Tuesday, July 14, 2020

How Much Are Your Elected Officials Getting Paid?

Photo Credit: Jonathan O'Donnell - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jod999/27575169912

By: Alex Kack

How much are your elected officials getting paid? Do you know off the top of your head?

Last year where I live in Tucson, AZ there was a ballot initiative to raise the pay of our city council members, I enthusiastically supported the measure, most Tucsonans did not.

Approval of the City Council isn’t emphatically high, politicians are almost never particularly popular, why would the voters give them a raise? I wonder though, if many of those voters realized that this job pays only $24,000 and the last pay raise they received was 21 years ago, in 1999.

Is that a job you’d apply for?

Probably not. To give you a greater level of perspective on this, someone earning Arizona’s minimum wage makes an average of $24,960 annually, almost $1000 more per year then the people we entrust with our safety and the leadership of our city. This issue isn’t unique to Tucson or to Arizona, across the country leaders at the state, county and city levels are paid low annual wages.

There are multiple reasons that we’ve wound up in this situation. In many areas law makers and local executives are considered part time jobs. This would satisfactorily explain them earning low annual wages, if it were at all accurate to the reality of their duties. The truth is an elected official is never really off the clock, and even if they can get by putting in only 20-30 hours a week, would we actually want them too? Can we expect anyone to tackle and respond adequately to major crises or even the day to day, life and death scenarios that those in elected office have to be responsible for on a part time schedule?

This culture of low pay creates a number of leadership crises that have a negative impact both on the function of our public institutions and our faith in them. In no other career path would we expect to be able to recruit and hire the best possible candidates for the lowest possible pay.

Paying low wages to the people we entrust with so much responsibility invites incompetence and corruption while locking out working people and diverse voices. You either have to come to the job with personal wealth or work another job while performing your duty. It should be obvious that this creates too much room for conflicts of interest, both monetary and literally just of each individual elected official's actual time.

We’re essentially asking our leaders to choose between their duty to maintain and protect our communities and whatever responsibilities they may have to a job that actually pays their bills and feeds their families.

Efforts like Tucson’s failed ballot initiative continue to spring up around the nation in an attempt to address this foundational issue and often they continue to fail. In many areas only the voters can choose to give their officials a raise and even in those that allow elected officials to make those decisions themselves, few politicians would risk being seen as the person who voted to give themselves a raise.

You get what you pay for, is a cliche for a reason, and when we underpay the very people who manage and structure our society we’re not getting a deal, we’re robbing ourselves from living in the best possible version of our communities. It’s time for everyone in America to get paid a living wage and that includes the people we choose to lead us.

Alex Kack  does nothing of note, regardless please follow him on Twitter @alex_kack or on Instagram @alexkack

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Pathogen of Isolated Worldviews

       Photo credit: Jim Pennucci from Hope, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

By: Alex Kack

Scrolling through what feels like an endless deluge of conspiracy laden Facebook posts downplaying or flat out denying the existence of the Covid19 pandemic, one question gets posed over and over again. - “Do you actually know anyone who’s had the coronavirus?”

Many of us would be quick to answer yes, a friend, an uncle twice removed, a colleague overseas or someone we’ve never met but regularly video games with half a world away.

A lot of people, including one assumes those posing the question, would answer no, no one in their life has fallen victim to this insidious new pathogen. To some extent we each exist in our own version of reality, a way that we’ve learned to understand the world that’s shaped by what we know, how we feel and possibly most importantly who we know. It becomes easier to doubt what you’re seeing in the news if it’s not touching your own bubble in any immediate way and the existence and severity of the current pandemic is not immune to that questioning.

In his 2000 book, ‘Bowling Alone’, political scientist Robert Putnam argues that the decreased social activity and interconnectedness was harming American’s ability to accurately engage with the world and thus harming the way that American democracy and society was functioning. If you’ve ever sat and had a beer with me more then three times, you’ve probably heard me mention this book, partially because I love bowling and hate being alone, and partially because I witnessed the detrimental affect Putnam described grow over the two decades since he released it.

