COVID-19 and Borders

Posted by Sappho on May 3rd, 2020 filed in Health and Medicine


Back in 2014, in connection with the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, I said that I didn’t consider myself “open borders,” and that the need, sometimes, to put up border controls to stop epidemics from becoming pandemics was one reason why.

I was thinking, at the time, of Senegal’s decision to close its border to neighboring Guinea. This border closure was in some ways controversial at the time – critics said that Senegal had shut down its border so tightly that it was making it harder to get medical assistance to Guinea, which was needed, not just, obviously, for Guinea’s sake, but also because if you don’t put out the fire in your neighbor’s house, eventually it will spread to yours. And some negotiation was done, for Senegal to make adjustments that would make it easier for medical workers to go to and from Guinea, while still allowing Senegal to keep controls on its border. I’m not sure what the details wound up being – it has after all been six years – but I do recall that only one Ebola case reached Senegal, which was quickly isolated.

Now, of course, we face a pandemic far more contagious than Ebola, one that, though its case fatality rate is less, in fact has caused many more deaths than that longest Ebola epidemic, because it has spread to more countries, and the contagion proves very hard to check. And I find my thoughts about borders shifting in unexpected ways.

I still don’t consider myself “open borders” – to me that phrase implies that I’d be starting from a position that people have a right to cross borders, which my government should not only recognize itself unless there was some compelling reason to restrict entry (something like our First Amendment presumption for freedom of speech), but also promote internationally as something other governments must respect. And, well, no. The worst thing about the government of North Korea isn’t the fact that it keeps foreigners out. I do, in fact, think that legal immigration to the US is largely a good thing, and also that we need to welcome refugees. But “wide open to nearly everyone” doesn’t describe my starting point.

And I still think that, of course, border restrictions have a place when facing an epidemic that threatens to become a pandemic, or for countries that have managed to free themselves of a pandemic to prevent it from coming back.

But. Here’s the thing. What I have seen, during the COVID-19 pandemic was that, when the epidemic was largely in China, everyone applied border restrictions, and none of the usual folks objected. I saw Democrats and libertarians who hated Trump’s immigration policy in general raising no real objection to his border controls as applied to China in late January. Sure, there was a minor “let’s all go to Chinese restaurants” movement to make sure that fear of a disease coming from China didn’t spill over to ethnically Chinese people who hadn’t been in China at all recently. But that’s an entirely different thing from saying, Trump, drop this border restriction. People were fine with restricting travel from China who had otherwise objected to every damn travel restriction that Trump ever imposed. And with reason: everyone, as I said, was applying border controls. Italy, which would later suffer so, restricted travel from China at nearly the exact same time. In fact, Trump wasn’t even first past the post in applying this restriction.

So the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is to leave me unworried that people will prevent reasonable restrictions at a time of pandemic on open borders grounds. In contrast, I’ve seen how people who lean more toward closed borders are more of a problem than I had ever imagined they’d be, in time of pandemic. Because, from where I sit, it looks as if people whose priors are to favor more restrictions on immigration, in time of pandemic, place too much faith in border restrictions, once they’re established. And it doesn’t look to me as if this is confined to Trump himself. Rather, I think that people who see themselves as fighting unreasonable “open borders” people, and who think greater border restrictions are really important, proved to be under the mistaken impression that all you need to do, to stop a pandemic, is to shut down the borders.

And it turns out that’s not at all the case. By the time anyone – Trump very much included – thought to institute border controls with China, COVID-19 was already well out of China and spreading among the community in multiple countries. We just didn’t know it yet. That shouldn’t have been a surprise. Diseases have incubation periods. They have asymptomatic spread. That doesn’t mean border controls are useless. But it means that you have to understand what their use is: They buy time, by reducing the number of people coming into the country, and helping to make the number of people spreading the illness in your country small enough that test and trade can do its thing. For a disease like Ebola, which gets people really sick really quickly, that may mean that hardly anyone gets through, and its easy to isolate the people who do. For a disease like COVID-19, you need a much more vigorous test and trace program.

This we notably didn’t get. We didn’t get it in late January, when the World Health Organization was already warning about the dangers of COVID-19. We didn’t get it in February. Trump didn’t even acknowledge we faced a serious threat in the US until well into March. And even now, we’re not able to test and trace enough to contain the pandemic that we have.

