Saturday, August 23, 2008

Transgender Delegate Blog: Work, Hardships and Family Are Dems Battle Cry

The Stonewall Democrats' National Convention is in Denver this weekend before the Democratic Convention. Being a part of the LGBT delegation overall, I decided to attend. Obviously it was nice getting to meet most of the rest of the transgender delegation (two committee members and three of the other four delegates). But the luncheon itself was a rousing event.

Labor seemed to be the overarching theme for this day. Service Employees I Union were the first featured speakers, with Tom Barbera leading intro for Mary Kay Henry. Much was discussed, but the one thing that drew the top applause was their retelling of their strong commitment to equality for all employees (including transgender), their restating their support of marriage for all families, and the need to ensure we work hard to rebuild the unions' strength and correct this disparate wage levels for working people in today's America.

Jeremy Bishop introduced Nancy Wohlforth came on after to speak on behalf of Pride At Work (PAW). PAW is the AFL-CIO based group that focuses on making all unions fully inclusive and accepting of all employees. In his introduction, Bishop told of Nancy's absolute stand in opposition when some of the unions wanted to follow Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Barney Frank's lead and ditch the transgenders from inclusion. Nancy gave a truly rousing speech on the need for us sticking together and on the hardships faced by trying to organize workers to protect their rights in the workplace.

Saturday was certainly about the workplace even in the speech broadcast live on CNN during the conference. Both Sen. Barack Obama and his newly announced running-mate, Sen. Joe Biden, touched upon the difficulties faced by middle America while also stressing their own strong middle class roots. They've truly found their voice in grabbing the focus and shoving right in Corporate America and their political lackeys' faces: America is struggling mightily, both candidates fully understand it. Not only do they understand it, it's part of their own upbringing.

This speaks volumes. One thing I certainly want is a candidate who will understand -- not just mouth the words. McCain's attempt to paint himself as an everyman a la George W. Bush is false. It's virtually as false as George W. Bush's same attempt (and success, unbelievably enough). While America's political awareness has been asleep at the switch these past eight years, it's hard to imagine us being so easily hoodwinked now. We've got too much on the line: our lives.

The Saturday night keynote speech featured Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS), who really impressed me. She's accomplished quite a feat in the midst of red-meat middle America: a progressive democrat leading a very red Republican state, who still sticks true to principle and doesn't leave anyone behind. She enacted an executive order on state hiring there which prohibits discrimination on the entire laundry list of categories including gender identity! That's transgender, to you unitiated.

Gov. Sebelius' edict is a big deal for us trans folks as more often than not we're left behind, even from initiatives begun by others in gay or lesbian America, much less straight politicos trying to keep their jobs in very conservative environs. Gov. Sebelius is a quiet, graceful presence. But make no mistake, she's a lion-hearted hero.

One sundry piece of gossip I got through the grapevine while attending the convention. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), still aggravated over Stonewall Democrats' non-support of the ENDA bill they were pushing along with Rep. Barney Frank (the one without transgender inclusion), decided not to financially support the Stonewall Democrats Convention this year. Rumor has it they gave $10,000 to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention instead. Nice.

Sunday's finish up hit on marriage equality. Speakers included Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick (a personal friend of Obama), who gave an excellent speech on the importance of pushing through with what was right. He noted how the African American community was seeing the culmination of what has been heretofore a dream only: Americans being confident and comfortable enough to put faith in a president who is a person of color. It's no small feat, and he imparted the historical implication of what we were gathered to do this week.

The Governor then dovetailed this with the fight for full rights for all Americans, including the fight for fully equal gay marriage in his home state. As it turned out, he was (at the time this fight began well before he was even aware of his daughter's status (she came out as lesbian only a year ago). Yet Gov. Patrick stood firm, opting to do the right thing to extend equality to the gay and lesbian community. He also noted, though, that the fight was not over, and there were many that were still left behind and in need of a hand up. One thing that did strike me was the laundry list he noted did not include "transgender." He reminded the gathering that "we still
"have unfinished business."

After finishing, I made my way over to shake his hand and compliment on the subject of the speech. However I also pointed out his words of "unfinished business" and let him know that his own state has enacted no protection at all for the transgender community (other than, with the marriage laws) the ability to marry. Additionally I reminded him that we trans people did not get any employment discrimination protections passed this year, even with my friend and bay stater Ethan St. Pierre's poignant story before their own congressional committee, noting his long tenured job while being an out lesbian immediately terminating once he notified them he was transsexual and in the process of transitioning. I reiterated to the governor that we still have "unfinished business."

We're making progress in many corners. But as we all know, and the reason (especially for transgender delegates) that we're all here is we're fully aware the struggle goes on.

Transgender Delegate Blog: Day One In Denver

Actually I arrived in Denver last night and got a good walk around the neighborhood where I'm staying with a good, longtime friend of mine, Sally Anne. Cherry Creek is a really cool neighborhood, and she's in the heart of it: very artsy, tony clothing and furniture shops, haute cuisine in numerous "bistro" type eateries, and of course a number of neighborhood and a smattering of in-crowd nightspots! And they're all within an easy walk!

The weather is astonishingly cool as well! I'm more acclimated to the un-air-conditioned environs of the ever-humid blast furnace of Houston. I'm used to 70's and 80's at night -- not in the day time! This is a welcome respite from South Texas summer!

Onto the super-chat: Vice President Joe Biden. An excellent (and expectedly safe) choice! Once the Georgia conflict hit, and it became crystal clear to America that we are in an extremely vulnerable geopolitical environment with our overstretched and armament-depleted military, it was obvious Obama would be mandated to choose someone with foreign and/or military experience. This knocked Kaine out of logical contention, and helped folks like Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson and Evan Bayh as well as Biden.

From my perspective, I thought Biden was the best choice of them. However, I also feared that the national geopolitics (i.e. countering your opponent with a red state resident) would trump Biden in favor of Bayh. Bayh acquitted himself quite well on last Sunday's talk shows. But in the overall scheme, as things play out in the Bush/Cheney years, it's necessary to have your Veep be the "barking dog" a la Dickless Cheney.

Hands down, Biden knows how to parry with the best of the GOPpers. He's also very good at the "soundbite" press-worthy quotes.

There has been some chatter on the blogs. From a GLBT perspective, some within the gay and lesbian community are disappointed in Hillary not getting the VP nod. They manifest it by saying they're not "enthused" with the choice of Biden. I haven't heard any qualms from the trans community on Biden, however it must be noted that Biden in the Senate has never been asked, nor ever had to deal with anything transgender-related. He's an unknown quantity on his support for trans issues, at least to my limited experience. He's not been known, though, as a great vocal supporter of the Human Rights Campaign, nor their incremantalist philosophy (i.e. you trannies don't deserve rights now).

Electability-wise, though, Joe is a go! Anything that gets Obama elected is a go in my book!

Meanwhile McCain is showing his utter disconnect with the vast majority of America. asked him how many homes does he own. He actually didn't know (or certainly wanted us to believe that). That's incredulous. Even if you have multiple holdings, no matter how wealthy you are, unless you're an active real estate-flipper, you know how many homes you own! If he's really that clueless on keep track of how many homes he owns, how does he expect us to have confidence in his ability to keep track of the military in the threatening world? How does he expect us to believe he will keep track of and hold down spending? How does he expect us to think he will know best what is hurting the American economy? At the end, he mumbled around and tossed out an answer: "four". The correct answer, Sen. McCain, was "nine." That wasn't close!

