Category Archives: Government & Civics

1st Foray Into ChatGPT

I finally decided to give ChatGPT a test drive. I made the following request: “Write a 500 word blog post about why Gen Z should vote in every election.”

Here’s the response I received. The response is actually 523 words. Close enough:

“Gen Z, also known as the iGeneration or the post-Millennials, is the demographic cohort born between 1996 and 2010. As this generation begins to reach voting age, it is important for them to understand the importance of participating in every election.

“Voting is one of the most fundamental rights and responsibilities of citizenship. It is a way for individuals to have a say in the direction of their country and to hold elected officials accountable. By voting, Gen Z can shape the policies and laws that will affect their daily lives, from healthcare and education to the economy and the environment.

“One of the most compelling reasons for Gen Z to vote is that their generation is uniquely affected by many of the current political issues. Climate change, for example, is a pressing concern for Gen Z, as they will be living with the consequences of current environmental policies for much longer than older generations. Similarly, the high cost of education and the increasing burden of student loan debt disproportionately affects Gen Z. By voting, Gen Z can make their voices heard on these issues and push for policies that align with their values and interests.

“Another reason why Gen Z should vote is that their generation is one of the most diverse in history, with a wide range of perspectives and experiences. By participating in the democratic process, Gen Z can ensure that their diverse voices are represented in government and that policies reflect the needs and concerns of all members of society.

“Additionally, by voting, Gen Z can help shape the future of the country. The decisions made by today’s elected officials will have a lasting impact on the future, and it is important for Gen Z to have a say in that future. It is also important for Gen Z to vote to ensure the continuation of democracy, which is the foundation of our country and it is something that should be protected.

“It’s also worth noting that voting is not just a right but also a privilege in many countries. Many people have fought and continue to fight for the right to vote, and it is important to exercise that right in order to honor their sacrifices.

“However, it is important to note that voting is not the only way to make a difference. Gen Z can also get involved in other forms of civic engagement, such as volunteering, organizing, and advocacy. But voting is an essential part of the democratic process, and it is the most direct way to make an impact on government policies and elected officials.

“In conclusion, Gen Z should vote in every election because it is their right and responsibility as citizens to shape the direction of their country. By voting, Gen Z can have a say in the policies and laws that affect their lives, ensure that their diverse voices are represented in government, and help shape the future of the country. Furthermore, it’s a way to honor the sacrifices of those who fought for the right to vote. It is time for Gen Z to step up and make their voices heard.”


Phony Patriots

Let’s get something straight. There’s little love lost between me and the government. I don’t believe, despite being (ostensibly) a constitutional republic embodied in a democratic body politic, that we are in actuality a functioning democracy. Sure, we have elections, but I have a hard time believing most of the people who are able to run for office represent the majority of us. It takes too much money to wage a successful campaign, especially for a statewide or nationwide office.

According to Open Secrets, as of 2020 more than half of the members of the 116th Congress were millionaires and the median net worth of the entire House was a little over $1,000,000.00. Contrast that with the median household net worth of all Americans as of 2020 which, according to Census.gov, is a mere $140,800.00.

Keep in mind, that’s the median. That means half the population has even less wealth and, again according to Census.gov, the bottom 10% of American households have a negative net worth (-$1,450.00)! That 10% represents 33 million people. That’s an awful lot of people residing in the so-called wealthiest nation in the world who have a collective negative net worth.

This being the case, I find it hard to imagine virtually any politician being able to empathize with and understand the issues most Americans are faced with in living their lives. While there may be some local elected officials who aren’t reasonably well-off, I think it safe to say the majority, especially in the more populous states, are in at least the 75th percentile when it comes to income and net worth.

I’m pointing this out to make an argument for my not being an apologist or cheerleader for the ruling class of these United States of America. Add to that my years of experience in the peace & justice movement during the late sixties and early seventies, as well as my two-month trip to Cuba in 1973 as a guest of the Cuban government, and you might get the idea I’m not exactly enamored of the way our country is managed. Also, even though I “settled down” after my years of full-time activism, I’ve still remained a socialist and am supportive of progressive (if not revolutionary) ideas and action. Truth to tell, the only reason I’m not currently advocating for a socialist revolution in this country is because I’m a privileged white man and I don’t think it’s my place to suggest actions that may affect others far more adversely than they will affect me. I believe a revolution in this country would best be led by others than the likes of me.

Nevertheless, if forced to choose between what I would characterize as the regular order of how things are run and the kind of order people who support groups like this Armored Republic wants to equip so they can “honor Jesus” by arming themselves to the teeth to “defend” what they conceive of as “liberty”, I’ll take the former. I have no doubt these jerks are Christian white supremacists and their idea of freedom doesn’t include participation by people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, most women, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc.

