Friday, December 25, 2020

Two Apps, a Treadmill, and a Shit Sandwich

I guess it was the pandemic that finally did it. Now I was really out of excuses. My kids were getting older and more independent every day. Work was great. My once-debilitating eczema was under control thanks to an injectable interleukin blocker (brand-name Dupixent).

I was planning to start exercising regularly again, but it wasn’t really sticking. And then the whole world changed almost overnight, with a slight “incoming tsunami” vibe for about a month prior. 

One day I was taking my kid to a crowded ice skating competition, and the next day the whole planet went into hunker-down-lockdown-quarantine-shelter-in-place mode, where we have all miserably been ever since. (I still can’t get over the fact that my last trip pre-rona was to Wasilla for a fucking figure skating competition and not Hawaii or somewhere with sun at least).

By whatever name, the result was the same: isolation and darkness. I had a best case scenario to try to fix this with improved diet and exercise: a job I could do remotely, one parent who could reliably monitor Zoom school, and a treadmill-shaped towel rack. I was finally bored and depressed enough to at least try to stop feeling like the business end of a toilet brush. 

So I dusted off the towel rack, signed up for Noom to police my daily produce-to-cookie dough ratio, and upgraded to the paid version of an app called Seven, which features a little crash test dummy coach doing squats and triceps dips and similar physical torture in 30-second intervals.

I filed all of this under “self-care,” remembering Audre Lorde’s famous quote that self-care is not “self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation, which is an act of political warfare.” But Audre Lorde, I’m pretty sure, never did reverse lunges in her kids’ playroom between the toy kitchen and the basketball hoop while peeing a little. She was definitely a zillion times more legit than that. 

Still, I liked the framing. It imbued my “journey” (everything is a fucking personal “journey” now) of eating fewer Cool Ranch Doritos and investing in a FitBit with more meaning than “I need my ass to be Kim in these jeggings” or “I need to keep up with all these REI catalogue types.” Not that I’ve ever had those thoughts. I have a friend in Canada who has though, and many people are saying that this is how some women have been socialized to think. 

Anyhoo, the self-preservation angle stuck with me, because it helped reframe the whole self-care concept as some revolutionary act of defiance against the shit sandwich. And if you’ve been even casually reading this blog, you know that defiance is my preferred weapon for carving up shit sandwiches.

2020, of course, is nothing if not a Super Bowl party-sized, submarine-style, shit sandwich with lettuce pickles onions and special sauce on a sesame seed bun. You couldn’t get a better shit sandwich if you owned a Subway franchise.

Listening to and watching our insane “President” and his block-headed Alaskan mini-me for months on end. Picking fights with friends, family, and total strangers over everything from masks to toilet paper. Watching 350,000 Americans die mostly preventable deaths. Helplessly standing around like deer in the headlights while record-breaking hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, and other climate-change catalyzed natural disasters engulfed the planet for the umpteenth year in a row. Witnessesing late-stage capitalism explode on working Americans in brutal ways all over the country. Sliding into dark, cold winter. 

I mean you guys. It’s bad. It’s a REALLY big shit sammy.

But I DO feel like we are MAYBE past the lowest, darkest point in the rank, fetid center of this particular shit sandwich? This is literally true because Solstice. But it’s also metaphorically true because science is amazing. The COVID vaccine is likely to end this pandemic on the 18 month schedule my scientist friends and family predicted back in March. Trump is going to leave office because he never executes on any of his threats or promises, and we’re all going to breathe better for one minute.

When that minute is over, I hope, we can have a good look around and survey the wreckage of how we got here and how we begin to confront the many problems that the last four years have blasted into the harsh light of day. It’s going to be a huge undertaking to begin repairing the past 240+ years of fuckery. 

But I am up to the task now thanks to wall sits and burpees. The revolution starts in plank pose, mah bitchez!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Please Allow Me to Recap 496 Pages of WAP from Memory

No no, not that WAP. The original WAP. War and Peace, by Cardi B. I mean Leo Tolstoy. 

Longtime readers of this blog will recall a more verbose period of my blogging, when I wrote mostly about books, bad TV, and miscellaneous misadventures in motherhood. 

But in addition to being distracted by the past four years of civic conflagration, I’ve since admonished myself that brevity is the soul of wit—an axiom unknown to the author of this Russian novel.

Ok—and I will try not to include any spoilers for those who have not tortured themselves with this alleged classic of towering import in the canon of western literature—but it is, first and foremost, very long. In fact, one might say that length is this book’s defining feature.

The first thing I did when I opened WAP was flip to the end to find out what happens. JK, I flipped to the end to see how many tissue-thin pages of 8-point font translated Russian, French, and sometimes German I’d be committing myself to. 

The answer was 1,244. One thousand two hundred and forty-four. 

That, by the way, does not include the two translators’ introduction; the chart of principal characters (each of whom is called by 12 different names and all of whose names sound the same as the others); the Appendix (by Tolstoy himself with “a few words” apropos of the aforementioned 1,244 pages); the hundreds of translator footnotes; a historical index, and a summary of each of the four volumes (each of which has multiple subparts) to remind the reader of the key plot points.

