Your Helpful 2018 Ballot Question Clamsplainer: Question 3

TLDR: Vote YES because we are not monsters

In 2016, after much drama, the MA Legislature passed a law giving the same basic protections to transgender individuals that are provided to most other groups. It’s a really short law (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S2407/) and it basically says that if you’re a place that has segregated facilities based on sex, that people who have the appropriate gender identity can use them. Like, humans can use bathrooms and stuff. This is not hard.

That’s it. So let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you’re a transgender female (born male, but perhaps at a midway point in the transition). Let’s also say, inelegantly, but we’re trying to be as clear AF here, you still have your junk. You can still pee standing up.

This law allows said transgender person to go and use a women’s bathroom, where they can then go sit in a stall like the rest of the ladies would. Or in the case of the opposite, a person born female who is transitioning genders, they could go into a men’s bathroom (where they would also likely use a stall).

I oversimplify, of course, because we are the Clam, and we like to break things down this basically, and often we’ve had a couple of beers when we’re writing these things. Gender is, we now know, far more fluid that this simple example, and trans people are on a continuum. It’s about far, far more than where your junk is.

Well, there’s a certain ultra conservative minority out there who thinks that being transgender is an abomination unto the Flying Spaghetti Monster or something. And they are seizing on the natural fear and squickishness most of us feel about bodily issues and sexuality to raise FUD on this. They call it “the bathroom bill” to minimalize it, and they try and raise the specter of hairy, bearded, clearly male people wearing dresses so they can hang out in women’s bathrooms and commit unspeakable violations.

Image result for worst website in the world

You can go through the actual Bible to see how wrong these people are or, you know, take your cues from their website design skills. Heck, it may not even be up at any given time.

I’m a politician, so I’m not going to say what I want to about that premise, but it’s total B*$%&@#(!!. Period. Men are not going to use this to make criminal behavior legal. It’s also not going to affect very many people at all – but those it affects gain a massively positive benefit. It basically legalizes them in public.

On a personal side, I know a number of people who are transgender. On both sides. You wouldn’t know it looking at most of them. Heck, you probably wouldn’t know it about any of them unless they told you. One of my friends was born female and began to transition a couple of years ago. He now looks more badass than I do, and has a better beard. I may be a bit jealous. His wife is someone he met and married when he was physically female, and she is a wonderful person who has stood with her wife (and now husband) throughout – because sexual orientation may be one thing, but plumbing is just plumbing. Love is bigger than that.

This message of tolerance brought to you by the good people at Love Plumbing & HVAC, LLC

So in other words, I’m proudly voting “yes” on Question 3 in order to preserve the protections that a small class of people in this Commonwealth need in order for them to safely survive in our increasingly crazy-ass society. If you are so heartless as to want people who look like women but don’t yet have 100% of the plumbing (or, conversely, people who look like badass men but need to pee sitting down – and forcing them into the ladies’ room) hooked up to have to use a men’s bathroom, well, first of all you’re not someone I want to know. Secondly, take a good look in the mirror. And then vote “yes”. Because the only way this ballot question could be clearer is if there was a checkbox for “Duh”.

Your Helpful Ballot Question Clamsplainer: Question 2

Written by Friend of the Clam Larry Oaks or “Lawrence Okenclam,” as he is now known across the lands.

Question 2: This is an easy one:

Vote Yes if you know the Gorton’s fisherman isn’t a real life fisherman with the same inalienable rights as you and me.

Image result for gortons fisherman

He is hipster AF though

Read more if you’re bored or whatever:

It wasn’t so long ago in this country that corporations had to navigate a set of rules put in place to promote fair elections. Of course companies went ahead anyway and funneled obscene amounts of money into the coffers of the candidate of their choice – after all the rules didn’t go anywhere near far enough toward limiting the influence of private wealth on our elections – but at least there were rules! Remember those days? Good times!

And what might you ask does any of this have to do with the Gortons fisherman?

