The Aftermath

Four days ago, Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election by every major news network, plus the Associated Press. Though Fox News held out for 16 minutes, they too joined in the chorus of declarations. In the days since, Joe Biden’s margin of victory has only widened. In the days since, I have simultaneously felt lighter, while also experiencing the sensation of drowning. 

As was to be expected, Trump has yet to concede and commit to a peaceful transfer of power. We knew this was coming, considering the months he spent laying the groundwork for what has turned out to be the final number in his one-act Presidency. “I Didn’t Lose, the Other Team Cheated”; an ironic accusation from a man who was impeached after investigations uncovered his attempt to extort the President of Ukraine in order to obtain information on Joe and Hunter Biden. Remember that? 

Less expected, however, has been the deluge of Republican officials appearing on stage next to him, spouting lines ranging from the lukewarm “he has the right to challenge” to nefariously repeating his duplicitous claims of widespread voter fraud. Despite Trump having approximately 70 days left in office, these Republicans understand the advantage in pushing this fabricated narrative. 

The issue here is not that Donald Trump has a chance to overturn the result of the election. The margin is simply too wide. The lack of evidence is simply too great. The Times reported that they called top election officials in every single state and every answer was an echo: there is no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of this election. 

Trump and his campaign have been “predicting” voter fraud for months, in order to combat the reality that Trump was the most unpopular president in modern history, failing to ever cross the 50% threshold of approval. If he were to lose re-election, it wouldn’t be due to the fact that other than Gerald Ford, he had the lowest approval rating of any president heading into re-election. According to Trump, if he were to somehow “lose” (a word absent from his vocabulary, unless using it in the noun form to refer to fallen soldiers), then the only explanation would be widespread fraud enacted by the Democrats. (Side note: Ford lost to Jimmy Carter.) 

If anyone is experiencing deja-vu, it’s for good reason: in 2016, Trump lied about widespread voter fraud in order to account for losing the popular vote to Clinton. Despite winning the electoral vote, and Clinton conceding within 24 hours, he continued to purport that millions of votes had been illegally cast for Clinton. Though the voter fraud commission he formed in 2017 was eventually disbanded after it predictably failed to find evidence of widespread voter fraud, Trump perpetuated the lie well into his presidency. His own lawyers eventually admitted, “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.” Take note: this was his behavior in spite of winning the presidency. Trump will go to his grave refusing to acknowledge that in both 2016 and 2020, millions more people voted for his opponent. Interestingly, many studies have focused on examining the link between authoritarian leaders and psychological insecurity. It makes sense: when legitimacy is not reaped from popular representation and democratic accountability, they aim to delegitimize those other elements.

So, here we are again. The second time in four years that Donald Trump has lost the popular vote, and this time by a margin double that of Clinton’s. The second time he has gone out with his megaphone, to vociferously claim without a shred of evidence that he was “cheated.” But this time, his Democratic opponent won more electoral votes, and therefore the presidency. This time, Donald Trump has truly lost. 

Never once have I believed that Trump actually believes the lies that he spins. Nor do I believe that Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Rudy Giuliani, or any of his other lackeys actually think this election was stolen. They know what they’ve known since Bush lost the popular vote in 2000: more Americans will vote for the Democratic candidate in a presidential election. The popular vote margins between Republican and Democratic candidates have laid bare the truth of it. 

Although Republicans rebuke math and science, they can’t ignore the numbers. If they truly believed that the numbers are not, in fact, against them, why then do they slip and slide voter suppression laws into battleground states like Florida? Republicans have reached a point where they must move beyond suppressing Black and Brown voters, because this time, it failed. Now they must play their next card. They must sow this lie regarding the legitimacy of our democratic process, thereby delegitimizing the Democratic President-Elect. I would not be surprised if this becomes a permanent part of the playbook from here on out. We’ve already seen these fraudulent claims echoed word for word in a joint statement released by Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the two Republican senators from Georgia who are facing a run-off against Democratic challengers in January. 

In convincing millions of Americans that this election was a sham, Trump and his Republican teammates are eroding the very foundation of our democracy. They lost; yet they wield this dangerous power of chaotic disinformation that will surely be used in future elections. My naive hope is that Joe Biden’s presidency will eventually ease some of the anger of those who bit off a piece of Trump’s poisonous apple. My cynicism tells me that it’s too late. 

“Stupid Watergate”

23 years after the premiere of The Usual Suspects, Keyser Söze is still a household name. Pulling off one of the greatest cinematic twists, semi-mythical villain Keyser Söze has continued to pop up in reference throughout the decades following his 1995 introduction. If you’ve never watched the film, spoiler alert: in its final minutes, the audience realizes that Verbal Kint, a low level con-artist played by Kevin Spacey (yeah, RIP Kevin Spacey’s career) and the supposed sole survivor of a master scheme orchestrated by the legendary Keyser Söze, is actually the criminal mastermind himself. But by the time the federal customs agent who Kint has been telling his story to, realizes the truth – it’s too late. Kint a.k.a  Keyser Söze disappears into the light of day as the web of lies he has crafted breaks apart. 

As a fan of the crime/suspense/thriller genre in television and film, I am drawn in by brilliantly written characters, suspenseful plots, and unexpected twists. The most exciting shows and movies are the ones that keep you guessing up until the very end, when the “big reveal” comes in. There is an “aha!” moment, as the detective/main protagonist realizes what has been true all along. 

That is the difference between cinema and the scandal that has been rocking our current political landscape – we already know what has been true all along. Unlike the stories that are penned to script, these characters aren’t brilliant, the plot isn’t suspenseful, and the twists aren’t unexpected. In fact, if this were a movie it would probably win big at the Razzie Awards for “Worst Everything.” We keep waiting for the “gotcha!” moment, but this is not coming from the minds of exceptional screenwriters or filmmakers; it is coming from the inability of anyone linked to the Trump administration to conceal the fact that they got in bed with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

If anything, the “gotcha!” part is that Donald J. Trump is President.

It’s one thing if those on the Trump team who conspired and colluded with members of the Kremlin squad were crafty, Keyser Söze-like criminals, but they are far from it. John Oliver coined a title for the Russia-Trump scandal, calling it “Stupid Watergate”;  honestly, it’s hard to think of anything more appropriate. Here’s a quick recap highlighting some of the best of “Stupid Watergate”:

Former national security advisor Mike Flynn, who led crowds at Trump rallies in chanting “Lock her up!” (referring to Hillary Clinton), and once said, “If I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.” This past December, Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia, 9 months after he was forced to resign from his post. I’ll just leave that there.

Donald Trump, who has a penchant for tweeting things like “…Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” Trump fired James Comey for refusing to swear political loyalty to him, fired former AG Sally Yates, reportedly tried to fire Robert Mueller last June, only stopping in doing so after his lawyer threatened to quit because he knew how bad it would look, and recently trolled/smeared FBI director Andrew McCabe into taking an early retirement. Let’s also not forget when he revealed highly classified information in the Oval Office to a Russian foreign minister and ambassador, because the man is an idiot. 

Don Trump Jr., who has basically left an entire paper trail of his communications with Russian contacts, i.e. emails with subject lines like “Russia-Clinton-private-confidential.” He also DM’d with WikiLeaks on Twitter regarding Clinton dirt, and emailed Jared Kushner about it.

Jared Kushner, who like many others, frequently has a case of *“Russia dementia” when forgetting to disclose very important information about his Russian ties or business holdings (until they are later produced by investigators). 

*Russia dementia: An illness that affects any member of the Trump Team who has met or corresponded with Russian officials, but can’t seem to remember doing so when questioned about it. Jeff Sessions has a significantly bad case of it.

Communications director Hope Hicks, who the Times recently reported had previously told Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, that the emails detailing a meeting between Don Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer to disseminate dirt on Hillary Clinton will “never get out.”

Former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who bragged to the Trump foreign policy team that he had the contacts to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin (a conversation that Jeff Sessions conveniently said he “couldn’t recall” – see Russia dementia, above), and drunkenly told an Australian diplomat one night in May of 2016 that Russia had dirt on Clinton.

Best Papadopoulos moment: when he erroneously believed he was in contact with Putin’s niece, and wrote an email to the Trump team informing them of it. Like Flynn, Papadopoulos pled guilty of lying to the FBI about his Russian connections. 

And then there’s Carter Page, boy-wonder, who decided that the best move in the midst of being investigated by the FBI was to make multiple, ill-advised appearances on national television. In one particularly bizarre interview with Chris Hayes, he stumbled so poorly over questions about his Russian connections and his relationship with Papadopoulos, prompting Hayes to congratulate him on “not being indicted.” Thanks to the recent Nunes Memo, Page is once again center stage – it turns out he has been a subject of interest for the FBI since 2013.

Much like Mariah Carey has famously claimed throughout the years that she “does not know Jennifer Lopez,” Trump and other members of his team will repeatedly claim that he does not know *insert whichever team member is under investigation.* This past October, after Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying, Trump tweeted, “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.” But as the receipts show, in March of last year he referred to Papadopoulos as “an excellent guy” in an interview with the Washington Post, and later posted a picture on Instagram of his national security team – with Papadopoulos sitting 4 seats down from him. Meanwhile, Devin Nunes is STILL claiming that Trump never met Papadopoulos. WE HAVE THE RECEIPTS, DEVIN. 

Speaking of Devin Nunes – just when you think you’ve ripped the last of your hair out by the sheer stupidity of everyone involved in “Stupid Watergate,” in comes Nunes with his memo. The memo was backed up by Paul Ryan and House Republicans, and was referred to as “ jaw-dropping,” “sickening” and “worse than Watergate.” In what has perhaps taken the prize as the most asinine piece of “evidence” to prove Trump’s claims that the FBI, the DOJ, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama worked together to conspire against him and keep him from becoming President, the memo was the exact opposite of a bombshell.

If you haven’t read the memo, or if you are confused as to what in the hell it is all about, it essentially claims that the Trump-Russia investigation was cooked up by the Clinton campaign and passed along to corrupt law enforcement agents in order to stop Trump from becoming President. It also claims that the investigation began with the surveillance of Carter Page, and the only reason that the FBI was able to obtain a FISA warrant to survey Carter Page was because of the Steele dossier, a document that alleges conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, and which was in part funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. The memo claims that Christopher Steele, the British intelligence agent who had compiled the incriminating dossier against Trump, wanted to personally ensure that Trump did not become President. Therefore, according to Sean Hannity, Trump, Nunes, and other Republicans who have jumped on board this latest  piece of the conspiracy theory, the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian ties began with a fictional dossier whose sole purpose was to act as a Democratic hit job against Trump.

