Tuesday, October 03, 2017
Many of us, I would hope all rational Americans, were shocked beyond belief by the senseless murders of school children. Many of us, and again I would hope a majority of Americans, thought that certainly the Congress of the United States, or the Executive of our country would do something drastic to stop the carnage wrought by firearms. But nothing was done. Nothing was done after every mass shooting since. Nothing!
I sincerely believe that nothing will be done, again, following the largest mass murder in our modern history, the shootings in Las Vegas. The shooter had 20 rifles in his hotel room; many of them AR-15-type semi-automatic weapons with large capacity magazines. He had another 20 or so guns at his home. How can someone amass such a cache of lethal weapons? How can such a thing be legal? Is there no record of a single person purchasing so many weapons? These are, I know, naive questions in America.
In February, 2013 I posted on this blog about the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and my opinion that it needs to be repealed or amended in order to gain control of these lethal weapons.. Reading that post now, I can only shake my head in tremendous sorrow that I live in such a strange, dystopian world where lethal weapons are so widespread and easily obtained. I have absolutely no faith, again, that our elected representatives will do anything meaningful to control the sale and distribution of guns.
The Constitution of the United States is a remarkable document that has guided our country since its adoption. It is, however, an 18th century document that still contains ideas and sections based on 18th century knowledge, norms and aspirations. The Second Amendment is not usable today, in my opinion, because it uses language that is open to interpretation, and over the years the courts have made many interpretations. A basic fact today is that the current use of the Second Amendment, based on court rulings, is an outcome of the actions of the National Rifle Association. The NRA, over the course of decades, has lobbied Congress, paid scholars and lawyers to write legal studies and briefs, and without any doubt skewed the legal interpretation of the Second Amendment to what it is today. The result is hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries by guns over the past few decades; and it is getting worse.
In my post 4+ years ago, I argued that the only way to stop the carnage of gun deaths and injuries in America is to repeal or amend the Second Amendment. I still hold that opinion.
No politician today would dare support my proposal. Why? Are they so afraid of the NRA that they will allow the killings to go on and on and on? The answer to date has been yes.
I will send my proposal to my Senators and Congressman. I will send it to the other progressives in the Senate, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I will challenge them to stand up to the NRA. I will ask them if they truly believe that the NRA, and only the NRA has the best public relations people money can buy. Changing the Second Amendment would be a political battle unlike any other; but it should be fought, and could be won. As I stated above, I think most Americans understand the pain and suffering wrought by guns under our present laws. I think most Americans, given the choice of business as usual or a rational system of regulation, will choose the rational path. We have to try; the current situation is not acceptable.
THE SECOND AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION: REPEAL OR AMEND IT
posted February 10, 2013 to readmyopinion.blogspot.com
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
And there it is, one of the most poorly constructed popular sentences in the English language. There are two major camps in the interpretation of this amendment: 1) those who think that it gives every person in the United States a constitutional right to own and keep firearms (usually without any limitations); and 2) those who think that the Amendment means that people have a right to own weapons if they are part of a "well regulated militia."
I personally think that the Second Amendment should be repealed; this would make our national discussion of guns a lot more objective and reasonable. But I don't really think the amendment will ever be repealed, so I offer the following rewrite, to be done as an amendment to the Amendment.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, shall be maintained by the federal government. The right of the people to keep and bear arms, under a well-regulated set of laws and rules to protect the health and welfare of the people, shall not be infringed.
Can anyone seriously argue with that? My amendment to the Amendment allows the federal government to establish and maintain our armed forces (armed). My amendment to the Amendment also gives people in the United States the right to keep and bear guns, but within a well-regulated system that is structured to protect people (including the gun owners).
Why is this so important? Simple answer: the staunch anti-regulation folks (the NRA, other gun organizations, self-proclaimed gun rights patriots, and etc.) use the Second Amendment as a crutch for their argument against gun regulation. Read any and every statement by the NRA and anti-regulation folks and you hear the words "second amendment," "constitutional rights," "free society" and similar. One example in the newspaper today is a statement by Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Association, commenting about a recent poll on gun regulation: "What isn't important to me is how many people have decided to give up their rights." In other words, he dismisses the results that show what percentage of people favor more strict regulation of guns, based on his "fact" that we all have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
If we pull the Second Amendment rug out from under these gun death deniers, they will be forced to talk about real issues, and will have a much more difficult time dodging the reality of gun murder and mayhem in this country.
My next task is to look at the best way to start a national petition drive in support of my amendment to the Amendment.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
OK, I can't hold it back any longer. Sure, ranting about this guy is not productive, but at what point do we, the people of the United States of America, say "ENOUGH!"
Here is a screenshot of the Fake President's twitter feed from this morning - read from bottom to top:
In the past month, the United States and our neighbors in the Caribbean have suffered devastating hurricanes, floods and wildfires. Our neighbor and close ally, Mexico, has had disastrous earthquakes. So what does the Fake President focus on in his speeches, press interactions and Twitter tweets? NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem! I'd like to see him take a knee - to the groin!
One of the mainstays of the Trump Administration seems to be a total lack of compassion. His tepid responses to huge natural disasters are evidence. His remarks about the size of the crowd that greeted him when he finally deigned to visit Houston show that his only interest is himself. His executive orders to keep refugees and immigrants, specifically Muslims, out of the country are criminal. The recent raids by his jack-booted ICE agents to snatch and deport people in sanctuary cities is one of the greatest evils imaginable. Everything he and his minions do show a complete lack of compassion. It would not surprise me to find out that there was an internal memo from the White House to all federal employees instructing them to remove the word "compassion" from their dictionaries and computers, and never use the word again.
There is no doubt that Donald J. Trump is unfit for the office of President of the United States. He needs to be removed immediately by the Congress. The man is an abomination, and presents one of the greatest dangers to U.S. security and well-being ever experienced.
Donald, you are a Fake President! You have no business being in that position. You are a self-centered, ignorant, puerile, mean, vindictive, obnoxious, greedy, unstable, compassionless, bigoted, misogynistic, bizarre shit-storm of a buffoon. You are also very likely a crook and a traitor, and should be locked up. Shame on you. Shame on us. Shame on your deplorable "base" that not only elected you, but still stands by you and defends you. Who the hell are these people??
