With Chesterfield NJ’s People Over Pipelines, mapping environmental impacts of two mile stretch of natural gas pipeline

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The first hour is spent observing three people from Chesterfield New Jersey’s People Over Pipelines, mapping the environmental impacts of a two mile stretch of Southern Reliability Link (SRL) natural gas pipeline for Garden State Expansion (GSE) project. The project ostensibly increases energy capacity for New Jersey residents, but given the circumference and orders of magnitude greater pressure in the pipe, it is likely for export only. We start at the New Jersey Turnpike between exit six and seven, at the location where one and possibly two new compressor stations are being proposed. Right where the turnpike was expanded, it is suspected that the widening was not needed at all, except as a ruse to install the currently unused pipeline at public expense, long before the permitting process began.

At around the 1hr 12min mark, I have a conversation with a farmer whose lake, his only source of irrigation, will be permanently drained. In order to build the compressor station, the wetlands that it is being built on must be “dewatered.” According to the farmer, this process will take place seven months out of the year, draining 6,000 gallons every minute. Even though this draining will be done a quarter-mile away, over those seven months to year and a half, the lake will be entirely drained, along with everybody’s drinking wells and even the stream going through Sucker Run.

Since his only supply of irrigation will be permanently taken away, he will no longer be able to grow crops, and in a year, his land will likely be re-zoned as residential, causing his property taxes to skyrocket. Not to mention the wildlife and hundreds of trees that will be displaced or killed. He has been told that a water truck will be supplied for him, but only enough to live as a resident, not nearly enough to farm. He suspects that his land that is being eyed to connect the two parks that currently are on either side of his property.

My review of the book How “Less” is “More”: The biggest constitutional mystery in our nation’s history.

LaVergne walks the reader deliberately and meticulously through hundreds of years of legal history, demonstrating how the United States Constitution’s original Article the First has already been the law of the land for more than two centuries. He takes the reader all the way back to the original source documents, as stored in the national and various state archives. The reader is encouraged, and given specific instructions on how, to see the original documents for themselves.

So why hasn’t it been recognized? Because copy machines didn’t exist in the 1700s. After ratification, the humans who duplicated the original document by hand made a typo that profoundly changed its meaning. That mistake has propagated its way through history, as if it were the truth. But misunderstanding the truth does not change it. It’s already the law.

Article the First states that a United States Congressperson must represent no more than 50,000 people. Must. The United States House of Representatives currently has around 450 members, each representing more than 700,000 people. This means that there should actually be more than 6,000 members. While buying off 450 politicians might be manageable to the 1%, buying off 6,000 is not. And in one fell swoop, overturning Citizen’s United is no longer as important, and our government is truly given back to the people in what LaVergne calls a “bloodless revolution.”

Article the First is not recognized as law of the land because if it were, the political elite wouldn’t be so elite anymore. LaVergne’s book is the most important and intriguing constitutional mystery in our nation’s history, and the culmination of decades of dedication and research in the face of incredible resistance by those in power.

Can’t recommend it enough.

Eugene LaVergne is the brother of Fred LaVergne, The Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey third district. I am an avid supporter of Fred.

Sander Friedman beat me badly in the primaries. Now I want to help him win on November 8th

In the 2016 Democratic primaries, I ran for Burlington County Surrogate on the Bernie Sanders ticket. I was one of only around forty candidates in the country to be personally endorsed by the senator. It was not only my first campaign, it was my first experience in politics. I had no fundraising or staff, yet got just under 12,000 votes, or 28%. While a large amount of these votes were on Bernie Sanders’ coattails, a substantial number of them were not. I tried to win, and I’m proud of what I and my supporters accomplished.

I could not have lost to a nicer guy. Sander Friedman is now the Democratic nominee, and he has earned, and deserves this position. The campaign he ran against me was strong and assertive without being negative, and his experience with the surrogacy and already fighting for the people of Burlington County, makes him more than qualified. Since the campaign I have gotten to know Sander, and have found him to be both pleasant and present, not to mention supportive of my own past candidacy and future prospects.

An important item in my platform was to dramatically reduce the three dollar-per-page-cost of obtaining copies of documents being held in the surrogate’s office. This is regressive as it punishes those with smaller estates, paying the same fee as those with the largest. It is something that Sander can already claim to have accomplished. In 2005, he won a case against Camden County Clerk’s office that prohibits them from inflating fees with bogus charges.