It also brings up another issue: the imperious factor. Being transgendered, I'm on the front lines of getting hammered relentlessly by this Bush Economic Recovery. The majority of all Americans, GLBT or not, are hurting badly. Beyond his lack of anything specific to address this issue, Mr. McCain seems oblivious to how vastly different his life is from the lower 98% of us. How many "regular Americans" do you know that own nine homes? And how many do you know in "regular America" that have so many that they don't even know the answer to that question?

Every time he tries to paint himself as a "regular guy" just like most of us in "regular America," and paints Sen. Obama as an "elitist" it's a slap in the face! Of the two of them, Sen. McCain is the elitist! And he wants -- no, expects -- we in the American public to be brain-dead dupes and just go along with this political marketing message because we're supposed to be stupid! That's our role in neo-con America: all the rest of us "regular" citizens are stupid and should just belive him, no questions asked.

Have we not had enough of this imperiousness in America? Like the old TV sitcom, eight is enough ... eight years is more than enough.

We need change. We need Obama/Biden.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Transgender Delegate Blog: Off To Denver!

What a blur this week has been! It was going to be stressful enough without Stephanie Tubbs Jones passing, the local floods we had here in Houston, and every possible thing that could get in the way (which did!) On top of that sleep is more fitful than restful. There so many things that go through one’s mind when preparing for a big trip, so much to remember, and so hard to turn the brain off when your head hits the pillow!

Hopefully I’ll get some sleep in Denver this weekend. Lord knows I won’t be getting much during the remainder of the week!

So I spent most of the past two days RSVPing to events, getting my schedules plotted out, printing up a petition I’ll be gathering signatures on, and also checking on who the other delegates from other states are (trying to scout friends from the 2004 convention or other activist / political related events I’ve attended). It’s a lot to pore through, and that seems to help me become sleepy! Maybe I should just leaf through those all night instead of putting them down – much better night’s sleep!

On the political spectrum, obviously everything is swirling around the Veepstakes! That’s all anyone can talk about beyond the Olympics is the Veepstakes! On McCain’s side, there was quite a bit of controversy and a bit of an uproar when two of the “short list” McCain’s campaign put out included former Gov. Tom Ridge (R-PA) and former Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Both of those are non-starters. McCain may think about trying to pull in some more “moderate” voices to woo potentially disaffected Dems and Independents. Dream on. In Conservative America, his conservative butt is considered “liberal” – and not all that nicely. Both of those two are pro-choice – so forget it. It’s a misdirection play.

There’s lots of intrigue, speculation, and baited anticipation especially on Obama’s choice. Most have narrowed down everything to either Bayh, Biden and Kaine … but some are clucking about a total surprise like a Wesley Clark or Chet Edwards (especially in light of the Russians’ recent rediscovery of hegemony). Others are thinking he may go Hillary after all. My desire is Biden, but my gut says he’ll choose Bayh. Either way, it’s useless speculation on my part and everyone else’s.

Ultimately, who these two candidates choose is not the key issue. Their message, their principle and what the commit and then put into action: that is the primary (and really complete) reason for voting for someone. I’m comfortable with virtually anyone Obama decides to choose as I want to make sure his plan and his vision are what we begin working toward. America is hurting badly, and Republicans wish us to just “suck it up” and not worry about losing everything. If you were in the lower 98 percentile like me, what would you choose?

Finally there was an excellent op-ed by Dan Cafferty on CNN the other day []. Typically I’ve always liked Dan. He appeared a bit more on the conservative side to me when I used to have cable and watch, but more than others, he tried to be balanced in a true sense (not a Faux Fox sense). Apparently he watched the McCain portion of the Rick Warren interview and noticed what I did: very short personal answers, spliced with a healthy dose of his campaign stump-speech soundbites afterwards. It was a campaign speech disguised to be debate answers.

Cafferty took it even further. “It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven,” and then Cafferty notes the immediate reliance on his Vietnam Christmas story, which has become a well-worn campaign chestnut. Cafferty added, “One after another, McCain's answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has -- virtually none.”

It’s difficult to imagine anyone as shallow as George W. Bush. That’s virtually impossible. But it does appear that the McCain of old – who never impressed me as that clueless – has somehow had his brain-sucked out by the RNC body snatchers.

Cafferty finished it up with a grand slam – something that many Americans have been feeling for some time, yet feared saying:

“I am sick and tired of the president of the United States embarrassing me. The world we live in is too complex to entrust it to someone else whose idea of intellectual curiosity and grasp of foreign policy issues is to tell us he can look into Vladimir Putin's eyes and see into his soul. …

He will leave office with the country $10 trillion in debt, fighting two wars, our international reputation in shambles, our government cloaked in secrecy and suspicion that his entire presidency has been a litany of broken laws and promises, our citizens' faith in our own country ripped to shreds. Yet Bush goes bumbling along, grinning and spewing moronic one-liners, as though nobody understands what a colossal failure he has been.

I fear to the depth of my being that John McCain is just like him.”

Until now, I’d never known where Cafferty’s politics stood (as it should be with news media). However, I’m very please to see I fully agree with his politics. And like Dan, I fear for the future of our country if we continue on this same neo-conservative path.

Now, it’s time to pack and run. Plane’s leaving in about 3½ hours, Denver and Democratic Convention – here I come!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Transgender Delegate Blog: T-Minus One Week And Counting

This is a break from my typical TransPolitical blogs as I undertake this new assignment with Huffington Post. Essentially this is a delegate’s story, first-person (more auto-bio than the more detached editorials).

So I thought I’d just start with why I am a delegate.

“Economic Recovery,” recovering from the disaster of Bush/Cheney’s economy, began for me on Jan. 1, 2003. My job was outsourced. Afterwards I went 26 months without steady work. I went from earning $45,000 a year to under $4500 during that 26 month stretch for a family of two (my mother and me) and for six months with my sister as well (who was also not working with no other place to go).

Once upon a time I had excellent credit. While I’m a homeowner who’s never paid a late house payment, and managed to pay off my car note off on time as well, the rest of my credit is thoroughly trashed. Once had dreams, now my home is my only asset and is falling in disrepair in an era of tight budget, tight credit and falling home prices.

Even with that somewhat bright spot, the rest has been a struggle what with utilities doubling and gasoline shooting beyond three times what it was. To make ends meet I’ve been living without air conditioning or heat since 2003 (living in Houston makes the winters without heat doable, the long summers are tougher). Without medical insurance, I stopped the doctor visits after 2004. My prescriptions lapsed in 2005. Things like buying clothes, eating out and trips (save for Democratic conventions and lobbying) have completely stopped.

Rather than feeling bad, though, I feel I’m part of a larger trend. To borrow from the fashion industry phrase: Poor is the new “black.”

What compounds my personal situation is the fact that I’m also transgender. Being a trans delegate makes me a rare breed – even amongst GLBT delegates as a whole. However, I’m one of six delegates and two committee members this year. Most particularly, I’m giving voice to the unemployed, under-employed and economically marginalized in our community.

