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Showing posts from 2016

STOP HATING ON 2016!

Throwing this entire year into the garbage bin of history misses the majestic silver lining that the ascendence of Trump has produced: a bigger resurgence of citizenry, activism, connection, dialogue, soul searching, and rededication to passionately held core values I have witnesses in my life time. Yes, the assholes are--very temporarily--in charge. Yet, the outpouring of passion, dedication, determination, and love on these forums has been incredible. We are facing multiple potential catastrophes, as the worst among us are allowed to plunder the nation's riches, but we have affirmed to each other the reservoirs of patience and resistance we have inside ourselves. Our nation was founded on too great an ideal to let the forces of darkness prevail. Together, we will cling fast to what is still left of legal precedent, due process, the free press, and political convention and decorum against those who would smash all of these idols in service of returning to a mythical, yet still o…

Save Our State! Save Our Planet...

This morning’s lead editorial in the New York Times suggests that because Donald Trump and some of his ignoble appointees to Cabinet posts such as EPA, Energy, and Interior are avowed climate change deniers, that it will fall to the states to continue the hard work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Exemplary efforts by a few states are noted, including the fact that 33 states cut emissions while still growing their economies. I think there are three crucial takeaways here: We must continue to fight the myth that environmental regulations are job killing. Quite the reverse is true, when coupled with creative ways to foster and encourage alternative energy sectors like wind and solar. Another way of putting it is that the lack of protections is killing the health of our children, of our citizens, and of the planet itself. Here in North Carolina, we must continue to stay vigilant while our state legislature and McCrory-appointed environmental officials allow our rivers to be poisoned an…

STOP CALLING HB2 THE BATHROOM BILL!

The NCGOP authors of this bill--one of the most notorious pieces of discriminatory legislation to come out of a state house since the days of Jim Crow--knew that they could use the old stereotype that LGBTQ people are sexual predators to rally support for this bill. That is shameful in and of itself, since this has been disproven time and time again, and because the assault on gay and trans rights has left those communities with numerous and debilitating social, psychological, and financial problems. These communities need our support, not further stigma. An attack on the civil rights of one single citizen is an attack on all of us.
But even that venomous smear against the character of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers dilutes other ominous provisions of the law: it ties the hands of local governments to broadly protect gay and trans rights, it specifically leaves them out of a list of groups that should be protected from discrimination, and it bans citizens from seeking redress for any b…

A Call for an Immediate Investigation

Followup to the special session disaster: I am writing reporters who covered the story BEFORE this week to call for an investigation into the NCGOP's illegal and immoral lack of transparency. Here is my message to reporters: A Call for an Immediate Investigation As a North Carolina citizen who follows the legislature closely, I am concerned and dismayed about the lack of transparency the NCGA displayed when enacting its agenda during the recent special session. You recently wrote about the possibility of court packing, which as we now know did not come to pass. In your piece, you mention the rumor and speculation about the court packing scheme. When I and other activists attempted to confront GOP representatives, they threw the idea that the rumors were “media driven” back in our faces. The only public mention of the scheme was by MItch Kokai of the John Locke Foundation, who coyly posited that while the idea was allowed under the state constitution, it was politically unlikely. …

NCGOPolitburo: A Most Undemocratic Power Grab and What YOU Can Do

In Soviet Russia, and indeed in China today, major decisions are made by a closed committee called a politburo. These groups hold all power closely, setting policy, directing the apparatus of the security and intelligence agencies, tightly controlling propaganda machines, and selecting leaders from within their ranks who rigidly adhere to the party line. In short, the politburo system is fundamentally different from our own. We have, in theory, a government of the people. Our leaders our selected not by a few, but by many, in open and fair elections. We have a free press that maintains a vigorous watch over our representatives in government to insure that those officials serve us and not their own will to power. And, brilliantly, we have an elaborate system of checks and balances that plays political actors against one another, insuring that no one group or individual gains too much control.

In a shocking display of pure, unmitigated, self-interested partisanship, the North Carolina G…

Open Letter to NC House Representative Donny Lambeth, State Senator Joyce Krawiec, and Governor Pat McCrory

To those who represent me in the state of North Carolina,

Tomorrow the legislature convenes to consider aid for Hurricane Matthew victims, a worthy cause, and "other business." The ambiguity of the last phrase troubles me deeply. I believe I speak for many when I tell you that what I crave from my elected officials above all else is transparency. The statutes governing the conduct of the General Assembly clearly state that the public must be given proper notice as to the the time, place, and business of all legislative sessions. "Other" simply does not cut it, neither in a legal nor a moral sense.

