Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I'm a woman! Read my post!


Every time someone who's not a white man runs for office in America, we are forced once again to listen to the yammering heads run their mouths about the regrettable state of "identity politics."  For those of you lucky enough to have escaped this spectacle of Victorian hand-wringing, "identity politics" is what white men call it when women and people from minority groups run against them or their favorite candidate.

It's a phrase that assholes use to disparage people for whom diversity matters, and so not surprising that the Left's biggest asshole trotted it out in his remarks in Boston on November 20th, when a supporter asked Bernie Sanders how she should proceed in order to become the country's second Latina senator. He replied:

But it's not good enough to say, “Hey, I'm a Latina, vote for me.” That is not good enough. I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country, and is going to take on big money interests. One of the struggles that we're going to have right now, we lay on the table of the Democratic Party, is it's not good enough to me to say, “Okay, well we've got X number of African Americans over here, we've got Y number of Latinos, we have Z number of women. We are a diverse party, a diverse nation.” Not good enough...But, but, here is my point, and this is where there is going to be division within the Democratic Party. It is not good enough for someone to say, “I'm a woman! Vote for me!” No, that's not good enough.


Oh, kittens, where to start?

First of all, it's big of him, I guess, to confirm that the Democratic Party should reflect all Americans.  I wish he had said it that way, instead of speaking in quotas - as if that's what the DNC does, is round up candidates and tally their census boxes.  I mean, that's what ignorant GOP types think we do, so it's disappointing to hear a prominent liberal echo their condescending language.

Secondly, he continues to push this idea that all political, social, and justice concerns are subordinate to anti-corporate economic positions.  That's an idea that was roundly rejected by voters of color in the primaries when they overwhelmingly did not vote for him. Still, Sanders has stubbornly refused to recognize that racism is not a conspiracy of the 1%, or, in the words of Iman Gandi, "Sandra Bland had a goddamn job."


And thirdly:
"Hey, I'm a Latina, vote for me."
"I'm a woman, vote for me!"


I guess it's kind of refreshing to finally hear him admit what he thinks of  female candidates generally, and Clinton's campaign specifically.  And I, for one, put my hand on my heart and hereby pledge that I will never forget that he publicly reduced us to gender-cheerleading simpletons.

But the other unmistakable message in those words is that any candidate who doesn't buy into Sanders's own particular brand of college level Marxism, and loses an election, does so because their message boils down to "Vote for me because I'm not a white male!"  If you don't see politics the way Bernie does, he's implying that you're coasting on your gender/racial identity.

Think about that for a minute.  Now imagine if Paul Ryan had said that the problem with Democrats is that their message can be summarized as "I'm a Latina, vote for me!"

Yeah.

But most importantly, and this is the one that is apparently too mind-blowing for many white men to even contemplate: white male IS AN IDENTITY in America, and all the hundreds of years of political dominance in this country does not make that any less true.  White men are not gender and race neutral.  And if you don't understand how a white man can play "identity politics" in America, then JESUS CHRIST WERE YOU NOT PAYING ATTENTION WHILE WE JUST ELECTED DONALD FUCKING TRUMP??

And lastly, for those of you who are constantly whining about unity and coming together and how can I still be criticizing Sanders when there are more important targets/issues etc. etc. etc.

He started it.

Seriously, he did.  He is positioning himself as The Man Who Will Save the Democrats, and as he continues on his "I Told You So" Tour, shilling the book that he spent the last 3 months writing instead of campaigning for Clinton, he is telling us that we need to remake the party in his image.

And kittens, I don't want a party remade in his image.  I do not want that.  I don't want anything from Bernie Sanders other than for him to go back to Vermont and go back to voting the way Senate Democrats tell him to.

Oh.  Well, I guess, since it's been brought up, there is one more thing I wouldn't mind getting from him.

It would be nice if he apologized.  You know, for damaging our candidate with his lies and his general assholery and for contributing to the victory of Donald Trump.  Yeah, I guess, for me, step number one in the Bernie Sanders: Democratic Savior junket would be for him to say that he's sorry for his part in everything that's about to happen.  All these identities that he's so eager to dictate priorities to are about to get hit with a world of shit, and it would be nice if he just said, you know, "Hey, I'm a white man!  My bad!"





Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Green flag


(Please note that the above photo is meant to be a humorous illustration of some of the themes of this post.  I don't care that it is Photoshopped.  This is an opinion blog, not the Washington Post.)

Here's a fun game that you can play while you're waiting for the four NASCAR drivers of the apocalypse to make an appearance at your front door:

Whenever someone says that poor people worried about the economy voted in Donald Trump, you say "I think you mean poor WHITE people."  When they say that working class people felt forgotten by the Democratic Party, you say "I think you mean working class WHITE people."  You do this to anyone in your life who is regurgitating the media's dangerously wrong talking points about how what happened in 2016 was definitely not THEIR fault.  Hell, for bonus points, you could yell corrections at your TV screen too, but damn kittens I recommend you save your screaming voice for when you are sucked into the flaming pools of totalitarian shit that used to be the United States of America.

My point is, take every opportunity to remind everyone you can that what happened in this election was a giant white people takeback of what they think is theirs.  People of color didn't fall for any of Trump's trumpeting about bringing back jobs, or fixing the economy.  They know a carny shill when they see one.  And the only reason white people couldn't see the con is because they didn't want to.

