Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A Government Of the Women, By the Women, For the People

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash


I want women in the highest offices in the land. It’s long past time.

Note: When I started this essay, Kamala Harris was still one of the three candidates figuring into my story about wanting a woman in the White House. Now I have to revise this, because yesterday afternoon word came that she was dropping out. The money just wasn’t there. She might have had the support but without the money she couldn’t go on. (Meanwhile, two male billionaires will be able to stay in as long as they want, never mind that neither of them has a chance in hell of winning the nomination.To say our election process is kerflooey is an understatement.)

So instead of the three women I thought I could highlight, I’m now down to two. But I’ll go on:

Until now I’ve been on the fence about Democratic presidential candidates, but a couple of nights ago, in the wee hours, it came to me that what I really want is for a woman to win. I’m down now to either Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar.

I want a woman in the White House, I want female majorities in the House, in the Senate, and, if we could ever pull it off, in the Supreme Court. I want those women to be Democrats, but I’d give Independents a hard look. I can’t think of a single female Republican I would trust with those jobs, and if that sounds harsh, too bad. They’ve brought it on themselves.

But back to my two:
Photo: Kathleen Gilligan — Detroit Free Press
Both women are smart, qualified, and are working on plans as we speak. Neither of them are novices. They’re seasoned politicos who know the system. They might look for compromise, even when compromise is seen as weak and namby-pamby (and kind of girly), but they’re both strong enough (and seasoned enough) to see past the BS and get what they want.

They’d both work well with Nancy Pelosi.

They’re tough cookies you never have to be afraid of — unless you’re on the other side. Their own unique assets are their weapons, but they never have to hit below the belt. They’re not hiding anything. They don’t think they’re God’s gift to humankind.

They’re not men.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is from academia and is smart about a whole lot of things, but her strongest asset is that Wall Street sees her as their most formidable enemy. They’ll do everything they can to make sure she doesn’t win because they know she’ll be working even harder to take away their power. They’ve had run-ins with her before. A sorry spectacle.

She exudes a kind of scholarly wisdom, but in a way that’s sort of down-home friendly. She doesn’t brag, she doesn’t talk down, she gets up close and personal. She’s savvy enough to to know how to get under Trump’s skin, and she’ll always come out on top. When he resorts to silly name-calling, she’ll resort to plain facts. And she won’t let up. She won’t back down.

Amy Klobuchar is a rock-solid Midwesterner with a blue-collar background. She’s a former prosecutor and a senator who announced her campaign entry while standing outside in a raging blizzard. She’s no white-bread sissy, so you can get that out of your head. I wrote about Amy a while back — musing about my own need for her kind of strength and comfort — and she’s still growing on me. I could see her dealing with our adversaries, both at home and abroad, and coming out smiling. Nothing seems to trigger her. She’s unflappable.

And now a word about Kamala Harris. I’m sorry she had to drop out. I know her campaign had problems, and maybe she didn’t strike that chord — whatever that chord is — but there’s no doubt she could have done the job. If she had won the primary I would have worked hard for her. She would have brought a refreshing take-no-prisoners toughness to the White House while caring deeply for children and the underclass. But she’s still a senator and a damned good one. Her time will come. I have no doubt.

I want a woman to be president in 2020. My choices now are either Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar. I don’t care about their histories, their ancestry, their flaws, or their “likability”. I care about their hearts, their minds, their vision, and their ability to do the job.

I know for a fact that each of them would choose cabinets reflecting the needs of a country battered and exhausted by an authoritarian regime bent on creating America’s first dictator. When Donald Trump is gone, when the Republican cowards who enabled him are gone, I want a leader who can start the healing process and bring us back to that place where we don’t have to hide in shame. I want a leader who is a government insider who understands the constitution and the rule of law. I want a leader who sees no problem with nurturing the sick, the poor, and the miserable. I want the next president to be a woman.

We formed the presidency in 1787. That’s 232 years without a single woman as president. It’s time. It’s long past time. And if it doesn’t happen in 2020, it’ll be because of a concerted effort to makes sure it’s always men in charge. It won’t be because the female candidate wasn’t worthy. That’s not going to wash this time.

(My apologies to Julián Castro. If it wasn’t for my very real need for a woman in the White House this time, you would be right up there on the list. I really am sorry. You’re one of the good guys and it’s a shame, but even you have to admit a country having been established for more than two centuries without once electing a female president is really pretty ridiculous.)

Saturday, November 23, 2019

I Would Make a Better President Than Donald Trump

Man, that guy in the White House is quite the amateur, isn’t he? What a screw-up! Hire professionals, I always say, especially when the job is the absolute highest in the whole damn land.

But if you just can’t bring yourself to trust a seasoned, professional politician, next time try me.

First off, if I came to the White House through some fluke (which is how it would have to be), I would know, without anyone having to tell me, that I was an amateur. I would be looking to the experts even before I went out into the Rose Garden to congratulate myself for getting to that place women hardly ever even dream of anymore.

I would admit that, at 82, I may be missing a few marbles, but not to worry — my BS-Meter is still working overtime. I would take a few questions, and if I didn’t know the answer, I would say, truthfully, “I don’t know.”

I’m not good at small talk or bullshitting but I would make a few jokes, just to get the press corps laughing again. (Because, lord knows…) They would be self -deprecating, but not so awful that I look really bad. Then, when someone gave me the secret signal to wrap things up, I would toddle off, waving, promising it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…

Right after lunch (in the White House!!!) I would call my cabinet together and we would get to work. My cabinet would be mostly made up of experts in their field, but might include both Jon Stewart and George Takei. That’s still up in the air, but I feel like I’ll need them.

I would take my cue from FDR and hire people who wouldn’t shrink from the words “constitution” or “common good” as if they were inscribed on wooden stakes aimed directly at their hearts.
If I didn’t understand them, I would say, “I don’t understand. Can you talk down to me, please?”, and they would, because, as I’ve said, I know nothing.

