Why I’m not Voting and Counterpunch

I was apparently a part of a whirlwind of discussion, and didn’t even know about it. I submitted my essay on Why I’m not Voting to Counterpunch. The next day or the day after I started getting emails through my work website and on this site discussing the article. Someone mentioned it was on Counterpunch. I still never heard from them. Then a couple of days after that, someone told me it was gone. Weird. I searched the internets and it was taken down.

Then a close friend of mine explained the issue. These are her words describing the situation:

They pulled it because of some vitriolic allegations made on Facebook by a couple of overzealous people claiming to be champions for the fight against plagiarism.

CounterPunch has refused to publish Mark E. Smith’s writing in the past (apparently election boycotting wasn’t as popular to them a few years ago and has grown in popularity because of the current candidates). Most of what Mark writes on this subject he considers “copyleft” material, meaning he wants the information disseminated and he doesn’t care if people use the concepts he’s developed over the years as their own, as long as they truly understand them. The message is far more important to him than who gets credit. Actually, in many cases when writers have cited him as their source, their articles have not been published because Mark has been blacklisted by pro-voting publishers (including many who consider themselves to be radical left publications).

Here is what Mark had to say about the charge of plagiarism regarding my essay:

“Truth is, I’m sure I didn’t originate the idea of voting as consent. Anarchists have been opposed to voting for ages and have many valid reasons, but I hadn’t been aware of all of them because I wasn’t an anarchist. But that is one of their reasons, because if they oppose the state, they don’t participate in the state’s rituals as it would indicate acceptance of the state. I don’t think I had any really new ideas, I just put things together that I had learned. Mostly I put together many of the arguments I had used against political operatives over the years.

Anyway, the whole thing about plagiarism, copyrights, and property rights is part of the disease of capitalism. It doesn’t work. I remember when writers would submit their books to publishers and collect hundreds of rejection slips before getting published, if they ever did. Now people just publish themselves on Kindle and there’s no heartache involved.”

In addition, Mark Smith posted this on his website:

“Lara read my article “You’ve Got to Stop Voting,” and discussed it at length with a friend of mine. She decided to write an article herself and I think she has done a good job of propagating, updating, and clarifying my ideas, and adding her own thoughts and experiences. I hope her article is widely read, as I believe it will appeal to people who wouldn’t read Fubar. Although Lara sometimes uses my words, this is not plagiarism or theft. I have expressly granted blanket permission for anyone to repost my writing with or without attribution. It is impossible to steal what was given to you.”

So for those of you have asked, that’s the story as I know it. To date, Counterpunch has not contacted me. It never told me it published the piece. It never told me it took it down. It never responded to my inquiry asking what was up or explaining my side of things. Essentially, I guess in the world of Counterpunch, I’m just the person who wrote it and therefore require no participation in the matter.

I agree with Mark. I think the ideas need to be out there and we should not worry about who they belong to. Yes, this blog has a Creative Commons license, so I ask that people link back to me if I’m quoted, but as far as the ideas in this or other essays I’ve posted here, spread the word. I wouldn’t mind at all if more people agreed.

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Why I’m Not Voting

My essay got published on Huffington Post. However, I must admit that since they changed their platform, it is much easier to do. All of my prior articles were approved by editors. This time they just published it, so maybe it’s not such a big deal. In any case, I wrote it.

Why I’m Not Voting
by Lara M. Gardner

I used to be a good little Progressive. I was out stumping for the vote, actively pursuing participation by everyone, doing my best to get everyone to work for change. After the 2008 elections, I partied for Barack Obama, I cheered in the streets with millions, certain his election promises would be just what everyone had been waiting for. In spite of some obvious problems staring me right in the face, I believed.

You may continue reading here.

