Why I Cannot Run for Office Again

Last year (2014), I took time off from writing to run for local office — specifically, Metro Council. It was a learning experience, a time-consuming experience, a demanding experience … but a great experience. I loved campaigning, I actually enjoyed knocking on doors and meeting people, I even got to where I was okay with the necessary “dialing for dollars.” I knocked on over 6,000 doors, made some new friends, and gave it my best shot.

But I can’t do it again.

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How to Fight for Change Without Being Mean

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, as I do more and more writing on this page, as I try to do more and more advocacy, AND as we prepare to launch a progressive community site for the city. There are some truths that I operate from, that seem to be at odds with each other:

  • Silence is not an option.
  • Bad ideas, policies, and actions must be challenged.
  • Change only happens when either the leaders decree it (top-down) or when enough people want it (bottom-up).
  • Evil must be challenged. (And yes, there are “evil” acts and other things in the world.*)
  • People themselves are not evil.
  • Satire and snark are sometimes the best way to call out bad ideas, bad policies, and bad actions.
  • We are all part of the human race, and brothers and sisters because of that.
  • You don’t mistreat your brothers and sisters.
  • Hate is not an option.

So, on the one hand, we have to be active in the fight against the bad, willing to call out others and take unpopular stands, hoping to win enough people over to our side to effect change from the bottom-up. On the other hand, we must do it in such a way that we do not hate, we must not turn those we oppose into the Other, and we must remember that ultimately we are one family.

This is hard. To do this well and consistently is really, really hard.

But we must find a way.

So, here are some guidelines I’m adopting for myself, and possibly for this new site I’m helping launch:

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Elections, Government, Democracy — It’s All for Sale

(Warning — this is a depressed rant. If you are allergic to rants, or depression, you should probably read something else.)

So here’s the latest. The Club for Growth, a well-known right-wing PAC, colluded with the Scott Walker campaign multiple times, a clear violation of campaign finance laws. In addition, when corporation donated to the Club for Growth (after being told to by Walker),  legislation benefiting those same corporations was passed by the Wisconsin legislature and signed by Walker. You can read more about it here, among many sources.

Investigators started investigating whether laws were broken. The Club for Growth sued. And today, the state Supreme Court sided with Scott Walker and the Club for Growth, and said that it was perfectly okay to ignore the campaign finance laws on the books. It was okay for millions of dollars of dark money to be spent. And it was okay for all of it to be done behind the scenes.

But wait! Here’s the absolute punchline, the source of my anger and of this rant:

The Supreme Court judges who ruled in favor of the Club for Growth … had their campaigns for the court funded by the same dark money groups that were suing! And they refused to recuse themselves!

The whole thing is such an absolute farce, an absolute sham. This is banana-republic territory, Communist Russia territory, where the entire election and government system is just for show, where the real power lies with a few people with money, where the people can vote till they’re blue in the face and nothing will change.

I used to be surprised when I would read something like this. “Do these people have no sense of honor, of character, of ethics?” I would think. I was used to behavior like this, where persons serving in a public office realized it was a public trust, and they were held to a higher standard. No more.

Now, it’s power and money and what’s-in-it-for-me — and the absolutely most discouraging thing is that these people keep getting re-elected. Apparently, no one cares any more about corruption, or bribery, or fraud, or gerrymandering, or betraying the public trust for your own benefit or ego or pride.

  • Chris Christie shuts the George Washington Bridge down to one lane to give some pay-back to a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse him — and now is running for President.
  • Scott Walker compares teachers and fire-fighters to ISIS terrorists — and HE’S running for President as well.
  • A coalition of powerful corporations write legislation giving them special breaks, then wine and dine legislators across the country — and those legislators do the corporations’ bidding and pass the bills exactly as they were written and handed to them, word for word.
  • Members of Congress revoked their own law preventing them from insider trading.
  • John Boehner went around on the House floor handing out $100 bills from the tobacco lobby to influence one bill under consideration.

Here’s the real problem: after a while, when you’ve read and seen enough of these incidents, you give up. You stop caring, you stop reading, and you say “it will never change, I can’t make a difference, forget about it.” And you stay home and don’t vote.

I never thought I’d get to that point, but I have to admit that with stories like today’s, I’m closer to it than I’ve been in the past. Why blog, and call, and knock on doors, and run for office, and petition, and rally — when it’s all a facade, all a sham, and your efforts will make no difference at all. The rich and powerful will run everything, they will play off one group against another, they will make promises to interest groups that they never intend to keep, and we’ll do it all again in four years.

