Social Issues

Why Disco Doesn’t Suck

I grew up in the Inwood neighborhood of upper Manhattan. Back then the neighborhood had a clear physical division: east of Broadway was primarily populated by Dominicans and other people of color, while the west of Broadway was primarily populated by whites. The neighborhood residents seemed to coexist and share public spaces such as Inwood Park without any strife I was cognizant of. I attended a catholic grade school where I had friends of varied ethnic backgrounds. I was fortunate in that my first encounter with bigotry was not until I was 12 years old (though as I got older, I certainly experienced it).

In the summer of 1979, I entered Inwood Park and saw this boldly spray-painted on a wall: “Disco Suxs!” For some reason, it rattled me. What was so bad about disco? I was a fan. It had ENERGY and you could dance to it. It made me happy. Back then, and to this day, I never understood people who severely went out of their way to slam something that was not of their taste. If you don’t like something, ignore it and move on—why deface a wall? Why troll online?

I asked my parents about it and that became our first talk about bigotry. Because they knew I loved music so much, they used the history of Motown Records as a way to explain it to me. They noted how Motown played an important role in the racial integration of popular music. After that talk, I never looked at or heard those records in the same way again.

Years later, on a VH1 Behind the Music episode on disco, virtuoso musician and producer, Niles Rodgers conveyed that the hate stemmed from the fact that it was the music of minorities that included people of color and the LGBTQ community. Music critic Robert Christgau noted that homophobia, and most likely racism, were the driving forces behind the anti-disco movement[1] that resulted in a preposterous disco demolition night at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The way the 1960s counterculture ended at Altamont, disco ended at this event (by the way, those in attendance trashed the stadium[2]). The haters were also likely intimated by the liberating physicality of disco dancing and hastily labeled the music as vacuous.

Concurrently forceful and sensual, disco was the resurgence of Dionysian pagan culture in the 20th century. Disco is not vacuous and is indeed complex.

First and foremost, disco took significant effort to produce than say the four-piece bands found in other genres. Disco often contained an ample band, with chordal instruments, drums, percussions, horns, a string orchestra, and various classical solo instruments like the flute. The recording of complex arrangements with a large number of instruments required a team that included a conductor and mixing engineers. Disco also had extraordinary vocalists that included powerhouses such as Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand as well as Gloria Gaynor, Diana Ross, Chic, France Joli, Michael Jackson, Cheryl Lynn, Sylvester, A Taste of Honey, and Barry White.

After the ridiculousness of disco demolition night, disco found a second life in early rap, notably “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang which sampled Chic’s brilliant song, “Good Times.” Disco still lives on under the sapped rubric of Dance Music. Dance music is not as beautifully produced as Disco but has had many remarkable moments over the last forty years.

If you hated Disco in the 1970s, let me encourage you to put aside your prejudices and put on a pair of headphones and embrace the genius. Let the music take you away.

www.edwinroman.com


[1] http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/pnj/pj78.php

[2] http://www.fuzzymemories.tv/index.php?c=4548

Community Organizing and Voting

A Brief History of Community Organizing in the 20th Century

Community organizing seeks better responsiveness of institutions to the needs of the community by addressing and restructuring decision-making processes. Community organizers recruit residents to take on powerful institutions in their community through direct, public confrontation and action. Respected figures such as Saul Alinsky and noted organizations such as the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) have advanced community organizing.