His 25 year law career (and his firm) has centered around protecting the rights of consumers and citizens, and he has already achieved obvious victories in these areas. I will be voting for Sander Friedman for Burlington County Surrogate on November 8th and making phone calls to urge others to do the same.

Wayne Lewis: Free trade is colonialism without the guns

I just finished the book Bad Samaritans: The myth of free trade in the secret history of capitalism, by Ha-Joon Chang. I consider myself moderately well informed on what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is really about, but I have a lot to learn, and reading this book and talking to Wayne is the beginning of my journey for doing that.

Wayne Lewis was a fellow Bernie Sanders delegate from New Jersey at 2016 Democratic National Convention. We met on Monday morning in the state delegation hotel lobby, waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where in a couple of hours Bernie Sanders would speak to his entire delegation.

He met his wife at the Borgota, where she works. He lives 15 minutes north of Atlantic city, and we are currently at a restaurant about 20 minutes west of there (I live about 50 minutes northwest of the restaurant).

Wayne has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and biophysics and graduate degrees in molecular biology and pure mathematics. He taught mathematics at Penn State University, and for the last 10 years has been a professional poker player. “I’m a systems thinker. I like to think about nonlinear, dynamic systems.”

From our interview on Wednesday early afternoon at the DNC (at the 18 minute mark):

Wayne:

I had very little experience in politics. It was Bernie Sanders who actually showed me the way to go with respect to politics. [This] is the first campaign that I’ve been involved with. I voted basically Democrat, but without giving much thought to it.

There was a period where I was just, like many Americans, wrapped up in my own life. Wrapped up in what I was doing to make money, and the relationship with my family. And just not really paying much attention to what was going on outside of my own little world.

Interestingly, about three years ago, a friend of mine who is pretty conservative, he’s a Republican, said to me–and I used to say the same thing a lot of people say: ‘Why even bother? Your vote doesn’t really mean anything. It’s all rigged. And what’s the point?’.

My friend said to me, “You know, you do an awful lot of complaining about the way the things are. And if you don’t get involved and you don’t vote, you don’t really have a right to complain.

This prompted him to dive into researching many issues, discovering how serious many issues are, and how everything is interconnected. Interrelated systemically.

It was at this point he saw Bernie Sanders, who put all of these pieces together into one coherent narrative, and was swept up into the campaign. Bernie Sanders was not the catalyst for him becoming involved, the issues were the catalyst.

According to Wayne, in a nonlinear, dynamic system, the pieces are interconnected in multiple ways, like computers on the Internet. The characteristics of each piece is not as important as the pattern of the connections between them. While the individual pieces are important, it is critical to balance between focusing on the pieces and on the whole, or connections.

Like at the DNC on Wednesday morning, this once again prompts the discussion on how in Bernie Sanders’ stump speech, every concept he talks about is intricately related to all of the others, And what’s most attractive about him is the narrative that weaves through his entire speech and platform. We agree that he has found the right balance between focusing on the “trees” and the “forest,” and also on how deep he goes into each issue, at a level most conducive to the general public understanding it. Wayne agrees and thinks that Bernie understands a lot more than he lets on.

This is as opposed to Hillary Clinton, who says many interesting and positive things–setting aside whether or not she means it–but there’s not much relationship between each topic. I suggested that Hillary looks too closely at the trees, to which he replied, “No, Hillary is looking at the individual cells of each tree.” He goes on to describe the term “reductionism,” with the analogy of dropping individual grains of sand on to a flat surface, slowly, at a regular pace. After some time, some of the grains will be touching one another, and eventually there will be a pile of sand. By this point, examining individual grains is no longer as important as the relationships between then. Once the pile becomes substantial, each new grain that falls can cause a landslide, affecting anywhere between a single grain and the entire pile. The concepts of chaos theory and fractals briefly come up at this point.

Moving onto free-trade, Wayne says that at its most fundamental level, free-trade is colonialism. It’s “about turning countries into colonies.” While wealth inequality is unfair to the less powerful and wealthy within a country, colonialism takes that to an international scale, with rich countries bullying developing ones. Interestingly, as a result of the New Deal, and especially due the period of the 1940s through the 1970s, while colonialism was active around the world, the strong middle class in the United States made everyone in our country benefit from it. Now our middle class is once again suffering like developing nations.

What used to be done with military might, is now accomplished with the three organizations created in Bretton Woods in 1944: The World Trade Organization, The International Monetary Fund, and The World Bank. According to Wayne, “They are the machinery of neo-liberals.” (Roughly speaking, neo-liberalism is defined as “those who want more free trade.”)