In many ways American’s are more connected than ever before, social media allows us to keep up with old high school classmates we otherwise would’ve lost touch with and email means our bosses have lost all reason to not ask us to do one more thing at 11 o’clock in the goddamn evening. Yet you can’t help but also notice that for many, many people their actual worlds are smaller and more siloed than ever before we’re participating in fewer civic and social activities, we don’t attend churches, belong to unions or as Putnam points out, bowling leagues, to the extent we used to. We live in a time where people exist socially, almost entirely in a variety of fully developed subcultures, each full of people that tend to already share our views, these are reinforced as we continue to go drink in information from wells poisoned with partisanship. (This blog, for the five of you that read it, is arguably no different)

There are a litany of systemic reasons that people and American’s in particular are so susceptible to misinformation. The fact that we’re hanging out less and with fewer people isn’t the entire reason that we’re awash in viral particles and bat shit ideas, but living a fuller life is one of the easiest levels of civic engagement we can all do. And living a fuller life means having more people in it, caring for more people, inviting them into your world and being a part of theirs.

Alex Kack  does nothing of note, regardless please follow him on Twitter @alex_kack or on Instagram @alexkack

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Are we really this fucking dumb?

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

By: Alex Kack 

We’re facing an unprecedented global crisis, an invisible killer that has brought much of the industrialized world to its knees.

With very few exceptions country after country has fallen, often into the same series of traps, brought on by economic fear and nationalistic hubris.

Experts have long warned political and military leaders that this was around the corner, that the greatest threat to global stability was not a network of terror cells or a rogue nation state but disease. These calls have been almost entirely ignored.

Stockpiles have been depleted, scientific and research funding slashed and healthcare looked at through the cold analytical lense of austerity for some and profit for others.

Almost more galling than this is the way that world governments have watched as one nation fails to act quickly enough and then repeats these same mistakes.

Looking at how the public reacts though it’s easy to understand how our governments have become so negligent.

Humans have difficulty with existential threats, few people can accurately assess risk that they can not themselves see. This denial is increased by a culture in the west that increasingly puts little value on education and even less faith in experts and institutions.

The result is a public that takes for granted the fragile health and security that modern science and functional government has brought us. Instead of communally pitching in we deny the magnitude of the problem because it is not already invading our own personal worlds, not in front of our own faces.

As images poured in from other nations of overcrowded hospitals, stacks of coffins and crying doctors, in America young people continued to pack crowded beaches, social media stars licked toilets and middle-aged folks ranted about how this couldn't possibly be worse than the seasonal flu.

Some of this was simply willful ignorance of the severity of events happening around the world. To some other extent, it was based on a perverted notion of American exceptionalism that nothing as small and mundane as a virus could possibly bring this level of catastrophe to this nation.

It is undeniable that in the face of this a great restructuring is needed. Partially this will occur through policy, our government must not only be ready for threats but proactive in working to prevent and minimize them. In many other ways however our culture must change. We must abandon hardline ideologies that are not rooted in the progress of society and the protection and benefit of people. We must reembrace what is possible through education and encourage curiosity. Perhaps most importantly we must stress the destructive nature of those who refuse to rectify their personal beliefs with fact.

The past few weeks and very likely the next few months will be of historical note, something that in many ways will shape the collective consciousness of our people moving forward. This time will continue to require shared sacrifice and it will require us to be both smarter and more empathetic as a people. If we can’t learn to be, to stop disaster, then disaster will almost certainly force us to be later.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Looking back at the protest movements that defined a decade

 The 2010’s will likely be remembered as a flash point in American political history, the legacy of which will probably take at least another decade to fully understand. It’s a time period in which politics not only defined American life but fundamentally changed it. The very psyche of our nation has altered, and with it changed how we both react to our culture and interact with one another. A decade that began in the midst of two failing wars and the smoldering ruins of economic collapse, also saw massive social change, the emergence of celebrity politics, and violence in American streets. Here we take a look back at the movements that defined one of our most turbulent decades.

Marriage Equality

Still considered an unelectable taboo in politics during the 2000’s the fight for marriage equality blew open in the early 2010’s. As more states, began to recognize same-sex marriages national opinion quickly begins to change on the subject. Adding to the national discussion, then Vice President Joe Biden announced his personal support for same-sex marriage on an episode of Meet the Press, leading to President Barack Obama’s public statement of support in 2012. The Supreme Court would later make a constitutional case for marriage equality, enshrining it as the law of the land and one of the biggest civil rights victories of the 2010’s.