A coworker of mine, who is an engineer, and an escapee from Kansas, lamented to me that his sisters voted for Trump.  They did so, he said, because they're "single issue voters," when it comes to abortion.

Now, clearly he's got his heart in the right place, and I'm not going to talk shit about anyone's sister to their face, but it's always funny to me how people who have multiple degrees and who make a living knowing how shit works are frequently so bad at knowing how shit works.  Because does my coworker really think that, if Trump had been pro-choice - which he was as recently as 2 seconds before he said he wasn't - does my coworker really think that his sisters would not have voted for him?

Because bullshit.  Because of course they would have.  Because their principles are fictitious.  Just like all the principled Evangelicals who we were told might stay home from the polls, and the principled Mormons who we were told might make Utah go 3rd party, and the principled GOP whoevers who denounced Trump the candidate while conveniently neglecting to denounce what he stood for.  All those principled conservatives who, in the end, fell over themselves in their rush to vote for the most embarrassing leader of the free world since George W forgot how doors work.

Yeah, white people showed their true color on Election Day, and now they're acting as if it's 1861, and the Mason-Dixon line is now being drawn at the Canadian border.  And they weren't emboldened by Trump's stance on clean coal and the TPP.  They were emboldened by anger.  They were angry at the black president for being the boss of them.  They were angry that the country, collectively, may have to admit that the police operate under the same bullshit assumptions that they do.  They were angry that immigrants dare ask for the same consideration that their own immigrant predecessors received.  They were angry that theoretical cake bakers might have to bake gay cakes.  And yes, fucking yes, they were angry that a woman dared to think she could raise her hand and say "The most qualified person is me."

For eight years they've been saying that they wanted their country back, and kittens, they just took it.  They took it because Democrats believe in equal rights, and a better life, for people who aren't them.  And we let them do it, we held the door open for them and let them take everything away while we quibbled over which kind of locks to install.

The Republicans won because they were scared shitless that we would enforce our agenda.

The Democrats lost because the Republicans cared more about our agenda than we did.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Morans

Like a lot of people, I was shocked.

I wasn't shocked that an ignorant, unqualified racist and serial abuser of women could win the presidency.  I wasn't shocked that there were enough awful white people out there to put him in office.

I was shocked because the polls said that we would beat him.  Soundly.  There was a massive failure to accurately measure the electorate.  And the press failed to detect it in time.

That's not the only way the press failed.  They failed by allowing a hostile foreign country to dictate the narrative of the election.  They failed by thinking that journalistic integrity means that the scandals of one candidate must be treated as equivalent to the actual criminal activity of the other.

Democrats also failed.  We failed to vote.  And that is by far the worst failing.

And if you're out there bloviating about how if the Democrats had picked YOUR guy, it would've gone differently, then you have so missed the point.  And this was a point that was painfully demonstrated to us only 16 years ago, and somewhat more predictably 12 years ago, so if you were a voting adult during the BushCo years then damn, how many fucking times do you need to see this happen before you get it?

Because guess what?  The Republicans DO get it.  Oh, they get it.  They just elected the most far Right candidate since...I don't know...ever?  And they did it by being loyal fucking voters.  The GOP no longer needs the Center, thanks to the enthusiasm and reliability of their base.

Um, so Democrats who would like to move our party further Left, away from the Center, are you getting it yet?  Because while you were complaining about our liberal, pro-LGBT, pro-racial equality, pro-choice, pro-minimum wage increase, pro-healthcare expansion, pro-alternative energy candidate who actually believes that climate change is real, we just got smoked.  While you bitched about her violations of government email protocol, they fucking took us to school.  And I'm not going to say "Enjoy the next 4 years, assholes," but maybe spend those four years thinking about the lesson of 2016.  

And because I can't even trust Democrats enough right now to know the lesson, here's the fucking lesson:
If Sanders, or any other Democrat, had been our candidate, I would have voted for him.  Sanders wasn't as qualified as my candidate, but I would have voted for him.  So, did you vote for my Democrat?  Did you?

If you didn't go out and fucking vote for Clinton, then you can't spend the next four years shaking your head at all the ignorant racists who just scored their biggest win since we abandoned Reconstruction.  You can't laugh at their stupid economic theories, or their foreign policy numbskullery, you can't even chuckle at their inability to correctly spell or punctuate their own bigotry.

Because every single one of those stupid bigots is smarter than we are.   Because they know how to win.











Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In Soviet Union, election steals you


Given that Trump's friends in Russia, and therefore, Wikileaks, are committed to releasing more private conversations from the DNC, I think it's worth examining the role of the organization in US elections.

I've seen a lot of people proclaim that the DNC has violated some kind of oath of impartiality.  Right off the bat, let me assure you that such an oath does not exist.  It's not the job of the DNC to be impartial.  It is the job of the DNC to win in November.  

Full stop.

If you need more convincing, maybe take a look at the name.  It's the Democratic National Committee.  They exist to promote Democrats, and to enable them to win office against Republicans.  When they serve as a go-between for opposing candidates during a primary, they are never going to obstruct, or harm, the stronger candidate.  Never.  They're not your mom, they're not there to "be fair" or to tell Clinton that nice girls share their delegates.  That is not what they do, that is never what they did, and that is not going to change just because you're rooting for the underdog.