Happy Hamster Computers Sucks

I bought a computer from Happy Hamster after struggling to maintain an old laptop I use for work years past its sell-by date. When it finally crashed, they managed to scrape some material from the hard drive for me. Windows 10 had recently reared its ugly head and, upon hearing my complaint that I did not want a computer with Windows 10 on it, sold me a business-class laptop with Windows 7. I paid more than I would have for something at Costco or the like, but figured with the warranty from HH and Windows 7, what could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turned out. The thing started crashing nearly immediately. I took it into HH. They blamed my anti-virus software, highly rated anti-virus software a close friend has used without issue for years. I removed the anti-virus software. The issues persisted. Blue screen 2-3 times a day. Crashing constantly. I took it in again. And again. And again. Each time, they blamed something in the software, everything BUT the computer (which turned out to be refurbished, not new, but whatever). They tried to sell me their service to seek out dangerous viruses, because that had to be the problem. It couldn’t possibly be that the computer they sold me was a lemon. They finally said they could send it back to the manufacturer, which would take at least a week. Now, maybe all of this wouldn’t be such a problem for some people. Doubtful, but it’s possible. However, I used this computer for work. My livelihood depended on it. In addition, I was in a master’s program and using it for school too. In no way was it possible to be without it for a week. I didn’t have another computer to use as a backup. I didn’t have $800 to throw at another computer. Never once did they offer a loaner or offer an exchange. They just kept shaking their heads and doing really nothing at all.

Finally I took it to another shop who set up another user and charged me $250 to do so, something HH had done during one of my many visits and had not worked. It didn’t work this time either. They also wanted to reinstall Windows, something I would have done, too. However, since the install disks weren’t given to me by HH, neither of us were able to do so without, you guessed it, sending it back to the manufacturer. One thing they did confirm and determine was that none of this was being caused by some big, bad virus, HH’s go-to answer for all I was experiencing. I finally determined I was going to have to suffer through until I really had a week to send it back to the manufacturer.

Nearly a year later, and close to the year warranty deadline, after dutifully backing everything up 20 different ways, I was able to leave the computer for a week while I went on vacation. I took it into HH, gave them the mile-long list of trouble I had been documenting since minute one. (Every time the thing blue screened on me, I would save the report Windows gave of the problem.) When I returned from vacation, it turned out they had not sent it off to the manufacturer, but had reinstalled Windows. I brought the computer home and the blue screen issues had resolved. Yet immediately upon return, any time I booted up the computer, I was shown yet another warning, that my battery capacity was “dangerously low” and that I needed to do something about it. The one day I took the thing off electric power and ran it on the battery, it died within ten minutes. I dashed off an email to HH asking why the battery suddenly had no capacity. I was told that batteries are notoriously iffy that way and I could get a new one for about 40 bucks. This for a battery I had been using less than a year, and mostly plugged in.

I have no faith in Happy Hamster. They might be able to recover lost data for people, but don’t buy their computers. If the computer you buy from them does not work, they will not fix it or replace it. They will give you the runaround and expect you to figure it out alone. If I were reviewing them, I would give them 2 stars instead of 1 only because the one fellow with whom I mostly interacted was extremely sweet and polite. I really liked him. Happy Hamster I don’t like. Not one bit. Today I spent 35 minutes getting into my computer after another, yet ANOTHER blue screen. What a joke.

I am Bonnie

A long time ago I used to work in the Forest Products office at Oregon State University. I worked with my best friend Debbie, a boss who was so stupid sometimes I wondered if it was possible for someone to be that dumb, and a sociopath named Bonnie. Bonnie was…I can’t even begin to describe her in a single word except to say she was a sociopath. She could and did make life hell for a lot of people. She was also very annoying. She was possibly the most negative person I have ever met. If it was sunny, she complained that it was too hot and should be rainy. If it was rainy, she complained it was raining. If we had work to do, she complained that she had work to do and that she was the only one who could possibly do it. If we didn’t have work to do, then she complained because she was bored. She didn’t like her chair. She would get another chair and wouldn’t like it and go back to the original and then complain about it. She had gossip to share on every single person who walked in our door and even those who didn’t. It was a guarantee that as soon as you left the room she was dishing something about you and turning anything you did into something to complain about and to use to make you look bad. The only consolation with her was that she was an equal-opportunity sociopath so if she didn’t have her sights set on you, she was going after someone else and there were a lot of other people for her to choose from.

Most of the time I worked with Bonnie was pure hell. Six months after I started working in the lab, I was wondering if I was crazy. Between the boss who couldn’t figure out how to explain the most basic assignments to this constantly complaining crazy woman who had something nasty to say about every human who walked into the office, I seriously thought I was losing my mind. Luckily, I made friends with Debbie and discovered that no, I wasn’t nuts, the office was. She helped me stick it out (until I got pregnant and realized I didn’t want the loony factory anywhere near my growing fetus, but that’s another story).

