Friday, June 29, 2018

Why Are We Here?

Below is a preview of my brief planned remarks at the Families Belong Together rally, which I was asked to emcee. Details for the rally are in the poster.

Good morning. 

Before we get to our wonderful speakers, who have been so generous with their time today, I want to say just a few words about why we are here; or at least, why I’m here. I’m here by accident of birth and luck. I’m here only as a guest on Native land, on colonized land, which does not belong to me simply because the United States government has granted me citizenship. 


I am here to bring what limited perspective I can to this issue, and to gather with like-minded people who share my concerns.

I am here as a mother. I have carried two children inside of my body. And I know—as only a mother can—what that means. I am here in solidarity, empathy, and pain for mothers and fathers who have been forcibly separated from their children; whose children have been lost indefinitely to bureaucracy at the hands of armed state actors. Armed state actors who have taken infants out of their mothers’ arms. In America. They have done this on our behalf. In our name. In the name of our country. 

And it is appalling.

I am here as a lawyer, albeit one who knows little about immigration law. But I am privileged beyond measure to have been gifted an education that feels more relevant than ever in this moment. To understand what's at stake as the United States Constitution—the founding document of our democracy—is stretched to the breaking point by those who would defy its promise and undermine its dignity. I understand that laws are temporary, fungible, and only as righteous and good as the higher moral authority that they reflect in executing our social compact; and to which all laws should be held accountable.

I am here as a Jew and an immigrant. The Jewish people have been driven from their homes since time immemorial. Only three generations of Americans separate me from those who were rounded up, caged, detained, and ultimately killed; also, by the way, at the hands and guns of state actors following orders, following the law, and wearing uniforms emblazoned with the authority of the state.

I am here in white skin and acknowledge the protection and privilege it affords me. The families we are rallying for today, by and large, do not have the protection of white skin. And please, let's not pretend that white skin makes no difference here. White skin in 2018 America is protective armor. And those of us who walk around inside that armor have a very simple, binary decision to make: will we continue to passively enable white supremacy, or will we actively work to dismantle it? 

I’m here for the latter.

I'm here as a concerned citizen who recognizes that we can and must care about more than one thing at a time. All politics is local, they say. But the world is smaller than ever, and this is about more than politics. Or if it’s not, then politics isn’t just civil discourse and polite disagreements after all. Politics—if you want to call it that—has life and death consequences for humanity.

And above all, it is humanity that brings me here. I am here as a human being, and because these family separations are an unconscionable abuse of our most basic human rights. They are an abuse that must be acknowledged, denounced, and remedied like our lives depend on it, b
ecause they most certainly do.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Do Not Despair! Your Country Needs You

Do not despair! There is no time or use for despair. Your country needs you, and your energy.

It needs you to help reunite children unconscionably torn from their parents. 

It needs you to shine a light on dark money in politics.
It needs you to pressure your representatives in Congress by contacting them repeatedly in every medium possible.
It needs you to protect kids from being shot at school.
It needs you to protect journalists from being shot at work.
It needs you to defy kleptocracy and autocracy.
It needs you to vote.
It needs you to run for office.
It needs you to defend free speech by using your voice and exercising your rights.
It needs you to combat propaganda by affirmatively debunking it and not disseminating it further.
It needs you to peaceably assemble by joining a protest or a rally.
It needs you to defend the equal protection of women, people of color, and LGBTQ people by listening to them as authorities of their own experiences and amplifying their voices.
It needs you to speak out against human rights abuses.
It needs you to insist on due process for everyone on its soil.
It needs you to care about more than one thing at a time.
It needs you to fight for more than one thing at a time.
It needs you to appreciate the gravity of this moment.
It needs you to help redeem its reputation on the world stage as a steward of the planet and a beacon of freedom.
It needs you to stand up for marginalized people in your daily lives.

America’s constitutional democracy—the real American dream—is in the fight of its life, and it needs every last social justice warrior it can get. So the next time someone calls you a social justice warrior like that’s a bad thing, you tell them they’d BEST believe that shit. 

Beyoncé already wrote the seven words you need to hear right now:


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Cottonwood Tree Money Shot

I’m taking a much-needed break from writing about The End of the World as We Know It at the Tiny Hands of Cheeto Satan™ to make a simple, brief, and unrelated observation about the local flora here in Alaska. An observation that those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies will surely relate to, and even those who don’t might appreciate, which is this:

A tree is jizzing in my face.

Let me say that again, a little louder for the people in the back: 


In 70's porno parlance, this was called “the money shot,” but I believe The Kids Today™ call it "skeeting." Whatever you call it, a cottonwood tree (actually hundreds of them) are busting a nut and splooging straight into my eyes, nose, and mouth, and it is NOT OKAY.

According to the omniscient Wikipedia:
Populus trichocarpa is normally dioecious; male and female catkins are borne on separate trees. The species reaches flowering age at about 10 years. Flowers may appear in early March to late May in Washington and Oregon, and sometimes as late as mid-June in northern and interior British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana. Staminate catkins contain 30 to 60 stamens, elongate to 2 to 3 cm, and are deciduous. Pistillate catkins at maturity are 8 to 20 cm long with rotund-ovate, three carpellate subsessile fruits 5 to 8 mm long. Each capsule contains many minute seeds with long, white cottony hairs.
 The seed ripens and is disseminated by late May to late June in Oregon and Washington, but frequently not until mid-July in Idaho and Montana. Abundant seed crops are usually produced every year. Attached to its cotton, the seed is light and buoyant and can be transported long distances by wind and water. Although highly viable, longevity of P. trichocarpa seed under natural conditions may be as short as two weeks to a month. This can be increased with cold storage.

