DNC Chairmanship – More of the Same? Hope Not

Two friends on Facebook, who do not know each other, independently and simultaneously posted their reactions to Tom Perez winning the Democratic National Committee chairmanship. One friend noted that Mr. Perez, Labor Secretary in the Obama Administration, worked hard on LGBTQ issues, in particular on transgender rights. The other friend had a one word reaction, a word I often use myself: ugh.

Both of their reactions encompass my own. I recognize that Mr. Perez has progressive credentials. I also recognize that he comes from an establishment that seems unable or unwilling to look at itself in the mirror to see what’s going wrong, and that scares me.

Democrats won everything in 2008. They already had the House and the Senate and Barack Obama’s victory gave them the White House. Additionally, they held a supermajority in the Senate for the first time in ages. It should have been a perfect moment for the party and the country. But it wasn’t.

Too many Democrats in office during the first two years of President Obama’s term held corporate allegiances. They eschewed anything that smelled too progressive, including parts of the Affordable Care Act (e.g., the public option). When it came time for reelection in 2010, these timid Democrats ran for the hills, away from ACA, away from a popular president. They lost. And the party has been losing ever since.

In 2010, they lost the House.

In 2014, they lost the Senate.

In 2016, they lost the presidency.

In the background of all this national losing, they lost statehouses and governorships across the country. Today, Republicans control 32 state legislatures, Democrats control 12, and 6 are divided. Of the 12 statehouses under Democratic control, only five have Democratic governors. Eight short years ago, Democratic commentators, like Marcos Moulitsas and others, went on about how the Republican Party became a regional party, that it would never win a national election again. Blah, blah, blah. Wrong, wrong, wrong. These commentators had in fact been describing the eventual fate of the Democratic Party.

The New Republic recently published a devastating article, “Obama’s Lost Army,” that details how the DNC squandered the grassroots organization created to elect President Obama in 2008. Rather than turn it into a strong force for progressive ideas, an incubator for a new generation of Democratic politicians, or a force for local organizing, the DNC simply allowed all the organization to falter and vanish. The piece states that Democratic insiders were not comfortable with a separate entity organizing Democratic voters and fielding potential candidates that party bigwigs had not vetted. So they allowed it to die.

Saddest part of all, the Republicans learned the lessons from Obama’s victory and did the grassroots organizing that the Democrats were reluctant to do, leading to victories in 2010, 2014, and 2016 and the election of Donald Trump.

My other point of contention, what happened to everyone who voted in 2008? I asked this before, and I’m still asking it. Trump did not win simply by luring erstwhile Obama voters. He won because a lot of people simply didn’t vote. Folks like Van Jones have focussed on the former problem and have all but ignored the latter. And I’m tired of it. We need to discuss the problem of people not voting.

I contend that people like progressive politics when its explained clearly and when those who espouse it follow through on their promises. People want socialized medicine, even if they don’t like that name. Call it something else, then. But once “Medicare for all” or however you want to call it is established, then folks won’t want it taken away, just as folks are finally waking up and protesting the inevitable destruction of the Affordable Care Act at the hands of the Republicans.

The 2009 stimulus, meant to revive a stagnant economy and reverse rising unemployment, was so successful that Republicans who voted against it touted its benefits to constituents. The stimulus suffered from poor marketing — it really needed a better name if nothing else — and lack of clarity as to what it was and what it was supposed to do. Republicans exploited these shortcomings to their advantage.

Republicans and Democrats are very different in one very crucial way. Republicans mean what they say, say it clearly, and follow through on it. Democrats equivocate and meander. They run for the hills when they should defend what they believe in. Then they lose.

For Tom Perez to change the failing status of the Democratic Party, he needs to address these issues head-on. I really hope he does. Appointing his former opponent for the DNC chairmanship, Congressman Keith Ellison, as his Deputy Director could be a good first start, if he gives Congressman Ellison something meaningful to do. Otherwise, I worry that 2018 will be another in a long line of electoral disappointments, to the detriment of the country.

Donald Trump, One Trick Pony

Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States, is a one trick pony.