But I don’t need any of that, because I’m about to tell you everything that happens in WAP. Or at least in the first 496 pages, which by now you might be able to tell is all I’ve read so far. And let me just say: I’m pretty sure it’s all you really need to get the gist of things.

Lemme break it down.

Picture it: Russia, 1812 or thereabouts. Napoleon is invading from France, because that’s where he lives, because he’s the emperor. (Btw my phone just tried to correct Napoleon to “Nap” when I typed that, which is apt). 

Anyhoo, there is a lot of high society stuff going on in Moscow and Petersburg at this time. We’re talking counts. We’re talking carriages. We’re talking princes with estates and peasants and stewards of the peasants and soldiers dying of gangrene in piles on top of each other. We’re talking fancy balls. We’re talking wolf hunts on horseback. We’re talking death marches through the forest and groups of men standing around, homoerotically warming their naked bodies by the midnight bonfires of military encampments.

You know, shit like that.

A 16 year old second-tier aristocrat named Natasha is being pursued by a count’s wealthy son named Pierre and also a prince named Andrei whose first wife died in childbirth. Both of these men decide they are going to marry Natasha on sight, because that’s how it was before Tinder, and there was no Tinder during the Napoleonic wars.

The main thing about Andrei’s first wife is that she had a mustache (which totally made me feel seen since I myself am of hirsute Russian Jewish ancestry and prone to a “Tom Selleck” in Magnum PI aesthetic). As I just mentioned she also died in childbirth, which I’m sure I would have too had I been unlucky enough to be born in a time when leaches were basically oxy.

Pierre is super into the Freemasons and becomes obsessed with them after his wife supposedly cheats on him. He goes on sort of an “Eat, Pray, Love” journey around this time, but it’s less “feminine empowerment” brand, and more “checking up on the peasants and trying to do semi-woke things to make their lives better, to the consternation of middle management on multiple estates” brand. Oh and before all that, he killed his wife’s cocky paramour in a duel, and found out afterwards that the dude lived with his mother and sister.

Meanwhile, Andrei’s dad doesn’t want him to marry Natasha, or at least he wants him to wait a year to evaluate his poor life choices. Natasha loses her shit because to a 16 year-old a year is a long time, but to a pervy old prince and his dad it’s not. Andrei is also working on the new civil government following an agreement between Napoleon and “the sovereign,” who is a total snack and the whole country Stans him.

Ok that’s all I can tell you. Stay tuned for the second installment of this blog post: WAP pages 497-884.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Whatever it May Bring

I wasn’t THAT into Sinead O’Connor.

I mean, like, I didn’t see her in concert or have her poster on my bedroom wall or anything. I bought the Nothing Compares 2 U single for $2.99 on cassette at the Columbus Circle Tower Records. I gawked at her shaved head and her shock-and-awe heresy on Saturday Night Live like everyone else. 

“This bitch is CRAZY!” I remember thinking to myself at the time, with something between voyeuristic cringing and a subtle undercurrent of envy. 

What was that about?

I didn’t find out until later, when a few more of her songs started to show up on mix tapes mailed back and forth between me and my friends. I could see that her tortured sense of social justice (along with mental illness probably) both defined and doomed her to mockery and ultimate obscurity. 

There was no internet then, so I could only guess at why she hated Margaret Thatcher, but I later came to get her lyrics stuck in my head. Like REALLY stuck, and from two songs in particular.  

From Black Boys on Mopeds it was:

I’ve said this before now
You said I was childish and you’ll say it now ...
These are dangerous days
To say what you feel is to lay your own grave 
Remember what I told you 
If they hated me, they will hate you....
Remember what I told you
If you were of the world they would love you ...

Then from the Emperor’s New Clothes:

Everyone can see
What’s going on
They laugh ‘cause they know they’re untouchable 
Not because what I said was wrong 
Whatever it my bring 
I will live by my own policies 
I will sleep with a clear conscience 
I will sleep in peace 

I could not stop thinking about these lyrics then, and years later they crept back into my head, occupying real estate I could’ve used for things like my kids’ social security numbers and the password to my credit card statement. But there they were again, and after being unconstitutionally fired for criticizing the government, I finally understood why.

“It speaks to me,” people say. They say that about books, poems, or art. In this case, I felt like Sinead O’Connor’s lyrics were speaking to me, and I didn’t even want to hear them. I would’ve just as soon forgotten these words, but there they stayed—not so much inspiring as nagging, warning, and haunting me.

These are dangerous days ... to say what you feel is to lay your own grave ...

Whatever it may bring ... whatever it may bring ... whatever it may bring .... 

Those last four words—specifically—have been on loop in my head since 2015 when the Trump era began. I kept telling myself that I was not going to stay silent, but I needed the courage to absorb the consequences of speaking up.

I needed to find a way to stop trying to conform to things I couldn’t bring myself to conform to, and instead just be myself by saying what I thought—in the way I wanted—and letting the chips fall where they may.

Those four words brought me courage and reminded me that there is always a price to pay for living by your own policies. If there weren’t, everyone would do it. They don’t, and that’s because when you do you get laughed at, gawked at, called crazy, lose friends, jobs, credibility, opportunity. You’re walking across what feels like a gauntlet of burning bridges at all times.