But the reason the memo is so utterly stupid and why it has left any sane person scratching their head in confusion regarding the dramatic build-up that preceded it, is that it literally contradicts itself. Aside from the fact that we know Carter Page (who really never seems to stop talking) popped up on the FBI’s radar back in 2013, due to suspicion that he was being recruited as a spy, the final page of the Nunes memo mentions that “The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent *Peter Strozak.”

*Fun fact: Peter Strozak, the FBI agent who, according to Nunes and Trump, was working against Trump, was the same agent who co-wrote the letter Comey sent to Congress announcing that they were reopening the investigation into Hillary’s email server. Bear in mind, this was 11 days before the election, and was perhaps the final nail in Hillary’s presidential coffin.

But let’s return to the memo. So after laying out 3 pages claiming that the falsified and biased Steele dossier is the reason the DOJ and FBI started surveying Page and therefore served as the catalyst for the Trump-Russia investigation, the memo casually says that Papadopoulos’ conversation with the Australian diplomat WHILE DRUNK was the trigger…? I dare this to write itself as an episode of VEEP.

Not only does the memo NOT vindicate Trump’s claims, the man behind its release is utterly moronic. If you feel like you’ve heard Devin Nunes’ name one too many times in the past year, you’re absolutely correct. Lest we’ve forgotten his reprehensible behavior last March, quick reminder that Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Trump-Russia ties after the embarrassing press conference in which he released “intelligence reports” and tried to make it look as if they verified Trump’s claims of having been wiretapped by President Obama. These “reports,” of course, came from none other than the Trump White House itself

Yes, I am resisting the urge to ram my head into a wall over the fact that Nunes has been allowed back in the spotlight to once again make ridiculous, duplicitous claims; at the expense of our most trusted institutions of law enforcement. In backing Trump’s lies that he was conspired against, Nunes and other right-wing lackeys have ripped open the door to a legitimate constitutional crisis. Though absolutely vacuous, the fodder surrounding the memo, rather than the memo itself, has given conservative media and Trump’s political supporters even more yarn in the false narrative they have been spinning; in turn, throwing our law enforcement agencies into the shredder, right next to the scraps that were once GOP decency.

What those under Trump’s umbrella are attempting is something that every thriller/crime writer knows well: the ultimate “twist” that throws everything we previously knew out the window in light of the dramatic “reveal.”  But remember, this is “Stupid Watergate,” and there is no plot twist. There are no Keyser Söze villains. Every piece of the Trump-Russia “puzzle” leads us to the same obvious conclusion time and time again.

But at the end of the day, despite the brainlessness of many of these individuals, they are in charge. There is no getting around that fact. Trump and his team do as they please, knowing that they have the full backing of the Republican Party and the ear and mouth of conservative media. Fully enabled by Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, Trump has been given permission to hold himself above the law. His election broke the GOP’s backbone in two, rendering it unable to stand up for justice.

Devin Nunes continues to have a platform for his evidence-lacking conspiracy theories. Fox News pundits continue to spew forth anything that contradicts reason and logic. House and Senate Republicans continue to weasel their way out of holding Trump or themselves accountable for anything. You know the quote, “Do it, then ask for forgiveness later”? Team Trump operates under the motto, “Do it, then claim you didn’t do it, then claim that you did do it but it wasn’t actually illegal, then claim that you didn’t do it and it’s all part of a conspiracy cooked up by Hillary Clinton.”

It’s easy to chalk the entire administration up as “idiots,” and laugh off the absurdity of something like the Nunes memo. But Trump, with the help of Republicans and conservative media, is directing the public away from the obvious and clear truth, and Democrats, along with the mainstream press, aren’t doing a great job of steering it back. Sacrificing country in favor of party, Republicans are running our most trusted institutions into the ground by disparaging their reputations in order to push the Trump narrative forward. And so far, it seems to keep on working. Trump, Republicans, and conservative media are concerned with one thing: having the public believe what they want them to believe. They do not care about their constitutional obligations to uphold justice because they do not care about the truth.

At the end of The Usual Suspects, Verbal Kint remarks, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” In regards to Trump, the greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing millions of people that he, a reality-star, billionaire con-man, was the populist leader they had been waiting for. It’s past time for the Democrats to rip back the curtain, revealing the truth behind the illusion.

2017: A Revelation. 2018: A Declaration.

2017 is over. Suffice to say, it was what historians will most likely refer to as “a royal shit storm.” It was a year filled with repugnant comic book villains, unparalleled treasonous acts, the denigration of basic institutions of democracy, historic natural disasters, and a potential for nuclear war to result from Twitter trolling. As midnight struck on January 1st, I welcomed 2018 with open arms and a bottle of $10 Korbel champagne. Though torn between feeling that the chaos of 2017 thundered by quickly, but also dragged on painfully, I toasted it goodbye and was asleep by 12:30.

The end of a year/beginning of a new year is normally a time when we slow down, look back, reflect, analyze, and consider where we are on our respective life paths. Many of us pause to deliberate on our goals, our accomplishments, our shortcomings, and our future plans. Personally speaking, I look at where I was in the beginning of the year, mentally and physically, and where I found myself at the end of the year. Despite the constant barrage of embarrassment that rained down from our commander-in-chief and his army of enablers, 2017 was a revolutionary year in shaking up my belief system from top to bottom. In my two and a half decades on this Earth, I have never undergone as deep a dive into the depths of issues that have permeated this country since its inception. I embarked on an educational journey because of the outcome of the 2016 election, and as a result, I have walked away with a different understanding of truth.

We all operate in a system stemming from what we believe to be our truth: that “which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” However, truth is often accepted and formed on a subjective basis; it is not the equivalent of “fact.” We differ in what we believe to be true, because we are not all the same. What I consider to be the truth is not the same thing as what a young black man serving a life sentence for marijuana possession considers to be the truth, nor what David Koch and the rest of the 1% consider to be the truth. Often our truths are masked in delusion and naivety, or simply an aversion in believing something that is in direct opposition to our morals. If you don’t believe something to be true, then it isn’t.

The older we become, the more ingrained we are in our truths. Through a mixture of outside influence from family and like-minded peers, the environment we are born into, and our own personal experiences navigating the complexities of life, we form ideas of the way things are, the way things have been, and the way things should be. Some people believe that the world should change, but it won’t. Some believe that the world should change, and it will. Yet others believe that the world shouldn’t change at all, and they fear what happens if it does.

When we believe something for so long, it becomes very difficult to allow our truth to change. To allow room for change is to first accept that we see the world the way we want to. That perception becomes our reality, and in turn our reality is often self-limiting. The age-old cliché – “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” – is an exercise in empathy and expanding our emotional understanding. I have always considered myself an open-minded individual; a purveyor of liberal values and an advocate for equality across all platforms. But I was born into the life I was born into, and though not necessarily to any fault of my own, there are aspects of life that have remained vastly separate from what I believe to be true.

After the 2016 election, it took me a long time to make sense of what happened. Not so much in a literal breakdown of election schematics (including all outside interference), but in a “bigger picture” way. Every ounce of my morals clashed so mightily against the garbage that had taken the stage opposite of Clinton, and never in my life had I felt so sure of something than the belief that no decent human being with any sense could vote for the laughably disastrous Trump.

I’ve long since lost track of how many post-election analyses I scoured for information, desperate to find out where in the hell I had taken such a wrong turn. Like many others, I needed to make sense of why people outside of Trump’s white supremacist base believed he was a “populist” leader, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. It wasn’t enough to chalk those voters up to being “ignorant,”or, when I found myself in a particularly foul mood, as “fucking idiots.” Even after reading countless articles detailing the plight of blue-collar workers who believed Trump would save their jobs, the truth seemed to remain evasive. Even after listening to practically every political analyst, pundit, economist, professor, and stranger next to me in line in the grocery store break down Trump’s demographics, I still couldn’t come to terms with how millions of people didn’t choose the Democratic Party – clearly the true party “of the people.” How could these people not get that the Democrats are the ones who are actually fighting for them on Capitol Hill?

“Of the people, by the people, for the people.” 9 words that Abraham Lincoln famously uttered in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to reiterate the principles of the Constitution and remind Americans that our country is one of equality and justice for all. But the bare truth is, in its 242nd year since the Declaration of Independence was signed, this country has never been equal. Whether due to race, social or economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, America has yet to fulfill its original promise and deliver equal opportunities synonymous of its name. We are a country to be simultaneously proud of, and repentant for, as we remember the many groups of people who have been left in the ditches. Perhaps many of “these people” didn’t view the Democrats as fighting for them on Capitol Hill, because they weren’t.

My almost yearlong search for an acceptable explanation as to the 2016 election disaster led to an unexpected reformation of my own truth. To start, I looked at who I am in a broad definition of the sense. On the one hand, I am a minority, a millennial, and a woman. I have always believed in the Democratic Party because I have always believed that the Democratic Party truly represents me. The values espoused by the Democratic Party are values that I hold; they are ones that I believe lead to a better and fairer world. Yes, I am a minority, a millennial, and a woman. However, I am a minority who isn’t black, I am a millennial who has been provided educational opportunities without swimming up to my ears in debt, and I am a woman who comes from a well-to-do family of professionals. The Democratic Party represents me because I check the boxes on their list of desired attributes.

My inability to comprehend why so many Americans didn’t vote for the Democratic choice, when the Republican one was so obviously abhorrent, lay in the delusion of my own truth. When a system works for one person and not for another, the person it works for believes their truth to be widely held. But the person it doesn’t work for has a completely different perception of reality, and therefore a different truth. As simple as it sounds, it is something we must constantly remind ourselves of, and as a Democrat, it is an evolved truth that I am now grappling with. Putting the Republican Party aside, as well as its obvious membership of wealthy, white Americans, the Democratic Party does not serve the same purpose for everyone under its umbrella. It wasn’t until taking a serious, unbiased look at the Party’s record on issues like economic equality and civil rights in the decades since the New Deal, that a fissure in my firmly held beliefs cracked open. From the outside looking in, I could see that the Democratic Party and democratic principles have not often co-existed as I believed them to.

