Sunday, October 7, 2018

What Is the Deal with Kyrsten Sinema Even?

Here I am with 40 or 50 backed-up posts, including at least half of last year because the multiple Korea and Taiwan trip posts are included in that stack, along with the rest of my eventful unemployed summer, but there's aaalways something else to do. 
In a good way. Not just keeping the place clean and dinner cooked and that kind of stuff. We're extremely busy, but it's great. 

Wednesday was Hannes' birthday, Sunday was mine, and we spent the weekend being entertained and fed in Rostock. The weekend before that we were in Copenhagen, which was a wonderful wedding gift from friends who remembered that I had really wanted to go when I was first in Germany 4 years ago. 

The weekend before that was Solvig's birthday, and together we baked a much-publicised vegan rainbow unicorn cake for it. And as for this weekend, we're leaving super early in the morning for a one-day post-black metal festival in the Netherlands called Soulcrusher, which is my amazing 30th birthday gift from Hannes.

(Of course, there's all the much-less-fun stuff keeping me occupied as well, like trying to find a damn job; going to doctors' appointments for the first time since I lived in Korea, except that they're actually getting stuff done here instead of just treating symptoms as they come up, and it's free; trying to convert my driver's license into a German one; finally finishing all the wedding thank you cards; and so on, virtually ad infinitum.)

The posts about our wedding reception and the two full weeks of entertainment with my mom, NiQui, Rejon, and Angelique associated with it are next in line, as are the posts about the Czech Republic. Where has this year even gone? It's blown right by. I feel like the last time I looked up it was still July.

Now the much-anticipated midterm elections are upon us. 

I've decided to make a post about the one weird choice I have to make, that I just explained to friends at length - probably too at-length, really - in a group chat. 

I might have to vote for a flippy-floppy DINO centrist named Kyrsten Sinema to replace Jeff Flake in congress. Unsurprisingly, it's kind of a long story. 

Fucking Flake™, as I have un-affectionately branded that spineless and unqualified piece of absolute shit with a melty and thoroughly-punchable face very much like that of John Kerry, is thankfully not running for re-election. I was mighty upset when he ran in the first place, knowing that with that big stupid "R" next to his name he would win in my back-assward, gun-toting hick state despite the fact that as a person he is comprised exclusively of shortcomings. He replaced Jon Kyl, whose office couldn't even be bothered to reply to my e-mails with autoresponses when I was in high school, and who I despised (and continue to despise) similarly. Who even has two first names that are each missing a letter? 

The worst part, though, is that I remember this particular election well, because it happened right before I left the States forever, when I was genuinely ready to rip out my hair and mindlessly smash everything around me because of exactly this kind of bullshit, even though I was confident that Obama was about to be re-elected. It was fall of 2012.

Flake ran against Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States. Carmona is so very many things that are appealing to both progressives and conservatives: a physician, paramedic, Special Forces combat medic, decorated Vietnam veteran and cop, tactical expert, former deputy sheriff, professor, and vocal critic of the Bush Administration and its various anti-science stances, among other things. Am I a fan of cops or people who went to Vietnam and napalmed villages for.. whatever the hell reason that was supposed to be for? Fuck no. But the man is thoroughly educated and dedicated to public health and safety, with not one but several successful careers under his belt.

Flake has an MA in political science from BYU (until now I really thought he only had a BA, I'm very surprised), and spent two years in South Africa on a Mormon mission. 

His Mormon ancestors set up one of their creepy crazy people temples in Snowflake, Arizona, which is named after them. My mom once lived there and worked for members of the Flake family. She says there's not a good apple in the whole bunch. Anecdotal and personal, sure. But they're wealthy, white, melty-faced, small-town Arizona LDS members. Carmona is into some super shady business stuff too, including but not limited to Herbalife, but come on.

No contest. It should have been no contest.

Carmona was winning, until Flake started running attack ads

Actually, this one is news to me, but this bullshit is standard on TV, too, not an occasional low blow wedged in once or twice but repeating incessantly between commercials about sketchy payday loan places and fast food. God I hate my former state.

But this is the one that did run on TV, that I was referring to:
This bitch recorded and ran it in Spanish, too, because they're both Hispanic. 
If you read the New Times 'attack ads' link above, you'll learn that this woman has a history of exaggeration and dishonesty, and that as a supporter and beneficiary of the Bush Administration, it's pretty clear why she would want to help Flake burn Carmona down. For The Party. Whatever, Beato. As a Latina woman you should be fucking ashamed of yourself. You're lucky you're rich and don't have to deal with the damage these soulless psychopaths do to those of us who aren't.

