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Friday, July 7, 2017

Insomnia Strikes, the PurplePottamus Bites

Geez. I am finally starting to get my weight and my health in order - slowly but surely - yet here I am, unable to sleep again. Probably because I turned on the news. It's killing me - though not so softly. Damn you, Fugees, and damn you, forgotten song, for this melodic broken promise.

While I was in New Orleans, at the Unitarian Universalist Association's General Assembly, I learned about something I hadn't given much thought to previously: the use of military drones in warfare. Allow me to preface this with my staunch support of those who serve in the U.S. military; both of my parents are veterans, one a Vietnam-era combat veteran. But in allegiance with them and with others who serve in the military, it is not those in service of whom I am both skeptical and critical - it is those who control the top level joysticks. That is, the politicians who have never served yet feel qualified to decide how and when we use military force. They send kids to die routinely - not their kids of course, but plenty of other minions' kiddos. Mine. Yours. Every kid that we take to a Fourth of July parade to glorify participation in war. All at the top, in absolutely no danger themselves.

As I sit, bleary-eyed, poring through the latest news, I am horrified by who's holding the biggest joystick, with the smallest hands, greatest insecurity, and assuredly the tiniest metaphorical balls.

But I digress: back to drones we go.

See, I learned how rather than saving American lives (or anyone else's, for that matter), the drones themselves are perpetuating an eternal war. I learned that it is impossible for the person controlling the drone to tell whether or not civilians are the targets - they are relying on some pretty subjective guesswork. Civilians die. Americans look bad. Americans, in fact, look more and more...evil. So ISIS gets bigger, gathers more followers, and...more Americans die, and the terrorism factory gets stronger.

Ask yourself: why are they doing this? Why do we continue done warfare, killing civilians, ensuring that the violence will go on longer? Are politicans just naturally bloodthirsty? Maybe that's a stupid question - at least some of the sociopaths are.

But more than anything else, it's because war is a team sport. When we're at war, regardless of all that's divisive and flawed about this country, we all are in it together. And the polticians can easily manipulate the media to ensure that we prioritize what is truly a useless and cruel endeavor, in the process sending things like universal healthcare and universal higher education to the back burner.

Our drone warfare is not a war fought in the name of saving or defending the innocent. It is not even a war to declare Christianity and capitalism the greatest global faith systems.

It's a war against progress.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Walk the Walk

At the suggestion of the city manager, following my plea for a sidewalk on Swan Lake Avenue, I walked all over Swan Lake Avenue, from my house to Rt. 1, knocking on doors and gathering signatures for a letter requesting that Belfast City Council find a safe walking solution for our road.

In the process, I got a sunburn, got offered more beers than I can count, and learned a thing or two about the priorities and feelings of the people on Swan Lake Avenue.

First, everyone is skeptical of some strange person knocking on the door. I even went to the side doors - no one on this road uses their front door because of the traffic, so when that door gets knocked on you know it's the Jehovah's Witnesses - but people were still initially skeptical. However, as soon as they figured out what I was there for, people wanted to talk to me. They wanted to tell me about their experiences living on their road. I was met with overwhelming support.

The first and only rejections came from a couple of young gentleman in front of a trailer with a confederate flag on it. Yes, I left the "c" in confederate lowercase on purpose. It's a losing team, it's a pro-slavery team, it's a white supremacy team, and it doesn't deserve capitalization. But I digress. Those two gentlemen gave me a lecture about some executive order they were certain that President George H.W. Bush made which evidently gave "foreign entities" "complete control" over every single road in this country. That was interesting, to say the least, but we left on good terms; they even waved and smiled at me as I made my way back.

I had four different people sign who gave me long lectures on how what I was doing was so wonderful but useless, and how they were signing because they liked me but that they wanted me to "be prepared" for the city to "not care" about it. This, of course, only served to steel my purple hippo resolve to get something done.

Every single person I talked to, including the two who weren't interested in signing, expressed fear about walking up and down this road, and genuine concern for the kids who live and walk on this road. Multiple people were concerned about kids walking to the elementary school to play on the playground, and about parents with children having to walk up the road to get to the closest store.

Many people brought up the guy who drives his crotch-rocket that has a high-pitched whine of an engine up and down this road at all hours at speeds far exceeding our speed limit; general consensus is most of us would like to ram him with a car or maybe a bulldozer. Not very diplomatic, of course, and certainly not a solution to suggest to Belfast City Council.

