then idealize.

Sometimes, they idealize it to the point where somehow, they remember the good and honorable parts, and take pride in them... but dismiss the evil, as if it didn't matter anymore; because they themselves are not evil, and their grandfathers, and great grandfathers, and great great grandfathers were not evil... Or at least they want to believe so...

*****"NOT ALL BAD" DOESN'T MEAN GOOD, OR JUSTIFIED*****

So yes, there absolutely was federal overreach, and yes Lincoln completely shredded the constitution, and no the war wasn't entirely or even mostly about slavery as much as it was about economics in general (as most wars are) INCLUDING slavery, which the CSA saw as an issue of economics and property rights; and yes the war basically eliminated the concepts of federalism and states rights as meaningful things and set off the huge growth in reach and scope of the federal government...

...and all of those are certainly bad things, that should not have happened... and we should recognize and appreciate them and NOT dismiss them as meaningless, or minor.

... And no, not everyone who fought for the confederacy was evil, most were not, and many were honorable men doing their duty as the believed their honor required of them...

... AND NONE OF THAT excuses the fact that the Confederate States of America was based on an evil foundation of pseudo-aristocratic, semi-feudal, agrarian landholding wealth; lorded over, and built on, the backs of an effectively disenfranchised population of near serfs, and the lives of black slaves, WHO WERE PEOPLE HELD AS PROPERTY.

There is NOTHING that can, or could ever, justify it. Not then, not now, not ever.

It doesn't matter that there were other factors and causes, and that most were not slaveholders; because yes, the CSA saw human lives as a matter of PROPERTY and economics; and yes, the government of the CSA was fighting to preserve their property rights... OVER OTHER PEOPLE.

That was EVIL. It was against everything America is supposed to be, and everything we should be as human beings.

There is no way you can deny, excuse, or justify it, and you shouldn't try.

If you can't recognize that evil for what it was... You're hopeless anyway.

*****SOME MORE HARD TRUTH*****

Even  though most of the people flying the flag, or supporting it, are not racist, and don't intend the flag to be racist; they need to recognize it IS racist regardless of their intent.

Flying that flag is hurtful and offensive to millions of people (not just black people, but especially so), and doing so is harmful to race relations, and to our nation as a people.

It is also incredibly damaging to the south, to southerners, and to America as a whole. Because as long as people fly that flag, and support it. it damages the south in the nations eyes, and damages the nation in the worlds eyes. It gives people the excuse to dismiss, denigrate, and hate the south, and southerners. It feeds anti-american sentiment and propaganda all over the world.

So long as that flag is flown, it IS in fact a continuous reminder to everyone, of the evils of slavery, racism, and segregation; and the unhealed racial wounds in this country.

*****IT'S RACIST WHETHER YOU THINK IT IS OR NOT*****

No matter what supporters of that flag see it as, most black people, and most other people outside the south as well as many in it, see it as a symbol of racism and oppression, FOR GOOD REASON.

IT'S SEEN AS A SYMBOL OF RACISM BECAUSE IT IS ONE

Yes, it is one, and you have to deal with that fact.

It's not a fact because I'm telling you it is... It's not a fact because I say so.. It's a fact, because REALITY SAYS SO.

You can have your own feelings and your opinion, but when it comes down to your feelings and opinions versus reality, REALITY ALWAYS WINS.

You may not want it to be. You may not intend it to be. It doesn't matter, because it is.

Intending it to be something else doesn't make it something else... If that worked you could "intend" your wife to be a supermodel and wake up in bed with Giselle Bundchen. Sadly it doesn't, so no Giselle for you.

***YOU DONT GET TO DECIDE IT ISN'T RACIST, BECAUSE HISTORY SAYS IT IS***

For thousands of years, the broken cross, or the sun wheel, or tetragrammadion etc... were symbols of good luck, prosperity, the cycle of life, and many other positive things.

For just 20 years, it was adopted as a symbol by one of the most evil organizations of all time.

Unfortunately, the thousands of years of goodness doesn't matter one bit, because now, and forever, in the western world, swastikas are a symbol of NAZI-ism.

That's reality... You can't change it by willing it so. 

You can't "take the swastika back", or say it's a "symbol of German culture, and German pride"... And everybody knows that. Nobody is pretending otherwise or trying to do so.

That means you can't make the confederate navy jack mean southern pride, and heritage, and history; because history has already decided what it means.

Not northerners telling you what to do, or outsiders, or oversensitive whiners, or anyone else... History itself. Continuing to ignore or deny that is just harming you, and everyone else.

No, that's not a false equivalence argument. I'm not saying southerners are NAZIs. I'm saying that symbology and meaning are not neutral, or self defined, for such things. You can't take a stop sign and say "well, for me, it doesn't mean stop, it means go", because the rest of the world says it means "stop".
... Or rather, you can try, but if you do, someone is going to get hurt...

And that's what that flag does... It hurts people. People you don't intend to hurt. And the only way to stop hurting them, is to stop doing it.