Republicans hold a super-majority in the legislature, unfairly in my view, considering the radical gerrymandering and voter suppression with which the party has engaged. Nevertheless, that does not give you the right to hold what amount to secret and closed sessions, since in all likelihood you have chosen the real agenda in private, with no consultation from the oppositi…

CALLING ALL MATRIOTS: THE WORLD NEEDS YOU!

Patriot: one who loves her country, from the Latin "patria," love of the fatherland.

Martriot: one who loves the motherland; Earth as a whole, derived from the Latin "mater," mother.

I love my country, no doubt about it. I vote, pay taxes, teach at a public school. And while Donald Trump prepares to wage war on the civil rights of millions of Americans, I want to focus our attention on the dire threat to the planet, and how the little progress we have made is about to be undone unless we act immediately, relentlessly, and forcefully, en masse, to protect the very home on which we all live inextricably connected.

Fresh assaults come daily from Trump and his transition team, while back home in North Carolina, the state GOP continues its coordinated campaign to attack voting rights, among other horrors. The calls to action go out: stop Steve Bannon, oppose Betsy DeVos and her plan to gut public schools, stop the abortion madness in Ohio. If these are your passions--a…

WHO'S GUARDING THE HEN HOUSE?

The recently decided, agonizingly long governor’s race has finally been settled in North Carolina and the state belatedly ushers in Roy Cooper, embattled before his term begins. Many observers wondered if the McCrory campaign was going to steal the election by having it "contested" and thrown into the NC statehouse for resolution, where a GOP majority would have certainly made him its choice. There may have been a movement towards that inside the McCrory camp, but we will never know. However, we must not lose sight of what the state GOP, including the governor, members of the legislature, and conservative, big money interest groups was trying to accomplish all along: delegitimize voting for a significant portion of African-American voters.
One of the most powerful weapons used by McCrory and his allies--hand-picked for the job by him--sits on the State Board of Elections itself, Rhonda Amoroso. Appointed to ostensibly ensure fair and free elections that adhere rigidly to the…

THE DONALD AND HIS TWEET NOTHINGS

The Sunday morning routine: newspaper, coffee, and dog walk, now includes watching the preceding night's Alec Baldwin Trump interpretation on SNL, and reading Trump's tweet about said performance. These reactions--this one written during the actual broadcast!--would be laughably thin-skinned if they weren't coming from the soon-to-be leader of the free world. What is the takeaway here? How should we, and the press, react to Trump's often incendiary, petulant, or bragging tweets?

It is important to see this kind of messaging in the context of Steve Bannon's Breitbart, the rise of fake/misleading/character assassinating news, the proliferation of blogs, social media tools, and cable channels, and the diminution of the power of a unified, traditional press. Why submit to conventional press briefings, with their messy Q and A sessions, when you can go straight to your core followers with a few thumb taps? A tweet is instant, and deliciously one-sided. Trump of course …

THREE CHEERS FOR CAPITALISM: GRAB 'EM BY THE WALLET!

Progressives, activists, and people of good faith horrified by the election of Donald Trump have rallied in opposition to his selection of Steve Bannon to the post of White House chief strategist, and rightly so. Bannon is the person most responsible for the reprehensible misinformation and the most egregious personal attacks we have ever seen in a campaign, and his website, Breitbart News, mouthpiece of the so-called "alt-right," is baldly and broadly bigoted. It seems inconceivable that such extreme views could be setting up shop just steps from the Oval Office.

Clever opponents are attempting to fight back against Breitbart using market-based strategites. Grab 'em by the wallet! When it was discovered that prominent brands such as Kellogg's had ads on the site, vociferous campaigns were launched demanding immediate retraction, to which Kellogg's and others swiftly complied, prompting predictable Breitbartian backlash. Each side used a time honored threat in a…

#YesMyPresident*sigh*

"Not my President!" So the defiant chants go up, the hashtag proliferates, and we all feel so much better by rejecting a man so repugnant that we cannot possibly bear the thought that he is our leader. We repudiate the very notion that he represents us, either at home or abroad. #notmypresident feels so right, so good, so just, so defiant.

