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The subtitle on Stamped From the Beginning is “The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” And Ibram X. Kendi is not fucking around on this one. This book took me an unusually long time to read—not because it was unpleasant, or even overly dense (as sometimes history books are), but because there’s a lot there, and the subject matter is extremely challenging.

I’m really glad I read it. Really, really glad. I encourage you to take the time to read and digest and mull it over as well. Buy the book, check it out from the library like I did, but go get it.

I’m going to think out loud on a couple of the points Kendi made that drew the most blood from me. But my mulling things over out loud should not be in any way a replacement for reading the book and getting Kendi’s thoughts first hand. Goodness knows I’m missing nuance and have my own major blind spots.

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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I sent this to the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper today, after seeing the AP story about a Trump administration draft memo regarding mobilization of the National Guard to be used to round up undocumented immigrants. Yes, I am aware that we’re talking a draft, but I find it seriously horrifying that this is even being talked about as an option, however off-handedly or unseriously. This is not a thing you fucking joke about.

Anyway, that prompted me to write and send the following message today. I’m sharing it in the hope that others will feel encouraged to send similar messages.

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Dear Governor Hickenlooper:

Per the Associated Press today, a draft memo from the Trump Administration showed they’re thinking about using the National Guard to round up undocumented immigrants. Considering the absolutely tragic and shameful history of our own state when it comes to the National Guard being mobilized against our citizens and residents (i.e.: the Ludlow Massacre), this calls on us all to speak firmly against this notion before it can gather steam.

Beyond that, undocumented immigrants are a vital part of Colorado society. It would be far better if they could have a path to legal citizenship or permanent residency, but lack of national will does not change the enormous contributions they make to Colorado daily. We should be respecting and protecting all of our residents, whether they have papers or not.

I urge you to speak out in strong support of undocumented Coloradans, and do everything in your power to keep their families from being torn apart by these unfair and racist policies we keep seeing from Washington DC. Make us a sanctuary state; while I know we can’t stop ICE, we can refuse to aide and abet the destruction of families and the victimization of innocent people who are integral to the fabric of Colorado.

With a lack of national will, it falls to us to step up and show our strength of spirit and compassion. I know Colorado is better than what our national government is currently trying to become.

Thank you.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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(This was originally intended to be a Facebook reply, but it’s so long that it actually broke Facebook when I tried to post it. Or maybe the multiple links did it. Either way, go me?)

I know I don’t normally even go here, but I saw your airy dismissal that LGBTQ rights will be “fine” under the Trump presidency and can’t really remain silent. Please don’t read this as me lecturing you, but rather trying to explain why I and so many of my LGBTQ siblings are terrified what’s going to happen to us.

There are a lot of reasons I’m extremely concerned about the Trump presidency, but I’m going to set everything else (such a mountain of everything else) aside just to focus on my perspective only as a queer individual. From that stance, the problem isn’t even necessarily Donald Trump himself. While he’s said a lot of incredibly hateful things that I’ve been horrified by, I don’t recall any being directed toward LGBTQ people specifically, other than the bitterly laughable “ask the gays” comment, which is right up there with “some of my best friends are gay” when it comes to eye-rolling. Hell, he even said he’d “protect LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology” after the Pulse nightclub shooting, which is… nice, I guess, though I could have done with a lot less being used to justify anti-Islamic sentiment and more addressing hateful domestic ideologies. But I honestly do buy the argument that Donald Trump probably does not give two shits if someone is gay or straight, and who knows, maybe he’s one of those lovely people who is equally misogynistic to both cis and trans women. (How refreshing.)

Rather, as a genderqueer and non-heterosexual person, the problem I have is with Mike Pence, and the Republican party as a whole. I saw you reel off the Republican agenda as you see it, and homophobia wasn’t part of that. I think it’s great that in your mind, it’s not. But we need to talk about the agenda the party has stated. Because I love you, but your personal take on the agenda is obviously not what the party as a whole believes, in their own words.

From the full, long-form Republican party platform:

From Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary:

Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.

I don’t care how nice it sounds, this is a homophobic call to destroy gay marriage. If you read further into it, there’s direct criticism of United States vs Windsor and Obergfell vs Hodges, which are both landmark court victories for gay rights. And this isn’t just about gay people being able to get dressed up and have a nice wedding. This is about all of the countless attendant rights that come with a legally recognized marriage, including guardianship of children, inheritance, and the right of spouses to make medical decisions and even visit their ill or injured partner in the hospital. The reason this is important is so people like Mike Pence (yes, that Mike Pence) can no longer, say, try to keep a woman from being able to visit her dying wife in the hospital.