Something else they don't do, is actually run the election.  Counties do that, and states, and although the structures vary somewhat from place to place, when it boils down to how a governor wants to run an election, and how the state Democratic Committee wants to see it happen, the governor wins every time.  Because the governor has a lot of political power, and hey, quick question for you guys: what's the name of the chairperson of your county's Democratic Party?  How about your state's Democratic Committee?  Oh, you don't know?

Exactly.

So I'm just going to dismiss entirely any talk of the DNC suppressing selected voters in their own primary.

On to the stolen emails!  I see a lot talk in the media about how what's been released shows that the DNC was biased against Sanders.  First of all, imagine that!  Democrats, wary of the motivations of a Socialist who said to a reporter that he only joined the Democratic party in order to get better publicity for his presidential run?  Go figure.  It's like they are human with reasoning ability or something.

Secondly, what did they do to disadvantage him, exactly?  And if you're having trouble answering that, it's probably because they didn't actually do anything.  And if you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Sanders's own press secretary, who couldn't take the conspiracy nonsense any more and blasted out a few choice tweets, such as "the system didn't cheat us," and "NO ONE STOLE THE ELECTION."

Yes, there was a private email strategy session that was stolen and made public, and the most damning thing that can be said about that is 1) Veep is an astoundingly accurate television show, and 2) if Bernie Sanders was sitting on an "I'm an atheist!" bombshell, then the DNC wanted to make damn sure that it went off during the primary, and not as the party's nominee in the fall, which sounds completely reasonable to me.  We also learned that the super evil supervillain Debbie Wasserman Schultz is really bad at living up to her evilness, because she apparently shot down every dumbass "should we expose Sanders's beliefs?" idea that came her way.

At least, so far.  I'm not a fan of DWS, although it's because she doesn't appear to always represent her constituents all that well, and not because she personifies any of the names that men on the internet call her.

But what about the debate schedule?  Sanders didn't get the time slots he wanted!

Seriously?  The debate schedule?  You do realize that this is the number one, perennial, never-changing bitch of every campaign since debates were invented?   It's also a bitch that is laughably irrelevant when you can watch anything anytime you want on that thing in your hand that you're using to catch Pokemon.

Ah, but what about Schultz's unfair treatment of the Sanders campaign, when she locked them out of their own voter database?  Is that how you remember that incident?  Here's how I remember it: Sanders campaign workers knowingly accessed confidential Clinton campaign data.  They did it more than once.  Then they claimed that they did it to "expose a fault in the system," complained about being denied access while the investigation proceeded, didn't publicly thank the Clinton campaign when they stepped up to vouch for their overall integrity (not counting the guy they fired for stealing and directing others to steal), and then sued the DNC and claimed that they were the victims.  Of their own crime.

Which leads me to my last point.  The Sanders campaign was really good at spin.  Because they excelled at politics, you know, politics, the game that everyone is playing here?

At any rate, while I understand that political coverage is not a zero sum deal, maybe we could spare a few column inches of the "DNC is a ravenous monster!" narrative and devote those to investigating a Republican nominee who appears to be in cahoots with a foreign government in order to influence American policy.  You know, kind of like treason?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bro, do you even frack?


As the reasons not to support Clinton and the Democratic party dwindle in the Naderite pockets of the Left, one issue continues to be raised, and will continue to be raised, because it's a motherfucker.

Fracking.  No one except energy companies like it, and yet Obama, and now Clinton, won't support a ban.  What gives?  I mean, it's safe to assume that at least Clinton's reticence is purely the product of her being purchased, via campaign donations, by the oil and gas industry, right?

Right?

I encounter this argument all the time, and kittens, it's like those people have never even stopped to consider that energy is sort of a zero sum game.   I mean, yes, our need for it increases constantly, but given the totality of our need, what we take from one place necessarily reduces what we take from another.  And what we take in the fracking fields reduces what we buy from other countries, and specifically reduces coal consumption overall.

By reducing what we import from other countries, we increase domestic employment, and we reduce our own prices.  The natural gas boom in the US has meant a 47% decrease in the price of natural gas, which saved the average US household $200 a year.  That's not nothing.  To poor families in the winter, that's a lot.  Over the entirety of energy consumers, including electricity consumers, fracking has meant a total savings of 74 billion.   To say nothing of the considerable savings we've experienced at the pump.  Again, to the middle class and below, these savings are extremely important to a family's ability to make ends meet.

And the switch from coal to natural gas has reduced nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions drastically.  Our air quality has actually improved because of fracking, with generators emitting 25-45% less nasty stuff.

Something else, too.  You know those giant supertankers that bring imported oil to our shores?  Did you know that, because of the kind of fuel that they burn, just 16 of those ships create as much filthy, sulfurous, people-killing pollution as all the automobiles in the world?  To say nothing of oil spills at sea.

So, wanting to reduce their use for oil imports is, again, not nothing.  It's important.  And fracking has done that.

And of course there are also the somewhat more difficult-to-quantify benefits of not having to spend quite so much time defending our oil interests in foreign countries.  That's a whole can of worms, huh?

Okay, so I imagine I'm well past the point where you're all either gone, or have written me off entirely because AM I DEFENDING FRACKING FOR FUCK'S SAKE??