Saul Alinsky founded the Industrial Areas Foundation in 1940. The IAF is a grassroots organizing network involving people in over sixty cities in the U.S. that draws together coalitions of poor and middle class people to address poverty, housing, education, public infrastructure and many other issues. However, the IAF is not necessarily about issues: its aim is to build a culture of vibrant participatory democratic practices that gradually transform political and economic power. The IAF is an organization of organizations, drawing upon religious congregations, neighborhood associations, community centers, and unions. Issues tend to be chosen and negotiated with an eye to how they might strengthen and broaden grassroots democratic relationships. The IAF has been successful at drawing people into long-term democratic practices and bridging relationships that cross lines of complex difference, creating new political relationships that concurrently work with traditional and the emerging.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), like the IAF, is also a grassroots community organization of low and moderate-income people. Started in 1970 by Wade Rathke and Gary Delgado, the early version of ACORN helped people obtain clothing and furniture; it campaigned for schools to provide healthy, affordable lunches and promoted Vietnam Veterans’ rights. The organization then branched out into housing and workers’ rights advocacy and has helped thousands of working-class and poor citizens obtain home loans, register to vote and fight for better wages. ACORN differed from IAF in that it engaged in electoral politics as a way of gaining power and ddi not rely on support from organizations and churches, but on door-to-door solicitation and dues paying members. ACORN did not limit itself to local issues and campaigns; and was very particular about picking winnable issues. ACORN found that it could win on issues that are not just about welfare and the poor.

As the IAF expanded, Alinsky felt that the most essential element of organizing was relational organizing. To make IAF organizations more cohesive and assertive, especially when dealing with municipal government, Alinsky encouraged face-to-face meetings. He also believed in establishing local power through individual local leaders who organized and mobilized the poor. One of ACORN’s strengths is its combination of insider and outsider tactics and strategies: activists and leaders often work both inside the system (organizing the poor) and outside the system (protests and confrontation). ACORN did not shy away from using the in-your-face confrontational protest tactics. ACORN was unapologetic about its tactics because it helped draw attention to neglected issues and built membership.

One criticism of the IAF was the lack of diversity among the organizing staff. ACORN’s organizing staff was 90% white in the 1970s and 1980s, but the organization has made considerable progress hiring and retaining organizers of color. Regarding matters of membership and possible racial issues, both organizations approached it in somewhat similar ways: they essentially ignored it. IAF’s practice of multiracial equality presupposes that common religious values creates a basis for cooperation that over time could overcome longstanding prejudices and create a mutual understanding. IAF emphasized the economic and ignored the racial fearing that raising the issue of race could disrupt and divide their organization. ACORN rarely framed issues racially; therefore, it had difficulty forming alliances or coalitions with Black organizations. ACORN also did not organize around single issues such as desegregation, police brutality or the loss of needed public services.

Interestingly, The IAF and ACORN had chapters in some of the same cities that often work on similar issues, but they never work together. Because the IAF uses religious values as a unifying force, their local chapters usually had more members than ACORN’s, but it never sought to build an amalgamated organization that could have waged national policy campaigns. Interestingly, IAF’s Baltimore affiliate, BUILD, coordinated the first successful living wage campaign, but was not able to translate that into a national movement. ACORN, on the other hand, had used its amalgamated structure to build a national living wage movement, with victories in several cities.

While organizations such as unions have historically played an effective role in representing everyday citizens, those organizations now have weaker organizing power. What we have left are community-based organizations. The IAF and ACORN both sought broad-based constituencies that spanned race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and geography. But in this political atmosphere, can they survive?

The Mid to Late 2000s

In 2007, ACORN had field offices in 100 cities and 260,000 members, mostly from minority communities. ACORN helped register more than 1.6 million voters nationally between 2004 and 2008. In 2004, it initiated a successful ballot measure raising Florida’s minimum wage. But by 2008, Republicans were accusing ACORN of voter fraud, even though prosecutors across the country failed to find any evidence. Let us be clear that ACORN was indeed contributory in getting Barack Obama elected.

In 2009, workers at ACORN were secretly recorded by conservative hacks Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe. The videos were heavily edited to create a misleading impression of their activities.

