The moral thing to do is to put the worker first

I am calling on you because I want to carry your voice and give you the power you deserve to have

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A fucked up thing happened the other day at the anti-war rally which is that as I was standing there in the pissing cold rain trying to tweet on a wet screen and listening to speaker after speaker explain what a disastrous idea it would be for us to engage in a war with Iran a political candidate I had never heard of came up to speak and I thought to myself hmm I want to know more about this person. If you want to read more about that protest you can do so here in this Hell World from the other day.

The candidate in question is a woman named Ihssane Leckey whose campaign page you can find here and she said the government is going to blame every evil in the world on Iran to justify this war and thankfully the war part hasn’t come true officially speaking as of yet but they still went ahead and did all the blaming she mentioned.

In any case I interviewed Leckey today about her run for Congress in Massachusetts in a crowded field to take over the seat being vacated by Joe Kennedy and we’ll get to that in a bit but first some of the usual type of Hell World shit.

The husky president breathed very normally into a microphone while all the generals stood with impeccably professional posture behind him and he said that he didn’t want war with Iran he said instead we “will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions” on Iran which doesn’t technically count as war because sanctions only make poor people suffer and die slowly and not quickly like a bomb does. It’s basically no big deal if you think about it.

Fox & Friends this morning had a soldier on who was wounded fighting for our freedoms in Iraq and I do feel the appropriate amount of interpersonal sympathy for this fellow human being in that I wish that hadn’t happened to him and that he hadn’t even been there for it to happen in the first place but one thing he said was that if we don’t start supporting people like him and fuck it the police and firefighters too throw them in there then they won’t fight for us in the future and tbh buddy that would be fine with me. I’ll make a deal with all the troops and troop lovers which is that the second the tanks start rolling down from Niagara Falls into Buffalo and these guys go and repel the fearsome attack I will stand up and salute the flag with tears in my eyes but until then no thank you for your service.

This is how the cult of the civic religion of war in America works you distill all of the destruction and chaos we’ve exported around the world into the symbol of the singular brave soldier and of course you aren’t going to question this brave soldier are you and by extension of course you aren’t going to question the people who sent him to kill and be killed and so what’s worth even debating here. If you’re against endless war then you’re against this nice young man who wants nothing more but to protect you from evildoers so next thing you know we all just shut the fuck up and keep our heads down.

Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks has eliminated one million dollars in medical debt for the people in his city who cannot pay it back and that sounds very nice until you remember that medical debt is made up and is not real in any way and hospitals and insurance companies basically pull a figure out of their ass when it comes time to send you a bill hoping that the amount you pay or that insurance companies pay will come as close to that number as possible. It’s essentially the Showcase Showdown on the Price Is Right. How much is this three day stay in the hospital? uhh… fucking … fifty thousand Bob?

Young didn’t donate one million dollars he donated ten thousand dollars through the group RIP Medical Debt and now $1,059,186.39 in debt will be erased because again these numbers are not real.

Medical debt isn’t real but people dying because they’re afraid of incurring medical debt sure is. “Millions of Americans – as many as 25% of the population – are delaying getting medical help because of skyrocketing costs,” this piece in the Guardian by Michael Sainato explains. Here’s how it opens:

Susan Finley returned to her job at a Walmart retail store in Grand Junction, Colorado, after having to call in sick because she was recovering from pneumonia.

The day she returned, the 53-year-old received her ten year associate award – and was simultaneously laid off, according to her family. She had taken off one day beyond what is permitted by Walmart’s attendance policy.

After losing her job in May 2016, Finley also lost her health insurance coverage and struggled to find a new job. Three months later, Finley was found dead in her apartment after avoiding going to see a doctor for flu-like symptoms.

“My grandparents went by to check on her, and they couldn’t get into her apartment,” her son Cameron Finley told the Guardian. “They got the landlord to open it up, went in and found she had passed away. It came as a complete surprise to everybody. It just came out of nowhere.

