From “Autocracy: Rules for Survival”

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat.…[Trump] has received the support he needed to win, and the adulation he craves, precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted “Lock her up!” They, and he, meant every word. If Trump does not go after Hillary Clinton on his first day in office, if he instead focuses, as his acceptance speech indicated he might, on the unifying project of investing in infrastructure (which, not coincidentally, would provide an instant opportunity to reward his cronies and himself), it will be foolish to breathe a sigh of relief. Trump has made his plans clear, and he has made a compact with his voters to carry them out. These plans include not only dismantling legislation such as Obamacare but also doing away with judicial restraint—and, yes, punishing opponents.

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.…Panic can be neutralized by falsely reassuring words about how the world as we know it has not ended. It is a fact that the world did not end on November 8 nor at any previous time in history. Yet history has seen many catastrophes, and most of them unfolded over time. That time included periods of relative calm.

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU. Poland has in less than a year undone half of a quarter century’s accomplishments in building a constitutional democracy.

Of course, the United States has much stronger institutions than Germany did in the 1930s, or Russia does today. Both Clinton and Obama in their speeches stressed the importance and strength of these institutions. The problem, however, is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them—including the ones enshrined in law—depend on the good faith of all actors to fulfill their purpose and uphold the Constitution.

Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

Rule #5:Don’t make compromises.…Nongovernmental organizations, many of which are reeling at the moment, faced with a transition period in which there is no opening for their input, will grasp at chances to work with the new administration. This will be fruitless—damage cannot be minimized, much less reversed, when mobilization is the goal—but worse, it will be soul-destroying. In an autocracy, politics as the art of the possible is in fact utterly amoral. Those who argue for cooperation will make the case, much as President Obama did in his speech, that cooperation is essential for the future. They will be willfully ignoring the corrupting touch of autocracy, from which the future must be protected.

Rule #6:Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.

Autocracy: Rules for Survival—Masha Gessen. The New York Review of Books. 11/10/16.

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Election 2016 Anthology: Call for Submissions

From Valentine Pierce via Facebook:

Let’s get all the poets and writers to submit poems/prose/essays and do an “Election 2016” anthology of poetry. Of course, it would have a grand tongue-in-cheek name like “Why I moved to Canada” or have you seen the “Rio Grande Wall?” Or “How Much Is That Passport in the Window” or “Can You Give Me the Number for NAFTA?”

Think on that. Share it, too.

I would say visual artists but this is going to be down and dirty, i.e., I will have to find money to print it, so unless the art represents well in b/w, it would not serve your work.

I am serious. Take the chance, the dare. New Orleans poets and writers and from around the state.

And writers around the world. Deadline: December 25, 2016.

Guidelines for those who want to help create this anthology:

12pt Times Roman, Name and Home State (or home state you’ve claimed), email me with the SUBJ: Election Anthology and your Name. Poems should be three pages or less. 3 poems, 6 haiku, deadline December 25.

Email to: Pick your top three.


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How to Report Harassment, Violations on Election Day and Get Your Vote on: NOLA Edition


In league with the announcement, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite named Assistant U.S. Attorney Irene Gonzalez [emphasis added] to oversee the Eastern District of Louisiana’s handling of those complaints Nov. 8. González, who has served as the district’s election officer since 2002, will be on duty while the polls are open.

Here are the ways to report problems on Election Day:

U.S. Attorney’s office: To reach Gonzalez, call 504.680.3000 and 504.680.3077.

Louisiana Secretary of State: The Elections Compliance Unit can be reached at 800.722.5305. The unit is responsible for investigating violations of the Louisiana election code.

FBI: The FBI will have agents ready to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses. The New Orleans FBI field office can be reached at 504.816.3000.

Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington: Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Department of Justice in Washington by phone at 800.253-3931 toll free or 202.307.2767, by fax at 202.307.3961 or by TTY 202.305.0082.

Department of Justice online: Report can also be made by email to or by using the complaint forms in the department’s website:

No one has the right to question your ability to vote unless that person is an official poll worker and knows what s/he’s saying. Check your registration online, find your local ballot and polling place, or print out a duplicate voter registration card. And on the 8th, be prepared to wait. This election is too important to blow off because of the length of a line.

from The League of Women Voters:



Voters that are in line to vote at 8:00 pm will be allowed to cast their ballots.

Voters must provide one of the following: A Louisiana driver’s license, a Louisiana identification card or any other generally recognized picture ID. If you do not have a picture ID, then you may present any other identification card plus further information such as a utility bill and a completed Voter Identification Affidavit.