In September of 2009, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to ban the ACORN from receiving federal funding. Here’s how the Democratic leadership voted on the “De-fund ACORN” amendment (A “yes” is a vote to de-fund”):

  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: did not vote.
  • Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen: Yes
  • Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: Yes
  • Majority Whip Jim Clyburn: No
  • Senior Chief Deputy Majority Whip John Lewis: No
  • Chief Deputy Majority Whip Maxine Waters: No
  • Chief Deputy Majority Whip John S. Tanner: did not vote
  • Chief Deputy Majority Whip Ed Pastor: Yes
  • Chief Deputy Majority Whip Jan Schakowsky: No
  • Chief Deputy Majority Whip Joseph Crowley: No
  • Chief Deputy Majority Whip Diana DeGette: No
  • Chief Deputy Majority Whip GK Butterfield: No
  • Chief Deputy Majority Whip Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Yes
  • Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson: Yes
  • Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra: No
  • Steering/Policy Committee Co-Chair George Miller: Yes
  • Steering/Policy Committee Co-Chair Rosa DeLauro: Yes
  • Organization, Study, and Review Chairman Michael Capuano: No

In December of 2009, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report on ACORN activities, commissioned by the House Judiciary Committee. It noted that ACORN has not been found to violate any federal regulations in the past five years. The report’s other findings included that there were no instances of voter fraud by people who were allegedly registered to vote improperly by ACORN or its employees, and no instances where ACORN violated terms of federal funding in the last 5 years. In fact, the CRS found that O’Keefe and Giles may have violated Maryland and California laws banning the recording of face-to-face conversations without consent of both parties.

Postmortem Denouement

I can’t help but wonder how could an organization that had become a force across the country, mobilizing low- wage minority workers and Democratic voters, be pushed to its downfall by its beneficiaries? Alinsky wrote, in the afterword of his Reveille for Radicals (on page 225), “A political idiot knows that most major issues are national, and in some areas international, in scope. They cannot be coped with on the local community level.” He also warned against jumping directly to a national organization while skipping “the organization of the parts” (page 226). Is this what happened to ACORN? Were they not firmly rooted in the communities they worked in? If they were, would politicians have been less inclined to throw them under the bus?

Speaking of politicians, I want to single out Debbie Wasserman Schultz as one glaring example of what is wrong with the Democratic Party.

In 2011, she missed 62 votes of Congress. In December 2015, Wasserman Schultz was one of 24 co-sponsors of H.R. 4018, authored by GOP Congressman Dennis A. Ross, which would delay the implementation of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulations. Wasserman Schultz was among a dozen Florida representatives who cosponsored the legislation that would delay the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s payday lending rules by two years. The fees for these loans, over the course of a year, can add up as high as the equivalent of a 300% APR.

The following year, during the 2016 presidential primary, Wasserman Schultz only scheduled six debates, significantly fewer than in previous election cycles (and half as many as the Republicans counterparts). Some of Wasserman Schultz’s actions that the media covered during the primaries included:

  • halting the Sanders’ campaign’s access to DNC databases;
  • defending the superdelegate system used in the Democratic primaries;
  • rescinding a prior ban on corporate donations;
  • and accusing Sanders supporters of violence at the Nevada Convention.

The following story from Politico is an advisable read: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774

The right wing’s efforts to demonize ACORN had made the organization a discomfiture to Democratic leadership, and it was far easier to throw ACORN under the bus than it would be to stand up for fundamental fair play and justice, and actually investigate the charges before deciding what the appropriate response might be. After the debacle of the 2016 election, as well as later this year, Democrats like Wasserman Schultz will wish they hadn’t been so cavalier especially if the GOP continues to prevent those who put them into office from voting.

Edwin Roman

https://edwinroman.com/index.html

The Music Video as Art: Dark Ballet by Madonna

Since the video became a ubiquitous part of popular music nearly forty years ago, it has sometimes struggled as an art form. The marriage has not always been harmonious: sometimes you have great songs with mediocre videos and vice versa. What I have always appreciated about it, when it does approach art, is that a story or message can be conveyed without the constraint of a script, spoken word, or even the lyrics of the song.

Madonna, who rose to prominence during the early years of the music video, has produced a stunning body of work in both video and song. However, in the last decade, this has not been case; she seemed more occupied with cannibalizing younger recording artists and profitable touring than producing thoughtful work. Mercifully, she has returned to peak form with “Dark Ballet.”

The song and video are essentially a pop version of the opera by Tchaikovsky, The Maid of Orleans, which tells the story of Joan of Arc. Interestingly, this is not Madonna’s first time exploring Joan of Arc in her work: in her last album, Rebel Heart, she had a song titled “Joan of Arc.” In my review, I noted it as the most irritating song because she was essentially complaining about being famous and I questioned what that had to do with Joan of Arc.

