Saturday, December 24, 2016

What Do Trees Have To Do With Christmas?

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What do trees have to do with Christmas? What does Jesus have to do with Christmas?  What does Santa have to do with Christmas?  What do presents have to do with Christmas?

The answer is: they are all part of this joyous conglomeration of rituals we celebrate as Christmas. The holiday does not belong to any one religion. It is free for everyone who wants to join in its spirit of love.

If Christ is the reason for your season, that's wonderful. Pray for your loved ones' happiness. Put up a manger scene. Go to church. But be pleased for anyone else who gets pleasure from this holiday even if their ways are not your ways. We don't all have to do it the same.

When my son was in elementary school, there was one little Jewish girl in his class (maybe the whole school). Yes, she got the holiday off. What would expect her to do? Go to school by herself? And yes, her family had a Christmas tree and she came back to school excited to tell about the presents she received.

So Ms. Christian, she may not have believed the same as you but she still entered into the loving spirit of the season. Hurray for her family.

It doesn't matter how people greet you. You're taking exactly the wrong thing from what Christmas is supposed to represent if you get offended by someone telling you Happy Holidays. Just be grateful someone cared enough to give you a wish for happiness at all. You people who complain about Happy Holidays remind me of that old saying - "he'd bitch if they hung him with a new rope."

If God is real, who do you think he will judge most harshly - the person who takes a moment to wish another Season's Greetings or the person who snarls at them in return?

So, please, let's just all appreciate Christmas in whatever way is most meaningful for us and let others do the same.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Republicans Don't Believe In Democracy Anymore

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Somewhere along the line, Republicans got so caught up in their own sense of self-righteousness that they quit believing in democracy and began, instead, to believe that America belonged to them by divine right.

I think it began with Bill Clinton. Republicans were so incensed that Americans would choose someone they considered white trash from Arkansas (the very same kinds of people, ironically enough, who now make up a large part of their base) that they began to try to destroy him from Day One. The Clinton's weren't Washingtonian elites and therefore, weren't fit to live in the White House.

So Republicans obstructed and investigated and prevaricated. The list of -gates they came up with was endless - Whitewatergate and Travelgate and RoseLawFirmgate and CattleFuturesgate and, well, there were so many, I can't remember them all. And the media was complicit. They didn't like the Clintons either. The New York Times was one of the prime purveyors of breathless accusations about Whitewater, all of which proved to be nothing.

In case, you've forgotten, we had fake news back then too. Groups like Judicial Watch started the whole thing in the early days. Men like David Bosse (now part of Donald Trump's cabinet) made their careers on scurrilous allegations against the Clintons (Hillary Killed Vince Foster! The Clintons Are Involved In Drug Dealing Out Of Mena, Arkansas!) There was a whole cottage industry devoted to making life miserable (and costly) for the Clintons and their friends. Was there a "vast right-wing conspiracy"? You bet your ass there was!

And then along came Linda Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg and her son, Jonah, and poor Monica Lewinsky. And they finally had a real thing. Granted, it was a small thing - far from constituting a high crime or misdemeanor but it was enough. So they hired a special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, with the mission to hang Clinton out to dry and that they did. It wasn't even enough to impeach him, they put every lascivious detail on the internet to further humiliate the president. Because, they so strongly believed in the "public's right to know". Uh huh.

I expect it was David Bosse who was able to get back in touch with the Clinton women to bring them to the Trump/Hillary debate since he'd been their mentor and payee during the glory years of the Clinton scandals. Once you've accused someone of murder and drug dealing, can rape be far behind?

In the meantime, just for fun, they shut down the government. That was the first time but it wouldn't be the last because everything is fair in love, war and politics, don't you know?

That whole "disagreement ends at the water's edge" philosophy American politicians used to honor went by the wayside early on. They accused Clinton of "wag the dog" when he tried to bomb Osama bin Laden (you remember bin Laden, don't you?)  The right-wing media and Republican representatives were on cable news and radio calling him out constantly. Any respect they once had for the office of the presidency was gone.

So, then we had the election of 2000, in which Al Gore won the popular vote. The Republicans who now preach to Democrats to "suck it up, Buttercup" and accept Donald Trump as our president, weren't quite so accepting themselves in 2000. When the results seemed in doubt, they immediately hired every lawyer on their side who knew election and constitutional law. They fought their case all the way to the Supreme Court until that august body decided George Bush should be declared the winner. After which, in the spirit of a united country, Al Gore gave a gracious concession speech.

So, then we had 8 years of Bush and the Republicans were deficit hawks no more. They positively reveled in spending money. Dick Cheney said deficits didn't matter so they fought two wars without paying for them and they passed a new entitlement, Medicare Part D, without paying for it. And they handed out tax breaks like there was no tomorrow. And 2 + 2 still equaling 4, the deficit soared but they didn't care....until, that is, Barack Obama became president, of course, when they all became super-hawks again.