I’m happy for you and all your “minute seeds with long, white cottony hairs” which are “light and buoyant and can be transported long distances by wind and water.” But let me ask you this, and to my earlier point: Did I SAY you could jizz in my face? Did I? No, I most certainly did not. I did not and do not consent to this.

Yesterday, I was in Anchorage and your jizz was absolutely permeating the air, just floating around. It was in my nostrils and throat, and I came home sneezing and coughing and covered in a rash. I think it’s mighty inconsiderate of you to just blow your wad all over my face. S
eriously it’s amazingly rude. I don’t care if you want to reproduce. Do it in your own space. I mean, who does this? Who just unleashes a giant CATEGORY 5 JIZZ HURRICANE on the general public?! If you were human, you would definitely be in jail by now.

Not fucking cool, cottonwoods. Not cool at all.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Calling NYC 311 About a Downed Tree at 3:22 a.m. with My Dad in the Car Went as Expected

Me: *dials 311 on speaker from passenger seat*
Cheery Female Robot: Hello! Thank you for calling 311! We’re here to help! If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911. Otherwise, press 1 to continue in English. Press 2 for other languages.
Me: *presses 1*
Robot: Okay. Let’s get started. What can I help you with? Say what you need, like, “jackhammer noise” or “left violin in cab” or “tax preparation.”
Me: Tree in road.
Dad: *from driver’s seat* Tell her where it is.
Robot: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.
Dad: Tell her Riverside Drive.
Robot: We seem to be having trouble. Let’s try this again.
Me: Let’s not. *smashes 0 on keypad 100x*
Robot: Okay, please wait while I transfer you to a representative. This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes. *hold music plays*
Me: No good deed goes unpunished.
Dad: *cackles uproariously*
Surly Human Female With Thick NY Accent (SHFWTNYA): 311 can I help joo?
Me: Yeah, I’m just trying to report a tree in the road.
SHFWTNYA: Okay ma’mm dass gon’ be department a parks and recreation so lemme trans—
Me: No seriously I’m just trying to stop a big traffic jam because there’s a tree in the road.
SHFWTNYA: Okay where’s the tree at ma’mm?
Me: Riverside Drive outbound ramp to the GWB.
SHFWTNYA: Okay ma’mm is it like a limba da tree or wha happen?
Me: No it’s like the whole tree. I think it blew over in the storm last night. It’s lying across the road.
SHFWTNYA: Okay it’s lying IN the road? 
Me: Yes.
SHFWTNYA: Oh dass gon cause a yooge backup in a coupleah howahs.
SHFWTNYA: You know wha? Imma bring in 911 on dis, cuz dis sound like a hazard.
Me: DASSWHATIMSAYIN! *hold music*
Dad: *now collapsing over steering wheel in hysterics as he passes Kearney exit on the NJ Turnpike*
911 SHFWTNYA: 911 what’s your emergency?
Me: Well it’s not really an emerg—
911 SHFWTNYA: I can’t hear you m’aam. Wasssa address?
Dad: Tell her 1051 Riverside Drive.
Me: 1051 Riverside Drive.
911: SHFWTNYA: Wha happen?
Me: Okay, so there’s a tree in the road ...

Friday, June 22, 2018

No Time to Hate

The opposite of love, it’s often said, isn't hate. It’s indifference. The older I get, the more I appreciate the meaning of this adage and its relationship to time.

Time is a diminishing resource. When you’re young, though, time feels infinite. For example, I think about the twelve years between first and twelfth grades. How long they seemed. How much I changed. How much happened. Then I think about the last twelve years, and they just feel like a blur of work and parenting with fewer immediately noticeable changes.

One change, however, feels very noticeable to me, and that’s the confidence with which I use my time and my voice. 

How I use my time and how I use my voice feels like an increasingly critical decision with every passing day, especially now. I’m careful and thoughtful (or I try to be) with my time and my voice, in order to maximize the likelihood that the uses to which I put them will ultimately feel good and right to me.

To that end, I’ve cultivated a sort of numb indifference to bigots and propaganda-peddlers who are wholly immune to facts, data, science, or reason. I don’t “hate” these people. I feel sad that they themselves are consumed with hate, motivated by anger, and living in ignorance and fear. I’m horrified that their ideas are apparently shared by so many of my fellow citizens. I try not to let my social media accounts serve as a platform for their vitriol.

But I’m ultimately indifferent to them, because anything short of indifference is a waste of my time and my voice.

Every minute I spend reading or responding to an insane comment or trying to change a bigot’s mind, or defending myself and my ideas and actions through direct engagement with a bigot, is one less minute I have with my family. It’s one less minute I have with my friends. It’s one less minute I have for my own writing and activism. It’s one more impediment to the tiny little dent I try to make in issues of social justice. It’s one more distraction from everything that matters.

To invite these futile interactions into my life is to allow bigots to rob me of my most valuable resource: my time. And time, more than ever, is of the essence.

Like the song goes: Ain’t no time to hate. Barely time to wait.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This is All Very Black and White

The artist and activist Bree Newsome wrote on Twitter today:
The issue of immigration in the United States is and always has been inherently racist. It’s an issue of a white colonialist state enacting policies designed to maintain a white majority that has only ever existed due to genocide and colonialism.
Every sovereign nation-state has borders, but the current immigration crisis isn’t about American sovereignty. It’s about racism. Full stop.

Every non-indigenous person in America was an immigrant here at some point, including, of course and very recently, Donald Trump’s family and his own third wife. But that doesn’t matter, because their skin is white.

Let it not be lost on us that the current family separation crisis impacts—nearly exclusively—brown families. If these were white families, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all, because white babies would not be in internment in America, separated from their parents, with no guarantee of reunification.


