Ask the grumpies: How to find news that’s not about trump

Sandy L. asks:

How to find news that’s not about trump.

We have no idea.

Well, there is breaking cat news.

Maybe Google news -Trump?

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Activism: What is helping me cope

  1. Changing the goal posts.  My focus isn’t on making the world incrementally better or keeping it the same, but limiting the damage that is being done.  Everything I do makes progress towards that goal.  I cannot lose.  And, unlike normal times, there isn’t a chance that I’m making things worse.  It’s all uphill from this perspective.
  2. Not reading the news at all.  I’m paying for news, but I am not looking at headlines.  Instead, I am reading @wandsci and @scalzi and, when I’m feeling up to it, various indivisible twitter accounts or @decaro_nick.  They provide a filter for what’s important and what’s actually going on vs. what’s rumor.
  3. Linking troubling information to actions.  I feel better when I’m doing something about the thing that’s bothering me.  Even if it doesn’t get anywhere, I tried.  I call, I give money, I fax, I send letters.
  4. Talking with other people who are also being active and doing things.  Especially people who are doing even more.  They inspire me.
    1. Keeping abreast of the amazing amount of organization that’s happening.  Groups are meeting with other groups.  They’re coordinating.  People are joining them.  People are starting them.  At midterms it won’t matter that the official democratic party is a disorganized mess because we WILL elect moderate republicans in the primaries and flip districts to democrats where possible.  Indivisible will do that.  Groups with the name Alliance or Warriors etc. will do that.  They’re organized.  They’re strong.  They’re growing.  They’ve got money.  If we’re not fascist yet, things are going to happen.  The newly complacent tea party won’t know what hit them, nor will they particularly care now that there’s no longer a black president.
  5. Asking people who tell me that activism in my red state doesn’t make any difference to shut up.  Because even if I know my senator is never going to vote against a racist bigot because he himself is a racist bigot, my calls and the protests I attend send a message that he can’t go as far as he wants in that direction.  He needs to think twice about doing worse things.  Having second thoughts about doing horrific things at the very least slows them down.  AND I’m not the only person who has suddenly become politically active.  A year ago my voice wouldn’t have mattered, but today I am part of a chorus, and that chorus is growing stronger.  Every week I’ve been calling, my representative’s opinions have changed, and they’ve changed because of people like me calling for the first time because it matters and we know we’re stronger together.
  6. Getting my actions each week from one of the weekly lists we mention in our activism tab.  I’ve been going broad instead of deep.   This way I don’t have to be exposed to the entire world of media out there and can just focus on something someone I trust has already curated (I like Actions for Americans because they have a paragraph and links explaining each issue) and get my voice out there efficiently.
  7. Practice and habit.  Calls are WAY less anxiety-producing now.  I have a habit.   I go through Actions for Americans each week.  Later in the week when I get hit with news, I check out what @decaro_nick or my local indivisible groups say to do (if it’s local) and I do that.  I know which of my senators’ local office numbers have a non-zero chance of working and which ones try to make it more difficult to leave a message.  It’s much more matter of fact now than it was when I first called with my voice shaking.  It’s just part of my weekly routine.  Protest whatever atrocities are on the plate for this week.  So that 4 years from now I won’t have to anymore (hopefully then I’ll start calling to support positive change).

What is helping you cope?

How to talk to politicians

This google document that has been going around the progressosphere is an important read.  An extremely important read in the days going forward.  (And, I trust it because, humble-brag-6-degrees-of-separation-style, my aunt knows one of the authors!)

Many of us, I think, are new to this whole getting involved with politics thing.  We may have fired off an email or a letter when something particularly egregious has happened, but for the most part we’ve voted and generally trusted our elected officials to do what’s right or to ignore what’s right because we’re outnumbered.

We no longer have luxury of trust.  And we have the moral imperative and the will to fight to stem the worst excesses even if outnumbered.  With enough of our voices we can make change.  We’re the majority in the country even if not a majority in our gerrymandered districts.

A question I’ve had as I make these phone calls to politicians (something I’ve been doing almost every weekday since recovering from the election) is whether or not we can/should batch up comments into one phone call to an office or if each item should get a separate call.   Another question is whether it’s ok to leave a voicemail or if I should keep trying offices until I get a voice on the other end of the line.  And should I be using polite scripts or should I be more confrontational?  (Answers down below.)

Calling every day is a bit draining.  Generally the feeling of being drained happens before I make the call and I feel fine and maybe a little strong and powerful after, but I was a bit shaken and angered by an extremely unpleasant call with so-called “Richard Wilson” at the house financial oversight committee republican number who claimed to be the front office supervisor who told me that they couldn’t possibly investigate Trump’s potential conflicts of interest until they’d finished investigating the oh so corrupt current administration and then got confrontational with me (and if I wanted to complain about him, I would have to call my senator because he is the top supervisor).  Usually though I just do the polite script, they say, “thank you I will let X know” and that’s that.  Easy Peasy.  But I was feeling really angry about the latest Trump conflict of interest and the way that the financial oversight committee is determined to do nothing (and has plans to do nothing) so I started asking when and why.

