The Elected Official Accountability Act

I feel like we are seeing the need for our elected officials to be accountable. How do we make that happen?

They swear an oath, but I have yet to see elected officials be held accountable to the oath they swear.  I get that Nixon was held accountable, but that is how rare it is, to see that happen. Nixon is notorious, not because he was President, but because he was a President who was held accountable.

If elected officials were consistently held accountable, I would think Senator McConnell would no longer be in office.  He publicly stated that his top priority was to make President Obama a one term President. He publicly stated that his agenda was to make sure the President was not successful in anything, good bad or otherwise.  That is not what he was elected to do.  We don’t elect people to just obstruct progress, just because it comes from the other side of the aisle (or because you’re racist).  He has perverted the laws of Congress, to be spiteful, and prevent our country from moving forward.

I say no more. I say, people should run for office, and there should be better requirements for those who choose to run.  I say, if you are an elected official, you should be held to a standard.  We have previously held elected officials to a higher standard, and they self-policed. They held themselves to that standard.  In the past 10-15 years, this has eroded, as despots have learned they can funnel money and influence through campaign contributions. They can propose and stall legislation, not for the benefit of the people they serve, but the lobbying firms they will eventually retire to.  It’s fraught with conflict and impropriety, and it is on us citizens to demand it be corrected.

I am certain that political scholars can come up with a better, and more comprehensive list, but I want to get something down on “paper”. I want us to look at what should be passed, as laws, for those running and elected to public office. If you choose to serve in our government, you should be held to legal accountability, not just an intangible “should”. Breaking those laws should involve a thorough investigation, and if found guilty, jail and/or fines. Fines must include cost to taxpayers, including the investigation costs. There must be tangible repercussions, or our government will be filled with kleptocrats.

Candidates’ Requirements

  • All candidates are required to disclose the previous 10 years of tax returns
    • This includes all personal, business and charitable organizations
  • Complete a government competency exam
    • A basic application, with questions to the level of government office they are seeking
    • Nothing too hard, maybe 50 questions
    • Competency and basic knowledge should be a requirement for seeking public office
  • Clean record
    • Any criminal record should be reviewed by a bipartisan elected body, who decides whether the crimes deem them unfit for public office
      • DWI’s?
      • Domestic Abuse?
      • Fraud?
  • It must be illegal to accept campaign contributions from any entity that a representative may favor or disfavor by laws and regulations (end Citizens United)

Elected Officials (All)

  • Expand the oath to include (to the effect) “I will not knowingly lie or mislead the American public; my constituents”
  • Legislative representatives are prohibited from approving raises or setting their own salaries
    • It should be a co-equal branch of government
    • It should never be more than 2x the average salary in America
    • If the legislative body does not submit a timely budget or adds to deficit, this should preclude them from getting a raise
  • Legislative representatives are to be compensated during elected term, not after
    • Life-long pensions create an incentive to abuse public office
    • In no private employment, do spouses get life-long benefits of an employee. It’s insane that our government would use precious tax dollars to give unearned pensions to the spouses of elected officials. That money could go to veterans and the homeless population
  • No law may be passed that excludes representatives from following the laws of ordinary citizens
    • This includes actions like passing health care laws, with provisions that exclude representatives from being bound to it
  • Must disclose all tax payer expenses for office costs (remodels, furniture)
    • Any expenses not deemed necessary, or deemed lavish must be paid back personally
  • Must disclose all tax payer expenses for travel
    • Any expenses not deemed necessary, or deemed lavish must be paid back personally
  • It must be illegal to accept campaign contributions from any entity that a representative may influence by laws and regulations (end Citizens United)
  • Upon leaving public office, representatives may not seek employment with lobbying firms or any entity that contributed to their elected office, for 5 years (non-compete)

I would love a legislator to propose an actual bill to this effect. I want elected officials to be what our founding fathers envisioned they be.  I always thought they wanted elected officials to be us.  It was meant to be one of our patriotic duties.  Represent the people, and then return to private life.  It was never meant to be a career, although I don’t have a problem with that. If you want to spend your life representing people, I don’t think that is a problem, but I do think we need accountability, transparency and an assurance that our representatives aren’t conflicted with kickbacks and quid pro quo improprieties.

One of the critical aspects to ensuring our democracy can thrive and survive, must be that our elected representatives be legally bound to the service they are elected to hold. This is not a private job, at a private company, where they can set their own standard.  Our government must have a standard, and it should be one that the public can know and trust in. It should be one of transparency and one of a responsibility to the people, as opposed to their own benefit from holding office.

One Upstate New York Democrat’s View on Cynthia Nixon and the Governor’s Race

I’m not sold yet. I have my disagreements with Cuomo, but he’s got a lot of good experience and has handled a lot of tough choices. I am proud of how involved he’s been in Puerto Rico’s recovery, while our President* threw paper towels and ran. Cuomo is also a very inclusive Governor. He’s capable and is a reasonable person, from what I’ve seen. Whether any of his opposition like it or not, The first paragraph on this website is full of verifiable, hard numbers of what he’s accomplished Governor Cuomo 2016 Accomplishments – website

  • FY 2017 Budget, for the sixth consecutive year, keeps spending below 2 percent
  • Implementing the lowest middle class tax rate in 70 years.
  • Passing a $15 statewide minimum wage
  • 12 weeks of paid family leave
  • Reforms to combat the devastating effects of the Citizens United decision
  • Comprehensive plan to end New York’s heroin and opioid epidemic

There’s more after that, and that’s just for one year. He is getting stuff done, which is not easy in government bureaucracy.

I would like to see our Governor legalize marijuana with way less restriction medically, as well as recreationally. We are already growing hemp. We can help farmers and grow our economy. I would like New York state to decriminalize marijuana. People of color are disproportionately jailed for possession, when white people consume it at the same rate (ACLU – Report: The War on Marijuana in Black and White). I would like more help for upstate city schools, like Rochester, where I live. I want these schools to thrive. I want the kids, in this community, to thrive. I want the teachers and faculty to have the resources, facilities, and the pay they need and earn.

I want us to invest even more in renewable energies that make sense for our climate and region.  I want us to address homelessness in a progressive manner. Tiny homes, comprehensive mental and physical health care. Continuing education and job assistance.  We are stepping in the right direction, by starting to help some families, with community college costs. I think of it like ACA. At least we started something. We put something in place, where there was nothing, in an attempt to go in the right direction. Now let’s look at what is working and what can still be improved. Let’s just keep doing that, until we get to a place where we thrive. Other countries do it, and I think we can too.

I want us to crack down on abuse. Whether it be domestic abuse, animal abuse, human trafficking, wild animal trafficking, any kind of violence. We need to protect the victims and survivors, rather than the law being dedicated to the rights of the abusers and perpetrators. The ones abused end up losing rights, and that injustice has never been addressed.

To be fair, I want this (extensive) agenda of every elected official, and I want much more.

As for Nixon, I think she’s an intelligent woman, who’s got a good resume of activism and advocacy, and seems to be a person with a moral compass. I’m just not sure about starting at Governor. How much time has she really spent in NY towns and cities outside NYC area? Being Governor is a huge job.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m so happy so many citizens are running for elected office, all over the country. That is how our democracy will thrive. It’s just my personal philosophy on public service, that I wish people would start local, when deciding to run for elected office.

I get that “anyone can be President”. I also think we’ve seen, that it doesn’t mean anyone should be. Just because a person fits the legal qualifications (those could be better, by the by), that doesn’t mean they necessarily have the resume, and are qualified to handle the responsibilities of the job.

I wasn’t hired as CEO at my current job, because that would not match my qualifications (at all). I know it’s cliche, but it does follow. It’s not a 100% rule, and she may certainly transcend the norm. Some people just rock whatever they do. I didn’t agree with Schwarzenegger on LGBTQ matters, but he didn’t destroy California. Not like Trump is doing to our federal government.

