A Very Weird Thing

Interesting little thing I heard about and then looked into myself. Thought I'd share, because … it's interesting, in a scary kind of way. At the official White House web site, there's a side menu (on my iPad anyway) that lists all the links to other sections. When you scroll down to see the bottom of it, you see the links to the branches of the U.S. Government. Only it appears that one branch has gone missing from the list of three. Yes, the Judicial Branch isn't on the list. Hmmm.

Since I'm a clever geeky type of person, I look at the format for the Executive Branch link and deduce what the Judicial Branch link would be. When I typed that in and waited for it to load, this popped up.
It's a fancy 404 Not Found error page. So not only has the link to the Judicial Branch been removed, the entire page has been removed. And since the Obama Archive link was right there, I hopped on over, where I verified that my deduced link to where the Judicial Branch page should be was correct, and then read the completely bland and not at all political explanation of our Judicial Branch the Obama White House site provided.
Now, if there had been any changes made to either of the other branch's pages, and if the Judicial Branch page hadn't been down so long, I'd just assume they were making some edits, but no … the page for the Executive Branch and the one for the Legislative Branch are, as far as I can tell, identical to what appeared on the Obama version of the site (and probably versions prior than that, it's really boilerplate boring stuff). So I'm left wondering … what the hell is going on? I could speculate, but I'd hate to speculate.
Anyway, remember how I told you all to remember the past and watch the future and make note of things that change? Yeah, this is what I'm talking about. It's a small thing. May even be nothing, but it's very, very weird and was worth noting for posterity.

She Said, He Said, She Said Again

The biggest problem with trying to blog about the ridiculously idiotic and/or revoltingly evil doings of the current American regime is that just about the time I finish a post on the most recent idiotic or evil thing they have done, they go and do another one. It really just never stops. It's difficult keeping up with it all while also having a life. The local reaction to Trump's empowerment of the far right crazies though moves at a slightly slower pace. Recently, some serious shit hit the fan. Let me tell you about it …

Last week, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced that unless an illegal immigrant had been charged or found guilty of a list of very serious crimes, she would not be honoring ICE's warrantless detainer requests demanding said immigrants be turned over for expulsion from the country or federal justice measures. Additionally, people in her department would not be asking anyone about their citizenship status whether they have been arrested of a crime or have come in to report being the victim of a crime. I'd say that she threw down the gauntlet, but really, it's more like lobbing a grenade. Good! She won her election by a very wide margin, the police departments in the area support her in her run for office, and she made no bones about who she was, what she believed, and what she would do as Travis County Sheriff. She has the support of the people and local elected officials, so I'm glad to see her following through with campaign promises.

Alas, her statement hasn't sat well with the far right regime running Texas, headed by Governor Gregg Abbott. He demanded she reverse her “misguided and dangerous” policy and announced he would be withholding funds from Travis County, to the tune of $1.8 million from the Criminal Justice System. Not content with that small amount, he has since set his budget director into action contacting state agencies and asking them to report on what other funds Travis County recieves that could be withheld as well. Governor Abbott has also been making mewling noises about working on some way to remove her and other elected officials like her from office using the Texas Legislature.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Hernandez is not backing down, and other elected officials such as pussy hat wearing Judge Sarah Eckhardt have stepped forward asking Governor Abbott to reconsider his actions (nope, he won't). Neither side will be backing down it seems, so it will be interesting to see what happens going forward, especially if the federal government gets involved. With Trump's recent declaration that he will “send in the Feds” to solve Chicago's problems, without defining if he meant police or soldiers (though there's very little differentiating the two these days), one has to wonder what sending in “the Feds” to Austin would look like.

A great many people forget, including far right wing Texans, that centrist Texans and liberal Texans are still very much Texans in the truest sense of the word. We're pig-headedly stubborn, loudly opinionated, quick to take action when offended, strong believers in the sanctity of property rights, lovers freedom, and dedicated fighters of authority figures trying to tell us what to do from on high. A large percentage of us are also firm supporters of the Second Amendment and neither fear nor loathe guns. If I were going to choose a liberal enclave to flex my right wing muscles in, let's just say that Austin, Texas wouldn't be my first choice. There's going to be pushback.