Anyway, this was one of the last straws for me. I felt physically pained on a daily basis by the vile discourse, dark money, corruption, hopelessness, ignorance, lobbying power, corporate domination, and bleak future when this was going on 6 years ago. I cannot imagine physically existing in the United States and intending to continue living there now, especially with children.

Now Flake is finally stepping down, having been temporarily bumped up a seat in the wake of John McCain's long-overdue forced retirement and dramatic voting anomaly on the ACA, which was surely prompted by the infinite emptiness of the void and his sudden proximity to it. Gosh, it's funny how assholes suddenly care about things like cancer treatment and accessible basic healthcare in general once these things
 suddenly affect them directly, right?! Like they literally never thought about it before because it was outside their direct personal experience, like the assumed they would literally never need help themselves. 

Unfortunately, Kyl has been brought back to fill that empty senior senate seat, and up for election is only one representative, for the junior one. The only thing I've seen about Kyl since all of this has been going on was that Kavanaugh confirmation protesters managed to corner him in an elevator or basement or bathroom or something like that at the capitol that they're increasingly overrunning at the moment, and he whimpered at them to leave him alone. Lol. Good. 

Don't leave him alone.

But well, now that you have all the backstory, here's where my weird choice comes in. 

At first, a relatively young white woman who graduated high school at 16 as valedictorian and later went on to become a social worker and eventually earn a Ph.D., who formerly represented Arizona's 9th congressional district and who would not only be the first woman to represent Arizona in the U.S. Congress but who would also be its first-ever openly LGBT(QIA) member and who is currently its only openly non-theist/atheist member sounds like a no-brainer, shoe-in, dream choice. Well, I mean, it would be a little dreamier if she represented our largest ethnic minorities too. 

But. Hold up.

Kyrsten Sinema is weird. She is a weird, contradictory, inconsistent person to the extent that I don't just wonder if she's doing whatever it takes to advance her own career, because that's obvious, but that I even wonder if she might have two distinct personalities or something. 

She summited Kilimanjaro a few years ago and seems mildly obsessed with marathon times, which reminds me a lot of the characters depicted in House of Cards. In January a man was arrested for stalking her. With everything this lady has going on, it doesn't sound entirely unlike a TV show. I'm just getting these weird bits out of the way because they have nothing to do with any of my grievances, but that resemblance and the disingenuousness I'm about to describe concern me, since we're being governed to death by a literal reality show that has no idea what it's doing. And so, I keep saying that I'm going to make this weird choice that I don't really like now that it's midterm time, so let me explain why the idea of voting for her makes me cringe and why I really want to know: what is the deal with her even?

Again, I think of Sinema as an unappealing, moderate, centrist, DINO, but I admittedly had to google to remember exactly what it was that she did a few years ago, specifically, that pissed everyone off so much: 

Three years ago, along with only 46 other democrats, she voted for the Security Against Foreign Enemies (or "SAFE", eyeroll) Act, which prevented the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the U.S. until the vetting process for them was somehow made even stricter than it already was, which was very very. Very. 
It felt like virtually every woman in Arizona under 40 capable of reading and discerning what is a fact and what is not voiced their incredulity and disapproval over this on social media and to her office directly. I mean, really? Xenophobia and/or Islamophobia from the openly-bisexual female democrat? Indirectly referring to people seeking asylum - which, contrary to popular racist idiot belief these days, is not a crime - as "enemies"? 

She wrote her damn dissertation on the Rwandan Genocide. 


People accused her then and have accused her previously of sacrificing her principles and original platform to further her political career, and wouldn't you know it, that career has correspondingly advanced. Let's talk about some of those stances and her background, and what's changed. And is still changing as we speak. It's kind of hard to keep up with.

She actively protested the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while studying law at ASU but supported the Gulf War, though she was very young while it was happening. She also supports military intervention in cases of genocide, so at least that makes sense, but still. A lot of the lead-up to the Gulf War was Iraq supporting Palestine while the U.S. supported Israel. Is.. that not related to genocide? I guess not, if there's enough oil money involved. 

What about the various and horrific human rights violations, and the destruction of vital infrastructure and the environment? She began her political career as a spokesperson for the Green Party, I might add. 
Oh well. I'm sure she has her reasons. Or not. 