I would leave the big money talk to the experts, and if they couldn’t agree among themselves, I would call in Robert Reich to settle the matter.

I would ask Rachel Maddow to become my Chief of Staff, and anything else she wanted to be.
I would hire Lawrence O’Donnell to be my speech writer.

Dan Rather would be in charge of Communications.

We would reinstate the press briefings and Connie Schultz would be Press Secretary. Jim Acosta and April Ryan would get reserved front row seats.

I would make Chelsea Clinton our Good Will Ambassador.

I would ask Christiane Amanpour to be my Secretary of State.

Merrick Garland would be Attorney General.

The Secretary of Education would be a public school educator.

The Secretary of the Interior would be an environmentalist.

The Secretary of Commerce would send shivers through big business.

I would beg Dolores Huerta to be my Secretary of Labor.

Malcolm Nance would head Homeland Security.

I would put Beto O’Rourke in charge of gun control.

I would reopen every closed Planned Parenthood clinic and make plans to open more.

Eric Swalwell would take over the investigation into the refugee crisis on the border. Heads would roll down there until those families are reunited.

I would create a Citizen’s Committee on Congressional Oversight and put Al Franken in charge of it.

I would make few demands, but one of them would be that Ruth Bader Ginsburg must live forever.

And lastly, I would never, ever do anything to make Nancy Pelosi mad at me.

(Did I forget to say Maxine Waters would be my Vice President?)

So now that you’ve seen my hypotheticals, I hope you’ll think about them. Think hard. But don’t, whatever you do, write me in as a candidate! I mean it! Don’t do it! Don’t you dare write in R-a-m-o-n-a G-r-i-g-g.


(Cross-posted at Medium/Indelible Ink.)

_____________________________

Please Note: There is no comment section until I can figure out what went wrong. If you would like to comment, you can do it at the cross-posted link or write me at ramonasvoices@gmail.com. Thanks.

Friday, November 22, 2019

What If We Can't Fix This?

Is Dystopia All There Is?

Image by Enrique Meseguer for Pixabay


I’ve been dreaming about lost children. In one, I’m in a tall building looking down at a lone child on a beach, a child around six or seven walking slowly along the water’s edge, up and down, up and down, looking over at our building, possibly looking at me, or looking for me. It’s getting dark and I’m worried. I run to the door, and suddenly I’m on the sand, but the child is gone. Nowhere to be seen. I wake up.


In another there’s a child scurrying among garbage cans in an alley. In this one, it’s a little girl, no more than three. I’m at the entrance of the alley. Lights are shining behind me but it’s dark in the alley except for a single light above a door illuminating the spot where I see her. She disappears and reappears, disappears and reappears, but she doesn’t seem to see me. I call out but she doesn’t turn her head. I’m moving slowly toward her, willing my feet to move faster. She’s looking for something, throwing trash aside, until finally she stops, sits on the ground, lowers her head into her arms and wails. I rush toward her. And I wake up


During my waking hours I worry, too. I worry about the lost children everywhere, but now I'm an American living in a country that forcibly takes children away from their parents.

Did you read the piece I wrote in June, 2018 called “The Children are Lost and Someone Must Pay”? No, I’m sure you didn’t. I cried as I wrote it. I cried because the story horrified me, but I cried, too, because I knew no matter what I said, no matter how terrible it was, life for most Americans would go on while life for those refugee families would be intolerable.


I wrote:

No other way to put this: our government has been kidnapping refugee children and hiding them all across the country.

They move them in the dead of night and won’t say where they’ve gone.

They refuse to open detention center doors to concerned government officials — the ones who haven’t gone over to the dark side and show no signs of budging.

They won’t allow outside cameras or recording devices, releasing instead their own sanitized versions of nice places to incarcerate terrified children.

They hang “Dear Leader” posters on the walls, showing a smirking Donald Trump alongside a bizarre, irrelevant quote from his book, “The Art of the Deal”. (“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war”, in both English and Spanish.)




And this:
It’s as if the plan to forcibly remove children from their refugee parents ended at “forcibly remove”, followed by TO BE DETERMINED...

It’s as if they thought nothing bad would happen if they forcibly removed small, helpless human beings from the people who love them and care for them.

It’s as if they thought…

You know where I’m going with this, right?

They didn’t think.

They didn’t keep accurate records. They know where some of the children are, but not all of them. They sent them off to dozens of locations across the country without a fool-proof paper trail or electronic trail or any other kind of trail, and now that the cockamamie plan to steal kids away from their parents has been whomped to bits by millions of furious, vocal Americans, along with hundreds of members of the press, the clergy, and by God, Congress — all clamoring to know where the kids are — they’ve been forced to admit they just don’t know.


Nothing has changed. The children are still missing. For each child they reunite — to much fanfare — dozens more have disappeared. They’re gone.

The children they’re still holding are crying out, begging to be heard. We know hundreds if not thousands of them are being abused. We know this for a fact, but most Americans refuse to believe it.

We know their parents will never stop looking for them, and if that doesn’t break hearts, nothing ever will.


We’re at a point, as a country, where we either choose democracy and the rule of law or we give in to fascistic authoritarianism. We still have a choice. But we have to ask ourselves hard questions:

What if nobody goes to jail for kidnapping refugee children?

What if we never find those missing children?

What if we can’t bring drug prices and health costs down?

What if we never come up with the money to help Puerto Rico?

What if Flint never has clean water?

What if bigger and bigger guns kill more and more Americans?

What if abortions become illegal and contraceptives become contraband?

What if “The Handmaid’s Tale” becomes a handbook for certain powerful men?

What if the LGBT community never achieves equality?

What if people of color are in even more danger?