Being an elected official, particularly in the executive branch, is a lot of crisis management, in addition to policy and agenda campaigning. It’s fighting over paying for staples, education, lifetime Congressional pensions (yes, I know that’s federal, not state level, just felt like slipping that in). It’s dealing with ensuring agencies respond during weather emergencies, and handling other such unpredictable occurrences, that derail agendas and budgets, constantly.  I don’t see how someone can just be in charge, of a whole state, until they have some experience at a local or regional level first. She may have other resume qualifications, that can make up for a lack of this type of experience. I don’t know enough yet, as I’m still learning about her, and how her candidacy compares to Cuomo’s.

She may well be the best candidate, but I’m definitely undecided right now. I am concerned about this leap, straight to Governor, and it does make me lean toward keeping the experience we have in Cuomo. We have more critical seats to overturn, in this election, and sometimes it’s not just about someone deciding to run for a specific seat. It’s also about which incumbents are measured, progressive, and not half bad.  There are some really bad elected officials out there, and while Cuomo may not be 100% perfect, I don’t think he’s so bad, that we need to run him out of town either.

We will never have perfect elected officials, and it’s folly to attempt that.  It’s also easy for our opponents to help fan the flames of our strongest candidates’ weaknesses, so that we end up with weaker candidates. They tried with Bernie, and people ate it up. Purist ideology politics will sink us.  The idea is that people represent people.  People are human, and the best we should expect from our candidates and officials is honesty and transparency.

I know some people can’t stand Cuomo, but I feel like that is a lot about the divisive “right has to hate left” attitude, drowning out reasonably acknowledging the merits of the other side. Yes, I acknowledge that left has to hate right also exists.  I acknowledge there are good Republican elected officials. I have voted for Republicans, and will again, if they are the better candidate.

I don’t think Cuomo is given a fair assessment. (Clinton, Pelosi, and Schumer too.) The hardest part about engaging in the political process, as a citizen, seems to be taking the time to identify good elected officials.  It’s easier to crap on the process, wash your hands of participating, and write them off as all bad and corrupt. It takes more time to keep up with your representatives. Know whether they keep their promises and are responsive, when you reach out to tell them how you want to be represented.  It takes work, but that is the real patriotic duty of every citizen.

We are supposed to pay attention to who is representing our interests, and who would like to represent us next. We must all hold our officials accountable to the oath they swear, to defend the Constitution. This includes inherent rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I know for a fact, that there are really wonderful public servants, and some really great new candidates this year. A lot of principled, well-meaning citizens are representing us, or want to, in all levels of government. I should know. I used to work at the Board of Elections.

I get that it’s harsh to say, but unless Nixon really is that much better than Cuomo, I’d rather focus our campaign resources on other races, where there are real threats to our democracy sitting in those seats. In a healthy democracy, I hope to see debate and compromise across the aisle, as well as within each party. That can’t happen, when our government is being controlled and abused by one party.

When one side of the aisle is acting like kleptocratic, jingoistic, xenophobic, fascists, we can’t afford in-fighting. We must band together and defeat our common enemy first. Threats to our democracy. It must be stopped in its tracks, before we can utilize our democracy, to work out the rest.

Still. I’m not sure yet, on Nixon, for Governor. We’ll see.

No matter what, I absolutely LOVE her acting, activism, and advocacy.

The Accidental Wisdom of America

One of the interesting aspects of the times we are in, is that people on both sides of the political aisle, want to be able to say they are proud to be American. We all want to say this is a great country, but many people are realizing that our history and our country’s foundation may not have been as rosey and great as we were led to believe.  The challenge then becomes, how do we have pride in our country? Well, I think we can still be proud of America, and be proud of what our country can be, without lying about our history and how we were founded.

Did Christopher Columbus discover America, and was he a cool dude, deserving of a national holiday?  No.  He didn’t “discover” America, and it’s long past time for us to stop celebrating him. What about John Smith? Was he cool? Not really, but I’m not an expert historian, so I’m not going to fine tooth comb his good and bad qualities. I do think we’ve had enough of celebrating the white men of our past. We should have a national holiday, to celebrate Pocahontas, who was strong, fearless, and stood up for her community.  The early immigrants to this country warred with Native Americans, and shipped in kidnapped, trafficked and enslaved people, predominantly from African countries.  Today we would call that human trafficking. It is the truth of how we built this nation.

Our forefathers did get one thing right though, and that was a desire to not be oppressed.  I know. It’s ironic, considering how they oppressed people of color, not to mention women. (Women have been oppressed since the dawn of time, but that’s another discussion). Our founding fathers were hypocrites about it, but they wrote our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution in a way that was intended to secure freedom for all people of this country.  Since the inception of this country, and to this day, African Americans have never known a time where they were not oppressed, and neither have Native Americans. We are not the country we claim to be, but we were founded on the wisdom that all people should be free and equally free.  It wasn’t necessarily their aim, for people of color to be equal, nor Native Americans, nor women.

But that is the accidental wisdom of this country’s foundation. It’s incredible, that our slave owning framers wrote a democracy that could create freedom for every man, woman and child. Not based on skin color, gender, or orientation. Based on the self-evident truth that all [people] are created equal.  Their documents have mostly stood the test of time, and today we keep pushing the needle forward. We are beginning to even talk about the casual, and not so casual, oppression of women.  Whether it be in economic disparity, or straight up sexual assault, intimidation and rape, the conversation is getting louder.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” ~ Theodore Parker

We have never had the equality, that we like to pretend we were founded on.  The grand irony of our country is that our founding fathers were rich lords. They weren’t all social progressives. They wore white wigs, tights, and most of them had slaves.  But they wrote the framework for our country, in a way that could move with us through time. We have the potential for equality, and a democracy that can protect it.  We just have to keep pushing the needle in that direction.

We have to be willing to amend the parts of our democratic framework, where we have learned a better more principled way to govern. We have to be willing to live up to that fundamental truth of a right to full equality for every citizen.  We must ensure our democracy continues to protect it, through our changing times. Our democracy must grow organically as it needs to, so we can be allowed to make changes, such as explicitly protecting the rights of minorities.

So maybe we can all be proud of what our country is about in truth, instead of a lie. We were founded, in truth, by a bloody history of oppression. We still have oppression today, but we are also still moving forward.  Like the unfinished pyramid on the back of our $1 bill, our country will never be “finished”. It is a living, ever progressing ideal. We can always do better.  We can always be better.  One way is to stop lying about our history; our past. We have an incredibly racist history.

That’s who we are, and we won’t wash our hands from it, by sweeping it under the rug, putting on rose colored glasses, and pretending it didn’t happen.  We won’t be able to move forward, if we insist on pretending racism isn’t alive and well today.  We need to address police brutality and accountability. We need to address for-profit prisons, and mandatory minimums. We need to address economic inequality and the need for equal access, to an equal quality, free, and public education.

We won’t be able to have gender equality, if we act like the #MeToo movement and people starting to speak out, is the end of the conversation.  It’s just the beginning.  We need to address how we can get equal pay to happen, and not just by outing differences in pay. We need to look at how our companies should be required, much in the same way affirmative action is done, to pay women equal to men, and to pay minorities the same as non-minorities.

I’m proud to be an American.  Like most countries, our past is not necessarily something we should be completely proud of. I’m proud of the “resistors”, who have stood up throughout our history.  I’m proud of the Harriet Tubmans, and the Allison Pauls, and the Martin Luther King Jrs. I’m proud of the every day citizens, who volunteer, march, run for office, and work to make communities a place of inclusion and equality. I’m proud of every citizen who shows up to vote, and knows that voting is the most patriotic thing a citizen can do. We should have 100% turnout, rather than the 30% – 50% we currently get.

