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Americans Need Patriotism

Patriotism in America used to mean something.  It wasn’t about just draping yourself in the flag, It wasn’t about being free to not vote. It wasn’t hating other countries, or hating anyone who was different. It wasn’t about hating and dismissing all elected representatives.

Patriotism was founded in this country, on the principle of self-governance. We were meant to have a say. We were meant to vote for who would represent our interests and the interests of our communities.  We were meant to tell our representatives how to represent us.  In this age of information, we have no excuse not to. Our country used to be thought of as the leader of the free world, yet our citizens spend a lot of time complaining about our government, and little action to do our part. A self-governing government can’t govern itself. Say that a few times. 

You would think we would have 90% or higher turnout, but instead, a local election year we see around 30%, depending on where you live (30% is generous for my community).

Monroe County,  New York Voter Turnout in 2015. Source: https://www2.monroecounty.gov/files/2015%20General%20Voter%20Turnout.pdf

In 2016, we had 65% turnout, among registered voters. It was 58% of eligible voters, according to this: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/voter-turnout-2016-elections

I am considered among those who know me, to be a politically engaged person. I work in IT, but that is my day job.  I have a BS in political science. I have worked on campaigns, run a campaign, and worked with the Democratic Committee in my county.  In 2016 I took election day off work. I volunteered at my county Democratic committee office helping people verify their voter registrations, find polling places, get a ride to the polls, and answer questions. It was a fantastic day engaging with voters and other volunteers committed to helping as many people vote as possible.

Now I’m volunteering with the Warren campaign.  I am someone who loves to talk about politics, and I love to engage with people on the issues.  I know most people hate politics, roll their eyes, and would rather do anything else.

The problem is, the only way we are ever going to fix our government and make sure it’s working for us, is if we make it a priority in our lives. I know everyone has too many priorities. The problem is, this affects every one of them.  Got kids in school?  Education. Drive on roads? Infrastructure. Military family? Military and veterans affairs.  Got a body? Health care. Over 65? Social security.

I hope I’m making my point.  

I did phone banking to voters in North Dakota, trying to help re-elect Heidi Heitkamp in the midterms. I have good Senators in NY, so I wanted to help other states. Even though she didn’t win, I had some really good conversations with people, and yes in the red, red state of North Dakota, Trump supporters would have a good conversation with me a life-long liberal Democratic voter.

Volunteering with the Warren campaign, I have received some of the same feedback as I did from voters in 2016, during the 2018 midterms, in last year’s local election, and on social media.  People have a few popular responses to a conversation about politics or an election. One common response is that all elected officials are bad.  Not only is it an excuse for not paying attention or voting, it’s a 100% false statement.  Before you dismiss me, who has met, volunteered, campaigned, and talked with more candidates and elected representatives, you or me? Hint: If it’s you, this isn’t meant for you.

For the rest of you. It’s time to make this a priority. You don’t have to make it your number 1 priority, like I do, but there are some things that I need you all to do this year, and going forward. These need to go on your to-do lists. A lot of them don’t take that much time.  

In order to start making this at least a priority, try to spend 15 minutes a day working on the list below. Imagine what we can get done, as a nation, if everyone does this.

  1. Verify you are registered to vote, and register if you are not: https://www.rockthevote.org/
  2. Look up your representatives. To do this, google the county you live in and “Board of Elections”, e.g. Cool County Board of Elections
  3. Get signed up on a tool that will let you be in contact with your reps in Congress.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start paying attention.  I get that the news sucks, but not all of it is political, and the politics is what you need to pay attention to. It’s important you know what your reps are saying and how they are voting, or what they are signing into law, repealing, or vetoing. This is the civic duty of citizens in a self-governing democracy.  We all know it’s a democratic republic, but we have always cherished that our founding fathers wanted this country to be, if nothing else, a truly representative democracy. 

Use an app like countable, and you can see what bills are circulating in Congress. You can vote on the app, for which way you want them to vote and send them your comments on it. You can go straight to the House and Senate websites to see what they are voting on, and what’s in committee.

Now that you have gotten this far, I want you prepare for the election. Not just 2020, but every year.  This is real patriotism. Honor your civic duty.  Our government can only function if we run it.  Would you run a company, hire someone, and never check on their work? If the person you hired wasn’t doing what you asked them to do and what they said they would do, or acted in unethical and/or immoral way, would you keep them on or would you hire someone else? 

We talk a lot about how elected representatives aren’t doing their job, but we aren’t really doing ours. It feels like it would be a lot of work, but once you do it, once you really get informed and aware, there is a good reward to it.  There is service to our government. Not every elected official is corrupt or bad.  Some people dream of being doctors, some want to be athletes, or go into music, or be farmers.  Some people want to want to go into public service.  They want to represent people’s interests.  

I have met them, I have worked with them, I have supported their campaigns, and I am volunteering with one of them right now.  None are perfect, and yes there are a lot of bad apples, who self deal and have insidious aims. There are also many, who are good and decent people. There are people out there who believe that our government can cultivate a common wealth and common vision for the interests of every citizen.

The reality is that good representatives are accessible, accountable, and transparent with their constituents. They will hold town halls, and their staff are on hand to answer your questions and help you find resources when you are in need.