But the sleeping in peace part is where the comfort is. It’s the faith that there are lucid clearings beyond those incinerated bridges. It’s the conviction that you’re more at peace being yourself and letting the world burn down around you than you are burning down yourself to satisfy the world.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Now What?

It's been a long time since I've written a full blog post. 

Maybe it's because the news has been coming in a furious barrage, and I feel like all I can do in response is tweet. And yet every day feels the same, like that Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. With no social events or trips to rupture the monotony of work and childcare, I feel like it's all I can do to make it from one sunrise to the next. The "Before Times" feel like a distant memory as COVID continues to ravage the planet.

I was honored, though, to receive the Anchorage Press's award for Best Blogger. A reader alerted me to the alternative weekly's 2020 Press Picks, and suddenly I was like . . . wait a minute . . .  I need to get back to writing longer blog posts again! FOR SHAME! I need to live up to this award! And in any event, writing, especially now, feels cathartic and needed.

The same thing that's been on everyone's mind has been on mine as well: the twilight of the age of Trump, and what it means for us, individually as citizens and collectively as a nation. Even as the election teeters on a razor's edge, it seems increasingly out of reach for the incumbent, and yet we need to evaluate the dangers that remain, what we do to heal as a nation, and where we go from here.

I keep coming back to the through-line of domestic abuse. I'm certainly not the first person to analogize this president and this presidency to an abusive relationship, but the analogy continues to hold fast, especially now as the country gets ready to purge the Trump scourge.

Having served on the board of Juneau's AWARE shelter for several years now, I've learned a lot about rape culture, internalized misogyny, and the cycle of abuse and control. 

The parallels are stark.

Trump wooed this country with empty promises and we believed him, despite a documented history of literal rape and sexual abuse alleged by at least 26 different women. He promised to be the best boyfriend ever! The greatest and most terrific person we'd ever known! He was going to save us from ourselves and everything that came before! He was going to make us GREAT! But it soon became apparent that his real agenda was to use America to both line his pockets and feed his bottomless, insatiable ego.

Like any abuser, humiliation, petty name-calling, and vindictive, rageful language were Trump's stock-in-trade. He had a belittling nickname for everyone. We were once a country that shunned a vice presidential candidate for misspelling potato. We became one that not only tolerated daily spelling errors, schoolyard name-calling, and gleeful illiteracy, but much, much worse forms of physical abuse. 

Kids in cages separated from their parents, maybe forever. Forced hysterectomies. The use of physical, federal force to incite riots against us while exercising our constitutional rights. Encouraging vigilante white supremacy and neo-Nazism. Downplaying COVID, leading to murders over masks. Incessant discrediting of the "fake news" media, reminiscent of the old lugenpresse tactic.

And while Trump was using his Twitter account for stochastic terrorism, he was simultaneously congratulating himself for bestowing on us various gifts in the form of regulatory repeals or executive actions, Tweet screaming at us: "YOU'RE WELCOME!" and demanding we "ENJOY!" his largesse.

Like any abuser, Trump loved to level threats against us--threats to reject the results of the election and refuse to leave office peacefully, threats to shoot us in the street, nonstop litigation and obfuscation to keep us from learning about his financial and personal alliances that would compromise our nation. Then he and his enablers would say, but he's only joking. This wasn't his "intent." Excuse after excuse after miserable excuse.

Like any abuser, he lied and gaslit us to a dizzying degree, telling us to deny both history and the evidence of wrongdoing before our eyes, isolating us from our allies abroad, intimidating the press, and fracturing relationships between friends and family members right here in our own homes and workplaces. 

All the better to exert control--the sine qua non of the abuser.

Now, as the country prepares to leave Trump forever, we are holding our breath and standing at the most dangerous juncture in the abusive relationship. Anyone who works in domestic violence knows that when you threaten to leave, or do leave, the abuser is at his most volatile. Neither you nor he can control what happens next. The abuser is a cornered animal. He is losing control. He is -- and this is Trump's worst fear -- a literal "loser." His fight or flight instinct activates, and there's no telling what he will do. Will he walk away quietly? Or will he tie us to the bed and set the house on fire?

Yes, Trump has his cult following and always will. But America at large is tired and has had enough. We are worn down. We are sick of fighting with each other. We are sick of being victimized. We are sick of being, quite literally, sick.

How did this happen, and what happens next? 

While Trump wasn't our "fault," we as a nation were vulnerable to him, because we have not dealt with our own historical traumas: the fact that our nation was built on slavery and stolen indigenous land, the white-washing of history, and the minimizing of sexual violence both in the past and today. These blind-spots allowed Trump to slither in and reflect back at us our worst impulses and wrongdoings.

So where do we go from here? Leaving Trump in the rearview mirror is the literal bare minimum of what we need to do to even begin to heal as a nation. No one person can save us from ourselves. The Biden/Harris ticket is not going to magically and heroically erase 244 years of violent history that we have yet to reckon with or accept. 

It's not going to repair our personal relationships that were fractured when strangers--or worse--people we once knew and loved, stood by silently as our democracy crumbled, or chose to be loyalist quislings, or were forced to choose a side, and at times failed to choose the right side of history. 

As I write this, we have one foot out the door. We are tantalizingly close to leaving for good. But Trump is pulling us backwards--hard--by the scruff of our necks, breathing his fetid breath into our ears, threatening to leverage every weapon in his abusive arsenal to keep us in his thrall. Will he succeed? 

