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daredtowork

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Gender: Female
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Member since: Tue Aug 19, 2014, 11:02 PM
Number of posts: 3,732

Journal Archives

Homeless in Berkeley at 21: A Young Father's Story (The Atlantic)

This is terrific - The Atlantic did a story about being homeless in Berkeley. I like that it mentioned that there's not "government money" to fall back on here.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/02/homeless-in-berkeley-at-21-a-young-fathers-story/385428/

Since the interview took place on Telegraph Avenue, I'd like to also mention that the Berkeley political establishment seems to be making an effort to "disappear the problem" as we speak. I wrote about this on DU a few days ago: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10409068

I was going to try to question Berkeley's City Council on this at their monthly meeting this week, but I had a medical situation and wasn't able to.

I want to point out that this homeless father would be one of the people being "disappeared" of Telegraph avenue, though.

(xposted from California Group)

Homeless in Berkeley at 21: A Young Father's Story

This is terrific - The Atlantic did a story about being homeless in Berkeley. I like that it mentioned that there's not "government money" to fall back on here.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/02/homeless-in-berkeley-at-21-a-young-fathers-story/385428/

Since the interview took place on Telegraph Avenue, I'd like to also mention that the Berkeley political establishment seems to be making an effort to "disappear the problem" as we speak. I wrote about this on DU a few days ago: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10409068

I was going to try to question Berkeley's City Council on this at their monthly meeting this week, but I had a medical situation and wasn't able to.

I want to point out that this homeless father would be one of the people being "disappeared" of Telegraph avenue, though.

Cleansing Homeless from Telegraph Ave in Berkeley in Progress

xposted from California Group.

***

Yesterday I had an appointment up on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Before the appointment I noticed something was wrong with the street. Suddenly I realized the clumps of homeless people were missing! Ever since I have lived in Berkeley, homeless youth have gathered on Telegraph Avenue. Whether the merchant middle class likes it or not, this is part of Berkeley's culture and historical legacy. The merchants benefit from the tourism that legacy brings - they should also have some tolerance for the genuine "hippies".

I asked a barista how the streets had been cleansed, but she claimed ignorance even though the homeless teens normally park on the wide sidewalk in front of that cafe. I thought the Berkeley "Ambassador" Green Shirts might have been illegally rousting people for sitting on the sidewalk. This is an ersatz enforcement force run by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. I've seen them acting as law enforcement in the Downtown Area, telling people they have to move along from sitting on the sidewalk even though Berkeley voters rejected this discriminatory, poverty-hiding law a couple of years ago.

After my appointment, the streets were just as bereft of homeless youth. However, I noticed sporadic clumps of police cars and patrolling officers. I asked an officer where the homeless people were. His partner made some crack about drug sellers making themselves scarce and then slouched off. I talked at length with the friendly officer. He confirmed that the Green Shirts should not be enforcing any laws, much less the non-existing Measure S (Sidewalk Sit/Lie Law). The officer claimed that neither the Green Shirts nor the police force had actively rousted the homeless youth. He said his boss had ordered police to patrol Telegraph Avenue and just the presence of police could have been discouraging people.

After I talked to the police officer, I walked several blocks until I spotted a group of homeless youth huddled against a power box up on a side street. I got a different story from them. They said the police had been patrolling Telegraph for a couple of weeks (start of February). I will look up protest schedules/locations when I get home, but I don't think this is about protecting businesses from protest-triggered vandalism. I suspect this is about "disappearing" the homeless in the wake of strong criticism of Berkeley's political establishment.

The homeless people told me they were actively shoved off their spots with threats and ISSUED TICKETS. One woman had swapped her shopping cart for a baby carriage since the threat of charging her for "stolen property" gad been levied. The ticketing was for smoking (unclear if this meant weed - there are laws about smoking cigarettes in certain public spaces in Berkeley) or "trespassing" for standing under the awning of a store.

These tickets are no joke for people without a direct cash income. One guy quoted his at $281. The kids told me about drawing frowny faces on their tickets or rolling them up and smoking them(!) This made me chuckle, but the sad thing is those unpaid tickets will get them into further legal trouble and make it harder for them to dig their way out of their situation.

