Wednesday, April 25, 2012

50 Shades of Grey - No Total Redemption, Please





I have recently started the third, and last, book in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Make no mistake, the 50 Shades books are, at their heart, romances, pure and simple, albeit somewhat twisted. I am not normally a reader of romances.  They are mostly so predictable (this is at the insistence of publishers who issue specific guidelines about how and when plot twists must occur). Hero and heroine in romance novels typically hate each other until they love each other. It takes them most of the book to first, fight against, and then accept their mutual feelings.

It is the twistedness that makes the 50 Shades series interesting. Christian Grey is a unique and compelling hero. He is devastatingly handsome and fabulously successful but a severely abusive childhood finds him unable to reach sexual satisfaction as an adult except when acting as a Dominant, visiting bondage and discipline upon his Submissive partner. Guaranteed, author E. L. James tells you all you ever wanted to know about how B & D works in great and titillating detail, if in fact, you did want to know. Even if you think you didn't, you might find it more fascinating than you anticipated.

One minor problem I had with 50 Shades was the same one I had with the Twilight series. Is it really believable that worldly and sophisticated men like Vampire Edward and Dominant Christian fall in love with oh-so-innocent and rather ditzy heroines, like Bela and Anastasia Steele? Well, yes, I guess the story demands it because our ladies must be virginal and trusting in order for true love to conquer all which, we know from the start, despite some setbacks and misunderstandings, is what is going to happen.

I have only barely started Book Three of 50 Shades and already Christian and Ana are married with Christian having moved beyond his most controlling and negatives desires. This is my other small problem with the series. I don't believe much in people changing dramatically and quickly, even for love. Can Ana really cause such a metamorphosis in Grey's behavior when years of therapy couldn't?

Of course, we've been set us up for this. Christian, other than his sexual hang-ups, is good and kind and wonderful. He's a terrific employer, a philanthropist whose business goal is to develop technologies to help poor people....his mega-wealth being an almost incidental side effect. He is loving toward his adoptive family. He's even "kind" to his Submissives if you can get past butt plugs and floggers and nipple clamps and all the other accouterments of B & D he keeps in his playroom which Ana calls "The Red Room of Pain".

By Book Three, we're down to just the most erotic and playful and voluntary elements of B & D like hand cuffs and spanking. Ana is in full command at this point. Yes, he can still get angry and domineering but all she has to do is a) protest or b) vamp him and it's all over but the shouting.

I like my heroes to be as much anti-hero as hero. In my own books, the Rafe Vincennes series, (https://www.amazon.com/author/vwilliams) or (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/126930), the first novel is Sociopath? Rafe's second grade teacher wonders whether a 7-year-old can merit that diagnosis. It is a question readers have to decide for themselves. Rafe too has the love of a beautiful woman but despite that, he remains flagrantly unfaithful. He believes society's rules don't apply to him. Bypassing cops and courts, he perpetrates his own brand of retribution upon those who harm him or his. Rafe too, has his good side, but he is definitely a 50/50 proposition, equal parts dark and light,  and it will be ever so. He will not be converted; he will not be redeemed.

And this is what I hope: that at the end of Book Three of the 50 Shades series, Christian still has a bit of his dark side because it is that which sets him apart and makes him more appealing than the general run of romance heroes.












Thursday, April 19, 2012

To Love Or To Be Loved - Rafe Returns!


The second book in the Rafe Vincennes series has been published. Rafe is now a NASCAR champion but his sexual adventures and penchant for visiting his own unique brand of retribution on those who harm him remain the same.

To Love Or To Be Loved available for all e-readers via Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/146893 or for your Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/author/vwilliams .


A Shade of Gray Called Parity



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Those Gullible Republican Voters

I think Republican politicians must laugh at the gullibility of their constituents when they get together in the congressional cloak rooms and in private dining rooms at the country club. I believe this because rank and file Republicans appear to have no clue about their own self-interest and no thought of holding their representatives' feet to the fire for "wrong" votes.