These are the kind of people who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2001 and who support and defend Donald Trump. I want nothing to do with them or the kind of society they envision constructing to honor their “savior”.


From a FB Friend

I didn’t write the following. However, I think it adds to my last post about Sun Tsu’s admonition to know one’s enemy and know oneself. It’s well written and says much more than I did in that post of mine.

A big part of the freakout you’re seeing from Elon and the rest of the rightwing crowd is that they just ran a whole campaign against the “woke mind virus” and LGBTQ people in an electoral environment that should have favored them heavily–and they lost.

They thought they had a big popular majority for “anti-woke.” They did not. They lost. Elon is going anti-woke, and going broke. All their rightwing startups are going belly-up. They lost a Senate seat, and without new illegal gerrymandering they would’ve lost the House.

Normies voted against them. Women were more furious about Roe than they expected. Young people voted big against them. They’ve lost the culture, and they’ve lost faith in electoral solutions to it. Who is gonna save them? Trump 2024? DeSantis 2024? Lol.

Tech is stacked in favor of the GOP: the Facebook groups/algorithms & YouTube algorithms favor them. They dominate AM radio & cable news. Twitter was the most balanced & responsible, so Elon bought it because the far right couldn’t stomach even a hint of social responsibility.

But they still lost. They lost the popular vote in 2016. They lost in 2018. They lost in 2020. They lost embarrassingly in 2022. They lost in Brazil. Putin lost in Ukraine. White Christian Nationalism is failing. So they’re taking desperate measures for control.

As generational replacement continues and the failures of authoritarianism become more obvious, they will lose even harder. The desperation for control will increase. Times will get more dangerous. But as long as the rest of society resists, we will win.

This “rest of society” is what the far-right calls “The Cathedral” as if it’s some conspiracy. They see themselves as a brave rebellious resistance to it. But of course none of that is true. They are defending the hegemony of good ol’ boy power.

Meanwhile, “the cathedral” is no such thing. Creatives, the well-educated, scientists, real altruists and curious all lean left. Young people are economically disadvantaged, and lean left. The big problems like climate change do not have rightwing answers.

Now even big corporations seem to lean left in their public comms only because 18-45 year olds are the target advertising demo. And guess where we live, what our values are and how we vote? The Fox News audience isn’t the target demo anymore. Too bad.

So now you’ve got a coalition of theocrats with aging, declining followings, and megalomaniac billionaires who think only an dictatorship under their control will lead humanity into a sci-fi future of their grandiose and self-serving delusions.

But normal people aren’t buying in–especially the vast majority of people under 45. They’re going to lose. As for twitter? Either Elon gets bored and makes it normal again, or he turns it into Gab and destroys it as the people who actually provide value on twitter move elsewhere–to places like here.

And regarding Elon’s “longtermism”? No worries–progressives and ethical science will get us to a sustainable sci-fi San Junipero future just fine. And we’ll get there faster and more safely the more that Dunning-Kruger tyrants like Elon are sidelined from control over it.

D. Atkins

Conservatism Will Lose

“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.”

~ Sun Tsu

For me, this quote explains why conservatives are eventually going to lose the “culture wars”. They consistently insist on ascribing thoughts and values to liberal and progressives that are figments of their overactive imaginations when, in fact, they are more often than not projecting. They don’t know their “enemy”, nor do they know themselves.

This isn’t to say they won’t cause a lot of damage, destruction, and even death as they attempt to control the narrative and impose their values on everyone. But I do believe their “causes” will never prevail in the long run, in large part because they’re clueless about not only our motivations, but even their own.


It’s A Mystery!

I really enjoy Jim Wright’s rants, especially when he gets riled up. He reminds me of a famous sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, Jim Murray who, sadly, passed away nearly a quarter century ago (kinda shows you how old I am). Jim Murray had a way of making and remaking a point without the reader getting tired of the exercise. Jim Wright has that same quality in the political world, IMO. I came across this post today and shared it with my friends and anyone else who might stumble across it – my posts are all public – and I thought I would share it here as well. I also added a few thoughts of my own that sprung out of Jim’s post and some of the resulting comments, most notably those suggesting the work of protecting against fascism is hardly over because of this one election. In fact, I vividly remember the “America. Love it or leave it” crowd that attacked those of us who were protesting the war in Vietnam back in the sixties and seventies, as well as the majority of Republicans since who want to restrict our freedoms and tell us what to think, who to love, and how to relate to the universe. My comments follow this Facebook embed.