They also told me how the police hauled off people to mental wards for a few days (friends just "vanished" - but this didn't result in people getting into any sort of stable housing or support situation. After a couple of days of "crisis" treatment, people were being released back onto the (stressful) life of the street again.

There is a cynical political strategy at work here: "out of sight, out of mind." As soon as these kids are off of Telegraph Avenue, the homelessness problem - and the larger gentrification/displacement problem - will no longer be Top of Mind for the hoi polloi in Berkeley. They will go back to debating the merits of "slow food" and competing to curate matters of "Global Importance" in between opining on transcendent matters of Techno-Futurism. If people can avoid thinking about something as unpleasant as Alameda County's total failure to provide a decent Social Services safety net, they will! The only way a "social conversation" starts on the hard topics is if the aggrieved party starts that conversation and refuses to let the topic go until something is done about it.

This is the purpose that the homeless youth on Telegraph Avenue have served all these year: VISIBILITY of the issue. THIS is a purpose of National if not Global Importance. Is Berkeley's political establishment going to get away with using the police to "implement Measure S by other means" and further deliver Berkeley to the interests of the 1% without anyone even noticing what they did?

ps. Please pass the text of this post on to any interested policy groups.

Cleansing Homeless From Telegraph Ave Berkeley in Progress

Today I had an appointment up on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Before the appointment I noticed something was wrong with the street. Suddenly I realized the clumps of homeless people were missing! Ever since I have lived in Berkeley, homeless youth have gathered on Telegraph Avenue. Whether the merchant middle class likes it or not, this is part of Berkeley's culture and historical legacy. The merchants benefit from the tourism that legacy brings - they should also have some tolerance for the genuine "hippies".

I asked a barista how the streets had been cleansed, but she claimed ignorance even though the homeless teens normally park on the wide sidewalk in front of that cafe. I thought the Berkeley "Ambassador" Green Shirts might have been illegally rousting people for sitting on the sidewalk. This is an ersatz enforcement force run by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. I've seen them acting as law enforcement in the Downtown Area, telling people they have to move along from sitting on the sidewalk even though Berkeley voters rejected this discriminatory, poverty-hiding law a couple of years ago.

After my appointment, the streets were just as bereft of homeless youth. However, I noticed sporadic clumps of police cars and patrolling officers. I asked an officer where the homeless people were. His partner made some crack about drug sellers making themselves scarce and then slouched off. I talked at length with the friendly officer. He confirmed that the Green Shirts should not be enforcing any laws, much less the non-existing Measure S (Sidewalk Sit/Lie Law). The officer claimed that neither the Green Shirts nor the police force had actively rousted the homeless youth. He said his boss had ordered police to patrol Telegraph Avenue and just the presence of police could have been discouraging people.

After I talked to the police officer, I walked several blocks until I spotted a group of homeless youth huddled against a power box up on a side street. I got a different story from them. They said the police had been patrolling Telegraph for a couple of weeks (start of February). I will look up protest schedules/locations when I get home, but I don't think this is about protecting businesses from protest-triggered vandalism. I suspect this is about "disappearing" the homeless in the wake of strong criticism of Berkeley's political establishment.

The homeless people told me they were actively shoved off their spots with threats and ISSUED TICKETS. One woman had swapped her shopping cart for a baby carriage since the threat of charging her for "stolen property" gad been levied. The ticketing was for smoking (unclear if this meant weed - there are laws about smoking cigarettes in certain public spaces in Berkeley) or "trespassing" for standing under the awning of a store.

These tickets are no joke for people without a direct cash income. One guy quoted his at $281. The kids told me about drawing frowny faces on their tickets or rolling them up and smoking them(!) This made me chuckle, but the sad thing is those unpaid tickets will get them into further legal trouble and make it harder for them to dig their way out of their situation.

They also told me how the police hauled off people to mental wards for a few days (friends just "vanished" - but this didn't result in people getting into any sort of stable housing or support situation. After a couple of days of "crisis" treatment, people were being released back onto the (stressful) life of the street again.