That's not up to him. It's up to us.

Friday, September 25, 2020

“You Know a Jakob Schmid”

This is a Twitter thread from @libbyjones715:

Most people who know the name Sophie Scholl know she was a 21 year old German student activist who was executed by the Nazis for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets on her college campus. But people don’t talk about what happened leading up to her execution, or what happened after.

Sophie and her brother Hans were caught by a university janitor named Jakob Schmid as they distributed pamphlets in a courtyard. He grabbed them, declared them “under arrest,” and turned them over to the Gestapo.

Four days of interrogations later, they were in front of Nazi judge Roland Freisler (one of Hitler’s favorites, his “hanging judge” flown in from Berlin) for a show trial that Hans and Sophie’s parents weren’t allowed in the courtroom for.

Hans, Sophie, and their friend Christoph Probst were all found guilty of treason, sentenced to death, and beheaded a few hours later.

No one talks about this janitor, Jakob Schmid. He got a cash reward and a promotion for turning in Sophie and Hans. The University of Munich threw him a celebration. Hundreds of students attended and cheered for him. He thanked them with a Nazi salute.

After the war, Jakob Schmid was arrested and put on a trial of his own. He said he only turned the Scholls in because distributing pamphlets was against university policy - it wasn’t because of the content of the pamphlets.

When you think of Nazis, you probably think of uniformed officers. But the Nazis were a political party of everyday people. So also think of a janitor tsk-tsking that someone wasn’t protesting “the right way.” A student at a rally applauding him. A judge towing the party line.

We like to tell ourselves Nazi Germany was so horrific it could never be repeated. Maybe you don’t personally know someone who would have flipped the switch on the gas chambers. But I can almost guarantee you know a Jakob Schmid.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

It’s Time to Rethink the Alaska Attorney General’s Office

Article III, section 25 of the Alaska Constitution provides that each department head in State government is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. That includes the Attorney General, who heads the Alaska Department of Law, which in turn consists of two divisions: civil and criminal.

Alaska is in the slim minority of states that appoints its Attorney General. Most are elected, and regardless of how they get the job, remain independent from the governor to a greater degree than they do here in Alaska.

The Department of Law is one of the most impactful agencies in state government. That’s because its many capable attorneys are responsible for advising every state agency, and bringing every criminal prosecution in the state. It’s an enormous mandate and responsibility, and at its helm—ever since Statehood—has sat the governor’s buddy.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Before being unconstitutionally fired by the Dunleavy administration, I served under seven different Attorneys General across five administrations, and they were all fine lawyers, if not always fine managers. 

The problem comes in the form of a question: “who is the client?” That question is famously asked at nearly every legislative confirmation hearing for Attorney General; but the legislature has only once failed to confirm a governor’s Attorney General appointment, calling into question the effectiveness of its role in the process and in tempering executive overreach.

Under state law, the Attorney General is the lawyer for the governor and other state executive branch agencies. They do not represent individual members of the public. But they do represent the public as a whole, and that puts them on a bit of a tightrope. 

Through a duly-elected governor, the Attorney General carries out the people’s policies, but those policies cannot be unconstitutional or simply executed at any cost or in violation of the public trust or interest. The governor is not a private client paying his lawyers by the hour to throw stuff up against the wall just to see if it sticks. Public lawyers, at least in theory, serve a higher purpose than that.

An appointed Attorney General leaves the position susceptible to corruption, cronyism, and general hackery to a degree the delegates to Alaska’s Constitutional Convention may not have anticipated. 

They believed in a powerful executive and rejected the idea of an elected Attorney General by a wide margin. Like a zombie, though, electing the Attorney General rises again and again as a silver bullet to the heart of the piquant brand of nuttiness we’ve seen over the last few weeks during “558 kiss-emoji-gate.”

But I don’t think electing Alaska’s Attorney General is the answer. Attorney General elections are vulnerable to the same vagaries and cynicism of other elected political offices. In fact, elected Attorneys General are arguably even more compromised and less effective than appointed ones; the office holder often spends more time auditioning for their job than actually doing it.

Rather, I think the Attorney General should be appointed the way Alaska’s judges are: winnowed down by their peers in a bar poll, elevated to the governor for appointment, and then either confirmed by the legislature and/or retained or fired at periodic elections. (And lest you worry about the socialist leftist bar triaging Attorney General applicants, recall, Dear Reader, this is the organization that made Alan Dershowitz its keynote speaker at this year’s CoVID-foiled annual convention).

A hybrid approach strikes the best balance between gubernatorial policy objectives and the arguably more general public interest. It would take a constitutional amendment to accomplish this, but maybe Alaska is ready for one. 

In the meantime, all lawyers in state government below the director level should unionize so that they remain insulated from political whims, brinkmanship, and loyalty-based firings. 

