The Election is Over (Let’s Go Back to Postcards)

Democrats control the House now, which is fantastic news! However, most of the assaults on trans rights have been coming straight from Trump, so we need to keep fighting.

In my previous post, I asked people to participate in a post card campaign. This is still ongoing. Please chip in! If you are outside the US, you can print the postcards in A6 format. Or, if you are in the US and going to Kinkos or the like, you might find that 2×2 is the best format.

Stack of stamped postcards

I’ve had my best luck getting people to put their names down by talking to people and asking them. Response has been overwhelmingly positive. My spouse says that these conversation are more important than the cards themselves. She says that by asking well-meaning liberals to consider trans rights, I’m asking them to think about things they haven’t previously considered, helping them gain empathy and converting them into allies. I’ve certainly seen people go from politely curious to fully engaged after only a very brief chat. As a part of this, I’ve been mostly going to parties and talking to friends of friends. I have not been disclosing during these conversation, but sharing worries about my friends in the US.

Another way to get people to fill these out is to just leave them around. They don’t use normal stamps from the UK, so I come back to collect them. I’ve left them with some text:

Stand up for the trans community in the US!

The Trump administration plans to ‘define transgender people out of existence.’ Put your name on a postcard to let them know that this is unacceptable.

Then either post the card yourself (don’t forget to attach a £1.25 stamp) or drop it in the box here, and we’ll post it for you.

Thank you for your help.

Contact: [My email address]

I’ve done some regrettable shoebox painting for this (I’m lying and telling people it was done by children.) A cereal box is roughly the same dimensions as a sheet of paper and can be tacked to a notice board. Cereal box with postcards

The election was just the beginning of the work we need to do to make the US safe for vulnerable people. This project has been easier than I thought it was going to be and has built meaningful connections. I’ve sent more than 160 postcards since I started. Before this, I spent months sitting in front of my computer fretting at the news. If we all took the time we spent doing that and directed half of it to campaigns like this, we could build a tremendous mass movement to oust Trump, to protect trans rights, migrant rights, and the environment. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We won’t be erased because we will stand up and demand to be seen.

Ways to support trans rights!

There’s a lot of good actions people can do to try to counter the latest Trump attack on trans people. Marching is good. Writing letters to all your local papers is very good. Like really all of them from the regular paper, to the free advertiser to the Bingo Bugle. When the letters get published, forward them to your elected representatives, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services. You can also write to those people directly. A paper letter carries more weight than an email, especially if you’re writing to somebody on the other side. (Here is the DHHS’s address.)

You probably know some people who are well-meaning allies, but are not going to show up to a march or write any kind of letter. (No hate. Not everybody can do everything.) These folks, however, would be willing to sign a postcard. This is less good than a letter, but it’s better than nothing.

Linked here are two PDFs of postcards. Postcard4x6.pdf is a standard American 4×6 postcard format. PostcardA6.pdf is a metric A6 format postcard (in the size and shape used by every other country on earth). These are grayscale, so printing is relatively cheap.

If you print these out and take them to things, allies who don’t have the spoons for bigger actions will probably be willing to help with this one. If a lot of post starts arriving at DHHS, this will help. I went to a cabaret tonight and got like 50 of these filled out. I’ll take a stack to work tomorrow. I’m going to give a bunch to my friend who is active in a lefty church, so he can pass them out on Sunday. None of these folks would have done anything if I hadn’t asked for this easy thing.

We #WontBeErased

P.S. Also, please don’t forget to vote.

Hello American Allies

The New York Times is reporting that the Trump administration is trying to ‘define trans out of existence’. Of course, you can’t erase people by changing definitions, but it is certainly within the federal government’s powers to make the lives of trans people significantly more difficult. The consequences of the Trump administration’s actions would be extremely dire.

This change in definition is coming from the Department of Health and Human Services. They have an Office of Civil Rights. Alas, this is is headed by a Trump political appointee, but they are reachable by the public. While emailing them is possible, I suspect it’s more useful to send snail mail or fax. The pile of documentation is harder to ignore. There is a service that allows users to send a limited number of free faxes per day. Upload a PDF and send it to your regional office. I’ve put my own letter at the bottom of this post.

I’d also like to suggest you contact your representatives and two senators. Even if you know they agree that trans people deserve civil rights, it’s helpful to them if they can say there’s been an outpouring of concern. And if they don’t agree, an outpouring may help change their minds, especially so close to an election.

Speaking of which, I’d like to encourage you to vote – and to do so strategically. This is an emergency situation for trans people and many other vulnerable groups. Voting for a Democrat won’t overthrow capitalism, but a lot of people live in the wedge issues that separate the parties. Vote for the people who can’t vote.

Fellow Americans abroad, it’s not too late. You can still request your absentee ballot. If you’ve requested your ballot and haven’t received it, you can get a backup ballot for overseas voters called the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot. Depending on where you are elligible to vote, some states will accept this ballot even if you have not previously registered.



Example Letter

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to oppose the proposed change with regard to gender. Making this fixed, genetic, and unchangeable flies in the face of medical opinion and common sense. A significant minority of people do change their genders. Trying to prevent this is a serious violation of their civil rights with no discernable state interest. This is unamerican.

Relying on genetics is also unscientific, as there are many people who’s physical sex characteristics are at odds with their genes. The Olympics quit using this definition after a woman who was found to be genetically male later gave birth – thus showing that the tests are not reliable even for people who are not transgender.

