Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

Midwinter Potpourri

spookywintertrees

It’s been climate-crisis warm here lately, but last night, winter returned, which made sent the cats into turbo- snuggle last night. I woke up this morning a little stiff because they had pinned me so tightly on both sides that I don’t think I moved all night. That, to me, is some serious hygge. What makes you feel particularly cozy when it gets cold at night?

Every year, my resolution is something fun I want to learn or try. Some become a permanent (or at least long-term) part of my life (I am an extremely accomplished amateur mixologist), others are transitory (I took trapeze lessons, but I’m not planning to run off and join the circus). Last year’s went swimmingly – I wanted to learn to box, and did, and am still doing it, and just this week, had my first personal training session with one of my favorite coaches to start preparing me to spar later this year. In 2020, I’ll be working on learning Spanish – like second grade level conversational (keeping my expectations in check). What’s something fun you want to learn or try this year?

Elections have consequences, part 1: Did you see Lev Parnas’s interview on Rachel Maddow on Wednesday? Or last night (haven’t watched part 2 yet myself)? He basically seems to have decided, “Fuck it, I’m burning ALL THIS SHIT down.” The only reason we know about ANY of this – the only reason TrumPutin’s Mafia-style attempt to shake down the government of Ukraine didn’t work as planned – was that Dems flipped the House of Representatives in 2018.

Elections have consequences, part 2: The Virginia legislature ratified the ERA this week, becoming the critical 38th state needed for women’s equal rights to be enshrined in the Constitution. There is still work to be done (HAVE YOU CALLED YOUR REP AND SENATORS YET?), but we wouldn’t even be talking about that if Dems hadn’t flipped BOTH Houses of the Virginia legislature this past fall.

Women did that. While the pundits were out interviewing yet another MAGA diehard at yet another diner in the middle of nowhere. While the Rosebros were recording podcasts. Women, as we do, quietly did the work. What are you planning for the 2020 elections? Because, once again, it’s going to be on us to do the work, ladies. Fortunately, we’re up to it.

It’s official: the gig economy is creating the bleak, dystopian future libertarians seem to want. I hate to be that person who says “I told you so” but….

I’m slowly making my way through Zenyep Tufekci‘s dense Twitter and Teargas, which looks at how social media has shaped and influenced – for good and ill – recent social mass movements. What are you reading lately that’s giving you big thoughts to think?

My spouse has been out of town on business this week, and while I miss him (and the delicious, home-cooked meals he makes every night), I am enjoying the unusual solitude: having the whole bed to myself, watching all the subtitled documentaries he usually passes on, not having to share the newspaper, not being the eternal second choice of the super-snuggly cat, the quiet. When you get some unaccustomed space to be alone, what do you value? How do you use it?

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

ERA NOW

VARatifyERA

Ok, not RIGHT now. Soon, hopefully. But there’s work for us to do.

I first wrote about the movement to get the 38th state to pass the ERA for this blog almost exactly two years ago.

In the interim, we all worked our asses off and flipped BOTH houses of the Virginia state legislature.

In another installment in our continuing “Elections Have Consequences” series:

The VERY FIRST issue the Virginia Senate took on in this legislative term (SJ1) was to pass the ERA out of committee, the first step to passing it in the state legislature. (HJ1, the companion House of Delegates bill, is still pending.)

It will then have floor readings and debates in both houses before being voted on in each house, when it WILL pass. (Details of the process here.)

“Well, that’s great Mrs Whatsit. But I’m not in Virginia, so I don’t see what this has to do with me.”

There’s one more REALLY BIG hurdle the ERA will have to pass. The deadline for ratification is LONG passed.

If you read my earlier post, you’ll know that this isn’t necessarily an insurmountable problem, but it will have to go through the courts, definitely ending up in the Supreme Court. Do you like our odds there? Me, neither.

There’s another route to passage: Congress could vote to overturn the ratification deadline. In fact, there’s pending legislation in BOTH houses ( S.J. Res. 6 and H.J. Res. 79) to do just that. The League of Women Voters has sent an open letter to the House and Senate leadership of both parties requesting passage of both bills.

You know what to do.

On your daily call to your two Senators and your Representative, add supporting the appropriate bill to you repertoire of requests.

Need to find your Rep? Here you go. Senators? Same.

Get to work!

Image of Virginia Delegates Jennifer Carroll Foy and Danica Roem from Delegate Roem’s Twitter account

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Can Evangelicals Be Redeemed?