And that is because America as a matter of policy and culture values white life over brown life. That is a fact. It’s not a secret and it’s not subject to debate. It’s true as a societal matter, it’s true on a microcosmic and macrocosmic scale. It doesn’t mean people with white skin don’t struggle or aren’t poor; it means that their skin color does not present an independent impediment to their lives or immediately devalue them in the eyes of society.

I’m acutely aware of my own “white-passing” privilege. I call myself white and I consider myself white, although many other white people don’t consider me to be white because I’m Jewish. But I have lived my entire life in America benefiting from white skin, and unlike other members of my family, was lucky enough not to be born in Eastern Europe in the 1930s.

Ask yourself this:

In an administration that employs open white nationalists, secured the white nationalist vote and earned the vocal support of the KKK, calls Nazis “very fine people,” and targets the “economic anxiety” of “working class whites” for its support and most insidious propaganda, do you really think the immigration debate is about anything more than racism toward poor brown people? The myths—the lies—that this population takes jobs, drains resources, or commits crimes at any greater rate than the native-born public is rooted in simple white supremacy.

This article in the FAILING NEW YORK TIMES gives a good breakdown of immigration myths and global realities. Here’s an interesting snippet from it:
A study based on surveys in the United States and a variety of European countries by the economists Alberto Alesina, Armando Miano and Stefanie Stantcheva found that people across the board vastly overstate their immigrant populations. The overestimates are largest among particular groups: the least educated, workers in low-skill occupations with lots of immigrants, and those on the political right. They overstate the share of immigrants who are Muslim and understate the share of Christians. They underestimate immigrants’ education and overestimate both their poverty rate and their dependence on welfare. Almost a quarter of French respondents, as well as nearly one in five Swedes and about one in seven Americans, think the average immigrant gets twice as much government aid as native residents do. In no country is this true.
But in all of these countries, it’s true that whiteness retains primacy and supremacy and is code for all that is good and right, while brown skin is meant to signal the opposite of these things. The world has limited resources and at least on a macro-global level, people with white skin have plundered way more than their share of those resources for centuries, at the expense of brown people’s lives and bodies, based on a sense of entitlement derived from their white skin.

It’s not at all surprising that they’re trying to retain the status quo.

Monday, June 18, 2018


I’m old enough to remember all the hype at the turn of the century—Y2K—when, with the flip of a switch at 11:59 on December 31, 1999, all of civilization as we knew it was supposed to instantly crumble when clocks, computers, and other date-reliant mechanisms would suddenly quit working. I was at a concert off the grid in Florida then, and I remember calling my dad from my Nokia cell phone early in the morning on January 1. 

“Is the world still turning? What happened?” I asked. Nothing, of course, was the answer.

I’ve thought of Y2K often in relation to the specter of creeping authoritarianism and disregard for constitutional norms that we're seeing with the Trump administration, and ask myself if it’s possible people are “overreacting.” But, as the writer Virginia Heffernan said recently on Twitter, she cannot identify a time in history when a population has “overreacted" to corruption and kakistocracy on this scale.

I don’t actually think America is the next “Nazi Germany,” if only because—and this is Trump’s saving grace—the man's mercurial self-absorption and lack of coherent ideology hopefully foreclose the kind of cold, calculated extermination efforts we saw there and in other genocides. Which is not to say that irreparable damage cannot be and is not currently being done to people who are not you or me.

And this is critical, I think. I’m seriously disturbed by my so-called “friends” on social media who are defending the family separation policy: 

“These people are breaking the law!” No they’re not, many are seeking legal asylum, or being intentionally prevented from doing so through legal means. And anyway, Jim Crow and slavery were once “the law” too.

“But kids and parents don’t get to stay together in America when parents go to jail!” American kids and parents aren’t separated from each other by armed agents, without a trial, with no assurance of reunification, with no idea when they will ever see each other again, and "lost" to unknown persons. 

“But it’s the law, and prior administrations did it!” No, it’s not the law, and no, prior administrations did not have a “zero tolerance” border policy that led to family separations. Also, of course, the United States has a looooooong and ignoble history of forcibly separating families of color.

I almost can’t blame my "friends" for being misinformed, though I pity their lack of compassion amid a lot of professed piety and religiosity, might I add. Part of the difficulty of living in this time is the confusing, conflicting, and endless stream of information we get 24/7 from sources ranging from downright insane to generally credible. That makes it very hard to get to the bottom of what the “truth” is, and that, of course, is one of the tools used by propagandists to confuse the public.

The point is, I know three things for a fact: (1) A lot of VERY wrong things are happening in this country right now, mostly to people of color; (2) Only but for the Grace of God do none of these very wrong things directly affect me right now; and (3) IDGAF what I have to do to make it stop.

Geoff says I should focus on local things, stuff here in Juneau. Well, I do that, I serve on the AWARE board and do pro bono cases locally, among other service and volunteer work where I can. But now I’m committed to ending this family separation policy and working on immigration issues because, to paraphrase the Martin Niemoller poem, first they come for "them", and no one says anything; then they come for you, and no one is left to help.

I’m partnering with people in Alaska who do immigration work right now to see what I can do remotely until the winter when, if help is still needed, I plan to travel to the Southwest and lend whatever elbow grease I can to this issue.

Maybe I and other fortunate people will be able to say “no big deal, this was just Y2Kray,” but for lots of human beings, this administration is already the totally un-American humanitarian disaster it’s been hyped up to be.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The End of Mystery

So I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How in 2018, we are really and truly at the end of mystery. Here’s what I mean.