Trump humiliated himself and the country during his joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. When asked about growing anti-semitism, he went into a free association, stream of consciousness diatribe about his electoral college victory. This comes three months after said victory and nearly a month after assuming the presidency.

And then, a few days later, he held his first solo press conference in the White House. It did not go well. Among many other things, he continued to go on about his electoral college victory. A reporter challenged him on his claim that he won more electoral votes than any president since Ronald Reagan. When the reporter told him his victory was less than Barack Obama’s in both 2008 and 2012, Trump said he meant Republican presidents. Another error. George H.W. Bush won 426 electoral votes, more than Trump’s comparatively modest 304. “Well, that’s what they tell me,” was his only response. Seth Meyers compiled a brief collage showing the numerous times Trump trumpeted his electoral college victory.

(And don’t even get me started on his response to April Ryan’s question about working with the Congressional Black Caucus. He asked her, an African American, if she would set up the meeting and if she was “friends” with the CBC. I’m surprised he didn’t also ask her to get him coffee.)

The whole electoral college exchange reminded me of the movie Shattered Glass, the docudrama about disgraced former New Republic writer Stephen Glass. He lied constantly and his lies got into print, until they became too much and his editor Chuck Lane finally documented the deceptions and fired him. The real Chuck Lane, played in the film by Peter Sarsgaard, explained on the commentary track that Glass often would retreat to the most believable lie possible as each lie dissolved in the face of the truth. Trump exhibits this behavior in spades.

Don’t expect a pivot. He will not start acting “presidential.” This is who the man is. He is a one trick pony, the one trick being self-aggrandizement. He can only talk about himself and his accomplishments. That’s all he is and that’s all he has got.

He will not learn that one does not discuss national security issues in a crowded dining room with admiring fans nearby taking photos.

He will not learn that the most powerful man in the world does not send tweet-storms in the wee hours of the morning, causing stock market slides or panic among allies.

He will not learn that he does not have absolute power to do whatever the hell he wants, that the courts can stop him just as the Congress can (but won’t), because we have a 200-plus year old system called “checks and balances” that keeps any one branch of the government from getting more powerful than the others.

He will not learn that he represents all of the country, not just the parts that voted for him.

He will not learn that he cannot hold rallies for adoring masses and call that governing.

He will not learn any of these things because Donald J. Trump is a one trick pony. He does his one trick well, or at least well enough to get by, and that’s it.

This is what America bought and paid for in the 2016 presidential election. This is the pony we’re stuck with. While he continues his song and dance, however, nefarious things happen just below the headlines. The Congress has on its docket a spate of untenable bills, including one to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress will also continue their work to weaken environmental protections and regulations, take millions off of health care by repealing the Affordable Care Act and stripping Medicare of billions of dollars, etc.

The dirty work occurs quietly, out of the limelight. It’s hard to say if Trump is just a planned distraction or a hapless fool. Perhaps he’s some of both. Either way it doesn’t matter. Many of the protections and liberties we take for granted are in grave danger while the pony performs his one trick and the Congress performs a very different and more dangerous trick.

The press would do well to pay more attention to the latter than the former.

Mocean Worker – All About the Bass

I first noticed the music of Mocean Worker when NPR’s All Things Considered used his tune “Tickle It” to introduce their feature “All Tech Considered.” It tickled my ear, so I bought the album it came from, Cinco de Mowo!. I’ve been Mowo-ing ever since. His blend of classic jazz and electronics struck a chord with this old swing queen. It wasn’t Neo-Swing. Mocean Worker, aka producer Adam Dorn, knows his music and can sample the hell out of it. In addition to his own considerable credentials (he’s worked with David Sanborn and Chaka Khan), his father is producer Joel Dorn, who worked with legends like John Coltrane and Charles Mingus.

Last summer, I bought his 2015 release, titled simply Mocean Worker. It still has many samples from classic jazz recordings, and jazzy synths popping and thumping all around. But make no mistake: Mocean Worker is all about the bass. I’m talking oozing, funking, grooving bass. Thumb-slapping, note popping, foot-stomping bass. This is the bass I grew up with. This was the bass I heard my late brother Robert practice hours on end in our shared bedroom as he honed his craft back in the day. This album took me back, in a good way.