Empty Pews

“Wait a second, Mrs Whatsit! Weren’t you – and your spouse – raised evangelical? And now you’re both emphatically NOT? Didn’t you just answer your own question?”

See, here’s the thing: the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

A few weeks ago, Hecate had the opportunity to meet with a local campaign operative, to talk with him about what we can do to win in 2020. In the “getting to know you” portion of their lunch conversation, he revealed that he’d been raised evangelical (like me and my spouse), went to an evangelical college (also like me and my spouse) and, obviously, got out of that world (like me and my spouse).

This inspired Hecate to ask me: “It seems like evangelicals are unreachable, but is that really the case?”

Well, first, see above RE: anecdotes and data. Three cases does not a movement make.

All three of us had been sent by our parents to evangelical colleges, in an attempt to “protect” us from the depredations of state schools or Ivies. Liberal professors. Post-modernism. Beer. Co-ed dorms.

Thing is, if your raised-evangelical kid is mostly the unquestioning sort, that tends to work pretty well – they just keep swallowing the lies that world view foists upon them (see: my brother). If your kid is the type who questions authority and likes to follow facts and evidence, wherever they lead, BIG mistake. At State U, they’ll feel “attacked” for their religion and will be motivated to defend it, engaging in apologetics rather than genuine inquiry. Evangelical colleges present a “safe space” and are probably going to lead to that questioning kid’s first steps out the door of the church.

But upon further reflection, I do think there is a common thread: Each of us experienced a major, jarring incident that pits what you know at your core to be true against what you’re being told is true. That starts a whole line of questioning that can end in: “Wait – what if this entire worldview is bullshit?”

For Mr. Campaign Manager, he realized he was gay, and that world was always going to tell him that was an unforgivable sin. “Pass.”

For me, I was a little girl with “leadership abilities,” and the only role that world would ever offer me was second class citizenship, being “submissive” to my husband and every other adult male around me. “Nope.”

For my spouse, it was the hypocrisy of evangelicals spouting the Beatitudes and behaving exactly opposite. (Yes, spotted 25+ years ago. He’s highly perceptive.) “I’m outta here.”

For some people – not nearly enough – that’s been TrumPutin. And a few evangelicals are trying to save the movement by decoupling it from TrumPutin. “If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?” Too late, my dude.

Hecate asked: Is there a window during which if someone speaks with evangelicals in the right way, they can be salvaged?

I’m not so sure that it’s a defined window, although in theory, late teens-early 20s would be the time frame, after you’re old enough to be thinking critically and before your personality and belief system become relatively fixed.

But I think it’s more about being alert to when that jarring incident happens for any given person and using that as an entry point.

To understand more about this work, I highly recommend checking out the Exvangelical movement, the #EmptyThePews hashtag, and Chrissy Stroop.

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

#Justice4Chrystul

Cyntoia Brown Long wearing a Justice for Chrystul Kizer shirt

Many of you may be familiar with the story of Cyntoia Brown (now Cyntoia Brown-Long). By way of a reminder and in short, quoting her recent op-ed for the Washington Post:

In August 2006, a Tennessee prosecutor convinced a jury that I was guilty of murdering a man who had trafficked me for sex. I was told to expect a sentence of 60 years. I received a life sentence. I was 16 years old.

Due to her dedicated activism and the work of many others who supported her, she was granted clemency and freed this past August.

Due in part to Brown-Long’s case and the attention it drew, 30 states and the District of Columbia no longer charge minors with prostitution. In other words, they’ve recognized that there is no such thing as a teenage hooker, only a young person (usually, but not always, a girl) who is being abused and trafficked by an older person (nearly always a man twice her age or older). We’ve finally woken up to the fact that sex trafficking isn’t just about snatching a girl off the street and locking her in a closet – although that does still happen – but is far more likely to be about an adult man targeting a vulnerable girl, assaulting her, and grooming her to be hired out to other adult men who also assault her.

Many states have also applied an existing legal concept called “affirmative defense” for victims of sex trafficking. To quote the Cornell law school, affirmative defense is:

a defense in which the defendant introduces evidence, which, if found to be credible, will negate criminal liability or civil liability, even if it is proven that the defendant committed the alleged acts.

