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7 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Democratic Primary Candidate

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“In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued – they may be essential to survival.” Noam Chomsky

For me, voting isn’t like driving—a complete disappointment and utterly terrifying. Maybe it is terrifying…the future of the country is literally in our hands (literally—when we use them to turn those weird nobs from the 80s that they still haven’t replaced with modern electronics). And even if we make a seemingly intelligent decision, what if the candidate doesn’t come through?
Ok. Voting is just like driving.
I’ve put to together a criterion, inspired by Shaun King’s, that will hopefully help you choose a candidate based on your personal values:
WHAT ARE THEIR VOTING RECORDS? Please don’t base your vote on what the candidate SAYS they’ll do. No matter how charismatic or intelligent they are in debates or on twitter, chances are, in the past, they’ve support legislation or movements that contradict their new, “progressive” views. People can evolve and change their positions, but it is important to know the types of bills for which they are likely to vote.
DO THEY HAVE A PLAN? If they’re saying they want a legislative or social change, look at the fine print. Do they have the actual groundwork to enact it? Are they prepared to adjust budgets to accommodate the changes? Are they being realistic about what can be accomplished? Do they participate in demonstrations and events that align with their ideology? Do they remain firm in their positions or are they vague about their intentions? Is there a physical plan that you can read, and does it match the promises they made?
WHO DO THEY SUPPORT? What movements, organizations, or people do they consistently talk about or work with?
WHO SUPPORTS THEM? Have movements, organizations, and people that you respect endorsed them? Candidates with a range of support will be pressured to keep their word legislatively if influential groups support them. It also means others have faith in them. If organizations that share your values support a candidate, that says something.
CAN THEY ADMIT FAULT? When asked about a previous stance or mistake, are they able to criticize themselves? Do they skirt around the question? Do they make superficial, round-about excuses? Do they blatantly lie? If they can’t give an honest and direct self-evaluation, they probably can’t be a transparent president.
CAN THEY WIN? What cost the Democrats the election last time? Well, several things. But most importantly: the Electoral College. Hillary won the popular vote, but she didn’t win enough Electoral Delegates. Which states does the candidate already have support in? How many delegates have already pledged their support? Which states are likely to have a population that’s drawn to that candidate? More passionate support, more voters. We need swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Colorado.
CAN THEY BEAT HIM? Think realistically. While polls aren’t always right on, if your candidate is polling significantly lower than the other Democratic candidates or polling lower than POTUS, go for your second choice in the primary. We need a candidate who has massive support. And not just support in numbers, support in passion. We need a revolution to beat the orange storm of hate.
The pool of candidates is ever-shrinking. To me, if the US shows up, there’s a clear winner. But elections are funky, and the vote gets split. I tried to stay unbiased while writing this, but I have to say it: every single one of these questions eliminates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. We went for the centrist candidate with White House experience last time, and she lost. This can’t happen again. The survival of the human race potentially depends on this election. Do your research. Failure is not an option. We totally got this. *screams in Socialist Panic*

Save Rodney Reed

“Capital punishment could not be justified in any society calling itself civilized.” Howard Zinn

We have 15 days until Rodney Reed is legally murdered by the State of Texas. Stacey Stites was raped and murdered in 1996. Rodney Reed has been on death row for 21 years for her murder, despite ample evidence of his innocence.
Here’s a whole lot of reasons why we need to stop this murder:
1) The only DNA evidence found in the pick-up truck Stites supposedly drove to work belonged to her and her police-officer fiancee, Jimmy Fennell.
2) There was DNA belonging to two cops, with whom Fennell worked, found on beer cans near where Stites’ body was dumped. Fennell’s lawyers did not present this evidence during Reed’s trial.
3) Stites’ cause of death was ruled as “ligature strangulation”. Fibers from a belt were found near her body and truck. The belt was recovered, but never tested for DNA evidence. NEVER EVEN TESTED.
4) The forensic experts who testified in Reed’s trial later submitted affidavits saying that Stites’ original time of death was wrong.
5) According to Stites’ cousin and coworker, whose testimonies were never heard in court, Reed and Stites were having a consensual affair. Reed’s semen was found on Stites. However, the medical examiner rescinded his statement on the DNA, because the cells were falling apart. This indicates that the sperm was older than 24 hours, which is long before Stites disappeared, making the DNA evidence invalid.
6) In fact, Fennell was their prime suspect for months. Fennell’s best friend, another police officer, also admitted that Fennel gave two different accounts of his whereabouts on the night of the murder. A deputy also recently admitted that Fennell made comments with details about the body that weren’t disclosed by the police.
7) According to an insurance salesperson, Fennell threatened Stites while buying life insurance.
8) Fennell was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2007 for the kidnapping and rape of a woman in police custody.
9) While in prison, Fennell supposedly told an inmate that “I had to kill my n*-loving fiancée.” So, he’s a rapist and a racist…See where we’re going with this?
10) Finally, Reed was convicted by an all white jury for the murder of a white woman.
Head over to the Action page to find out how we can #SaveRodneyReed

