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Hi Everyone! #88 — Sophia and Wayne

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Sophia Wilansky

Sophia Wilansky

It takes a second. To realize what you’re seeing is the bone of her left forearm, showing, exposed to the air.

What goes through the mind and heart of a man who holds an explosive device with a seven second fuse for five seconds then throws it at a 21-year-old woman? It’s difficult to imagine.

I know people who know her, Sophia. I know people who know her dad, Wayne.

There’s a story here. The dad, Wayne. Wilansky. The daughter, Sophia. Wilansky. Photogenic. Passionate. Articulate. They want something good to come from this nearly impossible suffering.

This story has the Army Corps of Engineers in it.

They say corporate officers, like executives at Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, have a fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value. (They don’t.)

How Many Law Enforcement Agencies Does It Take to Subdue a Peaceful Protest? So far, 76 from 10 different states. Says the ACLU. And they definitely don’t have a duty to maximize shareholder value. But they’ve been acting like it.

Words like “rapaciousness” fall from the sky as North Dakota’s winter begins to settle in.

The heroism of everyone at the camp, the hardships they’re enduring, are historic, inspiring. A 3.8 billion pound gorilla is convinced he can sleep wherever he wants. That irresistible force has met an immovable object. I don’t know how this story ends. My hope is that steadfast perseverance, non-violence, prayer, and love will prevail in the end.

If you have an impulse to get involved, in a big way or a little way, follow it.

Feelings! #1 — I don’t know what’s going to happen

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Nothing more than ...

Nothing more than …

So, feelings. I’m happy the Dakota Access Pipeline has been stopped, at least for now. Every victory achieved by people standing up and standing together fills me with hope that we will beat the odds. I know January 20th will change everything, and it will be interesting to see what happens if they continue laying pipe without the easement. But something happened, enough political force was generated to be noticed and responded to. That’s cause for hope. And it’s not over.

I’m frightened by our government’s impending lurch toward fascism. I’m dreading there will be catastrophe in our futures. I’m grief-stricken at all the devastation that’s happened, is happening, will continue to happen.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with frustration, hopelessness, despair. But it’s the mood of a moment, sometimes half a day.

It doesn’t last long because, against all reason or not, I maintain a stubborn faith that it’s possible to make a positive difference, and I’m one of the people who will. I’ve been considering the questions of What to do, How to be one of those people, for more than forty years. It’s a moral imperative, but it’s also an engineering problem, with considerations like leverage, inspiring people, force multipliers, emotional and psychological insight, timing. When I remember that’s what I’m doing, I’m reminded that I am, among other things, a calm, confident, loving, and capable man.

Hi Everyone! #87 — An Engine for Transformation

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Fight Today!

Fight Today!

I believe in Northern Westchester. I do. There aren’t many places on the planet where the qualities needed for transformation are found in such abundance: material security, education, health, skills, experience, connections, emotional intelligence.

There’s a lot of people whose hearts are in the right place. People are feeling the right things. People have generous spirits. People have sufficient compassion and sufficient understanding.

We’ve arrived at a very particular time in our nation’s history, and humanity’s history, the history of planetary life. I believe we in Northern Westchester can come into our own. I believe we can marshal ourselves to make a significant difference, to be an incubator and testbed of initiatives for civic engagement, progressive values, transformation, and experiments in community resilience.

At last count, there’s 294,606 people in Northern Westchester. I believe that 1/400th of a population can have a significant effect in setting the group’s emotional tone and political awareness. That’s 736 people. Between the people I know and the people they know, I’d say we’re already in touch with 500 people who are ready, willing, and able to work for a better tomorrow.

The Next Four Years

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Baby Giraffe

Baby Giraffe

A bad and scary night. A bad and scary morning. And the more you think about it, the worse it gets. The Republicans have tremendous new power, and they were doing pretty well already. What might happen? Kristallnacht references aren’t too out of line. There are going to be manifestations of Brownshirts and intolerance and violence, and we must stand against them.

Here’s some of what I say.

This election was not accomplished by “the country”, the voters, or a plurality. Very intentional and specific gerrymandering successes and voter techniques, especially in North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida gave Republicans more than enough of an edge to swing the election. More people voted for Clinton than Trump. If she’d won the electoral college people like us wouldn’t have such an urge to say, “I don’t recognize this country any more.”

