San Francisco Days

Colin Kapernick

Sadly, I think that the whole Colin Kaepernick saga is very indicative of the overall status of race relations and police culture in our society. It is, I am sad to say, a large indication that we’re moving backwards at an alarming rate.

Look, I don’t know all that much about this kid, but it’s obvious that of late he has come around to stay woke. And that’s his prerogative. I’m not judging him. I think there are more constructive things he can do to fix issues, but let’s not dismiss that he’s getting people talking. The problem, of course, is how different sides are seeing this. Unsurprisingly, a lot of white people are againnit. Some woman went on a whole diatribe about how Kaepernick’s protest is killing our troops or something (honestly, my eyes glazed over before I finished reading this. But still). But then again, a lot of white people think if black people just kept their heads down, everything will be just peachy, right? Well, we know that’s not the case.

Even scarier is the way that the police have reacted to the whole thing. Did you hear that the Santa Clara Police union has threatened to boycott their job of security at the 49ers stadium because of this? Can we talk about fucked up? Of everything, this is the clearest example of the problem.

Police have always viewed themselves at something of an elite level. That’s not entirely unearned. We’re talking about people who voluntarily go into the face of danger to keep the rest of us safe. This is not under dispute, nor does anyone have an issue with this, I think. The issue is that the police also act like they’re more infallible than the Pope. Plus, after 9/11, we are supposed to elevate police to some super human elite status of hero worship. The side effect of this is that cops start to think and act like they’re super men and above the law. It’s a bad fucking mix. Kill some black kid in the hood? It’s OK, we’re the motherfucking police. That fucker deserved it. Who is going to say or do anything? Oh, and those Black Lives Matter people? They’re just inciting violence against us. It’s no wonder we’re in a virtual powder keg that might go off at any moment.

So back to Mr. Football Player. He may make a lot of money, but I’m sure he still looks around nervously if 5-0 rolls by. And maybe he was oblivious for a long time. But then maybe you wake up and see the world around you in a different light. And good for him on that.  It’s too bad that he even needs to do this, and that so many people are still so aghast about it all. Maybe, just maybe, we will have a day when this isn’t the case.

She’s the One For Me

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I’ve considered myself a Democrat since I was 11 years old. I have voted in four presidential elections so far in my life, and this year I’ll vote in my fifth. I’ve only voted in one primary (for President Obama in 2008) before, but today, I get to vote in a second, and I’m not afraid to say that #imwithher.

Here’s the thing. I wasn’t against Bernie primarying Clinton when he jumped in the race last year. He’s forced her, and the party, more to the left by sticking around and by winning. He’s brought a lot of important issues to the table. Remember the first few debates they had, where they actually debated policy, and we felt like it was the most amazing thing ever, especially compared to the shitshow the Republicans were doing? Remember, too, when Bernie dismissed the email scandal out-of-hand like the non-scandal it really is? Shit, Bernie sounded like quite a visionary for a while.

But then Bernie started to win, and the optics changed. Bernie the visionary faded out, and Bernie the candidate faded in, and those are two very different guys. Make no mistake. Bernie may portray himself as an outsider, and may even be one to a degree, but you don’t hold political office for 30 plus years without being a politician, and getting down in the mud. Once we started there, that’s when they lost me. Now, you might refute my statement and say, but Bernie sticks to his guns, but he’s slowly been attacking her more ad desperation sets in. It’s unfortunate.

How what really sealed it for me is the rise of the Bernie Bros and the campaign’s reaction to them. This whole movement of entitled white “progressives” has taken the best parts of the campaign and ruined them. They dismiss the heavy minority turnout in the states that Hillary has done well in and said it was irrelevant. They’ve championed the caucus, which is the least democratic way to pick a candidate there is. They’ve adopted some of the worse aspects of the right wing/tea party attacks on Hillary. They put labels on her and call her a sellout and a neo-liberal who hates America. The worst part is that instead of putting this crap in its place, the Bernie campaign has embraced it.Terrible. And given the reports that Bernie himself embraces it all, it makes the choice simple for me. 

Hillary Clinton is not the most ideal candidate anyone could ask for, but I think she will take the best parts of the past 8 years and keep it going forward. I don’t want a revolution. I want to take what we have and make it better for everyone. So that is why I will vote for her without any reservations. There is only one way to go and that is forward. 

