Thursday, July 30, 2015

There, But For the Grace of God.....Go You

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"There, but for the grace of God, go I." That has always been my touchstone in dealing with other people even though I'm an agnostic who has no particular belief in God.

I never had an abortion but I wanted no more children after I had my son. I tried to make sure I never got pregnant but if something unexpected had happened, like my birth control failing, I would have had an abortion. I would have made arrangements just as soon as I knew. I loved my son and I think I was a good mother but I knew I was not by instinct the maternal type. Some women are, bless them. They are the ones who cry when their child starts school. That wasn't me. They are the ones who suffer from Empty Nest Syndrome. That wasn't me either.

People can have 20 children if they choose and although I think it is disgusting, it's their business not mine. But it is not their business how I choose to handle my own reproductive choices.

I was never on any type of assistance - no food stamps, no free lunches, no HUD housing. That wasn't because I wasn't poor enough to qualify at times but that I was fortunate enough to have a family able and willing to pick up the slack when I faltered. But you can bet, I would have applied for all those things if my folks hadn't been there to see that my son and I had food to eat and a place to live.

I'm not African-American. The police officers I've come in contact with have always treated me kindly. I never had to give my son "the talk" about obeying cops instantly even if you think they are being unfair, never backtalk them even if they are disrespecting you, don't, for God's sake, put your hands in your pockets, be submissive....and even that might not be enough. I've never had to worry that my son might be shot and killed simply for walking home from the store at night with iced tea and skittles wearing a hoodie because all that constitutes "suspicious behavior" when your skin is black.

I'm not an undocumented worker so I didn't come to the United States to find a better life. I've never had to live in fear that immigration officers would come pounding on the door to arrest me and deport me back to Mexico. I never had to slip out the back door of an employer's business to keep from getting caught without papers. I never had to worry about what would happen to my children if that happened.

I'm not Muslim so I never had to feel what it's like to be lumped into a collective mass under the heading "Islamic" and be judged by the worst examples of my faith even though I'm nothing like them and only want to live a peaceful life practicing my faith.

I've never had to walk into any government building which I help support with my taxes under a banner that symbolizes my past history as a slave and more recent history of a little girl trying to go to school as white adults scream vicious epithets at her and even more recent history of children shot dead in parks.

I'm not gay so I've never been discriminated against because of my sexual orientation and treated like a second-class citizen for wanting to marry the person I love or service in my country's military.

I've never been called a nigger or a terrorist or a queer or a lazy moocher or an illegal or a baby-killer. But had I been born under different circumstances, I could have called any of these things. I try to put myself in the shoes of others and imagine how they feel because, there, but for the grace of God, go I. And you know what? There, but for the grace of God, go you too.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trump - Exciting Flirtation or Real Love?

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Is it even possible for a political blogger to write about anyone but Donald Trump this week?, unfortunately, I don't think so. His "take no prisoner" tactics make it impossible for the media to ignore him....and they don't even want to ignore him....because they love the sidehow and the headlines and the controversy. Now, this is what we call a horse race! Give us that red meat!

I wonder how long we will have to endure the ravings of this narcissistic, egotistical asshole, a man who would make the world's worst president. You kind of figure even most of the fire-breathing right-wing candidates would settle down and try to be somewhat rational if they actually won but not Trump. I thought no one could trump (ha!ha!) Ted Cruz in the crazy sweepstakes but Cruz looks positively sane compared to The Donald. Trump is driving the Republican train right off a cliff and they seem not to know what to do about it....but they better think of something fast.

At first, I thought, "well, his nuttiness is an entertaining distraction but the Republicans will come to their senses soon and he'll implode." But no, it appears that the more outrageous he is, the more his poll numbers go up. He tells it like it is, don'cha know?

When he calls the other candidates idiots and stupid and lame and stiff and says John McCain is not a war hero (and yes, he definitely said it even though he denies it now), his fans cheer. When he says most Mexican immigrants are rapists and murderers and child molesters, they shout in approval. When he says he has a foolproof plan to eliminate ISIS, they buy into it.

They seem titillated by his arrogant braggadocio. Is this what a large swath of GOP voters want? Really? A stick-it-in-your-eye president? Do they believe that would be an effective form of governance?

