A Tale of Two Cities

Paint swatches. Gray, black, extra white.

WHAT THE &$*!?

That’s all I could come up with as I facepalmed in utter disbelief. Although my disbelief was quickly booted aside by a recognition that this would, of course, happen.

Let me let the New York Times tell you. I will interrupt them occassionally with my analysis or maybe, more accurately, my rant.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Armed antigovernment protesters led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, charged in the takeover of a federally owned Oregon wildlife sanctuary in January, were acquitted Thursday of federal conspiracy and weapons charges.

[Armed antigovernment protesters!!??] What the hell kind of euphemistic bullshit is that? How about thugs with automatic weapons who charged into federal buildings and threatened law enforcement? Or maybe you can’t be a thug if you’re white and wrap yourself in a Christian flag?

And then, [acquitted??!!?] << This. I can’t even.

The surprise verdict in Federal District Court was a blow to the government, which had argued that the group used force and threats of violence to occupy the reserve, impeding the federal workers there. But the jury appeared swayed by the occupiers’ contention that they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat.

Wait. [they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat?!!??] Everybody saw a dozen or so armed cowboys forcefully occupying a federal wildlife refuge, blocking access of federal employees who were unable to do their work onsite. There were 30 guns seized after the standoff. An FBI agent testified that 16,636 live rounds and nearly 1,700 spent casings were found. The terrorists set up a defensive perimeter. They forcefully occupied the area for five weeks. The insurgents destroyed federal property, including archaeological artifacts. By the way, the staff felt threatened, and indeed the people in the county did, too.

In a sign of the high tensions throughout the trial, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Marcus R. Mumford, was restrained by four United States Marshals in courtroom tussle after the verdict on Thursday. He was enraged that the Bundys were not being immediately released.

Oh and then their friggin lawyer starts throwing punches in the courtroom? Yeah, like that would go over well in a Baltimore City court. Well, if he did that in Bal’more he’d be shot dead. Maybe not. He’s white.

All of them got off. Even the guy who acted as his own lawyer.

Meanwhile, almost 1,300 miles due east a different verdict is being played out. I can’t give you a link to the NYTimes, though, because they are not covering this other story. So let’s try the BBC. You know, the news source from across the pond.

Riot police have begun removing protesters from private land in the path of the Dakota Access pipeline…Dozens of officers in riot gear, some armed, moved in on Thursday assisted by trucks and military Humvees.

So police are taking down teepees that were erected just yesterday. They are rolling up in tanks, suited in full riot gear. They are shooting “bean bag” shotgun rounds “designed to incapacitate people without causing death or permanent injury” and using pepper spray against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.

There were reports of rock throwing. After the police moved in, there was a report of gunfire and a woman was arrested. In addition, over 100 people have been arrested. This type of protest–you know the one that disrupts the oil or natural gas industries–must not be allowed to continue. And we can hurt these types of protesters.

To be clear, the protests are being led by Native Americans trying to protect their sacred lands. You know after the Trail of Tears and whatnot.

It’s the best of times for white terrorist ranchers who use violence and a warped interpretation of the constitution to justify stealing from the government to line their own pockets. And, as it has been historically, it’s the worst of times for people of color.


Women Have The Right To Vote

Voting is a right, written on the back of a strong woman

It’s only (as well as an excruciating) 92 days until the next big election. Early voting starts in Minnesota in half that time–on Friday, September 26th. There are still primaries in many states shaping up down-ballot races, including those critical local and state races that have a huge impact on people’s day to day.

At the risk of jumping in like Captain Obvious, it’s important to remember that women–you know a little bit more than half of the U.S. population–weren’t able to cast a vote in the U.S. until 1920.

So, for those 114,642,000 U.S. citizens of voting age who are women, per the Census, as you contemplate casting your ballot, contemplate what it took to gain your right to  vote.

Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About Women’s Suffrage

Worldwide, women weren’t always included in voters rolls.

  • Switzerland was the last Western republic to grant women’s suffrage in 1971. I guess their neutrality wasn’t all that neutral. Other late adopters of women’s rights to vote in Europe were Spain 1931, France 1944, Italy in 1946, and Greece in 1952.
  • Some countries were early to the table regarding women’s vote. Their idea was that people vote, and that women were people, ipso facto women voted. Crazy, no? Examples include Austria and Estonia and Poland. While these countries were not early democracies, at least when they let people vote, they included women.

Back to the U.S., there were pockets of women’s suffrage before the 19th Amendment.