“Dark Ballet” is told from Joan of Arc’s point of view. In the brilliant bridge of the song, set to a pulsating electronic arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Reed-Flutes” from The Nutcracker, Madonna speaks:

“I will not denounce the things that I have said
I will not renounce my faith in my sweet Lord
He has chosen me to fight against the English
And I’m not afraid at all to die ’cause I believe him
God is on my side and I’ll be his bride
I am not afraid ’cause I have faith in him
You can cut my hair and throw me in a jail cell
Say that I’m a witch and burn me at the stake
It’s all a big mistake
Don’t you know to doubt him is a sin?
I won’t give in”

The video is book ended by quotes, with one by Joan of Arc and another by queer poet and activist Mykki Blanco, who was cast as Joan of Arc in the video. Madonna is surprisingly absent except for a very brief cameo. Blanco gives us some incredible acting here. I also can’t heap enough praise on the cinematography, production, and direction by Emmanuel Adjei (he is one to watch).

And while the song and video is about Joan of Arc, it feels as if Madonna and Adjei are also addressing the toxic mix of bigotry and religion that pervades the world: too many people use religion to justify their prejudices and fears.  

Madonna’s pop version of the opera The Maid of Orleans is “Dark Ballet.”

www.edwinroman.com

A Nazi Christmas? Sorry Bigots, You’ve Got Your Wires Crossed

Bigotry is a consequence of ignorance. The less you know, the more you fear. Benjamin Franklin once said: “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”

On October 31, 2018, The Washington Post ran a story on Nazi and KKK memorabilia being sold at a Kentucky gun show. Joe Gerth, a columnist with the Louisville Courier-Journal, was at the show to do research for a piece he was working on, interviewing gun dealers to inquire if they feared that the guns they sold could end up being used by the wrong people. Earlier that week, a gunman had gone to a Kroger store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, and fatally shot two Black customers. Later that week, the Tree of Life synagogue was the scene of yet another mass shooting. Both shootings that week were racially motivated and executed by White domestic terrorists.

While at the gun show, Gerth tweeted the following:

A spontaneous face palm hit me when I saw the above picture. Why? Because the Nazi party actually worked to repress and oppress the Christian Church in Germany. In fact, many historians believed that the Nazis intended to completely eliminate Christianity in Germany after winning the war. 1

In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote, “by defending myself against the Jews, I am fighting the Lord’s Work.” But Hitler’s early views towards Christianity were born purely out of political necessity, he knew that he needed the early Nazi Party to attract a majority of Christian voters. However, Nazi ideology could not come to terms with an independent establishment whose legitimacy was not founded and fostered by the Nazi government.2 From 1933 to 1945, more than 6,000 clergymen were charged with treasonable activities and were imprisoned or executed. 3

Interestingly, Heinrich Himmler, the second most powerful individual in the third Reich, became interested in Germanic myths, which reinforced the idea of the superiority of the German race as well as other occult ideas. He wanted Germany to be restored to its mythological roots, free of Christianity.4

I know that people like to cherry pick passages from the bible in order to find justification for their bigotry, but to combine your faith with a secular belief that are actually incongruent is ignorance at its worst.

 

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemöller

 

1 https://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/13/weekinreview/word-for-word-case-against-nazis-hitler-s-forces-planned-destroy-german.html

2 Theodore S. Hamerow; On the Road to the Wolf’s Lair – German Resistance to Hitler; Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 1997

3 Overy, Richard (2004). The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. New York: W. W. Norton. p. 281.

4 Peter Longerich, Heinrich Himmler, trans. Jeremy Noakes and Lesley Sharpe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 77.