Tea Party

Beginning in the late 2000’s as a largely anti-tax, anti-war libertarian movement tied to Ron Paul’s candidacy for President, morphed into massive protest movement that far too often utilized racism in the wake of the election of America’s first black president. PAC’s and organized groups (often funded by the Koch brothers) utilized the energy of the movement and shed much of its original isolationist message instead turning it into a populist electoral force steeped in bigotry, conspiracy theories and ridiculous costumes. It culminated in the election of numerous right wing congressmen, and in many ways laid the groundwork for the election of Donald Trump in the second half of the decade.


What began as a call to ‘Occupy Wall Street’, by the left wing magazine Adbusters, became a year long global protest movement. Inspired partially by the Arab Spring uprisings and partially by student protests that took place in California in 2009, Occupy would go on to dominate the political narrative much of 2011 and 2012. Largely a response to the Great Recession and the ever increasing income inequality seen in America, the decentralized movement would go on to address a nearly endless list of grievances that often varied from one ‘Occupy’ encampment to another. Occupy opened the door the re-emergence of left-leaning economic policy even asmany bemoaned the protests lack of focus on electoral politics and penchant for featuring many bemoaned the protests lack of focus on electoral politics and penchant for featuring white dudes playing hand drums. white dudes playing hand drums. many bemoaned the protests lack of focus on electoral politics and penchant for featuring white dudes playing hand drums.


The rise of Donald Trump to the Presidency was as certain to happen as it was unlikely. The billionaire reality TV star utilized a toxic mixture racism, xenophobia, raw anger and aspirational wealth to beat a crowded Republican field and one of the most well known political figures in the world for the Oval Office. His flirtations with fascism and authoritarian tendencies terrified many but created a solid, rabid base of voters in tiny red hats and inspired a wave of ugly factional politics, that rivals the worst of America’s political history.

The Return of Progressivism

While Trump developed his own cult of personality, the candidacy of Bernie Sanders did something else with the Democratic Party. A new wave of progressive Democratic candidates and activists emerged, no longer happy with the center-left politics of the New Democrats, the new progressives cover territory that ranges from Neo New Dealists to self described socialists. The momentum behind them has reframed acceptable political ideology in the nation with ideas like Single Payer Healthcare, Reparations, Jobs Guarantees and even Universal Basic Income all becoming mainstream.

Women's March

The now annual Women's March first took place the day after Donald Trump's inauguration, a response to the horrifically sexist nature of his actions, statements and candidacy, it became the single largest day of protest in the nation’s history. Since then the organziers behind the march have been criticized for everything from their motives, to their connections to the Nation of Islam and allegations of anti-semetism despite this the marches continue, globally.

Climate Strike

In 2018 Greta Thunberg launched her protest outside of the Swedish Parliament, calling for a national day of protest. The following year it kicked off a global movement with students walking out of schools, and faculty trying to figure out how to best accommodate the protest. It inspired countless other climate based protests and Thunberg was subsequently named Time’s “Person of the Year

March For Our Lives

Generation Z has time and again shown themselves as an activist generation rising to the challenges of their time in a way that Millennials were never able to during the Bush years. The March For Our Lives took place in 2018 and was organized and led by survivors of the Parkland shooting. It made survivors like David Hogg and Sarah Chadwick into recognizable faces and names and showed that the politics of this era would at least in part, be influenced by the young people policy would most directly affect.


While technically originating all the way back in 2003, the hacktivist collective Anonymous became a household name in the early 2000’s. Addressing a myriad of different issues reflecting political views across the spectrum, the group helped to uncover some of the crass underbelly of American political and corporate life while turning the Guy Fawkes mask into an instantly recognizable symbol of protest and political resistance.

The Alt - Right

In the 2010’s Neo-Nazi’s were more likely to look like an extra from a Brooks Brothers catalog then from American History X. The so called Alt-Right spread and organized online before becoming an open political force during the 2016 presidential election. Formed of various far right ideologies and groups, the movement represented much of the very worst of America. Defined by terms like white nationalism and western chauvinism the Alt-Right will forever be linked to both the Presidency of Donald Trump and the onslaught of physical violence that began to occur in American cities. The movement has begun to lose steam after the Unite the Right rally in Charlotteville where violence shut the city down and claimed the life of counter protester Heather Hayer. The movement will hopefully be seen in the future as the dying gasp of America’s past sins however now it is an unfortunate and dangerous reminder that hatred and authoritarianism are still very much alive in our nation.


