Tag Archives: Activism & Politics

Radio Free Bay Ridge is live!

I’m doing a podcast. About politics. Surprised, right? ūüėČ

www.radiofreebayridge.org

Enjoy.

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. ūüėÄ

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New article posted on Skirt Collective

Hey all!

So, it’s been a few days – lots going on, no time to talk, bit like the white rabbit – but I did just have this article published by SkirtCollective.com, and wanted to share.

Check it out and pass it on to anyone you know who might benefit from some more information on finding help with mental health care.

Mwah!

Nine Things To Know About Getting Mental Health Help 

In Which I Wax Verbose on Assange, Wikileaks & More

I’ve been giving a lot of brainspace to the Assange case over the last year or two, particularly in light of PIPA/SOPA/ACTA legislation and the signing of NDAA last December, here in the US. Anyway, Julian Assange’s situation has been a long-term story which undergoes long periods of silence punctuated by short flurries of action: his escape to the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge a couple of months ago, and now the announcement by that country that they will grant his request for asylum.

There’s a huge amount of discussion taking place around these issues on the internet right now. One of the major questions relates to the charges Assange may face in Sweden, and the idea that they might be a smokescreen that leads to his being extradited to the United States, where he could face charges of espionage for his role in the leaking of diplomatic cables.

On Thursday, Ecuador announced their intention to grant Assange asylum. Saturday, the Organisation of American States made statements in support of Ecuador’s decision, while meanwhile the UK spoke about their legal obligations to Sweden and the possibility they might go into the Ecuadorian embassy without invitation and arrest Assange. Today (Sunday, EST), Assange made a statement from a balcony of the Embassy (to what I’m sure was chagrin on the part of Mitch Benn, none of the crowd members burst into “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,”).

Friday morning, when Ecuador’s announcement on Assange’s asylum was made, a friend asked me, what side was I on, anyway? Was Assange a hero or a sexual predator? We talked about it a bit and I said that at that point, it seemed like there were actually multiple issues that had become tangled up. I’ve been thinking about how to untangle them for a day or two now, and must be getting somewhere, because I finally got around to writing this blog.

 

Issues:

1. Julian Assange has been accused of rape in Sweden.

2. Julian Assange received classified information from a US military officer in the form of diplomatic cables, which he then published through his organization, Wikileaks.

3. Ecuador has agreed to give asylum to Assange, who has been sheltered in their embassy for two months. In response, the UK has suggested that it might enter the embassy without Ecuador’s invitation, which would breach both formal conventions to which the UK is a party, thus disrespecting Ecuador’s right, as a sovereign nation, to grant asylum as it sees fit.

Breakdowns/thoughts:

1. Assange is not currently (as I understand it) wanted for arrest in Sweden. He is wanted for questioning, as the authorities endeavor to determine whether or not to charge him with rape. It has been suggested that Assange is willing to return to Sweden for questioning on this case if Sweden were to give guarantees that he would not be subsequently extradited to the US for item (2). Sweden has declined to make this promise. To me, this piece of the puzzle suggests Sweden is less interested in accumulating information that could help the two women accusing Assange to find justice, and more interested in getting him back on Swedish soil. Had Sweden actually charged Assange, then I understand why a Skype call or a visit to the Embassy wouldn’t do. [EDIT: A friend pointed me to this article in the Independent, which states that under Swedish law, charges cannot be brought until a suspect is in custody; this adds a new dimension to the question, but still doesn’t explain why if Assange is only wanted for questioning, it can’t take place from the UK.]¬†If the Swedish government hasn’t brought rape charges against Assange yet, why won’t they compromise on the location of the interview in order to get the information they need before they can decide whether charges should be brought?

2. ¬†The cables Manning made available to Wikileaks contained sensitive information which was understandably embarrassing for several countries. Manning has been held without charges in the US for over two years, with international condemnation of the circumstances under which he is being held. Having watched the situation spinning since it started, I do not think it’s unreasonable that Assange might face retaliatory action from the US if placed in a situation where he could be extradited to the US for charges related to item (2). Again, I understand that if the US promised not to seek Assange’s extradition from Sweden on unrelated charges against him (charges related to Wikileaks’ publishing of diplomatic cables, for example, he would willingly go back to Sweden for questioning related to item (1).