Most importantly, I learned there are many different ideas for solutions. The problem is agreed upon: walking on this road is dangerous, and it is necessary for some residents, including children, to walk on it. While I had initially conceived of a sidewalk as a solution, it's just one solution. I had individuals with an eye for vengeance suggest that instead of sidewalks we install speed bumps every 100 feet or so and hope that drivers pop a few tires to get the message. One person suggested that we place cement blocks inside the shoulder all the way down. Multiple people wanted a bike lane, a sidewalk, flashing lights, and a speed limit decrease, all together.

I have to say, that speed bump idea is appealing. Especially for the crotch rocket driver...

One member of Belfast City Council made a comment to me recently that really resonated - "Think globally, act locally." I know that's a catchphrase of sorts, but I hadn't really given it much thought until I went on my sidewalk crusade. "Swan Lake Needs a Sidewalk," the header of my letter ran. But in fact, Swan Lake Avenue needs a solution, and it is filled with local residents who have ideas. Let's hope that Belfast City Council takes a few of these ideas and runs with them. Can we at least borrow a bulldozer?

Acting Locally: A Learning Process

As I've grumped my way to being politically awake over the past year, I've been working to figure out where I can fit in to effect positive change. I coordinated local involvement in the Women's March, have hosted multiple postcard writing parties, and attended other people's similar resistance efforts. I'm good at contributing to any effort with the goal of being obnoxious.

I realized early on as part of this crusade that I've paid little to no attention to the government that affects my life the most, local government. I've paid some attention to state government - those people have gotten obnoxious postcards, faxes, and phone calls from me, alongside the national jokers, but I am embarrassed to admit that I knew almost nothing about either the local school board or the Belfast city government.

My first step toward learning more about what these entities do was attending an RSU 71 board meeting last fall. They discussed quite a bit, including how to use the district's money - there was extensive talk about whether to shut down the smaller elementary schools and consolidate them into a large one, or invest in renovations. Even more extensive, though, was a discussion about dress code, and I found it absolutely infuriating, as did the teachers surrounding me in the audience.

RSU 71 has long had the policy that students can wear hats unless a teacher or administrator requests they take them off. Teachers in attendance affirmed that this policy works just fine and that students do, indeed, remove hats when requested. However, a couple of school board members very melodramatically bemoaned the downfall of proper civilization as exemplified by hats. They very desperately wanted hats to be banned outright. Significant energy was spent on this heated argument, with the emotional attachment to the meaning of a piece of clothing inexplicably strong.

Since in my job as a school social worker I routinely deal with kids who don't eat enough or are filthy because of no running water and fifteen cats in the home, hats are pretty much last on my list of "downfall of society" issues. So this group, I realized, was not for me. As part of the school board, I would simply raise my own blood pressure and piss other people off. I don't have the patience with their particular set of details and priorities to be an effective and positive influence.

That said, I'm not completely naive - I realize there is some degree of this sort of impassioned bickering about largely useless issues in any level of government. However, when I went to my first couple of City Council meetings and learned what City Council does, even though members all had to make sure they had their individual say, what they had to say was generally pertinent, useful, and did move the topics along. They debated measures that would affect local businesses, housing, and summer events. City Council, I can do, whether as an informed citizen or, perhaps, should voters someday approve, as a member.

Yes, that's right. I found something I'm interested in. I'm the purple hippo you should vote for in 2018. Purple Pottamus, City of Belfast, Ward 5. Are you with me?

Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tipping Toward Addiction

Maine State Senate President Mike Thibodeau has shared an opinion piece from the Bangor Daily News about returning the tip credit in Maine.

While I respect the writer's opinion, I feel uniquely qualified to respond with my own, equally anecdotal experience.

My mother was a waitress for my entire childhood. I can remember going in to work with her when she couldn't find childcare; the bartender would let me polish the brass in exchange for an ice cream sundae. The waitstaff would give me quarters for "helping" them by using the carpet sweeper. I'm sure I was obnoxious. I have lots of good memories wrapped up in restaurants because of my mother.

I also have bad ones.