I began to understand why blue-collar workers in West Virginia didn’t look at a potential Hillary Clinton presidency the same way I did. The Democratic Party (and make no mistake, the GOP is just as guilty) had long since abandoned them in the blossoming age of globalization. I also started to make sense of the disappointment felt by many in the black community in regards to Barack Obama’s record on civil rights and police brutality; something I had never viewed as a reason to be angry with the Democratic Party and its political leaders. Again, I am in no means advocating for the Republican Party, but my understanding of a different side of the truth has aided in a newfound empathy for the frustration felt by many Americans who, for decades, have been left behind without a hand to help them along as the world progresses. The anger felt by those who have literally and figuratively been imprisoned by a society that has been specifically designed to work against them.

My purpose with this post was not to break down every detail of where the Democratic Party has gone wrong, and what it must accomplish in the coming months and years. There will be much to discuss and ruminate on these next twelve months. But we must be willing to accept that because we do not walk the same path as one another, we do not understand the full extent of the obstacles that exist in one another’s way. We must be open to the idea that our opinions can, and oftentimes should, change. Though we are all entitled to our beliefs and our truths, with that entitlement comes a responsibility to educate ourselves through any possible means, and a reminder that we only know as much as we have experienced.




The Implications of a Doug Jones Victory

Almost one week ago, Doug Jones cinched a hard-fought victory in the special Alabama Senate race. Though if you ask Roy Moore, Jones’ victory is as real as the multiple accounts of child molestation against him. Taking another page out of Trump’s playbook, Moore has decried voter fraud, sending a fundraising email this past Saturday that stated, “This race is not over until the numerous reports of fraud have been investigated, all votes have been counted and the Alabama Secretary of State officially certifies the results.” I, for one, would love to never hear from Moore again for the rest of his despicable life.

Despite my previously negative outlook that a Democrat like Jones (whose platform included controversial issues like reproductive rights) could not possibly win in a state where almost half of the electorate are white evangelicals, I was proven wrong. Hot on the heels of Virginia’s gubernatorial election between Democrat Ralph Northam and Trump-backed candidate, Ed Gillespie, Jones’ victory, after a 25-year Democratic drought, felt like a very real turning point. By the time Jones had taken the lead in what amounted to a 4th quarter interception, I was holding my bottle of wine and screaming, “GO DOUG GO!!!!!!” After the 2016 election devastation, something finally seems to be stirring…I dare say it’s called “hope.”

At the end of the day, Moore, Trump, Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, the RNC, white evangelicals, and all future pedophiliac would-be-Senators, lost. Granted, it speaks volumes on the state of our country that many of us believed a religious bigot – credibly accused of molesting under-age girls – would not lose in a state like Alabama. In a better world, Moore would have never even come as close as he did: within 1.5% of Jones. In a perfect world, he’d be sitting in prison. At least he’d have ample time to practice his Christian faith that he constantly speaks of by praying to God and reflecting on his many, many sins.

Last Tuesday’s election was a huge victory for Democrats, and a vital step in a possible 2018 take-back of Congress. But more importantly, in the moment that Jones was declared the winner, the faint heartbeat of human decency was once again heard. By a razor-thin margin; but nevertheless – 49. 9% of Alabamians showed that racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, and pedophilia might be accepted by the GOP, but not by the people.

That being said, those who have been following the breakdown of the election results are well aware that once again, black voters were largely responsible for the victory. Black women, in particular, who overwhelmingly supported Jones at a 98% margin. On the other hand, the majority of white voters, including white women with college degrees, supported Moore. When the numbers came out, Twitter and other online media exploded in cries of “thank you black women!”; as if black women were Clark Kent, flying in to save the Democratic Party and expecting nothing in return. Black women voted to stop Moore, much like they voted to stop Ed Gillespie in Virginia, to stop Kim Guadagno in New Jersey, and to stop Donald Trump from ruining this country (although white voters won out on the last one). So why did black women turn out in record numbers to vote? Because America is also their home, and they’re fighting to change the reality that black people face a disproportionate level of poverty, incarceration, unequal access to healthcare and quality education. Black voters didn’t vote to save white people in Alabama. White voters made it very clear where they stand on issues that matter to them, and black voters did the same. If the Democratic Party didn’t understand it before, they better understand it now: black women truly are the backbone of the party. It’s high time they turn their attention to the needs of their long-ignored voters who are more than just a tool for Democratic victories.

In the aftermath of Alabama’s Senate election, it is impossible to ignore that since the dawn of the Trump-era, there have been an eruption of reckonings as a direct response to having the worst president in American history. In the past year, our country’s morality and decency has plummeted time and time again (even when it seems as if we cannot go any lower), and we have found ourselves face-to-face with realities that must finally be dealt with. From the “Sexual Harassment and Assault” reckoning, to the “Black Voters are the Heart of the Democratic Party and Cannot Be Disregarded” reckoning, to the “Total Loss of GOP Morality” reckoning; our eyes have been opened wider than ever. People are paying closer attention now, myself included. Finding ourselves stuck in the never-ending reality show drama that has unfolded since Trump, a man who tweets from a golden toilet, hilariously won as a “populist leader,” many of us have become much more active in politics. How can we not, when every single day is a reminder that a question such as: “Will an insane tweet storm from our President cause North Korea to nuclear bomb us?” has become part of the norm.

As someone who has worked in politics, and considers herself “actively in-the-know,” I was blown away by how little I was aware of issues that states like Alabama have faced for decades. From a political point of view, I looked at Alabama as a deeply red, racially divisive state; one that will never be of help to Democratic politics. Alabama supported  Trump with 62% of its vote, and that’s all I really cared to know. I understood very little of its problems in healthcare, infrastructure, education, and more. I was unaware that Alabama has the 5th highest rate of poverty, and a minimum wage of $7.25. Its infant mortality rate is higher than Sri Lanka’s, Ukraine’s, Bahrain’s, and many other developing countries. Democrats won an incredibly important election, but now it’s time to fight for their voters. As Doug Jones said in his victory speech, “This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of which Zip Code you live in, is going to get a fair shake in life.”

Here’s one way Jones and other Democrats can make sure Alabamians, as well as people all over the country, get a “fair shake”: shutdown the government until federal programs like CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), and vital community health centers, receive the funding they need. CHIP affects more than 150,000 children in Alabama alone, and it ran out of funds at the end of September. Healthcare is in dire straits in Alabama, and we cannot ignore it simply because we got the votes we needed to put a Democrat in office. Here’s another way Democrats can ensure that they are representing the needs of their people, who have worked tirelessly this past year to win them elections: raise hell to prevent the Senate vote on the tax bill from happening until Jones is sworn in. Even if the vote goes through, the message will be clear. Besides, they had no problem delaying the vote on the Affordable Care Act to allow incoming Republican Senator, Scott Brown, his right to vote against it, so it stands to reason that they should do the same with the GOP tax bill.

Doug Jones fought hard for his victory in Alabama. A wheel is turning, and momentum seems to be on our side. The Democratic Party is energizing and gearing up to take over the midterm elections in 2018. But if the Party’s sights are solely set on future victories in the Senate and the House, they are grievously neglecting to stop what Republicans in Congress are doing at this very moment. If they don’t rise up right now to fight the Republicans on DACA, CHIP, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the tax bill, then we’re still losing. It’s time to take a page out of the GOP’s book by refusing to compromise.

The Anniversary of “When Congress Did Nothing”

Five years ago today, Adam Lanza strode into Sandy Hook elementary school with a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle and a .22-caliber Savage Mark II rifle; assault weapons obtained legally that provided him enough firepower to unleash 154 rounds in less than five minutes. Five years ago today, 20 first graders and 6 adults were massacred in what became the deadliest mass shooting at a grade school or high school – and Congress has done nothing since.

It is still difficult for me to picture those children without crying. Even today, on the 5th anniversary, the heartbreak is just as inexpressible. I can only imagine the unremitting grief felt by the families who wake up every morning, painfully aware that nothing will ever bring back their little ones. The only moments they see them now are in their dreams, or their imaginations of what they would look like today. They cling to pictures and videos like the priceless items that they are, full of ache that there will be no future memories. Every day that goes by is a reminder that their children were taken too soon, and that Congress has cowardly chosen to turn the other way. Since Sandy Hook, more than 100 bills for gun reform have been shot down – pun ironically intended. In remembering the sweet faces of the first graders who senselessly lost their lives, I also think of the brave teachers and administrators, who, in protecting their students, acted with more courage than any politician ever has. As someone who teaches at an elementary school, I have had to cease naively thinking, “It will never happen here,” because in America, it absolutely can.

Newtown, Connecticut, was once described as “a small scenic town.” Before it became synonymous with “one of the worst mass shootings in history,” it was #4 on the “100 safest cities in America” list. Prior to December 14th, 2012, I had never even heard of it. I wish that were still true. Today, it is a dark reminder that in this country, innocent children can be gunned down in the name of the 2nd amendment. Today, it is a lingering memory of bloodshed and inconceivable tragedy. Most people outside of Newtown have since moved on; unsurprisingly, considering the fact that gun massacres occur in this country at the rate of “Days of Our Lives” episodes.

I believe there are things in life we simply cannot get over. We carry on with our lives because we must, but we do not forget. I had just finished the first semester of my junior year of college when the shooting happened, and I remember turning on the television; watching in horror as the news of Sandy Hook poured across the screen. Within the hour, I had posted a status on Facebook that called for gun control. Immediately, I was attacked for my “lack of compassion,” and my “politicizing of a tragedy.” As is the standard go-to following a mass shooting, I was told that it was a time for “prayer,” and not “politics.” But like many others felt, enough was enough. These first graders dreamed of being astronauts, ballerinas, teachers, singers, firefighters, and police offers; they dreamed of what they were going to get for Christmas, which was only 11 days away. Instead, they spent the final moments of their short lives in absolute terror.

It has since been 1,826 days. In that time, not a single piece of gun control legislation has passed at a federal level. Every time a mass shooting occurs in this country, it is always “too soon” to bring politics into it. We heard this after Virgina Tech. After Orlando. After San Bernardino. After Las Vegas. After Sutherland Springs. It’s always “too soon.” So, how many more days since Sandy Hook must we wait to discuss gun control? In today’s press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to questions about gun legislation by deflecting to talking about tighter U.S. borders and national security. No surprise there. That’s the equivalent of responding to your kitchen being on fire by saying you’re going to make sure your front door is locked. “Whether or not there’s a regulation that could’ve been put in place that could’ve prevented those things, frankly I’m not aware of what that would be.”

“Those things.” Things. Because in this country, a mass shooting truly is just another “thing.” I am well aware that I am not alone in my anger. One of the most insanely frustrating points regarding the gun control debate is how it really is not a debate; the majority of Americans actually do favor measures like background checks, and disallowing mentally ill people, as well as people on federal no-fly/watch lists, from purchasing guns. A majority of Republicans and Democrats also support an assault weapons ban and a federal database to track gun sales. We’re beyond sick of waking up to news of a massacre at a nightclub, at a church, at a concert, at an elementary school. Especially when gun legislation could have lessened the loss of life, if not prevented it all together.