Love trumps hate. We have to come together, love and protect each other, and learn, and create our own brand of Anti-Fascist League. A deeply compassionate one.

The Anti-Fascist League needs to be an enormous coalition, like there’s never been. If we’re serious about Never Again, then now is the time to work. And that not only includes the obvious coalitions, but also the energy healers, the vibration-perceivers, the gratitude believers, those who manifest hidden energies. We are working at an enormous political disadvantage, because they have captured all the levers of government, all the checks and balances. It’s going to have to be a project we all sign on for, or we’ll leave all that power and destructive potential unchallenged in the hands of dangerous lunatics.

Why I’m Voting for Robin Laverne Wilson and You Should, Too

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Here's Robin!

Here’s Robin!

Robin Laverne Wilson is the Green Party’s candidate for New York’s Senate seat. She’s running against Chuck Schumer. I’m voting for her. You should, too. Especially if you oppose the pipeline, but also if you value our political future.

Chuck Schumer will win. Robin Laverne Wilson will not win. Voting for her as a third party candidate will not be a vote for Trump.

While we’re talking: If you vote for the Green Party for President, Trump will not win New York. Seriously. Trust me. FiveThirtyEight is brilliant at this, and they give Clinton a 99.8% change of winning New York (). If you are, unfathomably, worried that not voting for Clinton puts the nation at risk of President Trump, then please, at the very least, as the Nation recommends, Vote For Hillary Clinton On The Working Families Line In New York.

This dispiriting, despair-inducing, and fear-addled presidential race was brought to us by the Two Major Parties. It’s not going to get better by itself. The Green Party hasn’t been much a presence in Northern Westchester and that needs to change. Voting for the Green Party isn’t throwing your vote away: it actually makes a bigger proportional difference than anything else you might do with your vote because when the Green Party gets a high enough percentage they’ll get public funding and ballot access. Let’s create a Green Party spike right here in Northern Westchester! If not President, at least for Senate, Your participation in the Green Party can have a proportionally enormous effect.

After I vote Robin Laverne Wilson I’m driving north to the NY 19th to drive Zephyr Teachout voters to the polls. If you’re not a fan, you should be. She’s in an *extremely* close race for U.S. Congressperson. You should also drive Zephyr Teachout voters to the polls. Visit ZephyrTeachoutForCongress.com to learn how. In all the ways you might leverage your day’s worth of time and effort tomorrow, helping her win is close to the theoretical maximum.

Here’s what Robin Laverne Wilson has to say on RobinForSenator.com:

While we are distracted by the presidential battle between a sequel and a sh*tshow, incumbents like Sen. Chuck Schumer coast under the radar and bolster the same agendas that line their pockets by selling their constituents down the polluted river. He has been in office since 1999, slated to become the next Minority or Majority Leader and is the darling of Wall Street.

And this from her poem, “When I Am Our Senator”

When I am our senator,
We will transform this world
Blanketed with
ignorance and
fueled
by capitalism
and scapegoated
by self-hatred.

Building a Better Tomorrow #7 — Here We Go!

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world needs 01 200 world needs 02

What the world needs now? I’ve worked on that question for 40 years and now I’ve come up with some answers. Step two: Making the answers happen.

It’s simple, really. The world needs people, lots of people, soon, working together in new ways for healing and transformation in order to live in the new world that’s already upon us. There’s many ways to help make that happen. I’ve thought of a healthy handful in the last six years. The time has come to start making them happen.

Between now and Labor Day I’ll be building infrastructure, recruiting allies and fans, and explaining the plan. After Labor Day I’ll be raising funds, recruiting sponsors, and putting projects into action.

The needs are big and we’re in a hurry. My plan is to start a number of projects and attract people and resources and money to keep them going. I’ve got a whole lot of ideas and a limited number of productive years left. I’m not giving up on any of the really good ideas.

Probably

Probably

For more than 40 years I’ve worked hard against intense social anxiety. That work has gone well. There’s intentionally a time in my plan when I must leave social anxiety behind. That time is now. From now on I’ll have to explain myself, ask people to join me, inspire people, sell, build teams, lead.

I know this seems general and vague. I’ll explain as we go along. And soon there will be visible results. A lot of people believe in me and will support me. At any rate, I’m not turning back. There’s a chance you’ll be one of the people who will be coming along with me. I really hope so.