“Soul Swing,” the first track, lives up to its name. The pendulum starts swinging, but the funk hits hard. In a flash, it’s the mid-70s, I see brothers and sisters with Afros reaching for the heavens, combs stuck in the back, boomboxes on their shoulders, and skates on their feet. And they be getting down as the music warps and twists, at times sounding as if it came from under the sea or from on high.

The party continues on the next track, “I Told You Twice the First Time.” It has a air of mystery, like we’ve entered a tunnel leading to a dark grotto, the denizens getting down among stalactites and stalagmites.

Mowo the bassist leads off on “The Actual Funk.” Its stomping beat takes me back to Earth Wind & Fire, the bass licks smacking of the sort of thing Robert played at that time in his life. The swinging sax echoes in the background, but the bass owns this tune.

The mash-ups between the swing and the soul and funk really make this album for me. Makes sense. There exists a logical progression between swing and funk. Both are all about the dance. Cab Calloway made a disco-funk version of his theme “Minnie the Moocher” (still prefer the original) just as groups like Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band celebrated the Big Band era on tunes like “I’ll Play the Fool” or “Cherchez La Femme.”

Mr. Dorn’s talents take the music to the next level. It’s dance music first and foremost, but it also creates a landscape for the mind to wander. Small wonder I often play this album when I’m writing…

Sorry, “RubberBand” just came on. I can’t sit still with this tune. I have to get up and start clapping, every four beats, then every two, then every beat. Every time. It’s hypnotic. I’m similarly addicted to “Savoy Strut.” Love how that track starts in the 70s and takes me to the 80s, when I came of age listening to New Wave.

On “Ralph and Marcus” I hear the bass slapping again. And then on “PunkDisco (Jaco)” Mr. Dorn celebrates the spirit of Jaco Pastorius and his hard-driven style. The last track, “Colette Ma Belle Femme” make me think of Jaco as well, his tender side, a sweet lullaby to end a night of booty shaking.

On all the voyages I take listening to this album, Robert stays with me. I can’t hear a bass or see a bassist without thinking of my late brother. I like to think that he’s with me as I continue the voyages he started me on, as if he’s handing me off to the next generation, to see the tradition he participated in continue on.

With Mocean Worker, the tradition lives. The bass lives. The dance lives. Music lives. It’s all good.

Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” and Today’s Racism

Carolyn Bryant recently admitted that she lied. It was not a little white lie, but a big white lie, the biggest of white lies ever told. A big fat white lie told countless times over the centuries, always to the detriment of African-Americans. Her lie? She said that Emmett Till, a 14 year-old African-American boy, whistled at her. For this lie, Mr. Till died an excruciating, sickening death. (Scroll down on the “Emmett Till” Wikipedia page and you’ll see a picture of Mr. Till in his coffin; his mother insisted on an open casket funeral to show the world what had happened to her son.)

Bryant’s big fat white lie reinforces a truism that was my takeaway from Colson Whitehead’s excellent novel The Underground Railroad: African-Americans live at the pleasure of white Americans. Even when his heroine Cora, a runaway slave, found anti-slavery whites willing to help her escape bondage, some had a different agenda. Some wanted to maintain control over the black population by forced sterilization. One couple would only help Cora by making her a prisoner, keeping her locked away so that others would not discover that they are harboring a fugitive slave. In her attic dungeon, aloft like Rapunzel, she sees what happens to uppity Negroes and the whites who helped them. They become fodder for state-sponsored barbarism and murder in the comfort of the neighborhood park across the street.

Railroad makes another point that stuck with me: when blacks do achieve a level of success, then whites have the right to destroy it. Cora is menaced by a rabid slave-hunter named Ridgeway, Captain Ahab to her Moby Dick. Ridgeway has an almost spotless record when it comes to capturing runaways and returning them to their plantations. Cora’s mother was the “almost,” the one who eluded Ridgeway’s capture. For this, he wants to make Cora pay by taking her back to her sadistic master in Georgia by any means necessary.