According to the guide, I should be having more of that type of conversation, pushing aides to give me an answer and telling them I’m not satisfied.  And I will, but those phone calls take energy.  (I did recently have a script-like conversation with a nice lady at the governor’s office about an issue directly related to my kids– it was easier and more natural to push on that because I did want information and I did want the governor to actually do something.)  The guide recommends a separate phone call for each issue.  Calling until you get a staffer, and not just talking to the staffer who answers, but talking to the staffer specific to the issue you’re concerned about and not letting go until you’ve talked with them.  If that sounds overwhelming, keep reading this post.

I want to remind everybody that although the script in the google document is the ideal, that although having confrontational phone-calls, going to town hall meetings, and so on are important and we should be working towards them, in politics as in everything else that matters:

Don’t Let The Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good.

Reading that google doc has made me want to do more, much more.  And it’s pushed me to try to connect more with our local groups even though they’re not making it easy.  (If we ever get in touch, one of our first orders of business will be to make it easier.)  I’m going to try to use more confrontational scripts with my local staffers.

Part of the reason these calls are so important is because staffers check a box based on your call to see what issues constituents care about and in which direction they care.  So calling up and telling your senator about the appointments you oppose in one phone call gets those boxes checked (“We prefer it, so much easier for everyone,” a staffer told my sister.)  That’s not ideal when talking to Republican representatives, according to the google doc , because we don’t want things to be easier on them, but we do need those boxes to be checked.  Calling and getting those boxes checked is so much better than not getting any checked because you couldn’t make all those phone calls.  Similarly, leaving a message isn’t as good as talking to a staffer, but if you aren’t going to be able to keep calling until you get a staffer (because you have a job), leaving a message is still important.  Polite scripts still get your voice heard and that box checked.  We don’t need everybody to be confrontational, but we do need our representatives to know that people are noticing that what is happening is not acceptable and we do not support it.

I’d say right now, in D&D terminology, I’m a level 3 activist (and if you play D&D, you know you’re still fighting slime molds and can die by goblin at that level).  But that’s ok.  Just like with role-playing games, we need experience before we can level up.

What I’ve been doing has been doing one action item off one of the newsletters I subscribe to each day.  Sometimes I talk to a person (and sometimes I call different offices until I get a person).  Sometimes I leave a message.  You may prefer to bunch up and make all of your phone calls on Moral Monday or Activism Thursday or whatever fits best in your schedule.  (And I may move to Moral Mondays as time goes on.)  Start at whatever level you feel most comfortable.  Batch your calls once a week if that’s what you have time for.  Use the polite script if you don’t have the time or energy to have a discussion.  Leave messages if you don’t have time to call different offices until you find a person.  As you get more comfortable or as you’re working on the issues that you care about more, then do more.  The more you do, the sooner you level up, and the more you’ll be able to do and the easier it will be.  Because we have a lot to do to keep this country from moving backward, and we need to make our voices heard and to organize in order to survive the next few years.

In the words of one of the new activism newsletters I subscribe to, “Letting your voice be heard in any way is more important than not being heard at all.”

What level activist are you?  What suggestions do you have for organizing?  Have you reached out to any groups?  How have your experiences with calling been?  Is it easier than you thought or harder?  What other kinds of things have you been doing besides calling?  Is anybody going to DC or a local city for the Women’s March?

Helping others: Becoming more politically active

I was brought up knowing that I had God given gifts that a lot of people don’t have.  Because of those gifts, it is my responsibility to use them to Make the World a Better Place.  My parents are very politically active.  My sister has been progressively increasing her activity.  (Note:  her local planned parenthood and women’s shelters were both full up on volunteers when she called– a lot of people are feeling that call to activism.  There were still spots for driving women to get abortions, so she will be doing that.)

DH and I both have jobs that ultimately help other people.  My research is policy-driven.

But I’ve been falling down on the political sphere.  Much of this is because I hate politics.  Even the best politicians cannot do things that are politically infeasible even while economically the best option.  Some of this is fear– when I was younger I was brave but I’ve been beaten down too many times for speaking my piece.  Intolerant bullies are especially scary these days and those we should be able to trust to protect us often ignore threats against women and minorities until the threat has materialized into actual hurt.  Even speaking out anonymously carries the possibility of real danger.  A lot of this is just laziness.  I’m good at being dragged places, but not so good at going on my own.

I don’t know yet what to do.  I mean, I’ve done some things already– donated money to various groups, written my senators about the possibility of introducing legislation to limit executive action, written Paul Ryan to praise him for taking stands against racism and xenophobia and to ask him to keep it up.  But I don’t know what is best to do or what to do long-term.

Ideally I would pick one organization and get heavily involved in it such that I was making a strong difference there.  My state’s disorganized democratic party would be a really good place to start.  But… I have a job and I have a family.  That’s not going to happen.  My mom was on school board for many years and it kept her from doing research.

So I’m going to start small.

Every weekend until Trump is out of office DH and I are going to do *something* politically active.  We may donate to a charity (easy).  We may write or call a politician (somewhat harder).  We may join protest rallies (even harder).  We may do something more substantial if we can figure out what to do (campus democrats were extremely active 4 years ago, but they haven’t even updated their webpage in a year… maybe they need a new faculty sponsor?).  There’s a lot of good out there that can be done, and it’s our responsibility to find it and start doing some of it.  Even if we’re starting small.

