Category Archives: Uncategorized

Gong Xi Gong Xi!* Now put it in the calendar!

Happy New Year!  I loved this wonderful post on Lunar New Year by one of my favorite blogs, Fakequity (get it?  Fake Equity? Motto:  “FAKEQUITY IS BAD. IT SHOWS UP AS ALL TALK AND NO ACTION.”)  The author talks about their love of the Lunar New Year traditions in many Asian cultures, and that “One of the reasons I love lunar new year is it the only Asian holiday even remotely recognized in the US and Western society.”  They then lament those times when organizations schedule random events on Lunar New Year:  “The rant sounds like this: ‘One day! Can we get one day to celebrate? Why did they schedule on this day?!?’”

A couple of years back, an organization I’m in scheduled an event on (IIRC) Purim.  We were quite properly called on it, and rescheduled.  At that time, determined not to make the same mistake, I went into my Google Calendar and checked a bunch of boxes to add a variety of culturally significant holidays:

List titled "Other calendard" with checked boxes for Christian Holidays; Holidays in United States; Jewish Holidays; Muslim Holidays; and Orthodox Holidays."

After reading the Fakequity post, I went to check whether this had resulted in adding Lunar New Year and … of course not.  What’s worse, this is the full list of religious holidays Google lets you add.  After that, it has a very long list of country holidays you can add:

List titled "Other calendard" with checked boxes for Christian Holidays; Holidays in United States; Jewish Holidays; Muslim Holidays; and Orthodox Holidays; Regional Holidays: Holidays in Afghanistan; Holidays in Albania; Holidays in Algeria; Holidays in American Samoa; Holidays in Andorra."

And so on.  So there’s no generic way to add Hindu or other religions’ holidays, Indigenous holidays, or cultural holidays of other parts of Asia or Africa.  To make sure I got at least Chinese cultural holidays, I checked “Holidays in Taiwan,”** which helpfully added such things as “Farmer’s Day.”

Fakequity to the rescue again!  Early this year, they created a list of “2019 Culturally Significant Dates and New Years (x15).”***   These are all going in CREEC’s calendar so we can do our best to respect these diverse holidays.  And also find ways to enjoy culturally significant food throughout the year!

***************

*Or “Gong Shi Gong Shi” if you were lucky enough to study Chinese at Middlebury summer language school sometime in the late 1970s and become completely unable to read any other, much more popular, system of Romanization.

**Why Taiwan and not China?  Because I lived there for three years in the early 1980s and still miss it.

***In this post you will find another of the many reasons I love Fakequity.  In listing the holidays, it says;  “Below is a graphic to share. … I’ve listed the text below [the graphic] for people who want to use a text-to-speech reader …”

What’s in YOUR drafts file?

Panama Jackson of Very Smart Brothas asked his readers, “what do you have saved in your drafts?”  He then listed ten draft posts, each of which provided a brief insight into a brilliant topic.  (At least the ones I understood; his music references went over the head of this middle aged white nerd.)  He urged readers to share their top ten unpublished drafts in comments.  Here are mine — could only find seven worth listing:

  1. “Unlearning” about all the racist, colonialist crap I learned in high school, and since, that I’m working hard to unlearn.
  2. “Professionalism” which so far consists of one sentence: “I care about all the wrong things — and all the wrong people — to ever be considered ‘professional’ or ‘respectable.’ I don’t belong here.”  Hmm.  Bad day in court, perhaps?
  3. “Announcing WhAMBAM: White American Male Bad Actor Manifest:” My attempt to counter the Trump Administration’s list of criminals who are immigrants.  I’m guessing I never finished because the news kept supplying new examples of White American Male Bad Actors.
  4. “Why my freak-out shows my privilege.”  An undeveloped essay about why my post-Trump freak out shows how ignorantly privileged (and privilegedly ignorant) I was pre-Trump.
  5. “Facebook reactions we really need.”  Disability-rights version.  I did the graphic, but didn’t really write anything

Series of graphics titled "Facebook Reactions for Disability Rights Posts." 1. The words "Stupid Questions" surrounded by the red-circle-and-slash sign for "no!" with the caption "No Stupid Questions. 2. The international symbol of accessible inside a flash-like icon, with the text "Presume Competence, Asshole!" 3. Clip-art of an ankle being wrapped in an Ace bandage, with the text "The fact that you sprained your ankle does not mean you get what it's like to be disabled." 4. Text box with the following letters, spaced by dashes "F - U - C - K Y - O - U" with the text, "The lady in accounting who knows how to fingerspell is not an interpreter." 5. Icon of a middle finger flipping the bird with the text, "Please reconsider your microagression," and 6. Cartoon drawing of an older man with tufts of white hair on either side of his head, wearing a flannel shirt, with the text, "No, your building is not grandfathered in."

