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Ramadan

This week the Internet lost its mind for three reasons—two of which were legitimate and the other will have you go WTF?!?

The first legitimate reason was the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, which is a decision that is so controversial and such a hot flashpoint among the Israelis and Palestinians that the vast majority of other countries prefer to have their embassies stay put in Tel Aviv. A group of mostly unarmed Palestinians peacefully protested that embassy opening and it led to Israeli troops firing weapons on them, killing and injuring many Palestinians. Of course this brutal attack on unarmed protesters were rightfully condemned on social media and in real life. There were even a group of Jewish protesters who blocked a major thoroughfare in DC in protest against what happened to the Palestinians.

The second legitimate reason why the Internet blew up was over this video that had suddenly gone viral for the most insane reason. Basically a New York lawyer named Aaron Schlossberg was in a local fast food place where he heard some employees speaking Spanish amongst themselves and he literally exploded in this crazy rage that was caught on video, uploaded online, and suddenly went viral.

Then this photo surfaced of Schlossberg attending a rally in New York City in May, 2017 where he’s standing next to a man holding a sign that’s written in Hebrew. This guy goes off on a couple of fast food workers for speaking Spanish amongst themselves because he believes that everyone should be speaking English since they are in America yet he has no problem with standing next to a guy with a sign that’s also written in a foreign language (Hebrew).

An earlier video from 2016 have also surfaced on Twitter where Schlossberg called a white man from Massachusetts “an ugly fucking foreigner.”

Since that time Schlossberg has had to deal with trolls giving his law firm negative reviews on Yelp, someone starting a GoFundMe page that would raise enough money to hire a mariachi band and a taco truck that arrive outside of his office, being kicked out of his office space, and having to dodge reporters by cowering under his oversized umbrella.

I can understand why the Internet went in an uproar over those two stories. Having military troops firing heavy artillery at mostly peaceful unarmed protesters is wrong. Adam Schlossberg is a total asshole for thinking that he has the right to publicly bully anyone whom he thinks is a foreigner (with the exception of anyone who speaks Hebrew, which is a foreign language just like Spanish) even though his targets are basically law-abiding people who just want to go on with quietly living their lives.

But the third story this week is one that has also gotten as much attention as the other two and it has me totally annoyed: Does a certain sound clip sound like the word “Yanny” or the word “Laurel?” I first heard about this when one of my Facebook friends posted this sound clip on her wall asking what does it sound like. Half of us answered “Laurel” while the other half answered “Yanny.” Okay I thought it sounded innocuous.

But then this whole Laurel or Yanny sound bite exploded on the Internet to the point where people are actually spending time arguing over what is the actual word being spoken. It has gotten mainstream media attention. The U.S. military issued an apology over a tasteless joke conflating bombing the Taliban in Afghanistan with Laurel or Yanny.

It reminds me of a similar argument three years ago over the colors of a certain dress and I found that argument to be just as annoying as this current argument over a sound bite. I have no problem with people being passionate over the recent bloodshed in Gaza or Aaron Schlossberg because those are legitimate issues. But if you’re risking longtime close relationships over your stance on a stupid issue like Laurel or Yanny, you are a pretty pathetic person who needs to step away from the computer and go outside for a while (while leaving your mobile devices indoors).

Ironically I found this very interesting article on Snopes about the origins of the Laurel or Yanny debate and how it’s scientifically possible for two people listening to the same audio to hear different words. But this debate does NOT deserve to have as great importance as the killings in Gaza or the openly public racist rants of Aaron Schlossberg.

And, no, I have no intention of divulging whether I really heard Laurel or Yanny because I am really not in a mood for a drawn-out debate on something that’s totally frivolous like the Laurel or Yanny issue.

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Ramadan

When I got involved with some of the trainings associated with the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign, I thought that my role would be limited to support and logistics for the next six weeks. That’s because nearly all of the rallies and direct actions were scheduled for Mondays (with the exception of Memorial Day weekend, when the event is scheduled for the following Tuesday). I recently started a new day job a little over a month ago and I really don’t have the luxury to ask my boss for a day off just yet.

But then a few things happened. Last week I ended up staying home because the boss, who’s currently the executor of his late aunt’s estate, had to fly to India (where his family is originally from) to deal with estate-related issues. I assumed that I would have to come in to work this Monday. But then I got a text from the boss saying that he was sick so he’s not going to have me come in until the following Monday.

So the good news is that I was able to attend the first event of the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign in person. The bad news is that I’m not getting paid for the days that I don’t work. Right now my work hours are pretty erratic because there have been days when I haven’t come in at all or a work session is cut short. If this keeps up I’m going to have to look for either a second part-time job with more reliable hours or a steady, reliable full-time job. I don’t relish the prospect of job hunting again because it took me nearly two years to find a new job after my previous stint with a startup went nowhere after two weeks.