From The First Amendment: Religious Liberty:

We pledge to defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control. We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, Republican legislation in the House and Senate which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

FADA is something that scares the hell out of most LGBTQ people, because it’s basically Mike Pence’s RFRA on steroids. Setting aside for now the implications this will have on women, this bill would allow publicly funded programs/government employees to deny service to LGBTQ individuals based on their personal religious beliefs. This goes beyond protecting asshole clerks who want to deny marriage licenses and organizations who want to fire their gay employees, to very real danger to transgender individuals who can get denied medical care or protection when a provider decides they don’t like the mismatch between gender identity and genitalia. I suppose you can argue that this is not the intention of the law (which I would disagree with) but the point is that these actions would be protected and codified into law, and then be used to justify bigoted behavior that could seriously hurt someone. It might get fought out in the “activist” courts later, but that’s not going to save the people hurt in the meantime.

From The Tenth Amendment: Federalism as the Foundation of Personal Liberty:

In obedience to that principle, we condemn the current Administration’s unconstitutional expansion into areas beyond those specifically enumerated, including bullying of state and local governments in matters ranging from voter identification (ID) laws to immigration, from healthcare programs to land use decisions, and from forced education curricula to school restroom policies.

Emphasis mine. This is a direct attack on the Obama administration’s directive that students should be able to use the bathroom of the gender they identify themselves as. Anti-trans bathroom bills have been the new anti-LGBT line for a lot of local Republicans after getting so much pushback on the gay marriage issue. I personally received a lot of political advertisements on this issue when I was registered as unaffiliated, which is actually why I switched my registration to Democrat, because I wanted bigoted local Republicans to leave me the fuck alone. This anti-trans obsession often paints innocent trans women as sexual predators and puts them in constant danger for the crime of existing in public – and is also the reason I and many of my trans male friends still continue to use women’s restrooms, because you literally have to make a calculation of which bathroom is less likely to get me murdered. Trans people get murdered for their gender identity. I cannot emphasize this point enough.

And then we look at Mike Pence himself. People like to joke that the VP is a largely ceremonial position, but Dick Cheney showed us that didn’t have to be the case. And considering that Mike Pence is now in charge of the transition team, I think that indicates that he’s going to be taking a very active policy role. Which if you were an LGBTQ person, would scare the shit out of you.

I’ve already mentioned him a couple of times in relation to the platform, particularly his anti-gay marriage stance and the RFRA.

Mike Pence: “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discrete and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.” (source)

Considering the discrimination LGB-and-particularly-T people face in many places, this is unacceptable. And while Pence said that in 2000, his position has obviously not changed considering that in 2007 he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Mike Pence from his campaign website in 2000: “Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” (source)

Mike Pence’s policies caused an HIV epidemic in Indiana. Part of this was due to his attack on Planned Parenthood (which provides screening) and things like needle exchange programs. (source) But he links HIV to sexual behavior himself in the above quote, and “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior” is a common political euphemism for conversion therapy programs that try to “cure” people of homosexuality or being transgender by incredibly shady and damaging means.

Mike Pence was against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He’s against gay and transgender people being able to serve in the military. (one source of many) Needless to say, he’s long been against gay marriage.

And here’s my favorite Mike Pence, from 2006, citing one of his reasons for being against gay marriage: “Harvard sociologist Pitrim Sorokin found that throughout history, societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”  (source)

Beyond the fears that we are going to have what legal rights we’ve gained ripped away, that right there is the summary of our fear and despair. Pence himself preceded that statement by saying that (paraphrasing here, obviously) that this totally isn’t about prejudice, but then blithely continued on that the homosexuals are going to ruin marriage and family and be terrible for children. It’s not that he doesn’t like us, it’s just that we’re going to destroy the fabric of society by getting our queer all over it.

Suicide is an epidemic in the LGBT community, and hits transgender individuals particularly hard. And it’s no fucking wonder, when we spend all of our lives being told that we are unnatural and apparently the reason for societal collapse because we want to be just like everyone else–you know, work, pay taxes, have families, have our loved ones with us when we’re sick and dying, and not get murdered or abused because someone can’t handle their own puerile imaginings about what we do in our relationships or what we have stashed in our shorts. Trans people get murdered with horrifying frequency considering what percent of the population we are. At least 26 have died so far this year. Here are their faces.

And things like bathroom bills? Contribute directly to harming our community. Having an entire political party that makes it part of its platform that our families are lesser – if not directly harmful to children – and we deserve to get fired or denied service for something we literally cannot control is a constant source of harm for LGBTQ adults and to the youth who can see damn well what’s on the horizon.

So I get that you’re not anti-LGBTQ, and many Republicans aren’t. I am hoping that people will stand with us when it comes to the constant attack on our very existence in society. I know that individual Republicans do and will; I have a very dear Republican friend in Denver whom I know always has my back (and I know he didn’t vote for this mess). But when you look at things like, say, the position on gay marriage of national legislators and see only three senators and two(?) representatives who are Republican, it’s difficult to have any kind of confidence that a significant number of Republicans would take a stand for our rights, let alone our personal safety.  So you’ll forgive me if I’m not holding my breath because for so long, the Republican party as a whole was silent about us dying when it wasn’t outright applauding.

