Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

A few months ago Netflix was streaming the movie The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio and I absolutely fell in love with it. If you haven't watched it and you want to avoid spoilers, you can click the link above to buy it on Amazon and watch it before reading. (Fair warning, this is an Amazon Affiliate link.)

This is the true story of Evelyn Ryan, a mother and housewife in the 1950's who was forced to use her wit and talent with the written word to keep her family fed and housed because her alcoholic husband was unable or unwilling to prioritize family over addiction. We get to see her writing jingles, ad slogans, and poetry to win prizes from big company contests, and at one point we see her win a grocery shopping spree - she gets ten minutes to fill an empty cart and everything inside of it when they call time is hers to keep. She decides to use this as an opportunity to give her kids a taste of things they would otherwise never have, filling the cart with lobster tails, European chocolates, expensive cuts of meat, exotic fruits, etc. This particular scene has kept me up at night more than once, contemplating the decisions she made as part of the spree.

We see elsewhere in the movie that they have times where the cupboard is literally bare. We also watch as her husband clearly feels emasculated by his inability to care for his family and his wife's success contesting for profit. Knowing these things, why in the world would she opt for decadence and a high price tag when she could have been filling that cart with household staples and canned goods? Every bite of shrimp or pineapple was just a reminder to her husband of what a failure he was as a provider and her kids were not interested in capers and caviar. But at the same time, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to give her family a taste of something they would otherwise never have. How could she not use the only opportunity she is ever given to expose her children to the finer things in life?

This one scene is a perfect example of the tightrope walk that is making decisions as a parent. For example, do you scrimp and save, doing without pricey vacations or dinners out so you can send your kid to private school? If you decide to make private school a priority and sacrifice for your children will they really benefit from it or will they end up with a mediocre education and teachers who are later discovered to be child predators? If you decide to pass on private school so your kid can have steak dinners and trips to Disney World will they still get a solid education or will they be overlooked in the ever-growing class sizes and ever-shrinking school budgets? How can you know which decision is right and, more importantly, how can you avoid beating yourself up for every horrible thing that happens as a side effect of the decisions you chose to make? Do you try the stay-at-home mom thing or do you work full time? Do you buy the nicest house you can afford in a less affluent neighborhood or do you buy the tiny house in the ritzy part of town? Do you enroll your kid in every possible after school activity or do you let them play and explore on their own with no structure?

I spend more time than is probably necessary or wise running that ten minute shopping spree over and over again in my head. Did she contemplate every item she put in the cart, weighing the value against bags of flour and jars of peanut butter, or is this the curse of the modern parent alone, worrying that everything we do might be utterly wrong? I suppose we can only do our very best and hope that it will be enough, which is a talent Evelyn Ryan seemed to have mastered, much like the written word.

Letter to Hillary Clinton

My friend Patrick Hopkins wrote this, but it is a perfect explanation of a lot of my beliefs as well and superbly written, so I figured I would share it here.

Dear Hillary Clinton, from a millennial(ish):

Hillary, I just read https://mic.com/articles/154407/hillary-clinton-here-s-what-millennials-have-taught-me#.i12ZUr7sY, and I have a serious question for you:

Exactly how stupid do you think I am?

From the first line, which is supposed to appeal to my still-fading teenage desire to be misunderstood, you(r ghostwriter; pneumonia or not, let's both agree one of your people wrote this based on notes, not that it matters overly because everyone at your level of politics has writers for this sort of thing) walk into one of your many, many missteps this campaign season:

"We hear a lot of things about the millennial generation."

I remember hearing something from Secretary Clinton about -- wait, that's you. And remember what you said? We don't do our own research?

If you're going to talk to us (and I'm either barely outside or barely inside the millennial window), your first step is to remember/pretend that we remember a lot and walk that line of malarkey back.

So we start with bad, but the bigger point is that we start with the basic notion that nobody understands us. Beginning thus is a rhetorical device designed to compliment us and make us similar to you, O great misunderstood person (who's been under scrutiny for decades). Another writer did something similar several months ago (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-koch-this-is-the-one-issue-where-bernie-sanders-is-right/2016/02/18/cdd2c228-d5c1-11e5-be55-2cc3c1e4b76b_story.html?utm_term=.b6998902a3da):

"Even so, I see benefits in searching for common ground and greater civility during this overly negative campaign season. That’s why, in spite of the fact that he often misrepresents where I stand on issues, the senator should know that we do agree on at least one — an issue that resonates with people who feel that hard work and making a contribution will no longer enable them to succeed."