Sometimes working with Bonnie could be fun. It wasn’t fun because of anything Bonnie did to make it fun, but because Debbie and I could see what she was doing and it would make us roll our eyes and laugh silently from behind our hands on our lunch break. Bonnie fancied herself the sexiest woman in the office and made a great show of throwing herself at every male who walked through the door. This got to be quite amusing, especially when the male was a 20 something grad student from India or Pakistan who had no idea that what she was doing was supposed to turn him on. Many of the older, white, male professors got off on her attention, which could be kind of gross (especially the one who was married to a disabled wife with MS), but Debbie and I could still find things about this situation that made us laugh.

The lab would periodically hold grad thesis presentations whereby the student would make their presentation to faculty and other students, followed by a small reception with doughnuts and other refreshments. Prior to these events, an announcement was to be made by our office notifying everyone on our floor that the presentation and reception would be taking place. Bonnie LOVED doing this and would literally race to the microphone to make sure she got to be the one to make the announcement. She would snarl something or other to us about how “The goddamned printer isn’t working again! The piece of shit must be out of ink or something.” Then she would turn to the microphone, sexily flip her hair behind her shoulders, lean in and grasp the microphone and breathily intone, “At four o’clock this afternoon, which is in just fifteen minutes (breath, breath, breath), there will be a presentation by Rakesh Akbahr, on the role of stress-strain on the physical transformations that occur (breath) during the cure of thermosetting adhesive-to-wood bonds (breath, breath, breath). After that (breath) there will be a reception in the Buchanon room, where refreshments will be served.” She’d then flop back down in her rolling desk chair and screech at us again, “Goddamned rain. It was supposed to be sunny today.

Debbie and I could laugh and laugh at these displays (out of the office, of course).

Bonnie told us she was an expert on everything. She said she had a degree in forestry, as well as a degree in nursing, and in English, and several others I no longer remember. No matter what came up that required some knowledge by someone in the office, she was in competition to be the top person in that knowledge and she usually had a degree to go along with it. Debbie and I would wonder to ourselves why she wasn’t putting these degrees to good use somewhere considering how underappreciated and underpaid she was sharing an office with us. It is because of Bonnie’s expertise that I even bring her up in this post today. I earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 2003. Then last year, I completed a Master’s in Teaching so that I could transition out of being a lawyer and become a teacher instead.

Last week, I had a conversation with someone, the content of which really isn’t that important. In the course of the conversation, the person I was speaking to was telling me another person had complained about something and that they had to complain because they were a teacher and as a teacher, they were required to complain. This puzzled me because I knew that the thing about which this person was supposedly required to complain was not required of teachers, so I said to the person I was speaking to, “I am a teacher, and that is not actually true.” He looked at me rather consternatedly (now there’s a word) as if to say, “Huh? I thought you were a lawyer?” because in another conversation on another day, he had asked me what kind of work I did and at the time he asked, I told him I was a lawyer, so my saying that I was a teacher on this new occasion was probably a bit odd to him.

I was like Bonnie and her multitude of unrelated degrees. I don’t have a multitude of unrelated degrees, I only have a couple of them. There is my undergraduate degree in English, then there is the lawyer degree, then there is the teacher degree. So I have several degrees and they are mostly unrelated. This got me to thinking about Bonnie and my time in the Forest Products lab so many years ago — twenty years ago actually, is when I started. I’ve stayed friends with Debbie. She came to the birth of my baby and probably knows me better than any other friend.

A lot has happened since then. I wonder now, with my handful of unrelated degrees, if maybe Bonnie really did have a forestry degree and an English degree and a nursing degree, and maybe perhaps something happened that she didn’t need to work in those fields at all. I don’t know. I can’t remember her last name so I can’t look her up (even if I wanted to, which, true told, I really don’t).

If I did look her up, I would find her and tell her I’m sorry for doubting her many educational accomplishments and let her know that I too now have many educational accomplishments. We could get a coffee and reminisce and I could tell her how funny I thought it was when she made the sexy forest products announcements and she could tell me how much she hates the weather and the coffee in the coffee shop we meet in and the chairs in the coffee shop and make googly eyes at the male patrons and…

On second thought, maybe not.