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What a day. Usually I say "when Lib Dems get annoyed about something we write policy motions" but tonight I'm setting up a whole SAO to represent a raft of policy.

The party leader stepped down quite suddenly yesterday. Among other things I like him because he really "gets" immigration and has always said it's an actually good thing and not just something we have to hold our nose and put up with for the good of the economy, which is the best you'll hear from most politicians, if you're lucky.

Since some friends and I had been talking about setting up a group within the party (that's what SAO means) to advocate for and support good policy for immigrants, we're doing it hopefully quickly now so ideally we can make sure whoever the new leader is, is at least as good on stuff that affects immigrants.

One day

Jun. 9th, 2017 04:43 pm
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As well as the prospect of a Tory/DUP government, and being mad at the tactical voting plan going exactly as well as I expected it to (i.e. not very), yesterday was also the Comey hearing and the Senate is making ominous noises about trying to pass AHCA in exactly the way the House did: in secret, with no scrutiny.

One fucking day where the country I'm from and the country I'm in aren't racing each other to be the best at causing suffering and misery. Just one? Can I have that?
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Today I saw a politician (Philip Hammond this time, but it could've been any of several) quoted as saying Britain "need[s] to continue to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to these shores" and I think that was just one time too many for me with that terrible phrase, best and brightest.

I always and only ever hear in the context of a Labservative government reassuring the xenophobes (even when, like now, they have nothing to reassure us about; Britain is hemorrhaging citizens of countries that will remain in the EU for longer than the next year and a half and the Tories want to cut immigration to less than half of what business says the UK needs).

I finally realized exactly what it is I so dislike about the phrase "best and brightest" -- apart from its obvious politician-speak and doesn't really mean anything. Beyond that, I just managed to articulate this morning that I think I hate it because it's evidence of something I am always complaining about: that immigrants are always talked about, and never talked with (much less listened to). That British media and politicians mostly talk about us as if we can't hear or read what they are saying.

As an immigrant, I hear this and think: What on Earth makes the UK think it's so special it can only even tolerate those immigrants who are "brightest and best"? But it's not speech directed at me. It's directed at British people who are wary of accepting any immigrants, it's not challenging them on that xenophobia but just saying, however grudgingly, that we need a few immigrants, lads, but don't worry, we'll make sure they're only the good kind. The best.

What it sounds like from the outside is that Britain is telling all the other countries in the world: Don't even think about sending us anything less than your best and brightest! But it isn't, and it wasn't even before Brexit, doing anything to convince the rest of the world that it deserves the cream of their crops. Indeed, it's doing everything in its power to persuade other countries that it doesn't deserve or even really want their brightest or best: even before Brexit we outside the EU have suffered a lot, as any of my readers surely are sick of hearing about by now.

Still British politicians talk like the world is a labour force to be tapped if necessary. I am not the most informed person to be drawing comparisons between Brexit and the British Empire as often as I do, but I can't help think that mentality is at play here. There's this idea that the rest of the world is composed of resources that Britain can take advantage of as often as necessary and to whatever extent is necessary. This went for natural resources all over the world, but also human resources: people. Post-World War II, when Britain needed more workers, its colonies, especially the West Indies, were called on to provide them. Britain still hasn't learned the lessons about racism and exploitation that this and other such history could have taught it, and I swear this has contributed to the casual idea that Britain can get exactly as many immigrants as it needs and not one more, from exactly the places it wants them, at any given time.

As if the rest of the time, these black and brown people, these people who speak with derided accents, are patiently waiting in case they can be of service. Dutifully sending their brightest and best people out of their own countries, just as they had to send their food even when it left them with none, send their gold even when it left them poor, send everything bright and good to Britain.
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I did front of house yesterday for eight hours, only a normal working day but twice as long as I expected to be and it wiped me out. That and the lack of sleep I'd had meant I could keep my eyes open after about eight o'clock and I succumbed to an early bedtime.

I woke up a few hours later and when I checked the time on my phone I saw a message that had been sent only about an hour previously: "Oh on something earlier - I still reckon if Jackie wins you should get a job as a caseworker for her :) You'd be dead good at it."

I think I reacted as I would have if this had been part of a dream, I wasn't as surprised as I think I'd have been if I'd really thought about this. It'd never occurred to me to be a caseworker or indeed any job in politics beyond the one I'd had when I first moved here, that earned me less than the dole so only people who couldn't get dole (me and students mostly) would do it.

But it was a flattering day for me being offered hypothetical political jobs. When discussing the contingency plan for if he won the seat for which he's prospective parliamentary candidate, [personal profile] po8crg said his first step would be to give me a job. Bless him! (In a very him fashion, he later amended this to his second step, after resigning his job so it wouldn't appear on the list of Members' Interests, but still!).