What if those promoting a corrupted version of Christianity get to make our nation’s moral rules?

What if Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting join together and become state TV?

What if public education disappears and an unregulated, agenda-driven charter school system becomes our only route to learning?

What if Right Wing judges with terms for life keep taking away our freedoms?

What if certain corrupt leaders dissolve our government and form their own?

What if the Russians win?

What if, when we all wake up and pay attention, it’s too late?

I’m a casual student of history but I’ve studied it enough to understand what happens to human beings under authoritarian, fascistic regimes. I understand that the transition from a democratic society to a dictatorship comes, not because of weakness or ignorance, but because it’s far easier to be oblivious and complacent.

The power-mongers take advantage of our insistence that it can’t happen here. They seduce us with personalities and entertainment, with audacity, with promises to take away the regulatory power of government and let us live our own lives.

And when we believe their promises and give them power, when they do the things they said they wouldn’t do — the things every expert in political history warned us they would do — we can’t bring ourselves to believe we were hoodwinked.

Nobody could be that bad. Nothing could be that terrible. Not here in America.

Too many of us still don’t believe it’s happening. But ask anyone who comes from an authoritarian society and they’ll tell you this is how it happens. It happens slowly, with disbelief at first that a demagogue is on the rise, then it changes to belief that the entire legitimate government is against us and one person has the power to save us.

The demagogue takes over the airwaves, denounces the press, demands allegiance, expects subservience, insists that self-serving lies are the truth, and rises to power, even in places where attributes like intelligence and decency are celebrated.

No demagogue, no dictator has ever done it alone. He has accomplices in high places who have their own agendas, who see riding on the coattails of someone with that much power as a journey they’re willing to take in order to feel even a touch of that kind of exaltation.

And always, in every instance, there is money to be made.

The demagogue is admired for getting there, for battling the forces trying to vanquish him, for winning. It makes him a hero, even when those forces against him are forces for good.

And once the demagogue becomes dictator he makes the rules. He throws out constitutions. He packs the courts with his own accomplices. He holds mock elections where only he can win.

And always, in every instance, the masses suffer.

But the dictator reigns for life, or until a coup takes him down. And democracy becomes that quaint thing, that grandiose experiment that never could have worked forever.

That’s how it happens in other places.

How long before it happens here?

Monday, November 4, 2019

Stop the Madness! Sign this Petition!




Hello, fellow outraged citizen. Are you as outraged as we are? Have you had enough? Are you one of those astute, sentient, breathing persons who has noticed that things are all topsy-turvy and upside down and going over a cliff and getting really bad?

They would like you to think that they've won and there is no hope and you're just a little pea in a pumpkin patch, but you're not! NO, YOU'RE NOT!! You can do something about it!! Yes, you!

Please sign petition to let everybody know you've we've had enough!! This kind of thing can't go on!!! Together we can make this happen!!!! We can slap the snot out of those monsters!!! Maybe not literally, but by tapping the keyboard really hard RIGHT NOW, we can get ourselves all het up and--who knows?--maybe even virtually yell loud enough to get through to those crazy characters, who will pretend they can't hear us and will virtually yell back, "I can't hear you!"

But we will have spoken. Yes, WE. Because we can do this!

After you've typed your name and have checked to make sure it has magically appeared on a line provided for just that purpose, you'll be directed to another page where you can cement your outrage for all time by putting your money where your mouth is.

Here, even though you don't know us from a hill of beans, you will give us your real name, your real address, your real phone number, your real credit card number, the amount you would like to donate to our cause (don't be chintzy now, we know who you are), and proof of citizenship (See Below).

(Below) Proof of citizenship requires these three things: An apple pie recipe (no strudel!), a notarized letter from your particular Pastor Person stating he/she has seen you in a place of worship at least 52 times in the past year, and John Wayne's real name, place of birth, and secret location of body mole.


***Sign here if you agree that things can't go on this way and firmly believe in your heart of hearts that you can actually change those things that can't go on by signing your name to an internet petition and giving us money so we can serve you even better by creating more petitions. (Be assured that we will save your name, address, phone number and credit card information for future petitions, saving you all kinds of time when you come back. You're welcome.)


X___________________________________________________ (Your honest and true signature, okay?)


 


(NOTE: Astute readers may feel they've seen this before. They would be right. I wrote this more than seven years ago. It's been calling to me. What can I say?)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Most Sublime Presidency: What If Amy Klobuchar Should Win?


I’ll start this off by saying though I’m leaning toward someone who isn’t Amy Klobuchar, I’m not endorsing anyone for the 2020 presidential election yet. It’s way too early for me. But I’ve been watching Sen. Klobuchar and what I’m seeing is a compassionate, pragmatic Midwesterner wearing her decency on her sleeve. 

She’s quiet-spoken and without guile. She’s uncomfortable bragging about her own accomplishments but doesn’t hesitate to share her resumé when it’s necessary to remind people of her bona fides. She lurks and waits and then pounces with surprisingly tough precision whenever she sees an opening. She’s a force. Not a tornado, but a steady wind driving us toward safety.

I like her. I really, really like her. I like many of the other candidates, too, but Klobuchar eases my heart. I relax when she speaks. I calm down. I hear what she’s saying and I can picture her in the Oval Office, sitting at the Resolute desk, speaking the plain truth with ease and clarity.

She’s funny the way Barack Obama is funny. Her sense of humor doesn’t lean toward snark. If she uses it to skewer she wraps it in velvet first. I could be comfortable with Amy in the White House, and right now comfort is not a word that readily comes up in politics.

I know, even as I write this, that there will be pushback to what I’m saying here. Someone will dig up a quote or an action that will attempt to prove me wrong. So here — I’ll save them the trouble on this one point: I didn’t like what she did to Al Franken. He was her Senate colleague in Minnesota and she knew him as well as anybody, but, when the time came, she joined the others and urged him to “do the right thing” and resign.