Yet, it is utterly the wrong stance to take. Barring some last-minute Jill Stein miracle, or a liberal takeover of the electoral college, Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. If you live in this country he will be your President.

Why is this the wrong stance to take, when Trump runs counter to every value most decent people hold dear, and when he has trampled on the conventions of the office himself? Because to repudiate form now, at the very moment of our democracy's greatest test, is to give up on those ideals that make our nation great: the rule of law, and the idea that the genius of the system is stron…

ON THE ROLE OF PROTESTS IN OUR CIVIC LIFE

Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair! --Donald Trump, November 10, 2016

Once again, protests captivate the attention of the nation, most notably at the site of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, but also in multiple sites across the country, as people express their disappointment at the election of Donald Trump, his proposed policies, his terrible campaign tactics, and his odious cabinet picks.

Trump's attempt to delegitimize protests against him puts him in the dubious company of repressive governments and strongmen across history and around the world. Sisi of Egypt, Putin of Russia, Erdogan of Turkey, Iran, China, North Korea, the list goes on. Stalin and Hitler also come to mind. The idea that those protesting are somehow paid plants from a nefarious opposition is a long-favored and completely baseless ploy used by many of these same figures. The fact that Trump would expend his energy on this tweet some 36 hours after he won an histori…

A GUIDE TO MEDIA CONSUMPTION IN THE ERA OF FAKE NEWS, TWITTER, AND THE NEVER-ENDING "CYCLE"

A GUIDE TO MEDIA CONSUMPTION IN THE ERA OF FAKE NEWS, TWITTER, AND THE NEVER-ENDING "CYCLE" Here we are, America, wide-awake on the morning after of our worst nightmare: an internet troll is literally the leader of the free world. A man immune to fact, who shamelessly denies what he has said on camera, who at every turn undermines the credibility of the free press, all the while exploiting the wall-to-wall coverage afforded his incendiary bombast and belligerent, man-boy posturing. Are we all partially to blame? I think the answer is yes. The echo chamber of social media feeds us content that tends to reinforce rather than challenge our pre-existing notions and beliefs. And it's not just the spin of these stories that limits our discourse. What gets reposted, memed, liked, and commented upon are not always the stories that, in the end, really matter. Cat videos, defiantly captioned pictures of Martin Luther King or Chief Joseph overwhelm our feeds, drowning out less rea…

Pat McCrory is going fishing

Pat McCrory is going fishing. He wants citizens to turn in cases of so-called voter fraud. Outrageous! Thanks to Christiane Voisin, who alerted us to this, and who wrote a powerful email to McCrory denouncing this bogus fishing expedition. Please write to: elections@ncgop.org You may copy and paste hers, or mine, included below. I find it more effective to articulate your own ideas and send them along. Form letters are less effective than a personal response. But please do email them. To whom it may concern: I am outraged that you are soliciting examples of voter fraud from the people of North Carolina. If every case of fraud were uncovered and accounted for, it would still represent an infinitesimally small and statistically insignificant number that would in no way change the result of the gubernatorial election. I know it, you know it, and every independent body and study that has looked at this issue can confirm it. What is clear is that the state GOP is attempting to delegitimiz…

WORDS MATTER:

As those of us on the left attempt to make the case against Donald Trump's more egregious cabinet posts and his likely implementation of policies we vehemently oppose, it is worth taking some time to consider the language through which we accomplish these pursuits. The long, brutal campaign brought our nation's discourse to new lows, particularly as Trump himself repeatedly resorted to ad hominem attacks--those against the person, not the ideas--on his opponents or anyone else who got in his way. "Little Marco," "Lyin' Ted," "Crooked Hillary." In turn, many mocked everything about Trump from his hair to his hands to the seemingly unnatural color of his skin. Then again, Hillary herself infamously referred to Trump supporters as a "basket of deplorables." Never mind that those words may have been taken out of context. Words matter. I want to make the case that what we need more than ever is to clean up our language to avoid, whenever…

ON VOTER SUPPRESSION:

After the election in 2012, North Carolina enacted what many observers have called the most restrictive voting laws in the country, laws that were deliberately constructed to disenfranchise people of color. The intellectual cover for these laws is that they are an effort to counter voter fraud. The impact of actual fraud has been negligible, as many independent watchdog groups and government agencies have reported. There will always be a tiny amount of inconsistency, and yes, a few people may fraudulently vote. But these numbers represent the tiniest, statistically insignificant percentage of all votes cast. Now, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory and his legal team are filing challenges based on supposed fraud in over half of the state's counties. With Roy Cooper up by thousands of votes, why are they wasting our time with what, even if they win every single challenge, is an effort that cannot change the overall results? Because sowing doubt in the credibility of elections in g…