Is the Republican party feeding its voters stupid pills and they just took it one treatment too far? You can almost feel the panic in the mainstream GOP from here. They created a Frankenstein as they fawned on Trump for years and now they don't know how to kill him off. But I don't think this monster is going to turn out to be a gentle giant like the real Frankenstein.

I still keep hoping that this is just a flirtation with the bad boy and in the end, the R's will give a sigh of regret and marry up with the boy next door, the one with a proven record of stability and reliability, like John Kasich. I don't know though, I keep underestimating the Republican inability to live in the real world. (Thank you Fox and Breitbart and Red State and the Conservative Tribune, et al.)

Donald Trump winning would probably be the best thing that could happen for the Democrats. It would propel Hillary right into the White House. And that's the result I want ultimately but even at that, it would leave me despairing of the GOP and their total lack of commonsense. Honestly, the Republicans becoming the Buffoon Party doesn't make me happy for my country.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Future of the Republican Party

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Honestly, if the Republicans don't get it together, I almost think 2016 could be the end of their reign as one of the two most powerful parties in America. I know they won big in 2014 and I know they have some built-in advantages, like gerrymandering and voter suppression, but I'm not sure even those things will be enough to keep them in the game if they can't impose some discipline and commonsense and cooperation on their members.

So far, that big 2014 win has been a disaster. The Republicans in Congress have accomplished exactly nothing. They started with such high expectations. "Watch how we roll!" they exclaimed. So, we've watched but they haven't even made it on to the track yet, much less started rolling.

The Democrats proposed legislation to remove the Confederate flag from our national parks and, low and behold, it passed! Until the Republicans belatedly noticed what had happened, that is, and threw a hissy fit, screaming and shouting on the floor of the House. As a result, John Boehner put up another bill rescinding the first bill. Of course, Democrats were livid about that so in the end, Boehner pulled his own bill. That's about how things have worked in the Republican Congress so far.

Remember how they were going to concentrate on jobs, jobs, jobs? Well, they just killed the infrastructure bill. At the present time, the issue of immigration reform is roiling their campaign but not only have they not passed an immigration bill, they haven't even proposed one.

They probably sighed in secret relief when the Supreme Court validated Obamacare because they had no plan whatsoever for how to deal with millions of Americans suddenly without healthcare.

Naturally, they have literally been foaming at the mouth about gay marriage although the majority of American don't even consider it an issue and have moved on.

Their nomination process for 2016 has been an unmitigated disaster. For years, Iowa (a midwestern state), New Hampshire (a northeastern state) and South Carolina (a southern state) have been the start of winnowing the candidates. Sure, sometimes it gets a little farcical with politicians petting pigs and kissing babies and eating deep-fried Milky Ways, trying to look like down home good old boys and girls but still, it was retail politics, and they had to convince real voters to cast real votes. Between these widely disparate states, we began to get a sense of who was actually viable.

But this year, the Republicans turned the power over to Fox News. Fox, and Fox alone, get to decide who is worthy based on polls that mean nothing at this point. But if you don't charge right up to the top ten early on, Fox says you can't take part in the debate, effectively killing your candidacy. Why bother going to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina? Fox has spoken.

It's odd, isn't it? Fox was created to be the servant of the Republicans, protecting and explaining and defending the GOP. Always on their side - right, wrong or indifferent. But in 2015, the servant pulled off a coup and became the master. It is no longer the Republicans pulling the channel's strings but Fox pulling the party's strings.

This has made the under-top-ten candidates a little testy. "Who the hell is Fox News?" they now demand to know, after it is too late. Of course, if you're in the stop ten, you're probably happy because Fox eliminated about half of your competitors for you.

And while all this is going on, Donald's Trump's bullying rampage against his opponents has taken him to the top. The Republican base evidently loves this stuff but I doubt if the party leadership does. Good old Donald calling the rest of the Republicans wimps and fools and idiots. Good old Donald, alienating vital Hispanic voters. Good old Donald, who can't be stopped because he's funding his own campaign and is accountable to no one. A bull in a china shop is dainty compared to The Donald and the Republican presidential field.

And I expect Fox is licking its lips at the prospect of Trump in a debate, throwing punches right and left. Because a cable network is first and foremost about its bottom line and it is entertainment that swells its bottom line. Fox may be loyal to a point but when ratings are involved, all bets are off. Sorry, guys. You trusted the wrong ally (which doesn't bode well for your diplomatic and negotiating skills should any of you become president - heaven forbid!)