A cultural moment that revealed a horror show of abuses by titans of industry, elected officials, and every day people. The ‘Me Too’ movement opened America’s eyes to the epidemic of sexual assault, harassment and general misogyny that almost everyone had encountered but no one spoke about. It forever changed the way we look at some of the most well known and previously beloved public figures of the 20th and 21st century and forced well overdue conversations about consent.

Black Lives Matter

Following the death of Trayvon Martin, a child shot to death essentially for being black and wearing a hoodie, a seemingly unending protest movement was born out of a hashtag. Forcing attention on racism and police brutality, Black Lives Matter was targeted and criticized by conservative media and pundits who often attempted to use racist stereotypes and dog whistles to incite backlash against the movement. The movement was met with counter hashtags and statements such as ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and ‘All Lives Matter’ that sought ot minimize the racial component related to police brutality and the murder of black men by police in American. Violent clashes between police and protestors in Ferguson, as well as NFL player Colin Kaepernicks on field protests kept attention on the movement while also changing the framework in which it was discussed.

Alex Kack is blogger and career political hack living in the desert, follow him on Twitter @Alex_Kack

Images from Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Say Goodbye to Hollywood...& Hello to Racism

By: Paul Goebel

There's no denying that this country has become less safe for any person who isn't a straight, cis white male but few people understand how bad it really is either because, they're white, male, straight, cis or just stupid. Yet there are still those who insist that today's hateful climate is no worse than it's always been. They claim that America has always been a scam, a lie, a dumpster fire, and trump has only brought it to the surface. While their thesis is valid, it fails to stand up to an important test.

Throughout history, there have been very few industries that always do well, despite the economy or political climate. The most popular of these is the entertainment industry. Whether it's Bush, Bush Jr. Reagan, Obama or Truman, people always look to escape by watching a movie, play, concert or a TV show. Not only does the show provide a distraction, it also has a truth that can't be seen other places. Whether it was the biting satire of SNL in the 70's, the stunning dramatization of Watergate in All the President's Men or all the times that The Simpsons “predicted the future,” Hollywood has always been a place where truth prevails.

Unfortunately, even Hollywood can't protect itself from the racists and homophobes that have been emboldened by Trump.

Over the summer on the 21st season of reality show Big Brother, the first three contestants to be voted out were people of color. The fourth person voted out was an old, white, cis man and he managed to get back in the house and finish in a top 5 of white, straight cis men & women. The winner, of course, was a man.

One of NBC's new sitcoms, Sunnyside, is about a disgraced politician who “lowers himself” to tutoring non-citizens for their citizenship test. It stars a racially diverse cast and provides an honest look at how immigrants live in America, even those who emigrated as babies. The show could not have been more relevant. The one thing it was missing was jokes. It was the first show to be canceled this season and will now be used as an example of “why these kinds of shows don't work”

After years of right wing, jingoistic films like Top Gun, Red Dawn, Rambo, Red Dawn (again), etc. someone had an idea to make a movie about conservative Americans being hunted for sport (a remake of The Most Dangerous Game with modern references). Even though, it's made clear through every form of advertising that the right-wingers eventually defeat their liberal pursuers and become the heroes of the story, the movie was shelved because Trump tweeted about it and his followers all did the same.

I'm too pissed to wrap this up in any acceptable way, so to be clear, my point is this...this kind of bullshit is as insidious as it is unacceptable. It needs to be called out EVERY TIME YOU SEE IT. Anything less makes you complicit if not just as responsible.

Don't @ me.

Paul Goebel has been doing comedy for over 30 years. His TV credits include Will & Grace, Curb Your Enthusiasm & @midnight. Paul is best known to nerds worldwide as the TV Geek from Comedy Central's Beat the geeks. Follow him on twitter

Friday, October 4, 2019

Tales from the Inbox

By: Kat Stratford

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a keyboard must be in want of dat assss.