He said "I can't think of anyone better to run my Manchester office. And you'd make damn sure that I didn't forget accessibility in everything I do." And really if he ended up an MP it'd only be because we'd had enough of a landslide that we were the government, so he could hope to be Rail Minister and I'd have fun with all I could do about accessibility there!

In the meantime, for any of my friends lucky enough not to know what I'm talking about or why this passes for small talk among my friends, I've been recommending Argonauts of the incredibly specific: anthropological field notes on the Liberal Democrat animal, a long (and using an uncomfortable number of metaphorical allusions to African and Asian cultures in an uncomfortably superficial way) but hugely informative description of British politics in general and being a Lib Dem specifically. Not in terms of policies or individuals, but in procedures and patterns observed by someone who used to be one up until he wrote this. I find it hugely enjoyable to read in the same way I used to feel about song lyrics I identified with as a teenager: it's good to feel that someone out there really understands you.

And while there are bits I'd quibble with (I actually still believe conferences have a function beyond the kinship rituals, because we're writing policy and anyone can join in--a much underrated feature of being a Lib Dem, if you ask me), there's a lot I laughed at or nodded vigorously at too.

Anyway, here's what it says about the job I've been told I'd be good at.
Caseworkers are the closest approximation politicians have to real human beings. Obviously everybody looks down on them for not being “political”. Caseworkers tend to work 9–5 and have friends outside of politics. They also deal with real problems that happen in the real world. Unsurprisingly therefore caseworkers tend to be the most diverse and broadly representative political caste: there are caseworkers of all ages, races, genders and shudder classes.

It always amuses me that parties' plans to increase diversity seem to consist, not of turning politics into something a sane human being might want to do, but in convincing working-class BME women that they too should make the kind of mad irrational ego-driven choices that white twentysomething childless middle-class men do.
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So my Congressman wants to run for governor.

This is interesting (well, to probably zero people but me who read this blog, but...) mainly because he has made a living off the balancing act between representing a rural area and being a Democrat.

Everybody else who's so far declared they want the DFL endorsement is from the Cities, and Walz is not. He represents all of the bottom bit of Minnesota, which has a few not-very-big towns and otherwise rural farmland like what I grew up on. So the NRA likes him, but he's progressive enough that Planned Parenthood does too.

The first political opinion I ever remember being made in my presence was my dad saying he liked Paul Wellstone because he stuck up for farmers, and I've been proud that the farmers in my state are happy to back reasonably progressive politicians. But recently -- since I left Minnesota, really, so I haven't been able to follow this as well -- Republicans have been peeling off those DFL votes outside the Twin Cities. Tim Walz stuck around.

And he seems to want to deal with this urban/rural divide by dismantling it. Sounds good to me! "Walz says he plans to start by focusing on how advancements in the metro area benefit the rural areas he represents, and vice versa." Which is awesome, and happily I also believe it to be true.

Of course to get through a gubernatorial (crap, I've forgotten how to spell that; I've been away too long!) primary his less-orthodox stances on guns and the environment (being pro-farmers-not-going-broke is sometimes anti-environment, unfortunately...) will get more attention. But I've read some interesting quotes about that, especially “In the metro, you’ll probably hear that he’s not progressive enough, but there’s enough people that know we’ve got to take the governor’s race or we’re Wisconsin, we’re toast.”

A year or two ago I was reading a lot of articles (here's an example) about the diverging fortunes of Minnesota and Wisconsin, neighboring Midwestern states with similar histories and presumably similar potential, except that when we elected tax-and-spend Mark Dayton (DFL) as our governor, they elected union-busting tax-cuts-at-all-costs Scott Walker (R).

Minnesota got hundreds of thousands more jobs, a budget surplus, and tons of money for education, but Wisconsin now serves as a terrible warning to us next door: reduced education spending, increased taxes on ordinary people to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest, basically refuted trickle-down economics all by himself.

Yes Minnesota has a century or so of progressive politics that makes this seem unimaginable, but so did Wisconsin before Walker...and Minnesota's previous governor, a Republican who saw Minnesota as nothing more than a stepping-stone to running for president, refused to raise taxes even when infrastructure got so bad that a huge fucking bridge fell into the Mississippi River.

Meanwhile as soon as Walz announced, GOP-aligned groups immediately called him a “Washington insider” and a “Democrat socialist.” Socialist meaning only what it always means in America, a mean name to call someone, but it's not something that Minnesotans are really afraid of. And honestly it's the least I'd expect of someone I'd hope to vote for!

“The focus now is getting to know Minnesotans and getting Minnesotans to know me,” Walz said, and this has been borne out so far in that the Twitter account he and/or his staff seemed to forget he had -- and that I forgot I followed last autumn when I thought I should be paying more attention to the tools in my arsenal against Trump -- has been pretty busy in recent days. As long as it still gives him time to vote against everything Paul Ryan tries to get through the House, I'm happy with hearing more from him as he campaigns.