  1. “Before ‘we’ were so easily offended”: Picking up on a meme noting that fragile white people used to be unwilling to drink from the same water fountain as black people, so the whole safe space sneer is bullshit.  Ended up writing this instead:  “You want a safe space? How about Yale College, 1924.”
  2. “Fatal Disability Discrimination:”  Calling bullshit both as a disability rights lawyer and linguistics major/nerd (and major nerd) on the concept of “after birth abortion” for disabled infants.
  3. “The Orange Dog:” a photo essay on an orange plastic poodle that my father and I exchanged as a gift in the most awkward circumstances we could dream up for the other. For example, me at some just-pre-law-school-graduation event:

Image: Photo of me at age 28, white woman with short dark hair wearing a flowered dress, holding an orange plastic poodle with pink fuzzy rabbit ears. I'm sitting at a table with a bottle of beer in the foreground.

Vote for Saira Rao for Colorado CD-1

I’m writing to urge you to vote for Saira Rao in the primary for our CD-1 representative.  Ballots are due tomorrow (drop-off and other info here:  https://www.coloradodems.org/resources/faqs-answered-for-the-primary/) and I wanted to make this last, important pitch and to urge you to read Neeti Pawar’s article here:

https://medium.com/@neetip/we-deserve-better-eae018ad520b

Neeti Pawar is a brilliant and tireless Denver civil rights lawyer.  Her experience, described in the article, was consistent with our experiences over the years of our current representative deeply NOT getting disability rights, the area of law I know and care the most about.  As has become much clearer in recent days, we are living in increasingly dangerous times — especially for people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized people.  We need a representative who gets this and acts on it, not one who sidesteps civil rights as “not her issue.”

And if health care *is* Rep. DeGette’s issue (as her staffers indicated to Ms. Pawar in the linked article), we — as civil rights and civil liberties fans — have reason for concern.  Rep. DeGette signed into law a bill that imposes Electronic Visit Verification, a system that will require Medicaid recipients and their aides to wear electronic monitors to make sure they are getting and receiving services.  A more intrusive and infantilizing system I cannot possibly imagine.  It is one that has members of the disability rights community very concerned about privacy and autonomy.

Interestingly, in response to outreach by a local pro-DeGette attorney, she responded that she “has always fought to pass legislation in support of disability rights, including stem cell research.”  This underscores her cluelessness.  Touting work on behalf of stem cell research as a disability rights position is exactly precisely not getting disability rights.  It’s saying “I support making people with disabilities not disabled anymore.”  Stem cell research is a great cause; it’s just not remotely a disability rights cause, and anyone for whom that is a go-to response doesn’t get it.

Ultimately, my pitch to vote for Saira Rao may seem like an odd ask in this particular year, as she is a Democratic woman running against an incumbent . . .  Democratic woman.  So she won’t flip a House seat or overthrow the patriarchy (yet). But after having the chance to meet her and speak with her, I believe she is what we need the most:  a better Democrat.  A Democrat that can help us build a future party, powerful and inclusive, that will leave the Republican cavemen behind.  A Democrat who will inspire people of color, people with disabilities

I’m pasting Ms. Pawar’s entire article below.  Please read.  Please share.  Please vote.

 

We Deserve Better

By Neeti Pawar

I saw the images of Diana DeGette traveling to Texas purportedly to assess the conditions in which immigrants are being detained. Many are thanking her — it makes me livid.

We tried to tell her. Me, personally, and many others. Like my friend and tireless immigrant rights activist and attorney Christina Brown who’s been on the front lines of the abhorrent conditions of family detention recently reminded us: “I’m glad people care. But I’m bitter. We screamed so loud in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017…and no one listened.”

No one listened.

I’ve told my story to some; my friend Saira has told it to many. For her it was the last straw to a series of her own experiences in being taken advantage of and then ignored by the Democratic Party establishment — her breaking point in deciding to run for congress to unseat the 22-year, 11-term incumbent.

I had spent several days at DIA when the first Muslim travel ban issued. I witnessed a handful of immigration attorneys passionately and determinedly ensure no family would be lost in the system or turned back without a fight. None were Muslim, none were South Asian. But they cared so deeply to defend against the injustice.

A few days later I attended what was promoted as a “town hall” meeting with my CD-1 Representative, DeGette. I submitted detailed questions online; when I arrived, I was told those questions were just for data collection, that she wouldn’t be answering them. There were cards to write questions — so I wrote them out again. I was told they would be used to identify “themes” and not answered.

