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I hate politics... but...

I hate politics. Hate. People usually talk about it with such passion, as if the politics were the important thing and not the results of the political discourse. Governing. Living. Being a part of civil society.

So I usually avoid talking about it.

But I can't anymore. I just can't.

This feeling has been growing for a while. That I couldn't stay silent while people discussed political issues with all the consideration of a sledgehammer. That I couldn't stay silent when facts and science are discarded for personal opinion. That people were not exploring the nuances of problems and someone should say so. That I have to speak out when I see injustice advocated in the name of justice.

There has been no one event that pushed me over the edge. Over the past few weeks I've been making small comments publicly where appropriate. But now I needed one place to make those statements publicly.

I affiliate with neither major political party in the US. Nor any of the minor parties. The political spectrum is part of the problem - that people of all affiliations demand allegiance to the party and do not try to understand or discuss the nuanced details of the issues.

I want to use this collection to explore those details. To call out problems where I see them. To stumble, and sometimes fail to live up to my own ideals, but to strive towards improvement. To understand what it takes to make a world we can all live in.

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Sexism isn't just what you think it is. +Lisa Bauer presents a powerful argument about how both hostile and benevolent sexism harms all of us... and what it means in the current political climate.

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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

-- Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment 1

3 Photos - View album

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Yesterday was Inauguration Day

Yes... you read that right. And if you didn't know that January 19th was inauguration day in The Gambia, you might be forgiven that you were distracted by other events, but you should also be ashamed that you were distracted by other events.

The Gambia, in case you haven't gone and Googled it, is a small West African country that has been independent for over 50 years. In that time it has had two leaders. Two. Both of them duly re-elected time after time.

The second, Yahya Jammeh, staged a coup in 1994, was elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2001, 2006, and 2011. In December 2016, he lost his re-election bid to Adama Barrow, but has refused to step down. His cabinet has resigned. It is questionable if the military will follow him. Adama Barrow was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in neighboring Senegal. Negotiations and military posturing continue to get him to the capitol.

This was the first time in fifty years that the people of Gambia changed governments through a vote. First time. Fifty years.

Remember that in four years.
And eight.
And twelve.
And every day in between.


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Never Again

And we must stand with our fellow Americans who may be singled out for how they look, who they love, where they’re from or how they pray.

And let me say this. There recently have been reports that the new Administration plans to force Muslim-Americans to register for some sort of master government list.

Look, Islamic extremism is a threat to us all. But as Jews, we know what it means to be registered and tagged, held out as different from our fellow citizens.

As Jews, we know the righteous and just response. All of us have heard the story of the Danish king who said if his country’s Jews had to wear a gold star…all of Denmark would too.

So I pledge to you right here and now, because I care about the fight against anti-Semitism, that if one day in these United States, if one day Muslim-Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.

Because fighting prejudice against the marginalized is not just the fight of those minorities. It’s our fight. Just as the fight against anti-Semitism is not only the fight of us Jews. It’s everyone’s fight.

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From Sea to Shining Sea

I had been saving these two pictures for some pithy commentary... but I never found the right occasion. The juxtaposition still means a lot to me every time I think about this election. I have one more photo from the Life Underground art collection if the polls go the way I hope it does.

The polls in every state are now open. I've seen and heard touching stories from people who immigrated and have become citizens, children of immigrants, and fourth (and more!) generation citizens. I've seen videos from the Susan B Anthony gravesite. I've seen many stickers and a few ballot selfies where it was legal. I've seen an actor portraying a founding father rap about voting. I've spoken to my son about how he feels this election day. I'm getting pretty emotional about it all.

Around 5 hours till the first polls close.

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Vote Here, Vote Now

It is 6am - polls open in New York State.
There are already 10 people in line, and 5 more got out of their cars once the door opened.

If you haven't - go out and vote for the next President... vote for your Representative in Congress... vote for the various people and proposals on your ballot.

Tonight, I'll be at an election party with a bunch of college students, most of whom have never voted before.