Like the Democratic Party in the United States is ostensibly for representing all the people, these three organizations are supposedly for equity among all countries as it relates to trade. And like the Democratic Party, these organizations only allow the rich and powerful nations a full seat at the table, therefore perpetuating this so-called “free” trade worldwide, where the rules are exactly the same for all sides, despite the players having vastly different capabilities, maturity, and resources. Free-trade, specifically, is “extracting wealth” from others in order to make yourself richer–not just getting more wealthy, but doing so at the involuntary expense of others.

Wayne suggests that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will turn all of its member countries, including the United States, into colonies of multinational corporations. “[I]t’s a little bit shortsighted in that, eventually, they’re cannibalizing their own markets. There’s no one left to buy their products.” The odious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision of the TPP is the super-government that trumps all branches of our own government (not to mention those of all member states), where multinational corporations can sue countries, in secret, in a court that is out of reach of common citizens.

According to Naked Capitalism, the ISDS provision

allows for secret arbitration panels to effectively overrule national regulations by allowing foreign investors to sue governments over lost potential future profits in secret arbitration panels. Those panels have been proved to be conflict-ridden and arbitrary. And the grounds for appeal are limited and technical.

In essence, it means that countries can do nothing without the approval of corporations. But, according to Wayne, regarding the ISDS, “the cat’s out of the bag,” meaning that the public is well aware of the dangers of this provision, making it less likely that it, and potentially even the TPP, will pass.

That President Obama and so many in Congress would allow this loss of sovereignty to happen, rendering their own jobs useless, is mind-boggling (let alone the rest of the horrors in the TPP). Or more precisely, rendering the jobs of their successors as useless. Clearly they are getting something out of it. Wayne suggests that perhaps they are doing the best that they can, in listening to the “experts” and making what they believe is the right decision. To me that is no excuse for ignoring the less powerful, who are clearly against it, all suggesting something more sinister or selfish.

If the TPP takes hold, getting out of it will take decades, superhuman efforts, and tumultuous events. This is evidenced by the European Union and its Brexit and crisis in Greece. Progressives in the United States are currently fighting money in politics, but if the TPP passes, we will have to fight for decades to get rid of that, before we could even consider fighting money in politics again.

Back to colonialism. Where exactly does the motivation for this selfishness come from? Wayne suggests that, like our government’s campaign finance system, the very fabric of our market economy condones unethical behavior, by promoting the needs of the shareholder over the original intention–the spirit–of the company. A corrupt CEO and his direct reports may be removed, but no matter who replaces them, the corrupt system remains.

In the short-term, fixing the system requires all stakeholders–not shareholders–to have a seat at the table (one person one vote, not one dollar one vote). This will either be done by the already powerful granting seats to the less powerful, or by the less powerful demanding it (or by rendering the more powerful irrelevant).

Wayne suggests that the longer-term solution is for communities that are currently dependent on far away multinational conglomerates, such as for power generation and internet access, to join forces with other local communities to become self-reliant. To bring those far away resources and services as close to home as possible (placing it under their control). The goal is not to isolate the community from the outside world, rather to dramatically increase its self-sufficiency should they become disconnected. An example is aggressive installation of solar and smaller scale wind generators. After the interview, he elaborates: Local communities that are

atonomous in terms of food sovereignty, energy sovereignty, mobility sovereignty and basic production. Worker owned coops, farming coops, housing coops, and Commons management all have roles to play.

Other novel ideas are constantly developing. Local sovereignty, and distributed networks of functionality provide resilience to societies. In this, we aim to emulate the resiliance of natural ecosystems of every scale up to and including the living earth. It is distribution of function within and across scales of organization which provides this resiliance, similar to what Nasim Nicholas Taleb calls antifragility.

He ends on an interesting and unrelated note, speculating that the fossil fuel industry may undergo its own “quantitative easing” (giving them about $4 trillion with no strings attached), in an effort to permanently shut down the industry, to once and for all transition to green energy.

After the interview, he shares this with me:

Clouds In Each Paper, by Thich Nhat Hanh

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Below are all of the sources that Wayne recommends during our conversation, plus a few more he gave me after the interview. He says:

All these sites are examples of of systems thinking applied to human society, and involve thinking about synergistic multidisciplinary solutions rather than the traditional, patchwork treatment of symptoms with unidimensional shortsighted solutions which always have unforseen effects downstream.

