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On this week's poofy-shirt-free weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips adjusts the light bulb at Li'l Trumpy's request; Red Meat investigates weird noises coming from the closet; This Modern World looks yet again at Life in the Stupidverse; This Modern World imagines the next 12 months of Trump lunacy; and Jen Sorensen ponders some honest questions for the Democratic presidential-primary debates.

Published in Comics

On this week's Sharpie-ink-stained weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles finds a way to make female presidential candidates more palatable to sexists; This Modern World ponders what would happen today if an asteroid came sorta-close-but-not-really to Earth; Jen Sorensen looks at the threat to Western Civilization posed by yoga pants; Red Meat checks in on a frightened child; and Apoca Clips listens to Li'l Trumpy blather about all of the crazy news of the week.

Published in Comics

On this week's bedbug-free weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen looks at the motivations of various activists; The K Chronicles goes to Germany and wants to become a vice mayor; This Modern World talks to three supporters of different Democratic presidential candidates; Apoca Clips watches Li'l Trumpy turn into the "Chosen One"; and Red Meat goes bald to be sexy.

Published in Comics

The way California holds its presidential primary violates the constitutional rights of political independents and misuses taxpayer dollars to “benefit wholly private political parties,” a nonpartisan election group will argue in a lawsuit it says it is filing against the state.

A draft filing from by the Independent Voter Project argues that Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who administers elections, is ignoring a state constitutional requirement to hold an “open” presidential primary, in which anyone—regardless of political party—can participate.

Currently, each political party decides who gets to vote in its primary, forcing political independents who want to participate to jump through additional administrative hoops, or join a party outright.

“The State of California can’t create a process that includes some voters and excludes others,” said Chad Peace, the Independent Voter Project’s legal counsel.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office said it would wait until the lawsuit is filed before commenting.

In the past, the Democratic Party has allowed political independents without a party preference to cast a vote in its primary—but those voting by mail have been forced to request the ballot ahead of time. That rule isn’t likely to change in 2020.

Right-leaning independents have had an even tougher time. State GOP rules typically require voters to re-register as Republicans if they want to vote in the party’s primary.

But independents and absentee voters—who also are disproportionately young and people of color—make up a growing share of the California electorate. As CalMatters reported last month, the current system could confuse a large portion of would-be voters, perhaps as many as a million Californians, and lock them out of the process.

Plaintiffs in the suit will include six political independents in California, including the Independent Voter Project’s executive director, Dan Howle.

The filing, slated for state superior court in San Bernardino County, argues that the state’s current primary process violates the California Constitution, which requires the state to hold an “open primary.” That term isn’t precisely defined in state law, but Peace argues that it means “open to voters without conditions.” 

This may be the first time this argument will be presented in a California court, but federal judges have weighed in elsewhere—and they have not been convinced, said Christopher Elmendorf, a law professor at UC Davis.

“The federal courts have said that parties have the right to keep non-members from voting for their candidates, as a general rule,” he said. “This sounds like an effort to relitigate under the state Constitution a type of claim that the federal courts have not simply just rejected, but have said itself is violative of the rights of the party.”

In its filing, the Independent Voter Project also argues:

State spending on a process that benefits private political parties violates the California Constitution.

Putting additional restrictions on the electoral choices of political independents violates their due process and equal protection rights as guaranteed by both state and federal constitutions.

Requiring a political independent to register with a particular party or request its ballot as a condition to vote for candidate violates their right of association (or, in this case, non-association) which is guaranteed by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Among the plaintiffs are both Democratic- and Republican-leaning voters who, the filing states, would like to vote for a presidential candidate running in the primaries of those two parties “without being forced to associate” with that party.

“Would you say to somebody, ‘Well, you have the freedom of religion, but you have to go to a Catholic Church in order to practice it?’” said Peace. “Then you also can’t say, ‘You have freedom of political expression and the freedom of vote, but you have to go to the Democratic Party’s private nomination process in order to exercise it.’ It’s the same argument.”