Your fake presidency is a true test of the American system. I think we will survive; after all, we survived a Civil War, two World Wars, a Great Depression and countless other tests of our strength and resilience. We, the people, are better than you, and you will not prevail.
Get thee gone, Your Ass-holeyness! Crawl back under the rotting log from which you emerged! We do not like you!
Please donate to relief organizations helping people in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands, Texas, Florida and Mexico.
Monday, September 25, 2017
The big story this past weekend was that most professional athletes and many of the wealthy owners of their teams seem to understand the First Amendment, while the POTUS seems not to. Important stuff; and is anyone actually surprised?
In the meantime, lots of other very important things are happening in the USA and the world. Here at home, the wrecking ball agency Directors appointed by Trump are methodically removing the nuts and bolts that make the American system work, deregulating everything they can, for the benefit of corporate interests. These actions can set us back decades, to a time when corporations could basically do whatever their bottom line dictated, including polluting the environment, endangering the health and well-being of Americans, pulling government support for education, public health, food assistance and many other programs. Trump repeatedly calls the Affordable Care Act a "disaster;" however, the actions of his appointed hatchetmen and women are the true disaster in government.
Meanwhile, there is the rest of the world. North Korea's boyish dictator threatens the world with nuclear weapons, and Trump responds by threatening to obliterate North Korea. We should not mistakenly believe that the Generals appointed to positions of power in the Trump administration, and other high-level appointees are the "adults in the room" who will moderate Trump; they are not. Trump's nationalistic and war-mongering U.N. speech was vetted by these "adults on the room," and we have to assume received their nods of approval. This does not bode well for global stability.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who I consider to be the new "Leader of the Free World," won re-election. Her party is center-right, and her style and methods of governance promote stability and moderation. The bad news is that, for the first time since World War II, a far-right, anti-Muslim, anti-European Union party — the Alternative for Germany - won 13 percent of the vote, catapulting them into the German Parliament. Ms. Merkel will need to find a way to build a governing coalition with a new, populist and nationalist player in the mix. This election result is another indication that more people in the Western democracies are turning to the extreme right, like the voters who put Donald Trump in office.
So by all means, take a knee. But keep your eyes on the ball - the news and politics at home and abroad. Demonstrations of resistance are symbolically important, but the nitty-gritty happens within the institutions of government, and we the people have handed many of those institutions over to anti-government, pro-corporate interests (see note).
Note: not all corporations are evil; in fact, a number of them have stated, for example, that they will continue to work to reduce their impacts on global climate change, no matter what Donald Trump has to say. But Trump and his assault troops listen to a different drum beat.
Monday, September 18, 2017
Friday, September 01, 2017
|from "Raw Sewage" by Ron Cobb. 1970. used with permission|
"Houston, we have a problem!" Yes, we do. The extent of the destruction from Hurricane Harvey, and the toll of human death and injury are not yet fully known. What we do know is that this is one of the largest natural disasters in recent U.S. history, and the areas affected will have a long and arduous recovery.
The Ron Cobb cartoon above was published almost 50 years ago, the same year as the first Earth Day. Today, 50 years later, it has the same urgent message as it did then. Have we learned what ecology is in the course of 50 years, or are we still wondering?
This post is neither intended to point fingers nor to minimize the real suffering caused by this monster storm, Harvey. It is intended to continue discussion about ecology, natural disasters, and yes, human-caused climate change.
It is not correct to assume or conclude that Hurricane Harvey was caused by climate change; climate scientists are very clear about that. It can, and should be said that some of the characteristics of this storm are directly related to human-induced climate change. Warmer ocean temperatures result in an increased amount of moisture in the air and a greater storm intrensity and more rapid change in intensity, and higher ocean levels from melting polar ice influence the extent of coastal flooding.
For Houston, rain was the major factors that caused such extensive destruction. The Houston area received 50 inches of rain during the storm, and once on the ground, that water had nowhere to go. There has been a lot of reporting in the past few days about urban planning in Houston, and the fact that Houston is the only major U.S. City that does not have a zoning code. The result is mostly unregulated development and growth - urban sprawl - with one result being more impervious surface (buildings and paved surfaces). The city also has an inadequate stormwater drainage system.
A study of tree canopy and percent impervious surface in 20 U.S. Cities, using satellite imagery from the period 2001 - 2006, found that Houston had the second greatest area of annual tree loss (2,199 acres/yr). Houston also had the second highest, behind Los Angeles, increase in impervious surface, at 988.4 acres/year (by comparison, my city of Portland, Oregon lost 124 acres/yr of tree cover, and added 130 acres/yr of impervious surface).
So, back to the question "what's ecology?" Well, as with the Ron Cobb cartoon, I reach back to another of my ecology touchstones, the book The Closing Circle, by the ecologist Dr. Barry Commoner, first published in 1971. Dr. Commoner posed four basic Laws of Ecology: 1) everything is connected to everything else, 2) everything must go somewhere, 3) Nature knows best, and 4) there is no such thing as a free lunch. I don't believe that over the past almost 50 years there has been a better, simpler explanation of a very complex topic.
Think about the Harvey impacts in Houston (and other parts of Texas and Louisiana) in relationship to each of the Four Laws. The irony is not lost on the fact that Port Arthur, another Texas city greatly impacted by Harvey, is home to a number of oil refineries, including Motiva, the largest refinery in the U.S., and the terminus of the Keystone pipeline. Our collective use of fossil fuels has been a major factor in the changing climate, and everything is connected to everything else. The interaction between Hurricane Harvey and the lack of good urban planning resulted in more flooding than otherwise might have occured - no free lunch.
