An Open Letter to Gwen Graham

[Background info: Gwen Graham is the Democratic candidate in Florida’s second congressional district race. She is running against incumbent U.S. Congressman Steve Southerland, a Republican. They had their first debate on September 23rd, which can be seen here.]

Dear Ms. Graham,

I don’t like Steve Southerland. I dislike his brand of individualist, anti–government, “free” market capitalism; the same brand sweeping Republican politics across the nation. If only the Democrats had such a radical swing to the left to match, then we would be in for some serious debate on the issues of our day.

I’m highly skeptical of politicians, I think it’s extremely important that I (and everyone) evaluate what they say, what they’ve done and what they promise. Mr. Southerland has not passed my examinations.

Neither have you.

You see, an alternative to a radical leftward swing within the Democratic Party would be the Republicans returning to more centrist positions. I suppose you’ve seen clearly that there is no real hope for that to happen and you’ve decided to run as a Democrat, carrying center–right values.

But I am not a centrist—I am far left of center.

I recognize that many people make many claims against your campaign each day, why should this one be any different than the typical hate–filled slander that comes your way? I do this not to discredit or dissuade you from your path, but because I believe I deserve representation in our government as well. There was a time when those left–wing voices, such as mine, could turn to members of the Democratic party to amplify their voices. It seems, now, that Democrats are chasing the Republicans right, more interested in keeping the gap between them the same than in providing a true alternative. Is this the case, or has our population just become that much more conservative?

I want to highlight some of the points in which your centrist Republican sentiments stand abundantly clear to me.

  • What is not Republican about telling small businesses that you will lower their taxes to better compete with large corporations?
  • I see lots and lots of rhetoric surrounding the middle class, this comes from all sides, but who is representing the poor? The lowest classes? Who is arguing on behalf of the families struggling just to provide for themselves? This cannot be done by offering some platitude of “expanding the middle class.”
  • Referring to outsourcing as another nation “stealing” jobs which belong to Americans. This is both harmful and inaccurate. These jobs were given to them—quite eagerly, I should add—by corporate policies which sought to maximize production and minimize cost. The notion that these countries, and the people of these countries, are willfully stealing employment from American citizens helps to promote feelings of xenophobia and distrust.
  • In your September 23rd debate, you told a group of small business owners you would repeal the employer mandate within the Affordable Care Act. This is possibly your mostly clearly Republican stance. If anything, the employer mandate needs to be ubiquitous: all positions, all businesses. To tweak it, to modify it somewhat and make the language easier for businesses to follow, that’s one thing. To remove it is to step backwards on what the Affordable Care Act sought to achieve.
  • In your debate, you didn’t have a chance to rebut Mr. Southerland’s point about military action in Syria and Iraq. You have completely ignored this issue on your website and I am presuming you march lockstep with the vast majority of national politicians in the sentiment that we must engage in military combat against amorphous terrorist networks in order to keep ourselves safe. Is anyone anti–war anymore?
  • Anti–amnesty for immigrants? Even children who were either sent, or brought here by their parents?


In an effort to show goodwill and to give appreciation where it is rightly deserved, I will finish this letter by highlighting the points where I wholeheartedly agree with you, and wish to see successes.

  • You advocate raising the minimum wage, which is a great first step.
  • The Paycheck Fairness Act is a hugely important action which can be taken in policy to help foster a more equitable society for all.
  • You say you would ensure families receive paid sick leave and other benefits, does this mean you would support a mandatory paid sick leave effort? And, if so, how would you balance that with removing the employer mandate from the ACA?


Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you will take the time to think on some of my points and address them in further debates or speeches.




The BMW is still out of commission.

After further inspection I found nothing specific causing the apparent lack of power. I’ve replaced the fuses and next on the list is to try a new ignition switch. Unfortunately the website I’ve been turning to doesn’t seem to carry them. I spent some time looking through some other parts websites and haven’t found anything that I’m willing to pay $100 for, considering it may not fit or even be the problem. I suppose an option is to see if Alan has a spare ignition I can borrow and test.