The Independent Voter Project has advocated for a “public ballot” for nonpartisan voters, allowing them to pick from a list of all the major-party candidates—though parties would not be obligated to count those votes.

The group has unsuccessfully lobbied state legislators to create such a ballot in the past.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

On this week's best-of-seven weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen watches as candidates hearken back to the past; The K Chronicles participates in a gun-exchange program; This Modern World ponders GOP demonization of the Dems; Apoca Clips listens as Li'l Trumpy discusses the Kentucky Derby; and Red Meat enjoys some naked sunbathing.

Published in Comics

In a time of questionable candidates and flame wars galore, Alexander Zaitchik has a new book that displays the disarray.

A longform Jedi with roots in the alternative press, the author last surfaced between periodical pieces with Common Nonsense, a graphic look at “Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance” in the Tea Party era. So it’s fitting that his second major project has been released in the middle of such comparable political hysteria.

For those lamenting an apparent widening attention deficit in modern journalism, Zaitchik’s detailed work should come as an informed relief. His latest, The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump’s America, is a hearty bone for long-readers, on either side of the divide, who feel reporters have neglected to communicate the larger stories underpinning Donald Nation domination.

Though his dispatches arrive amidst a dizzying daily variety of Trump coverage, Zaitchik writes clear of the hype to illustrate conditions fomenting today’s anti-establishmentarianism, however superficial or trumped up. We asked about his revelatory travels through the industrial heartland, Southwestern border territories and Appalachian coal country.

This seems like an especially big feat—a book spanning the primaries that comes out before the election. What was the approach?

I jumped on the primary calendar near the middle, in Arizona, and finished with the June votes in New Mexico and California, a few weeks after Trump clinched the nomination in Indiana. I focused on six states representative of Trump’s marquee campaign themes—in Appalachia, the Rust Belt, and along the Mexico Border. Ideally, I would have had a little more time—I filed the last chapter in early July—but the goal was to get it out in time for the general election. This ended up fitting nicely with the idea behind Hot Books, the Skyhorse Publishing imprint of which The Gilded Rage is a part. They’re short, timely books of around 150 pages, edited by historian and Salon.com founder David Talbot.

Your dispatches have been amazingly detailed, and they focus on some elements of the side show that may have been overlooked by other writers. What observations are especially important in your mind for anyone who is really trying to understand the bigger picture high and above the spectacle?

Like everyone else, I’ve basically been swimming in the Trump story since autumn. While traveling for the book, I kept up with the circus, but not because it impacted the work. I was focused on the lives of Trump’s followers, which don’t have much to do with the cable news cycle on a given Tuesday. The animating spirit behind the book is Studs Terkel, the Chicago journalist and oral historian who conducted long biographical interviews with everyday Americans. His books of interviews revealed more about the country, in a vernacular that sometimes approached literature, than 1,000 newspaper editorials (or 2,000 “hot takes”). As I watched the Trump story explode, I thought there was a need for a Terkel approach that let Trump’s supporters explain themselves over the course of many pages, instead of just having a tiny quote box or sound byte.

When I started the project, a lot of stories were coming out that promised readers and listeners a chance to “Meet the Trump Supporters,” or whatever. But when I finished these pieces, I never felt like I’d met anybody. So I decided to go long where everyone was going short. Sometimes I conducted the interviews only after days spent building trust, hanging out, learning something about them. There wasn’t much scientific about my approach, which was the point. The book is intended as a counterpoint to all that.

The kind of data journalism people have come to depend on, if not worship, never felt more useless than during this primary. One, it was wrong in its predictions, over and over. Two, it kept missing the point. You’d see all these articles crunching numbers, like how Trump voters aren’t really that poor compared to some other voting bloc. They split some statistical hair and completely ignore the whale in the water, which is the unquantifiable psychology of pain, insecurity, anger and resentment. I think there’s obviously a role for the data stuff, but in this election, you’re better off getting drunk with a Trump supporter whose town lost its factories and whose nephews are all on heroin. That’s where I think the Trump story is—in all of these individual American stories, many of them tragedies, almost all of them more complicated than plain racism or sexism. I went around and tried to collect some of these stories. I do think they have a certain amount of political explanatory power. But beyond that, the lives of everyday Americans are just interesting—much more interesting than anything I have to say about Donald Trump, or what Donald Trump has to say about his tax returns.