Eight years ago the already weak campaign finance rules in place all changed. And not for the better.

In the now infamous 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens V. United Election Commission the Court through a narrow 5-4 decision (thanks Antonin Scalia) struck down any remaining limits on corporate political spending and in the process placed the rights of corporations and special interests on equal footing with those of actual human beings.

In effect, the court decided that corporations are people. Not pretend people, drinking in Williamsburgh with dudes named “Tigh” but real, actual people.

Corporations are people? As if!

Image result for corporate personhood

Meet 2020 Presidential Candidate Rod McBuildingface

Look, we all know corporations aren’t anything like actual people, right people? After all you can’t grab a brew with Archer, Daniels and Midland – you wouldn’t spill your secrets to Johnson & Johnson and who the hell would wanna spend an afternoon at Good Harbor Beach with Proctor and Gamble?

Listen, those may sound like real people but they’re definitely not.

A “yes” vote on Question 2 means you’ll be joining us over at the Clam in supporting the creation of a Citizens Commission to investigate and report on the effects that Citizens United and similar court cases have had on our political discourse.

We Clammers see this one as a no-brainer. It doesn’t matter (or at least it shouldn’t) what political view you happen to hold. Who isn’t for fair elections? Who doesn’t believe in equal representation? Who doesn’t think campaign finance reform is needed?

Who thinks corporations are people?

Oh, right. A lot of greedy politicians, that’s who!

So be sure to vote “Yes” on question 2. Let’s form a group of real life people and have them report back to ‘we the people’ on how to begin getting the money out of politics.

And in the meantime remember people, Stanley Morgan is your friend, your neighbor and a real life person. Morgan Stanley is a bank. And the Gorton’s fisherman? He isn’t a real fisherman.

Living with Nature: A Clam Guide to the Goddam Coyotes

By Josh Turiel and Jim Dowd – official pet lovers of the Clam…but KT has cats so her too.

The North Shore is filled with nature (and condos)…(and about a million Dunks franchises). Glorious, beautiful, majestic nature. Red in tooth and claw nature. Because where there’s nature, there’s predators. Hawks and eagles. Seals. Coyotes. Big snakes creepy dudes in Salem keep in aquariums and household kittycats that (some of) you let out of the house. Not so much bears around here, but they’ll be back too at some point.

But, you know. Like this

They all prey on other animals in nature to make a living. That sweet little pussycat (some of) you like to let outside? It’s a freaking serial killer. It kills rodents, birds, and all sorts of critters, and it does it for fun. Oh, and when sweet little kitty leaves a mouse on your steps? It’s trying to show you how to hunt, because it’s convinced you’re pathetic and weak. Also feeding time was exactly thirty six seconds ago, so get on that. 

If you drop dead tomorrow in your home, Fluffy’s gonna EAT YOUR FACE. Just saying. “Probably starved to death because such a shitty hunter. Dumbass.” is what she’ll think as she decides which of your earlobes to start with. I mean Hell, it’s 37 seconds past feeding time. 

And when kitty’s in the yard hunting, bigger, badder predators are hunting it. Like coyotes. Modern-day coyotes here are the result of cross-breeding between wolves, coyotes, and the occasional domestic stray dog. They’re smart, big, and they’re like Honey Badger – they just don’t care. They’re not afraid of people but they are going to stay away if they can help it, because they’re smart.

Image result for coyote super genius

What could go wrong?

They are kind of the punk rock of animals- the 70’s punk rock back when everyone, including the hit TV show “Quincy” was afraid of it. Before Green Day, is what we’re saying. And we’re old enough to remember real punk, so get off our goddam lawns. Also No Hope and other slogans.

