Saturday, November 11, 2017

The situation.

If you look at their platform and actions, it becomes clear the Republican Party's underlying motivation is to shunt money to billionaires at the expense of services for the middle class and poor. This seems self evident once you take some things into account:

--They seek to harm access to affordable healthcare, which will kill thousands or more, so that they can keep a little more of their money. 

--They create gun purchasing laws and apply them to one kind of gun store, but undermine this law by allowing the loophole of gun shows.
--Despite proof that the fossil fuel industry is raising the temperature of our planet to dangerous levels, they continue opening up pristine wilderness for exploration. 
--Their most recent attempt at legislation, the proposed tax overhaul, gives massive tax cuts to the wealthiest citizens and removes lots of tax credits that help middle class and poor families. The rich pay less, the poor pay more. This will create a deficit that will necessitate cuts to social programs such as social security.

The examples go on and on. How can a party that has such terrible intentions for the rest of us still be in power? It's got to be a combination of a few things: 

--very smart PR people, 

--an ideology that denigrates science and forbids government help for the individual,

--a gullible populace, 
--an incredibly wealthy ruling class that is, as we speak, trying to hijack our system of democratic government, and has the financial resources to achieve it.

This ruling class, or let's call it an oligarchy because that's what it is, has managed to make themselves the figureheads of government in a few countries. One of those countries is Russian, where Vladimir Putin, one of the wealthiest men in the world, has taken over the government with the help of his billionaire friends and has a stranglehold over the entire country. Their methods are brutal and unscrupulous, including the murder of journalists, the imprisonment and murder of political rivals, and joining forces with other equally brutal dictatorships such as Syria.

It's worrying to see a man like Putin take an interest in Donald Trump, who might have ideas about making the United States a lot like Russia. In proof, I offer these quotes from the man himself: "Putin is a strong leader. He's made mincemeat out of our president," and about Hillary Clinton, "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know." Here he is inciting violence against his political rival, a very Putinesque thing to do. 

Not all billionaires are pitching in to this effort to make American government a seat of power for the billionaire oligarchy. There are plenty who stand on the side of the middle and lower classes. George Soros, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet have all thrown their lot in with the majority of humanity, not only because they're basically good people, but because they understand doing so is the wisest course for themselves. Not even billionaires would be safe if the government of the greatest power on earth is taken over by unscrupulous people. This can only lead to instability and death for many. In other words, they are civic minded.

Donald Trump and the billionaires who support him are not civic minded, impossible to be if they are willing to accept help from a man like Vladimir Putin. So what is motivating them to support a man who obviously wants to enjoy the benefits of dictatorship, at least for this term, maybe for the next, and the next? My only conclusion is that oligarchy's interest in the platform of the Republican Party is not about ideology like it is for their puppets Paul Ryan etc... It's about money. The Trump presidency is a good business decision, and good business decisions take precedence over absolutely everything else. They're in a knife fight right now with the media and career public servants in our federal government, some of whom can likely be bought.

This is, presently, our situation.

Reasons for hope:

--President Obama and Eric Holder are going after the practice of gerrymandering, which in most cases benefits Republican candidates. If they manage to redraw district lines to be less attuned to voters' political orientation, they may help bring congress into better balance, and stop the increasing polarization of districts.
--As I mention above, we have billionaires on our side too.
--Our responsible news media is viciously attentive to all of this and,
--so are the majority of Americans.
--I can still write this blog post, and you can still read it.
--There's still a special counsel investigation being headed by Robert Mueller, who so far seems determined to uncover the conspiracy.

The oligarchy is not going to win. Believe that. Some of the billionaires who supported Trump must see that if Trump made America into an authoritarian system, the results could be bad FOR THEM. These are not stupid people.

So, with a sigh and a furtive look around the room, I'm still going to write this: I think it's going to be okay. America will remain a democracy; I really believe that. But the world may never be quite the same again. The only thing to do is the very best we can, and call congress when we need to, and stay alert and informed. I think we're all concerned enough to stay on top of it. 

