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.