That writer was misunderstood. Millennials are misunderstood. You, Hillary Clinton, are misunderstood. See a rhetorical pattern?

Some readers won't. I do. The writer I just quoted is Charles Koch. That was the second paragraph of his letter about Bernie in the Washington Post from February.

Hillary, you and I don't agree on a lot (starting with the very basic notion of I think you're evil and incapable of consistently making good decisions and you think you're good and it's everyone else's fault), but I hope we can agree that if your appeal to us feels like Charles Koch's, and if that appeal also hearkens back to that time you insulted us and our preferred presidential candidate, you've made a bad decision.

But we move on. Your first paragraph is a dumpster fire. (Maybe spend fewer than 19 years before admitting that?) Your second paragraph is a lie:

"Here's what I have learned: Your generation is the most open, diverse and entrepreneurial generation in our country's history."


You can just pick whichever article there as your starting place for the data-driven fact that my generation is starting the fewest businesses since either George H.W. Bush or Ronald Reagan was in charge of the launch codes.

We're not starting businesses. Most of us are saddled with medical and/or student loan debt if we're not also getting paid garbage wages, and while it's super spiffy that you're now proposing incremental reform to address those problems after having had a mere 16 years to shape domestic policy, a lot of us kind of don't believe for one single second that you'll fight those battles as hard as you've fought to keep secret your Wall Street transcripts.

"From the first days of this campaign, you have shared the problems that keep you up at night and the hopes that get you up in the morning."

Again with the flattery. Another problem with this is that you've said the revolution -- which is what you're talking about if you're talking about the largest group of us -- didn't change you one bit. Your policies and stances never changed at all. That was you in June (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/06/09/hillary_clinton_sanders_brought_passion_but_hasnt_gotten_me_to_move_on_any_policies.html):

"Interviewer: [C]an you name one idea that he's put forward that you want to embrace?

Hillary: Well, it's not that so much as the passion that he brought to the goals that--his campaign set. I share the goals."

Since you vacillated between finishing the job on universal health care and not wanting to have a debate on a bill that would never, ever pass (among many, many campaign flip-flops), please allow me to express my dubiosity at your sincere concern for my problems:




"And you've come of age during two deadly, costly wars in the Middle East."

Yeah, about your Iraq War vote.

"You've fought for some of the most important accomplishments in our nation's history, like the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality."

The first one came about as the direct result of Obama caving on single-payer without a fight after torching you among my generation in the primary -- so thanks for that reminder of incrementalism.

The second one came in spite of you, unless you count as some kind of serious ally cred that video you released soon before oral arguments in Obergefell. Gerald frickin' Ford came out for equality under the law before you.

So are you just really bad at this, or what? We KNOW about your many, many, many mistakes. If you're going to remind us of them, have the sense to apologize for being wrong so much. Maybe explain why you changed your mind (again and again and again). But all this? This just makes me think a millennial should be running for president, not you.

"You've come together to challenge our country to protect human rights and strengthen families by fixing a broken immigration system"

Whereas you supported sending Central American refugee children back to their dirt farm, economically despondent countries. Then there's your support for a border fence.

"reforming our criminal justice system"



"and ending the era of mass incarceration"

Three Strikes Law.

Companies profiting from that contributed to your campaign, by the way: http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2016/02/clinton-campaign-gives-private-prison-lobbyist-cash-to-charity-218524

"In another report filed Sunday night, the campaign disclosed that Richard Sullivan of Capitol Counsel—until recently, a Raleigh, N.C.-based federally registered lobbyist for the for-profit prison operator GEO Group—bundled $69,363 in donations for Clinton in the fourth quarter, bringing his total for the year to a whopping $274,891.

"That makes Sullivan the second-most prolific lobbyist-bundler for the Clinton campaign, beaten out only by D.C. lobbyist Heather Podesta, who's tallied up $348,581 so far."

So basically, we're trying to undo your mistakes. Yay for us! (But boo for you. Why'd you have to get so much wrong?)