Coyotes are all over Cape Ann and the North Shore, and now is the season when we have our ANNUAL COYOTE FREAK OUT because we’re spotting them more as they become more active and fatten up themselves and their new pups for the year. And because we’re all such nature lovers with our cats and small dogs that we let out in the yard, and because we’ve got so many urban farmers with our backyard chicken coops, and all our unsecured trash and bird feeders we’re providing an all-you-can-eat buffet for these beasties. Why go hunt smaller mammals in the woods when they can sneak into your backyard and have a nice chicken parm dinner, but without the sauce, cheese, and breading? And eating your Pomeranian? Well, you left it on a long harness in the yard. The coyote can floss with that, and good old Wile E. thanks you for the attention to his dental hygiene.

And we know chickens are pets, we have lots of sympathy for pets, seriously. But this is just nature. It’s how nature works. Niches: animals find and exploit them. And unless we want to go through the extra work of securing things, they’re going to find a way to exploit weaknesses. Think of them as very furry Vladimir Putins.

Image result for putin wolf

Tomorrow, we ride! Da?

Look, we’re not going to get rid of coyotes, even if we try. Poisons won’t work, shooting them won’t work (because there are too many, they’re too hidden, and we don’t want a bunch of people shooting in the heavily urbanized areas where they live). Traps won’t work, and they’re cruel as hell, anyway when they do work – most traps aren’t even legal in this state because we’re somewhat enlightened here.

And frankly, we shouldn’t try and eradicate the coyotes. Predators are healthy for an ecosystem. They might be scary, messy, and awful inconvenient, but we need them. We share this state with the big critters, so be smart. Protect your chicken run with a solid wire fence that’s well-anchored to the ground and can’t easily be dug under. Don’t leave the dog out in the yard. Fluffy may “want to be free”, but keep the damn cat inside and she’ll suck it up. Josh’s three cats (none of whom are named Fluffy, thank you very much) have no knowledge of the outside world and his family keeps it that way. They seem pretty happy anyway.

Unlike many Calm posts, this isn’t meant to call anyone out or anything, especially anyone who’s lost a pet. But for real, go the extra mile securing trash and protecting pets. We’ll all be happier that way. Except Fluffy, because now it’s 43 seconds past.

 

Always Punch All The Nazis – the Clam on the “Alt-Right”

So we here in Clam Nation came up with a hot take on Charlottesville a couple of days ago. Because a reaction seemed necessary, and when words are failing us video of Nazis getting punched are always welcome.

But there are words to put to this. Normally, we look to our leaders. Our elected officials. But since the Racist Cheeto in the White House made it crystal clear who his sympathies lie with (and, bluntly, it’s the Nazis), it lies upon the rest of us to say something appropriate. I’m a minor-league elected official at best (I’m a City Councillor in Salem, and I’ve pretty much peaked there), so for our purposes, I’m it. Sorry. But I’m also the closest thing to a conservative on the Clam roster.

There’s a lot of people saying that we need to give peace a chance. Talk to people. Communicate. I think that’s a noble and wonderful sentiment, but it’s not going to help the rest of us here. We’re not talking about the fringe of mainstream beliefs here. We’re talking about people who are actually Nazis. They identify as them. They wear swastikas. They hate blacks. They hate Jews. All the traditional hatreds and a few new ones based on demographic trends. They preach the elimination of all those people, and a twisted version of Christianity based on radical separatism and a perceived musclebound Christ who rewards the strong and punishes the weak. They called themselves the “Alt-Right” for a long time, because it was cute and Internet-trendy. They appropriated Pepe the stoner frog. They make a lot of adorable racist memes. And now they’ve uncloaked themselves. They’re Nazis.

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News flash: Self-described Übermenschen can’t even make their own torches

This isn’t your average everyday protest movement, then. Sure, Occupy has some assholes. So does BLM. But you know what? Their movements are based on actual injustices in society, and some of their members go to extremes that we disapprove of as a society in order to make their point. What injustices are Nazis suffering in this society? White people aren’t exactly disadvantaged.

No, these are Nazis. Your grandparents (and for some of you, your parents or great-grandparents) went overseas and died by the tens of thousands to stop the existential threat to humanity that Nazis presented then. It was a just cause to stop them.

We have top men working on this. Top. Men.

