Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Truth Can Be Found...If You Care Enough

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I got in a discussion with a friend recently. She said she and her husband had almost quit watching the news altogether because she didn't trust any of the media sources She thinks they blow up stories to create headlines. She believes there is nowhere to find the truth.She thinks they both "spin" their side.

I disagree. You don't have to get your facts from the mainstream media or the right-leaning media either one. There are lots of other official sources you can rely on.

First, though, people have to decide what they are voting on, what their core values are. And I don't mean simply quoting the party line or your church's line, I mean deciding for yourself what your biggest concerns are. I'd suggest making a list of six issues that are most important to you.

Mine would be; climate change and the environment, health care, education, a woman's right to exercise her own authority over her body,, equal rights for all Americans, caring for the vulnerable. None of these may even be on your radar screen but that's for you to decide.

After that, the trick is to see if your representatives are actually supporting your core values. For instance, you can watch C-Span to see how they actually vote and how they explain those votes. Did the Republicans just pass a bill that once again, gives insurance companies the ability to discriminate against those of us with pre-existing conditions? (Yes, they did). This concern you greatly if you have a child with a serious medical problem.

You can go and see various reports on the internet - from scientists, from professors, from government  officials, from doctors. They won't all agree, of course, but what is the consensus of the professionals? When it is in the 90 percent range,  (as with climate change), you might want to give their views some weight.

Governmental reports will give you actual statistics about prison populations and how they are divided as to race and how much they cost us, how many police officers were killed in the line of duty and how many unarmed citizens were killed by cops, what does the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predict about the deficit?

There are a myriad of subjects but you'll probably want to narrow it down to your core concerns, else you'll get lost in statistics. Granted, going through all this is more work than simply listening to Fox or MSNBC but maybe you'll find out some facts you don't know. When you compare what you've learned to what the news is saying, maybe you'll find that there are some sources who consistently seem to present honest news - whether it is the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

It is on you as a citizen to dig for the truth.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Maybe Trump is Right.

       
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I'm 72 years old and I can remember six times I have gone beyond anger to pure outrage by actions of my government. I've had other less important grievances but these are the biggies. In  every case, it has been the white male elite that has stoked that fury (in some cases, even the very same men!)

First, was the Vietnam War during my teens and 20's. I watched the death count grow higher and higher until it reached 58,000 of our people, not to mention the Vietnamese dead, and still, the egos of old men would not allow them to let go. They simply couldn't let losing a war (to a bunch of Gooks, by God!) be part of their legacy, no matter how many lives it cost (not only in death and physical scars but mental consequences. No one could ever explain why we were there. What was the rationale? They talked about Dominoes and Communists but what did it matter in the end? Even Nixon, who was elected on a promise to get us out of South East Asia, resisted actually doing it as long as he could.Those of us who resisted by whatever means possible were called a mob, just as Kavanaugh protesters are now. Even the men who went and fought and suffered imprisonment for years were not immune to being swift-boated like John Kerry and John McCain. Thank God for that mob or we'd probably still be there. (If you think that sounds unlikely, think of how long we've been in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

The second time I felt devastated by  my government was during the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings. I saw a calm, reasonable woman trashed, bashed, demeaned denigrated and humiliated by our white male leaders (Republicans and Democrats). Clarence Thomas was black himself but the American pecking order has always been white men, black men, then women. That male power structure must be defended at all costs. People like to call welfare recipients the collectors of entitlement but it is really these men who are the entitled in our society and they are damned well not going to let anyone stand in the way of their authority.

The third horror was the Clinton impeachment. I have always believed Newt and the boys meant to impeach Clinton from Day One. They launched an investigation that went on for over a year and looked under every rock for something, anything to nail him on and finally they found Monica and impeached him for what would have been the equivalent of jay-walking if it had been a traffic violation. As an extra bit of humiliation, they published it all on the internet so everyone could read the prurient details. Oh wait, they called that a public service. Of course, in today's Donald Trump world, we can't even know what is in the Kavanaugh FBI report - so much for transparency) Ken Starr and our new Justice Kavanaugh, partisan hacks both, have totally changed their minds about what constitutes an impeachable offense (although they both still claim they came to the right conclusions about Clinton's impeachment. Night after night, the Republican got on television and sadly told us how Clinton had debased the White House (which he did) and how "character counts" and how a president should be above reproach and how if Hillary had any self-respect she would leave him. Blah, Blah, Blah. All those beliefs have gone by the wayside, of course, now that the Assaulter-in-Chief sits in the Oval Office. And Melania is a steadfast and loyal First Lady, standing by her man, no matter how many indignities she's suffered because of his egregious behavior. In the end, impeachment failed but the damage was done. The Republicans proved that in their lust for power, they would try to claim the presidency in a partisan power grab. Ironically, both Newt Gingrich and their next Speaker, Bob Livonston, had to leave politics under a cloud of scandal, thought you never know it listening to Newt pontificate about right and wrong today). 