No, I’m not unemployed. At the moment, I work as a temp for one of the big five oil companies training my counterparts in India to assume the jobs I and my other team members do currently. Yes, we work in accounts receivable and accounts payable – or as George W. Bush puts it, “jobs that Americans won’t do.” (Funny thing is I’ve been doing all facets of accounting for over twenty years now.)

Additionally, I’m more fortunate than most. I’m now making about 75% of what I made at the beginning of this millennium, but I’m working fairly steadily, at least for the next two months. While I’m lucky to not be in the position of some of my friends: an endless spiral of joblessness and poverty at the moment, the memory of that period is as fresh as yesterday. Like many of my other friends, I know well the tenuous nature of jobs in the 21st century. We’re still in the neo-con conceived Economic Recovery, jobs grow ever-tighter by the day and costs keep rising to match.

While it seems I’m only concerned with transgenders, it only speaks to what I directly represent.

My community and I realize it’s not just us getting crushed under the wheels of maximized profit – everyone is. The haves have become the have mores. Income disparities increase remarkably. Our social fabric continues to split and diverge. These days collusive price fixing (or gouging), rising costs everywhere and flatlined wages and offshoring jobs are the norm.

As soon as you think it’s truly bad, you realize how much worse it is for others. Still recall vividly my friends fleeing all the folks who were pulled out after Hurricane Katrina. As bad as times were for us, it was exponentially worse for New Orleans. Even my friends who came to Houston ended up fleeing a month later when Hurricane Rita hit our area and points east.

George W. Bush talked about accountability and bringing respect back to the country when he first ran for president in 2000. There has been no accountability – no one is ever responsible in this government. And respect is rapidly vanishing around the world. Indeed our own self-respect is beginning to tremor. When you see even Republicans trashing their own party’s elected president, and doing everything to avoid being affixed to their party’s image, you know the self-respect is failing.

For me, hope is also starting to disappear. There’s only the faintest of glimmers at the moment, and I can only have faith that I’m placing my trust in something that won’t help crush hope completely. Time will tell. But in the face of what we’re seeing from the other major party’s candidate, and to what lows their presidential nominee will go in forsaking his own values for winning an election, I can only cleave to that hope.

Looking down the road from where I stand, there’s a foreboding darkness. I only hope we make it through.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Senator McCain: Define "Free Nations"

“Georgia, Georgia, no peace – no peace I find
Just this old, sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind” — Georgia On My Mind, Ray Charles

"But the Americans have no extra money. They have their own problems. They can provide financial assistance for two, three, four, or six months at most.” — Eduard Shevardnadze, former President of Georgia

Today Sen. John McCain enjoyed his own small Berlin moment with his “Ich bin ein Georgian” press confab.

It wasn’t as glorious as the Brandenburg gate. It also wasn’t even uttered in Georgia – whether in Europe or (as McCain would normally do a la his Obama Euro-trip shadowing, e.g. going to Berlin NH) whether in the U.S. in, say, Atlanta, Georgia. During a press statement made on the campaign trail in York PA, McCain said, “I speak for every American when I say … ‘Today we are all Georgians.’”

“My friends, we learned a great cost of the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked,” McCain added.

The last statement got me to wondering, in this world of nuanced politic-speak, what does Sen. McCain mean by free nations? How is that defined?

Does this mean nations that hold free elections? Before we get too far along, realize that Iraq used to hold elections as well, pre-American invasion. Did that imply that America was an aggressor on a free nation? Should that have gone “unchecked?”

“I don't want to go down in history as a man who allowed blood to be shed. ... I couldn't stand the idea of bloodshed, casualties.” — Eduard Shevardnadze, former President of Georgia

Obviously, I don’t think that was a true, openly democratic society. Unsurprisingly, Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party won every election and won them by landslide. That kind of gives signs that perhaps it wasn’t free will, but a coerced “free election.” Perhaps that aggression was warranted. Perhaps the same might be said if such aggression happened in other coerced democracies like Zimbabwe (home to Robert Mugabe, leader for life – elections be damned).

Sure, we’re all aware of official dictatorships and their immediate exclusion from the “free nation” club. But what about others that have “free elections” (quotation marks intended, not quoted), but whose “elections” are mere predisposed farce? Some of the U.S. allies have democracies that aren’t, really. Strategic places like Egypt or Uzbekistan, for instance. Would we be similarly blithe in ignoring aggression in those strategic, but pathetically contrived democratic sovereignties the way we expected others to do with Iraq when we went in?

If not, why not? We’ve established the precedent to aggression with these pseudo-democracies. Will we stand by if the people succeeded in unelecting Pervez Musharraf, are unsuccessful in ousting him, and encourage – say India – to come in and assist in their “humanitarian effort” (as we once referred to the Iraq incursion)? Or will we call that aggression?

Israel holds democratic elections, and any attack on them would be rightly viewed as aggression and not go unchecked. Gaza held open democratic elections as well, and in fact, so did Iran. In both cases, the people spoke – and surprised a lot of the conventional wisdom here in the U.S. No predictable dictatorships there.

So what would our response be to aggression in Gaza? What would our response be to aggression in Iran?

What would we expect from the rest of the world if the U.S. (under Bush/Cheney or whomever succeeds them) decides without provocation beyond intelligence reports (which defy the National Intelligence Estimate date, I might add) that we should declare war against Iran? Will that not be viewed as “aggression against a free nation?” If not, what is the distinction a free nation and a “free nation”?

If it’s simply “friends of the United States” that are “free nations,” and any unfriendly country – regardless of electoral politics – are declared “not free nations,” then it is arbitrary policy.

And if the United States expects to be so arbitrary in our consideration, then Russia will expect the same. This is not a thoroughly considered precedent from someone hoping to be president of the United States, the storied arbiter of fairness and humanitarianism on the planet.

“You know, to address crowds and make promises does not require very much brains. … I believe politicians should always remain realistic.” — Eduard Shevardnadze, former President of Georgia

Oil’s Well That Ends Well In Media, Politics

How full of crap are these neo-con GOPpers? Worse, how gullible, brain dead, or bought hook-line-and-sinker are our media and by extension much of our nation?

It was troubling seeing this before the last two presidential elections, and infuriating to watch during the post 9/11 build-up to the Iraq war. But you’d have thought the mainstream news outlets would’ve seen the errors of yore by now and made some attempt to rectify. Whatever happened to the embodiment of “checks and balances” a free press was designed to be. Corporate conglomerates have bought all media and thus use the “news business” as merely a cheap front for thinly-veiled advertising – or it translates in Brazilian, propaganda.

Propaganda indeed – kudos to our friends in Brazil for telling it like it is!

What’s got me going is this “energy crisis” and how it’s become THE dominating domestic news item. In case some haven’t been following along, our primary crisis in America is the economy. Remember the economy? Yes energy price escalations play a notable role in this, but that’s not a “one-size-fits-all” crisis! Sure, oil prices coming down will mean some ease in our short-term budget. But they won’t fix the housing bust and de-escalation! It’ll have very little impact on easing the credit crunch we’re in!

Most pointedly, fixing oil prices will do absolutely nothing to solve the runaway divergence between haves and have nots in this flat wage society. Everyone in corporate America, in the media, and most all of our politicos (Democrats? Where are you?!?) are studiously avoiding the obvious: only the elite see incomes rise, and the rest of us flounder with flatlined wages and burgeoning prices for everything – especially necessities. Jobs will continue flying overseas at a breakneck pace, and Wall Street will cheer it on and heap rewards.

