Silence is Damaging

Before the first Presidential debate, I had a discussion about the political climate with some other authors online. There were some great comments made by everyone, but I put to words something that has been bothering me about my response to the current election.


You see, I live in a firmly red state and, while I believe this will change as we become more diverse in Texas over the next four years, for as long as I have been a registered voter, I was almost always the lone Democrat in the room. Usually, I take that in stride. I keep my mouth shut and avoid the subject of politics unless I am in the company of very (and I do mean very) good friends. I can honestly say, there are many of my very good friends who I wouldn’t dare bring up politics to because the resulting discussion is just not worth it.

Especially this year. Especially this election. Even now, given the revelations of the weekend this is still a hostile place for someone not firmly in the red. I have stayed off Facebook, where most of my conservative friends live and kept to Twitter, where I follow mostly librarians, authors, pop culture aficionados, and artists.

More and more though, I have been thinking about what silence means and I have been thinking about this quote:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then 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 out for me

–Martin Niemoller

I think about Niemoller’s words and I know that history will not look kindly on this election and it will not look kindly on the kinds of words that have been used in it nor with the hatred with which they have been spoken.

I think about all this and I am tired of being silent. I was tired when I first wrote this post weeks ago. I am tired now. My heart hurts even more, knowing I waited to put these words up. I waited while they came for everyone else and I stayed silent. That silence hangs around my neck like a weight.

No more.

For the record, I like Hillary and I want to vote for her. My vote will not be a protest one, but I am done being silent. I am finished with keeping my mouth shut about the kind of man I think Donald Trump is because he is a contemptible person and his words are damaging.

They are as damaging as my silence on the matter. I do not want my silence to be taken as approval.

I cannot, with good conscience and my hand firmly wrapped around my moral compass whose true north is Jesus, condone anyone who supports a man who seems to hold in contempt almost everyone around him. Whose business is categorized by bankruptcies and refusing to pay smaller businesses money they were promised. Who has no idea what sacrifice and honor mean and who would deny refuge to victimized, suffering people because they have the unfortunate luck to be from a Middle Eastern country. Who clearly doesn’t understand minorities and views half of the people in this country as objects for pleasure whether consent is given or not.

Voting is important. Everyone over 18 should be voting this November. Everyone over 18 should vote every November (and in local elections too). Do some reading from credible news sources. Watch the debates. Make an informed decision and be able to look yourself in the mirror afterward.

The time for silence has long since past. I am sorry I held mine so long.



Net Neutrality Needs a Cooler Name

I have been listening to TWiT, The Week in Tech podcast, for a little while now and I really like the banter on the show. I am a couple weeks behind, but show 219 had a great discussion of net neutrality. The transcript is available, but here are my two favorite quotes:

Jason Calacanis: But for the leadership [of Comcast and AT&T], gosh how do you sleep at night knowing that you want to take something that’s been so valuable to so many. You don’t need to corrupt this, I mean you are making a lot of money already, last time I saw Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are crushing it, I mean how much more money do you DBs need to make? F you guys, greedy bastards. Really, I mean what..[ph] No, seriously these greedy mother effers (1:34:02) are going to, now they will start like oh, by the way, yeah, which level of internet service did you want, or do you, oh you haven’t subscribed to the voice over IP channel, we will get you HBO and VOIP and oh, there’s an extra fee for gaming packets and oh, you are a level 57…

Patrick Norton: It’s so scumbaggy. That’s the problem. It’s Internet – it’s the ‘Internet large ISPs Right to Take You Anyway They Can’ Act. That’s what this is all about. This is about AT&T wanting to be able to restrict VOIP access. It’s about Comcast wanting to rake it in on crushing P2P and other traffic they find annoying like video traffic. And what it comes down to is that in many cases they don’t deliver the level of service they want or they feel they are incapable of delivering a level of service the customers think they have paid for. You’ve got 16 megabits except we only want to give it to you when you are downloading one webpage at a time. Not for video, not for software downloads, certainly not for peer-to-peer. And you look at what’s going on and it’s really depressing. I mean how much money is AT&T spending on technical economists – I love that name. Well, if people actually really want to have this level of service 24×7 for downloads they would need to be equivalent of corporate account and that’s a $400 a month fee. We can’t afford to do this.