Another option is to just start tearing the bike apart for the complete diagnostics/cleaning/repair. It’d be nice to move the bike inside for that, especially with colder weather on its way.

Joel and I have kicked around the idea of renting a small warehouse—or space within a larger warehouse—to set up shop, to be able to work on things and plan trips from. It’d be too expensive to add rent for a warehouse to our current stack of monthly obligations, but if we found someplace we could live in as well that’d be pretty perfect. I don’t think there’s much chance of that, so instead I may just turn one half of our dining room into a makeshift workshop.

I’m pretty nervous about diving in like this, considering the bike is mysteriously (to me) not running right now. I’d much rather have a running bike which I tinker with and then, at the end of the day, put back together and make sure it’s still working properly. I’d hate to put a couple months of work on the bike and then realize that I’ve screwed something up and have to strip it down again just to replace a wire or a bolt.

The [possible] future home of the work-in-progress BMW.

The [possible] future home of the work-in-progress BMW.

Tearing the bike completely apart is something that I’ll have to do very slowly, very carefully and while making notes along the way. I may invest in some microfiche diagrams, especially for the engine, so I can ensure each piece goes in the right place and also to check that all the bits were there originally.

Another downside to starting the tear down now is that I haven’t gotten a chance to do things like compression tests to the engine yet. It’d be better, I think, to do that before I refurbish the body and electrics, partially just so I don’t have to take all that apart again.

There’s also the simple fact that stripping down the body means I can’t ride it.

And with the weather as nice as it is, I really just want to ride it.


I knew the preparation for my trip was going to test me, throw sand in my face, put up seemingly insurmountable walls and drop all sorts of obstacles in front of me, I just didn’t expect it to happen quite so soon.

The upside (because I’m not quite pessimistic enough to avoid some fragmented silver lining) is that I was sort of planning on picking a project at random this weekend anyway to tinker with—most likely creating a larger problem in the process—and this just really saves me the trouble of having to make a choice. Now I have one specific problem to deal with: Figure out why my electrical system doesn’t work.

The downside is, well, that the problem is figuring out why my electrical system doesn’t work. Also the downside is I can’t really ride the bike until I fix the problem. [Actually, that’s sort of an upside, too.] I’m not incredibly savvy when it comes to electrical bits. Give me a loose gear and a bucket of bits and I’ll whip up a solution. Give me a tangle of multi-colored wires and something that makes my fingertips go all tingly and I flounder helplessly.

Here’s the story of what happened:

Autumn and I were getting on the bike to run an errand. I turned the key, instrument cluster lit up. I hit the ignition, bike cranked but didn’t turn all the way over. I flipped the choke on, hit ignition again, cranked and—just when it normally turns and starts running—I hear a bit of a pop and the lights go dead. I turn the key off, then on. No lights. Flip the engine kill switch off and on a few times. Nadda. At this point we have to jump in the car, but I do plug the battery in for a charge before we head off. A long shot, I know, but I figure it’s better to do something somewhat proactive than nothing out of simple pessimism.

After the battery had a few hours to charge I tried the key again and got, surprise, nothing. That was Wednesday.

Thursday I popped the headlamp open and checked the fuses. Here’s what I found (picture forthcoming here): both fuses seem to be intact (I didn’t remove them for proper inspection), but could stand replacement anyway; there’s a huge mass of wires and everything appears to be in place except one green/purple wire, but from my brief inspection I couldn’t figure out where exactly it led; what seems to be an unoccupied slot on the ignition array, possibly the home of the green/purple wire.

Now, any reasonable person would simply, I donno, plug that dangling wire into the available slot and then see what happens. Not me. No, I tugged on the wire a little, traced where it went, couldn’t discover a satisfactory answer and therefore decided—given that it was 1:30 in the afternoon and I still had to cook something for work at 3—that I would come back and do more investigating/experimenting over the weekend, when I would have hours upon hours to dedicate to the process.