Not exactly.  But not exactly not.  What I'm in favor of, is understanding the consequences of our actions, and so if you insist on a complete and total ban on fracking, you should also understand not just the bad effects that you want to eliminate, which, yes, are considerable - but also the benefits that you would also eliminate.

I know.  Shit's complicated.

But of course ultimately the goal is to eliminate fossil fuels altogether, and thrive on a diet of sunshine and warm breezes, and maybe recycled unicorn manure.  Some would say that by lowering our oil and gas costs, fracking offers us complacency, thereby delaying our essential ventures into alternative forms of energy.

And they may be right.  But if they're right, then that means that what WILL motivate us into giving up fossil fuels, is the rest of the world suffering from the effects of oil and gas extraction, while we protect ourselves from those same effects.

I think anyone who knows anything about the US, knows that we are seldom motivated by the suffering of those outside our own borders.  Not that we don't feel bad about the suffering of foreigners, because, hey, je suis Charlie, n'est pas?  But does that empathy actually motivate us to do anything about their suffering?  I mean, of course, you can always feel free to assume the best about us.  Who could that hurt, that really matters?


Thursday, June 09, 2016

Tick tock



I think that among Democrats, the most oft-repeated phrase I've heard this primary season has been, "I still think that Bernie should stay in the race..."

Because ideas.  Because moving Left.  Because, oh, I don't know....Yosemite?

Once it was clear that Clinton was going to win, which was always clear, but let's just say it was indisputable after South Carolina.  Or Super Tuesday, if that makes you feel better.  Once, it was clear that she was going to win, Sanders should have bugged the fuck out.

Not just because he could not win, but because he kept saying that he could.  As late as the weekend before the California* primary, when Clinton was within spitting distance of the goal, Sanders said that it was "extremely unlikely" that Clinton would have the "requisite number of pledged delegates" after that Tuesday's voting.  He then inexplicably claimed that "At the end of the nominating process, no candidate will have enough pledged delegates to call the campaign a victory."

Um, what?

 That goes way beyond "We can still do this!" -type cheerleading.  That's what we call a lie.  Why would Sanders tell his supporters that Clinton could not achieve the delegate total as she was on the very cusp of reliably and predictably doing exactly that?  

I cannot say.  But I do know, that many of his supporters believed it.  They believed it.  And so when Clinton did do what was inevitable, many of them were angry.  Angry that they had been lied to.  Except they apparently could not bear to be angry at their beloved leader, you know, the one who was so unlike a politician that he could never lie?  So they instead become angry at Clinton, her supporters, her surrogates, and even the press, instead of facing the truth that their candidate, a politician, had told them a political lie in a politically expedient way, to gain political advantage.

It has been thus throughout the primary, with Sanders supporters blaming the DNC and the Clinton campaign for every loss.  Every lost registration, every line at the polling place, every expired deadline, every poor dumbfounded poll worker who was clueless about crossover ballots vs. provisional ballots, it was all the machinations of the great DNC machine and its scheming harpie leader, even in places, like Maricopa County, Arizona, where Democrats are as rare in the halls of government as a good idea.

Politics and social policy are fucked up enough, and we surely do not need to be encouraging another generation of conspiracy-minded youth.  They've got climate change to deal with, and global trade to figure out, and how the fuck are they going to solve problems with facts and science when the guy they believe in tells them that he's "pretty good at arithmetic" while also implying that 2178 is not greater than 2026?   How are they going to navigate the legislative branch when their role model tells them that tantrums are an acceptable alternative to preparation?  Or that if someone disagrees with you, you can always scream the word "cunt" at her until she goes away?

It's Sanders's fault they're so angry, and no one else's.**  And the longer he sticks around, telling them lies about how this is all going to shake out in his favor, the worse it is for them, and for us.  All of us.
So, no, his presence is not making the Democratic Party "better." It's not improving the conversation.  It's not doing one good thing.  And so I know it's hard to go from thousands of faces at a rally, adoring you and screaming your name, to your desk in a DC office looking at this guy, but dude, come on.  Time to go.


*Yes, I know other states voted too.  Shut up, we're enjoying being relevant.

**Maybe his campaign manager a little bit.  That guy is a dick.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Submitted to a candid world


OMG you guys, THANK GOD that Bernie Sanders will have representatives on the committee that drafts the 2016 Democratic Party Platform, because otherwise how will Democrats express our newly found disdain for Wall Street excesses and the havoc they wreak upon our society?

Oh wait.
From the 2012 Democratic Party Platform:
"Wall Street Reform - A strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street. That's why President Obama and Democrats in Congress overcame fierce opposition from the financial industry to pass the most far-reaching Wall Street reform in generations…"
Well, sure in 2012 because Dodd Frank, but before that…

Oh wait.

From the 2008 Democratic Party Platform: 
“Reforming Financial Regulation and Corporate Governance - We have failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices. We have let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales…”
Okay well maybe President Obama has emphasized it somewhat, but before that, I’m sure it was crickets from the Democrats on corporate malfeasance.

Oh wait.
From the 2004 Democratic Party Platform: 
“Free Markets and Honest Competition - …Competition and free markets depend on trust, transparency, and integrity. We are committed to requiring honesty in corporate accounting effective corporate governance, a fair shake for small investors and worker pension funds, a level playing field and competitive bidding practices for those who wish to transact business with the government, and vigorous prosecution of criminal conduct in executive suites.

