Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Let me know when we get to laugh and shake our heads...

Full disclosure: I was a constituent of former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith.

In 2009, Smith resigned from office, pled guilty to obstructing justice, and went to jail. Now he’s back with a new book.

Let’s jump right on in, shall we?

I haven’t read Jeff Smith’s new book, but I did struggle through his recent piece in Politico. I can share that the wince-worthy title ‘The Senator Be Embezzling’ should be taken as warning to readers that they are about to read some seriously entitled spin lightly seasoned with an indictment of the prison industrial complex. 

“The final stop was the counselor’s office. He was a compact, sandy-haired man wearing a light blue shirt and a wispy mustache. He flipped through my presentencing report, pausing briefly to absorb the case summary and shook his head. “This is crazy,” he said quietly, without looking up. “You shouldn’t be here. Complete waste of time. Money. Space.”

Exactly, I thought. Finally, someone agreed with me. But now, it was too late."‘The Senator Be Embezzling’ - Politico

I was pretty damn disgusted with Jeff Smith back in 2009. His fall from grace was only remarkable in that it was so damn pathetic and avoidable. In 2004, Smith had captivated thousands with his run for Congress. Somewhere along the way, Smith’s Congressional campaign coordinated on a now infamous mailing. The FCC eventually received a complaint about the mailing. Smith lost the 2004 Congressional race, went on to win a state Senate seat, and he ultimately pled guilty when his obstruction of justice in the investigation of the mailing finally caught up with his ambition.


"The postcard dropped in the campaign’s last week. It was a 3x5 picture of my opponent on a milk carton. “MISSING: RUSS CARNAHAN,” it read, and in tiny print detailed his absenteeism. The design was totally amateurish—a joke, really. We laughed and shook our heads."‘The Senator Be Embezzling’ - Politico

...but not exactly a laughing matter. It's one thing for a political novice to fuck up on mailings, but Smith has a Ph.D. in political science. The same background that Smith says was wasted behind bars makes it hard to swallow the idea that he didn't know better about the mailings or the perils of lying to government investigators. 

I voted to send a progressive champion to the Senate. When the dust finally settled, my replacement Senator was a committee-selected establishment Democrat who sometimes dipped his toe into progressive waters. All because Jeff Smith got caught on tape doing a heinous Richard Nixon impression pondering how to pin his “amateurish” violation on a campaign worker who committed suicide in the midst of the investigation into what Smith now calls ”a joke, really.”

In his Politico piece, Smith goes on to talk about how locking him up was a waste of resources and taxpayer money.

I agree. I’d love to have that money, along with the money spent for the investigation, back. Maybe the proceeds from Smith’s book could go into a fund to pay for a program to help formerly incarcerated people who lack Smith’s connections and education. Or maybe we could use those proceeds to pay for midnight basketball for young people in Smith’s former Senate district.


Jeff Smith stands as a cautionary tale for all would-be wunderkind who lust for political power.

And it also stands as a reminder that when we mess up we often do damage that isn’t easily repaired or forgiven. 

"Mass incarceration is driven in large part by sky-high recidivism rates, and when one contemplates the myriad obstacles to successful prisoner re-entry, one grasps that the system is not, as many claim, broken at all; rather, it appears to be a well-oiled machine, keeping millions of people out of our economic mainstream." ‘The Senator Be Embezzling’ - Politico

Jeff Smith is correct that the prison industrial complex is a mess.

And he’s absolutely right that sending him to prison was a complete waste of time, money, and space.

The whole mess is...like a joke, really.

Let me know when we get to laugh and shake our heads.


Some suggested reading material:

Friday, August 07, 2015

I've been writing...

Hi all y'all!

Things are hectic as hell as we prepare for the official launch of Reproaction on August 19th, so I haven't had a chance to get back into the rhythm of posting my thoughts here. I do plan to dust the blog off and share more...promise. I've missed practicing the fine art of bitchitude!

Anyhoo, I have been writing.

