Tag Archives: politics

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic National Committee

voting box with ballotHonestly, I have a lot of other things to get to this week, and within that, a lot of other pieces to write. But I have been so ubiquitously harassed by national-level Democrats that hey, I’ll take some time out this afternoon to respond to their litany of email.

Dear Representative Pelosi—

Perhaps there was a time in my life when receiving an email from the former Speaker of the House would have been at least a little thrilling, but the bloom is off the rose now. I don’t really even think you care about me, what with all of your messages—which are too many, honestly, it’s getting embarrassing—addressed to me as <FRIEND:VALUE!>. It feels half-hearted, Representative Pelosi. I know you are well networked in the legislative scene over on Capitol Hill. I used to see you around town from time to time when I still lived there. Okay; that’s a lie, it was Dennis Kucinich whom I saw, and mostly at the Greek restaurant on Pennsylvania SE that has sadly closed down. What I don’t understand, however, is how with all of your knowledge and connections and wealthy campaign contacts, you haven’t come across anyone who has mentioned even in passing that the Democratic National Committee’s strategy on getting donations for these midterms is abysmally bad. Here are the subject lines of just a few of the HUNDREDS of messages I’ve received these past few months:

  • painful loss
  • we. fell. short.
  • Friend we’re BEGGING
  • B O E H N E R wins
  • all hope is lost

The content in the actual email isn’t any better. Read More…

An Open Letter to America

IMG_5181I don’t understand us humans. No really, I don’t get it. Maybe I’m getting dumber in my middle age, but it could be that we really have stopped making sense. If Emile texted me while I was in a movie theater, I would totally text him back. And I would expect not to get shot just because I told my kid “hi” while I was away. Why can’t we have a respectful conversation about guns and gun control? Why don’t the rank and file NRA members stand up and say, enough is enough, there has to be a way to balance our Second Amendment rights and public safety? And why are we so unwilling to admit our mistakes and where our public policies have gone wrong? We agreed to make legal opiates available to the general public (in the form of Oxycontin and Percoset, etc.) knowing that some percentage of people would become addicted to them, and disabuse ourselves of a comprehensive program to help them out of addiction?

Why are we so willing to throw away people after they’ve made mistakes, imprisoning heroin and pot users, or devaluing individuals, like telling poor people we won’t give them food stamps, telling poor kids they should have to work for that free breakfast at school? Why didn’t we pass a background check law last year when 90 percent of Americans wanted it? Why are we okay when a natural gas company contaminates the drinking water for 300,000 people in West Virginia? Why are we not talking about the shooting of schoolchildren in Sandy Hook after Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, asked us to have a one-year moratorium which is now over? Why did we even have to entertain the notion of armed guards at every school in America? Read More…

Everett’s Annual Crystal Ball Predictions

I’ve made some semi-serious predictions for the past few years, often involving Sarah Palin (but not this year, darn it!). As in previous years, I’ll stick mostly to political stuff and some popular culture territory. So let me go out on a limb once again and make a few bold statements that are probably not true but whatever. Nothiing is really true on the internet, right? Except Buzzfeed.

brain in a football helmetIt’s the beginning of the end for the NFL as we know it—Between the increasing evidence that even high school football causes irreversible brain injuries, that crowds are thinning out at team stadiums because ticket prices are too high, cities pushing back against the extravagant costs of building new playing fields, and a slew of bad publicity that players and coaching staffs are mean even to each other, we could be seeing the end of the machismo of this monopoly group. Just yesterday, Jovan Belcher’s mother filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Chiefs that they knew he was ill from repeated head injuries well before Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself last year. This is not even the beginning of a wave of suits against NFL clubs, given that the NFL just settled a class-action lawsuit in 2013 (which left many people unsatisfied) for hundreds of millions a dollars, nor is it the start of gruesome violence committed by former and current players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As one NFL official put it in the recounting done by Frontline last year, “If only one mother in ten decides she won’t let her son play football, that’s the end of the NFL.” Read More…

What the Hell Is Wrong with This Country (Part II)

Primary school government classes in the United States explain the ideals of representative government—that our democracy supports the election of (often ordinary) people who then keep access open to their constituents so that the needs in their local districts and states will have a voice in the voting body. Unfortunately, in many districts, this is not really how elections and governing operate anymore. Consider:

  1. From The Campaign Finance Institute

    From The Campaign Finance Institute

    Congressional elections averaged $1.4M for House elections in 2010 and and more than $1.5M in 2012. Senate races averaged nearly $9M in 2010 and more than $10.3M in 2012. The total cost for all congressional races for the 2014 midterm elections is estimated to run $3.5B. That’s billion. These extreme costs narrow the possibilities of who can run for seats, limiting elections to well networked or party-sponsored individuals, the independently wealthy, or people running on a cause that garners a lot of grassroots support. (See Table at the right.)