This all comes, of course, on the heels of having spent $700 on a plane ticket to Colorado (Autumn’s brother is getting married), paying my most expensive utility bill since I’ve moved in, knowing I need a new rear tyre as soon as possible and still needing to order the parts to fix my speedometer.

So, here I am, less than 200 bucks to my name, knowing I need to spend about 80 bucks in parts as soon as I can figure out exactly what parts I need, plus about $150 for that rear tyre, and I just got paid Monday, so it’s a full 15 days until payday, and now I have to put gas in my car so I have transit while the BMW is out of commission until further notice.

What do I do? Find an excuse to spend that money on crap, of course!

I went to Lowes, on Thursday, and bought a couple more tarps, some zip-ties, and a few little odds and ends what I suspected I’d need for a day of working on the bike. We have a canopy over the end of our driveway, just a little 10’x10′ stand, which is great shade, both for the bike generally and for me when I’m working on mine. What it lacks is protection from the mosquitoes. I’ve had the idea of hanging tarps from the sides to give it temporary walls since I put the canopy up, but never invested in the two additional tarps needed. Being forced to spend a weekend tinkering on the bike was, obviously, the motivation I needed.

I hung one tarp Thursday after looking at the fuses and decided it was sufficient enough to proceed with the plan. The only thing that’s missing from what I imagined the work station would be is a small (thinking 12 inch diameter) fan that I can hang from the top of the canopy, to keep air moving and help ward off the mosquitoes. Surprisingly, they didn’t have any at Lowes. I’m not really sure where to look. Target or Ross, perhaps, but I’m not confident they have lightweight, outdoor-use fans there.

It should be quite a weekend, fan or no fan, expect an update early next week.


Just got paid today; pretty decent check, too. I had quite a bit of overtime and it was a long pay period besides.

It’s going to be a long week and the money isn’t hanging around very long. I’ve got a plane ticket to buy, a back tyre and some parts to fix the speedo I need to order. Also utilities were $130. Damn.

But for the moment I’m just going to go grocery shopping and pretend there’s nothing else wrong with my bike.


Oh, did I mention it looks as though the seal on my rear brake is broken? Yeah.

The Campaign Against Terror

This week has flown by, which is good because I still don’t feel properly recovered from last week.

On Tuesday I took the motorcycle down to Orion’s and asked them to replace the tyre. They upgraded me to the Pirelli (no extra charge). The mechanic (John, I believe?) who changed the tyre can back from the test drive and said, “I noticed your speedometer wasn’t reading. It looks like the cable has fallen out.” I told him I had parts on order to fix it (a half–truth), and thanked him for noticing and for fixing the tyre.

In the following days I proceeded to spend the rest of what little money was left in my checking account.

I made some progress on a personal project I’ve been working on, something which will be placed here for everyone’s reading [dis]pleasures, but will not be done for a month or two.

I’m also working on a significant blog post but haven’t felt too inspired about it this week, so it’s sort of idling.


On the 11th I listened to President Obama’s speech on ISIL and the United State’s response to them. A lot of what I feel about this has been more eloquently expressed by Paul Thomas in this article on The Becoming Radical.

There are two aspects of this situation which really cause me to hang my head.

The first is Congress’ apparent unwillingness to debate and vote on this. Personally, I believe they should vote against it, but, for or against only becomes an issue once a congressional debate has begun.

The second aspect is the rapidity with which the majority of the American public has become favorable to military operations in the Middle East expanding. An MSNBC poll shows something in the neighborhood of 60% of Americans in favor of military action. Really?

[I say expanding because we’re already undertaking military operations in the region.]