On the flipside, any talk at all of windfall profits taxes on Big Oil (the most egregious of profiteers currently) bring howls of pain! Republicans wail that oil companies will mandate price increases to offset the increased bite on increased profits! In fact, the situation is so dire that a month ago the GOPpers started in whining that America’s economy was in the tank because we didn’t have enough gas to put in the tank! We needed desperately to open up drilling in areas offshore that were made off-limits by both Congress and then Pres. George H. W. Bush. (yes, that ultra-green, eco-terroristic, liberal enemy of oil companies everywhere, Bush!)

Without opening up drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we’re warned America will never see oil prices go down, nor see affordable gasoline ever again! The alarms were dire enough to even get Dem. Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama and the Dem. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi to amend their previously-firm positions! “America is hurting due to high oil and gasoline costs that won’t come down!”

Funny thing ….

Since this became the mantra of GOPper neo-cons, scaring the Demos into dancing to the elephantine tune, oil has magically dropped by 25%! One quarter of the price, evaporated … and with no drilling whatsoever! Not even any pending legislation up for consideration! Think we still need to drill in order to survive as a country?

Of course, the retort was that gasoline prices would lag behind, not falling nearly as precipitously. Here in America’s petro-capital, Houston, prices for regular octane topped out at a minimum $4.01/gal. a little over a month ago.

Since then … guess what? The recent typical pump price has dropped here to a common $3.49/gal. and cheaper in some areas! We used to be within about twenty cents of the highest gas prices nationally, now we’re on average over fifty cents cheaper? (Can you say “industry price collusion”?)

“I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!” — Daniel Day Lewis from “There Will Be Blood”

But it gets better! Today we have seen the beginning of gasoline price wars! No – not who can be the highest. It’s just like the good old days … who can be the most notable of price-cutters! As I write this, the price of a gallon of gasoline at competing stations in northwest Houston is BELOW $3 a GALLON! At first, the two stations started out around $2.89/gal. Then the Chevron station bested the Shell competitor across the street by taking it down to $2.34 a gallon! At 10PM this evening, I drove by the stations. The line was too long to bother with, but the prices were $2.17 per gallon each, until the Chevron dropped theirs to $2.16 a gallon!

$2.16 per gallon! That’s not a typo or misprint.

That’s over 40% cheaper than it was a mere month and a half ago. No wars magically cleared up. No refineries recently came online after being damaged during hurricanes. No opening up of more land for drilling!

And the mainstream media? Neo-con GOPpers? The corporate-spooked Demo rabbits? Nobody’s paying a damn bit of attention, save for this: the media merely reports on the daily reduction in the price of a barrel of oil. 26 days in a row!

Even with the price drops, the media still only harps on the neo-con talking point: the “energy crisis” and the debate over how to solve it!

For starters, it completely occludes the REAL crisis, America’s true “elephant in the room.” Our economy is still tanking! Jobs are still disappearing! Americans are still losing economic ground! And the middle-class and working class are watching their American dream vanish, while the poor are watching all hope ever possible shrivel and die before their eyes! More drilling and lower oil prices are doing zero for that.

Furthermore, if this is truly an energy crisis, then how is it suddenly solving itself? We haven’t caved in to corporate “wish lists” or full-scale panic drilling in ANWR or off the California coast!

Here’s what’s bringing oil prices down: high oil prices.

Yep! High oil has meant increased domestic competition in places that long ago gave up the petroleum drilling ghost (like Pennsylvania) or have become recipients of the newest oil boom in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. Even Canada’s oil sands reserve is in full-bore production right now. Why? The high crude per barrel prices made it worthwhile to drill.

At the same time, Americans have dumped their SUV’s and gas guzzlers, begun driving less, taking public transit, riding bikes, eliminating vacations and have dropped their desire for gasoline! This past year, we’ve had a drop in usage of over 800,000 barrels of oil! And we’re collectively sick of the addiction and beginning to budget for eventual hybrid electric or hydro-cell vehicles. In short, we can’t afford oil.

So what happens when consumption drops? So does the market price. It’s not a hot commodity any more.

Meanwhile (say it again): the economy still sucks. And nobody seems to know it, save for those of us getting crunched under its wheels.

Way to report the real news, newsies! Way to see the real problems and seek out true cures, politicos! You’re all earning your keep, eh? Ehhh ….

“But some days are hard, like a soldier’s steel-toed boots
And the rent we pay to stay here gets high.” — Hard Times For An Honest Man, John Mellencamp

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Victims Die, But Opportunism Lives On ....

“Good fences make good neighbors.” — Robert Frost, The Mending Wall

“Almost all of our relationships begin and most of them continue as forms of mutual exploitation, a mental or physical barter, to be terminated when one or both parties run out of goods.” — W. H. Auden, poet

We recently saw an HRC statement on the death of Angie Zapata. Now that they’ve hired a trans person once again, it appears they’re appointing themselves as being de facto voice for the trans community. They actually have a tranny this time, and quote her in their statement. Forget the fact that it’s a rather thinly-veiled attempt by Joe Solmonese to a) get himself some free publicity on a trans death, b) attempt to paint his public relations iimage in a good light and on the cheap, and c) capitalize on a trans death in order to somehow capitalize on it. It’s all for their own furtherance – whether pushing for their coverage in legislation or raising funds for themselves as being “the transgender community’s primary advocate and voice” (not my impression, mind you!) or both.

You’ve gotta hand it to HRC: they’re veritable bloodhounds when it comes to sniffing out opportunities to bolster their PR or their bottom line. What’s astonishing is how remarkably shameless they are about it.

Yes, their transgender employee, Allyson Robinson, gave a solid response. Yet even in reading it, it appeared to be more a vehicle for JoeSo and HRC than anything. No real surprise.

It never ceases to amaze me how oblivious they seem to be about presuming (incorrectly) that they are the trans community’s leaders. Or how we do not look to them as being an adequate spokesgroup. Or how disconnected they are from the very community they declare to speak for.

Or how unlikely it would be to see trans people co-opting a gay or lesbian hate crime as a way to build PR and then seeking to raise funds for themselves being LGBT.

News flash to HRC: some of us aren’t that ignorant. Yes, some of us have been paying attention and taking note the whole time. Simply because we’ve mostly held our collective tongue doesn’t mean we’re brain dead. We’ve been trying to break the “petty” and “shrill” stereotype by being a bit more civil. But if civility produces the result that we’re mindless sheep to be fleeced, then we’ll abandon that post-haste.

Back in 1998 after Matthew Shepard was attacked, I’d suggested a march to the state capital in Austin (gas was much cheaper and wages were higher then!) Most respondents on Houston’s Activist Network thought it was a great idea, but two expressed outrage that I as a trans person would even fathom leading something like this. In a nutshell, they considered it bald opportunism on their community’s tragedy and an attempt to steal their community’s rightful voice (which in honesty never occurred to me before that). In deference, I backed off.

Once Shepard passed, I worked as a volunteer on the vigil, but it was coordinated and run by the gay community and I kept my place in support only. It was the right thing to do.