In other words, if a girl is being trafficked, and she commits a crime to free herself, she can argue necessity, that she did what she had to do to prevent the further and continued harm she was facing at the hands of the adult man who was trafficking her, and her crime may be negated or her punishment ameliorated.

So why is this post titled “#Justice4Chrystul”?

Because, as Brown-Long explains: “it is now painfully clear to me that my clemency has not translated into larger-scale change.”

Right now, a young woman in Wisconsin, Chrystul Kizer, is facing life in prison because she killed the much older adult man who abused her, trafficked her, and profited off other adult men abusing her, starting when she was sixteen years old.

He also did the same to as many as 20 other young girls, some as young as 12. He had been arrested by the Kenosha police, per the Washington Post, on charges of “child enticement, using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and second-degree sexual assault of a child, a felony punishable by up to 40 years in state prison.”

There was video and physical evidence, in addition to patterns in his financial records indicative of sex trafficking. Indeed, the bank had earlier cold-called the police to report this pattern. The police released him the same day he was arrested. He paid no bail. He was never summoned to court.

Two weeks later, Chrystul killed him and took his car when she was fleeing the scene. And once she had the car, she acted the teenager she is.

Here’s where the racism comes in (because you knew it was coming).

Chrystul’s black.

Quoting my tweet thread on this case from earlier this week:

Young women of color are sexualized and viewed as less innocent far younger and far more frequently than young white women.

Young women of color are also given far longer, more harsh sentences when they attempt to free themselves from their traffickers by whatever means necessary. [They’re given longer, more harsh sentences for EVERYTHING.]

In escaping, they may take some cash or a car – you know, so they can ESCAPE – and then prosecutors play up “she was just doing it for the money/to steal the car,” which is PATENTLY RIDICULOUS. [This is EXACTLY what the Wisconsin prosecutor is arguing in Chrystul’s case.]

But again, our racism intervenes and inclines judges and juries to accept this clearly BS “explanation” instead of the more simple and obvious: she did what she had to do to get away.

Chrystul admits that she killed the man who trafficked her. To quote the Post article (which you really should read in its entirety):

Who was the real victim?

To Chrystul, the answer is clear.

“Both of us,” she said. “Because of the stuff that he was doing to me. And, that he should have never died.”

The judge decided she cannot avail herself of an affirmative defense. So she is in jail, and her attorney is appealing that ruling, while she awaits a jury trial.

This young woman is not a car thief. She stole one car as part of her escape from the man who abused her. This young women is not a serial killer. She did what she had to do to free herself from the man who was trafficking her.

I’m not trying to argue that there should be no repercussions, no punishment. I don’t think Chrystul herself would argue that.

However, the VAST (like 7/8) majority of women who commit crimes have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence (or both). Chrystul is no exception. Even while in jail awaiting trial, she’s been targeted for a relationship by another much older man with a history of “child enticement.”

She needs our help. She needs our compassion. She needs counseling and a mentor. What she doesn’t need is to have her actions viewed through a lens of racism and have the proverbial book thrown at her for taking desperate action.

Or as Brown-Long puts it:

It is our responsibility to become stewards of a system that exists to serve, and not to subject. That responsibility involves looking past the emotions, digging into the details and committing ourselves to advocating for change that affects everyone — not just the names we know. And the only way to ensure our voices are not mere echoes on a timeline is to pursue substantive changes to the laws, practices and policies that govern our justice system.

Image from Cyntoia Brown-Long’s Instagram.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

 

TrumPutin Will Not Be Removed From Office

Trump_I_know_a_guy_Pence_ST

One more time for the cheap seats.

TRUMPUTIN WILL NOT BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE.

MoscowMitch and the rest of the Republican stooges in the Senate have made it VERY clear that there will be no actual, meaningful trial, and that they will vote, party-line, to acquit.

As the Washington Post‘s Plum Line column put it today:

it’s not just fully understood that Trump’s acquittal is assured in advance and that the trial will be gamed to Trump’s maximum benefit. It’s also understood that this is how it should be.

The Republican rejection of truth and facts and reality is pretty much officially complete.

Is this because they’re afraid of TrumPutin’s base? They’ve devolved into the pure nihilistic pursuit of power at any cost? They’re greedy and in on the grift? The Russians have kompromat on all of them? All of the above?

Honestly, it doesn’t matter. And it’s both infuriating and incredibly depressing. Again, quoting the Plum Line, they’ve utterly corrupted both our public discourse and our political system.