As outlined by Chris Hayes, who hosted the Rachel Maddow Show last night, there have been several votes in the last few years that highlight this issue. The "public option" on health care was approved by a large majority of Americans but Republicans voted it down. President Obama's plan to end subsidies to oil companies that are making record profits were wildly popular with a vast segment of Americans but Republicans killed it. The President's Jobs bill enjoyed wide support with both Democrats and Republican voters but Republicans flushed it. Most recently, 72 percent of Americans agreed that people making over a $1,000,000 annually should pay at least as much in taxes as a middle class family. Republicans filibustered and it went down to defeat.

Why do Republicans do this and why do they think they can vote against the will of their constituents and not pay a price?

They do it because their big money donors are on the other side (and, oh, Baby, has this situation gotten worse since the Supremes declared corporations people and donations free speech and thus, unlimited) and with enough money all things are possible, even getting your constituents to overlook your unpalatable votes. For one thing, you can run ads that keep your supporters distracted by something else. (Obama is coming to get your guns! Obama is turning America into a European-style socialist nation! Obama is a Muslim who wasn't even born in America!) And it helps when you have an entire news network on your side. Fox cleverly sets up the arguments that we will then see parroted on Facebook by lower and middle-class Republicans. And beyond that, Rush Limbaugh will instill the Republican talking points into the Dittoheads (do they still call themselves that?) who will then carry them out into the world.

I just had a fierce debate on Facebook with one of the Republican apologists. From what I gather, her family is doing pretty well financially although I don't think they'd be called rich by any stretch. But, by God, she will fight to the death for Mitt's right to pay 13.9% income taxes on his $20 plus million of annual income! It's those welfare people who don't pay any taxes that she's steamed about. She thinks even welfare recipients should pay income taxes....which, of course, is a zero sum game because then we'd have to increase what they collect to subsidize the taxes they pay back to us for providing them welfare in the first place....because you can't get blood out of a stone. In Indiana, mothers who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families collect $239 a month per child. I wonder what dollar amount my friend would demand out of that munificent income? Willie Sutton, the bank robber, once said when asked why he robbed banks - "because that's where the money is". By contrast, my Republican debater thinks we should leave the real banks alone and, I don't know, rob food banks instead, I guess.

She was hugely indignant about Hilary Rosen's comment that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life because she herself was a stay-at-home Mom and she told me in no uncertain terms that she had to work hard! And I agree, mothers work hard whether they stay home or go out to a job. I tried to make the point that, either way, life is easier for those who have a lot of money and don't have to worry about buying groceries or making the house payment or coming up with the car insurance premium out of an already stretched-to-the-breaking-point budget. But my political opponent wasn't buying it. She insisted that Ann was practically a Christian saint for having raised five sons and money didn't buy happiness and I shouldn't resent Ann just "because she had a few extra dollars lying around". (Of course, I consider $250 million to be a tad bit more than a "few extra dollars" but, whatever). When I asked about Jesus saying "give what you have to the poor and follow me" and how that played into Republican philosophy, she told me I had taken Jesus out of context! At that point, I recognized hopelessness when I saw it and abandoned the battlefield.

And now we have Dick Cheney, who recently got a new heart although it appears to be just as hard as the old heart, proclaiming that Barack Obama has been an unmitigated disaster for America. How rich is that? The Bush administration immediately began running Clinton's surplus into a massive deficit by virtue of tax breaks to their rich buddies. The Bush administration, not content with one war in Afghanistan, started a second war in Iraq (one my own Governor Daniels, perpetual presidential nominee, promised would top out at $50 billion though it is now estimated to have cost the U.S. at least a trillion dollars, not to mention, of course, almost 4500 deaths and God knows how many seriously wounded, physically and/or mentally.). The Bush administration created a climate (and a Supreme Court) that declared anything the president does automatically legal, simply because the president did it.  They wrote memos touting the okayness of flouting America's signing of the Geneva Convention which outlawed the use of torture by any civilized nation. This was the administration that essentially wrote off one of our most treasured American cities after Hurricane Katrina. Although Republicans call Obama an "appeaser", it wasn't Barack who played kissy face with a Saudi Arabian sheik at his ranch in Texas and it wasn't Barack who spirited a planeful of Saudis out of New York after 9/11 despite the majority of of 9/11 terrorists having been from Saudi Arabia, including Osama bin Laden.