I know the idea of paying attention, being informed, making the tough choice of picking the best representative out of the candidates on the ballot, seems like a lot. Democracy, and being the leader of the free world, takes work. I am also only asking for 15 minutes. 15 minutes a day to see if we can do our part to make sure our government works for all of us, and not only for those who decided to show up and those with the most influence and money.

If you see that value, then having finished the to-do items above, please work on the following until you registered party’s primary election:

  1. Check when your primary is: https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/2020-state-primary-election-dates.aspx
  2. Research each candidate.  That’s right. At least know something about them. Not rumor. Not what you saw from some post on social media with no source. 15 minutes, getting to know 1 candidate a day for yourself. At least those polling in the top 5, if you are a Democratic voter or planning to vote in the Democratic primary this year.  Google them and go to their website. Look for their plans or agenda. Read up on what they want to do and decide if you think it’s the best approach for where we are right now.
  3. Pick a candidate. One of them will represent us, in this election and in office if they win.
  4. Vote in the primary.  Saying none are good is not an option. You are part of picking the nomine and these are the choices. One will be chosen. It’s up to you to pick who you think will be the best out of those who showed up to do the job.

Now we know who is running in the election. If you are supporting a candidate who doesn’t take PAC money or high donor contributions, know that they rely on small donations to run their campaign. They are up against massive dark money influence. If you can’t donate, consider volunteering some time.  Phone bank, text, canvass. Do something to ensure our government is run by someone who will serve our interests and not serve that which is not in our interests. Talk to friends and family, and make sure the people in your life know that you are taking your civic duty seriously, and they should too.

Pay attention to who has a plan and is using facts, figures, recorded factual information and who is making claims without any proof or solid information. Vet the information. Make sure the information is solid.  Remember 15 minutes a day.  

The more we pay attention, the more we can ensure our government isn’t just by people but for people.  It’s time we acknowledge that running the government is a big, complex job and it needs all of us to contribute for it to be a success. 

When we can do that, We can ensure everyone has health care. 18 countries have been able to do that, and there is no reason why we can’t. (https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=how+many+countries+have+universal+health+care

We can ensure everyone has a livable wage, and the resources to ensure our homeless are not abandoned on the streets. 

We can ensure secure elections, fair elections, and accessible elections for every eligible citizen.

We can ensure we have maintained roads, bridges and tunnels.

We can ensure excellent public education for every child and we can ensure child care.

We can ensure that our borders are safe, and so are immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers needing our help.

We can ensure a healthy and thriving environment, renewable energy, and the means to address pollution.

If we stand up and do the truly patriotic act of fulfilling our civic duty, we can ensure our government lives up to the legacy of our nation. We can ensure it lives on.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for your time. I hope this took less than 15 minutes. I hope it gave you something to think about. If you are willing to do the above, and give me 15 minutes a day, to be an informed member of the electorate, then I thank you as a fellow citizen of this country. If you have questions about any of the above, would like more or specific resources, or have feedback, please leave me a comment.

Once you do the above, you have just one more thing to do, in November:

  1. Vote.

Let Me Make This Simple Democratic Voters

A lot of Democratic voters wish the Democratic Party was stronger. So do I.  I have been a registered Democratic voter since I turned 18. The thing is most of our party, at least the average registered voter, does little to make the party strong. They complain and lob attacks at the leaders, the ones who bothered to show up. I fail to see how that helps.  I worked at the Board of Elections, and I worked as Director of Operations for the Monroe County Democratic Party. I can tell you how this works, based on voter registration and voter turnout.

More voters are registered with the Democratic party, than the Republican party.  Republican voters turn out in higher numbers.  This results in close races, and the Democratic party has to woo Democratic voters.  They have to convince them to turn up.  The Republicans use 2 obvious tactics and they work every time.  One method is, they suggest that the Democratic candidate is going to win, which causes Democratic voters to think they don’t have to turn out. The other tactic is, they convince Democrats that the Democratic candidate is no better than the Republican candidate. Thanks, Susan Sarandon.

So this is the deal.  We get what we put into our party and our government.  We can lament the corruption, but what do we expect?  Would you own a business, hire someone, and then not monitor their work to ensure they were faithfully doing the job you are paying them to do?  Would you keep paying them if they weren’t doing their job?  Would you keep them on if they weren’t transparent and accountable to you, in any conflicts of interest, or that they were behaving ethically and morally?

Our government can only be by the people and for the people, if the people are doing their part in the process.  That means not bemoaning elections and campaigns. It means vetting candidates, voting, and holding elected officials to the job of representing the interests of the community.

I get that we don’t all have time for that.  Between work, family, friends, responsibilities, it’s a lot.  We can’t afford not to pay attention, though.  There is too much at stake.  It’s not just health care, and education, and basic civil rights. It’s not just the environment, breathable air, and coastal erosion.  It’s the worst corruption attempting to strip our voting rights, stack the courts, and ensure that there is only power when the right party is in control.

This post is my attempt to make it a little easier for Democratic voters to compare the candidate’s plans on a variety of issues.  I made up a spreadsheet, listing different topics.  I then went to the top 3 candidates’ websites and looked for a plan or policy, or narrative on how they plan to “move the needle” on that issue.