A Well Refilled

What follows is a post I started writing some weeks ago, on the day I decided that instead of returning to political blogging full on I would be stepping away from the Internet entirely deleting my Facebook and Twitter accounts, taking down the blog, axing the Livejournal, and just not interacting with the digital world at all. I don't even remember what day it was or what had happened on that day, but I'd lost hope. The fire was gone from my belly. I let fear win. I fully intended to lurk around quietly until Inauguration Day, and then make sure I had physical contact info for those people who mean the most to me before just quietly disappearing from the online world. I felt I didn't have the energy to deal with what being a public opinionated female voice on the Internet entails. It takes a deep well of passion to face death and rape threats and stupidity on a daily basis merely for speaking your mind, and my well felt very, very dry.

Then … Inauguration Day happened. I watched, because I felt it was important to bear witness, and I haven't missed one since I was a child and old enough to know what a president is. It's important to me to see history that happened during my life with my own eyes, so that in the future when people try to rewrite it, I can say “No! That's not what happened!” because people always try to rewrite history to suit their needs. Anyway, I found myself posting on Facebook and writing Tweets and getting angry, but I still intended to wake up Saturday and begin extracting myself from the online world.

But … Saturday happened. I watched the DC Women's March, and over the course of the day, the spark that ignited in my heart and mind became a conflagration. My well of passion began to refill. And then the lies and gaslighting and absolute bullshit being spewed by the current administration began rolling in, and I found my voice. I found my passion. I found maybe I do have the strength to be an opinionate woman on the Internet, and while I doubt I will be making daily posts, I can't be silent. None of us can afford to be silent. Silence lets the win, and we can't let them win.

So for posterity and completion of public record, I post the following which was to be the last thing I said on the this blog. So you know, and I don't forget … that we can all be beat down but we can't stay down. The only way to go when you find yourself at the bottom is up.

*******Unfinished Undated Post*******

I'd intended to hop back into political blogging full on. I mean, there's plenty to rant about right now, isn't there? And I have tried. I have no less than three lengthy blog posts I have been working on diligently for over a week, but a couple nights ago, while I was toiling away trying to find just the right words to express the idea that we are all so fucked right now in a more polite and less offensive way, I closed my blogging app, stared at one of my paintings hanging in the living room, and contemplated my existence on the Tree of Woe. As the afternoon turned to evening, my soul searching came to an end, and I had come to a few conclusions.

I popped out of my mother's womb into a family that was very political and a world that was full of problems, and my interest and desire to solve these problems and be a part of creating a better world for everyone started early in my life. For all the decades of my life, I have seen my country slowly plodding forward into a more progressive, inclusive, and equal society. Baby steps all the way, and the occasional back step as well, but always moving generally in the right direction, even though we've had to drag some portion of our populace along kicking and screaming. Along the way, I always held firm to the belief that humans are inherently good. I was an eternal optimist. Sure, things might be messed up and crazy right now, but it's all going to turnout okay in the end. Maybe even better than okay!

But also along the way, a small part of my heart began to harden and cynicism found a home there, and over the years, that small part has grown larger and harder as I have watched my fellow Americans (and just my fellow humans everywhere) growing once again more vocally hateful, bigoted, and willfully stupid about all manner of important issues. I have watched as all the decades of work fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, and all forms of bigotry, oppression, and discrimination began to roll backwards, and my inner cynic said, “I told you so! People are shit.” My inner optimist held firm though, insisting that most of humanity was good or at least redeemable.

That was all before the current U.S. election cycle kicked off and my household spent a year with zero income during which we lost a great deal of what we'd gained in our lives and nearly lost it all. Let me tell you, when you have no money and nowhere to be and nothing to do, it gives you plenty of time to contemplate things, and so I did. Over the course of my year long deep thoughts on life in planet earth, my inner cynic finally convinced my inner optimist that it's true … people are shit. Not all people obviously, but the vast majority of humanity is a lost cause with no hope of redemption. Oh sure, eventually everything will be okay, but it's not going to be okay this year, or next year, or maybe not even next decade. I very seriously doubt that the world will be okay again in my lifetime.

Read a Book, Mr. King

In response, Mr. King said: “This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

“Than white people?” Mr. Hayes asked.

Mr. King responded: “Than Western civilization itself that’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”

What … the … hell?! I saw a clip of this on the morning news, but I was too busy yelling about the clip that came before it to hear what was being said. So, I looked it up and discovered this crap. Dear Mr. King, go take a history class or something. You are apparently under-educated. Christian white people didn't create the world or invent all the things. Just saying, read a motherfucking book sometime.