Books:

Websites:

You can follow Wayne on Twitter at @WayneLForBernie

Thoughts and observations about the 10/17/2016 NJ DEP pipeline hearing

I live streamed the entire hearing in three parts (one, two, and three…there are some nice interviews at the ends of each part). My original interview with People Over Pipelines was back in April.

Note that everything I say in this article is all from memory and my own speculation. I was holding the camera the whole time and didn’t explicitly keep track of anything. I also have a lot to learn and my coming to this hearing is part of that process.

Somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of the comments were against the pipeline. My instinct says that the vast majority of those in support of the pipeline did not come of their own volition. Many of the statements of those in support of the pipeline were extremely dispassionate and terse. A number of them to the extent of, “My name is John Smith, and I’ve been a member of XXX union for four years. I support this pipeline… and…that’s all I have to say. Thank you.” But without fail, these comments were met with strong applause from people in the far back of the room.

A few of the union members did speak with more passion, but some their comments contained significant ad hominem attacks against those who oppose it; that they don’t understand the art of construction, the physicality of the pipelines, the comprehensiveness of their training, their excellent safety record, or the exacting standards to which the pipelines must be built. I tried to approach one of the more formally dressed of these people, but she refused to talk to me, stating that she needed to first find out more about my media organization/website.

Even if the pipeline station is perfectly constructed, even if they use only the highest quality materials, that does not change the fact that most catastrophic failures are caused by factors that are out of the construction company’s control. Materials decay, some of the soils in which the pipelines lay are acidic, the earth shifts, accidents happen (I don’t mean during construction, I mean during the lifetime of the pipeline). Not to mention that natural gas is explosive, radioactive, and poisonous. And as Fred LaVergne so succinctly put (at the 2 min 55 sec Mark), you don’t put these fires out, you evacuate and wait until it’s burned itself out.

Regarding safety record, residents are not concerned about safety during the months of construction, they’re concerned about the decades after construction ends.

One union gentleman said that he’d never heard of a pipeline breaking, “and besides, even if it did, it’s only natural gas, I don’t understand where this pollution is coming from.” As if the natural gas itself is not a pollutant.

People against the pipeline spoke of schools and homes and businesses all within a mile of the compressor station, all of which will bear the brunt of its blowdowns, which are supposed to happen a couple of times a year, but actually happen at least once a month. A handful of them said, “Why are we even here? Why is this hearing even happening? This should’ve been denied from the start.”

A worker in a juvenile detention center in the blast zone (if the pipeline bursts, the explosion will, at a minimum, breach the outer walls of the facility), wanted to know if there were any contingency plans of where to put these “wards of the state” in the case of the worst. She also noted that there is a regular jail that is also within the blast zone at some point along the pipeline’s route.

One child testified that their favorite animals were turtles, and that they don’t want the turtles to die. Another child said that he doesn’t want to drink poison water. He asked the panelists, “Do you want to drink poison water?” Another said that she wouldn’t be able to play soccer anymore.

Building these natural gas pipelines are not the only jobs available for union workers. Denying pipelines from existing would certainly be a catalyst in determining what those other jobs might be. But even if there were no other jobs, it is ob cene to risk the health and well-being, not to mention home values, of tens of thousands of residents, not to mention the likely devastating (and just plain likely) environmental impacts.

Fred LaVergne’s strong statement against “fossil foolishness” at last night’s NJ DEP public hearing

Frederick John LaVergne, Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s third district, attended last night’s hearing for public comment, to testify to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The topic was whether a permit should be granted to Transco-Williams to build a natural gas pipeline compressor station on five acres of wetlands in Chesterfield, New Jersey. The station will be within one mile of homes, schools and businesses, and the environmental and health impacts would be devastating. Let alone the inherent threats of even the most well built pipelines.

Fred made it clear that he is against all of the natural gas pipelines (and their compressor stations, and all the “fossil foolishness“) being proposed in his district–and that this opposition is not incompatible with being a strong supporter of unions.

(Here is the full and unedited version.)

As you can see, he received an enthusiastic response from the crowd, which included members of People Over Pipelines, The Sierra Club, Rethink Energy Now, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, NJ Conservation, and Food & Water Watch.

Compare Fred’s views with his wealthy, incumbent Republican opponent who, according to the League of Conservation Voters, has a voting record that supports big business and profit over protecting the environment 94% of the time.

