Category: Look for the Helpers

Reality Winner

The woman accused of leaking the NSA document is named Reality Winner. That’s her name. Her real, legal name. It’s not a handle. As far as I know, she was born with it. News organizations are trying to distract us by adding the middle name Leigh whenever they say it, but I’m going loud and proud: the woman who tipped off The Intercept about Russian vote tampering attempts is REALITY WINNER.


Sabitha says: I hope she’s okay but also I’m smiling every time I think about how Neal Stephenson must feel right now.

Pledge of Allegiance

I’ve been seeing a grumpy meme mocking “the far left” for their preoccupation with racism, as though it’s an insult invented by unpatriotic extremists to beat up Real Americans(TM). I seem to recall that every weekday for 13 years I was instructed to recite a loyalty pledge in which I promised, hand on my heart, to defend liberty and justice for all. All. Maybe you’re familiar with it.

These colors don’t run, y’all.


Gary says: That dog hunts! Always has!! What’s tough for some hunters is that they sometimes realize THEY are the hunted.

Jeff says: A mandatory loyalty pledge in any free society is odd, as is the entire notion of having to repeat any pledge daily, but the “liberty and justice for all” part is really good.

Gary: I don’t know that I would call it mandatory, although when children are required to recite the pledge, it might be called “brainwashing.” But to me, it is brainwashing in a good way! It’s only mandatory in the military, or of those who serve us in the government, as it should be.

Romie: I always thought it was kinda weird, and none of my schools bothered people who didn’t want to do it. I usually participated, although at different points I dropped out certain bits (because my allegiance isn’t actually to the flag; because I believe in a separation of church and state; because the nation was divisible [I felt at the time, but now I take the Unionist point of view that the Confederate secession was never legally legitimate]).

I have a lot of sympathy for people who find the pledge sinister or alienating. However, speaking only for myself, I enjoy rituals and mantras. There’s something interesting about returning to the same set of words over and over again and finding that I understand them differently. Particularly when they’re words I share with a lot of other people.

Sharon: Seconding the enjoyment of rituals. I worry sometimes my daughter doesn’t get enough of them. She, like me, is a creature who enjoys habit.

Kathy: Hate is never good.

Drawdown, by Paul Hawken

Interesting new book for solarpunk peeps and environmentalists which talks about carbon drawdown strategies (because 100% renewable energy, even if it could be achieved, would not pull out the stuff that’s already in the air)—Drawdown, by Paul Hawken. Haven’t read it yet, but here’s some of what came up in the Vox.com interview.

Top of the list for reducing emissions isn’t cars or planes or making things last—it’s disposing of refrigerators and air conditioners when they get too old. 90% of CFC and HCFC leakage happens when the coolant system is starting to conk out and die. No big loss to get rid of that machine, which was already breaking down. If we can convince people to do that instead of trying to stretch it out (maybe because of cost, maybe because of a laudable but in this case misplaced desire to conserve), and can dispose of it safely, that keeps 90-100 gigatons of CO2 equivalents out of the air between now and 2050.

A carbon capture strategy I hadn’t heard of before is Silvopasture, which is farming trees and grazing animals simultaneously. In other words, your pasture has trees on it (sylvan). This makes you more money if you want to sell the trees. It keeps your animals healthier (cows for instance like the shade) and your land healthier. And it sequesters carbon. If you’re writing optimistic SF, maybe include domesticated animal herds in managed forests. (There are other direct carbon capture mechanisms being explored, but the the only method that is currently reliable is photosynthesis.)

Finally, peace has a carbon dividend. Wars are terrible for the environment, and not just in a “they’re bombing the land to pieces” way. Sometimes cynical people think “well, at least this is decreasing population” and think they’re being analytical and brave to say something so horrible. But they’re wrong. Wars use a lot of energy. Wars destroy ecosystems. Wars grind through every resource you can think of, even to move the soldiers and fleeing people around. Peace is much better for preventing global warming.