“She was barely scraping by and trying not to get evicted. She gets what appears to her as a basic cold or flu, didn’t go to the doctor and risk spending money she didn’t have, and as a consequence she passed away.”

Asked about Finley losing her job, Walmart declined to comment, saying personnel files from 2016 had been moved offsite.

Weird that you never see dozens of op-eds month after month written by Democrats pleading with Republicans to nominate a reasonable compromise candidate that they could vote for in good conscience.

I just read a completely cursed headline which went a little something this:

The Forbes 2020 30 Under 30 Fighting Mass Shootings With Bulletproof Hoodies

Under it was affixed this completely cursed paragraph (emphasis mine).

Vy Tran, the 26-year-old founder of Wonder Hoodie, aims to shake up the civilian body-armor industry by offering better head protection, interchangeable styles and modern fashion at comparatively affordable prices. Her company, which designs and manufactures bulletproof hoodies, is one of the latest entrants in the budding market for bulletproof clothing. Tran’s goal is to see body armor normalized and more accessible through lower-cost items that are the same caliber as what law enforcement might use.

The concept of bulletproof clothing for the child targets that we subject to our regularly scheduled rituals of blood cleansing and geography class isn’t new of course and we all get very dutifully red-assed about it every time some new version of it is in the news. Back in August I wrote about how bulletproof backpack companies regularly see huge spikes in sales after a mass shooting. Around that time Kamala Harris said something very reasonable but nonetheless cursed in that it even had to be said which was this: “Your back-to-school shopping list shouldn’t have to include a bulletproof backpack.”

I agree with that Kamala Harris thank you for saying that one thing.

I was thinking about the Wonder Hoodie because I saw a tweet that injected heretofore unheard of levels of depression about the subject into my already teetering brain the other day.

Here are some of the highlights from the sales page:

  • Growing Future Program: When purchasing a bulletproof hoodie for your child, know you can always trade-up for a larger size when they outgrow it (shipping and size surcharge not included).

  • Every 10 hoodies we sell, we donate 1 to a public school teacher.

  • LIFETIME WARRANTY: If you get shot (God forbid) with our hoodies on, we'll send you a replacement hoodie FREE of charge. Just include the police report or news clip.

Thinking about submitting the notarized paperwork to the bulletproof hoodie company to prove that my child was shot in an Officially Certified and Documented School Shooting and feeling very calm.

The marketing copy doesn’t have any tips for students at a number of schools around the country that prohibit them from wearing hoodies in class in the first place never mind address the pervasive attitude that certain types of students wearing hoodies if you know what I mean deserve to be shot specifically for wearing hoodies but that’s not really their problem I guess.

I was just reading Barron’s like I regularly do perusing their 10 best stock picks for 2020 and came across another cursed paragraph. Among their profitable picks were Anthem the healthcare company that covers 40 million people. Anthem is looking to “expand profitable supplemental policies, including dental and vision, to existing customers; and develop newer businesses like data analytics,” they write and is therefore a promising stock to invest in.

“‘Every time I look at it, I see new sources of earnings growth,’ says Adam Seessel, a longtime holder who runs Gravity Capital Management, a New York investment firm. Seessel sees both revenue and margin improvement in the coming years and thinks the stock could hit $450.”

There’s just one problem though as Barron’s notes.

“Medical for All is a key risk, but its prospects are waning along with Elizabeth Warren’s standing in the polls.”

Reader Aaron who sent this item to me had this to say.

Never mind that M4A is “primarily the work of another leading candidate. The important thing though is: A COUNTRY HAVING HEALTH CARE IS A RISK TO YOUR INVESTMENT. It just struck me how easily they come right out and say it.”

I decided recently I am going to become a Raymond Chandler Guy which is either a very twenty something or forty something guy thing to do and so far it has proven to be a good decision. I am reading The Long Goodbye currently and this line stood out to me last night:

“The law isn’t justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.”