Well shit.  But come on, for sure Democrats never said anything in the past about election finance reform:

Aw, goddamn it!
2012: “Lobbying Reform and Campaign Finance Reform - Our political system is under assault by those who believe that special interests should be able to buy whatever they want in our society, including our government. Our opponents have applauded the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United and welcomed the new flow of special interest money with open arms. In stark contrast, we believe we must take immediate action to curb the influence of lobbyists and special interests on our political institutions…We support legislation to close loopholes and require greater disclosure of campaign spending.” 
2008: “We support campaign finance reform to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests, including public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time. We will have the wisdom to put the public interest above special interests.” 
2000: “Renewing Our Democracy and Campaign Finance Reform - In the year 2000, along with all the other big choices they have to make, Americans will be making a choice about who's running their country: the people or the special interests, the voters or the lobbyists, the many or the few. We must restore American's faith in their own democracy by providing real and comprehensive campaign finance reform, creating fairer and more open elections, and breaking the link between special interests and political influence.”

Hey, so what’s going on here?  Why is everyone talking about the Democrats embracing issues, via their platform, that they have in fact always embraced?  Could it be that the Democratic Party has, collectively, identified and prioritized these issues for many, many years now?  Could it be that the problem is NOT the intentions of the Democratic Party?

Maybe the problem is that the Democratic Party is opposed by fully one half of this country, and that Democratic representatives are hampered from implementing reform by…the other party.  You know, the party that screams about immigrants and gays every time there’s an election? 

Maybe the issue is not the fucking platform.


Kittens, it baffles me to the core that anyone could believe that the Democratic Party Platform will be significantly different this year due to the inclusion of Sanders appointees to the Platform Committee.  I suspect that anyone who believes that it WILL be significantly different this year, does so because THEY’VE NEVER READ THE PARTY PLATFORM and have not fucking clue one what has EVER been in it.

The Democratic Party is made up of a bunch of imperfect people, and we will never be an immaculate monolith, but we are the party who is trying to fix what is wrong, and we have to drag the other half of the country, kicking and screaming and firing automatic weapons, along with us every time we try to do one good goddamn thing.  And yeah, we are the party that sometimes has to give up A, in order to get B and C.  And we are also the party that loses more of the Congress in every midterm, loses more seats to those fucking morons and contemptible assholes in every election, because all you people who are bitching about the Democratic Party right now have never even tried to support us.  Never even fucking tried.  Because if you did vote for Democrats?  In every election?  Not once every four years or when it’s someone cool but every time?  You know what would happen?  The party would move further Left. 

That’s right.  It would move further Left.  Maybe, eventually, even into GLORIOUS REVOLUTION territory.  And how do I know this?  How do I know that the Democrats would give up trying to win the political Center?  Because the Republicans already did it.  They gave up trying to win the Center, and they did it because they could.  They didn’t need the Center anymore because their supporters on the Right FUCKING SHOW UP TO VOTE FOR THEM.

I don’t know, maybe one day voters on the Left will figure out that the only way to win, the only way to achieve a party that truly represents the progressive Left is to show up to support our great ideas, imperfect as our messengers may be, just like those crazy fucking GOP idiots show up to support their terrible fucking ideas.

So, fuck yes, fight over those great ideas, fight over the fucking platform, Democrats, including all you party crashers who’ve been here for five minutes and are pretty sure you know everything about us.  Fight over that platform, and then you know, when we’re done doing that, there’s something that we could all do that would be really helpful, and that is, to read the damn thing.  Read it.  Just to make sure you understand what exactly it is that we’ve been on about for all these fucking years.

And then go vote.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Put on your stockings 'cause the night's getting cold


In the later ‘90s, Ralph Nader took to the lecture circuit and wowed the NPR crowd by arguing for public financing of all political campaigns.  He further proposed that any broadcast license issued by the government come with the condition that a certain amount of airtime would be given by the holder of the license to the American people for free political ads for qualified candidates.

It was, and remains, a simple, revolutionary, and much needed reform. 

Ralph Nader ran for president as an independent to the Left of Al Gore in 2000.  He rejected the label “spoiler” because he said there was no difference between Gore and Bush.  In the end, Gore lost* the deciding state, Florida, by 500 votes.  Nader’s tally for that state was over 97 thousand. 

We saw the beginning of election finance reform in the McCain/Feingold bill in 2002, which sought to limit corporate money given to political parties.  McCain/Feingold was later castrated by the infamous Supreme Court ruling called Citizens United. 

The best part is that without Nader enabling the election of Bush, two additional Supreme Court Justices would have been liberal instead of conservative at the time of the ruling, and the nation’s first attempt at election reform in over 40 years would still stand.  Instead, our Congress refuses to take it up, in part because the slim GOP reform margin is now gone, and also because reform-minded lawmakers have no desire to beat their collective heads against the broad wall of Citizens United. 

So, Nader, while running on election reform, effectively killed election reform in the United States.

Funny how shit works, huh?

I am mindful, ever more mindful, of how the nation’s future hinges upon the actions of a solitary man.  I have endeavored to be patient with those who rail against the rule-laden, favorite-favoring, labyrinthian party nomination process.  I know that we need everyone we can get to join us in the Democratic Party, which is, as I now frequently feel compelled to remind people, the progressive party.  The Left.  You know, the good guys. 

