Tag Archives: politics

Here There Be Puppets: My Experience as a Delegate to the 2016 Washington State Democratic Convention

I have voted in every election since I came of age in 1988, with one exception in 1989 because I didn’t file for my absentee ballot by the deadline and I couldn’t vote in New York State as a college student. I’d never really considered myself very into the Democratic Party per se, but I’ve voted for progressive and left-of-center candidates my whole adulthood. I can’t say I have a primary issue because in my mind they all vie for attention—reproductive rights are very important to me, but so is ending the death penalty (if I’m being honest I’m a prison abolitionist but there are no candidates calling for that), and so are trans civil and human rights, and then I’d really like to see a sea change on green energy investment. See what I did there? I hate the welfare reform passed in 1996, I hate the 1994 crime bill, and I think the Affordable Care Act fell far short of what we need for all humans in the United States to access the care we need, no matter our legal status or which identity categories apply to us. Friends have said I am “left of Chairman Mao,” and thus I recognize that I do not fully fit into any party’s platform.

13501624_1768465986772825_4679976232767497587_nThis year I decided to take the plunge and see what immersing myself into the Democratic Party would be like. I wasn’t excited because of the ruckus between the Clinton and Sanders camps, but I did support Hillary in 2008 and I did have to come around to Barack Obama, who has both delighted and significantly disappointed me (23,000 drone bombs just last year) since then. Still, I can remember needing to suck it up when Clinton conceded in 2008 and so I can sympathize with Sanders supporters now. It’s a difficult space in which to exist, especially after a primary as painful as this one has been. I’m ready to move on from the “Berners are all sexists” and the “Clinton supporters are not real progressives” reductivism of the past several months. Read More…

Missing the Point

6526121_gOne of the more atrocious things the Walla Walla City Council did, after the brouhaha with the toy store’s mural faded away, was to pump in classical music at Heritage Square, a little strip of grass between storefronts on the downtown Main Street shopping district. At one point there was a playground structure, some limestone boulders to climb on, and a shelter like you would fine in a regional park; now only the shelter remains. As the city’s heroin epidemic grew, so did the numbers of drug dependent people in Heritage Square, hanging out on the toddler slides, or perched up against the wall of a building grotesquely painted to look like a Wild West-era trading post. We were perhaps not ready for the “two Wallas” to intersect right in the heart of the tourism office’s territory. Legal alcohol consumption as part of local wine industry, everyone can get behind. Illicit heroin use, on the other hand, is not to occur in the open. To drive away injection users, the city began streaming classical music to Heritage Square, as if the melodies of Mozart and Brahms were naturally antagonistic, like slipping on high frequency bracelets to keep mosquitos at bay. In its essence, the move was problematic.

Next came a fight between a group of citizens who wanted to set up a half-circle of tiny homes for homeless people to use, and the city and county governments who thought this plan would interfere with the work they’d been doing to create a comprehensive response to homelessness here. There have been many town hall-style meetings, angry online debates, motions and amendments to motions, and it so far has amounted to neither the construction of tiny homes nor the effective roll out of broad policy (although I keep hearing the latter is just about to happen). When I moved to town with Susanne in August 2008, mental health was handled somewhere between a few charity organizations, the county-run service for people in poverty, and the willingness of Main Street business owners to find their common interest—one gentleman really enjoyed taking cardboard to the Whitman College recycling center, so he would collect it all morning along the downtown strip before walking with his wagon to the campus.

Those verbal agreements and informal relationships have faded, giving way to evidence-based analysis and polarizing approaches to a worsening issue. We are too rural for many large grants or cooperative agreements to take interest in us, yet we are not rural enough to qualify for many federal programs. Whatever our political leanings, it is becoming clear that we only have ourselves to sort through the vulnerabilities of our local economy.

I keep wondering when we will focus on community connectedness and move past antagonizing people who oppose our ideas.

 

Quick Thoughts Regarding Our Political Morass, or Why the HRC Needs to Get into the Anti-Trans Legal Fight

1: It seems anathema to a supposed democracy that the death of one conservative should shift our nation’s highest court toward such a more liberal position. The consequences of the court’s rulings have such far-reaching effects it terrifies me a little that out of 300-plus million people in the US, the seating or not of a single jurist should make that much of a difference. Of course there’s a much larger judicial system underneath this court, and I understand that the rule of law has been designed with a final decision point of a supreme court, but given what it debates—civil rights, reproductive freedom, our basic rights to assemble and speak—Scalia’s presence or absence to tip the balance on these critical points is frightening. And so on this level I can understand the Republican Party’s fear that the court will liberalize away from their priorities. They should be afraid, as Scalia was holding together their agenda for the entire judiciary and it is not as easily rigged as say, their games with voter suppression and gerrymandering.