The myriad explanations, or excuses, about why Houston and other Gulf cities are so ill-prepared for a major storm boils down to one thing, the hubris of humans. Voter apathy, unwillingness to pay increased taxes, the relationship between individual and corporate profits and government, and a resistance to base policy decisions on science are factors in the extent of the Harvey disaster. Let me be clear here, Harvey was a monster storm, and even the very best urban planning and preparedness would not have resulted in zero impacts to people and property. What is true is that we are experiencing rapid and radical changes in Earth's climate, and we need to be more prepared for large, destructive climate events than we are now.
The President of the United States claims that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China. Other prominent leaders in our government, included elected representatives and newly-appointed heads of federal agencies, support this wrong thinking. I will assign blame here to these people, and others like them in positions of power or decision making. Climate change induced by human activity is a fact, and the leading experts and institutions involved in the science of climate change have strongly recommended that all levels of government focus on adapting to the changes. Cities like Houston need to be better prepared for major storm events, even if it means disregarding the words and actions coming down from the nation's capitol.
"What's ecology?" Just take a look around.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
This is our world as seen from above the north pole. To most of us, this has always been an uninteresting and unfamiliar view because we don't recognize it as the world map we learned in school. The important point now is that this part of the world is becoming a new area of international competition and possible conflict. The reason: climate change.
As Arctic sea ice thins and disappears, shipping along the Northern Route, shown in the map, is becoming more feasible most of the year. To demonstrate this possibility, a new Russian ice-breaking LNG (liquified natural gas) tanker sailed from Norway through the Northern Route in 6.5 days, without an accompanying ice breaker. This is a major achievement, and signals a major increase in Northern Route shipping. Russia intends to use this route to transport LNG to Asia. You can read about it here.
The U.S., Canada and Russia are the major countries along the Arctic seas, and there is increasing competition for dominanxce of this trade route. In addition, the shrinking ice sheets are making more Arctic areas available for oil and gas exploration and development, another arena for competition between nations and corporations.
The irony is not lost on the fact that the use of fossil fuels has been the main driver of global climate change, and one result is opportunities for more oil and gas production and transportation.
The environmental impacts on the Arctic from this increase in shipping and oil/gas development can only be predicted, but we know enough to understand that there will be negative consequences.
History is filled with dreams and schemes of a Northern Route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and many explorers have tried to find this fabled route. Now humans have found this holy grail, only because our actions have changed the climate and reduced the ice cover and thickness of the Arctic Seas.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Social media yesterday was filled with photos of people staring up into the sky wearing funny cardboard-framed dark glasses. There was something about it that looked familiar to me, and I realized that it reminded me of the early 3D movies that came out when I was a kid, and we all put on funny cardboard-framed glasses in the movie theater.
But yesterday wasn't a 3D movie, it was reality, a solar eclipse. Millions of people watched in amazement, wearing funny glasses, as the moon shadow covered the sun and, in the zone of totality, the world was dark for a short time. As a science geek, I keep thinking about the role of science in this event.
Before humans understood the science of astronomy, a total eclipse of the sun was terrifying. What must have gone through people's minds as they experienced this phenomenon? I also wonder how many people were blinded from watching an eclipse.
Now, because of science, we understand an eclipse. But science gives us more than an understanding. Scientists have models that allow them to calculate when an eclipse will happen, where it will be seen, the exact limits of the zone of totality, the timing at each location along the path, and so much more. I used an interactive google map yesterday to find the exact timing of the eclipse at specific locations (latitude and longitude), the duration of eclipse, the percent of obscuration, and other data.
And those funny-looking cardboard glasses? Science dictated the design of the lenses that protect human eyes from being damaged.
Science is part of everything we do today. The computer device I'm using right now, connected to the entire world through my wifi network is the result of applied research from many different science disciplines. Think about the difference in our lives now compared to a time when our ancesters were hunters-gatherers or simple farmers. (And yes, we can't not think about the two sides of science and technology use, positive and negative.)
I don't understand, and have little tolerance for people who purposefully negate the role of science in our lives. People like Donald Trump and many other elected officials who question the science of climate researchers, some even claiming that human-caused climate change is a hoax. And most Americans don't realize that the Trump administration is quietly rolling back science research programs and science-based regulations across all federal agencies, for the benefit of corporations. This anti-science movement is a real and present danger to the entire world.
We all need to look beyond the wierdness emanating from the White House (using the science-based tweet technology) and pay attention to the many ways science is being destroyed by our own president and his henchpersons. We need to let our electeds know that we do not agree with this.
Monday, August 21, 2017
In his remarks about the violent demonstration in Charlottesville, VA, President Donald J. Trump said that "I've condemned neo-Nazis, I've condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch." He offered no explanation for how he knew this to be true.
The man in this photo is Matthew Heimbach, an American fascist, white-supremasist and neo-Nazi. He was an organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. that has now become infamous in American history. The photo was taken as he entered the courtroom to support the man who drove his car into a crowd of anti-right protesters, killing a young woman and injuring many others.
What most Americans didn't know when they saw this or other photos of this fascist was that the man pictured on the shirt, Corneliu Zelea Condreanu, was the leader of the fascist Legion of Saint Michael the Archangel and the Iron Guard political party in Romania during the late 1930's. Condreanu was behind huge pogroms in Romania that killed tens of thousands of Jews. He is now a revered figure to the fascist Heimbach and others in American and European fascist movements.
I am genetically a Jew (see footnote). My maternal grandmother immigrated to America from Romania, and my other grandparents came here from other parts of eastern Europe. The results of my recent genetic testing show that I am 96.7% Ashkenazi Jewish (the remainder, interestingly, groups with Irish/English, Sardinian, and East Asian/Native American!). So yes, I take the words and actions of fascists like Matthew Heimbach seriously; people just like him murdered people in my family and millions more of my people.
And yes, I take the the words of Donald J. Trump very seriously, and can only conclude that he, too, is a fascist.
I have nothing but enmity for the fascist Heimback and his ilk, and that includes the man who is presently the President of the United States of America. The message in recent Trumpian doublespeak is one of support for white supremacists and fascists, the so-called "alt-Right" who organized and participated in the violent Charlottesville demonstration. No rational, objective human being can defend these deplorables, but Trump does so with obvious glee and indignation. And Vice-President Pence stands "with the President" on this issue.