I liked that Patrick Norton pointed out that many people turn to the Internet to fill gaps in the services provided by Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. The Rochester house used to have Comcast everything and we got tired of being fleeced by them while being provided a sub-par service. We now have TiVo and no cable. Sadly,we still have Comcast Internet because there is not other alternative in our area that doe not require a phone line.

If you would like more information on Net Neutrality and the oxymoronic named Internet Freedom Act, please do some research. Here are some places to start.

Save the Internet
: you can send a letter to your rep

What is Net Neutrality?

Daily Show on Net Neutrality (from 2006! This issue is not new!)

Internet Freedom Act (official govt. page where you can indicate your support or not)

Also, the above act should not be confused with a similar bill, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which does support net neutrality. Net neutrality needs a better name so that ordinary people know what it means.

–Jane, the Internet should be an equal playing field

Suit – n. – A set of matching outer garments

Last week, I briefly saw a blurb on CNN about President Obama changing the dress code at the White House away from suits and ties to a more casual atmosphere. (link is actually to NY Times article where I am assuming CNN got their story as they had no page of their own.) My initial thought was, “Way to go!”

Since then, I have repeatedly thought about this story. The dean of my former library was a lady who believed in wearing suits. I know that if she would have had her way we would all have worn a suit, pants or skirt complete with hose, to work every day. There was no dress code at work; we were expected to be presentable and most took that to mean business casual. My former dean, whatever she wanted or thought, knew she would never be able to get her staff to comply and so she let us wear what we would. It mostly worked out fine.

In the Fall, my church held a congregational meeting about changing the worship schedule at our church. During the meeting, an older member stood up and stated that the pastors had said that they would begin wearing ties after Labor Day; It was now well past Labor Day and why were the pastors not wearing a suit and tie on Sundays? Now, this meeting was not about ties, suits, or attire at all, but this was the most pressing problem on this member’s mind – that there was no way our pastors could preach the word of God in polos and khaki pants. For those of you that care to know, when the weather cools off, the pastors usually begin wearing suits and ties again, trading it for simpler, cooler attire as Spring and Summer approach again. I wonder if after Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount people were like, “That was profound, but did you see his robe?! There is no way he could be speaking the truth in an outfit like that.”

These two stories have a few things in common. It is generally, but not always, the case that the older you are the more likely you are to believe that a suit and tie is business apparel and that is just that. But it is not just about age. How you appear does give other people an idea about you. Appearances are important. Good grooming is important. Whether you have tattoos, a suit, or your hair cut a certain way says things about you. We choose to groom a certain way because we want to be seen in certain lights. However, the fact that I have a tattoo does not affect my ability to be a librarian, wife, mother, or friend.

I think this is a multi-faceted issue that has been rearing its ugly head since man put on the first animal skin. I do believe in being well groomed, but I do not think the only way to do business is in a suit. I do believe that you should occasionally concede and wear the uniform of the group you are trying to infiltrate. I would strongly advise against trying to change the norms of a group by yourself from the bottom of the food chain. Not only will you further isolate yourself, you will bloody your forehead against that wall to no avail. You need allies if you are on the bottom. On the top… well that is another matter. You can use your power as you see fit. President Obama has the power to affect the dress code of those around him; the page boy does not.

A dress code is like a uniform. It says, “You belong to this group because you look the same.” It is called a business suit because people who do business wear them. If you see someone in a suit, you think business person. We all want to belong, but many of us chafe under sameness or strictness.

At my former library, business casual was the uniform. Many of us dressed down a bit on Fridays, declaring that day casual to ourselves and damn the consequences. There never were consequences as there was no “official” dress code. On Fridays, I usually wore what I wished I could wear all week. If I had my choice, I would have gone to work everyday in jeans, a nice shirt, and a corduroy jacket or sweater (that is me with the camera). I am, in my heart, a jeans and t-shirt girl.