Flying the "confederate flag" IS anti-american, and wrong.. And no-one should do it, no matter what their reasons*

It IS a racist symbol even if you don't intend it to be, and you shouldn't display or support a racist symbol, if you aren't actually a racist.

(* there is one exception, detailed further down in the piece)
*****FIND A DIFFERENT SYMBOL THAT ISN'T RACIST*****

That's what it comes down to...You can have any symbol for southern pride, southern heritage, southern tradition, that you want... So long as it isn't a confederate or racist symbol.

Knock yourself out... There's plenty to choose from... Just nothing from the confederacy and nothing racist...

No, not everyone who lived in or fought for the confederacy was bad and wrong. Most weren't.

And no, that doesn't mean the north was wonderful pure and good and altruistic. Far from it.

But you're just going to have to get over the fact that the confederacy WAS in fact racist and oppressive, and therefore it's symbols are symbols of racism and oppression. You cannot reclaim them from that.

HOWEVER

Just because the confederate flag is racist, and the confederacy was racist; does NOT mean that the south, southerners, southern history and heritage, southern tradition and pride... Are ALSO bad, wrong, and racist.

Or that you or anyone else ARE racist for flying the flag, when you honestly believe it is not a racist symbol, and it IS a symbol of heritage, pride etc... and there is no racial animus, or ill will, or otherwise racist intent on your part.

... However, you are contributing to racism by doing so... And while you don't intend any racism, there is race based harm being done by it.

Because you're wrong, it is a racist symbol, not one of heritage and pride.

It doesn't make you racist for thinking it was a symbol of pride and not racism. Just wrong. Very very wrong. In many different ways.

... The very first of which, is that the flag actually represents the south as a whole, or southern pride, or heritage, or history, in any way... or ever did....

*****THE MYTH OF THE BATTLE FLAG BEING ABOUT SOUTHERN HERITAGE*****

Seriously... this is the huge con job that even many southerners honestly believe... but that's all it is; a not particularly good... rather half ass actually... cover lie.

Because in the first place, that flag isn't even a traditional symbol of "the south", southern pride, or southern heritage..  It never actually was.

It was a flag used by two armies (every state had their own armies, sometimes several), and part of the navy, and parts of two states of the CSA, for a grand total of 3 years (and with some variation several other smaller units, again for about 3 years total or less), part of the design was incorporated into part of the 2nd and third national flags for a little over a year.

The most famous of those armies, the army of Northern Virginia, didn't even use it for two years. When Robert E. Lee took command of that army, he hated that flag, and changed their battle flag to one matching the CSA flag but with the stars arranged in a different pattern.

Then for a little over a year, the second version of navy flag, was used as the second and third national flags of the confederacy... But really, they never caught on, most places keeping their earlier flags, for the few months before the CSA ceased to exist.

Then through reconstruction, use of confederate symbology for most purposes was banned.

Then from the 1890s through early 1920s, it was sometimes used in conjunction with the song Dixie, as an element of stereotypical and parodic caricature to represent "the south", in skits put on by traveling minstrel shows, early vaudeville, and in early motion pictures; at which time it was often referred to as "the dixie flag".

It was also sometimes seen in romantic style battle paintings of the period, but mostly those were later (one of the ways experts and appraisers spot fakes from actual contemporary civil war pieces, is their inappropriate use of the navy jack or battle flag designs, which were not actually that widely spread or adopted).

And it still, for most of that time generally wasn't actually used widely by most southern states or the military, or widely associated with southern pride or heritage, or even the south as a whole... excepting when it was used to MOCK the south.

Several southern states, beginning in 1885 or thereabout did adopt flags that were similar to or contained elements from either their confederate state flag, the CSA flag, or a famous battle flag from that state. Seven of them are still around today... but only one of them used the navy jack/battle flag design, Mississippi, which adopted their flag in 1894. That design is basically the second naval ensign, with red white and blue bars in the pattern of the CSA flag.

... Still not actually the full battle flag, or the full naval jack however.

At the same time, most likely prompted by said minstrel shows et al...a few army and marine units from the south... or actually more often in the north, but having a southern heritage or history; started using it as part of their symbology... But none particularly famous or well known.

It was during the resurgence of the Klan in the teens and early 20s, that the Klan also started using it, explicitly as a symbol of racism, and recognition between other klan members (something they still do today. There are also references some Klan groups having used it in the initial growth period of the Klan in the late 1860s to early 1870s but they may just be myth).

For some reason in the late 20s it's used died down, except by the then greatly weakened Klan...

...And once again in Missisppi, as the University of Mississippi athletics program adopted the navy jack as their flag, and the Rebels as their name, re-popularizing the flag in Mississippi... though as an actual symbol of local pride and tradition (by 1996, students were refusing to enroll in Ole Miss, they couldn't recruit black students, often students from other teams would refuse to play games at their stadim, all because of the confederate symbology. They banned the flags in 1997 and adopted a new non confederate mascot, and by 1998 their problems were turning around).