That's because we understand how much there is at stake.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The News Is Not Depressing.

I see a lot of people talking about how the news is too depressing, and they're shutting it off and tuning out. I have a message for you:

The news is not depressing. Do we have a corrupt regime right now? It appears so. Did they collude with a hostile foreign power? Looks like they did. Are some members of congress helping them cover it up? Yeah, they probably are. Are they going down for it? Yes. Emphatically yes, they are going down. It's happening NOW.

Remember, from the first news of the Watergate break-in until Richard Nixon's resignation took THREE YEARS.

This is bigger than Watergate.

This is the most important time in modern American history. What happens in the next few years will determine the fate of the world. I'm not kidding. There are heroes, right now, courageously standing up to a powerful group of people who are trying to subvert American Democracy. These heroes say: "Oh, no you don't. NOT in America." Sally Yates. Jim Comey. John McCain. Members of the media are doing the same: Rachel Maddow, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The New Yorker and other heroic, insightful, hardworking reporters ALL THROUGH THE MEDIA are proving their indispensability to the American experiment. Pay attention. Every story is built on the basis of staffers and elected officials leaking information, risking their careers to fuel reporters' research into all the ways democratic laws and norms are being flouted. This is a massive effort of people all through the government and news media to expose an administration that is trying to be above the law.

And all those shady people backing them, the corporations and millionaires and billionaires who would gut our feeble health care system to create tax savings for themselves? They. Will. Lose.

They are not above the law. They will never be above the law. They are going down.

Repeat after me:
They're going down.

If you can, if your health allows, watch it as it happens. Don't hide from it. I'm telling you, we are living through some of the most inspiring, uplifting, important events in American history.

You don't want to miss this.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Are you a trans teen?

Are you feeling unwanted? Are you surrounded by ignorance? Is cruelty a part of your every day life? Has it been getting worse lately?

You just need to wait a little while.

Maybe you're a kid trapped in a small town with a narrow family, and you feel invisible, or worse, when you are visible, you're in danger. I cannot imagine how oppressive that must feel.

Just know that out there, somewhere, are your people, and you just need to hang onto your courage and make it until you can go out and find them.

They might be in New York, or San Francisco, or Miami Beach. They might be in Chicago or St. Louis, or New Orleans. When you are of age and free, and you've earned a little bit of your own money, you can buy a crappy car and load it up and go out looking for them.

Maybe they're in Columbia University. Maybe some of them are in the nearest state college. Maybe they're on a cruise ship or in Paris. When you find them, you will agree that the travels and adventures, and risks, and disappointments were worth it. They will recognize you, they will embrace you, they will say, "Honey. Me too." And you will be home. You will know self expression
and creativity and joyful abandon.

So just hang on. That moment is coming. It is in your future.

And when your new people welcome you, together you will know acceptance and love while you wait for this idiotic world to catch up to you.

I'm rooting for you.

In comments, if you are an older trans person, please leave a word of encouragement.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Letter to my Senator about Betsy DeVos

My senator's response to my email begging him not to confirm Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education: 

Dear Amy, 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the nomination of the U.S. Secretary of Education. It's good to hear from you. President Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. Her confirmation hearing was held on January 17, 2017. The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions extensively reviewed and debated her nomination. On January 31, 2017, the committee approved the nomination of Betsy DeVos by a vote of 12-11. Following the committee's review, I personally met with Betsy DeVos to discuss her views on a variety of education issues. I discussed with her the importance of a strong public education system, the unique challenges facing rural states and communities, as well as the need to ensure both opportunities and protections for students with disabilities. She committed to supporting public education, fully enforcing current federal laws, and providing flexibility to states. Following the discussion we had during our meeting, I believe she is dedicated to ensuring students received a quality education and returning the authority over education back to state and local control. 