Well, anyway, when I got the text from my boss telling me not to show up this week, I got in my car and drove to Annapolis. I found space in a nearby parking garage and walked to the State House. While I was on my way I found something that was really appropriate for the occasion—a tree that was dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018


Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Martin Luther King had started the original Poor People’s Campaign when he decided to shift his focus from civil rights to the larger issues of economic justice and income inequality. At the time of King’s assassination 50 years ago last month, he was in Memphis to help out with sanitation workers who were on strike there. So, yeah, it was a cool coincidence to find that tree dedicated to MLK.

I arrived at Lawyers Mall for the rally, which kicked off this protest. Since it happened on the day after Mother’s Day, the theme of this protest was how poverty have affected women and children.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Okay, I’ll admit that it was a pretty small turnout. I later learned that the majority of people living in the Washington, DC area had opted to go to the events that took place at the U.S. Capitol building. I had thought about going to the one in DC since I live closer to DC but I opted to go to Annapolis instead since I’m a Maryland resident. I’m glad I went because that contingent needed as many people as possible.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

There was even a voter registration table that day in an attempt to sign up new voters for the upcoming Mid-Term Elections in Maryland.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

A few people from The Real News Network interviewed one of the rally participants. Here’s the resulting story.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Another reason why I’m glad I went to Annapolis is that I ran into an old friend of mine, Ann, who came from her current home in Frederick for this event. We took pictures of each other. Here’s Ann.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

And here’s me.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

After the rally we marched over to nearby College Avenue. A small contingent of direct action volunteers proceeded to stop traffic. They were arrested by the police and released a few hours later.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

Maryland Poor People's Campaign, Annapolis, Maryland, May 14, 2018

I remember when I underwent training I was told to be prepared for potential counter-demonstrators, especially from alt-right groups. Fortunately there were no counter-protests and everything was very peaceful with no injuries or property destruction. After the direct action, those of us who weren’t arrested went back to the Lawyers Mall where we had a closing circle where we held hands as people said prayers. I saw a cop with a bomb-sniffing dog that was sniffing around in the bushes on the perimeter of Lawyers Mall but the dog turned up nothing. (We were told during training not to bring anything that could be used as a weapon.) I did experience sticker shock when I got back to the parking garage and found that I had to pay $8 even though I was parked for only three hours. (There is another garage near St. John’s College that has free parking but that’s only available after 6 p.m. on weekdays and all day weekends.)

I not only took photos at the protest but I also shot some video footage as well.

I was glad that I was able to witness the first in a series of protests from the Poor People’s Campaign. I learned that the Maryland group will have a rally next week that focuses on immigration and the mistreatment of Native Americans but there will be no civil disobedience mainly because, given the Trump Administration’s current hostility towards immigrants (especially if they aren’t white), the organizers don’t want to risk someone being deported just for doing nonviolent civil disobedience. Given my current job, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to go to another protest unless the boss decides that he doesn’t need me on a particular day. I’ll just stick to doing whatever behind the scenes support work needs to be done.

When I got home from Annapolis I learned about the crazy drama in Jerusalem that also happened while I was in Annapolis, which has given me yet another reason why I despise Donald Trump.

Despite being overshadowed by the bigger protest in Washington, DC, this protest in Annapolis did garner some local media coverage.

The Capital Gazette

The Real News Network

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While everyone else was focused on either Cinco de Mayo or Free Comic Book Day or both, I went to another Poor People’s Campaign training and town hall event. This one was held at Jubilee United Church of Christ in Lanham, Maryland. I had gone to a previous training in Bethesda a few weeks ago but that event had two simultaneous workshops—one on civil disobedience and the other on being a legal observer. I went to the civil disobedience one that night. I went to the Lanham training because that was also was going to have the same two workshops so I’d thought I would go to the legal observer training. Here are a few shots of the building itself.

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Like the Bethesda event, this one also began with a town hall about the Poor People’s Campaign. It included readings from the scripture, what the Poor People’s Campaign is about, and testimonials from people who are living on the margins because they are either living below the poverty level, homeless, unemployed, transgender, over the age of 50 or some combination of the above.

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

The event also included a few musical numbers as well.

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

After a brief break, it was time to begin the workshops. It turned out that the person who was supposed to do the legal observer training had car trouble (or something similar) and the person ended up being a no-show. So the organizers made a decision where they would combine the two workshops into one. A lawyer spoke about what a legal observer does while she also spoke about what to do or not do if you get arrested for doing civil disobedience.

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Training, Lanham, Maryland May 5, 2018

Someone shot a video of this event and it’s currently online on the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign’s Facebook page. The Poor People’s Campaign will officially start on the Monday after Mother’s Day on May 14.

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Last Saturday I had a pretty busy day. In the morning and early afternoon I helped out my support group for people who are separated or divorced with its spring yard sale in Crofton. (I took a bunch of pictures there but I’ll upload them at a later date.) I made sure that I left no later than 2 p.m. so I would have ample time to travel north to Baltimore so I could arrive at an entirely different event on time.

