March 6, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
2 Comments

#IdesOfTrump Constructive Criticism Edition

January 30 Letter to Trump_Page_1Shortly after #45 was inaugurated, I woke up in the middle of the night from a horrible nightmare. International relations had deteriorated, and nuclear weapons had been used. In my dream I was an invincible superhero, witnessing the aftermath, powerless to do anything but soak in the sadness and horror of the situation.

When I woke up, I tried to calm myself down. I tried to enumerate the many reasons why humanity now knows better. I tried to think through some of the global treaties and protections that might prevent this kind of melt down. But in the Trump era, I found it much harder than usual to calm myself down. Many of the assurances I’d been able to give myself about Obama weren’t true anymore. Trump was sparring with Iran, and seemed treacherously underprepared to maneuver diplomatically with China, not to mention North Korea. The more I thought about it, the less calm I became. Finally I quit trying to go back to sleep, and instead wrote a letter to President Trump.
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I posted photos of the letter, above. In contrast to some of the sassier correspondence options I’ve put on this blog, the letter was pretty somber. It explains my dream, and implores Trump to take more care with his foreign policy. If I’m being honest with myself, a letter in this spirit of seriousness is a fairer reflection of how I feel about the situation than the ‘pink slip’ postcards I’ve distributed for the #IdesOfTrump. Much as I would like to get rid of him, a clear-eyed appraisal of the situation suggests that it would be better right now if he could rise to the occasion (at the very least) of maintaining international peace and diplomacy.

The article the New York Times published on Saturday about the failure of covert US cyber-attacks to slow North Korea’s progress toward long-distance nuclear warheads was terrifying. I had to read through the comments on the article as a therapy session, hoping that someone out there had some good ideas that might make the situation sound less perilous than was given in the article. And there were some ideas out there, mostly involving taking US warheads out of South Korea, thereby giving the Chinese a sense of security that would incentivize them to undermine the Chinese government.

The prevailing sense one is left is that we’re walking a razor edge. Making fun of Donald Trump’s combover just doesn’t seem constructive under the circumstances. As annoying as it is that this man got elected without solid policy ideas (and that it was potentially because of the complexity of her ideas that Hillary failed), it just isn’t going to help us to keep harping on that point. At this point, we need to take his improvement seriously. Where there appears to be rationality (i.e., Ivanka and Tillerson arguing that we can’t go back on our Paris Climate Agreement), we should offer resounding, positive feedback. Good job, guys! On topics where rationality is sorely lacking (tweeting on international affairs), we need to underline the seriousness of the situation, and ask that he rise to the occasion by hiring some expertise.
So here are my ‘appeal to reason’ postcards for #45. Print and share, send something meaningful for the #IdesofTrump.
DJT Constructive Criticism

March 1, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
1 Comment

Resisting Resistance Fatigue

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Yesterday I attended my local #ResistTrumpTuesday action in front of my Senator’s Los Angeles office. It sounds noble, but I live 2 blocks from the corner where we go to protest, so it’s an easy lunchtime break from work. Because of our proximity, and the fact that we work from home, Mr. Life Partner and I have covered all but 1 of the 5 protests there since #45 took office. What I noticed yesterday (compared to prior Tuesdays) was that the crowd seemed smaller, a little more fatigued and a lot more homogeneous. Maybe I’m projecting my own feelings onto the situation– on the way over rather than holding my sign high, I carried it a little sheepishly past the young, professional workers on their lunch break. I know that in my ‘work from home’ clothes I look like exactly the kind of person who you’d expect to see at a lunchtime protest– a middle-aged, radicalized white lady with the luxury time to muse about being angry. I don’t like fitting that stereotype so precisely, and it was hard to push back a feeling of self-loathing for being that person.

But we gotta push back. So here I go.

I feel like the national discourse after #45’s “on-script” and “presidential” speech to congress last night is dangerously conciliatory, and overly docile. We all want peace and unity, and it is our default to let down on our resistance. Doing otherwise makes you feel like a squeaky wheel, like you are unnecessarily harping on problems. I don’t like to be that person, and the temptation to glide gracefully into complacency is great. But we can’t give into that temptation. #45 and his speechwriters brought their misleading A Game– and it’s up to us to call them on it.