Sir Lady Java holding a sign that reads, 2: We are so acclimated to fear tactics in general that it is simple to deploy them against transgender children and young people. In what other context could we watch grown men scream about the safety of women as if they are their priority and rant about the dangers posed to public safety from children themselves? The entire game would be exposed were it not for the hatred America holds toward trans women, gender nonconforming people, and queer people. And still I see this as a last gasp from the right to reassert control in a country where more and more areas have affirmatively voted in LGBT protections. They won’t give up without a fight, but trans people will ultimately prevail.

2a: However, the battle over trans bodies is certain to enact violence against gender nonconforming people who are more on the margins, like trans women of color, trans folks who live in poverty, trans elders, and trans youth, especially those dealing with primary and secondary education systems, where there is a judicial precedent for certain infringements into privacy and speech. There is a good reason why the spate of hateful anti-trans legislation targets students, because they are subject to things like locker searches without a warrant, to controls like detention and suspension, and they are under constant surveillance from adults who can easily control things like bathroom access.

2b: This is why I think the Human Rights Campaign needs to step up and take head-on the anti-trans hate wave. It sounds unreasonable at first, but think about it: they’ve already designed themselves to identify issues within the court system across the country, they’ve already amassed a team of lawyers who know how to write amicus briefs in their sleep, and they have just “completed” a decade-plus-long struggle to win marriage equality in the United States. They won. THEY WON. I and many people of my queer generation never thought we’d see legal same sex marriage, and yet, here it is, despite Justice Scalia’s protestations and rhetoric, no less. Further, the HRC owes transgender people a debt after their earlier resistance to including the trans community in the LGBT equal rights bill in Congress, a bill that has still not come back to debate in any meaningful way. HRC has the deep pockets to fund the push against anti-trans legislation, the knowledge of the adversaries, since they’re largely the same groups who funded the anti-equality marriage fight, and the national contacts. They ought to take this on, and they have to get rallied quickly because it won’t be that long before a number of states have bills, referenda, and laws to contend with as part of the general election. And yes, they need to get trans women and gender nonconforming people involved, at all tiers of their leadership.

3: We are losing al-Jazeera America and that is a shame because they took pains not to be an echo chamber for a major political party, and not to be as devoid of substance as say, CNN. Too many of our media outlets are slanted toward one or the other political pole, and this has become a real problem for understanding what is happening in this primary election cycle. We’ve walked away from the journalistic standards that structured how facts were identified apart from opinion for nearly a century, in deference to ratings and the constant stream of sound bites. Paris is bombed and the media vomits speculation as news. Trump says something ridiculous and reporters feed it to us as if it is anything other than garbage—it certainly isn’t presidential. Web sites pretending to be media outlets Photoshop pictures and reports about coin tosses and it takes an entire news cycle to parse the reality out of the fantasy. I’m not telling the kids to get off my lawn, but we need a reckoning here because our current international conglomerate owned news food chain is full of pulp and no substance, and it is hard enough figuring out what the consequences of each Representative seat’s election could mean for their constituents. We need a consumer-driven change to the industry.

 

 

2015 in Quotes

v2-germanwings-crash

Germanwings crash site in France, photo by The Independent

January

“These towns are just gone, burned down,” said Nigerian Ahmed Zanna, a senator for Borno state where a Boku Haram attack killed more than 2,000 people “The whole area is covered in bodies.”

I wonder why Facebook didn’t make a feel-good support tint for people’s profile pictures around this torched Nigerian village. Read More…

The Dos and Don’ts of Protesting

I’m not an expert on anything. I used to be a quasi-expert on usability analysis, and then I left the field and in the meantime, it emerged as its own real subject area with doctorate programs and certifications and I’m far enough back now that I’m not even in the dust. I write books, because I’m somewhat good with words, but I don’t consider myself an expert in writing, per se. I tend to take a commonsense approach to most topics, I try to get involved beyond the standard dabble when the issue resonates with me, and I’m no longer surprised that a Catholic girl raised to be a conservative republican has somehow become instead a progressive man who doesn’t attend any church. What I am pretty good at doing—though again, not an expert—is spotting contradictions in culture and rhetoric, and I think I owe my skill to some badass teachers from my youth, and my own tendency to complain.

marchflyerIIwebSo that said, I am not an expert on protesting. I don’t know the intellectual lexicon of the protest theorist, or whatever they call themselves (all due deference to protest theorists). I’ve been involved in organizing protests for twenty-two years, was taught specific protest tactics and de-escalation techniques by some of the women who invented them, and have personally taught three dozen people how to eat fire. I’ve gone to some of the biggest protests ever seen in Washington, DC, and been one of three people holding signs on a street corner when nobody else cared enough to show up. So along the way I’ve heard some things that are a kind of best practices regarding protests, namely: Read More…

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…

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