Category Archives: politics

The Nature of Politics

I’ve long felt that human beings, in forming their social, cultural and political institutions, must of an unconscious necessity reflect the patterns existent in the natural world around them.

This is the convoluted way by which I explain the otherwise inexplicable levels of political corruption in Louisiana and New Orleans politics. We live in a swamp filled with molds, fungi, alligators, and strange things that mutate and crawl out of moats. Our political institutions are the same way.

Louisiana has the highest per capita number of convictions for political officials  in the United States. These are just the ones who get convicted and caught.

This also doesn’t include the number of sycophants, aides, supporters, and other associated hanger-ons that have built up in what amounts to an entire ecosystem of corruption surrounding everything to do with Louisiana politics.

People have tried to explain this for years, based on all levels of partisan political data, sociological analysis, historical roots, and everything else, but it seems to deny any rational analysis. I think the real cause is irrational. There is something, as they say, in the water. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. We live in a swamp – strange and funky things brew beneath the surface of the clouded water. Nothing is quite clean.

Even a swamp is cleaned out from time to time, however. A marsh fire occurs in dry season. A hurricane comes. Winter peels back to tangled overgrowth.

We see what was lurking beneath. You can’t hide forever.

The Politics of Food

In an earlier post, when I discussed the type of cooking recipes I would and would not be offering, I declined to offer recipes that rely on vegan, vegetarian, low-fat, gluten free, or other popular options so frequently found on cooking blogs or recipe websites. While I haven’t wanted to make this a political blog, it’s difficult to honestly talk about food choices while ignoring the politics beneath them.

Most popular recipe blogs – like most of the internet – seem aimed at middle class to upper class white Americans. It is assumed that those reading have the time, money, and resources available to purchase expensive ingredients and cooking tools; to drive to a full service grocery or supermarket and pick up high quality ingredients; and to plan meals hours, if not days, in advance. To do anything less is seen as a moral failing and a lack of discipline. Most of the people writing for such blogs have difficulty truly imagining a lifestyle in which there could be any other reason for not obtaining the best possible quality of food.

America, as a nation, has deeply failed to have any meaningful discussion regarding class issues. What little discussion we have is quickly shunted into a soundbite style war or relegated into a different type of struggle. The poverty of many people of color, for example, is blamed almost entirely on racism by those who work for social justice. Meanwhile, the poverty of white people is nearly ignored – considered due to their own laziness or intransigence. Worse, it is co-opted by middle class white Americans who imagine themselves to be poor, like the angry Occupy protesters who were really just college graduates temporarily down on their luck. The face of American poverty doesn’t look like an Occupy camp. People suffering from real poverty weren’t at Occupy. They couldn’t even afford to get there. They were working two jobs to try to keep their bills paid.

But how is this relevant to food?

For better or worse, America is no longer a land that has one strongly unified religious core. While most people are nominally Christian or at least believers in some version of monotheism, few agree on that version and many are not devout. Despite the near absence of any religious consensus, Americans strongly believe in the cult of self-improvement. But now, instead of trying to do better in the areas of sin and morality, we have transferred our efforts to attaining the perfect diet.

It seems impossible to go even a day without hearing someone refer to some type of food as “forbidden” or “sinful” in ways that were once reserved for sex. Overeating is the new sin, and being fat is the glaring sign of one’s ongoing state of apostasy. That many Americans are fat seems to brook no mercy from those thin evangelists who would preach the new gospel of self-abnegation through denial of food – in fact, the bulging waistlines of Americans is proof of our approaching judgement day. Fitness mavens, like heralds of an oncoming fat apocalypse, warn us of approaching doom if we do not all repent through dieting today.

There is a strong link between the foods declared most healthy and their corresponding cost. Pasta, flour, white bread, white rice, higher fat meats, sugary snacks, canned vegetables and many processed foods are made readily available at high volumes and a low cost. Those who buy them are shamed for their poor food choices and assumed to care little for their health. Those making such judgements over other people’s shopping carts seem unable to either truly grasp the economic situations involved in such decisions or to mind their own business.

The poor do now what the poor have always done – make the best economic choices available to them regarding food; use food as a bonding ritual and a tool for comfort in a world that offers them few other comforts; and focus on taste and variety rather than food snobbery in making their food choices. The poor have always traditionally used all food sources available to them, because they haven’t had the option to be picky. Soul food, Appalachian cooking, Southern country style cooking, Mexican food are all traditional North American and Central American forms of food that are based on using the ingredients that were available to populations with limited resources and mobility. These recipes were created by resourceful people during hard times, and thus were based on including whatever food sources were locally available or easily grown. Face the facts – excluding entire groups of food from your diet makes you a privileged and picky eater, not someone who is improving your health.