And just for the record, Mr. King … Jesus wasn't a blond haired, blue eyed Anglo. He was a middle eastern Jew. So there's one thing a member of a non-white “subgroup” has contributed to the world, and it's just one on a long, LONG list of contributions made ages before white people started taking credit for everything. Methinks someone needs to reread their Bible and take some history classes at their local community college, in order to refresh their memories of how civilization and humanity began.

I'm never going to survive this election season. I'm certain my head is going to explode at some point. Ignorance, racism, sexism, and bigotry of all kinds are out and on display 24/7, and it's driving me INSANE.


Then There Were Three

When the 2016 Presidential primary season kicked off, I was equally apathetic about the Democratic choices and equally appalled by the Republican ones. The only thing I was certain of was that whoever survived the Democratic race would have my vote, because the clown car carrying the Republican Party's potential nominees was stuffed to overflowing with a collection of buffoons, morons, idiots, blowhards, and religious zealots. In other words, the party I once was a loyal member of had once again presented me with no sane options to vote for, as they have repeatedly done for ages now. As far as whether I felt any special feelings towards Clinton or Sanders? No, I did not. Not my party, let them sort out which one they like, and I'll show up and vote for them.

In fact, I had equally good feelings about both Sanders and Clinton … and equally bad feelings. While I respected Sanders for having an ideology and walking his own path without seemingly wavering, it is an ideology that is exceedingly far left of my own fiscally conservative and socially liberal outlook on things. Clinton, on the other hand, says things I can agree with, and I know she is fully capable of running the government, but ugh … I just don't like her. It's not even that really. It's that after 25+ years of hearing this, that, and some other thing about one or the other Clinton pretty much nonstop, I'm sick to death of hearing the name Clinton. But like I said, whichever of them found their way to the general election ballot would have my vote, because none of the Republican options needed to be anywhere near the Oval Office unless they were visiting on a guided tour.

And so I didn't pay any attention to the primary brouhaha. This was easy to do since we no longer have cable television, and I had many other more personal and pressing matters to give a damn about. But sometime around the New York primary, I thought I should check in and see how things were going. I really wish I hadn't. I wish I would have gone on ignoring it all until November, because once I opened the Pandora's Box, there was no closing it. I'm a political junkie. I can't help myself once I get a taste.

So I have watched as Republicans marched into polling stations to vote for Trump, proving just how stupid, hateful, closed minded, and bigoted that party has become. Back before the Internet was a thing that existed, I began to lose faith in the Republican Party, which eventually lead to me no longer giving them my time, money, or attention, and I predicted then (and have continued to predict) that their ever rightward sliding would eventually lead to a complete nutcase being nominated for President. I'd envisioned someone more like Ted Cruz, but Donald Trump is, I believe, the perfect candidate for the current Republican Party. The ultimate panderer who will say whatever he has to say to the people in the room with him to make them like him, even if it's the exact opposite of what he said two hours ago. This is the end result of decades of the GOP doing more pandering to special interest groups and the far rightwing crazies than standing up and fighting for things they actually believe.

I watched as Clinton gained her footing, found her focus, and garnered votes while batting away the piles of poo being flung by all the usual suspects. As I listened to what she had to say, I discovered I don't dislike her as much as I thought, and occasionally I found myself excited about the idea of voting for her. I've voted for a great many people who didn't especially excite me and who I didn't especially like. I don't have to like them, I just have to have faith they'll keep the train on the tracks and not kill us all. I'm confident Clinton will keep America rolling in a generally good direction, and we agree more than we disagree. I guess what I'm saying is I wouldn't have to roll my eyes or hold my nose to vote for her.

Then I turned my eyes to Sanders. As I listened to him speak and read his interviews, he annoyed me, not because I didn't agree with much of what he had to say about his big plans for America but because something felt “off”. Since I didn't really know much about Sanders, I started digging into his past. At some point during my journey backwards through this life, the warning bells that go off in my brain when I am exposed to far rightwing craziness began clanging loudly. I discovered that Sanders is a far left crazy. He is an example of the other side of the far right crazy coin, and just like Trump, he's a narcissistic, egocentric, “the rules don't apply to me”, win at all costs politician with a good helping of sexism lurking beneath the surface. But I told myself that people change over time, and maybe the Sanders of now wasn't like the Sanders of back then, and as Clinton pulled further ahead, I was sure he would eventually come around to helping her pull the party together to kick Donald Trump's butt in the general election.

Well, I feel stupid for not listening to my gut reaction and giving him the benefit of a doubt. So convinced of his own righteousness, he is determined he must be the Democratic nominee, even if it means burning everything to the ground and handing Trump the Oval Office.