Since Sandy Hook, 1,000 children under the age of 12 have died from gun violence. For reference – that’s one child every 44 hours. In case you need even more reason to think of 2017 as a hellhole year, is has also been the deadliest year for mass killings in the last decade. We don’t even have enough time to fully mourn lives lost in a mass shooting before we’re moving on to the next one. In the last two months alone, two of the five deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred. It seems that we’re par for the course in continually topping those statistics.

Statistics. Oh, how we know our statistics. We’re basically a broken record at this point when it comes to them. “Americans are more likely to die from gun violence than many leading causes of death combined.” “Since Sandy Hook there have been more than 1,500 mass shootings.” “On average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in the U.S.” “Americans own almost half of the world’s guns.” We know all this. At this point, we’re experts on America’s gun problem. But still, we wash, rinse, and repeat after every tragedy; while nailing the glorified 2nd amendment higher up on the wall.

Among the victims of the recent Sutherland Springs church shooting were 8 children and teenagers. It was the highest number of children killed in a mass shooting since Sandy Hook – the youngest victims were a 5-year old and a 1-year old, as well as the unborn baby of a pregnant parishioner. On November 5th, 2018, we’ll mourn the first anniversary of these 26 lives that were lost; but by then, it will have faded into the shadows.


An Abyss of Immorality

In the midst of a hurricane that is ripping the roofs off sexual harassers left and right, two very guilty men are desperately clinging to each other in the eye of the storm. Donald Trump and Roy Moore, who have teamed up and are ready to “MAGA,” may just be lucky enough to escape the ramifications surrounding them, though they deserve to lose everything.

In one week, on December 12th, Alabamians will head to the polls in a special Senate election to cast a vote between Moore, a man who has been credibly accused of multiple accounts of past sexual misconduct with teenage girls – including ones who were underage – and Doug Jones, a Democrat. Of course Doug Jones, the man who prosecuted KKK members responsible for a 1963 bombing of a black church that killed four young girls, is so much more than just a “Democrat,” but according to more than a few Republicans, that is worse than being a child molester. Moore’s defenders would rather have him, in all his pedophiliac glory, then Jones, a “Democrat.” If you still believe there’s morality in the GOP, I would love to know exactly where it is.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had previously denounced Moore, has now taken a more lukewarm position as the election inches closer, saying that he’s “going to let the people of Alabama make the call.” Yesterday, Trump proudly endorsed Moore again when he tweeted: “Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”

The righteousness continued when Senator Orrin Hatch defended Trump’s endorsement by saying that the allegations of sexual misconduct happened “decades ago.” Well, I for one am not surprised that Senator Hatch is choosing to defend Moore, rather than the young girls he targeted. In his recent remarks on whether or not CHIP – the federal program that provides low-cost health insurance to 9 million children – will be funded, Hatch said he has a “rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves.” A note to young kids in this country: though these Republican politicians have ranked an Alabama Senate seat and tax cuts for rich people as more important than ostracizing sexual predators and providing children healthcare, the rest of us will never stop coming to bat for you.

*Halfway through writing this last night, my phone beeped with a New York Times notification that the RNC officially reinstated their support for Moore, though they had initially cut ties with him in the wake of the accusations.

…Again, I welcome any proof of remaining GOP morality.

Unfortunately, Doug Jones couldn’t be running for a seat in a tougher state than Alabama; there hasn’t been a Democratic Senator since 1997, when Howard Heflin retired and was succeeded by Jeff Sessions, our now beloved Attorney General. The term “Democrat” should be used lightly around Heflin; though he was a member of the party, he strongly opposed legal abortion, gun control, and extending federal laws against discrimination to homosexuals, and he supported prayer in public schools. If he hadn’t, he probably wouldn’t have held office. Alabama is a deeply red, conservative, Republican, southern state (roll tide roll!), where not a single Democrat holds statewide office. All members of the state’s Congressional delegation, but one, are Republican. Historically speaking, Alabama is an impossible state for Democrats to make ground in due to the fact that it is inelastic, meaning it is highly insensitive to changes in political conditions. Plus, half of the state’s voters are white evangelicals, who will never vote for a candidate who believes in abortion rights.

Prior to revelations of Moore’s penchant for young girls, ranging from flirtatious behavior at the local mall to sexually assaulting Leigh Corfman and Beverly Young, both underage at the time, the chance of Doug Jones winning the Alabama Senate seat was pretty unlikely. After the news broke about Roy Moore’s predatory history, with story after story flooding in, Democrats dared to believe that this could be the first stop in taking back the Senate.

I want Doug Jones to win this election more than I’ve wanted anything of recent. (Well, besides a female president. And for Jared Kushner to go to prison. And for Twitter to delete Trump’s account. And for the tax bill to burn in hell.) I want to believe that justice will come out on top, with the voters in Alabama making the obvious decision that a pedophile – fine, “alleged pedophile” – has no place at the table. Especially as the exposure of Moore comes at a revolutionary time of reckoning, where prominent males accused of sexual harassment and assault are being knocked down like bowling pins. But then I think about how Trump snaked by after the Access Hollywood tape, and how Republicans have traded the remainder of their moral authority in favor of placing power at the core of their party ideals, and I bitterly believe that Roy Moore will win. I’ve never wanted to be more wrong in my life.

Moore took a page out of his MAGA buddy’s playbook by riding out the wave of accusations, denying everything and aggressively refusing to back out of the race – to the point that he is now back up in the most recent polls. Although some polls have Jones ahead, the fact that Moore has a very real chance of winning should make every single one of us sick. You know things have gone completely upside down when Mitt Romney is one of the few sane voices in the Republican Party, saying, “No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.”

Since Trump took office, America’s honor and integrity has gone through a cheese grater. Not saying that our country didn’t have its problems before the Twitter Shitter took over (thanks again, Helen Kwan, for that nickname), but every single day it feels as if our honor and integrity is being flushed down the toilet. If after next Tuesday, we have another racist, lawless, misogynistic, homophobic, sexual harasser in power, the entire country loses. To preserve what’s left of our moral dignity, we cannot allow this to happen.

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Robbing the Poor to Give to the Rich

“Nothing so diminishes democracy as secrecy.”

I haven’t slept well since Friday. Well, really, since November of last year. But Friday evening, laid up on my couch recovering from the flu, I was filled with anxiety, anger, injustice, and fear for the state of our current affairs. Between refreshing Twitter every few seconds and texting friends and family members about the impending doom of our greedy capitalistic society, the only thing that had been on my mind since the House passed its version was the nightmarish tax overhaul that recently swept through the Senate, 51-49 votes, at 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Talk about secrecy.

A text from my sister read, “$1.5 trillion for nothing. Not bettering our crumbling infrastructure, or our failing schools. Nothing.” Well, not exactly nothing. There is one group of people that this tax bill was specifically designed for and who will be benefiting enormously from it: wealthy people. People like our billionaire Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, and our Presidential First Family, the Trumps. These are the people who can pop bottles of Dom Perignon because they just scored big tax wins on their multi-million dollar estates, private jets, and inheritances – to name a few perks.

It is one thing to add enormously to the deficit in order to fund economic and social programs that will help people in this country who need it; it is another to add to the deficit so Charles and David Koch will pat you on the back as they pocket millions of dollars in tax breaks. That Republicans appear to have lost the word “deficit” from their vocabularies is rightfully laughable, considering that people like House Leader Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t shut up about it when Obama passed the Affordable Care Act (which, keep in mind, did NOT add to the deficit).

Not only is this bill the most significant tax rewrite in history, it skittered through the Senate like a disgusting coach roach – with Democrats being denied the time to thoroughly examine amendments and additions that were scribbled in literally minutes before a vote took place. Never in legislative history has a bill this consequential been rushed through without proper and fair scrutinization from both parties. This bill, or “TaxScamBill” as it was trending on Twitter, eliminates necessary provisions (like the individual healthcare mandate) that have ameliorated the lives of millions of Americans, for the goal of making the richest 1% in this country even richer. In addition to cutting, it will effectively phase out the individual tax cuts by 2025, causing millions of middle and lower-class Americans to see a significant hike in their taxes.

At least hedge-fund managers and private-equity tycoons will now get to pay a lower tax rate on their profits than the one many middle-class families face. Thank the GOP for that.

I was not the least bit surprised when one-by-one, our “heroic” Republicans, who Democrats so fervently believed would save the day, succumbed to their true political natures and revealed themselves to be who they have been all along. With the exception of the retiring Bob Corker, every single Senate Republican voted without batting an eye to pass a tax bill that will give permanent cuts to corporations, as well as a majority of cuts to the very wealthiest, at the expense of the middle and lower classes. All in the name of “trickle-down economics”: an archaic, economic idea that should be banned from future use for its lack of legitimacy in providing the outcome it theoretically promises. In practice, trickle-down economics does not, and never will, work. Giving more money via tax breaks to the top, with the idea that it will eventually “trickle down” to the middle and lower-income classes through means such as the addition of jobs, higher wages, and investment in capital, is a theory that Republicans falsely cling to in order to give their rich donors more tax cuts. If trickle-down actually worked, then in a country where the rich keep getting richer (i.e. the United States of America), there would not be the currently existing income gap that is widening between the top and bottom economic classes. Our current capitalistic system doesn’t work like a champagne tower, with benefits flowing down from the top to the bottom. It’s a river with a big ol’ dam – and that dam just got bigger.

In order to serve the interests of a few, Republicans are sacrificing the interests of the many. This is the system our government has gravitated toward as its strings are increasingly pulled behind the scenes by a handful of the richest and the most powerful. It is only the beginning: make no mistake that next on the list for the GOP – and their puppet masters – is the complete elimination of Democratic-championed social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and social security, which will already have taken hits after the implementation of the tax reform bill. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, having temporarily “forgotten” about the deficit as they constructed their respective bills, will miraculously remember it when they go to town on the cost of these programs. Senator Collins, guess what? Those cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that you were “promised” wouldn’t happen are already happening.

I wish this were only my opinion. I wish I could say it was an exaggeration and I’m just an “angry Democrat” – mad that my team lost. But it’s not just me. It’s non-partisan centers like the Congressional Budget Office and the Tax Policy Center. It’s every Democrat in office. It’s 13 House Republicans and 1 Senate Republican. It’s Socialists. It’s millions of Republican voters. This bill had a 25% approval rating – almost on par with that of our President, who’s currently in the thick of the biggest scandal since Watergate.