I was five years old, sitting on the high barstools clutching a virgin strawberry Daiquiri in between my two little hands, when I watched my mother burst into tears because a couple walked out without paying for an expensive tab that included alcohol. Would you believe that I actually remember what the couple looked like? Her hurt feelings made such an indelible impression on me that I do. I watched those people laughing at their restaurant table and then I watched them walk out. My mother had worked hard, and they walked out. One table, sure, but it sucked, and my mom was young and easily wounded. She was working her ass off, too. And I know that wasn't the last table - far from it. It's just the one that I was there for.

So that's one problem I have with the way servers are currently paid, below minimum wage with the expectation that they'll make up for it themselves in tips: some people are assholes. Period. It doesn't matter how well you do your job, narcissists are takers, and they don't give two shits about who they hurt in their quest for "mine."

I also remember a childhood where I never saw my mother sleep. Yes, it's true. For awhile there I thought my mother was some sort of magical fairy who didn't need sleep. One of the reasons I loved being at her house was that if I woke up having a bad dream she would always be awake to comfort me. My dad was a mere mortal - he, like me, actually needed to sleep for a few hours each day.

Years later, my mother would explain to me that cocaine made waitressing for a living possible, and waitressing for a living made cocaine possible. There was a commercial some years back with a guy snorting himself into a circle, because cocaine makes you want to do more cocaine makes you want to do get the picture. Waitressing requires a great deal of energy and focus, and it also can generate, on good nights free of narcissists, a great deal of easily disposable cash...which is good for cocaine, which is good for staying up for another shift, which is good for...again. Yes.

So when the writer claims that the unfolding policy in Maine of paying servers, ya know, a regular, almost-living wage, is not only unnecessary, but will effectively tap into her bottom line...I question the veracity of those statements, and more importantly, I see my entire point has been neglected, by someone who works in the restaurant industry and knows damned well that stimulants make the hospitality go round. Either that or she works in the one addiction-free restaurant in the U.S.

I would like to add that I always tip at least 20%, and that my tipping amount won't change just because waitstaff might get paid a more practical minimum.

This country gets very hyperactive and happy about the great War on Drugs. How about you warmongers support paying an industry in a manner that doesn't demand sleeplessness and stimulants in order to survive?!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Koolaid Flavor Is Still Purple, Thanks

I just got home from the first political fundraiser I have ever been to, a dinner hosted by the Waldo County Democrats. I am still a registered Democrat. I want to believe friends who I value very much that we have a chance at revolutionizing the party rather than simply cackling as we watch it burn. And I do sincerely believe that local Democrats, including my own elected Maine state rep and House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, do believe mostly the same things I do and they do speak for the poor and the working class. Erin, in particular, has done this, observably, for at least the seven years I have lived here, anyway. Getting the opportunity at this dinner to read about local legislation that Erin is behind was both fascinating and powerful – I will definitely write more about them in separate future posts.

These local Democrats are passionate, idealistic, and they genuinely  want to make the world better. I do not hold local Democrats  responsible for the disaster that was the last Democratic presidential primary. I am one of those local Democrats, and together we all sure as hell voted for Bernie in the primaries. So I do not hold them (us!) responsible for Trump’s ascension, despite continuing to hold the DNC responsible.

And yet…

I got to listen to a concluding speech about how the Democrats are always for the people and the Republicans are not, and ultimately that because of that everyone under the Democrat umbrella should stick together. Stick to the blue Koolaid! But…we just lost a presidential election because we “stuck together” behind the DNC’s corrupt decision to run Hillary. We all kept quiet while the DNC chose, for our first serious shot at a woman in the Oval Office, a white collar, moderate, corporation-ass-kissing, Democrat-In-Name-Only. And on a national level the party shows no sign of changing direction, admitting to no wrongdoing whatsoever, telling progressives it’s our fault – it makes me sorry I sucked it up and voted for her, because I am a progressive and it’s still my fault. So when I hear a speech telling me to “stick together,” I seethe.

Now, this is admittedly my first experience at a Democratic fundraiser or political speech-giving-occasion of this sort, so, it’s March, perhaps the Democrat apologies have already been handed out at previous events.

But I haven’t gotten the apology memo yet, from either the nationals nor the locals. So sitting through this rah-rah speech, all I could think was, this speech is for everyone in this audience who already thinks this election is the fault of anyone EXCEPT the Democratic Party. This speech catered to them. Not to me.