Good morning, America. Vote wisely.

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Signs and Portents

Yesterday, I arrived home to find someone had stuck a Trump campaign sign in my front yard and had tied a sign for the local Republican State Senatorial candidate to a tree in my yard. I immediately removed both - I try to remove trash from my yard as soon as I notice it.

It is a little thing, but it bothered me a lot, particularly on top of a lot of other things I've seen recently in this campaign. Like the campaign posters locally that someone had spray-painted over and destroyed. Even worse, the election related violence at campaign headquarters and religious institutions.

These sorts of things scare me. That there are people who are willing to destroy someone's property to intimidate them. These are small acts, but the image they bring to mind is that of Kristallnacht. And although that event happened five years into Hitler's term... it rambles through my mind that it started on the 9th of November.

The campaign ends shortly. After that starts the much more difficult task of preparing to govern, and then actually governing. That will involve listening and understanding - not just the people who voted for you, but everyone. It will require trying to heal divides on every level - from the President, through Congress, and down to the local level.

We can agree to disagree on some things... we can disagree on approaches... but I will not stand for people who will deny me and others the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Keep that in mind with your vote.

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Third Parties - Why Not?

Short answer: They're not in it for you. They're in it for themselves.

Proof? For most of the third parties (and their candidates), you only hear about them every four years when they run for President. In rare cases, you'll hear about them when they run for Governor or Senator. In even more rare cases, you'll hear about them when they run for the House. But you'll almost never see them running for other state or any local offices. They're not interested in representing you - they're interested in getting their name out there.

Let's look at a little example. It is anecdotal, admittedly, but I think it is illustrative.

New York has a pretty good history of third parties (hey, NYC had a party named "The Rent is Too Damn High!"). But most of the time they're running the exact same slate as the two major parties. Looking at my ballot, for example, there are 9 party lines. But only 4 different candidates for President, 5 for Senator, 2 for Representative in Congress, 2 for State Senator, 2 for Member of the [State] Assembly, and 1 for Town Supervisor.

But thats just one place in mid-state New York. Perhaps I'm an exception? If I look at some place like Hoosick Falls, NY, which is in the middle of a serious ground and water pollution problem, you'd think there would be some Green candidates running to represent them? Sure, the Greens are on the President and Senator line, same as me, and they have someone running for State Senator but they don't even list anyone, even someone from another party, running for the Federal House or the State Assembly. How about the Gowanus region of Brooklyn, site of a huge superfund cleanup area? Same thing. How about Flint, Michigan? They actually do have someone who is running for the House on the Green line - but only because he hasn't been elected Governor or Senator. He has no prior record of public service, compared to the incumbent who has been serving the public since he was on the local school board.

"Aha!" I can see you argue, "What we really need are people outside the system who can bring their experience to a broken government!"

Well, I can see what you're saying. But how is getting a third-party President trying to do that without people in Congress also doing that? And how do you know how to run a country if you have no experience running... anything in the same nature.

Johnson clearly isn't an outsider. He was a Governor. He runs a SuperPAC. He was considered a Presidential candidate for the Republicans for a while. About the only thing that makes him "anti-establishment" is that he smokes pot (which the kids in the 60s said would be legalized as soon as they got into power).

And Stein? I guess she's technically an outsider since she's held no public office at all, but she's clearly a politician, having changed her views to pander to her base. I had some respect for her at the beginning of her campaign, but the more she said, the more I felt she wasn't really doing this to represent her position, but to stick it to the major parties.

Don't get me wrong - I think we need the "outsiders" to make sure we have all perspectives covered. We need people like Bernie Sanders, who served to push the Democrats back to the left. We need reputable businesspeople who can fairly represent their views. But we need these people to work on all levels of government. We need good Mayors and Town Councils and County Executives to closely represent the places we live, and to groom them so they can keep representing us when they go on to a state capitol and to DC.

Until third parties take those elected positions seriously, I just can't take them seriously. (Comments are open, but I take them seriously, too. Continue the conversation respectfully.)

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