Category Archives: politics

the mourning after

I voted in SF before heading to LA to watch the returns with Justin, Mary, Barlow and Friendz. As the night progressed, depressing returns made it hard to engage. I watched Jon Stewart instead.

I went to USC where i ended up in an intersection with ecstatic Bush/Cheney fans celebrating. Onlookers hung their heads or scowled at their audacity, shocked at their value system. I just started crying. I boarded the plane which was on its second leg with folks from Ohio, Move On folks were on board, somber.

DNA sampling deteriorating innocence until proven guilty, institutionalized homophobia, a country divided. This land is not my land. The free are no longer home here and what does braveness have to do with war?

My friend Jo Guldi sent the following to me this morning. I thought it would be good to share.

In one of those sunset-rosy history-channel specials, the imperially-jawed Simon Schama says that in the 1930s the British could see the specter of history stalking among them like a wooly mammoth, parading down the streets of London, as soldiers and civilians blinked and realized that their world had changed.

The fairy-tale beast doesn’t belong among most Americans. Maybe some people always know what this beast of history is. Children of immigrants and journalists, children of politicians, children born in revolutions or depressions have prescient intuitions of change as children born in leafy suburbs never do.

I saw the beast of history for the first time last night. It was slinking through our electric city of San Francisco, marking the doors of hipsters and intellectuals with ram’s blood.

They didn?t know it; by morning many of them were back to talking about ideals that had to come true, even if it takes a hundred years: gay marriage, a multiple party system. No, my darling angel-haired idealists, those days are over. Your parents and grandparents fought for pluralism and civil rights. Your own children will inevitably be able to marry their gay lovers. But this is not the time. What passed in front of us was ever so much more complicated.

Hold on for a moment and tell yourself that you’re still in the same world. The slant of light across the electric stove where my teakettle sits will return tomorrow. The bad man in the white house can’t do that much, even in another four years.

But what happened last night was that the last feather of hope floated away. The last soft imagination that we had just enough consensus in this country to fix the forces that are pulling us apart, gone. Common sense isn’t going to triumph over sentimentality and melodrama. Neither security nor intelligence nor welfare are going to be fixed; all will be handed over to the security billionaires of San Diego and the economists in the pay of DC.

Do you remember the towers going down? The freshmen in college this year don’t; they were fourteen and barely paying attention. But in the cities, the urban youth in their twenties and thirties remember wondering what had happened, remember waking and getting a cup of coffee and first seeing the frozen looks on the faces of strangers, then the terrible faces, then the reports and months of analysis. Something had started then that wouldn’t finish for a long time.

And yet for those years there was a possibility of it turning into something else, less destructive; a chance to reach across the aisle to the other party, a chance to reconnect across America, a chance to reapproach the problems of global poverty that lead people in strange lands to become terrorists; a chance to reaccount Israel: all of this was possible.

But for four years none of these rifts of possibility turned out anything better than the grim world from which they had come. And still, resentment and anger and hope brewed across the country. Watching from the coasts, we were convinced by the Michael Moores and Deaniacs and the force of our deepest desires that something could be done.

But I assure you that it cannot, now. Not after the dark noises I heard winding through the streets last night. On the West Coast we watched as polls closed in waves, the shadow of night spreading across the country, until we in California should have been the last. As the lines continued to stand in Florida and Ohio, as newscasters measured the possibility of any Democratic chance remaining. But it was too late to influence anything. We sat around with glasses of Cabernet in a warehouse by the ocean, watching DC and New York reporting on New Mexico and Oregon, feeling horribly like it was too late. Now neither the church, nor ideology, nor science, nor economics, nor foreign policy, nor pressure, nor hope, nor organization could save us. No angry Marxist professors, no brilliant editorials in the Times could reach what needed to be reached.

The beast of history is in. Lovers in each others’ arms, wake up and look. Poets and anarchists, put down your pens. Stop all the clocks, put down the indy rock music, stop reading psychology. Move to Vancouver or Paris. Get a degree in political science or advertising or business. Because whatever we were doing isn’t working, and the deadline is past. If there were a practical way to build something out of what has happened, we’d turn to that, but the moderate conservatives have already been exiled from Washington, and none of our friends will have influence for a long time yet. What has happened is too big for us, too big for our loose ideas of a hundred-year-plan for peace and happiness. There is no more road by which to get there: the storm of the last four years has swept it away, and the wind in the street last night blew out our last bridge to safety.

