Is the Indivisible movement good for Democracy?

Going back to the fact that BOTH parties nominated candidates the other side couldn’t stomach, and that the largest problem seems to be the partisan divide that makes simple conversation over dinner tables difficult… adopting the Tea Party’s strategies seems like just another way to contribute to the problem. Didn’t the Tea Party create some of the partisan rage, the purity politics, that got us here? Wasn’t the nomination of Trump, a non-ideologue, kind of a poke in the eye to ideological politics?

To the extent that any left group increases the vitriol, adds new ad hominem attacks based in party politics, I’m concerned that the weaknesses in our democracy will only be worsened.

The non-voters, however, have to start losing elections. We need more participation, broadly, and as far as local grass-roots organizations get passive non-voters engaged, and increase local supervision of politicians by local voters, that’s a win for democracy.

My theory, therefore, is that if the progressive Indivisible movement focuses exclusively on pushing Senators and Representatives on issues, or just on pushing the Democratic party to the left, it is part of the problem.



Jan 15 Rally to Protect the Affordable Care Act

I’m going. Is this the best way to do democracy?

Most progressives, like myself, are against repealing the ACA. A woman I know has a benign brain tumor, and she spent years unable to leave a dead-end-job because if she left that employer’s insurance, she would never be insurable again. That’s what the “preexisting condition” means in real life. Everyone knows some family destroyed financially by the health care system. The problem, the real problem, is that gridlock and intransigent partisanship makes it impossible for us to talk about how to work toward lowering health care cost. A radical suggestion– like moving the responsibility away from employers entirely– is utterly impossible to act on.

So is a Democratic rally the right way to get the real conversation going? Personally, I adored listening to the Dem Senators’ response to the vote (I think the vote was in the new hours of 1/12/17). Because I agreed with what was being said, I felt a terrific relief at hearing my views expressed.

What we need is Republicans willing to think about ways of actually fixing the situation, willing to talk to us, willing to negotiate, willing to revise and not just repeal. So is rallying the opposition the best way to make that point? I’m really not sure.

I’m sure I’ll feel better, and this is the first time I’ll be in a room with my Senators and Representatives. That’s certainly doing Active Democracy. I’ll be able to tell them how satisfied I am with their performance… and this is Bernie Sanders’ success in getting the connection made between the voter and the Rep. Seems like doing Democracy better, but it isn’t getting at the root of the failure of communication, the failure of issue-driven politics.


How NOT to Stay Anonymous Online

Staying anonymous online is BLOODY HARD. So, in a previous post, I wrote my technique for getting anonymous online:

  • Buy a burner phone to make a new, clean Google or Yahoo address.
  • Use the clean account for only making new accounts and/or things you want to stay anonymous.
  • Use heavily encrypted software like Tor Browser, Signal for text messages, Riseup for email.

I used my cleanest email to send an anonymous letter-to-the-editor… and blew my cover immediately. Pretty much the first time I used the account.

Let me walk you through my mistakes:

  1. I sent the wrong attachment. Wanting to be formal, I gave the document a simple name, and immediately lost track of where I’d saved it. So the document with the same name on the desktop… that got sent. By me.
  2. I used Microsoft Word. All word processing software keeps track of your identity, if you’ve registered the file. The metadata, the “document properties,” tracks the creator of the file. I wrote my anonymous letter on software that had my name on it.

On the other hand, I did two things right:

  • Start by contacting only sources invested in privacy. If you make your mistakes in front of allies, you are less likely to get burned. Journalists, union activists, political activists, doctors, and lawyers are all invested in the idea of personal privacy. Your data would be vulnerable to a court order, but not much else. Similarly, a wise anonymous net denizen would send their work to an ally or co-conspirator first, just to check the system.
  • Clear the Metadata. I wish I’d done this the first time! But the second time, I used Open Office, checked the document’s preferences, and reset them to NOT include user data.

My Local Democratic Party Doesn’t Want Engagement

There’s a missing link in all my local government and party websites. Literally, there’s no place to click that says: “here’s where and when the next meeting is.” The county Democratic Party’s site is the worst, and the county seems to be the most local unit of party organization in my region. In my state, the Dems are the only game in town, so my local mission is to send fewer corrupt people to the state level, and to get actually involved here.

The website’s idea of “involvement” is to volunteer in a phone bank or such nonsense. I have done this kind of work twice. I manned a state fair booth, once, ONCE for a Senator I was ambivalent about, and had never seen in person. (That’s the old me me being part of the “consumer democracy” problem.

Anyhoo, the local Dem website hasn’t changed since the election. There’s still not a single event I can go to, or way I can be involved other than as a witness or cog. I sent the website a nice critique, and got a nice automatic email in response. “Thank you for your support,” indeed. The site appears to have an active Facebook and Twitter feed. Is this where all the energy goes?

I still have zero idea how to be active with the Democratic party. Next stop– my local House Representative’s office!

As the chant does NOT go, “this is NOT what democracy looks like.”

Giving Money is Too Easy

I am one of the 120,000 plus folk who dropped something on the order of $7 million dollars on the doorstep of the ACLU as a first reaction to a Trump presidency. This felt great, but there isn’t a lot that a non-lawyer can do for the ACLU or its causes. There are important things that can be accomplished through clicktivism— moments where signing a petition and sending cash are just the right thing. The ACLU is already doing great work to keep the old segregationist South from running the Attorney General’s office, for example. But this is still consumer democracy, not radical democracy.

I’m glad I gave them money. I’ll keep doing it. But the real deal seems to be in person and phone connections.

I cite the Tweets of Emily Ellsworth, Utah congressional staffer. She pointed out– from experience– that emails, posts, and letters have to have automatic responses. Phone calls, however, have to be taken at the local, constituent offices. And town hall meetings often go unattended, or attended by the same few people. Why am I, why are you, not one of these people? For my own part, I relied on my vote to speak for me, until November 8, 2016, when I lost faith in American democracy’s ability to run without supervision.


Anonymous Blogging

The internet is a place full of anonymity, right? NOT SO MUCH. Online blog software like Blogger and WordPress need an email address. To get an email address from a mainstream provider like Google, you need a phone number. If the phone, email, or IP address can be tied to you– to a bill you pay– then you’re caught.

In the happy past, anonymity could be gained from making a new email address, but that’s not sufficient anymore. To hide in plain sight, the best plan is to use a big email provider like Google or Yahoo. But they now require a phone number and/or an existing email identity.

A burner cell phone number got me my gmail ID (purchased with cash). Paranoid? I’m using the Tor Browser, to keep my ID from being snatched up by my internet client.

Paranoid? Maybe. But, it’s a known reality that the NSA is searching the datastream of the internet indiscriminately for terrorists. They’re known to very carefully monitor <sarcasm/> dangerous material </sarcasm> like the phone sex calls between military service members and their families at home.  Yeah, that’s a thing that happened. In the current political climate, I’m doing what an adult of average digital literacy can do to stay safe.

Because I aim to misbehave.