Monday, June 29, 2020

End ICE, in HoCo and Beyond

Let us go back, as we must, to the Beginning.

It was March 1, 2003,  50 Cent’s single “In da Club” just reached the top of the charts.  Daredevil, the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Garner vehicle no one asked for, was wrapping up its box office run at #1.  Aaron Sorkin was still writing episodes of The West Wing.

The United States was less than three weeks away from launching “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

As part of the massive expansion of the national security apparatus (and the enhanced police state powers of a combined governmental-military-industrial nexus) following 9/11, The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency was brought into being.

ICE is now 17 years old, older than many of the children ICE has held in cages. One must ask the fundamental question:  Why does ICE exist?

The current activities of this agency seem far-removed from the original foci of engaging in counterterrorism and handling “threats to our national security,” especially as understood in the context of the times in which it was created.

Now, ICE could best be described as a tool of a lawless Administration, an ungloved fist thrown at whoever the Trump Clique considers an enemy-of-the-state (which appears to be an over-growing list).  ICE’s own numbers, reported upon by the Brennan Center, reveal that “the number of ICE arrests has increasedrising 42 percent between 2016 and 2017.” U.S. citizens are being detained, trapped in a legal and administrative limbo and, in many cases, for extended periods of time.  Legal residents are being arrested by ICE over old misdemeanors.  And, as is typical in ethnostates, racial and ethnic minority communities, our neighbors, are being targeted.   ICE’s tactics include kidnappings, of adults as well as children (see also: forced family separation).  These actions have caused  extreme hardships for the families impacted, financial as well as emotional.

Who is the real threat to our national security?

The Howard County detention center can and should be closed. There is no question that its presence represents a moral blight in our midst. And it is critical to consider the human impact on all those who are held in this facility.

As long as this corrupt system allows the existence of ICE, and provides this agency with the ability to shift the people they hold from one facility to another, often exercising police powers or collaborating with other law enforcement agencies to work-around regulations that limit their scope of authority, then one must also ask the question: If we oppose what ICE is doing, what is the best expenditure of our time, energy, and resources directed at ending it? 

Yes, it would feel good to shut down the Howard County detention center.  Yes, the people who are calling for that are overwhelmingly honorable and well-intentioned members of our community.  Yes, our public officials should sit down and listen to those who are advocating for the cancellation of the contract. And yes, shutting the center down would be a good thing to do.

But it cannot stop there.

How long-lived would that closure catharsis be once it was realized that the people held there would be shipped off to another locale where it is altogether possible they would face even worse treatment and/or even more challenging living conditions?  As long as the agency exists, given oxygen by an inhumane system, closing down one detention center as an “ICE prison” would be a minor and (from the perspective of those held there) perhaps Pyrrhic victory.

While I stand in support of the principles articulated by those who want to terminate the Howard County - ICE contract, I believe a more effective strategy would be to go after more than a single TIE fighter and focus on the Death Star itself.  ICE should be abolished. That approach offers the best prospect for a long-term and far-ranging solution to the bigger problem, which is not a single building access issue but the very existence of ICE and the organizations, individuals, and mindsets that allow ICE to terrorize local communities.

In solidarity.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Get into the Zone: Autonomous Zones

Until recently, the only famous Chaz’s were Bono and (albeit with an extra “z”) Palminteri.

Now, we have CHAZ, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, Washington.  Although it also goes by CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) as well as other names.

Several of the causes espoused by many denizens of the Zone are admirable and righteous, including but not limited to combating police brutality and other criminal justice reform proposals as well as greater funding for social services investments (such as community health).

The overall political outlook of the Zone is broadly anti-fascist.  And (according to news accounts), while democratic socialists are on the scene, it seems to the present author (based on those same accounts), that the protest/micro-polity is more animated by anarchist principles (see: Peter Kropotkin).  

From what I can tell, most of the protestors seem like sincere and committed activists. 

At the risk of being accused of (gasp) concern trolling, I nonetheless find myself wondering:

·      What are the possibilities of this protest being co-opted or undermined by bad actors (such as dilettantes, fame-seekers, profiteers, grifters, criminals, and/or state agents)?

·      Is this form of protest expending valuable organizing time, energy, and resources in the most efficient and effective way possible? 

·      Is this method of protest sustainable?  Is this about building a movement or just living a moment?

·      Will the desired outcome(s) be realized?

I am, of course, hopeful that such CHAZ-style protests will help bring about positive changes to the country.  Yet knowing the forces arrayed against them, I recognize that enthusiasm and good intentions are not enough to win.