At this point, I could go on a rant about everything Trump did wrong. But this post isn’t about Trump. It’s about borders. And that’s an issue that goes well beyond Trump as an individual. The US has handled the pandemic worse than some countries, with a starting position that should have allowed us to handle it better than we did. But we aren’t the only country that messed up. And other countries that messed up made the same mistake of slapping down border controls and then thinking that they had solved the problem. Now we’re in the position where states are in some ways finding the need to impose border controls on other states. If I were to leave California and fly to visit my mother, I would be obliged, on arriving in her state, to go into a fourteen day quarantine by myself (pack fourteen days of supplies on that plane flight, I guess), and could finally see her right about the time that I’d need to fly back to California to return to work.

My point is: yes, border controls have their place in limiting the spread of disease, but in order to actually make good use of them, we need not to have leaders who are irrationally invested in closed borders as a solution to everything. Otherwise we wind up without the tests, without the PPEs, but hey, we closed the border to China in late January, so let’s do a victory lap. And my sister in Brooklyn can tell you how well that worked out.

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“Ford to City: Drop Dead”

Posted by Sappho on March 25th, 2020 filed in Memory, News and Commentary


Remember that cheeky New York Daily News headline, back in the 1970s? I do. I was a teenager at the time, growing up in the NYC metropolitan area.

The headline, of course, was metaphorical. NYC was nearly bankrupt when Ford gave a speech denying federal assistance. But no one was actually on death’s door.

Now they are. Now we have a plague, and NYC is the canary in the coalmine, catching the wave that will come to the rest of the country in time.

Please let us not say to NYC, this time, “Drop dead.” Because it’s literal life and death we’re talking about now, and we’re all in this together.

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A Civics Lesson

Posted by Sappho on February 5th, 2020 filed in Democracy, Saints and Witnesses


Listen carefully to the Senate trial, my Trump supporting cousin told me. It will be a civics lesson.

And I, naturally, thought, what civics lesson can I possibly get from this trial? I have, after all, already studied civics in school. I have already read the whole Constitution, and returned to read sections again. But not only that. I’m past the midpoint of my life, and this is now the third time in my lifetime that articles of impeachment have been drawn up against a President.

But cousin, no snark now, I was wrong. I did get a lesson in civics during this trial, and I got it listening to a Republican Senator. I got it, moreover, from a Republican Senator whom I once considered to be, sure, devout and principled in his personal life, but an opportunistic weather vane in his public life. One whom I dismissed in 2012 partly for that reason (and also partly, to be sure, because I loved Obama, and was likely to vote for him no matter who ran against him).

Mitt Romney, just when I had reached the conclusion that partisanship would trump integrity every time, you proved me wrong.

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Bright eyes! How could you close and fail?

Posted by Sappho on February 1st, 2020 filed in Democracy, Music


Woke up this morning and remembered the Senate vote yesterday. Asked Alexa for a song for a sad morning.

Bright eyes of democracy, how could you close and fail?

You knew this vote was coming, the Trumpists say. Yes, of course I knew. I have long since seen how the rest of the Republican Party bends the knee. But that doesn’t make it less sad when it comes. I didn’t, after all, know how much abuse of power Republicans would stand for before Trump was elected. I’ve just seen the slow drip, drip of revelation since his election.

And this is the news. Trump’s defense team in the Senate did not rebut the evidence that he placed a hold on aid. They didn’t rebut the GAO finding that Trump broke the law by withholding the aid. They didn’t rebut the evidence that, while the aid was on hold, Trump pressed Zelensky to announce an investigation of Biden. (And an investigation of Biden for actions that were the public policy of the US government as a whole, and supported by Republican Senators at the time.)

Instead, multiple Senators voting against witnesses (the first impeachment trial ever without witnesses) said that, even if Trump did withhold aid and use it to push for an investigation for his partisan advantage, that wasn’t an impeachable offense, or even if it was an impeachable offense, it wasn’t something for which he should be removed. Leave it to the voters. Does that mean leave it to the voters and vote to censure him? No. Leave it to the voters and urge people to vote against him? No. It means, lol, nothing matters, when it comes to the President of the United States welcoming and encouraging foreign intervention in our elections. From a vulnerable foreign country that’s not well positioned to refuse Trump.

Don’t pretend that this is Trump fighting corruption. This is Trump epitomizing corruption. Shame!