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with me. 

John Barrasso, M.D. United States Senator 

My Response to him: 

Dear Senator Barrasso, 

Your response might be comforting to me if I didn't know Betsy DeVos has literally not one iota of experience in the public school system, and that she is a huge donor to the Republican Party, as was Secretary Tillerson, who personally donated to your campaign. 

Look, I am sure you are a sincere public servant, and that you want to help Wyoming, but you must see this looks bad. In the long term, with DeVos at the head of a government office that affects parents' and children's lives in the most direct and personal way, if she messes up through incompetence or intent to disrupt public education, both of which seem eminently possible, this will have very real political repercussions for everyone who voted for her. I beg you to reconsider. 

Best, AKR

Friday, January 27, 2017

My letter to banks funding the DAPL:

Dear Sir/ Madam,

I am writing to you because your bank is a revenue source for the Dakota Access Pipeline. You must know this project is enormously unpopular, and has the added taint of being strongly opposed by native americans who depend on the river you plan to bisect. The tactics employed to curb protesters are only likely to increase in severity. History does not look kindly on those who harm Native Americans. Your institution will partake of the shame of what happens, not only to the protesters, who are enormously popular on social media, but forever after, with every new leak, every new environmental travesty that will occur with this pipeline. 

I urge you to reconsider your financial support for this project. I urge you to use your influence to guide the project along more environmentally sound avenues. Above all, I urge you to consider that oil does not need to be made cheaper. It is already cheap. For the earth, for investors, for everyone, a more expensive oil price is much to be desired. 

Thank you for your time,

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. We can confirm that RBS relationship with Dakota Access Pipeline companies ended in 2015.  RBS has been named in several recent reports about the financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline in the United States. We can confirm that we no longer have involvement with companies developing the pipeline.

In the past, RBS did provide general finance to Energy Transfer Partners LP and Energy Transfer Equity LP, (the parent company of Dakota Access LLC), but we exited these relationships in September 2015 and November 2015 respectively.  We no longer have a significant presence in North America as a result of our strategy to become a smaller, simpler bank focused on the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Western Europe. 

As a result of these changes, our overall lending to energy sectors – including coal, oil and gas – has declined by 75% since 2010.  Despite this, we remain a leader in sustainable energy finance and we’ve been the biggest UK lender to UK renewable energy projects since 2011.  Our lending to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects continues to grow and we are committed to helping our customers lead the transition to a low carbon economy.

Further information about our approach to social and environmental issues, including lending policies and details of our energy sector financing can be found at