With this in mind, we womenfolk can often look forward to an inbox full of…. surprises. They’re generally not terribly impressive, but there they are, at 3am, arriving just after a 2:45, “u up?”

Many articles have been written about the psychology behind dick pics and odious DMs; intelligent people have speculated about what drives men to send them, often to complete strangers, in the middle of the night. I’ve listened to people declare that it MUST work at least occasionally, or it wouldn’t be such a common occurrence (I have never encountered a person who has responded favorably to one, but okay). But for the purposes of this short listicle, I’d rather not waste too much time speculating on the thoughts of the guys sending these messages. I feel confident there’s not a lot of brainpower motivating their activities, anyway.

Instead, I invite you all to join me in simply having a laugh (or a cringe!) or two at some of the most outrageous messages I’ve received in the last year.

Welcome to my inbox; enter at your own risk:


Ah, the ole, say-hello-at-girl-a-thousand-times strategy. Never heard of it? Probably because it’s literally never worked. Best-case scenario, the dudes that do this sat on their phone and it just auto-selected, “hey,” or butt-dialed twelve times in a half-hour span.

But we know that’s not what happened. Please don’t do this at people. Someone ignoring you or saying “no” does not translate in any language to “convince me.”

Im NoT aN iNcEl ThO

Please visit my TED talk above. You are not entitled to a response from women on the internet. Or anyone, actually. Some lucky (and hopefully nonexistent) woman gets to come home to this every night! My thoughts and prayers are with what I sincerely hope is just a bottle of Jergen’s in his room.

Pls Halp

“Hello person I have never met. Please give me a handjob.” What a normal thing to say!

You know what pissed me off the most about these totally unsolicited messages from complete fucking strangers?? When I showed them to people I knew, the response was often, “at least he asked first,” or, “at least he was polite!”

Women of the world rejoice! There may exist in the universe a stranger who will ask you politely for a handjob before he calls you a bitch!

Surely, there might be more to hope

I honestly don’t even know what to call this one

Ok. So… this was pretty insane even for my inbox. I’d never met this person, but he pulled pictures of me off of social media and zoomed in on a part of my mouth that he obsessed over. Dozens of texts, calls, and messages on numerous platforms poured in before I even had a chance to block him.

This dude is an adult in his damn fifties. He’s presumably still employed. He interacts with the world on a daily basis. And he also thinks this is normal and acceptable behavior.


I did Nazi this coming...

Some context here: A while back, a group called Patriot Movement AZ/AZ Patriots (AKA #biggulpnazis) started holding rallies in a popular family park. They marched on the playground with handguns, rifles, and hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric. I, being really just kind of an okayish human being, thought that sucked.

So, I organized several colorful counter-protests: I hired mariachis, I invited circus performers, and in the end, a LOT of amazing people from all over Tucson came out to voice their displeasure at the Big Gulp Nazis. But before and even long after they packed up their Trump flags and bad music, they lived on my social media accounts and in my inbox. They even called establishments they knew I was at and threatened to come to my place of work. Shockingly, most of them were from men, who would send selfies after they sent the death threats. #swoon

And FINALLY, This Champion of Women’s Rights:

Before I dissect this, lemme get some Frequently Asked Questions out of the way:

-No, I do not know this guy, nor am I connected to him through any social media or mutual friends

- Yes, he said, “hi” 5 times before he sent this without prompting.

- The canines he’s referring to are my teeth, not dogs

-Yes, that is a random image of a battered woman.

-Why? He was presumably fapping to said image on Tumblr.


-Yes. He sent more. It was worse. So I have chosen not to share it.

Actually, that’s just about all I have to say about this.

I said in the beginning that I didn’t want to dive into the reasons men send these messages. That’s because I honestly don’t give a flying fuck.

I’ve seen the articles pondering what’s going on in these men’s minds, but I haven’t seen anyone exploring how it’s affecting the people being targeted. Are they frightened; upset? Does it weigh on them to receive these every day? Does it make them think twice before stating a non offensive opinion on any online forum?

When Elliot Rogers decided to plow his vehicle into a crowd in an act of vengeance against women who wouldn’t bone down with his worthless ass, he pulled back the curtain to reveal a dangerous trend: incels. Men who believe they are entitled to women’s bodies, time, thoughts, and ultimately, their lives.