All this is rather delicious for a liberal Democrat to sit back and watch but its sad too to see a once proud party reduced to what the GOP has become - a party in thrall to its crybaby base, a party that can't get out of its own way long enough to accomplish anything, a party that makes it decisions based on how much they hate the current president rather than what's good for the country, a party that seems to dislike most of its constituents including gays and African-Americans and Latinos and women and poor people and students.

If you think you feel the earth move now and then, it is probably Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and even Ronald Reagan rolling over in their graves.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Short Escape from Reality


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When I went to Florida, I totally divorced myself from the world. I didn't log onto a computer for over a week. I didn't watch any television or radio news. Brenda and I joked that the world could be at war and we wouldn't know it.

Instead, we watched the spectacular sunsets over the Keys, to the otherwordly sound of the boat people blowing on conch shells in tribute to the sun going down.

We admired the Royal Poincianas blooming brilliantly tangerine in the medians and the bougainvillea spilling over the sides of walls and fences in shades of scarlet and hot pink and lilac. We listened to the palm trees rustling and spied the occasional Iguana. We saw and heard Frigate birds and pelicans and gulls across the water.

We lost ourselves in a night of lights and the ding-ding-ding of slot machines at the Hard Rock Casino in Fort Lauderdale.

We gorged on shrimp po-boys and grouper and sandwiches mounded high with barbequed pork.

And then we headed home. On the first day out, we happened to see the headline in a day-old USA Today. "Obamacare Upheld by the Supreme Court!" Yes, yes, yes! I forgotten all about the Supreme Court's schedule. We hunted for and found a later newspaper headline. "SCOTUS Affirms Gay Marriage!"  More yeses!

Geez, the world was traveling at light speed while we weren't paying attention. What a joyful surprise. The ever-unpredictable Supreme Court made the right decisions (in my humble opinion) in two huge cases with far-reaching ramifications for Americans.

Of course, I suspected these would be the rulings because how could they not be? By deciding in the opposite way on either Obamacare or gay marriage, the court would have plunged the country into chaos. Millions of people suddenly without insurance. Gay people who thought they were married suddenly finding those marriages nullified. It would have been catastrophe.

Naturally, Scalia, Alito and Thomas would have done it anyway but the rational members of the court held sway, thank God.

Conservatives are pissing and moaning and gnashing their teeth ever since. They are always big on hyperbole but they've been even more over the top than they usually are. Glen Beck's website opined that Obama had somehow "intimidated or blackmailed" Chief Justice Roberts. Sean Hannity warned us that death panels were on their way, with the government feeling free to kill us with shots of morphine. (I've seen people die hard and personally, I wish the government would give me the option of being sent off with a shot of morphine). The Breitbart website huffed that the "law is apparently whatever Obama says it is", forgetting the many rulings that have gone against the president. Apparently, the laws should be whatever Breitbart thinks they should be.

The rhetoric got even more extreme on the gay marriage issue. Rick Santorum lamented that the court had "ruined the foundation unit of society." Glen Beck said the decisions might mean the end of radio programs like his because, of course....fascism. Obviously, Christians would no longer have the right of free speech.

Ted Cruz called it "some of the darkest 24 hours in the nation's history." Not the times when thousands of people died, like Pearl Harbor or the Battle of the Bulge or civil war battles or 911 but Obamacare and gay marriage. What a weird sense of priorities that man has.

Anyway, we were bumping along happily back to Indiana when we came to a Confederate flag rally in, I believe, Ashville, Alabama. The good old boys were there with their motorcycles, wearing their Confederate flag doo-rags. They had many more flags all around the Courthouse. People were honking and yelling their support.

I figured that in many cases, these were the same people who'd angrily booed SCOTUS' recent decisions.

Actually, though, no one is trying to ban the Confederate flag except from flying over government facilities that are supported by the taxes of those who see it as a hated symbol of slavery and discrimination. They are still free to fly it or post it on their homes and cars and businesses.

But the very same people who are outraged about losing their right to see the Confederate flag waving over their courthouse, have no qualms about denying the rights of other Americans to have healthcare or marry the person they love, which, you have to admit, are much more consequential to a person's life than a flag.

As always, rights are often in the eye of the beholder.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

U.S.S. Republican Ship of Fools

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It's difficult to keep track, isn't it? There are a few candidates missing here. Oh, yeah, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee are two and maybe Jim Gilmore and Peter King are two more. Do you think average Republicans can even identify all the candidates in this photo? 