Here's an op-ed that my Reproaction partner in crime Erin Matson and I published in Rolling Stone - Why We're Losing the Planned Parenthood Debate, and How We Can Win

And here's my latest for RH Reality Check reflecting on the anniversary of the Ferguson Uprising - One Year Later: Reflections on the Ferguson Uprising

Check 'em out!


Monday, July 20, 2015

What I’ve been up to offline...

Hi, y’all!

I’m super excited to announce that Erin Matson and I are forming a new direct action group forming to increase access to abortion and advance reproductive justice.

***pause...do happy dance in office-based area...continue***

Reproaction will officially launch August 19, 2015. Click our nifty new logo to get the 411 and sign up for alerts etc. 


Life is super busy preparing for the launch. And sadly, every damn day there are reminders of why this work is so important.

Stay tuned…

Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 Years? Lawd, no wonder I'm tired...

Happy anniversary to me!

The internets just reminded me that this blog is 10 years old today.

***Pause...sip iced green tea...continue***

And they said it'd never last.

Many thanks to Brother Rob Thurman for gifting me a blog 10 years ago...and telling me to get my write on.

I shall celebrate with a vodka cran...or two...tonight!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Give us a twirl and tell us about your outfit...

Confession...I’ve been enjoying the hell out of Deflate-gate.


At least ESPN doesn’t sound like an Dateline NBC survival story anymore! And hey, deflate-gate was just about the get boring, but then Tom Brady held that Nixonian press conference and pumped some life back into it. Had a sistah popping corn, pouring a vodka cran, and getting comfortable to watch SportsCenter!

Good stuff.

Anyhoo, in the midst of the mega-scandal over deflated footballs and what Tom Brady knew and when he stopped knowing it...emerged Twirlgate!

Mmmhmm, some fool asked more than one woman to “twirl and tell us about your outfit” during on-court interviews at the Australian Open.

I kid you not.

Others have already weighed in on the sexism and "EEEEWWWWW, as if!!!" factor, but my mind immediately went to how this twisted mess would play out if it were applied during this weekend’s NHL All Star game.

Just imagine...instead of the same boring kiss-ass interviews where some former hockey player asks Jonathan Toews how cool it is to be totally awesome or asks Steven Stamkos whether it is hard to be the hockey player NBC Sports announcers most want to clone...instead of that mess, the hockey talking heads could kick things off with "Can you give us a twirl and tell us about your outfit?"

Or should it be "give us a spin"...cause of the ice?


Whatever...it would be MAGICAL.

And it'd be totally worth it just for the looks of absolute horror that would greet that mess. Maybe then...I mean, obviously we'd have to wait until after Twitter melted down from all the "Did that just happen?!?!" tweets followed by several million "Did Stamkos actually twirl for that dude?!?!?" re-tweets...but after all that settled down, maybe then we could have a discussion about why the hell something that is beyond comical to imagine going down at the NHL All Star game happens to women in professional sports.


And yes, I’ll be asking everyone and their mother to give me a twirl and tell me about their outfit...at least until Tom Brady holds another press conference...

....or until the Colts release video evidence that Gov. Chris Christie deflated all those footballs.

Until then, happy NHL All Star weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

On why I stepped away...and why I'm back...

Hi y’all.

It has been forever and a day since I posted anything up on this blog. I took a step back...and it has made all the difference.

See, late last year I found myself in a very negative space. Not my normal everyday bitchitude...no, this was more along the lines of the kind of negativity that fuels the wrong kind of people and inspires the wrong kind of action.

I think the best way to explain it is through Father Karras from The Exorcist.

Hold my hand and walk with me on this one.

Father Karras was mourning the loss of his mother and questioning his dedication to the priesthood. I've been mourning the loss of...well, my sense of community. With everything that followed the killing of Michael Brown, the scab was ripped off our regional wound and all the muck expose...people I thought I knew were exposed as strangers and other folk as gleeful bigots. I was reeling not just from the loss of life and unstable nature of all things in St. Louis city...but most profoundly from the lack of humanity far too many people seemed way too comfortable expressing.