Ridgeway is a jewel of a villain, well drawn out and vicious. But he also has a curiously calm side, making him even more threatening. When things go his way, he can behave almost civil. But it only takes an instant for him to turn his barbarism on, commit an atrocious act, and then returning to his calm state. Ridgeway believes in maintaining the status quo: a slave is property, like a plough or a table, and it belongs to someone (he always uses the third person pronoun with slaves). Yet he also has a black companion, Homer, sort of his Boy Friday. Ridgeway obtains Homer then buys his freedom. Despite the terrors he commits to other blacks, Ridgeway treats Homer respectfully, and Homer remains loyal to him. I wonder if Ridgeway really sees Homer as a black person at all. Bigots often create exceptions in their minds for black folks that they like.

Ridgeway wants to destroy any freedom blacks enjoy and ultimately longs to destroy the underground railroad itself. Whitehead makes the underground railroad a literal railroad, a locomotive subway with stations buried deep underneath safe houses. Some readers found this a bit over the top, but I thought it a brilliant representation, a perfect foil for his antagonist.

The power Ridgeway possesses is his ability to get like-minded people to follow his audacious lead. This proves critical at the end of the book. And it had me thinking of how whites, jealous, filled with hate, have taken from African-Americans sometimes simply because they could, like Bryant did to Mr. Till. It also explains why I reacted as strongly as I did to the election of Donald Trump as president. It was the ultimate act of cruelty, the sort of thing that haunts blacks and that bigots live for.

In Trump we have Ridgeway’s modern equivalent. He believes that blacks have their place, and so long as they are in that place, things are OK. Otherwise, blacks are uncivilized and live in horrific conditions riddled with crime and drugs. His racist views date back decades, to when he and his father prevented blacks from living in their buildings.

When Barack Obama became president, Trump lost it and started his birther bullshit. He lost it further still when no one took him seriously, people called him a racist, and the President himself mocked him at a White House Correspondents Dinner.

What greater revenge could such a man as Trump have then to get elected president, go into the White House, and destroy everything President Obama ever did. “Make America Great Again,” Trump proclaimed, a foghorn more than a dog whistle, one that harkens back to the age of slave hunters like Whitehead’s Ridgeway.

Trump got away with it because society gave him permission just as it gave Carolyn Bryant permission to lie and get a 14 year-old boy into trouble and murdered. Turning a blind eye to bigotry does not make it go away. It makes it grow. It maintains the status quo for all the Ridgeways, Bryants, and Trumps of the world, making it safe to hate again.

The Women’s March – Oakland

I wonder how many folks avoided watching the inauguration the day before, as I had. For me, January 20 was a day of pause. I worked on writing stuff, stayed out of view. All that changed on Saturday.

I arrived early. But things were already busy. In no time, it became even busier.

Revulsion. Fear. Worry. Anger. Determination. All emotions felt and expressed by the growing masses assembling to march.








So many came out, that we experienced a major “traffic” jam. Tens of thousands of bodies, young and old, short and tall, all genders and races, converged on Oak Street. It took over a half-hour to move a block.









Neighbors in their apartments cheered us on, placed their own signs in their windows. More stood in front of the Oakland Museum of California, cheering and clapping. One kid led us in chant: They go low, he said, and we yelled We Go High!


















We hit our stride once we got to Lake Merritt. At this point, we could see a glimpse of the size of the crowd. A long line curved around the lake. I couldn’t get a good shot of it, but it was impressive. By this point, some had trickled off and taken a different route, one leading directly to the end point, Frank Ogawa (Oscar Grant) Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall. My friends and I stuck to the original march route, up the west side of the lake to 19th Street, then left, then left again on Broadway.

Again, descending the mild grade on Broadway, we got a perspective of how many people came out. By the time we reached City Hall, the police had already issued an advisory that the Plaza was near capacity. True enough, I couldn’t get very close to it.

But the end destination was hardly the point. The mass attendance and the peaceful takeover of the streets were the heart of this march. Oakland’s participation in this national effort reached 100,000, according to police estimates, up from their original estimate of 60,000. That’s nearly a quarter of the city’s population.

History has proven time and again that when women get angry, they get busy. Trump and his group won’t acknowledge this. But they’ll have to reckon with the angry millions that marched this past weekend, whether they realize it or not.