I don’t know whether our democracy will survive. Maybe this is how it dies, a cut at a time, retaining the form of a republic but not the substance, as ancient Rome did.

But I know that democracy is worth fighting for.

How could the light that burned so brightly suddenly burn so pale?

I’ll do my best, this November, and also in the months before and after, to help revive that light.

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The Dwarfs Are For The Dwarfs

Posted by Sappho on January 25th, 2020 filed in Books, News and Commentary, Theology


If you’ve read the Narnia books, you may remember the point in The Last Battle where a group of dwarfs decide that “They won’t take us in again.” Having been deceived by a fake Aslan, they will trust no one any more. “The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.” But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:

“Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

As The Last Battle is about Christ, in context the corrosive cynicism of the dwarfs is, in context, a refusal to see God at work, in reaction to having been fooled by a false god. But “grace builds on nature,” and I think the story works as well as a parable for the all too common failing of believing “everyone does it,” and blinding your eyes to the fact that honesty and good faith exist. Both in your personal life and in your political life, a “Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs” perspective that suspects that everyone is corrupt, and rejects the “humbug” that some people might be trustworthy, makes you more likely to be taken in, not less.

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Gandalf on killing Gollum

Posted by Sappho on January 6th, 2020 filed in Peace Testimony, Quotes


Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.

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For the People

Posted by Sappho on December 7th, 2019 filed in Election 2020


Now that I have more time than I had earlier this week, I’m sharing a few thoughts on Kamala Harris’s exit from the 2020 race.

Summary of what I am going:

1) Harris the person: At a personal level, I really like Kamala Harris (though not only Kamala Harris!). And the things I like about Harris say something about what I’m hungry for in a President, whoever the candidate may be.

2) Harris and how her policies stack up: Harris had both strengths and weaknesses in the policy department.

3) Harris and the impact of racism on the Presidential race: Yes, of course racism has an impact. Yes, of course it isn’t the only thing. It’s easiest to see the impact of racism and sexism not through the lens of how an individual candidate fared, but through the long arc of history. And it’s important neither to understate nor to overstate the impact.

Now the detailed version:

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“You saw her bathing on the roof …”

Posted by Sappho on November 25th, 2019 filed in Bible study


There are several possible interpretations of the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah. But I am sure “God wants kings who abuse their power for personal gain” isn’t one of them.

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Talkin’ bout my generation

Posted by Sappho on November 6th, 2019 filed in Memory, News and Commentary


I’ve never felt like a Baby Boomer. I doubt I’m close to alone in this, among “Boomers” born after 1960. Sure, technically I’m still part of that demographic bubble, as the baby bust didn’t hit till a few years after I was born. But the cultural phenomenon people talk about when they describe “Baby Boomers” doesn’t track with my experiences growing up. I’ve always felt more like Generation X.

Baby Boomers are, we’re always told, the generation whose central experience is the decisions they made about the draft for the Vietnam War. I’m the generation that experienced the Vietnam War as the reason the father of a kid in my neighborhood was missing in action. The generation that went through high school and college during the time of the Boat People, and of the killing fields in Cambodia.

Baby Boomers are the generation that protested and protested and protested in college. I’m of the college generation that older Boomers criticized as careerist and politically apathetic. When we did have protests (and we did, and I was myself an activist), about apartheid or US policy in Central America, if our protests were of any significant size, we would get the description “reminiscent of the 1960s,” as if our protests were a 60s nostalgia party.

Baby Boomers were the generation celebrated in the Hair musical song “Age of Aquarius“. I’m the generation that heard older people singing “Age of Aquarius” and wondered why the heck there was a whole song about people born in the latter part of January and the beginning of February. I mean, it’s flattering that you think I’m all about harmony and understanding, but also puzzling.

I was in college during the time of Reagan, and my young adulthood spanned from Madonna’s “Material Girl” to the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Beginning political awareness in junior high school at the time of Nixon’s detente with the Soviet Union, I reached the latter part of my twenties seeing the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This is a very different experience from that of older Baby Boomers – and it’s mostly older Boomers’ experience that people describe when they’re explaining what shaped Boomers. I’m of the same generation as Obama, but I’m not really, in my life experience, of the same generation as Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Generation labels are like that. We stick broad labels on birth cohorts that last twenty years or so, and talk as if these described individuals. In the process, we lump together: changes that happen in all of our lives as we age (how many “Boomer/Millennial” differences are the same differences that applied to Boomers and their parents, when Boomers were young?), changes that happen over time through several generations (true for at least some changes in racial attitudes), and differences related to life experience (such as how it shaped people to grow up during the Great Depression). We lump together people of very different ages. And we lump together people whose generational experiences may not be well described by labels developed based on US history (do US labels really describe the generational experience of my coworker whose generation is “born just after Pol Pot fell to parents who lived through the killing fields era in Cambodia”?).