 

edwinroman.com

 

Deconstructing a Conservative Troll

Growing up, I thought that trolls were repugnant fabled creatures that lived under old stone bridges and came out at night to scare children. As an adult, I am surprised to find that variations of the troll actually exist in daily life! You have probably had dealings with them too. Examples include:

  • that annoying colleague who copies everyone in an e-mail in a half-baked attempt to make you look bad;
  • that angry motorist who flashes their bright lights in an effort to get you to move faster when you are already driving at the speed limit;
  • the individual who cannot stay off their phone in a movie theater or at a concert;
  • the man who endlessly harasses the woman after she clearly has shown she has no interest in his overtures; or
  • the Westboro Baptist “church.”

And then there is that troll who unfortunately has an outsized presence in the modern world: The internet troll. You know who they are, that sub-human who uses cyberspace, often anonymously, to aggravate and defame others. Social media has been a boon to this obnoxious individual, most notably for those who support conservative viewpoints. I avoid contact with these creatures of vitriol who sustain an intra-cerebral mythos of greatness and domination. I recently fell into a trap with one and wanted share my experience and suggestions for dealing with these little punks.

It started back in December 2017 when he replied to a retweet I posted from Senator Dianne Feinstein.

troll one

Shortly after he started following me. When I noticed it in my notifications, I remembered thinking, “Okay, I am being followed by a long-dead silent film actor.” His profile picture and name is that of actor John Gilbert, who died in 1936. This is a red flag that you are likely dealing with a troll: they don’t use their own pictures and/or their own names. Now John Gilbert could be his name, but that is definitely not his picture. You have to wonder what and why is he hiding? All of my social media accounts use my name and picture and are connected to my website.

After following me, La Gilbert would swoop in on to my Twitter feed and comment and every now and then. And I always ignored it—which is exactly what you should do with trolls: don’t respond!

troll two

Then one day I retweeted something from Black Lives Matter and he replied with an utter lie. I replied with this simple statement:

troll three

No response. Instead, he oddly chose to retweet a retweet of mine from Neil deGrasse Tyson. Classic deflection—very tRump-esque!

troll five

Then the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre happened and I became very engaged in social media conversations on it. Then La Gilbert replied to this retweet:

trollsix

I responded by providing several viable sources. He then replied with the following and you can see my reply, which was a mistake. I did exactly what he had been waiting for months for me to do.

troll seven

He then replied with this.

troll 8

How did he even know I have cats, unless he was indeed following me? Or even more creepy, has he stalked me beyond Twitter? And what is with that Metrosexual dig? Interestingly, a friend was following the discussion and hilariously noted, “Wow, he really has a hard-on for you!” I replied with:

troll 9

He then must have had a mental nuclear meltdown, because the first thing he did was un-follow me and reply with the following:

troll 11

Anyway, he would to on the post on his wall how he took me down. Chest thumbing at its worst. He then oddly pinned his own response to his remark on that earlier retweet I posted from Black Lives Matter.

troll thirteen

On to the postmortem denouement.

In order to attack others, trolls need one or more victims and a public forum because they need an audience. While you can’t control whether you will become a troll’s target, you can decide if you will make yourself a troll’s victim. Knowing that the troll’s goal is to demean, you have a choice regarding how you are going to react. Understand that where there’s one troll, there may be many more waiting to follow up on what the first troll started.  This just means there may be more than one troll that needs ignoring. And ultimately, that is my recommendation: ignore them. Don’t feed the troll. Don’t try to be clever, just ignore them. They can not be reasoned with—especially if they support conservative viewpoints.

A fair question regarding this blog entry would be if I am indeed feeding the troll. Not exactly. First and foremost, this is on my blog and I am not responding directly to anything he posted. Second, I am not going to let La Gilbert know that I have written it. I also did not hyperlink his account to this entry. If he stumbles on to it, it is because he is indeed following me. If he retweets it, then this publicly debunks his own assertions that he was not following me. This blog entry presents quite the conundrum for the attention hungry La Gilbert.  He probably will be unable to stay silent. We will see.

I don’t know about you but I have had more than my fill of trolling liars.

 

edwinroman.com

 

Milk, Bread and Snowstorms

Engaging in social media also means engaging with the weather, most notably, inclement weather. Perhaps the most notable are those videos, memes and news stories that detail coming snowstorms and the supermarket freak-outs where everyone is trying to buy milk and bread. Where did this come from? Why do people in modern industrialized urban areas act almost panicked for what is essentially a cyclical occurrence? Snow is ubiquitous in New York City!