There was silence about the AIDS epidemic. There is silence about the plague of suicide that haunts us because so many kids are trapped in circumstances where they see now other way out and no help on the horizon from a society hostile to their very existence. There is silence about us being murdered, or worse, Republican politicians stoke the flames of gay and trans panic with bathroom bills and campaign advertisements that claim trans women are sexual predators. Remember, I used to be a Republican, once upon a time. I’m a pinko liberal now, but I was still fiscally conservative when I left the party. What drove me away was the ever-increasing, virulently homophobic rhetoric coming from within the party, and from conservative media like Fox News. For me, there wasn’t enough tax policy to justify the harm it was doing to me, my friends, and my community.

And maybe your Republican agenda isn’t the same as the party’s, and I think that’s great. But if you voted for Trump/Pence, you still voted for a VP whose entire political career has been defined by his hatred of gay and transgender individuals. (And now, voted for an administration that wants to fill its cabinet with anti-LGBTQ politicians and professionals, most notably Jeff Sessions and Tom Price.) If you voted for any Republican who has endorsed the platform, you have to own that, just like I have to own that by voting for Barack Obama, I voted for his shameful drone warfare program that’s killed a lot of innocent civilians. I have written letters and made phone calls and protested against it, but that doesn’t mean I get to disown my part in putting him in office and what he’s done with that power.

And if you didn’t vote for Trump/Pence, that’s awesome! I really appreciate it. But please don’t dismiss my concerns, or my fear, for myself and my LGBTQ siblings. I’d like to believe we are going to be fine, that nothing is going to backslide, but I’d be a fool to count on it when the national government is being run by a cadre of people who say our existence is a threat to society.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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And once again we’re missing someone from our Thanksgiving table because of Black Friday relentlessly cannibalizing Thanksgiving. Because it doesn’t suck enough already to be working in the retail industry, which spends enormous amounts of energy on pinching pennies away from its employees. Now you have to do the shitty job slog when you rightfully should be sitting around in your pajamas and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

There’s a lot of “don’t shop on Thanksgiving” and “if you shop on Thursday shame on you” and even stronger words going around. And yeah, I get that. It makes me pretty angry that one of my friends won’t be eating turkey with us because profit margins are king in a society that apparently worships capitalism. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like if it was my spouse or kid missing out because of a shitty employer who wants to move more merchandise.

But I was thinking, tonight. I have several friends who are not in nearly so good a financial place as me. I have friends who are shopping on Black Friday, not because they desperately want to elbow some lady in the sternum to try to get an Xbone for a steal, but because it’s the only way they can possibly afford a nice Christmas present for one of their kids or someone else important to them.

And a lot of the time, the people in those situations are the same ones being paid poverty wages by the same (or similar) stores that are fucking their employees out of the one family holiday they used to be able to count on. And those poverty wages are the reason why they’re being forced to depend on the relentless creep of Black Friday so they can try to have something a little nice. The viscious ugliness of that cycle takes my breath away.

I don’t think yelling at people for shopping on Thanksgiving is the way to go. Maybe some people are doing it because they’re bargain hunting assholes, and maybe I’m wrong and it’s actually just plain consumer greed enabling this trend. It’s not like I have data to back up this horrible realization of mine that no doubt has people who have been living it laughing bitterly and shaking their heads. But let’s be real.

The true blame lies in corporate greed, because profits have been and always will be more important than people, and in the complicit spinelessness of the government that insists capitalism is magical and we can’t possibly afford to raise wages to a point where people can survive, let alone thrive. The true blame lies in a class of decision makers so coldhearted that they blame the poor for needing assistance to survive when they aren’t paid enough to even feed themselves, then scold them for having the audacity to want something nice for their families when we’re constantly told that the real American dream is always buying the new shiny.

That’s where the real villainy is. Not in someone who just wants a nice present for their kid. Not even for a crazed shopper punching someone else in the face over a new cell phone because they’re been convinced there’s some kind of fulfillment in owning an expensive toy. We should be questioning the system that makes anyone think it’s okay to place profit at a higher priority than families.

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Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, there’s the standard thing for Thanksgiving, which is being thankful for things, up to and including the fact that your stomach once again refrained from literally exploding when you wedged in that last piece of pie.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I graduated with my MS, and I’m thankful to my advisor (Mary!) and my committee members (Jaelyn and Dr. Budd!). I’m thankful for having a job I love and an awesome boss (Pat!). I’m thankful for all the art I’ve gotten to do this year, between participating in filming and then breaking $1000 earned with writing. (Who knows how next year will go, if this was just a fluke, if it will go up or down, but for now that feels amazing for someone still struggling to get going.) I’m thankful I have a lot of great people in my life.

So today after breakfast (at least I got to see my friend who is missing dinner because of work then) I went for a four mile run. Which is a rough prospect in Colorado since I’m no longer acclimatized to the altitude and there are these things called hills. We don’t have those in Houston. But I kept plugging away and a bit before mile three I got that amazing feeling that yes, I was going to do this. It might suck, but I’d keep chugging along. That feeling is worth more than anything.