End the Hot Girl Summer

“The relationship we have with everything that Earth offers, it’s about reciprocity. That’s the only way we are going to learn how to shift our culture from an extraction culture to a balanced and harmonious culture with the land.” Xiye Bastida, indigenous activist from San Pedro Tultepec, Mexico

Millions stood out in the heat, screaming at world leaders, trying to make them understand the dire consequences of their inaction. After centuries of industrial revolution, without a thought for how human innovation might affect our planet, time’s up. We need to reverse the damage.
The US is uber powerful, yet the country is doing nothing to counter the effects of climate change or even limit its contribution. Individually, we can do small things, but at some point, boycotting straws is not enough. Addressing climate change requires concrete legislative changes and scientific advancement. The US is far behind other countries. The government is still just making a half-assed effort to reduce carbon emissions, convert to minuscule amounts of renewable energy, and regulate cars with poor gas mileage. That’s old news in Denmark. They’re designing methods to pull carbon out of the air, while the US hasn’t even stopped putting it in.
So, what’s next?
We need to create laws that will fund and support massive energy reform—renewable energy is so easy guys! We need to make solar panels and wind energy affordable and accessible. We need to set standards for minimum gas milage in cars and trucks. We need to regulate monstrosities like Chevron, and stop relying on oil money. We need to ban fracking. We need to put faith and funding into scientists who can come up with strategies not only to reduce our carbon footprint, but to repair the atmosphere. We need a #GREENNEWDEAL ASAP. Social change can only go so far without legislative change. Let’s pressure the people in power—make them fear for their careers.
We need to stop enabling capitalism and imperialism. Capitalism relies on the exploitation of natural resources—like oil, gases, and minerals. The US alone consumes over 20 million barrels of petroleum a day. A DAY.
Our government should be leading the charge, yet it’s drowning in a pool of cash and carbon dioxide. Until the US (and the world) stops kissing big business on the toes, climate change will keep progressing. Climate change is a commodity. The people who are denying it and refusing to combat it are generally the same ones who are profiting from it. It’s time to divest from the fossil fuel industry and invest in renewable energy and creation of green jobs. Our survival literally depends on it.
We need to support young leaders, who are disrupting society, and making those in power leap out of their comfort zones. And not just Greta Thunberg—we need her voice, but she is what the media wants us to see. If we’re going to follow her lead, we need to also follow youth leaders of color. We need to support the indigenous youth, like Helena Gualinga, who is fighting drilling in the Amazon rainforest and Autumn Peltier, the “water warrior” and Ashinabek Nation’s chief water commissioner (she’s nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize for her environmentalism). We need to support environmental justice activists of color like Nyiesha Mallet, who is a voice for communities of color who are disproportionately affected by climate change, Irsa Hirsi, creator of the U.S Youth Climate Strike (she’s also Ilhan Omar’s daughter), and Mari Copeny, the 12-year-old named “Little Miss Flint” for her advocacy for clean water in Flint, MI. This is only a few of them. There are dozens of young leaders of color, all over the world, who are fighting for their communities and the Earth.
Even if we stop actively contributing to climate change, it won’t reverse itself. This is not like a human war. There are no watered-down promises and peace treaties. This is a war on Earth, and nature always wins. We should be fighting on nature’s side, because believe it or not, having a functional planet will benefit us too. A war against nature is a war against ourselves. Act now. End the hot girl summer, or whatever we’re calling it.

Stop Punishing Survivors

A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.