I constantly fail.  I am impatient myself, as I witness how the realities of internet life have made the conspiracy theory the dominant story-telling medium.  News organizations that used to pride themselves on their journalistic principles and the rigor of their investigations, have now established fast tracks to online publication in which rumor and innuendo are, in the end, good enough for their short-term click game.  “Sources say” has become the lead-in that for all practical purposes now means “A great load of horse shit is about to come your way,” as the “source” almost always turns out to be a long set of links that lead to some dude on Twitter.

Television news, that great progenitor of hysteria-based content, famously abides by the maxim “If it bleeds, it leads.”  Unfortunately, we’re all bleeding now.  We’re bleeding all over the place.  I watch the Great Unprecedented Moronic Narcissist spin through his tiny vocabulary Rolodex, and yes, I too am now bleeding out of my wherever.  This is the man that will take on our great wounded lion of the Left, and oh my kittens, the blood is about to fly. 

Yesterday, I heard Howard Dean reflect on the anger he felt about his loss twelve years ago in what he believed to be an unfair Democratic Primary process.  He wondered, in his fury, why he should continue to be a Democrat, after the way the party had treated him?  It was Al Gore who answered him.  It was my beloved Al Gore who said to him, “Because it’s not about you.  It’s about the country.”

Let that then be our battle cry.





*Not really but you know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Could've sworn it was judgement day

Me: I need to schedule a repair for my washer under my service plan. It won't drain water or spin.
Rep: Have you turned off the breaker to reset the control panel?
Me: Reset the control panel? No...
Rep: I can't schedule service until you've tried resetting the control panel. You have to turn off the breaker for 30 seconds. Then call again after you've done that.
Me: You know my machine is from 1999, right?
Rep: (silence)
Me: There's no electronic control panel.
Rep: There's no display?
Me: No.
Rep: There's just knobs that you turn and stuff?
Me: Yup.
Rep: Okay, let me get someone out there....

Friday, May 06, 2016

In a blue, blue sky

Earlier this spring, I watched a pair of crows assemble a nest near the top of a tall pine on my median.
Over and over and over they would bring one twig to the site, place it, and fly away for another.
Later, I watched one of them swipe some cat food from the bowl on our porch and bring to the other at the nest. There's a bakery near my house, and sometimes I would see one of them with a stale roll or a slice of bread, soaking it in a puddle, and then taking that back to the nest as well.
Then I watched them chase away the hawks and mockingbirds that flew too close.
Rick told me last night that he found a crow hatchling dead on the median. He put the body in the trash bin. I don't know if it died before or after it fell, or why. It's sad to see any dead animal, but especially a baby that had parents that cared so much for it.
They're still tending the nest, so I think probably there's another hatchling up there. There's a lot of crows around here but I hope we get at least one more.

Monday, May 02, 2016

But because they are right



Famously woke bae Matt McGorry said something that I really admire about the whole PC or "politically correct" issue.  I'm posting it below, and while it expresses an important point about language and gender, there is a deeper and more important point being expressed here as well.  Too many smart and informed and progressive people have decided that since they're smart and informed and progressive, they should never have to consider a more expansive view of the language they use or the ideas they express.   

To those on the receiving end of "PC" criticism, it feels like a correction, or censorship, or even an attack, whether that is the intent or not, and so the immediate response is defensiveness.  But is defensiveness a helpful or appropriate response?   McGorry offers his own insight into that moment of personal divergence.

"I said every woman with a clit deserves an orgasm as much as every man with a penis. And some people called me out and were like, 'This is not inclusive, it's transphobic — not every man has a penis, not every woman has a clit. And some have vice versa.' And at the time I was like, 'Fuck, I can't win. What can I say that will ever be right?' But I talked to a really smart friend of mine, and she was like, 'Well, they aren't wrong. So the question is really, How inclusive do you want to be?; You have a platform to show that you can be more inclusive in that way; it ultimately doesn't hurt you once you've learned that lesson and you know how to adjust. The response shouldn't be super-defensive. It should be like, 'Where is the value in what they are saying? And is that true?' And it was true. And I just changed it and said every person with a clit deserves an orgasm just as every person with a penis. It's a simple adjustment but it's more inclusive. "

Notice that his response didn't stop with "Fuck, I can't win."  Then think about how many liberal comedians, actors, journalists, politicians, and friends have expressed some version of that sentiment, but then never moved forward from that sentiment to absorb the larger lesson that McGorry is clearly trying to absorb.  If you can't move on from "Fuck, I can't win," to "Where is the value in what they are saying?" and then to a wiser and more inclusive philosophy, then perhaps you should consider whether you really are a progressive thinker.  If you're a comedian or a journalist or any kind of media talking head, perhaps you should consider whether what you're really protesting is the ability of others to tell you that they don't like your bullshit.