Sunlight on my face, a light breeze, just my feet on the concrete and grass as green as it ever gets in Colorado scrolling along forever next to the sidewalk. Everything else stops mattering, and in that moment I felt the pure gratitude for the air in my lungs. For being here, in this moment, for existing in this time and place.

Thanks for everything.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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I finally sat down and got to read the full text of President Obama’s climate change speech. Poor speech; it would have been a much bigger deal if the news cycle hadn’t just crapped all over it, what with Supreme Court rulings and most of the legislature in Texas acting like douchebags.

Quotes are from the transcript here.

So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.

I’m glad that he made the point that some opponents have since changed their minds. 97% is as close as it gets to unanimous in science, it really is.

By the way, this? Probably my favorite line:

Nobody has a monopoly on what is a very hard problem, but I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.

I have no idea if he realized that the Flat Earth Society is a real thing when he mentioned them. (I’m of the opinion that they’re really just trolling the rest of us. Or at least I hope?) But it turns out that while the Flat Earth Society has no official position on the matter, their President actually does agree with Obama that climate change is real. And then suggested that Obama should take a poke at the American Enterprise Institute instead. Oof. Hey, AEI: When the guys who might be trolls only we’re never quite sure but they claim the Earth is flat are publicly dissing your understanding of modern science with good cause, it might be time to take a step back and reassess.

But anyway, it feels really good to see the President call out deniers as such.

Really, I think he spent more time calling out bullshit in this speech than I’ve ever seen him do before. Because there was this too:

Now, what you’ll hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy, and basically end American free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health. And every time, they’ve been wrong.

Considering every response I’ve heard from the GOP to everything Obama has done has involved the phrase “job killing” in some way, I think this is a fair swipe too. Because here we go:

“Our argument with the president right now is that he is picking winners and losers, he is harming innovation, and it is going to be a direct assault on jobs,” McCarthy told reporters.

Yawn.

On to the actual policy stuff.

So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.

Optimistic about this. Of course, the question will be just where those limits end up. But the fact that there will be limits to begin with is a huge step. If it gets done. If the limits are in any way meaningful.

The net effects of the [Keystone XL] pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.

There’s been a lot of tea leaf reading on this comment already. I found his entire mention of the KXL to be incredibly non-committal when you come down to it. There’s still no concrete decision in here, at all. So you can optimistically say that he’ll realize what an environmental disaster this could be and follow through with a denial, or you can pessimistically see that he’ll probably pick the sunny side evidence–focusing on carbon emissions since that’s what he specifically mentioned–and go ahead with it. I’m honestly on the pessimist side myself. If he was going to deny the construction of the pipeline, this speech, this much-advertised, massive climate policy speech, was the place to do it. That he didn’t take that chance to really draw some lines doesn’t fill me with confidence.

But please, I would like to be surprised.

I do support the initial push to go from coal to natural gas; natural gas isn’t clean energy in the sense of zero emissions, but it’s got a smaller footprint than coal. And I do agree with the president that this is a transitional thing. If we have to be burning something while we’re trying to ramp up our renewables, better to go where there are fewer emissions.

This is the stuff I’m much more excited about:

Today, I’m directing the Interior Department to green light enough private, renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.

The Department of Defense — the biggest energy consumer in America — will install 3 gigawatts of renewable power on its bases, generating about the same amount of electricity each year as you’d get from burning 3 million tons of coal.

Though hopefully on the public lands, they’ll be keeping a weather eye on environmental impacts. But I’m pretty pumped about the DoD being directed to go onto renewable power. It’s something very concrete in the President’s purview that will have an effect. And it goes right in hand with him directing the government to get more of its electricity from renewables as well.

…my budget once again calls for Congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies, and invest in the clean-energy companies that will fuel our future.

This gets the “you tried” gold star. Because we all know that Congress is absolutely worthless and this will never happen. Then again, it’s not like he can do anything about it himself, so he can just go on the record saying it yet again. It’s the thought that counts. I’m glossing over pretty much all of his other budget recommendations for that reason. I’m glad he’s recommending these things (like funding for projects that help states deal with climate change that’s already happening or will happen) but I have little faith in Congress actually doing anything.

The fuel standards we set over the past few years mean that by the middle of the next decade, the cars and trucks we buy will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That means you’ll have to fill up half as often; we’ll all reduce carbon pollution.

I’m incredibly glad he made the point that people will be using less gas–and thus filling their tanks less often. There have been endless complaints about the continued rise in gas prices (cue everyone in Europe laughing bitterly at us) and I’d like to think that emphasizing how this is ultimately a concrete way for individuals to save money will get people to realize this emissions stuff is important.

Just throw in another cash for clunkers program so people can actually get their hands on these new, more fuel efficient cars, and that would be golden.

. And we’ll also open our climate data and NASA climate imagery to the public, to make sure that cities and states assess risk under different climate scenarios, so that we don’t waste money building structures that don’t withstand the next storm.