The town hall was held at the Police Protection Association building. A location which was marginalizing in and of itself — consistent with the pattern of being out of touch with many of her constituents; or worse, intentionally reinforcing their oppression (this is how systemic racism and oppression works).

The “town hall” was a prepared power point presentation about the Affordable Health Care Act; no questions were taken. Out of growing frustration of my representative’s failure to address the crisis around immigration that was actually occurring in her district and state (Muslim ban, ICE raids, and ICE trolling courthouses and communities), and as one of very few people of color in the 1000+ audience, I disrupted. I stood up and asked my representative to address the crisis and state her plan to protect the obvious next target — DACA status individuals.

My Representative’s response: That she wasn’t aware of any raids, and outright condescending dismissal that DACA status people were at risk; blind unsupported assurances that no one was coming after DACA. She didn’t want to hear it; she didn’t listen. She literally scoffed at my suggestion, at my “paranoia”; suggested I was part of the problem because I was fueling fear mongering; overreacting. She didn’t listen.

On my way out, one of her staffers asked me to meet with her to talk about my concerns. I scheduled a meeting and met with her and another staffer at the Denver office. I shared my background, my experience and my concern, my connections to marginalized communities. I wanted to help. I wanted to give my Representative information from communities whom she was not hearing from. Her staffers nodded in agreement with the frustration. I was hopeful, until they related to me with resignation: “civil rights just isn’t her issue.” That her focus is on health care. It was clear to me: my representative didn’t see that that health care is civil rights. She was clueless to the interconnectedness of all issues and didn’t want to even try to be inclusive around issues of equity.

Stunned, I left. She didn’t want to listen. She didn’t think this was something she was responsible for. She had a long-standing active community member in her office wanting to help. To organize, to educate, to volunteer her time. To help her use her platform and power to get ahead of the issues we knew were coming. The writing was on the wall. She didn’t care.

She didn’t care. She didn’t listen.

Over 1 ½ years later, she’s now traveling to the US/Mexico border. To “see for herself.” It’s too little too late. It’s insulting to those who have been on the border for years, making personal sacrifice to their personal wellbeing, their financial wellbeing, placing strain on relationships and careers. The detention facilities have been in existence for years — under her watch, under both a Democratic president and the current president. She ignored it. And she ignored pleas from those who “screamed so loud in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.” And she didn’t listen. A report on ICE’s practice of family detention was issued in 2016 recommending DHS discontinue the general use of family detention. She did nothing. I expect more from my representative than merely signing on to letters. I expect action.

The public outrage over the recent policy to separate children from families finally got her attention. It was all of us, the people, who reacted loud and vigorously to ultimately pressure the administration to reverse the policy of separating children from their families.

She failed those who needed her most. Now, after the crisis is full blow in the *public eye* (because let’s be clear, the dehumanizing practice of family detention has been happening for years), and during an election year, she now decides to say something. To use her most secure seat in the country, her 22 years of “coalition building,” her “experience” in office, to finally do something. And what does she do? She does what she always does… she leaves her post. She has to “see for herself.” She “co-signs” legislation — co-signing means another representative does the work, writes the bill, gathers the support, builds the coalition. And DeGette allows her rubber-stamped signature to be placed among her colleagues. That’s what co-signing means. It takes nothing, no work, no political capital; it’s the opposite of leadership.

Is this the best she can do in 22 years?

She should have listened.

We deserve better.

Updated 6/26/18 to add responsive information.

Sam Bagenstos for the Michigan Supreme Court

I’m privileged to join Eve Hill, Scott LaBarre, Jennifer Mathis, and Arlene Mayerson in the letter below.  I urge you to donate  to Sam’s campaign and especially to forward this to others in the disability rights community and/or friends and family in Michigan.

Dear Friends,

As some of you may know, Sam Bagenstos is running to be a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.  Sam has been a stalwart of our community for more than two decades.  We hope you will join us in supporting his candidacy.

We are all bombarded with political appeals these days and it can be difficult to decide whom to support.  This one we’re totally clear about.  We want to ask you personally to support Sam with a contribution of $500, $250 or $100.

The future of the Michigan Supreme Court depends on the outcome of this race.  Republican Governor Rick Snyder appointed four of the seven current justices to the Court.  Two of those Snyder appointees are standing for election for the first time this fall.  The outcome of the election will be pivotal for numerous issues of extraordinary importance.