In solidarity.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Calculated Misogyny

A member of the Howard County blogging community has come under attack.  No, not the usual “you are an idiot,” criticisms which all public affairs bloggers invariably face.  These are vile, sexist (often sexually explicit), and personally invasive assaults involving both words and deeds. Perhaps even more frightening is that these attacks, which largely center on misogynistic tropes and stereotypes, are being applauded in public fora.  Beyond that, some commenters choose to ignore or discount these hostile statements, choosing instead to word-police how she responds to these outrageous remarks.

By she, I am referring to the author of the Howard County Progress Report.  Note: I believe it is important to disclose that I am using this identifying information with her express permission.  While relatively new to the blogging world, she has already established herself as a significant influence on the local political scene…including publishing a piece that had a major impact on a Board of Education race.

Recently, she has been subject to a particularly horrifying strain of vituperation that has included:

·      Insinuations as well as unambiguous claims that she is “mentally ill”
·      Denunciations of her as having “a lot of unresolved anger”
·      The use of profane and, at times, obscene epithets directed at her (by both men and women)
·      Remarks and actions that delivered the message “we know where you live”

There is absolutely no place for this in civilized society.  And, for as much as people talk about Howard County in almost triumphalist terms, there is certainly no place for this misogynistic hate in our community.

Now, is anyone going to be shamed (by name) in this blog today?  Not today, no.  That said, rest assured that screen grabs have been taken. And the present author has no qualms whatsoever about sharing said screen grabs with the public.  It seems like some of you are very proud of your statements, so I am certain you would have no issues if they were signal boosted on multiple platforms and/or sent out widely via email to interested parties.

In short, stop the nonsense or face the consequences.  Imagine if you said those same words to her, or anyone, in person…you don’t think there would be repercussions?  Think about that.

One last thing, if you believe that someone defending themselves from such abuse is somehow a voice that is “negative” or “nasty”, maybe you should stow your laptop and retire from commenting while you reflect on the idiocy of your statements.

In solidarity.   

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Reality: Up Close and In Your Face

“You're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it”  - Tommy Shaw

These lyrics came to me while I was discussing local politics with my good friend, Tranche Gerund.

She noted (correctly as always) that at least three of the BoE general election contenders (out of five seats) are receiving support from Republicans - ranging from a “you should check out Candidates X, Y, and Z, non-endorsement endorsement” to financial contributions to campaign help. 

For those of you howling that BoE elections should be “non-partisan,” you can gaze down the tracks and see that that train has indeed left the fucking station.

It’s time for all good Democrats and others who share their progressive, pro-inclusion, pro-equity worldview to vote your values.  Fence sitting is simply not an option in the face of well-organized local Trumpists who want a majority on the Board of Education. Did your preferred primary election candidate fail to advance?  Lick your wounds and get over it. Does the candidate with Republican support seem “nice?”  Who cares; some people thought that Pat Buchanan was a wonderful dinner party guest.

In short, get serious, do your research, and recognize that a Democratic sweep up and down the ticket is the only way to ensure that the Board of Education will have a progressive majority.  Having values is splendid, actually living those values by demonstrating them with your vote for, and active support of, like-minded candidates is crucial.

In solidarity.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Intersectionality and Today’s Challenges

“We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses…We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation.” – Combahee River Collective

The Combahee River Collective Statement, crafted by Black feminists in 1977, is a seminal work that explores themes pertaining to intersectionality, a word which was itself coined by a Black feminist lawyer and civil rights advocate, KimberlĂ© Williams Crenshaw, in 1989. 

Democratic socialism (or even it’s more “accessible” cousin - social democracy) would not, in and of itself, eradicate racism or misogyny in the United States overnight. That said, it is the belief of the present author that all such struggles are inter-related.  In short, if more people were able to live within a polity which embraced the tenets of political and economic democracy and where they experienced greater practical liberties, it would be easier to root out these societal plagues.  There would be far fewer “malefactors of great wealth” (TR quote) engaging in class warfare against the poor, working, and middle classes…and using race and/or gender or other elements of identity as both a wedge and cudgel.  

Of course, socialism need not be a prerequisite of a feminist or anti-racist state, those advancements could come first or all could be brought about simultaneously.

These are hardly radical notions.  One need look no further than President Franklin Roosevelt’s expression of the Four Freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear) in conjunction with his proposal for an “economic bill of rights” (also known as the Second Bill of Rights) which offered guarantees pertaining to employment, housing, medical care, education, and other rights.  The logical conclusion of these freedoms and these rights would result in a society based more on human need than lining the pockets of the uber-wealthy and their willing minions. In other words, if i may wax idealistic for a moment, these principles brought into being would help usher in the creation of a society with a genuine comradeship of the people (if I may be permitted to update the appropriate John Lennon’s lyric from Imagine).