I’m proud of the accidental wisdom of this country.  Even though we have yet to achieve it, we were founding on the ideal that we are all inherently equal.  The best a country/government can be, is one which protects and serves all citizens equally.  I believe we will get there someday, and it will happen when we can look at our past honestly, as well as our present.  It will happen when we come together, and stand up, not just for ourselves, but for each other. That’s how a people can preserve a democracy, and that is some awesome wisdom.

How Do We Climb Out of This Mess Together?

Friday February 5, 2018

I’m talking about the divisiveness. I’m talking about the crappy way our political parties are divided.  There is the perceived containers, between Democrat and Republicans.  For social programs vs for fiscal conservatism. Then there is the reality. This is the latest, that I am looking at:

I really want to know what it would look like, if we got rid of ideological politics, i.e. political parties. What do we gain by them anyway? There are conservative democrats, there are pro-choice republicans, there are aisle crossovers, left, right, and mostly moderate/centers.  What would happen to our political process, if we didn’t have parties, and we just had candidates? Each one, not shoved into a political-party style box, but just who they are, and what they stand for. What would that do to our government’s task of over-seeing elections? Would we still have a need for primaries?

I have some thoughts. Will write more later.
Monday February 8, 2018

So, here is what I’m thinking.  Maybe without political parties, we can have primaries to just narrow the field to a top 3 contenders.  Our elections have rarely, if ever, had more than 3 candidates with a viable chance to win. What’s more important, is that without having to run on a political party line, the candidates won’t be tagged with a political party’s entire agenda.  Most candidates and elected officials don’t have an agenda that is 100% aligned with a political party.  Where they differ, often times leads people to say, well they aren’t 100% aligned, so they are flawed in some way.

I think we should also look at the kind of requirements we should have, for anyone running for elected office.  We have never had any requirements, but why? Because it is representation by the people, for the people.  Well, that is nice in theory, but it has resulted in a lot of unqualified people in positions of power.  What’s more, it’s led to an abuse of power.

So what kind of requirements should we be talking about?  Well first, I think we need a requirement of transparency.  Regardless of the level of government you are running to represent, you are signing up to represent the interests of the citizens.  When two people start dating, it’s important to both get tested, for STDs.  You get trust, by earning trust.

  • Anyone running for and/or elected to public office, must release their tax returns, for the previous 10 years. This needs to be a requirement, not just a norm. It should come with financial disclosures. All tax returns:
    • Personal
    • Business
    • Non-profit foundations
    • Any other income or debts
    • Any non-disclosed information identified will be grounds for expulsion/impeachment from office

Anyone appointed to serve on staff, at the federal level, should be required to submit the same.

I also think that anyone running for office, should have to prove their competency at understanding and applying our laws. We like to believe that anyone should be able to step up and run for office. I love that ideal, but if you are making the commitment to represent the people, under the framework of our constitution and laws, you must also make the commitment to knowing them and upholding them.

  •  Every candidate for office should be required to take and pass the citizenship exam

Most campaigns fight over debates.  The candidate stronger at debating, or strategically in a position of needing more air time, will want more debates.  The weaker debater or already strong in the polls, may not want debates.  This shouldn’t be up to the candidates.  There should be a set number and unbiased format for all debates.  They should have an amount, schedule, format and content based on the office the campaign is for.

  • Local office
  • State office
  • Federal office

Finally, the office of the President, is arguably the highest in the land.  They do not just represent all citizens domestically, they also represent our country, on the world stage.  It is the right of the citizens, to know if the person running for President, is mentally and physically fit. This elected office, is the only elected position, who has nuclear codes, and that isn’t something to mess with.

  •  Every candidate for President and Vice-President, should be required to take a physical and psychological exam, by an independent doctor.
    • They should not be allowed to choose the doctor, but one should be independently appointed, nominated by either Congress, the FEC or the AMA.  It should be a check and balance on whoever may hold that office.

I’m sure there are issues, people can find, for all of this. I just think that the 2016 elections show how naive it is to just suggest that anyone can be President.  Clearly we do need to protect our elected offices more than we have been. We need to require a commitment, transparency, and fitness from any candidate seeking public office. It won’t prevent every abuse of office, but I believe it will be an improvement on the status quo.

It’s Unavoidable, and When I Look Around I Want to Scream

It’s happening, and I can’t hide from it.  I am turning 40, next year.  I haven’t solved world peace, won a Pulitzer, a Nobel Peace Prize, an Olympic gold medal (ok that “one” was a long shot…). Nevertheless, 40 is coming at me fast.  That’s why, when I saw an article aimed at this precise existential crisis, I had to click it and read. I mean, generally it’s all fortune cookie wisdom, but you never know.  I still click on weight loss articles. I figure 8 of the 10 tips, I will have heard. One will be a new fad, and absurd, but one might be new to me, and have some merit.  I’m all about learning new things, or new ways to see old things.

This is the article I stumbled upon: 11 Things You Should Stop Doing When You Hit 40

Immediately, the tips were bothering me, rather than sounding applicable. First off, apologizing constantly, dressing for others vs you, obsessing over your phone.  These are not just things to notice when you turn 40. They should be addressed the minute you realize that you’re doing them too much.  It’s good to acknowledge when you are wrong, but constantly saying you’re sorry can create an environment where you are painting yourself as a mess, and that’s not a great way to present yourself.  The thing is, this isn’t something that is specific to turning 40. It’s good to notice this at any time in your life. I can handle all that, though.  It’s not a bad idea to remind people of these bad habits. It’s more to say, life is short, so don’t waste it living it for the approval of others.

Then there are some passages on kids, and you knowing what’s best.  One issue I have with all of this, is the assumption that all women have kids. The way it is presented, there is no alternate moral or lesson for women who choose not to have kids; or for those who sadly cannot. The article doesn’t acknowledge, in any way, that not everyone has kids. What lesson should we take, or can we at least be acknowledged? It would be nice, unless this is going to be explicitly geared towards women, turning 40, who also have kids, that the article make note of that. Not acknowledging that, makes the entire article a judgment that normal people turning 40 have kids, and the rest in the back, just sit there and be quiet.

I do wish we could transcend to a level, where an article like this would be about universal truths. Not just for women or men, not just for people who also have kids, but for anyone turning 40.  We are entering a new stage in life, and let’s face it together. Men, women, parents, and non-parents alike.  I get that we aren’t totally alike, but aren’t there common challenges we face?  If not, can we have articles acknowledge in the headline, or lede, that the article is geared toward one specific demographic?  I get that pitching it as universal, may garner more clicks, but it will also turn people like me off, if we click on links like this.  If I keep checking out articles, from one outlet, and they are pitched one way, but totally ignore my truths, I will eventually stop relying on that outlet.

The one tip, that pissed me off enough to want to write this post, was this one passage:

Before 2016, I was barely on Twitter. I had an account, but I just didn’t get the point.  A friend of mine was on there, but she would live tweet shows she watches, like Big Brother.  I’m a cord cutter, so that doesn’t really appeal to me.  Then the dumpster fire of the 2016 election kicked into high gear. Suddenly I was clamoring to follow Joy Ann Reid, April Ryan, Wapo, NY Times, Guardian, etc. I wanted to keep up with the news, campaigns, legislation, and any news of Trump being impeached (God, I hope it’s soon). I wanted to follow my representatives, and see what they were up to.

According to this little tip, at the age of 40, I should stop being politically active on social media.  Now, my facebook is mainly just people I know.  I was senior class president, in high school, so I have a lot of former classmates. Other than that, I have family, friends, co-workers and a handful of college friends. I do share some political stuff, but not too often.  Some of friends and family are not political, and I don’t have a need to alienate them. I do my best to keep my political activity to Twitter, but I really don’t think anyone should stop debating politics or standing up for their personal beliefs, especially because they reached 40.  Talk about a horrible tip, at any age.

