Category Archives: Activism & Politics

It’s Not Dead Yet: the GOP Effort to Repeal the ACA/Obamacare still has legs.

Just when you think the Obamacare repeal effort is dead…it comes back. (Photo from T2, used w/out permission.)

Here we go again.

Last night, the announcement came through: four GOP senators are now “no” votes on a motion to proceed with the BCRA – the Senate’s version of the repeal-and-replace bill. The bill would not make it to the floor, let alone through passage.

The 80%+ Americans who didn’t want that bill to succeed were thrilled; an air of celebration streaked across my Twitter timeline and my FB groups.

This morning, the feeling of trepidation that kept me from enjoying the celebratory mood turned out to be justified: the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has given his approval of the 2015 ACA repeal bill. That bill, which passed both houses of Congress in 2015, repeals Obamacare – but with no replacement. At the time, the CBO scored the bill as meaning 32M people would lose their insurance while premiums would rise by 100%. The bill delayed the repeal, and if implemented now would end up taking effect after the 2018 elections.

It’s worth reading @IndivisbleTeam’s Twitter on why this is bad, but the short version: If this bill is passed as part of the current reconciliation effort, it would be possible for GOP leadership to completely replace the AHCA with language from the repeal-only bill. When the 2015 bill passed (on party lines), the GOP had a President who would veto it and no veto-proof majority. Now, we can be sure 45 will sign the bill – he called for full repeal directly on Twitter after the bill’s defeat.

So what’s the problem? The old bill is WORSE than the bill that just failed.

But here’s the thing: if you’re represented by a Republican, odds are (and are high) that they already voted for this bill.

That means that standing up against it this time around – the right thing to do, given the bill’s failings and the GOP’s proven failure to create a new, viable healthcare plan – means walking back their votes from the last congress. It means going to voters and explaining what’s changed their mind. In some cases, it may require a break with GOP leadership’s tribe, and a willingness to admit that their original vote was wrong. Maybe some will try; will it be enough? How many voters will hear “repeal” and, exhausted, think that’s what they’ve wanted all along?

There’s no time or room for complacency in this project; as Americans who care about our neighbors around the country, we can’t afford to let up the pressure.

Keep calling your members of Congress. Tell them you want them to reform and improve the ACA with bipartisan support and open debate. Tell them if they vote yea for McConnell’s latest strategy, you will vote them out in November 2018. And then follow through.

 

EDIT: This article from NBC News gives some more details.

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Local politics & political playwriting

It feels like a lot of my posts start with some variation on, “Sorry it’s been a while!” But the fact is, as much as I love updating this blog, there’s a lot going on in real life – some of which I’ll talk about and some of which I won’t – and often, after waiting for more than a few days or a week to update, I fall into the trap of thinking that whatever I post has to be hugely significant.

Sure, it would be nice to have something huge to say every week. But I don’t, really. And right now, a lot of my efforts (in writing at least) fall into two or three camps:

  1. Social Media / news-based conversations. This shouldn’t be number one on the list, but it is, because how else do you stay informed?
  2. Writing to my Congressman and Senators using Resistbot (@botresist, text “resist”to 50409)
  3. Blogging and other forms of writing for progressive activist groups
  4. A play where I eviscerate several political figures with language.

Even though the play is 4rd on the list, it’s an extension of the efforts I’ve put into writing something about the state of US electoral politics for a long time. Every day, what with the news that keeps crashing out of Washington (and everywhere else government reaches), keeping a steady hand on the play gets harder. And I’m well aware of how precarious writing this kind of political narrative can be – one reason Electalytics  has been shelved for the last year or so (and to those of you who were reading it via my mailing list, I apologize) is that what initially seemed like it was going to be a wild ride of a primary turned into the flaming garbage heap that is our current political status. Staying on top of that changing, shifting landscape presents a lot of challenges. So I take them one at a time.

Last night, I went to see The Public Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar  in Central Park, and in many ways it was a first for me. I’d won the tickets in the lottery, so it was my first time at the Delacourte theater in central park, but it was also the first time I’ve watched this particular Shakespeare tragedy and not been bored out of my skull.

The last few times I’ve seen Caesar, it’s been a rote, stilted mess. It’s not a play with a particularly strong plot, and part of the 100-minute production benefits from that in that we see Caesar’s assassination, the manipulation of the mob, and Brutus’ suicide, while the rest is glossed over. It didn’t feel like we were missing much, and in fact the brief length made the uncomfortable seating far easier to bear.