You should ABSOLUTELY take whatever steps you need to to rage – or mourn – about that. Drink some brown liquor, swear, throw things, cry, punch a heavy bag for a while, hex every Republican you can think of. Do you.

But then sober up, sweep up the shards, wipe your tears, and wash your face.

We have work to do.

The only reason ANY of TrumPutin’s crimes came to light at all was because the Democrats took back the House in 2018.

In 2020, we need to take back the Senate, too. (And, of course, hold the House. And win the presidency. Which is a post for another day.)

And that’s not going to be easy, although the map is more favorable than it was in 2018. This time, the Republicans have to defend 23 seats to the Democrats’ 12.

Who’s up? 270 has all the details.

The following Republicans are, or at least might be, in trouble:

Martha McSally (AZ), being challenged by astronaut, Gabby Giffords spouse, and sensible gun safety protections activist Mark Kelly

Cory Gardner (CO), being challenged by former Democratic POTUS candidate, brewmaster, and all-around nice guy John Hickenlooper

Johnny Isakson (retiring) and David Perdue (both GA), whose challengers haven’t firmed up yet (I know posing a Draft Stacey movement is pointless, but I wish it weren’t)

Joni Ernst (IA), being challenged by Theresa Greenfield (I don’t know much about her, but I do know she’s not a xenophobic gun nut, so she’d be a marked improvement)

Pat Roberts (KS), Pat’s retiring and the Democratic field hasn’t firmed up yet, but I do want to point out that in 2018, Kansas elected Sharice Davids to the House, so there’s hope

Mitch McConnell (KY), who’s being challenged by retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath. Kentucky isn’t turning blue or even purple, but they DID just elect a Democratic governor, so it looks like when the Republican is egregiously bad, Kentuckians will do the right thing. News flash: Moscow Mitch is egregiously bad. He also has a huge war chest, which is a concern. If you have a spare $5, throw it to Amy.

Susan Collins (ME, and currently both “concerned” and “disappointed”), who’s being challenged by Sara Gideon, the current speaker of the Maine House of Representatives

Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), who’s being challenged by Mike Espy, who you might remember lost a runoff to her much more narrowly than expected in 2018 after she made a bunch of public statements more appropriate for 1818 than 2018

Steve Daines (MT), another state where the Democratic field hasn’t firmed up yet, and while I’m not sure I want Steve Bullock throwing over his governorship in favor of a Senate run, I’m sure he’ll be able to be helpful to whoever the eventual Democratic candidate is

Thom Tillis (NC), who is already trailing his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham

John Cornyn (TX), another state where the Democratic field hasn’t firmed up yet, and I really think that a Draft Beto movement is in order

Lindsay Graham (SC), who’s probably safe, but Jamie Harrison has the chops, history, and reputation to mount a STRONG challenge

It’s a busy time of year, but I’m hoping that you’ll be able to find a little downtime in the coming weeks to think about which race(s) you want to work on in 2020 and what you’re willing and able to do to support them.

The United States needs her patriots to step up. Set your plans and intentions now.

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Are You Racist Because Your Local Economy Sucks…

Chart of Poverty Statistics, US South

Or does your local economy suck because you’re racist?

About two months ago, Larry Summers wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post bemoaning that the US is moving in opposite directions economically, and he considers that the cause of the rise of nativist, racist beliefs in depressed areas: “The areas where distress is greatest and opportunity is least provide disproportionate support for candidates advocating populist nationalist policies that seek to close off the rest of the world, to demonize immigrants and to resist the inclusion of minority groups.”

In other words, when the local economy is bad, people to become racist, so it’s not their fault. Fix the economy, and you’ll fix the racism.

(His remedy? Get the federal government to invest more in education in economically depressed areas. Which would be an excellent suggestion if not for the fact that K-12 education is locally funded in the US, conservatives have for the past many years invested heavily in demonizing higher education and the people who acquire it, and Summers himself acknowledges, “Outmigration from troubled areas tends to disproportionately remove those area’s most able and catalytic residents.” In other words, even he admits that people who get educated leave.)

“Hm,” I thought after reading his article, “what if he has the causation backwards?”

Flash forward to yesterday, when I was reading the latest issue of The Atlantic, focused on the divides in US society, which includes an interview with Tara Westover, the writer of Educated, which details her childhood being raised by survivalists completely off the grid (no birth certificate, being home “schooled”) in Idaho.