Some suggestions from Twitter:
-We can’t ‘work together’ with #45 on forming a Government Agency to ‘tell the stories the media ignores about victims of violence at the hands of illegal immigrants.’

-We want to preserve healthcare that protects everyone. But such a thing is not possible without the individual mandate. Any ACA replacement without an individual mandate is no replacement at all, the Republican Plan (for the many reasons outlined in Sunday’s helpful explainer from John Oliver), is bunk. If the Republican’s surprise us and realize that the only way for them to make good on their commitment to reduce costs for everyone is single payer, I’m all on board and ready to talk peace and reconciliation. I can’t wait! I would love to have peace and reconciliation on this matter.

-Statements from #45 promising to protect air and water quality are the essence of hypocrisy. I’m not sure if Congress is allowed to walk out of a speech like this, but to me, this would have been the moment.

And this doesn’t even get into the issues that Trump didn’t mention in his speech, most notably, climate change. Are you sick of talking about climate change? I am too! But it doesn’t make it any less problematic. Four years of negligence on this one is probably a death sentence for humanity.

So yeah, I’m going to go back to my #ResistanceTuesday protest at the next chance I get, and this time I’m going to dress in business attire and I’m going to hold my head and my sign high. Maybe I’ll even print myself a new sign for the occasion. This isn’t a grudge fest, it isn’t about being a ‘poor loser.’ This is about the issues that we cannot afford to overlook, and the lies and misinformation that we cannot accept. We’re all tired, but we need to keep going.

February 25, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
0 comments

More Buildings (Closer Together) = Fewer Cars

NoOnSYesOnLABuildingsI’m taking a quick break from resisting our national political situation to focus on some local, Los Angeles-based issues.  Though I don’t tend to write about it much here on the blog, I have my master’s degree in City Planning, and am a committed urbanist.   I’m a big believer in the idea that we need to re-build our cities to make them work for humans (rather than our cars).  As things are now, in almost every city, town, and suburb in America, most people have no transportation choices.  This is because most places in America have been built expressly for cars, with distances between destinations (home and work, home and school, school and shopping) so vast, that they cannot be affordably or reasonably served by any other form of transportation.

The only way to give people options– the option to walk and bike, the option to take the bus—is to ‘fill in’ our very spread out cities with more destinations.  Most importantly, in many places, this means building more affordable housing within the existing urban footprint, as a way to address the quickly increasing costs of cities, and ensure that it’s not just the wealthy that benefit from the density of opportunities that they offer.

And here is where we run into problems.  In cities and neighborhoods all across the country, even here in ostensibly ‘liberal’ California, owners of low-rise, single family homes in residential neighborhoods have worked to make it almost impossible to build more affordable, multi-story housing within the existing urban fabric of communities.  While there is certainly some back-door racism involved, (concern that ‘those people’ will potentially lower housing prices), I think the genuine source of most NIMBY-ism is traffic.

Traffic has certainly become worse over the past 30 years in all of our ‘healthy’ cities.  More people, with more destinations vastly spread out from one another mean more and longer car trips.  And because destinations have largely continued to sprawl further and further, there continue to be few other transportation options for people to move into when they decide that traffic is too bad.  When infill development starts to happen in cities, it creates ‘blips’ in this already untenable flow of vehicular traffic, which quickly turn into gridlock.  Sadly, this means that the ultimate solution to traffic (more destinations, more transportation options) is mis-identified as the cause of problem (because it does exacerbate traffic in the short term).  So long as we continue to mis-identify the cause of the problem, we will continue to deny ourselves the solution.

Here in Los Angeles, we have a ballot measure S that will go to a vote on March 7 that is designed to shut down infill development, and preserve the gridlocked status quo.  The backers of this initiative are playing off exactly this loathing of traffic to make their case, saying that infill development destroys quality of life and the “integrity of our neighborhoods.”  It’s easy to want to believe them.  But the truth is that the only way out for our cities is to make driving more expensive, more difficult, and slower. The way to do that and provide better options for people  is to build multi-story, affordable, infill housing development.  Yes, traffic will become worse. But what we get on the other side of this period of gridlock is a city that works better for everyone.