Do we have absolutely no hindsight? Can we not look back on even the past 15 years and say, wait a minute, this hasn’t been entirely successful the last couple times we tried this? There’s a plethora of writing available on the futility of waging a war against those who “hate us”, but this futility isn’t really an effective counter argument against the campaign against terrorists anymore. Obama said it himself:

We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.

Firstly, it’s problematic from an egalitarian perspective to refer to anyone or any belief as simply evil. It removes the reasoning, the logical, sequential, sometimes hard to follow lines of reactions that lead to people’s beliefs. An honest evaluation of what people see as threats, problems and important can, often, lead us to a more significant summation of their beliefs than evil. Maybe even we can come to a conclusion that treats those who threaten us as human beings. Maybe that’s being avoided on purpose.

Secondly, the President is acknowledging that we will never win. We will never kill ’em all; never live in a world free from external threats. What this means is that making the argument of a never–ending war is rendered ineffective.

What does that mean? That anyone in favor of taking military action against a terrorist group is therefore in favor of perpetual warfare? And what happens when our airstrikes, our strong language about us being good and them being evil, our inability to treat people with accents, beards and ancient languages as equals creates a never–ending cycle of anti–American terrorist factions? Do we accept that war against oft–unknown enemies will be persistent, indeed, constant, for the remainder of our future? Do we become the heavy–handed police of the developing world for the sake of our own fantasy of safety? And, in doing so, do we create more enemies than we would otherwise?

I don’t have answers to all these questions. I don’t know who does, but I do think they’re questions worth asking.

Proudhon says, in What is Property, that we all get as much as we give in terms of our rights as members of society (what are often called natural rights).

[…]security is an absolute right, because in the eyes of every [person their] own liberty and life are as precious as another’s. […]in society each associate receives as much as he gives,—liberty for liberty, equality for equality, security for security, body for body, soul for soul, in life and in death.

Perhaps an alternative is to look at the ways in which we expect to be treated by other peoples of the world which we do not extend to them. We expect to be able to defend our interests [read: business interests] in various parts of the world, many of which are harmful to local citizens in a variety of ways, yet the anger, pain and suffering felt by local populations should never affect us here at home. We expect to be able to spread our versions of republicanism, liberty and morality across the world [nation building?], yet never be the target of the ethnocentrism of others.

We stand as highly critical of the human damages caused by radical Islamic groups [as we, and everyone, should be] without ever truly reconciling with the human damages we’ve caused in Vietnam, in the Middle East or even at home through policies of discrimination and enslavement. It doesn’t lessen the atrocities committed by any radically violent group anywhere, but we must also turn the lens onto ourselves.

Until we can consider all people, everywhere, with equal dignity and respect our only option will be violent oppression of dissident groups, in which case the best reaction for dissident groups will be violence.

Last Week, A Chronology


Mostly uneventful. Work was slow. Filled up the bike with gas. Posted on this blog, even!


Class in the morning. About halfway through class my mind wandered to my motorcycle having a bit of difficulty starting, despite the full tank. Vowed to plug it into the charger once I got home. Bike didn’t start after class, battery was flat. Walked partway home before Autumn picked me up. Went back and pulled battery out the bike. Considered just investing in a new battery right then and there but decided against it. Took it home and charged it up. Work wasn’t too bad.


Went back to TCC in the morning with Autumn and Joel. Installed the battery and cranked the bike up. Drove home. Work was ridiculously crazy—one machine was down so all color printing was bottle–necked through the slower machine. Felt off all night. Left on time and did homework.