And then I saw this tweet just now:

Ihssane Leckey is an immigrant and a Muslim and a Democratic Socialist from Brookline, Mass and a lot of other things and I very much like the idea of her taking over a fucking Kennedy’s seat here. Kennedy has since moved on to running for Senate against Ed Markey for some shitty reason but Lecky declared her decision to primary him back before that had happened and I like that. We talked about Medicare for All, her experience immigrating to America, the immorality of capitalism, and some other things.

So I saw you at the anti-war rally the other day and I was interested in some of the stuff you were saying, and I thought since I have a lot readers on the left here in Massachusetts it might be good to introduce you to some of them in case they don’t know you yet. Obviously things have changed a little since the rally, and, hopefully it seems, died down again, but what brought you out to protest the idea of war with Iran?

I’m in immigrant from Morocco, and where I grew up we were very aware of international policy, and the wars in the Middle East and what’s happening. Any type of war is so internally destabilizing, to me as a human being, and to many people who are pro-peace. To hear about potential war in Iran is really scary. It brings back the images of the chaos of the innocent people dying, and massive populations of refugees. I know these are really difficult times, and we’re still trying to see what’s going to happen, but it also makes me think of who is benefiting from these wars? War has never brought us peace. Who is benefiting are the war profiteers and the war lobbyists manipulating our Congress, and buying our voices through their donations to representatives. That’s something that I understand as a Wall Street Regulator, who has seen on the books of these big banks why it is that our policies aren’t strong enough. Or why is it we have people, no matter the political party, who are looking away from acting boldly on what’s just and promoting peace.

The other day you criticized Democrats as well. American war -- it might tilt slightly to the Republican side -- but Democrats often fall in line pretty quickly when these things happen. Is that something that you see, that Democrats tend to capitulate, whether it was under Bush or now with Trump? So many of them just signed off on Trump’s military budget. 

We have a bloated military budget. It doesn’t matter what party these representatives are from, when they are taking money from war lobbyists and fossil fuel companies, that effects their decision making. They voted to increase the military budget. Even though they know that we have an authoritarian in the White House. We have somebody who is not even referring to Congress before taking action. They are morally responsible. They are our protection as a people and we need them to stand up for us. But at the same time they’re beholden to the corporate interests that keep them away from being our protectors. 

Recently Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez said something like she and Joe Biden would be in different parties if this were another country. It seems to me that you might also be in a different party than Joe Biden based on what I’ve read about you so far. 

I’m a huge admirer of AOC. What she comes with is her moral clarity and her personal lived experiences that have opened her eyes on how our system is really broken and corrupt. It isn’t about the party label you carry anymore. That does not define what actions you take. We have a lot of folks in the Democratic Party who are fundraising for Republicans. You see that when it comes to corporate interests there is support from both sides. That’s why it is really crucial that we elect people that are not going to stab us in the back. If I see a presidential candidate talking about anything other than single payer Medicare for All then I start to question what interests are they representing. As long as we have people who are rationing medication, dying from being sick, or going bankrupt from being sick, in the richest country in the world, then the answer to that is that there is injustice. It is not normal. We shouldn’t get used to the fact that we are losing people every day because they can’t afford a co-pay. So that is the litmus test for me when I’m looking at any presidential candidate. How strong are they going to stand for the people and not the corporations. 

You’re also a supporter of a Green New Deal?

We are in a climate emergency. We are seeing huge levels of children who are asthmatic. Many people, including people in my district, have low quality drinking water. Many people in my district are living in public housing, living in mold. The climate emergency is a health emergency. The climate emergency is a refugee emergency. Even within the country, like look at what is happening in Puerto Rico right now. Schools have shut down. A friend of mine was reporting today the water was shut down in her area. Gas pipes, infrastructure, hasn’t even been rebuilt since hurricane Maria. These earthquakes are making it worse for folks there. People are starting to think about flying away from Puerto Rico but they can’t afford to buy tickets. It’s a humanitarian crisis that’s happening there, and that’s going to be internal migration that we still see our government has done nothing to fix or facilitate. 