This is what I came up with: 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Front-runners – Comparison of Plans (Google Sheets)

I added columns at the end, so that I could grade each candidate on each topic. My goal is to review and grade each of them.  If instead of using A-F, I will use 1-10 (1 = low and 10 = high) then I should be able to total them up and see a clear winner.  I didn’t do that before posting this, because I’m not trying to sway Democratic voters.  My only goal is to make the information as accessible as possible, so voters will not sit this out. This is our opportunity and our responsibility, to choose the best candidate, from those who showed up to run, and then to vote for that candidate, in our state’s primary. 

I hope this information helps.  You will notice some holes in that list.  I reached out to both the Sanders and Biden campaigns to ask for links to the topics I wasn’t able to find info on. I emailed their general info/ Contact Us from their campaign sites. I have received no response from Sander’s campaign, but now I am receiving emails from Biden wanting me to join their team and donate to them:

 
I also tweeted to their Press Secretaries.  I am sure they are busy, but I figured they might be able to help.  Neither have responded.

If either campaign wants to fill in the holes, they are welcome to send me links and I will update the spreadsheet.

Is this helpful? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

O-M-G The Democratic Party is Like So Weak

How many Democratic voters lament their party’s weakness in public or online?  I’m a life-long member of the Democratic Party. By that, I mean I was raised by progressive parents and once I turned 18 I was so excited to register as a Democratic voter and vote for progressive Democratic candidates.

I didn’t get really engaged in politics online until about 2015. Once I did, there was a shocking amount of criticism about the Democratic party.  It wouldn’t have been shocking if it was from the Republican party and conservative voters, but it was seemingly from members of their own party.

Here’s the thing. Just because a candidate or elected official is registered with the party you are registered with, doesn’t mean you owe them allegiance. You have the right to criticize their actions, voting, and rhetoric. Of course you do. That’s democracy. You have a right to support challengers to incumbents within your own party.  That’s how we get a Rep like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which is what we need. We need people who care about the community they represent, and you know actually go to that community and listen to the constituents.

There is a difference though, between speaking your mind to a specific representative’s work to represent the people, and attacking the entire party. Painting them with a brush that says “the establishment is horrible and wrong and poopy”.  It’s a lazy cop-out and it neglects to account for what the attacker is doing to help.

People love to throw rocks from the outside, but how much are they working to make the party stronger? Most of them will respond with saying “I’m making them stronger by telling them how to get there.” Really?

tenor

 

Here is my challenge to Democratic voters, who wish their party was stronger. Ask yourself what you have done to roll up your sleeves and work to make your party as strong as it needs to be, to beat the bad faith actors in the GOP.  There are a number of ways to help:

  1. Pick a candidate and volunteer in their campaign
  2. Make phone calls
  3. Canvass to gather petitions to put them on the ballot
  4. Host a phone bank
  5. Host a rally or watch party
  6. Make small contributions to support their campaign, so they can run their campaign without owing lobbyists and wealthy execs
  7. Become a delegate for them at the convention
  8. Register people to vote
  9.  Talk to other voters about why they are the best candidate – remember how you respect people is a reflection on the candidate you support. You are representing them
  10. Do the hard work of putting together your top issues, and then go review the plans of each primary candidate on those issues, and grade them. Your grade. Who is the best?  Not perfect, but which candidate gets the highest grade? If none of them do, are you being realistic? Because the alternative is Trump, so grade him too.

My point is, if you have a beef with the Democratic party, each out to them directly, instead of trashing them online.  If you really want them to be stronger, reach out to the local committee (county level), the state party, or the DNC.  Become more active in the party, so that it can reflect more of what you want to see.

Expecting your party to work exactly as you want, with you doing nothing else than shouting at them, is like a toddler throwing a tantrum in the store, because their parent won’t buy them the toy. Well, the child hasn’t cleaned their room, doesn’t eat their vegetables, and the parents are on a fixed budget.

So this is my challenge to you.  Get involved. Start to look at each candidate and elected official individually. Don’t write them off because of one thing they said, or one vote. Take a real look at their record and give them a reasonable grade, knowing that the job of representing people is not as easy as it may seem.  If you still aren’t satisfied, then run for office and be the representative who will deliver on what you want.

We need Democratic voters off the sidelines in 2020 and going forward. We certainly need them to stop attacking their own party, as if that will help anyone but Trump and the Republican party. We get out what we put in to your party and to your democracy. It’s time we make some lasting investments.

Jillian Needs to Sit Down, Lizzo Can Stand Proud

I’m sure Lizzo is still standing and isn’t going anywhere, and I know she doesn’t need anyone to tell her to stand tall, but I needed to say it. This isn’t a topic that I weigh in on easily (yes, pun intended). I am overweight and have been most of my life. I adore Lizzo, because she has confidence that I have never had. I wish I could love my body the way that it is, but I tend to fall on the side of what Jillian Michaels has said. My body is unhealthy, therefore I should not glorify it. The problem is, Jillian is wrong.

If you are not overweight, you cannot know what our day to day experience is like. There are enough people, particularly in the US, telling overweight people that we are not beautiful and that we are not worthy. Yes heart disease and diabetes and the risks of other illnesses are a problem, but not feeling beautiful is never going to help that get any better. It also should be said that people can be thin and still get heart disease and diabetes, I’m pretty sure Bob Harper can speak to that. 