There is a cynical political strategy at work here: "out of sight, out of mind." As soon as these kids are off of Telegraph Avenue, the homelessness problem - and the larger gentrification/displacement problem - will no longer be Top of Mind for the hoi polloi in Berkeley. They will go back to debating the merits of "slow food" and competing to curate matters of "Global Importance" in between opining on transcendent matters of Techno-Futurism. If people can avoid thinking about something as unpleasant as Alameda County's total failure to provide a decent Social Services safety net, they will! The only way a "social conversation" starts on the hard topics is if the aggrieved party starts that conversation and refuses to let the topic go until something is done about it.

This is the purpose that the homeless youth on Telegraph Avenue have served all these year: VISIBILITY of the issue. THIS is a purpose of National if not Global Importance. Is Berkeley's political establishment going to get away with using the police to "implement Measure S by other means" and further deliver Berkeley to the interests of the 1% without anyone even noticing what they did?

ps. Please pass the text of this post on to any interested policy groups.

How Collapsing Social Infrastructure Led to Everyone Becoming an Internet Medical Expert

The vitriol that has been unleashed against "anti-vaxxers" has consolidated a flaw in the Democratic party that used to be just a stereotype fabricated by the GOP PR mill: Democrats are an arrogant ivory tower elite who only patronizingly tolerate the opinions of average people.

While the opinions of the mainstream American public have almost converged with academic science on vaccines, a recent Pew study shows many areas where the public continues to distrust scientists. I don't think these folks should be immediately expunged from the Democratic Party by their Bell Curveous Educated Superiors unless we somehow get points for having the smallest political party in the end. Yesterday I posted a request to dial down the ATTACK(!) tone being taken toward anti-vaxxers, and I argued that this was a broader cultural problem that would need to be approached from the angle of rebuilding consensus.

One of the major breakdowns in consensus was over the source of medical authority, and one of the source of frustration for those who argue against "anti-vaxxers" is the ease with which they start citing their own chain of evidence, journal citations, and expert opinions from their "Advanced Degree in Internet Medical Studies". So I'd like to go over how gaps in the medical and social system encouraged - indeed FORCED - the rise in this phenomenon.

I hope we can all stipulate the American medical system sucks. It has especially sucked in rural areas. At the same time, the decline in labor protections has intensified worker exploitation in ways that increase accidents and stress. People in rural areas and inner cities were offered scanty choice at grocery stores and developed enhanced potential for diabetes and other chronic diseases as a result. On the other end of the scale, welfare was decimated, and it's a lot harder to get SSI/SSDI than the GOP leads people to believe - especially before you're 60. To sum this up - people were sick and in pain, but they had no safety net to fall back on - they had to keep working.

Wait - this is where the reasonable person would say "the doctor is there to make you better when you are sick!"

Not in my experience - at least not if you are poor.

First of all, before the ACA, you were lucky to be able to see a doctor at all if you were poor. Most likely you were uninsured. If you did see a doctor, that doctor was expensive. Even if you had insurance, there was always a "co-pay" and prescriptions might cost a lot of money, too. But, worst of all, it takes MANY - as in years - of visits to a doctor for criteria of a medical condition to build up. Before that all a patient gets is "lifestyle" speeches about diet and exercises while they patiently keep bringing in the same complaints until the doctor notices a pattern (and this is a lot harder to do in "one symptom at a time" circumstances) and/or makes a referral to a specialist (which costs more money!!!).

But note, the patient's goals are different than the doctor's. The doctor wants to get through a day of clinical encounters and for some reason usually takes a skeptic's position against anything a patient has to say (perhaps because this usurps their authority, and they want to make any diagnosis freestyle). The patient wants three things:

1) Diagnosis with proper documentation (the documentation is important for access to State resources).
2) Treatment, usually with emphasis on PAIN RELIEF.
3) Cure for curable disease.

Uh oh. Sometimes doctors can cure stuff, sometimes they can't. They do even less well on pain relief since all the drugs that work are regulated, questioned, and probably prescribed only short term. Diagnosis also takes forever - it doesn't cost doctors a thing to do "watchful waiting" or just shrug "if the medication works, go with it", but the patient still needs that documentation. Who knows what the politics of the doctor is before the patient presents them with paperwork to sign off on their disability, as well. Then there are legal ramifications if the doctor gets the diagnosis wrong. What will happen once Obamacare incentivizes doctors on the basis of "successful outcomes"? Will patients just be declared well, whether they are or not? While all this is going on, triple-booked doctors are seeing patients for 15 minutes at a time and telling them they can only mention one symptom and can't have another appointment for three months.