How much other coverage of Trump and his campaign have you been consuming, and do you have any specific or general praises or condemnations?

I respect those (reporters who cover his campaign on a daily basis) a lot. They live and breathe the campaign and have to file stories every day, often more than once. I don’t think I could do it, and somebody has to. That said, there are serious limitations to working that kind of campaign beat. You fly in, go to a rally, get a few quotes, then go back to the hotel and file, and maybe drink with the hack pack, which is mostly made up of middle-class and upper-middle-class people from the same group of elite schools. They all live in D.C. or the Virginia suburbs. The job isn’t really structured in a way that lets them spend much time away from each other or the noise of the news trail.

I often started at the same place as the press corps, usually at a rally. But after they moved on to the next rally, I’d push deeper into the corners of the state and put in time with the people I met. I also couldn’t afford hotels, so I couch-surfed in the communities and neighborhoods of my interview subjects. In West Virginia, I stayed next door to the guy at the center of that chapter. Instead of drinking back at the Charleston Hilton bar, I went to the run-down local Juggalo club in Raleigh County where all the kids were unemployed and on pills or heroin.

Is it your job as a journalist to separate out the right-wing nut jobs from the so-called everyday Americans who are supporting Trump?

I didn’t seek out any kind of Trump voter. I just talked to people and let the chips fall where they did. If people were open to spending time with me and were halfway articulate, they usually ended up in the book. Some of these people were not pleasant; some were small-minded racists; and others were extremely sympathetic and generous in spirit. The Trump voter base—like the country, like individual Americans—is complicated. There were overlapping themes, but after five months of talking to people at length, I struggle with sketching the “average” Trump voter. I would never discount or downplay the racism and “authoritarianism” swimming in Trump’s base, but I also wouldn’t reduce it to those things.

As a native of Massachusetts, what has it been like to see such a significant embrace of Trump here in New England?

Anyone who’s spent time in Massachusetts knows that even the Republic of Cambridge isn’t all Volvo-driving Democratic socialists. The state has a lot of New Hampshire in it, and worse, and the frustrations and anger that Trump has ridden to the nomination are a national phenomenon. I wasn’t that shocked to see Trump win the primary, though I was disappointed. I admit to clinging to the conceit that my home state is a liberal oasis of reason and progressive politics, the Athens of America. Of course, it isn’t.

How thick is your skin? Does any of this bother you anymore, or are you just like somebody who cleans enormous streams of diarrhea out of sewer pipes all day and no longer even shrinks at the stink?

I spend most of my life in liberal enclaves talking to people who think like I do, so I enjoy getting out there and talking to conservatives. Not so much the cruel, bat-shit crazy ones, but most people are pretty cool on a personal level. I think it’s a good exercise in more ways than one, but above all, it’s necessary if you are going to have any clue about what’s happening in this country. You also need to know how to talk to people if you want to help build some kind of broad progressive coalition. While working on the book, I’d sometimes watch recent college grads completely unable to talk politics with a machinist with a high school education. They simply could not hold a conversation. They used jargon, or coils sprang from their eyes if they heard a word they associated with “trigger warnings” in Gender Studies 101. It’s terrifying to see.

You have now written books on Glenn Beck and Donald Trump. Are they comparable? Any striking similarities or differences?

Two greed-head egomaniacs with Messiah complexes. Hopefully Trump crashes and burns the way Beck is currently. But we’ll still have to reckon with what it all means. Trump obviously heralds and signifies much more than just an unlikely one-off in the 2016 primary.

As somebody who already spends a significant amount of time working outside of the country, would you consider moving if Trump wins?

If anything, I’d be more likely to stay in the country under a Trump presidency. Not just out of a sense of civic duty, but also because times would get “interesting,” in the Chinese aphorism sense of the word. But something tells me they’re about to get pretty damn interesting either way.