I strongly encourage you to read the Combahee River Collective Statement here.

In solidarity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Actual Trump Derangement Syndrome

Within in the last several days, I reached out to two old and now former friends. Both reside in Michigan.  One is a conservative and was a local officeholder, the other has raised funds for GOP candidates for over 25 years.  When police began rioting (again) in cities across America following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis cops, I asked both of them to speak out against the lawlessness of the Trump Administration.  One provided a bullshit response about not being able to comment on political matters.  The other, my best friend of 30 years and “Best Man” at both of my weddings, did not reply at all.

Bear in mind these folks had political careers which began long before Trump announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for president. They were both fairly typical Midwest Republicans, one being more focused on social issues and the other more centered on economic and defense concerns.  Neither would be out of place at a Chamber of Commerce gathering.

Yet neither of these supposed “small government” aficionados could muster the moral fortitude to speak out against the authoritarian tendencies of the current regime.  Why are they in thrall to the Trump Administration?  Is it because of careerism?  Is it the money? Or are they true believers?


I wish I had written more about emerging conservative voting blocs a few years back.  I had this idea that a particular group, represented by the Ted Nugent archetype, would play an influential role in the 2016 elections.  These are conservative but not particularly religious, blue collar or mid-management white collar, racist, white men.  While they would prove to be highly susceptible to Trump’s message, I did not think they would gravitate (as they did) to Trump the man.

Let’s face it, if Trump were growing up in their neighborhoods and went to their public schools (which would not have been the case with Mr. Private Boarding School), they would have recognized him as an entitled prick and kicked his ass whenever he started shooting off his mouth.  They never would have hung out with him.  Later on, while some of them went to go fight in Vietnam, they would have rolled their eyes upon hearing that he received four draft deferments (“His rich old man musta pulled some strings…”).

And do you think Trump would have wanted to get to know them when he was busy leeching off his dad’s pocketbook?  Of course not. He would have looked down at them, because that is the kind of person he is. 

So why do so many follow him?  I can only believe it is because they are genuine adherents to Trump’s twisted ideology or because they are willing to be complicit in his and his minion’s wrongdoings (including committing acts of violence against fellow Americans, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous people).   His supporters have proven to be so willing to go along with this aspiring despot, this hollow man, that one must ask, who is truly “deranged?”  Yet, unlike those who suffer from actual mental illnesses, Trump and his ilk are fully accountable and fully culpable for their words, their actions, and their silences.

In solidarity.  

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Board of Education Post(-ish) Election Wrap-Up

With four canvasses remaining on the calendar, it is challenging to write a proper “what happened, and what it all means” article. 

However, I believe the following can safely be said:

First, the Howard County Public School System Board of Education's commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles, staffing, initiatives, and activities will continue to be a highly salient issue.  On a related note, June 11, 2020 is the date for a hearing on equity policy.  I encourage Howard County residents to testify for DEI positions, the equity budget, and increased funding for: closing the opportunity gap, population growth-based Liaison staffing, mental health, and technology.

On another related note, especially in these times, Christina Delmont-Small and Sezin Palmer, do you still believe that DEI positions should be slashed from the budget? 

Looking ahead to November, I believe (as of this writing) that there will be two marquee BoE races to watch in Howard County.  This is not to say that the other three districts will witness slumber-fests.  Antonia Barkley Watts (D2) and Jolene Mosley (D3) are excellent candidates and I hope both are elected to the Board of Education this fall.  And I suppose District 5 will sort itself out...but getting back to the two Races to Watch:  

District 4 is one of them.  Jen Mallo appears to have clinched one of the two spots for the General Election.  Matt Levine registered an ignominious and well-deserved defeat and for that, I say a hearty “Thank you!” to my fellow 4th District voters.   Sezin Palmer currently has a 366-vote lead over Kirsten Coombs.  Surmounting that gap would require a healthy swing in Coombs’ direction among the as-yet-to-be-counted ballots.  

The other race can be found in District 1.  If you are a progressive minded D1 resident and you think it is important to vote your values, then Matthew Molyett is the candidate for you.  Christina Delmont-Small and her coterie of far right-wing backers represent a clear threat to an authentic commitment to public education as well as to the aforementioned DEI staffing and activities.  It has been said before and it must be said again, Delmont-Small is Howard County’s Betsy DeVos.  Matthew Molyett is a light-years better alternative whose values are far more in tune with District 1.  Molyett has earned the active support of those who want to move HCPSS forward.

Stay tuned for election updates as votes continue to be counted.

In solidarity.