I attended the Poor People’s Campaign’s Art Build + Theomusicology Training that was held at Oak Hill Center. I parked my car on a side street and walked about a half a block. I found that Oak Hill is located in what looked like a one-time industrial area that has fallen on hard times over the past few decades.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Despite the seediness of the neighborhood, I found a few bright spots, such as Midway Park and a neighborhood that looks fully inhabited.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Oak Hill Center is located in a building that looks like a typical white industrial building on the outside. In fact, if it weren’t for the banner on this door, I would have walked past it.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Oak Hill looks way more impressive on the inside. It’s a combination of a library, art studio, and makerspace. It’s nice, big, and airy.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

The room where the workshop was held was decorated with prints related to the Poor People’s Campaign.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

The next shot shows the room where the bulk of the workshop was held.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

The workshop started off with learning how to sing a few of the songs that are affiliated with the Poor People’s Campaign while watching a few online videos that one can access anytime thanks to YouTube. We learned how to sing “Everybody’s Got a Right to Live” and “Somebody’s Hurting My Brother.”

Afterwards we split into two groups with people who preferred to sing walking over to the library end of the building where they continued to practice the songs while those of us who were more into creating art stayed in the same room where we engaged in some large-scale screen printing. The objective was to screen print large banners that would be flown in Annapolis by protesters on the Monday after Mother’s Day.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

We did the screen printing assembly-line style and there were times when we switched jobs or took a break and let someone else take over the job. The whole process was pretty lively and jovial at times.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Even though I stuck with the screen printing the majority of my time, there was a time when I felt thirsty so I went into the other room to get a drink, which was where the singers were rehearsing the two songs. One of the singers saw me getting a drink and recruited me to yell insults at the singers as loud as possible. So I was yelling things like “COMMUNISTS!”, “DEGENERATES!”, “GET A JOB!”, and “GO HOME!” I was relatively restrained in my yelling because I really didn’t want to delve into yelling anything racist (especially since there were a few African Americans present) or something that’s really offensive to someone (such as using a religious slur). After a few minutes of yelling insults, the singers thanked me for doing this. Apparently they were preparing themselves for the possibility that counter protesters would yell nasty insults while they were singing so they wanted to learn how to sing despite distractions.

After my brief role as an obnoxious counter protester, I went back in the other room and continued with helping people with screen printing while I took photos. There were two young sisters who accompanied their father to this workshop. At first they were focused on doing their own drawings.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

But then, once the screen printing was underway, they became fascinated by the process and they were eager to help. So we allowed them to carry the newly-printed banners over to the person who was hanging them on the clotheslines.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Here are a few shots of the newly printed banners drying on clotheslines.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

The last photo shows a chart indicating how many copies of which banners needed to be printed. By the end of the workshop we made great headway. The workshop is going to be repeated at the same place tomorrow night but I won’t be able to make it. If the next workshop is as productive as the one I attended was, I’m sure that the organizers will meet their entire production goal by tomorrow night.

Poor People's Campaign Art Build + Theomusicology Training, Baltimore, April 28, 2018

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Yesterday I went to my first training for the Poor People’s Campaign in order to prepare for next month’s activities of protests in order to highlight the plight of the workers, the poor, women, racial minorities, and immigrants. The season of protests is scheduled to kick off nationwide on Mother’s Day weekend and it’s meant to build on Martin Luther King’s original Poor People’s Campaign (which he had just started when he was killed 50 years ago this month).

The training was held at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Cedar Lane had some nice touches on the outside that proclaim to the general public how it’s open and accepting of everyone regardless of who they are while taking moral stands on certain issues (such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and gun control).

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

I went inside and saw a few training flyers I needed to pick up. I made some small talk among the fellow participants until the start of the training session.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

The training was straightforward. We were taught how to behave ourselves in public while protesting in order to not turn off the general public to the message that we were trying to send. (For example, we are discouraged from wearing masks while protesting, drinking alcohol, taking illegal drugs, and uttering foul language.) The most important thing was that we had to remain nonviolent at all times.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

I took part in the workshop on how to do nonviolent civil disobedience. At this point I’m not sure if I will actually set myself up to be deliberately arrested at a protest because I have just started a new job and my current finances are precarious. I still took the workshop just in case some cop decides to do a very wide sweep and arrest those who aren’t doing civil disobedience as well as those who are trying to get arrested. At least I know how to react if I somehow get caught up in some kind of a wide sweep.

I remember when I was a child my parents used to watch All in the Family and I still remember the episode where working class conservative bigot Archie Bunker happened to go to an anti-war protest in order to retrieve his son-in-law after Edith and Gloria were worried about Mike’s safety when they heard that the protest was getting violent. Mike returned home safe and sound while Archie ended up in jail along with the protesters whom he normally would never have any association with simply because he got caught up in a wide sweep by the police. You can read more about this episode here. There’s a full episode on YouTube that’s available for now but it’s unknown as to whether it will remain online or will get yanked for copyright reasons. In any case, I kept that episode in mind as I went to the training because I want to be prepared for the possibility that I would end up in jail like Archie Bunker even if I’m not doing civil disobedience.