Moving Out of Iowa

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So after over a year of political craziness, we’re now in the thick of the 2016 Presidential Primaries. Am I the only one who thinks that the way we do this is totally inane? It feels like the minute one election ends, we’re already on to talking about the next one. We’re subjected to months of speculation, ads, campaign nonsense, talking heads, the whole works. Plus, even with recent developments in the judicial system, corporate money reigns supreme in our electoral process, and it will be years (if ever) before we can excise it. This has led us to some less than enviable positions, the biggest one being that there is a real chance that a man who ran for little more than his own ego could be the candidate for one of the major parties. To say that our political process has become a three ring circus would be an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. There isn’t a whole lot we can do, but I have a few ideas about how to make this happen. Also, it should be noted that I’m not a Constitutional scholar, so who knows the legal validity of this idea, but I think you can make a case under Article II, Section 1 for all this.

My idea is super simple, and in two parts:

First, every state has their primary on the same goddamn day. Let’s say 6 weeks before Election Day. Every single last one. If you want to counteract the money, and limit who’s going to be serious about doing this, make them spread the wealth around. Mad because it means that NY, LA, and Chicago will become way more important than Iowa? That’s kind of the point. Democracy is about the people. Not the chosen few special white people in rural states. Sorry, folks, that’s the deal. Oh, and you can’t campaign at all until 6 weeks before this Primary Day. Announce you’re running, have a book or listening tour if you want, but you can’t make a stump speech, call someone, or knock on a door until that day. Suddenly, dumping all your money into Iowa or New Hampshire seems stupid, doesn’t it?

Secondly, Congress needs to set real standards on voting. OK, so states could have a real 10th Amendment freakout about this, but if you’re careful to word it that it’s just for Federal elections, it should get trumped. Part of this is giving teeth back to the FEC to enforce against gerrymandering, which we all know is a pipe dream, but this doesn’t happen without it. But also, it’s about making sure that voting machines are up to snuff, making their source code open source and on consumer level equipment (seriously, why could someone not cook up a hardened Raspberry Pi with some software to count votes? Plus, states won’t be stuck in that fucked up position when their election machine vendor goes under and they can’t get parts or service for their broken machines) that would be cheaper for governments to implement and more secure because you can put the best that the open source community has to offer into it. Oh, and voter verifiable paper trail, too, natch (optical scan ballots would be the best bet here).

Now, will this fix everything? No. But it’s a start. Let’s dream a little, shall we?

So Long, Farewell

Syrian refugees strike in front of  Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 3 September 2015.

There’s plenty that’s been said already about the events in Paris last week. I can’t add anything useful. I wanted to talk instead about the truly ugly aftermath that’s emerging from this. That is the political pandering against Syrian refugees, and the ways that it’s going to make a serious problem even worse.

There’s already the ever-present undercurrent of Islamophobia that’s existed since, well, ever if you really think about it. Then it got super exacerbated when it was found that the main planner behind the attacks in Paris used a fake Syrian passport to get into Europe as a refugee. And like that, we were off to the races, with the goal being for conservatives to see just how far down the rabbit hole they could go. Now there are 31 of 50 state governors who say that they will not allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states. This includes my home state of New Jersey, mostly because we have a Republican governor who still thinks he can be President one day. The menagerie of Republican Presidential nominees are spouting off plenty of nonsense. Politicians of all stripes just seem to be on a race to the bottom. Hell, I’ve seen more posts on Facebook about people having to delete other people or stop going on Facebook in the past week because of their terrible invective than ever (and it’s sad when someone you genuinely like on Facebook turns out to be a xenophobe, isn’t it?).

I wish I could ask how we’ve gotten so close to the bottom, but I think the reality is that we’ve been here for a very long time. This is 14 years of hatred that has just seethed and bubbled and grown, and now it’s exploding. We have exposed the worst of ourselves to the world, and everyone is watching.

And the thing that drives me fucking crazy is that, to some degree, isn’t this what ISIS and their ilk want? They are very successful at recruiting young people who feel disaffected in the Western world. The vast majority are kids who came up in a Western environment. Like the Boston bombers. Everyone remembers them as young kids who liked to lift and look good, until they were about something else. What better way to turn around and show these people how the Western world truly is against them, and bolster their ranks. Trust me, that’s powerful stuff.

In the end, I feel for the Syrians who really just want to get away from a world that’s bad all around. They have Assad on one side, ISIS on the other. No wonder they are fleeing Syria in droves. It’s too bad that they are soon going to feel like they have nowhere else to go in the world at all.