There’s a writer on Daily Kos with the user name “One Pissed-Off Liberal,” or OPOL for short. I used to think his diaries were too cynical, too negative, too much giving up. Lately, I’m moving closer to OPOL’s thinking. He likes to quote George Carlin, especially some of Carlin’s rants about the rich and powerful.

I used to think Carlin was too cynical too, but lately I’m wondering. How’s this? Do you think this is actually the way it is?

There’s a reason that education sucks. And it’s the same reason that it will never ever, ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better. Don’t look for it. Be happy with what you got. Because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now. The real owners. The big, wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, and city halls. They got the judges in their back pocket. And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else.
But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed. well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest. That’s right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits.

Yeah, I used to think that was just way too cynical. Now? Now, I’m beginning to think Carlin was right, at least for some.

I’m going to keep fighting, keep pushing, keep trying to make government and society work better, more humanely, more HUMAN-ly. But right now, tonight, I’m pretty discouraged.

Gout, Food Allergies, Nitrates, and Cherries

As some of you know, I have suffered from occasional attacks of gout for years. They range from a day or two of a little pain and swelling, to full-blown, can’t-walk, feel-like-a-migraine-in-my-foot attacks that last a week or longer.

My first attack came out of the blue many years ago, and when I tried to figure out what had caused it, the only unusual thing I could think of was that I had eaten an entire box of Hot-N-Spicy Cheezits. That wasn’t too unusual — I LOVE Cheezits, and I love the HNS kind especially. This time, though, I had really chowed down on them … and a day or so later, I was dying from the pain.

I told my doctor about the Cheezits, and he looked at me like I was nuts. So, I figured I WAS nuts, and gave up on the Cheezits theory. Till it happened again.

I started paying attention to what seemed to trigger the attacks, and spicy food looked to be the culprit. But it was weird — some spicy foods, like jalapenos, didn’t cause a problem, while others triggered an attack like clockwork. (And I mean literally like clockwork — pretty much exactly 36 hours after consumption.)

Chirachi sauce was a major trigger. Hot-N-Spicy Cheezits, but not regular Cheezits. The spicy chicken sandwich from this chain was okay, but from that chain it caused an attack. And so on.

Then, I had a major problem come up after a basketball game — but this time it was in my KNEE, not my foot. Specifically, it felt like it was in the muscles or tendons ABOVE my knee, not in the joint. The only thing I could think of that could have caused it was a foot-long hot dog I ate at the game. I had had a horrible migraine later that night, then the knee problem started a few days later.

I went to my doctor, who said she thought I had water on my knee, and sent me to an orthopaedist. He had his assistant try to drain my knee, but she couldn’t find any fluid. She called him in, and he couldn’t either. Finally he stood up and said, “I was wrong — there’s no fluid in your knee joint.” I had told them it wasn’t the knee that hurt, but the tissue above, but they hadn’t listened. After a week or so, the pain went away on its own.

After continually comparing ingredients, doing research, and noting which things caused attacks, I have finally decided that I have three food allergies that caused both my gout attacks and my leg pain:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Paprika
  • Nitrates

The HNS Cheezits use paprika for color, and probably cayenne pepper as well. The chirachi surely uses cayenne. And that hot dog at the game? Loaded with nitrates, which caused both the migraine and the knee tissue pain.

I have avoided all of the above for about six months, and not had any more attacks. In addition, I’ve exercised more and drunk more water, which of course have helped as well.

Just to try out my theory, I have occasionally tried small amounts of foods that I knew contained one of the above ingredients. Sure enough, about 36 hours later I have a small amount of swelling in my foot, usually in my big toe joint.

Two More Notes

I read today that paprika sometimes uses — get this — nitrates in order to keep it fresh. The writer notes that if you have a reaction to paprika, but not to peppers, then it might be the preservatives that are really the problem.

And, if you suffer from gout and have read about the supposed benefits of eating cherries — believe it. That is one internet medical treatment that seems to actually work. During my last attack, I started eating dried cherries, and it seemed to lessen the swelling and speed up the relief. I continue to eat them regularly as part of the fruit in my diet.

Dear Sports: Welcome to the 21st Century

“I’m gay.”

