Archive for the 'politics/government' Category

Can’t they just catch a cab?

The cash-strapped, teacher-laying-off, social-programs-slashing NYC government somehow dug up $9.3 million to subsidize a privately-run ferry service on the East River. Residents of “Dumbo, Williamsburg, Greenpoint or Hunters Point” are expected to especially benefit.

…some transportation experts worry that the boats will appeal only to an affluent sliver of the population — those who can afford upscale apartments along the waterfront.

…The first boat departed at 7:15 a.m. with a gaggle of dignitaries and reporters aboard. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a seaweed-color tie, leaned on a blue plastic table and took in the view of the Midtown skyline.

“You have no idea what this does for property values,” the mayor said approvingly. “Wait till you see all of this development!” He waved at a pair of passing kayakers, who raised their oars in salute.

So, Bloomberg’s budget will eliminate upwards of $5 million for supportive housing for people living with HIV/AIDS, slashes funding for daycare and senior citizen centers, will result in the layoff of more than 4,000 teachers, will close 20 fire department companies, so on and so forth. And folks who rely on the MTA for transit continue to see fares go up and service go down. But a $9.3 million transit subsidy to a private company that will primarily benefit the wealthier residents of only a few neighborhoods and promote continuing gentrification there to boot? There’s apparently plenty of money for that!

Yes. We. Did.

Barack Obama

I Voted!

My partner and I woke up at 6am, when the polls open here in NYC. Brushed teeth, threw on clothes, fed the cat, then walked around the corner to the school where we vote – we can literally see our polling place from our window, which is pretty sweet. When we turned the corner, we were surprised to see a long line already wrapping around the opposite corner. We were excited at the turnout but a little worried about the wait. There was a bit of chaos inside; people were confused about whether or not folks who already knew their election district could bypass the longest lines (they could, at least early on), some folks started getting grumpy and impatient and frustrated by the confusion, and one of the voting machines broke down. But the line for our election district was rather short and things went pretty smoothly for us.

When I stepped into the booth after my partner, it was pretty damn exciting to see Obama/Biden right up in the top left corner. Finally, after this impossibly long presidential campaign and all of the ups and downs within it, the moment had arrived! I actually moved down the line to the right and found Obama/Biden on the Working Families Party ticket and voted for them there (New Yorkers, remember that you can do that – a vote for a candidate on the WP ticket counts just the same as a vote for the same candidate on the Democratic ticket and helps to support a third party.) Voted Working Families and Dems for everything else. The only Green Party candidates were McKinney and Clemente. I was tempted, really tempted to vote for them. Still feel a little conflicted about that. Sigh. (IRV, IRV, IRV!) I checked my entire ballot over about six times, then pulled that big red lever to the left and locked in the most exciting vote of my life thusfar.

The lines were still stretched out long when we left the polling place, beaming happily but unfortunately not wearing an “I VOTED” sticker – they didn’t have any! Anyhow, I hope people stick it out through the long waits. Since I live so close to the school I might try to check out the situation later and maybe figure out a way to help people endure the long wait.

So – how about you? Head over to my post on Feministe to share your voting stories. You can also share them here, but I’m guessing there will be more people posting comments over there.

And yes, even now, third party candidates matter.

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been a bit swept up into the Obamania as of late. And you know what? Why the hell not? Conservatives like to mock and sneer at the enthusiasm that people have for Obama like a high school bully snickers and jeers at anything too earnest (and yet they cheerlead unabashedly for their #1 Crush, Sarah Palin). But liberals can fall into that cooler-than-thou bullshit, too: picture a self-conscious hipster who wrinkles their nose at gross displays of genuineness. I don’t claim to be immune; I’ve certainly been cynical and suspicious of the hype. But not right now. I think people in this country, especially people of color, really need this kind of hope, this kind of inspiration, this positive energy. I gotta say, it’s a great feeling to walk down the street in True Blue Brooklyn and look people in the eye and smile and feel that simple, basic sense of alliance with so many more people than usual, despite the differences, conflicts, and barriers that will still be there between us come November 5. Barack Obama may be solidly entrenched in the limited two-party system, but if he can do this for us, then hell, more power to him.