Lawyers, like all citizens, deserve to keep their constitutional rights and are sworn to uphold those of others. That’s a huge responsibility, and it can’t be met while working in a climate of political retaliation, intimidation, and fear.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

558 is at Least 557 Too Many

1. Maybe
2. If 
3. You’re 
4. The
5. Attorney
6. General
7. Of
8. A
9. State
10. Sending
11. 558
12. Texts
13. To
14. A 
15. Junior
16. Employee
17. At
18. Least
19. 200
20. Of
21. Which
22. Came
23. After
24. She
25. Told
26. You
27. To
28. Stop
29. And
30. Said
31. Things
32. Like 
33. Come on over 
34. You can come work at Law haha 
35. You’re beautiful ... Sweet dreams
36. What ya doin little troublemaker 
37. Rise and shine 
38. 😘😘😘😘😘
39. Those hugs are always pretty darn special 
40. I’m virus free
41. Etc.
42. Over 
44. The
45. Course
46. Of
47. One
48. Month
49. Was 
50. Gross
51. Scary
52. Creepy
53. And
54. Given 
55. The
56. Power 
57. Imbalance 
58. The
59. Chief 
60. Law
61. Enforcement 
62. Officer
63. For
64. The 
65. State
66. Should 
67. Know
68. Better 
69. And 
70. It 
71. Doesn’t 
72. Matter 
73. That 
74. The 
75. Texts 
76. Were
77. “G-Rated”
78. Or
79. “Not remotely salacious”
80. Because 
81. You
82. Are
83. A
84. Married
85. 61 year-old
86. Man 
87. Treating 
88. Your
89. Office 
90. Like
91. Tinder
92. So
93. In
94. Addition
95. To
96. Losing
97. Cases
98. Like
99. Socks 
100. In
101. The
102. Laundry
103. You’re 
104. Acting
105. Like
106. Work 
107. Is
108. Chillkoot 
109. Charlie’s 
110. And
111. This
112. Woman 
113. Whose
114. Number
115. You
116. Have
117. For
118. Work
119. You’re 
120. Blowing
121. Up
122. Her
123. Phone
124. Like 
125. The 
126. Fourth
127. Of
128. July 
129. While
130. She
131. Painfully 
132. Tries
133. To
134. Give
135. You
136. A
137. Hint
138. You
139. Won’t 
140. Take
141. It
142. And
143. Instead
144. Leave
145. Work 
146. For 
147. A
148. Mysterious 
149. 30-day
150. Period 
151. And
152. No one
153. Knows
154. Where 
155. You
156. Are 
157. Except 
158. People 
159. Did 
169. Because 
170. It
171. Turns
172. Out
173. You
174. Were
175. Placed
176. On
177. 30
178. Days
179. Of
180. Unpaid
181. Leave
182. And
183. Then
184. Got
185. To 
186. Resign 
187. Instead 
188. Of
189. Being
190. Fired
191. Like
192. You 
193. Should 
194. Have
195. Been
196. On
197. Day
198. One
199. Let’s
200. Be
201. Clear
202. By
203. The
204. Time 
205. You
206. Are 
207. Defending 
208. Your
209. Texts 
210. To
211. A
212. Professional 
213. Subordinate 
214. Using
215. The
216. MPA
217. Movie
218. Ratings 
219. Scale 
220. You’ve 
221. Already 
222. Lost
223. The 
224. High
225. Ground 
226. My 
227. Friend 
228. Speaking 
229. Of
230. Which 
231. For 
232. A
233. Guy
234. Who’s
235. Made 
236. His
237. Career
238. Persecuting
239. Other 
240. People’s 
241. Sex
242. Lives
243. In 
244. The
245. Good
246. Lord’s
247. Name
248. You
249. Got
250. Some
251. Set
252. Of
253. Gonads 
254. Doing
255. This
256. But
257. Who
258. Are
259. We
260. Kidding 
261. This
262. Shit
263. Keeps
264. Happening 
265. Because 
266. We
267. Let
268. It
269. Over
279. And
280. Over 
281. And
282. Over
283. Again 
284. In 
285. Fact
286. By
287. The 
288. Time
289. You
290. Finish 
291. Reading
292. This
293. Countless 
294. Women
295. Will
296. Have
297. Tried
298. And
299. Failed
300. To
301. Extract
302. Themselves 
303. From
304. Some
305. Gross
306. Creepy
307. Text
308. Convo
309. They
310. Have
311. No
312. Business
313. Being 
314. In
315. Anyway 
316. With 
317. Creepers
318. Like 
319. You
320. And
321. While
322. We’re
323. Here
324. Let’s
325. Discuss
326. How
327. There 
328. Are 
329. No
330. Two
331. Things 
332. More
333. Highly
334. Prized
335. In
336. Our
337. Society 
338. Than
339. A
340. Mediocre 
341. White 
342. Man’s
343. Reputation 
344. And
345. Career
346. So
347. Give
348. It
349. Six
350. Months
351. And
352. No one 
353. Will
354. Even 
355. Remember 
356. This
357. Now
358. I 
359. Must
360. Confess 
361. To
362. Some 
363. Serious 
364. Schadenfreude 
365. Watching
366. You 
367. Self-immolate 
368. After 
369. All
370. You
371. And
372. Your 
373. Corrupt
374. Accomplices
375. Fired
376. Me
377. And
378. One 
379. Other
380. Jewish 
381. Lawyer 
382. Within 
383. Three
384. Hours 
385. Of
386. Assuming 
387. Office
388. Because
389. We
390. Were 
391. Mean 
392. To
393. Trump
394. On
395. Twitter 
396. So
397. I 
398. Must 
399. Say
400. I 
401. Didn’t 
402. Think
403. It 
404. Could 
405. Get 
406. Better 
407. Than
408. Tuckerman
409. Babcock 
410. Getting
411. Fired
412. Nine
413. Months
414. After 
415. He
416. Fired
417. Us
418. But
419. You
420. Proved
421. Me 
422. Wrong
423. With
424. Your 
425. 😘😘😘😘😘
426. Not
427. To
428. Mention
429. How
430. You
431. Tried
432. To
433. Get
434. Trump 
435. To
436. Violate
437. Immigration 
438. Law
439. For
440. Your 
441. Colombian  
442. Supposed  
443. Wife
444. Which 
445. Is
446. Yet 
447. More
448. Layers 
449. Of
450. Gross 
451. Can 
452. I
453. Stop 
454. Now
455. This 
456. Is
457. Getting
458. Uncomfortable 
459. Wait 
460. No
461. Sorry 
462. To
463. Bother 
464. You
465. I’ve 
466. Just
467. Got
468. Like 
469. 100
470. More
471. Things 
472. To
473. Say
474. At
475. The 
476. Risk
477. Of
478. Making 
479. You 
480. Uncomfortable 
481. May
482. I 
484. And
485. I 
486. Don’t 
487. Want
488. To
489. Be
490. Forward 
491. But 
492. Was 
493. That 
494. Whole
495. Mask 
496. Kerfuffle
497. With 
498. Anchorage 
499. About 
500. Freedumb 
501. Or
502. Has
503. A
504. Woman 
505. Never
506. Sat
507. On
508. Your
509. Boiled 
510. Ham
511. Head 
512. Because 
513. If
514. That’s 
515. It
516. I
517. Know
518. Where
519. You 
520. Could 
521. Get
522. Some
523. Tips
524. On
525. Your 
526. Game 
527. But
528. Spoiler
529. Alert
530. It’s 
531. Not
532. At
533. Work
534. Nor
535. Does
536. It
537. Involve 
538. Inviting
539. A
540. Junior 
541. Employee 
542. To
543. Your
544. House 
545. 18
546. Times
547. Like 
548. Maybe
549. Instead 
550. Of
551. Sexually 
552. Harassing 
553. Women 
554. Do
555. Some 
556. More
557. Legal 
558. Research😘