I strongly encourage the department of health and human services to do it’s job of protecting health instead of going out of it’s way to harm transgender people.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Trump and the American Nuclear Arsenal

In 1983, the ABC Television Network aired a film, The Day After, which broke all kinds of records for viewership. It’s subject was the aftermath of nuclear war. It’s plot follows a few individuals near Kansas City who survive the initial blast and the next several days after that. The film is fairly well done and so affected Ronald Reagan when he saw it, that he slowed down US nuclear expansion and instead signed some treaties aimed, theoretically, at eventual disarmament.

The backdrops of the film are the familiar landscapes used in post-nuclear war films. However, by the time it was aired, they were already known to be wrong. Scientists interested in mass extinction events, climate change and space had started running simulations on super computers in their spare time to model what might happen if all of the major cities in the west caught on fire all at once. A lot of particulate matter would get into the stratosphere.

Getting particulate matter into the upper atmosphere is now discussed as something we might do on purpose, called geo engineering. These particles would change the colour of the sky, but they also reflect sunlight. This is proposed as an emergency measure against global warming. The reflected sunlight never gets a chance to warm the earth, everything gets slightly colder and darker, but we can burn as much oil as we want.

However, in the case of nuclear war, there would be quite a lot of smoke in the upper atmosphere – enough to make it dark at mid day. And it might stay that way for week or months. Eight days after a full assault, enough sunlight would be blotted out that temperatures would be well below freezing. The cold temperatures and the lack of light would kill most plants within a few weeks – thus depriving animals of food and oxygen.

Fictional depictions of nuclear war, like the film that so effected the president, imagine a war that some might survive, influenced by the testimony of atomic bomb survivors after World War 2. But modern nuclear warheads are so much more powerful than the WWII bombs, that they use those bombs as triggers to start the main explosions. A nuclear war would be an extinction level event on the order of what killed the dinosaurs. Albert Einstein famously said, ‘I do not know with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.’ This may be true, but it won’t be humans holding the sticks and stones millions of years from now. A nuclear war would end human life.

This existential threat was the subject of much activism through the 1980’s, but after the Cold War ended, many people lost interest. The bombs, however, are still around. Russia and China are modernising theirs. Indeed, Putin is rather proud of the updated weapons, warning people not to mess with Russia.

Not to be outdone, the US is doing a major upgrade of its own nuclear arsenal, significantly enhancing it’s ability to end all human life on earth at a cost of $23 billion last year. The project will cost $1 trillion overall. This endeavour – to enhance the ability of the US to end all life on earth several times over – has been ramped up significantly under Obama. Despite this new increase in existential peril, there has not been much in the way of public discussion on the advisability of being able to kill all humans within a few minutes.

If the moderate Nobel Laureate Obama increased nuclear funding by 55% more than George W Bush’s spending, it’s hard to imagine what the more hawkish Clinton might do. This escalation is not only moving away from disarmament, but is also causing instability. By contrast, the prospect of Trump having the launch codes is even more alarming.

Of course, Putin’s remarks are worrying and mark a major revival in nuclear posturing. This kind of rhetoric is, unfortunately, typical for authoritarians. As a part of Bob Altemeyer’s research on this personality type, he had them play a massive board game called The Global Change Game. This didactic game simulates diplomacy and trade with regard to challenges such as climate change, famine and war.

When Altemeyer organised a game with all authoritarian leadership and players, they escalated conflicts until they reached nuclear war. The facilitators then reset them back 50 years previous to give them another chance, but they quickly escalated back to the brink of nuclear war again when they ran out of time to play.

Domestically, the US has always defended it’s ability to kill all of it’s citizens through American Exceptionalism. Other countries might be unstable, but for unexplained reasons, the US is immune to fascism. Alas, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the US is not as exceptional as it might hope. It can happen here and, indeed, might do so within a few months. We are heading for a scenario where the majority of the world’s nuclear arsenal is held by authoritarian leaders. Given that Trump openly admires Putin, would the two operate on a mutual respect level and abstain from murdering all humans, or will they get into a dick measuring contest and kill us all?

Last year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists nudged the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight, citing climate change and ‘modernisation’ programs, warning that we might be entering a new nuclear age. This new age requires new activism. It is vital that, rather than modernise their nukes, the US move as quickly as possible to disarm them. While there is no elected leader who can be trusted with the keys to extinguish all human life, putting them into the hands of fascists is a completely unacceptable risk. Whatever threat that the US would face were it to unilaterally disarm, is minor when compared to the threat of ending all human life.

We cannot continue to rely on the restrain of elected leaders. Even if the US resists fascism in this election, there will always be, like in any country, the risk of electing a government intent on waging war. There is no way to guarantee the safe handling of nuclear weapons, so long as they exist.

Boycott Trump

Fortunately, as Trump names everything after himself, it’s relatively easy to figure out what things to boycott. His holdings in the UK are most limited to golf courses, but some international brands are also partnered with him. I’ve been writing them letters:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to ask that you end your business relationship with Donald Trump. As you may be aware, he has already been dropped by Macy’s, Univision and NBC for his racist remarks. I hope that your buisiness is soon added to that list.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that I will be boycotting your products in the mean time. I hope that you sever your relationship soon.

Thank you for your time,
Charles Hutchins

You too can boycott:

Leave others in the comments!