And, critically, Fred is not in the pocket of anyone, as evidenced by his raising a total of $600 (!) during the Democratic primaries, compared to his opponent’s $55,000, and that he also accepts no PAC money.

On November 8th, vote Fred LaVergne for Congress in New Jersey’s third district.

Regina Bolton: From White Privilege to Angry Black Woman

Regina Bolton is angry.

“Today’s word is ‘insult.’ Uh! The special magic word is insult. Insulted, insulting… Insult.”

Regina grew up in one of the very few African American families in Carlsbad, California, a wealthy coastal town 30 minutes north of San Diego and an hour-and-a-half south of Los Angeles. A place that averages 263 sunny days a year, has high schoolers who almost always graduate, and lots of skateboarders and surfer dudes (“I’m sorry, you know,” she confesses, “surfers and skateboarders are kind of cute to me.”). Carlsbad is home to Legoland, the country’s first modern skateboard park (built in 1976, torn down 30 years later, and replaced with two others), and Rockstar San Diego, the company that created the core engine used by the Grand Theft Auto video game series.

There’s a part of me–and I know that this sounds really bad–[but] I’ll tell you the honest to God truth. I love my parents, but [they] did terribly in race relations. [They] raised me to believe that we’re all equal. They did. I get what they were trying to do. We lived in an all white community, very upscale. We lived near the police chief, the fire captain, and all that other stuff.

I get angry because I feel like I’ve had a great life. I had to have two professors, white professors [she laughs], educate me. They said, “No no, Regina. Just because you view the world that way, is not the experience of every other African American.”

(After the interview, she tells me that her only contact with African-Americans during her childhood was eight miles away in the more urban area of Oceanside, Sundays at church where her father served as deacon. She felt inferior among the other children, which she believes came from a mixture of unfamiliarity, and jealousy of her opportunities. She discovered later in life that some of those same children moved to Carlsbad to raise their own families.)

My introduction to Regina, along with thousands of others, was her drippingly sarcastic and incisive tirade in response to President Obama, who recently told African Americans that he would

“consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” Obama said with a stern look and booming passion. “You want to give me a good send-off, go vote.”

the strong implication being that the only votes that he would not find insulting, are the ones cast for Hillary Clinton. But since there’s no way Regina will ever vote for her (“I meant what I said. #HillNo. [It’s] in the fiber of my being”), she’s decided that President Obama will just have to be insulted.

You know what, President Obama? I’m so sorry you’re insulted. I’m so sorry you’re disappointed. But when we use that word insulted, let’s think about what the definition of that means–and Obama, you’re a very educated, smart man, so let’s just assume you know what that means.

Insult is something that the Bernie Sanders people felt–

As if suddenly hit with enormous insight, her expression turns to deep thought, her eyebrows scrunch, her tempo becomes deliberate and slow.

“–when they were turned away at the polls.”

Regina is also angry that, despite all of the killings of unarmed African American men by police during Obama’s tenure (whose stories overflow on her Facebook wall), despite hundreds of years of systemic racism, instead of signing meaningful legislation to protect these innocent men, our nation’s first African American president signs a law that further protects police officers. The ones with the guns.

She tells me:

There’s nobody else that ever, in my lifetime, is going to have the ability to address this in the way that he could have. I’m very disappointed. [People think I’m talking about legislation]. I’m not that stupid. I’m not that naïve. There’s no way that the Congress, the Senate, the House, they’re not going to let him get anything passed.

In the video, Regina continues:

But as the president, you have the ability with what we call on the streets, ‘pull’… That means you can invite all the folks that you feel that have an influence in this country–and I can name quite a few, even though I don’t have the education of the president…

You could’ve had Jane Elliot, who is a very famous professor and teacher on race. You could’ve had Dr. Ron Clark, another white person that’s very familiar with race and has a very famous school in Atlanta. He’s a public educator.

You could’ve brought in [white] officer Tommy Norman, who is an avid police officer [who teaches] other officers about community policing. When he goes into these neighborhoods, African Americans love him! (So that tells me that African Americans don’t have an issue with the race of cops. It’s the cops that are kind of killing us that I think we have a problem with.)

You could’ve had Dr. Cornel West, you could’ve had sociologist Michael Eric Dyson.

Back in the interview:

The fact [is that you] did none of that. You could’ve brought so many people in who are very well aware of this epidemic [yet] you sit there with these law enforcement officers and you sign [a law that protects them even more]? Are you kidding me?