 The other thing is, Jillian wasn’t just speaking against Lizzo‘s body, but she was speaking out of turn, and disrespecting Lizzo‘s black culture. In black Culture full-figured women are respected and appreciated much more than in white culture. When I was studying in Ghana, the men there would always tell me how beautiful I was, and it was disconcerting because I wasn’t used to it. I was used to the unattainable standard, practically anorexic, airbrushed, impossible measurement of a woman’s beauty. I was used to men yelling at me out of cars that I was a “FAT BITCH”.  I was used to people telling me that if I would just lose weight I would be able to get a man. Doesn’t really help, when you’re gay, but that’s another topic, for another day.

The bottom line is that there is an intersectionality that needs to be part of the discussion, because it is a very white American judgment to say that being thin dictates your worth. I have so much praise for Lizzo, because she is showing young girls all over the world, that beauty comes in all sizes. We absolutely need that to be taught to our kids. They must know that size doesn’t dictate your worth.

 My other problem with what Jillian was saying, is that being overweight isn’t always the problem. Sometimes it’s the side effect. I have lupus and fibromyalgia. I used to be over 100 pounds lighter, going to the gym 5 to 6 days a week. Then one day I couldn’t get out of bed. It got worse and worse, and now it’s an inverted climb, instead of just an uphill battle, trying to lose this weight. As I struggled to get any doctor to pay attention, I had to learn the hard way that doctors can be fat phobic too. They will just say you need to lose weight. Well, losing weight isn’t going to make me absorb iron better.  I am so iron deficient, that I have to get iron infusions. I’ve got a list of doctors a mile long, and it took me a long time to get ones who would take my diseases seriously and stop tagging everything as just a weight problem. There is more going on, and because of it, losing the weight isn’t just a simple proposition.

In the meantime, hating my body is not going to get me anywhere. I am a happy person, who will often sing show tunes around my house, while taking to my cats. I have no use for putting myself down constantly, and I would much prefer to see myself in Lizzo’s reflection than Jillian’s. I may have weight to lose, I may decide at some point that I’m happy where I am, even if that’s not as thin as Jillian would like me to be. Regardless I don’t have use for anyone telling me that I shouldn’t see myself as beautiful and that I shouldn’t metaphorically lift myself up and be happy with who I am.

Thank you Lizzo, for all that you do for girls around the world. Thank you for what you do for me. You make me smile and you make me feel empowered. I wish you had been around when I was growing up. Keep being you and keep doing you. Thanks for your expertise in fitness Jillian, but I think I’m all set with your fat shaming.

Ugh Do I Have to Be Nice?

So recently I posted on a local Facebook group, because I was hosting a phone banking event for a candidate I’m supporting in the Democratic primary. Quite quickly there was a laughing reaction to my post, and a comment that said “good luck with that!”. I sensed, despite emotion being lost in social media, that the comment was likely meant sarcastically. I was dumbfounded as to why. I confirmed if it was indeed sarcastic and it was immediately confirmed. I wanted to post redacted print screens, but the admin of the group deleted my post. I’ve messaged them to confirm they did this, but it seems that they did. I so wish they hadn’t.

When I posted the phone banking event, I didn’t expect a bunch of people to sign up, but I also didn’t expect people to be rude about it. I’m on twitter and facebook enough to have dealt with my fair share of trolls and bots, but this is supposed to be a local group.  I follow the same group account on Twitter, and although I will admit I haven’t seen national politics coming from that account or page, I do see stuff about the community. It seems I misjudged the point of the page.  I thought the page on Facebook, and the account on Twitter, was meant to be a way to bring people in the community together. I thought it was a way to help us get to know each other, and maybe enable us to do what we can to make our community as good as it can be. To help us all thrive.

For me, being a member of a community means doing my part, and that includes participating in my democracy. I consider it my civic duty. To me it is the ultimate act of patriotism. The more citizens participate in our democracy, the more our democracy will represent the interests of our community. 

After the other person on the post started posting back, I started writing a knee-jerk response, and then I took a step back.  Not only would I reflect badly on the campaign I’m volunteering for, I wouldn’t make the situation better.  I’m annoyed this is the first response I got.  I would have so preferred no response, to that. Instead, I expressed that I was sorry they felt the need to insult me, and I wished them well.

They then started posting Trump/MAGA stuff and that re-affirmed my decision not to make it worse. It’s not just that the Trump/MAGA crowd is most commonly about racism and claiming everyone is out to get them and their way of life. It’s also that there was no need to go down that petty of a path. How does any of that build up our community or bring us closer together? I was trying to bring us closer together. I was not forcing my candidate on anyone. I was posting for those interested. Those not interested could have just ignored the post. I would have welcomed a respectful debate on any issue we might disagree on, but that wasn’t on the table here.

I didn’t share one of my political blog posts, or a meme. I posted a local event that I thought other people in my local community might be interested in. I wasn’t selling anything. I was volunteering my time, and inviting others to join. 

Being a liberal Democratic voter, I am used to getting called a snowflake, a smash-up between liberal and the R word (I don’t get how this makes anyone a better person, smashing up the R word with anything), and I get labeled with some sort of allegiance to a “deep state”/do-nothing Democratic Party.  Ironically, a “Do-Nothing” Congress has a specific meaning that most aren’t aware of (The ‘do-nothing Congress’ graduates to the ‘do-nothing-much Congress’: 12/20/2016) It’s not all of Congress, in the current session, and voters need to check that. Right now, the Senate is the problem, thanks to Mitch McConnell and every Senator not standing up to his corruption.