I consider it actual patriotism, to participate in the political process. Much more than hanging a flag outside my house. We should embrace campaigns and being connected to our elected representatives. We shouldn’t eye roll, like it’s a badge of honor to put up with campaign ads.  It’s a small price to pay, for freedom. I’ll stop being political, when I’m in the ground. As long as I’m alive, thanks for your advice, but I prefer to participate in our democracy, for as long as we’ve got it.  I dare say, that’s the best way for us to hold on to it, and to preserve it.  Never stop being politically active, or engaging in politics. It’s how our democracy was founded.  No taxation, without representation. Representation can only happen, if we engage with our representatives, tell them what we want, and vote them out if they don’t deliver.  In the technological age, that we are in, connecting with our reps is easier than ever.  We can use @Resistbot and @Countable and most reps have twitter accounts, as well as facebook pages.

Whether you are 15, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50 or 80, it’s always the time to speak up for what you believe in.  It’s always time for you to stand up for your personal believes.  Whether in a march, in the voting booth, and on social media. Please never follow advice that tells you to stop participating in democracy. It’s the only way we will get to keep it, and preserve it for the next generation; whether we have kids or not.

#TrendChangeTogether The Need to Support Each Other and Effect Real Change

We saw a lot this week, about women coming forward with stories of harassment, assault, and rape.  We also saw a lot of reactions to those who bravely came out.  They didn’t come out soon enough, no they should come out in their own time, no they should have done this or that or something else, to be more effective.

Then Rose McGowan, one of the brave women who has led this courageous move to bring sexual assault and intimidation out into the public, was blocked from Twitter.  I don’t know what her reasons were for coming out.  Her reasons are her own, and they should be.  Maybe she didn’t intend or mean to lead this move to encourage others to come forward and be brave like her.  Maybe she just needed to come forward for herself.  That’s good enough for me, and it should be for everyone else.

What’s more in the public eye, is a side-effect of her having come out about what happened to her. She was tweeting about her screenplay, and wanting to get it back from Amazon. At least I think the issue occurred within those tweets.  Apparently she tweeted a phone number.  While that’s against Twitter policy, it’s a policy that is not consistently enforced. I was tweeting with someone else, after that happened, and the woman mentioned that her personal number was tweeted, and the perpetrator was never suspended. Why did Twitter suspend Rose, and not another person, for the same violation?

Because Twitter is being political. At least, that’s what it seems to be doing.  I hate personifying a social media platform, but it’s easier to for the flow of this discussion.  Twitter is seemingly taking some people’s reports more seriously than others, or at least listening to some, and ignoring others.  Maybe it’s the amount of people who report a tweet.  Are there so many reports that they give a tweet with, say 100 reports, more credence than a tweet that gets 1 report?  I can understand that type of prioritizing, but it would be a horrible way to structure the process for reporting and getting equal treatment on the platform.  It would instead encourage a mob/bullying mentality, where bullies can get people suspended, and victims have no justice, because they oftentimes stand alone.

After Rose’s account was suspended, people started tweeting #WomenBoycottTwitter, with the idea that everyone should boycott twitter, to stand in solidarity with her, and against Twitter suspending this brave person, who was trying to speak out.  At first, I thought this was a wonderful notion as a way to stand in solidarity, and ensure she was not alone.

This morning, I saw the #WOCAffirmation, and started to read about how this attempt to boycott and stand together was somewhat shortsighted.  We thought to come together for Rose, but what about countless women of color, who have come forward and did not have such a swelling of support?  What about Anita Hill? I can’t imagine what she went through, testifying in front of the whole country.  It was incredibly brave, and the country barely noticed her.  People did not rally around her, the way they have around the brave women, who came out this week.

One thing I’ve been learning, as I follow #BlackLivesMatter, watch 13th, and read articles by Shaun King, is that we must learn to speak up for others more.  We can’t just rally around those who look like us, or who look like they are going through something that could happen to us.

We have to learn to speak up for ourselves, but also to speak up for others.  What’s just as important is learning how to speak up for others.  It starts with listening to them.  Really listening.  Whether they are people of color, Muslim faith, Jewish faith, LGBTQ, or any group of people who are different from you.  Men or women.  We all need to learn to listen to each other.  We need to acknowledge that the way we might want someone to support us in a time of need, is not necessarily what another may want or need in their time of crisis.

With that in mind, I think that instead of a boycott of twitter, as I have been seeing others suggest, we should be more vocal. Let’s not protest being silenced by being silent. I think there are times where that can be effective (#TakeAKnee, #BoycottNFL), but in this context, I wonder if we need to make some noise.  For that noise to be effective, we’ve got to be together on the message. On what we want.

So, if we are going to stage a protest, we really should have a list of “demands”, or things we want changed.  I thought of some changes I want to social media platforms (Twitter, facebook, etc).  I came up with a draft list, and I’m sure others could come up with others/better.

  1. Block all accounts tweeting hate against other people eg nazis, kkk, alt-right etc
    1. Suspend until hateful tweets removed, deactivate account if hate tweets are repeated after suspension
  2. Take away check mark for fake news
    1. If an account tweets a false story, suspend until fake post is removed, remove check mark if fake posts are posted again
  3. Treat all violation reports equally
    1. tweeting personal info of another person (user or not)
    2. tweeting hate/threats/bullying
    3. tweeting fake/false posts or links
  4. Identify “bots” or fake accounts and delete them
    1. Go after person’s or entities creating them

I’m not naive enough to think it’s that simple, but it does seem that social media platforms, and the people who run those, have an obligation to take it that seriously.  They shouldn’t be giving the same level of credibility (verified check mark) to fake news and hate groups, as they do the rest of society and the truth.  I get that no one regulates the internet, but that’s the problem and the virtue.  Having overarching control over the internet could have the impact of silencing those who would speak out or dissent. It could stifle free speech.  At the same time, having no authority, means that we have a somewhat lawless frontier when we are online. It means that bullying and fake news run rampant. It means entire countries can wage war on the elections of other nation’s, by targeting fake news at people. They can sow discord and division. They can bully people into submission.

I propose that each social media platform has a responsibility to tackle this, and the ones who can figure out how to handle it best, will set the standard for the rest.  Whatever the solution, I imagine it will be most effective, if it is transparent to the users.  That way they will have buy-in from the users, and that’s buy-in they should seek.  It is, after all, a platform they built for our use.

Let’s Try Something Different – Protect Citizens Not Guns

I’ve seen a lot of reporting on the gun control debate.  Since I’m not a journalist, I likely will not have the best form of the argument, but let’s try, shall we?

First, we can only talk about the right to bear arms, if we discuss it in the frame of the 2nd Amendment.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I’ve seen some posts by lots of people smarter than I, on this subject.  Some have referenced that this is not the end. It’s like footnotes, and clauses that you need to reference.  For instance, “A well regulated Militia” has it’s own definition.  This was meant to be regulated at the federal and state levels.  That would mean, that the framers didn’t really intend every citizen to be able to arm themselves as much as they want.  Rather, they wanted the country to be able to defend itself against a tyrant or a despot.

Many will say, but we should be able to have guns, in case we want to protect ourselves from our government.  I would say that might be a coup, but let’s follow that logic for a quick sec.  Our government has arguable a quite large stockpile of weapons.  It’s absurd to think that your right to bear arms would ever be to protect you from our government.  Even it if would be for that purpose, it would be in vain.  I know, it’s a silly argument to bring up, but I’m trying to look at that amendment and figure out how to make it work for everyone.  I want to make it work for those, who desperately want their rights to own their guns.  I also want to make it work for those, who don’t want to lose a family member to a mass shooting.

I know many responsible gun owners.  I have no problem with them owning guns, but that’s because I consider them to be responsible people.  I know hunters who hunt, and they eat what they hunt.  I have respect for that.  I have even greater respect for people who use a bow and arrow, but that’s my opinion and I’m fine with admitting that.