Her rush to tell him to resign was infuriating, considering they were supposed friends, and considering his entire female staff came to his defense. I didn’t think I would ever forgive her for that. But I have. She made me forgive her. She has that ability.

So, yes, I could see Amy Klobuchar as the antidote to Donald Trump. She is everything he is not. But how would she be with foreign policy? With the Republicans who won’t be happy when Donald loses? With the aggrieved Trumpsters who will see her as a weak woman they can easily topple? With the fake churchies who thought they were on their way to a theocracy, if not the rapture?

She’d be just fine. She would surround herself with experts and with people who care about this country’s mental and physical health as much as we all do. She would recruit the best of the best and she would listen. She wouldn’t embarrass us in her trips abroad and she would NEVER shove another world leader out of the way in order to get up front. (Not that any of the others would, either. They wouldn’t.)

But don’t let her Minnesota Nice fool you. She was a prosecutor once. She grew up blue collar tough.Her staff says she can be fearsome. She’s been known to make some of them cry. (Okay, I’m not okay with that. Just so you know.) But there’s something about her that says, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this. We’re going to be okay.”

Look, I’m tired. We’re all tired. And this is just thinking out loud — maybe this is what we’re going to need after the madness. But who knows? By the time you read this she may have already dropped out. She’s not all that high on the Popular list. Here’s all I’m saying: With Klobuchar there would be no unnecessary drama. It wouldn’t get personal. Chaos would give in to calm. She’s steady. As a rock. She’s forthright. She would hold us together. When this Trump thing is finally over she would work at healing us. I might even sleep the whole night through. That would be nice.

_____________________________

(Cross-posted at Medium/Indelible Ink.)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Elizabeth Warren was Fired for Being Pregnant


It was common practice to punish women for being mothers while holding a job. It still is.

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash
Because we’re the only gender with wombs, women hold an odd place, even in modern-day culture. We’re expected, if not required, to bring children into the world above all else, even when pregnancy isn’t wanted, is inconvenient, or is dangerous. But once we’re pregnant, or mothers — or even women of child-bearing age — we become suspect in the workplace.

Suppose we have children whose needs might come first? What then? How does that jibe in a profit-motivated system where worker bees are required to work their asses off in order for their employers to make buckets full of money? What has to come first, the job or the kid? In this system, it’s the job. It’s always been the job.

I have no idea if Elizabeth Warren planned her pregnancy way back when she was a teacher, but I do know for a fact that she could be fired once her pregnancy began to show. I also know for a fact the reason for the firing would never be listed on paper as “pregnancy”.

The ignorance of those GOP “fact-checkers” looking for a record of Sen. Warren’s claims — that she was fired for having a child — is astounding. There is no record. Of course there is no record.

When I was a kid in school in the 1940s and 1950s, our female teachers were always known as “Miss”. If they were married, we couldn’t know it. If they became pregnant, we couldn’t know it. Why not? Because, while male teachers could have families and could even talk about them, female teachers had to appear asexual. No one wanted impressionable children to be thinking about female teachers having sex.

They had dress codes. They were walking, talking text books with no life outside the classroom. When one of them suddenly disappeared in the middle of a semester, we weren’t told they were on maternity leave, we were simply told a new teacher would be taking their place.

When I was in high school in the early 1950s, two of our teachers were married to each other. That was so unheard of we never stopped talking about it. To us it was kind of…delicious. And subversive.

But it wasn’t just teachers. Women with children were discriminated against in every work place. Women with children were a liability. Their loyalties would never lie with their jobs as long as there were children at home. Children get sick, they need care, they need nurturing. They are a distraction when the clock is ticking, the work piles up, and their employer makes demands that require a Hobson’s choice.

It’s never easy for mothers to put their best into outside jobs. Women with good paying jobs can afford good child care. Women with crap jobs paying too little aren’t so lucky. But every mother faces those days when their jobs demand their attention but their children need them even more.

Women need to be mothers first. That’s a fact. It’s also the excuse employers make to keep women down. Women have always been behind men in work pay, and the reason, often spoken out loud, is because women can’t devote as much time or attention to their jobs. Never mind that not all women are mothers, or that not all women still have children at home. They’re shoved into the same box because it’s convenient — because god forbid men ever have to acquiesce to the notion that women might be their equals.

You may have noticed that no woman has ever been President. It’s a big deal every time a woman wins a job over a man, no matter the title. Being a woman in a “man’s job” is a liability that we should have gotten over long ago, but there are still far fewer women in government than there are men. That isn’t going to change until attitudes change, and as long as the GOP holds the cards, that’s not likely.

When it comes to motherhood, America is a bastion of hypocrisy. Half the people in our country think there’s nothing wrong with forcing women to carry a fetus to term, sending the message loud and clear that their own ambitions will always have to take a back seat to motherhood.

At the same time, there are forces working inside our government to take away any protections families, including single mothers, might need to care for their children. Cuts in everything from health care to food stamps to housing allowances makes the children of those struggling families vulnerable. Our government refuses to take care of the children born to women who have few or no resources. Our government refuses to even see them.

But that will all change if a woman becomes President. Can Elizabeth Warren break that glass ceiling? Or Kamala Harris? Or Amy Klobuchar? The question now is, are we ready for a woman president?

I know. It’s a silly question. Of course we’re ready. We’re long past ready.

~ ~ ~

(Cross-posted at Medium/Indelible Ink)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Twitter: The Essential Battleground for The Resistance


Public Domain - Pixabay

Last week, after Donald Trump, the purported President of the United States, learned the Democratic-dominated House of Representatives would, in fact, begin impeachment inquiries, he took to Twitter to tweet more than 100 times in a single day.  He went from whining, to bragging, to threatening a whistle-blower, to predicting civil war if we didn't stop messing with him.