Still Here

Still Here

The bay is still here.
The trees are still here.
The grass and weeds are still here.
Flowering succulents are still here.
Dog poop left on the ground is still here.
Birds, chirping, tweeting, singing, flying low over the water, diving for fish, are still here.
Cars parked nearby are still here.
Radios playing loud are still here.
Tobacco is still here.
Pot is still here.
The bridges are still here.
Traffic moving fast and slow is still here.
BART sounds from the distance are still here.
The Pyramid tower is still here.
Sail boats are still here.
The breeze is still here.
Train horns are still here.
Cargo ships are still here.
The cranes that may or may not have inspired the Imperial Walkers, still here.

Alcatraz Island, still here, with its fleet of ferries to take you there.
Runners and joggers, still here, wearing earbuds.
Voices, still here, talking politics, food, work, play, nonsense.
Benches, still here, butts upon them, face staring at the water, bridges, birds.
Hip hop, still here.
Blues, still here.
R&B, still here.
Rock, still here.
My favorite jazz station playing the illest sides, old and new, still here.
Blue skies and clouds, still here.
Stars, even when veiled by the sun’s brilliance, still here.
Kayakers on the water, paddling, their silhouettes like swans in formation, still here.

Still here! The maintenance workers cleaning the public john.
Still here! The public john, better than the bush.
Still here! The remnants of illegal campfires created by the homeless.
Still here! The homeless, their numbers ever rising, their “otherness” never so great as imagined.
Still here! The prairie dogs, peeking up from their holes, sniffing the air, sensing danger in the making.

And I’m still here, broken,
And I’m still here, repaired,
And I’m still here, tempered harder than a forger’s best steel,
And I’m still here, ready.

{Ed. note: I wrote this a few days after the election, November 2016, a means to work out the funk I was in (and am still in).}

Rogue One and the Importance of Hope

Rogue One did not interest me when I first saw a preview for it. It’s off the main sequence, a side story. Sounded like a classic cash cow production. The Force Awakens put the franchise back into good health. Don’t spoil it by overdoing it with trivial side stories.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Rogue One is not a trivial side story. It tells an important backstory and thus earns the right to be called the definitive prequel to the Star Wars saga.

Like any good prequel, it derives its main theme from the original and builds upon it. Thus, its theme, hope, comes from the secondary title of the original film (A New Hope). Rogue One is all about hope, its importance, its ability to motivate, and the sacrifices made in its name.

Films provide an escape from the real world, but they also mirror it. Therefore, I could not watch Rogue One without thinking of the real world around me and the crushing reality of the coming presidential administration. This comparison really jelled in the scenes involving the Rebel Alliance Council, the group of concerned galactic citizens gathered together to fight the evil of Palpatine’s new Empire.

They know of the Death Star and want to stop its development. But they could not agree on how to do it. Do they capture one of the lead architects, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen)? Do they kill him? Do they try to steal the plans for it? Given the gravity of their situation, one wouldn’t expect such a high level of indecision or infighting. But that’s exactly what happens. And it perfectly mirrors the Left in this country after the last presidential election. How should Democrats regroup? Should the party go more progressive, more grassroots, in the mold of Bernie Sanders? Or should it strengthen its ties to big money? How should Senate Democrats interact with the new administration, work with it or oppose everything it does?

In the case of Rogue One, a group of rebels decide to defy the Council and steal the plans for the Death Star. This action, of course, ties in directly with A New Hope. They embark on this path because one rebel, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of the lead architect, discovers that her father created a defect in the Death Star that could lead to its destruction. Only she sees his message revealing this vital information, before the message is lost. Thus the other rebels had to believe her. And they do, because her plan offers hope.

I love the collection of rebels that make up the team of Rogue One. The movie starts with Jyn as a child who witnesses the murder of her mother and kidnapping of her father by the Empire. She herself escapes and is raised by a stand-alone rebel, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). As an adult, she becomes a prisoner of the Empire and is rescued by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a cocky young man with pain in his heart and a divided soul. He works with a reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), who is as snarky as C3PO is polite. And then there are the two polar opposites who are dedicated companions: Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a blind devotee of the Force with some Force sensitivity, though not a Jedi; and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), an atheist who wants to shoot all of his adversaries in the face. In time we learn that Baze has more faith than he lets on, probably because his friend gives him hope.