The way I read the 2nd Amendment, it was added to the constitution (as it is an Amendment) for the sole purpose “being necessary to the security of a free State”.  It wasn’t meant for each person’s personal safety, hunting prowess, or enjoyment. It was to ensure our country remained a free one.

So here’s what I think.  In this day and age, it’s not realistic to make all guns illegal.  There are some people out there who would cry havoc and might even revolt at such a suggestion.  I think we can make a lot of changes to how things work now, that would still mean that a majority of gun owners would get to keep a majority of their guns, and nothing would change for them.  While this may not be what the framers intended, it might be a way we can all move forward without having to keep finding out there was another mass shooting.  The only ones not sick of it are gun and bullet manufacturer’s.  Their sales go through the roof, when this happens.  They literally profit off this misery.  I’m not interested in what helps them. I’m interested in serving the memory of those we’ve lost, and protecting those who are still here.

This is my laundry wish list of things Congress should enact, to keep all American’s safer.  After all, protecting the right of some citizens, to bear unlimited arms, is a failing of their duty to protect all citizens from this domestic threat.

  1. Ban all assault weapons – These weapons were designed for military use, and should only be legal for military use.  Active duty, in the field, only.
  2. Ban all armor piercing rounds – Citizens should never have bullets that can pierce the armor a police officer would be wearing to protect themselves.  Plain and simple.
  3.  Require that users take an exam to get a permit, just like before you get a license to drive.  You cannot own a gun yet.  You have to go to gun ranges, take safety courses, and then take a written and practical test in order to get a license.
    1. Periodically renew license with re-taking test.  Don’t like it?  It’s a hassle?  So is watching a loved one die at a concert or in an elementary school.  You can deal with re-taking a test every 2 years.
  4. Require that each gun be registered and have insurance, just like a car.
  5. Require that bullets be registered and insured too.  Then we can track them back to the owner, who is then responsible for their use.
  6. Maybe have a standard license, which would allow for standard types of guns (gun experts would be best at deciding these) and then more extensive tests etc for specialized licenses for owning specialized guns
  7. No gun sales to those who have a record of mental illness (duh)
  8. No gun sales to those who have a record of domestic violence (duh)
  9. No gun sales to those who are on the no fly list (duh)
  10. Close all background check loop holes.  You go to buy a gun, there will be at least a 48 hour waiting period, and I think 1 week should be ok.  If you are in that much of a hurry to buy a gun, we might want to know why.

I’d love to see what other people can come up with.  Of course the bump stock thing is going around, because that was used in this Las Vegas attack, but if we ban assault weapons, won’t that make it moot?  If not, then let’s add that.  It seems the GOP and the NRA are willing to move on that, though likely it’s just so it won’t look like they are doing nothing.

I am really not a fan of guns. I wish we lived in a world without them, but we don’t. I at least would like responsible gun owners to stand up and say that we need good gun control laws. That having those laws won’t infringe on the privilege of having a gun, but it will help to protect every citizen’s right to live in a wold without mass shootings.  The NRA and GOP want to say it won’t do any good, but if they really believe that, why are they against it?  We pass legislation to name bridges after people.  Let’s pass these laws, and if the gun violence stats don’t go down, they can say “I told you so”.  Don’t we owe it to every person lost, and every person forever grieving, to at least try?