It didn't make a broader resurgence until 1946; when it became widely used as a symbol, not for the south as a whole or southern pride, but for racism, segregation, white supremacy, and resistance to forced federal desegregation (as well as resistance to taxation, smuggling and moonshing running etc...). In '46 it was adopted as one of the semi-official symbols of the third Klan.

THIS IS WHERE IT GETS WEIRD

Around that time, it started to become common to hear certain people state that battle flag, or the navy jack, were symbols of "southern pride", "southern heritage", "southern tradition", and "southern history"..

...Though they had not widely been thought of as such before, except in Mississippi (other confederate battle flags had been seen as symbols of pride and heritage in native their states, which is why 6 other states still have designs derived from them, most adopted as mentioned above, between 1885 and 1925)

As it happens, those phrases were also part of the Klans resurgence. Because they were "protecting the south from"... well, you know... northerners, blacks, miscegenation, catholics, jews, tempting white women with lustful dancing and music etc... etc...

Notably, the Klan specifically called out among their core mission, upholding the traditions of "southern pride"... which meant pure white pride... "southern heritage"... meaning a pure white race, and "protecting" the women from black men (by killing the black men), "southern tradition", meaning racism, segregation, and the klan; and "southern history", meaning that the south was going to rise up against the north and the blacks in a race war, and become resurgent.

Yeah... I know... It sounds crazy. It sounds like anti-southern propaganda... And I wish it was... But it's not. This idiocy not only was actually taken seriously... But for about 25 years was WILDLY successful.

At it's most influential, the third Klan counted as members many congressmen, senators, governors, and possibly a majority of state legislators in the southern states. Being a local Klan leader, was a great way to get yourself elected mayor, or sherrif, or state legislator, or congressman.

And again, this is not some crazy conspiracy theory, or anti-southern propaganda... (I wish it was)... it's all documented history.

For example, one of those Klansmen, was none other than the man who was at the time jr. Congressman, and would eventually become the longest serving senator, from the great state of West Virginia...Exalted Cyclops and Democratic Senator for 51 years: Robert C. Byrd...

He's the guy that basically every public building, bridge, and highway in West Virginia was named after (and a bunch of other federal and state stuff). He was in congress from 1953 (-1959 in the house from '59 in the senate) until his death in 2010.

All of this was published many years ago, when a number of journalists infiltrated the klan, and published some of their official documents, and many accounts of their training, their meetings etc...

It was in this same time period, that the same flag which was being used by the Klan... but which had not been used by those particular states before, or if it had it had only been in sporadic and limited use... Started being seen more often in connection with state officials, official functions, etc...

Over a period of about 15 years, the navy jack/naval ensign/battle flag design was added to the flags of, and flown at the capitols, or state houses, or national guard armories, of several segregationist states; beginning in about 1951 I believe, with more new states adopting it through about 1965.

Often this was claimed to be in honor of the civil war, but as the trend started long before the 100th anniversary of the war,  and that particular flag had very little to do with the war, and in fact the states that were actually directly associated with it, Virginia and Tennessee, specifically chose NOT to do so... it was rather transparently NOT actually about honoring the war.

In several cases, there were official proclamations of the flag or designs, honoring and celebrating "southern pride", "southern heritage", "southern tradition", and "southern history".

All of the states that did were segregationist. All of the states that did had their own battle flags and different flags from the civil war that would have been more appropriate. And all of the states that did it had very large and prominent Klan populations, with major influence over their legislatures.

*****NO REALLY, IT'S PROVABLY ABOUT SEGREGATION NOT HERITAGE*****

Hell, a couple of states didn't even bother to pretend it was anything other than about resisting desegregation.

When Georgia adopted the navy jack design as part of its new flag in 1956, they were quite open about it being specifically about segregation and defying the federal government over desegregation, in response to Brown v. Board of Education (decided in 1954), and Griffin v. School board (1955).

So, in actuality, it had nothing to do with honoring the civil war, or southern heritage, or southern history... but it did have a little to do with southern pride.

Because the real reason for it, was explicitly, to visibly and symbolically defy the federal government, over forced desegregation, which began on U.S. military bases in 1949 and 1950, and then accelerated with the school desegregation supreme court decisions in 1954 and 1955.

It's also why new states didn't choose to adopt the practice after 1965... Because by then it was clear, forcible resistance to desegregation was done, because they would send federal troops in otherwise.

...But those states kept the symbols in place, and the flags flying.

Now... I'm all for defying the federal government when it's wrong which is most of the time... And I'm all for telling outsiders who try to tell you how to run your own life to shove it...

MOST OF THE TIME...

But this was SPECIFICALLY, directly, and only, defying the federal government so that these states could officially continue being spectacularly racist and abusive to black people.

Which means it wasn't, in any way, a good thing.

...And by 2005 almost all the states that had changed their flag, or flew that particular flag in any official capacity, recognized this and changed their designs and their flag practices.