Only one person at a time is allowed in the voting booth. If you are unable to read, an election official may assist you. If you are unable to vote without assistance because of a physical handicap, you must bring a physician’s certificate with you or have one on file.

Disabled voters and their assistant may go to the front of the line at their polling place.

CLICK HERE to learn your polling site for your address.


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Louisiana Flooding: How to Help


Red Cross: If you want to volunteer, call the Red Cross at 855-489-2528 or sign up at

Zeta Phi Beta: The Rho Epsilon chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority has started a GoFundMe account to raise money for families and students in the Baton Rouge area who have been affected by flooding.

Rouses Markets: In partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, Rouses Markets are accepting cash donations and donations of non-perishable food, cleaning supplies and toiletries. You can make donations at the cash register or online.

Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office: The sheriff’s office is accepting clean clothing for flood victims beginning Monday morning. All clothing should be bagged or boxed and can be delivered to the Sheriff’s Office training building at 819 South Broad Street.

Check How to help victims of Louisiana’s historic flooding for more donation drop locations and fundraisers.

Also see Louisiana flooding: 8 things state officials want you to know [].

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“black lives aren’t worth much”

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“put down your binoculars, and with them, your corrosive self-pity”

What White America Fails to See. Michael Eric Dyson. New York Times. 7/7/2016.

The problem is you do not want to know anything different from what you think you know. Your knowledge of black life, of the hardships we face, yes, those we sometimes create, those we most often endure, don’t concern you much. You think we have been handed everything because we have fought your selfish insistence that the world, all of it — all its resources, all its riches, all its bounty, all its grace — should be yours first, and foremost, and if there’s anything left, why then we can have some, but only if we ask politely and behave gratefully.

So you demand the Supreme Court give you back what was taken from you: more space in college classrooms that you dominate; better access to jobs in fire departments and police forces that you control. All the while your resentment builds, and your slow hate gathers steam. Your whiteness has become a burden too heavy for you to carry, so you outsource it to a vile political figure who amplifies your most detestable private thoughts.

Whiteness is blindness. It is the wish not to see what it will not know….

You cannot know what terror we live in. You make us afraid to walk the streets, for at any moment, a blue-clad officer with a gun could swoop down on us to snatch our lives from us and say that it was because we were selling cigarettes, or compact discs, or breathing too much for your comfort, or speaking too abrasively for your taste. Or running, or standing still, or talking back, or being silent, or doing as you say, or not doing as you say fast enough.

You hold an entire population of Muslims accountable for the evil acts of a few. Yet you rarely muster the courage to put down your binoculars, and with them, your corrosive self-pity, and see what we see. You say religions and cultures breed violence stoked by the complicity of silence because peoples will not denounce the villains who act in their names.

Yet you do the same. You do not condemn these cops; to do so, you would have to condemn the culture that produced them — the same culture that produced you. Black people will continue to die at the hands of cops as long as we deny that whiteness can be more important in explaining those cops’ behavior than the dangerous circumstances they face.

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“an increased tolerance for half-baked plans”

Whatever the intentions of policy leaders, this “broken system” narrative has had some serious unintended consequences. And perhaps the most obvious of those has been an increased tolerance for half-baked plans. Generally speaking, the public has a relatively high bar for replacing something that works, particularly if there is a risk of failure, and especially when their children are concerned….

When it comes to replacing something broken, however, the bar for intervention is much lower. Doing something, even if it fails to live up to expectations, is invariably better than doing nothing. Only by doing nothing, Americans are told, can they fail. Thus, despite the fact that there is often little evidence in support of utopian schemes like “personalized online learning,” which would use software to create a custom curriculum for each student, or “value-added measures” of teachers, which would determine educator effectiveness by running student test scores through an algorithm, many people are willing to suspend disbelief. Why? Because they have been convinced that the alternative—a status quo in precipitous decline—is worse. But what if the schools aren’t in a downward spiral? What if, instead, things are slowly but steadily improving? In that light, disruption—a buzzword if ever there was one—doesn’t sound like such a great idea.