When it comes to volunteering for a campaign, or spending time paying attention to politics, our representatives, campaigns for office, and our elections, I just think this country needs to really consider our individual responsibility. I believe we get what we put into our democracy.  If we want our government to work better, we might just have to do some work ourselves.

Right now is the primary season for the Presidential elections.  If you are registered with a political party, this is your chance to have a say in who will run for President in your party. This is it. You can support candidates who you believe will represent your community for the better. 

I believe that sitting on the sidelines, painting all politicians and elected officials as bad people, is lazy. Our democracy takes more work than to moan and complain, from the cheap seats. It requires that we are part of it. We are meant to be an informed member of the electorate. We are meant to pay attention to how our representatives are representing us. We are supposed to call them and contact them and tell them how we want them to vote. We are supposed to challenge them. We are supposed to show up to town halls, and if they don’t hold town halls insist that they do. We should write, call, email, and get on social media. If we are up to it, we should run for office.

I will absolutely vote for the Democratic nominee, but more than that I will volunteer for them, I will campaign for them, and I will not sit on the sidelines, because our democracy demands that we all work for it. It’s up to us to make it as good as it can be, and the more that we participate, the more that we are involved, the more our democracy can deliver for us all. 

I believe it is a privilege that I have, this freedom to elect representatives who are bound to serve my interest. I believe it is my civic duty to make sure they do, and if they don’t, it’s my responsibility to call them out, and support a challenger if they don’t do right by my community. I cherish this right, this privilege, and this opportunity, to have a say in how my government works. I wish more would join me.

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
—George Jean Nathan

Today and Tomorrow

Today the House impeached President Trump. During the debate, the Republicans failed their oaths, as they tried to distract from the proceedings. They stomped their feet, and refused to acknowledge that Trump asked for a favor in return for Congressionally approved aid. They made him out to be a martyr, suggesting he has been treated worse that Jesus. For some reason, that won’t offend Christians.  They don’t seem to care that Trump attempted to use our tax dollars, so to leverage dirt on a political opponent, because he wanted to rig the election in his favor. That is not respecting the will of the people, or his duty as a public servant.

Republicans claimed that Democratic voters and Congressional reps have wanted Trump gone since the beginning of his administration. They aren’t wrong, but why does that matter? I have wanted him gone for his refusal to be transparent and accountable to the people. Where are his tax returns? The people have a right to know what the President is hiding in them. President Carter had to sell his peanut farm, but Trump, who was just recently reported to have 2 sets of books for just one of his properties, and no one in the GOP seems at all concerned about the need for him to be transparent to the people.

He tears babies from their parent’s arms and locks them in cages, to be neglected and guarded by armed white supremacists, who don’t even have to pass background checks. The kids’ records aren’t kept and kids are being sold to private adoption agencies, while the parents are coerced into signing deportation papers they can’t read.

He is repealing environmental regulations meant to protect our planet, our breathable air, and our drinkable water.

He manufactured a trade war with China, so that he could have a reason to trigger a farm bailout, which didn’t help small family farms at all. Instead it went to corporate farms who donate to his campaign and GOP campaigns. Meanwhile massive numbers of smaller farms are ending in bankruptcy.  Just one in a number of kleptocratic grifts Trump is openly commmitting from the White House.

He is working tirelessly, not for the people, but in an effort to dismantle our health care so that only the wealthy can afford to get any care. This is one the GOP isn’t just ignoring, but are 100% on board with. They don’t want the government to ensure health care for every citizen. They want it privatized, because that ensures their campaign coffers stay fat.

Despite all of this, none of it has anything to do with why Trump was impeached today. He abused the power entrusted to him, by the people. When he took the oath of office, there isn’t any part of me that believes he understood what the oath meant, or cared about its meaning.

The thing is, ignorance is not an excuse. Whether he knows or cares, he chose to take a job that comes with requirements. He is not a king. He works for the people, and he swore an oath to uphold the constitution. So did Republicans in Congress. Attempting to extort a foreign leader, in an effort to find dirt on a political opponent and swing an election in his favor, is a high crime. It has to be. There is no basis for debating the merit. The transcript clearly shows that he attempted to bribe a leader with our tax dollars, for his own self-interest, in an effort to subvert the will of the people.

Republicans complained that he isn’t being given any chance to defend himself. This is an abject lie. The White House has received multiple requests for documents and for witnesses to testify. Trump and the White House have refused this opportunity to participate in the process, which no other White House has ever done. This obstruction flies in the face of Congressional oversight, and the checks and balances of our government. It is also not what any innocent person would do. It is not what someone who respects our constitution and laws would do.

When this is all over we will see whether the GOP in the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, will allow a fair trial or whether they too will obstruct justice in order to cover for Trump’s crimes. We the people must demand that our Senators call witnesses, including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who said from the press briefing room that the President attempted a quid pro quo and that this happens all the time. He said we should get over it. I never will.