In the article, she says: “When Trump first won the nomination, it was generally thought that his populism was fueled by economic disparities, but for some reason, after he was elected, that view went out of fashion. I don’t know why, because it is quite obviously the case…”

Yeah, except what if it’s not?

Again quoting Westover, “My own view is that economic distress activates prejudice.”

Why did “economic anxiety” fall “out of fashion” as an explanation for TrumPutin and his supporters?

That nice story that we TRIED to tell ourselves during the cataclysm that was the 2016 election and its aftermath worked great…until folks actually started looking at the data.

Because the data doesn’t support it.

Validated, post-election data clearly demonstrates that people who were “economically anxious” voted for Hillary Clinton. In fact, there’s clear evidence that the greatest predictor of support for TrumPutin wasn’t “economic anxiety” or income or education level – it was racism and racial resentment of black and brown people.

Which brought me back to my earlier question: What if a bad local economy doesn’t drive racism? What if it’s racism that drives a bad local economy?

In fact, Hillary won about 500 counties (and 3 million more votes) to TrumPutin’s over 2600 counties (and 3 million FEWER votes – land and cows don’t vote, y’all). But those counties, comprising roughly 15% of the area in the US, account for nearly 2/3 of US economic output.

What is going on?

Well, let’s consider two factors, one historical and one current.

Historically, it’s virtually impossible to build a middle class, have reasonable wages and benefits for working people, or generate a strong social safety net when the vast majority of local labor is stolen from enslaved people, one of the points Nancy Isenberg makes repeatedly in her book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.

You might think: “Mrs Whatsit! Slavery ended 150 years ago! Come on now – it’s not still having an effect on the economy of the former slave states!”

Yes it is.

The states of the former Confederacy created a culture of a small number of aristocrats ruling over a large population of under- and un-paid workers, few social services and support, lack of public access to education, the entire system built on racial resentment and hatred (no, I am not saying racial resentment and hatred don’t exist elsewhere in the US – in fact, I wrote a lengthy post about the history of racism in the North for this very blog – but I think we can all agree that things were qualitatively different in the Confederate states).

That racism continues to show up in 2019 in the former Confederacy in the form of “right to work” (anti-union) laws, the lowest state minimum wages in the country (most at or barely above the federal $7.25 requirement), refusal of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion, and lack of investment in public education.

Meanwhile, what creates a vibrant local economy?

  • An educated populace, and investments in primary, secondary, and higher education.
  • Immigrants starting small businesses (which they do at higher rates and more successfully than native-born US citizens).
  • Women of color starting small businesses (which they do at higher rates than white women).
  • Artists and support for the arts, including government support.
  • Tech companies, which while they’re still lagging in hiring women and black folks, do hire a lot of non-white men.
  • Investments in public space and public transportation.
  • Diversity – of race/ethnicity, gender, religion, country of origin, age, sexual orientation, and thought.

Are any of those kinds of people going to be willing to move to or live in a place largely populated by bigots?

Probably not.

We hear a lot of prescriptions for change in the US that start with: “Dems have to stop concentrating yourselves in the cities and along the coasts. Go buy a place in Alabama – or Wyoming – and create change on the local level town-by-town, county-by-county, and state-by-state.”

On the face of it, that seems reasonable. Plenty of us work in jobs that can be done anywhere – certainly the spouse and I do. And the money we bring in would not change if we moved to Missouri or West Virginia – I’d still charge my clients the same, his company would still pay him the same salary. We live financially comfortably in our pricey, deep-blue city. We could live like royalty in Kansas.

But why would we want to do that? Do those places have any of the above factors?

Of course not – their racism (and sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia) prevents immigrants and people of color and artists and educated people and techies and diverse thinkers (not, of course, that those groups are mutually exclusive) from wanting to live there, from being safe living there.

And so their local economies suffer. And until they fix those underlying bigoted attitudes, I’m afraid all the local tax incentives and abatements in the world aren’t going to help.

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Your Moment of (Kitten) Zen

As Hecate noted, I was on vacation last week – and it was glorious, and I was COMPLETELY off line the entire time – and I came back to, as one does, a pile of work and a week of increasingly bat shit impeachment testimony, news, and revelations.

Hence, I choose to use the internet as the Goddess intended for this week’s post: CUTE KITTEN VIDEOS.

I’ll get back to railing against the patriarchy and white supremacy next week….

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.