None of that seems to sink in to Republican supporters so I don't suppose their representatives' votes against the Jobs Bill and the Oil Subsidy Bill and the Buffett Rule bill will sink in either. Even Republicans who have been booted by their insurance companies for having a pre-existing condition will somehow support their party in trying to overturn Obamacare. Even Republican secretaries will support Mitt and his buds getting even more tax breaks although they pay twice as much on their own lowly incomes. Even female Tea Partiers who relied on contraceptives themselves will follow along obediently as congressional and state level Republicans try to pass Personhood Amendments that would outlaw most forms of birth control. Even Republican women who are one paycheck away from financial catastrophe will shout praise when Mitt promises to defund Planned Parenthood. Grand Old Party voters, who always claim to be for limited government, will rally 'round their politicians as they pass Trans-Vaginal Ultrasound bills and over-rule doctors on defining a necessary medical procedure. They shout their support for breaking unions (Wisconsin, Indiana, among others) and letting the auto industry fail and letting foreclosures proceed (all of which their presumptive nominee supported). And if the Republicans in Washington also refuse to renew the Violence Against Women Act and decry Title 10 and vote for the Blunt Amendment, why that's fine and dandy. I see these R's on Facebook enthusiastically supporting the Ryan Budget and when I ask if they know what it actually calls for doing, no one ever answers me back.

I don't get it. When politicians and corporate money can so totally turn voters against their own best interests, there is something desperately wrong with our democracy.






Friday, April 13, 2012

She's Never Worked A Day In Her Life!

Most of us women in the lower socio-economic classes knew exactly what Hillary Rosen meant when she said this about Ann Romney. Of course, we all know that being a mother is work, especially if you have five kids. Hillary should have added the phrase "outside the home" because I've done it both ways and raising children while also fulfilling a commitment to a job is a lot harder path and that's a indisputable fact, especially when, even with that paycheck, you can still barely make ends meet.

Because we all know is that being a mother is harder when you have to stuff a cranky toddler into a snowsuit at 6:00 a.m. in order to drop them off at the daycare center so you can get to work yourself in time to punch the time clock. And being a mother is harder when your son needs to get to Little League practice by 4:00 and you don't get off until 5:00 and anyway, you're stressed because the damn car is acting up again and you aren't going to have the money out of this paycheck to replace the alternator and you sure don't have that second Cadillac to fall back on. And being a mother is harder when your teenager begs you for an Ipod like all the other kids have and the budget is already so tight....but hell, you'll get the Ipod and do without the shoes you were planning to buy yourself. And being a mother is harder when you're bone-weary from typing letters all day and now there's dinner to fix and laundry to wash and dishes to be done before you can collapse. And being a mother is harder when you're torn because one of the kids is sick but you'll get written up if you miss anymore work.

Let's face it, folks, being a mother, even of five sons, is a hell of a lot easier when you have $250 million to be a mother with. I think what Hillary meant, more than that Ann never had to work a day in her life, is that Ann never had to worry a day in her life. She never had to call the bank and cross her fingers that there was enough in her account to make the house payment (or in Ann's case, house payments if, in fact, there are mortgages on any of the Romney homes). She never had to wonder how in the heck she was going to come up with enough to pay the car insurance (or in Ann's case, many car insurances). She never had to wander through the grocery store, adding machine in hand to try to decide if she could afford both bananas and strawberries, roast beef and chicken.

Presumably, a woman as rich as Ann Romney wasn't trapped in the house all day, every day with five boisterous kids. What do you want to bet that there was a nanny or an au pair or at least a regular babysitter so that Ann could still have a life of her own beyond being a mother?