These descriptions may be useful as accounts of broad sociological phenomenon, but, even when they’re framed neutrally, and not in “how the Millenials ruined X” generation war terms, they still paint in way too broad a brush to match many individuals’ experiences.

I watched Watergate unfold on TV as a kid in junior high school, my first real political awareness being framed by Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” Hillary Clinton, a young lawyer, worked on the impeachment inquiry as part of the staff of the House Judiciary Committee special counsel. Are she and I really in any meaningful sense of the same generation?

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You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road

Posted by Sappho on October 28th, 2019 filed in News and Commentary


I see that we’re arguing, once again, today about when we should go high when they go low, and when we should say, screw it, forget about going high. When it’s important to show respect, and when it’s patriotic not to show respect.

Can I make a meta point?

Wherever you want to draw the line, the most important respect that anyone owes Trump is not respect to the office of the presidency, but respect to Trump as an individual. Why, you may ask? Individual-1 isn’t an individual particularly deserving of respect.

Here’s why. Whatever the heck the minimum may be, that I owe any other human being, whether not he or she deserves it, for my own sake, or for the sake of others who might be harmed by the precedent I’d set, that standard is way more important than any respect I give due to someone’s station. And I have way more reason to give it to the undeserving, than to respect someone who abuses the power of his office, because he holds that office.

If, for example, I were tempted to mock Trump for being fat, I’d refrain, because that kind of mockery hurts other people who are fat, and who have done no harm. And because it’s not particularly connected to what Trump has actually done wrong as President, and if he’s to be mocked, he should be mocked for that, not for some physical characteristic that harms no one else. But I certainly wouldn’t feel obliged to refrain because of any respect I owe him as President – he’s done far worse than mock people for being fat, and mocking him for the real harm he’s done may be a useful tool in resisting authoritarianism.

And, though respect for an office even when you disagree with the holder makes sense, it’s less clear that such respect should apply when we’re talking about, not disagreement, but flat out abuse of power. While if we’re talking about the basic minimum regard that’s due an individual – such as, for example, due process of law should anyone charge Trump with any crime once he’s no longer in office – that’s not a thing you should lose if you don’t deserve it. It’s something that belongs to the undeserving as well as to the deserving, because without that, it doesn’t belong securely to anyone.

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Mini round up: The computer security and tiny cars edition

Posted by Sappho on October 23rd, 2019 filed in Computers, Science


Bruce Schneier on the NordVPN breach.

Jim Baker, former general counsel of the FBI, on rethinking encryption.

Scientists taught rats to drive tiny cars.

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The Dust of Life

Posted by Sappho on October 13th, 2019 filed in Music, News and Commentary


Miss Saigon is playing this week at Segerstrom in Orange County. I have never seen it, and am not planning to see this show. Instead I’ve heard the soundtrack, have seen the opera on which it was based, Madame Butterfly, and the movie M. Butterfly, which takes the Madame Butterfly story in an entirely different direction. But it has been on my mind this week, in particular the song “Bui Doi“.

They’re called Bui-Doi
The dust of life

Conceived in Hell
And born in strife
They are the living reminder of all the good we failed to do
We can’t forget
Must not forget
That they are all our children, too

“Bui Doi,” Miss Saigon
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if a president can ask a foreign government to go after one American citizen …

Posted by Sappho on September 26th, 2019 filed in Computers, Election 2016, Election 2020


Not for nothing but, if a president can ask a foreign government to go after one American citizen, he can ask foreign governments to go after any of us.

Tweet by Charles P. Pierce

Yes, exactly. And you don’t even need to have chosen to politically defy him. You could be an ordinary computer security expert who did your job uncovering a Russian hack, with no idea that hack would be used to help elect a POTUS who would welcome the help.

In January, 2016, I was laid off from the company where I then worked in software quality assurance. By March, 2016, I was employed again. But in the meantime, I engaged in a busy job search, with multiple target companies of interest. Because I had both interest and background in computer security, one of those companies was CrowdStrike, a company with an excellent reputation in the computer security field.