Class, then work. Took a break a work and went to Jersey Mike’s, turned off the bike and heard a hissing sound. Looked down at my front tyre and watched it deflate in less than a minute. Ate some food and called a coworker for a ride back. Stayed at work until 2:30 that night. Got home and gathered tools to take my wheel off the next morning. Hoping desperately that I don’t get towed. Finally in bed at 3:30


Arrived at Jersey Mike’s at 9:30 and begin taking the wheel off. I need a socket in a size I don’t own, so I drive (Autumn lent me her car) to CarQuest and pick up a set of oversized sockets for $50. Back at the bike, I realize I’ve grabbed my set of standard allen wrenches and I need metric. On the way home to get my metric set I see a truck pulling a trailer with a motorcycle strapped on the back. Calling the past 2 hours a loss, I turn around and call a tow truck. I have it towed to Orion’s, where I decide to just replace the tyre itself, as there is a spot of dry rot beginning to set in. However, I could only afford to do the front tyre, so that’s what I chose to do.

Zach, the head mechanic, gave me a price for Pirellis and for a cheaper brand (Shinko) and I, unfortunately, had to go with the cheaper brand. He warned me that the cheaper brand was also going to be a few millimeters wider. He offered to do it while I waited but, seeing as I had the car and had to get ready for work soon, I told him not to rush it, I’d be by to pick it up the next day. Work was hectic but I left by midnight; walked home, which was quite relaxing.


Took my time waking up on Saturday. Joel, Marlin and I had plans to go to the Trail & Ski shop in town around 11, so I planned on getting the motorcycle after that. Joel, however, had a long day at work and I wound up walking down to pick up the bike at 1:30, just as Joel was getting home.

In my efforts to remove the front wheel on Friday, I’d disconnected the front brake cable. As I pushed the bike back and forth a little in neutral outside the shop, I squeezed the front brake and nothing happened. I asked Zack about it and he called the mechanic that worked on the bike over.

“Well, it was disconnected when it came in, so I just kinda hooked it on. Didn’t know what you had going on with it.”

I told him it was disconnected because I’d made an effort to remove the wheel myself. We tightened up the brake (which I tightened up a bit more once I got home). On the ride home I heard a rhythmic whoom-whoom noise, coming from the front tyre. Upon arriving home, propping it up on the center stand and inspecting the wheel, I discovered two things:

  1. The rotation of the tire was wrong, with the arrow pointing in the opposite direction of the forward rotation.
  2. The tyre’s side wall rubbed ever so slightly for a few inches each rotation on the support shaft for the fender.

Marlin, Chelsea, Joel, Autumn and I went to Voodoo Dog for a late lunch and while there I looked up tyre rotation. Turns out it’s pretty damn important, with comments like, “if you’ve driven more that 1000 miles on a tyre rotated the wrong way, throw it away and buy a new one.” Fortunately I haven’t even put a mile on it.

At Trail & Ski we looked at tents, backpacks, and various waterproof equipment. I keep trying to hammer in the point that we’re going to want to think about packing for lengthy trips like pack for a long backpacking trip: it’s all about the weight. Equipment should be small and light. We talked to the sales clerk about the ENO hammock systems, which seem like a really good alternative to tents. [Note: When Joel first told me about his plan to get a hammock for camping I was dismissive, but after looking at them myself, seeing the price for the full setup and thinking about it critically, I think I’m mostly sold.] Joel seems to think that it’ll be a good idea to bring both a tent and a hammock system on longer trips. This idea I’m very skeptical of. It seems to me like a waste of space and weight (not that either one weighs much), it’d be better to know ahead of time which one you’re going to need to use more often and just stick with that one the entire time.

After we got home from Trail & Ski, we talked about the trip to Birmingham for a bit—what we all need to buy and whether or not we think we can do it. We decided to talk again next weekend and make a solid decision about committing to going or not. So we won’t be buying tickets before then. My next paycheck is going to be really nice, but I also have a plane ticket to buy in October, not to mention all the repairs I need to do on my bike before we can take a 600-mile trip.

As far as my tyre goes, I’ve decided I’m going to see about adjusting the fender position, if that helps the rubbing. If it does, all I’ll ask Orion’s to do is rotate the tyre the proper way. If I can’t stop the rubbing, I’ll have to return the tyre, hope they have my old one and just wait until next week when I get paid to put those Pirellis on.