Ann says she's faced hardships and we know she has, having once been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which is now in remission. That must have been truly frightening and difficult but let's face it, even the most awful situations are made easier to bear with money. Ann never had to be concerned that she'd reach the limits of her major medical and be denied further coverage by her insurance company. She never had to deal with the prospect of the deterioration of her health without knowing that round-the-clock care would be available so she could remain in her home....and it wouldn't be her family who had to provide for all her intimate needs. And Ann at least knew that she and Mitt could afford any and all state-of-the-art medical care for the treatment for her illness.

So, you know, the gasping in horror by the right-wingers at the very implication that poor Ann Romney hasn't struggled and suffered and worked her fingers to the bone just like all those gals who run punch presses and answer phones and deliver food and empty bed pans, all while also raising children, and stressing over how to pay the bills is just plain ridiculous.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lost in the Fifties

Ronnie Milsap once recorded a song about being "Lost in the Fifties". Twenty-first century Republicans appear to have taken that slogan and made it their own. It made for a great song but not such a great philosophy for a modern political party.

Minnesota Republicans are planning to put an anti-gay marriage initiative on the ballot. Tennessee is about to give teachers the privilege of  "disputing" scientific theories (i.e., evolution, climate change) they believe are wrong. Republican-led states too numerous to mention are attempting to limit family planning and wall off the right to an abortion with so many restrictions as to make one impossible to obtain. State after Republican state have initiated voter i.d. laws that serve the same purpose as the infamous poll tax once did, namely, discouraging minority votes, along with those of students, the elderly and the poor. Republican-dominated states are rolling back the rights workers fought for by denying collective bargaining or as my own state of Indiana did, becoming a right-to-work state.

Even as Augusta is being pressured (once again) to let go of the past and allow women membership in their prestigious institution, you Republican men must be thinking - "my God, is nothing sacred?"

You can almost hear the yearning in Republican voices for the America of Leave it to Beaver and Happy Days and, most especially, Father Knows Best, because, as far as they're concerned Father did, and still does, know best.

Ah, for the good old days when wives in aprons met you at the door to welcome you home after a hard day's work. Even if those wives disagreed with you, they told you so gently and sweetly, behind closed doors, so that they never undermined your authority in front of the children or anyone else. And she never worked outside the home. What money she had in her pocketbook was dictated by your generosity (or lack thereof).

If she did get a job, it was a little hobby job, just for pin money, because, of course, employers would never fast-track her for promotion because she'd probably just get pregnant and leave, don't you know, contraception being the iffy thing it was back then. And that's just the way you liked it, wasn't it, Republicans? When the ever-present threat of pregnancy kept the little woman from becoming too damned independent?

And back then, it was just you white males in the boardrooms and in the executive suites and on the golf courses. I expect it was a lot more comfortable running things with only your own kind to have to deal with seeing as how you all thought alike on issues women and African-Americans could never understand.

You were the police officers (policemen)  and the fire fighters (firemen) and the soldiers, the lawyers and the doctors. Even when women were librarians and postal workers and teachers, the Head Librarian and Postmaster and the Principal were invariably male.  You thought that was the natural order of things, didn't you? You at the top, us at the bottom.

And really, I can see how you would miss that era when you were the kingpins of society - when women knew their places (in the kitchen) and gays did too (in the closet) and so did Blacks (in the back of the bus). I suppose it must be hard to give up so much power once you've had it.

But, I'm not sure you can build a political majority around whiny bitterness. Because, actually, most blue-collar men were happy when their wives could ease their financial burden by bringing home a dependable paycheck once the pill came along to take the element of uncertainty out of every sexual act. And most fathers were happy when their daughters could aspire to the Principal's office or the partnership position.  And most boys were probably delighted when girls could meet them head-on in the bedroom to engage in stress-free sex. I'm not sure, Republicans, that your sons bought into your argument that the girls who'd have sex with them were, by definition, sluts.

You are so far behind the curve on these issues and you're only getting farther behind. Yeah, you have your hard-core group of true believers but that group is getting smaller. They are mostly people who are fearful of change, like you.

