O Tempora

Yesterday I had the most 2017 experience ever.** After taking a college computer science class, I filled out the course evaluation. There, at the end of the short evaluation, it asked,

“What barriers to learning did you experience?”

What barriers to learning?  What the fuck? Are we therapists or are we evaluating a college course that is, well, a thing we paid for with money and we hope to get a specific outcome from?

There was no, Was your text book useful? How about the lectures? How was the classroom? The facilities? Are you happy you were learning Java or do you wish you’d started with another language?

Just this one hokey question.

It was so touchy-feely that even I, a hippie who knows where her shakras are, was filled with rage at its disingenous uselessness. The language sounds like it’s something useful — who doesn’t want to talk about “barriers to learning?” — but it’s actually the opposite. This is because, instead of a bunch of open-ended questions about the different parts of the classroom experience, there is only one question, and that question is itself so limiting and non-exploratory that it almost serves to shut down complaint rather than prompt it. So I didn’t put much down that was helpful.

It was only later that I remembered — oh yes, the layout in the classroom made things hard to see; the last assignment was too hard for the time allotted; I didn’t like learning GUI stuff I’ll never need again…but in order to remember that, I would have needed a more old-school form with, you know, “questions.”

As I said, I consider myself so left of center as to be practically tipping the scales for the entire state of Idaho. When something’s too workshop-approved for Me, it must be pretty damn bad.

** Outside of politics, of course. The real winner for “most 2017 experience ever” is trying every day to wake up from a nightmare dreamscape where Trump is President and teen magazines have helpful articles about how to survive nuclear fallout .


In What Order They Will Come For You

This week, we’ve seen what happens when an authoritarian gets into power. We’ve seen how quickly rights can be taken away, and with how much disregard (the Muslim ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day, for example).

But they’re still not at the apex of suck. This is still just the first week. As with any autocracy, they squeeze hard at first to see what they can get away with — but later on, after they’ve shut down internal blocks to power, they squeeze harder. So let’s review how it’s going to go:


  • Non-citizens from some majority-Muslim countries are banned without warning


  • Social justice organizations that fight for Islamic Americans will  be labeled “terrorist organizations.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations is already being targeted by Breitbart. Rumors and innuendo leaked to the mainstream media will follow hard upon.
  • Additional countries added to the Muslim ban without warning *
  • Mosques and Muslim community centers start to feel pressure


  • Any liberal advocacy group like the ACLU which advocates on behalf of detainees will be reframed as an “organization that willingly aids and abets terrorists.” Offices will be bugged, members will be harassed, media and the public will be encouraged to turn against them. ACLU leadership will be targeted with manufactured charges.
  • Green card holders already legally in the US will be targeted for deportation if they are from “undesirable” countries. The government may not call it deportation, but it will be deporation just the same.


  • All Muslim groups, including community centers and Mosques, will be targets of intimidation.
  • Any muslim who is part of any organized group – let’s say “Muslim Ivy League Doctors Who Love Hiking” — will be targeted for harassment and intimidation.
  • The push against civil rights groups will widen. The N.A.A.C.P., the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), the Jewish Anti-Defamation League — all of these will come under attack.


  • Deportation of legal US citizens associated with “undesirable” countries will begin. The list of undesirable countries will grow indefinitely.
  • Deporation / imprisonment of activists and other social undesirables will begin.
  • Remaining US citizens will be terrified to speak out, in case they are “next.”

* But not Saudi Arabia, because we have financial interests there. Remember that none of these laws will be the least bit internally consistent.


January 29, the Day the World Holds its Breath

I was transfixed and horrified by the story which unfolded yesterday. As families were torn apart, and refugees fleeing violence and death were told that they couldn’t come into this country, protests began and grew and grew until they were enormous. The crowd at JFK airport was a movement, with folks in the parking garage, on the streets, with signs, chants, and huge crowds.

Meanwhile, one woman who was told she would have to return to her country attempted suicide. I have not yet heard of her condition as of this morning.