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Alaska’s Primary Election is This Tuesday: Here’s What You Need to Know.

1. When is Alaska’s Primary Election?

This Tuesday, August 18 (the date is set in statute).

2. What is the Deal with the Multiple Ballots?

Under current Alaska law, political parties, not the State, decide who can vote in their primary, per party bylaws, which they submit to the State in advance. The State then runs the primary. Republicans have a semi-closed primary (Ds can’t vote in it, but registered Republicans (R), Undeclared (U) and Nonpartisan (N) can). Ds have an open primary and any registered voter can vote in it. As a result of litigation, Ns and Us can appear on the D ballot. You will have a choice of ballots if you are registered R,U, or N. There is no “independent” category, but N and U are functionally the same thing. If you are registered D you can only vote the D ballot (sometimes called the ADL ballot for Alaskan Independence/Democrat/Libertarian parties, which all appear on the same ballot). Alaskan Independence is the anti-Statehood party, not to be confused with “independent” voters which again is not technically a thing here.

3. What’s on the 2020 Primary Ballot?

On the primary ballot this year are United States Senate races for Dan Sullivan’s seat, the United States House race for Don Young’s seat, and local house and senate races (depending on the district). Federal house and state house are always on every ballot, but state and federal senate races are staggered due to longer terms. Candidates who win the primary advance to the general election ballot in November.

4.  Is There Voter Fraud?

There is no widespread voter fraud, in person or otherwise. There has been one prosecution in the last decade or so for alleged absentee ballot fraud in House District 15 in Anchorage, because the elections division immediately caught an irregularity and that is why felony charges were brought against a state house candidate from that district.

5. Does my Early or Absentee Vote Even Count?

YES YES YES. Every single ballot is counted, starting on election night after polling places have closed. Early ballots cast in person at early vote locations are commingled with votes cast at polling places on Election Day. Absentee ballots, which are cast in envelopes, are opened and counted by boards under a strict statutory process for 15 days after the election until the count is complete. Sometimes the result is known on election night, but all ballot counting begins at the same time.

6. How Do They Know Votes are Legit?

For in-person and early voting, you sign a precinct register or form and an election worker checks your ID (Alaska’s voter ID law is very liberal and there are many different forms of acceptable ID) at that time. For absentee voting, you fill out an oath and affidavit envelope that contains your witnessed signature and identifying info that the elections division processes after you vote.

7. What’s that Election in October?

Some Alaskan cities hold municipal elections the first week in October. These are sometimes all by-mail. They are city elections for local office and issues, and have nothing to do with statewide elections.

8. Who Can Vote Early or Absentee?

Anyone. Alaska is a “no fault” absentee voting state, meaning anyone can vote early or absentee for any reason starting about two weeks before the election. You don’t have to have a reason.