[Even] Michelle Obama, to create this White House garden, and this initiative to get people to eat healthy. How about helping us live? How about doing something that helps us kind of live, to get to eat what we want?

How about doing something that targets the real issues? … Because at the end of the day that’s what Obama did. Played it safe. Played it nice… And I thought it was an insult to my intelligence for you to come at me and say to me that I need to do something because you care about your legacy. No no no! I care about African American and minority lives. That’s what I care about more than their legacies. Their legacies mean nothing to me.

In 2008, Regina enthusiastically voted for Obama, but was so disappointed in Obama’s priorities during his first year, “I became a Republican. Everyone in my family had a fit…I’m African American and it shocked quite a few of my friends to see that I had turned into a Republican.”

How did she get involved in politics?

I’ve never been that obsessed with a 74-year-old man. I swear… When Bernie came along…there were things that I noticed about him that made him different from any other person that I had seen in politics. No matter who he was talking to, his message would always be the same. It showed me that a lot of people will have a message, and the message is designed for whoever the audience is… Bernie was not like that. His message was the same…

I kept hearing that “he couldn’t pull the African American vote.” I got offended [laughs] because, first of all, nobody speaks for me. Number one. Number two, I don’t know why any African American could not relate to someone who was so involved. I mean he was chained to a black woman.

She says in a deliberately urban dialect, “Ah own no [I don’t know] how much more closer he gone get.”

He got involved. While ‘ol girl over here was being the Goldwater girl, actually wanted to keep segregation alive and roaring. Here Bernie was on the front line when no one was even looking at him… That’s who he is… I’m tired of hearing that African Americans won’t vote for him, because I am an African American woman that will.

And not only will I vote for him, I will get out there and I will be a voice for him. And I will educate and inform people about him… So I got involved. I volunteered. I got to run a volunteer office down in Los Angeles. [I collaborated with community colleges.] I did voter registration. I even worked an election poll on the primary day… I did this and I was able first hand to see a lot of the tomfoolery going on during the primaries…

Right now, I’m looking in my car and I have a Bernie poster still. I haven’t let it go, you know?

Did Regina consciously make a decision to change her personality in any way, when she realized that there was more to the world than her white privileged upbringing? Did she choose to become or behave “more black”?

Yes. I had to. I mean, I grew up listening to INXS, Culture Club, Depeche Mode. Like, are you kidding me? Do you think I’m gonna walk around other African Americans in groups, and walk like that? “You listen to Wham!?” Oh my God, are you serious? So yeah… I felt like I needed to be around more African Americans. Because I felt like I was going to go in a direction where I was not [going to know] any African Americans…

[Race] is not something that I talk about a lot. It’s not something that I try to carry but I can’t help it. It’s kind of salient. But in my day-to-day life…I’m just me… When I was in high school I would always wonder what would it be like to have an African American teacher? … Because everybody around me didn’t look like me. That’s why so many [people] remember me, because I was the only black girl at the school. [Laughs] … When I realized the world is not like that, I wanted to understand every sense of everything.

(She also lived in a Mexican neighborhood for three years and speaks fluent Spanish.)

I so badly want Regina to run for office. Or more precisely, to do something, anything to help her community on a grander scale.

She is an electric personality who clearly has the confidence, intelligence and insight to stand up to the most seasoned politician. What’s unique is how very different she is from those standard, polished, “properly dressed” politicians. What’s exciting, is just how uncomfortable she and her truth, with its silver braids, purple lipstick, long fingernails, and Z-snaps, will make a political establishment who would do well with some discomfort.

Regina Bolton represents a community that has been treated poorly for centuries and she has earned the right to be an Angry Black Woman. The African American community deserves to be represented by people like her. Regina’s truth reflects her world, and it’s about time we inject some of that reality into our government.

I’m not a squeaky clean individual. I’m not a goody two shoes or anything [but] it makes me a real person. That’s what it does… I’m not ashamed of things that I’ve done. I’ve made mistakes like other people have… [T]here’s nothing that anybody could say to me that would make me crumple and break… I was the debate captain. I’m very very good at this. Let’s go. If you think I’m thin skinned and I don’t have a backbone, I’m gonna take you for a ride. So let’s go.

[I] definitely would love to represent people and be a voice for minorities and African Americans, absolutely. Absolutely.

(I’ve already nominated Regina to Brand New Congress.  You can, too .)