One of the strongest points in this production was how deftly it was reskinned to incorporate the Trump administration. From the guy who played the Republican primary challenger to Mellie Grant on Scandal (I’m writing on a tablet, and this isn’t an official review, so I’m not going to go look up his name, sorry), who blustered his way through a performance of a truly loathable Caesar, to the emotional depth of Brutus’ soul-searching in killing his friend (Brutus being played by the alcoholic congressman from House of Cards), there were subtle differences in watching this play about patriots trying to defend their country from a tyrant when you’re actually part of a movement trying to defend your country’s liberties from a wannabe tyrant.

The fight scenes weren’t super convincing, but our sightlines were a little weird – maybe seats nearer the center of the audience would have improved this. The set was inventive, and the many sly design nods – Calpurnia’s blonde hair, pink dress and Slavic accent; an arced set that at one point turned into the window behind Melania in her official White House portrait; RESIST posters and pussy hats; riot police and antifa – brought laugh after laugh. Perhaps the most telling moment about how deeply this production cuts was the when Caesar made his first, triumphant appearance. Nobody in the audience clapped. Nobody cheered. Not a whisper. I’ve only seen the play a couple of times, but generally speaking there’s at least one or two audience members who try to get in on the action.

The play gave me a lot to think about, and for that I thank the deft touch with which Brutus’ character was handled. Truly human and truly honorable, it was clear from the first moments of his conspiracy’s taking place that he had high-minded ideals, and that he saw Caesar’s murder as necessary to the continued health of the Republic. (This being Shakespeare, of course, it quickly devolves into battles.)

As I’ve struggled with my own current project, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is that my hero is not just an antihero – he’s a character based on a person whose humanity I have a very, very difficult time seeing. If you’ve read my work, you know that antiheros are kinda my jam – so it’s a weird feeling to try and repeatedly get into the head of a character who actually repulses you. The biggest influence for me has, thus far, been anger – but watching Brutus on stage giving one soft speech after another about the need to protect the ideals of Rome from a man too ambitious to keep them safe reminded me that for Brutus, Caesar’s murder was the most humane solution he could think of. It gave me a different take on my own piece, and besides making changes to the beat sheet for the play, I wrote a 15-page scene as the subway brought me home.

The Progressive Coder’s Network is still going well, and I’ve joined Fight Back Bay Ridge to help me get more involved with local politics. While I missed the New King’s Democrats meeting earlier this week, where endorsements were voted on, I’m hoping to get to the Bay Ridge Democrats meeting, where one of the first Democratic challengers for Dan Donovan’s congressional seat will be speaking. Since Donovan still refuses to hold a legit town hall (I think we get a facebook town hall next week), it’ll be interesting to see how his Dem challengers might approach their discussions with the area’s political clubs and associations. Personally, I’d love to start seeing cross-party, pre-primary debates for any and all contenders – but if I got everything I asked the universe for, we’d have Bernie Sanders in the oval. Oh well.

Add Contacts, Congressional Edition – #PhoneYourRep

As you might expect (or know already, if we’re FB or Twitter friends), I have a lot of feelings about Tuesday’s election and its subsequent results. And maybe, eventually, I’ll be able to organize them coherently and present them in essay form.

For now, I’m trying to focus on concrete actions I and you can take to prepare ourselves for a long few years. Much of this will require getting in direct touch with our representatives in congress. Per this piece, by a former congressional staffer, the best way to do that is via phone.

Well, guess what. We all carry our phones with us 24/7. So if we have their numbers in our phones, we are already better prepared to engage our reps across congress in conversations about the issues that matter.

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The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Bernie Sanders and others, including Schumer, Warren, Reid and Booker, as well as the CWA, have endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison for the position of new DNC chair.

I’m starting with my own senators (Chuck Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand, both D-NY) and my House Rep (a republican who I have to look up again – see how much time I’d have saved if I’d whacked him into my phone the first time I called his office?) and the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. If you finish with those and want to keep going, think about adding regional DNC information as well.

So ask yourself, are you more likely to call your rep if you can just say, “Okay Google, dial Charles Schumer” and get a direct line to his office? Or if you have to go online, look up the number, and call from there?

If the answer is #1, and you want to help effect positive change in America, then take five minutes and put these numbers and more into your phone. Right now. Seriously. Cut and paste is your friend.

And remember, you can look up your reps and senators (links below), but think about looking up other reps and senators, as well. All of congress works for you. Your tax dollars contribute to all their salaries. You have a right to call and demand representation from any and all of them to address your rights and concerns, and you should do so.

