The most important word of 2016: “Downticket”

In case you’re not familiar, “Down Ticket Races” are described by as follows:

These are political races that are not at the highest level possible. For example, a congressional race would be considered a down ticket race if there was also a presidential race. If the mayor was being decided, then a city council seat would be a down ticket race.

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On Safe Spaces and the Right to Feel Comfortable

According to The Safe Space Network, this is the definition of a “safe space”:

A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.

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2015: A Year of Change and Disruption

Nobody knows when it began, but it was first acknowledged broadly in 2011 with the Occupy Wall Street movement.  In 2012, it was Fast Food Forward and the Fight for 15.  In 2013, it was Walmart Strikers and the election of Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council.  Ferguson dominated 2014, and it looks like Leelah Alcorn has claimed early 2015.

Of course, I’m leaving out dozens, if not hundreds, of catalysts for the steady increase in American protests and simply focusing on some of the more popular milestones.  The real point is that we’re taking to the streets in numbers not seen since Vietnam and the peak of the Civil Rights movement.  Hundreds of thousands of protests, not just in the United States but across the world, calling out struggle and demanding something better in the United States.

Those who’ve stood up have been those most strongly affected by struggles:  People of color, women, trans* people, the working poor, etc.  They’ve created grassroots movements to demand general or specific changes in our culture, in our laws, in our institutions, and they are feeling more empowered than ever… not because they’re finding a receptive society, but because they’re realizing that they are loud enough to overpower a defiant society.

Reactionaries abound.  Last year was the year of #NotAllMen, the year of “thugs,” the year of GamerGate.  Protesters were “rioters.”  Statistics were “race baiting.”  Demands for accountability were met with demands to “respect and obey authority.”  The all-too-familiar refrain of “get a job” rang through the sidestreets as protesters blocked the main road in an effort to disrupt a broken country.

What do they want?  They aren’t looking to bring back slavery or send women back to the kitchen.  Reactionaries aren’t necessarily against our causes, but their desire to remain comfortable is threatened by the disruption and challenges to authority that our movement requires to live and succeed.  They’re afraid that the status quo will be destroyed and that their lives could be thrown into a state of disarray.  They fear general strikes shutting down commerce, mass protests shutting down the road to the grocery store when the cabinets are empty, civil disobedience resulting in National Guardsmen firing shots like they did at Kent State.  They fear the discomfort of a revolutionary society, and it’s a learned fear that will be hard to overcome.

What do we want?  We want to fix the problems no matter what it takes to get there.  With that in mind, here’s my 2015 open letter to my friends and family who fear the discomfort of a revolution:

Dear Friends,


In 2015, there are some things I don’t want to see or hear anymore.  As a society progresses, we outgrow these things, and we become better through letting them go.


Politics is not too controversial, too pointless, or too boring.  Politics is the shape of your society, your job, your family,  your life.  Politics should be central to your thoughts and actions, and should hold a strong place in your conversations.  Fears of offending your great-uncle should be forgotten.  The world doesn’t progress by appeasing the past, and his views on how easy slaves really had it have no place in 2015.  State your views loudly, and back them up with activism.


Protest is not violence, it is not troublemakers rioting in your city, it is not unemployed thugs trying to loot your small business.  Protest is the single most powerful act we  have to make change, and throughout centuries, has been used effectively not just in the development of our nation, but across the world to build a better society.  We have jobs, we have lives, we have families, we have things to get done… but first, we have a world to change.  You can join us, you can start another movement of your own, or you can stay home and do nothing, but please get over your calls to “get a job.”  You know I am a protester, and you know I work.


Civil disobedience is not ruining your country, your city, or your life.  It may be ruining your day, but frankly, that’s the point.  When you see us on the highway, it means we feel so strongly about the injustice in our country that we are willing to risk arrest and serious injury to help others understand and feel the frustration of a broken system.  Park your car, get out, and come talk to us.  Figure out what we represent and what we want, and if you feel like we make a good case, disrupt your own day and join us.  If not, be happy we live in a country where we can stand up like this and just know we’ll be out of the way soon enough.  It’s a small price to pay for changing the world.  And MLK was a big fan of civil disobedience, so stop confusing “peaceful” with “lawful.”  Our own police departments have confirmed that law and peace are often mutually exclusive.