I had no idea that company would, by doing its job in accurately tracing a computer hack to Russia (an evaluation that was later confirmed by ample supporting evidence – see Volume I of the Mueller report), CrowdStrike would become the center of a political firestorm, and that years after the fact, a weird claim that the DNC server was somewhere in the Ukraine would figure in a phone call between the presidents of the US and Ukraine, where Zelensky tried to get military aid and Trump tried to get Zelensky to supply information damning to Biden and, independently, to CrowdStrike.

You don’t have to be a political activist to be at risk from retaliation by a self-interested authoritarian. You just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and turn out to have information that he wants to discredit.

To all the people who were just doing their jobs trying to find out what Russia was doing in 2016, whether private computer security experts or people in intelligence services, my sympathy.

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On Kavanaugh, Trump, and impeachment

Posted by Sappho on September 22nd, 2019 filed in Election 2016, News and Commentary


Last week began with an excerpt from a new book on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. It ended with the revelation of a grave abuse of power by Trump. In both cases, the word “impeachment” was raised in response to the revelation. And in both cases, at least some folks responded that, hey, removal via impeachment isn’t going to happen, so why make the Republicans’ day? I want to make it clear why I give that argument weight for Kavanaugh, but no longer think it holds water for Trump. Here’s why:

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She Died With Her Lipstick On

Posted by WiredSisters on September 17th, 2019 filed in Feminism, Sexuality, Uncategorized


     I read a fantasy novel a while back. I no longer remember the title or the author.  One of the main characters, however,  was a woman named Jezebel, who usually went by "Bel," or something like that. She revealed her full name in a conversation in  which she pointed out that the biblical Jezebel was an admirable woman, who fought for the faith of her fathers against strong and ultimately deadly opposition. 
I like your take on Jezebel even better. The traditional words we use to describe the morality of women all have to do with sex. The old phrase "make an honest woman of her" has nothing to do with inculcating habits of truth-telling into a woman. It means (based on the presumption that she has been sleeping with a man who is not her husband) marrying her, and thereby making her a solid citizen rather than a slut.
Similarly, when we talk about a male teenager as "wild," we mean he drinks and uses drugs, rides a motorcycle, and gets into a lot of fights, sometimes leading to interactions with the police. When we talk about a teenage girl as "wild," we mean she sleeps with guys to whom she is not married. Period. (She may also drink, use drugs, get into fights, etc. But those are superfluous characteristics, neither necessary nor sufficient to get her branded as "wild.")
When a young man is "in trouble," we can mean he is negatively involved with the police, the IRS, Interpol..... you get the idea. When a young woman is "in trouble," that can mean only one thing--she's pregnant.
And, by the way, one of the main reasons I still cheer for the Sexual Revolution, despite many of its questionable consequences, is the fact that, when I was in high school and even in college, when the body of a young woman dead from non-natural causes was found, the first thing the medical examiner checked for was pregnancy, which could serve as adequate explanation--and perhaps even justification--for either homicide or suicide.
This narrow slant on female morality has by no means disappeared. But it is a lot less prevalent. The terms used to insult a female politician, for instance, still include a lot of references to her lack of attractiveness, and may occasionally accuse her of sexual deviancy. But the trolls who drive visible women out of the cyberworld rarely accuse them of sleeping around, though they often accuse them of being too ugly for anyone to want to sleep with. Or, heaven forbid, fat.
And, on the positive side, the good things we have to say about women almost never have anything to do with chastity. Courage, industriousness, intelligence, kindness--lots of good stuff like that. Purity, chastity, irreproachability, not so much.
Which puts me on the side, I guess, of the optimists like Stephen Pinker, or the Second Wave feminists, in saying proudly, "We've already paid the piper--let's dance."


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Jezebel!

Posted by Sappho on September 17th, 2019 filed in Bible study


“A jezebel” is an immoral woman. And, because of conventions about how women get to be immoral, the word now has connotations of sexual immorality. The dictionary lists “seductress” and “temptress” as synonyms.

Yesterday, I checked my daily chapter on 929 and was struck by how Jezebel’s story is much more about a different kind of wrong. It’s true that Jezebel puts on makeup at the time of her impending death. But what did she do before that? She arranged for Naboth to be slandered, framed, and stoned to death, so that her husband, Ahab the king, could seize Naboth’s property.