Action item for today (fighting hate):  Call your state senators/congressperson and ask where they stand on the Bannon appointment.  Tell them he is unacceptable.  Bannon is an “alt-right” racist, misogynist, anti-semite from Breitbart.com who Trump intends to appoint as chief strategist.  White nationalists are delighted.

How are you engaging politically?

Thoughts on having voted

I feel much more relaxed now that I’ve voted.  Also not paying so much attention to what’s going on in the news.  It’s pretty nice.

Another really cool thing:  THERE WERE DEMOCRATS ON THE BALLOT.  I mean, there were still a few uncontested Republican-only elections (and there were some local non-partisan-only elections for which one actually had to research the candidates), but there was a democratic congressional candidate and for the first time in my memory, multiple democratic candidates for other elected offices.

The most demoralizing thing is going to vote (for example, in a non-presidential year) and having to decide between the fake libertarian* and the tea party republican for any contested election.  Occasionally with a green party candidate thrown in as a third option.  This is (at least partly) why turnout is low.  And with turnout low, the democratic party doesn’t even bother.  But it should bother, because when voting is demoralizing democrats will not turn out, and that’s bad for the state and for the country.  Even if the democratic candidate isn’t going to win this time, being able to vote for him or her provides hope and a reason to go vote which means that someday in the future democrats may start winning again.  That’s the hope.

I still feel like I should be doing more.  I’m probably not going to volunteer in the short time remaining.  But I did throw some money towards contested house/senate races.**

*a fake libertarian is a social conservative/tea party republican by another name.

**What are some good candidates to throw money to, you ask?  According to the Sam Wang website, Cortez Masto in Nevada, Hassan in New Hampshire,  Kander in Missouri, Ross in North Carolina, and McGinty in Pennsylvania are all in close races.  YMMV for best use of donation dollars depending on how awful you believe the Republican candidate to be (IMO, a Republican that supports gun control and isn’t going to try to destroy the supreme court isn’t as bad as one who works for the NRA and agrees on filibustering all nominees for the next four years).  I will note that Ross’s opponent in NC just suggested assassinating HRC, so Ross definitely got some of my $$.

If you’ve voted, how did you feel after voting?  (If you haven’t voted yet, are you feeling anxious?)  Which contested elections do you think are worth donating to?  How happy will you be when this whole thing is over?

Ask the grumpies: Self-care during a bigoted election season

Anu asks:

What are your suggestions for self-care during this crazy election, particularly when there is rampant misogyny and racism in the air?

#1 and #2 have had two very different approaches to this.

#1 recommends ostriching.

#2 has been spending way too much time following things.  She strongly recommends reading docrocktex26.

She’s also been donating money, subversively wearing pro-Hillary shirts on weekends, and cheering on her sister’s volunteer efforts (and feeling slightly guilty for not volunteering herself).

Looks like the washington post reports that the APA also has those two suggestions— either limit your media reading or go do something about what’s bothering you.

[It should be noted that #1 seems to be in perfectly good health this election season and #2 keeps getting sick (currently with an upper respiratory infection).  So maybe ostriching is healthier.  Or maybe students are just foul vectors of disease during midterms.]

Also I like the Hillary Shimmy song and I watch a lot of Seth Meyers.  I watch other comics too but turn them off when they get sexist.  (Seth Meyers has been really good about that this election season… so, oddly, has been Bill Maher.  Colbert a bit of a disappointment in that respect, and Trevor Noah varies– sometimes he’s spot on with regards to misogyny and sometimes he completely misses.  And of course Samantha Bee.)

And, like HRC herself, we are big fans of cat videos.

There’s not that much time left until November 8th. So hang in there!

How about you, grumpy nation, what self-care tips do you have for this election season?

Downstream voting is more important than ever before

Why?

Because John McCain says that they’re not going to allow Clinton to appoint a supreme court justice.  All that garbage about not appointing Merrick Garland so as to let the next president decide, they are now admitting, was garbage.

The Republicans are currently left being supported by a party that is 100% bigot and heavily uneducated.  Normal people have fled.  That means that politicians with an R next to their names have to decide whether to cater to the R base, to try to capture independents despite the presidential ticket, or, possibly, in the future to switch party affiliation.

It seems like they’re trying to cater to the R base.  In doing so, they are literally threatening our democracy.

The easiest solution to this problem is to VOTE THEM OUT.  Supreme court confirmations need 60 votes.  The more senators that are Democrats, the more likely we won’t have to explain to our children exactly why separation of powers isn’t currently working like it’s taught in school.

Here’s fivethirtyeight senate forecasts.  Do any of the swing states look worth sending money to or volunteering for?

Other state and local races are also important.  Every census, congressional districts are redrawn and there will be less Republican gerrymandering if there’s more Democrats (and other) in the offices that make these decisions.

What are you doing for the election?  Are you energized?  What are the best ways to volunteer?  Where are the best places to donate money?