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There's a front page post today on Chuck Schumer's recent speech in which he says, with all the benefit of hindsight, that the Affordable Care Act was the wrong place for Democrats to go first and that they ought to have focused on making things better for the "middle class".  The responses in the comments often focus more on folks' understandable animus for Schumer's history than they do on the specifics of his speech.  I have my own issues with both, but it approaches closely a subject I've been thinking about for some time: What is the "brand" of the Democratic party?

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Sun Sep 28, 2014 at 03:15 PM PDT

My "unsubscribe" binge today

by Chico David RN

So I just finally got pushed over the edge.  And I just need to vent a little.  I donate fairly regularly to Democratic candidates.  $50 here, $100 there.  As a nurse, I'm hardly wealthy, but I've been careful with money, made a decent salary and have enough to spare some.  And it seems like each donation I make puts me on a few more e-mail lists.  I've never been all that bothered by it.  I figured it didn't take that long to delete them.  But lately the numbers have been multiplying.  I counted up yesterday, and I got 78 political fundraising e-mails in one day.  And, due to the fact that I keep an e-mail client open on my home computer and check e-mail regularly on my phone, most of them have to be deleted twice.  Just the simple time to delete them had become a genuine burden.  So today I had finally had enough and just started opening everyone I got and following the "unsubscribe" procedure.  I'll still send money - When I choose to, not in response to apocalyptic begging.  A particularly annoying note is that fully half of the e-mails I clicked through today came from a single source - the House Majority PAC.  They support different candidates, but all come from the same place.  So, one presumes, they know how many they are sending me.  Can anyone possibly think that spamming me with that many emails is a productive thing to do?  (Just me venting again.)  I guess this must produce returns for them or they wouldn't keep doing it.  But they reached the saturation point with me.  I plan to keep on with my unsubscribing until the total number of unsolicited communications a day is down into single digits.  I'll see if that's possible.

Update: I just have to say this is absolutely the last damn diary I every thought would make the rec list.  I posted it and went to the store, came back to see if anyone noticed it at all.  Hah!  Guess I touched a nerve!

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Tue Sep 09, 2014 at 04:44 PM PDT

How Religion Came to be...

by Chico David RN

Here is my theory on the origin of religion.  I'm not speaking of spirituality, or belief in the supernatural, or the impulse that makes us want to believe in something larger than ourselves.  I'm speaking of Religion - with a priesthood and a place and form of worship and a set of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" and all the trappings that go with that.  It is unprovable,  but I strongly suspect that the events I am about to describe happened. In fact, I suspect events rather like this happened more than once.  Probably many times in many places around the world.
So there is this little village of hunter gatherers.  They live a simple life, with the men going forth to hunt - and occasionally to fight - and the women doing most of the real work of gathering and food storage and preparation.  And in the village there's this fellow.  Maybe he's very near-sighted, like I am. No corrective lenses around, so someone as myopic as I would be pretty helpless in that world.  Certainly he can't hunt.  He can't even go out to gather with the women, since he can't see clearly more than a few inches.  Or it could be he's lame, or otherwise limited.   Maybe he makes a living by some sort of craft.  Maybe he hangs around the edges of things and begs.  Maybe family support him but, in any case, he has very little status, very little prestige, probably lives a pretty marginal existence.  
So one day, he's sitting around in the village and the hunters come back from the hunt and it's the third time in a row that they've gone out and gotten nothing.  The women make some jokes at their expense.  Even with his poor sight he can see from their posture that they are dejected.
He has a flash of inspiration.
He gets up and strolls over to the leader of the hunters.  The conversation goes like this:
"I know why you haven't made a kill"
"Yeah?  Why is that?"
"Well the forest god is mad at you.  He talks to me all the time and he told me so. Last time you made a kill, you didn't show your thanks by sharing some with the god.  Now he hides the animals from your sight."
The hunter thinks about it for a minute.
"Well maybe you're right.  But how do we give some to the god?"
"No problem.  The god and I are really close - just bring it to my hut - I'll make sure he gets it!"
And thus was born religion.

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This will be rather short and simple and I am genuinely looking for feedback from the community here.
There are a variety of organizations I like to support.  Two good examples would be Planned Parenthood and Greenpeace.  My wife and I are far from rich, but we are not impoverished either.  When we look at supporting such an organization, we tend to look at the role it plays and look at our finances and make a decision how much we think we can afford to give.  This often results in a number well above the minimum "membership" level.
Again, in our minds, we've made a thoughtful choice on how much we can afford to give.  And we have other priorities for the rest of our resources - including political candidates we want to support.  But it's obvious that the organizations - those two in particular - see it differently.  They look at that "above minimum" donation amount and see a person who must be rich and can be hit up for more.  So we are subjected to relentless fundraising from them - both in the form of direct mail and phone solicitations.  And phone solicitations are especially annoying to me.  To the point where we look at the situation and figure that pretty much everything we have given has been spent on the effort to persuade us to give more.  
This leaves us increasingly soured on giving at all - but we don't really want to cut them off either.  Any thoughts you can share on dealing with this situation would be appreciated!   Especially from anyone who might have an insider's viewpoint on that fundraising process.