As we watch all the hopefuls board the 2016 Republican Ship of Fools one by one, we have to shake our heads at how nonsensical the GOP has allowed its nominating process to become. There are some serious nominees here, including Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, maybe a few others. The rest are living in a world of fantasy, including Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, George Pataki (his great sin is being too mainstream), Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Lindsay Graham and oh, yes, the epitome of showboatism, Donald Trump.

But hopeless as their candidacies are, they can do some damage by making the Republican field look  stupid. Instead of Bush and Walker and Paul and Rubio sitting down for a real discussion of how they would handle the important issues facing the country, we will have Graham wanting to declare war on Day One of his presidency, Rick Perry wanting to building a wall four miles high and two miles wide between the U.S. and Mexico, Rick Santorum explaining how contraceptives are evil, Ben Carson opining that prisons prove gayness is a choice.... 

Instead of that serious debate among serious contenders, they will be dragged down having to match the Tea Party favorites to prove their conservative bona fides. The no-chance candidates will pull the potential nominees farther to the right than they would naturally go, much to their detriment in a general election. 

Meanwhile, Donald Trump will be the Genghis Khan of Republican field although he doesn't have a prayer of actually winning. He shredded them all in his announcement speech. Imagine how much bloodletting he'll engage in during the debates.

And who gets to make the decision about which Republicans will be allowed to participate in the debate (and, therefore, in the primary)? Why, Fox News, of course. The Republican leadership happily ceded its responsibility for vetting the candidates to good old Fox. (They are going by notoriously unreliable polling but they haven't revealed what polls they are using or what the criteria is). 

And, naturally, Fox is more interested in the entertainment value of the debates than in the actual goal of allowing voters to make commonsense decisions for winnowing the field. So, when you look at it that way, you can see that The Donald will definitely provide more bang for a news channel's buck.

Good old Reince Priebus, Republican Chairman, must be wondering where all his power went since Fox has more authority than the party in the nominating process and the Koch Brothers will have more money than the party in the election process. What does the GOP actually need a leadership for?

There has to be a better way of narrowing the field down to a few sane candidates who might actually have a chance of winning rather than watching them having to respond to the utterly fantastical assertions of the right-wing nuts so that they come to the general election weak and bleeding. 

Come on, Republicans, get with the program. The country is better off when we have a strong race of competing ideas. You're ensuring that your candidate will come into this with one hand tied behind his back. 


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

With Friends Like These......

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Hillary's campaign is beginning to bring back bad old memories. I'm starting to be reminded of just why I disliked Rachel Maddow and Ed Shultz and Chris Matthews so much in 2007. I'm remembering my resentment of Ted and Caroline Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi, et al.

It's all coming back to me how they screwed over Hillary for Barack Obama and I'm seeing the same thing again now, only this time, it is Bernie Sanders.  Most of the MSNBC crew were naively beguiled by Obama. Who could support a female, who, granted, was hard-working and experienced, a proven warrior, but also middle-aged and somewhat dowdy, compared to a handsome, hip young black man? Hillary was so old news while Obama was fresh and optimistic. He was change they could believe in. He was hope. He was the recipe for being able to cross the cultural and political divide that existed in Washington. (Uh huh, sure thing, how's that working out for them?)

They didn't actually come out against her so much as they were dismissive. They exalted him and damned her with faint praise. She, they told us, sadly, was a terrible campaigner. She was too cold or maybe it was too emotional. She arrogantly took her position as front-runner for granted. She was an elitist. She this, she that..... Meanwhile, there was Obama floating above the fray clad in the robes of the savior. God, he's so cool!

Surprisingly, considering their accusations about her, she was winning Texas and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Florida and Michigan and California  and even states like West Virginia and Kentucky, but yet, they swooned when Obama won little western caucuses in states that hadn't voted Democratic in a presidential election for generations. She won Massachusetts in spite of the most important Kennedy's going for Obama.

And the powers-that-be in the democratic leadership made sure those little caucuses were as important, or even more important in the scheme of things, as the big populous blue states she won. They withheld Florida and Michigan's votes until Obama was declared the winner, then let those states switch their votes to him so it looked all kumbaya within  the party.

I was furious about all that at the time because I felt like the woman had been treated pretty much the way women are always treated in this country, we who belonged to the women's auxiliary rather than the main group, which would, of course, be run by men. Always destined to be the cookie makers and the tea pourers.