In the evening, a judge in Brooklyn ordered a stay, and ordered all detainees be released. This didn’t apply to everyone affected by the ban — it didn’t apply to someone still in Iran — but it did apply to those who are most vulnerable, the ones already in transit.

So this is already a terrifying few days, where all American values are turned inside-out, where we become like Germany, the day the wall went up, ripping families apart.

However, for me there was a small silver lining — the protests, combined with the power of the judiciary, proved the power of checks and balances. We just might get through this after all.

And then I read this:


DULLES, Virginia ― The U.S. government must “permit lawyers access to all legal permanent residents being detained at Dulles International Airport” a federal judge in Virginia ordered late Saturday.


But U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at this airport outside Washington, D.C., defied the judge’s order, blocking attorneys from talking to the lawful permanent residents CBP was detaining here.

CBP agents never actually complied with the judge’s order, because they never let the attorneys into the area where the agency was holding the detainees, eight of the attorneys told HuffPost. But by around 1 a.m. on Sunday, some four hours after the order came down, CBP officials had allowed all but one of the people they were holding to enter the United States.


“It is unusual for an agency to deny a court order ― a court order clearly stating that these people need to be provided counsel,” said Claudia Cubas, an attorney with Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. “We asked several different agency heads to request access to speak to these people and were told ‘no.’”

Sirine Shebaya, a Washington-based civil rights attorney, and Ofelia Calderon, an immigration attorney in Fairfax, Virginia, said that CBP was “absolutely” in contempt of the Brinkema’s order.

Just to be clear, the CPB got a direct order from Trump. A judge overruled that order. The CPB ignored a direct order from the courts because they were answering to Trump.

That’s not democracy, and that’s not the rule of law.

That is a Coup D’Etat.

So, in the coming days and weeks, we have to ask ourselves not only, Can it be fought in a court of law? and Did we win in court? but, What do we do if the enforcers don’t follow court orders? What will we as a society do then?



The Can’t Even

Day 9 of I Can’t Even. Every day brings more horror.

Yesterday a Trump surrogate was on tv floating the idea of a muslim registry. When asked by Megyn Kelly about the legality of this idea, he said that there’s a legal precedent, what with the Japanese internment camps.

It’s coming fast and furious, folks. They’re not going to wait around before doing horrible things. They’re doing horrible things, right now.

What shocks me is not these guys. Well, ok, I’m a little shocked, but mostly they’re right on schedule with all the awful things they said before the election.

What shocks me is how quickly the majority gets in line. Trump hires a famously racist white nationalist? News media calls him a “firebrand.” Trump says crazy shit for a week? The New York Times leads with this brave headline:

Trump’s Biggest Test: Can He Build Something That Inspires Awe?

The right public works projects can send a message of inclusion and pride. If Mr. Trump is ready to take a cue from F.D.R., here are some places to start.

Really? Really, New York Times? The world is going to Hell in a handbasket and all you can do is open with this fawning, non-confrontational bullshit?

Meanwhile, 169 Democrats in Congress — and no Republicans — have soundly condemnded the hiring of crazy-ass Nazi Steven Bannon. Why no Republicans? What happens to “Family Values?” Isn’t not-being-a-Nazi part of “Family Values?”

I am overwhelmed by the weakness, cowardice, and go-along-to-get-along nature of these people. I guess I always thought that if you learned about this sort of thing — if you knew about Germany and the Japanese internment camps and so on and so forth — you wouldn’t, couldn’t, blithely support this sort of thing again.

I was wrong.



The First Month: Action

Here’s what I’ve been thinking: How can this get even worse? 

Worse?” you say. “What do you mean, ‘worse?’”  Isn’t the phrase “President-Elect Trump” bad enough?