Eeee!

Jan. 25th, 2017 08:58 pm
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*does the "a friend I never thought would join the Lib Dems has just said that he has joined" dance*
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Really like this. Keep being good about immigration, the Guardian!
Meanwhile, MPs from both major parties had the switch flipped in their heads that makes them link everything to immigration, causing their jaws to mechanically flap open and say: “Well, Nigel Farage is basically right about everything but you should still vote for us because $ERROR (Reason not found, please restart your political process).”
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I found myself humming "awesome, wow!" when I was walking the dog this morning and realised that if Groffsauce doesn't spend the twentieth of January singing "do you know how hard it is to lead?" and "oceans rise, empires fall" and basically all the rest of "What Comes Next?" for us, I will be sorely disappointed.
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January 20 is always the day U.S. Presidents are inaugurated.

January 21 is our wedding anniversary.

I think maybe this year I'll ask Andrew to take me somewhere there's no news or internet, for a day or two around our anniversary.
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Mom was telling me about a story my dad read in the paper (ie the Minneaapolis Star-Tribune) about a woman who was prevented from putting the Hillary Clinton yard sign she wanted in her yard by fear that her house, or even she, would be attacked by people who didn't like it.

Mom says this seems possible to her. She said around them all you see is Trump signs, and that this story helped make her think that it might not be that the support is so skewed but just that other people are more tentative about supporting the person who doesn't advocate violence against people who disagree.

And this is fucking Minnesota. Yes like that Cracked article talks about it's the country and not the city. But damn if this is what it's like living in a blue state, I would not like to be living anywhere less white, with less cultural encouragement towards reticence (we got onto this topic anyway because Mom was talking about how she's had to make sure not to talk about politics with her best friend, or my aunt's partner...).

I remember Mom talking in 2012 about feeling a bit lonely as (though she didn't put it like this) an Obama voter in a sea of people who couldn't sufficiently get past their racism to consider voting for him. It sounds even worse this year. She talked about being frustrated that people aren't basing their decisions on facts, and of being worried about what will happen after Trump loses. I know this is all stuff I, like any other follower of American politics, has read in tweets and thinkpieces, but for my mom who lives in a world totally separate from any of that to come out with the same things is weird.

I did my best to reassure her that it'll be over soon -- in recent elections I've missed being in the thick of it and helping out on various campaigns, but this year I've been nothing but happy to be missing out on the worst of it and how it's talked about in American news -- and that I've already voted and done my bit, and that he won't win. But I don't think she was very reassured.

And I've promised that Andrew and I won't talk about politics with my family at Christmas. I fear I might have to bite my tongue so hard it completely comes off, but I hope things will have calmed down by then.

Me at LDV

Oct. 11th, 2016 05:39 pm
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How to Address Concerns about Immigration.

(Comments may contain racists who think the most important thing is that they not be made to feel bad about being racist, approach with care. But you probably expected that, didn't you.)
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Andrew's talking to someone on facebook about how immigrants couldn't vote in the EU referendum. This guy's just said it's a good thing, as anyone here before 2011 could be a citizen by now, and if they weren't here that long they were too short-term to have a say in his children's future.

There are so many things that annoy me about this.

For one, he's deciding on those people's childrens' future -- even if they're British, at least one of their parents would not be. Which could lead to all kinds of horribleness.

For another, anyone who knows me will know that citizenship isn't easy, automatic, or indeed always worth doing. Since Theresa May made it revocable during her time as Home Secretary, it'll never be quite the same as a native-Brit's UK citizenship. And it's expensive. And the process for getting it is invasive, expensive, lengthy, stressful, discriminatory, punitive and in general a nuisance to everyday life.

Plus, not everyone can get UK citizenship even if they want it. I heard, from a migrants-organisation campaigner, about an Italian woman who's lived in the UK for several years, has Australian as well as Italian citizenship because her husband's Australian...and would have to give up one of those if she wanted to get UK citizenship, because she can't have all three. Why do that, just to vote on something so hostile in the first place?

And who would have thought it necessary? EU citizens are accustomed to voting rights in the UK -- they can vote in local elections as well as for UK MEPs.

And, hard as it is to believe, many people are uninterested in becoming British citizens. Certainly citizens of other EU countries would notice very little to recommend it -- this is the whole point of the much-vilified freedom of movement: it means that citizens of any member state can travel, work and live in another as if it were their own. Plenty of Europeans have lived decades in the UK, settled long enough that babies born the day they moved here would've been old enough to vote and at least as entangled in British society as native who'd lived here as long, without seeking British citizenship.

There are so many people saying "well of course immigrants couldn't vote in the referendum!" As if there are so many referendums there are hard and fast, universally understood and agreed-with rules on things like this. As if there is any objective reason why Commonwealth citizens could vote in this and EU citizens couldn't.