The Preservation of Life: Protecting Equality in the Great Divide

Last week I saw that Vice President Mike Pence was the tie breaker in a bill to de-fund health clinics.  Yes, there is much more detail, and I will expand on the implications, but let that sink in.  The GOP and our Vice President voted to de-fund a resource for low income people to receive vital health care, which in many cases saves their lives.
Breast cancer screenings, which saves lives.
GYN exams, which saves lives.
General physical exams, which saves lives.
Prenatal checkups, which saves double lives.
All because they offer the constitutionally protected right to choose.  They offer abortions, and they counsel women on all their options, when it comes to pregnancy.
The crux of this issue, is that the pro-life supporters don’t want this to be an option, and I get the sense that they think pro-choice supporters want abortions.  It is so far from the truth.  Abortions have existed for centuries.  They were just way more dangerous, in the past.  What happens when abortions are not legal or accessible, is that those with money can afford to find a private doctor to perform the abortion off the books, and it still happens.  Low income people resort to “back alley” abortions, which are incredibly dangerous. It still happens. Restricting access doesn’t prevent abortions from happening.  It prevents access to safe abortions from happening.
Making them illegal will not help protect life, it will only endanger it.  If pro-life supporters really want to protect life, they need to stop forcing women into back alleys, and attempting to control their bodies.  Controlling people will not sustain as a solution, and it does not respect the equality, that we must strive for, if we will ever have a community built on respect and support of each other.
So I wanted to address some of the dichotomies, that I find exist in the stance of being pro-life, and how we can really protect life.  It doesn’t start with outlawing or restrict access to health clinics, where abortions are provided.  It can result in the lessening of women seeking abortions, and that should be the true goal.  Preventing people from being able to have a safe abortion won’t solve this.  Vilifying women who seek abortions won’t solve this.  Protecting women, absolutely will.
Understanding the Reasons
There are many reasons a woman may find herself in the situation of becoming pregnant and seeking an abortion.  Out of the many reasons a woman could seek an abortion, many of those are situations where they have suffered trauma, are in an abusive situation, or do not have full control over decisions affecting their body and the decisions that would surround a pregnancy.
As long as women are not equal to men, in the value of their lives, they will always have the potential to have their body forced into a pregnancy, and could then feel forced into no other choice but an abortion.  The interesting part of this debate, is that men are fundamentally making these laws, which govern the rights of women.  They always have.  Women are not proportional in their representation in government.  At no point in a man’s life, does any law intervene and say what he can do with his body.  At no point, does he need permission to control the body.
People argue, that when a woman becomes pregnant it is no longer just her body.  Well, it still is her body.  We wouldn’t tell a woman how to raise a child, and we shouldn’t be controlling her choice to have a child.  We also shouldn’t be forcing her to submit to a hospital clergy, before she can abort an ectopic pregnancy, threatening her own life and/or even when a pregnancy is no longer viable.  It’s hard to grapple with the concept that we must value the woman in equal measure, that her right to control her own body must be an imperative.
While we can argue the merits of that again and again, we have many ways to lessen the need and demand a woman might have for seeking an abortion.  If we can fix some of the socio-economic divides, which can increase the demand for abortions, we can save many lives. Of women, and potentially lives that might not be aborted. We can provide better resources and options for women.
Welfare and the True Adoption Case
Many believe it should be as simple as giving the child up for adoption.  I encourage Mike Pence, to visit Child Protective Services, and meet with some social workers, particularly those working with kids in the welfare system.  Spend a couple of days learning about how many cases they have, and how strapped they are for funding and how much red tape leaves kids neglected and often abused. Work to fix that system, so the choice to give a kid up for adoption can become a more community strong choice, that is a better option than abortion.  It won’t completely negate any need for a woman to ever seek an abortion, but I guarantee you it would decrease the demand.
Too Young to Learn
I know pro-life supporters don’t want to have condoms in the schools, or to teach kids about protected sex, but there is math.  Statistics show a direct correlation to teaching kids sex education, with a decrease in teen pregnancy.  Do this, and encourage parents to talk to their kids, and you will have educated teenagers, who will be less likely to get pregnant. I get that it’s uncomfortable, but it’s the reality of life.
You can tell a kid to not go in the water.
If they know how to swim, and they disobey you, they won’t drown.
If they weren’t taught how to swim, just in case, they will drown.
That’s the flaw in trying to not teach kids the truth.  Teaching sex ed has the added bonus of preventing STDs, like HIV and AIDS. We must be brave, and have the uncomfortable conversation with our kids, so that they are armed with the best asenal possible.  The truth.  The truth about protected sex. The truth about rape and date rape.  The truth about mental health counseling.  They truth about options, and choices.
Those with Power Must Give it Back
It’s the struggle for equality.  Feminism, social resistance, etc.  The struggle is rooted in a group with more power, than that which they are entitled to. The social imperative of equality, is founded in no one group having more power than another.  Any social construct where a group of people are denied power, and those with more are able to abuse that excess, will never be sustainable.  It will always result in a struggle, for a redistribution of power.
If pro-life supporters really want to prevent pregnancies from rape, they need to start championing every effort for preventing and punishing sexual assault and rape.  Get rape kits tested, enforce strict penalties for rape and assault, and remove statutes of limitations.  The statutes vary from state to state, and I don’t get why they even exist, let alone why they vary.  Why does a rapist get to walk, because the victim wasn’t able to come forward in time?  What if it happened as a child, and because of the trauma they blocked it out? What if they don’t remember until decades later?  What if they are in an abusive relationship? What if they are being threatened?  What if the rape happened in one state, where the limitation is less than another? Darn the luck? Really?
Why is a woman being faulted, for not coming forth in a timely manner, when it comes to having to muster up the strength to fight through a court case? To fight a court case over the rape she already had to muster up the strength to survive and recover from?  No one was protecting the woman, when that happened.  And the woman still isn’t being protected, in the judicial system.  The accused rapist is protected, and in Congress if the woman becomes pregnant, the pregnancy is more protected than the woman.  Congress is voting to cut the funding that would directly help the victims of sexual assault.  The woman is abused, injured, used as a host and discarded.  That is not equality, and that is not valuing the life of the woman.
In preventing rape and assault, sex education programs should also include curriculum aimed at teaching boys how to be men, and how to respect women.  No means no. Only yes means yes.  It’s not all on the woman, to dress a certain way, drink only a certain amount, only stay out to a certain time, because she can still be raped.  It’s not about any of those things, but that’s what women get told, and it’s missing the point entirely.
Men must stand up to other men, who objectify and attempt to dominate women.  They need to call them out, when they brag about assaulting or raping women. If a girl or woman is raped, the last thing she will ever need, is a doctor lying to her, a Congressman or anyone else attempting to control her body.  It will just be like another kind of rape. A possession over the control of her autonomy and her body.  You can support funding for mental health resources, for rape and assault victims.  That might possibly help some to feel that adoption is something they could handle, and that abortion might not be necessary. I can’t promise that, but as a woman I can only imagine it would help, rather than exacerbate the situation.
I can’t ever promise that women won’t seek abortions, even if you support all the above.
You can help increase the amount and quality of options and alternative choices a woman has, to unintentionally becoming pregnant, and to seeking an abortion.  At the end of the day, if she feels that her only option is an abortion, she will seek one.  Making it unavailable or illegal will only make it more dangerous for her.  If you are ok with that, because you disapprove of her decision, you can’t truly claim to value life. You fail to value and protect hers. You would have championed protecting her life, while she was in the woom. You must continue to protect that life and it’s equality through her life.
The pro-life supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, believe that funding clinics, which also provide abortions, is wrong.  Either they don’t know, or don’t care, that the funding isn’t used to fund abortions.  They don’t want to allow abortions to occur, or be able to happen, even though Roe v. Wade has been ruled before the Supreme Court, making it unconstitutional to outlaw a woman’s right to abortion access.
Right there.
I wonder how de-funding clinics, or cutting off foreign aid to clinics, where abortions are discussed and available, isn’t in direct violation of that constitutional ruling.  What is the purpose of having a constitutional amendment, protecting a right, if Congress can pass laws and deny funding for any entity practicing something under the protection of that amendment? I’m not a lawyer, so I’m sure someone can tell me why it’s not that simple, but it seems like it should be.
Regardless of those legal and political battles, the reality remains.  Making them illegal or unavailable won’t stop that need.  It just makes it more dangerous.
If pro-life supporters truly value life, they must value the woman as equal to the life they are trying to protect, in her woom.  By attacking a woman’s right to the privacy and control of her own body and health care, the value of her life has become less, and not equal.  The unborn life is being protected, and the woman is not.  Once that life is born, it runs the risk of ending up in cycles of abuse, in the foster and welfare system of our country.
If pro-life supporters truly want to help decrease the need and demand for abortions, I wish they would start championing the efforts that truly will help to lessen the need for a woman to seek an abortion.
Instead of protesting outside clinics, adopt and foster.  Take care of the kids in our welfare system.  Instead of cutting welfare funding, increase it.
Instead of refusing to have comprehensive education for our kids, to teach them protection and how to prevent a pregnancy too soon in their young lives, be brave.  Be willing to educate our kids, and prepare them, so that if they do go in the water, they don’t drown.
Instead of protecting the rights of an alleged attacker, protect the victim.  Make testing rape kits a priority.  Increase funding for clinics, including Planned Parenthood.  Including mental health funding, particularly for rape victims.
Instead of leading with your religion, as why women should do as they are told, decide what you really want.  Do you want to force your faith on others, or do you want to preserve and protect as many lives as possible?
We can help protect women, and pregnancies.  We can prevent the need for so many abortions, not by limiting access, but by preventing the situations that result in a woman becoming pregnant under conditions that are not conducive to her carrying a pregnancy.  Whatever the reason, it is her reason.  It always will be her’s to make. The best of what you can do is support her.  Or you can fight her, though I will never understand how you can bring yourself to do that.  She is not the enemy.
The situations, which result in women ending up with an unintentional pregnancy, are not caused by her alone.  They won’t be solved by her alone, either, but let’s start by not attacking her.  Let’s start by ensuring she is protected, supported and given as many options as possible.  If you support all the best resources, she may just be that much less likely to see the option of abortion.  As least, if it is accessible, we are protecting the woman, and at some point that needs to be enough.  After all, she was a life you would have protected, and you still should now.

How to Find Winning in Today’s Democracy

People are fighting on the left, between the Democratic party members and the progressive supporters behind Senator Sanders.  They are fighting, because Sanders doesn’t identify as a Democrat.  This is driving the Democrats nuts, because they are scrambling to get everyone together, so we can resist the GOP stronghold on our elected offices.

Meanwhile, the GOP are losing their moral platform.  The foundation of their party’s policies have been stripped, in the interest of focusing solely on the bottom line.  That bottom line is win election and re-election. Grab all the power, and keep fundraising. Fill a war chest, and make a very nice career out of a revolving door with the lobbying industry.  Sit on boards, do the bidding for those boards while in office, and return to those executive positions, ensuring a wonderful golden parachute and a wealthy living and retirement.

Amidst all of this, average citizens fight each other on the issues.  They fight on which party they align themselves with, ignoring the good, bad and ugly on both sides. What choice do we have?  We may have a democracy, but it is largely controlled by the two parties with the strongest infrastructure.  The conversation is generally about the establishment, as if that is some vague thing.  It’s really not.  We are talking about the people who know the rules.  They know the laws and by-laws.  Whether in the districts, or in their own party committees.  That knowledge is a tremendous power, in the game of politics.

Everyone is saying it.  This last Presidential election woke up some Americans. So many were so sure Hillary Clinton was going to win, people didn’t notice the alt-right flank that Trump had also woken up during the election.  This right-wing group quietly got their people registered and ready to vote. They didn’t need to make a lot of noise.

Trump kept saying that, solely because of him, we would be winning. So much winning. We would get tired of winning.  That has become a favorite for people trolling his oddball comments like this one.  We know he is full of hot air, has no plan, and knows practically nothing about running a government.  He doesn’t understand the different between articles and amendments in the constitution.  Most of us on the left reacted to his promise of so much winning, with “yeah, right”.

So how do we know what winning looks like anymore?