Years later after Sakia Gunn was brazenly stabbed in downtown Newark, the trans community noted a distinct lack of press and activity around it by the gay and lesbian community. The family of Sakia Gunn actually traveled to Boston, coincidentally on a week I happened to be there visiting. I met the family, heard of their plight in getting no traction with the school district or city leaders and was taken by their heartbreak. They noted an upcoming march to draw attention to the violence there, and we committed then to have someone from NTAC (National Transgender Advocacy Coalition) attend (not lead, support).

The timing of the march coincided with the Vagina-Day Monologues in Los Angeles – arguably one of the the transgender community’s biggest, most visible events ever. No matter, we made the commitment and (although unemployed) I flew up myself and brought out three other local NTAC members to march along with the family and the community. Beyond two local PFLAG parents, we were the only non-POC faces attending. And beyond NAACP, we were the only organization to send national-level representation. Nowhere was HRC or any other national gay and lesbian orgs to be found.

That said, we at NTAC never put out press, never pushed for spotlight on the tragedy, never opportunized on it in any fashion. We in the transgender community are perpetually dismissed as “na├»ve” and politically uneducated. Yet we know propriety. We actually have boundaries (something that’s never recognized).

Contrast that with former HRC Exec. Dir. Elizabeth Birch who asked to speak to a crowd gathered for an anti-violence rally for transgender hate victims Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis, and who during her speech called for “immediate passage of the Hate Crimes bill” pending in Congress at that time. A bill, mind you, that had no gender identity inclusion for the very victims she was utilizing to pass it.

"Whether this turns out to be a hate crime or not, it has had the effect of a hate crime. Hate crimes are unique in that they affect more than just the immediate victims. These crimes are meant to send a message of fear to entire communities and terrorize everyone within those communities.” — Elizabeth Birch, former Exec. Dir, HRC during vigil for Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis.

Contrast it with the fundraising they did after a local gay man brought Paula Mitchell, mother of a two-spirit / trans teen from Cortez, Colorado at their banquet at a time that still had no inclusive hate crimes legislation being urged.

Contrast it with the brief attempt to seize upon the Gwen Araujo murder and the resulting media juggernaut by attempting to woo the family away from the trans activists surrounding them. HRC even briefly used Gwen’s death – again – in a press release as reason to push forward a piece of Hate Crimes legislation that had no inclusion for the victim of which they were conveniently availing themselves. After an immediate outrage sprung forth, they removed the reference.

Contrast with what we’re seeing now with Angie Zapata. Yes there is a piece of supportive legislation this time – one difference. Yet it’s not the trans community organizations but the gay and lesbian-led, created, and focused organization that seizes upon this. People who think they won’t use this to further their PR in tranny-land and raise funds for themselves therewith are not living in reality.

Only gay and lesbians can have visibility and voice on gay and lesbian tragedies.

But when it comes to transgender community tragedies, there are no boundaries. It’s an aggressive, opportunity free-for-all. Does anyone notice the distinction there?

If the gay and lesbian community were perpetually under-funded (or unfounded), voiceless, in dire need of getting the message out on an issue with virtually no public awareness, and if it were another community – the trans community in this instance – that held the keys and kept them from access to the resources, education and visibility their issues so needed, I would better understand. Those bounds would’ve been crossed, but I could see where the logic of this desperation would come from.

Yet, the opposite is true. They have multiple organizations with seven (and in the case of HRC, eight figure) annual budgets, with infrastructure in place. They have a loud (some in straight America might consider petty or shrill) voice. They have public awareness in media – even two networks devoted to gay and lesbian programming! They also have the access to Congress and hold those keys in their own hand. The trans community has none of that.

Yet, we find the gay and lesbian community, personified by their most prominent organization, being the party desperately wanting to capitalize on a transgender community issue!

And doubtless, they’ll take this blog as being “shrill” and “petty” … and attempting to cut-off the generosity of spirit we should share with others in the community.

Well, generosity is not all it’s cracked up to be. There’s no fool like an old fool, you know?

Propriety is something that never sees equanimity. And this is appropriate?

The only constants I see are that the transgender community will continue to live in disproportionate poverty, will continue having little to no voice and will continue having others with the power and wherewithal avail themselves of our tragedies.

Our victims will continue disproportionately being attacked and murdered. And opportunism by those outside of Trans America will live on ….

“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate” — Bertrand Russell, philosopher

“If one benefits tangibly from the exploitation of others who are weak, is one morally implicated in their predicament? Or are basic rights of human existence confined to the civilized societies that are wealthy enough to afford them? Our values are defined by what we will tolerate when it is done to others.” — William Greider, columnist, author

Thursday, August 7, 2008

McCain Campaign: Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

“Campaigns are tough, but I’m proud of the campaign we’ve run.” — Sen. John McCain on the Paris Hilton ad.

“In every life we have some trouble.
When you worry you make it double.
Don't worry, be happy.” — Don’t Worry - Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin

Yes it’s quite a parallel universe Republicans and Democrats live in.

For Republicans, we’re taking things like the economy too seriously (and whining about it!). We should take a page from Sen. John McCain and just be humorous about this election season. Have a laugh! It’s not like anyone is hurting or things are really bad – these are great times! Look at our “robust” and “fundamentally strong” economy and the rising GDP!

Our energy problems can be solved simply by injecting Paris Hilton into the mix! You know, she’s got a good plan! Maybe we don’t need someone as serious as Sen. Barack Obama after all … or semi-serious as John McCain for that matter! Hilton’s short entry into presidential politics has had great benefit! The price of a barrel of oil has dropped 20%! No offshore drilling, no new energy plan … just humor and someone who’s concerned about America’s future – and having fun! Yay Paris!

“All I can say is we’re proud of that commercial." — Sen. John McCain

"'Cause when you worry your face will frown.
And that will bring everybody down.
So don't worry, be happy.” — Don’t Worry - Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin

We should be thanking the McCain campaign for bring her into the presidential campaign lexicon! You realize we’ve got these GOPpers wrong – they’re really cut ups! Even the most hardcore conservative types are really amazing comic talents! Bush-baby tap dancing on the White House steps is nothing – you ought to see Mr. Practical Joker Cheney himself with the stink bombs and cattle prods! Even the arch-con religious figures are amazing stand-ups: “Patsy” Robertson with his million “homo” jokes, world-dominatin’ Dobson with his Armageddon quips and even old fat Pat Hagee (who’d have known?) with his arsenal of “a priest, a rabbi and a muslim” jokes! Don’t let their stone faces and dry wit fool you! Life’s all about mirth and f-u-n!

We have nothing to worry about at all – it’s time to smile, and have a laugh or two! Maybe even hang out and listen to McCain crack a few new jokes about Iran or gorilla rapes!

Yeah, and what’s up with Democrats and all of those in the lower-90 economic percentile anyway? Why so dour? Maybe we should just lighten up and take a page from McCain’s good friend, Phil Gramm and stop “whining” about this “mental recession!” Perhaps Republicans can show us the way to look at our situation.

After all, we are about ready to set a date – or a time horizon, as Bush likes to call dates – to withdraw our troops from Iraq! Oh Afghanistan isn’t doing as well. But here’s a way to forget about how we’ve fumbled the ball in Afghanistan: start a whole brand new war in Iran! That’s gotta make some folks (like Halliburton or Carlyle Group) happy, right? Or if that don’t cheer ya up, how about a real measure of war’s success?: we’re seeing big budget surpluses in Iraq! Over $80 billion estimated budget surplus for the government in Baghdad! That’s gotta bring a smile to everyone’s face – especially Iraqi ones!