Trump has latched onto Twitter like a leech on the jugular and uses it as an unseemly venue for official policy, as his own personal PR firm, and as the delivery system for threats and intimidation against anyone or any organization threatening to expose or topple him.

It's because he understands the power of Twitter better than almost anybody.

Almost anybody.

There are Trump acolytes, there are trolls, there are bots, there are masters of disinformation everywhere, but I'm here to talk about those of us working against Trump, using Twitter to do it.

We are the #Resistance and we never sleep. We're out there and our numbers are growing. For us, Twitter is a battleground, it's a staging area, it's headquarters for those leading the charge against the tyranny that is Trumpism.

We're the witnesses, the couriers, the voices of the opposition. We follow the good guys and shed light on the disinformation coming from the bad guys, and, if nothing else comes of it, we take satisfaction where we can get it: We know we're getting to Trump when he has to tweet more than 100 times in a single day.

Through Twitter, we get real-time updates on the battles raging on every front, and we send them on, like smoke signals, to the resistance pods all around the country.

Is there a protest coming up? We know about it. Is there a March in the works? We pass along the info, right down to where to catch the buses.

When this rogue administration abuses citizens or foreigners or refugees, we've read the first hand accounts from the victims or their families and we send out tweets to lawyers or scholars or social justice warriors who are known to us now and are ready to help.

When someone fights the system and is in danger of being harmed, we expose the abuses. We know who to tweet to give them a hand. Millions of us retweet the information to give it more visibility.

Twitter is a morass of bad information but it's also a funnel for good journalism.  When the press and/or the pundits get it right, we send their stories into the viralsphere. When they get it wrong, we show them the error of their ways--and we often win. We win because they can't ignore the Twitter warriors coming down on them, forcing them to look again.

Because the other side Tweets, too, we know their thoughts and see right through them. In mere minutes we can counter and dilute their lies. In mere minutes.

As with any war zone, there is a dark side. You may have noticed. There are forces working against the resistance, and they're experts at obfuscating and gaslighting. They're ruthless and formidable and sometimes terrifying. They come from every corner of the planet. Sometimes they're real and sometimes they're not.  It's easy to get caught up in a whirlwind attack meant to intimidate and shut the resister down, but the Twitter Resistance community knows the difference and spreads the word.

That's where courage comes in, and we're bravest when we're not alone. The list below is my own personal list of people to follow on Twitter. I look to them for expertise, for analysis, for inspiration. I trust them. I know they've done their homework, and I know if they make a mistake they'll own up to it.

If you're new to Twitter, don't be intimidated by its uniqueness. Embrace it. When you follow any of these people, be sure to retweet their tweets. Retweeting begets retweeting and, if it begets often enough, it sends a viral message to the opposition. There are more of us than there are of them, and we're real. Don't buy into the lie that retweeting does no good. Getting our message out is part of being a community. This is how we do it.  Commenting helps, too, even if you disagree. This is a dialogue, a conversation, a convention. Be a part of it.

These are our people and they're preaching to the choir, they're using their bullhorns to yell it loud, they're showing us by their light that ethics and decency are not dead. (Some of them are hilariously entertaining, but we need that, too.)

If Trump wants a digital civil war, we're way ahead of him. We're already at the battlements. New recruits are coming in every day. We're an all-volunteer army and we won't stop until we've stopped the madness.

So bring it on, fools.



Some of our Twitter buddies, in no particular order. Check them out. This isn't a complete list, by any means, and I've left off politicians and publications (because they're easy to find and I needed to save space), but it's a start:


Neal Katyal
Malcolm Nance
Laurence Tribe
Bryce Tache
Maya Wiley
Judd Legum
Driftglass
Kurt Eichenwald
Karoli
GottaLaff 
Susie Madrak
Elie Mystal
Preet Bharara
Tim O'Brien
John Pavlovitz
Patton Oswalt
Charlotte Clymer
Jed Shugerman
Heidi N. Moore 
Mimi Rocah
Will Bunch
Dean Obeidallah
Bob Cesca
Ana Navarro-Cardenas
Joshua Holland
Rachel Maddow
Howard Dean
Brian Beutler
Prof Helen
Charles P. Pierce
Seth Abramson
Molly Jong-Fast
Josh Marshall
Charles Blow
Neera Tanden
Roland Scahill
Joyce Alene (Joyce White Vance)
David Corn
Glenn Kirschner
Eugene Robinson
Sarah Kendzior
Andy Lassner
Jason Johnson
John Fugelsang
Kyle Griffin
Jim Acosta
David Rothkopf
Alyssa Milano
Adam Parkhomenko
Dr. Dena Grayson
Tony Schwartz
Joy Reid
Scott Dworkin
Andrea Chalupa
Michael McFaul
Lawrence O'Donnell
Mark Hamill
Soledad O'Brien
Norman Goldman
Aunt Crabby Calls Bullshit
Amy Siskind
Brian J. Karem
Debra Messing
Dan Rather
RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS)
Asha Rangappa
Rob Reiner
Josh Marshall
Simon Rosenberg
Nicolle Wallace
Barb McQuade
Jill Wine Banks
digby
Natasha Bertrand
Steven Beschloss
Renato Mariotti
Connie Schultz
Jacob Soboroff
Rabbi Jill Zimmerman
David Weissman
Shannon Watts
Susan Elizabeth (my daughter)
And me: Ramona Grigg. Because, as you can see, I know people.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Why Beto's Long Game Just Might Work

 "We're coming for your guns" may be what we need to hear.



Of all the candidates running for president on the Democratic side, Beto O’Rourke stands out as the maverick, the rebel, the “I don’t give a Flying F” guy who doesn’t pander and doesn’t cower. He’s got a mouth like a drunken pirate and he revels in it. (His campaign is selling tee shirts that say, over and over, “This is F — ked up”.)