The fascists who marched in Charlottesville carrying Nazi flags and other fascist symbols call themselves patriots. Bullshit! Real American patriots include the more than 400,000 men and women who died, and the more than 671,000 who were wounded during World War II fighting the Nazis and their fascist allies. Carrying Nazi symbols and idolizing Nazis dishonors the true patriots of this country!
And then there is the case equivalency posed by Donald Trump comparing statues of Confederate generals and soldiers to those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both slave owners. Any intelligent person understands the obvious invalidity of this comparison. Washington and Jefferson helped establish a new country in a break from authoritarianism, a country with the ideal, still being fought for, that "all men [persons] are created equal." Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and other icons of the Confederacy, were part of a rebellion against the government of the United States, based on the perpetuation of slavery as a legal, sanctioned enterprise. The excerpts from the Constitution of the confederacy, below, leave nothing to the imagination:
ARTICAL I. SECTION 9.
- The importation of negroes of the African race, from any foreign country, other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.
- Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy.
- No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves, shall be passed.
ARTICLE IV. SECTION 3.
3. The Confederate States may acquire new territory, and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide government for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several States; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves, lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.
The vast majority of Americans are not fascists. The events in Charlottesville, and the many race and hate crimes being committed in America this year, are symptoms of a disease, a disease of morality and conscience. These haters must be pointed out and shamed at every opportunity. We value free speech in America, but we do not value hate speech and speech that incites violence. Not even, and especially from a President!
Footnote: There is a common misperception that the term "Jew" refers to a religious group. While it is true that many Jewish people practice the Jewish religion, it is also true that many people who are genetically Jewish are not religious. To the Nazis in Germany, and the neo-Nazis around the world now, as well as many other anti-Semites, the term "jew" is a derogatory term used for anyone who has any familial or genetic Jewishness. When the alt-right demonstrators in Charlottesville chanted "jews will not replace us," they were not referring to people who practice the Jewish religion. Anti-Jew hate speech and violence around the world are not crimes against a religious group, they are race crimes.
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Wearing shorts and a tank top, a cup of iced coffee on the wide arm of the Adirondak chair, sitting in the morning coolness of the garden; my attempt to start the day not thinking about the circus in D.C.
The sound of water falling on a large rock and dribbling into the pool below is the primary sound this early. The throbbing groan of the AC unit two houses away occupies the background. This is urban quiet.
A single ray of sunshine slices through the Italian cypress trees and illuminates the moon bridge, part of the stone temple, and the top of a feathery grass. A small breeze stirs a few mellow tones from the wind chime on the deck above.
The air in the sun ray is alive with tiny white erratic flecks - small flies that I call gnats. Their haphazard movements are somewhat hypnotic, adding a visual calming. The effect is broken, or enahnced for this ecologist, by predatory wasps and flies that speed through the shaft of light, hawking for the small living flecks.
My focus shifts outward as the city awakens. A dog barks. A truck lumbers past in front of the house. The faint roar of a jet high overhead takes a spot in my hearing. The pool of sunlight creeps towards my feet and warms the flat stones of the patio. My moment of peace is nearly over.
The temperature today will be 99 degrees. The political scandal of the moment will blast its way into my head. I will start the next task on my endless to-do list and another day will be in full bloom.
Thank you, Garden of Tranquility, for this brief moment of peace to start my day.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
I sat on the beach with nature for a very long time. It was a very low tide, and the shallow bay was mostly mud- and sand-flats. I had no computer device in my hand, no printed material, no earphones. By pushing my tinnitus into the background, I could hear only faint or occasional sounds; the thrumming of a distant ship engine and nature itself. It was an overcast day, somewhere between cool and warm, with no breeze. I sat and watched. I sat and listened. I sat and was.
Faint shadows appeared, and my back felt sun warmed, only for a few moments. Then cold flowed over me like a wave along the ground, and mist rose from the mudflat in front of me. I mentally hugged myself for warmth. My eyelids grew suddenly heavy, and I drifted with the mist.
Raven stopped to chat, settling on the water- and sun-worn root wad on the beach near me. I wondered what all the fuss was early in the morning when I heard him and his Clan in the roosting tree. I told him about the coyote chorus in the middle of the night before, and how I wished I had also studied their language when my brain was young and flexible. They sounded excited, maybe joyful; I didn’t know.
Raven is wise enough to talk to me without revealing those things that only ravens should know. And so he told me of his family, where his kids were living, how many visitors they had from other clans this summer; in other words news, but nothing too important. He did share that the big fuss that morning was another of the Raven Clan political arguments, and that one of his cousins, a distant one, launched into a rant about this and that. I asked if it was about us, the humans; he demurred.
Raven left to do some foraging on the mud flat before the tide turned, and he bid me a kind farewell until we met again. I enjoy Raven. Many people think he and his kind are course, crass, verging on vulgar; but I have known him for a long time, and understand that, unlike Crow, Raven and his own are honest, kind, and very forgiving.
After a quiet interlude, Eagle glided spread-winged over my head from her nest in the fir tree on the bluff behind me. She screeched a greeting as she passed, and I knew she needed to find more food for her young ones. She soared across the mudflat, wheeled suddenly and appeared to stall, then settled on something below. I couldn’t see what she was pulling on, perhaps a fish carcass, a stranded crab, maybe a dead gull. The food item occupied her for a very long time as I watched. Several times she spread her wings and hopped a short distance, carrying the item with her. It was a series of perplexing movements - perplexing to a watching human.
As I watched, I noticed that the area of land around Eagle was rapidly growing narrower; the tide was flowing. The tide that day was extreme, and as it rose it raced across the flats with an astonishing speed. Eagle stayed in place as the land grew narrower, finally opening her wings and jumping skyward just as the water reached her position. The light bulb lit above my head; Eagle’s strange hopping was an adjustment of her position to the highest point of ground on what to me was a pancake-flat surface. How did she do that? I’ll have to ask the next time we talk.
Eagle soared directly towards me, and gave me a quick glance and nod as she passed overhead to the nest with her waiting, hungry children. Such a polite being, even when busy.
