I'm traveling over winter break. The university where I work is closed from 23 December through 2 January, so I can travel without burning vacation days. So far, it's been an adventure, as travel should be, but knock on wood no serious scares.
The overnight Megabus to New Orleans arrived mere minutes before my Amtrak Crescent departed for Philadelphia, but I boarded the train in time. I'm grateful that I can still run, even with luggage and heel spurs. Mid-journey, I noticed that my wallet was missing, but with help from an attendant and fellow passengers I found it under a nearby seat.
Fresh from a couple of days with my half-brother and his three sons in Pennsylvania, including some tourist time in Philly, I rented a car to drive up to Connecticut. It rained most of the way, which forces one to concentrate that much more on driving, especially on the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95. One of my reasons for driving up instead of taking the train to Connecticut was to crawl around Tenafly NJ, where my parents grew up and where I spent some happy times as a small child.
As of today, we in the northern temperate zone are making the annual turning of the corner, escaping from increasingly long nights. In a couple of days, I'll be escaping from Houston for a little more than a week, taking buses and trains and a rental car to points northeast: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island. Kayleen will not be joining me this time, for reasons of physical and financial difficulties, which saddens me; I'd been looking forward to showing her some of those parts, including some of my childhood homes in Jersey.
Kayleen also received word this morning that the son of one of her foster sisters took his own life last night*. It's not the first acquaintance of hers or mine who have ended their suffering in this way in December. Both of us can sympathize with their pain, knowing first-hand how hard it can be to keep it together through this mass psychosis we call the Holidays.
* UPDATE: The young man took his own life about a week ago, but his body was just discovered last night. Peace and courage to his family and friends.
Even those chipper fellows the Everly Brothers knew that "Christmas Eve Can Kill You."
Here's a video that I just discovered and enjoyed the other day, courtesy of a friend's Facebook link. To my amazement, raving evangelical atheist Tim Minchin sings a heartfelt tribute to Christmas in the Australian summer and the simple joys of hanging out with his family.
The nightmare that is 2016 is mere days from its end, giving way to a potentially much scarier 2017. Even without help from our new corporate overlords in the White House, it will be scary, because we will continue to lose Baby-Boomer touchstones at about the same rate.
Still, good riddance, 2016, and take a few authoritarian-imperialist-capitalist assholes with you. Even an aristocrat like Lord Tennyson could write a line like "Ring out false pride in place and blood" and mean it. Sadly, the beautiful rendition of "Ring Out, Wild Bells" below omits that whole stanza (as did Charles Gounod in his choral setting).
While we're appreciating Tennyson's noble sentiments, let's recognize all those societal "foul diseases" for what they are: mental diarrhea. Our collective consciousness needs a visit from the P. E. Squad.
The following is my goodreads review of When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World by Houston Dash and USWNT standout Carli Lloyd. I have copied and pasted it here without (more than a few) edits.
Buy this memoir, read it, be inspired by it, and either
a) pass it on to your favorite teenage jock or jockette who can actually read books, or
b) donate it to a local high school library.
Since 1999, I have loved the US Women's National Team, warts & all. These athletes have inspired millions of American girls to grow into strong women, and our nation needs more strong women. They have served as role models, mostly positive, both on and off the pitch. They come from a variety of backgrounds, not all privileged suburban kids with indulgent parents. Beyond our borders, the USWNT's success has inspired other nations to create women's programs that can compete at the highest levels, whereas women's sports had been a mere afterthought.
Thus I am taking the time to devote hundreds of words to reviewing Carli Lloyd's life story, as if it were an important book. Lloyd is not a perfect player, not always the smoothest on the ball, but when she lets loose one of her trademark shots from 30+ yards out, you can feel the impact in the upper deck of the stadium. The same when she makes crunching midfield tackle. She isn't just powerful; she is power personified. Just as importantly, Lloyd has a huge heart, and she feels deeply just how much she and the team mean to all those soccer girls.
Let's begin with a statement that seems to be truer the older I get: The best satirists are prophets. It's not only that we see more frequent instances of Life Imitating The Onion these days, or governments unwittingly using 1984 as a how-to book. The whole flap (or Holeflaffer?) over Fake News is just one of many ways reality is converging with Firesign Theatre's whacked-out contemporary America from 40-plus years ago. Everything you know is wrong!
Let's continue with a shoutout to PDiddie, not only because he linked to my Monday morning recount post-mortem in this entry (thx for that, Perry). PD starts with his own reflections on the ramifications of Jill Stein's recount, upon which we have both blogged ad nauseam, with particular focus on whether the recount has enhanced or dimmed the prospects of the Green Party in Texas. But then his thoughts turn to the larger opposition party in this state and its moribund condition (to use PD's adjective).
Will the Texas Democratic Party soon disintegrate, either at the state of national level? If Texas Dems don't get their shit together adequately in 2018, will they leave any bases uncovered on the statewide ballot (as in 2000, 2010, 2012, and 2014), allowing a Green candidate to score the magic 5%? Will the mass of liberal and progressive voters in Texas finally see through the Democrats' habit of plugging the gaps with any warm body willing to run and vote instead for a real progressive?
