Open Letter to Senator Scott Brown Regarding SOPA

Dear Senator Brown:

I’ve been watching your first term in office with interest. I’ve also been a web developer since the early days of the web. The entire course of my life has been affected by its tides. So I have a personal stake in the passage of the SOPA bill.

This new piece of legislation promoted by powerful industry groups like the RIAA and the MPAA would stifle the free exchange and flow of ideas that has allowed many people — myself included — to change the course of their lives. It is essentially unenforceable and flies in the face of the spirit of collaboration that allowed nerds, geeks, hackers, designers, writers, and artists to make the Internet the thriving, global, decentralized entity that it is today.

There’s a lot of talk in the media these days about how large corporations are using their money to shape policy and legislation to benefit themselves instead of the American people as a whole. In your newsletters, you often talk about bringing jobs to Massachusetts. As you well know, the Boston metro is a hub for innovation in technology. Its residents even helped to develop the technology that made the Internet as we know it today. SOPA would kill the ability for thousands of small companies and individuals to express themselves freely and even make their fortunes on the web — all so that a few greedy corporations could keep even more money for themselves.

I know that you receive a great deal of funding from the lobbying groups promoting this bill. I and people like me — and there are a great many people like me in the state of Massachusetts — will be watching closely to see how you vote on this issue.

Sincerely,

Me

Pepper Spray, Football, and Other Words that Don’t Mean What We Think They Mean

Last night, as Army Guy and I sat down for a late dinner at Galway House, tables filled with (mostly) large (mostly) men shouted at the plasma screens as men in tight pants ran around and jumped on each other*. Eating at Galway House is like eating in your uncle’s rec room, if your uncle were Irish and liked Pabst Blue Ribbon and had a lot of boozers for friends — and liked to cook you really tasty food.

This was the first time I’ve been there during Monday Night Football season. Football, cheerleaders, and NASCAR aren’t really my thing, but I do love the Galway, in part because you’re as likely to find a Lesbian Avenger at the booth next to you as you are a member of the IBEW. And as Jamaica Plain follows the same path of gentrification that Cambridge and Somerville have, I find myself more and more drawn to the places I avoided when I was younger and upwardly mobile.

Continue reading “Pepper Spray, Football, and Other Words that Don’t Mean What We Think They Mean”

Open letter to my representative about the current budget debate in Congress

In case your attention has been elsewhere, there’s been some major drama on Capitol Hill about the Federal Budget. Worst case scenario is worse than the government shutdown of the 1990s. It would actually give the U.S. government the same kind of credit rating I had a year after my layoff back in 2002.

To sum up the debate, Democrats think we should raise taxes and cut some social programs. Republicans think we should just cut social programs. Because, you know, rich people create jobs. It’s magic!

Some background from more objective sources here:
New York Times: Federal Budget 2011 and 2012

Boehner and Obama Nearing Budget Deal, Leaders Told (New York Times, July 21, 2011)

Did Obama Walk out on Republicans? (Gawker)

Income Gap Between Rich, Poor the Widest Ever (CBS)

The Great Overpaid CEO Debate (CNET)

Dear Rep. Markey:

I wanted to thank you for signing the letter from the Progressive Caucus saying you will vote NO on any bill that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits.

I’ve seen the pie charts of the federal budget and realize that entitlements make up a substantial chunk. I’m more realistic than some folks and doubt that we will be able to get through the current economic crisis without at least some cuts to social programs. But doing so while the richest among us continue to enjoy tax cuts given to them during the Bush administration isn’t just unfair or unjust: it’s downright disgusting.

As a native of Boston, I’m sure you’re familiar with the statues erected in honor of the Irish who suffered through the potato famine of 1847 — you may even have ancestors who arrived on these shores as a result of it. The memorial on the Cambridge Common includes the inscription, “Never again should a people starve in a land of plenty.” Recently I noticed a piece of graffiti written under it saying “and yet they still do.” And it’s true — there are people going hungry right here in the Boston metro area, in spite of our exemplary social programs.

I thank you for standing up to the interests of the large corporations and rich individuals who find it so easy to access our country’s leaders. Your recent speech about the GOP’s “Deficit Attention Disorder” made me particularly proud to have you as my representative in Congress.

Sincerely,

Frances Donovan

A Juicier, More Personal Kind of History

My freshman year of high school, I came up against the first class where I couldn’t break a C average. I was used to sailing through school on a cloud of As and Bs (well, except for that one F in Algebra in 8th grade, but that was clearly the teacher’s fault). But when I confronted my history teacher with his obvious mistake, he just replied “I just don’t think you’re doing more than C work.”