Newsflash: It’s still a just cause.

We live in a nation that is by design one that gives wide latitude to opposing views. You don’t have the guaranteed right to live in a bubble. Facebook and Twitter prove that every day (they also prove confirmation bias). The government cannot prevent you from spouting horrid opinions and appalling fictions. You don’t have to subscribe to Dianna Ploss’ Facebook page and watch her spew nonsense to her cardboard Trump doll. Government can’t stop her from posting, but they can’t make you watch it, either.

There are no such restrictions on society. Let’s stick with Ploss here – she can’t make us watch her drivel. She also can’t make Facebook host it. If enough people complain about it, Facebook may well take it down. They’re more concerned with nipples than nonsense, so that probably won’t happen. But when it comes to Nazis, we’ve got a choice and a moral imperative. Nazis need to be exposed, unemployed, and destroyed. Their apologists must be exposed and shunned. Antifa isn’t a hate group – it’s what decent Americans need to do.

America has a proud history of destroying fascism. A year ago, a lot of us warned you that this was the future we as a nation was hurtling towards. In MA, we got it right. But just enough people were fooled between “but her emails” and two-plus decades of ultra-partisan warfare to go for the man with the syphilis-rotted brain, open racist animosity, and horrifying behavioral history because he had an (R) next to his name on the ballot to give him the Presidency. Now we’re paying the price.

Image result for post apocalypse

From here in, everybody should take a good long look in the mirror. Think a few years in the future when you do it – who do you want looking back at you? A person who let this happen, or a person who did everything in their power, regardless of party, to stop the Nazis and their apologists from repeating history here? Normally, the federal government would have our backs. They clearly don’t. So it’s up to us. Some day we can get back to the normal Republicans and Democrats, and look back at this time as the era when society was “scared straight”. If, and only if, we do this right.

Which side will you be on?

On Housing – thoughts from the Clam’s token politician on the eve of the Fuller vote

Affordable housing.

 

Those two words seem to scare, anger, and confuse most people. Dunno why, though. It’s something every community needs, and precious few have enough of it. Affordable housing also isn’t really so much a specific government program (because lord knows we’re living in an era where, ever since one of our Grand Old political parties picked up a prion disease and started to see their brain dissolve into pudding, convincing themselves that Governmenting Is Bad) as it is a development goal to make sure that communities can have people of all sorts living there. The people who eat in restaurants AND the people who work there. The supermarket shoppers AND the supermarket workers. The Gym members and the gym workers.

 

Everyone needs to live reasonably close to their jobs. The people who sell you your coffee, deliver your newspaper, mow your yard, and help you live your upper middle class lifestyle don’t come from another dimension through a wormhole each day, returning to their tenement universe at night. Nope. They live in your town. If they get priced out of living there they’ll leave. And then the businesses you depend on won’t have employees. There’s more people who need affordable housing, too. People juggling school and work. Single parents. People in entry-level jobs.

She doesn’t live in a pod. She lives in an apartment. And you tip her badly, you cheap bastard.

People in government, too. I don’t know about Gloucester, but do you have any idea what a veteran parking enforcement agent (meter maid) makes? In Salem, after nearly 20 years, ours make about $44k. That’s also what an entry-level firefighter makes here. Make it to Lieutenant? We pay you $67k.

 

A new police patrolman isn’t paid as badly – they make about $54k. But that still doesn’t go too far in a world where rents for a 3-bedroom apartment go for between $1500 (one single listing on Realtor.com when I searched Gloucester today) and $2500 per month.

 

Your friendly local GOP will tell you that affordable apartments are all set aside for “illegals” or “them”, or “welfare queens”.

Saint Ronald The Spender, after fighting the Welfare War

Affordable housing is for you. And a community that lacks it starts to die, from the inside out.

 

There’s a fiction out there that 30% of your gross income should be the guideline for what you pay in housing costs. So let’s look at that number, shall we?