Mr. Sanders, however, insists that the convention will be contested because he is still lobbying superdelegates — party officials and state leaders who cast their final votes at the convention — to withdraw support from Mrs. Clinton and back him instead. He plans to make the case that he is a stronger candidate against Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. A number of polls, he said, show he can beat Mr. Trump by larger margins than Mrs. Clinton can.

So Sanders would have the super delegates overturn the will of the millions more people who voted for Clinton than voted for him because polls say he has a better chance to win? Well, isn't that special. How arrogant and egotistical and disrespectful of the democratic process and the voters who have taken part in it. I am appalled and disgusted. Any hope that I might regain some measure of respect for him and his ideas is lost forever. I would now prefer he not be elected to any office anywhere ever again. If he believes the will of voters should be overturned on the basis of numbers churned out by pollsters, he isn't worthy of being called a statesman. I'm not even sure someone who believes such a thing should be called American.

Our Crazy Uncle

Every few years, when the political season is in full swing, there’s always sure to be a spate of breathless articles about Texas secessionists followed by even more breathless blog posts telling Texas to just get the fuck out already. Eventually, these things pop up on my radar by way of Twitter and Facebook, and after seeing them pass before my eyes some undetermined number of times, my one remaining nerve begins vibrating frantically, and I must speak or risk my head exploding.

When your crazy uncle/aunt/whatever says something outrageous at the Thanksgiving Day table, do you stand up, stomp out of the house, move to a different state, and disown your entire family? Or do you roll your eyes and sigh quietly? Well, the secessionists are Texas’ crazy uncle/aunt/whatever. We all roll our eyes, sigh quietly, and go on living our happy Texan-American lives. It’d be great if the rest of the country could learn to just roll their eyes and sigh too.

At most, according to their own reporting, the Nationalist Movement (or whatever they call themselves these days) have 200,000 members. Now maybe that seems like a large number to you, but if it does, you must live in a small village, in a tiny, county, in a minuscule state. Here in Texas, that represents .76% of the population. Does that number seem small? Well, it should. It’s a really REALLY small percentage of the population of my state. The secessionist movement is a microscopic fly in the giant bowl of soup that is Texas. They are totally irrelevant, completely unimportant, and entirely impotent (politically, I can’t speak for their sexual prowess). The only correct response when one hears a secessionist bleating their nonsense in public is to roll your eyes and sigh quietly and go on living your happy American life.

Or … you can write breathless news stories which lead to breathless blog posts which eventually make my last nerve threaten my head with explosion, but that course of action is like yelling at your crazy uncle/aunt/whatever when they say something outrageous at the Thanksgiving Day table. All it does is make your cousin cry, your dad have a panic attack, and then everyone starts drinking heavily and the day is ruined. Isn’t it just easier to roll your eyes and remember that everyone has a crazy uncle/aunt/whatever and that it really doesn’t matter if they believe Illuminati lizard people are running the government?

Furthermore, I would request of all friends, family, and strangers alike … please consider these two things before stamping the entirety of Texas with the “crazy” label:

A) The overwhelming vast majority of Texans are sane, law-abiding, America-loving, completely normal human beings living completely normal American lives.

B) Your state’s population undoubtedly contains at least .76% people with crazy political beliefs. It’s just that no one is writing breathless news stories and blog posts about your state’s crazy uncle every few years. Stop feeling so smug.

And in closing, I would like to correct a factual error I encountered in every single news story and blog post I read on this subject. There are 254 counties in Texas, not 270. This is a ridiculously easy fact to check, and I am appalled by the number of people who couldn’t be bothered to do so before pressing “publish” on all those breathless news stories and blog posts.

Futility, Part Two

Meant to get back to this sooner, but when I have had an hour or two to sit on the couch and have some coffee, I'd much rather turn on the Playstation than write about politics. Or read a book. Or anything, really. Writing about politics in America is stress producing. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes… gerrymandering.

That's a map of Travis County (i.e. Austin, Texas). All those oddly shaped pastel colored areas are the various and sundry congressional districts that have had bits of Austin added to them. One city … five districts … five different congressional representatives. One democrat amongst them. One democrat, and four very right wing Republicans represent the most liberal city in Texas. I live in District 35 in that little bit that snakes up into the blue at the most northern point. I am thankfully represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett. I feel incredibly lucky.