If I have to sum it up in one short phrase, in 2015, I simply want you to give a shit.  If you can give a shit, it will become much easier to stand up for your views, and to stand against injustice wherever you see it.  Talk about politics, piss people off, disrupt, disobey… just give a shit.

Don’t write off the folks who just want to stay comfortable.  If we continue to agitate and take away their ability to pretend this isn’t happening, eventually they will embrace the concept of speaking up and standing up, and they will help our society progress even more in 2015.

Today I started Caring….

(The following article is a line-by-line rebuttal of this piece, published by a member of the Wisconsin Police Department last week.  I recommend reading the original piece first for clarity.)

Today, I started caring about my fellow man. I started caring about my community, my neighbors, and those I work with. I started caring today because a once noble profession has become despicable, hateful, untrustworthy, and mostly unnecessary.

I started caring today because parents must teach their kids to be careful and obedient to a fault around power-hungry law enforcement. I started caring today because kids see police take their parents away for having a joint, embedding a fear from year one. Moms hate them in their schools because we remember a day when children could learn without a gun and a badge waiting for a reason to interject in school matters.

They would rather stay unseen by civilian cameras, but still confronting civilians, readily available to “beat sense into” some kid. I started caring today because we work to keep our streets safe and organize peacefully, protesting within our Constitutional rights, only to be tear gassed for it, and sometimes even thrown in a cell because an officer didn’t like the way we looked at him.

At the very least, they are just another tool used by government to generate “revenue.” I started caring today because police use their power to intimidate adults and children alike with their guns, and use oppressive drug laws to justify SWAT raids and beatdowns. They often kill innocent people with unjust violence. They will deploy a Taser at the slightest provocation, and are not afraid to put a bullet in whoever crosses them.

And when they do shoot, we ask “why is this escalation of force always so necessary when German police shot 85 bullets in all of 2011?” And when one of them is killed by the attacks that do happen (and it is routinely reported in the mainstream media) the officers say, “this is why our use of force shouldn’t be questioned.” I started caring today because the police are a tool used to serve and protect the country’s elites. They work to take away speech, freedoms, and liberty at every turn.

They represent a Police State where jackbooted badge-wearing thugs have attacked innocent people without cause or concern for Constitutional rights. They are the killers of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley and thousands more all rolled into one long propaganda video showing them buying gifts for kids or changing an old lady’s tire. I started caring today as no one wants to live in fear, and we demand answers, ethics, restraint, and accountability when an officer encounters a citizen of any color.

If an officer is caught driving drunk, speeding, abusing his or her spouse, or beating civilians, it is swept under the rug or called an “isolated event.” If they do their jobs properly, safely take a criminal into custody, hold a corrupt officer accountable, or otherwise show the restraint required of a civil safety service, they expect to be loudly rewarded for doing their job properly.

I started caring today because multiple videos from across the country, from the NYPD to small suburban police departments, show officers screwing up and forgetting their oath of honor, thus sparking a worldwide demand for accountability even though 99% of police officers just want the media to stop talking about it and focus on all those thugs smoking weed. They are militarized because they wear body armor and kevlar helmets when water bottles and their own tear gas canisters are thrown at them and carry semi-automatic rifles even though everyone in the crowd is armed with little more than a megaphone and a passion for a fair and equitable society.

I started caring today because the culture of today’s instantly connected society allows us to see the realities of abusive police in real time, when they refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, and blame everyone else instead of themselves. They look for reasons to declare a protest unlawful instead of asking the citizens “what can I do for you?”

To idolize gangsters, thugs, abusive behavior, and violence over peaceful protest, dedication, and achievement. To argue that firing a weapon at a petty thief should be a right, yet wearing body cameras or de-escalating a confrontation is a hassle. To intimidate versus serve. To hate versus help. Yes, I started caring today. And tomorrow, I will put my mask back on and I will march again.

Let’s stop using these fallacies to insult the Ferguson movement

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been posting quite often about the non-indictment of Darren Wilson and the related protests in Ferguson. Tamir Rice, the 12 year old quickly gunned down by Cleveland Police off-roading through a park because of an airsoft gun, has made some appearances as well. Throughout these social media discussions, there have been some common threads of resistance to the resistance that seem to be permeating the overall culture, and it’s high time we discuss some of them.