Because someone telling you that they don't like your bullshit is not censorship, and it never has been.  If you watched Bill Clinton wag his finger at BLM protesters as he explained their own oppression to them, then you no doubt understand that what was called for in that moment was for Clinton to stop talking and to listen - no matter how much it hurt his ego and his idea of himself as an unassailable lion of the Left.  So maybe the next time you're tempted to get your guard up over some "PC" stuff, ask yourself whether you're being the Bill Clinton in that scenario.  Because you do not want to be the Bill Clinton.  You really don't.  And because listening is the only way to keep your own progress alive.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

On the death of Leonard Nimoy

I guess every kid has that character that they identify with, and that helps her navigate a confusing world, whether it's Wonder Woman or Harry Potter.
Spock was my character. As a alien in a ship full of humans, he endured taunts about the ways in which his looks and his thoughts differed from theirs. He endured the prejudices of people who thought that because of who he was, he could never understand, or excel, or speak with a voice that others would recognize.
He made mistakes. He learned that his philosophy of reason must serve the greater good, or it was meaningless. He remained himself, even as he came to value loyalty and compassion above all else.
Leonard Nimoy played that character, and breathed life into the outline created for him. It was his life's work, in the end, and in the end that was okay with him. And the thing is, if you go back and watch those terrible, hokey, hopelessly dated shows, the one thing that strikes you is that Nimoy is completely believable, every single second. Spock is still alive. Spock will always live, because of him.
Such is the power of our childhoods, that they still from so far away can charge so close. And this morning mine leaves me a 54 year old woman, crying at her desk for a man she never met and never knew at all.
It is not logical, but it is, nevertheless, quite true.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What you can do



I was born a week after Kennedy was inaugurated, and I remember a melamine serving tray, of all things, the surface of which contained those famous lines about doing for your country, and the date of that event.  It sat propped against the kitchen wall for years when I was a child.  Even from the banal absurdity of the serving tray, those words could not be dimmed or made trivial.  They were perfect words, and they represented a promise about the future.

But we never saw that promise fulfilled. Instead we became, as conspiracy theorist Jim Garrison so famously observed, a nation of Hamlets, certain that we had been cheated of our birthright, but unable to prove or do anything about it. 

And for sure we wailed like Hamlet, and struggled like him against the yoke of undeserved authority, and pointed at every ghost on every parapet, certain that this time, we would finally be believed…and then, eventually, with the passage of each subsequent decade, ever more certain that we would never be believed.

Those who took our future away were never caught, never punished.  The trial never really began and never really ended.  And so it was with us as Americans.  We were lied to as a matter of necessity, then of policy, then of habit.  We expected it.  We learned to look for the lies before any words were even spoken.  Because of course there would be lies.  We would be cheated.  It was who we were.  Nothing had changed, or ever would change.  We became hardened and completely cynical, because everything that happened – Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Gulf Wars – everything in the decades that followed proved that we were right.

I dispute none of that.

Except it’s all wrong.  

When you realize that it was just one guy who changed it all, and not a conspiracy of the powerful and wealthy, then you realize that we cheated ourselves.  We blamed everyone: Johnson, Castro, the Mafia, the Secret Service.  It was because the corporations wanted the war in Vietnam to continue so they could expand their military industrial complex. It was because JFK was going to replace Hoover; it was because he was going to shut down the CIA.

When really, it was a guy who idolized Fidel Castro, and who didn’t want the Kennedy administration to kill Castro, as we now know it attempted to do, many times.

It was one guy.  It was one guy with a beef.  And all the wailing and pointing at ghosts - it’s just us wanting the truth to not be the truth, because the truth means that our enemies are not necessarily mighty.  The truth means that it doesn’t take a cabal of wealth and power to derail the America that we want to have.  It just takes one person, and that person is us.  We cheated ourselves, by not seeing the truth.  We wanted it to mean more than it did.  Because then, it would not be our fault that we gave up on that promise.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

And you can tell everybody, this is your song.




I have come to the conclusion that it’s not Christmas unless I am newly in possession of every available variety of Avon Naturals shower wash.  This occurs because my mother, an Avon Lady in remote Nebraska, cleans out her sample cabinet every year and sends me a box full of soaps and lotions that smell like bubble gum approximations of fruits, and cosmetics that seem more appropriate for a daughter half my age.  Still, I tear into the box every year with relish, and look forward to briefly sporting taxi-hued eyelids and glittery pink lips that are then washed away in raspberry-scented showers.  This year, I’m sure because I am currently unemployed, she also sent me a check for an amount large enough that it inspired in me, her 50-year-old daughter, not a feeling of happiness or relief, but of shame.  So I sent her an email thanking her, but also broaching the subject that the amount was, I felt, more than she should be sending.  I got this in return:

I am sure you remember the Christmas you and your friend won one of Marsh's money cards, and you bought us presents.  Mine was Windsong, so the other day I was ordering from my drug store and needed a few bucks to make free shipping, so I bought a bottle of it!!!!  I still love it.  Don't tell anyone your Avon Mom bought Windsong!!    

Sitting there at my desk in my bathrobe, I read her email, closed my computer, walked into the living room where my boyfriend was watching television, and burst into tears.

It was 1974, seventh grade, and I was thirteen years old.  A boy liked me.  His name was Mike, and he wrote a poem about me, the first verse of which I can still recite from memory:

You’re a special lady
 A little kinky maybe
You sure know what’s going down
Just to see you makes me glad
That I found
Someone like you

What do you want?  It was the ‘70s, and we all thought Rod McKuen and Bernie Taupin were poets.