Many of you know Sam personally.  But for those of you who don’t, Sam is the Frank G. Millard Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.  As an attorney, he has played an instrumental role in some of the most important disability rights cases during the last quarter century, including arguing three ADA cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the Obama Administration, Sam led the Justice Department’s disability rights enforcement as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.  His work on enforcing the Olmstead integration mandate, on demanding accessibility in technology, and on promulgating the 2010 ADA regulations made his tenure at DOJ an extremely rich one for the disability rights movement.  Earlier in his career, Sam clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt on the Ninth Circuit and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In short, Sam is both a dedicated public servant and a brilliant and ethical lawyer.

For these reasons, we ask that you donate to Sam Bagenstos’s campaign today.  

Here is the link to Sam’s website where you can learn more about his candidacy, and here is a link to the donation page.

Please note: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to contribute.  Contributions are NOT tax-deductible and may only be drawn from American funds.  The Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits a judicial campaign committee from soliciting more than $100 per attorney.  If you are an attorney, please regard this as informative and not a solicitation for more than $100.  However, an attorney may make, and the judicial campaign committee may accept, a contribution from an attorney in any amount up to the individual maximum of $6,800.

Thank you for taking the time to consider supporting Sam Bagenstos for the Michigan Supreme Court.

Sincerely,

Eve L. Hill*
Scott LaBarre*
Jennifer Mathis*
Arlene Mayerson*
Amy Robertson*

Paid for by SAMUEL BAGENSTOS FOR JUSTICE | 2730 E STADIUM BLVD NO 310 |Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Happy [redacted] Birthday to my Mom!

Please enjoy these photos of my Mom before she makes me take them down!

Today is her [redacted] birthday, and I selfishly want to share with you some of the photographic evidence of her sustaining love and support throughout my life.  Luckily I look a lot like her, or you might doubt how a quiet and self-effacing woman could raise such a loudmouth, or how an incredibly creative artisan could raise someone who can’t knit a scarf in a straight line, or how a talented musician could raise someone who can’t sing or play a note.

I’ve probably told this story on this blog before, but one of the crucial lessons she taught me was when I was about 6 and a neighbor kid was trying to scare me with a snake he had caught. Mom pointed out that all he wanted was a reaction, and if I laughed, he’d go away.  I did, and he did, and thus I received my first lesson in dealing with corporate defense counsel!

She tolerated my insufferable picky eating, and eventually taught me to enjoy food from around the world.  One of our continuing joys is visiting and finding new and interesting restaurants in DC, Denver, or other destinations.

She was an important part of making me the proud nerd that I am today, reading to us and teaching us throughout our kidhood, and storming the high school and eventually taking over the English Lit education of a handful of us when the school persisted in thinking 10th graders didn’t need to read literature.  She initially thought a linguistics major was impractical, but I’m pretty sure she’s glad I can appreciate her bilingual puns and other language nerd jokes.

Possibly because she grew up as a Jewish girl in largely Christian/WASP DC, she taught us to be proud of our mixed heritage and to be open to those of others.  I have never, ever, known her to show prejudice to any group or person — a statement few of any age can make.

Also I got to meet Mstislav Rostropovich — in our very own living room!

Ultimately, she taught me to be independent and was the home I came home to after my independent adventures.

Happy Birthday, Mom, and so much love.  And onward to more travel, adventures, reading, creativity, and excellent restaurants.

Image: Mom in 2016 standing in front of a leafy background, wearing a patterned black shirt and black pants.

Mom at my niece Petra Robertson’s graduation, 2016.

 

Image: two women sitting at a restaurant table. Mom on the right in a sweater and t-shirt; Laura Rovner on the left, a younger woman with long black hair and glasses.

Mom with Laura Rovner in Boston last week.

Image: three people in front of a gothic-looking building: an man with white hair and beard in a suit and tie; younger man in a tie and red graduation gown; and Mom in a crocheted shirt with a black shirt underneath.

Step-father David North, nephew Christian Robertson, and Mom at Christian’s high school graduation in 2012.

 

Image: four people, all white: young woman with long brown hair; slightly older woman (me), with salt and pepper hair and a green shirt; Mom in black shirt and patterned shawl, and older man (David) in a suit and tie.

Rebecca Smullin, me, Mom, and David at the Impact Fund, 2007.

Image: six people, all white posed sitting on a lawn: older man, white hair & beard; young woman in a pink t-shirt holding a toddler with a plush animal in her lap; young boy in t-shirt also with beanie baby toy, man wearing ball cap and beige polo shirt, and mom, in a white t-shirt and khakis.

David, sister-in-law Terri Robertson (holding Petra), Christian, brother Bruce Robertson, Mom in Boston ca. 2001.