First, it needs to be clarified that I’m a white guy. If you want to know the truth, the pain, the goals, and the motivations behind the Ferguson resistance, I’ll redirect you to people of color who have been on the ground in the neighborhood, such as DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, who’ve been organizing, and Bassem Masri, who has been reporting as a citizen journalist between getting his phone stolen and being locked up as the police attempt to suppress his message. I stand in solidarity, but this movement belongs to them. Today, I simply hope to kill some of the overdone and invalid talking points that have been used to stall the movement.

“Tearing apart your community isn’t going to help anything at all”

Let’s start with a list:

  • The damage and looting involved perhaps thirty people out of thousands
  • Nearly all of it happened on the first night on a very small stretch of one road
  • Protesters have been visible on livestreams cleaning up and guarding shops
  • 200 cities have joined the movement peacefully and no looting has been reported

Now that you’re thoroughly wrong, I’ll add a few more coals to the fire.  First, there have been several instances of white folks tearing their communities apart and they weren’t even protesting a hardship.  Nobody came down so hard on these guys, or these ones, or these ones, or these ones, or these ones…

“Martin Luther King would be so ashamed of what is happening”

You’re damn straight he’d be ashamed at the treatment of blacks in Ferguson at the hands of the police, but that’s not the asinine point you’re trying to make.  You’re still on the offensive against riots and civil disobedience.  How painful it must be to realize that not only is MLK explicitly well-known for acts of civil disobedience, he also had a deep understanding of property damage as an attack on the system:

“This bloodlust interpretation ignores one of the most striking features of the city riots. Violent they certainly were. But the violence, to a startling degree, was focused against property rather than against people. There were very few cases of injury to persons, and the vast majority of the rioters were not involved at all in attacking people…


I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons—who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man…


Why were they so violent with property then? Because property represents the white power structure, which they were attacking and trying to destroy.”

If you need a TL;DR, here’s one last MLK quote:  “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

“Michael Brown was a thug. Tamir Rice was a thug. Everyone I don’t like is a thug!”

Please tell me more about the crimes they committed which warranted the death penalty without a trial, or how the firing of a gun was the only option at the disposal of the officers involved.

And once you have that figured out, do the same for Eric Garner and Akai Gurley.

I have hundreds more when you finish those, but you won’t.  You’re using the word “thug” because you learned to stop using the N-word in public.  Stop it.

“This one time, a white guy got shot by police and nobody protests that.”

Then do it.  Here you go, I’ll even give you an anchor case.  Just be aware, though, that many of the demands of those protesting (uniform cameras, citizen councils, better training, more accountability) would help white victims as well as black victims, so really, you could just support the movement that is already nationwide.

“What we really need to talk about is black on black crime.”

You know the difference between a crime committed by a black man and a crime committed by a police officer?  The black man goes to jail and the police officer gets a paid vacation.  And the police officer’s actions were sanctioned by the state that gave him a badge and a weapon.  And white police officers kill black men twenty-one times as often as white men.  Let that sink in for a moment.

And by the way?  Black on black crime has been dropping sharply for the last twenty-plus years.

“Walking around yelling and holding signs doesn’t accomplish anything.”

Yeah, you have a great point.  Caged and neutered protests do not shock the system.  They are controlled; they are out of sight and out of mind.  That’s why we need to disrupt, the way protests always were before we became so complacent.  If you haven’t noticed, we’re not just staying on the sidewalk anymore.

“Blocking traffic is obnoxious and interferes with people who have jobs.”

MLK.  Rosa Parks.  Harriet Tubman.  Eugene V. Debs.  Susan B. Anthony, etc.

I mean, come on… the Boston Tea Party?  The end of the Vietnam War debacle?

This country has a rich history of civil disobedience, and that disruption is your call to action.  We disrupt because if we don’t, the system ignores us.  Blocking streets, staging sit-ins at government offices and places of business, strikes (general and targeted), and other nonviolent protests are specifically designed to interfere.  It is nonviolent, does not damage property, and yet still allows us to shock the system and make demands.