All day long I had been praying, calming myself with old psalms about how the universe was all one, how God had made it, all of its corners and controversies, how providence would follow us all the way through the shadow of darkness. When I woke up this morning the only psalm I could remember was this one: Lord teach my fingers to make battle, and my hands to make war.


I will be voting tomorrow morning. I realize this election is going to be absurd, but i feel as though it is my duty as a patriot to cast my ballot. I hope everyone else who has the privilege to vote in this country takes that responsibility seriously. What we do here will affect us and the world we live in for years to come. It is a pity that so few people stand up for their values and beliefs. My hope is that everyone who can will join me in voting tomorrow, in saying that our future does matter to us.

If you witness any trouble at any voter center, call 866-OUR-VOTE to report it.

I support John Kerry. (See Technorati).

Secret Service follow up on LiveJournaler

Apparently, anniesj wrote an anti-Bush post on her LJ. Someone else on LJ reported this to the FBI and the nice Secret Service people showed up at her door. While they didn’t arrest her, she now has a record. She documents the full situation on her LJ.

People often ask me why i’m opposed to sousveillance. I believe that giving everyone the right to surveillance will not challenge those in power who have such ability. I believe that it will legitimize them. Furthermore, i believe that people will use the power of surveillance to maintain the status quo. Worse, i believe that it will be used to create more hate, distrust and fear. Sousveillance in the hands of the masses will not be used to challenge authority because most people believe in the legitimacy of that authority, whether it be corporations or the government. Furthermore, they believe they should fear when those authorities tell them that they should fear everyone. Even when they are not told, when the media consistently reports on all the terrible things that individual Islamic people do, they believe that they should fear all Islamic people. Fuck Brin. A transparent society would mean complete marginalization of already oppressed peoples in this country.

eminem’s mosh

Eminem’s video for his new song Mosh brings me to tears. Regardless of what anyone things of Eminem, i’ve always loved his willingness to fight, to be resistant to contemporary society even while being framed as mainstream. This video, put out by the Guerrilla News Network shows the anger and frustration of poor and marginalized populations, upset with Bush for the way that he’s destroyed the fabric of this country. It is a call to action, urging people to get out and vote. It is a rhythmic composition of completely radical and political rhetoric. It is a call to action for youth and for the disenfranchised. I sure hope that the youth get out to vote this time. They need to stand up for themselves before they become yet another group abused by this regime.

Update: The lyrics are in the extended entry for those who want to know what is being said.

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educating ourselves

When i moved to CA, i was startled by the absurd number of Propositions. So, as an excuse to see some friends that i haven’t seen as a while, i brought 25 people to my house tonight to discuss the ballot. Everyone had researched an issue so we took turns explaining the pros/cons of each Proposition, joking around, and drinking whenever Starchild’s name was invoked. It felt good to be more informed as a voter and to have the opportunity to share amongst friends. A further plus is that we spent a night in political discourse without any fights breaking out. Everyone was conscious to present both sides of the argument instead of demanding solidarity in voting.

I strongly encourage other Californians to gather their friends for an evening of discussing the different issues. It’s a great opportunity for socializing and engaging in civic responsibility. For those in SF, there’s a ballot party at Commonwealth tonite, the 27th – it will be an opportunity to learn the different sides.

Also, if you’re in California and you’re supposed to vote on an electronic machine, ask for a paper ballot in case of recall. They are required by law to let you vote on paper, but they won’t give you the choice. Check out this animation: Paper or Plastic.

election woes

This election is going to suck. I have yet to receive my little packet of information on the candidates and the propositions; none of my roommates have, even though our friends have. I started getting anxious, wondering if it was possible that someone de-registered me. I voted last winter – can you de-register? Of course, i thought that i registered permanent absentee but my roommate received an absentee and i haven’t. Then again, i think i registered like 10 times when i moved here out of anxiety.

A friend of mine is receiving loads of election materials to a new nonexistent roommate with a peculiar name. Apparently, people are registering folks who don’t exist.

In my birth state, Nader is being kicked off the ballot for fraudulent signatures used to get him there, in the order of 25,000 fake signatures – apparently Mickey Mouse is now voting.

In swing states, it appears as though the RNC is funding voter registration volunteers to tear up registration forms if they’re marked Democratic.

The worst part is that there will only be more horror stories between now and November 2. This election will be nasty.

Engaging the TV-minded

My grandfather and i often speak about Christian morality in the context of politics. This has become increasingly noticeable this year and i was stunned when he told me that Bush was not a Christian (in his actions, not necessarily his purported religious association). That gave me hope.