Aslam Abid | RBS CEO Office | London


Dear Sir / Madam 
  Thank you for taking the time to email Mr Gulliver, our Group Chief Executive.  
HSBC is firmly committed to providing financial services that support economic development while ensuring that there is not an unacceptable impact on people or the environment.  Mr Gulliver, and our senior management have actively made this a priority for HSBC.  Mr Gulliver was the only Chief Executive Officer of a leading global financial services company to attend COP21 in Paris in December 2015.  Our Climate Change Research team were present and active across a range of discussions involved in helping to formulate plans to tackle the transition from fossil fuels to a low carbon future.  The ratification last week of the proposals which aim to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees is a very positive step in the right direction and HSBC is leading in the funding of projects both in the UK and internationally that will contribute to this.  In the UK we have made the commitment to focus more resource on supporting sustainable business with the introduction of a dedicated senior banking team to target and support sustainable businesses and a program of training across all our relationship teams.  Our commitment to supporting the transition to a low carbon economy includes funding energy efficiency projects such as the installation of smart meters, funding renewable energy across a range of sources including solar, onshore wind and offshore wind and critically, supporting the local businesses that provide the people and services to deliver these projects.  Supporting local jobs and local business is key to HSBC.  Our funding for these projects is growing quickly and we aim to be the UK leader and bank of choice for sustainable businesses.  I note your comments with regard to the Dakota Access pipeline.  I can assure you that HSBC reviews all relationships in detail to determine if there is an unacceptable impact on people and the environment from that company’s operations and where we feel that risk is unacceptable we exit relationships.  Our policies are determined after extensive research and advice from experts and guidance taken from the highest standards set by Governments globally.  I cannot comment on any specific customer relationship, but want to let you know that this is a continuous and evolving set of standards that we have for our customers and HSBC aims to only support businesses that demonstrate that they meet our standards.  As businesses and society develop and demand new sources of energy and changing standards the balance has to be maintained between ensuring that the energy needs of the population continue to be met at the same time as significant progress is made to reduce greenhouse gases.  Moving to increased use of gas and reducing the burning of coal is one step on this transition.  The extraction of all fossil fuels has to be done with the minimum impact on the environment, but there will be a need for fossil fuels for a transitional period until renewable sources can meet the demands of the population.  HSBC does not just set standards for our customers, but hold ourselves to those standards.  HSBC has been committed to reducing its environmental impact and reducing greenhouse gasses since 2001 and our Sustainable Development Goals extend our ambition well into the future.  In the UK we are investing in two renewable power projects, solar and wind, and by the end of 2016 over 66% of our UK power needs will come from renewable sources.  We have committed £25m in funding to science projects to develop a range of solutions to help transition to a more sustainable economy and in 2016 HSBC was accredited to work with the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund helping developing nations to develop sustainably.  I hope this demonstrates our commitment to playing a leading role supporting and developing solutions to help us all move toward a more sustainable future.  In the short term, there will be a balance to be struck between meeting the immediate needs of our communities and population and moving to a sustainable society, but I want to let you know that we take this commitment seriously and are taking action to deliver against our ambitions. 
 Yours sincerely, 

Peter Taylor 

Executive Complaints Manager 

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your response, but your mention of commitment to the environment and lessening impact on land and people simply does not match your actions regarding the DAPL. This thoughtful note of yours amounts to lip service while your company obviously pursues the almighty dollar, kowtowing to a dying industry, and building a vastly expensive infrastructure that will necessitate a long term commitment to fossil fuels in order to realize any profits from it. In this context, your response is quite Orwellian. 

Have a nice day,

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Reasons to be ENCOURAGED about the new year.

Here is a list of reasons to be encouraged in 2017:

1. Our next generation of voters and leaders, (I'm looking at you, Millennials,) are an awesome bunch of kids committed to the environment, equality for all, and a bright future for everyone on the planet. And they're on their way up.
2. Organizations like the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Southern Poverty Law Center are seeing huge surges in donations. Let's keep that going!
3. Newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and magazines like The New Yorker have seen a huge upsurge in subscriptions. All those brilliant reporters are going to be hard at work exposing all kinds of government sludge.
4. Solar power is taking increasingly larger shares of the energy market away from coal and oil, and that is creating all kinds of jobs, and we should see that trend continue.
5. Hybrid and electric cars are getting cheaper, and better.
6. China just banned the ivory trade. How about that?
7. We are seeing a huge wave of political engagement in progressives who have never engaged politically before. This is new, and exciting! A great example: The Million Woman March, January 21, 2017, in cities all over the country! I'm going to be at the one in Washington DC, and I'm going to be posting all kinds of pictures and videos about it.
8. Cities and states are starting to realize that we can't wait for the federal government to fix the environment, and so they are taking on these challenges themselves. Yay local government!
9. The United Nations is becoming a more outspoken voice of reason on the world stage.
10. People are consciously choosing to help the environment rather than hurt it by starting to garden, supporting local farmers' markets, and composting their waste. More people ride bikes to work, bring their own travel mugs to the coffee shops, and cook at home rather than order take out. This greener lifestyle will keep catching on, especially as the Millennials start calling the shots.

So happy new year everyone. Let's make it a good one, because my darlings, it turns out saving the world is up to us.