1daily newsI grew up in Manhattan near three supermarkets. However, my parents were those people that made sure we were stocked up for ‘the big storm.’ I once asked my father about it and he noted the massive snowstorm of 1969. I was a year and half old at the time and we lived in Jackson Heights and the city neglected the entire borough of Queens. According to The New York Times, 42 people died in that storm, half of them in Queens.

“For days, the streets were impassable, and residents were all but barricaded inside their homes.”

For first-time parents with a young child this made a lasting impression.

After I moved away from home, my parents continued to ask if I was prepared for ‘the storm.’ For me, preparing meant not having to go out and having a great movie to watch. In fact, I have a tradition in my home during a snowstorm that requires me to watch the ultimate snowbound film,  The Shining.

I didn’t quite understand my parents until I experienced Hurricane Sandy. I had a hole in my roof and was without electricity for nine days. Because I was disconnected, I didn’t see the shocking images of Rockaway, Lower Manhattan and New Jersey until much later. Most shocking were the petty politics perpetuated by conservative politicians.

Since Sandy, I  walk around with a portable charger for my devices and I also keep batteries and flashlights ready to go. Since that experience I have become very familiar with New York’s Emergency Management website. I recommend you do the same. Even if you don’t reside in New York City, many of the recommendations are applicable. I think Benjamin Franklin said it best, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Final Thoughts On Election 2016

The tweet detailed below embodies my feelings regarding this election. I am already seeing reports of violence against people of color; individuals dressed in KKK garb proudly marching around and general unrest.

I am going to point a finger at the DNC, The New York Times, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile for imposing Clinton on us. The hate train for Clinton has been at full steam since the 1990s and when you factor in her thin and flawed service record (e.g. in the Senate, she voted for the invasion of Iraq and for the Patriot Act as well as its re-authorization; as secretary of state, she was a very active in promoting fracking), she was always going to be a difficult sell.

I did vote for her, but we missed a real opportunity to elect a true progressive in Bernie Sanders. Poll after poll showed him easily beating Trump, while those same polls had Clinton in a close race (as we witnessed last night).

I’ve decided to limit my social media use for a while because it was the medium that gave rise to Trump. At the outset, he didn’t really spend a lot of money to promote himself: he had the media doing that and they likely based their reporting on what was trending. A Twitter joke that turned into a dark reality: the reality television “star” with zero experience as a statesman is now President. Instead, life imitates art as the world depicted in the dark comedy Idiocracy seems to be at its dawn.

I want to encourage you from this point forward to use social media responsibly. Allowing Trump to trend planted the seeds of his victory. Don’t just post something because you agree with it. Make sure it is valid and don’t just go by the headline. Make sure it is the truth. Otherwise you are just as bad as Fox “News.”

Return to Sender

I want to vote for Dr. Jill Stein, but have some reservations.

Let me start with this disclaimer: I am in no way supporting La Trump. Interestingly, about a year ago, I wrote that La Trump was a necessary evil in that he would highlight the worst of the Koch-funded conservative candidates. This was supposed to be a good thing because conservatives would never listen to these issues coming from someone like Bernie Sanders. It bizarrely worked. I also erroneously noted that no RATIONAL voter would vote for this reality “star” with zero experience as a statesman. Instead, life imitates art as the world depicted in the dark comedy Idiocracy seems to be at its dawn.

This blog entry is more of an exploration, a sort of brainstorming. I am actually still trying to figure out whom to vote for. I have been a Bernie Sanders supporter since day one. However, the DNC played fast, loose and unfairly with this election and essentially imposed Hillary Clinton on us. If La Trump wins, you can blame the scheming Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Poll after poll had the scandal free Sanders easily beating La Trump with double digits.