A sound startled me awake. It was my wife calling from the bluff above. I was still sitting in a chair on the beach. The tide had come in, the water silently rushing across the mudflat towards me, and small waves lapped the shore not far from my feet. There was no Raven, no Eagle; had it all been a dream?
I think sometimes the boundary between awake and dreaming is fuzzy, and the real and imagined blend and separate in varying patterns. For me, this exploring of boundaries occurs most when I am alone with nature, trying to attune my dulled senses to the absence of human society inputs and the underlying sights, sounds, smells and feel of my surroundings. Deep down, I know that if I successfully cross the boundary, I can have that chat with Raven, ask Eagle how she knows certain things, understand and appreciate the music of Coyote. We humans have that ability, but most of us lost it long ago.
Imagined or experienced on the beach of the Lummi Peninsula, Lummi Bay, lands of the Lummi Nation in Washington State.
Friday, July 21, 2017
Dear Republican Senators: I'll be blunt here, what the hell are you doing?? I know, you want to prove to your mythical "base" that you are tough, you are true conservatives, and you keep your promises. To those ends, you have wasted countless hours over the past several years trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act - your so-called "Obamacare." And now you are at it again - you are making me gag!
Your mantra is "Obamacare is a disaster! Obamacare is a catastrophe!" NO IT IS NOT!!
Check the dictionary. Disaster: a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life. Catastrophe: an event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering; a disaster.
The ACA is neither a disaster nor a catastrophe. The ACA is a law that has helped millions of Americans have access to health care that is covered by insurance, something they have never had for a variety of reasons. You know this, and you know this well. In fact, your "Base," such as it is, has been yelling at you to not take away their health insurance, including Medicaid that millions of them depend on.
So what is your motivation to destroy peoples lives? Keep in mind that you have a basic job description in the Constitution, and that is "to promote the general welfare." For some reason, you have misread this as saying that your job is "to promote the corporate welfare and the welfare of the super wealthy." A pox on all your houses!
You, dear Republican Senators, are playing with fire. In the early days of the Republic, folks like you would be tarred and feathered and carried through the streets on a rail. If only! You are truly despicable people who have let partisanship take sway over your responsibility to govern in ways that promote the general welfare. It is plain to all that your only interest is in your own self-promotion and some sort of vague sense of victory in political battle. For shame! You are not governing, you are playing, and your play is making life miserable for millions of people in this country.
And then there is Trump. Ah yes, the buffoon you used to laugh at, the clown you said would never be nominated by your party to be the candidate for president. And now that Trump is the president, you smile and giggle and pat him on the back and pose with him wearing your shit-eating grins as he concludes the most ridiculous and disasterous (yes, disaster) pieces of executive order or law with his seismic scrawl. Gag me again! Have you no shame? Have you no basic sense of decency? Have you no idea that you need to wipe the brown stuff off your nose and lips?
History will correctly identify you as among the least competent, least representative and most damaging legislators in our history. Congratulations.
I hope your "repeal and replace" the ACA gambit continues to burn in your faces for all to see. I hope you fail at this endeavor. And all your other schemes, too.
Disrespectfully yours....a true American
Definition of civil
1 a : of or relating to citizens civil duties
b : of or relating to the state or its citizenry; civil strife
2a : civilized; civil society
b : adequate in courtesy and politeness; mannerly; a civil question;
A civil war is raging in America, and it is composed of both civil strife and incivility. Citizens are polarized as never before in our lifetimes. Large chasms have opened between people in terms of politics and culture. The signs of this civil war are everywhere we turn; in the news, and in our daily conversations.
The current President of the United States and his minions have, through actions, words, and silence condoned and fanned the flames of this civil war. They didn't start this war; it was brewing for some time. Things came to a head with the election of Barak Obama, and it has been raging ever since, fueled by bigotry. Truth, facts, objectivity and science have become victims of one-sided and often ignorant thought. The tiny percentage of Americans who wield the most control over our politics and government have purposefully planned and enabled hate and ignorance.
Huge numbers of Americans, likely to soon be the majority, are the victims of government action and inaction. The political appointments of Directors of government agencies have been placed with one mission in mind: destroy the existing fabric of government that serves the people, and replace it with a new fabric that serves the wealthy and the corporations. The victims include women, children, non-white persons, non-Christian persons, working people, and everyone who cannot afford an education and health care.
Racism has never died in the American system, but is alive and well and thoroughly woven into all aspects and levels of government. Small incremental gains under more democratic administrations have been reversed or are under imminent threat at the hands of the present administration. Bigotry, always there but often cloaked, has emerged into the light of day as more and more people express openly what they previously only murmured quietly. It is now commonplace to see or hear about verbal and physical hate crimes and speech directed against all those who are "the other."
Immigrants and refugees are now singled out as a danger to American society, and this battlefield has even seen federal courts doing battle with the administration. One side wants to erect walls and enact laws to keep certain kinds of people (i.e. non-white, non-Christian) out; the Statue of Liberty weeps with shame.
The party presently in control of the federal government seems to be purposefully immune to the truths about their actions and plans. Health care, as an example, is a major battleground in this civil war. The controlling party has vowed for years to repeal the federal health care law that has made health care available to tens of millions of Americans who were shut out until it's enactment. Now this political party is in control of the Congress and the Executive, and gaining power in the Judiciary branch. And yet, even with this almost total control, they cannot pass a law that repeals and replaces the existing health care act. This failure is a direct result of the civil war; millions of Americans want to keep their access to health care, even though the controlling political party wants to destroy it.
Climate change, a well-known, if inconvenient truth to those in power, is an increasing cause of hardship and suffering world-wide. This is another major battlefield in our civil war, with clearly drawn battle lines. The president and his minions use their "alternative facts" to negate the truth of human-caused climate change, and have even gone as far as setting in motion a withdrawal from an unprecedented global agreement to reduce carbon emissions. With the federal government on one side of the battle line, an increasing number of cities, counties, states and corporations have dug in on the other side, declaring that they will honor and act on the Paris Accord.