I decided to assemble a little pre-election package for my grandparents. I wanted to send them: Moral Politics, Don’t think of an Elephant, Unprecedented, Outfoxed and Fahrenheit 9/11. Much to my dismay, Outfoxed was only available on DVD and F9/11 wasn’t to be released for a few weeks so it cost a fortune. But still, i sent them the other three.

This made me wonder. I get an AOL CD every few weeks. I realize that not everyone (like my grandparents) have DVDs. But DVDs are much cheaper to produce than VHS tapes. I’m getting all of this paper political propaganda, but most Americans don’t get their propaganda on paper – they get it on TV. This is why organizations spend millions of dollars to place their ads on FoxNews. Of course, FoxNews is biased.

What would it mean for MoveOn (or other organizations) to start manufacturing DVDs and shipping them off to potential voters? Imagine a hand-written note from a volunteer saying that this might be of interest to you (oh random stranger from a swing state). Imagine shipping out Outfoxed or Unprecedented or F9/11 rather than asking people to pay for it. The people who buy it are already converted. Imagine putting a little note saying “if you don’t have a DVD player, return this card and we’ll send you a VHS copy; give the DVD to a friend.” I wonder what percentage of people would watch a movie that appeared on their doorstep. I’d bet a decent number. Certainly more than read paper propaganda. The TV is what makes most people in this country think. Why not work with the TV, even if you can’t work with the TV stations?

Curious about Libertarians

Some of my closest friends are libertarians. I love them to bits. Yet, their politics strike a chord in my heart that makes me shudder. Since i’ve been taking the Lakoff class, i’ve been faced with the dichotomy between conservatives and progressives. It always makes me wonder where the libertarians fit in.

In Moral Politics, Lakoff argues that libertarians are fundamentally conservatives ++ (read this chapter if you’re a libertarian!). Barlow concurred, telling me that’s what he used to think that he was. He’s always told me that the approach libertarians take boils down to “leave us the fuck alone.”

In thinking of the values of libertarians, the first that immediately comes to mind is meritocracy. Interestingly, most of my friends who espouse to be libertarians are some of the most privileged intelligent folks that i know. I’m not convinced that meritocracy gave them that privilege. From a meritocratic value system, everyone has equal opportunity to succeed. It is their responsibility to work hard; if they do, they will have access to the fruits of success. Another strain says some people are more intelligent and they simply should have the rewards of that.. this is the outright elitist strand. The work-ethic value comes straight out of conservative thinking. In either case, both go against my own progressive value system.

I strongly believe that the world is inherently unequal and unfair. I believe that fairness is essential and that no one should suffer simply because of the position they were born into. I believe that we must work to make access open to everyone. I believe that a diverse community offers different perspectives, all of which are exceptionally valuable. This means diversity across all axes. A pure meritocratic system consistently excludes people from lower socio-economic classes and poorer countries. This bothers me.

In theory, libertarians and i have the same views on a lot of policies. We’re both pro-choice on lots of topics. We’re both anti-military. Yet, our motivations behind these stances are fundamentally different. Take the military. Libertarians simply don’t want to pay for it. I think that we need to be a part of an international community and that cannot be done by force. Libertarians would never be in favor of working with outside agencies for anything. Most of the libertarians i know are mostly of the civil liberties style. They don’t want the government to curtail their liberties. I don’t want the government to curtail equality or opportunity, which often boils down to not wanting the government to curtail liberties.

While we have similar beliefs, no libertarian that i know is in favor of social programs of any sorts. Education. Housing for the poor. Affirmative action. Economic support for working mothers. Environmentalism. Yet, these are all policies that i’m adamantly in favor of. And my motivation comes down to my strong belief in equality, fairness and opportunity.

The thing that i cannot resolve is why so many of my younger libertarian friends think that they’re more aligned with progressives than conservatives when they don’t believe in any of the underly motivations of progressive and their underlying motivations are more attuned to conservatives. What am i missing? What don’t i understand about libertarians?

Don’t Think of an Elephant: Blogging Lakoff’s class

First, Lakoff’s new book Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives was just released today on Amazon. It’s co-authored with Howard Dean and Don Hazen.

Second, since so many people have been curious about Lakoff’s class, i decided to create a blog that would document the class. I’ve added the class notes that Mary and i have written as well as the additional documents that we’ve read for the class. This should be a great way for folks to follow along in the class, or at least partially.