For a long time, I’ve worked on these issues only within the scope of my professional life.  I’ve sat on the sidelines and watched as many good initiatives and projects were killed by the selfishness and misunderstanding of NIMBY communities.   LA’s Measure S has forced me into the game.   Thanks to a well-funded and extremely confusing ad campaign, it could possibly pass, and will likely undermine the progressive, transit and local-hire supporting measures that LA voters approved just four months ago in November.

Part of the reason for my silence is the difficulty of communicating these issues.  But as the stakes get higher (climate change, obesity crisis), the cost of not trying to explain how we can save ourselves become very high.  I’m going to commit to working harder to be an advocate for these issues, to do the heavy lift of explaining how it works.  I just hope I’m not getting into the game too late.

February 20, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
0 comments

#GrabYourWallet

As my family learned in our recent power outage, doing without is a great way to challenge the status quo in our lives.  This past week’s wake-up call came on Thursday and Friday.  Without really planning it out in advance, we decided we’d do a 2 day spending fast (aka boycott) in solidarity with the 2/16 #DiaSinInmigrantes/ Day Without Immigrants and then on 2/17 in solidarity with the General Strike.  We didn’t go all the way with either of these events.  Given the nature of our work, ‘walking off the job’ would probably do more harm than good to the cause.  And we can’t work if we don’t send our kid to school.  So we didn’t fully ‘drop out’ of the economy. Participating by not buying things was the protest-‘lite’ that we could manage.

On Wednesday night, I realized it had been a while since I’d bought any food, and that if I didn’t go out and buy milk for the kids, that we wouldn’t have any– so I walked to the liquor store and bought half a gallon. From there, we had to rely on what we had lying around the house, and then, what we had lying around in the school garden (lots of greens, some very bizarre kiwano melons), and what we could find in the neighborhood (oranges knocked out of trees by the storm.)  2 days wasn’t that long to go, and we had a fair amount of random stuff squirreled away, but it still made me think… Even though we eat a lot of homegrown stuff, I wonder if we could do more?  And what about the amazing amount of street tree fruit in our neighborhood that goes uneaten (though, especially in loquat season, we do a lot of gleaning also)?  I just realized that it wouldn’t be hard to have non-purchased food make up a larger part of our diet than it currently does, and that, by extension, we could be doing a better job on reducing the CO2 from our diet.

This will certainly be something to consider as we move into the next big event for the Women’s March, the #DayWithoutAWoman, which appears to primarily be focused on ‘voting with our dollars’ and making our message known financially.

 

 

 

February 19, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
14 Comments

#IdesOfTrump Printable Postcards and Mailing Guidelines

DJT Termination of Employment DIY Text_Page_1

Update:

  • Printables: Printable pink slip postcards available!  Desktop print versions are here.  Commercial (FedEx Office) print versions here (DIY text) and here (readymade text).
  • BLACK AND WHITE printable pink slip postcards (for printing on colored paper):  DIY Text: here  Readymade text: here
  • Instructions on how to print postcards here.
  • When to Send: There is some debate as to whether podtcards are supposed to ARRIVE by 3/15 or BE MAILED on 3/15…  the official word from IdesOfTrump.com is to SEND postcards on 3/15.  My personal recommendation is to start sending now and to continue as long as you deem necessary (probably long past 3/15).
  • Other postcards Designs: I find myself questioning how constructive the ‘pink slip’ postcards are.  I’ve done some custom “constructive criticism” postcards here.  You may even want to send one of the other subject matter specific cards I’ve made in order to underline your issue.  See a gallery here, and more here.
  • Angry about #45’s lies on Twitter?  Check out these postcards here.

I’m encouraged by the high level of interest in the #IdesOfTrump campaign–the idea that everyone will send a postcard to #45 with the goal of the postcards arriving on March 15, and burying the White House in outcry.