This piece was originally published in Dig Boston. The author has known Zaitchik for many years, and teaches in the same department as his father at Salem State University.

Published in Literature

“It’s the best of times and the worst of times,” said Nadine Smith, the chief executive officer of Equality Florida, as she reflected on the recent gains for LGBT individuals, including marriage rights—and the horrific slaughter of those at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12.

Her words hit home for me. I’ve been struggling to reconcile spontaneously bursting into joyful tears in the voting booth, mere days before Orlando thrust me back into the violent reality of our times.

Any violence that indiscriminately targets a specific ethnicity, or religion, or race, or national origin, or gender is onerous. I see every person whose life was cut short or is still suffering grievous injuries as being just like my son, who is gay. My tears flow freely as the names and ages are called out on the news with small details of their ordinary and extraordinary lives as described by families and friends. My heart goes out to share their grief.

The worst of times.

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was shedding unexpected tears in that voting booth. I admit to feeling emotionally overwhelmed as I cast my vote for a woman to be the nominee of a major party for president of the United States.

The best of times.

I remember when there were jobs I couldn’t apply for because I was a woman. I remember when I couldn’t get a credit card without my husband’s signature. I remember having to sign an affidavit saying I would never get pregnant again in order to qualify for a VA loan to buy a house, since both our incomes were necessary to get the mortgage.

“Despite all the negativity, she kept reaching, exceeding her grasp … lesson learned.” —Helen, Palm Desert, on Hillary Clinton

After many years of involvement in the women’s rights movement, including service on state and national boards of major organizations, I have seen my share of challenges and triumphs. I remember when using “Ms.” to identify women as individuals—without regard to their marital status—was considered unthinkable. I remember when women were expected to train the young men who they knew would eventually be promoted over them. I remember when being crudely hit on by a client was considered a compliment.

“Going all the way back to the ’70s and ’80s and the ERA battles … this is not the end, but it sure as hell is closer than we have ever been. My granddaughter can shape her own future—be a combat troop commander AND Miss USA, or president of the United States” —Pat, Palm Springs

Many of my friends fell in love with Bernie Sanders’ agenda. They might never self-describe as Democratic Socialists, but they like his approach and willingness to challenge the status quo.

“Regardless of candidate preference, the idea of a female taking on such a role—the presidency of our country—proves to individuals everywhere, especially young girls, that they don’t have to settle for less.” —Alejandra, Thermal

“I like many of Bernie’s policies, but Hillary knows her way around Washington and the world. As the leader of the world for almost a century, the United States is way behind in electing a female president.” —Alice, Desert Hot Springs

I would never vote for a candidate merely based on a single arbitrary characteristic, like gender, color or religion. However, all things being equal, I would give the nod to a well-qualified woman over a well-qualified man, just because we need to catch up with the rest of the world. (It does look as if “all things being equal” won’t apply to this election, in any event.)

“In the voter’s booth, I’ll take ‘calm intelligence’ over ‘erratic instincts’ every time. My reaction is that I am standing proud with women everywhere.” —Janet, Palm Desert

“I cried when I saw Hillary walk onto the stage with arms open … I am so proud of her and proud to be me, a woman.” —Anita, Rancho Mirage

Women have led nations all over the world, in countries with varying predominant religions, and even in the face of security and military challenges far worse than those we face. Women have won presidential elections in South Korea, Malawi, Argentina, Kosovo, Iceland, Malta, Philippines, Nicaragua, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Latvia, Panama, Finland, Indonesia, Liberia, Chile, India, Lithuania and many other places, to say nothing of nations where women have served as heads of government in the position of prime minister or other titles.

“The historical aspect of it didn’t hit me until election night.” —Pat, Indio

“When I was listening to Hillary’s acceptance speech … I was so emotional that all I kept thinking was how I wish my mother could’ve been there with me, celebrating this moment in history, something she always dreamed of.” —Claudia, La Quinta

There are many women, and men, who will not support Hillary BECAUSE she is a woman and who still believe a woman’s place is in the home—in the background, in the support role. There are women who are uncomfortable identifying with Hillary’s persona, because it often evokes misogynist reactions and they don’t want to suffer those same reactions. There are those who have a negative view of Hillary based on scandals and various “—gates.”