"Around the time I graduated from college, our country was in its own moment of soul-searching.  We were mired in a war in Vietnam, and reeling from the shooting of peaceful protesters at Kent State and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy."

Man, isn't it horrible to be mired in a stupid and unnecessary war on another continent?

... oh. Right. But still, as long as you don't seek a warmonger's counsel.

... oh. Right. So I guess it's good that you've at least been sensitive when discussing assassinations, right?

... oh. Right.

"At the same time, we were making progress on important fronts. The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, and the Voting Rights Act broke down barriers that prevented too many people of color from casting their ballot."

And you campaigned for Barry Goldwater, making you ... a supporter of an opponent of civil rights legislation.

So to recap thus far:

You were and have been on the wrong side of history. We have been on the right side of history, and we'd have had an easier job changing our country if you hadn't opposed us.

Are you sure this is the draft of this "hey millennials you should vote for me" article you meant to write? It looks more like a satirical version of that article.

"Today, many of you have told me you feel [that all of America is struggling to decide who we are going to be]."

Yes. Democracy (Bernie) or oligarchy (you).

This has to be satire.

"We've seen the rise of a presidential candidate who pits Americans against each other and traffics in prejudice and paranoia."

You, 1996:

"superpredators ... bring them to heel."

You, 2004:

"I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman."

You, 2008:

“found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

Your party's CFO, 2016:

"It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist."

Yup, definitely seeing the rise of a presidential candidate who pits Americans against each other and traffics in prejudice and paranoia.

"When he talks about making America great again, it's code for taking America back to a time when many of us — women, people of color, immigrants, LGBT Americans, people with disabilities — were marginalized, ostracized and treated as less-than."

Whereas you want to take superpredators, immigrant children and the LGBT folks whose marriages you opposed and just have us believe you've magically changed into not a bigot.

You do not have the standing in my eyes, or in the eyes of many of my friends, to take anyone to task for their treatment of minorities.

"But that's not what our country is made of. And it's not what I see when I look to your generation. In large part because of all of you, I am convinced that America's best days are ahead of us."

Again, you say we don't do our own research, you say we can't have nice (or even life-sustaining) things, you fight us on progress and ... how is this supposed to be good for you? Sure, we're spiffy, but ...

"To make it happen, we need to change both hearts and laws."


NAFTA. DOMA. DADT. Glass-Steagall, Iraq War. Libya. Bankruptcy bill. Welfare bill. You were there for all of that. You helped it all happen.

And now we get into the promises. One reminder: You said Bernie couldn't get any of this done. That was you saying Bernie was making his followers (hi! In case you couldn't tell) believe magical things could happen. You also said that about Obama. So this is me reminding you of what you said about the minimum wage when you write:

"Second, everyone should be able to get a job that pays the bills and can support a family. And not only that, you should be able to do work you love and find meaningful. So we'll create more good-paying jobs, raise the minimum wage and guarantee equal pay."

First, not for one single second do I think you'll upset the Wall Street apple cart by raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, which would pay the bills and support a family. Are we talking a living wage or not? Anything less is just starving more slowly.

Second, how is the most long-time divisive politician in recent memory, and possibly since Nixon, going to get that done with a Republican Congress? Vote them out? Because that worked so very well for your husband -- and he was charismatic.

You can't even inspire people to vote against someone who's woken up the Ku Klux Klan!

"Many of you have shared with me that it feels like you're out there on your own — like no one has your back."

Including you, circa forever until you started using populist words about a year ago.

"But I can promise you this: I'll never stop fighting for you."

Fighting for us, or fighting us? Because most of this is your greatest misses, and the rest is words.

I don't believe the person who helped ship hundreds of thousands of jobs out of this country has the backbone or interest in rebuilding a labor base -- a base she wants to underpay.

I don't believe the person who was for the "gold standard" TPP before she was against it.

I don't believe the person who declared that she would go to war with Iran if elected president will keep us out of unnecessary wars.

I don't believe the person who said "Now, back to the issues" thinks black lives matter.

I don't believe the person who gave up on health care is now going to hold Congress hostage until we get single-payer.

I don't believe the person who takes every last penny Wall Street throws at her is going to break up the big banks or reinstate Glass-Steagall or anything else.