Beto is the guy who almost took down Ted Cruz in 2018. That was big. He’s a Texan who speaks perfect Spanish, who waves his arms and bounces around to the point of distraction, but can handle comparisons to the Energizer Bunny because, well, he’s energized.


By rights he should be a force to be reckoned with — he’s young, earnest, charismatic, Kennedyesque— but so far there have been no real poll surges. Nothing that would suggest he might have a chance. It’s a crowded field and there are other more adept stars who tend to dominate the stage.

But Beto is a force. He shows up on the border, near tears as he reports on the conditions in the refugee camps. He boldly rails against white supremacists from his perch in Texas, a state known for its love of guns and rage, and he minces no words when he talks against Donald Trump. (Tell us how you really feel, Beto.)

He made it clear just days after the August 3 shooting massacre in El Paso, where 22 people died in the district Beto represented in congress for six years, that he had no interest in running for the senate. It’s the presidency or nothing, because he knows only the power of the presidency will allow him to make radical change.

The shootings hit him hard. He took a two-week break from campaigning so he could be with his people in Texas. He went to funerals and visited victims still hospitalized. He gave blood. He listened to horrific stories told to him by victims and survivors, as well as the doctors trying to repair bodies savagely shredded by bullets meant only as the ultimate deterrents on a battle field.

It changed him. He’d had enough. And, as usual, he was going to say so.
In every public appearance, his fury was palpable, his tears near the surface, as he zeroed in on the proliferation of weapons of war in a culture so fearful of “others”, reports of armed white madmen going on deadly rampages have become commonplace.

Beto made a wrenching decision: He could no longer ignore the need to get those weapons out of the hands of anyone who wanted one. No more “We don’t want to take your guns away from you”, as he had earlier promised, however reluctantly. Now, without equivocation, his message is laser-beamed on the absolute removal of military-style weapons from the hands of private citizens.

In an August 22 editorial, he startled everyone by putting in writing what no politician had ever dared. He wrote,
On Aug. 3, my hometown of El Paso, Texas — one of the safest cities in America — was attacked in one of the deadliest mass shootings in our country’s modern history. This was an act of white nationalist terror, and one we could have prevented.
All countries have video games. All countries struggle with mental health. All countries deal with hatred. But only America has more guns than human beings — 390 million firearms in a country of 329 million people — which kill nearly 40,000 people every year.
Some of the nurses, surgeons and doctors heroically treating victims at Del Sol and University Medical Center in El Paso told me they hadn’t seen such horrific wounds since they were deployed abroad in our armed forces, saving the lives of soldiers on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq…
… That’s why, as president, I would institute a mandatory buyback of every assault weapon in America.
He didn’t say “every gun”, he said “every assault weapon” and he’s careful to make that distinction every time he repeats his promise. On August 31 he was in Charlottesville when a reporter asked him how he would address the fears of people who were afraid he really would take away their assault weapons. He said without hesitation:

“I want to be really clear that that’s exactly what we are going to do. Americans who own AR-15s, AK-47s, will have to sell them to the government. We’re not going to allow them to stay on our streets, to show up in our communities, to be used against us in our synagogues, our churches, our mosques, our Walmarts, our public places.”

And at the presidential debate held on Thursday, September 12, he said again, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore.”

It’s clear he means it. He may, in fact, have blown any chance at the presidency, but he has accomplished what he set out to do. He's establishing a radical idea, and radical ideas have to start somewhere.

He has started a dialogue that will build momentum, and as it builds, the idea of an all-out ban on assault weapons will become less radical and more accepted. Millions of us want to see it happen. None of us knows how it would be possible. That’s the next step: figuring out how it can be done.

But first things first. A political leader has said out loud what hundreds of political leaders are saying behind closed doors — we must get assault weapons out of the hands of ordinary citizens. We can’t rely on licensing, or background checks, or even statewide bans, as in California, when gun purchasing is so accepted, so easy, that any restrictions can be readily sidestepped. Literally anyone can buy a gun. Sellers are waiting to accommodate. Enough of them are willing to look the other way. The only solution, as far-fetched as it seems, is an outright ban.

The blowback to Beto’s insistence on an assault weapon ban is fierce, as he might have expected. Members of his own party are praising his honesty while not quite getting there yet. Both Kamala Harris and Corey Booker have plans to do away with assault weapon sales but they’re swimming in red tape, trying to be all things to all people. They aren’t nearly as convincing as Beto. Yet.

Some colleagues, like Delaware Senator Chris Coons, are afraid he’s playing right into the NRA’s hands. He told CNN’s Poppy Harlow he’s worried about Beto’s debate comments:
I frankly think that that clip will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying that Democrats are coming for your guns.
And, as expected in this culture now, Beto is getting death threats, like the one from a Texas state legislator who tweet-warned, “My AR is ready, Robert Francis”, invoking Beto’s real name, doubling as a reminder of what happened to Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy.

But the message is indelible now: If we want to end the massacres we have to ban military-style assault weapons. Beto O’Rourke did this for us and, while we may not reward him with the presidency, this is how he will be remembered. As the leader who finally cut through the bullshit and gave it to us straight. He opened the floodgates and, as with every radical idea, we’ll need to get used to it. Already Adam Schiff is calling for petition signatures to reinstate the assault weapons ban. (kuuuuu)

Joe Biden is reminding voters in a tweet that he worked on banning assault weapons before and he’ll do it again as president:
25 years ago this week, Senator Feinstein and I led the charge to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We beat the @NRA and got it done. As president, I’ll do it once again. We will get these military-style weapons off our streets.
Kamala Harris is pushing a red flag law that will allow the temporary seizure of guns in the hands of White Supremacists showing signs of acting on their threats. (Key word: temporary.)