“It will make a difference to have a woman in the White House, and it’s long overdue. Compared to all the powerful men in history … whatever mistakes she may have made are, in my opinion, far less egregious. Thanks to all the heroic women who have come before me and who made this possible.” —Helen, Northern California

“Maybe I’d vote for her if she divorced Bill!” —Val, Indio

Going back to Nadine Smith’s comments in the wake of the Orlando killings, the Equality Florida CEO said: “I vacillate between sadness and anger, but mostly pride (at what we’ve accomplished).” I, too, am saddened and angered that anyone, for ANY reason, indiscriminately murders innocents. At the same time, I am full of pride and hopeful that we have a chance through a new approach, a woman’s approach, to model our values and our better angels to the world.

“I’m thrilled, like every other woman should be.” —Nancy, Palm Desert

“Our time has finally arrived.” —Kathy, Oceanside, formerly Palm Springs

I yearn for her candidacy to show my two granddaughters that they can achieve anything.” —Dori, Palm Desert

When Hamilton, a revolutionary approach to a Broadway musical, won the bulk of trophies at the Tony Awards, one of the producers, echoing a line from the script, said it all for me:

“Look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening.”

It is the best of times.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On this week's toaster-oven-style weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat has issues with a sweet treat; Jen Sorenson takes some intelligence tests of our times; The K Chronicles examines the effects of the boycott on North Carolina; and This Modern World offers yet another installment of primary phenomena.

Published in Comics

In the beginning, it isn’t clear if Donald Trump will even make it inside.

It’s around 10 a.m., April 29, on Burlingame’s Old Bayshore Highway—just south of the San Francisco International Airport—and protesters have just finished forming the second of two human fences that they hope will block access to the only road entrances to the adjacent Hyatt Regency, site of the 2016 California GOP Convention.

The protesters forming the fence sit cross-legged across the road, their arms joined through sections of plastic tubes that are penned with slogans such as “Stop Hate,” “Capitalism Kills” and “Love Trumps Hate.”

Trump, the leading GOP candidate, is slated to speak at a 12:30 p.m. luncheon, and Burlingame police officers line the sidewalk nearby, their eyes fixed on the protesters.

About 100 yards north up the road, closer to the hotel lobby, the crowd of activists surrounding the other human fence is far larger. There, dozens of anti-Trump protesters hold signs that read, among other things, “Make America Hate Again” and “Californians Against Trump/Hate.”

A brass band snakes through the crowd, lending an air of festivity to an otherwise tense scene. Tania Kappner, a Bay Area activist, directs much of the action through a megaphone.

“I need about half of you to go support the folks locked down on the other side. Not everybody, just half!” she says. “We need to shut this entire road all the way the fuck down!”

Inside the Hyatt, past the line of police, the mood is expectant, almost giddy. The line to see Trump speak stretches more than 100 feet long, and because he has a Secret Service detail, it moves slowly—aside from a bag check, attendees must pass through a metal detector.

Inside the banquet ballroom, after it is announced Trump made it into the building, albeit a bit late (he was secreted in through the rear), he is introduced by State Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, who hails Trump as “our next president,” and then gets the crowd involved. “To all the lobbyists who think they can buy our freedom,” he says, and then the crowd joins in, “you’re fired!”

When Trump finally enters, the mood is electric.

“That was not the easiest entrance I’ve ever made,” he says, drawing laughter. “It felt like I was crossing the border.”

Trump then goes on a rambling account of his campaign thus far, how he’s proven his doubters wrong, and how he’s more popular than the other candidates. (Just days later, the other two remaining Republicans would suspend their campaigns, clearing Trump’s path to the GOP nomination.) True to form, he calls Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary.” He mocks John Kasich for eating during news conferences.