The most memorable part of the training where we took turns simulating a civil disobedience act while other people playing the role of counter protesters and provocateurs yelled in our faces. The hardest part was remembering the chanting we were doing while someone yelled in our faces.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Well, anyway, I learned a lot that night. The only downside of the training was that it rained that day. It wasn’t so bad going to the church but when we left, the rain was pouring down harder. I tried commuting on the Capital Beltway and it was so harrowing with the cars speeding in the downpour like it was nothing. I got off in Silver Spring and I blundered around until I consulted my smartphone GPS app and I managed to configure it to give me a route back home while bypassing all major highways. I traveled along the back routes until I arrived home. The drivers were more civilized on the back routes so I didn’t have to fear getting into an accident. The downside was that I had to stop at so many traffic lights that I didn’t return home until after 11 p.m.

In any case, despite the rain and the harrowing car trip home, I don’t regret going to that training. The Poor People’s Campaign is set to have its inaugural rollout nationwide on Mother’s Day weekend next month so stay tuned, folks!

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Today is Tax Day in the United States, which means that everyone must file his/her state and federal tax returns today or else. Unless you happen to be President Donald Trump, which means you can continue to somehow evade paying taxes (and maybe not even bother with filing), brag about being smart for not paying taxes, deny ever saying that despite video evidence to the contrary, and get away with it—if you are Donald Trump then you can just treat today like it’s any other day in April. (He’s currently in his Mar-a-Lago estate as of this writing. He’s probably playing a round or two of golf while you’re reading this, which is what he usually does when he’s there.)

Five years ago this month I got a notice on Facebook that Occupy Baltimore and Luminous Intervention were doing a joint rollout of a new video game called Tax Evaders that emerged from the Occupy Wall Street movement and they planned on projecting that game outside on the wall of a building whose exact name and location was kept secret until the very last minute. (The secrecy was due to the organizers trying to avoid the local police learning about that event and trying to shut it down while possibly arresting people.) That rollout was scheduled for the same day that I was due in divorce court. My divorce case was scheduled early enough in the morning that I could easily make the trip to Baltimore to check out Tax Evaders that same evening.

My divorce case started at 9 a.m. and the entire trial ended at 9:20 a.m. It took 20 minutes to dissolve my marriage to my college sweetheart that was mostly a happy one until he abruptly left me for a woman with severe mental health problems (but that’s another story altogether). I arrived home and I felt depressed and drained. I drove back home in an effort to decompress from what was a surreal nightmare but I felt restless. I decided to drive to Baltimore several hours early where I walked around the the Inner Harbor snapping pictures. (You can see the pictures I took that day along with detailed descriptions of both my day in divorce court and my time in Baltimore right here.) I kept on walking around the Inner Harbor snapping pictures like some kind of a dazed zombie photographer until it was close to dinnertime when I boarded the Charm City Circulator bus and went to Fells Point.

Once I arrived at Fells Point I ate dinner at Brick Oven Pizza then headed to the Broadway Market, which was the designated meeting place for the Tax Evaders event. A small group of like-minded people were there and we hung around making small talk until someone from the Occupy Baltimore group met us and we were directed to the nearby Bank of America building where the Tax Evaders video game would be projected. The video game itself was being played with an X-Box Kinnect, which meant that people could play the game without needing to use any kind of gaming controls. I shot a short video showing what it was like.

I also shot still photos of that event as well, which you can view right here.

I found another short video on YouTube of the same event that was shot by the event’s co-sponsor, Luminous Intervention. This one includes short interviews with the activists behind that event along with the reactions of the people who played that game.

Five years later the entire Occupy Wall Street movement is mostly dormant (with the exception of various Facebook and Twitter accounts that use the name Occupy Wall Street but they seem to be more focused on sharing links these days than doing any kind of real-life organizing street protests on behalf of the 99%) while Occupy Baltimore is defunct. The Luminous Intervention site is still online but it hasn’t been updated in a year. Tax Evaders still remains online and it’s still available to play for free. Tax Evaders is basically a Space Invaders clone where you have to shoot down corporations who have successfully evaded paying their fair share of taxes. If you shoot down enough of those corporations, you will see government funding get restored to schools, libraries, and other government programs that benefit average Americans.

If you like Space Invaders and are concerned about economic inequality, then Tax Evaders is for you. The only sad part about this game is that the entire game’s premise has not been dated at all. In fact, the game is still just as relevant today as it was five years ago (if not more relevant in light of President Donald Trump’s recent tax reform bill that successfully passed last year).

So if you’re feeling frustrated about figuring out your taxes for this year, then you can take out your frustrations on Tax Evaders. One major caveat, you will need to have Flash installed in order to play this game.

Tax Evaders video game

UPDATE (April 18, 2018): It looks like Tax Day has been extended to today due to the fact that the IRS website had literally crashed yesterday with the throngs of people filing their tax returns. So that means you can have some more time taking out your tax-related frustrations on the Tax Evaders video game.