  • New Jersey got it right. At first, anyway. The New Jersey constitution of 1776 enfranchised all adult inhabitants who were property owners. Laws from 1790 and 1797 referred to voters as “he or she,” and women regularly voted. But in 1807 they passed a law that took that right away from women. Why??!?
  • In December of 1869, the Wyoming Territory approved the first law in United States explicitly granting women the right to vote. Yay!
  • Another western state, Colorado, did it in 1893. This was super awesome because the change came via referendum. This means that the men in Colorado were excellent early allies and voted for their sisters, mothers, wives and friends to join them in political decision-making. The referendum passed with 55% of the vote. Double yay!!

Wanted: Constitutional Amendment for all U.S. Citizens (where ALL includes women)

  • The push for universal women’s suffrage had it’s birth in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York. Activists–primarily women–began a seven decades effort to secure the right to vote.
  • The 19th Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878 and the language was modeled after the 15th Amendment. It was pretty simple.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

  • Hard to think that it was controversial, right? You’d be incorrect there. It took forty-one years to get Congress to approve the amendment and send it to the states for ratification.
  •  It was ratified by the requisite number of states one year later, with Tennessee’s ratification being the final vote needed to amend the Constitution and provide women a voice in government.
  • Here’s a scary one. Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1969-1971. Mississippi was the laggard, finally voting “Yes” in 1984. You read that right. Women could still vote, mind you. They just didn’t approve.

The Struggle Was (and is) Real

  • Suffragists adopted a “feminine” dress to appear less threatening. They frequently wore white to symbolize their purity. No reason to scare people off. I guess.
  • Women have been helping each other all along the way. Susan B. Anthony would babysit Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s children while Stanton wrote suffrage speeches and petitions for Anthony. Sisterhood teamwork!
  • Mom’s rule. The story goes that a Tennessee legislator was pressured by his mom to change his No vote to Yes. His was the last vote needed. She told him to do the right thing. That’s lobbying from the heart. Everyone, go thank your mother, just on general principle.
  • The Census estimates there’s 302,800 women in the U.S. who were born before the 19th Amendment was ratified. Bless them, one and all!
  •  Many African American women were active in the woman suffrage movement–even though they were not always welcomed by some white activists. Look up Ida B. Wells. Let me help you. Her work on women’s suffrage, and her brave anti-lynching activism, made her a hero to social justice. And white women need to take heed of sisters of color, they are there fighting the good fight on many fronts!

Folks, and especially women, who think that voting isn’t important, just think about the women and men who helped ensure the right to vote. It was important then, and it’s still important now.

Make sure you register to vote. Then make sure your voice is heard. Cast your ballot.

Eff Your Guns (where Eff is the f-word)

We can do BETTER [sign, I almost typed "sigh"]

I can’t do this. I was writing a post about people leaving, but I just couldn’t.

I couldn’t write another sentence about missing someone who is physically away, because it is selfish since he’s still alive.

I couldn’t think about the loss in my heart as my child grows up, because he has the chance to continue his journey.

Others have none of that. Parents will not see their children again. Friends will not see their friends again. Brothers and sisters will not see their sibs again. In Orlando. In San Bernardino. In Sandy Hook. In Aurora. In too many places.

My feelings of loss are still real, and I’ll finish that post another day–maybe even tomorrow, but today I am stuck on one thing.

I don’t care about your fucking guns. I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FUCKING GUNS.

I am not safer because you have guns. My children are not safer because you have guns. Nobody that I love is safer because you have guns. My neighborhood is not safer because you have guns. And my city, which is the capital of our country, is obviously not safer for your gun fetish.

I’m at a breaking point.

I’m broken.

I don’t personally give a rat’s ass about guns. But I respect my friends, colleagues, some cool hunters and whoever get a kick out of guns. I give such little rat’s ass that I don’t care that people have them for their reasons. Like they hunt. Or collect. Or are sportsman. Or whatevs.

But today, I have to tell you, with all due respect, fuck your guns. Really. I’ve had it.


Let me say it again.


Really. Don’t tell me how powerful they make us. Because there is no data that convinces me–and I really really loves me some data. Because those constitutional arguments as validated by a Supreme Court intellectual black hole make absolutely no sense vis-à-vis any discussion of any other bill o’ rights issues. And I gotta say, I really really really loves me some U S of A constitutions. Like sickly in love.

Until we can include guns, and any rational role they have in a modern society, in our discussion of solutions to issues of religious extremism, homophobia, hate and intolerance that are expressed in mass murder, I am totally through. There is not a single silver bullet–pardon the gun reference–to stop terrorism and hate crimes. If we don’t put everything on the table, we just keep talking in circles. Like we have. Dizzy. And 50 more dead.

I am very sorry, Loyal Reader, to rant in an incoherent fashion. But this was all I could write today.

And I am sorry. So, so, sorry.  Yes. I am sorry.

Except for saying, fuck your guns. They are not more important than people.