And no, I’m not naive. I know that the there are a lot of people in this world who casually dismiss the pain of others. In my decade of blogging I’ve encountered tons of them. But this time it touched off something in me that I really didn’t like...it triggered a reciprocal response that dragged me down emotionally to a level I simply couldn’t tolerate.

Kind of like Father Karras raging at the devil...only to find to his horror that the devil was within him.

Being possessed by a negative frame of mind is NOT a good look for me, so I did what any forward thinking activist would do and took a step away. Oh, I’ve been active as hell offline. But real world interactions, even the rough ones, are often healthier than going toe-to-toe on the internets.

One interesting takeaway from my brief dance with the Dark Side of The Force...once you stop seeing the humanity of others, you can justify almost anything. But that mindset isn’t empowering. It doesn’t fuel anything other than more rage and hate and dismissive blah. 

Twas like walking through knee-high mud, y’all!

Thankfully, after I walked through that sea of blah and came out on the other side, I realized I'd re-learned one precious true thing - even as we fight, we must take care to not become what we’ve been fighting against.

***pause...sip iced green tea...continue***

Anyhoo, that's why I stepped away.

And yes...I'm back.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts, emotions, and awareness…

Longtime readers know that I’m a bit addicted to the history of social justice movements. After this week, I can’t help pondering how the distance of time informs the way events are viewed. I have lived through more than my fair share of before and after events…those moments that shift everything and never fade away. Ferguson now joins that list…and the only thing I’m certain of is that nothing will ever be the same.

Nothing like a rapidly unfolding social justice happening to remind the masses why the press matters, that black radio has a unique and important role in our community, and that citizen journalism matters. 

For folk following around the world, coverage from journalists on the ground have helped them better understand what’s going on in Ferguson and how we got here.

For those of us who live in the St. Louis area, many of us are grateful even as we accept the reality that this level of coverage will not hold…even as the fear of what the eyes of the world shifting away hovers over every day.

For now, the whole world is watching and that is a good thing.

Last night I finally took a moment to have a serious cry.

Not quiet or delicate, but ugly and intense. 

I let all of the emotion of the past week roll over me until my lungs hurt and my hands curled into a fist so tight my nails left marks.

I needed that…even though it didn’t make it all better, even though it didn’t purge a damn thing.

I just needed to release the pressure, because we’ve got another week ahead of us, and long road left to march.

Years ago, I wrote about the death of Anna Brown, a young black mother who was denied healthcare at a local hospital then arrested for trespassing only to be left to die in agony from blood clots on a jail cell floor. When I shared the post on Facebook, I also linked to an article in our daily newspaper and cautioned readers not to read the comments. One reader asked why I added that caution…why I didn’t read the comments to find out how other folk felt about the incident. And I told her that my experience was that many comments were awful, callous and cruel celebrations of oppression, assault, death or humiliation…and I added that it is extra painful, somehow more jarring, to know that the people saying horrible things are my fellow St. Louisans.

Fast forward to the now…and I can’t dodge those comments. There is no filter at the grocery store, waiting at the Walgreens, reading Facebook or Twitter hashtag feeds.

And its more than just a lot of opinions about the killing of Michael Brown or the events still evolving in Ferguson…there’s more here than just a difference of perspective.

There is that same celebration of oppression, assault, death and humiliation that dominates the comment section of my local daily newspaper…offered up without shame sometimes by people I’ve known for years.

This past week I’ve seen the best of many and the worst of more than I would have predicted.

Kind of sums up the whole happening that is Ferguson – our best and worst, our accomplishments and our failings, what we are getting right and what we need to fix, and why we can’t all just agree to disagree then move on as if nothing happened.


Ferguson is now on my list of before and after happenings…

…and the only thing I’m certain of is that nothing will ever be the same.