I wanted to go to today’s March for Our Lives but I was unable due to the fact that I’ve been battling a major head cold for over a week now. On top of it there’s a possibility that I may be working at a day job once again starting Monday (I got a tentative offer but it could all fall through at the last minute so I’m being cautiously optimistic as of this writing) and I really want to get back into optimal health by then. It was just as well that I didn’t go because I ended up taking a nap this afternoon. I’m feeling better than before but I’m still on the tired side so I’ll probably go to bed early tonight.

A few days ago I updated my Facebook status to assure my out-of-town friends that I was okay because there was a school shooting that took place at a high school located near St. Mary’s City. (I live over an hour’s drive north from the school in question and it’s been a long time since I last set foot anywhere in St. Mary’s County.) One girl died and it turned out that the girl’s jilted ex-boyfriend was behind the shooting. That shooting was less deadly than what happened at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida but it still sucks that students at yet another high school had to deal with something that no young person should ever have to deal with.

What’s outrageous is that in the years since the school shooting at Columbine High School there have been more and more mass shootings and we have politicians who are so enamored with the money that the NRA has given them that they will not pass any kind of sensible gun regulations.

There were similar mass shootings in the UK and Australia but those nations passed gun regulations so there have been only one other mass shooting in the UK and none in Australia. Since Columbine there have been so many mass shootings in the US that I recently read that Columbine High School is no longer among the top 10 deadliest shootings in modern US history. That is disgusting!

The only silver lining is that the kids at Parkland High School have decided to take a public stand. They were the ones who were instrumental in holding today’s March for Our Lives in Washington, DC today. I saw the photos from the DC march and it was so reminiscent of the 2017 Women’s March that I participated in. What’s more, there were similar marches in other cities across the US. Paul McCartney went to the New York march where he said that he did it on behalf of his former Beatles bandmate and onetime songwriting partner John Lennon, who was shot to death back in 1980.

As for President Donald Trump, he decided to take yet another golfing trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and he had his motorcade take a longer route so he could avoid looking at the marchers in his area who were also protesting gun violence. What a fucking coward!

I’m so glad that the marches around the US drew huge crowds. I’m proud of the kids for pulling this off and taking a stand. They did the one thing that previous generations failed to do (including my own, I’m sad to say): Take on the pro-gun extremists and fight for the right to be able to go to school without having to worry about being shot. I wish I had been healthy enough to join these kids in downtown DC today but I’m proud of them for taking a nonviolent stand. They are true heroes in my book. I’ll end this post with a video showing the speech that was given by one of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors, Emma Gonzalez, at the DC march.

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Early last month I went to Adams-Morgan in Washington, DC because I wanted to check out the special mass meeting of the Poor People’s Campaign. I arrived at the venue only to find out that it was cancelled at the last minute. Naturally I was disappointed even though I managed to enjoy myself as I walked around Adams-Morgan and took a bunch of pictures.

The Poor People’s Campaign mass meeting was rescheduled for Presidents’ Day at a different church (Shiloh Baptist Church). Even though, at the time, I still couldn’t drive my car due to the fact that I needed to raise some money for break repair, I had no problem with taking the Metrobus to the nearest Metrorail station when I attempted to go to the earlier event in Adams-Morgan. However, Presidents’ Day was one of those days where the Metro system tended to go on holiday mode, which meant reduced Metrobus and Metrorail service. While I would’ve had no problem with getting there, returning home would’ve been difficult because the buses run less frequently on a holiday night and I would’ve ended up not returning home until well after 11 p.m.

But then I learned that the event would be livestreamed, which would be better for me. However, I currently have one of those pay-as-you-go Internet plans where watching a livestream video would’ve used up my allowed data bits for the month. I decided to walk over to the Greenbelt Makerspace and try livestreaming there. The makerspace itself was closed but there were tables and chairs under the awning outside so I could take my laptop and login to the makerspace’s Wi-Fi.

There was one glitch where one of the streaming sites didn’t have the stream but I quickly learned that the Poor People’s Campaign Facebook page was streaming so I went there and I saw the event. I took a few screenshots of the livestream for posterity.

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II gave a speech that was livestreamed to the church in DC which, in turn, was livestreamed on Facebook. (It was a livestream of a livestream.)

The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis was in Shiloh Baptist Church herself and she gave a pretty powerful speech on the plight of the poor in the U.S.

They had a section where average people testified about their struggles with poverty.

There was a pan of the audience where the people who stood up were members of the clergy of various faiths. As you can see, that church was full that night.

The event had a lovely choir singing gospel songs.

The livestream ended with a slide encouraging people to get on the Poor People’s Campaign list by texting MORAL to 90975.