The fourth convulsion of distrust America endured was Bush v. Gore in which the Supreme Court stepped in and in a partisan 5-4 decision handed the highest office in the land to George Bush. Not with any rational reasoning but just because they could. And, go figure, our own Brett Kavanaugh had a hand in this injustice as well. Even though Gore won the popular vote, Bush was our president, Once again, those of us who protested that decision were called a "mob". Republicans seem to love using that word for anyone who opposes them. 

And Bush led to my next fit of outrage - the Iraq War. "Please," I begged in my blogs, "not again!" What was the purpose? Iraq had not attacked us. Saddam Hussein was as Trump would say "a bad dude" but hell, Kim Jung Un is a very, very bad dude and Trump "fell in love with him. (Trump's very own words.) We now know Bush and his bunch lied to convince us we needed to go to Iraq. Saddam never had weapons of mass destruction. Bush had a personal animus against him and so did Cheney due to the first Gulf War. Bush wanted to prove he was tougher than Daddy and if hundreds of thousands of Americans and Iraqis had to die for that purpose, so be it. In the Iraq war we, as Americans, abandoned our long held principles - Abu Ghraib, extreme rendition, black sites, torture. Oh, and look, guess who was a big part of making all that acceptable. Why it Brett Kavanaugh. Geez, he's everywhere!

That brings us to today's travesty which is Judge (now Justice) Kavanaugh himself. I watched these hearings, just as I had watched the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings all those years ago with a sense of deja vu. Here was the same self-controlled woman telling her story calmly. And here were the same male voices attacking her as "a little bit slutty and a little bit nutty". It was a farce from the start. They rented a hired gun female to questions her because they wanted to pretend to be respectful and they couldn't trust themselves. Of course, when they wanted to take back the stage to launch their hysterical attacks (think of the oh-so-hypocritical Lindsay Graham - who was once critical of Trump but is now his new best friend -attorney general, anyone?). Seriously, did anyone feel any suspense about how this would end? The Judicial Committee went a long to get along. No women on the Republican side of that committee because as Chuck Grassley said - "women just aren't willing to work that hard". Well, hell, we gotta' give'em a week to pretend were taking this seriously. "No problem, as long as we get it done before the midterms." Trump pretended as well to authorize a reopening of the FBI investigation - "but you can only question these people - not the polygrapher, not the other witnesses that might have backed up Dr. Ford's story or those who might have backed up Debbie Ramirez' story or those who were desperately trying to get through to the FBI to give statements they thought were relevant.

In the end, it happened exactly as I predicted it would from the beginning. The Republicans allowed a sham hearing of Kavanaugh and Ford; they allowed a sham delay:  they allowed a sham investigation; they allowed Democrat ONE hour each to read the ONE 47-page report (sharing pages) and then they voted and made Kavanaugh a Supreme Court Justice as they always meant to do. 

So all these things have, over time, made me question my government. Vietnam and Iraq made me doubt the sincerity of my leaders. Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill made me question the men who make our decisions in our representational form of government as a men only club. Impeachment made me question whether we should ever again expect any honor from the Republicans (so far, the answer is no). Bush v. Gore made me question the integrity of the Supreme Court. And the Kavanaugh hearings are all the other questions all rolled up into one, as well as faith that women will ever stick up for themselves and other women. Thank you, Senator Collins.

I always questioned Trump. I've always thought America was great, despite its obvious shortcomings in some areas. But maybe he's right. Maybe it isn't so great, after all. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Those Insufferable Old Bastards

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I remember watching the Anita Hill hearings as the old white male senators, two of them the same as today, demeaned her and diminished her. Remember "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty"? They accused her and abused her. It was obvious they didn't have a clue and didn't want a clue. They were content living in their privileged male dominated world with women as wives and secretaries and waitresses, not to be trusted with the truth.

That was in 1991 and here we are again, all these decades later, and nothing has changed, not even the people.

Of course, the next year was the Year of Woman. We thought we'd made progress toward becoming a more equal society.

But by now, we know the more things change the more they stay the same. The white male patriarchy will never give up its authority willingly.

America has always had a pecking order of importance. From the very beginning, it was white elite males, then black men, then women. African-American men got the right to vote via the 15th Amendment in 1870 - not that it did them much good as they were often denied the ability to exercise their franchise.