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You've likely seen this post today on the subject of how genuine progressives can engage with a centrist Democratic president or presidential candidate.  
Let me say right up that I am very much in agreement with Armando's analysis.  But I have a few additional thoughts I would like to add.

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I recently posted a diary that got some attention on the loss of the union election at the Chattanooga VW plant.  Despite being a union stalwart - someone who has given a great deal of my life the last dozen years to the cause of my union and of the labor movement in general - you might be surprised to hear that my feelings about this election were not totally unmixed.  In my mind, this was a no-win election for the interests of American workers.  The "no" vote was clearly a setback for Labor in general, and especially for efforts to organize in the South.  A "yes" vote would have been an affirmation of a style of unionism - partnership unionism - that represents much of what is wrong with American Labor today.
I'll continue below with more detail.

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Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 09:16 PM PST

UAW loses at VW

by Chico David RN

Just a short note here really.  The United Auto Workers were defeated in the drive to unionize the VW plant in Tennessee.  The vote was 626 for, 712 against.  As most of you know, this was a very unusual dynamic in that the employer did not oppose the union - in fact wanted a union victory.  But there was a massive anti-union campaign by all the usual suspects on the right - all the Tennessee politicos and, naturally the Kochs et al.
From my own experience, a union organizing campaign is a very delicate thing - and like so much in life, much easier to destroy than to build.  It's a sad loss and I feel for the workers who fought hard to bring the union to their workplace.  Much of what underlies this is, of course, the constant and coordinated campaign of anti-union lies that every American has been subjected to for the last 50 years.  
I'll console myself with the fact that my own union - California Nurses Association just got confirmation of our win at a major Sutter hospital in San Francisco - so the news is not all bleak for those of us who believe in the rights of workers.

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So a year ago, I chanced on this diary about a company called Mosaic that is offering small investors - at least in some states - the opportunity to invest in solar projects.  (I have no stake in this myself, other than as a small investor.)  I had some money around that was not committed to anything and there seemed to be no opportunities around for fixed income investments with any meaningful return - money market funds and bank CDs paying essentially zero - so I decided to take a small flyer on it.  I promised to come back with an update and here it is.

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This is hardly a diary at all, but did just really need to be posted, once I stopped laughing:

From TPM

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association on Saturday organized a meeting in Highland, Utah to call for an uprising and to express their opposition to same-sex marriage in Utah, Fox 13 Now Salt Lake City reported.

"The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats," Former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack said at the meeting.

And this is a problem, or?
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Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 12:55 PM PST

Attempting Nuance on GMO foods

by Chico David RN

As a person who attempts to be reality based and is comfortable with nuanced views of issues - and uncomfortable with black and white dichotomies - I often find myself in the position of being uncomfortable with my allies.  And occasionally opposing those with whom I would like to be allied.  This seems to be particularly true in areas where science and policy intersect.  I can't call myself expert in any scientific field, but I try to be at least reasonably scientifically literate.  We often point out the anti-science beliefs of those on the right - but leftists are not entirely immune.  No false equivalence here - the left has never made anti-science into dogma the way the right has.  But we don't always avoid it either.    One of the most troubling areas for me to discuss with many of my friends is the subject of GMO crops and the foods produced from them.  I want to share a little bit of my own thinking here, in a forum where at least a few people may be willing to take the time to grasp the nuances.  And please be decent enough to read to the end before attacking - you might be surprised at the conclusions!

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Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 09:04 PM PST

Christmas in the hospital

by Chico David RN

No, I'm not a patient.  As you might guess from the screen name, I'm a nurse.  31+ years of it now, and still love it.  Of course, I have one of the more fortunate jobs in nursing - cardiac rehabilitation/cardiac patient education.  And even though my work is not quite the 24/7 of inpatient bedside nursing, heart disease continues every day and my work does too.  While I rarely have to spend a whole Christmas at the hospital, tomorrow will be one of many Christmases I've spent part of there.  And I feel in the mood to share a few random thoughts.  No great revelations, nothing earthshaking, just the thoughts the day brought.

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This passed across my computer screen last night and just cracked me up:
 "It all makes sense now. Gay marriage and marijuana are being legalized at the same time.
 Leviticus 20:13 says if a man lays with another man, he should be stoned.
 We were just misinterpreting it."

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