Darth Vader makes a couple of notable appearances, but evil is largely represented by Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelson) and Governor Tarkin (Guy Henry). Krennic helps to create the Death Star. Tarkin, as known from the original Star Wars movie, commands it. The conflict between these two Imperial employees typifies the type of back-biting that often happens within repressive regimes. (Think Nazi Germany.) What sort of back-biting will result in the new Administration? And who will pay the ultimate price in the end?

Guy Henry provides Tarkin’s voice and movements, but not his face. The filmmakers use CGI to superimpose the late Peter Cushing’s face and body on the screen. It comes off remarkably well. At the same time, the artificial edge to the recreation also makes Tarkin appear darker and more menacing.

I got emotional at the final scene of the film. We all know from the original Star Wars who ultimately possesses the plans for the Death Star and keeps them from Darth Vader’s gloved hands. Princess Leia. So the final scene of the movie shows a CGI Leia, hamburger bun hairdo and all, accepting the plans from an associate, who then asks about the data drive he give her. What is its importance? “Hope,” she says.

I saw the film on Christmas Day, just hours after the world learned that Carrie Fischer suffered a serious heart attack. “Please get well,” I said to myself when her CGI doppelgänger appeared. Sadly, she did not. It was one thing to have the long gone Peter Cushing recreated; it felt eerie seeing such a reproduction made of a young Carrie Fisher, knowing that her life hung in the balance.

Hope does not come without a price. The rebels of the Rogue One mission know this, but carry out their assignment anyway, bravely and heroically. Those who plant the seeds of hope do not always see their work fully blossom within their lifetimes, be it long or short. I think of this as we enter this new administration and new era of extreme conservatism. It does not mean don’t fight, don’t resist, don’t struggle. We have to do all of the above. It does mean that we must always keep an eye to the future, to plan for a tomorrow that we may not be here to see. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized this, literally on the penultimate day of his life. As long as someone carries that message forward, to each generation yet to come, there will always be hope.


Ghost Ship’s Legacy: Protect Artists and the Arts

I once knew a space like the Ghost Ship. It may still be around, I don’t know. I visited it once when a friend had an art exhibition there. It wound around, corridor after corridor of sectioned off studios. The ceiling seemed impossibly high. It had a primitive feel to it, the quintessence of two-by-four technology, held together with nails, spit, glue, and dogged determination.

Safety broached my mind. Even before I became a facilities dude for a living, such things occupied my mental space. I remember hoping that the denizens of the space took proper precautions to protect themselves and the unique space they created. It had a lot of wood. That’s what concerned me most. Wood burns without pity.

My sister frequented spaces like Ghost Ship in her youth, alternative, self-made spaces where folks of like spirits could mingle and get their dance on. I thought of her when I heard about Ghost Ship. I was thankful that she never encountered such danger in what should always be a safe space.

Seeing their faces, those who fell to the fire, fills me with great depression. So young, so vital, so full of the energy this world needs, now gone. It simply shouldn’t have happened.

As a facilities dude, I think about what could have been done to make that space safe, to make similar spaces safe. Artists suffer for their art, an old cliche. But suffering should not include putting one’s life at risk. Suffering should not mean living in substandard conditions, prey to the negligence of unscrupulous landlords and property owners. Unfortunately, Oakland and other cities have decided that cracking down on artists warehouse spaces is the best way to deal with the issue. It isn’t.

We can work together to make these spaces safe for habitation. Install smoke detectors and fire sprinklers or at least a comprehensive series of fire extinguishers. Ensure that spaces have adequate escape routes and stairwells for quick exit. Develop low cost programs to check and improve electrical systems. Train citizens in basic fire safety. Perhaps a brigade of contractors who themselves are artists could volunteer their services to this work. Instead of investing to punish and point fingers, invest in these spaces so that they serve their artistic populations safely.