I can’t tell you what it would look like for the GOP. Probably no voting rights, less voting places, voter ID (aka suppression) laws, less turnout, and bigger campaign war chests.  Less regulation, less government programs for the lower and middle class people to rely on.  And of course tax cuts.  Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, but only for the wealthiest of the country, which will conveniently include the congress voting for it.

I can’t tell you what it would look like for the Democrats.  Probably getting Senator Sanders to stop attacking their “establishment” big ad ways.

I can’t tell you what it would look like for the progressive left. Probably getting Senator Sanders to take over the Democratic party, as chair, and re-invent the party into a true grass roots love fest.

I can tell you what it would look like for me.

100% voter turnout.  I know, that’s not realistic, so i’ll say above 90%.  In every district.  In every election.  There is a lot of focus around the 2018 midterm elections.  Real power does seriously and literally get built at the local level.  We have elections EVERY year.  Not every 4 or every 2 years, every single damn year.  Sometimes there is more than just one.  Depending on a state’s party primary rules, and whether they have open or closed primaries, there is the potential for primary elections.  There can also be special elections.  If a seat is vacated, for a myriad of reasons, an election can be set up to fill that seat, so it doesn’t remain empty until the next regular election.

In a country where we are all about the pride of being leaders of the free world, we seem to realize how lucky we are.  We don’t seem to take that pride to the bank, and show up when we should, to preserve that freedom.  We act like we could care less.  We are so free, we are free to no care, and not pay attention.  I agree and disagree with Bill Maher on various topics, but I’ve never seen anyone put this concept more plainly or precisely:

The buzz is that people started waking up, during and after this last Presidential election.  Have we?  Will we stay awake?  If so, we’ve got some work to do.  This is my rough list of what we really need to start doing now. Lobbying our state reps, for state level changes, and turn that power into a push for national laws:

  1. First and foremost, repeal and reverse racist and elitist voter ID laws.  They only seek to suppress the vote from lower income and minority citizens.  There is no case or cause for imposing a voter ID law.
  2. We need a national law, ensuring that every citizen must have equal voting rights and privileges.  The weight and influence must be the same. No citizen should have less voting rights, because of the state they live in.
  3. Automatic voter registration at the age of 18.
  4. Open primaries, across all states.  Presidential primaries, across all states, happen on same day. None of this racing back and forth, making polling and projections more important than the voting.
  5. Every year’s November general election becomes a national holiday.
    1. This could work with students in Jr and Sr years volunteering at polls, to learn and see the process happen.
  6. End the electoral college, as outdated, racist, and unconstitutionally giving some citizens’ votes more weight than the votes of others.

Once all that is done, we need to get people engaged in the process.  Not just showing up to vote, but being ready ahead of that vote.  Who are the candidates? Who is in office now?  What is their voting record? Who do they stand up for, and who do they fail to represent? What legislation is being proposed, and how do I want my reps voting on that bill?  Calling them directly to tell them how they need to vote.  Keep track of whether they vote the way you want or not.

It is also important to contact the county level party, and find out who they are supporting, before they have their designation convention, where they name nominees.  People complain about both parties picking their nominees like a cherry off a private tree.  They do it that way, because people don’t pay enough attention to the process.  You can join that party’s county level committee, and become an election district rep in the committee. Then you get a direct vote as to who the nominee will be.  Don’t tell me it’s in the hands of the establishment.  If it is, it’s because you let them keep holding onto that power.

That brings me back to the in-fighting I’m seeing on the left, right now.  It’s starting to really piss me off.  There is the progressive flank supporting Senator Sanders, and then there are the die hard Democrats.  The former is a group looking in at a the other group and shouting at them about everything they are doing wrong.  The irony is, that those people doing the shouting don’t have the infrastructure or foundation to run a party as powerful as the Democratic party.  That’s why Senator Sanders sought their nomination, even though he doesn’t identify as a Democrat.  I don’t blame him, but I think he really needs to look at how attacking the Democratic party, is really just shooting his whole agenda in the foot.  We have enough of a battle in trying to resist the GOP, the last thing we need to be doing is fighting each other.

It’s not that their criticisms aren’t valid. Many of them are.  I am a life-long Democrat, and proud of it, but I totally get that the “establishment” politics has gotten out of hand in the party.  I think the fact that Keith Ellison didn’t win chair, shows that.  But like I said, the establishment is not as bad and evil as people like to claim it is.  The establishment includes lifetime  activists, public servants, volunteers, and people who literally know the rules and laws that affect what they want to get done. That kind of knowledge is power you can’t just throw away. It would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

That’s why Senator Sanders didn’t just team up with the Independent party or start his own party.  It takes decades to really make it, and through the history of this country, we have generally been politically ruled by a 2 party system.  We have the freedom for more, but organically we never have had more than 2 legitimate parties electing people to most offices.  There have been some exceptions, but not many.

The other side of this is that the Democratic party needs to learn from their past mistakes, and they are risking not doing that right now.  They need to clean house at the DCCC, and stop serving as an arm just for incumbents.  It needs to be what it should to be.  An arm of the DNC, with the specific goal of supporting candidates for election and re-election to congress.  Splitting up funds to those candidates, and helping any way they can.

Edit: I was just educated on the reality of this.  I thought the DCCC was part of the DNC.  It’s not. How is the Democratic party supposed to be able to have a cohesive, unified front, when they have different groups acting completely independently of each other. The left hand not only doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.  They end up working against each other.  One faction is supporting a candidate in a red district, and the other is either sabotaging that effort or at the very least, not helping to support the effort.

The DNC also needs to do a much better job at seizing the energy around grassroots campaigning.  It’s more than just low-grade campaign strategies.  It’s really about directly engaging with voters on the streets, and that will be more powerful than any ridiculously expensive tv ad.

They also need to stop attacking Senator Sanders.  He has a right not to identify as a Democrat, and still speak up for the same issues that Democrats speak out on.  It doesn’t help Democrats to be against Senator Sanders, and it doesn’t help Senator Sanders to be against the Democrats.  There is no way we can beat the GOP, and end their stranglehold on our elected offices, if we keep fighting each other. Period.  Both the party, and the progressive crowd must decide – do you want to fight each other or the GOP? You can’t do both. It’s like going to a school yard fight, bringing an ally, and then fighting the ally instead of the one you came to fight.

The GOP is counting on us continuing this, and I guarantee, there are trolls online trying to fan these flames to make it look worse and be worse.  The only way we can squash that, is for Perez and Sanders to get together quietly.  Come to terms they can agree on, and call a truce in the name of helping each other to reach the same goals.

People can blame Senator Sanders for Clinton’s loss, but it was never his fault. He had every right to run, and keep running, as long as it was legal for him to stay in the race.  He was respectful of the process, and bowed out at the convention.  The rest is in the past, and we need to move forward. We need to look at the landscape now, and if we are still bitter about the past, we need to ask how we can make things better going forward. How can we improve the process, so the next time we don’t end up with the same mistakes we had last time?

If we can do all that, we might get to see what winning looks like.

Pride and Prejudice: Race Through History in America

I’m white as white can be.  I often joke that I’m so white, I could land planes, just by stepping on a tarmac in shorts.  I’m also a woman, 1/2 Jewish, 1/2 Catholic, and gay.  According to those who are all about “white pride” I’m not really white, because I’m Jewish.  Being gay probably doesn’t help either.  Many white people think that prejudice and racism aren’t really a problem anymore.  It’s a thing of the past.  I couldn’t disagree more.

We don’t seem to talk about our history, with as much truth as I feel we should. There isn’t just a tendency to be overly romantic about the founding of America and the American dream.  People will actually lobby to rewrite history books, to ensure a fairy tale is taught to our kids.  Why can’t we just have an honest, true history?  The good, bad and ugly?  Because the founding of our country was done in blood and oppression, but all we seem to recall is the white people who were fleeing the same treatment.