We also see Australia is on fire. California was on fire. Other regions in the world, people are coming as climate refugees, and they’re carrying with them that American dream where you come to a country that is going to open its door to you out of moral justice, and gives you an opportunity to work. You’re coming to give and to build with everybody else. Now under Trump we’re shutting our doors. Not only that, we’re shutting our doors to building coalitions internationally so that we can face the climate emergency. That also goes back to the fact that we don’t have a people’s government, we have a corporate government that is backing the fossil fuel industry. Not only fossil fuel, but it goes all the way up to these giant banks that hold their portfolios. It’s a systemic issue. But what really breaks my heart is we don’t have time. We’re racing against the clock. The people are demanding that we take big action. The Green New Deal is not about profitability, it’s about facing the climate emergency, and decarbonizing the economy and the world economy within a time limit. We have to send people to Congress -- I want to be there so we can start organizing these coalitions in Congress and across the world. We are going to need to have people who have a worldly view, who speak multiple languages, who have lived in other places in the world, who understand inter-culture, so we can reach the hearts of people across the world and organize together. 

You were an immigrant yourself. Can you talk about how the image of the United States you may have had before you lived here changed once you did?

I came here when I was twenty years old. Before I came here, my dad was a public school teacher who lived paycheck to paycheck. My mother was denied school after fifth grade so she could help her family on the farm, and help raise her own brothers and sisters. They really wanted to see me be a better generation. They wanted to see me educated, with a job, and they put everything they could into it. When I was thirteen I lost my father to healthcare injustice, and I became the supporter of my family. That was a really difficult time. I wanted to come to America so that I could have the education that I dreamed of, so I could have a job to support my family and build my own family. I also wanted to come to America because abortion was illegal in Morocco, and I am a survivor of illegal abortion. That means you face death. It shouldn’t be that way. Abortion is healthcare and healthcare is a human right. I’m also a survivor of sexual abuse and I wanted to be in a place that would provide me protection when it comes to my basic human rights. The American Dream is something that I lived with since I was three years old. I wanted to get out of oppression. I wanted to live in a true democracy. I wanted to live in opportunity, where you work hard and you make it. 

When the opportunity came to live here I was shocked to see that, just because I’m an immigrant, I did not have a right to healthcare. I did not have a right to housing. I did not have a right to even open a bank account. Everything I put my hand in meant that I needed a lot of money. Just going to school meant I needed debt, and I needed to find someone to sponsor me. The whole system is set up to make you fail the second you come here. 

That’s right. 

Then I started to see it wasn’t just me because I’m an immigrant. That being treated as a second class citizen has nothing to do with where you are born or what documents you have. It actually has to do with the social status, your skin color, your money connections, your political connections. I even saw that when I graduated where those who were well-connected got the jobs during the financial crisis of 2008 and those who didn’t have the connections were jobless. Some of us were pushed into more student loans. 

I was really shocked to see how people in the richest country in the world are denied healthcare, denied housing, denied a dignified job. I worked tipped wages, and was sexually assaulted, and couldn’t report. I was in a car accident and couldn’t call the ambulance. These are life threatening situations that we find ourselves in without the right to have a justice system that defends us and stands for the rights of the people. Income inequality in this country is just huge. It’s not something that you hear about when you grow up in a country like Morocco where you always dream of going to the Land of the Free. The Land of Opportunity. The Land of Immigrants. That’s how it’s sold to the world but the reality is different. 

You worked as a Wall Street Regulator. Can you explain what that was like for people who don’t know. Anything with the term Wall Street in the name makes people a little nervous. 

People should be nervous when they hear Wall Street because it is scary. We saw what happened in 2008 when the big banks who were deemed too big to fail took everything from people. They took people’s wages and jobs, pensions, their homes. They forced people into loans, especially personal loans, car loans, student loans, credit card loans. People started to be more and more shackled and drowning in debt. In the face of what was happening, all of these giant banks received a bail out. I decided to fight them. I wanted to help people. I looked at the injustice that was happening in our system and I thought that was one of the major sources. So in becoming a Wall Street Regulator -- and put a capital R on Regulator -- I walked into the boardrooms representing the people of our country. I had that responsibility on my shoulders. If there is any problem in our economy, I did not want the people to bear the consequences. And every time I walked into those boardrooms I saw how these big bank executives undermined the American people. They would omit information, or lie about the risks they were putting people’s jobs into. Before Trump the regulation wasn’t perfect, but it was good. It showed that our government has so much power over these institutions. 