Only Mississippi has it as part of their flag anymore... Though they at least actually have a legitimate claim to saying it was about heritage and tradition, since they didn't adopt it during the desegregation period but in 1894 (and they explicitly chose the design to reflect their confederate heritage).


*****IT'S NOT ANTI-SOUTHERN... IT'S JUST THE TRUTH*****

None of this, is anti-southern. Knowing the truth isn't anti-southern. It's not anti-southern culture, or anti-southern history, or anti-southern pride.

It's just debunking the lie, that unfortunately many southerners believed.

... It's anti-stupid, and anti-falsehood, and anti-foolishness, and a bunch of other good things...

...NOT ONE OF WHICH IS ANTI SOUTHERN.

*****AND IT'S NOT ABOUT DEFYING FEDERAL OVERREACH*****

If those states had  wanted to symbolically defy the federal government, they could easily have used the Gadsden flag... Designed by a native son of South Carolina... Says "Dont Tread On Me" right on it, and it doesn't have that nasty racist baggage

Instead, they chose an explicitly confederate symbol, and an explicitly racist symbol, and chose to specifically and explicitly makecommon cause with racists, segregationists, and eliminationists.

... And most states, recognizing this wrong, changed their flags, and ended the practice long ago....

Some people may have thought of it as a symbol of "the south" resisting doing what they were told by the north... But even if that were so (and it's not), what they were being told was to stop killing and abusing black people, so RESISTING THAT WAS NOT A GOOD THING ...

(and no, don't try to give me some bull about it being about resisting federal overreach... I'm a libertarian, not an idiot, and we went over all that above).

No matter what you think of it or what it means to you personally, that flag IS permanently a symbol of racism, slavery, and oppression.

It's not a symbol of southern heritage, southern tradition, southern pride... Even it you think it is, it isn't. 

That was a lie you were taught as a kid, because they couldn't very well teach you in school that your state deliberately chose a racist symbol because they wanted to resist desegregation; and which has been perpetuated by prideful, stubborn, and contrary southerners ever since. 

So find a different symbol, because...

NO-ONE SHOULD EVER FLY ANY CONFEDERATE FLAG*

*Outside of historical re-enactors. It's still a racist symbol, but it's historically accurate and appropriate for what re-enacting is, and is not intended or understood to be promoting racism, segregation, slavery, or the confederacy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: No one should ban individuals and private organizations flying it either. Any individual who wants to fly that flag should be able to... Just know that it IS a symbol of racism and oppression, and that people will judge that accordingly.

We shouldn't make it illegal for private individuals and entities to fly it, but we should not ever allow any government or government sponsored, funded, run, or associated entities or officers to fly it.

NO-ONE SHOULD WANT TO FLY THOSE FLAGS

NO-ONE SHOULD WANT ANY GOVERNMENT TO FLY THOSE FLAGS

Knowing the truth... Knowing that it isn't and wasn't what you thought it was, and that you were deliberately lied to, and that it really is a horrible symbol of racism and oppression...

Why would you want to keep flying one of those flags?

You know the truth... Why keep denying it?

What exactly do you think you're defending? Against who? Against what attack? Why?

... Because no-one here is attacking the south, or southern culture, or southerners.

I'm just trying to tear down that big lie.


****NOW IT'S TIME TO PISS OFF THE ANTI-FLAG PEOPLE*****

note: A lot of this is for sanctimonious white liberals... Much of it doesn't apply to black folks, unless you find yourself falling into the same traps that those sanctimonious white liberals do. No idea why, but most of the time black folks... northern, southern, or otherwise... just don't approach this issue that way.

Much of it doesn't apply to you, regardless of your race, or ideology, or any other thing; if you are already engaging the flag wavers reasonably and respectfully, in good faith, and without condescension, self righteousness, or hate.

No matter what, it may still be of value to you, if you want to understand the flag wavers better... 


So, that out of the way, it's time for the anti-flag people to get down off their high horse, wipe the self satisfied smirks off their faces, and prepare to get pissed off... (oh and there's definitely some more to piss off pro flag people too).

The first thing, is that people other than you, and those you agree with, are not stupid... They know that for many of you this has nothing to do with the flag, that you honestly couldn't give a damn about...

...And that's whether they support flying the confederate flag or not... Because most white southerners don't either, but they for damn sure aren't going to help you paint all white southerners as stupid or evil.

For those sanctimonious hypocrites, it's about calling all white southerners, and most Republicans, racist, without actually having to say so publicly where you can be called out on it, or proved wrong; or worst of all, where your own racial hypocrisy might be called out (or at least you might be forced to think about it, and make yourself feel guilty and uncomfortable).

Yes, it is... Not for all of you, but many of you. Otherwise this wouldn't be an issue just right now, it would always have been a major issue, continuously, for decades, until it was resolved.

For those people, right now, it's about scoring cheap points, and feeling morally superior.

If it's not, for you personally.. PROVE IT... Read on, and then act on what you read.

*****Now... for everyone else, who in fact really does care about this*****

EVERYONE needs to understand, no matter their identity or their position... people are not going to stop flying or supporting the confederate flag, when you treat them as if they are evil or stupid.