I don't believe the person who pretended Donald Trump's kids were the reason college shouldn't be FREE is actually going to work hard to make it free.

What I do believe, 100 percent, completely and totally, is that your team is scared pissless that a generation of woke voters is seriously losing interest in you (http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/clinton-losing-key-millennial-support-nationally-key-states-n650076):

"A national Quinnipiac poll showed Clinton capturing 31% of the vote among voters 18-to-34 years of age and a slim 5-point lead over Trump. In August Clinton had 48% of that vote and a 24-point lead over Trump."

Now, what happens when you start hemorrhaging support in a group is you pander to that group. Well, your speechwriters do.

Problem: We tasted the real thing, and you're not it. You're not even close. You're like if someone poured soy sauce into a soda bottle: It's dark and all, but all you have to do is smell it and you know something's wrong. Don't even try drinking that stuff. Just pour it down the drain.

Pandering and fear might work with some of us. I doubt it will work with enough. And when you pair your horrendous record (thanks for reminding me of how often we've disagreed, by the way!) with the DNC email leaks and the DNC response to the email leaks (Trump! Russians! Republicans please don't use these documents!), we have a presidential nominee who needs to change the message.

Message changed. We're the future. We've been fighting you for decades.

But you're not the answer. The closest thing to an answer we have this year is Jill Stein.

Or have I been thinking about this all wrong? Is it that you'll do whatever we want you to -- you just want to have the title of president? To be the first?

That's nice and all, but I don't want a president I have to remind every day about a living wage and health care and not shipping someone's job to a Malaysian orphan who'll work for 8 cents a day.

I don't want a president who'll do what the most passionate person wants -- or what the loudest person wants. I want someone with a discernible backbone, and you don't have one.

See, the idea, to me, isn't oh hey let's elect someone who can use populist words and then make sure she's got her pen uncapped and in hand at the right times.

The idea isn't let's give her a daily briefing on the positions she's not supposed to advocate for.

The idea is you've got a solid foundation in the principles of not hurting people.

Well, the president. You? That horse left the barn, Hillary.

You can't just be President un-Clinton.

You can't be President Follower. That's not leadership.

In the next four years, some big issue we can't foresee is going to come before the president.

If your judgment consists of "ask the millennials what they want," you're not making the hard choices. You're delegating them.

The hard choices are the job, Hillary.

love and kisses,

A former Democratic Party voter (though not member) who will be going Green this year

Sunday, September 18, 2016

More Articles!

I had two new articles published!

You can read them here:



I'll be back with more actual writing soon, but in the mean time please enjoy my work elsewhere!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Stranger Things

Have you watched Stranger Things on Netflix? If not, go do that. It is excellent and you are missing out by not watching it. Also, spoilers below!

I feel a great kinship with Winona Ryder's character, Joyce Byers. Not that a demon has ever sucked my child into The Upside Down or anything, but as an environmentalist I feel a connection. She spends the first five episodes trying to convince someone, anyone, that her son is still alive and there are monsters that have taken him. Nobody listens. They hold a funeral for a boy who isn't dead and accuse her of being crazy, her ex-husband even pointing out that there is a financial payout for their son's death and that money can be put to good use for their family. Eventually several other people stumble upon this same truth and they all end up having to work together against the massive company that is causing all of this mess to rescue her son.

I feel like I've been through a similar ordeal.

"Hey, this fracking is causing environmental damage! It is destroying people's water supplies and causing earthquakes!" I scream.

"You're nuts, nobody would do that! Besides, if that was true I'd see this stuff on the news."

"What about that earthquake from 3 days ago?"

"Meh, history is full of earthquakes. That doesn't prove anything."

"What about people who can light their tap water on fire because of fracking waste dumping?"

"They're doing it themselves to get on TV.! Besides, the news would tell me if these things were bad for me."

"But all the advertisements on the news are paid for by the fracking companies! These huge companies don't want you to know they are killing you!"

"You don't know what you're talking about!"

Sigh....I just want to hang Christmas lights all over the house and take an ax to my wall, or whatever the environmental equivalent would be, to show people the demigorgon of environmental damage.

But seriously, fight against fracking and watch Stranger Things. You won't regret either decision!