We must demand that the GOP not make a sham of this impeachment, simply because it hurts their political advantage. The constitution and our democracy demands they put the country ahead of their greed and desire for political power. We the people must also be ready to work in 2020. We have a big year ahead, and not just because of the Presidential election. If we do not unseat McConnell, he will keep stalling hundreds of House bills meant to help people, and he will just keep stacking the courts with wholly unqualified lifetime appointments. The GOP will keep trying to suppress voters and we must fight that with voter registrations and grassroots efforts to get out the vote. We must win in big margins, because we know Russia is hacking voting machines, and McConnell refuses to pass the election security bill on his desk. We need to be willing to vote, get friends to vote, and volunteer on campaigns to get the vote out in record high numbers.

Our democracy requires that we the people get more involved. A representative democracy only works if we speak up about how we want to be represented. We need to be diligent and stay informed. We need to vet information, before sharing it online. We need to be ready to vote in our party primaries, so that we voice our say in who the nominees should be, for all offices on the ballot. We have to get past purity tests and compare the candidates on the ballot to ensure we make our votes count.  We have to convince people on the fence what the math comes down to. Democrats are generally registered in higher numbers, but Republicans vote in higher numbers.  This creates a lot of razor thin majorities. We need to be willing to have those conversations with our 3rd party friends, about the statistical reality. Voting for a Republican will mean the Republican wins. Voting 3rd party, will ensure the Republican wins. Not voting, helps the Republican win.  The only way we ensure the Republicans don’t win, is if we vote Democrat in high enough numbers, that we sweep the math.

We also need to help people understand the reality of which way the wind is actually blowing in this country. That starts with making sure maps show the populations that vote, instead of the land, which doesn’t vote.

This is a good way to show the reality:
Land Doesn’t Vote, People Do: This Electoral Map Tells the Real Story

Wired also covered this well:
Is the US Leaning Red or Blue? It All Depends on Your Map

I’m a fan of pointilism maps.  I feel they really show the political reality of our people very well.

All in all, we need to be in this for the long haul. We need to get non-voters engaged and we need to get citizens to keep voting in all elections. We should have 90% + turnout in every election, and until we do, we shouldn’t be surprised at why things are so dysfunctional. We get what we put in to our democracy, and right now we are in the red. It’s time for a serious investment in the health of our democracy. And yes, yes, I know. It’s a republic. It’s honestly a democratic republic, and it only works if we the people are running it.

Today we impeached. Tomorrow we move forward with upholding the law, and demanding that our government be accountable and transparent to the people.

By the people and for the people.

A Little Time for a lot of Freedom

There is a local election on Tuesday, November 5th. I’m not hopeful that turnout will be anything impressive, because it never is in local election years. View my post on that here: Who is Going to Fix the Potholes?

Because I follow news and elections closely, I can afford to be lax about looking up info to prepare myself for the election.  I didn’t sit down to do it until this weekend.  I needed to look up my registration, view my ballot, and look up info on the candidates.  This way, I will be an informed member of the electorate.  It sounds fancy, but it just means I won’t go into a voting booth blind.  I will do my research and know who is running, and who I want representing me.

First, I looked up my registration.  It took 4 minutes and 14 seconds.  I went to the Monroe County Board of Elections website.  I did that, because it’s my local county’s Board of Elections. They have my ballot, and they will tally my vote.  That way, I’m getting my information right from the source.

Now I’ve got my polling place and what number districts I’m in, for county legislature, state legislature, Congressional districts. What’s more, they have the option for me to view my ballot.  This lets me see what it will look like, when I vote on Tuesday. It shows me all the races, what candidates are on what party lines, and any propositions on the ballot.

I then grabbed all that info and put it in a spreadsheet.  That looks like this:

I’m not expecting everyone to do this, but if you do, it can help to really consider your options.  The ballot gave me the first 3 columns of info.  It took me about 19 minutes to do it. The reason I did this, is for the 4th column. I wanted to look up each candidate’s website or social media page, so I could learn a bit about their platform.  To do that, I went to the Monroe County Democratic Committee website and the Monroe County Republican Committee website.  They will have links to any candidate that they have endorsed. Any on a 3rd party line, and not endorse by either of those two parties, I googled.

Doing that took me 16 minutes.  So, from start to finish, I spent 40 minutes. That leaves me 20 minutes to look at each candidate’s site for a minute or so and see if they are for me.

Come Tuesday, people will be elected to those offices. If turnout is typical of a local election year, about 30% of registered voters will decide those races.  That means about 15%-20% of the population will show up to decide who represents 100% of us. That’s just not enough.  Elected officials will not have any incentive to work in the people’s interest, if the people aren’t even paying attention.

I don’t expect everyone to make spreadsheets, but we owe it to ourselves to know who wants to represent us. Take the 5 minutes to look up your registration, and grab your ballot.  Then you can look up the candidates, and know who the best choice is.  Abstaining means allowing your last choice to end up in power.

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
~ Elie Wiesel

As a country, we need to all make sure we don’t take our vote for granted. It is most certainly under attack.

 

Best Eggplant Parmesan is with Tomatoes!

I know, eggplant parmesan has marinara sauce. That’s not what this is about.  I get a 1/2 share of a CSA.  It’s a local co-op of farms, and you sign up to get a weekly box of fruits and veggies (and other stuff, if you choose to purchase those shares). I get a 1/2 share, because I am single and the amount I get from that is more than enough.

Last week, we get eggplant, which is such an awesome one to get in season.  They were on the small side, but I really wanted to make eggplant parmesan. Its a great dish, and I can container it for lunch for the week.  I went on pinterest and found this great recipe.