I found the livestream to be very moving and I didn’t mind the fact that I was sitting outside in cold dank weather (it had been raining off and on for most of the day) wearing my winter coat watching it. Sure I wished I had been there in person but seeing it livestreamed was the next best thing to being there. (As I’m typing this, I’m reminded of the time eight years ago when my then-husband and I viewed the livestreaming of a wedding of two friends in Australia and how awed we were about watching it online.) At least with walking to the makerspace, I was able to arrive back at home by 10 p.m. instead of relying on the infrequent holiday Metro system while arriving much later at night.

Well, anyway, if you missed this livestream, you can view the archived video in its entirety right here.

Presidents' Day
I’ve been meaning to write this about my first year of living under President Donald Trump but I got diverted by the Women’s March on Washington and other things in my life. But I still wanted to write about my impressions about Donald Trump after living under his regime for a full year. Besides it’s pretty appropriate for me to upload this post today since it’s Presidents’ Day.

Deport Trump Mural

(Photo originally uploaded on March 16, 2017.)

I’ve also included some photos and drawings I’ve done over the past year in this entry, some of which are definitely NSFW.

picture11

(Drawing originally posted on January 24, 2017)

I had very low expectations of that man mainly because he had never held public office before and the only jobs he had ever held were in his family-owned business. (In fact I uploaded this post on Inauguration Day where I predicted that Trump will not last past his first term in office. I still maintain that there will not be a second term for Donald Trump and it’s possible that he might get removed from office before then.) He never had to deal with such things as being accountable to someone else or trying to work with a difficult person. He never had to worry about being fired or laid off. He was immune from all this for much of his life and he’s now having to deal with a very steep learning curve that most other adults his age have long since encountered and mastered.

photo35

(Photo originally posted on February 8, 2017.)

Let’s just say that President Trump hasn’t done anything that exceeded my low expectations so I’m not really disappointed in how he behaved in his first year in office.

(Drawing originally uploaded on July 31, 2017.)

When he was elected I did a bunch of Google searches on what Nazi Germany was like in the early days. That’s because I knew that the concentration camps didn’t start on the first day of Adolf Hitler’s reign. Those started much later. I found that Nazi Germany started off subtly with the passing of anti-semitic laws and increased censorship but, otherwise, things seemed normal for most people (except for the Jews). As time went on, the Nazis escalated things until the entire regime turned into a total nightmare for most people. The slow progression of the Nazi regime from being relatively benign to a total horror show was like putting a frog in a pot full of lukewarm water and gradually turning up the heat until the frog boiled to death.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

(Photo originally posted on January 31, 2017.)

So far I haven’t seen anything happening in my area that would convince me to gather whatever I can carry on my back and make the long trek north to Canada. In fact, I’ve seen signs, stickers, and even protests that have proved to me that the people in the Baltimore-Washington DC area haven’t given up in their opposition to Donald Trump.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

(Photo originally posted on February 9, 2017.)

Not too long ago the local movie house in my area had a free screening of the 1940 film The Mortal Storm, which starred Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan (who had appeared on film the previous year as the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz), and Robert Young (who would later star in the TV shows Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, MD). The movie showed how the rise of the Nazis eventually tore apart a family who lived in a small town in the German Alps. I found the film to be very engrossing yet its depressing ending had me compare that film with what is currently going on in real life.

(Drawing originally uploaded on August 30, 2017.)

So far I haven’t seen any book burnings like the one that was depicted in The Mortal Storm but I still remember when the neo-Nazis marched on Charlottesville last year, which resulted in Heather Heyer being mowed down by a car that was driven by a neo-Nazi. Donald Trump not only refused to denounce what had happened but he seemed to side with the neo-Nazis. On top of it, it seems like Trump’s siding with neo-Nazis have seemed to encouraged others who would never consider joining a far-right hate group like the KKK or the neo-Nazis yet still consider people of color to be inferior to those with white skin to start openly use racial slurs, such as this recent example.

(Photo originally posted on June 21, 2017.)

There was a scene in The Mortal Storm when Professor Roth’s defense of science in his classroom was the last straw for the local Nazis and he was arrested and taken away to a concentration camp. (They were already suspicious of him because of his Jewish background.) The Trump Administration have gone out of its way to deny science, especially with climate change. After all, President Trump had appointed a climate change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

(Drawing originally posted on September 28, 2017.)

The Nazis in The Mortal Storm considered Professor Roth and his family to be non-Aryan based on their last name and the Nazis in real life cracked down on Jews, gypsies, and other people deemed to be non-Aryan. I’ve heard about the Trump Administration’s ICE agents rounding up and deporting immigrants—many of them have been in this country for years (with some having been brought to this country as very young children) with the majority of them having brown or black skin. There was the notable exception of a white foreign-born man who was brought to this country at the age of five and who is now being targeted for deportation. People on social media were shocked that the Trump Administration was going after a white person but I wrote this blog post about why I’m not really surprised that Trump would target someone who was born in Poland.

Juggalo March, Washington, DC, September 16, 2017

(Photo originally posted on October 2, 2017.)