Civility has also been swept aside in this civil war. Never in our lifetimes have we seen a presidential candidate openly spew hate speech directed at so many people and groups. Never have we seen a President publicly and relentlessly castigate the news media. Radio, television and internet personalities on both sides of the political divide regularly insult, denigrate and mock anyone and everyone who is on the other side of their beliefs (or the positions they are paid to espouse). People are verbally and sometimes physically attacked in public for being "the other." People on opposite sides of the political divide can only yell at and insult each other, rather than have serious and respectful conversations. This civility divide is getting wider every day.
How and when will the civil war of 2017 end? Are the results still an open question, or does one side have a winning advantage over the other? (In fact, there are likely more than two sides in this battle.) One fact is abundantly clear, the interests that presently control the federal government have the advantage of that control, as well as tremendous wealth. They will probably maintain that control after the 2018 election, which will set up a major battle in 2020. The controlling interests have at least one clear advantage right now, a monolithic block of voters who hew to a small number of conservative ideals. This voting block can and will be mobilized around this small number of ideals, and under our electoral system can maintain their controlling position.
The other side of the political divide, unfortunately, is itself seriously divided. The wedges holding these divides open include political correctness, intersectionality, accusations of bigotry, non-inclusiveness, vestiges and scars of Bernie v. Hillary, not-progeressive-enough-ism, and others. This side of the civil war lost badly in the 2016 election, and is poised to continue on the same path unless the need for serious and drastic changes are understood and implemented - a daunting task.
Future historians will pour over the records of the 2017 American civil war. The realities of their world will be a direct result of the battles being fought in this war. There is no way to predict the outcomes, but it is certain that 2017 represents a turning point in American and world history. The extent of the casualties is unknowable now; all that can be said is that there will be many over the course of ther next few generations.
Can we end this war soon? I am optimistic that so many people have become energized and spurred into political action. I am pessimistic that the so-far disjointed and leaderless efforts of one side, my side, have little chance of prevailing against the juggernaut of wealth and power on the other side. Perhaps our best hope is that the other side suffers a major implosion that leaves an advantageous opening.
Time will tell, and time is racing into the future.
Tuesday, July 04, 2017
We proudly fly OUR flag for every national holiday. For many years, it seemed that the American flag belonged to the folks on the right (not correct) side of the political spectrum; but this was a false narrative. This flag is OUR flag, "our" meaning everyone in America. It is a symbol of many things, including the good, the bad and the ugly. But mostly it is a symbol of a country that was founded on a set of remarkable ideals, and by remarkable I don't mean perfect, but ideals that we can hold up and strive towards.
I believe in America. I believe that as a nation, as a people, we will somehow survive this present phase of populist, authoritarian leadership and systematic government deconstruction. We will emerge a damaged nation, both physically and in spirit. However, we have a touchstone, a place we can go together to find our way again, and it is the Constitution.
In the time B.T. - before Trump - we knew that there were many very serious issues to deal with as a nation. We continued to leave many of our sisters and brothers in unacceptable situations, victims of institutionalized systems that were unjust. This has not changed, it has only gotten worse under Trump. When we emerge from the Era of Trump, we will not only need to pick up where we were B.T., but also roll up our sleeves and fix the extensive damage done by Trump and his minions. But I have faith in America. If we pull together as a nation characterized by diversity, the strength of that diversity will pull us through.
So celebrate America today. Take a few moments to contemplate what America is, what it stands for, what it's potential is and can be. Say hello to your neighbors. Embrace the vitality of our diversity.
And then get back to the beer and burgers and fireworks.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
The defeat of Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff in the most expensive House of Reps election in history is a big downer for Democrats across the country. Ossoff ran as a moderate, tried not to offend Republican voters by demonizing Trump, and spent truckloads of cash. He lost anyway.
I have a few thoughts about this election result. First, it seems that political party might be more important than any individual politician, from candidates to president. No matter what Donald Trump does, Republican voters still seem to vote Republican. Perhaps party loyalty is stronger than any other factor in elections.
Second, I think the specifics of a candidate are more important than the party. This seems to contradict my first point, but let me play this out a bit. The strategy used by Ossoff was to run as a moderate in order to attract independent and less conservative Republican voters. This strategy didn't work. Perhaps the biggest problem for Ossoff was that he simply was not a good candidate for this kind of election. He is young, inexperienced in politics, and doesn't even live in the Congressional District he hoped to represent.
I want to use my state, Oregon, as an example. We have one Republican Member of the House, Greg Walden, who represents the more rural parts of the state. Walden is conservative, and was instrumental in passing the Repeal/Replace Obamacare legislation in the House. Unseating Walden will be a very difficult task for Democrats, perhaps an impossible task. Walden's district is majority Republican, made up of ranchers, farmers, loggers and other rural demographics. If a Democrat has a chance, a slim chance of unseating Walden, that person would need to be a well-established local who is part of the majority demographic in rural Oregon, a moderate, and someone with a political or government history.
To date, two Democratic candidates have anounced their intentions to run against Walden; both are from more liberal towns in Walden's district. One candidate, a Bernie Sanders supporter, ran against Walden in the last election and was soundly defeated by a huge margin. The other candidate is a political newbie, a woman dog-sled racer. Both candidates, in my humble opinion, are snowballs in hell regarding their chances to beat the Republican incumbent.
So, what is my conclusion? Well, I think loyalty to political party is probably the most important factor in elections, and any chance of upsetting a Republican, especially an incumbent, has to be based on understanding not only voter loyalty, but what factors make a candidate appealing to independent voters and voters in the other party who might be having serious qualms about their party candidate.
We Democrats need to understand that in this time of history, nominating very left candidates in traditionally conservative districts is not a good strategy. Both houses of Congress are controlled by one party, and that party gets to do whatever it wants, with limited options available to the minority party to stop them. So the most important thing Democrats can do for the forseeable future is put forward candidates who are Democrats who can win, whether or not they have each of our specific set of political "leftness." Our choice going forward is very simple: 1) keep putting forward candidates who have the best "left" credentials but can't win because they have no credibility with the majority of voters in their district, or 2) put forward candidates who have the best possibility of winning as Democrats, no matter how centrist they are. If we use strategy 2, we might have a chance to gain the majority in Congress.