I don’t get the need to have “white pride”.  I just don’t get it.  There is one saving grace to that concept, but it isn’t what the supporters of that movement would want it to be.  It wasn’t just a group of “white” people who fled to America.  It was a mix of different nationalities.  British, Irish, Scottish, and even some Dutch, French and Spanish.  Some countries had more than others, but it did transcend those nationalities.  For the most part, it was British refugees. Those refugees had slaves with them.  Africans, who had been kidnapped into slavery. I kind of despise the idea of saying African, or African-American.  Africa is a continent, not a country.  There are over 33 countries, and European countries invaded most of them.  They trafficked the people.  They tore them away from their homes and enslaved them.

When those European refugees landed on the shores of America, they didn’t “discover” the country with Columbus.  They wound up realizing there were people already here.  Indians, or Native Americans, as we call them.  We met them with mass murder, rape, syphilis, and pushing them out of their lands, using might to make right.  We like to minimize that note in our history, but we shouldn’t.  The idea of the American dream is that anyone can be who they want. That we all have inalienable rights and inherent freedoms.  Those rights and freedoms are entitled to all citizens. Not based on race, gender, or any other marker we can place on a person.  Yet, people still try to limit rights and protections for people who they don’t want to see having equal rights.

This country was built on the backs of people whose rights were maligned and stripped.  If we are to make good on what we started, we must ensure our path going forward does not forsake those who enabled the start of this country.  The idea of “white” pride has one saving grace, as I said.  The concept does transcend national borders.  White is not a nationality.  It seems contradictory, as those in white pride are not a fan of black pride and visa versa.  Why not just have mankind pride? Why do we need to have pride that excludes people? The irony is that I see more of a reason to have black pride, than I do white pride.  For that, I am probably seen as a traitor to my race.  I know that I am not a traitor to the human race, and that is more important to me.

Black pride has been needed, because there is not a time through history that the black race has not been oppressed.  Whites have, throughout history, usually had all the power.  The idea that whites are losing their rights and their place in the world, is a fallacy.  You can’t lose what wasn’t yours, and having more rights than others is not a right that is inalienable.  The reality of what is happening, is that it may feel like whites have less of a spotlight.  It’s really the shifting of rights to all people, which feels like it might be leaving whites out all together.  It’s not.  It’s the same concept of equal pay for women. Men aren’t losing anything.  But having women on an equal bar as men, will feel like men have less bargaining power.  The truth is, that it wasn’t rightfully theirs to have more bargaining power than women in the first place. That loss of power, was power not rightfully theirs in the first place.

The opposite of the white pride concept is white guilt.  I definitely lean more toward that end of the spectrum.  It’s not that I’m not proud of my heritage.  I am, for sure.  I am not proud of the racism of my ancestors, though.  It is something I hope to better in my heritage.  A legacy of pushing the needle toward equality.  Learning from my forefathers on what not to do. How not to treat others.  When I walk down the street, no one looks at me like I’m a criminal.  When I go into a store, the security guards don’t watch me with suspicion.  I am not pulled over, for looking like I might commit a crime, because of a predisposition to viewing minorities as preternaturally criminally minded.  I know that.  I don’t have to wear a gold star on my arm, and the president-elect isn’t threatening to make a database that would require me to be monitored because of my religion.  It’s not that this is my fault, but I can’t imagine what it must be like day in and day out to be treated like that.  Years ago, I went to dinner with my friends.  They were both minorities.  The waitress was rude, ignored us, and it was crappy service.  The next night my mom and brother wanted to go to the same place (I was over-ruled). We ended up with the same waitress.  She was nice, attentive, and friendly.  It was so obvious that her treatment was based on the color of the people sitting at the table, it just stuck with me.

Because I grew up in a really small town, kids at my school knew I was Jewish.  There were only like 3 families in the town that were Jewish.  Kids drew swastikas on my locker and desk.  Fellow students would raise their arms in class (in a heil hitler salute) and say “the occult’s, coming out tonight boys.” When I would ask my teacher to get them to stop she would say “What do you want me to do?” and then proceed to do nothing.  These same kids would call my house at night.  I was a latch-key kid.  Both my parents worked, so I would often be home alone at night, if my brother had plans.  They would call my house and tell me they were going to come kill me.  I had to really work through the fear that someone was going to come try to hurt me, and realize it was all talk.

I once watched a documentary on skinheads when I was young, and home alone.  The people interviewing the skinheads asked them what they would do, if they knew where a black or Jewish person was right then.  They said they would probably go kill them.  People they didn’t even know.  If they knew where I lived, would they kill me? They don’t even know me.  But that’s the rub.  That’s why I lean toward white guilt, instead of pride.  I have guilt that I cannot join minorities in their struggle all the way.  I can only support them from the side.  I know what prejudice can be like, but people don’t know I’m a minority, by looking at me.  Racial minorities are targeted purely based on the color of their skin.  It makes them a target.

Martin Luther King Jr said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  If we are going to seek our own rights and opportunities to advance, we must seek to ensure everyone else has those same rights and opportunities.  When we pull others down, to push ourselves up, we ensure a perpetual game of seesaw, where there is inequality at all times.  We end up in a tug of war, trying to take rights from others, and having rights taken by others.  It was a cornerstone of this country’s war for freedom.  United we stand, divided we fall.  I feel so unbelievably sad, when I see people commenting online, that we shouldn’t help people in other countries.  That we shouldn’t help the people of Aleppo, Syria.  I don’t understand that.  I don’t understand having such disdain and lack of empathy for people suffering an atrocity.  If it was happening to you, I would think you would hope that someone would help.  How can we be deserving of allies and friends, if we would not act for others?  How can we sit back and let people be slaughtered?

I have tried to find the quote many times over the years, but I can never seem to find the quote.  I read it in college.  It said, something to the effect, that nationalism would destroy the world.  Instead of a planet sharing resources to ensure all people are equally provided for, we draw up borders. We put up walls, and lock people out.  We fight over resources.  We go to war over resources.

So there is American pride, which seems to conveniently forget our bloody history on the backs of African slaves, and on the land of Native Americans.  There is white pride, which seems kind of random to me.  If everyone in white pride organizations took DNA tests, I think they would be surprised to see what their background actually is.  I am white, and I’m not un-proud, but my pride is more in being a woman who has navigated male-dominated industries most of my life.  I’m proud of my ancestors, who worked hard to make a living and be good.  I am aware of their racism, and I work to learn from those mistakes.  We are all people.  We are all brothers and sisters. Once we can all see that, we can erase borders and take down walls.  We can stop fighting each other, and start working together.  I find diversity the most beautiful aspect of America.  The different races, genders, religions, orientations. There is so much to learn from every person, if we are open to learning what we do not know.  A different perspective, a different background.

My thought is that we all see the world, as if we are looking through a diamond.  There is the top, and the bottom, but no matter how you look through a diamond there is refraction.  The perspective is not a straight one, but one that will bounce off an angle.  If we all see life in that way, then we must acknowledge that all of us can only see so much.  We must rely on each other to help us with what we might not be able to see so well.

A good litmus test for any person, would be this – if you look at someone and have hate in your heart, but do not know them, you must challenge that hate.  What do you hate? What do you know? Treat that person, as you would want the most important person in your life to be treated.  They are someone’s most important person too.  Acknowledge that none of us knows everything, but we each have knowledge and truth that we can share.  Let’s not be selfish.  Let’s not be so prideful in who we think we are, that we shut the door on those who are different.  We are all different, and that should be good.  The true greatness of America is not that anyone can start out poor and end up rich.  It’s not as shallow as that.  It isn’t about the money.  It’s about inclusivity.  That is the real American dream, or I think it should be.  A country that, at it’s core, is about accepting diversity. Not just tolerating differences, but welcoming them.  A country made up of different countries.  That is how our country is elevated above other countries, and that is the only way we can stay elevated.  The minute we close our doors to diversity, we close ourselves off to our greatest potential.