My next disclaimer: I am not a misogynist. Like some almost surreal and bizarre knee-jerk reaction, any time I mentioned my support for Sanders, I was immediately accused of misogyny for not automatically supporting Clinton. Really? The fact is Sanders has way more experience as an ELECTED official. And as for Clinton’s achievements, before her senate election most of them were tied to her husband. Her accomplishments, if any, as an elected official and an appointed one are very thin.

Let’s take a brief glimpse at her record since being elected senator and appointed secretary of state.

In the Senate, she voted for the invasion of Iraq and for the Patriot Act as well as its subsequent reauthorization. Clinton also co-sponsored legislation that would make any true progressive cringe. For example, in 2005, she joined a bipartisan group of senators in signing onto the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which, according to the ACLU, would have essentially legalized discrimination.

As secretary of state, she pushed for the 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan and the intervention in Libya and was also been a very vocal proponent of the drone war that has led to the deaths of 2,400 civilians. She was also very active in promoting fracking worldwide through the Global Shale Gas Initiative. Via the State Department, and sometimes personally, she lobbied on behalf of companies like Chevron who wanted to expand fracking (most notably in Bulgaria and Romania). Since stepping down as secretary of state, Clinton continued to express support for fracking, which she outlined in a 2014 speech to the National Clean Energy Summit. She has also remained silent on the Keystone pipeline.

Let’s talk about her running mate, Tim Kaine. On July 18, Kaine was one of four senators signing a letter sent to the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency asking that they exclude large regional banks from the “significant burdens” of reporting risk on a daily, rather than monthly, basis. It also called for them to revisit the amount of capital these banks must hold over a 30-day period to cover emergency situations. The senators’ request was undoubtedly deregulatory and irresponsible: SunTrust, one of the banks that would fall under this exclusion, paid $1 billion to settle mortgage fraud allegations.

The Democrats are now the Republicans, circa 1970. From DOMA to the crime bill’s “superpredators” (her word), the former Goldwater girl (again, her own words) has a history of supporting discrimination. And even though Sanders has pushed the party to the left, Clinton the war hawk will keep us in a perpetual state of undeclared war. This is why I am no longer a Democrat, but an Independent voter. I want intelligent dialog on pushing a progressive and inclusive agenda. CLINTON HAS TO EARN MY VOTE. So far, she has not.

Once Sanders was out, I began to explore other candidates. My preference, to date, is Dr. Jill Stein. True, like La Trump, she does not have experience as an elected official, but she has lead initiatives to fight environmental racism and injustice. She has also helped win victories in campaign finance reform, racially just redistricting, green jobs, and the cleanup of incinerators, coal plants, and toxic threats. A stark contrast from La Trump, who once bullied an elderly Scottish woman so that he could build a golf course.

My reservations are not with Stein, but with the Green Party. And it has nothing to do with what they support—in fact, they literally support everything that I support. The problem is that they do not have a lot of people elected into office. According to their website, there are at least 135 Green Party politicians in 15 states currently holding elected offices; all very local and none at the federal level.

We desperately need a third party. Third parties can force progress on political issues. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, they forced the major political parties to pass significant anti-monopoly legislation among other things. But today’s Green Party simply does not have that power. They certainly do not have the power to elect a president YET (though it is interesting to note Gary Johnson’s rise in the polls as well as third party candidates in senate races.)

I despise having to vote for Clinton simply because she is not La Trump. The right choice is hardly the easy choice. Thankfully, I still have time to decide.

P.S. On the back of the envelope pictured above, I wrote: You have Wall Street’s money. You don’t need me.

With Omar Mateen By Proxy

voltairequote

On June 12, 2016, a mass shooting hate crime occurred inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The shooting resulted in a total of 102 casualties including 49 deaths. The massacre was deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history. It was also the deadliest incident of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people, as well as their allies, in the history of the United States, surpassing the 1973 UpStairs Lounge arson attack. President Obama described the massacre as an “act of hate.”

This massacre didn’t happen in a vacuum. Omar Mateen was fostered by a toxic combination largely rooted in religious absolutism, self-hatred, mental issues, media illiteracy and easy access to semi automatic weapons.

In allegiance with him, by proxy, are people and organizations like:

Are you seeing pattern?

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You can believe in God and still be a tolerant individual.