I live in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area and, from my own vantage point, I haven’t personally seen any pro-Trump neo-Nazis march in my area. I haven’t seen any ICE agents in real life. However a woman in my congregation said back in January that she had seen ICE agents go after her immigrant next-door neighbors, which had horrified her because she had always gotten along with that family. (I have to add here that, to be fair, the Obama Administration had also deported a record number of immigrants.)

(Drawing originally posted on October 1, 2017.)

I have seen a few of my federal employee friends who have worked in the government for years take advantage of early retirement offers because their workplaces have dramatically gone downhill since Trump took office—especially in the Environmental Protection Agency.

Three Little Birds Sewing Company Door, Hyattsville, Maryland

(Photo originally posted on March 28, 2017.)

The main reason why Trump was elected was that he reached out to the working classes during his 2016 campaign where he pretended that he understood their pain. For a group of people who have become increasingly marginalized since Ronald Reagan’s days in the White House, it’s understandable why they turned to Trump when Bernie Sanders was unable to get the Democratic nomination for reasons that would take a separate blog post to explain. Trump basically echoed Bernie Sanders’ message about how the working classes had been left behind and the working classes felt that—at long last—someone had finally understood them.

(Drawing originally posted on October 2, 2017.)

The only reason why I didn’t fall for Trump’s dog and pony show was that I’ve been well aware of that guy since he published his first book (The Art of the Deal) back in the 1980s. I’ve visited Trump Tower a few times with its indoor waterfall cascading down a wall of pink marble and I’ve seen the other buildings with the Trump name throughout Manhattan. I find it laughable that he pretended to be a working class hero when he had been born into wealth and had spent much of his career cultivating a public persona as the stereotypical rich man who lives in a penthouse in Trump Tower that looks as if King Midas had been hired as the interior decorator. At least the late John Lennon actually grew up among the working folks in Liverpool when he wrote and recorded Working Class Hero and never had to pretend otherwise.

(Photo originally posted on December 31, 2017.)

Trump only used the working class to get their votes only to abandon them once he was elected. The fact that the government had come up with this radical new tax program that blatantly favors huge tax breaks for the very wealthy while condemning the non-rich to pay higher taxes says it all about how much esteem Trump really had for his working class base once he was elected. At least the Nazis actually reached out to its supporters after it had seized power in the early years before the start of World War II by coming out with social programs that benefitted the masses. Among the programs was one called Strength Through Joy, which provided free or low-cost leisure activities for the masses, such as concerts, plays, libraries, day trips, and holidays.

(Drawing originally posted on October 10, 2017.)

Can you imagine the Trump Administration coming up with something similar to Strength Through Joy for the enjoyment of the American people? Me neither, especially considering the fact that Donald Trump had long built his hotels, condos, and golf clubs with the very wealthy in mind while charging fees so high that they are out of reach for most Americans who aren’t rich. This Caitlin Johnstone essay says it all about the Trump Administration: Trump Isn’t Another Hitler. He’s Another Obama. Here’s a choice quote from that essay.

I still sometimes get Democrats telling me that Trump is about to flip into Hitler 2.0 any minute now and start throwing non-whites into extermination camps. Whenever I point out that they were wrong about their “your choices are Hillary or Hitler” alarmism I get a bunch of them telling me “give him time”. Well he’s had time. They were wrong. They didn’t get a Nazi, they got another shitty neocon. And since the Dems have been paced into alignment with the neocons there’s no one left to oppose their agendas, which is why we’re seeing so little pushback on Trump’s Iran saber rattling.

I get Trump supporters telling me that he’s fighting the deep state, but the only way you can believe that at this point is to redefine “deep state” to mean “Democrats and their supporters”, which would actually just be more partisan bickering, which is all we’re actually seeing at this point. The only people you see pushing the collusion narrative and working for impeachment at this point are Democrats and Never-Trumpers; now that Trump has proven himself a good, compliant little boy the intelligence community has been putting its energy into the anti-detente propaganda effort to manufacture support for its new cold war escalations instead.

As a personal note to anyone reading this who are Trump supporters who have since grown disillusioned with how he’s running things as president so far, I understand where you’re coming from. I feel your pain. I really do. I once had similar hopes when I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 only to feel let down when I saw him cater more to Wall Street and less to the average folks who turned out in record numbers to vote for him. I was mad when I saw him go to great lengths to reach out to Republicans by agreeing to a pay freeze for federal employees like my ex-husband and many of my friends who work for the federal government. (Yes, I was still married when that pay freeze went into effect.) But the sooner you realize that you fell for a con artist like Donald Trump who only used you for his own purposes, the better you can turn your attention to the upcoming mid-term elections where you can vote for any candidates running for Congress who have indicated that they will stand up to The Donald.

(Photo originally posted on December 16, 2017.)