So, if we’re lucky, Beto’s Democratic colleagues will get braver. They’ll test the waters to see if they can survive the onslaught. They’ll waffle until it seems safe. They’ll yell as if they mean it, and then they’ll add exceptions to keep voters happy. But all the while Beto will be howling to be heard and his message will stay the same.

In time, the notion of an assault weapons ban will become not just acceptable, but necessary.

In time, the howling will be coming from the other side. And when the ban is in place, when military guns in the hands of private citizens becomes a painful memory, when statistics show the number of lives we’ve saved — by the thousands — we’ll wonder what took us so long.

. . .

(Cross-posted at Crooks & Liars)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Eighteen Years After: We Remember 9/11



Today marks the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Eighteen years have passed -- more than a decade and a half -- but for those closest to the terror, for those whose loved ones were caught in that unimaginable rage storm, for those who trained for this, who mobilized and fought so hard to try and save the lives already lost to them, we pay tribute by refusing to forget.

The pictures are all that is left.  They stay with us and resonate as terrible, beautiful works of art.


The agony of the men and women who could do nothing but stand by and watch the towers fall reflected and drove home our own agony -- even those of us in the hinterlands who watched the horrific events unfold on our TV screens, helpless to do anything but gasp and moan and rock with a kind of psychic pain most of us had never felt in our entire lifetimes.

 

As painful as the dredging up of the images of that terrible day is to us, there is no sense of dread as the annual anniversaries approach.  Every year, on September 11, we want to remember.  9/11 has become a watchword.  Nobody in America has to be told what those numbers represent.  

  Every year on this anniversary, in a ceremony to honor the dead, family members gather for the recitation of the names of the men and women lost to us on September 11, 2001.  The names are being read alphabetically.  For one brief moment the people live again.  We do this for their families and for us.  They're not just numbers or actors in an unimaginable event that became the catalyst for change, altering our lives forever.  We need to keep their memories alive in order to recognize their humanity, and possibly our own.


We remember.

We remember.

We will always remember.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The President’s Mission: Let Him Entertain You

Trump loves schlock, shock, and chaos, especially when the theater is on fire.

Image: Reuters
Remember that day in mid-June, 2015, when Donald Trump rode his golden escalator down into the depths, digging deep into a Chaplinesque version of Benito Mussolini as he announced he was going to run for president and not only save a dying America but build a great wall and make Mexico pay for it ? Remember how we laughed? 

I wasn’t the only one who saw his imperious ride down the escalator as tongue-in-cheek performance art, a bid to push that crazy idea he’d been tossing around for years — a run for the presidency — and,what the hell, give it another shot. He drew the cameras and the crowds, and his addiction for attention got the hit of all hits.

Remember his nonsensical attacks on President Obama, pretending he had proof Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii but in Africa, where Trump’s agents were already scouring the countryside, talking to people who, he said, swore they remembered his birth, swore they saw the future president in swaddling clothes? Remember when he promised to reveal all? Soon?

He knew he had nothing. WE knew he had nothing. But he got the attention he craved and he rewarded us by giving us something to talk about.

Getting attention is everything to Donald Trump. He craves attention and it’s an addiction that consumes him. He ran for president, not because he and he alone had to chops to get the job done, but because he craves attention. (It’s clear he never expected to win. It was never his intention.)

When he saw he would be just one of 12 other candidates on the debate stage, he knew he couldn’t compete politically so he chose to do the thing he does best: He went all entertainer. He built an act around teasing and tormenting his fellow candidates. He called them silly names. He made airy promises that nobody in their right mind believed. When he wasn’t painting the government as weak and inept, he was sloshing bright red MAGA paint all over a government he portrayed as dark and sinister.

People — even those who saw right through him — sat up and took notice. The press loved him. The deplorables loved him. And he loved that he finally found something that would make them love him.
Nothing excites Trump’s Vaudevillian brain more than a rapt audience. So to that eternal question, “Is he serious?” — no, he’s not serious. This is what he lives for.

When he uses the words “beautiful” and “fun” in totally inappropriate sentences, (“Kim Jong Un writes me the most beautiful letters”. “Are you having fun? This is fun. Right?”)he wants us to be entertained. It keeps us from looking beyond his carefully built caricature to see how ugly his ugly side really is.

But he’s a weak man, a pretender, and he can’t go on hiding his weaknesses behind a clown face forever. He is not a president. He’s not even a comic example of a president. He’s a menace because he isn’t serious, and he isn’t serious because that would require studying and contemplation — two things this president works overtime avoiding.

His only function is to keep the Trump legend alive. We knew before he was president that he’d go to any lengths to promote himself. We knew, for example, that he became “John Barron” and sometimes “David Dennison”, pretending to be his own press agent. We heard the tapes of his phone calls and recognized not just his voice but his distinctive speech patterns. We knew it was him. He denies it.

We knew he was dishonest and corrupt and given to fits of red hot revenge, but if we thought we could shame him by exposing him, we learned early on it was a lost cause. He feels no shame, no remorse, no regret, no guilt. Any human feelings were long ago replaced by his need to build the character he plays into someone the world would see as heroic.

We’ve suspected there’s something more — that he’s not all there —but we keep waiting for the constitutional checks and balances to kick in. It stops being funny when this president uses his formidable powers to attack and destroy at will, and counts on his popularity to keep the madness going.

Under his watch real people, including refugee families held at the border and often separated from their children, are suffering in ways so horrific we want not to believe it.
Under his watch the economic and military experts, the scientists, the teachers — the country’s caretakers — have been labeled inept and rendered useless.
Under his watch our infrastructure and our safety nets are disappearing.
Under his watch thousands of brown-skinned hurricane victims have been left to die.

We’re in deep trouble, but in order for Trump to keep it from seeming as impossibly awful as it is, he has learned to go for the giggle. How bad can he be if he can make people laugh?