However: that doesn’t mean that now it’s all right to forget about third party candidates. Latoya Peterson gives us an excellent reminder of that over at Racialicious, asking “What’s the Deal with the Green Party?” and answering her own question with a thorough and much-needed look at the remarkable McKinney/Clemente ticket. Peterson ends with this message to voters and non-voters:

If you aren’t satisfied with your voting choices, then you need to advocate for more choices. You need to support candidates you believe in on a write in basis, or even consider running for political office yourself. But not voting should NEVER be an option. Even if you hate everyone on the board, you need to take yourself to the ballot box and vote. People died for your right to exercise this type of direct say in government. So have your say.

If you are voting for Obama, advocate your fucking hearts out today. I just told everyone on my Facebook page that if they didn’t vote, I was disowning them – and I mean that. I’m checking my friends for that “I Voted” sticker. It’s that serious to me.

If you’re voting for McCain, do your thing as well. Obviously, I don’t support your choice, but I respect that it’s your choice to make.

If you are voting for McKinney/Clemente, do not let anyone say that you are throwing your vote away. You are not. If Obama loses this election, it will not be because of who chose to vote for the Green Party – it will be because of those who voted for McCain – or worse, those who chose to stay home.

And if you are even considering staying home on election day, how about this – perform a random act of kindness and vote Green Party. Or Nader. Or other independents. If you hate the two-party system that much, help those who seek to dismantle it.

But apathy is not an option in this election.

On the one hand, I really appreciate what Peterson has to say here, especially about voting for McKinney and Clemente. Though I have chosen to vote for Obama despite living in an extremely safe space and will be proud to pull that lever, I can’t help from feeling a little pang of regret that I won’t be able to voice my support for McKinney, Clemente, and third-party candidates in general in the polling booth. (Oh, how I look forward to instant runoff voting!) I’ll be glad for everyone who will be casting their votes for the Green Party ticket and am really hoping that a decisive Obama victory will mean we won’t hear any of that “third parties = spoilers” bullshit this time around.

But Peterson’s assertion that “not voting should NEVER be an option” doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t think that non-voting always equates with apathy. Apathy means not giving a damn, but for many people, not voting is an intentional, thoughtful, deliberate act on the part of people who think that it is more harmful to validate an intrinsically corrupt system by voting than to possibly make a win easier for the greater of two evils by not voting. To me, acknowledging the validity that not voting for a good reason is a necessary corollary to acknowledging the validity of choosing a third party candidate despite a real need to vote an abusive, oppressive regime out of office.

kati brings this up in the comments of the Racialicious post:

What if you’re anti-statist and anti-hierarchy and do not see electoral politics as an avenue for real change? Anarchists are cowards now?

As someone with both familiarity and kinship with the Anarchist People of Color movement, I know that the answer is that anarchists are neither cowardly nor apathetic by virtue of their political beliefs; rather, they are often brave and passionate enough to challenge a system that they view as flawed at the base in ways that make most of us a little nervous. You catch a lot of flack when you go up against a status quo that has truly come to be accepted as permanent, relatively unchangeable and certainly unable of being dismantled entirely. And though there are enough points on which I differ with the anarchist movements that I’ve encountered to cause me to not use the label for myself, I’m also wary of eliminating active disengagement from the system as a politically valid option. The American political system in all of its glaring imperfection can certainly not be seen as the only way or the most important way to affect social change and justice in our society, and I don’t think it needs to be seen as an indispensable tool, either. Yeah, sometimes it’s the best tool we’ve got, but if we can figure out ways to avoid using a broken tool that hurts us when we use it more often than not, I’m all for that, too.

Cross-posted at Feministe

The Steelers and Obama FTW!!!

Mike Tomlin

So, last night at pub trivia at my favorite bar, Pacific Standard, I learned that the result of the Washington R******* [1] home game that immediately precedes Election Day has correctly predicted the winner of the every US presidential election since 1936 except for last year’s. Despite the recent break, Snopes points out that this still yields an impressive 94.4% accuracy rate.

The way it works is that if Washington wins the game, then the party that currently holds the White House will keep it. If the visiting team wins, then the challenging party wins.

Well, guess who won in an upset tonight?

Pittsburgh def. Washington, 23-6!

Byron Leftwich

This was cool not only because of the auspicious nature of the result, but also because I really like the Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. Now, I can’t resist noting that Mike Tomlin is one of only ten Black head coaches in NFL history. Moreover, the usual Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger went out with a shoulder injury during the game, bringing in second-string QB Byron Leftwich. So not only did the Steelers beat Washington, thereby bringing the luck of probability to the Obama campaign and beating the team with the single most offensive name in all of professional sports, but they did it with the relatively rare pairing of a Black head coach and a Black quarterback [2].