We all know about Thomas Jefferson’s family with his teenaged slave Sally Hemmings. We all thought, or at least hoped, that the enslavement and sexual exploitation of African American women was long done. It isn’t.
Randall Volar III, a 34-year-old white man from Kenosha, WI was being investigated for child trafficking and pornography. His electronics were confiscated by Kenosha Police. He was accused of “sexual conduct” with underaged girls, a nice way of saying sexual violence and rape. One of the girls in his explicit films is Chrystul Kizer. There is video documentation of Volar forcing Chrystul into sexual acts with him. He sexually and physically abused her. He paid for her housing, and took her freedom, dignity, and body autonomy in exchange. On June 5th, 2018, Volar called an Uber to bring Chrystul, who was 17 at the time, to his house. When he attempted to rape her, she shot him.
Sound familiar? Probably because it sounds a lot like the case of Cyntoia Brown, who was released 15 years after she was sentenced to life in prison for killing the man who trafficked and raped her. Chrystul’s case reflects an epidemic of young, black women forced into sexual slavery. 43% of sex trafficking survivors are African American women. They are treated as disposable objects for perverted, abusive, racist adult men who think “trafficking white women would make them more money, but trafficking black women would land them less jail time if caught.” In the media and in court, trafficking survivors are often portrayed, like Chrystul and Cyntoia, as delinquents who deserved their abuse or who chose it. Kenosha DA Michael Graveley has told the public that Chrystul is a prostitute hired by Volar, and that his murder was pre-meditated.
Of the 2 million incarcerated people in the United States, 10% are women. Somewhere between 47%-82% of imprisoned women were sexually abused. Yet they are not given access to counseling or adequate healthcare, and are often exposed to experiences that make them relive their abuse. Prosecutors, like those who sentenced Chrystul and Cyntoia, use racist and sexist stereotypes of “gangster” street kids, promiscuous young women, and prostitutes to villainize women in court.
Chrystul, like Cyntoia, has already survived irreparable injustice. She’s 18. Her life has already been thrown out of control, because of a grown man’s disgusting abuse. She doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of her life in prison, getting more traumatized by the system that should have saved her in the first place. Currently, the DA won’t reduce her 1 million dollar bond, so she is being held in prison. The trial will be in March. Head over to our Action page to see how we can #SaveChrystulKizer.

Pass the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act

“That pain was indescribable and what hurts me more though is the fact that nobody cared.” Diana Sanchez, on giving birth alone in her jail cell

Pamela Winn’s dead baby was thrown in the trash by prison guards. What happens when a woman throws her baby in the trash? Usually, she goes to prison.
In 2003, while in federal prison, Pamela Winn found out she was 6 weeks pregnant. During transportation, her ankles and belly were shackled, and she fell stepping up into a van. Several days later, when she was 12 weeks pregnant, she started bleeding. Medical staff said they couldn’t help her, and needed approval from the U.S Marshals to take her to the hospital. The approval took four weeks, and when she finally went to the ER, they said it wasn’t an emergency anymore. Marshal approval for an OBGYN took another four weeks. During this four weeks, Pamela was kept in solitary confinement. When she was 20 weeks pregnant, she miscarried. She was alone in a dark cell, in a pool of blood, in excruciating pain, until a guard walked by. When she was finally taken to a hospital, the doctor said she had lost the baby. He asked where the fetus was and the guards said they’d thrown it in the trash with her bloody sheets.
In 2012, Nicole Guerrero was being held in solitary confinement after being imprisoned on drug possession charges. She informed the guards that she was in pain and was seen by a jail nurse who said she was not in labor. Throughout the night, her pain heightened, but her requests for medical attention were ignored. Early in the morning, she gave birth with the help of a guard who walked by her cell and heard her cries. The cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck and it wasn’t breathing. Guerrero claims that no one performed CPR. The baby was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead. Guerrero was left in her cell and did not receive medical attention.
On July 31st, 2018, Diana Sanchez went into labor with her son. At the time, she was imprisoned at a jail in Denver. Surveillance video shows that for five hours, officers and nurses ignored her anguished cries as her labor progressed. When her water broke, they brought her an absorbent pad to absorb the fluid and blood. Although the nurse did order a van to bring Sanchez to the hospital, it did not arrive in time since prisoners can’t be transported until new prisoners are booked. She gave birth to her son, unassisted, on an unsanitary jail bed next to an open toilet. The jail nurse did not do a full newborn exam. Sanchez and her baby weren’t transported to the hospital until 30 minutes after the birth when the Fire Department came. If there had been complications such as hemorrhage (excessive bleeding) or mucus in the baby’s lungs, it is unlikely that both of them would be alive and healthy. Sanchez is suing Denver city and county, Denver Health Medical Center, and six Denver Sheriff Department personnel. During their internal investigation, the Denver Sheriff Department claimed their deputies and nurses followed procedure. Now, they’ve changed their policy so that women are transported to the hospital with any symptoms of labor.
Whether someone has committed a crime or not, they deserve medical care. A report published this year surveyed pregnant women from 2016-2017 in a sample of state prisons and all federal prisons. It found that there is no universal standard of care for incarcerated pregnant women. In 2008, only 23% of New York prisons gave pregnant women full access to maternity care. Some states don’t even guarantee basic prenatal care. Yet, women are the fastest growing population in the US prison system.
Even when they receive basic care, women are still denied healthy prenatal diets, and they often don’t get enough of the food available to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Prison diets lack complex nutrients, which increases risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preterm birth or low birth weight, and a dangerous prenatal condition called preeclampsia. In many places, laboring women are also shackled when they’re transported to the hospital and then cuffed to the hospital bed while they give birth.
Furthermore, medical inequality in the prison system disproportionately affects black and Latina women. Latina women are incarcerated 1.3 times more frequently than white women. Black women already suffer from higher rates of maternal mortality than white women. They are incarcerated twice as frequently as white women, and are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy and birth-related complications. If black women are dying in good hospitals, what will happen to them if they are left without medical care in a jail cell?
90% of births in US prisons resulted in no maternal or fetal deaths in 2016-2017, but mostly because women’s bodies are programmed to preserve pregnancies, not because the prison system supports them. 80% of women in prison are mothers, which means around 170,000 women are currently separated from their children. Traumatic pregnancies and births are just adding insult to injury. They’ve been through a mother’s hell. Federal and state governments need to create universal laws with specific standards for pregnant women in prison, based on medical standards of care. How do we make this happen?
In 2017, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker championed legislation that prevents women in federal prison from being shackled during childbirth, sent more than 500 miles from their nearest family member, and from having to buy tampons.
In April, they reintroduced the larger bill, the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, which will expand and improve care for incarcerated women. It would require the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to establish fair visitation policies, provide parenting classes, supply free hygiene products and ibuprofen, stop charging for phone calls, make free video conference available, prevent male staff from entering women’s restrooms other than in emergencies, and provide “trauma-informed care” and train guards to adequately care for survivors of trauma. It would also require federal prison oversight from the Justice Department. The Dignity Act should be adopted by states as well.
Anyone reading this article probably knows that the prison system is a hot mess. I’m pretty sure when someone fails to prevent a murder or knows about a murder and doesn’t do squat, it’s called accessory to murder. The government and the prison system are accessories to murder. Every time a mother or child dies or gets hurt because they weren’t given basic medical care, it’s on the system. Head over to the Action page to figure out how you can help improve the prison system for incarcerated women and parents.