When I graduated high school in 1995, if you lost touch with someone, that was it. You might be able to call 411 or look them up in the White Pages, but if a person moved away from your immediate orbit and went off the grid, that was it. They were gone. You never heard from them again, and you had no idea what happened to them. For all you knew, they could have died in a fire.

When you took pictures, you had to wait to develop the film. The best you could hope for was a one-hour photo booth, but beyond that you had no idea what was in that little envelope of prints and negatives until you’d flip through it quickly in the CVS parking lot and be like, “oh yeeeeeeah, I remember that party from three months ago, God I was so wasted.”

And if you were intimate with someone, what was under their clothes was a black hole (no pun intended). What color are their nipples? Do they have a 70’s bush? Is their dick weird? You weren’t going to find out the answers to these questions until show time. You were going in blind, and you’d better have your game face on at the moment of the big reveal.

No more. 

Now because of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, you have the answers to all of these questions instantly. What’s more remarkable, even, than the volume and level of information you have access to is the size of the gulf between the total void of information that once existed, and the absolute granular level of information that exists now.

Let me illustrate this with a few scenarios:

Scenario 1: The Photograph

1995: I wonder what’s on this random roll of film?

Scenario 2: The Make-Out

1995: I wonder what s/he looks like naked?
2018: Send nudes.

Scenario 3: Whatever Happened To?

1995: I wonder if so-and-so is still alive?
2018: I haven’t spoken to so-and-so in 30 years, but yet somehow I'm privy to the fact that they have an 18-month old son named Nate who ate strained carrots for dinner last night.

I’m not really saying this is good or bad. I’m just saying it’s 2018 and mystery is dead.

Sun Rays Through the Tree Leaves and Mist

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summiting Denali with Isaac is an Insurmountable #LifeGoal

I’ve lived in Alaska long enough to know that there are simply some things I’ll never do. Things that other people do here routinely like they’re NBFD.

For example: surfing in 35-degree water, kayaking across the Gulf, shooting caribou hot dogs on the North Slope, or summiting Denali—the highest peak in North America. I wouldn’t do it with a guide. I wouldn’t do it with my son. I wouldn’t do it in the spring. I wouldn’t do it with a fling. I wouldn’t do it with my mom. I wouldn’t do it all alone. Just pretend Denali is green eggs and ham, except covered in snow year-round and based in Talkeetna, and at the end I still refuse to eat that shit.

That doesn’t mean I’m not awestruck by adventurers who have the balls to do something as daring and brave as summit Denali, much less a MOM who does it with her teenage son and no guide. 

Beth Bragg’s report in the Anchorage Daily News that Canyon Tobin, 19, and his mom, Nora Miller, 50, summited Denali together in likely the first unguided mother-son duo to bag the peak got me thinking about a couple things: (a) how incredibly badass this was; and (b) how the likelihood of me summiting Denali with Isaac is about as high as me winning the lottery and using the prize money to buy new boobs. Not that I’ve considered this. I just maybe know someone who has.

Point is, this is light years away from an activity I imagine myself doing with Isaac, who granted is only 7, but who based on our current relationship seems highly unlikely to acquiesce to something like this in his teen years or any other time.

According to the article, Canyon was named after Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, where Nora and her ex-husband, Carl Tobin, went on their second date. Nora fell 110 feet and Carl saved her life.

Well see now there’s your first problem.

Isaac is named Isaac because I was originally going to name him Jude, but then decided at the last minute that Jude sounded too much like “Jew” for a Jewish kid who is growing up in Juneau. I kept muttering “Jude, Jew, Juneau” over and over until I landed on something more Gentile. 
Then I waddled home and took a sterile shower to ready myself for my scheduled C-section the next day. I think Geoff brought me a jar of jalapeno-stuffed olives at one point during that weekend, and I might have said “OMG YOU FUCKING SAVED MY LIFE WITH THESE,” but that’s where the similarities end. 

Canyon and his mom “took turns pretending to pull each other out of a crevasse” in their garage. I can’t even get Isaac to find his cleats and lunchbox in our goddamned garage. And I can’t get him to summit his bunk bed at night without both of us losing our shit within 15 seconds.

So the thought of being “roped together for nearly two weeks” and “sharing a small tent and spending very little time apart” with “never any big tension between us” seems improbable, at best.

The last time Isaac was roped to me, it was with an umbilical cord. And I think that’s exactly how he’d like to keep it. Oh he’s athletic enough. After all, he tempts fate and paralysis daily in baseball, snowboarding, and leaping from high places for no reason at all. His sense of self-preservation is non-existent, so it’s not that I can’t see him becoming a mountain climber (despite the fact that making him walk three blocks is torture). It’s just that I can’t see him becoming a mountain climber with ME. Not only because of my complete ineptitude, but because of Isaac’s desire to get as far away from me as possible, as frequently as possible.

If I so much as try to kiss Isaac on the top of his head he screams “NO KISSES!!!” and pretends he doesn’t know me when I leave him with his teenaged snowboarding instructor. He criticizes my pitching, claiming I throw inadequate “breaking balls” and “sinkers.” When I recently recounted the story behind a scar on his forehead, and the quick-thinking mothering that followed, he rolled his eyes and said “please don’t remind me of such a dark time in my life.”

In short, Isaac already thinks I’m a hopeless source of mortification. So if I told him he had to be roped to me for nearly two weeks—for any reason—and live in a tent with me and only me while we were climbing to the top of a mountain, he would probably collapse in a hysterical heap of snot and tears at the mere thought of it.