I love you, Mr. President. At least for this moment, until someone reminds me about the NSA again.

Developing countries are using more and more energy, and tens of millions of people entering a global middle class naturally want to buy cars and air-conditioners of their own, just like us. Can’t blame them for that. And when you have conversations with poor countries, they’ll say, well, you went through these stages of development — why can’t we?

Another point I’m glad he mentioned. He does go on to say later that he’s got some policies for trying to direct developing nations toward developing with cleaner energy sources. But this highlights why, even when the US is no longer the biggest producer of carbon emmissions in the world, we still need to lead on reducing. We’re in a much better position than developing nations to work on this. And if there’s a certain inevitability to the developing world kicking up carbon emmissions, we still don’t need to compound the problem.

Today, I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas — unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity. And I urge other countries to join this effort.

And I’m directing my administration to launch negotiations toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology, to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global low-carbon economy.

I don’t really know enough about trade policy to guess how the second point would effect anything beyond, well yeah, that sounds good. And the first point sounds promising as well, though I’m left wondering–what about the coal itself? Apparently we ship a lot of coal overseas. What about that?

So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts.

A little bit in love again. Though you know what would help this effort? Having a readily available resource (say pamphlets) that lay out all the information in laymen’s terms. Like the Skeptical Science phone app. I wonder if the President has a strategy for that, or has thought about it? Because it’s all well and good telling people to educate each other, but it’s a complex issue and deniers tend to gallop out their bullshit questions in herds. I can’t believe I’m the only one that’s thought about this, but maybe I will attempt an e-mail on this matter.

So generally, this speech has left me optimistic, and it’s worth a read. It actually fills me with a lot of joy to see the President coming down hard on the reality that climate change is happening, and that people who deny it are wrong. The policy itself? There’s some good stuff there, more details necessary as always, but you’re not going to get that in the speech.

I think the next most important point is this, though–it’s a public acknowledgment that Congress is basically worthless at this point. He’s included points about his proposed budget, but then again, he has to propose a budget. But other than that, he’s not really calling on Congress to do anything, because he knows that they won’t. It’s good to see the President trying to do as much as he can within the powers of the Executive Branch. But it’s a sad reminder that the Legislative Branch has, hopefully just temporarily, rendered itself completely dysfunctional and futile.

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

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I was up past midnight last night, glued to a livestream. I haven’t done that since we landed on Mars. I wish this one had been such a happy occasion. I was, of course, watching the livestream of Texas state Senator Wendy Davis filibustering the horrifying anti-abortion bill that the legislature was trying to pass in an emergency session. Apparently the Texas legislature is allowed to have abortion emergencies but women aren’t. Nice to know.

I think I probably would have been watching anyway, but this is particularly important to me now that I live in Texas. And amusingly enough, at least for now I can literally claim I didn’t vote for any of these people. (Though god, I wish I could vote for Wendy Davis. I’m not in her district, though.)

Filibusters are apparently serious business in Texas. You’re not allowed to speak off topic, sit, lean, have a bathroom break, eat, or drink. This is one place where I can wish the Federal government was a bit more like Texas, because I bet if those were the filibuster rules the Republicans would stop being such dickbags about every damn piece of legislation. Anyway, I can only imagine Senator Davis must have carb loaded on Monday to manage this one today, because she was going strong up until the end. Appeals for testimony for her to tell went out repeatedly on Twitter, so she’d have something on-topic to speak about.

I sent her an e-mail during dinner. I don’t have my own abortion story and I don’t feel like I have a right to tell the stories of my friends. But I did catch an impressive case of baby rabies this weekend because my three-month-old niece Aya is SO RIDICULOUSLY CUTE. And the moment after I contemplated, “gosh I kind of want one” I immediately followed the thought with “no way in hell am I being pregnant in Texas.” So that’s what I told her – bills like this make me actively afraid to be a woman in Texas, where pregnancy transforms you into a second-class citizen no longer in control of your own decisions and life.

I have no idea if that ended up being useful, but I tried.

Anyway, she was still going strong at midnight, when the filibuster ended, supposedly with the Senate session. And then – I cannot fucking believe this – the State Senate voted anyway. And then tried to claim they had voted two minutes before midnight instead of two minutes after. Twitter ERUPTED.

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Who knew, apparently Republicans think they’re Timelords. The time on the voting record was changed on the website. I went to bed at 12:30 with Twitter still exploding with rage and couldn’t sleep because I was so incredibly angry. They won’t get away with this was the consensus on Twitter, and apparently from the angry crowd filling the state capital. Everyone was watching.

Well, they didn’t get away with it.

I had an e-mail from Wendy Davis sitting in my in-box this morning when I got up:

 

I have amazing news!

Just moments ago, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced to the Senate that SB5 is officially dead!   Evidently, Governor Perry and the legislative leadership can hear our voices.

This amazing feat is because of you.  I wanted to share this wonderful news as soon as I could.  