We do not and should not crackdown on artists trying to live and create. In a few week’s time, we’ll have a federal government all too willing to do the same. Nothing has come up in the news about future plans for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and our other trusts committed to encouraging and promoting the nation’s cultural life. But make no mistake, the arts will come under attack by the new Congress and Administration.

I remember very well Republican-led attacks on the NEA in light of the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition in the early 1990s. And Republicans continue to fight to defund CPB. In the past, folks fought those efforts with the rallying cry “Don’t Fire Big Bird.” Well, Sesame Street, astoundingly, jumped from PBS to HBO. This frees them from worry about fickle funding from the government, but it leaves its old home more vulnerable to attack. We don’t fund the arts nearly enough in this country as it is. In our warped view of the arts, we declare that they should make lots of money and if they don’t, then they’re worthless.

The arts form the basis of human existence, because humans communicate. We tell stories. Artists are storytellers. To defund them, marginalize them out of existence is to shut off that voice, those stories, and leave a void.

We lost 36 storytellers in the Ghost Ship fire last week. Let their legacy be that spaces like Ghost Ship get saved by activism and caring.

Here are some places to donate in support of the victims of the Ghost Ship fire.

Presidential Escape Clause: The Electoral College

I signed the Change.org petition calling for members of the Electoral College to not elect Donald Trump president. It may seem a folly, as much a folly as the recount called for by Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Indeed, voices I respect have argued against an Electoral College upset and the recount.

What would happen if somehow Hillary Clinton ended up getting elected president by the Electoral College? Easy: chaos. Folks will riot. Hoards of Trump supporters will likely up their terror campaigns against Muslims, blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, Sikhs, and other populations they target as enemies of their hegemony.

Then there would be political chaos. Trump would lose his shit and file lawsuits left, right, and center. That I could care less about, except that it may gum up the works and prevent Clinton from actually taking the oath of office and assuming the presidency. But assuming that Clinton got into the Oval Office, she would face investigations and obstructionism up the wazoo. The Republican Congress wouldn’t let her do jack shit nothing. Indeed, they would likely begin impeachment hearings on January 21. Yes, I know it’s a Saturday, but that wouldn’t stop them. The Republican Congress has been the laziest in history, but they’ll find plenty of energy to do something they really want to do.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proven well versed in the art of stopping a president. He (illegally in my mind) prevented President Obama’s final Supreme Court pick to receive a single vote, claiming that President Obama was a lame duck, in February, nearly a year before he actually left office. Bullshit, of course, but it worked. McConnell would have no problem whatsoever just a-sittin’ and a-rockin’ and doing nothing for four years to keep Clinton from governing.

So, alright, chaos. Pure chaos. That’s what would happen if the Electoral College elected Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump. For me, then, the question becomes, which chaos is the lesser of two evils: the Electoral College chaos or the Trump presidency chaos. Before answering that, let’s dispel a few myths.

As we know, Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.5 million. This margin makes her the presidential candidate with the most number of popular votes to lose in history. The next closest is Al Gore, who lost the election but won the popular vote by 543,816 votes. Trump wants the world to believe that millions of people voted illegally, hence the high vote count for his opponent. Bluster bullshit. Nothing supports this claim. But watch this bluster turn into dangerous policy under the Trump Administration. With the help of Messrs. McConnell and Ryan, President Trump will forge the most restrictive voting rights rules in history. None will prevent non-existent voter fraud; they will instead make it harder for people they don’t like (minorities, liberals/progressives) to vote.

Many have called Trump’s election a referendum for white blue-collar workers. They cite his sweep of so-called Rust Belt states as evidence for this. True, he carried Ohio, Pennsylvania, even Michigan, all states that President Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. But lets look at those popular vote numbers again. (Data compiled from Wikipedia.)



If Trump lured away many who voted Democratic in 2008 or 2012, then his vote total does not show this. He received about 1.8 million more votes than Romney did in 2012 and 2.7 million more votes than McCain did in 2008. But he still lost the popular vote to Clinton. One would have expected his numbers to look more like Obama’s, but they don’t.