The concerning part is there’s still a disturbingly large swath of the electorate who embrace fascism and authoritarianism and likely an equally large group of people who haven’t a clue what’s actually happening and merely respond to the right-wing propaganda that permeates our culture and vote reflexively, not thoughtfully.

My time on this planet is coming to a close, even if I live to be 100, but I still care deeply about the kind of society, economy, and environment we’ll be leaving those who come after me. While I have two daughters who are 19 and 21, and whose future matters a great deal to me, I would feel this way even if I was childless.

The forces of darkness are not soon going away; they’ll most likely never go away – at least not for generations to come. Therefore, we must be eternally vigilant as well as discerning in our choice of those we allow to have the power to make decisions affecting our lives and the lives of our fellow humans. This means paying close attention to elections at every level and for every office, as they’re currently the most impactful activities that determine how we live.

I honestly believe we need a socialist revolution, but I don’t see it happening soon, nor do I see it happening in the manner others have gone down. We’re not early 20th century Russia or mid 20th century China. Neither are we similar to Cuba or any other country I can think of that had a revolution and attempted to become a communist economy.

My knowledge of Marxism, which is admittedly incomplete, tells me that Marx and Engels did not believe a country could go from an agrarian or feudal economy directly to socialism. If you’re not familiar with their theories, they believed that human economic systems evolved and there was a progression from tribalism (primitive communism) to slavery, to feudalism, to capitalism, to socialism, to communism, to anarchy (which didn’t mean crazy-ass bomb throwing, but the absence of the coercive organs of the state, i.e. the “withering away of the state.”) Neither were these transitions/evolutions necessarily smooth or linear, but they were overall inexorable.

Materialistic Dialectics also requires us to understand the situation in which we find ourselves and our society in its historical context, not as some abstract notion of how things “ought” to be, but as they truly are; a seemingly Herculean task given the complexity of today’s world.

I don’t have all the answers; I’m not even sure I have any answers. However, of this I’m reasonably certain – believing that capitalism is the zenith of human economic activity is foolish and counter productive. As well, we have a long way to go just to honor the principles on which the United States was ostensibly founded. Liberty and justice for all is still a goal; an apparently distant one at that.

Semper Vigilantes!


Use Every Tool Available!

I am 75 years old. I have been voting since July 4, 1968, my 21st birthday and the day of the California Democratic primary. My introduction to voting was to have the person I voted for assassinated the night I voted for him. I have never missed voting in an election, including any special elections.

I have been a socialist since my first vote so, in reality, I’ve never been able to conscientiously vote for someone who represented my actual views or for the system I would like to see implemented. Sure, there were socialists running for office but, lets’ face it, this is a two-party political system and I’ve never wanted to waste my vote.

My point isn’t to argue the validity of voting for the lesser of two evils or the value of the protest vote. I had my reasons, but I’ve always voted – always, and if you don’t get off your ass and vote I don’t know what to say other than I have no use for you. Not voting is akin to voting for the worst possible choice, IMO, especially when those who support the worst possible choice vote en masse every. damn. time.

Vote, goddam it! Just vote.


Simi Valley Elections

Candidates NOT to vote for in Simi Valley.
Who NOT to Vote For in Simi Valley

If you live in Simi Valley, CA here are all the candidates you DON’T want to vote for. I live in City Council District 2 and School District D. Here are my thoughts on the candidates I can and will vote for, as well as most of their opponents.

IMLTHO, the fact that Mike Judge is endorsed by the SVPD says nothing good about the police or Judge. Judge is full of anger and hate and has accomplished little as a member of the City Council. His opponent, Sean Weisman, is young, intelligent, and full of fresh ideas. He’s also in tune with changes people like Judge won’t even acknowledge, e.g. climate change.

Fred Thomas’s focus is almost entirely on a “safe and family friendly community”, which I interpret as a dog whistle heavily skewed toward policing and the status quo. Joe Ayala is a forward thinking, long-time union member and negotiator. He supports working people and their struggles, as well as sensible approaches to our housing, water, and climate crises and how the City can lead in addressing these critical issues.

Don Brodt’s approach to education I find incomplete, as he puts parents and students first, with teachers as an afterthought. From a systems perspective, this is both short sighted and incomplete. Kristina Pine, OTOH, is both a teacher and a parent, with two children attending SVUSD schools. Her approach to education is holistic and realistic.

Jacqui Irwin and Julia Brownley are proven leaders and have represented our districts well, IMO.