And for Non-NYers:
Look up your Senator’s contact info here
Look up your Rep’s contact info here

Edit: Things are getting fun! A friend of mine has issued a #PhoneYourRep challenge to the internet! Once you’ve added your rep’s number to your phone, head to Dave’s Facebook and leave screenshot evidence – if we can get over 100 people to do it, he’ll be on the hook for a $500 donation to the Sierra Club (and given the person who’s in charge of their transition team, they’re gonna need it)!

Getting better at representative government AND saving the planet? Take part in this challenge and you’re basically a superhero. 😀

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When Voting 3rd Party Might Mean Voting for Clinton

The following is adapted from a Facebook post I made earlier today, which friends wanted to share.

I meant to write about this sooner, but later is better than never. So here goes.

wp-1474329232785.jpgLast Thursday night I went and met Bernie Sanders at the Working Families Party gala. Well, okay, I stood up against the stage snapping pics and then shook his hand (along with a bunch of other people) as he left the stage. (Okay. I stood up against the stage like it 2000 and I was at a Placebo concert at Irving Plaza. Shhh. Moving on.)

What impressed me (aside from OMG BERNIE SHOOK MY HAND!!!!) was the level of support that the party had from both local politicians and from more mainstream Dems, including people like Chuck Schumer and Bill de Blasio. Nina Turner spoke, too, and there were also WFP city council types and state legislature types.

Speaking at the Working Families Party gala.

Senator Nina Turner, speaking at the Working Families Party Gala.

One of my big issues (yes, there are more than one, we all know that by now) with voting for Clinton, outside of the issues I take with her positions and her campaign, has been thinking of voting for Clinton as rewarding the DNC for their choice —  and #sorrynotsorry, but there is no fucking way the DNC is getting my vote this year (and possibly any other year). Not in light of the way the primaries were run, the way the debates were gamed, the myriad of questions surrounding people purged from electoral roles, the behavior of their ex-Chairwoman and her subsequent reward of an “honorary” position, etc. Even if not doing *all those things* wouldn’t have meant a Sanders victory (and I would very strongly argue that a earlier and more frequent debates could have changed the Democrats’ primary landscape substantially), the fact that the Democrats did those things?

They don’t get my vote.

Period.

The end.

Well, going to the Working Families Party Gala  the other night gave me a new perspective – a new way of framing the workings of our political system.

The WFP, in NYC at least, has a very strong presence and has been able to help get laws like the $15/hour minimum wage and NY Sick Leave laws passed. In many cases, these smaller parties end up having a major party “nominee” in their candidate box. As speakers stressed over and over (and btw, here’s a link to the speeches, if you’ve got two hours and will excuse that I missed the first few minutes of Senator Turner’s remarks), many of the ideas that ended up in the non-binding 2016 Democratic Platform have origins in the WFP’s party goals.

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Senator Chuck Schumer at the Working Families Party Gala

 

Living in NYC and knowing what I do about my district, etc., I will likely be voting straight-ticket third party in November. HOWEVER. Up till Thursday night it hadn’t occurred to me that voting a straight third-party ticket could, potentially, include a vote for Clinton. And that, philosophically, I might be okay with that.

Whereas voters who vote Green or Libertarian won’t necessarily have a voice in the government after the election, Clinton will know how many of her votes came through local third parties, and even where she may not have success in major progressive domestic policies, at the local level I’ll know I’ve thrown my weight behind a third party that already has proven accomplishments where I live. As a party with deep roots in unions and activism, I can also be assured (to whatever degree one can trust politicians) that the party will advocate heavily for its agenda within the larger agenda, and that there are politicians at both the federal and the local level who consider this a party worth paying attention to. While I won’t know how I’m voting until close to November, after last Thursday’s gala I do know that anybody who shouts “a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump!” (or the reverse, as has happened once or twice in my conversations this election season) isn’t looking at the whole picture.

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking at the Working Families Party Gala

I would strongly encourage other people who want to vote 3rd party, who do not want to support the current Democratic Party, to consider  strong local parties available near them.

At the very least, it’s a way of combining your voice with the voices of others in your area, pursuing a party whose goals more closely align with your personal viewpoint (because let’s face it: Dem, Repub, Green and Libertarian is still pretty damn broad as far as categorizing the political affiliations of +/-300M people), and ensuring that there will be a chorus of voices there to hold the politician at the top of the ballot accountable.

Go High, Clinton Supporters

Originally posted on my Facebook, regarding the Democratic National Convention and the speeches given by both Michelle and Barack Obama.

I don’t think I got to say this last night but I want to make sure to say it.