“You know, a few days ago, Sen. Obama said he challenged me to a duel. I’m for the light sabers as weapons of choice.” — Sen. John McCain

“Ain't got no place to lay your head.
Somebody came and took your bed.
Don't worry, be happy.” — Don’t Worry - Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin

I know, our budget’s really tanking here in the U.S. right now. But then again, we’ve got China ready, willing and able to meet all our budgetary needs to keep running the government. So what the hey? All the governmental receptions and high-dollar dinners go on like always! Best of all, we’re gonna push through a bill to extend the debt ceiling up to $10 trillion, so that’s gonna keep the happy train rolling too!

Another thing, unemployment’s only as high as it was right after 9/11, no biggie. The companies hemorrhaging red ink are shedding more jobs and the future is more tenuous by the week. Ol’ Raisin’ McCain just helped push through a merger for DHL and Airborne Express that’ll help close down their U.S. operation in Ohio and shed over 8,000 jobs! And yet wages are staying down due to the desperation in the job market! Sweet! That’s gotta be great for the stock prices -- pop the corks!

Did you see? Gasoline is now only $3.80 gallon! That’s down a whopping 6% -- break out the kegs and kick out the jams! Yeah, it’s about 380% of what it was when Bush-baby was elected president. But think of the nice record profits for the oil industry … the most ever anywhere on the planet! We’re number one, baby!!! USA! USA!

(It also means some very generous political contributions from the oil tycoons for the “right candidate, nudge-wink” so keep that in mind Mac Daddy! You can even buy Cindy Mac a cheesy facelift with that bank!)

The foreclosures are ramping up for the second wave -- the non-subprime loans going into default. Wha-hey! It’s not like we haven’t seen this before! And even if it is more widespread that it was in the late 80’s Savings & Loan meltdown -- think of all the opportunities for investors to snap up dirt-cheap properties from those sad sacks who lost their homes. John and Cindy McCain own about ten homes … maybe they can pick up a few more? They don’t call it “Capital” gains for nothing!

Now sure, the prices of everything are going up, up, up. Look at the bright side though: we need to break this consumerism addiction anyway! We can’t afford this stuff! Our debt levels are beyond maxed out! Forget your buying, come on, get happy! We’re gonna chase all your credit away! You know what they say now: “Poor” is the new “Black”! Get in style!

And I bet you didn’t know that your conservative pals in politics and corporate America are really conservationists!?! They’re helping you buy much less due to rising prices and disappearing jobs, meaning less driving (and gas) and much less packaging and trash for those overflowing landfills! And they’re making you feel good about not buying things! What a bonus! You might even get to see McCain show up at your local supermarket, checking out the price of cheese (though probably not government, cheese -- sorry.)

Of course you can just stay home and watch those hilarious John McCain campaign commercials – and they’re on regular TV! That’s right, free! They’ll have Barack Obama on a dollar bill, Obama as Moses, Obama as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Obama as Osama … stuff that’ll make you laugh so hard you’ll pee your pants! Maybe the old Raisin’ can do more drop-ins on Leno or Letterman or Fox’s Mad TV, and let loose some more of his Iranian jokes (like the old Beach Boys’ tune: bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran)! Now tell me, when have you seen a campaign like this? Never! This is truly a candidate of change! In times like this, he keeps you cracking up and entertained.

“We’ll continue to have humor in our campaigns. ” — Sen. John McCain

“Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style.
Ain't got not girl to make you smile.
But don't worry be happy.” — Don’t Worry - Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin

He’s even got Big & Rich (ironically appropriate and true – I can’t make this stuff up!) doing his newest campaign song: Raisin’ McCain. All of this dovetails nicely with his campaign slogan too: Country (and Western) First! Then afterwards they’ll do a live TV special so he can do a Rap-and-Rock duet with Kid Rock, live from the Buffalo Chip biker rally in Sturgis, SD! Wow, is that Cindy (“I don’t slather make-up on like a trollop”) McC^nt onstage doing air guitar to an Iron Maiden song?

Now that’s one Grand Old Party!

So stay home, stay safe, and just watch your TV set like you’re programmed (and stay off that computer because that costs money and lotsa people don’t even know how to use it anyway.) Happy days are here again. There’s no need to be so serious or whiny over things that are happening right now. That stuff’s for losers!

Because, friend, here’s some straight talk I want to express right to you: Make sure you are registered to vote right now. Then on the last week of October, go out and early vote. If you don’t early vote then, make sure you vote on November 4th.

That’s some straight talk you can seriously use.

“What we are talking about here is substance, and not style.” — Sen. John McCain

"The landlord say your rent is late.
He may have to litigate.
Don't worry, be happy.
Look at me, I am happy.” — Don’t Worry - Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin

Sunday, August 3, 2008

There Will Be Racism II: “White People, Vote Race – Not Party!”

Exitus acta probat (the outcome justifies the deeds) — Niccolo Machiavelli

After processing what I heard the other day, the reality of this election season, this is what the message in the upcoming election boils down to:

For democrats, it’s Corporate America (big business) vs. the people.

For republicans, it’s blacks and muslims (terror) vs. white people.

In a nutshell, that’s how this all plays out. Democrats are going to point out the classism inherent in our current state in America and how it’s created the ills we’re seeing economically. Republicans are going to focus on terrorism and remind everyone of their fears of terror, whether it be from muslims or from blacks who they will try to conflate with them, whether muslim or not. For the vast majority of Americans, the economy is the urgent issue. For conservatives, it must be shifted to fear and terror.

Yeah, I know, Sen. John McCain was quoted this week as saying “I do not want race to become an issue. I think we should move on.” My response to this? Bullshit!

The GOPpers are going to do whatever is necessary, even if it takes inciting the black community into demonstrations of social unrest, to scare white voters away from democrats. Always be mindful: these are the undisputed masters at Machiavellian campaigning. It would not surprise me at all if we discover that neo-con operatives are planting seeds of discontent in the black community and encouraging discontent a la Obama’s recent stop in St. Petersburg.

Being from Texas where Republicans pulled an unprecedented mid-term redistricting specifically designed to remove all the white democrats and toss a bone to one extra black represented district in a weak attempt to make it look fair, this should be unsurprising. It wasn’t spoken in those terms nationally, but everyone in Texas knew exactly what they were doing. It was politics that was all-but-openly about racial polarization.

Texas’ redistricting (gerrymandering) was manufactured by Tom the “Hammerhead Shark’ DeLay (the only politician who can’t look you directly in the eye because he has eyes planted diametrically on each side of his head), the other Tom, State House Speaker ‘Crash’ Craddick (the man who makes his money off the dead aka: the official state ghoul), and Gov. Rick ‘Vacuous’ Perry (motto: “don’t out me! I’m still in the closet … even though my I appointed my boyfriend to a political position!”) If DeLay’s own self-image of invincibility and hubris didn’t sink him, he would’ve completed his dream of a two-caste political system of straight white people on one side (GOP) and queers and swarthy types on the other (Democratic).