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This Day in Civil Rights
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This Day in Civil Rights
Our Friendly Town
Little House on the Planet
Northern Westchester for a Better Tomorrow

Hi Everyone! #86 — Here’s the Good Thing Though

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Joanna Macy, Rebecca Solnit, Grace Lee Boggs

Joanna Macy, Rebecca Solnit, Grace Lee Boggs

Here’s the good thing, though. I know it’s all scary and depressing and the neo-liberal criminal and the neo-fascist criminal and everything. But after all these years, I’ve grown weary of the whole “I apologize to the world for the crimes of my government — cut off his air” worldview. This is an exciting time of new possibilities. Everything is going to change, and even the ways in which things are going to change in dangerous and tragic ways, they’re going to change in ways that increase freedom and occasions for empathy and right action.

Joanna Macy: What an exciting time you’ve chosen to be alive. Rebecca Solnit: Catastrophe brings opportunity for extraordinary new ways for ordinary people to relate and deal with each other and their circumstances. Let those twin understandings be emblazoned across the first two big orange gates we’re going through the get from here to our brand new future. And a third: Grace Lee Boggs: “Visionary organizing. Because the crisis we’re in is really an opportunity. We can change the way it is. And in the devastation that is Detroit’s de-industrialization, there is opportunity to create a new society.”

So, wait and see. There’s release here, and new chances. Wait and see if I don’t get a crowdsourced podcast about the many stories of a newly engaged citizenry made and listened to. Wait and see if I don’t produce four short plays based on the cemetery scene from Our Town with casts drawn from the different racial communities of my new hometown, and get people on stage and butts in seats. Wait and see if I don’t create an umbrella organization that supports people aching to be catalysts for ushering in new ways of dealing with each other in their own communities and get money to make it go and donated tech to make it work. Better yet, don’t wait and see, come and help make some it happen.

There. That’s what I’ve been wanting to say. I feel better now. Thanks for listening. Looking forward to working with some of you.

Hi Everyone! #85 — My Ten Minute Play about a Sad Event in Peekskill

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10 minute play cover pageI just finished a 10 minute play about a young woman who dies of an overdose. I’d love for you to read it. Despite its upsetting premise, it’s a positive and upbeat piece. And it’s very short. Check it out here. Stay tuned, I’m trying to organize a reading.

It was a shocking event for many of us, the death of this young and beloved woman. It was particularly shocking in our family. I wanted to do something to memorialize her. And I wanted to tell some truths about how her death was received by different parts of our community.

We’d been seeing a lot of her. She had family dinner with us just a couple days before we lost her. She was an innocent spirit, and my impression was that she was striving to make sense of her life and be open to what’s positive in the world. Other people, including people I love, were much more deeply connected to her. And everyone who knew her, in a sincere place in their hearts, wanted so much for things to turn out well for her.

You can check it out here: Tragedy, Not Unpredictable — 10 minute play by Paul Stark

I Told You So, Floods, Adam McKay, and Climate Change

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Four parts:

Floods in West Virginia

Floods in West Virginia

One: I heard about floods. Over the weekend. Every summer, people I know volunteer in Appalachia. They do carpentry and construction, to make people’s houses “Warmer, Safer, Drier.” All year: pizza meetings, car washes, then they take their tools and head down to West Virginia.

This summer though, there are floods. Four feet of water. This year, “Warmer, Safer, Drier” means flood recovery. There was a house off its foundation, in flames and floating down a river. It hit a bridge.

Two: Adam McKay directed The Big Short. I’ve seen it twice. It’s an awesome movie. Surprisingly awesome. It’s about the collapse of the housing bubble, which cost Americans trillions of dollars and nearly collapsed the global economy. It tells the stories of people who knew it was going to happen. People who went around the finance industry yelling about the sky falling. The responses they got resembled the responses Chicken Little got.

Adam KcKay

Adam KcKay

Adam McKay also directed Talladega Nights and Anchorman and was head writer at Saturday Night Live.

Two and a half: Adam McKay and Adam Davidson run a podcast called “Surprisingly Awesome” and episode 14 is all about “I told you so’s” The real-life people from The Big Short discovered that saying “I told you so” to people they warned before the crash was deeply unsatisfying.