She opposed waging war as a response to the 9/11 attacks. She also said in '02 that silent vigils being held as a form of protest against war and violence against women would continue "'til there's no more war", and in '06 that she was against war "in all its forms" [Source]. Another anti-war rally in '03 is where she wore the infamous all-pink toddler-esque outfit, including a tutu, that her Republican opponent in this current race has been using as a side-by-side comparison photo in her attack ads. Amusingly, that same year, she also told The Arizona Republic that "the real Saddam and Osama lovers were Reagan and George H.W. Bush" [Source]. She even called Bush a fascist, a psycho, and an oligarch [Source]. Lohl. 
Here's one of the flyers from one of those anti-war protest groups she led:

"Hah," I thought, "that's good stuff".

"You should never take military intervention off the table," Sinema said in an interview in 2012, once her views on the subject had apparently 'matured'. "When you do so, you give an out to a rogue nation or rogue actors". [Source]

She also supported Trump's decision to use military strikes in Syria, and voted against the Iran nuclear deal.

Err, okay.. Opposing war always, sometimes, one yes one no, in a tutu, on a boat, with a goat, not here or now or anymore or on a case-by-case basis.. I don't know. I really don't know what she thinks or if she thinks anything for more than a few years at a time. Maybe when we check back in on her in 2025 she'll be living in a newfound Christian hippie commune and seeking forgiveness for her flippy-floppy war-stance sins. Your guess is as good as mine. 

This is from one month ago:

??? "Whatever it takes" to be the first democrat elected to the Senate 
in that deep red state since 1988, I guess???

War can be a complex thing, and we can debate military intervention during genocide some other time, but this is troubling to say the least. Suddenly her stepbrother is super useful to her; he used to be a Marine and is now a cop. He's in one of the other ads. I wonder what he thinks about this, what their conversations about how she's a different person now were like. I wonder if he believes her.

Speaking of bizarre Christian bullshit, though, next let's talk about how she was born and raised in the Mormon church (just like Fucking Flake™)! 

We've got a lot of this in Arizona. The southeastern suburban and rural sprawl cities of Mesa and Chandler are a hotbed of it. It's not pretty. That dead shark-eyed child rapist son of a bitch Warren Jeffs, who was the leader of the FLDS - which is the disturbingly large branch of the LDS that still practices polygamy, often involving not only plenty of rape but also plenty of incest and child brides - was eventually found and arrested in Arizona, after a nationwide manhunt. Probably thought he'd be safe there. Not surprised. 

You might be a little confused, because I did mention that Kyrsten Sinema is the only openly atheist/anti-theist (I'm honestly not really sure why they insist on making the distinction, that's what the term "agnostic atheism" is for) member of Congress, state or federal. That's impressive: no American politician dares to be un-Christian on a national level these days, the Evangelical capitalism is too strong. 

So I'm not judging Sinema for being born into a family of religious fundamentalist nutters, because no one can control that (and I personally know at least one person who successfully escaped from and moved past exactly such a situation), but I am casting a very suspicious eye on this weird - that's the operative word here, in case you've missed it - upbringing, because she's used it and the poverty that accompanied it to distinguish herself from other, privileged, upper middle-class or wealthy white bread politicians like Flake and Kyl and to advance her career. 

Here's the kicker: How much of it even happened?

... Sigh. 

I know, right? I'm already tired, too.

This NYT article is the most recent and comprehensive piece of journalism I came upon while looking for more instances of her constantly-shifting stances and opinions, and it focuses mostly on this topic.

The story, basically, is that for three years her family lived in an abandoned service station in her stepdad's hometown in Florida with no electricity or toilet. She's described this, specifically and repeatedly, as "homelessness". According to her Wiki page and the campaign video she produced, shared in a Politico article from a year ago when she announced her candidacy, her friends, family, and church helped her climb out of poverty:

“There’s really no other country in the world where a little girl who grew up homeless living in a gas station could ever dream of serving in the United States Congress and run for the United States Senate,” Sinema said while campaigning in Phoenix in July.

"I realise this tugs at peoples' heartstrings and that was what she was going for, but, you know, it's not the truth," Sinema's stepdad's sister, who still lives in that Florida town, said in a Washington Post article/interview
She and one of her other brothers say it was a remodeled building that had utilities. According to her, the family went through a hard time and didn't have enough money, but the kids were being taken care of, and were certainly not "homeless" or living in an "abandoned gas station", as Sinema is so fond of recounting in her classic, clicheed rags-to-riches, American Dream story. There are also records of her parents indeed paying the utility bills at that time. When asked to explain this contradiction, she simply says, ohh, I don't know why that would be, I was only a little girl at the time.