Best Baked Eggplant Parmesan

I LOVE this recipe for so many reasons.

  1. It uses 1/2 panko and 1/2 traditional breadcrumbs, which creates a great mixture
  2. It calls for fresh mozzarella.  This makes it sooooo much better than bagged shredded
  3. It recommends fresh parmesan
  4. It also calls for fresh basil

Because I worried about having enough eggplant, I had to find a way to “beef” it up.  I realized I had gotten beefsteak tomatoes in the CSA too, and the recipe had instructions for breading and baking the eggplant on a sheet in the oven.  It’s really similar to a baked version of a fried green tomato.  Eureka!  I did one sheet full of eggplant, and one sheet of tomatoes.

I also used an oven-roasted marinara that I had made prior, which was also full of CSA veggies.  That recipe is here:

Oven Roasted Marinara

I didn’t have any tomato paste to add, and wished I had, after I tried it over pasta, but when I added it to this dish, it came out glorious. I add a quartered bell pepper and a quartered jalapeño pepper to the veggies I roast. I then add 1-2 cans of tomato paste when I throw everything in the processor.

 

 

I will forever make my eggplant parm this way.

The Newb Perspective

I joined Twitter in 2009, but I didn’t really get it.  I followed a few accounts, mostly friends, and some other accounts I can’t really recall.  In 2015, as the Presidential campaign heated up, I started to get more active.  It turns out there are are few interests that draw people to a live feed platform, like Twitter.  From my observations, twitter is meant to be a public forum, unlike Facebook, which is more where friends and families can connect, and can keep their circle closed if they want. Twitter is great for live-tweeting events (and tv shows) , and for engaging in news of the moment.

My interests on Twitter are mostly politics, activism, and news.  I also love all the kitties and following actors I like, but when it comes to politics, Twitter is great. It at least has the potential to be great.  I can follow my reps. I can follow excellent journalists covering elected officials, and I can engage with them using tools like resistbot.  In college, a senior student came to speak to one of my poli sci classes.  He said something to the effect of “This 4 years here, will be what you make of them.”  It seems the same goes for most social media platforms.

Many complain that Twitter is a cesspool, because of all the trolls, and hate that can infiltrate conversations. They aren’t wrong, and that is a problem.  It gets made worse, because foreign interests are paying for bot accounts to pop up and fuel discord and online fighting.  How can one avoid it?  I imagine it would be pretty difficult. I often get caught up in fighting with someone, before realizing I should just block them.  But that is only one part of the problem.  The entire concept of the platform is geared for people to seek having high follower accounts, lots of retweets and likes, and to get the elusive blue check mark. That’s the golden ticket to being legit on this site. All others might be bots, trolls, an account that was bought and sold, or some pathetic loser like me, who just wants to be part of the conversation.

Following a number of well-respected and verified accounts, there are often a lot of tweets reprimanding people for bad twitter etiquette. Most commonly, this is tagging someone in a reply or retweet, that the original tweeter did not tag.  I have to agree, it’s a crappy thing to do.  You open up that person to attacks that they did not sign up for. It was their decision to tag someone or not. To overrule their decision is certainly something another tweeter can do, but it’s also a bad move.  This contributes to the cesspool environment.

I have learned a lot in the last 3 years, as I have become increasingly active on Twitter.  My follower account is in no way impressive, though I feel I make up for it with the massive amount of accounts I follow. I’m a liberal Democrat, and I see a lot of people posting with a hashtag of #FBR which is for the follow back resistance.  I don’t really get this. It seems like a disingenuous way to up your follower account. People can certainly pay to promote tweets, which is most certainly disingenuous, although I would understand if it was for a political campaign or for someone selling products or services.

What baffles me, is the way some people use the platform, in what seems like a manner that doesn’t align with the values they profess.  People will like tweets from people they don’t support, and I don’t understand that.  They will retweet a post from someone hateful, which they are mostly doing to say, “Hey look. This awful person said this awful thing.” but they don’t add any context or refute the original tweet in any way.  What purpose does that serve, other than to spread the hate or misinformation? It elevates it with your account.

I consider myself a newb on the platform because I don’t use any analytical tools, or promote my tweets, and I don’t have that pretty blue check mark.  I tweet and follow people/accounts I like hearing from.  I refuse to follow people who I don’t support or like.  I will never follow Trump. I blocked him a while ago, because I think Twitter has a bad exception to their policy, by saying they will suspend and ban accounts that spread hate, but they won’t apply that standard to a world leader.  Does that mean if Hitler or Stalin were alive today, they would let them spread their hate, free from consequence?