Once his partisan ethnic-cleansing was complete, King Hammerhead’s machine would slowly siphon minority hopefuls over as it became the only political party with any money (thus any hope) for sociopolitical success. But to do so, you’ve got to kiss the ring and genuflect nicely, parroting the oath of “wealth and power first, country second, people last.” It all looked great, at least on paper….

Sadly for them, over-eager greed ended up leapfrogging their designs. Their incompetence in handling war as well as economy became impossible to ignore, and their move toward a one-party pseudo democracy (read: Mexico, pre-millennium) unraveled. Economic pain is pandemically working its way up the food chain, and the American standard of living is in a death spiral. GOPpers are suddenly having a tough time diverting our attention.

As a result, their brand-damaged nominee for president is the one that most rank-and-file in GOPland least preferred: John McCain, a self-advertised maverick who styles himself as a different kind of Republican that eschews negative campaigning and business-as-usual big government.

So is McCain really “a different kind of Republican?” Look at the campaign commercials and the rhetoric: the shameless distortions of truth, the deceitful flip-flops in his official position, and his desperate deconstruction of anything Sen. Barack Obama does regardless of which approach he takes. They set up another Catch-22 campaign structure. It’s shades of George W. Bush and Karl ‘Turdblossom’ Rove.

This is no surprise. GOP-folk kiss the ground that old Turdblossom walks upon and he’s being (has been) wooed about reactivating with GOP campaigns. It’s desperation time. So McCain is no longer doing the “straight talk” and “avoiding attack campaigns.” They’ll just do like before, find ways to word what they do to make it seem something different. For instance, the recent commercials comparing Obama to Paris Hilton and (Bush-supporting) Britney Spears are simply laughed off by McCain as “injecting humor” into the campaign!

(Suggestion to the Democrats: start becoming pointedly “humorous” with Republicans in return!)

To avoid direct scrutiny, it will again be McCain’s subordinates and most especially the Swift-boat crew doing the bulk of the dirty work as election day grows closer. Example: Fox/Faux News coming up with graphics similar to showing Michelle Obama with a tagline stating “Obama’s Baby Mama.”

“It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be clean. Just win, baby.” — Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders

Essentially this is the only way for McCain and the Republicans to win is the same as the past campaigns: tear down the Democrat’s character. Negative is mandatory. If the campaign focuses on McCain’s policies or on McCain’s character or background, Republicans lose. Whether it’s fear of a black president, fear of a liberal president or fear of a president who’s not under Republican control, their abject fear means that under no circumstances can they allow McCain to lose – regardless of how they feel about him personally.

As a result, McCain now has a new and menacing glint in his eye. Turdblossom and his acolyte, the ‘Turd’s Egg’ Steve Schmidt (the undeclared, but currently-in-charge campaign guru) will do everything they can to draw the African American community out, especially anyone with ties to the Obama Campaign, to respond in a controversial (media-worthy) fashion. Then McCain can turn around and claim “race card” and “respond accordingly.” Essentially, they create conditions that start the fight and then fight back with self-righteous indignation. It’s the perfect crime (so long as they’re not nabbed due to loose lips).

As mentioned in my previous blog, racial unrest benefits Republicans. They won’t be afraid, and will even be encouraged to instigate it if they must. As a result, now more than ever, all non-black democrats – especially white democrats – need to get out in front of this and push back unmistakably hard.

We cannot allow them to get the crowbar in a seam and wedge us apart! All non-black democrats need to take them to them to the mat each and every time they pull this crap. We need to burn up the blogosphere, get the message out to the Randi Rhoadeses, the Keith Olbermanns and Huffington Posts. If Republicans want to make this election cycle about race, let’s give them their worst nightmare and make it their Waterloo. It’s Republicans who would rather win a campaign and lose a country – the USA – by invoking the three P’s: Phobia, Polarization and Prejudice.

Is this what they consider Patriotism: a house divided upon itself?

If in this coming campaign ‘war’ it becomes clear that Republicans will pull out the nukes, Democrats should not stick to conventional weaponry and wagging fingers to point out the Geneva Convention rules. If that happens, expect GOPpers to gleefully pull out their neutrons and bunker-busters and go for a scorched earth program while McCain continues making “humorous” snarks like “bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb-Obama” on Faux News and other corporate-owned media outlets.

Remember, McCain went clean in the 2000 primary race. He also got mercilessly swift-boated by Bush, Rove and the neo-cons with his “apology” to the VietCong at the Hanoi Hilton, his unstable temperament and his illegitimate black child. McCain learned a lot from Bush and the RNC that election cycle, and we’ll see all he learned of that painful lesson in this cycle.

Right now, our country’s economy and it’s very future hang in the balance. We can give it to more of the same corporate, neo-con, religiopolitical leadership that we’ve had the past eight years, or we can seek a different path. But regardless of which path it is, even without Obama responding at all, we are likely going to see the ugliest campaign season of all time.

It will be a war, we should take it seriously and do everything possible to hang together and to win. The time is now.

“There was a lot of fights between the black and white
There was nothing you could do
Two cars at a light on a Saturday night
In the back seat there was a gun
Words were passed in a shotgun blast
Troubled times had come….” — My Hometown, Bruce Springsteen

Friday, August 1, 2008

Race Card? You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!

“[Republicans] are desperate to win this election – there’s a lot at stake. And they’re going to say and do whatever they need to to get [re-]elected. … The Supreme Court’s at stake.”

Oh! “Buy a gun. And learn how to use it.”

This is a difficult blog to write, and I’m still mulling through how to process this information. One thing I’ve noticed over the years in politics: there are those who create chaos in order that they control and then make their own order out of that chaos.

The bottom line of what I learned today: Republicans will start a race war if they have to in order to win the presidency. It’s one of those “options” that’s not “off the table.” The logic? If they get blacks (and other minorities) out in an L.A. riot fashion, it’ll scare most all of the whites back over to the Republican side come election time.

There’s a friend I used to work with years ago who was the HR person, I’ll call her Dee for sake of this writing. Conservative, DeLay fan (and actually an acquaintance of some level), “keep government out of my pocket book” (read: I want to pay zero taxes) type. She and her hubby aren’t politicos, but more the fringe hangers-on types: go to the district get-togethers, get a photo with ol’ Hammerhead, hobnob with the other ambitious or peripherally supportive types.

When I was outed at work, she informed me that she “already knew” my status. She’d done the background checks – and didn’t notify the boss (who we both shared a mutual hatred for). We actually worked on charities and fundraisers together … Navidad en el Barrio, for instance. She was more of a renaissance conservative than the typical type we envision as the Bush neo-con.

That said, she was firmly Christian, didn’t approve of gay sex (I worked to soften her on that over the years) and was okay with minorities – but didn’t want to have to live around them. She lived in Sugar Land, home to both the infamous T.C. Jester prison unit in the middle of the sugarcane fields and also Tom DeLay and a similar arch-conservative devotees.

“If you’re ever down in Houston, you better act right,
You better not gamble, or get in a fight.
‘Cause the sheriff will arrest you, and he’ll bring you down.
The next thing you’re knowin’… you’ll be Sugar Land bound.” — Midnight Special, Leadbelly

So how did we become friends? She thought of me as a curiosity: asexual (no sex was a plus with her), a Methodist traditionalist (albeit deist, not a churchgoer), and not the expected down-the-line “bleeding heart liberal” as my budgetary fiscal policies were near hers while we diverged on the social issues. During my time working with her, I debunked a lot of the inaccurate “myths” about us and got her to see beyond the superficial. We became friends, political differences notwithstanding.