ON ORGANIZING A PROTEST:

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-if-your-rights-are-violated-demonstration-or-protest
I am ready to organize a protest against Richard Burr at his office in Winston-Salem for remaining silent about the appointment of Steve Bannon to a top administration position. While the Senate has no direct jurisdiction over Bannon's post, I call on Senator Burr to use the bully pulpit of his office to independently condemn Mr. Bannon and the ideology of bigotry he promotes. Many have contacted me with details about how to find the man himself around town, or how to find out in advance when he will be in his Winston-Salem office. I, however, am more interested in protesting at his office, wether he is there or not. Let's rattle his cage at home, make some noise, get some media attention, inform other citizens of both the facts and our outrage. Let's create a platform through which to proclaim our views. I am torn in two directions about the timing of this. New and generally…

HERE'S WHAT I LEARNED FROM CALLING GOP LEADERS TODAY:

My approach is to start off VERY calmly, and to simply ask if the Senator or whomever I am calling has made a statement on the appointment of Steve Bannon to the office of White House Chief Strategist. The staffers who answer the phones try to get you off quickly, by telling you that the Senator has not yet commented, but they will be sure to pass your message on. At this point, right when they are about to move on, I escalate and extend the conversation by saying, "I have some other questions and comments for the Senator." I proceed to say that I am outraged and horrified that the Senator has not yet and did not immediately denounce the appointment of a white nationalist to an office down the hall from the Oval.  At this point, the responses from the staffers vary. Some lose their bureaucratic detachment, and become partisan, even argumentative. They say things like, "the Senator has never met Mr. Bannon." (A common deflection being used for this.) I responded to…

Why I Wear the Pin

The safety pin has come to stand for opposition to the election of Donald Trump to the office of president. I have come across more than one compelling, well-written piece arguing why I should not--or that I should do so only if I meet a certain set of conditions.

Some say that how dare I, a white male, assume to be the safe haven for the oppressed--particularly now when Trump was elevated through an unprecedented surge in white male voters. These writers would posit that guilty white liberals just want some way to feel better, want a way to wave at the other and say, "it wasn't me; I'm with her!" Others would argue, fine, wear it, but know that it is a very specific symbol meant to inform marginalized people that you are there to be a shield in the event of public harassment, harassment that has sharply spiked in the days since the election. These folks would say that I need training in de-escalation techniques, that I should be ready for violence, and that I may b…

A few quotes from Trump's transition team:

Mike Pence: "Most climatologists agree that, at best, global warming is a theory about future climactic conditions and cannot be proven based upon the historic record." Steve Bannon:
"Are there racist people involved in the alt-right? Absolutely."  Newt Gingrich:
"I discourage a cult of personality." "You know, modern liberals are just, I think frankly, totally off the deep end... their only answer is to yell racism and hide." Rudy Giuliani:
"Vladimir Putin is what you call a real leader." "White police officers wouldn't be there if blacks weren't killing each other." "I don't think waterboarding is torture." Ben Carson:
"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that..." Corey Lewandowski:
"Everything is politically correct nowadays." Marsha Blackburn:
"Citizens United fought to defend our right to free speech - and won a gr…

LET'S GIVE UP ON A COUPLE OF IDEAS:

No, not the idea of liberty, despite the dramatic illustration above. I have seen three items repeatedly on social media that I want to debunk and argue against.

1. The idea that we can petition the electoral college to vote for HRC, presumably because Trump is a menace to democracy and because Hillary won the popular vote. First, can you imagine how the millions of Trump voters, already described as "angry," would react? Second, turn the tables: imagine if Trump had squeaked out the popular vote but HRC had trounced him in the electoral numbers. Would we not find it sour grapes for his supporters to be signing a petition? We either work within the Constitution and its traditions or we don't. Yes, Trump shattered so many norms by refusing to release his tax returns, by refusing to say he would concede a loss, by claiming that the system is rigged, and by trading in lies and personal attacks. All these are precisely the reasons that Trump's opponents must adhere rigo…