All this blathering so that we come to this conclusion: We spend a lot of time worrying, talking, and obsessing about clothes. The Situation Room had a whole segment on Obama’s dress code policy for Pete’s sake when we are at war and in a recession. *eyeroll* We make policies, we have rules, we draw lines in the sand and still, for many, there are no conclusions about what is or not appropriate attire.

If your place of work has clothing issues, the Powers That Be should consider a few things before making irrevocable laws. What should be the most important is that the staff appear well groomed and that the staff do their jobs well. I am not sure a boss could ask for more than a job well done (defined how you will) by a recently showered human being wearing clothes. Wouldn’t you rather have everyone doing their jobs well and have an array of attire than only a handful in suits getting things done?

–Jane, she sure would

Hope Restored

After two Presidential elections which left me saddened and demoralized, I am glad that I can finally be proud of who we have put in the White House. To my friends who feel as I have before, I am sorry for your dismay, but all will be well.

–Jane, happy to see this day

Early Voting and a Hope for the Future

Today, the family Rochester is heading to the polls. I even registered the Wee Bairn as Mickey Mouse, but I am not sure they will actually let him cast a ballot. We do not have a picture ID, you see.

I have not been this excited about voting since my first time after turning 18. It was the second election with Bill Clinton on the ticket.

I recently visited a friend of mine in Dallas who was my roommate while I was in grad school. We are wonderful friends though we are very different people, especially when it comes to politics. We do discuss politics occasionally and she said something to me over lunch to which I, at the time, had no response. When I asked her what she thought of the campaigns so far, she said the idea of Obama as President scared her. I did not know what to say about that, then.

Fear should never be the thing that decides your vote. I should have replied with, “Now, you know how I felt in 2000 and then I was even more afraid in 2004.” In 2000, I was shock and in 2004, I was crushed that my fears about my fellow citizens were confirmed.

The world, however, went on after that and one could argue about if we are better off or not depending on your views.

I just want my friend to know that, regardless of the outcome, the world will not come crashing down and we will sally forth in this democracy in the only way we know how, with determination. Only Tuesday will tell which of us will be licking our wounds.

–Jane, is voting for change

My Caucus Experience

I must admit I am still a bit fuzzy on how the delegates shake out in terms of caucus and popular votes here in Texas, but I thought it would be fun to share my first caucus experience.

I voted Tuesday, like normal and then returned home to my parents house* to use my Mom’s old computer, with old Windows, and old IE to do some work. Exhausted from those efforts, I took a nap. After a nice dinner with my parents, I headed back to my voting site to caucus at 7pm.

The Democrats were in a tiny room in an apartment complex that catered to older, retired people on scooters. The room was cramped and as more people kept coming in, some of the people attending started getting grumpy. I was just excited. Some less grumpy people around me, who had lived in Texas longer than I have been alive, never remembered having a caucus before this one and were excited with me. We waited, some patiently, some not, for the Caucus Chair to come in and give us instructions.

At this point some of the older ladies, two of which were on scooters, started griping about this taking a long time. We had been waiting about 10-15 minutes at this point and it was about 7:15. Caucusing was set to start no later than 7:30. “I hope we start soon. It is past my bedtime.” If I heard that complaint once, I heard it about 10 times. I wanted to ask her if she was voting for Hillary and then tell her to just go to bed already if she was, but I am nice, remember?

I am in a small caucus district, so I was not expecting many people. When the Caucus Chair came in the overflowing room he was shocked. He said in the last election, 8 Democrats voted in the caucus district. That day, almost 300 Dems had voted, and 57 of us had returned to caucus. We ended up switching rooms with the Republicans, who had a larger room and fewer people.

The process was fairly simple. We lined up and the volunteers checked to make sure we had voted earlier in the day. We then signed a sheet of paper with our name, contact information, and our vote: Hillary or Barack. While the two volunteers counted up the votes, we split off into separate sides of the room and counted ourselves. We were split 50/50 for the candidates, which was confirmed later by the official count.