A second consequence of the “broken system” narrative is that it denigrates schools and communities. Teachers, for instance, have seemingly never been more disillusioned. Roughly half of teachers report feeling under great stress several days a week, job satisfaction is at a 25-year low, and almost a third of teachers say they are likely to leave the profession within the next five years. Parents, too, have never had less confidence in the system. According to the most recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, roughly 80 percent of Americans give grades of “C,” “D,” or “F” to the nation’s schools—a far larger total than the 56 percent who issued those grades three decades ago. This, despite the fact that 70 percent of public school parents give their children’s current schools an “A” or a “B” rating. In other words, despite people’s positive direct experiences, the barrage of negative messaging has done serious damage to the public school brand. Consequently, many anxious parents are now competing with alarming ferocity for what they believe to be a shrinking number of “good” schools. As research indicates, they have exacerbated residential segregation in the process, intensifying racial and economic inequality.

Perhaps the most serious consequence of the “broken system” narrative is that it draws attention away from real problems that the nation has never fully addressed. The public-education system is undeniably flawed. Yet many of the deepest flaws have been deliberately cultivated. Funding inequity and racial segregation, for instance, aren’t byproducts of a system that broke. They are direct consequences of an intentional concentration of privilege. Placing the blame solely on teacher training, or the curriculum, or on the design of the high school—alleging “brokenness”—perpetuates the fiction that all schools can be made great without addressing issues of race, class, and power. This is wishful thinking at its most pernicious. [emphasis added]

Jack Schneider. America’s Not-So-Broken Education System. The Atlantic. 6/22/2016.

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Day 2713: A Little Blerd Joy

Day 2713. My bones feel sore. It hurts to breathe. My poor sleep is more drain than reprieve or recharge.

But I have Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent to light my day:

The PDF of the entire decision and dissents: Utah v Strieff.

Sotomayor’s dissent in PDF:

This case involves a suspicionless stop, one in which the officer initiated this chain of events without justification. As the Justice Department notes, supra, at 8, many innocent people are subjected to the humiliations of these unconstitutional searches. The white defendant in this case shows that anyone’s dignity can be violated in this manner. See M. Gottschalk, Caught 119–138 (2015). But it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. See M. Alexander, The New Jim Crow 95–136 (2010). For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”— instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. See, e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903); J. Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963); T. Coates, Between the World and Me (2015).

By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.

We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. See L. Guinier & G. Torres, The Miner’s Canary 274–283 (2002). They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.


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April is Spondylitis Awareness Month

I’m “lucky” enough to be “aware” all the damn time.

And it is enlightening to see how common this “rare” disease is.

What you also can do is look for ways to support those you know with spondyloarthritis, chronic pain and invisible illnesses.

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Bit(ch) 25: “seek out a pain management doctor to get your pain levels under control”

The article‘s fairly good. The focus is rheumatoid arthritis/RA, but I’m used to that. This stopped me cold:

If your rheumatologist won’t prescribe pain medications, seek out a pain management doctor to get your pain levels under control.  And find a good pain management psychologist to help you find the joy in life again.

Yes, I know this isn’t easy.  But it is the path forward.

Not easy? That’s exactly right. But not because I am weak of will or ill-informed or have given up already.

My current insurance doesn’t cover pain management. At all. Medically, pharmacologically, or psychologically. Which is far more than “isn’t easy” unless I have the disposable income to pay out of pocket which is no path forward because the money isn’t there and will not materialize because I’m determined to not be bent double by my chronic pain! [FYI: my previous insurance policies also didn’t cover pain management at all.]

And: when someone says s/he has RA, there’s a good chance the hearer will know RA can be very painful. When you say you have ankylosing spondylitis/AS, you get blankness. Apparently, the only inflammatory arthritises that are considered painful are the ones most people have heard of.

OK, let’s relent and say I have insurance that does cover pain management. The PM physicians in my area, for inflammatory arthritis and other conditions, only administer steroid shots, which can reduce [not eliminate] one source of pain for several months or a few weeks, and maybe radiofrequency ablation. No pills of any kind on any regular basis. It’s not just me either—when a doctor who does prescribe pain medications retires or leaves this area, his or her patients are stuck, and stuck hard because they will struggle to find a doctor who will prescribe the same, half or even a quarter of what the former doctor did. And may not find one.

Pain meds are not the only tool. But they can make an unbearable life bearable at times. Pain relief, not elimination, is about quality of life. My lack of quality of life from chronic pain will not stop a single person from becoming addicted to heroin or stop even my overdose/suicide.

The path isn’t here, and no amount of will on my part will change that. Especially if part of finding that path involves managing/controlling my chronic daily pain through pain management physicians or pain medications.

Day 2598.

I know joy. But not because of pain management.


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