Sooo...there has been a divergence between what patients need and what doctors do. At least for poor patients. Things have improved under the ACA in that at least poor patients in many States can see doctors and get basic prescription medications, but they are still left to fend for themselves in terms of self-diagnosing complex chronic conditions for years until the medical system catches up to them and trying to do all they can to remedy their own pain and other symptoms.

I know this for a fact because I have a multiple genetic disorders - a very complex medical situation. I was uninsured for years. I live in an urban area, so I have had access to more resources than most, but I grew up in a rural area, so I have a basis for comparison.

Even though I have had access to a medical clinic for three years now, I didn't get to see the right specialists until the ACA kicked in. Before that I was left mostly to my own devices. I did a lot of Internet research on both diagnostic possibilities and natural remedies for symptoms and pain (my situation was especially complicated because I can't take nsaids). I had to trust my own education and common sense to be able to sort out the "science" from the "woo". I had to trust myself not to be a hypochondriac and over-diagnose myself with the most exotic diseases known to humankind. I experimented with a lot of things to find out what works. Reading widely and personal experience made me feel like an expert in some areas.

I should add that I also often needed to document detailed medical information on forms. The need to access government resources based on medical disability gave rise to the need to be able to document that disability in the ways the government demands. This gave rise to an obsession with formal diagnosis as the key to resources. If you have ever wondered about the phenomenon of "activist parents" doctor shopping for children until they had the right diagnosis to get their children into X program, and then continuing to obsess over the disease in Internet forums - this the reason.

Now when I go to the doctor, part of the frustration of the experience is that I know a lot more than I bring up at the clinical visit. I don't bring it up because I don't want to sound like an "Internet expert" or usurp the doctor's authority. But then I get frustrated when he or she doesn't draw what I thought was the obvious conclusion. Is it because my "Internet degree" led me astray or is it because my doctor really did give me short shrift in 15 minutes and my "Internet degree" should be listened to? I'm not sure - I don't have any sounding board for checking this.

I hope this gives people at DU a more considered view of the culture that underlies the development of the Internet Medical Expert, and how this is a symptom of how the medical and social system failed to provide what people actually needed. Anti-vaxxers and other alternative-science-theorists come out of this same petri dish. People could not get what they needed from the system. Scientists and doctors seemingly went their separate way, their noses in the air, not hearing simple requests like: "What do I do about my pain? What do I do about my difficulty walking...?" And I'm sure diet and exercise didn't work fast enough for obese people who needed to keep working while they were suffering, while the suffering prevented them from losing weight. That's probably the story of the entire South right there.

I will end with the same thing I said yesterday: no one has ever been converted by "shaming" or mockery. This theory is simply a pretext for mean-spirited behavior and has nothing to do with upholding the spirit of science.

Libraries, Gentrification, and Amazon's Crowd-Sourcing Evil

I was renewing my UC Berkeley library card today, and I walked past a framed quote from Michael Chabon that's been given pride of place in the Main campus library for a couple of years. I can't remember the exact quote, but the gist was that Chabon couldn't have written his Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) without access to all the research resources of UC Berkeley's world class university library.

Berkeley is a city brimming with authors and wannabe authors. I don't have many friends, but most of them are at least fellow-travelers in writerly circles. I've had drifting thoughts about writing my own novel...until I look at the large box that contains many shoe boxes with scraps of paper and random notebooks of notes. Naw, never going to happen. But in Berkeley, one can dream. It's easy to publish an ebook these days. I have world class research skills and access to a world class research library.

And, of course, the key way I fit the "writer's life style" is I'm extremely poor. Yes, there are many notable, prize-winning, wealthy authors in Berkeley. But the majority of authors are struggling authors who hold down a day job in some other field.

In recent years, mainstream publishers have dropped almost all pretense of being of use to authors, and they now only seek to be middlemen forcing themselves between the author and their dreams of being lauded as the writer of the Great American Novel. For instance, authors used to regard publishers as rather paternal figures: they managed the awful legal business, they paid for the book tour and perhaps a few conferences, they hosted the parties. Today publishers shift the marketing burdens on to authors and simply try to exploit the benefits of a book's popularity. Authors pay for the book tour themselves and throw their own parties. The publisher does high level distribution in bulk if the author managed to drum up that much interest - and that's about it. If the publisher does any editing, it's desultory. If the author does "move units", perhaps they can get a royalty advance on their second book or start negotiating a marketing budget for ads. Otherwise, the publisher is just there to get the gravy. In short, authors should not expect to actually make a living from writing books.