It is not your responsibility to persecute in the name of God.

You can also believe in God and still be a critical thinker.

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Nick Gier, Professor Emeritus at the University of Idaho has noted that Jesus says nothing specific about the sin of homosexuality anywhere in the Gospels. Sodomy as a term for sexual sin began to be commonly used only in the 11th century. Early religious commentators attributed Sodom’s problems with God to many different causes, including idolatry, threats toward strangers and general lack of compassion for the downtrodden. Ezekiel 16:49 advocates that Sodomites “had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, is an Abrahamic religion. Jesus is mentioned in the Qur’an as a prophet. The Qur’an provides the basis of Islamic beliefs and law, yet does not provide clear answers to questions surrounding homosexuality. Homosexuality existed in Pre-Islamic, Arab society, not unlike Ancient Greece, and played a vital role in some of the early religions. Nicole Kligerman, in the Macalester Islam Journal, noted that Islamic repression of homosexuals may not have always been prevalent and that Western influences may have created a greater social stigma against homosexuality.

William Shakespeare, in The Merchant of Venice, brilliantly noted that, “the devil can cite scripture for his purpose.” If you believe that a person is going to hell because they identify as LGBTQIA, then that is their business and let God deal with it. An infinite and all-powerful God of love should be able to protect himself and continue to thrive. Whenever religion and violence collaborate, no human being is safe.

First Stop in Brooklyn Reusable / Green Bag. Designed by Edwin Roman

Reusable / Green Bags in New York City

Plastic. Whenever I hear that word, the first thing that comes to mind is that hilarious scene in The Graduate where party guest, Mr. Maguire, declares to Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin, “I just want to say one word: plastics.”

How wrong you were Mr. Maguire! Plastic has shaped the modern world in numerous ways that undoubtedly make life easier, BUT it comes at a great cost.

Plastic has left detrimental marks on the environment and human health. David Barnes, a researcher for the British Antarctic Survey, noted, “One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics. Within just a few decades since mass production of plastic products commenced in the 1950s, plastic debris has accumulated in terrestrial environments, in the open ocean, on shorelines of even the most remote islands and in the deep sea.”

Earlier this week, the New York City Council voted to require some businesses to charge a fee on each paper or plastic bag. There are several exceptions that include:

  • restaurants, including those that deliver and serve takeout;
  • street vendors;
  • plastic bags used for produce;
  • small paper medicine bags at pharmacies
  • bags used at state-regulated liquor stores;
  • bags used by soup kitchens;
  • and individuals buying groceries with food stamps.

I cheered! This legislation was long overdue especially when you consider the efforts being made the Department of Sanitation’s recycling program and the MTA’s recent innovations in sustainability.

The New York Times noted, “The vehemence of the opposition could perhaps be traced to plastic bags’ daily presence in the lives of New Yorkers, who often shop for groceries spontaneously and then lug the crinkly bags home to be reused as trash-can liners or to pick up after pets. “ (Take note of the photograph that accompanies this article of a plastic bag stuck in a tree.)

I have actually been using reusable/green bags for about nine years and would like to offer a few tips to my fellow New Yorkers looking to adapt. Believe me, it is easier than you think.

  1. I have experimented with several types of bags over the years. The best of them has been the Micro Chico Bag like the one pictured above that I designed and sell via my website. The Chico Bag folds up on to itself and easily fits in your pocket. They are also quite durable and can be hand washed.
  2. If you eat meat and dairy, be sure to set aside bags exclusively for this and wash them often. Also, be sure not to store this bag in the truck of your car.
  3. Reusable/green bags utilized for groceries should not be used for other things.

One reusable/green bag can replace hundreds of single use plastic bags over the course of its lifetime. The next time you go to the market and the cashier asks, “Plastic or paper?” why not support the environment and say, “No thanks, I’ve got my own bags.” Once you get into the habit of carrying reusable / green bags you will not consider it an inconvenience. I promise!

Additional reading:Reusable Grocery Bags: Keep ‘Em Clean While Going Green” by Laura Gieraltowski, PhD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)