Obviously, this is an extreme case, but on display are many folks who live on that same spectrum of entitlement. But let me make one thing clear to those who range from Elliot Rogers to the guy who interrupts me when I have my headphones in to tell me I’m pretty: I don’t care why you think you are owed.

I care that the costs of this epidemic are women’s senses of self, safety, and far too often their lives. I care that women have to constantly analyze what they wear, say, and post, based on this type of attention. I care that people still aren’t acknowledging this behavior as a serious problem.

So no, I don’t care what the bullet was thinking; I only care about unloading the gun.

Kat Stratford is a single mother to two ferocious girls in Tucson. She dabbles in political activism and writing. She is also #justawaitress. You can slide into her DMs (but don’t) on IG @whiskyandyoga

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Culture of Men Getting Away With It And Still Not Getting the Joke

 By Hannah Yeun

            My friend recently recounted a story to me in which a man at a bar aggressively hit on her, despite her multiple attempts at very clearly telling him she was not interested. As this happened, another gentleman watched from afar and waited to approach my friend until after the transgression was over. In one breath, this new gentleman asked her if was she okay and also could he please buy her a drink.
        Not knowing how to respond to this absurd and horrific level of disrespect, all she could do was laugh in his face. This reaction inspired him to hurl insults at her, essentially repeating the same scene from moments earlier with the previous gentleman, only now his ill intentions were covertly disguised under the mask of trying to be helpful.
            I’m reminded of the Margaret Atwood quote, “Men are scared women will laugh at them. Women are scared men will kill them”. I think about this quote a lot when men in the comedy world complain about not being able to make rape jokes anymore. According to this thinking, it is only okay to laugh at men’s disrespect of women when the men are telling the joke, but not when the disrespectful man IS the joke. If you have to tell your audience which parts are funny, are you even doing comedy right? Do you even get it? Can you not see that censorship is ruining comedy, bro?
            Recently, comedian Dave Chappelle bravely came forward and revealed that he too, was critical of #metoo. It is truly empowering to see these courageous, rich men are finally speaking their truth using the platform they have literally always had since the beginning of time. Chappelle hilariously asks, “What the f—k is your agenda, ladies?” and you have to admit he does have a point. Between shopping, chanting, “kill all men” in unison while braiding one another’s hair, and seeking justice against our abusers, what IS our agenda, ladies? When you stop and think about it, it is pretty obvious: fortune and fame, duh!
       Personally, I was going to buy a Birkin bag with my #metoo money. And then I was going to get a merken to match my Birkin, because this is f-e-m-i-n-i-s-m and we like our pubes extra long around these parts. Pubic hair wigs: better get used to it, fellas. Time’s up.
            It is so ironic that these men who are critical of the #metoo movement are also huge free speech advocates (read: rape joke tellers). Whenever they complain, I picture a meme of a dog saying, “free spech, betch!” (intentionally misspelled for affect). I imagine this dog would wheel away on a skateboard, having just evoked both the b-word and the first amendment, indicating infinite levels of supreme coolness and power over women. If the lowest form of comedy cannot accurately express how I feel, then was I even raised by the Internet at all? If I can’t share this Overly Attached Girlfriend meme that reuses the same tired joke about a woman being “crazy”, then do I even understand humor? Ladies, you need to lighten up. Listen, I know this hilarious joke about you making a guy a sandwich. Just kidding, it is actually about rape. You are going to love it. And if you don’t, well, I’m going to make an entire comedy special dedicated to the fact that you don’t find this joke funny anymore.
            Maybe Atwood had a point, maybe men really should fear that women will laugh at them. Honestly, Chappelle’s new special bored me to tears. He’s been out of the comedy world for several years, and maybe for good reason. He’s literally wearing a jumpsuit with his name on it so that we don’t forget who he is. All I see is a sad man’s desperate attempt at trying to stay relevant by supporting his rapist buddies. And frankly, that’s hilarious.

Hannah Yeun is a florist, musician and occasional funny person based out of Tucson, Arizona. She is also the founder of Electric Witch, which is a series of music, gear and live performance workshops taught by womxn. @electricwitchworkshops @hannahyeunmusic Find her on twitter @hannahyeun