My conclusion actually bothers me, because as a self-described "progressive realist" and long time some-kind-of-socialist I would prefer a more left-leaning majority party. The realist part of me, however, understands the present political realities of the United States, and the important context of the rest of the world, and so I am reluctantly comfortable with my aforementioned conclusion.
Friday, June 02, 2017
Dear people of the world:
It is important for you to know that most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump, and most Americans disagree with everything he has done and will do. I know this because: 1. his opponent received 3,000,000 more votes than he did; and 2. public poll after public poll show that most Americans do not approve of what he is doing.
Donald Trump has redefined American exceptionalism; this now means that the USA will do everything except what is right and just. This is not the Amercia you know, and it is most certainly not the America the majority of Americans know. Donald Trump has his base, meaning the people who support him and what he does. Those of us who are not part of his base, and again I have to assure you that I mean the majority of Americans, vascilate between thinking we should try to understand his base and simply understanding that they are ignorant people. Yes, l know, that previous thought is not very politically correct, but seriously....
American democracy is a strange system. Someone recently wrote that our democracy is still in Beta testing, and it has many major bugs that need to be fixed. We are a country in which big money has taken more and more control of our political system. One of our two major political parties, the Republican Party, is controlled by that big money, spouting free market economic theory mixed with Libertarianism and, now, Trumpian populism. (To be balanced, there is a lot of Big Money supporting the Democratic Party, also; however, that party has ideals that differ markedly from the R's.) Members of our elected Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, are charged by our Constitution to "promote the general welfare;" this is their basic job description. Unfortunately, there is no annual job review for these politicians, and the only way to remove one is to not re-elect her/him. Also unfortunately, it is too often the case that Republican politicians at the state level rearrange voting district boundaries to ensure that their party candidates win elections.
Donald Trump, unfortunately now the President of the United States, has rejected the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is a shameful, selfish and ignorant action by a shameless, selfish and ignorant man; a very privileged man, I might add. By rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump has rejected every principle of justice, peace, understanding, tolerance, human rights and common sense. I assume that Mr. Trump has never read the Paris Agreement; he does not read lengthy documents. He, or someone close to him, has cherry-picked themes that he has misapplied. One only needs to read or listen to his speech on rejecting the Agreement to understand what a completely ignorant person Mr. Trump is. Perhaps the funniest and saddest line in his speech was that he was not elected by the people of Paris!
In rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump also rejected everything contained in it, including these words and phrases:
- respective capabilities,
- urgent threat of climate change,
- best available scientific knowledge,
- specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties,
- (Parties) vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change,
- effective and progressive response,
- equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty,
- safeguarding food security and ending hunger,
- just transition of the workforce and creation of decent work and quality jobs,
- obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,
- importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of the greenhouse gases,
- importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems,
- protection of biodiversity,
- the importance of the concept of "climate justice,"
- importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and cooperation at all levels,
- importance of the engagements of all levels of government and various actors in addressing climate change,
- recognizing that sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed country Parties taking the lead, play an important role in addressing climate change.
In other words, by rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump, claiming to act on behalf of the American people, has rejected the rest of the world, and all the people in it! He has rejected all notions of equity, fairness, science, justice, sustainable development. He has damned the vulnerable people of future generations everywhere on Earth to continued poverty, disruption, misery and death. This is truly a crime against humanity.
Let me be very clear here: Donald Trump, the elected leader of what until now has been the leading country of the free world, has given away the mantle of leadership, has abandoned everything that makes America America, has let the poor, aspiring peoples of the world know that America no longer gives a damn about them, has slapped our allies across the face, and has heaped scorn on the ideals, real and aspirational, of the United States of America.
I, like most Americans, am ashamed and embarassed that Donald Trump is the president of my country. In the few short months he has been in office, Mr. Trump has wreaked much havoc on the instituions of American government. He has, through his own statements and actions, condoned the emergence into broad daylight of the most hate-filled and bigoted elements of our society. And on the world stage, he has publicly embraced our traditional enemies while insulting our closest allies. The President of the United States is no longer the leader of the free world, let alone the leader of his own country except in title.
I want to conclude by telling you, people of the world, that Americans are not being silent and passive. As of June 1, 30 mayors of American cities, 3 governors, more than 80 university presidents, and more than 100 businesses have come together to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the greenhouse gas targets of the United States under the Paris Agreement. As individuals, huge numbers of us will continue to be politically active, outspoken, and engaged in efforts to thwart and reverse Trump and the Republicans wherever and whenever possible.
This is our pledge to you, made by true American patriots.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
So I decided to take The Donald's scrawl as written, and also repeatedly turned 90 degrees, yielding 4 views. Perhaps this would reveal something. Maybe The Donald's brain turns words a certain number of degrees.
This worked. In fact, each of the 4 positions revealed something that makes sense about The Donald.
What do you think?
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Here is the first paragraph of the job listing:
The City of Portland is seeking a highly qualified and transformative Police Chief to lead the Portland Police Bureau. The Portland Police Chief serves as the Chief of the largest law enforcement agency in the State of Oregon. This individual reports to the Mayor and is responsible for directing and leading all aspects of bureau operations. The State of Oregon and its largest city, Portland, share a history of legally sanctioned systemic racism with legally enforced exclusionary practises. Given this history, the successful candidate must demonstrate the capacity and commitment to expand on existing strategies to improve relationships with and service provision to Portland's communities of color, ensuring that equity is a bedrock of policing in Portland.
In other words, Portland is a community with a diversity of people ("customers") who the police interact with and serve.
The Portland Police Association President issued a statement responding to this job announcement.
Understandably, the verbiage and the tenor of the job posting left many in the rank and file angry and confused, as the clear implication from the posting is that the Police Bureau and its members have supported a racist culture in the City.
The union statement went on to list the many recent positive accomplishments of the Bureau. It also pointed out that the job announcement had nothing positive to say about the hard-working and dedicated officers of the Bureau.