If you don’t want riots, and you know caged protests don’t work, it’s time to stop complaining about the middle option.  We have a sign for you if you’d like to join us.  The sooner we have justice, the sooner the roads are clear.

“Well, maybe you have a point, but you need to stop making it about race.”

On the one hand, I strongly believe anyone who says this knows, deep down, that they’re full of shit.  It would take an exceptionally thick skull in this country to not understand the effects of privilege, even if it makes some folks uncomfortable.  So let me unequivocally say yes, it is absolutely about race.

On the other hand, a society that applies social justice equally across all races is good for everyone.  A society in which the police view black men as equal human beings is one in which we can all have the opportunity to thrive on a level playing field.  So, instead of screaming how it’s not about race, how about you fight alongside us for social justice for black men at the hands of police and when we get there, we can talk about your cause.  You’d be surprised how many friends you can make when you focus on solidarity first.

When Labor Becomes Obsolete

I’ve long supported the social justice that would result from a large increase in the minimum wage.  The Fight for 15 campaign, for example, has set a lofty but completely historically rational goal of a fifteen dollar minimum hourly wage.  The neoliberal talking points against this are all pretty obvious and tired by now, so I won’t recap, but there is one that I hear every time and I’ve never had the time or patience to fully address it.  So let’s do that, shall we?

The argument goes like this:

When you artificially drive wages higher, business owners will instead invest in more automation to avoid the increased labor costs.  The automation will result in massive layoffs and this will hurt the workers because they need to earn a paycheck to survive.

The logic regarding investment in automation to avoid labor costs is sound.  (Well, mostly.  Let’s not ignore the reality that if this automation technology were already available, business owners wouldn’t be waiting on a minimum wage increase to utilize it.)  Increases in efficiency are always exploited by business owners, and rightfully so in most cases.  Doing more with less is the name of the game when the ultimate goal is financial success.

Any capitalistic armchair economist will claim (accurately) that efficiency decreases the need for labor and contributes to less work.  At issue is whether this is a good or a bad thing for the working class.  The corporate media will spin “increased unemployment” as a sign of a weak economy instead of a surge in innovation.  The conservative movement will decry the increasing number of people “on the dole” instead of acknowledging that this newfound efficiency has the power to give back time to the workers.  The liberal movement will suggest “creating more jobs” instead of celebrating the obsolescence of the forty hour week.  Nearly everyone seems to view these developments from a work fetish point of view.

What does it mean to fetishize work?  To fetishize something is to have an irrational commitment to that thing.  A century ago, the media spoke of how workers “won” the forty hour week in hard-fought labor battles.  Nobody in the media panicked that the reduced working hours provided by the Adamson Act in 1916 would increase poverty and unemployment.  It was a victory because it gave workers some of their lives back.  Today, we’re led to believe that workers are losing out to automation instead of winning more freedom because we’re culturally stuck on the idea of “working for a living.”

If we streamline, computerize, automate, and innovate fifty percent of all work that is performed by labor in the United States over the next five years, our current culture would decry the half of the country that is being “lazy” and not “contributing.”  We truly believe that trading forty hours of labor for your paycheck every week is an untouchable cornerstone of American society.  It’s a backwards and mind-numbing flaw in our society and it needs to be killed off.

It’s pretty simple:  If we eliminate fifty percent of the labor demand through innovation, these gains should benefit everyone in society.  The factory workers put in twenty hours a week instead of forty but output and profit for the factory remain the same, so the pay for the workers would logically remain the same as well.  And check the math… their annual income would remain the same, but it would basically double their hourly wage… which would put those minimum wage workers at nearly fifteen dollars an hour.

And you know what it does to corporate profits?

Nothing.  Because, as mentioned several times, their output and profit would remain consistent… it just wouldn’t take as much work.

And yet there are some reading this blog who are still, even after taking it all into consideration, a little aggravated that I’m suggesting that being lazy and not working forty hours a week is an acceptable lifestyle.  That’s what it means to fetishize work, but when (not if, but when) labor becomes obsolete, they will have no choice but to accept that there can be more to life than work.

Leave your thoughts in the comments.