Women were not deemed worthy to vote until 1919, almost 50 years later! And that was after marching and protesting and being beaten and being jailed and being denigrated.

Presidential politics followed the same path. Forty-three white male presidents, then one black man Many of us truly saw Barack Obama's election as a sign of hope and change but what it actually did (especially when he was followedby Donald Trump) was give the racists among us permission to come out of the closet and take off their masks.

The level of virulent hatred against Obama was shocking, even though he was a good president who'd done exactly nothing to deserve it. Michelle was treated with the same nastiness despite the grace and beauty she brought to being our First Lady.

My conservative debaters tell me he was the worst president ever but they can never explain what he did to make them feel that way. But, oddly, they knew it before he ever took office, before they knew what he would do. I can see no other explanation but racism, pure and simple.

In the following presidential election, we had our first female candidate of one of the major parties and oh, my, God, the only thing that could be worse than a black man is a woman! Hillary was immediately vilified. She was every awfulness you could imagine wrapped up in one. She was a thief, a lesbian, a murderess, a traitor. With no evidence whatsoever, the right wing was convinced that at the least, she should be "locked up" but burning at the stake would be even better.

Now the old white elites are kicking it into gear again. Brett Kavanaugh is their perfect candidate. Product of affluence, arrogance and the entitlement mentality. Schooled in ivy league educational institutions that encourage men like him to believe they are the best of the best and should be able to have it all, whether that includes women or a place on the Supreme Court. It is owed to them as a kind of divine right.

Republicans and the President himself question why it took Doctor Ford so long to tell her story but all you have to do is look at the way Anita Hill was humiliated to know why women don't speak up. And now we are going to watch the old bastards destroy Doctor Ford as well. Why didn't she come forward sooner, indeed?

I was the victim of an attempted rape when I was 15. I was told afterwards that if I got their friend in trouble, the boys in high school would make sure no one ever spoke to me again. I would be shunned as a pariah, maybe I would even be attacked physically. I was terrified and didn't open my mouth for years, until long after we'd moved from that town.

When I was the Women's Outreach Director, women felt comfortable telling me their stories because they didn't think I'd judge them. I was stunned by how prevalent sexual assault, domestic violence and incest were. Most women then felt absolutely helpless to do anything about it. Police, prosecutors, judges were all men and most of them believed crimes against women belonged in a lesser category. Many of the women ended up recanting because with no support in the legal system, they believed it was the safest action they could take.

So, these old men, who seem not to have a drop of empathy in their souls think she must be doing it for money or glory or politics. They can't believe women would put themselves through this torture for love of country, not wanting a man they see as having no honor getting a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

They don't understand it because of course, they would never have the integrity to do it. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

It's Our Democracy, Stupid



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Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign was famous for its motto: “it’s the economy, Stupid.”

In 2018, the operative mantra should be: “it’s our democracy, Stupid.” The economy is beside the point. Not that the economy is ever irrelevant but compared to the far more important question regarding whether we will let our democracy slip through our fingers after two and a half centuries, it should be by far the lesser of our concerns.

Instead, of thinking about the stock market or unemployment, our passions should be dedicated to preserving the Rule of Law, Due Process, Equal Justice, Freedom of the Press, our system of Checks and Balances and Civil Rights for all Americans.

All those elemental principles of the United States of America are in grave danger thanks to the venal narcissist we elected to the White House in conjunction with a cowardly Republican Congress that refuses to accept its responsibility for being a co-equal branch of government.

What are some of the most common words used about this administration? Unprecedented, not-normal, never done before, unheard of. We don’t have laws against much of what he does because no president ever did them before.

No, previous president ever called our FBI and Justice Department liars and thugs and a cancer on our society. No previous president ever defied our intelligence agencies in favor of his own alternate universe of unreality. No previous president ever showed such contempt for our allies and consideration for our enemies. No previous president demeaned and derided his own staff, including his attorney general. No previous president called women fat pigs and crazed dogs.

No previous president ever invited Russian representatives to the Oval Office and blatantly shared intelligence with them (intelligence we had received from the Israelis). No previous president ever ordered his intelligence agencies to give up classified information on an on-going investigation (into himself) . Just this week we learned that he has declassified information on the Russian probe and FISA court.

Even Richard Nixon bowed to the Rule of Law in the end. He didn’t say, as Trump has, that he could pardon himself, defy the courts, stop any investigation, deny a subpoena....