I’m a registered Democrat. I think Representative Erin Herbig is amazing. But my Koolaid will continue to be purple.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Underfund the Public Schools Now to Make Way for Methadone Later

Today I attended a public hearing at the Maine State House regarding Governor Paul LePage’s efforts to subvert Maine voters and deny the funding to public school that was already approved by voters. The Appropriations and Educations Committees hosted the hearing about his proposed budget. Over 70 people signed up to testify in opposition; not a single person  testified in favor.

During my MSW program, I interned with a state legislator for one summer. However, this particular experience was new to me. My internship had consisted largely of answering  constituent emails. So I learned a great deal from my first public hearing

First, I learned that legislators  do not know how to remain quiet. If one of them says something, every single one has to repeat the same thing in a different way with another slight detail tacked on before the group can move on. Consequently, every comment or question by one of the two dozen or so legislators at this hearing turned into 30 minutes of two dozen people trying to make sure they each get to say the same thing, too.

Second, apparently legislators are incapable of reading. Someone – I think the commissioner of the Department of Education? -  had to read out loud, line by line, a 21 page document. It had been distributed to all legislators and I’m sure a copy is made public somewhere – if not, it should be! – but he had to read the damned thing. And his reading style…well, I kept hearing “Bueller? Bueller?” Ferris never would have stayed awake during this part. It took over an hour.

Throughout that document as well as during presentations by other official people, legislators asked questions, even though at the very beginning two or three of them had repeated and echoed that the legislators would have a future session in which to ask detailed questions. And if one asked a question, they all had to ask it.

After two hours and at least two interludes of six people in a row saying “We should really get on with this” in six different ways, we moved into the public testimonies.

I was number 43. So I had a long wait ahead of me.

As the public testimonies commenced, the next thing I learned was that school superintendents are snazzy dressers, on my side of the school funding fence, and absolutely boring as all get out. I am  guessing kindergarten teachers never become superintendents, because if they did, at least one would have spoken in something other than a monotone about something other than charts and figures. We all would have gotten in touch with our inner spirit animals or something. Or at least made a picture of what love looks like and how much we love school. Maybe we would dance in purple pottamus tutus or something.  Not reciting charts that were already printed up for the legislators’ future perusing pleasure! But that’s evidently what you learn to do in school superintendent training.

See, I did research on this testifying business prior to making the effort, and there is evidence that lawmakers at all levels of government are more likely to be impacted by the human interest side of things than having statistics hurled at them. So I grew increasingly antsy – as did the appropriations and educations committee members – as the suits and ties droned on. Not a single one of them followed the three minute rule, either, making it that much more painful. 

When it got interesting was when the “regular” people started talking. We had ed techs, ESL teachers, special ed teachers, social workers, and one lady who really stands out in my mind, a special ed and ESL  teacher who moved here from Indonesia in 1974. These were the people I wanted to listen to, and I am thrilled I got to listen to some of them. I would have stayed after my own testimony had I been able, but by then it was after 3pm and I had to drive back to Belfast to pick up my children.

But I did my purple pottamus best before I left, reading the following to the bleary eyed committee members:

“Senator Hamper, Representative Gattine, Senator Langley, Representative Kornfield, and Members of the Appropriations and Education Committees:

My name is Jessica Falconer.  I live in Belfast, and I am here to testify in opposition to the Governor’s proposal to underfund our public schools.

I am a clinical social worker and I see most of my clients in the Searsport schools. I’d like to tell you about a high school aged client I’ll call John.

John has lived in rural poverty his whole life. Alcoholism is  generational in his family, but John is determined to break the cycle. He frequently parents his two younger siblings and is determined that all of them will take advantage of everything the public school has to offer. He has encouraged his elementary aged sibling to participate in the robotics program as well as the school play. He has encouraged his middle school sibling, the athlete of the family, to participate in sports, and he tells me that he knows that when she is high school aged there are three different education programs at the Waldo County Tech Center that she is interested in.

John himself is involved in theatre and is a member of the national honors society. All three kids excel academically, despite having to rely almost solely on the school nurse if they have lice, the school lunch if they are hungry, and teachers and guidance counselors for emotional and academic support. They stay after school to do their homework. And at least one of the kids – John, my client – does this despite having PTSD as a result of previous family violence.