Despite many popular notions as veganism, gluten-free diets, paleo diets, organic diets, and other diets based on excluding entire food groups or even entire groups of macro nutrients; few overall health benefits have been shown to result from adhering to any of these long term. Most people who believe they have gluten sensitivity are, in fact, hypochondriacs. Paleo came in 32nd out of 32 popular diets ranked by doctors. Organic food is a scam, more expensive and with little to no improved health benefits. And over half of all vegetarian women are just trying to disguise an eating disorder. None of this is particularly healthy.

Why do middle class and upper class people who make all the right food choices live longer? Because they are wealthy. “…socioeconomic status is a fundamental cause of health.” In other words, a poor person can try to mimic a richer person’s lifestyle – but they are still likely to die younger simply because they are poor.

Trying to shame poorer people for the food choices they make when that is all they can afford is a shameful hobby I see upper class people engaging in time and time again – even those who consider themselves “liberal”. I have no real hope that any of them will stop, as every time I point out their shameful behavior, they attempt to rationalize it away. However, knowing that they will not listen is no reason for me to stop talking about it.

If you think people should eat better food, work for a more just society. If you aren’t willing to do that, mind your own business.

Louisiana Government is Broken

I haven’t blogged for a few days for two reasons. The first – and happier – reason is that I’ve been playing the beta test for the new World of Warcraft expansion.

The more irritating reason is due to stress over having once again been stymied in my attempt to obtain my son something that should be simple to get – a government issued state ID card.

Our background is not that difficult or unusual. My son was born in New Orleans. His father is no longer present in his life. Like virtually everyone in the city, we lived somewhere else for several years. During that time, we changed our name legally and have court documents to prove our name change. This happened about a decade ago.

But in the OMV office, despite being presented with school records in his new name, his Social Security card in his new name, medical cards in his new name, the original birth certificate and the court order with raised seal changing the old name to the new name as well as documentation proving I was his mother and had the right to be the person handling this transaction, we were told this was insufficient. What we had to do now, we were told, was change his name on the birth certificate. Moreover we were scolded because “you should have done that in the first place”.

The ignorant “worker” also said we probably would have to have his name changed “in America”. I pointed out the state we had formerly resided in was a state in America. “Oh, I know,” she said, although clearly she didn’t.

We left in a defeated way and I proceeded to try to obtain information on how to change a birth certificate, which is not something I even knew you could do. Eventually I found it, wrote out the two checks that are required, read the extensive rules and filled out the forms, then sent in the paperwork and waited several weeks.

During this time, my son turned eighteen.

You won’t be surprised to hear the upshot of this story, which is they have sent back the un-deposited checks with a form letter saying they refuse to change his birth certificate. Why? Because they “cannot accept an out of state name change judgement”. No reason is given for this decision. It would seem to me this is a direct violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but Louisiana is famous for deciding it doesn’t need to follow any rules that any stupid federales make.

Their solution? I need to change his name in Louisiana. But how are we to do this?

To change your name in Louisiana, you need to live in the state – lucky for him, now we do. You need to present a petition to the court with your reasons. I should hope the reason of “I already changed my name as a toddler and have been living under it my entire life” would be good enough for them, but I’m beginning to wonder. Then you have to present them with various forms of ID under your “old name” to prove you are the person showing up to change your name.

But he doesn’t have anything under his “old name”, because we changed that name years ago! There are no health records, no ID, no Social Security card. The only thing left is his original birth certificate. Obviously, his name is already changed – by court order, no less. Why are they refusing to cooperate?

And I’m writing about this now because this is bigger than me.

The truly terrifying thing to consider here is the Real ID act. The Real ID act demands everyone use their original birth certificate to obtain identification. This will pin everybody’s ability to get identification on the corrupt and disorganized actions of local, inept, corrupt departments of records like those in Louisiana. Can you smell the impending nightmare?

We are contemplating hiring a lawyer to help us through this mess, because right now we can’t figure out how to get my child his ID – and he is an American citizen, white, born right here in this city, smart, and has never done anything legally wrong. If people like us have to hire a lawyer to get a basic form of paperwork that everyone in our society needs, what must it be like for people who are less advantaged than we are? What about people who are automatically considered to be terrorists or illegal immigrants, or who don’t have the resources to endlessly fight with obstinate, money-grubbing bureaucrats? Are we deliberately creating a lower class of people who will exist in a legal limbo because they can’t obtain the right paperwork?

Right now my son can’t vote, drive, get his GED, get a job, travel, or safely walk outside alone. He is being treated like a criminal and he hasn’t done anything wrong. I have dotted every i and crossed every t. I have written to the governor, who referred me right back to the OMV that turned me away. All this because we legally changed our name in a different state twelve years ago. There’s no excuse for this. He should have been issued his ID pleasantly and with a smile the first day we walked into their office. I should not have to contact five government agencies trying to figure out whose palms I need to grease to get the correct set of papers so he can have the right piece of plastic he needs in order to obtain his rights as an American citizen.

Oh but I forgot, this is supposed to keep us all safe from terrorism, right?

Denying my son an ID for no good reason at all sure makes me feel safer!