What has Trump accomplished except to up-end the accepted order of things? He pulled us out of the Paris Accords, an agreement every country but ours had signed onto to counter climate change. There is no alternative plan to take its place because Trump would rather listen to right-wing conspiracy theorists than scientists. He pulled us out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement with no alternative plan to take its place, an agreement most of the major nations of the world worked on for years. He’s bolixed up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which made the U.S., Canada and Mexico more prosperous for decades with nothing to take its place. He ended our cooperation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership with no comprehensive plan to take its place. He turned our immigration policies into inhumane brutality with no reform except caging children and demonizing people fleeing from violence as rapists and murderers. He’s arbitrarily ordered citizens from entire countries banned as if they were all terrorists. He doesn’t trust any men but white men and no women at all. He’s denied free trade and inserted tariffs into our economy, risking the jobs of farmers and auto workers as well as other manufacturing that depends on parts made of steel and aluminum.

He’s made us a laughingstock to the citizens of other nations by electing him but we can live through that. What the nation can’t endure is watching our democracy disappear into the feckless, reckless maw of an autocrat.






Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Castration Complex and Negative Choices

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Our news cycles move so fast these days that it is almost impossible to write a compact blog about one subject without missing tons of equally important issues. So this one is just a series of thoughts about what is going on in our world.

* I honestly always believed men feared castration more than death itself but now I have watched Republican male politicians and male Trump followers willingly neuter themselves for his sake. They have become Eunuchs For Trump. Very strange phenomena.

* My favorite Democratic prospects for 2020 so far are Kamala Harris and Cory Booker but even more than them, I'm excited about Michael Avenatti. I think we need someone as willing to go for the throat in the political arena as Trump himself. The difference being that Avenatti is about 100 times smarter than Trump.

* Today, as I write this, it is the 17th anniversary of 911. Since then, we've had some relatively minor cases of terrorism in comparison to the massive scale of 911 and we've had several attempted cases that were stopped before the terrorists accomplished their mission. Why is that, do you suppose? Well, I believe it is because the dedicated men and women of our intelligence agencies and FBI have worked diligently to prevent terrorist attacks in the U.S. Yes, these would be the same people your president excoriates every day as lying Nazi thugs and traitors.

* It was so satisfying to watch Barack Obama and remember with fondness when we used to have a president that was judicious, intelligent, gracious, truthful, unifying and articulate compared to the president we have now, who is none of those things.

 * As Hurricane Florence roars toward the Southeast coast of the U.S., we've got to wonder if the Trump administration is anymore prepared to deal with the aftermath than it was in Puerto Rico. Hope the White House is stocking up on paper towels.

* Once again, my former church is taking a beating on the issue of child molestation and its attendant dishonest cover ups. It is not natural for human beings to be celibate. Even a promise to God cannot for long defy human nature.

* All our choices seem to be bad ones. Brett Kavanaugh, for instance. Should he be confirmed? No. No Judge who was found to have lied in previous confirmation hearings should be put on the Supreme Court. But are we under any illusions that the next one nominated would be any better?

Trump. Should he be impeached. There is certainly more than enough evidence that he not worthy to be president but then we'd end up with Pence, who, as a radically right religionist, would be every bit as bad in his own way.

Only answer to all this - vote, vote, vote! Blue!!!.





Friday, September 7, 2018

Reader Alert - Rant

                                                                 

Reader Alert - Rant - if you don't like that kind of thing, you might want to click off now.


Someone on another blog told me they admired me because I didn't have pity parties for myself but that isn't strictly true. Sometimes, I feel sorry for myself and that is the case right now.

I have had my checking account at First Merchant's Bank since long before they were First Merchant's. I never was one of their most affluent customers but for the most part, I think I was solid and played by the rules.

That all changed when I got sick and had to retire. My new financial strategy turned out to be of the "borrow off Peter to pay Paul" variety. That became even more so when I got Salmonella and thought I might be dying. I was so sick I couldn't summon the energy to care about anything.

I overdrew my checking account and that turns out to be a vicious cycle. When your social security check comes in, the bank takes their overdraft fees first which leaves you even less money to pay your bills. It is rather like borrowing from one of the check-cashing places. You borrow, have to pay them back, aren't left with enough to pay your bills and have to borrow again at extremely high interest rates. (I've never actually gotten money from one of them).

I never whined or complained about any of this. I usually just take my lumps when I deserve them. I certainly understand that banks can't allow customers to be overdrawn every month and that there is a price to pay for that. They have their rules after all.

But then my cousin sent me $1,000 to get my finances caught up. It was to get current with the bank and pay some things I needed to pay. I was so grateful and relieved - back in the black!