If we underfund the schools, John and his siblings will fall through the cracks. They will not break the cycle of generational alcoholism. Instead of aspiring to work as doctors helping the poor in Maine, as two of the three siblings do, their time spent in a medical facility is more likely to be for their weekly shot of methadone.

Please don’t let John down.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

"Representative" Government

Ranked choice voting has recently passed in Maine, which may potentially pave the way for independents and third parties to make inroads into government. And I have to say, in many ways, both the Republicans and the Democrats have outlived their usefulness, becoming more and more alike as the years have passed. All of them are funded by corporations. Yes, yes, the current president can't be bought. Whatever. I'll argue that in a different post - suffice it to say, his most valuable currency is adulation. Regardless, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have consistently demonstrated complete willingness to be bought. While the differences between Trump and any other candidate were stark, the differences between the other various Republican and Democrat candidates during the primaries was a matter of degree. They were all upper class people with upper class problems and upper class disconnect. God knows the Democrats do everything they can to roll over and beg for compromise. At least the Republicans actually take the initiative and push their stuff through, however much I might disagree with their general idiocy.

But honestly, not a single one of these arrogant assholes, Republican or Democrat, is going to be affected directly by a single piece of legislation they pass or block. First of all, for the most part, they're beyond the age of unwanted pregnancy, so things like birth control and prenatal health care are meaningless. They're also beyond the income class of needing to be concerned about any legal repercussions for anything. It doesn't matter if they have immigrants in their families, or whether they have addiction issues. They can buy their way out of everything. So I would argue that the average Democrat has no more incentive than the average Republican at actually fighting for the rights of poor people.

They put on a show, of course. One of my darling senators, Susan Collins, is a prime example. She's a Republican, and often bills herself as a moderate, independent Republican - a vote that we Maine folks can count on to be ours. However, she let that ignorant moron DeVos get out of committee when Collins was perfectly capable of stopping her before the storm started. She pussed out and voted along party lines, so that then she could "take a stand" and vote "no" when her vote was visible. Senator Collins is not young enough - or poor enough - to have children in public school. She has absolutely no incentive to place a decent person in charge of education. None. Why would she possibly care? She has her job, she votes her own pay raises, and as long as she looks like she's representing Maine, she'll keep her job. She's a slimeball.

That's where the pull of independents and third parties comes in. There's this hope that those people might be struggling like the rest of us, or at least might be close enough to the ground that they still maintain some connection to reality. They haven't gotten far enough up to be "worth" being bought, at least on a larger scale. I am definitely tired of the gentry that governs this country. Give me my taciturn neighbor with no academic background but a hell of a lot of work ethic over the rest of these idiots any day.

However, realistically, third party and independent candidates only have a shot if they have money to begin with. It's expensive to run a political campaign, to get yourself noticed, even at the state level. You have to be able to take time off of your job to campaign, you have to be able to find the money to do things like make signs and brochures, and much, much more. You've got to either be independently wealthy or at least directly connected to the directly wealthy.

And that leads us back to the original problem, and the very reason why we may be doomed to remain a two-party oligarchy. The only way a person who is not independently wealthy can reach elected office is to become an active participant in one of the major parties. And once you're backed by a major party, you realize your party's funding comes from corporations and rich people - and you represent your funders. So whatever ideals you might have approached politics with go out the window, as you yourself quietly and quickly reach beyond your original income class - and forget about it altogether.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life

The average person who identifies himself or herself as "pro-life" believes that self-description works because he or she believes in the sanctity of life and that life begins at conception. Thus, abortion is murder, because it takes away life.

But if, as pro-lifers claim, it is the sanctity of life they are focused upon, that would mean, they want to make sure as few abortions happen as possible - because that would mean that the life that begins at conception would be snuffed out the least often.

In which case - studies have proven that when abortion is legalized, fewer abortions happen, period. Why? Because when someone goes to have an abortion, there is less fear, there are counselors, there are options. There isn't fear. Fear is what causes death. It's what causes abortion, even - someone is scared about being pregnant, for a variety of reasons.

For the sake of argument, let's look at this in terms of math, something that people consider fairly objective. Even the flat earth society uses math. Yes, that exists. No, I'm not going to give them the compliment of a link.