Here’s what I mean. Imagine this scenario:

    1. A crisis occurs which the Trump administration claims is a terrorist attack, but we have no way of knowing because,
    2. As soon as the crisis occurs, Trump starts to push through horrific, punitive legislative. Those who question the narrative of events or the new legislation are bullied into submission, with cries of “unpatriotic,” “terrorist sympathizers,” and worse.
    3. Meanwhile, a Denial of Service Attack brings down most websites and puts a stranglehold on peer-to-peer communication.
    4. People are afraid, cut off from real information, and disconnected from social media and alternate forms of information and connection. And so, in fear,
    5. Acquiescence and capitulation happens…until we don’t recognize our country anymore.

Right now we have a terrible situation. Trump is insane, he’s adding Neo-Nazis to his staff, and we have no checks in Congress to provide forceful pushback. However, all of Congress is not insane.  There will be some pushback against xenophobia and racism. There will be some guidance given to the new administration. (How much is up to us, and how loudly we protest.)


But with a real (or exaggerated) crisis, all hope for any moderation goes out the window. As Naomi Klein discusses in Shock Doctrine, any crisis in our country will be used as an opportunity to push through the most draconian measures we have ever seen in our lifetimes.

So what are we to do?

I think we’ve got to start with some assumptions, and build on these:

    • Connecting with community is going to be very important. Use the internet for connection, but especially  use it as a tool to help create a real-life web of connection. Go to meetings, church services, concerts, whatever you can do to find and wherever you can go to serve and strengthen your tribe.
    • Setting up redundant forms of communication is also going to very important. If the internet went down for 48 hours, or all cell phone coverage went dark, how would you stay connected? How would learn true, verifiable facts about what’s actually going on? Let’s figure out these backup systems now and organize to set them up and keep them strong.
    • We need to have smart, well-equipped people on the ground with contingency plans, so when “Shock and Awe: Part II” starts, we’re ready.  Giving groups like the ACLU the funding they need will help them to start preparing now for legal worst-case scenarios.

Love to you all. Be careful out there.

The First Day: Advice

First things first. I think it’s important for people to know what to do. For me, it’s about communing with truth and reality, and actual people in actual communities.

The reality is that I am heartbroken, shattered. I’m angry and baffled and outraged. What I am not, absolutely not, is willing to engage in the trivia of the daily Facebook feed; I am not willing to listen to the little rationalizations and justifications. I am not willing to hear “Oh, it won’t be that bad” or “Hey, so-and-so, who is *not* a psychopath, is in the running for the cabinet, so maybe it will all be ok.” I am not willing to engage with the denial that many people will start to create.

In order to feel better. In order to feel in control.

I do not feel in control.

This election is a death. Even if the worst never comes to pass — even if we don’t get embroiled in a massive military escalation by a man who likes to pick fights (and who has terrifying views on nuclear weapons) — this election is still a death.

We have elected someone as president who mocks cripples, insults women, brags about committing felony assault, swindles small time businessmen, denigrates a large number of races and religions, and incites mob violence — and that’s not even saying anything about his policies. This is horrific. It is a catastrophe.

So my advice is to do whatever you would do if a close family member died. Retreat a little bit from the world. Read books that give you comfort, or stoke your fires, or give you truth. Watch old movies if you like, but don’t watch the news. Remember how awful it felt watching the news after 9/11, and how little actionable knowledge you gained? This is like that, only what’s crumbling and falling apart is happening, this time, from the inside out.

Don’t watch the news.

Don’t listen to NPR, don’t spend lots of time of Facebook. Every Apocalypse has its silver lining, and this one is reducing the amount of pleasant distractions that keep you from getting actual shit done.

Today’s media list:

– Comforting and inspiring: “On Being: The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi

– Very much not-comforting: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Writing Women / Writing Men

I love this long quote / short essay by Junot Diaz. I’m so tired of terribly written women characters, and his comments go a long way towards exploring that dynamic in writing.

Last year I was super excited to watch Daredevil on Netflix…until the first episode came out. In the first episode, a woman wakes up to find a bloody corpse next to her. Then Daredevil finds her, takes her home, says, “Girl, you in danger, do not I mean DO NOT return home to your murder scene apartment because bad guys will kill you.”