So mad respect to Canyon and Nora for what seems, to me at least, an impossible Mother/Son Life Goal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Open Letter to Senators Murkowski and Sullivan on ICE Family Separations

Dear Senators Murkowski and Sullivan,

You have been shamefully silent on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policy (i.e., not a law) of allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to forcibly separate children from their parents at the country’s southern border, with no explanation or assurance of reunification, and your constituents want to know why.

You are both parents yourselves, so surely you understand the fear and heartbreak that immigrants to our country—many of whom are legally seeking asylum from unspeakable conditions at home—are facing. Attorney General Sessions' current policy is more reminiscent of Nazi Germany's Gestapo than it is Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty that have made America a beacon of hope to asylum seekers, immigrants, and refugees for decades.

We want to know if, or why, you are apparently okay with what’s happening here, and with being complicit in your party’s human rights abuses of children.

We want to know if or why you are okay with a policy that the American Academy of Pediatrics called “appalling” in its “sweeping cruelty” and warns can “cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short and long-term health.”

We want to know if or why you are okay with children crying themselves to sleep because they don’t know where their parents are.

We want to know if or why you are okay with a father committing suicide in ICE detention after his three year-old child was taken from him, in hysterics.

We want to know if or why you are okay with ICE agents lying to parents, saying their children are being taken for questioning or baths, until it dawns on them that their children are not coming back, and they have no idea how or when they will be reunited.

We want to know if or why you are okay with ICE forcibly separating children from parents, even though the parents are LEGALLY presenting themselves for asylum at U.S. ports of entry.

We want to know if or why you are okay with children being warehoused in unsanitary and dangerous conditions where they are subjected to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of ICE agents, and later “lost” to human traffickers. 

In America.

We want to know if or why you're okay with President Trump erecting "tent cities" (i.e. concentration camps) to house unaccompanied children?

Again, in America.

We want to know if or why you're okay with this policy, even though it's more expensive than keeping families together, considering that you're "fiscal conservatives?"

We want to know if or why you are okay with a “zero-tolerance” prosecution policy—NOT A LAW—that weaponizes children in an immigration war begun long ago, but waged with a new and breathtaking heartlessness by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, and built on fear, bigotry, misinformation, and white supremacy.

We want to know how you can live with yourselves knowing these things are happening on your watch, by your party. In America. Is this America in 2018, or 1933 Berlin? Your constituents and basic principles of human rights demand that you answer these questions and that you answer them now.

John Moore/Getty Images

Monday, June 11, 2018

Dog Shit is Legit the Unofficial Mascot of Juneau

That’s a fact, and I think it’s time we just own it and pivot from trying to control it to just embracing dog shit as a scenic symbol of our lives here like the humpback whale or the glacier.

I’ve lived here for a long time now, and I can say without reservation that dog shit is 100% the unofficial mascot of Juneau. It’s everywhere, all the time, and everyone knows it. It’s on the sidewalks. It’s on the trails. It’s in little plastic baggies on the sidewalks and trails. It’s on people’s shoes. It’s on beaches. It’s melting out of snow berms. 

Dog. Shit. Is. Fucking. EVERYWHERE. Dog shit is easier to find in Juneau than mold and spruce tips in spring and a nasty comment thread on a community Facebook page.

Look, I like dogs, even though they make my face explode with hives. And without getting into the whole good dog-owner/bad dog-owner contretemps, I think it’s fair to say that dogs/fur-babies lead better, healthier lives in America than most human beings do in the developing world. 
Like I would legit and without a second thought choose to live as a Golden Retriever in downtown Juneau before I would a teenage girl in a slum in Mumbai.

I would have way more food, security, and shelter. The only similarity, of course, is that my shit would pose a public health hazard, and no one would bother to do a goddamned thing about it.

Over the years, CBJ has made various failed attempts to deal with the dog shit problem mascot, from PSAs pointing out that dog shit is not in fact a fertilizer, but actually a major pollutant full of disease, to ordinances to baggies to straight-up pleading for decency among the dog-owning public (which outnumbers the non-dog-owning public 100:1 based solely on anecdotal shit observed).

But none of it's working, so let’s just adopt an “if you can’t beat it join it” type attitude and say the dog shit has won and call it a day.

To that end, dog shit definitely needs to go on the Juneau Visitors’ and Convention Bureau website as a main attraction, i.e., part of the local flavor every visitor to our fair city is sure to encounter. Instead of dog-sledding on the glacier by helicopter, how about aerial tours of all the dog shit up there? And also down here? Extra points for diarrhea! Maybe someone should start a GoFundMe for a gigantic dog shit statue to go right next to the whale statue, and then all the naysayers can ask why the funds didn’t go to dog shit mitigation or doggie daycare and we can just say IT WAS PRIVATE DONATIONS, STOOPID, and yell at each other on the internet until we have a rage stroke and die.

Basically the only way to make lemonade out of these dog turd lemons is to somehow decide that we LIKE dog shit. We WANT dog shit. We want it on our sidewalks, trails, beaches, and shoes. WE FUCKING LOVE DOG SHIT! That’s exactly how we act. We ACT like we love it, so we MUST love it! That's the only logical conclusion. And those who adapt, excel.

So dog owners good or bad, just let your dog’s asshole rip a turd wherever and whenever you want now, because we're all set to fucking OWN dog shit as the wonderful local mascot it is and a part of the scenery that we should just be happy about. 

Long live dog shit, the unofficial mascot of Juneau!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Planet Earth Series Finale is Gonna Be Lit AF, Y'all!

And I don’t mean the BBC Planet Earth nature show with all the breaching dolphins and coral reefs and prancing antelopes and shit narrated by David Attenborough. I mean the *actual* planet earth. 

As in, the one we live on.