One of the reasons the Obama speeches were so successful – and here I mean both Michelle and Barack – is that they understand that this is probably the last chance they have to bring Berners on board en masse to support the Democratic party’s chances of getting out the vote. To that end, neither of them shamed Bernie supporters nor did they call them ridiculous or selfish or anything else.

A lot of people have gone low in their attempts to sway Berners to the cause. Michelle and Barack went high.

They called on upset and disillusioned progressives to bring in more folks like them and change the complexion (no pun intended) of the party. The President said that if Berners stick around and join in the fight, then we’ll continue making slow progress, and if progressive Democrats can bring enough people in to support their cause(s), then eventually the tenor of the debate will change.

This won’t be enough for some. There is a hell of a lot of mistrust of the party by Bernie supporters, and there are a lot of Dem policies that simply don’t match their view of how the world should be. And just like he did in his state of the union, Obama acknowledged that there are real policy differences between Americans at different parts of the political spectrum.

But he also praised Bernie’s supporters as “the best organizers in the world,” and was – as far as I can tell – the only speaker so far to offer unmitigated praise to the people who worked so hard to take Bernie from an unknown to a serious contender for the presidency.

The Clintons, their supporters and the DNC need to go high. It will be hard. It might not be enough. But if they want people to rally behind Hillary in the general, it’s what they need to do.

Hot Mess: Journey’s End

Putting together Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change was a challenge. I wrote two stories I’m extraordinarily proud of. I worked with four other writers, an illustrator and a graphic designer to publish the piece as both an e-book and a physical one.  The experience of releasing the anthology was emotionally and artistically rewarding.

That said, after a lot of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that Hot Mess has reached the end of its journey.

It’s not that I think the threats posed by climate change are over – far from it, even if there was a historic climate agreement reached in Paris over the weekend. There’s still just as far to go, and it’s just as important now as it was four years ago when the anthology was published. Senator Bernie Sanders, my favorite prospective presidential nominee, has said repeatedly: climate change, more than even terrorism, is the single greatest threat to national security that the US faces.

This weekend’s agreement, which relies on governments around the world cutting their dependence on and use of fossil fuels significantly, is the first baby step towards that. With targets that are to be discussed and met every five years throughout this century, it’s a long-term plan for a long-term problem. Climate change didn’t just happen overnight, after all. Closer to home: Buffalo just smashed through a 116-year-old record because there hasn’t been snow yet. That’s right – earlier today, in Buffalo, New York, in the middle of December, I was walking around in a light jacket.

(And by the way, I’m sorry if I’m rambling a little – there were a lot of different and tangentily-related lines of thought that went into this decision, and putting together a coherent blog about it is harder than I thought it would be.)

When I first thought about taking Hot Mess down, something surprised me. I would have expected to feel a sense of sadness or dread, but instead I just felt…lighter.

Tangent: approximately one million years ago, when I was trying to decide where in England I was going to study for my junior year abroad, I had two choices: Kent, which was the program my university sponsored, and Middlesex University, in London – a program I’d applied to through another SUNY school. Each option has its appeal, and I couldn’t decide which to do. My mom gave me some advice that served me well then and has ever since: When you’re trying to make a decision and you have two choices, imagine you’ve chosen one or the other. Live with that for a few days. See how you feel. If it feels right, then do that. If not…move on to the next possibility. I wound up studying in London, and it was one of the best years of my life.

When I thought about taking down Hot Mess…it just felt right.

So…yeah. I’m not sure that it’s even that important that my thought process on this be clear to anyone else – I’m pretty sure that it’s not, so far, and I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg on the vast cloud of ideas that have led me here. But I do know that I at least wanted to give people a heads up, that Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change will be taken offline at the end of this year. I’ll migrate the reviews its received from Amazon and other sales venues to a page here on my site (just to make sure they’re not lost), and that will be that.

In other words, you’ve got about two weeks to decide how many copies you want to buy before this one goes away. Avoid disappointment. Order now. Information below. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

**

Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change will go out of print in the new year; order your digital and print copies before December 31st, 2015.

Malawi Update: Pill Container Program Concluded

I got a letter in the mail the other day and meant to post about it, and then I noticed an upsurge in the number of people finding my blog by searching for information on this project, so figured I’d better get the info up here.

The letter was from the Malawi Project and explains that they’ve received 1 million pill containers and had decided to conclude that program and shift to other focuses. (These other focuses sound fantastic, and you can find out more about them on The Malawi Project’s webpage.)

Anyways, if you came here looking for information on that, there you go. If you know about other places people can send their used medicine bottles, please leave the info in the comments – I can’t be the only one who had been ready to prepare a second batch.