 

Image: four people, all white, posed in front of a house: woman with gray hair in green t-shirt; woman with brown/gray hair and glasses and green dress; man with white hair an beard in blue shirt; younger man with brown hair in white shirt and striped pants with red suspenders.

Aunt Miriam Grabois, Mom, David, cousin Adam Grabois in Boston ca. 2000.

 

Image: two women, both white, sitting on the sofa. Me with short brown hair and glasses wearing a knit vest and khakis; Mom with short brown/gray hair and glasses wearing a green sweater.

Mom and me on the sofa at Mom’s house.

 

Image: four people, all white, posed on the patio in back of a brick house - man with blond hair in dark sweater using a wheelchair, woman in pink t-shirt, older (balding) man sitting in lawn chair wearing light blue shirt; me with an uncharacteristic pony tail wearing a brown sweatshirt and jeans.

Tim, Mom, grandfather Clarence Blau, and me, ca 1994.

 

Image: two white women in party dresses, one with straight brown hair and glasses, the other with curly hair; both holding white roses.

The mothers-in-law: Mom and Nora Fox at our wedding.

 

Image: three white people sitting at a restaurant table; man in suit with glasses; younger man also in suit; woman (Mom) in black dress with gold-embroidered sleeves.

Dad, Bruce, and Mom ca 1990.

 

 

Image: 5 white people posing in front of a building. Mom (brown/gray hair and glasses in a white sweater); older man in suit and white fishing hat; me (short brown hair; graduation gown); younger man in spiked hair with sunglasses in a shirt and tie, and slightly older man in a suit and tie, also with sunglasses.

Mom, my grandfather Clen Robertson, me, Bruce, Dad at my law school graduation, 1988.

 

Image: three white people posed in front of a building; me (short brown hair, dark sweater, jeans); Mom (short dark hair, blazer, jeans); David (white hair & beard; blazer, knit vest, jeans).

Me, Mom, David in China ca. 1981

 

Image: white woman in shortsleeve red shirt holds a small white dog that is licking the face of a small boy in a blue sweatshirt and shorts with a camera around his neck.

Mom, Bruce and our dog, Jenny, 1970.

 

Image: three white people and a dog pose on the side of a boat: girl with ponytail wearing a blue t-shirt and red shorts; woman in red shirt and sunglasses; man with curly brown hair and beard in shortsleeve shirt and brown pants.

Me, Mom, Dad and Jenny on vacation ca. 1970.

 

 

Image: white woman & 2 white kids on tricycles posed on a driveway in front of a white station wagon.

Me, Mom, Bruce ca. 1964.

 

Image: White woman with brown hair in a blue dress squatting down to holdsa toy out to a white toddler in a white dress. They are on the sidewalk in front of a row of houses.

Mom and me, ca. 1961

And here’s the photo that proves we were really a Soviet spy family all along:

Nikita Khrushchev, Mom, Dad in 1959.

 

We need all of us

My previous post was on the stages of grieving the recent election.  One of the things I noticed after my Dad died was that there are also different ways of grieving . . . and coping with loss and challenge.  I also noticed that the average number of dumb things I did and said (and, candidly, that other people said) went up radically during the grieving period.

In the past few days, since the election trainwreck, I’ve seen, heard, and read people grieving and coping in many different ways, some of which made me annoyed or even angry.  I’m trying to hold onto this bit of insight, though:  we need all of us.

We need people who are mad as hell and taking to the streets.

We need policy wonks who are willing to [drink a giant vodka and pepto cocktail and] try to make semi-rational policy with the incoming administration.

We need law nerds in offices with laptops suing the crap out of anyone who violates civil rights and civil liberties.  (I have to fit in somewhere, right?)

We need people who need to hear “it’s going to be OK” in order to get up in the morning and continue to do good work.

We need people who need to hear us acknowledge that it’s never ever going to be OK.

We need people to step up and step in when harassment happens.  Always.

We need people documenting every single act of harassment and vandalism.

We need both those who think this is the apocalypse and those who can pull us back from the emotional brink.

We even need [flying pigs and] liberal Republicans we can work with to limit the legislative and administrative damage to specific communities.

Most of all, I think, we need to be gentle with each other here on the left and the many and various ways we’re coping and processing.

We need all of us.

5 stages

1. disbelief
2. anger
3. comfort food
4. organizing with our wonderful, righteous, loving civil rights community.
5. fighting like hell for the America we all know we can be, protecting our brothers/sisters/siblings who will come under attack,struggling to move the law forward or at least not back, and building a coalition that will elect strong, good leaders in 2018 and 2020.

This is *my* fight song.