Here is an image that shows you where some of these districts go outside of Travis County. Pay particular attention to District 35. Notice how it's a long, skinny snake of a thing. On its southern end, about 80 miles away, you'll find San Antonio. District 21 is another I am familiar with. It's comprised mostly of the very staunch Republican hill country area with just a little bit of Austin added in. If I could be bothered to go find a map that is zoomed even further out, you would see that the remaining three districts that represent Austin all stretch out to distant locations except for their tiny little bits of Austin, but I think you can see the pattern. Take a district with lots of Republicans and carve a path to Austin so a smidgen of it can be added and thus dilute the liberal votes of that area and leave them represented by people who don't represent their interests.

Gerrymandering happens everywhere and not just in Central Texas or even just in Texas. Everywhere. In Texas, it's Republicans. Maybe somewhere the Democrats are in power, and they do it. The people in power rewrite the borders of the districts in ways that guarantee they will remain in power by carving up areas of potential opposition (i.e. voters unlikely to vote for them) and stick them with large blocks of voters who will vote for them. Before the most recent redrawing of the lines, I was in a district that ran from my house all the way down to the outskirts of Houston 140 miles away. And before we moved across town to the house, my district ran from south Austin all the way down to the Mexican border. It hasn't always been this way.

The crazy gerrymandering in Texas started becoming a problem in 2003. The Republicans in our statehouse decided they couldn't wait five more years to move all the lines and did a mid-decade redistricting, and boy did they go crazy with yhe lines. They got in trouble for it, and eventually they were told to do it again. The end result of all that line redrawing is the mess we have today. A mess that benefits only one party.

So when I say my vote and the vote of so many others is worthless. I actually mean they are worthless. The districts have been designed to make some people's votes worthless. Prior to my home being moved into Lloyd Doggett's district (or him being moved into my district, however that happened), it wouldn't have mattered who I voted for, or if I even voted at all, the outcome was that the Republican candidate would win. It was the same in all Republican stronghold districts. It was designed to be that way. Any block of voters who might vote differently were split up amongst these districts, and their votes no longer mattered. Well and truly would never make any difference at all, and possibly even worse, their representation wasn't ever going to represent their interests (or even listen to them, don't ask me how I know that).

So more people started feeling hopeless and like their voice didn't matter, and they stopped going to the polls. In some cases the entrenched power was so assured of victory the other parties didn't even bother running candidates. For six years, I was represented by someone who ran for office completely unopposed. Talk about not having a reason to go vote! I still did, but I did often wonder why. And this low turnout at elections continues to expand as more and more people feel like their votes don't matter, or find it more difficult to vote as states work to inhibit open and easy voting through shorter early voting periods, fewer voting locations, and excessive identification requirements … all done in the name of solving an illegal voting problem that no one can find proof of existing.

And you know what really gets my goat? The fact that due to the slicing and dicing of the voting population into districts that benefit the Republicans, Texas appears to be a state that is exclusively a Red State. If you look at our elected officials, it does appear that eveyone but a tiny minority of people support the Republican Party, but that simply isn't true. At each election, somewhere between 40 and 45 percent of Texans vote for Democratic candidates. Seems to me, that makes Texas pretty darn purple. Keep that in mind the next time you feel the urge to point at laugh at Texas and say we are getting the representation we deserve. We aren't. We are getting the representation we are allowed to have thanks to a system designed to work against anyone who doesn't swallow the current party's platform line hook, line, and sinker.

When the system is designed to work against fair and equal representation, what's a voter to do? Well, they can keep futilely voting and making no difference, or they can just stop voting. Obviously, the solution to the problem is to fix the actual problem (bizarre voting districts), but how the hell do we get that done when the only people who can fix it are the people in power, and they are not at all likely to do so. People in power don't want to give it up or share it. It's a problem I don't know how we will fix. Maybe it can't be fixed, so futilely voting and making no difference or not voting at all, I guess it doesn't actually much matter. Things will stay the same either way.

I'm going to apologize for this post for being somewhat disjointed. I've been sickish, thanks to seasonal allergies, and even on a good day, I have trouble lately giving much of a damn about politics. I could probably spend another day editing and rewriting, but I just want to get this done and up so I can move on to the next topic, which is the one I really want to talk about.

Next up … the continued shifting of the American political landscape rightward. I don't mean more people are voting rightwing. I mean everything in the political spectrum from the far right to the far left has been moving ideologically further to the right. For example, Obama is a classic centrist Republican, but in today's current political atmosphere, he's seen as being liberal. I promise, Futility, Part Three will be a better post, because I'm more excited about writing it. Though I suspect it will take me a while to write it, because I really want to get it right.