For the most part we’d lost touch until I sent an Email to her to join one of the online groups I’d just joined. She didn’t join, but it gave us opportunity to chat. She called and said we needed to talk, but in person. That was odd … I was thinking maybe one of her kids – maybe even she – was coming out or something. Either way, that of itself was unusual. It turned out not to be anything so personally salacious.

We talked politics!

She asked who I was supporting for president, and I mentioned I was an Obama precinct captain and a national delegate. She laughed and said “I knew it!” She (a huge Clinton-hater, I might add) knew I wouldn’t be for Hillary, and I explained … also noting my initial allegiance for Edwards. She nodded – no surprise at all there! (In a way I was offended that she thought me that predictable).

Then I asked her about her choice for president and recalled one candidate who she thought of openly in rather unkind terms: John McCain. She admitted that she had a “lot of respect” for Obama, and noted his reaching out to Christian conservatives on faith-based issues (no surprise). But she was supporting McCain, a man she railed against as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

Thus we hit upon the reason she called me to visit personally. Realpolitik. Specifically she discussed what we were going to look forward to this fall.

Dee mentioned that the party has gotten the word out: they were going to say whatever was necessary and do whatever necessary in order to get McCain and whichever “good conservative will be chosen as his running mate” elected. McCain had sufficiently “satisfied the rank-and-file” party leadership and assured them he was “their man” and would do “whatever was necessary.” For her to be convinced of someone she considered one step this side of Bill Clinton, that meant something significant.

"I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people." — Daniel Day-Lewis from “There Will Be Blood”

Just yesterday, coincidentally, word came out on The Hill News [] that Republicans are even encouraging their incumbents to “run against the GOP” as the title stated. “These [congressional approval] ratings are worse than we had on the eve of losing the majority,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). “Don’t be afraid to say you are disappointed in fellow Republicans… don’t hesitate to be anti-Washington, D.C.”

It sounds self-destructive, but as Dee reminded, once elected, they’ll be “their man” for whatever the GOP needs. Basically, they felt they were far from defeated.

Then the conversation became vaguely ominous. As Dee lives in an overwhelmingly white neighborhood in Sugar Land, her concern turned to me. She noted that what we’ve seen recently, even on the “race card” issue played on Obama is just the beginning. “This will get ugly,” she informed me.

As noted at the beginning of this, she reiterated the desperation in GOP-land. They were preparing to take a major hit in Congress. That said, they could not “under any circumstances” lose the presidency. The Supreme Court was what she brought up, though I somehow got a gut sense there were other reasons beyond that.

I asked her openly if this was because they couldn’t have the country led by a black man. She reiterated her respect for Obama and his reaching out on faith-based initiatives. But she also let the question trail off without answering and went back to the hackneyed “liberal courts” line and the Supreme Court’s “liberal” leaning, and also how Obama would (cryptically) “wreck the economy.” Needless to say, I reminded her of the current and longstanding wreckage, not to mention Bush’s immediate whining about “inheriting” it from Clinton and how easy that would be to apply to Bush.

Then she leaned forward and said, “look, you know how well we [GOP] run elections,” and then after a pause followed up with an odd question: “are you still living in that neighborhood?” (My neighborhood is in Alief, an extremely diverse neighborhood in Houston’s wild, wild west, with a notable portion of African-Americans of varying descent). When I answered, she responded “have you ever thought about moving?”

This was getting personal and strange. I answered and noted I wasn’t about to move as it wasn’t feasible, nor did I have the desire. Then came the follow up: Buy a gun. She said she knew there were a lot of minorities in my neighborhood, knew I was not a gun person, and was telling me this “as a friend” who “worries about me,” which she tacked on as she saw me getting upset.

Clearly this was getting strange. So I asked what she was talking about. She responded that the party was “ready to do whatever possible to keep the White House and to win as many elections down the ballot as possible.” She noted “there’s a lot at stake,” etc.

So I outright asked if they were planning on race-baiting. She answered in one of those oh-so-political answers that sounds like it’s a full denial, but if you listen closely, it never really answers the question directly.

So I re-asked: what’s going to happen? Are they actually expecting there to be racial problems? (which I’ll note have been remarkably absent thus far this season) Isn’t this going to paint McCain’s campaign as racist?

“Look at it this way … if we end up with riots, you know, like Rodney King? If that happens, what do you think is going to happen to the white democrat vote? Or the independent vote? They vote for McCain because they’re scared? Maybe they stay home and don’t vote at all? Either way, it benefits [Republicans].”

"You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about n:ggers, and they stomped the floor!" — Alabama Gov. George Wallace

By then, I was getting visibly upset and Dee noticed and began wrapping up our visit. As I walked out of the restaurant with her, I asked why they’re doing this, to which she replied “we’re not doing this! They’re doing it – already!” This was a reference to the comment Obama made about “people on the dollar bills don’t look like” him.(1) It became clear: Republicans were planning on using any possible occurrence to claim Obama’s the first to play “the race card,” to which they’ll just look like they’re responding.

This is a hyperbolically desperate campaign and political party we’re dealing with.

As a parting comment, Dee reiterated the suggestion to get a gun and a permit, etc. Even though it sounds bad reading this in written fashion, she was meaning this in a concerned fashion. I told her I had no intention of that, or of moving. Then she asked if I had friends in Vermont or New Hampshire … maybe I could move and stay with for a while (presumably until things blow over)?

At this moment, I’m just getting this out of my head onto blog because I really don’t know what to do with this. I’m outraged, depressed, numb and in disbelief. Even just mentioning this may be enough to start the wheels of chaos in motion from our side – just what the GOPpers would love! Play right into their greedy hands!

Yet I also can’t just sit aside and watch them get the fuck away with this! I did that once before the Iraq War and always felt I should’ve pushed harder.

Now I haven’t invested all of this in the Obama campaign: the time, the blockwalking, all the crap I took and the work over these months just to tuck tail and run away! I also didn’t sign up to this to end up making of myself a sitting duck, either! I have a legitimate stake in this election. Like much of America, I’m also getting financially hammered like a railroad spike. The thought of a GOP controlled government takes what tenuously little hope I have left and puts it out of its misery – there’s nothing left, no hope. And running away to somewhere safe is a similarly virtual impossibility as I have no wherewithal, and zero desire to do it.

So these powers that be will do whatever the bloody hell they feel because they have the money and the power to do so. Meanwhile folks like me, the “dummies” that don’t take heed and stay put get the same treatment as New Orleans post-Katrina: YOYO’s! (You’re On Your Own, for the unitiatiated). It reminds me of a T-shirt I saw in New Orleans that displayed the FEMA evacuation plan: “Run motherfucker, run!”

There are those who create chaos in order that they control and then make their own order out of that chaos. And there are folks like me who hate their manipulative fucking guts!

“If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.” — Sen. Barack Obama

(1) As a post-script to the blog, it was pointed out that Obama's dollar bill comment may not have been such a non-sequitur in his speech. It turns out that the McCain campaign put out a video that went out in June which had (among other things) a photo of Obama on a $100 dollar bill.

Was this what Obama was referring to during his speech in Missouri?