Legalized abortions = fewer abortions.
Fewer abortions = less death.
Less death = pro-life.

We can also apply this argument to another argument about life: gun control. WHAT?! We, the pro-choice, were totally willing to hear to purple hippo out until you implied you might oppose that! But yes. Not that we've actually enacted any significant gun control legislation since the racism-motivated and NRA-backed Brady Bill of Reaganomics, but every time we even talk about the idea of additional gun control legislation, people - gasp! - buy more guns. And hoard them. And become more and more afraid of someone trying to come to their houses and take their damned guns.

And what does fear cause? As with making abortion illegal: more death.

I live in a rural hunting state. Now, most advocates of strict gun control laws that I know are still pro-hunting, responsibly, but it doesn't come out that way to the general working class. All we hear is "the government wants to take your guns."

I say this as someone who doesn't own a gun.

I have also never had an abortion.

The thing is, I have compassion for both. Why? Because I have never experienced the fear that leads to either. I'm a purple hippo. I'm scared of absolutely jack shit.

Stifling Warren = Win for the Democrats

Yes, it sucked balls that Elizabeth Warren was made to stop reading the letter from Coretta Scott King. That letter was pertinent to considerations of Sessions as the district attorney. Is it a grand idea to have a homophobic, racist, white supremacist as our D.A.? Of course not. However, when McConnell invoked the fabled Rule 19 to halt Warren's reading of the letter, it was a win for the Democrats, in the long-term. It basically ensures that this asshole will only be our D.A. for a max of four years. It's also a point toward the Democrats taking the midterm elections.


Because Warren is now a martyr. Because the Republicans realized their mistake immediately after it was made, which is why they let three other senators read the same letter aloud in protest. Elizabeth Warren had already achieved goddess-like stature among the standard Democrat crowd, particularly with the young progressives (and some unnamed purple hippos). But now she's got that classic American mythology behind her for all to see: she's the underdog, and she's taking a stand for what she believes in a very nonviolent way, only to have the rug whisked out from beneath her. And from the working class standpoint - those critical voters who fluctuate between the Republicans and the Democrats, wondering who is actually going to help them (hint: none) - when something gets pushed under the rug, they wonder why.

I am a part of this working class.

We don't trust politicians in general. Nor should we. They haven't done anything for us since, oh, maybe LBJ. So when one politician stops another one from talking altogether, we wonder why. We wonder what's being kept from us. We wonder if the guy who is being forced to shut up is the one we should actually listen to.

And we're going to keep right on wondering for the next two years. The more the Republicans stifle the Democrats, the better chance the Democrats have at beating them in the midterms.

Of course, the purple pottamus is going to kick all of their asses and take over the world, because they've all had enough chances to screw it up. Purple hippo in a political china shop, coming through - broken pieces of political royalty all over the floor in my wake. Crush the oligarchy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Introduction: The Purple Pottamus is PISSED

Hello. My name is Jessica Falconer, and I am officially the first, the only, Purple Pottamus Populist. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Even the late great Steve Irwin was afraid of hippos. And this purple hippo is pissed.

My children's education has just been threatened with an idiot who believes in creationism being appointed to Secretary of Education. My African American college roommates' lives and children's lives are about to be threatened by the appointment of white supremacist moron Jeff Sessions. And one of my lovely Maine senators, Susan Collins, is on board. I am going to make it my mission to be as obnoxious as possible to her in response. I promise I will show up to protest every single thing she shows up to here in Maine, and I'll make some of the ones in DC, too. Why? Because I can, so I should. I don't have lots of money - I live in a 1400 square foot 1940s house on the rather decrepit Swan Lake Avenue and I'm a school social worker - but I have a flexible schedule, am capable of taking an inexpensive train, and because others who want to go can't, I've got to represent. This is what I did at the Women's March.

With this presidential election, I almost renounced my Democrat affiliation. I was a registered Libertarian in Texas, and I am so disillusioned with the corruption of the DNC - which is really what won Trump the election - that a part of me wants to watch it die a painful death.

However, instead, I'm going to have fun. I'm going to harness my anger and my greatest talent: being obnoxious. I am going to do everything I can to irritate my legislators as well as the Democratic Party in general. I'm not a donkey and I'm sure as hell not a damned elephant. I'm a hippo and I'm pissed off.