3. Oh, UK. I love you, but please don’t go there. Ecuador is it’s own country, and Ecuador now has pretty much all of South America backing them up on their right to grant asylum as they see fit. I hear Russia (Russia!) even sent you a note saying they were concerned about how you might go into the Ecuadorian embassy. You threw a hissy (and rightfully so) when your embassy was disrespected in Iran last year, acknowledging the inviolate sanctity of foreign missions. You’re a member of a convention that expressly forbids barging in on somebody else’s embassy. I understand that you have a responsibility to Sweden, and think that you’re still trying to fulfill it is great, but same question here as I asked Sweden in item (2) – if you’re so concerned about the women involved in item (1) (as you should be), then why can’t you broker a situation where Assange answers the questions the Swedish police have for him within UK borders?

 

So in summary: I’m furious that Sweden and the UK are letting items (2) and (3) get in the way of resolving item (1), because the women who have accused Assange deserve closure. I think item (2) gives Assange a reasonable basis for fear of extradition, particularly based on increasingly restrictive legislation concerning expression in this country (Naomi Wolf has gone on the record stating she declined to meet with members of Occupy Wall Street because ¬†she was, in part, concerned about prosecution under #NDAA).

Finally, item (3) is disturbing because in threatening to enter the Ecuadorian embassy, the UK has made what was a bilateral discussion between themselves and Ecuador into a larger question for the world at large. Already, South America (including Brazil) and Russia have spoken out against the idea of violating a nation’s embassy; that’s half the BRIC nations right there. (And lest we wonder where China would likely come in on this – they didn’t go into the US embassy when Chen Guangcheng was holed up there).

This is where the fiction writer in me yells, “THIS COULD GET ARCHDUKE FERDINAND UGLY!” and goes off to scribble notes for a WWIII novel.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

I expect this won’t be the last post I make on this subject, so if you have any resources or insights, please feel free to link me to them in the comments.

 

Edit: The Guardian has posted the following editorial piece regarding Assange’s statement.

Zombies for Sale!

Art by Nick & Miranda Doerfler

Like Zombies? Want to help raise money for a good cause?

Miranda Doerfler and I have co-edited a short collection of Zombie Haiku, by internet users from around the world. The collection was published yesterday, Friday the 13th, and is now available on Amazon, Smashwords and in hard copy on Createspace.

  • If digital isn’t your thing, you can buy a paperback copy¬†of the collection from CreateSpace for $6.99.
  • Own a non-Kindle e-reader, or like reading things on your computer? Then Smashwords is where you can pick up a free-range e-copy in multiple formats for just $.99.
  • Tied to your Kindle? We’ve also made a copy available for¬†Amazon Kindle¬†users, again for $.99.

Miranda did a brilliant job putting the final product together and (with her brother, Nick) on the artwork. The range of poems each writer submitted were so much fun to read and work on, and the collection is really, really fun to read.

Part of the proceeds will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. So it’s not just about having a good time…it’s always about helping to save the world!

Want to buy a copy, but need some guidance on formats? Comment below and I’ll help you get it sorted. Authors who have not yet received a code for their free copy (available from Smashwords) should get in touch with Miranda or myself and we’ll sort you out.¬†

Thanks, Planet! HOT MESS Gives Back.

Cover design by Sarah Hartley

When I approached Eric, Sare Liz, RJ and Miranda about working on HOT MESS: speculative fiction about climate change, one thing we agreed on was that a portion of the proceeds from the book should benefit climate-change-related charities.

Well, the first batch of royalty payments are in, and we’ve made donations to both the Climate Science Defense Fund and the Earth Island Institute, with more to come.

If you haven’t yet, buy a copy of HOT MESS, (available for Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and in print) and help contribute to spreading ideas and combating climate change.

Miranda and I will be releasing HAIKU OF THE LIVING DEAD, a book of Zombie Haiku submitted from internet users around the world, on Friday, July 13th.

De Facto De-Funding at Creative Scotland?