9. What is Ballot Measure 2?

Ballot Measure 2, called “Alaskans for Better Elections” is slated for the November general election ballot. It’s a voter initiative (direct legislation) that would create a top 4 nonpartisan open primary, a ranked-choice general election, and more transparency in campaign finance. All the parties hate it and that should tell you something.

10. What About COVID?

There will be some changes to polling place voting this year because of the pandemic. You are (and always have been) assigned to one of 40 house districts based on where you live. Check the division of elections website to find out the deal with your specific polling place.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Letter to My Pre-Pandemic Self

January 1, 2020

Dear Libby,

Happy New Year! 

Are you sitting down? No, don’t worry. No one died. At least not yet. That’s gonna change in about four months, however. About 150,000 US citizens will be dead by then. What? No, not a nuclear holocaust or asteroid, although you’ll be praying for both. I’m not really at liberty to say a whole lot more at the moment, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t at least try to prepare you a little bit for what’s coming.

Hmm. How should I put this. Uh. Um....Ok. First of all: how’s your WiFi? You’re gonna wanna increase your bandwidth because you’ll be spending a lot of time online. Like, a LOT. OHM is gonna do numbers though so that’s good at least! Oh! ZOOM. Also Zoom. You’ve never heard of that? It’s like Skype. Call Kerri over at Edward Jones. Buy stock in that shit like, NOW. Also while you’re at it you MIGHT want to add Charmin and whatever company makes surgical masks or respirators to your portfolio.

Remember the movie 28 Days Later? The zombie movie starring that hot British fuck boi from Peaky Blinders? Why am I bringing that up? Weeeellll ... all I can tell you is that you’re probably gonna want to go out for dinner or drinks with the girls now. Pretty soon you won’t be able to do that. Hug your friends. 

The kids? Oh don’t worry about them. Kids are resilient, thank God. But you should probably tell them to quit fighting and start working on their sibling rapport, because they won’t be seeing their friends or going to school again for the indefinite future. How come? Welp. I can’t really say exactly, but I CAN tell you to stock up on board games and Ativan.

Impeachment? Mueller? No no no. Forget about all that shit. That’s a big ole nothingburger with cheese and a side of waffle fries. Sorry to say Trump isn’t going anywhere. In fact he’s going to stir up massive amounts of shit. More than he has already? Believe it or not, yes. He’s gonna do “amazing” on a dementia test though, so that’s good at least. And there will be a LITTLE bit of baseball. With cardboard fans in the stands.

How’s your math? Like common core. That might be your new job. No no no. Don’t worry, you’ll still be a lawyer. In fact you’re going to get a great new job. But you ALSO need to bone up on 7th grade algebra because that’s gonna be a big part of your parenting responsibilities now. Also time to learn to sew. I know you’re fucking useless. But it’s time to grow up and learn some practical skills.

Bottom line: I suggest you go online right now and order a gross of toilet paper, two bolts of fabric, and a dozen boxes of N95s. What are those? Oh they‘re like these surgical masks with respirators built into them. Yes yes. You’re gonna have to wear them. Inside. Also sometimes outside.

Also have you heard of the Darwin Awards? That’s gonna be a thing.


August Libby

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Thing Behind the Thing

“It’s never about the thing it seems to be about.” That’s what my mom, a psychiatrist and perpetual student of the human psyche, always says when a seemingly trivial idea or object triggers a cascade of conflict. 

Another friend describes this as “the thing behind the thing.” In any conflict, you always have to ask, she says, “what is the thing behind the thing?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question in the context of the “mask controversy.” The “anti-maskers,”  in particular, seem disproportionately devoted to refusing to do what to many seems like a very simple, minor, and temporary public health measure. Could it be that the same country whose citizenry united to fight Nazi Germany would be fractured to this extent over covering one’s mouth and nose in Costco? Really? 

I don’t think so. That’s because it’s not really about the mask.

The fact is that there is good scientific data to support mask wearing to prevent the spread of COVID, and it’s objectively not a big deal. So why do people get indignant over masks to the point of violent confrontation? Is it really about the slippery slope infringement of some imagined civil liberty? Is it really about inhaling carbon dioxide or some fabricated health issue? 

These are surface arguments that try to rationalize the irrational, but they don’t withstand scrutiny—scientific or psychological.

What we are witnessing is an intentional, top-down assault on the American psyche, and the mask is simply a transient object—a canvas, really—on which people can easily and readily protect the rage, helplessness, and hopelessness borne of that assault. 

Four years of sadistic, criminal leadership aided and abetted by naked corruption; the open celebration of white supremacy and misogyny; the 24/7 avalanche of disinformation; and a contempt for science have all conspired amid an unprecedented-in-our-lifetimes public health crisis to laser in on a simple piece of cloth.

Americans are isolated and afraid. They are at sea in a storm, rudderless, and seeking a sense of safety, belonging, and control. Many are out of work or struggling to meet their basic needs while those in power who’ve sold them on the American Dream run away with the store. Of course they are on edge and ready to explode at the slightest provocation. The “mask” has become that provocation, that spark in a tinder box ready to ignite viral fist fights or worse. 

Because we have no meaningful leadership, we are unable to reconcile the tension between individualism and collectivism highlighted by the mask “debate.” Specifically, where do our rights as an individual end and the social contract begin? 