Three: Some people have known about climate change a long time. Way longer than me, and I’ve known for a while. Knew in 1988, or even 1975. 41 years of knowing since 1975. People I know changed their West Virginia plans because of climate change. In fact, we’re getting close to the time when everyone will know someone who’s changed his or her plans because of climate change. You probably already do. Where were you for Superstorm Sandy? “Warm air holds more water.” Here’s Bill McKibben saying, for the seven millionth time “Warm air holds more water.”

West Virginia got 7 inches of rain in 3 hours. Here’s video of the house floating away – a floating house that’s also on fire. Here’s prison inmates leaving their cells to fight wildfires – 24 hour shifts for $1.00 per hour.

Oh look, the climate, it changed!

Oh look, the climate, it changed!

Four: The conclusion? There’s no joy in saying “I told you so” about climate change. Watching these perfectly predictable things happen in real life is nightmarish. Predictable decades ago, as in you can only run the numbers one way. Literally nightmarish as in resembling a terrible dream that proceeds by its own inexorable logic to terrifying conclusions. We said there’d be burning houses floating away, or could have. We said there’d be prison inmates killed by burning falling trees, or could have. Climate change is by far the biggest challenge our species has ever faced. And climate change provides by far the biggest “I told you so” our species has ever been told.

My Peekskill — # 23 The Peekskill Democrats’ Spring Fling, starring Darren Rigger

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Darren's last day at City Hall

Darren’s last day at City Hall

If you haven’t heard, the Peekskill Democratic City Committee is throwing a big party. It’s called the Spring Fling and it’ll happen on May 14th – Find out all about it here (Facebook.com/Events/969290683159894)

Anyone who’s anyone, or hoping to be, among Westchester Democrats will be there, along with the people who love them. You should be there, too!

Though he’ll tell you he feels like an old man, put out to pasture with a lifetime achievement award like the Clint Eastwood of Peekskill Democrats, he’s being a good sport about being the guest of honor.

I recently caught up with him at the nearly completely Wonderstruck Peekskill Coffee House and asked him five questions:

1. What do you believe Peekskill politics needs most now?

A printed, independent newspaper that’s verified and fact checked. We need a paper we can trust, that will do real investigative journalism and host community discussion, letters to editors, guest columnists.

2. What’s the best reason to come to the Spring Fling?

To help celebrate all the great work Democratic elected officials have done in last 10 years. A lot of people of people are going to be there – community leaders, business leaders, activists, elected officials. It’s going to be the place to be. Don’t be somewhere else.

3. What should the Democrats do to encourage the future leaders of the party?

My theme is summed up by something by Dad used to say: don’t ever confuse kindness with weakness. You can be strong and fight against injustice without being mean. Mean politics is causing many people to reject party politics altogether.

4. What’s your favorite memory of your time as an elected official?

After Sandy Hook I suggested a Gun Buyback to the Mayor, the Council, and the Chief of Police. We put the whole thing together – from fundraisers and contributions, without a dime of taxpayer money – and took in 70 guns, including an assault rifle, a gun with the serial numbers filed off, and a sawed-off shotgun. Any of those guns could have been used to hurt a child. That was my most satisfying moment, seeing that big pile of guns taken off the street. It made some people really angry. I was cursed, got hate mail, and I’m glad I did it.

5. Have you given any consideration to running for mayor yourself?

(Laughs heartily for quite a while, then:) No Comment.


If you show up at the Spring Fling, be sure to talk to Darren about some of his political insights and experiences. He was in Florida for the Bush v. Gore recount. We remembered together the deeply upsetting moment the Supreme Court gave the Presidency to Bush – I’d always been less anxious because if things ever got bad enough the Supreme Court would step in to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. Having lost that confidence made life in this country that much more vertiginous.

Darren’s worked on more than 100 campaigns in his 25 year political career. He’s worked with such Democratic luminaries as David Dinkins, Dick Gephardt, Charlie Rangel, John Hall, Al Gore. He spent the turn of the millennium in the White House, where he met Jack Nicholson.

He wants the Spring Fling to be PDCC’s biggest and most financially successful fundraiser. He’s proud of Peekskill’s Democrats, “The Democratic surge started with Drew Claxton who proved, after many years, that a Democrat could be elected, and once elected, could be effective. She led the charge, and worked as the only Democrat in a very hostile environment. Since then, there was a moment when Peekskill’s representatives, from Mayor to Albany to Congress and the White House were all Democrats. He’d love to see you on May 14th to help celebrate as many of those Democrats as possible.