Since we were evenly split, each group chose 5 delegates and 5 alternates to attend the County caucus this Saturday. From there, delegates will be chosen to go to Austin, and after that, the delegates chosen will go to Denver for the DNC in August.

As I said, how the actual numbers shake out in terms of how Barack and Hillary actually get delegates from this process is confusing, but it was fun and exhilarating to participate. The whole process was over at about 8:20. I hope those cranky old ladies made it home to their beds. I was right. The crankiest of the ladies did vote for Hillary.

–Jane, cranky ladies or no, it was a shiny experience

*Due to some complications while trying to register in my own county, I am still registered to vote at my parent’s address under my maiden name. As a result, I had to trek across town to do my civic duty. Hopefully, I can get this issue resolved soon, before the November elections.

Barack Obama in Houston

Barack Obama in Houston

Originally uploaded by Wandering Eyre

This is a picture taken by one of our student workers, Ursula, who was able to get a ticket to the rally.

There were 20,000+ people there and I heard it was fabulously amazing. One of my friends described the energy level like a tent revival. I saw one video on You Tube where the person holding the camera was so excited they were shaking.

–Jane, isn’t politics fun?

Jane <3 Obama for President

I should definitely be working on a writing deadline, but I am sidetracked to this space by something I have been meaning to write for quite awhile. I think today is appropriate to post this because Barack Obama is in my city today. If politics makes you grumpy, please skip this post and go elsewhere.

It has been a long time since I blogged about politics. I love juicy politics, I love Presidential Campaign Season, and this season is shaping up to be fabulously entertaining. We even have Chuck Norris in the fray! You have to be amused by that.

Some disclaimers up front: I am a native Texan and a rare Democrat in a very, very red state. I support Obama because I like his policies, ideas, and he is quite nice on the eyes.

The polls show that Clinton and Obama are virtually tied for Texas. We have a lot of delegates to give, 193 in total, which are decided both by a popular vote and a caucus. I know, it is strange, but we essentially vote twice. Some of the national news stories are saying that Democrats here would be happy with either candidate winning. As a native Texan and an unscientific observer, I am writing this to disagree.

All the major newspapers in the major cities have backed Obama, including The Houston Chronicle, The Austin-American Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, and the Ft. Worth Star Telegram. The endorsement I enjoyed the most was from the Burnt Orange Report, an Austin blog that usually talks state and local politics. In my unscientific polling of Democrats I know, Obama is big the winner.

Hillary is problematic for people in my sphere. Granted, the majority of people I know are Republican. I do live in Texas you know. Most of the people I know hate Hillary. They hated Bill and they hate Hillary. When I write hate, I do mean hate. People I know hate her with a visceral feeling I have never understood. I do not know where the feeling originated, but it exists here. It is an unreasonable hatred. I worry that if the Democrats choose her as their candidate, they will spend their time and resources fighting the hate and not talking the issues.

I do not dislike Hillary Clinton. She is a strong person who has done some very good things. I think she would do a good job, but I would rather have Barack Obama in the position.

I believe in Obama’s message of hope. Clinton, seeking to attack his strongest attribute, has been lambasting Obama’s use of words. It is a good strategy on her part. They inspire us to be better and strive for a better country. I am sick of having a president lead us that makes me cringe every time he opens his mouth. I want someone I can proudly proclaim as mine, someone smart and articulate. I am not saying that Clinton is not both of those things, but that hate issue I mentioned before gets in the way of her words.

Barack Obama makes you believe that hope is something we can reach for and hold in our hands. His words inspire me and his policies are sound, so I am hoping for him to some out the victor in my state and across the country.

–Jane, a bleeding heart to the end

Just One More More Thing to Suspect the Neighbors Of

In addition to letting their dog poop in your yard and not picking it up, they may also be housing the server that is phishing for you. The U.S., according to Symantec, is the origin of 31% of all malicious attacks and 51% of all phishing servers are on U.S. soil. (Obviously, those of you that have read my previous post realize that I am in the middle of reading my technology feeds.)

Last time a percentage like 51% was bandied about I think I got the raw deal then as well, for about six years now.

–Jane, only two more years to go