Thank you so much for all of your encouragement, support, hard work, and most of all dedication and determination.  

It is a great night for women and families in Texas and our allies across the country.  
 
Your friend and, proudly, your State Senator,

 Wendy

This woman is a hero.

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A Big Damn Hero.

Let’s make sure she wants for nothing. I just wish we could send this woman to the Supreme Court and have her work some magic there. The victory in Texas was amazing, but let’s not forget Tuesday was also the day the Supreme Court took a shit on the voting rights act. Unfortunately the vociferous protests of Justice Ginsburg (the resident badass of the Supreme Court in my opinion)  didn’t have the same kind of power as the words of Wendy Davis did in the Texas State Senate; that’s not how the Court works.

Anyway, back in Texas, apparently the Republicans are already planning part two; per BBC news, the Lieutenant Governor “hinted that the vote could be held again at a second special session.” The abortion emergencies. They never end. (You know, if they have any time after they do some voting rights work.) But we’ll be watching, even more of us now that we know what they’re up to. And I have faith that Wendy Davis or another Big Damn Hero will step up.

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

Today Senator Feinstein proposed her new assault weapons ban. A friend of mine went to the press conference for it and this is what she had to say afterward:

There were a lot of good speakers; both Conn. Senators, the CT Rep from the district that Sandy Hook is in, survivors of VTech, relatives of victims of VTech.
Officer Charles Ramsey from Philedelphia had one of the most powerful speeches; he was really passionate about it.
They also had some examples of the weapons that would be banned on display: all of them are military style and don’t belong on the streets.
Also, notably, the bill includes clauses that explicitly protect guns designed for hunting or sport, or require manual operation.
Call your representatives, call your senators, demand that they vote for it.
Well, it was a press conference, not an actual Senate meeting.
Also the NRA is throwing a bitch fit about it. Even though 74% of their membership support an assault weapons ban.
I want to call the NRA and throw the whole ‘guns don’t kill people’ thing in their face.
People kill people. They just are able to kill a lot more people with assault weapons.
These are not weapons designed for sport, or hunting. They are designed to kill as much as possible, in as short a time as possible, with minimal reloads.
True, in the military they are used more for suppressive fire in combat, but the shooters in the mass murders of recent years always aimed to kill with the weapons.
40% of all mass shootings in America’s history have happened in the last nine years since the expiration of the 1994 assault weapons ban.
Oh, also: there’s a march for assault weapon control on Saturday in DC.

Re: inevitable argument that guns are just tools, guns don’t kill people, etc etc:

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

Okay, as promised. You guys are awesome and donated over $200 to the Red Cross, so I’m here to take my punishment. I’m going to watch the Ray Comfort “documentary” 180, a copy of which was left on my buddy David’s windshield one day when he was parked near a Planned Parenthood. (That this particular Planned Parenthood is not a location that offers abortion services is neither here nor there.)

If for some perverse and awful reason you would like to play along at home. You can actually watch this entire thing on youtube. Sorry, can’t bring myself to embed this one on my blog.

If you want to watch this update live, you’ll have to go to the blog page and reload it every few minutes. I’ll update entries elsewhere once I’m done with the liveblog.

T-minus seven minutes to suffering time.

This is the cover of the DVD, by the way. I’m thinking there’s some false advertisement to the “hottest movie” on the internet thing. I’m pretty sure porn could be characterized as hotter, for example. And any bootleg of a movie that involves Tom Hiddleston will also win on the hot factor.

But apparently my world is going to be rocked for 33 minutes. Come at me, bro.

1300 – The DVD menu music is a dramatic piano riff that sounds like something you’d expect in, say, The Sixth Sense while there’s a montage going on, or perhaps Bruce Willis walking around and looking really concerned. It ends with the sound of a heartbeat. Hoo boy.

1302 – I’m hitting play now. I just want it to be noted that I will apparently do anything for the Red Cross. Think of me fondly, farewell cruel world!

1303 – The movie starts with a black haired girl who apparently does not know who Adolf Hitler is. What in the fuck. Where did he find this person?

1303 – Ray Comfort is Jewish and deeply concerned about stock footage of Nazis.

1304 – This man has the most nasal, squeaky Australian accent I have ever heard in my life. He sounds as if he’s been huffing helium between takes. Not sure if this is going to make my job more difficult or more palatable.

1305 – Ray Comfort is concerned about people forgetting the Holocaust. He gives some background on Holocaust education in Germany and other countries in Europe.

1306 – Oh look, he’s managed to dig up more people who don’t know who Hitler is! Seriously? I wonder how many people he had to ambush on the street to find these. Because ffs, anyone who has ever been on the internet knows who the fuck Hitler is.

1307 – I know this is jumping ahead since I know what the video is about, but basically this is a 33-minute-long Godwin, right?

1307 – Steve the Neo-Nazi. He has a startling mohawk, which is blue. I don’t think Hitler would have gone for that, to be honest.