Tour de DC

Man and Horse sculpture at FTC

Met a friend and her delightfully punky son at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery last weekend. There was beer. There was space for a crazed toddler with a full nappy to terrorize tourists. There was amazing art. Not all at the same time, though, but parts were concurrent.

After our parley, I gave her a hug and the sweet imp a kiss and exited the museum. I strolled past the Spy Museum even though it was drizzling. My hair didn’t care and it wasn’t too cold. I walked past the Shake Shack to my jalopy, which was expertly parked across the street from that cement monstrosity also known as F.B.I. headquarters.

I foolishly did a u-turn  (“Srsly, Doc! Have you no shame?” you ask. “Right in front of the heat?”) so I could circle the block to Pennsylvania Avenue. I drove away from the White House–that’s about six blocks in the other direction.

Instead I went left and passed the Department of Justice and the Archives. My whip  wheeled past originals of our nation’s founding documents like the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. They are just there.

Next on the right is the Federal Trade Commission. I have no idea what they do, but they have an amazing stone statue of a beefy guy trying to tame an even beefier horse. I love this sculpture.

I drive by the Canadian embassy guarded by Mounties on the left and on my right is the National Gallery of Art. The West wing has those beautiful Monets as well as the bronze cast and canvas ballerinas of Degas. Crossing 4th St, I pass the East Wing  of the Gallery where they hang the red and black triangles balanced on the Calder mobile.

Where Pennsylvania Ave merges with Constitution, I see the sometimes infamous U.S. District Court. It’s infamous when there are are dozens of reporters with their satellite sticks jutting in the air like a field of unwelcome windmills in Nantucket Sound.

If I look straight ahead, which really is the right thing to do since I’m driving, I see The Capitol. I’m grateful that it sits at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue because I get to drive and walk by it all the time–even now as it’s covered in scaffolding. It makes me feel so patriotic, so American. Like somehow I’m a founding father. It’s one of the best sites in our beautiful city.

On this trip as I jogged left onto Louisiana Avenue, I see three round blue orbs. The helmets on top of Capitol Police motorcycle cops. All three bikes have sidecars, too. I never see passengers in the police sidecars. Never. There are, however, covers on them. I imagine that they have an arsenal, like Detective Billy Rosewood from Beverly Hills Cop, underneath those hoods. The three follow Louisana Ave to North Cap Street, then they peel off towards the trains at Union Station.

I went up a a few streets then made a right on H Street, behind the station. I took the arched bridge across the tracks. At the end of the bridge is this crazy set of accidents waiting to happen where the new trolley will cross into traffic. The street cars aren’t starting up until next week. No street cars; no accidents; so no traffic jam. Not today.

I made a left at Sixth Street, NE. This is the corner for the new Whole Foods.

I’m on my way to Union Market to stop at the bread guy for tonite’s dinner and at DC Fishwife for tomorrow’s.

As I head up Brentwood Road to home, I can see the blue dome and spire of the Shrine. The same Basilica that Justice Scalia was laid to rest the day before and that we walked to for Easter Mass that time Baby Bear was two and his pants fell down around his ankles as he was walking to the pew. He was likely singing, too.

Welcome to my town. This Sunday drive was all of twenty minutes (including the 5 minutes in the market). Yup. This is where I live.

Remains Of A Three Legged Stool

Dear Members of Congress,

Thank you for taking the time to fight over the renewal of the terrorist surveillance law. You know, the one that gives all oversight for executive branch spy agencies eavesdropping to the executive branch (seems a bit circular, no?). The Senate guys among you have decided to agree with the Exec that it takes too long to get an emergency court order to spy on people in the U.S. Despite the lack of any real examples that support that assumption. Maybe just a gut feeling?

We know that the executive branch thinks this is a good idea–heck, they proposed it! And the judicial branch doesn’t have a say. So, it’s up to you in the legislative branch to do your job and provide a check and balance to the executive branch by letting the judicial branch do their job.

I know, when the President says TERRORIST the knee-jerk reaction is to buckle to whatever formula he proposes. But you guys need to remember that the Prez is not boss over you.

According to the first three articles of our nation’s founding rules, there are three equally powered branches of our government. And, through the separation–and interleaving–of powers as conceived by James Madison and Co, there exists a precarious balance of power.

I believe Madison when he says it’s pretty important to have judicial oversight of the executive branch. It’s the legislative branch can see that this happens. My dearest Members of Congress, any abdication of your constitutional role–to the manipulations of an increasingly imperial president–means that you are weakening the judicial leg of the stool, as well as your own.

Our government can’t stand on only one leg. So stand up yourselves and prop up the wobbly judicial checks on the executive before the stool collapses.

Doc Think