The clerk took my check, entered it in their system, then came back and told me they've have to put a seven working day hold on it because my account was overdrawn although much of the money was to go to become NOT overdrawn.

First, there is no such thing as a 7 working day hold because no matter when you deposit, you will run into a weekend which makes it 9 days. In my case, with the Labor Day holiday, it turned out to be 13 days.

"You're telling me in this era of modern day electronic communications, when Amazon can tell me if my payment went through in 30 seconds, it takes you 13 days to process a check? What, are you still using the Pony Express?"

She shrugged and said, "those are our rules?"

I asked, "and will you be charging me overdraft fees for every day that you have my check on hold?"

She shrugged. "Those are our rules."

I waited. By the time, my check was deposited, I still had $329 left out of my $1,000 but I was current with the bank.

I went down to First Merchants and asked to speak to a manager but none were available. I spoke to the same clerk that had taken my check. She said she was the "Acting Manager" when no managers were there.

"Do you have any authority?"

"I'm the Acting Manager. I'm sure I can help you."

"And you want to do this right here at the counter instead of taking me into a private room?" (The bank was pretty busy). She shrugged.

"Okay, then," I said and launched into my story (which, of course she already knew) but the rest of the curious customers didn't. I didn't bother to keep my voice down.

"I think if you put an asterisk beside my check, you should have also put a hold on overdraft fees and then forgive them when the check clears."

She shrugged, "those are our rules."

"And in my opinion, your rules are simply a scam to get undeserved money out of your customers."

She shrugged and said, "I'll talk to my manager when she gets back and someone will respond.

(This wasn't the whole conversation but you get the gist.)

Nothing I could do at that point except leave.

A couple of hours later, the manager called.

"I'm calling to inform you there is nothing we can do to rescind your overdraft fees," she said shortly, "is there anything else I can do to help you"

"Anything else? You haven't done anything to help me yet."

My cousin was also furious from his end of this transaction. He called his bank.  His check cleared his bank on August 23. First Merchant's didn't credit my account until September 4 while the fees continued to add up.

I think it is legalized thievery and it stinks.

So, there - I feel sorry for myself. If you read this, you can decide for yourself if I'm a whiner or if I have a valid point.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

But I Loooooove Him!

                                                            

We used to have women come into the jail with broken bones and black eyes to leave money in their batterer's commissary account. If you questioned them about it, they said, "but I looove him." He could have busted her nose or thrown her children down the stairs but still, she loved him. I've said it before but I believe it even more strongly as time passes - Trump groupies are like victims of Domestic Violence. Nothing can change their love of that man.

During the course of my career, I went to many Domestic Violence conferences in which we were advised to be patient, to be non-judgmental, to continue to help even if it was the fifth time you'd tken her to a shelter.

I never did understand the pathology of loving someone who mistreats you over and over. In time, my patience, non-judgmentalism, willingness to help burned completely out (especially when children were involved) and I gave up my position as Women's Advocate.

When they broke the inviolate rule of revealing the location of the safe house, calling him to come get her, so anxious to get back to him so that I had to take her farther away each time she called me. When she felt no remorse about asking me to risk my own life, fleeing to safety and wondering if a man with a sawed off shotgun was following me. They may be soybean farmers, lobstermen, nail makers or Harley Davidson employees at risk of losing their incomes thanks to Trump's trade war idiocy but they looooove him.

They can be women who shrug off being called fat pigs and liars and crazed dogs. They laugh when Trump says that they'll tolerate anything from a celebrity, including being grabbed by the pussy - ha!ha! They still proudly wear their Women for Trump teeshirts.

They can be black Uncle Tom ministers who kiss the butt of a president who has not one African American working in the West Wing of his White House.

They think climate change is a farce and the Russian probe is a witch hunt because he says so despite a mountain of evidence that has accumulated to prove otherwise in both cases
.. They believe he is draining the swamp even though more of his staff and supporters have left his employ or been charged or convicted of ethics violations than any other president.

If he does it, it must be good - breaking up families and locking children in baby prisons. Hey, that's cool because we know all Muslims are terrorists and all Mexicans are rapists and murderers and all Haitians have AIDS and all Africans come from shithole nations.

Meanwhile, he adores Nazis, dictators and White Nationalists. Real Americans are white

They cheer at his lies and his cruelty and his corruption and his many conflicts of interest.

Our battered women would call the police to rescue them in the desperation of the moment, then swear that the officers  coerced them to say he'd beaten her when she'd really fallen down the stairs. When reminded that lying to the authorities was perjury, she'd take the  blame herself in an attempt to get the prosecutor to withdraw the charges against him.

I think Trump supporters would do the same....because they looooove him.