Trump says he will be heading to Indiana soon to hang out with coach Bobby Knight.

“He’s a winner,” Trump says. “That’s what we need now, we need winners.”

Aside from trade deals and immigration, Trump avoids talking about the issues, and mostly praises those who support him. He mentions an endorsement he received from 16,500 members of the U.S. Border Patrol, and refers to them as “phenomenal,” “great-looking,” “strong” and “in-shape.”

He also assures the crowd he will have no trouble building the wall he’s promised on the Mexican border.

“It’s so easy,” he brags. “I can just see that beautiful pre-cast plank, good solid foundations, nice and high … ”

One can barely hear his words through the applause.

When Trump finishes, the hotel is on lockdown, with police holding the line against an increasingly riled-up group of protesters. The only way out is a side door leading to the parking garage, and broken eggshells—from raw eggs thrown by protesters—line the walkway as luncheon attendees shuffle uneasily to their cars.

Back inside, the Monterey County Republican Party is the only county party with a booth, as was the case at the state GOP convention last fall. And once again, the table is set up with a “Delete Hillary” cornhole game that aims to bring light to Clinton’s so-called scandals. The game is in keeping with the wireless password for convention attendees: “hillarycantbetrusted.”

Monterey County GOP shotcaller Paul Bruno, the Central Coast regional chair for the Ted Cruz campaign, is sipping a cocktail near the table later in the day.

“We’ve been deleting Hillary, and we’re going to continue deleting Hillary,” he says. Bruno adds that he just got back from a Cruz rally in Indiana, and praises Cruz for being “somewhat of a maverick.” But, he says, all the GOP candidates “bring a lot to the table.”

The evening brings a speech by Kasich, the most moderate of the GOP candidates, who was trailing heavily in the polls. His tone is wistful, as if he already knew that his defeat was sealed.

“I’ve been endorsed by over 70 newspapers,” he says. “Wish it mattered.”

Kasich ended his campaign several days later.


The next morning, the Hyatt is packed with attendees wearing “Team Cruz” stickers. Cruz will be giving a speech at a 12:30 p.m. luncheon. For Cruz, the most conservative of the candidates, it’s been a tough week: On April 26, Trump swept Cruz in five states, and on April 28, former House Speaker John Boehner referred to him as “Lucifer in the flesh.” It would get even tougher in the week that followed: On May 3, Cruz suspended his campaign after getting trounced in the Indiana primary.

But on this day, the excitement in the banquet room is palpable, and Cruz is introduced by former Gov. Pete Wilson, a surprise guest who recently endorsed Cruz.

“Never has the California Republican primary election been so critical to the future of our nation,” he says.

When Cruz finally takes the stage, he is welcomed by rousing applause. “God bless the great state of California!” he says, drawing cheers. After thanking some people, he begins praising Carly Fiorina, who he named as his running mate April 27.

“Carly terrifies Hillary Clinton. I picture Hillary thinking about Carly, tossing and turning, and tossing and turning—in her jail cell,” he says.

He then goes on to describe his platform: Abolish the IRS, rein in the EPA, end Common Core education, “rip to shreds” the Iranian nuclear deal, and repeal Obamacare.

Shortly after Cruz’s speech is a seminar about the Republican National Convention, and the complex set of possibilities that would play out if Trump didn’t win 1,237 delegates—an outright majority that would secure the nomination.

After the seminar, in a men’s room across the hall, a 50-something man tells an elderly man that he didn’t know it cost $900 to become a delegate.

“You know what they say in Poland?” the elderly man says.

“I should let you know I’m Polish,” the other man responds.

“Tough shit-ski. You know what they in southern Poland?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tough shit-ski, y’all.”

Trump, who could barely make his way into his own party’s convention, may actually find his way into the White House.

This piece originally appeared in the Monterey County Weekly.

Published in Politics

On this week's extra-spicy weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat enjoys a long-overdue dinner; Jen Sorenson plays the Woman Card; The K Chronicles wonders what Zoe Saldana is doing in Nina; and This Modern World examines the forever campaign.

Published in Comics

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