It seems to me that we, the users of the platform, have the power and responsibility to use this tool in a way that will ensure it is one that promotes the good and bans the bad, whether the company’s admins are consistent or not. These are my self-imposed guidelines for being a good tweeter:

  1. Don’t tag someone in a reply or retweet, if they weren’t tagged in the original tweet. If you want to tag that person, write your own tweet. If they were sharing an article, bring up the article, grab the link and make your own tweet. The exception to tagging someone not tagged in an original tweet, is if the account is not a person, like a media outlet such as The Washington Post.
  2. Don’t follow people you don’t support. You up their follower account, and legitimize them. The exception is for journalists who have to follow people to report on them. I feel for them. This also applies to elected officials, who may need to follow other representatives they don’t disagree with. If it’s for your job, that makes sense. Otherwise, I don’t get doing that, as it elevates that person.
  3. Don’t like tweets that you actually do not like. It offers no context and gives the illusion that what was said is popular.
  4. If retweeting something bad, the retweet should contain context, correction of any lies/inaccuracies, or refuting what was said. Only retweet tweets without saying anything, if what was said stands as is. If someone said something and said it well, don’t feel the need to say more on top of it. Retweet it and elevate that voice.
  5. In line with 3 and 4, think of retweeting and likes as endorsements and recommendations. If you don’t agree with the original tweet, say so, or don’t like/retweet it.
  6. Make sure to tweet your own tweets, so that your entire timeline isn’t just retweets and likes. It’s important to make sure your twitter timeline has your own voice, as much as a feed that shares and elevates the voices of those you admire and agree with.
  7. Be respectful. This should be number 1, but I didn’t really go in order.  It can be hard, when firing off your passionate response to something, but keep in mind that there is a human being (generally) on the other end. I am not always good at this, but I always try. Don’t put something online, that you wouldn’t really say to someone’s face. If your argument is that you would be rude to someone’s face, I wouldn’t brag about that.
  8. Give credit where credit is due.  I’ve seen that there are accounts out there, who steal tweets from other people.  Not cool. When you find out someone you follow is stealing someone else’s words, un-follow them, and follow the original tweeter. It’s not easy being original and coming up with good content. Don’t reward accounts that steal from others.
  9. Report, report, report.  When an account is threatening or harassing someone you follow, report them and block them. It helps Twitter to weed out the bad actors.  I would say that 99% of the tweets I report come back as an account that Twitter found violated their policies. The trick is identifying what the account is doing wrong, so that you pick the right reporting option. Is it just offensive? We can’t really expect Twitter to respond to every person being offended. Are they harassing someone? Are they threatening someone? I consider that the most important to report. Are they spreading hate toward a group of people? Get that content off the site, by reporting it. Then block them, so they won’t end up in your world again.
  10. Verify if you aren’t sure. If someone tweets something, but they don’t have a source, take a minute to look it up. If you have to, bookmark the tweet, so you can go verify it later, before sharing it.  I know, how annoying. We want everything to be easy and convenient, but if we want quality, we may have to sacrifice some of the quantity. Take the time to do some searching and find a source that either proves or disproves what is being said. If it will help, include the source you find, in your retweet or reply. Make it your standard that you demand receipts be part of the conversation.

These aren’t exactly visionary guidelines, but I think if everyone followed them, we could make the platform better than it is.  Those spreading hate and being hateful, would have less visibility, and those creating good content, would be seen.

If everyone follows good guidelines we can, as a mass user base, affect how the platform works and is used.  It takes some self control and discipline, but it gets easier and easier, once you employ the standards that will make it a better place to be.

That’s at least what this newb thinks.

Such a Shame to Miss the First Man

It’s a shame that people missed First Man, because they were too busy being pissed about wanting bragging rights as the country that landed on the moon first.  This movie wasn’t about who got there first. Landing on the moon wasn’t kids racing in a school yard. It was so much bigger than that.  It was about humanity, at it’s core. It was about the man, not just the mission.  The movie was personal, and told the story of a man and a mission.  America did land on the moon first, but space exploration is something that has been accomplished by our world and our species. America accomplished that extraordinary feat in the name of our world.
Somewhere along the way, we were entrusted with being the leader of the free world. It wasn’t because that’s what we were. It’s because that was our promise to become.  We were to be a country of immigrants, and slaves who would be freed, and asylum seekers, and refugees, and native born people. We would show how a country of countries would be the example of a free and fair nation. We would be the standard, for the world, as to how people can have individual and collective sovereignty. Each person would be inherently equal.  Their rights would be unencumbered, insofar as no one person’s will would infringe upon the right of another’s.
This movie, brought us up into the atmosphere where the collective reached new heights, yet also brought us into the heart of family, of life and death, of love and sorrow. It brought to bear, bonds of friendship, community, and a collective bond between people who would seek to accomplish a mission bigger than one person. It would be out of many one. E pluribus unum.
Those who dissed this movie, for not bragging, also miss that this story was not the whole story of our collective country, during this moment in time. This idyllic snapshot did not include all of our people, nor all of our bonds. Just as they judged the movie by it’s preview, they also fail to see beyond the myopic view of what we accomplished. We cannot hope to reach our promise, if we do not see all of our past, as it bears on our current challenges. We will never make good on who we pledged to become, if we do not recognize, that the bonds many of our country’s citizens shared during this golden age of discovery, looked very different. Until we can recognize our collective truth, we cannot realize our overall mission. For us to achieve the next big leap for mankind, we must first see all of human kind. It is the bridge we must cross.  We must see each other, and all must be seen.
The paradox of this story, is the notion of what one person is and can be, as well as what people can accomplish in a collective bond. Too many of our country is still busy judging that some people should not form a collective bond, and it is antithetical to our nature as a species. The reasons are never more than superficial. Almost always, they are the color of our skin, skewed and distorted views of another’s beliefs, and they completely miss the point. The bond people can make, has the power and the energy and the fuel to create something more than any single people will ever achieve. The more we can bond together, in commonality and purpose, the more we can be as a whole.