#SavetheAmazon

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

The funniest thing on Instagram this week was the tweet repost that said “the wrong Amazon is burning” and “the wrong ice is melting”. After that, it got less funny. There was the guy who tried to say that the fires burning down 20% of the Earth’s oxygen-producers are fake news. He probably blames the vegans. Then the person who thinks the fires are actually good for the rainforest, like a controlled burn to clear dead brush and branches.
Conspiracy theories are fun, but in all seriousness, there seems to be some confusion over the true root of the fires. I’ve had a few people ask for my opinion, so here’s my best analysis:
Recently, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro passed a new environmental policy that revokes protections for rainforest preservation. In a matter of days, he disposed of three decades of environmental policy. The deforestation has increased exponentially, to the point that Norway and Germany have temporarily halted funding for projects in Brazil. France, who holds €381 billion in Mercosur stocks, may pull out of the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement, a massive trade deal between the EU and Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) intended to improve worker and environmental conditions on exports.
As part of Bolsonaro’s campaign promise to improve the Brazilian economy, he plans to annihilate the world’s largest rainforest. Removing environmental restrictions is economically motivated. In addition to his new environmental policy, he encouraged farmers, ranchers, and loggers to utilize the Amazon resources and land. In fact, he actually planned some “fire days”, where ranchers could burn the rainforest together. Think of it as an ice breaker, the farmers get to know each other through arson, and they also help melt icebergs in the future.
Environmentalists say that during the dry season, farmers burn patches of land to expand grazing acreage for their cows. So far this year, 73,000 fires have been recorded. That’s an 83% increase from 2018. Bolsonaro is actually trying to blame leftist conservationist NGOs (non-governmental organizations), arguing that they want to demonize him. This is simply a red herring—a way to conceal his role in endorsing arson.
Back to “funny thing” number three, controlled burns are sometimes used to refresh soil and help forests regrow in certain, dry ecosystems (I’m still against it, let nature do its business, it’s made it this far without us). However justified, controlled burns are incomparable—these fires are a brutal act of fascistic arson. In a just world, the illegality of burning native lands, that house millions of indigenous people and produce 20% of the world’s oxygen, would be obvious. Additionally, the fires have released the equivalent to almost 230 megatons of carbon dioxide, which prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere, thus contributing to global warming.
Destruction caused by humans is usually just a transaction. Bolsonaro and his supporters with financial interest in the Amazon will not take responsibility for the obliteration of the Amazon. It is not in the nature of people who consider their personal gains to be more important than moral culpability (this was my Jane Austen moment, it just means that they are greedy and mean).
Some might argue that justice can’t be served for those without voices, but I’m pretty sure trees have been talking wayyyyy longer than us (Ents, guys, Ents). Check out our Action Page for some things you can do to help #SavetheAmazon