These two paragraphs in particular caught my attention:
So as left-leaning bitter-enders agitate for something resembling reform with hopes the Democrats can engineer at least a White House comeback, the rest of us continue to endure the status quo: full GOP control, with Texas (and many other states, mind you) statewide races determined in the GOP primary and not the general, a state Democratic party apparatus moribund, unfunded, and at less than a 40% share and sinking. Twenty-eighteen stands woefully small chances of moving that needle.
You know how some people you meet just seem bigger than life from the word "go"? You know how some of those people can be really obnoxious, but you'd much rather have them on your side in a conflict than be pitted against them? That was the impression I got from Rob Sherman when I met him at this year's Green Party convention: He clearly had a huge heart, but you'd be a fool to get in an argument with him.
Today we send condolences to the Green Party of Illinois on the news of Sherman's death in an aviation mishap. We also extend our condolences to the First Amendment, which has lost one of its staunchest and most capable defenders.
During the Green convention, held at the University of Houston this past August, I got to give Sherman a ride from the University Center to the remote parking lot and back, in the groundskeeping cart that GPUS rented for transportation on the UH campus. (Kayleen says she also drove him around and enjoyed talking with him about Chicago, her favorite city.) I think it was a few hours after I drove Jill Stein and two of her retinue to the Houston Public Media studios and back. Sherman had to retrieve some personal effects from his campaign RV, which he had decorated Art Car–esque with the In Rob We Trust penny motif.
Sherman ran for Congress in Illinois's 5th District this year, a district that covers parts of Cook and DuPage Counties (including Wrigley Field). He received more than 14,000 votes, good for 4.67%. Just after Thanksgiving, he announced that in 2018 he would run to represent the 12th District, in southwestern Illinois (Alton, Carbondale, Cairo), where Paula Bradshaw received about 6% of the vote in last month's election.
During our conversation, I learned that Sherman was not only a civil rights attorney in Chicagoland, but also a pilot. Last Friday, as the Illinois Greens' memorial page notes, his single-engine plane went down en route to an event in suburban Schaumburg last Friday.
Fundraising ends for #Recount2016.
Since administrative matters related to the recounts are ongoing, final costs of the vote counts are still pending. However, the Stein campaign has said that it expects to have money left over, the exact amount of which will be determined by the amount of money credited back to the campaign by Michigan and, potentially, Wisconsin. In the event of a recount surplus, the campaign will ask the more than 161,000 small donors how they want to spend the remaining funds, and have pledged to allocate the money to a set of non-partisan election reform and voting rights organizations based on the results of an online, ranked choice vote. The final list of non-partisan organizations who could receive the left over funds will be made public on Stein’s website in the coming weeks, when the survey of donors is launched.
Touché, American electoral system and enablers thereof. You win...this round. Wisconsin's recount is almost over, with no huge changes in the numbers, but some large counties not yet reported. The recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania have been halted by court rulings.
I'm posting some links here, not knowing how much longer they will be available for browsing. As of today, most of them are linked on jill2016.com/recount.
LA Times Op-Ed: Recounts should be the norm, not the exception
Nick Sharp, medium.com: What I saw at the Michigan recount
AlterNet: It Doesn't Take a Foreign Government to Hack into Our Flimsy Election System
jill2016.com's Response to NYT Aricle: Recount Rules 'Arcane and Confusing,' a 'Political Horrow Show'...
jill2016.com: Hundred Protest in Detroit: 'Fight Goes On' to Protect Voting Rights, Reform Election System
Was It Worth It?
People will extract a variety of lessons from Jill Stein's attempts to get the votes recounted in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Most of those lessons will be conclusions drawn from incomplete and inaccurate information, of which there has been a plethora in the past few weeks. This is all piled on top of the bogus information already in circulation before the recount push began.
Now that legal roadblocks may have driven the final nail into the effort in Michigan and Pennsylvania, I feel sympathy for the thousands of Clinton supporters who donated in support of the recount. This sympathy arises not because of anything Stein did, nor because of any delusions these donors may have had about the possibility of flipping the results. I feel sorry for them because they believed in the system, and the system fucked them over.
A week before the Electors meet in their respective states, the Clinton voters are down to praying for a few dozen faithless electors to flip the election.
Stein has stressed repeatedly—in "fireside chat" videos, interviews, and press conferences—that the nation deserves a trustworthy electoral system. Despite what haters and trolls keep saying, that has always been the focus of the effort, not finding hundreds of thousands of Hillary votes tucked away in some county clerk's basement.
If we consider voting a (or the) cornerstone of our democracy, and our votes don't mean anything, because people and their machines tamper with them, then democracy in the USA is even more fragile than we imagined.
This is the lesson that our millions in donations have bought:
Pondering a Vote Strike
Some of my friends are what I call "principled abstentionists." They refuse to vote and encourage others to give up the habit, because participating in an illegitimate system lends it legitimacy. Voting is for suckers, in other words. Scott Trimble, a long-time Green who ran for Congress this year in TX-35, is one of abstainer. Last month, 4,076 suckers voted for him, ignoring or defying his pleas not to vote at all. (Rep. Lloyd Doggett held onto the seat pretty handily.)