  2. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United has put a lot more money from organizations and corporations into elections, even local-level campaigns. Between 527 groups, PACs and SuperPACs, even small congressional districts see a lot of monetary input, often from groups outside of the state or district in contest. If candidate fundraising doesn’t come from kissing babies and shaking constituents’ hands anymore, then…
  3. Issues taken up by office holders may reflect the priorities of big donors and organizations rather than the general public. At the least there is evidence that so much corporate money spent in SuperPACs has been used to wage negative campaigns against the presumed opponent (SuperPACs are not allowed to raise money for a particular candidate). Thus candidates now must raise money to get their messages out and to defend against the negative campaigns from 527s and SuperPACs (hence the rapid rise in average campaign costs). Read More…

What the Hell Is Wrong with This Country (Part 1)

It’s been a month of terrible news and political developments, not the least of which were the SCOTUS decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the passage of extreme abortion restrictions in Texas, and the awful acquittals of George Zimmerman in Florida (who pursued a Black teenager and shot him, killing him) and Ezekiel Gilbert in Texas (who shot and killed a sex worker after she refused to have sex with him). All of this comes on the heels of the Steubenville trial, in which members of an Ohio football team gang-raped a young woman at a party and were convicted as juveniles, meaning they’ll be free after only a few years of light detention. It comes after three years of struggle against conservative forces pushing back gains made by workers unions in the Midwest, after a series of voting restriction laws in more than 20 states, and after a half-dozen high-profile mass shootings around the country—including one that targeted 6-year-olds—that have garnered no new restrictions on gun ownership or registration. To say that America is reeling on its collective heels is something of an understatement.

If we only pay attention to major media outlets, the narrative tells us that there is a huge polarization in the United States today, with warring factions at the extremes waging their battles through reductive and incendiary rhetoric about dead babies, massive government databases, corrupt politicians, gluttonous oligarchs, lazy poor people, insane terrorists, and tone-deaf state employees. It’s almost as if a badly written Hollywood screen play had taken over the nation. In truth, most Americans—according to places like Pew—are centrists, not pushing strenuously one way or the other for a progressive or conservative agenda. But this has occurred at the same time that people aligned with a political party have become more loyal to those parties and their stated values.

Let’s take a step back, and reassess America the Melting Pot. How has a nation of immigrants, one so presumed to be representative of a great diversity of people, values, and opinions, become so dichotomized politically? If that’s what’s actually happened, that is.
Read More…

The Watchers and Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis screen capture filibusterThis news out of Texas was quickly supplanted by the SCOTUS decisions around marriage equality today, the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman trial, and somehow, by continued coverage of Paula Deen’s racism. But it’s worth taking a closer look at the 11-hour filibuster by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis because it was a moment that perhaps can give us some lessons to remember for future political battles—which will inevitably will come our way. Or say, next month.

1. The filibuster was well planned and executed—Wendy had several things going for her, including a thick binder of germane content to read on the floor of the chamber, testimony from women that had not been allowed during earlier hearings on SB5, a Web page collecting more on-point testimony, and apparently, a big old Depends undergarment. She also had clearly prepped on the rules of the Senate filibuster allowances, and while she was abruptly ended by the Senate President for getting off-topic, talking about how SB5 would harmfully interact with an earlier passed law on sonograms was arguably still germane to the discussion. Dr. Gunter outlines the argument why that’s the case. But that she held the floor so long, despite extreme bending of the Senate’s rules on the part of the GOP supermajority makes this moment a prime example of successful governance. Big-ticket issues like a woman’s right to choose should be filibuster material, especially when the stakes are the closure of 37 out of 42 abortion-providing clinics in a state with 26 million people. Read More…

Keeping up with Our Small Surreal World

it's a small world ride signMy older sister Kathy has always loved the “It’s a Small World After All” ride at Disney World. Every time we’ve gone to the theme park she gets giddy while she’s standing in line for the ride, gesticulating with gusto, talking in between squealing giggles like she’s transported her emotional self back to age 11. When we’re locked into our slow-moving seats the waterworks starts for her, somewhere between the smiling children from Holland and the colorful children from Africa. For me the ride is three notches above the moldy animatronics of Chuck E. Cheese, but for Kathy, it’s a gateway to our connectedness on Planet Earth. Every. Single. Time. For one quadriplegic rider at DisneyLand, however, getting stuck on the ride for eight hours was enough to sue the company. I don’t think even my dear Kathy would want to be subjected to the ear worm for eight hours straight. Everyone else got off of the broken ride, but Disney had no evacuation procedures in place for individuals with mobility issues. And whoever thought that sending Mickey and Minnie Mouse over to him to perform while he was stuck has lost their sense of perspective.