I have worked with the Portland Police Bureau on neighborhood projects, and was involved for over a year in the public part of the Settlement Agreement. Although I am not a member of the Bureau, I feel that the job announcement for Chief of Police is an insult to the many good people of the Bureau.
I don't understand this. Is this a huge human resources blunder by the City of Portland? Is this an example of political correctness gone wild? Or is this, for some reason, an intentional insult?
Portland, Oregon is not la-la-land; we have real problems that need to be addressed, including, but not exclusively, issues of systemic racism. Our Police Bureau is seriously under-staffed and consistently criticized by certain elements of the community. The Bureau has been plagued by internal problems and incidents, and the Mayor has initiated a nation-wide search for a new Chief of Police. Unfortunately, the job announcement for Chief doesn't help matters.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Donald J. Trump is not a smart person. Trump the person is not the reason he is president; Trump the idea is the reason. It has never made sense that working people, poor people, college-educated people, and other demographics voted for, and many still support Trump. Really, does Trump care about any people other than himself and his close family? The obvious answer is, he does not.
No, Donald Trump is not the brains behind the Trump ascendency and the Trump presidency. He is the tool, and, if we change one letter, the fool. Trump was not the brains behind his campaign. He did not plan the strategy, develop the message, write the speeches. (To be fair, most candidates don't either, but most are certainly very involved.) Trump was good at one general theme that encompassed provoking the crowd, firing up populist ideas, race-baiting, thuggery and name-calling. He is terrific at self-promotion, and terrible at everything else. He has not written any Executive Orders; he has not conceptualized any legislation. He has only signed his seismographic signature and smiled for the cameras.
So who are the Operators of the Trump tool? Are they his children? Are they the people he has placed close to him in the White House, like Steve Bannon? Well, no. These people are his handlers, the ones who try to tell (suggest to?) him what to do and how to do it, to stay on-message, and to get in front of the cameras and try to explain that the alternative facts are the real facts, no matter what the Fool in Chief tweets. These are not the high level Operators.
The Operators are people most of us have never heard about. They are people the mainstream media don't talk about, either. They are members of the Billionaire Class who actually, unlike Trump, are intelligent and have tremendous amounts of control in our society, and others around the globe.
This all sounds shady and thriller novel-like, doesn't it? Conspiracy theory stuff. Shadowy figures pulling levers and strings. Well, yes, it does. And I believe it is something we all need to look at. For starters, take a look at this piece in the Guardian about Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, and Cambridge Analytica. Is it getting chilly in here?
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Portland, Oregon USA. April 29, 2017.
Only the elders remembered it, but even they sat amazed, squinting at the glowing windows. It was somehow familiar, and yet not familiar. For many, not just the elders, it was discomfiting, somehow alien. Bright. Light.
Hopefully, many thought, this will be fleeting, an aberration. And then it will be normal again; grey, wet, rain falling constantly, puddles on the sidewalk, streams running in the gutters. "April showers bring May flowers," some said. "The sun is dangerous on your skin," said others. "Vitamin D pills are just as good!"
I sat rocking on the porch swing, moving over to stay in the shade as the warm light moved across the porch. I thought that I could take off my socks and feel the warm wood boards on my soles, but why risk the tender white skin on the top of my feet? Perhaps we will go for a walk today; I should carry a raincoat and umbrella, just in case.
There are diffuse clouds in the blue sky (that's right, it is actually blue!), and in the east the sky is totally grey. I guess this is transitory, after all, and the world will be normal again, soon.
I feel better.
Friday, April 28, 2017
We received a mailing from the United Farm Workers last week, asking for support. I took some time and visited their website, and confirmed what I knew I would find; they are very actively working as part of the resistance to support undocumented people (as well as everything else they do). I thought about the old organizing song with the line that "every generation has to do it again." Then I went to my dresser and opened the infamous Junk Drawer (you all have one too, don't you). I dug around: miscellaneous keys that I have absolutely no idea what they are for, a nose whistle, a small vial of baby teeth, a deck of naughty playing cards my Aunt Laura sent when I was sick - I was probably 12-13 years old, a real sardine embedded in acrylic with a pin on the back that I sometimes put on a sport jacket lapel, an ancient package of Zig-Zag rolling papers (21 cents!), and the button box. The button box has a bunch of political buttons. I also found the small United Farmworkers flag, and pinned some of the buttons to it; here's the photo:
OK, I tend to be a hoarder, but these items each have an attached memory. This grouping brings back a flood of past activism, the teacher's union, the Farmworkers struggle, the car trip to Coachella Valley for a rally where Cesar Chavez spoke, various boycotts, and so on.
There is a point here, and this is why I dug through the junk drawer: our work is not done! So many have struggled for so long, and yet there is so much still to do. Especially now. Especially now that so many of our sisters and brothers are under attack by people and organizations, including the president and the majority in Congress. The onslaught is daunting, and yet we, the people, are fighting back, each in her/his own way. How many rallies and marches have there been in this country since January 20, 2017? How much media coverage has focused on exposing the corruption of this president and this Congress? It's gratifying to see it happening daily.
I am convinced that America will survive this explosion of populism, because Trump has failed greatly over the course of the first 100 days of Trumpism. The Republican Congressional leadership has also failed in big, visible ways, demonstrating that they have no skills for governing, only for saying no. America will be damaged by the time we dump Trump, and the global effects will be huge and dangerous. But I think our democracy is strong enough to survive and rebuild.
Donald Trump is a buffoon, a dangerous buffoon. He has and will continue to ruin many lives, make many people miserable, shake the foundations of both domestic and foreign policy. Hopefully there are a few good men (yes, he has surrounded himself with men - I'll write about the daughter separately) in his circle who have the knowledge and experience to know when to tell him "NO!" and to avert a disaster, such as war with North Korea. He is causing damage on so many fronts that the results will be horrifying and way too real. But I have hope.
So, brothers and sisters, don't get discouraged, don't shrink from action, fight the good fight, RESIST! (And wear those political buttons!)