This tax bill is a prime example of how our government chooses the interests of lobbyists, corporations, and rich individuals . Throughout the weekend, I watched Robert Reich’s “Saving Capitalism” documentary a total of four times. I admire Robert Reich. But truth is, I don’t know if capitalism can be saved. Perhaps what is inherently wrong with the system is just the system itself. As a Democrat, I want to believe that my politicians will ride in on their horses and save the day. I want to believe that the American people still have power, and we can make our government work for us. I want to believe we can hold onto a basic principle at the heart of this country: if you work hard, you’ll get ahead. I think about how my frustration with the “system” is echoing the popular discontent that got us Donald Trump, and for the fortieth time this weekend I want to bury myself under the covers and never leave.

I know, I know. I can’t do that. I (and the rest of us) should be looking toward the 2018 elections. Democrats need to flip 24 seats in the House and 3 seats in the Senate. A special Senate election is coming up in Alabama on December 12th, and in a just world, Doug Jones will kick Roy Moore’s pedophiliac ass and give Democrats a much-needed victory. I’m not going to hold my breath on it. I am, however, focusing my attention on the 7 Republican district seats in my home state of California, where there is opportunity for change.

There are a lot of people in this country who will undoubtedly suffer once this bill has its final pass through the House and is signed into law by the man my mother refers to as “The Twitter Shitter.” If you’re angry like I am, please do not sit back in your anger. If you feel, “What’s the point?” – I get it. I really do. Though I’m unsure of what the future holds, I am definitely sure that if we maintain this belief of “there is no point,” then we have already lost. There is a point if we make one, and hang onto it with what we’ve got.

America: Where Asians Exist Everywhere But Hollywood

What do Tilda Swinton, Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Chatwin, Jim Sturgess, Elizabeth Banks, Mackenzie Davis, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Cruise have in common?

  • If you guessed: They are all Hollywood actors and actresses, you are correct.
  • If you guessed: They have all starred in major films in the past decade, you are also correct.
  • If you guessed: They are all white actors and actresses who have played Asian characters in recent films, you hit the nail on the head.

As a mixed-race Asian actress living in Los Angeles, I am here to proclaim from the top of the Hollywood sign to all those below that we are still moving at a snail’s pace as far as Asian representation in film and television. Just when it seems like we have made progress (i.e. the success of Asian American led television shows, Master of None and Off the Boat), we take a giant tumble backwards (i.e. Scarlett Johansson in Ghost and the Shell, Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, and the castings of Rose Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel and Zach McGowan in Ni’ihau in upcoming productions).

For decades, Hollywood has been guilty of whitewashing Asian characters. With last year’s #OscarsSoWhite, it was brought to our nation’s attention that Hollywood has an affinity for its white actors and actresses. (Well, actresses under 40.) However, when a fiery conversation was sparked concerning the absolute lack of nominations for actors and actresses of color, accompanied by a persistent underrepresentation of minorities in television and film, Asians were one group left out of the conversation. (It’s not to say they were the only one – Latinos, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders are examples of other minority groups that were left out.) Chris Rock pointed out multiple times throughout his 2016 Oscar host performance that there were no black nominees, while simultaneously perpetuating Asian stereotypes through cheap, racist jokes. He said, “We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it. Not just once. Leo gets a great part every year. All you guys get great parts all the time. But what about the black actors?” While I don’t disagree that black actors should have the same opportunities as white actor, it is discontenting to hear conversations centered on the issue of race involve only black people and white people. We’re a melting pot here, remember?

After the significantly less-white 2017 Oscar nominations were released, Octavia Spencer, a black actress who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, remarked, “I don’t feel there’s a lot of diversity. There’s black and white. But there are a lot more people of color than African Americans. …there’s so much more to diversity than being black or white.” Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Association, celebrated the 18 across-the-board African American nominations (all incredibly well-deserved), but also made it a point to note, “Now we just have to make sure that Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, LGBT and others also are represented in the future.”

Unfortunately, we’re not all on the same page as Ms. Spencer and Mr. Robertson. Following up the Oscar nominations were headlines that read: “Not So White After All: Oscar Nominations End Diversity Drought With New Honorees” and “Oscars 2017: Nominations Reflect Broader Diversity” – the articles’ content bestowing a literary slap on the back to the Oscars for fixing Hollywood’s obsession with white actors and actresses. We’re about as close to resolving the issue of accurate and fair representation as we are to Donald Trump deleting his twitter in repentance. This year there were six black actor nominees and one Indian actor of British descent, but it would be remiss to claim that every minority group considers this “broader diversity,” especially the ones who were not even included in any category.

Oscar winning Asian actors are currently tied 3-3 with white actors winning Oscars for playing Asian roles. More white actresses have won Oscars for playing Asian roles than Asian women have won for playing any role ever. Only one Asian woman in the history of 89 years of Oscars has even been nominated for Best Actress. Merle Oberons is the sole occupant in that category, and is most likely rolling over in her grave due to the fact that nothing has changed since 1935. With the inclusion of Dev Patel’s 2017 nomination for Best Supporting Actor, the grand total of nominations for Asian actors in 89 years of Oscar ceremonies is a mere thirteen. Asians comprise 1% of the entire history of Oscar nominations, making us the Waltons and Koch brothers of Hollywood. Although, of course, their 1% status puts them at the top of the food chain, so this comparison really ended before it even began. Reminds me of how this “Diversity Drought” miraculously ended before “Diversity” actually began.

All that aside, there’s a reason Asian actors have such an infinitesimal number of nominations: we can’t even get cast in roles that would in turn give us opportunities for awards. Even in our current day and age, Asians receive 1/20 speaking roles and 1% of lead roles in films. Hollywood hasn’t come close to “ending the diversity drought” when a group that currently comprises 21 million people in this country are severely underrepresented in television and film: an art form whose purpose is to serve as a reflection of our culture and society.

America’s diversity remains on the rise, with all racial and ethnic minority groups growing faster than the growth of whites. Thanks to international migration, Asians have been the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population since 2000, the turn of the century. But prior to Off the Boat, Dr. Ken, and Master of None, three Asian-American led series since 2015 (though Dr. Ken was recently cancelled after its second season), there hadn’t been an Asian American-led series since Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl in 1994. In 2015 alone, 49 out of the top 100 films didn’t feature a single Asian or Asian-American character. Many films take place in our most diverse cities – New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago – yet so many of them are incredibly stark white. I don’t recall the last time I went to any of those cities and didn’t bump into a single Asian person, but I applaud the movie Carol for being set in an alternate-universe New York City where no Asian people exist. Even Wyoming, the least populated state and one most people probably couldn’t pinpoint on a map, has over six thousand Asian residents. (Side note: Wyoming was also the first state to give women voting rights.)

For the film and television shows that do include Asian characters, it is not satisfactory when that character is the “token” Asian, especially if there were other Asian roles available that went to white actors. (I’m looking directly at you, The Martian.) Is Hollywood afraid that if there are two or more Asian actors in a pre-dominantly white cast they will, what, stage a coup? If a cast includes more than one Asian actor, it will help in normalizing those roles by eliminating racist and stereotypical tropes. It is important to note that there is a significant difference between the Asian experience and the Asian-American experience, and refusing to give American-born Asians opportunities to play American characters whose existences serve a purpose other than “being Asian” fuels this view that normal, every day Americans are only white. The parts that Asian actors manage to nab tend to stereotypically feature the women in quiet, submissive roles like prostitutes, masseuses and assistants, and the men in highly-emasculated, sex-less roles like tech geeks or stoner sidekicks.

Speaking financially, when there are Asian characters in movies, it has nothing to do with Hollywood executives cherishing the value of diversity and everything to do with China being the world’s second-largest film market. Movies are not box office jackpots like they once were, and in an attempt to generate more financial success by appealing to a Chinese audience, executives will throw a few Asians in background roles. The mindset of these studios has not changed so far as believing that Asian actors are just as capable of being movie stars as white actors. But if they really want the key to higher box office successes, they should go further in their consideration of who is sitting in the audience. Film audiences are diverse, and they want to see more characters they identify with portrayed on screen – and not just as forgettable, background objects.  In 2016, Asians over-represented the most of any group in terms of per capita ticket buying. Along with African-Americans, Asians showed up strongly to major movies that featured greater diversity in casting and subject matter.

A 2016 study by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that films with diverse leads were the highest-grossing ones at the box office, and also resulted in higher returns of investment for studios and producers, once again dispelling the myth that movies can’t have minority leads because moviegoers won’t pay to see them. Personally speaking, I’m much more inclined to see any movie starring Idris Elba or John Cho than Chris Hemsworth, (who plays the same abs-of-steel, macho character every time). The study also included the effect of diversity on TV ratings: broadcast TV shows with majority non-white casts scored the highest ratings among the 18-49 audience bracket. At this point we should change the Hollywood sign to say: Film and Television is Successful When the Casts and Story Lines are Diverse Enough to Resonate With the People Watching.

In my experience as a mixed-race actress, I have come up against my own obstacles. I have tended to view my lack of auditions for lead roles as a result of being relatively new to the industry, rather than the fact that I am neither a white nor a black actress. However, I am not naïve to the existing inequality in casting Asian leads (I did just write an entire piece on it), and I am also aware of occasionally finding myself stuck in the middle-of-the-road because of my mixed ethnicity. Sometimes I’m not Asian enough for Asian roles, and I’m definitely never white enough for white roles. On the contrary, I’ve heard Asian actresses discuss how they’re too Asian for Asian roles, often losing out to mixed race actresses who have a more “ethnically ambiguous” look. (I do wish Emma Stone had thrown down that she’s neither too Asian nor Asian enough to have played mixed race character, Allison Ng, in Aloha – she’s simply not Asian at all.)

Though I may be newer to film and television, many Asian actors and actresses have been hustling for years and continue to report their frustration with a lack of lead roles. It’s hard to believe that Hollywood is changing at a pace we need it to when directors like Max Landis (Ghost in the Shell) defend whitewashing by saying, “There are no A-list female Asian celebrities right now on an international level.” Studios need to take more chances on Asian actors and actresses, much like they did with the Judd Apatow-Jonah Hill-Seth Rogen trio (ushering in a vulgar new era of mainstream comedy), or like they did with the metamorphosis of television-comedy-actor-Chris-Pratt into mega-watt-movie star-Christ-Pratt. They also need to stop whitewashing. I’ll say it again, for the ones in the back: studios need to stop whitewashing. I will point out that recently, a ray of hope cut through my dark cloud of pessimism when I read, “Hellboy actor Ed Skrein steps down from role after whitewashing criticism,” and later, “Daniel Dae Kim to Replace Ed Skrein in ‘Hellboy’ Reboot.” 