I am seeing the principled abstentionist viewpoint in a whole new light. That doesn't necessarily mean that I will give up voting, but I am more inclined to than before. This is difficult for an active Green like me to process, after years of electoral agnosticism. My line has been, "We don't know for certain whether our votes are counted correctly, but vote anyway in case they are!"
Below is just some of what people close to the recount have witnessed since Thanksgiving:
I am grateful to Jill Stein, David Cobb, Bob Fitrakis, and others for going to such lengths to demonstrate how broken our electoral apparatus is, even if the nation carries on as if none of these revelations ever occurred. I am grateful to them, even if it means swallowing a hard truth: that, at least in presidential elections, farting in the general direction of the voting machine may be more effective than casting a vote on it.
Preparing for Direct Action
The question for me, at this stage, is whether any political organization is worth my time and money.
At the end of October, I put together a proposal, based on the lessons of the 2016 election cycle, to make the Green Parties of Harris County and Texas true political organizations worthy of the term. In order to build on their limited successes and become a force in Texas, our state and county parties need to build real campaign infrastructure, to put people and funds together in the most effective ways available. HCGP is on a path toward adopting the proposal in a modified form at its January 2017 general membership meeting.
If the proposal is adopted, then with the election of a new steering committee the following month, the 18-year-old HCGP will have a new, sharper focus, with more accountability and mechanisms for growth (better, I hope, than the expansion program I began in 2015, which flopped). My worry is that it will all be in vain.
In the near term, I suspect that the resources or progressive movements will be better spent developing infrastructure for resisting the Trump administration and street-level Trumpism. The Military-Industrial Complex, about whose undue influence President Eisenhower warned us 56 years ago, may be moving into the White House in a very overt way. The Patriarchy, bogie-man of next-gen feminists ever where, has mutated into a cisgender-heterosexual-white-Protestant-male-supremacist monster unseen since, well the Eisenhower Days.
Voting will not save us. Direct action just might.
Would I be saying the same thing if Hillary Clinton had been elected? I must admit, I'd still be advocating direct action where it's appropriate, but not so certain that I'd be willing to undertake it. If there's any real difference between Clinton and Trump, it's that Trump's campaign has brought America's imperialist ugliness home, where progressives and people of conscience can do more to engage it and resist it.
I'm proud of my activist friends who have put their lives and livelihoods on the line to block pipeline construction or defend mosques from Islamophobes while I continue to collect a salary and pay down my debts. Will the stakes ever rise to where I will feel compelled to join them, to become a full-time activist?
It's a slow day at work, so there's little to divert my attention from news like the death of Greg Lake (on this 36th anniversary of John Lennon's passing) and a major pothole in Jill Stein's recount road.
Socratic Gadfly has recently posted some musings indicating that he has turned the corner from recount skeptic to recount omg wtf are you doing Jill?—or is about to. He maintains his sympathy with the Green cause, at least for down-ticket candidates, but he doesn't pass up an opportunity to dish on the Party's internal conflicts and occasional boneheaded moves.
In this entry, Gadfly analyzes this analysis by Ohio Green Mark Lause. It's a thorough and critical examination of Green Party history, taking the recount effort to task for reasons that actually make sense. He certainly does not spare David Cobb any criticism, either for the Safe States Strategy associated with his 2004 presidential run or his role in the recount push, or attorney Bob Fitrakis, who with Cobb helped lead the election investigation in Ohio that year.
One aspect of Greendom mentioned in Lause's post is the different ways state and county parties go about being partisan: Some state parties take electoral politics seriously and field candidates regularly; others function as advocacy groups and frequently endorse progressive Democrats. In Texas, now that GPTX has lost ballot access, the state Green Party is officially no longer a party even on paper, but a Political Action Committee, which plays by a different set of rules.
I have my quibbles with Gadfly's interpretation of the piece, but I find myself unable to condense my disagreements into coherent paragraphs. In lieu of that, allow me to adapt the comment that I left on Gadfly's post (below the readmore).
As you may have heard, the Stein campaign's request to recount the votes in Pennsylvania have run into a million-dollar roadblock. This does not mean that Stein et al. are abandoning the process; indeed, they have filed for redress in a federal court, stating that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's criteria and costs for recounting are outlandishly high.
So I wondered, what would a recount in Texas cost? Texas has about twice the population of Pennsylvania and a long tradition of one-party rule. It is not known as a voter-friendly state.
In Title 13, Chapter 212, Subchapter E of the Texas Election Code, we find an answer of sorts. (Subchapter E begins on page 19 of the PDF.) As in Pennsylvania, the "deposit" required is equal to 100% of the estimated cost of the recount.
Friday I received my weekly update from my state's junior senator, whose father emigrated from Cuba to escape an oppressive régime. Here's an excerpt:
On Wednesday, Sen. Cruz delivered a speech on the Senate floor regarding the death of Fidel Castro. Sen. Cruz reflected on Castro’s legacy of exploitation and oppression, and recommended a new path forward for Cuban American relations.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.