If you don't STOP just dismissing these people, insulting them, calling them racists, and telling them that that they HAVE to do what YOU want them to, because YOU said so, and you are BETTER and SMARTER and MORALLY SUPERIOR to them... Then they are certainly NOT going to bother listening to you.

...Most especially they are not going to listen to you, when you keep calling them racist, stupid, and evil...

Because mostly they aren't racist, they aren't flying the flag with racist intent, and they don't believe the flag to be a racist symbol.

They're WRONG... But mostly, they aren't actually directly or personally racist.

....Now is when some peoples heads explode... they're not going to listen anyway... Oh well...

*****MOST WHO FLY THE CONFEDERATE FLAG ARE NOT RACIST*****

Most of them aren't even confederate apologists (though some are).

I realize that seems crazy to many people who grew up outside of the south, but it's actually true...

No...Really, most of the people who fly the confederate flag or support flying it, are not racist. Some are, but most aren't.

And they will passionately, vehemently, and sincerely deny that the flag is a symbol of racism, BECAUSE TO THEM IT ISN'T.

They aren't lying... They just don't feel that way.

They don't feel personally racist, and they support that symbol, therefore, they believe it isn't racist.

Again, they're wrong... Not that they are in fact racist, but the flag is... But most of these people honestly don't believe it's racist.

They really do believe it's about honoring their great grandparents, and southern culture, and southern pride... and more than all of that, it's very much about NOT BEING NORTHERNERS.

... If you cannot accept this, then there is no way you are ever going to get anywhere arguing about it.

It doesn't mean they are right about the flag, but that IS how they honestly feel.

*****DO YOU WANT TO MORALIZE OR DO YOU WANT TO FIX IT*****

Refusing to listen to this, refusing to understand, and treating these people like they are evil, or stupid, is not going to get you anywhere.

If you care about changing peoples mind, please listen to this and understand it.

If all you care about is outrage, or "being right"... Don't bother reading the rest... And don't bother commenting, I'm just going delete and ban you anyway.

You have to deal with the fact that for the most part they are not racist, and they don't believe flag is racist. If you can't... don't engage, you're just going to get angry and start screaming, and probably piss them off too. And now instead of just a disagreement, you have an enemy, who is less likely to change their mind, and more likely to harden against doing so, or even double down.

If you approach things from the perspective that they are racist, and that when they say they are not racist they are lying or deliberately deluding themselves, or that they are stupid... you will actually make things MUCH worse.

*****SO WHAT THE HELL DOES IT MEAN TO THEM THEN?*****

This part is even harder to believe for some than the last, but it is 100% true...

Mostly, southerners just REALLY hate being told what to do.

Now, everyone hates being told what to do... And Americans as a whole hate it more than just about any other nation...

But southerners hate it a LOT more than most Americans... Like a couple dozen times more at least. Maybe a couple hundred times more.

And many have a GIGANTIC CHIP on their shoulder about it... Particularly about non-southerners or "outsiders" telling them what to do... And particularly about identifying themselves as southerners, and differentiating themselves from northerners.

... And those are mostly the people who fly the flag, or support flying it.

If you want way more detail and explanation, and want to put this into historical, psychological, and sociological context, read something like "Born Fighting" by Jim Webb. Because it isn't just me saying it, it's a well studied and well understood sociological fact.

You're talking about a place where multi-generational shooting wars have gone on, over one person telling someone what to do, and the other person not wanting to.

And those people look at that flag, as a symbol for who THEY are, and who they are NOT, and for not being told what to do.

That all may sound a little crazy, and a little childish, if you grew up as a middle class white anglosaxon protestant in the northeast, upper midwest, or west...

...(if you're black, irish, italian, hispanic or latino, or grew up in Boston, non-rich parts of New York City, or Chicago, it probably just sounds familiar)...

...It's not. It's deadly serious.

You do NOT try to take away someones pride, or their sense of identity. They WILL react badly if you do. And when you dismiss them, and dismiss their heritage and their pride, and call them stupid or evil,  that's what you're doing to these people.... You're trying to take away their identity and their pride.

You have to understand what it means to THEM, and deal with it from that perspective. Respecting them as individuals, and working to help them understand why that symbol isn't what they think it is, and why they should choose another symbol... Not because you told them to, but because they want to on their own.

*****BEING ARROGANT AND SELF RIGHTEOUS DOESN'T HELP****

When outsiders say they hate the confederate flag and that it's racist, what many southerners hear, is that you hate them, and they are racist. That you think you're better than them, and that they're stupid and evil.

...Which in fact is true a lot of the time... a lot of those outsiders DO think they're better than white southerners, and that white southerners are racist, stupid, and evil. Don't believe me, just look around social media. Or maybe your own subconscious assumptions.

In addition to hating being told what to do, most Southerners also hate being told that they are bad, and wrong, and collectively guilty for stuff that happened before they were born, or while they were children.