I understand that not everyone is ready and willing to do what Ed Skrein did. Some people in Hollywood may even take to their death beds this rock-hard belief that Asians cannot be center stage. But men like Aaron Sorkin, who believe “there are no Asian movie stars,” should consider this: if people can take a chance on a Presidential candidate who is a reality-star, populist-posing, real-estate billionaire, they can handle having more Asian actors as leads in television and film.


This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, though many of us may still be luxuriating in our post-holiday coma. We’ve baked pies, poured wine, carved turkeys, and celebrated an American tradition with our friends and families. We’ve also taken pause to count our blessings and reflect on what we are “thankful” for, especially as we head into the final weeks of the year. For many of us, Thanksgiving this year was unmarked by anything particularly paramount. It’s the second one since Trump was elected President, so at the very least, those of us who oppose him already had down one Thanksgiving of dealing with our MAGA hat-wearing uncle or our “Crooked Hillary” spewing aunt. We’ve also had the pleasure of passing the one-year mark since that disastrous November day when 65,844,954 Americans felt their stomachs drop as the country flipped upside down – and has yet to flip back up.

Prior to the reality of a Trump White House, more than a few resounding statements were made along the lines of: “If Trump wins, I’m moving to Canada/Australia.” But of course after the unthinkable happened, those who so fervently made such decrees forewent a rebellious move to the Great White North or the Land Down Under. As vehemently as we may detest our political situation, America is our home and we are not packing our bags despite having a President who, in the spirit of this holiday, once tweeted “Happy Thanksgiving to all–even the haters and losers!” For many of us, this Thanksgiving was simply another one. For hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants in America, it could be one of their last, if not the last. For millions of people fleeing persecution in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in the post–World War II era, Thanksgiving is something they will never experience because they will never be allowed in this country.

I remember learning in grade school about the European Pilgrims and the New England Indians; every year re-enacting the story of how the Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts and were welcomed by the friendly Indians who lived there. They came together with a celebratory meal of gratitude for the new friendship that was formed, sharing their respective knowledge and culture with one another and co-existing harmoniously. (When I was younger, political correctness wasn’t quite what it is today so we were still allowed to do things like dress up and refer to Native Americans broadly as “Indians.”) It wasn’t until high school that I learned the actual origins of Thanksgiving, which came during a time when my political beliefs began to tilt further and further left. My anger toward Christian conservatives (a redundant phrase) and their antithetical beliefs on religion and immigration was fueled by the falseness of the Thanksgiving tale that many of us grew up with.

Let’s say we accept the story of the Indians welcoming the Pilgrims to their land in the early 1600s, teaching them to farm and providing them with the necessary skills to survive in a new country. The Pilgrims sought a better life for themselves and their future generations, but needed a helping hand in order to do so. Fast forward about four centuries later, and one of the most vicious debates in America is immigration reform; including what to do with the hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants in this country. Many Americans celebrate a holiday based on a story of Indians welcoming white Christian settlers to this land, while simultaneously screaming for stricter immigration laws, regardless of how they would devastate those at the center of the target.

For a country brimming with citizens whose predecessors immigrated to America from all over the world, it is darkly ironic that we are constantly at a heated crossroads concerning our immigration policies. We are a nation that has experienced waves of immigration throughout our history, yet so often nowadays we are subjected to a message of fear and a depiction of immigrants and refugees as criminals and terrorists who will take over America and burn it to the ground. For reference, the chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion per year. Unfortunately each time we suffer a terrorist attack by a radical member of a certain faith (hint: Muslim), members of the Republican Party whose goal is to advance anti-immigration (specifically anti-Muslim) legislation seize upon the tragedy.

In the aftermath of the September 11th attack, the Bush administration systematically perpetrated racial abuse against Muslims, both on foreign soil and at home, opening a door for an anti-Muslim sentiment that pervades the belief systems of many Americans. Donald Trump used it to run on a platform of aggressive and violent rhetoric, often aimed directly at fueling the hostility of his voter base toward immigrants and immigration. After the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Millions of Americans voted for a man who promised to ban certain groups from entering the U.S., and who has attempted to make good on his promise by pushing various forms of a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries.

On November 1st, after the recent New York terrorist attack, Trump announced his desire to terminate the Diversity Visa Lottery; a program that distributes 50,000 visas to countries with a low rate of immigration to the U.S. “Sounds nice, it is not nice. It is not good,” he eloquently argued while proclaiming his decision. During one of his anti-immigration tirades of the 2016 election, he infamously called Mexicans “drug dealers,” “criminals,” and “rapists,” going so far as to bring up on stage a group he referred to as “angel moms”: bereaved parents of individuals who lost their lives to “illegal aliens.” Trump appeals to a base of Americans who falsely believe that undocumented – as well as documented – immigrants pose a huge danger to society, and he uses any attack by non-white civilians as evidence to support his racist platform. He also appeals to those whose anti-immigration sentiment stems from an irrational belief that immigrants use up government resources and are nothing but baggage on our economy; a lie that conservatives propagate when calling for harsher reform.

Immigration was central to the 2016 election, but has been a hot button topic in this country for years. Contrary to popular belief, foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course. First-generation immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than are native-born Americans, and there’s no correlation between immigrant populations and violent crime. The 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in America make up about a quarter of the foreign-born U.S. population, according to 2015 estimates. Over 65% of them have been in America for a decade or longer, negating the myth used to spark fear that higher numbers of unauthorized immigrants are flooding into the country than ever before.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, one-third of people who are age 15 or older and staying in the U.S. without authorization live with at least one child under the age of 18 who is a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately there is no current legislation to protect undocumented parents of legal citizen status children, as President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) had never been successfully implemented, and was finally revoked in June of this year by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. A little over one-quarter of undocumented immigrants (around 3.7 million) would have been eligible for DAPA but are still at risk of deportation and are unable to secure legal work in the U.S.

Despite the failure of DAPA, in 2012, one of President Obama’s most notable legislative accomplishments was signed into law. It was called the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA), and it was created to give young people brought to this country illegally by their parents a temporary reprieve from deportation by receiving permission to work, study and obtain driver’s licenses. DACA has helped more than 800,000 undocumented young people (referred to as “dreamers”) receive protection through the program.

In early September, just after its 5-year anniversary, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration was rescinding DACA. The administration ended new DACA applications on September 5th, accepting renewal applications for a month after. On October 5th, officials announced that they are no longer accepting any more applications. The complete termination of the program was put on hold for six months, with Trump repeatedly maintaining that it is up to Congress to decide the fate of the dreamers. If Congress does not put forth a plan by March 6th, 2018, 983 undocumented dreamers will lose their protected status every day. As many DACA recipients have come out of the shadows in the last five years to obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college and legally secure jobs, they have also given up their secrecy and now face unavoidable deportation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Trump administration has flipped back and forth on its stance on DACA and dreamers, but ultimately gave in to conservative pressure for stricter immigration controls, as well as cowering to the 10 state attorneys general who had threatened to sue the administration if Trump did not rescind DACA by September. During a closed-door White House meeting in early November, President Trump and GOP senators conspired that they would not include a DACA fix as part of the end-of-the-year spending bill. In an effort to appeal to a Republican desire for increased border security and a Democratic push to legalize the immigration status of individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, some Senate Republicans (such as Lindsey Graham) are working with Senate Democrats to create a bipartisan coalition and provide the solution that DACA recipients need. With a possible December government shutdown on the horizon, it remains to be seen what will happen to the fate of DACA.

In the spirit of this recent Thanksgiving, let’s not forget that prior to the European invasion of North America, this was not our land to begin with. Though I do not believe we must take full responsibility for the sins of our forefathers who, in creating the United States of America, did so through settler colonialism and oftentimes bloodshed, we are responsible for the message we send to the rest of the world regarding those who seek a better life. We are responsible for protecting the young undocumented immigrants in this country, who grew up here and are American in every aspect but legally. We are responsible for extending a hand to those who need it, as they are forced to flee from their home countries, ravaged by war and terrorism. The roots of our country’s history often seem to be forgotten, but we must always remember that our nation’s economic prosperity and innovative accomplishments are a result of being a  welcome mat to the rest of the world. We cannot cast off our image as a beacon of hope for a better future; we must instead dispel the current administration’s hateful and racist rhetoric and remain upright in our clashing of American ideals.

Houston, We Have a Male Problem

The recent explosion of sexual misconduct allegations has made one thing very clear: we need more women in power.

We also need men who don’t harass and assault. It seems like every other day now we’re waking up to news about a powerful male in politics or media or entertainment or sports or tech or (insert industry) who stands accused of sexual misconduct. It starts with one woman (or man) stepping forward to tell her or his story, and it knocks over a domino, releasing a cascade of dark secrets that expose whichever male has been thrust into the spotlight.

We’ve discussed endlessly about how it’s not a Republican problem (although our current President is on record bragging about assaulting women), it’s not a Democrat problem, it’s not a Hollywood problem, and it’s not a rich white male problem – it’s a male problem. Yes, many of the men on the rapidly growing list of men accused of sexual misconduct are rich, powerful, white men; however, it is still an overall systemic issue brought about by a patriarchal society. From Harvey Weinstein to Roger Ailes to Bill Cosby to Donald Trump to Roy Moore to Mark Halperin to Bill O’Reilly to Louis C.K. – the problem of men treating women as objects for their pleasure has finally boiled to the surface during an already tumultuous time in America.

When I first saw the headline for Leeann Tweeden’s story in KABC, “Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It,” I almost couldn’t bring myself to read it. I have been a long-time fan of Senator Franken, appreciating his self-labeled “straight shooter” attitude and his candid way of calling out Republican BS. (Franken’s well-known humor comes from his pre-political career as a comic.) But my admiration for Franken primarily derived from the fact that he is a Democrat who has championed women’s rights and touted legislation concerning domestic violence and sexual assault. In the wake of the Weinstein fallout, his statement on the victims included this: “It takes a lot of courage to come forward, and we owe them our thanks. And as we hear more and more about Mr. Weinstein, it’s important to remember that while his behavior was appalling, it’s far too common.” I did not want to know that Senator Franken’s name might be the next one added to the list of “Men Who Shouldn’t Be in Power Anymore.” I’ll admit that even after I read the story, I was relieved that he wasn’t accused of masturbating in front of anyone (ala Louis C.K. style) or molesting underage girls (ala Roy Moore style). He also didn’t come close to the degree of Harvey Weinstein.