In my prior post on the topic, I included an image of these amazing “Pink Slip” postcards that may have been devleoped by @Gitana_East, but which also seem to be circulating in the ether in various forms.  I want to give major props to whomever originally developed this idea and executed it so stylishly.  (My apologies that I have not been able to discover who you are in order to provide you proper credit, let me know if you read this and I will be glad to credit you!)  You can buy these postcards pre-made from this warehouse site called Zazzle.com–it appears that designers post their ideas here and then the 3rd party (Zazzle) handles printing and sending.

For those of you with a more DIY-bent, I’ve also created some printable versions (print instructions here), by borrowing the design that’s out there on the web.

Both have the sign-able ‘pink slip’ front pictured above, but I made two different versions of the back:

This one has pre-written text, which reads “We the People do hereby serve you, Donald J. Trump, with notice of termination for your failure to keep your oath and uphold and defend the United States Constitution.  You have failed in your role as a civil servant to all Americans, and so effective today, we will not rest until you’re fired.”

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This one has a blank text area for those who may wish to customize with their own, hand-written message.

DJT Termination of Employment DIY Text_Page_2

 

Remember, you can design your own postcard, or print one of the ones we’ve put up here that is on a topic close to your heart– I can imagine that a diversity of themes mixed in with pink slips could be highly effective.

If you, like me, are frustrated by #45’s Twitter habit, you may enjoy printing these ones:

#IdesofTrump TwitterPoop

Send all postcards to: President Donald J. Trump, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20500

February 13, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
0 comments

Postcards for Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Last night I finally got around to watching Ava DuVernay’s film 13th on Netflix.  It chronicles the rise of mass incarceration in the United States since the 1960s, and makes the argument that the the “except for punishment of a crime” exemption of the 13th amendment of the Constitution has created a de-facto modern slavery for people of color.  I highly recommend watching this important film.

This past week Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama was confirmed as Attorney General. In his confirmation hearings, he vowed to uphold our laws, even ones he disagreed with, and even if it meant disagreement with the President.  He specifically distanced himself from a voter fraud case he brought against three black civil rights workers in the 1980s  (as detailed in the letter that Senator Warren would have read from Coretta Scott King had she not been silenced), and promised to uphold the rights of all citizens.  Given his concerning track record, one has to hope that these commitments are genuine.

I know he’s no longer an elected representative, but after watching 13th, I felt compelled to write a few postcards to the Department of Justice on the topic of two groups of people who I am concerned could suffer greatly under his term as Attorney General.  As a supporter of Trump’s take on “Law and Order”, I think we can be pretty well assured that Sessions won’t do much to reduce racially-biased mass incarceration.  But it still seemed worth mentioning.  I tried to keep my comments focused on actionable collaborations between the DOJ and other agencies (i.e., not legislative action).

I’m also deeply concerned about Attorney General Sessions’ expected hard-line approach to immigration enforcement.  13th suggests that Immigrant Detention centers are likely the profitable market for corporations that run jails.  I wrote a postcard to this point also.

I’m not sure this an effective tactic, but in case anyone else would feel better trying to reinforce the priorities of social justice with our new Attorney General, here are some printable postcards:

Postcards to Jeff Sessions

Special thanks to the Amplifier Foundation and the artists whose work they have supported for the downloadable art. Shepard Fairey did the poster on the bottom left, Mata Ruda did the poster in the top right.

Send to:

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

February 9, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
15 Comments

#TheIdesOfTrump: Send Postcards March 15

Update:

  • Printable pink slip postcards available!  Desktop print versions are here.  Commercial (FedEx Office) print versions here (DIY text) and here (readymade text).
  • BLACK AND WHITE printable pink slip postcards (for printing on colored paper):  DIY Text: here  Readymade text: here
  • Instructions on how to print postcards here.
  • If you can’t figure out how to print, let me know via the comments below, and I will send you some.  Last day to request is Thursday 3/9.
  • Finally, I find myself questioning how constructive the ‘pink slip’ postcards are.  I’ve done some custom “constructive criticism” postcards here.  You may even want to send one of the other subject matter specific cards I’ve made in order to underline your issue.  See a gallery here, and more here.