A short, declarative sentence. A sentence said, in other contexts, many times a day. A sentence that most of us are no longer shocked by.

And yet, with that sentence, the sports world finally entered the 21st century.

When Jason Collins came out in an article in Sports Illustrated, he brought into the open a fact that any thinking person already knew was true: there are professional athletes that are gay. We all knew it — every player and coach knew it, all the GMs knew it, all the suits knew it. The only problem was, no one talked about — at least, not openly. No one was willing to be the first.

Now that Jason Collins has broken the silence, we will surely learn of other gay athletes in the four major male professional sports. There were already openly gay players in the women’s sports (Britney Griner, for just the latest example). But until this week, no male pros had gone public. Now one has, and we can be thankful: thankful for his courage, thankful that we no longer have to keep up a charade, thankful that others now have the psychic space to be who they are, thankful that another area of secrets has been made unnecessary.

Jason Collins has had a peripatetic pro basketball career. He has not set the basketball world on fire, averaging about 3 points a game and playing with a number of different teams. He is, in short, a pro basketball journeyman.

So it is with both pride and excitement that we can say something that a few days ago seemed unlikely:

Jason Collins, your play was a game-changer. Congratulations.

Weather Underground Bought by Weather Channel — Boo!

There are times when you like to see a good company bought by a bigger one … and there are times when you dread what’s coming. This, my friends, is the latter situation, at least for me.

For some time, I’ve been a big fan and user of the Weather Underground. I liked their maps, their web site, and especially their mobile site. In fact, I bookmarked the MOBILE site on my work and home PCs, because it loaded fast and gave me all the info I needed in just a few seconds.

But now, as report in Daily Kos: Weather geeks: Wunderground bought by TWC [update], Wund has been bought by the Weather Channel. I stopped using the Weather Channel some years ago, as their site was almost unuseable due to the popups, ads, flyouts, Flash inserts, and general mush and slush. And, you had to dig and dig and dig to find what you were looking for.

Of course, everyone at TWC is saying that “things won’t change” and “we’ll keep the brands separate” and “it just means more resources for Wund.” Bullshit. Either this is a hostile buyout, to put a competitor out of business, or it’s a friendly buyout to bring “our superior corporate leadership to the startup, while integrating their entrepenurial spirit into our site.” Either way, I give it a year, tops, before Wund either disappears or becomes overrun with marketing “goodness.”

Bleah. For once, I wish the big kid on the block didn’t just HAVE to own all the toys.

Helmets, Seat Belts, and Common Sense

OK, short post here, but a good reminder nevertheless.

From a Denise Harper-Angel email:

More than half of the 356 fatalities were cases where those killed were not wearing their seat belts. Twenty four percent of the fatalities involved distracted driving. And 16% of the fatalities involved an impaired (drugs or alcohol) driver. Finally, more than half of those who were killed in motorcycle crashes were not wearing helmets. Current Kentucky law does not require motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

This isn’t new science, folks. Seatbelts save lives — it’s that simple. If you wear your seatbelt all the time, there’s never a question about it. You’re always safer than if you go without.

And if you ride a bike? Guess what — pavement is harder than your head. Always. So wear your helmet — hot or no.

Let’s face it — you can’t prepare for every bad thing that can happen in your life. But you sure as hell can keep from making them worse by your own stupidity. Wear your seatbelt, wear your helmet, show common sense.

Back on Schedule

So, here I was, exercising regularly, losing weight, getting that blood pressure under control. And writing regularly, both in morning pages and on here.

And then the holidays hit, and an intense period of music-making at church*, and Christmas, and time off. Then the laptop died right before Christmas, so I had to get a new one, and get it set up. And then the first-of-the-year panic at work, and 2011 planning, and lots of new initiatives, and annual reviews, and …

Well, you get the idea. December was three weeks of panic, followed by a week of vacation and setting up a new laptop. January has been sorta back to panic.

Today, finally, I’m getting back on schedule. Went to the gym again, got back on the food plan, and getting back into my GTD system. So, look for some new stuff coming soon.

And if, after all this time away, you’re still checking in to see if I’ve posted: bless you, dear reader, for your loyalty. I’ll try to reward it with something worth reading.

*Who in the world decided to put the banquet on the same weekend as the Lessons and Carols, since orchestra and choir were doing both? Oh yeah — me.