Franken has released two statements in the wake of the accusations against him; the first being frustratingly insufficient in that it commenced with the classic “I don’t remember, but -” clause that seems to be a lifeline many men accused of similar behavior cling to. The second, however, offered a more sincere apology as Franken called for an ethics investigation into his offenses, stating that he will “gladly cooperate.” He continued by saying, “and the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”

But as Franken himself has said, behavior like Weinstein’s is “far too common,” and we are finally beginning to have a long overdue national conversation about the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment and how we progressively move forward. Though Franken’s actions are not as monstrous as others’ who have recently had the rug pulled out from under them, they cannot be ignored or responded to do with a slap on the wrist. To do so would be to perpetuate the idea that sexual misconduct should only be taken seriously if it involves rape or multiple allegations of harassment. Even then, not enough is done.

To reiterate: I’m not equating this seemingly isolated incident of Franken’s inappropriate behavior when he was working as a comedian with long-standing patterns of pervasive sexual behavior. I understand how easy it would be to let him off the hook by chalking his actions up to “a tasteless joke,” as many supporting him are calling it. In the comment section of a New York Times article about Franken, one commenter wrote, “Some distinction should be made between rare crossing the line and years of chronic abusive behavior. He may in fact be an example of a man that has learned and grown and can teach others.” Another commenter, who began by explaining that he and his wife were both victims of violent sexual abuse, wrote, “I am starting to feel as though the seriousness of the crimes that victimized me and my wife feels lessened when we start terming any unwanted advance as ‘assault’, and any victim of unwanted advances as ‘ being violated’. It makes me question, how many ‘me too-ers’ suffered simple indignities of crude behavior and unwanted kisses, vs actually getting assaulted. We as a society needs to have a conversation, great, but I no longer feel that we are having a conversation about sexual violence, but rather, about how crass many men are.”

It is not anyone’s place to decide how a victim should get to feel, but a problem with this criticism of our current conversation on sexual misconduct is that the issue is not black and white.  It’s not “rape” and “not rape”; it is an umbrella term that includes acts of rape and other assault, fondling, stalking, voyuerism, harassment, and more. Part of me agrees with these comments, because I do believe that we are at a potential tipping point in the “Me Too” movement where rape victims will feel that they have been thrown in the same category as anyone who has been a victim of less severe sexual misconduct, i.e. cat-calling. But the point of the “Me Too” movement is not to compare and contrast, but to call out all forms of sexual misconduct and fight back against this issue that pervades our society. Simply because one thing is not as bad as another does not mean they should not all have repercussions, and ones that go further than “issuing a heart-felt apology.” If we argue that in doing so we will be left with a lot of empty seats at the table, is that really so bad?

The question that we are now grappling with is what to do with men like Al Franken, guilty of sexual misconduct of a lighter degree and with a strong track record of being an ally to women. We need to come up with an answer: not just as a solution for how to handle Franken, but also one that will set a precedent for inevitable future allegations against men who are guilty of similar behavior. Especially those in positions of power. One incredibly frustrating thing with being a Democrat is the fact that Democrats are held to a higher moral standard than Republicans are, as we are the party that supports equal rights for women and are the voices on the forefront of the “believe women” movement. I have heard over and over again that if we are so readily able to condemn those guilty of sexual misconduct on the right, we must do the same with those on the left. To be fair: since Weinstein, that has mainly been the case. It is reasonable to look at what has happened the past few months and see how men like Weinstein, Louis C.K., and Kevin Spacey (all liberal Hollywood men) were condemned swiftly by both the left and the right, whereas Republicans like Roy Moore are being defended by the right and could possibly still win election next year. Another Republican-Donald Trump-became the President of the United States despite being caught on tape boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Furthermore, it is hard not to keep jumping on the fact that the accusations against men like Moore and Weinstein are exceptionally worse than the ones against Franken and C.K., both of whom have also issued apologies and owned up to the accusations. (Meanwhile, Moore has declared war on those who believe he is guilty and is blazing forward with his run for Senate.)

This back-and-forth has been wreacking havoc on my mind since the news on Franken broke, accompanied by an ire in reading hypocritical tweets from Trump condemning Franken. Trump has stayed silent on the accusations regarding Moore, claiming that he doesn’t have a comment because he doesn’t “get to watch much television.” Yet when Franken momentarily became the center of our country’s sexual misconduct problem, Trump, who has been accused himself by more than 12 women of assault, quickly took to Twitter to take Franken down.

This is also part of the issue. If we focus on this “injustice” and our vexation of right-wing hypocrisy in gleefully rebuking those on the left, we are guilty of treating this as a partisan issue. If we focus on comparing and contrasting the severity of behavior to determine whether or not these men should be kicked out of their positions of power, we are guilty of continuing to give men a break by treating them better than we treat women. Our focal point should be on the fact that they mistreated women because we live in a society that has allowed them to – and it needs to end. Of course what Roy Moore is accused of is much worse than what Al Franken did. Of course it is insanely frustrating that right-wing media is attempting to bring Bill Clinton’s past sexual misconduct allegations to the center of the table yet refuse to acknowledge the allegations against our current President. But we cannot shape this problem to revolve around the varying levels of harassment and assault, attempting to create a spectrum that would determine how much these men should fall from grace. What these men have in common is that they have all taken advantage of the privilege and power that comes with being a member of their sex, and we cannot lose sight of that offense. We must deal with it in a way that will send a very clear message to all those who have yet to be exposed for past, present, or future behavior by showing that there will be consequences to face. With that being said, I believe that Franken, and anyone guilty of similar or worse behavior, should step down. It is an important course of action in remedying this issue and changing the power structure in our society. The undeniable truth is that they are all replaceable and they should be replaced.

This brings me back to my opening statement: we need more women in power. Or men who don’t assault and harass. It is as simple as that. As a Democrat, I implore all of us, but especially fellow Democrats, to hold our politicians to the same high moral standards. To hold men accountable in a way that will actually have an impact on this issue. Franken is a great Senator and although he appears to be genuinely sorry for his actions, there are plenty of people out there who are not guilty of sexual misconduct. Women, in particular, who are just as accomplished, smart, resourceful, and capable of leading as any of these men are. More importantly, they are devoid of a history of harassing and assaulting people.

Here’s our answer to Franken and Trump and Moore and whoever else is next: we’re going to have more women in politics. As CEOs. As journalists. As tech and media moguls. As directors and screenwriters. As President of the United States. That’s the future we should strive for; and in the meantime, we should clear out these spots at the head table and fill them with people who deserve to be there.






4 Things to Know This Week

1. Roy Moore Sexual Assault Allegations

Moore, a right-wing Christian conservative, former Alabama state judge, and current candidate for Senate, has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault and harassment when they were teenagers. Leigh Corfman was as young as 14 when Moore took her to his home and molested her. Some Senate Republicans have officially denounced Moore (including Mitch McConnell, Bob Corker, John McCain, Jeff Flake, Susan Collins) while others have denounced him “if the allegations are true.” On the other side, Alabama Republican politicians are defending Moore through various arguments that include “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter” and “you can’t be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion”. Others believe that even if the allegations are true, it is better to have Moore than a Democratic Senator. Even Sean Hannity threw his hat in the ring to defend Roy Moore, prompting sponsors like Keurig and Bounty to withdraw their ads from the Hannity show. (Hannity update: he continues to flip flop on his “defense” of Moore.)

Roy Moore has not dropped out of the Alabama Senate race at this time.

2. Republicans Unveil Their Latest Tax Bill: Healthcare Slashing Included

The revised version of the GOP Tax Plan will include a repeal of the individual mandate required under Obamacare (Senate’s version of the tax bill). As a way to cover the $1.5 trillion tax cut laid out in the bill, the federal government would no longer require every American to have health insurance – generating $388 billion over 10 years in health subsidies savings, but at the expense of 13 million Americans losing coverage. This will substantially raise premiums, as healthier people drop out of the market causing insurers to raise prices.

The GOP Tax Plan, paraded by Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as one that is designed for “the middle class”, includes permanent cuts to tax rates for corporations (from 35% to 20%), and would give the overall largest tax cuts to higher-income households. Over 50% of the tax cuts would go to the top 1% of households by 2027. Republicans argue that providing tax relief for corporations will benefit the middle class through the unsubstantiated principle of “trickle-down-economics”. However, economists do not believe that this old-school theory even applies to the new tax plan, as the business tax cuts aren’t focused on new business investments (i.e. creating more jobs, boosting employee wages), but instead are focused on things like giving a low 12% tax rate for any money that corporations bring back to the U.S. from overseas.

Who else will be hurt by the GOP tax plan?

According to the latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey, 54 percent of Democrat and Republican voters say they oppose the Republican tax reform bill because they believe it will hurt them financially.

On Thursday, November 16th, the House passed its version of the tax bill. Up next is the Senate. 

3. Australia Votes YES on Same-Sex Postal Survey

The results of the non-binding postal survey were released on Tuesday, November 14th with 61.6% of Australians voting “yes” to legalizing same-sex marriage. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbell is now calling upon the Australian parliament to pass a marriage equality bill by Christmas. The bill is currently being drawn and battled over, with conservatives and anti-gay marriage advocates calling for a same-sex marriage bill to include extensive religious protections – similar to how the Trump Administration rolled back the Obama-era birth control mandate, allowing employers to deny birth control coverage on religious grounds.

4. Donald Trump Jr. + Wikileaks

In the midst of Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump Campaign’s collusion with Russia – resulting in an unlawful interference in the 2016 election – it is now known that Donald Trump Jr. was in correspondence with WikiLeaks via direct message on Twitter, and was provided Russia-hacked materials to release to the public. Wikileaks, a hacker organization founded by foreign national Julian Assange, began sending Trump Jr. messages on Twitter in September of 2016, and continued to correspond with him over the course of the next 10 months. Although the messages are mainly one-sided (WikiLeaks sent multiple DM’s, many which Trump Jr. did not respond to), Trump Jr.’s few interactions made it apparent that the campaign was open to working with WikiLeaks – and he even passed along some of the information he was given.