Okay. Sounds like an exaggeration at best, and a complete lie at worst.

Her parents don't comment, just say that they were strapped for money and that they're proud of what she's achieved. 
Sinema herself is apparently really fond of that "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps" phrase, which is laughable and complete bullshit, because it makes no sense in the first place. Originally it referred to an inherently impossible task - because just think about it for one second - making it that much more of a slap in the face by the rich, detached assholes who routinely vote against and to dismantle social safety nets and vital programs every time they have the audacity to use it. Personally, I think that only people who haven't experienced seriously struggling would ever even consider using that phrase.
And besides: she has an M.A. in social work and a doctorate. There's no way she's dense enough to use it seriously or believe it wholeheartedly like that. She's saying practiced things she knows conservatives like to hear and avoiding mentioning anything that could be labelled a "handout", though those are apparently fine when they're coming from some kind of church. Eyeroll.

That NYT article from before cites a number of people who flat-out say she's an ambitious opportunist willing not only to work with the other side of the aisle but make major compromises, take positions that people don't like, and do whatever it takes to keep her career steaming along. In it Tomas Robles (who clearly full-on hates her imo) said she refuses to meet with his immigration activism group and that she's not actually a centrist, much less a progressive: just an opportunist who knows what to say and when, to benefit herself. She's good at reading rooms and the mood associated with the bigger picture. Unsurprisingly, Sinema's voting record on immigration is not progressive at all, though she does say that she supports the DREAM Act.
At least two or three of these sources I've shared point out that, in 2017, she voted right along with Trump's positions a solid 50% of the time. Cool.

You can see her voting record for yourself, both on her own Arizona House of Representatives website and on this website as well, for example.

And it gets even cooler, because I checked FiveThirtyEight: when this Phoenix New Times article was published a little over a year ago Sinema's score was 48.8% (of the time voting in line with Trump), and now it's 62.2%! Yaaaay, it's increased substantially since she announced her candidacy, yaaaay. I would roll my eyes again but I'm getting a little dizzy.

Go ahead and read the immigration points that article outlines, too, including but not limited to: voting in favour of an act that included $1.6 billion in funding for the fucking border wall, voting in favour of the Verify First Act, which makes the process of verifying someone's citizenship before they are able to receive the special tax credits that would allow them to afford healthcare via the Affordable Care Act, something that Beto O'Rourke has decried specifically and which I can assure you no other developed country would ever have; and voting for the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, decried by the ACLU as classic racist, nativist lawmaking that would give cops and border enforcement flunkie cops more leeway and authority to target and harass immigrants and immigrant neighbourhoods.

I'm sure Tomas Robles has his reasons.

Kyrsten Sinema, not so much.

But the momentum and positive reactions are palpable: astoundingly, she's been consistently ahead of Republican opponent Martha McSally in almost every poll for most of the year, I think since April. 
Arizona is actually, seriously a battleground state in a national election this time, and everyone is calling it a toss-up. The last time a democratic senator was elected was the year I was born. The last time one was present at the Capitol was 1995. 

Arizona has only been a state since 1912, and seeing as how these puckered old bastards end up staying in their seats for way too long or even right up until they die, like McCain, there have only been a total of eleven, ever. The only thing about the knowledge of this history that gives me a modicum of satisfaction is knowing that my calling Flake unqualified and pathetic is somewhat verified or at least validated by the fact that he's the shortest-serving one in history and will probably stay that way. Four years? Mm, yikies. Looks bad on your report. Because it is. Because you suck. 
His exceedingly minor claim to fame will be agreeing that Kavanaugh should be confirmed only to change his mind a few hours later and call for a completely fake, briefest-of-the-brief FBI investigation, after a sobbing protester and sexual assault survivor cornered him in an elevator and forced him to listen to her. Good for you, you spineless little prick. Limply raise a finger in protest and go, "Err, well, no, waaiiit.." only after abandoning basic human decency and good governance, and with nothing to lose because you're on your way out. Try not to let the door hit you. Or let it. No one cares.