 

Assume, for a moment, that you’re a firefighter that’s moved up a couple of grades. And you make $60k per year. Pretty good coin, right? So that means you should be able to afford $20k per year in rent or in mortgage+property taxes. That equals about $1660 per month in housing expenses.

You know, these guys? All the feels.

First of all, looking at that Gloucester market (and I don’t know what you pay your firefighters, but it’s not going to be a lot more than Salem – if at all), when I ran the listing tonight there was ONE apartment rental of 3 or more bedrooms at that price. One. Now I’m sure there’s apartments that are on the market by word of mouth, or on Craigslist, or other channels. I’m not pretending that a single web search untapped an entire real estate market for me.

 

But that’s pretty slim pickings, however you look at it. Now assume the taxes paid on that salary (around $15k or so), and you’re looking at, after everything, perhaps $25k per year for that firefighter. Out of that he’s going to have to pay for a car, food, gas, clothing, and a whole life. If he’s married and has a child, that’s going to help pay for childraising as well. Sure, his wife probably works too – and out of those combined salaries you now have (probably) 2 cars, childcare, and a zillion other increased costs.

 

And there are people out there looking at this financial statement and saying “I WISH I HAD IT THIS GOOD!!!”

 

Think about that.

 

Buying a house? That’s even tougher. For a personal example, my wife and I earned, between us, about $100k back in 1993. We bought a single-family house in Salem that spring for $185k.

 

One Hundred Eighty-Five. Thousand. Dollars.

And it looked like this. Really.

Today, it’s worth almost $600k on the open market. That’s a rough tripling in value. Did our salaries triple? Nope. Simply put, if we were in the market for a home today, we couldn’t easily buy our own home that we already have. Real estate prices have not followed the same inflationary curve that most consumer goods follow. If they did, our home would have a value around maybe $300k. High, but within reach. Instead, the $300k home needs a lot of work, may lack things like off-street parking, and is probably in a worse neighborhood. As crazy as rental prices are, home ownership is even tougher. Mortgages are relatively cheap nowadays, but a $320k mortgage will cost you (before taxes and, if you need it, PMI) about $1700 per month if you have amazing credit. Add your property taxes (mine are about $7200 per year – another $600 per month – so a home assessed for less might be half that, or $300 per month) and there’s $2000 per month or $24k per year to stay on the housing treadmill. Not including all the things you have to pay for when you’re a homeowner (repairs and the like).

 

It’s like a Red Queen scenario. You have to run faster and faster just to stay in the same place.

 

So part of the dilemma for Gloucester, Salem, and all sorts of other communities is how to serve these people. We need housing for our workforces. Only in a supply-side fever dream do we actually want a world where there’s a whole subservient underclass who can be shipped in and out of town daily.

Affordable housing, amirite?

Years ago, Massachusetts realized this. And they created the “40(b)” zoning law. To over-simplify horribly, it says this: communities should have at least 10% of their housing stock in the “affordable” category (and I won’t get into the exact way it’s measured – you can look it up). At last measurement, Salem was at about 14%, and Gloucester below 10%. What 40b does is give cities an incentive to place and approve projects with an affordable component – if that number is below 10%, a developer can buy a property, designate a certain portion of the project to be “affordable” by deed, and then bypass all sorts of local approvals and zoning restrictions that would otherwise apply.

 

In Salem, we’re above 10%. Our redevelopment is mostly concentrated around our old brownfields at this point, because we’ve filled just about all the rest of this city. And our boards have full powers over most of it.

 

You guys aren’t. The Fuller School is out there. So are a whole bunch of other open spaces in town. Just saying. Building market-rate housing will help affordability some, by increasing supply. But to really make a difference, you need to build the real deal. As a community, you can get serious about solving this yourselves, or you can try to raise up the bridges. But only one of Gloucester’s bridges is a drawbridge. The other one is fixed-span – and even though it’s under construction all the time, you can’t close it. So other people are likely to solve it for you. There’s money to be made in housing, after all.