Back in January, U.S. intelligence officials reported with certainty that WikiLeaks worked directly with Russian officials to release stolen emails from the 2016 Democratic National Convention. What Trump Jr.’s correspondence with WikiLeaks points to is further proof that the Trump campaign was in communication with foreign nationals, but more importantly that these particular instances can be seen as a violation of campaign-finance laws. Foreigners are banned from donating money or “anything of value” to a campaign. That same campaign-finance law also forbids campaign officials from offering assistance to foreign nationals.


An Invisible Illness

It was August of 2009, and the start of the new school year was underway. The first football game was approaching and theatre auditions for the fall musical were in session. Seniors were excitedly beginning to prepare their post-high school plans. Summer was fading away as fall took its place, the seasons melting into each other as the autumnal change brought with it a fevered anticipation for the upcoming semester. In the midst of this otherwise normal time, Kathleen, one of my best friends and current roommate in Los Angeles, began experiencing severe pain in her feet. Continue reading “An Invisible Illness”

The Secretary of Education Devos-tation

If you ever find yourself up for Secretary of Education – responsible for establishing policy, administering federal assistance to public schools, and enforcing federal education law – please do our students a favor and have at minimum a basic understanding and respect of public education. This week’s spotlight on “Worst Pick Ever” Trump cabinet member is current Secretary of Education: Betsy Devos.

Even before assuming office, it was clear from the start that Devos was probably the most unqualified person to be the next Secretary of Education. If she were a Harry Potter character she’d be Dolores Umbridge. Backtracking to her Senate hearing in January, numerous red flags were raised while she was questioned by the Senate panel. Notably, Devos was confused when asked about the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act – a federal law that protects students with disabilities. It was evident that she had no idea the IDEA was federal law, as her response to the question regarding how to serve the educational needs of eligible students with disabilities was “that it is a matter that is best left to the states.” When pressed as to whether or not she had ever heard of IDEA as it pertains to federal law, she admitted she “may have confused it.” Devos also caused a headache when she demonstrated that she did not know the difference between proficiency and growth, a key part of assessing performance in public schools. But why would she have been aware of a subject that has been on the debate floor in the education community for years when she has no vested interest in public schools?

Devos, a billionaire heiress/philanthropist/lobbyist and major right-wing donor has never once attended public schools nor sent her children to public schools, and she has no experience as a public educator or policy maker. A devout Evangelical Christian, Devos has donated millions of dollars to Christian schools and spent millions more in her home state of Michigan in an attempt to push forward voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for charter and private schools, including religious ones. In addition, she has fought for eliminating any oversight and accountability, which would enable these schools to implement a more religious agenda and teachings with little fear of facing consequences for breaking rules. She was quoted last year saying, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.” Devos’ commitment to religious education is a danger to the already blurred principle of separation of church and state. This is in no means an attack on freedom of religion, but a necessary reiteration that taxpayer funds have absolutely no business being used for religious education purposes. Side note: imagine the outrage from the right if the religious schools receiving taxpayer funds were Islamic ones.

The massive amount of money Devos has spent to push for vouchers and school choice – along with her belief in an unbridled “free-market” system of public education – has made it clear that her sights are set on privatizing public education. When questioned in the Senate hearing as to whether or not she could commit to a promise that she would not take funding from traditional public schools and funnel it into charter and private schools, Devos did not commit. Traditional public schools are already severely underfunded, at a federal and state level. As someone who works in public education, I am not denying that our current public school system is deeply flawed and failing to meet the needs of many students. However, Devos’ vision for the future of education in America would involve stripping our public schools of crucial funds that would further destabilize and dismantle them. Rather, we should focus on increasing funding to schools that largely service under-resourced children, along with better management of how those funds are used.

Thankfully, her agenda to implement school choice – the idea that parents should be able to decide where their children go to school – has been unsuccessfully pushed through Congress thus far.  As she stated in a speech on September 28th at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, “after eight months in Washington – and three decades working in states – I know if Washington tries to mandate ‘choice,’ all we’ll end up with is a mountain of mediocrity, a surge of spending and a bloat of bureaucracy to go along with it.” A quick note on school choice: although a positive policy in theory, it is much harder to achieve in reality due to the already large educational gap between children from different economic backgrounds, those with or without special needs, and ESL students. Expanding school choice in its current state would lead to further segregation in schools and harm already disadvantaged students whose families would not be able to take advantage of tax vouchers. Barriers such as financial limitations and a lack of informed decision-making do not allow low-income and immigrant families to benefit from school choice. Its practicality also relies heavily on population density – a child in a large metropolitan city will have many more options for schools in a reasonable radius of travel than a child in a smaller city or rural area.

In reaching a stalemate that is quite often the outcome of trying to pass legislation, Devos is beginning to get a taste of the political battlefield that is Capitol Hill, and the frustration of having both sides of Congress come to bat on the same team. Her lack of political savviness and policy-making experience has proven to be an impediment to her goal of mandating school choice and pumping non-existing federal funds into charter and private schools. Though she is not abandoning her agenda, she will likely be unable to exert much power in drastically altering the framework of our current K-12 public educational system.

Now, this is not to say that Devos has done nothing in her ten months in office. She has rolled back more than one Obama-era mandate – most notably in September when she rescinded the Title IX guidance on sexual violence on college campuses. In a system that already favors the accused over the accuser, Devos’ actions to protect the accused by focusing on more due process highlights her absolute misunderstandings concerning sexual violence on campuses. Reminder: only 20% of victims actually report assault. A major reason victims do not report is due to a lack of faith that anything will be done, which is sadly not off base. According to RAINN, out of 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free. That’s 99.4%. Devos wants to instill a model of criminal law proceedings when dealing with assault allegations on campuses, but a return to having requirements such as a higher standard of proof is detrimental to victims. College campuses do not have the same investigative powers of law enforcement, and there is already a large grey area when it comes to providing concrete proof in the case of assault. Prior to the Obama Administration’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” Letter, the burden of proof rested on victims – another reason why there is an incredibly low number of reported assaults and consequent convictions. As for false reporting and protecting the accused – the prevalence of fake claims falls between 2 – 8%. Less than 1/10 of reported assaults are false, yet Devos’ focus is on protecting the rights of those accused and comes at the expense of erasing progress for victims that was made under Obama-era guidelines. Democratic Senator from Washington, Patty Murray, decried the actions of the Education Department as “continuing a pattern of undermining survivors’ rights.”

Along with rolling back guidelines that protect sexual assault survivors, Devos has also retracted ones that protect transgender students from discrimination, withdrawn protocols that enforce civil rights protection, associated with anti-LGBTQ organizations, and appointed Candice Jackson – an outspoken critic of many civil rights protections and sexual harassment laws that she is now in charge of enforcing –  to the Office of Civil Rights. In Devos’ own words, “if everything is harassment, then nothing is.” She may not yet have Republicans and Democrats on board for her proposed budget cuts to fund vouchers and school choice, but she is absolutely taking a page out of her boss’ book by Trump-style erasing progress made for women, minorities, and LGBTQ members of society.








7 Things to Know This Week

1. Mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX

On the morning of Sunday, November 5th, a 26-year old gunman named Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on a church in Sutherland Springs,  killing 26 and wounding 20 others, including his own grandmother-in-law. The youngest of the victims was only 18 months old. Kelley has a history of domestic violence and was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and cracking his infant step-son’s skull. It is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of Texas, and it occurred in a town with less than 500 residents.

2. Election Day on Tuesday, November 7th

This Tuesday there are more than a dozen elections happening across 4 states. An important one to watch is the Governor’s race in Virginia, where Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam faces Republican super lobbyist and former George W. Bush administration official, Ed Gillespie. Gillespie has been campaigning on Trump ideals like keeping confederate statuesand cracking down on immigration, and has been notoriously running an extremely dirty campaign against Northam, releasing a string of attack ads linking Northam to a convicted sex offender and falsely claiming that he will be responsible for increasing the threat of MS-13 by allowing illegal immigrants who commit crimes back in sanctuary cities in Virginia (there are no sanctuary cities in Virginia, FYI).

3. Kevin Spacey Sexual Harassment and Assault Allegations

Since October 29th, when Buzzfeed broke the story that in 1986 Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance toward then 14-year old actor Anthony Rapp, more than 11 additional accusers have come forward with their own allegations against Spacey. The list includes actor Harry Dreyfuss, son of Richard Dreyfuss, who alleges that in 2008, at the age of 18, he was groped by a 49-year old Spacey. As of last week, Spacey has been dropped by his publicist and agency, and fired from Netflix’s House of Cards.

4. Obamacare Open Enrollment Period

Open Enrollment is the yearly period when people can enroll in a health insurance plan. Open Enrollment for 2018 began on November 1, 2017 and will run through December 15, 2017. Despite the Trump administration’s intentional cutback on advertising and outreach, reports are showing that a record number of signups have occurred in the first few days compared to the same period in previous years.

5. The Rohingya Muslim Crisis in Myanmar

On Monday, November 6th, the United Nations Security Council finally released a joint statementcondemning the brutal and on-going ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim community by government military forces in Myanmar (also known as Burma). The humanitarian crisis, which has resulted in the displacement of nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslims since August of this year, recently intensified in violence, bringing it to international attention. However, the discrimination against the Rohingya has been occurring for well over a decade, as the Government of Myanmar has long refused to acknowledge them as lawful citizens. Myanmar’s leader, Aung Saan Kyi, has yet to publicly condemn the treatment of the Rohingya by the military and police.

6. Australia’s Same-Sex Marriage Postal Vote

On Tuesday, November 7th, Australia administered a same-sex marriage survey, costing $122 million. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal that 12.6 million Australians voted in the poll, with exit polls suggesting that at least 64% of voters chose in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The postal vote itself will not legalize gay marriage, but its outcome will determine future legislation. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that if the vote is a “Yes”, the necessary law could be passed by Christmas, and if it’s a “No” then no bill will proceed. The results of the survey will be releases on November 15th.

7. Anniversary of 2016 Election

One of those “do you remember where you were?” moments that most of us seem unable to forget. Here’s a silver lining of having elected a man who infamously described that the way to treat women is to “grab them by the pussy”: top pro-female Democratic advocacy groups Emily’s List and She Should Run have reported record numbers of women running for public office at the state, local and federal levels. Hats off to the 35,000+ women who are using Trump as motivation to get involved in politics.


Pretty Woman, Walkin’ Down the Street

It’s broad daylight and a solo young woman walks down a sidewalk, keeping to herself as one normally does while walking down a sidewalk. The area is filled with men, both young and old, all of who are so raptly focused on her it would be the perfect opportunity for pickpockets to make their move.  Continue reading “Pretty Woman, Walkin’ Down the Street”