IT’S A SIGN PEOPLE, I TELL YOU!

[1] Because I really don’t know why it’s any better for me to say or write out that word than the n-word.

[2] Yes, I know that Washington QB Jason Campbell is also Black. But unfortunately he is also on the wrong side. Kinda like Condaleeza Rice. I know, I know, that was wrong.

T minus one and counting

I’ve been engaging in some fairly uncharacteristic behavior lately. This morning I headed over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music and spent a couple of hours phone banking for Obama, letting people in Florida know where their polling places are and encouraging them to vote tomorrow. Along with calls I made from home to voters in Pennsylvania using the Neighbor to Neighbor feature on Obama website, this marks the first time that I’ve ever volunteered for a major party candidate. Another first – I’ve donated to the Obama campaign not once, not twice, but four times, which is four times more than I’ve ever donated to a Democrat.

Yes, those were relatively small donations, and yes, two hours of phone banking is not a tremendous amount of time. But that’s a whole lot more time, money, and energy than I’ve ever before invested to get a major party candidate elected. I usually don’t get very excited over the sort of Democrats who are actually viable candidates. I usually vote for Dems because they’re better than the alternative, and often vote for third party candidates (mostly Greens) when they manage to get on the ballot. Even in this election, I’ve lamented the dearth of attention paid to Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, the Green Party presidential ticket, and for a while was leaning towards voting for them.

I know that Obama isn’t perfect, and that the fact that he is as close to the presidency as he is right now is itself a testament to the fact that he does not represent nearly as much of a departure from the status quo as I’d like to see. I’ve vacillated between feeling excited, hopeful, and proud when I voted for Obama during the February primaries to feeling pretty much over him by April.

But lately, my political pendulum has been swinging back in Obama’s direction. The final weeks of the campaigns have thrown the crucial differences between Obama and McCain into sharper relief than ever. And I’m not even talking policies here, where there are substantial differences but occasionally unfortunate similarities. I’m talking the philosophies of the campaigns and their approaches to politics, which have proven vastly different.

The McCain/Palin campaign seems to be trying to top themselves daily with increasingly vile and spurious appeals to the lowest common denominator. The whole line about Obama being a socialist and wanting to be the “Redistributionist-in-Chief” really got me shaking my head – they are actually billing “spreading the wealth around” as a bad thing and somehow getting people who would most likely benefit from more equitable distributions of wealth to buy into it! They’re rallying their base by blatantly stoking racial animus, by drawing out hatred and prejudice and capitalizing on it. I know that cultivating negativity and division is par for the course with conservatives, but they really have outdone themselves this time around.

Meanwhile, the Obama/Biden campaign continues to cultivate positivity and unity. They are inspiring, energizing, and uniting people, not based on shared prejudice and fear but on a shared desire for something better, not just for themselves, but for this entire country and this world. Barack Obama has created a movement unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When I walk through Brooklyn and see the amazing abundance of Obama signs, stickers, and buttons – especially in communities of color – the feeling of collective hope and joy becomes palpable. That’s a precious thing, and it’s something that we need to fight to preserve, to sustain, and to strengthen.

So I’ll be making more calls to voters tonight (you can, too – it’s easy!), and I’ll be heading to the voting booth early tomorrow morning to help vote Barack Obama in as our next President. I completely understand and encourage folks who are voting for McKinney or even Nader instead – believe me, being in a solid blue state, the temptation is there for me, too. But you know what? We’re about to make history here, damn it, and I’m going to be part of it. I hope you will be, too.

Cross-posted at Feministe

Voter suppression has already begun

This morning’s headlines on Democracy Now! included reports of people having problems at the polls during the early voting process that has already begun in many states. Two weeks out from Election Day and we’re already hearing this – what does this bode for November 4? The DN! reports include claims from voters in West Virginia that the touchscreen machines they used changed their votes from Obama to McCain, allegations from Democratic Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio that the Republican Party is trying to scare newly registered voters by challenging the status of almost 200,000 new registrations, and this most chilling report from North Carolina (a contested state that has been swinging towards Obama):

McCain Supporters Harass Obama Voters in North Carolina

In North Carolina, over 200,000 residents have already cast ballots in early voting. In Fayetteville, a group of John McCain supporters heckled and harassed a group of mostly black supporters of Barack Obama as they voted on Sunday. The Washington Times reported the McCain backers shouted and mocked the voters as they walked into the voting place. The website Facing South reports the McCain supporters likely broke the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits anyone from intimidating or threatening a person for voting or attempting to vote. On that same day in Fayetteville, North Carolina, thirty people reported having their tires slashed after attending an Obama rally.