It’s gonna be lit AF, and I’m inviting all my friends over for a nuclear holocaust/apocalypse watching party, June 12 at 8:00 p.m. CST on the Trump Channel, aka the  same channel we've all been watching all day, every day since mid-2015.

Seriously the series finale is going to be SO DOPE. COME ON OVER. We'll have popcorn, beer, soft drinks (for the kids), wings, nachos, and guac. My big screen TV and all my computers and smart phone/tablet-devices will be live-tweeting and live-blogging the end of the world, at least as long as we still have a Wi-Fi signal and eyeballs that aren't irradiated into liquid courtesy of the mushroom cloud.

Everyone's gonna be glued to the action as two megalomaniacal doughy man-babies square up in Asia to determine whose country can blow whose to smithereens faster like a real-life version of Dr. Seuss's Butter Battle Book, and then demand a Nobel Peace Prize for the winner.

The past two seasons have been really tumultuous and exciting. Characters getting written off the show left and right: like in season one with Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and the Hope Hicks/Rob Cohen romance. And then there was the Manafort indictment and Michael Cohen-thing as part of the Mueller investigation story arc. 

And the season two B-plot with Neo-Nazis and NFL protests, and then Melania going missing for awhile, and the C-plot about women in pink pussy hats complaining about health care for their vaginas and Kim Kardashian doing prison reform, and scientists making the usual dire warnings about global warming that no one’s heeding.


And now here we are at the series finale, although it's hard to say for sure because America might still renew Planet Earth for another season. No one knows for sure yet. Negotiations are still ongoing at the Network, or so goes the rumor. Dennis Rodman might make a cameo--wouldn't that be INSANE? No one's seen him since he almost married Madonna in the 90s! And now--SURPRISE--he's like, supes BFF'd with Kim Jong-Un so he might actually turn out to be a critical character on the show. The writers just keep us guessing every episode.

What's gonna happen? Will our kids live to see adulthood? WHO KNOWS!?!?!? Tune in June 12 to find out.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Lines We Draw

Sometimes, especially at work, it's hard to know what you really have to do and what you don't, or shouldn't. You have to think about where your personal sense of ethics begins and ends and what you can live with. That line is unique to each of us, for different reasons. Each of us has to make a living and has bills to pay. Each of us grew up differently with different values. This is true whether you work in retail, a corporate office or government. 

But it's even more true in government, because a job in government differs in some critical respects from private sector work.

I've spent my whole career working in government--city, state, and federal--at various times and various levels as an investigator, an intern, a judicial clerk, a lawyer. A job in government comes with a different set of concerns, gravitas and responsibility. You are working for more than a paycheck. You are part of the social compact and are executing it on behalf of your fellow citizens. Under the imprimatur of the State, you are entrusted with enormous authority and responsibility--and crucially--a presumptive legitimacy. 

And in America, your ultimate fidelity as a government employee is to the United States Constitution and the principles that it stands for. 

It's the presumptive legitimacy of government that is the most difficult to reckon with. That's because government is hierarchical and composed at the highest levels of politicians, and politicians come and go. Some understand the norms of government better than others, and some are by turns more well-meaning or more self-serving, but the thing that never changes, or hopefully never changes, is what you can live with as a human being. 

At times over the past 20 years, I've had to ask myself if I can put my name on something, or follow a particular directive, and sometimes the answer has been no for one reason or another. It's inevitable that you will confront these moments.

I think about this when I think about the men and women in uniform who are going to work every day and implementing the inhumane policies of the Trump administration and Jeff Sessions. These are just people with jobs, in a uniform. They have kids' soccer games and utility bills and stream Netflix and eat Cheerios or whatever. But they are showing up to work every day and committing human rights abuses because they have justified this conduct to themselves and because they are being told to do it and that it is right.

Do you really think every SS soldier in Nazi Germany thought what they were doing was bad? Do you think they thought they were evil? Or sociopaths? Were they evil? Were they sociopaths? By and large, surely not. They were just regular government employees "following orders." They were working for the integrity of their country and their nation's borders. Everything they did was legal. Everything they did was in response to an order. Everything they did had a reason, a justification.

But those reasons and justifications were delivered, in the end, by a sociopathic, genocidal dictator not appreciably different--at least in fundamental personality features--from the man ultimately responsible for what ICE is doing to children and families right now, in America, as I write this.

These are the questions and the reality that people who are now working under the banner of this agency need to step back and confront: Is this right or wrong? Can I live with myself? Does this conduct objectively shock the conscience? 

Those questions are more critical than any order or directive or policy. At the end of the day, you have to answer to yourself, and only yourself. And I have to hope that the human beings carrying out these orders know deep down how wrong they really are, and that they will act accordingly. 

The lives of thousands of children and our reputation and integrity as a beacon of freedom and a a constitutional democracy depend on individuals one at a time, saying one word, and acting on it.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Great Euphemism and Alaskan Metaphor in One Short, Stupid Story


It's not often that you'll find a great euphemism AND a great metaphor in one short, stupid story, much less a metaphor about Alaska. But in a stroke of serendipity, here we are with this report from The Hill in which a big wig at the National Park Service was forced to "apologize to staff for 'inappropriate' behavior."

Now what, pray tell, was this alleged “inappropriate behavior?” SPOILER ALERT! It was—yet again—a man in a position of authority handling his literal junk in full view of his workforce.

An NPS employee anonymously complained to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that P(een). Daniel Smith, the “top ranking official at the National Park Service . . . grabbed his crotch and penis and acted out as though he was urinating on the wall.” In any other time and place, this would be some straight-up bonkers fuckery, but because it’s 2018, it’s just another ho-hum, la-dee-da day at the office.