That’s because history was, to me, largely a matter of things men did. Things men built, countries men sailed to, wars men fought, gods men prayed to. In my relatively short life, I’d had yet to meet a man who was worth that much time and effort. Men were mostly things to be avoided or tolerated, so I wasn’t really all that interested.

Years later in my 20s, I discovered the work of feminist historians and archaeologists like Marija Gimbutas who would challenge this very male-centric approach to history. But it wasn’t what they taught at my high school — and certainly not what my mustachioed, L-7 professor had on offer.

I can still remember one class in the autumn of that year, after the leaves had begun to fall but before they’d left nothing but the bare grey skeletons of the trees. I sat in the far-right row, three desks back from the front. We were probably still studying the ancient tribes of mesopotamia and the Middle East — a subject that fascinates me today. But back in 1987, the official textbooks didn’t mention Inaana’s Descent into the Underworld, domain of her dark sister Ereshkigal. They talked about tribes and territories. They showed pictures of bones and relics in dry, brown places.

Continue reading “A Juicier, More Personal Kind of History”

Dear NOW: This Is Why I’m Not Giving You Any Money

Dear NOW:

I wanted to explain to you why I am not sending a contribution in response to your recent U.S. mail solicitation to me. I have three primary reasons for not wishing to send you my dollars:

1) As a queer woman, I am uneasy about supporting an organization that has a history of marginalizing “the lavendar menace” from the feminist movement.

2) The overt fear-mongering tone of your letter (“Do you want animals and clowns teaching your children about sex?) bore a marked resemblance to the emails I get from the Family Research Council. I believe strongly that hope and compassion conquer fear and loathing. Nixon’s campaign back in the middle of the last century appears to have had far-reaching consequences in the realm of national and local politics. One of the reasons Obama was so refreshing as a candidate, and why people rejoiced in his election, was because he ran on a platform of positive change rather than the fear and paranoia that marked the Bush administration. I expect the organizations I support to deliver the same sort of message.

3) I find that other organizations seem to be doing a better job of working for goals that I care about.

That being said, I am glad to see that you have joined the Web 2.0 revolution (hahaha) and will be following your actions via Facebook, Twitter, and email. I’m open to persuasion. So persuade me that your organization is still relevant and working toward the type of change that is in line with my own values.

Family Research Council: Hateful, Bigoted, Fearmongering Spam-house.

I joined the FRC mailing list about six years ago because I thought it might be a good idea to know what the other side was up to. You know: a little friendly political espionage. I forgot that hateful political discourse gives me wicked agita.

After at least three requests to be removed from their mailing list, I’m still on it. I know spamming is illegal — the startup I worked for back in 1998 had to hire someone just to straighten out their newsletter management system and keep from getting sued — but for the life of me I’m not sure which authority to complain to. The FCC? Any clues?

For those of you living in blessed ignorance, the Family Research Council is a very vocal, very conservative, very antifeminist, very homophobic, very bigoted organization that appears to speak for some Americans.

Most of its email alerts about efforts to thwart the homosexual agenda and keep women from killing babies (because we all know that homosexuals and women like nothing better than to work every day to tear down the very fabric of society as we know it).

This last unwanted missive from them, however, is all about the worst threat of all. What’s that, you ask? Nuclear annihilation? Global warming? Poverty and disenfranchisement that leads to terrorism? Why NO! It’s our very own elected officials’ eveeel attempt to stage a government takeover of health care!

The subject line of the email pretty much sums up FRC’s fearmongering rhetoric: “Frances, Your Liberty is at Stake.” Silly me. I thought that health care reform would actually help more Americans become free of preventable illnesses, economic anxiety, and an arbitrary system that grants some people access to awesome services with few out of pocket costs while forcing others to wait in long lines and navigate endless bureaucracies for crappy care. I see I was wrong. The government isn’t trying to help more people get access to some of the best doctors in the country. They’re trying to take our liberty! Clearly, this is just part of Obama’s plan to eventually hand over our country to the terrorists and force all men to grow long beards and pray to Allah five times a day. I suppose Tony Perkins wouldn’t mind it if women weren’t allowed to own property, work, or walk outside without a burqa, though.

If you, like me, would like your liberty taken away by a government takeover of the healthcare system and the inevitable rise of fascism that will follow, I encourage you to take a moment to contact your representatives in Congress to ask them pass this clearly horrific bill.