There are times when I find Donald Trump to be totally draining to deal with, especially when he spends most evenings and weekends tweeting out the most batshit crazy stuff on Twitter. This guy seems to be incapable of keeping a low profile for even 12 hours. Trump’s total love affair with Twitter has made me even less enthusiastic about that platform than ever before. The only reason why I still continue to tweet is because I want to show potential employers that I know how to use Twitter. Believe me, if I ever get to the point where I can abandon Twitter without having to prove to others that, yes, I know how to use it, I will not deal with it anymore. As it is, I basically use it to upload recent photos and there are whole days when I don’t even visit Twitter at all.

(Drawing originally posted on October 12, 2017.)

Mother Jones has an article titled Does Donald Trump Want to Be Dictator of the United States?, which provides a list of instances where Donald Trump is slowly becoming more and more authoritarian. I don’t deny that Trump probably have secret fantasies of being a dictator and he’s testing the waters to see what he can increasingly get away with. Unless a strong opposition rises up in Congress to oppose him, it’s possible that the U.S. will eventually become a banana republic dictatorship where the majority of people are condemned to live in poverty while Trump and his people impose brutal methods to crack down on opposition. So far the Republican majority in Congress seems to be unwilling to put country before party, which is unlike what the Congressional Republicans did in an earlier era when the Watergate scandal broke and there was evidence that it started with Richard Nixon. (They basically stood up to Nixon and he eventually resigned.)

The Women's March on Washington 2018

(Photo originally posted on January 29, 2018.)

This is why it’s important for everyone of voting age to vote in the mid-terms for any congressional candidate who has indicated that he/she will stand up to Trump and his agenda so any ambition that Trump has to become an absolute dictator gets thwarted.

(Drawing originally uploaded on November 28, 2017.)

Basically the first year of the Trump Administration is a mixed bag, especially for the average American. The neo-Nazis and the KKK have gotten more brazen with making public appearances in other parts of the country yet they frequently get targeted by counter-protesters that, in some cases, have even succeeded in shutting those marches and rallies down because these racist fascists were outnumbered. I haven’t felt discouraged from airing my opinions in this blog or on social media and I’m currently not afraid of being arrested by the government or being killed under mysterious circumstances (like what has happened to so many critics of Donald Trump’s close ally Vladimir Putin).

(Photo originally posted on November 9, 2017.)

I’ll also admit that, as a white woman who’s getting less young each year, I have some privileges in that I don’t have to face frequent suspicion from the police or other authority figures because my skin color isn’t brown or black. But I am facing sexism and ageism in the workplace as I struggle to find a new day job that will enable me to pay all of my bills and my debts ranging from the dark times when my husband abruptly left me with zero advanced notice. (He pretended that he was a loving and devoted husband until the night he left. He left me while I was still recovering from hip surgery three months earlier.)

(Drawing originally posted on December 25, 2017.)

Yet I’m seeing a society where the rich is getting even richer while the poor and middle class people are getting more and more financially screwed. Unless this gets addressed soon, I predict that there will be increasing unrest on the streets and it could result in people getting killed.

(Photo originally posted on February 15, 2018.)

The only hope that Donald Trump’s reign won’t last beyond 2020 is this recent development where Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has charged 13 Russians for interfering in the 2016 elections that helped Donald Trump win the White House. I think that the claims that “Russia hacked the 2016 elections” are a bit exaggerated because that would imply that Russia had somehow launched some kind of a cyber-attack on the electronic voting booths in each district and added votes for Donald Trump. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russians did put out propaganda disguised as news that convinced some Americans to vote for a person they would have never voted for otherwise had they not been exposed to that Russian-written propaganda. America has long intervened in the elections of other countries so it would be logical for Russia (or any other country for that matter) to intervene in the U.S. elections in order to get its preferred candidate (Donald Trump) elected.

(Photo originally posted on August 3, 2017.)

I’ve long maintained that I wouldn’t be shocked if the reports were true that Donald Trump had gotten financing from either Vladimir Putin or from a member of Russia’s oligarchy or both. This is a man who has a history of doing whatever it takes—both legal and illegal—to not only remain as rich as possible but to also flaunt his wealth by building expensive properties and buying other expensive luxury items (such as his short-lived Trump Princess ship) in order to impress the average person who isn’t rich. This is a guy who has gone through not just one bankruptcy but multiple bankruptcies. This guy has never even considered adopting a more modest lifestyle similar to the millionaires who were profiled in Thomas J. Stanley’s 1996 book The Millionaire Next Door because he thrives on attention that he can only get when he flaunts his wealth by buying then showing off expensive toys that the average person will never be able to afford.

(Photo originally posted on March 22, 2017.)

I’m just hoping that Donald Trump becomes his own worst enemy that Robert Mueller can exploit by bringing down both the Trump Administration and the Trump Organization once and for all. In the meantime I’ve been enjoying this book that I checked out of the library recently that was co-written by Alec Baldwin (who has been doing those wickedly funny impersonations of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live) and Kurt Andersen titled You Can’t Spell America Without Me. That book is hilarious to read and the accompanying photos are just as hilarious. I highly recommend it.

(Photo originally posted on January 23, 2018.)

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