Zinke referred the complaint to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation (which in itself is a pleasant surprise considering that Zinke's boss has made a career of grabbing women by the pussy and trying to jam his crusty-ass Cheeto in as many dimes as possible before he drops dead of a Big Mac-induced heart attack on his own golf course).

But Zinke has no chill with Trump’s locker-room workplace conduct, because “under my leadership we don’t protect predators . . . these people will be held accountable for their abhorrent actions.” 

I guess Cheeto Satan didn’t get that particular memo.

Anyhoo, Peen D. Smith apologized in an agency-wide email for behaving “in an inappropriate manner in a public hallway,” elaborating that he “was overheard recounting an experience in Alaska.”


M'kay. I'm adding this to "checked into rehab for exhaustion/sex addiction" to the list of excuses men make for whipping their dicks out in public: "I was just recounting my experience in Alaska."


First of all: “inappropriate” is perhaps the most laughably overused euphemism of 2018, and that’s saying something because the competition is fierce. Even as America descends ever further into base discourse befitting our Neanderthal forebears, “inappropriate” still seems like a farcical way to characterize handling your dick in public at work. Really, “inappropriate” as used in this context is on par with “economic anxiety” (racism), “thoughts and prayers” (fuck your dead kids), and “inaccurate statement” (lie).

But here’s the real phallus-shaped horn of the unicorn, because the Alaska-as-Penis metaphor is rich AF.

One can only guess what “experience” Peen Smith had here in the Great Land, but it probably did involve his dick somehow. Alaska is the nation’s capital of--I’m not going to go full 2018 here and say "toxic masculinity"—more like, Brawny Paper Towel Guy masculinity. Many transplants to the Last Frontier spend decades trying to catch up to the burliness required to live here and not subject their traditional hetero-normative sense of cis gender masculinity to a shredding like so much timber in a chipper shredder at a Southeast logging camp.

Ironically, the State of Alaska itself appears to have a penis (see map below) on the Aleutian Chain right near Dutch Harbor, which is also apt, because if Alaska is a big, burly dude, then Dutch Harbor—home of the Deadliest Catch and the saltiest dive bars and crab fishermen in the world—is its dick. 

And not just the shaft, either, or the balls, which are somewhere on the Kenai Peninsula between Seward and Homer, under this analogy. No. Dutch is actually the TIP OF THE HEAD of the peen, where all of Alaska’s hyper-masculine life force explodes out into the Bering Sea into an ocean of crabs.

Everyone in Alaska—even most women I know—like to swing their metaphorical dicks in the wind. Their giant American pick-up trucks, their giant guns, their giant boats, the log cabins that they built with their own calloused hands like Paul Bunyan with their giant phallic chainsaws, and so on and so forth. 

Alaska’s official state motto might be “North to the Future” but everyone who lives here knows it's unofficially “Big Swinging Dick.” 

So really, Mr. Smith should be excused for simply accurately portraying his “experience” in the Great Land of Metaphorical Peen, and that will be my official recommendation to the Office of the Inspector General.

Author’s note: The “tip” for this post came from a friend, which is where some of my best blog posts are born. Keep those suggestions coming!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Correct Lyrics to God Bless America According to Trump

To the HIGH TAX, HIGH CRIME oceans


Monday, June 4, 2018

The Death Toll in Puerto Rico Was 72x More Than Trump Said and Also He Wants to Pardon His Own Crimes

It isn't easy, these days, to recognize a real scandal when we see one.

We're all so busy watching the Trump Show on re-runs: reading and sharing hot takes on what female comedian crossed the line this time and how far (Roseanne Barr? Michelle Wolf? Samantha Bee? Kathy Griffith?) and the mysterious whereabouts of Melania(e) (Turning State's evidence? Getting plastic surgery? Filing for divorce? Dealing with Baron drama?) that we tend to miss the forest of authoritarianism for the trees of twitter.

So here's a real scandal--actually, two. Two separate scandals: (1) The Trump administration underreported the deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria on 9/20/17 by 72 (seventy-two) times. His administration claimed 64 people died when in fact that number was likely closer to 4,600. Which, by the way, is about 2,000 more people than died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and about 4,500 more than died in Hurricane Harvey in Houston the same month.

But Trump doesn't care, of course. Not because Puerto Ricans aren't American citizens, which of course they are. But because they are predominantly brown, poor, Spanish-speaking, and didn't help put Trump in office with their "support," "love," and "loyalty." 

This is as far as Trump's shallow accountability extends: to white people in red states--not the diverse nation and its territories that he purports to be leading and "Making Great Again." And even then, Trump's only use for his own supporters is as a deep well for his own narcissism supply: he drinks in their adoration as he continues to lie to their faces and perpetuate the most epic grift on American democracy in living memory.

Which leads me to unrelated scandal #2: Trump's ongoing treatment of the United States Constitution--the founding document of our democracy--like a dusty roll of one-ply Angel Soft toilet paper you'd pick up at a bodega for $1.47 on your walk home from the D train.

The power of the American executive is disproportionately strong relative to the other two branches of government, notwithstanding the checks and balances built into our system of government. Congress and the courts move slowly by design, and the executive is therefore entrusted with the country's welfare in ways the legislative and judicial branches of government are not, and can't necessarily catch up to. 

Up until now, the vulnerability of that imbalance hasn't been obvious because we have not had: (a) a President openly committing white collar crimes and treason while in office; (b) asserting his "absolute right" to "pardon himself" of those crimes; and (c) a Congress wholly unable and/or unwilling to do anything about it. (whether Trump actually can technically pardon himself is the subject of legal debate with no precedent in constitutional jurisprudence, due to the unprecedented nature of Trump's actions).