1307 – Apparently Christianity is a Jewish trick but Steve the Neo-Nazi is not fooled because he’s Greek. This is a quote. But make no mistake, Steve is an awful human being. An awful, awful human being. And I do think Ray Comfort deserves a small salute for pointing out that Steve and people like him are awful, and also completely incoherent hate spewing horrors.

1309 – Okay. Still asking people who Hitler is. Some of them know. Maybe he ran out of people didn’t know since he already found like the only twelve on the planet who have been living in a box their entire lives.

1310 – The piano riff starts back up as he talks to another awful human being who believes the world is run by Jews. I assume this is to point out to us that this is both Important and Very Bad. Unlike Steve the Horrible Mohawked Neo-Nazi, this guy’s face is blurred out. An awful person with a sense of shame, perhaps?

1311 – I’ll give Ray Comfort this. He’s figured out that just letting the awful people talk pretty much makes his point for him that they are awful. However, I’m still waiting for this to get around to abortion so I can start beating my head against my desk.

1313 – Okay, next question he’s asking people on the street – if you could kill Hitler before WWII, would you? Either by shooting him as an adult or killing his pregnant mom. It’s an interesting ethical question, one which I have a feeling will not be done justice in this film. For some strange reason.

1314 – More stock footage showing the dead of the Holocaust. Starting to feel like those awful PETA videos where it’s intercut with footage of slaughterhouses.

1315 – Well, at least he’s not claiming that Hitler was an Atheist. Ray Comfort touches very lightly on some of Hitler’s religious views (which are very complicated and weird and wikipedia can get you started) that he’s plainly cherry-picked and then calls him an idolater, which is… different.

1319 – More horrifying stock footage. I’ll note that some of it is actually photographs that have had a “old time film effect” run over it. There is also now a quote from a witness to the carnage read in a rather thick, nearly comical German accent, except the content isn’t comical so I feel kind of gross about it.

1320 – Back to people on the street and now Ray Comfort asks if the people would comply with Nazi orders to bury Jews alive and aid in the Holocaust. If I pretend I don’t know the point of the video, I can find it interesting, though I do have to wonder why he’s so stuck on Nazis if he wants to talk about abortion.

1323 – “You value human life? How do you feel about abortion?” OH AND THERE WE GO. Because burying adults and children alive or shooting them is totally the same as a woman having an abortion.

1324 – The music would like you to know this is very sad.

1325 – “Finish this sentence for me – it’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…” Oh Ray Comfort, you are totally gross.

1325 – So apparently having an abortion is equivalent to blowing up a building that may or may not have people inside?  What?

1326 – Wow, a girl that had an abortion and says she doesn’t feel bad about it.

1327 – More equating burying Jewish people alive with abortion. Gross, Ray Comfort. Gross.

1327 – The safest place on Earth is in a mother’s womb? Maybe we should store jewelry in there!

1328 – So this is the thing Ray Comfort. You don’t get to decide for other people. Fuck off.

1329 – Oh boy and now he’s saying you can’t value human life and believe women have a right to choose. Well, we all know women aren’t actually human life, right? Argh I want to punch this man in the face so much.

1330 – Girl with sunglasses, you are awesome.

1330 – Wow Ray Comfort you are a gross human being. So very gross. Wow and then there’s shots of people being like oh okay I guess a woman choosing what will be done with her own body is the same as Hitler “choosing” to kill Jews.

1332 – Yes girl on the street, it sounds bad when he puts it in those words because it’s a disingenuous false dichotomy pushed on you by a gross person.

1333 – Well, I shouldn’t be surprised that suddenly everyone in Ray Comfort’s video gets argued around by his amazing logical fallacy skills.

1334 – Whee the American Holocaust! Gross, Ray Comfort. Gross.

1335 – Apparently we have low moral standards because we’ve freed ourselves from the Ten Commandments what?

1335 – No Ray Comfort, this is not an honest discussion you’re having to change people’s minds.

1336 – OH HEY GUYS I FOUND THE ATHEIST IN THE VIDEO! It’s… STEVE THE NEO-NAZI. Well, glad we got that out of the way.

1337 – “Have you ever looked at a guy with lust?” “Nah, I’m gay.” Wow, you are awesome, lesbian lady.

1338 – So apparently people don’t want to believe in God because we’re afraid of him because we lie and blaspheme and commit adultery by being lustful. Oh my goodness I just rolled my eyes so hard it hurt. Because people who don’t believe in Hell are totally afraid of it? LOGIC YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

1341 – There is stuff written on my heart? I think I might need some medical attention.

1342 – Now we’re just into sheer proselytizing and I’m falling asleep. Can we just get back to the Nazis?

1343 – When is a raven like a writing desk? When Jesus is like a parachute.

1344 – Aaaaaaaaand we’re back to Nazis.

1344 – Talking about people visiting the concentration camps and being horrified. And then he suggests visiting an abortion clinic. Because they are so like in every way. (/sarcasm)

1345 – Ray Comfort would like everyone to see his documentary. And buy his book, Hitler, God, and the Bible. You know. Just putting that out there.