Sources:
“The Amazon Is on Fire – How Bad Is It?” BBC News, BBC, 23 Aug. 2019, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49433767.
“Beef Sustainability: McDonald’s.” Beef Sustainability | McDonald’s, corporate.mcdonalds.com/corpmcd/scale-for-good/beef-sustainability.html.
Brown, Shelby. “The Amazon Rainforest Is on Fire: What We Know, and How You Can Help.” CNET, CNET, 21 Aug. 2019, http://www.cnet.com/how-to/the-amazon-rainforest-is-on-fire-what-we-know-so-far-and-how-you-can-help/.
“EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement.” Trade – European Commission, ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/eu-mercosur-association-agreement/.
Neslen, Arthur. “Burger King Animal Feed Sourced from Deforested Lands in Brazil and Bolivia.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Aug. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/01/burger-king-animal-feed-sourced-from-deforested-lands-in-brazil-and-bolivia.
“The Rainforest Alliance’s Response to the Wildfires in the Amazon Rainforest.” Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Alliance, 22 Aug. 2019, http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/articles/rainforest-alliance-response-to-wildfires-in-amazon-rainforest.
Reuters. “Brazil’s Bolsonaro, Without Proof, Accuses NGOs Of Setting Amazon Rainforest On Fire.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 21 Aug. 2019, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/brazil-bolsonaro-ngos-amazon-rainforest-fire_n_5d5d9eede4b002d8c5304952.
Riederer, Rachel. “An Uncommon Victory for an Indigenous Tribe in the Amazon.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 15 May 2019, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-uncommon-victory-for-an-indigenous-tribe-in-the-amazon.
Yeung, Jessie. “Blame Humans for Starting the Amazon Fires, Environmentalists Say.” CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Aug. 2019, http://www.cnn.com/2019/08/22/americas/amazon-fires-humans-intl-hnk-trnd/index.html.

Welcome to Bold Utterances

“Our history has been stolen from us, and it was done intentionally, and purposefully. We are not taught our history.” Jeffrey Robinson, WhoWeAre

We are on the brink of a massive shift. As a society, we have the choice to take ten steps forward or twenty steps back. Gen Z can take the wheel and stop preserving centuries of hate and fear. We can’t rewrite history, but we don’t have to repeat it.
LET’S CREATE A RESOURCE – If information is more accessible and less boring, maybe we’re more likely to find understanding. I’m hoping that creating a by-teens-for-teens resource will help us educate each other, so that we might form a more unified, less soul-destroying society. Big dreams, right?
LET’S TAKE INITIATIVE – In the past, society has made it clear that it doesn’t value the opinions of youth. But that’s going to change. We won’t walk in circles around watered-down legislation while our country sinks into a sad puddle of fascism. We march out of school and we’re taking our place at the ballot box.
Some progressive politicians are starting to see the power of our generation. They see that we are ready to step up to the plate and grand slam the close-minded old white men back to the 1950s. It is time to move past the crazy notion that America needs to go back to some former glory. That door is closed, folks, it’s time to go forward.
More than ever, we need innovation; new ideas to tackle issues like climate change. Let’s equip ourselves with the resources to make change, because no one else is going to do it. Let’s show the world that we think critically and assess the consequences of our actions.
In a Greek myth, the unfortunate Titan, Atlas, was duped into holding up the sky by Hercules. Obviously, he was not armed with the necessary tools to avoid this predicament, and spent the rest of eternity trying to save Chicken Little (the weird chicken who got hit in the head with a piece of sky). Point is, time after time, knowledge poses as the antagonist. Whether it be within a Greek myth or a depressing political election, we need to have a broader understanding of important issues—most importantly that the sky is super heavy.
So, with the power invested in me by a Macbook, I’m starting Bold Utterances. Together, we can create a theoretically entertaining and hopefully not-condescending resource. By introducing and describing a variety of topics from our points of view, we can start engaging more youth in politics and social action and educate each other (and the adults). As Dumbledore says, “words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” Let’s inflict some injury! Just kidding. Peace to the world.