Jezebel isn’t Stormy Daniels. She’s Lady MacBeth. Or
Jiang Qing driving the Cultural Revolution. Her central sin is abuse of power.

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Co-Bloggers

Posted by Sappho on September 15th, 2019 filed in Blog maintenance


An old co-blogger may be returning to talk about a call that he has received, and a new co-blogger will be guest blogging sometime this week.

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Try to find a way to make all our little joys relate

Posted by Sappho on September 2nd, 2019 filed in Bipolar Disorder, News and Commentary


When someone dies by suicide, appropriate responses are: sympathy and support for their surviving friends and family, and promulgation of suicide prevention resources. I’ll note that NAMI and DBSA provide useful peer support groups.

Suicide is something I wish on no one. Whatever your past has been, whatever your prospects look like now, someone loves you.

And people get to be complicated. Someone can be mentally ill, have hurt some people, have been hurt by other people, and perhaps be in the process of becoming a better person.

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#NativeForum 2020

Posted by Sappho on August 19th, 2019 filed in Election 2020


Today (Monday, August 19) and tomorrow (Tuesday, August 20) are the days of the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum. 11 Presidential candidates (10 Democrats and 1 independent) have confirmed their attendance at the event, either in person or by video conference. Panelists consist of tribal leaders, tribal members, and youth.

Candidates who spoke today, in order of appearance: Marianne Williamson, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and (by video) Steve Bullock.

Order of speaking tomorrow: Joe Sestak, Mark Charles (independent), John Delaney, Kamala Harris (via Skype), Julián Castro, Bernie Sanders, Bill de Blasio.

Here is an Indianz.com post about the forum.

And here, from Indianz.com, is a recap of the morning session (Marianne Williamson and Elizabeth Warren)

Klobuchar promises strong relationship with Indian Country if elected(Klobuchar comes from a state, Minnesota, that has a significant Native American population, and has relationships with Native communities in her state; as a result her responses at the forum were well informed.)

Ahead of the forum, Opal Boyer (Yavapai-Apache nation) looks at the question: Where do Democratic candidates stand with tribal nations and indigenous communities? Which candidates have standalone platforms that address indigenous issues? Which candidates incorporate indigenous issues in other sections of their websites? And which don’t reference indigenous issues at all? See Opal Boyer’s post to find out. Also includes links both to standalone plans and other sections of websites covering Native American issues, and an analysis of what issues each candidate addresses.

Here you can find a Vimeo video of the first day

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“Members of the press, what the fuck?”

Posted by Sappho on August 7th, 2019 filed in Democracy, Election 2020, News and Commentary, Race


There’s a thing people sometimes say about Trump. I saw it not long before the mass shooting at El Paso, from a Trump supporter on Twitter. I’ve seen it said, before, by people who aren’t Trump supporters, but who are saying how they think Trump supporters see him. It’s, sure, he’s not Presidential. But that’s why we like him. He’s a regular guy. He’s like us.

Watching Beto, both sad and angry at the slaughter in his hometown, reply to a question with “Members of the press, what the fuck?” I am struck by what a regular guy actually is. Not Trump. Beto.

I don’t mean, vote for Beto for President. I can pick another candidate with better plans. I can pick another candidate who’s smarter, or better in a debate, or more likely to win. And some of these candidates have just as good character as Beto. So, likely I’ll vote for someone else, and likely we’d be better off with Beto dropping out and running for Senate, to maximize the proper political distribution of good candidates.

For now, though, that’s not the point. The point is, it’s Beto in the spotlight, because it’s his city where the attack happened, and Beto, in every way, is acting like a regular guy, like a normal person, like us. There’s Beto, in his first response to the attack, near tears. There’s Beto, at the blood bank, bringing along his kids so they can see what it’s like to give blood. There’s Beto, getting angry just like a normal person: “What the fuck?”

People say, sometimes, that Trump gets angry like a normal person, but he doesn’t. He gets angry like a distinctly abnormal person. He reads his condemnation of white supremacist violence from a teleprompter but, oh, should anyone show him less than the deference he thinks he’s due, that’s when he gets angry. He basks in “lock her up” and “send her back” chants about his opponents and critics, but he’s never angry on anyone else’s behalf, unless it’s Ivanka. That’s not what normal people are like.