There is nothing to suggest that Trump is governed by any native sense of ethics, morals, character, principle, or rectitude. To the contrary: his entire volatile "thought" process (such as it is) pinballs back and forth from one idea to the next depending on one thing and one thing only: Donald Trump. Loyalty to Trump, amplification of Trump as rich and powerful, and the enrichment and promotion of the Trump brand. 

That's it. Full stop.

He doesn't give a single, solitary fuck about anyone else or what the constitution lets him do: he will threaten private citizens to keep them off of television where they can insult him and his family, malign his own justice department when he feels the heat drawing close, and pretend to his own supporters that he didn't promise them jobs in coal and a big, beautiful wall. 

Trump is a genuine, bona-fide socipath, or at best an anti-social personality
  • Disregard for society's laws
  • Violation of the physical or emotional rights of others
  • Lack of stability in job and home life
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Lack of remorse
  • Consistent irresponsibility
  • Recklessness, impulsivity
  • Deceitfulness
Each day, it becomes more and more obvious what a clear and present danger this individual presents to us all. We must NOT give up the fight to vote him out of office and prevent him from stripping America for parts before it's too late.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Would I Be Living My Best Life in a Snuggie Dress from Instagram?

That’s the question that’s been sticking in my craw like a day-old kernel of Orville Redenbacher in the days since this ad popped up on my Instagram feed. 

I’m not sure what I clicked or what I said, but Insta-Big Bro seems to think I’d be living my best life walking around in a potato sack. He’s not entirely wrong, although part of me is a little troubled that Insta keeps showing me ads for pants, tops, and dresses that all look like some variation on a circus tent.

It’s hard enough to look remotely okay in a dress that looks amazing on a professional model, so it’s perhaps that much harder to look good in clothes that make even a professional model look like the Hamburglar sitting on a popsicle stick.

Like I’m trying to imagine who or what I’d look like in this dress/Snuggie/blanket thing, and here’s what I came up with: If the creepy, squeaky-voiced spell-caster lady from Poltergeist was convicted of fraud and sentenced to a year in a minimum security prison, and then issued this outfit by the warden to wear while making license plates in the basement, that’s what I would look like in this.

Not even the strappy sandals and a funky necklace like those pictured in the ad could help the cause. In fact, these accessories would make me look even MORE like the creepy spell-caster lady from Poltergeist. More specifically, if that lady and Zoltar (the boardwalk fortune machine wish-granter from Big) had a love child, and THAT person went to jail on a fraud charge.

That’s this Snuggie on me.

Friday, June 1, 2018

So I Guess My Mom Just Carries Around Naloxone Now?

Every time I think my mom can’t surprise me anymore with some crazy, cockamamie thing she’s doing, she drops new info that makes me just shake my head and be like, WOW MOM, that is some crazy, cockamamie thing you're doing. 

She’s turning 73 at the end of this month and, at least for now by the Grace of God/the Universe, she just keeps going at Mach 50,000.

My mom’s career (a.k.a. “mission,” to use her word) has been a decades-long attempt “to improve the health care that disadvantaged people receive and make health care good for people without any choices” (also her words). 

This "mission" has taken slightly different forms over the years.

In the 1970s and 80s, she was focused on the homeless mentally ill population in Northern Manhattan (Washington Heights, Inwood, and Harlem). Around this time, she was offered a job as the head of Harlem Hospital, but turned it down because she thought a Black administrator or physician would be more relatable and therefore better for the patient population. So she stuck with her outpatient clinic in Washington Heights.

“Take your daughter to work day” was an education in severe and chronic mental illness, homelessness, and poverty. I’d cower behind my mothers’ legs when the clinic’s clients talked to themselves. “Why do they dress like they’re in the 1950s?” I’d whisper into the back of her knees. “They have paranoid schizophrenia,” she’d explain. “They hear voices and see things that aren’t there. They’re harmless.” Meanwhile, she was running up to the state capital in Albany every other month, it seemed, to lobby the corrupt New York State legislature for ongoing program funding.

In the mid-1980s, when HIV/AIDS ravaged the city, she shifted her focus to that epidemic and started working with the HIV-positive homeless mentally ill population. As the worst of the American epidemic waned in the 1990s thanks to enormous advocacy efforts by the LGBT community, advancements in anti-retroviral medications, and public health prevention initiatives, she took her "mission" abroad.

Pretty soon, she was securing grants and traveling the world to the places where HIV/AIDS continued to maintain a stronghold: Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Thailand, the Philippines, and Nepal, training health care providers there in how to recognize and treat the mental health symptoms of HIV and AIDS and prevent the disease in cultures that often denied the existence of men having sex with men and were skeptical of western medicine. She developed a rigorous anti-shits protocol in which she’d only eat cooked foods, drink bottled water, and never open her mouth in the shower. “I can’t afford to get sick in these places,” she explained. “I’m too busy working!”

So I don’t know why it should have surprised me when my mom, on this most recent visit to Alaska, just casually dropped that she’s going to start carrying Naloxone (i.e. Narcan) on her person at all times "just in case anyone has an opioid overdose" in her midst.

Since retiring from her state-funded job with a pension, she’s managed to take up three (?) more full time jobs, one of which, apparently, is working on the opioid epidemic somehow? 

I didn’t really absorb the details because I was too busy picturing my little old lady mom hunched over someone in a doorway on the street, plunging a Narcan syringe into their leg (or shoving the nasal spray version up their nose). She was trying to explain the difference between opioid agonists, partial agonists, antagonists, hyperalgesia, and how terrible Big Pharma is (a typical refrain of hers), but all I could think about was this tableau.

Not all heroes wear capes, I guess. Some wear dashikis and Eileen Fisher.