1346 – And we’re done with a dramatic string piece. Well, this wasn’t so much funny as infuriating, since I just wanted to reach through the screen and shake people. This is a bullshit argument that equates very different things in a false, emotionally manipulative, and disingenuous manner. A woman making a decision about what goes on within her own body is in no way equatable with a crazy, awful person taking power and ordering the death of millions of people who were born and living their lives. And frankly, I think his schtick is a pretty shameful appropriation of the suffering of the Jewish people.

HEY RAY COMFORT WANTS TO TALK ABOUT NAZIS!

Needless to say, 33 minutes later my world is un-rocked. I really could have lived without seeing a bunch of ignorant people get unmercifully Godwinned by a giant Australian weasel with a pouch full of fallacies.

I think I’ll do a different liveblog maybe today or next week to cleanse my palate. Maybe Metal Tornado will get a whirl after all.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Surrounded by assholes)
Stephen Marche wrote a column about the utter meaninglessness of the word 'hero' as currently used in America: We Are All Heroes. The stinger at the end sums the whole thing up nicely: If people living up to their basic obligations are heroes, then we're all failing disastrously.

Ouch.

As I read the column, though, I found myself thinking "Yes, but..." a lot. I think there's a lot more to the issue. Which is not to say Mr. Marche doesn't, because goodness knows it's hard if not flat impossible to boil down a complex issue into a snappy column that comes in at the appropriate word count.

However, since this is the internet, where oceans of text are spilled daily to expound on matters of no consequence that no one's paying attention to anyway, I might as well say what I'm thinking. So, my buts. Let me show you them.

Everyone's a hero in their own way / you and you and mostly me and you... )
katsu: (Nothing comes without a fight)
I already love the Dropkick Murphys to a ridiculous degree - they're right up there with Flogging Molly as one of my favorite bands. And now they just released one of the songs from their upcoming album on their website in support of the Union protesters in Wisconsin. You can listen to it on their website:

Take 'Em Down

Sure gets my blood going.

Lyrics:

When the boss comes callin’ they’ll put us down
When the boss comes callin’ gotta stand your ground
When the boss comes callin’ don’t believe their lies

When the boss comes callin’ he'll take his toll
When the boss comes callin’ don’t you sell your soul
When the boss comes callin’ we gotta organize

CHORUS:
Let them know
We gotta take the bastards down
Let them know
We gotta smash them to the ground
Let them know
We gotta take the bastards down

When the boss comes callin’ you’ll be on your own
When the boss comes callin’ will you stand alone?
When the boss comes callin’ will you let them in?

When the boss comes callin’ will you stand and fight?
When the boss comes callin’ we must unite
When the boss comes callin’ we can’t let them win

CHORUS

We gotta take the bastards down

When the boss comes callin’ they’ll put us down
When the boss comes callin’ gotta stand your ground
When the boss comes callin’ don’t believe their lies

When the boss comes callin’ he'll take his toll
When the boss comes callin’ don’t you sell your soul
When the boss comes callin’ we gotta organize

CHORUS

CHORUS
katsu: (how do they rise)
It's been a busy week... couple of weeks... month... well, from about January on. But I've been doing things with my time, at least.

For example, today I went to Denver, CO's Rally for the American Dream. With 3000 of my fellow Coloradoans - including my husband and my parents - I was in good company indeed.

We did a lot of cheering, a lot of chanting. There were maybe ten or twenty "Tea Party" counter protesters. One of whom wandered around in the crowd and tried to start trouble with his bizarre "Can't get a taxi? Blame the Dems" and "Shame on Colorado Dems for Voting for an African" signs. He was completely ignored by the crowd, and then the cops chased him off.

The IAFF was out in force, as were a lot of other union people - and ordinary citizens. At the end of the rally, the Walk for Choice took off. A lot of us joined in, since it's another important thing to support. We walked from the capital to Writer Square and back, shouting chants like, "Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate!"

At the end of the Walk for Choice, there were maybe ten crazy anti-choice people waiting at the capital, on the other side of the street. It was standard "OMG THE BABEEZ" bullshit. It was also the most surreal moment of the afternoon - there was a very odd old guy with the anti-choicers, holding a very standard sign in one hand. His other hand was raised in a fist and covered with - I swear I am not making this up - a sagging latex mask of Ronald Reagan. Overcome by just how bizarre it was, I shouted across the street, "Dude, you've got a severed head on your hand!"

So yeah. The disembodied zombie head of Ronald Reagan doesn't want you to have an abortion. Or something. Weird. Eerie.

I have also been putting a lot of time in at the core lab. If you want to see what's been eating up most of my spare time, here are some pictures from our current core, which is from a meandering river deposit. I've tried to add some description to the photos, and hopefully it's not too technical.

Busy busy!

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Tetsugawa Katsuhiro

September 2017

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