Background on #IdesofTrump.

Someone had the brilliant idea that everyone in the resistance should send DJT a postcard that will arrive March 15, expressing their dissatisfaction with his policies. The vision is to essentially bury the White House in paper. Not exactly a zero waste concept– but at least postcards have a lower carbon footprint than a letter. At this point, I’m willing to suspend my Zero Waste beliefs for our broader political gain.

As readers will know, I’ve created a bunch of issue-based postcards and some detailed instructions on how to print them. I would be happy to create more easy printables. I’m loving the ‘pink slip’ concept I found on Twitter. Please see this post for printable versions of these cards.

Remember to send the postcards, too!
President (for now) Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

And you might want to get out there and buy yourself some postcards stamps to share with your friends, because I’m guessing USPS is going to run out.

February 8, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
2 Comments

Monday Sabbath (Forced and Fair)

After years of drought and an El Nino year last year when ocean temperatures were so warm that a wall of heat prevented expected rains from reaching California, we have been blessed with water this year. The whole land is sighing and softening, with lush green weeds falling off hillsides like freshly washed hair. After a disturbingly warm fall, it feels like a new lease on life, like we still have a chance against climate change.

But as the southern hemisphere tips toward the sun, critical pieces of the southern ice sheets are cracking under the rising temperatures. We accelerate toward a challenging time for humanity.

Last night as dusk was falling, the power in our apartment went out. Without internet, the work day was forced to end early. We had to remember how to light the stove with a match, how to cook dinner without our bright halogen kitchen lights. Our 2 year old sat in front of the darkened TV screen, demanding first his favorite TV delights (Twinkle Twinkle!), then bargaining for so-so options (basketball!) and finally trying to get us to turn the TV on by appealing to our self-interest. He suggested “TV Funny!”– which probably means some adult show that we laugh at but which he doesn’t understand—as a final resort. It took an hour of bargaining, and then some sitting in the quiet, for him to realize that the TV would not come on.

Our 8-year old had come home with a ‘get out of homework’ pass, had harbored grand dreams of building a computer server so he could play Minecraft with his friends. When the power went out, he crumpled into bed in a deep funk which did not lift until the power went on again three hours later.
My husband and I, who had been somewhat frantically calling representatives to try to get more ‘no’ votes on Betsy DeVos realized that If we kept going, our phone batteries would run out before the power came back on. There was no radio to hear the news. The toxic gutter of information that has been seeping into our hearts and eyeballs these past weeks had been cut. I was three thousand miles away from Washington D.C., and with the power down, completely off limits—safe in my own community. Out on the street, I looked at the sky and realized how far away all of that is. Here were my neighbors, out with their dogs, smoking a cigarette, walking to get dinner. These were the people who were proximate to me. My neighbors are from all over the world, and are cordial, friendly, lovely people. I felt a great weight lift.

And it made me wonder. At the toll that our digital connectedness has taken on my family, on my children, on my presence with the people in my neighborhood. And it made me remember my own promise to anchor my activism locally. When the lights came back on, we had a serious conversation as a family about limits. We know its unrealistic (and possibly a disservice) to our children to ban their use of technology. But we need to cut it back. We know that at this moment, we can’t duck out of our activism against DJT and the Republican Congress, but that at the very least we need to stop our obsessive checking of the news and spend time with our kids. We want them to learn activism, and why we care. But we should do that in-person, and as part of our community (again, Women’s March Organizers are totally on it with their second action that calls us to “Huddle” with our communities. After our talk we rough-housed and wrestled, read a book, and went to bed happier than we’ve been in two weeks.

And I wonder if we can’t make this into a Monday Sabbath. A few hours on that first, busy, traumatic day of each week, to turn off everything. Light the stove with a match. Take down the wifi signal. Teach our kids that there is meaning in life without electricity, because if we keep going the way we’re going, surviving without it is something they may have to learn.