And they REALLY don't like, the mostly white, mostly liberal, sanctimonious, arrogant, self righteous hypocrites; who are screaming at them that they are racists, and their history and heritage are nothing but evil...

....And who would be screaming at them confederate flag or not, because said white liberal sanctimonious hypocrites think white southerners are racist redneck idiots no matter what.

And yeah, that's what it sounds like to them... And frankly, that's what a lot of it is. Again, just look around social media...

You may not be one of those people... In fact if you've read this far, you probably aren't... But what are your own assumptions? What language are you using? What do you really think about these people? How are you attempting to engage them?

The notion that the North was wholly virtuous, and the south wholly evil.. Is just stupid... But it seems that most people in the north still hold it (note, this is not an apologia for the Evil of the confederacy... just acknowledging the stupidity of the notion). That they do isn't really their fault, because it's mostly what the schoools teach, and the culture reinforces... But if someone is going to be active in social issues,they have a responsibility to know better.

...Most don't bother questioning their ignorance, never mind their own moral superiority.

And when it comes to the confederate flag, many seem glad to to gleefully assert their ignorant false moral superiority over every white southerner (confederate flag supporter or not).

Because they're not really saying they don't like the flag... they're saying they don't like the south, and that all white southerners are racist and bad, unless they prove otherwise to the outsiders own satisfaction.

It's the presumption of collective moral guilt, without evidence or justification except for prejudice and preconception; where no standard of proof of innocence exists outside of complete agreement with the accuser.

Whether that's true of you, or of any specific anti-flag person or not, that's what a lot of white southerners hear.

... And actually, for a lot of people, it IS true. They do think that. And many don't bother trying to hide it. Many also think that southerners are stupid, uncultured, filthy, cousin humping rednecks, and a bunch of other nasty stereotypes... and again, they don't bother to hide it. Hell, they make movies and TV shows about it.

Anti-southern bigotry is perfectly acceptable in most of the country... And a lot of southerners REALLY don't like that.

... and before black peoples heads explode on that one...

Just because there is far more racist bigotry against blacks, and that its impact is far worse, and that it was socially acceptable generally in the past, and still is in some specific places or to some people today... Doesn't mean that other forms of bigotry don't exist, or that they are meaningless, or that it's OK to be that kind of bigot. It may sound simplistic and childish, but it's the truth... Two wrongs don't make a right.

... And really, I shouldn't have to say that... In fact I shouldn't have to say most of this, nor to repeat much of it over and over again... But I do. Because otherwise, it doesn't get through the reactionary outrage and into the conscious brain.

*****TELLING GOOD BUT WRONG PEOPLE THEY ARE EVIL DOESN'T HELP*****

Southerners really don't like when these arrogant, self righteous, condescending outsiders, insist that everything to do with southern history, heritage, and culture, is unremittingly and unmitigatedly evil, because of slavery and segregation; and that every white southerner is permanently collectively guilty because of it... as if nothing else exists or matters about the south, or southerners, or ever will.

Well.. Except barbecue... Outsiders don't hate barbecue... that's not evil... but everything else is.

Again, whether people are actually saying that or not, that's what it sounds like to many southerners.

And again, yes, I have watched MANY people argue both those anti-southern positions in threads here on Facebook just in the last couple days... Sometimes only half serious, but the second anyone starts looking like a confederate apologist or a flag supporter... or if they think no-one who will disagree with them is paying attention, or that they have the mobs support against the evil southerner... they go full on anti-southern bigot.

What many southerners hear is self righteous northern liberal hypocrites, telling southern white people that not only they should not take pride in their history, heritage, and traditions... and therefore themselves... but that they should be entirely ashamed of those things.... and thus, themselves... and that all southerners are all guilty forever. That nothing any white person in the south ever did was ever good, or honorable, or worthy... or if it was, it didn't matter, because of slavery and segregation.

All of which is nothing but the false collectivist principle, of collective inter-generational guilt. We are individuals, responsible only for our own decisions and actions (and our passive inaction, and out unintended consequences), and not those of others, or of our ancestors.

*****HOW DO WE KNOW THIS IS HOW SOUTHERNERS FEEL?*****

We know that's how these southerners feel, BECAUSE THEY'VE SAID SO about a million times.

... Actually, pretty much every time one of the screamers screams "racist" at them.

But for some reason, instead of actually listening, the self righteous screamers just say "Oh no, they're lying, it's just racism".

Because of course, they KNOW that all white southerners are racist, or at least all that fly that flag or support it are... and all that don't vocally denounce it, and denounce those who support it and fly it are racist too; and all of those whose denunciation isn't loud enough or public enough, or vicious enough; ...and there can be no other possible reason or explanation, and no-one could possibly disagree with them... anyone who does must be evil or stupid.

... And that's not hyperbole, I actually watched several very intelligent people make that argument over the last few days.

So whether these people actually hate southerners or not, whether they actually think white southerners are all racist or not, whether they think all southerners should always be ashamed of themselves or not...