Right Livelihood and the Woman Warrior

From the Daily Dharma:

October 23, 2009
Tricycle’s Daily Dharma

Being a Buddhist Police Officer

For thirteen years I was a law enforcement officer. In the dark humor of that environment, we called ourselves “paid killers for the country.” No one else wanted to be in out boots. I did not identify myself as a Buddhist; I was not aware that the way I behaved and experienced the world fit squarely with the Buddha’s teachings. It is clear to me now that we could have been, and were, instruments of karma. But skillful action, discriminating awareness, karma, the law of causality were not terms in law enforcement basic training.

For a Buddhist in police work, the most important thing is to be constantly aware of ego. It is not your anger, not your revenge, not your judgment, no matter how personal the event. I was paid and trained to take spirit-bruising abuse. I endured things of which the majority of women in America will never even dream. For me it was not judgment, in the Western sense, but discernment. This kept me, and others, alive and healthy. This discernment allowed me to act skillfully in crisis. The law of causality allowed me to know that if I could not stop the perpetrator of violence or pain or loss, that some other vehicle would reach that person—karma.

– Laurel Graham, from “Vajra Gun,” Tricycle, Winter 1998

I think a lot about right livelihood. For me, it means not only not causing harm, but also finding purpose and meaning in my work. Like most challenges of this magnitude, I rarely fulfill them perfectly. But I do strive toward them.

 

Being in relationship with a veteran has given me a new perspective on the life of a soldier — a warrior. I’ve always had a sort of fascination with this archetype. I view the realities of being a warrior with a mixture of horror and respect. It’s a way of life, a mindset, that in some ways I wish I were more able to stomach. What I’ve realized, though, is that being a warrior — a soldier/a police officer/a litigator/a fighter — doesn’t always mean fighting.

People who have been trained in competitive conflict and who have seen “action” have about them a quiet assurance in their own abilities, as well as a healthy respect for the consequences of violence. It’s one of the things that I find so attractive and admirable in M, and it’s one of the things I wish I had more of in my own self.

Sarah Palin and the Media Elite

Someone on my friends list posted a link to a Vanity Fair article that took a red pen to a transcript of Sarah Palin’s resignation speech. The speech itself — and the woman delivering it — is definitely not going to go down in history as a marvel of oratory. Posting the copy-edited version of it seems a cheap shot, though. The ex-copy-editor in me can’t help but get a kick out of the fact that people are still using the shorthand I learned years ago, and which used to be my bread and butter. The left-leaning Democrat in me loves the schadenfreude that comes with seeing Palin made a fool of. But haven’t we made enough of a fool of her?

And in a way, it seems to me that mocking her lack of verbal skills is just feeding into the class and cultural divides that gave us Red States and Blue States. Dubya was notorious for his lack of oratory, and New Englanders loved to make fun of him for it. But it didn’t stop him from keeping the highest office in the land for not one but two terms.

We can’t assume that people make rational decisions when it comes to politics. It’s much easier to look at things in terms of Red States and Blue States than it is to look at individuals and their motivations. But which is really the more conscious way of viewing an issue?

In the end, I think we can all agree that Palin has about as much a chance of becoming the next POTUS as Dan Quayle does. But we also can’t dismiss her because her speeches don’t stand up to Obama’s. Actions matter — but so does marketing.

I Still Can’t Believe It

In my lifetime…

…a black man became President-Elect of the United States of America.

…same-sex couples are now legally married.

That is all I have to say. I want to just revel in the success for a while.

And both of them gifts. Requiring just the most minor amount of effort on my own part.

Both of them worthy of crying tears of joy.

Neither of them did I expect to see in my lifetime.

Don’t Just Vote. Vote for Obama.

This year I’ve come to realize something so important, so fundamental, about the way people vote, that it’s going to sound stupid when I say it out loud. The decision for a candidate is not made in a rational way.

Not usually, anyway.

People vote with their hearts as much as with their heads. People–myself included–respond much more strongly to irrational calls on their fears, their prejudices, their own personal and subconscious leanings, than they ever do to the realities of policy, or issues.

How else can you explain the thousands of Hillary Clinton supporters who have decided to vote for John McCain? The only thing the two candidates have in common is skin tone. What self-respecting feminist could possibly vote for a man whose record on women’s issues is abominable as McCain? Regardless of what he called his wife (that’s his second wife the hieress, not his first wife the disabled woman), just take a look at his voting record.

And take a look at McCain’s economic policy. Is it the folks making more than $250,000 a year who really need help in these tough economic times?

People come up with all kinds of reasons not to vote for Barack Obama, but the main one, the one that no one wants to talk about, is the one that AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka pinpointed in a recent speech. In his words:

Continue reading “Don’t Just Vote. Vote for Obama.”