I find life like a broken, singing roller coaster a lot of the time, these days anyway. Is my family in town this week? Are we hosting a guest? Do I have a deadline to meet? Has the baby discovered a new activity that could destroy our house? Is the car still working? Fortunately for us there’s not a single simple tune playing in the background through all of this, nor a series of wooden Stepfordesque children smiling an endless smile in our general direction. Read More…

The Political Issues Next Year

For the past few years I’ve done a bit of cheeky prognostication on the popular culture front–picking which elected official will get caught up in a sexting scandal, which celebrity will get the most tabloid coverage, that sort of thing. But 2012 has left me with no heart for such frivolity, not with the Susan G. Komen attack on Planned Parenthood, the vitriol that spewed all over the nation through the election season, and Newtown. Now I’m left scratching my head and asking big questions about getting proactive on the issues I think are most important. I mean, I want to stay funny, I really do. I’m just having a tough time isolating my giggle button when it comes to civil rights, the lives of people on the margins, and our political atmosphere that seems hell bent to take us all down. Fiscal cliff, anyone?

Reproductive Rights and Sneaky Fake Women’s Clinics–We saw many examples of the fight against women’s health and reproductive rights this year, everything from the sound bites of the stupid (“Women’s bodies have ways of shutting that down”) to the attempt to gut Planned Parenthood funding, to new impossible regulations for abortion clinics to follow if they want to remain open. Late in the year, a woman died in Ireland, a state which doesn’t (barring new proposed rules since her death) allow for abortion except under extreme circumstances to save the life of the mother, with “extreme” being open to debate. It was a harrowing moment for abortion rights advocates in the States because so many of the GOP’s members are for just the same language and restrictions here. Read More…

How America Could Be Better in 10 Simple Steps

balloons, hot airPersonally, I’m not complaining about 2012. I published a book and one of my short stories was selected for the first transgender anthology in the US, and I’ve spent all kinds of wonderful moments with my baby, who is fast approaching the Defiant Toddler Years. 2012 was really pretty great for me, in that my candidate won another term as President, there are three more states with marriage equality on the board, and I got to go to some great cities, meet impressive people, run into Angela Davis and Alice Walker (sorry my stroller bag was in your way!), and read my writing to more than 500 people. But for many other reasons 2012 has been a terrible awful tragic year, and I lived through the trials, too. We all listened to that drawn-out, nasty election, filled with one sour sound bite after another, we saw the return of voting laws designed to stifle the electorate, and we watched a relentless attack on reproductive rights. The last two years have been nasty, with self-described conservatives vying for the attention of the most extreme right-wing ideals, their comments filling up the 24-hour news stations like a frothy volcano in a science experiment gone wildly wrong (which I suppose isn’t far from what their comments were). It’s hard to be inundated with incendiary rhetoric and news of the awful and still think we live in a great place. Forget best. We’re not the best country, we arguably never were, and I really don’t know why my fellow Americans keep insisting on this exceptionalism concept. But maybe if we can put our folly aside, we could carve out a renewed sense of community and “we’re in it together”ness that we sorely need these days. Here are 10 simple things we could do:

1. Turn off the pointed, partisan “news” shows—Most of us know that FoxNews isn’t either fair nor balanced, but MSNBC isn’t, either. It may feel good listening to talking heads from “your side” telling you what you want to hear, but it’s often inaccurate, and the skewed perspective only reinforces an “us/them” mentality that keeps us too distanced to listen to each other. I hate to use the word “old-fashioned” when talking about media outlets, but the old-fashioned, “objective” news rooms who fact-check every statement provides better reporting and has not set up its business model on the idea of partisanship. Who are these news outlets? That’s up to each of us to identify, frankly, because managements shift and reporters move around, but AP and UPI reporting are pretty steady, NPR has a mandate to be objective, and there are many foreign news organizations who are not beholden to US interests and so they tell it like it is. But please, shut off the Rush Limbaugh and the Chris Matthews. Go for a walk or something. Read More…

The Persistence of Unreality

assault riflesNot only do we have vapid debates in America about which beer is better, which sports team is more fearsome than which other sports team, and the like, but in the wake of our nation’s latest mass shooting, in which 20 children under age 7 perished, now we debate about whether it’s appropriate to debate. Now is not the time, many people attested this weekend, to talk about gun control. Some folks threatened to “unfriend” others on Facebook if those people persisted in posting about mental health support or gun laws, saying that they were obviously making it about “political issues.” Never mind the idiom about the personal being political that’s been around for 40 years, perhaps there is a time for mourning and a time for reflection about what’s led us to these moments. I say moments because a 6-year-old died in the Aurora, CO shooting, a 9-year-old in the Tuscon, AZ shooting  of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and of course there are hundreds of kids under 14 killed by guns every year in the US that get next to no media coverage. But even when the guns in an incident were purchased legally, even when there is no long history of mental health instability, and even when the majority of victims are defenseless kids, some among us insist on sticking to the same talking points to defend the status quo. Let’s look at these talking points, and hopefully it’s okay, four days later, to start some kind of dialogue about gun violence and gun rights. If I get defriended on Facebook, so be it.

If we don’t have assault rifles, we won’t be able to prevent the government from becoming a fascist state–Let’s see . . . the Department of Defense carries a budget of more than $680 billion. Read More…

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