Collins-Cassidy Healthcare Bill

Republican senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) have been working on an alternate health care bill which does not cut $800 million from Medicaid, and does not prioritize tax cuts over coverage. Their stated goal is to keep Trump’s campaign promises of lower premiums, better care, and coverage for everyone, which is what the American people voted for. As they craft their bill, Collins and Cassidy are holding meetings with Democrats instead of just grousing about Democrats.

I don’t know that it will be a better bill than Obamacare. (You know I want to scrap employer-based healthcare entirely.) However, it’s credible. It’s the kind of approach you take if you are genuinely trying to fix something and help American citizens.

It’s not surprising that Collins and Cassidy would know a thing or two about this subject: Collins used to be the insurance commissioner of Maine, and Cassidy is a physician who founded several nonprofits to get free or low-cost care to low-income Baton Rouge families.

The fact that neither of these people were asked to be part of the main Senate working group on healthcare is shameful. They should be the leaders. It tells me that other bill isn’t about healthcare. Remember this later on, when Mitch McConnell et al are trying to get everyone to kiss the ring. They’ll say it’s a collection of the smartest Republican ideas. Isn’t.


Maria says: Your last paragraph hit the nail on the head. The GOP can’t accomplish the budget they want without gouging the ACA. So you’re right. The current bill isn’t about health care. So it remains to be seen if Collins and Cassidy will even get a GOP an executive audience for their bill. But at least it will be on the record.

Bob Massie for Massachusetts Governor

The next Massachusetts gubernatorial election isn’t until November 2018, but candidates on the Democratic side have started fundraising and forming exploratory committees. (On the Republican side, it’s assumed incumbent governor Charlie Baker will be the candidate.) One of the early declarers is Bob Massie.

There is probably nobody in the U.S. with more experience combatting climate change through legislative and business initiatives. (Executive director of Ceres for almost two decades.)

Also, he has had hemophilia from birth, so you know he cares about protecting people with pre-existing conditions. (Also, he was on the ethics advisory committee of Boston Children’s Hospital. Also, he’s an Episcopal minister, and this is core Episcopalian stuff.)

Also, he’s a Fullbright scholar who wrote the go-to history of U.S.-South Africa relations during Apartheid.

This guy, I’m telling you—check him out. His face is boring, but his biography is not. If anything, Governor of Massachusetts seems like too small a job for him.

Here’s his twitter.


Sonya says: I’ve heard him speak. Not a lot of flair, but solid intellectual content, which right now I am much more for than style. Also, that biography is ridiculous.

Romie: Yeah. If he was in some SF I was editing, I’d tell the author to split him into three characters. And even then, tone some of it down.

Mothers’ Bail Out Day

The U.S. bail system, as it currently functions, is horrifically expensive on both ends—expensive for paycheck-to-paycheck low-level offenders who lose their jobs because they can’t make a $1000 bail payment and wind up in jail for potentially weeks and months waiting for trial (where they may be found not guilty)—expensive for municipalities that have to house a lot of non-threatening people in jails which cost money.

These are people in jail who have not been found guilty of anything; who are not flight risks; who are not an imminent danger to themselves or others.

Locking them up only makes sense if you think of poor people as vermin, and think it’s worth paying to keep them out of sight. It’s the same kind of sense that makes you put down anti-homeless spikes because you think homelessness happens when the ground is too inviting.

Bail funds are not a permanent solution, but they’re a bandaid that stops at least some of the bleeding until we get this fixed legislatively, city by city.

This mother’s day, a number of bail funds are focused on getting mammas out of holding cells, and getting them back with their kids. I made a donation in honor of my mom. I think she’ll be more excited about it than other presents.

https://brooklynbailfund.org/national-bail-out-day-donate

If you’ve wondered what Black Lives Matter has been up to (“oh, they’ve disappeared, where are the marches”): Stuff like this. There’s also a major southern LGBTQ group (called SONG) behind it, and it’s backed by the organizers of the Women’s March.

This Mother’s Day, Black Lives Matter Activists Will Give More Than 30 Women Their Freedom” (Dani McClain, The Nation)