Amazon has taken the crass money-grab from authors to a whole new level. Because Amazon has a monopoly on the only distribution system that means anything on the Internet - the Amazon catalog - Amazon has the means to "encourage" people to use their content-creation tools exclusively as well. Amazon's ultimate goal is to CROWD-SOURCE BOOKS. Since it is so hard to get published, the vast majority of writers will offer their books for free, or for a very low price. The author makes next to nothing. Meanwhile, Amazon benefits from consolidating millions of these books and monetizing them in other ways - cross-advertising, running ads, etc. The main point is struggling authors who just want to publish their work naively end up providing free content for Amazon, just like all those people who "crowd-sourced" Wikipedia gave their efforts for the greater glory of Jimmy Wales all those years ago. Now Amazon has added insult to injury with Amazon Unlimited - "Netflix for Books". So all that free content provided by crowd-sourced authors becomes Amazon's instant mega-content library for their "Netflix" to give people plenty to browse next to what they might rent/purchase.

Circling back - most author-wannabes are poor and getting poorer. And a lot of authors live in Berkeley.

Now back to the library. Berkeley has many amazing historic and cultural resources besides the UC Berkeley library, including easy access to San Francisco and all of its historic and cultural resources. But the library alone is worth its weight in gold to writers. There is not only the main library: there is the Bancroft special collections/archives library, many specialty branch libraries including one dedicated to Asian literature, and several university museums. These are resources that authors should have. Research assets are OXYGEN to authors! They need close geographical proximity to such resources. Those poor authors belong in Berkeley.

Tech hipsters who just want to strike a pose in a cool coffee shop do not NEED to be in Berkeley. They are displacing poorer Berkeley residents because they can, in what they seem to regard as the Divine Right of the Market. They do what they can get away with, and Berkeley's political establishment is not remotely inclined to stand in their way: they are rolling out the red carpet and holding out their grasping hands for mo' moolah. The authors can go elsewhere. But they can't pack up the University's world class research library and bring it with them.

I wonder how many great novels and other cultural works will be lost to this process of ruthless [strike]class war[/strike] gentrification?

Vaxxer/Anti-Vaxxer is the Wrong Conversation

Nothing is accomplished by continuously polarizing a potential public health crisis into a war between Vaxxers and Anti-Vaxxers. All that does is make each side take its toys and go home, feeling self-righteous and smug about how it "knows better". The Vaxxers will sneer that Anti-Vaxxers are conspiracy nuts who "know nothing about science". The Anti-Vaxxers will sneer the Vaxxers are sheeple who "know nothing about REAL science".

Note the underlying theme there is the lack of consensus on what constitutes real science. So the first patch America needs to place in this leaky boat is at the level of basic public education: if we want a consensus on science we should subsidize nearly universal education. No more cowboy-riding-dinosaur alternative textbooks. No more debating whether climate change exists in Congress. We need to agree on the education process that Settles These Matters.

Secondly, this is a public health crisis because of the convergence of several frakked up ways we have been doing things in the US. There is the lack of universal health care, which has left people with no medical care or seeking various alternative forms of care. There are industrial and environmental factors spawned widespread illness that were legally suppressed, putting wide swathes of people in a conspiratorial frame of mind about their declining health. There is the convoluted bureaucracy involved in access to State services that encourages parents to label their children's disorders, and thus spawns vast "origin stories" of where these disorders come from. From the poverty point of view, I have this to say: America wouldn't have half these problems if people could just simply get help when they needed it, and keep their dignity intact while doing so.

Anyway, while I'm not an anti-Vaxxer, I think the Vaxxers need to get off their high horse and put their 'tudes away. If they really want to protect their children now, they will take a breath and look at some of the issues that caused this problem in the first place. The people who hold "conspiracy theories" about Big Science aren't just some New Age Hipsters with half-baked theories trying to sell their self-help books. A huge groundswell of the American populace has some distrust of either Corporate Science, Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, Government Science, or All of the Above. Many of them are college-educated. Don't talk down to them. Appreciate that policy and experience has encouraged their beliefs, and then negotiate the problem from there.