Beto, on the other hand, gets angry like a normal person. Sure, you figure he’s perfectly capable of being angry on his own behalf. But he also gets angry for his home, for his city. Like normal people do.

And, here’s the second thing. To love your home, your particular place, is to love the people who are actually there. For me, it’s to love my home in California with all the people who actually live there, and to set myself against white supremacy because it’s an attack on my actual home. So, too, with Beto. His home is El Paso, a city that’s closely linked with Juarez, and has been for some time. You can’t love El Paso by loving only the Anglo part of it. You love it all, as Beto does.

And you can’t love America, which has never been a white only nation or even close, unless you can love America as it is, a country of many “races.”

That’s why we need a President who will have no more talk of “invasion” or send her back,” a President who will be President of all Americans.

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Coffee with Katie Porter again

Posted by Sappho on August 4th, 2019 filed in Daily Life, Democracy


Yesterday Katie Porter had two more “Coffee with Katie” events, one in a coffee house in Lake Forest, quite close to me.

“Coffee with Katie,” both this time and last time, was standing room only. Katie says that she never realized the events would be this popular, that in fact the first time she did one, she had brought some correspondence to work on in case no one showed up, and thought if anything there would be just a few people coming to chat.

As with last time, I’m rendering the questions and answers from memory, as I didn’t record or take notes. Any errors are my responsibility.

Q) Someone asked a question (which I couldn’t fully hear) about the deficit.

A) Katie replied that she was glad to be asked about the deficit, as it’s important. There’s been a lot of discussion of the Trump tax bill – Does it make taxes lower? Higher? Lower for some, and higher for others, she says, and Orange County is particularly hard hit due to the cap on the SALT (state and local tax) deduction. As a result, some of her constituents have higher taxes, which they have had to put on their credit cards. But it’s not just about who pays more and who pays less. The tax bill increased the deficit. Katie hopes that Republicans can return to being a party that values fiscal responsibility, and work with Democrats on a responsible budget.

Q) How do you get the word out about what’s happening in Congress?
A) Some of my colleagues have said to me, “I don’t do national media like you, Katie.” I do national media for one reason: Orange County, the 6th most populous county in the US, has no TV station. It can be hard to get the word out, and we use all the means we can: media, social media like Twitter and Facebook. If you want to get a fuller picture of the news, I advise you to read newspapers, don’t just watch TV. You can read the paper on your phone or Kindle, but read.

Q) Do you support restoring Glass-Steagal?
A) We’ve had a lot of talk about who is socialist and who is capitalist. (Here Katie mimicked someone whispering, embarrassed to say it aloud, “I am a capitalist.”) Well, I’ll say it (here she raised her voice): “I am a capitalist!” And not just for the economic benefits. Capitalism secures our freedom. But for capitalism to survive and thrive, it needs regulation. (Here Katie talked about the ups and downs of a business cycle in a capitalist economy, with hand gestures to show what a roller coaster it can be without regulation.) Financial regulation stabilizes our economy, and so I support Glass-Steagal.

Q) How do we secure our elections?
A) Just the other day, I listened to Adam Schiff. I was hoping I’d learn from him how I could reassure you, as election security isn’t really my area. But he said, we’re in trouble. The problem is, election security legislation has passed the House. It was part of HR1, which restored the Voting Rights Act and included anti-corruption and election security measures. What happened to that bill? “It’s with Mitch.” The good news is that Orange County elections are very well run. But we need more. There’s now a plan to break up HR1 and send the provisions one piece at a time to the Senate, to put the pressure on Mitch to allow at least some of it to come to a vote in the Senate.

Q) A question about healthcare.
A) Katie doesn’t have the answers but knows our current system isn’t the best. We need to fill the gaps.

Q) What about disability? People waiting to go on disability have trouble getting healthcare.

A) This is true. There’s a delay while people are unable to work but not on disability yet. People in this situation can be at risk of bankruptcy. We need to address this.

Closing: Coffee with Katie has been more popular than expected. You can also call, email, or come by her office and talk to staff. Her office is busy responding to calls and emails and keeps track of all of them. And Katie personally answers any correspondence from children.

Note on other political events this weekend in Orange County: Amy Klobuchar had a meet and greet, and there was a gun control demonstration (with people encouraged to color their hands red) in Orange, both of these events today. I, though, learned of these events too late to have my EV sufficiently charged (am charging it overnight tonight), and so had to give them a pass.

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