From Joyce McMillan’s¬†blog:

‚ÄúCreative Scotland have instead decided to withdraw their entire middle range of funding, known as flexible funding, which offered basic income security on a two or three year cycle to small- and medium- scale arts organisations with a strong creative record. The result is to throw some 49 Scottish arts organisations from a condition of modest security, into a condition of complete insecurity, in which they have to bargain from project to project for their continuing right to exist.”

It was when I read the names of some of the 49 companies now in jeopardy that I felt my mental jaw drop:¬†Vanishing Point Theatre Company, Grid-Iron, and the CCA in Glasgow (their equivilent of New York City’s MoMA) were included on the list. For the record, Vanishing Point’s Lost Ones, which I reviewed seven years ago during the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has stuck with me like few other productions over the years.

Why I’m Opening My Big Mouth

I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for four years, from 2003-2007. During that time, I attended Queen Margaret University College’s MFA program in Dramatic Writing; at the time, the theater department was run by Maggie Kinloch – who has since moved to RSAMD.

I dove headfirst into the arts scene. Edinburgh was where I started reviewing for The British Theatre Guide. It’s where my plays PLAYING IT COOL, STUCK UP A TREE, and MOUSEWINGS had their world premiers. I made numerous short films there, applied for and received funding for arts projects from my university, organized script development workshops and was an active member in the Traverse Theater’s Young Writer’s Group (I was lucky enough to have two plays workshopped as part of the program), plus traveled to INTERPLAY – EUROPE as one of their delegates. I’ve stayed in touch with many of you since leaving Edinburgh, and this this fall, my one-act play MILLENNIAL EX will be featured in a collection of short plays from around the world on the subject of marriage equality at a festival in Glasgow.

So I have something of an interest in what goes on within the Scottish theater scene, but rarely have the time to indulge that interest, and so was not aware of the current funding debate taking place until this morning. @MarkFisher was kind enough to point me towards information on the current debate, and that’s why I missed this morning’s sunshine and will now be spending the remainder of the afternoon inside as rain thunders down in Manhattan.

Theater Funding in Scotland vs. America – Where the Money Comes From

There are some things about arts funding in the UK, and in Scotland, which may be unfamiliar to some of my American readers. The main one, I think is:

In the UK, public funding bodies exist, geared toward distributing funding for (and thereby encouraging the development of) artistic forms of expression within a specific mission statement. They have the mission and responsibility to enrich citizens’ cultural lives and develop resources that showcase and develop both the country’s heritage and its future.

(My feeling is that in America, there is not a similar or¬†analogous¬†organization that answers to and is responsible for the funding of such a wide range of theaters and types of theatrical projects as is Creative Scotland. But that’s another discussion, and one I’m happy to have in the comments.)

These funding bodies and their missions, and the ways in which these obligations to fund are interpreted and fulfilled, are a point of contention between organization and practitioner. (Pardon the stealth edit as I try to make my point clearer.)

What the What?

Okay. Let’s say you have a theatre company in Scotland and want to apply for funding for this really fantastic idea you have. You go to Creative Scotland and fill out an application form. You pick the kind of funding that fits your project.

In the past, Creative Scotland had a category which funded on a project-only basis. Technically, these were grants that a theater company would receive, once per cycle (clarification stealth edit). They weren’t meant as funding that would keep the company running year round, but practically…

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice & Men…

…that doesn’t seem to be what happened. A¬†number of companies, including, I would assume, those McMillan names in the above excerpt, have received grants from Creative Scotland to a degree where their project-to-project funding is sustaining their organization and where the loss of that funding puts those companies in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, it seems from the reading I’ve done this morning that Creative Scotland’s response is: we’re not defunding you, we’re just cancelling this form of funding. You shouldn’t have been depending on these funds in the first place.

Pardon the analogy, but to me that reads a bit like a drug dealer saying, “Well, it’s not withdrawal, because you weren’t supposed to get addicted to heroin in the first place.”

I’ll be interested to see how this situation develops.

For those who are interested, some additional reading
http://stramasharts.wordpress.com 
http://annebonnar.wordpress.com 
http://joycemcmillan.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/three-deadly-sins-of-creative-scotlands-bad-funding-review-column-25-5-12/