They just don’t exercise it that often. 

Yeah but it gave me hope into the American Dream that we were talking about before. I thought this is a thing that is fixable. But when Trump took office, I learned that the lobbyists of these big banks are the ones who are legislating. It’s not the Congress that’s regulating Wall Street, it became Wall Street regulating Congress. 

I’ve seen you say elsewhere that there is no such thing as moral capitalism. I agree with that, but it seems hard, just the existence of these massive banks, regulating them a little bit better than is being done seems like we’re still operating within the same problematic system? There still was massive wealth inequality under Obama. Trump didn’t invent all of these problems. I guess what I’m trying to say is is it revolution or incremental progress for you?

Incrementalism has gotten us to where we are. Over the last thirty forty years we vote people into Congress and they give us little trickle down solutions that don’t fix the major problems we have: our broken healthcare system, the climate emergency, gun violence… What I thought in terms of regulating Wall Street was when things went really, really bad, our government did put together one of the toughest regulations ever in the history of America. Again, it could’ve been better. But it was very strong. I saw how these big banks’ corporate power was being put in check, and I thought we had a government that could twist their arm to do the right thing. 

Capitalism will never be moral. Corporations will never be moral. Corporations aren’t people. We the people have morals, you and I. We can choose to operate on our moral clarity. It’s a choice. So once you buy into that choice you know you will put everything towards it, towards protecting people. To sit on the sidelines and say these corporations are going to do the right thing, we should trust them to do that, that is just lying to ourselves. The moral thing to do is to actually figure out how we’re going to democratize our economy. The moral thing to do is to put the worker first. The moral thing to do is to close the pay gap. To transition labor out of the fossil fuel industry. So anyone who is going to sit around and read a bunch of books and write up some report on how capitalism can be moral, I think they would be better off spending their time legislating in a way that will protect the American working class. 

Massachusetts is often considered this liberal bastion, but the Democrats here often end up being centrists or Republicans with a D next to their name. I wonder if you’re seeing a moment of…and for your district in particular by the way there’s no reason why it shouldn’t go to the left most person possible. There’s no reason why it should go to some half-ass Democrat. 

That’s right. I have become more and more involved in local and state politics as an activist, and there is a huge lack of transparency in our State House. We don’t know how our representatives vote, so we can’t hold them accountable. But we also saw this shift in our state toward electing people who are true fighters for democracy and the working class. We saw Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler get elected to City Council in Cambridge, he’s a Democratic Socialist. And many other names. I suspect we will have even more people in 2020 elected at every level of office. It’s really important that when we look at organizations who are organizing for issue campaigns, or organizations like DSA, these people are doing work year-round, non-stop. They are the ones who are the warriors on the ground, pushing the issues. But it’s really important that we all realize if we don’t participate in electoral politics, we’re not going to get things done. We’re going to continue to get trickle-down politics that doesn’t really bring the solution we need to the problems we’re facing. So it’s really important as an activist, and a Wall Street Regulator, and as an immigrant, and a Muslim, and a woman, that we bring our voices into the halls of Congress and the State House and City Council, and that we door knock for each other.

People like us, when we run, we don’t come with a huge rolodex. I wasn’t a politician. I don’t come from wealth. I’m going to be able to build a movement, not a campaign. I do rely on people from these organizations to come out and knock on doors, and make phone calls, and fundraise, so we can prove we have a movement that will not succumb to party leadership. A movement that will not succumb to corporate interests, or career politicians, or “moral” capitalism. I organize with you. I lobby for Medicare for All with you. I am calling on you because I want to carry your voice and give you the power you deserve to have. I want to build that trust and relationship with you. Are you with me?