We have no one to guide or unify us on the answer to that question, and so we revert to our basest animal instincts of self-preservation: joining a tribe of like-minded conspiracists, protecting our bodies, defending ourselves against perceived threats, acting out with aggression. Our collective adrenal system has been in perpetual fight-or-flight for at least four years now.

So next time you get into it with someone about masks, understand the futility of reasoned argument. It’s not about the science behind masks or preventing COVID or really anything at all related to masks.  

It was never about any of that.

The mask is just the thing. The thing behind the thing—the thing behind the mask—is a lot bigger and more complicated than that, and a lot harder to resolve.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

We Are Failing Teachers and Working Families Right Now and Forever

What are we doing? No, seriously, what the fuck are we doing? I saw this meme (not sure who made it, or I would ascribe credit), but it perfectly encapsulates the bind our country's anemic response to the pandemic and its fallout has put working families, parents, and teachers into this fall.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is many months--perhaps a year or more--from resolving in any meaningful way, by which I mean widespread testing and a vaccine. Scientists and researchers are working feverishly on both, and I think these solutions will eventually materialize. But until then, we are going to have to do better than simply tell parents, teachers, and working parents to just figure everything out on their own.

That is essentially what has happened. 

Trump's edict to "reopen schools this fall!" is just another vacuous, self-serving directive from a clinical sociopath who has never cared for another human being--in any way--in his life. It's just like "build the wall," "make America great again," "law and order!" or any of his other meaningless, bumper sticker lies. And he's issuing it amid soaring cases in many states--including here in Alaska.

I personally witnessed this on a Zoom call for a school board meeting here in Juneau. It was apparent that district officials and teachers had put an enormous amount of work, thought, and effort into developing a re-opening plan, engaging parents in feedback, answering questions, and trying to offer solutions and comfort. 

It was also obvious they had no idea what they were doing, and that's because they are not supposed to know. They are not supposed to be in the position of having to figure this out on their own, and our country has truly failed teachers and parents in asking them to.

I wish someone would just say out loud, "look, the United States is failing miserably to manage this pandemic. We are not prepared for it--not politically, not medically, not economically, and certainly not scholastically. It's obvious that teachers and parents are doing the best they can, but everyone is making it up as we go along and it's a total shit show."

This dilemma--and our government's neglect of it--is not a coincidence. It is the natural outgrowth of decades of a particular model of economics: one where parents--mostly mothers--are told to work eight or more hours a day, five or more days a week, send their kids to school for five or six of those hours, and figure out what to do with their kids the rest of the time.

Now, while Trump and his cronies siphon off federal corporate welfare for themselves, working parents and teachers are left to their own devices. What is more, we are being divided and conquered in precisely the manner described in this meme below:

"Teachers are underpaid and underfunded" (an intentional societal choice). 

"Parents are not prepared to homeschool their children" (Why would they be? Teaching is a profession that not everyone has trained for). 

"Parents need to work and can't be home all day" (another patriarchal choice to value a person's time at work over their home life). 

"Children and teachers need to be safe" (which they can't be with a highly contagious virus no one fully understands, but who cares because "the economy" comes first. And for some kids, of course, school is the only safe place they can be). 

"Teachers cannot teach online and in person simultaneously" (of course that is completely impractical, and not everyone has food or running water, much less internet access). 

"Anyone in contact with COVID should be quarantined" (science suggests this is true, but what does that do to us, and how impractical is that, given the above demands on our time)? 

"Kids won't be able to stay in masks and social distance all day" (not even for five minutes--anyone who has spent more than ten seconds with a child of any age knows that). 

"Distance learning is difficult and socialization is important" (again, how are kids with working parents, food insecurity, no running water, no internet, and no ability to see their friends supposed to distance learn or socialize at all)?

"We don't know the long-term effects of COVID" (another troubling aspect of this disease is that, like polio, COVID may beget long-term physical and neurological impacts).

"It is not an educator's job to risk their lives for other people's children" (which goes back to the main conceit here that the Trump administration is more or less telling teachers to drop dead this fall).

It did not (and does not) have to be this way. We need to move the Overton window to a place where we value teachers and working families at least enough to provide them with the basic infrastructure and tools they need to get through this thing. 

They deserve that, at a bare minimum, don't they? 

Other countries are doing it; there are good ideas about ways to do it in the United States. But we don't feel like we can pull it off, because people can't even be trusted to put on a mask for ten minutes at Costco without dissolving into an insane temper tantrum, and the President of the United States thinks that's a beautiful thing.

Again, this is not a coincidence and it is not inevitable. It is a direct result of choices we have made as a society to elect sadistic leaders who value money over lives. Now, as a result, parents, teachers, and working families are being asked to figure out how to navigate something it is not their place to navigate, and made to fight amongst themselves to accomplish the impossible, all while the one percent abscond with the lion's share of federal resources that are supposed to be helping us

Disregard for mothers in the workplace, for children and teachers at school, for a struggling workforce that can't pay its bills no matter how hard it works--has been woven into every policy choice our government has made since at least the 1980s. Leave aside, even, the mass shootings: COVID has exposed the indifference and the "fuck off and die" attitude toward school children and working parents that has long been the fulcrum of American public policy.

We need to keep voting and advocating to make sure we are never--ever--put in this position again.