Anyway, here's my weird choice: is it my responsibility to vote for someone who's no better than all of the people currently running the country, who we all hate and who are deeply dishonest, disingenuous, and ineffective career politicians with no interest in serving anyone but themselves, who has the same qualities as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards, because there's actually a chance it might tip the balance of the Senate? For the greater good, is it my responsibility? To continue exactly everything that's wrong, because it's a shitty choice but it's the only one available? I want to say "yes", ...but.

This is part of what happened when people could only choose between Trump and Hillary: why are there only two choices, and why do they both suck so much? How can anyone pretend that Red Team and Blue Team, both with the same funding sources and lobbyists writing the bills they don't read, comprise anything even vaguely resembling a functional democracy? 
Food, drinking water, access to medicine and basic healthcare, physical safety, basic job security and workers' rights, constant involvement in war abroad and massive over-incarceration and human rights violations at home, these aren't the concerns of a developed nation. And yet here we are. People buy painkillers online for dogs and other animals because they can't afford prescriptions or treatment for their injuries or chronic pain. Flint fucking still doesn't have clean water. The school and other mass shootings? Is there anything else to say about that? Apparently not. They're just going to keep happening. 
I'm not even going to get into racism now, otherwise this post will never end. Every developed country has racism, as people occasionally remind me in conversation: yeah but your country's economy and laws weren't founded on slavery, not if you're arguing from Europe. Everyone treated indigenous people horrendously and slaughtered them, and to this day profoundly depressing and inhumane displays like what happened at Standing Rock continue. But does your government still get away with setting dogs on indigenous people and taking what pathetic patches of designated wasteland they have left? Do your cops get away with frequently, routinely shooting unarmed black kids and men? One murderer actually got charged these last few days; another was simply re-hired by a different police department, as is what usually happens. It's apples and oranges. There's no simultaneously undeveloped-post-developed country quite like the U.S.

I'd like to vote for Angela Green, the appropriately-named Green Party write-in candidate. Here in Germany the Green Party is actually a major political party, with representation in parliament. Isn't that nice. It's just a sad little joke in the U.S. 
Nader managed to get what, 3% of the national vote in the 2000 presidential election? I remember how much talk there was about him, and everything - but in the end, the only choices are Red Team or Blue Team.

Vox posted an article about this very topic a few days after I posted this. 
Basically they try to say that the Republican-led attacks on Sinema are missing the point: it's gotten to the point that McSally supporters are mocking her family's hardship, and it seems like everybody is trying to decide how poor is poor enough, or how homeless is homeless enough. Of course, that's not okay. I've been there. It's really not okay.

The thing is, though, that the Vox article doesn't say what the point is. It doesn't address these serious misgivings, or her actual, documented history of flip-flopping on basically every single major issue! Her increasingly heavy leaning to the right, the sharp-tongued criticism by actual progressives she's worked with or refused to work with, and, oh right, that irksome little fact that paying your utility bills even though you have no utility service does not add up. Obviously her parents aren't going to derail their daughter's career while she's in her prime by being like, "Yeah, I mean, we were struggling, but she's definitely exaggerating the extent of it and playing it up to construct a more compelling narrative lol."
Attack ads are going to attack, just as the Flake ads attacked and discredited Carmona, for as long as that kind of harmful, slanderous rhetoric remains legal in the United States. But what is the point then, Vox? If you want to balance out all the questions, negativity, and outright offensive attacks just before the election, don't you think you should probably give some kind of credible or at least eloquent defense, maybe reasons why we should ignore all that stuff? Strong points? Pros?
There don't seem to be any.

So this, then, is my weird choice: the deal with Kyrsten Sinema, even, is that she appears to be an egotistical, lying opportunist who flip-flops on any and every major issue and who is fine with being hawkish and mildly to moderately racist. I genuinely wonder if she's mentally and emotionally stable and I have virtually no respect for her or confidence in her, but I have to vote for her.

Because we've very definitively come to a point where having the luxury of abstaining from a vote like this because you're fortunate enough not to be affected directly by the kinds of decisions Washington is making has ended. Everyone is affected now, and directly. That so many people are so thoroughly entrenched in their silly little worlds - whether massively delusional, massively partisan, massively self-involved or some combination of the three - is not only alarming, or generally bad, or because we have trouble unplugging and putting down social media: it's destabilising western society.

I have to vote for Kyrsten Sinema even though I know she's only in it for herself, because if there's actually a real chance to tip the balance here, which really never happens for Arizonans, then it would be supremely selfish to write in a name instead. And I did.