I’m voting for Jacqui Irwin, Julia Brownley, Joe Ayala, Sean Weisman, and Kristina Pine. I hope you’ll follow me in doing so.

PS – I suspect most, if not all, of the candidates attending this forum are MAGA Republicans, which should tell you more than I can about their suitability to represent our entire community, not just the people they agree with. Choose wisely, fellow Simizens.

PPS – I forgot to mention Brian Dennert for Parks & Rec. Brian’s done a great job in his term as a Director. I have no doubt he’ll do even more if re-elected. I’m voting for him as well.

#simivalley#california#NovemberElections


What Country Is This?

When I was younger people would fly the flag on specific holidays: Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day, and a few more. That was the extent to which the flag was flown outside of private residences.

Public Law 94-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, states: “Traditional guidelines call for displaying the flag in public only from sunrise to sunset. However, the flag may be displayed at all times if it’s illuminated during darkness.” In my City of Simi Valley, CA there are dozens and dozens of flags flying 24/7, many of them not illuminated at night. Even stranger, there are also dozens and dozens of people who have installed flagpoles in front of their homes flying the flag.

Fort McDumbfuck

I find myself wondering, “Are you cosplaying a post office?” “Is this a military installation; say, Fort McDumbfuck?” What are these people trying to say? That they’re more patriotic than the rest of us? I thought being patriotic meant loving your country enough to work hard, pay your taxes, raise your children to be honest, kind, thoughtful, decent people so the economy and the body politic are strong and resilient.

I guess that’s not good enough nowadays. I guess you have to become a jingoist and pledge your fealty to a person or persons who demand it rather than command it. I guess you have to be a little brain dead and incapable of critical, analytical thought. I have the feeling, as do many others, the people who are doing this now are all Trump supporters.

The conservatives and MAGAts (is there any difference now?) have ruined the flag for me. They’ve fetishized it. The flag represents the nation; it isn’t the nation. It represents the Constitution and the people who have served and sacrificed that we might enjoy the freedoms that, when you look at it historically, haven’t been available for all. Now I’m afraid it merely represents a gnawing desire to return to an idealized past that never existed, not even for the most privileged of us.

At the risk of being accused of harping on the subject, returning from taking my daughter to work I was once again struck by the number of flags, and flagpoles, that line the streets of Simi Valley. I tweeted the following after I returned:

Conservatives have no problem belittling others for “virtue signaling.” However, it’s just dawned on me that flying the flag 24/7 is another, somewhat ridiculous form of virtue signaling. I know what country I live in. I don’t need dozens of flags to remind me. What’s your point?

I’m afraid it’s probably time for a new flag. We can consider it right after we bury the Republican Party, the epitome of un-American values, if you can call what they believe values at all. Please vote accordingly this November 8.


It’s Not Inflation-It’s Greed

I’m old enough to remember paying $0.25/gal back in 1968. Adjusted for inflation that would be $2.10/gal today. Clearly, the petroleum companies are screwing us royally.

PS – This was a first for me (>$100) and it was at Costco, where had can be up to $0.50 cheaper than most anywhere else.


Let’s Try It!

Ever since I encountered Malcolm X’s writings in the 60s, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the phrase “by any means necessary.” I’m reasonably sure what Brother Malcolm was referring to was the right of the Black community to defend itself, violently if necessary, against any and all attacks on their rights.

I’m also pretty sure a lot of people interpret the phrase as a general call-to-arms and an incitement to violence. I beg to differ. I believe the phrase should be interpreted (ironically) literally, i.e. whatever works is what we do if we want to make positive, progressive change in this country.

We have a tool available to us and we don’t use it very effectively. I’m referring to voting. Historically, since the early 20th century, less than half the eligible population has voted in midterm elections. In 2018 it was 50%, for the first time since 1914.

If you don’t think there’s a correlation between voter apathy and the quality of representation we get, I’ve got a Louie Gohmert to sell you.

Voting is a “means” at our disposal. Protests, demonstrations, general strikes are “means” as well, but they’re not mainstream and, therefore, are far more difficult to pull off. The whole damn country votes on (or, thankfully, around) the same day every two years.

I know there are those who say voting doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are plenty of cases in which that’s true, but that doesn’t make it a universal truth. Regardless, when 50% or less of the eligible population bother to vote it’s much easier for a small but organized and cohesive group to take over the governance of your city, county, state, or federal government. Maybe even your HOA!

Please vote. Let’s give it a try. Make sure your friends and family know how important it is. Not just in this upcoming election, but from now on. From The standpoint of availability and feasibility, it’s the most “necessary” means at our disposal. Let’s wield it intelligently.


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