Trump won not because folks that voted for Obama voted for him. He won because folks that voted for Obama didn’t vote in 2016. Clinton lost the Electoral College because not enough people voted for her in states that matter, like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Bottom line, Trump does not have a mandate by any stretch of the imagination. He and his Republican lackeys will continue to push that myth, but it remains a myth. The country is not only divided between conservative and liberal ideologies, it’s also divided between the interested and the disinterested, those who bother to vote, and those who do not. We should ask those who did not vote why they chose not to. We should also find out if they tried to vote but could not successfully navigate new voter ID laws in states like Wisconsin.

Back to the main question, then, which evil should we endure. I vote for the Electoral College upset. Trump has already demonstrated how dangerous a leader he will be. He has appointed Steve Bannon, a dangerous, racist demagogue, to his administration. He refuses to divest himself fully from his businesses, setting up the mother of all conflicts of interest. His lack of experience led him to cause a diplomatic kerfuffle with China. All this, and he hasn’t taken the oath yet. And he continues to treat the presidency like a popularity contest and tweets about things that piss him off. Presidents don’t need to do that. He’s not Kanye West. Presidents should not tweet random thoughts that send the world into a tailspin, 140 characters at a time.

No, there is no question in my mind that the chaos of an upset in the Electoral College would be nothing compared the chaos caused by the presidency of someone so emotionally unhinged. That he’s unhinged should come as a surprise to no one. After all, he began his campaign with blatant bigotry (They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.)

The UK has an escape clause as well, though so far they refuse to take it. The Brexit referendum vote was not binding. Parliament can legally override it. They won’t, however, for fear that such a move will outrage the population, despite the buyer’s remorse. We’re both in the same boat.

Having said all this, even if the Electoral College went rogue and elected Clinton, she likely would not accept the appointment, knowing all that she would face. Such an election may well offend her sensibilities, too, even though I’m sure she has concerns about a Trump presidency.

We need to retrain our sensibilities. Trump has unleashed America’s very ugly underbelly and made it mainstream. The KKK and other racists openly celebrate Trump’s victory, and he only tepidly distances himself from them. The media continues to normalize these fringe groups and their hate. And so-called mainstream Republican politicians like Ryan and McConnell, hungry for power, continue to support Trump despite the dangers he poses to our democracy and world affairs. Democrats have no choice but to adopt new strategies to avert the disasters this “new normal” pose to the nation, even if those strategies make them uncomfortable or go against their sensibilities.

Republicans have demonstrated that they have the will to do anything to get their way, including support an unqualified president. Democrats thus need to respond in kind.

Don’t normalize hate

President Obama says that we need to give the new president a chance. We need to wish for his success so that we can ensure the success of the country. Secretary Clinton said similar words along those lines.

I can’t. At least not without a major caveat.

I’m obviously not going to wish the country ill. Hell, I fear that the country will face enormous ill in light of the election of Donald Trump. But I cannot and will not accept him as the new normal. He is not normal.

He still talks about building the wall, only now it’s a fence. And then we have the litany of worries: trashing freedom of expression; silencing dissent; deporting immigrants; registering Muslims; rolling back LGBT rights; ending women’s reproductive rights (among other rights). These and many others lurk over a worrisome horizon.

He taunted and bullied throughout his campaign. And lets not forget these words with which he launched his campaign:

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

We expect a certain amount of bluster or bravado or showmanship during a presidential campaign. We similarly expect a lot of stuff said that will likely never happen — politicians rarely keep all of their campaign promises. But that’s not what Trump engaged in during his campaign. He engaged in hate speech, full stop. Further, his speech and subsequent election has emboldened many who take his words literally. Now we have a rash of hate crimes taking place across the country.

If Trump meant the hateful things that he said, then in no way is he qualified to be president. If he did not mean the hateful things that he said, then he’s still not qualified to be president. Because presidents do not incite violence against the citizens they swear to protect and serve.

Under no circumstances should we normalize, sanitize, or accept Donald Trump by ignoring all that he has said and done. Because then we not only give him a pass, but we give a pass to those committing hate crimes in his name.

And by the way, I will tag every post I make about Donald Trump with his quote about Mexicans. As I have said repeatedly, that alone should have disqualified him from serious consideration. Now that we’re stuck with him, I want no one to forget where he came from.