Beneath this sentiment there always seems to be some nastiness, "they shouldn't decide on my children's future," something about how selfishly they'd vote -- as if everybody else doesn't vote in what they think are their best interests too.

Excerpt

Oct. 7th, 2016 06:51 pm
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Here's a bit I had to cut out of something I'm writing, but didn't want to let disappear completely. So you can read it if you like!


Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary (so obviously she's the best person to talk about immigration, I'm sure) said “immigration is a good thing for us, but what undermines (that) is when people feel that it is unvetted and that we are not able to deal with the issues and the concerns that people have around that.”

Shame how many people lose their mastery of the only language they want anyone to speak when they try to explain these immigration concerns. What stands out amidst the nebulous concern is Ms Rayner’s assertion that “immigration is a good thing for us.” I don’t remember hearing this from a Labservative MP before.

In another unusual move for a politician talking about immigration, when asked if she meant there should be controls on numbers, Ms Rayner replied: "I believe that you do need controls and we have always had controls on immigration."

We have always had controls on immigration! While the UK’s only had immigration controls since the Aliens Act of 1905 (which Wikipedia describes as "ostensibly designed to prevent paupers or criminals from entering the country and set up a mechanism to deport those who slipped through, one of its main objectives was to control Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe"...hm), current political discourse only describes immigration to the UK in one way: "mass" and "uncontrolled" precede immigration as surely as Nigel Farage gurns for photo ops with a pint in his hand.
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...without having a nervous breakdown?

Today I've been ignoring the question by trying to crowbar my life into something that fits the job spec for something I'd love to do and would be good at.

And accidentally staring a strike.
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I worked hard on it, because it's a tough subject and my brain hasn't been working lately (I have so many things to tell you about! but no words!). And it's important so I wanted to get it right. I'm pleased with how it ended up and glad I was able to do it.

Here it is. It's about Ray Fuller, a bisexual Jamaican denied asylum in the U.S. partly because the judge thought his relationships with women meant he couldn't be bisexual.
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I can't do any more words about this (I'm just getting around to eating my first/only proper meal of the day), so have some I prepared earlier.
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Tonight I was delighted to be a speaker at Your Liberal Britain event. It was a great night, I got to see old friends, met some great new people, started plotting about a group for Lib Dem women (and nonbinary people) outside of the stuff that currently only goes on in London...and I gave a little talk! Asked to choose a specialist subject, of course I was the one banging on about immigration. The other talks, about engagement with underrepresented groups in the party and about how we should all be paid the same for working less, were great.

Here, just for fun, is what I said: )
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Even the nice people, the people on the right side, the people who'd never wish me harm, the people I think of as friends, are saying this on social media.

And it's a headline you can find in all sorts of news, if you're self-destructive enough to Google it.

One day, I hope not to be a problem at all.

One day, I hope I can expect more robust cases in favor of immigration, not just pointing out that a once-important country shouldn't ruin itself over its hatred of immigrants because then it'll be ruined and there will still be immigrants.

One day, I hope we can take a step back from "that won't work, you can't get rid of the immigrants that way!" (true though it may be!), to "but why the fuck would you want to get rid of all the immigrants anyway?!"

I hope for these things. But I'm not sure I can see a path to that world from this one.

Snark

May. 6th, 2016 10:28 am
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Sort of sweet watching my Scottish Green friends (of which for some reason I have several, maybe because it's a better party than the England & Wales Greens?) being devastated that apparently-good women candidates missed out on actually being elected -- which made me think yep, now you know how the Lib Dems already feel -- and baffled/terrified/outraged at where all these Tory voters came from -- which made me think yep, now you know how the north of England already feels!
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From our U.S. correspondent, Holly:

"For years I mocked the Americans mercilessly for telling me my accent was so sophisticated," said some lady named Fiona, "and that was certainly something I never got back home in Liverpool! I kept telling that joke about us being two countries separated by a common language. After I was asked what 'bum' and 'chips' mean, I got a lecture about the dangers of linguistic prescriptivism and a demand to pack my bags."

"My test just consisted of listening to an earnest white Midwesterner say 'fanny pack' without giggling," a bloke called Kevin said, "and I failed. Of course! It's disrespecting my heritage to expect anything else!"

"Sure," said Alex, "it's funny to tell the Americans they're not speaking proper English. But if they start using our own rules against us and decide we have to say 'bathroom' when we mean 'toilet,' just so we can stay here in the land of the free refills and the home of the fuckoff big cars, that's taking things too far! You can't even use 'fuck' as punctuation here," he said, clearly on the edge of breaking down. "People get all upset. But...but the petrol's so cheap!"

Then he loses his battle against the sobs. "Gas," he says sadly. "I mean 'gas'! Not petrol! Don't make me go back to Milton Keynes!"

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