UPDATE: For those continuing to make war in the comments I have one more thing to say. Look who is in charge of NASA now. Think about it, and then think about what you want more: for the vaccination problem to be fixed, or for you to keep saying "I'm right" into the wind.

Inspiration Porn is Not Okay

Food for thought in a topic area that people don't usually think about: ableist media narratives.

http://www.salon.com/2015/02/02/inspiration_porn_is_not_okay_disability_activists_are_not_impressed_with_feel_good_super_bowl_ads/

The Bait and Switch

Last week Obama was winning standing ovations from everybody by making speeches about things he can't deliver - like free Community College.

This week Obama is trying to push through a massively unpopular deal he can deliver, because it's an actual legislation in Congress: TPP.

The Community College thing was "politics-splained" to me as something that will make the GOP look bad and that will set the agenda for the next Democratic Presidency. (Like I believed Universal Healthcare was the agenda for this one...).

Sorry Eternal Boosters, I am suspicious. I am wondering if there has been a mad race to pump up the President's popularity JUST so he can get enough backing to push the TPP through. (Not to mention the epic $534 billion Pentagon budget request).

I do not believe the Community College thing will ever happen. Because no one even spoke a peep for the take-aways from the poor in Cromnibus (which included take-aways from Pell Grants), I believe public infrastructure will continue to be eroded even under Democratic Presidents. They will keep shouting "middle class", but some how the legislation as written will actually be a big old gift to their top donors, who will continually erode the middle class in pursuit of their own interests.

The populist/middle class evidence against TPP has been on the table for some years now, but Obama still believes we, the people, need to "get educated" about it?

Only vague promises have been dangled, but the THREAT that is being pushed through is very real.

Seems like a bait and switch to me.

PWN GOP Program Cuts with Mincome

Remember the idea of instantly eliminating poverty, hunger, homelessness, etc. through Mincome:
http://www.mediaite.com/tv/msnbcs-krystal-ball-we-could-eliminate-poverty-with-a-mincome/

Guess what else that would eliminate:
- The stress (and perhaps mental illness) and physical illness induced by poverty and the monstrous, absurd, and often contradictory bureaucracies surrounding that.
- The costs and frauds of the middlemen of all the programs targeted to specific needs and all their specific "means-testing" and all their specific fraud investigators and all their separate opportunities for bureaucratic waste and graft. There would be no more "disability", "welfare", "unemployment", etc. - just how much is your current livelihood, and is that adequate? This would even replace roome/board for college.
- The restoration of dignity for thousands, if not millions, of people who would be endowed with autonomy and freedom of choice.
- A renaissance in rural America where the value of Mincome would be higher than a survival amount in urban areas.
- Congressional appropriation, debate, and thus grandstanding hijinks would be simplified and reduced a great deal.
- Policing and accountability would be reduced to who is a US citizen and eligible to receive Mincome.

If we don't want to see children go hungry, if we don't want to see homeless families, then we should literally put our money where are mouth is. Why are we giving $6000 every year to our Oligarch Overlords when we could be setting up a Mincome instead?

Well we all secretly know the reason: racism. White southerners vote against "redistribution" because they think it means urban blacks will get away with not working and brown "immigrants" will invade for the free money and obliterate the lily white race in a "genocide". This is the "truth" (or the truthiness) that gets suppress by the pressures of political correctness, and in a way it's unfortunate because it comes back to haunt us when the truthers vote our Oligarchic Overlords into political power.

There has to be a way to break this cycle, or at least break the boil and let the pus run out on this ugly suppressed conversation that has been inflaming political and economic inequality through the refusal of "redistribution" for decades now. This conversation is what blocks the idea of Mincome.

My other thought in terms of funding it is that the Mincome that goes to the wealthy would be 100% recoverable back into the general fund through terms of taxation.

For years the GOP have been terrorizing the poor with cuts that threaten them with homelessness and starvation at every turn. This one move - the Mincome - would PWN all those petty, cruel GOP moves that have gone before.
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