Mike was a little chubby.  Just a little, though, and his height and broad shoulders allowed him to carry it well.  He wore the dark turtlenecks and corduroys that were favored by the serious, non-athletic boys of that era.  He had pale skin and plenty of freckles and thick, coarse red hair that was cut to look like he was wearing an orange football helmet.   But he loved science fiction, and his favorite subject was English, and he was smart like me, and funny, and in our moments together between classes we were beginning to formulate our first tentative theories, fueled by the more sensitive musicians that populated our local Top 40 station and the pages of Creem magazine, that adults, and particularly teachers, didn’t really care about us at all.  Plus, the ruination of the Earth by pollution and greed was imminent, we both concurred.

Mike had a job as a bag boy at the local Marsh’s grocery store, and that Christmas, he asked me to go with him to the Marsh’s annual employee Christmas party, which was being held at the fanciest restaurant in our small town.  The restaurant was called Emily’s, and it was dark inside with candles on the tables, and one wall near the entry was all rocks with water trickling into a pond at the bottom where patrons of the restaurant threw wish-laden pennies.  Next to the waterfall was a stuffed brown bear standing on its hind legs and with front paws raised back in a menacing manner.  As you might imagine, it was not the kind of restaurant that a kid forgets about easily.  I had been to Emily’s only once or twice before on very special occasions in the years before my parents divorced, so I was pleased to be doing something that was reminiscent of my previous life, and not the one I was living now where I fretted with my mother over the paying of rent and how much my school shoes cost.

That night I wore my best maxi dress, the one with the black quilted skirt and the ruffled yellow collar.  It was over a year old and my skinny wrists hung too far below the ruffled cuffs, and the hem was a little too high on me now as well, but I was glad that I had something that I considered fancy enough for Emily’s.  When I opened the front door, Mike was standing there in a tie and sports jacket, and with a red carnation corsage inside a clear plastic shell.  It was all quite impressive, and I might have begun to feel nervous about how I was going to act the right way and say the right things if Mike’s mother, who was to chauffer us that evening, hadn’t been so calm and friendly.  After she dropped us off outside the restaurant entrance, Mike took my hand in his for a few brief seconds before he opened the door for me.  I don’t know why it hadn’t really occurred to me earlier, but I was on an actual date.

All the guests were seated at large round tables with white tablecloths and pinecone centerpieces, and we were the only teenagers at our table.  All the rest seemed to be older female cashiers and their bored husbands, whose conversation I remember consisted mostly of remarks about the quality of the establishment’s prime rib.  When the waiter came to ask us what we wanted to drink, Mike thought for a moment, and then ordered a Pepsi, and I ordered a Shirley Temple.  At the time I was proud that I had been in so many grown-up bars with my mom that I knew how to order a real mixed drink with a name, even if it was kind of a kiddie drink, and it seemed to have made an impression on the staff as well, because when I ordered another from a different waitress, she laughed and exclaimed “Oh, you’re the Shirley Temple!” 

At the end of the evening, there was a drawing for cash prizes from $25 to $200, and the store manager called my name for the $100 prize!  When I walked past the bar on my way to the front of the room to claim it, the bartender said “Hey, Shirley Temple won!” and he clapped for me.  The waitresses heard him, and soon all of the staff in the dining room appeared to be applauding and calling out “Shirley Temple!  Hey, good for you, Shirley Temple!”

As I was walking back to the table, it occurred to me that Mike would probably be disappointed that he didn’t win, and I knew that I should share my money order with him.  Mike’s mother was there at the table waiting to take us home.  I told Mike that I would split the $100 with him, and he looked surprised, but I told him that I had planned all along to share if I won, because I wouldn’t have won if not for him inviting me.  I don’t know why I’d told him that my act of generosity had not been spontaneous.  Maybe I had surmised that by appearing to have thought it out beforehand, I would seem resolute, and so avoid any discussions of the deal.  I don’t know, but in any event, he quietly accepted his half of the prize, and as I glanced around, I remember his mom looking at me with an approving smile.  People I did not know were walking up to me and congratulating me!  The evening was an unmitigated success! 

That’s all I remember.  I take my mother’s word for it that I used my $50, which was a considerable sum for a teenager in 1974, to buy Christmas gifts for my brother, my sister, and her.  I do remember that Windsong bottle sitting on my mother’s dresser, because of course her mother’s dresser is an altar of worship for every girl; I’m pretty sure I could still draw my mother’s jewelry box and hand mirror from memory.  And I hope she forgives me for squealing on her regarding her recent purchase of non-Avon perfume.

But so there was that email from my mother, and there was me, trying to tell my boyfriend the story, while still sobbing, of the Marsh’s cash prize and how I had forgotten what I’d done with the money and when he asked me why that would make me cry so hard, all I could only say in response was, “I was a good kid.”

By the end of 7th grade, I had broken up with Mike, such as we were, because I just didn’t feel romantic about him.  Not like he wanted me to.  I did still truly want to be his friend because I felt like no one else understood me the way he did, but he was bitter about being relegated to “just a friend” status, and then soon thereafter his family moved away.  He wrote me another poem right before the last time I saw him, which I still have, in his handwriting, on lined yellow paper, the last verse of which is this:

I think I’ll be a lot better off
Lost in a trillion
Knowing that somewhere
You’re out there.

I’m still out here, Mike.  It’s not easy, sometimes, but I’m still out here.  I miss you.  I miss all the Mikes.  I was a good kid, and I’m still out here.