But the majority of us think gay marriage is fine and women in combat is fine and sex without the risk of pregnancy is very fine. We're good with our doctors and lawyers (and even our senators) being women or African-American or gay. We're good with our next door neighbors being interracial or homosexual or Muslim as long as they are good neighbors.

Do we take a chance by opening ourselves to the world of diversity instead of barricading ourselves in the equivalent of political gated communities of only people like us (those brown people next door could be terrorists!) Well, yes, I suppose we do a little but there's always risk in anything we do. Equally as often, the betrayals come from those you trusted most - pedophile priests and respected university coaches and violent husbands and the boy next door who turns out to be a rapist. Familiarity is only the illusion of safety.

The Fifties might have been good for you but it wasn't that great for many of us....and there's no way we're going to let you take us back there.

 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Republican Voter I.D. Con Game

My mother is 92. She has proudly voted in every election since she reached voting age. She and Dad moved a lot but no matter where they lived - Illinois, Colorado, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania and more - she made the effort to register and vote. She, like most of her generation, believed it was her duty and her responsibility as a citizen and she's always been one to take being a citizen very seriously. Too bad her representatives don't feel the same way about her.

Because she will not vote in this year's presidential election. Oh, she's still plenty bright enough. The problem is that she had a very bad wreck last March and we convinced her that it was time to give up the car keys. (It was her nine-plus-decade reflexes that were the problem). She finally agreed but it was a bitter pill for a woman who has always been self-sufficient and independent.

So what does driving have to do with voting, you ask? The answer is that here in Indiana (like many other states) the Republicans passed a voter i.d. law that requires an "official" government-issued picture identification. We forgot about that until Mom's license were already expired.

Oh, yes, she could get a State i.d. She could but she won't. She's embarrassed and ashamed of no longer being fit to drive a car. Can you understand how that feels for a woman who has had a license and been driving for 77 years without ever having an at fault accident until this last one?

"In a million years," she said adamantly, "I will not humiliate myself by going to the license bureau to petition for an I.D. like I'm a senile old crone!"

I try to convince her that the gals at the BMV wouldn't think a thing about it. They probably have lots of elderly people come for an i.d. when they no longer drive. But, she's not buying it. She sees it as a humiliation and a lack of respect on the part of her government....period.

We have lived in this house since 1991 and have voted in the same precinct in every election. The poll workers know us as soon as we walk through the door. They've already got their finger on our signature line by the time we get to the table.

Mom could produce 100 different pieces of identification - library cards and utility bills, Medicare cards and social security cards, credit cards and birth certificates and marriage licenses. None of that matters, of course. Because the Republicans, in their wisdom, decided that we have to have that government-issued official stamp of approval - the picture i.d.

You might think this happened because Indiana had a huge problem with voter fraud but you'd be wrong. In fact, our only recent case was perpetrated by our very own Secretary of State, Charlie White, who has been charged with seven felonies, including three counts of voter fraud. Charlie is a Republican as well as being our state's chief election officer! Seriously. You can't make this shit up.

Again, you might think, the Republicans would have been horrified that after they made such an issue of voter fraud, their very own Secretary of State was the one caught out committing this particular crime but again, you'd be wrong. In fact, what happened was that our governor, Mitch Daniels, (perennial potential presidential candidate) made an interim appointment hoping that the judge would reduce Charlie Smith's charges to misdemeanors so that he could instantly give Charlie his old job back. Alas, this didn't happen.

But, still, chalk one up for the Republicans because the voter i.d. law did exactly what it was intended to do. It denied a reliably Democratic voter like my Mom the right to vote. Hardest hit by voter i.d. laws are young people, old people, poor people and minorities. In other words, a large part of the Democratic base. Multiply Mom by thousands and it just might turn an election in favor of the Republicans - which is the point, of course.

It is all part of the Republican's stealth agenda. They campaign on jobs and deficits...bread and butter issues - but when it comes to governing, they switch gears and turn their attention to screwing labor, women and Democratic voters.