...That's what the flag wavers, and their supporters (and many who aren't), hear... and it's what they feel...

Because mostly, they aren't racist... and screaming at them that they are not only racist, but liars, isn't helping, it's making it worse.

*****Do you get it now?*****

The flag wavers are wrong, it IS a racist symbol, but they don't believe it is, and it's NOT because they are racist, or because they are stupid.

...And no-one is going to convince them otherwise by insulting and disrespecting them, everyone they know and love, and their entire ancestry going back hundreds of years; trying to strip them of their identity, their dignity, and their pride.

When they say "It's not a symbol of racism" they actually mean it.

They're WRONG... But they mean it. They're not just tying to hide their true racism.

... And again, before black folks heads explode... Yes, I absolutely do appreciate that stripping you of your identity, dignity, and pride, is exactly what the racists who flew that flag did to black people, and are still doing to black people. That doesn't make all people who fly that flag collectively guilty, because they don't see themselves as connected to those racists through the flag.

They're wrong to do so, and being outraged over it is a reasonable response on your part...

...But if you want to change things, you're going to have to deal with these people, who are badly mistaken, but actually mean no harm, with the understanding that they mean no harm.

It doesn't mean you have to just passively accept them flying that flag... But you do need to engage with them in a reasonable manner, that doesn't make them feel the same way about you, that you feel when presented with that flag.

****HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY THINK IT'S NOT RACIST*****

If you're not one of those people who grew up believing the confederate flag was a symbol of southern pride and heritage... It may seem hard... maybe impossible,..to understand how they could possibly NOT see it as racist.

It just seems so obvious, and clear, and wrong... How could they not understand that?

You might even think that they have to be lying, because there's no way anyone could possibly NOT see it as racist.

But honestly, it really is true, most of them don't believe the flag is a racist symbol, and most of them are not racist...

....or at least no more racist than anyone else who grew up in the time and place they did, and lived through the cultural changes they did.

Most are not actively racist, and bear no animus against,  ill will towards, or conscious negative bias towards, black people. Certainly they are not supporters of racism, slavery, segregation, and oppression of black people.

In fact, and this one boggles the mind of just about anyone not from the south...

There are actually a lot of black folks in that group of flag wavers and flag supporters. Not by any stretch most, but in some areas it's not rare either. Especially when it's a symbol for a local high school or college.

...Because, as you might have noticed, southerners tend to be pretty passionate about local and state sports, whether they're black or white. When you grow up somewhere that flag means "go team", you don't see it as racist... You see it as boosterism.

So when one of these folks says that they aren't racist, and that the flag isn't racist... they aren't lying, they actually believe it.

They themselves are not racist, and they see the flag as something else entirely, so therefore to them, it isn't racist.

*****OKAY SO WHAT DO I MEAN BY "Not Racist"?*****

Actually, let's get this one out of the way now, before it causes even more confusion, misunderstanding, anger, and harm.

For one thing, I absolutely know that some of the folks reading this are getting more and more irritated every time I say "not racist", because there's no such thing (more below).

This is important... possibly the most important thing I'm going to write in this whole piece...

Racism may be blatant, obvious, and unmistakable animus or bias... That could be called "objectively racist".

It may also be highly subjective and contextual. Racism can be conscious or unconscious. Active or passive. Deliberate, or unwitting. It can be both direct and indirect. It can be personal, or impersonal.

This is where things can get really confusing. It's where good and honest people, with no malice or ill will, can... and do, frequently... have such bad misunderstandings that their interactions degenerate into enmity, or even violence.

So, to clarify some terms... When I say "not racist" in this context, what I mean is that the individuals in question are not actively, intentionally, or consciously racist, in that they bear no animus, ill will, malice, or other conscious bias towards black people. Further, that any subconscious or passive racism, is either unnoticed or not understood by the individual to be racism; and that the individual would feel regret and remorse, or even be ashamed of themselves, if they understood they had been or were being racist, and would attempt to correct it (and they do so if and when such racism is made understood to them).

That's about as close to "not racist" as you can get, without actively and continuously seeking out passive and unconscious racism in yourself, and rigorously attempting to eliminate or mitigate it; and continuously and actively monitoring yourself for any thought or action that may be racist, so you can actively prevent or correct it...

... And if you actually live like that, how do you have time for anything else whatsoever, including any other thoughts?

It's important for this definition, to recognize that our own understandings of what thoughts, language, and behaviors are racist and what are not, are fluid. They change over time, and are shaped by those around us, our culture and subculture, popular culture around us, our language, dialect, and idiom, our peer group, when and where we grew up etc...

What one may understand to be racist, another may simply see as local idiom, and both would be right in their own context; and it's possible neither would be right in a larger context. 10 years earlier or later, the meanings could change entirely. A few hundred miles away, they could change entirely.
 