So when he says he wants to buy Greenland, or be president forever, or maybe even be God’s chosen one, he anticipates the deliciously satisfying fuss and he can forget for that moment that he may someday be indicted for various criminal activities, that history will not be kind to him, that the stage lights will dim and the crowds will disappear and he’ll go back to being that Donald Trump that nobody liked, that Donald Trump that everyone saw as a joke.

It’s those last laughs that will finally get him.

. . . 

(Cross-posted at Indelible Ink

Saturday, August 31, 2019

How Unions Gave Us Labor Day

In praise of a movement battered and bruised but not down




JFK at Detroit Labor Day Parade, 1960 — Photo: Walter Reuther Library


I come from a union family and I married into one. My father-in-law sat in the 44-day sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, when General Motors refused to recognize union rights for workers.

When I was a little girl I remember standing in a long line with my dad so he could vote for a union contract after a strike. I remember the Labor Day parades along Woodward Avenue in Detroit — union members marching, thousands strong, the parades lasting for hours and hours. (Like the one above with JFK.)

Strikes were hard on our families. They knew, going in, there would be hardships — no end in sight, no money coming in — but the goal was for better wages, better conditions,and for a sense of dignity that every working person deserved.

I remember being scared because I saw my parents were scared. I remember feeling relief when the ordeal was over and even small concessions were considered wins.

America was strong when unions were strong. Over the years their clout has diminished and there is no doubt workers are the worse for it. Wages are down and so are protections. Dignity and a sense of purpose is long gone. We were building a country and we were proud of our efforts. Now we aren’t.

I’m a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO (NWU). I pay my union dues gladly, knowing as a freelancer they’ll have my back if I ever have a dispute I can’t handle. (Because that’s what unions do. They advocate for workers.)

The NWU works with publications on contracts for freelance writers, negotiating for reasonable rates and conditions. (This is their agreement with The Nation.) They issue press passes and provide legitimacy to writers who find themselves trying to navigate a system set up to take, and only rarely give.

In 2018 my union took on Ebony Magazine and won an $80,000 settlement for 45 freelancers who hadn’t been paid for their work. There’s little chance those writers would ever have seen money due them without the clout of a strong union behind them.

But just yesterday, news came that The Arizona Republic is getting tough on staffers who are looking into union representation. They’ve gone from assuring them they don’t need a union to threatening lawsuits over what they call “surveilling” other staff members in an effort to coerce them into joining. The workers say it isn’t true.

Gannett, their parent company, is notorious for working against unions, which nobody but me seems to consider odd: Newspapers, those bastions of free speech, keep working to muffle voices pushing for representation. But there it is. That’s where we are now.

Every year around Labor Day I grow nostalgic for those days when labor was strong and management had respect for them — if even reluctantly. I think about those early labor advocates and marvel at their efforts, when the prospect of good wages or protections or even dignity seemed foolish and misguided, considering the good will of the businesses who were kind enough to hire them. (I’m kidding.)

So in case you missed them, I give you some quotes I’ve shared over the years on Labor Day:
Labor is the great producer of wealth: it moves all other causes.
Congressman Daniel Webster, 4/2/1824
“The first thing is to raise hell,” says I. “That’s always the first thing to do when you’re faced with an injustice and you feel powerless. That’s what I do in my fight for the working class.”
 Mother Jones
With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than the other association of men.
 Clarence Darrow, The Railroad Trainman, 1909
The history of America has been largely created by the deeds of its working people and their organizations. Nor has this contribution been confined to raising wages and bettering work conditions; it has been fundamental to almost every effort to extend and strengthen our democracy.
William Cahn, labor authority and historian
We insist that labor is entitled to as much respect as property. But our workers with hand and brain deserve more than respect for their labor. They deserve practical protection in the opportunity to use their labor at a return adequate to support them at a decent and constantly rising standard of living, and to accumulate a margin of security against the inevitable vicissitudes of life.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, fireside chat, 1936
If I were a worker in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to join a union.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
The first thing a dictator does is abolish the free press. Next he abolishes the right of labor to go on strike. Strikes have been labor’s weapon of progress in the century of our industrial civilization. Where the strike has been abolished … labor is reduced to a state of medieval peonage, the standard of living lowered, the nation falls to subsistence level.
George Seldes, Freedom of the Press, 1935
The right to join a union of one’s choice is unquestioned today and is sanctioned and protected by law.
President Harry S. Truman
Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.
President Dwight Eisenhower
There’s s a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.
Walter Reuther
In light of this fundamental structure of all work… in light of the fact that, labor and capital are indispensable in any social system … it is clear that even if it is because of production in any social system … it is clear that even if it is because of their work needs that people unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.
Pope John Paul II
The history of the labor movements needs to be taught in every school in this land. America is a living testimonial to what free men and women, organized in free democratic trade unions can do to make a better life. … We ought to be proud of it!
Vice President Hubert Humphrey
Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.
President John F. Kennedy, 1962
The AFL-CIO has done more good for more people than any (other) group in America in its legislative efforts. It doesn’t just try to do something about wages and hours for its own people. No group in the country works harder in the interests of everyone.
President Lyndon Johnson, 1965
Without a union, the people are always cheated, and they are so innocent. Cesar Chavez, United Farm Workers Union

Labor Day is an American holiday created by labor unions.  It became a national holiday in 1894, and since then it has been celebrated on the first Monday in September, without fail.   We celebrate the labor movement on Labor Day each year because working hard and playing by the rules (whose rules?) was not and never has been a ticket to success in America.  It took the labor movement to gather enough strength to make sure hard working, rules-playing workers got a fair shake in the workplace.

Click here for the history of Labor Day.




And I leave you with the song that says it all:





Happy Labor Day weekend.  Remember who we were when we were at our best.

(Cross-posted at Indelible Ink)