So what does she do? At 3 am, in Hell’s Kitchen of all places, she sneaks out of Daredevil’s apartment and returns home. WTF?!?!? Have none of the writers ever met a woman? Do you not know that we spend our Whole Entire Lives managing our safety even in broad daylight? The only way any woman would do these things would be if she were actually clinically certifiably insane.

So why did she do them? So that the hero could show up and save her. She did something literally no human would do just to further the story beats of the male main character. So I stopped watching.

I was happy to watch a show about a guy who’d been given superpowers by a freak chemical spill. But with that woman character? I couldn’t watch it. Too unbelievable.

Rules for the Ivy League

So you got into an Ivy League school? Congratulations!

You’ll want to fit in, so to get you up to speed, here is a list of things you are not allowed to say during your time in school:

– I feel that my years of experience living as a woman or minority qualify me to discuss women and minority issues with at least as much authority as a white male.

– This student activity happens to be a feeder for many prestigious jobs after graduation, and all of the people in the club happen to be men. Don’t you think that’s a little strange?

– If everyone knows that this Computer Science class requires 50 hours a week of homework, then why can’t they break it into two semesters with only 25 hours a week of homework?

– Since I do not have 2 wealthy parents — including one who stays at home full time — as my support system, I was wondering if you might have any sort of institutional supports for students?

– It’s my second year. Shouldn’t I at least meet my academic advisor?

..and finally, never under any circumstances speak the following words:

– I don’t know.

I need help.

The Good Ol’ Days When Women Could Dote On Their Children (and other Fairy Tales)

Nowadays, it is often strongly implied that women who go to work and leave their children for 8 whole hours a day are quite possibly scarring the children for life, just because the mothers want to “work,” “get educated,” or “eat.” The thinking goes that while some women work outside of the home by necessity, and a few strange oddballs do it by extreme conviction, the majority of working mothers are heedlessly depriving their children. Deep down (we are told) we all know that life was so much better in The Olden Days, when mothers had absolutely nothing to do but sit and gaze lovingly at their adorable offspring.

So, I would like to point something out. The average woman these days has 2 children, plus electricity, heat, and running water.

No matter what she does, her kids are coming out way, way ahead.

100 years ago, most women were pregnant or with a babe in arms – if they managed to survive childbirth — for Twenty. Years. Straight. Families of 10 or even 15 kids were not uncommon. This is because there was no birth control except abstinence…and abstinence, as it turns out, does not seem to work very well.

“Ah,” you say, “But even though the mothers had 10 children, they were at least home all day with the kids, right?”

Well, sort of.

The women were up with the sun to tend the chickens and milk the cows. Then they had to stoke the fire and tend the stove and cook for 12 people, then clean up and do the whole thing again for lunch and dinner. In the copious free time they had left over, there were chores like Washing 12 People’s Clothes By Hand in Boiling Water, Blacking the Stove With Caustic (non-child-friendly!) Chemicals, Churning Butter, Bringing the Eggs to Market, Nursing the Baby, Taking Care of Children with Life-Threatening Diseases, Sewing Muslin Together to Make Sheets, Knitting Sweaters for the Entire Family, Carding Wool, Canning, Quilting, Darning, and so on and so forth.

Because it was literally impossible for the average farmwife to do the allotted 100 hours of weekly housework while also supervising 10 kids, childcare consisted of putting your toddler into the care of your 8-year-old, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best.

If you think that a modern woman with a job – plus a dishwasher, plus a washing machine, plus electricity and running water, plus a microwave and frozen foods, plus a refrigerator, plus a way to heat the house without having to chop wood first, plus vaccines that keep her children from coming down with horrible diseases, plus an automobile…

…If you think a woman with all these conveniences, taking care of only two children, is giving less individual time, care and attention to her children than a woman in the olden days…then you are out of your fucking mind.

Just sayin’.