And now, we have Bernie Sanders. And don't get me wrong. I really like Bernie Sanders but I'm hating, once again, seeing the liberal news crowd putting him on a pedestal compared to her.

Rachel Maddow pretends that she just wants a competitive primary ("that's even good for Hillary") but you can tell that below the surface, her heart goes pitty-pat for Bernie. "Really," you can almost see her hoping, "is there a possibility he could actually win?"

Chris Matthews had a panel that dissected Hillary's campaign with rather petulant dissatisfaction. She's staked out some strong liberal positions on immigration and voting rights and gay marriage but none of it so far, is enough to please the liberal pundit class.  

And she went to Texas on a fund-raising trip. Oh, my. Because money shouldn't be a factor just because the Republican, whoever he is, will have barrels of Koch money and Adelson money, as well as other millionaires and billionaires too numerous to mention.

I'm come to the conclusion that Hillary simply isn't pure enough to please the left. She's extremely bright but face it, she's a slogger. She's a worker bee. She puts her time in to learn the issues and concisely express where she stands. She is noted for being strong on women's and children's concerns, but face it, these aren't what the media finds glamorous.

Hillary, like her husband, will work with anyone if it means getting something done. Bill joined forces with the Bush's on various catastrophic events and developed a real friendship with them. He welcomes anyone to join his Foundation if they'll give money to his pet causes. Perhaps, he hopes they'll find enlightenment but if not, at least, he has their check to build a school or combat AIDS or immunize children or rebuild a community hit by tragedy.

I think Hillary is the same. She's practical, realistic. She knows everyone won't love her but maybe they can still find some common ground to achieve a common goal. On the other hand, she'll fight if she has too. She's engaged in hand-to-hand combat with her enemies before.

The Republican candidates are piling on. They aren't wasting a lot of time worrying about Bernie Sanders, no, they are making every effort to destroy Hillary's credibility and while they are doing so, the lefty media is sniffing contemptuously.

With friends like them, Hillary doesn't need any enemies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bruce or Caitlyn? What Difference Does It Make?

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Oh, man, I don't really want to do this but it almost seems obligatory for one who writes about social issues since it is the "Story of the Week".

Caitlyn Jenner, aka Bruce Jenner, made her big reveal, her transition from a man to a woman, in the splashiest way possible, appearing in a corset on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. At the same time, Caitlyn's Twitter page debuted and garnered over a million followers almost instantly.

I don't really care much about Jenner as an individual but the sad fact is that there are a lot of transgender people out there, miserably trapped in bodies that don't agree with with who they are in their heads. In a time when society is so much more accepting of homosexuality than it used to be, most transgender people are still deeply closeted, knowing the kind of contempt and vituperation they will receive if they announce themselves as what they are - from family, friends and the public, at large.

So, often, it takes a celebrity, someone famous and rich, like Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner to take on a controversial issue such as this one. No newspaper or news show would pay much attention if Joe Nobody tried to explain his position or state his case. In fact, the media mostly pays attention to transgender people when they commit suicide, brought to despair by their conflicted lives and lack of compassion from those around them.

In fact, Joe Nobody would never have the opportunity to sync his mind and body as Jenner has done because it is expensive to transition from one sex to another. It is especially costly if you have significant reconstructive surgery in an effort to be attractive in your new role.

Jenner's very public sex change has been carefully orchestrated, of course, from the first interview with Diane Sawyer to the pictures of a semi-transitioned Jenner and then to the heavily advertised article and photos in Vanity Fair. There is also a reality t.v. program looming on the horizon.

It all seems rather crass and commercial but it is probably also the only way it could be done to accomplish what Jenner wants to accomplish which is to draw attention to transgenders and their struggle to be accepted for what they are.

And, really, why should it be anyone else's business? If you are a man living in a woman's body or vice versa and your most heartfelt wish is to integrate the two parts of your self into one coordinated whole, why should anyone care?

I, personally, don't care. Life is all about trying to discover yourself and and doing so with the most integrity and honesty possible. If changing sexes is what it takes for you to do that, more power to you. If you have the wherewithal to help make it easier for others not so fortunate as Caitlyn Jenner is doing, hurray for her.

My life will go on exactly the same with Jenner is Bruce or Caitlyn and so will yours.