UPDATE: Christina Bellantoni provides video of the hecklers and the heckled in NC on the Huffington Post.

And although it’s not an example of direct voter suppression per se, DN!’s next headline is inextricably linked to Republican efforts to cast aspersion on the newfound empowerment of newly registered, formerly disproportionately disenfranchised voters, many of whom have been registered by ACORN and similar organizations:

Obama Campaign Volunteer Assaulted in Wisconsin

In Caledonia, Wisconsin, a fifty-eight-year-old Obama campaign volunteer was assaulted on Saturday while canvasing. Nancy Takehara was attacked by a disgruntled homeowner who accused her of being connected to the community organizing group ACORN. Takehara said, “He grabbed me by the back of the neck. I thought he was going to rip my hair out of my head. He was pounding on my head and screaming.” Takehara said she was not seriously injured.

Between reports like that and the vile, racially-charged garbage that’s been coming out of the McCain camp and his supporters of late, it really does feel like we’ve been forcefully transported back to a darker time in American history. Or, more accurately, the venom and bile that’s been mostly simmering under the surface all along is boiling up thanks to McCain, Palin, and their surrogates stoking the flames.

It’s getting scarier and scarier out there. And we’ll all have to be that much more vigilant and vociferous in our defense of everyone’s right to cast their vote and have it properly counted – no matter who they are or who they’re voting for, and no matter the color of their skin or their chosen candidate’s.

Cross-posted at Feminste

Liveblogging tonight’s debate!

I’ll be liveblogging the final presidential debate tonight with a great bunch of folks including fellow Feministe blogger Holly, Maegan la Mala of Mamita Mala and Vivir Latino, Nezua of The Unapologetic Mexican, Jose Vilson, Kai of Zuky, and possibly (hopefully!) Sylvia of Problem Chylde. Should be a good conversation to accompany your debate watching tonight so swing by, check it out, and join the discussion! The debate starts at 9pm EST but we’ll probably drop in a little earlier to get ready for the action.

Continue reading ‘Liveblogging tonight’s debate!’

Ill Doctrine Exclusive: McCain’s Latest Attack Ad

Jay Smooth has posted an exclusive leak of McCain’s latest attack ad over at Ill Doctrine. Check it out:

Too funny, except in that sad “rings of truth” way…

Bailout FAIL. Working Americans PWNED.

It seems as though Congress and the Bush administration are nearing approval of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package. It was clear from the get go that low- and middle-income people were not going to be the winners here, no matter the specifics of the package; some details that are coming out now about the current state of the deal are only confirming that prediction. From the Washington Post:

Democrats also made a number of concessions, abandoning demands that bankruptcy judges be empowered to modify home mortgages on primary residences for people in foreclosure. They also agreed not to dedicate a portion of any profits from the bailout program to an affordable housing fund that Republicans claimed would primarily assist social service organizations that support the Democratic Party, the official said.

The New York Times does report that the package “requires the government to use its new role as owner of distressed mortgage-backed securities to make more aggressive efforts to prevent home foreclosures,” but reaffirms that “some Democrats had sought to direct 20 percent of any such profits [from the governmental purchase of assets at prices lower than they may one day be worth] to help create affordable housing, but Republicans opposed that and demanded that all profits be returned to the Treasury.”

I don’t claim to be any expert on economics, but it seems to me that the benefit to normal working Americans (i.e. “Main Street”) will be quite limited. The whole rigmarole about taxpayers (hopefully) being repayed for the bailout through the government receiving equity stakes in rescued companies is cold comfort given that we can’t trust or expect the government to spend that recovered money on things that actually help improve the lives of low- and middle-income Americans, like education, health care, affordable housing, or welfare.

Well, I should be clear – corporate welfare is a-ok, as this entire bailout package demonstrates. But welfare for individuals and families who are just trying to survive? Nah, that kind of welfare doesn’t fly, nor does the affordable housing that might help rescue them from this collapsing housing market. So Wall Street screws working-class Americans with the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, which then backfires and contributes to Wall Street getting screwed, and then Wall Street are the only ones who can really count on being bailed out? Sounds like a big ol’ FAIL to me.

Cross-posted at Feministe