This of course doesn't excuse blatant or obvious racism, or harm done to any because of racial animus or bias, obvious or not. It's simply recognizing, that often, if it's not direct and obvious, or clearly intentional, it's not actually conscious racism. Sometimes even what seems like blatant and direct racism is not, or at least not consciously. It may be subconscious racism, or it may be simply that what one perceives as a racist act, may not be, because the other person has an entirely different cultural context, without any racist intent.

Personal and direct racism is in the intent, conscious or subconscious (indirect and impersonal racism does not necessarily require intent, and actions with racist implications in a particular context, even if not intended as racist, may contribute to indirect and impersonal racism).

That said, it is incumbent on people to understand as well as they reasonably can, the cultural context of people they interact with, and the people whose lives they impact; in order to avoid such misunderstanding, and any harm that may arise from it.

I have to clarify this for a couple reasons...

First, because everyone is a least a little bit racist, no matter what race you are, or how enlightened you think you are... Humans are instinctive xenophobes,and even when it's trained out of us, and we have an instinctive bias towards things that look like us, or we feel are like us, and against things that look unlike us, or feel unlike us. Most of us train most of it out of ourselves, but there's always a little bit there at a subconscious and instinctive level no matter what.

Image preference bias studies, and brain response studies, have proven this true for all racial groups, all ethnicities, all nationalities, all education levels, all political ideologies, and all religions.

Second, because "not racist" in this context, and in fact this piece as a whole, is speaking specifically to personal racism, not implicit, structural, institutional, or systemic racism, or racial bias driven disparities of opportunity or outcome; except in that confederate symbology and the idealization of the old south, without the acknowledgement of, or especially with the dismissal or apologia for the racism of the CSA; contribute to these other categories of indirect or impersonal racism.

Is that semi-clear... as much as it can be given how complex and subjective this is?

So now, hopefully, we can proceed on that basis; knowing that when I say "not racist", I am not saying that there is no racism in these people at all, or that they may not have some subconscious racism. Because everyone has some racism in them, no matter who they are; and even if someone isn't actively or consciously racist, this can still contribute to indirect and impersonal racism, like institutional and systemic racism, structural racism etc...

... Because as I have mentioned several times in this piece, flying the confederate flag, even without racist intent, is one of those actions which harms others, and contributes to institutional and structural racism.

This institutional and structural racism is many times worse, if such an act is by any government official, or in any kind of official context, or at any kind of government facility;  because it is the active use of a powerful symbol of racism and oppression, directly by the government.

... and now back to the rest of the story....

*****AND HERE'S THE REALLY BIG ONE*****

Sure, heritage and tradition, and football, and all that... But really, the most important  thing to most of the people who fly the confederate flag?

It's a giant FUCK YOU to self righteous outsiders who try to tell them what to do.

It's a giant FUCK YOU to everyone who hates the south, and hates white southerners, and thinks they are better, smarter, or morally superior; just because of the opinions they hold, where they came from, their education, or how much money they have.

It's not about race at all to them, it's a giant middle finger to the outsiders and the busybodies and the screamers, and the hypocrites.

It's Andrew Jackson saying "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."

And it's a giant "FUCK YOU I'M SOUTHERN AND PROUD, AND YOUR'E NOT" to everyone else.

And so the approach of trying even harder, louder, more insulting, more shaming... It's actually just going to make them do it more, and gather more support, and harden their position.


*****NOW JUST AS A PRACTICAL MATTER*****

You may disagree with me entirely, and think that no matter what, everyone who flies the confederate flag is racist. Or that they don't know they are, but they really are racist, and they need to be shamed because of it... Or they need it pointed out to them, and proved to them no matter how they deny it...

Or that it doesn't matter whether they are or not, because it's a racist symbol, and they need to be shamed because of it.

You might even feel that anyone who flies the flag doesn't deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt, treated with civility and respect, and engaged in open and honest discussion. That they deserve to be yelled at and called racist.

Which is fine, you can feel that way.

But let me ask you something... Is what you're doing working?

Is it helping?

It might make YOU feel better to get all screamy and self righteous and morally superior... But does it actually help advance the cause of reducing racism, and healing racial wounds?

Or does it just make you feel superior?

You might have noted, and I mentioned it above... no-one likes being told that they're bad and wrong, and that they have to do what "you" tell them to because "you" are good and right... and southerners especially don't like that.

Being told what to do by self righteous and arrogant northern elitists... or any outsiders... whjile being told they are bad and wrong and stupid and evil... Even if what they're being told to do is the right thing... Not something they're going to react well to.

You wouldn't react well to it, would you?

Why would you expect anyone else to?

In fact, even those who would otherwise support removing those flags,  or have been advocating doing so on their own... Some of them might have a problem with that too... actually, a lot of them do...

Now instead of an ally, or someone whose mind can be changed.. you have at best a bystander, at worst an enemy.

So... Maybe you can TRY not being an anti-southern bigot, or acting like one, or sounding like one...

Maybe you can actually treat people you disagree with, with courtesy, consideration, and respect talk with people, honestly and openly,

...Because that Is the point right? Changing people minds and making things better?

Or is it just to yell at people and feel superior?