They treated Obama every bit as badly as they had Clinton, promising on the day he was inaugurated that they would stonewall everything he tried to do and then proceeded to do exactly that for 8 years. They again shut down the government. They threatened to default on our nation's bills (earning us a lowered credit rating). They walked us up to fiscal cliffs. They refused to confirm his nominees. They set new records for using the filibuster. Their contempt dripped from their voices as they called him weak and feckless. Gee, they said, wouldn't it be great to have a strong leader like Vladimir Putin? They wrote letters to our friends (Israel) and enemies (Iran) deliberately undermining their own president.

I'm sure they would have impeached him too had he given them even the slightest grounds but he didn't. He has been honest and faithful and gracious and rational through his eight years as president, as have Michelle and his daughters.

That didn't prevent them from calling him a Muslim. It didn't prevent them from declaring that he isn't an American. It didn't prevent them from yelling out "liar!" at the State of the Union address. And that's the mild stuff. If you want to hear the rest, listen to Rush or Sean or Breitbart or InfoWars. If you want to see vile renderings of the First Family, mosey around on Facebook sometime.

And in the last 8 years, they have become more overt and more bold. In the states, they've engaged in voter suppression of all kinds - demanding often difficult to obtain photo i.d., closing polling places where Democrats (read: African-Americans) are the majority so that people have to stand in long lines to exercise their franchise, taking away early voting hours. In Florida, they refused to let people hold their place in line so they could go to the bathroom.

When the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, the Republicans refused to update it. They opening laughed about the new regulations they would put in place since they were now free to do so.

And on a separate track, the Supreme Court (this was once again David Bosse's group) gave us Citizens United which declared that corporations were people and money was free speech.

In various states, Republicans have enacted undemocratic legislation to benefit themselves. In Michigan, many towns are ruled by Town Managers appointed by the government to supercede duly elected representatives. They pass bills by voice vote with the Speaker declaring the winner though it is far from obvious that their side had the votes to prevail. Republicans have had sessions on holidays or in the dead of night to work their will. They don't allow Democrat minorities to call witnesses or even sometimes to attend hearings. In Ohio, the Republicans put abortion restrictions in their budget, something that had never been done before and couldn't be repealed.

Kansas tried to remove power from its judiciary when they didn't approve what the governor wanted. In Indiana, when the citizens elected a Democratic Secretary of Education, the Republican legislation simply took away the power of that office.

The latest and most extreme example that the Republicans have given up on democracy in favor of "to the victors go the spoils" is North Carolina. The voters in that state had nerve enough to elect a Democratic governor to replace the sleazy, corrupt Pat McCrory. First, McCrory fought tooth and nail to try to declare the results invalid, alleging voter fraud and demanding recounts. (So much for "suck it up, buttercup")  He finally had to give up but in the most blatant power grab in modern times, the Republicans introduced bills a) requiring Senate confirmation of the new governor's appointees (something that had never been required before), b) cutting the number of employees who report to the governor from 1,500 to only 300, c) giving themselves more power on the Board of Elections which sets the rules for balloting in North Carolina. (Republicans will be in charge on election years; Democrats will be in charge on non-election years. Clever, huh?)

So now, we come to Donald Trump, who lost the popular vote by almost 3 million. But yet, those paragons of propriety, the Republicans, caution us not to buck the system but to be good Americans and give him a chance.

I can tell you one thing - in light of what I've watched from the Republicans for the last 30 years, I'm fucking sick and tired of being a gracious loser.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thank You For Nothing

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I am so freaking sick and tired of hearing gutless Democrats and milk toast media people blaming Hillary for her own defeat.

One of the statements I often hear Republicans make, particularly Kellyanne Conway, political spinner par excellence, a statement that is then echoed by pundits and pols, is that Hillary didn't have a message. She just didn't reach those white disaffected unemployed workers in Middle America. She should have stuck more with "it's the economy, stupid".

Really? Were all of you so busy talking about her emails that you didn't have time to listen to her speeches or read her policy papers? Was there not enough pizazz in her talks about what she intended to do as president to deserve as much coverage as Don the Con, Mr Shoot-From-The-Hip Showman?

Because I did pay attention and I knew exactly what her message was. She wanted to make college more affordable for young people. She wanted to strengthen and expand Medicare and Medicaid. She wanted to raise the minimum wage. She wanted tighten restrictions on the way the rich protect their money. She wanted to make equal pay for equal work the standard for women. She wanted to make sure Roe v Wade remained in effect. She wanted to keep but improve Obamacare. She wanted to make gay rights even more inclusive. She wanted to pass comprehensive immigration reform while also embracing the DACA Dreamers and their families. She wanted to empower alternative energy sources in order to minimize climate change and create the job of the future. All those positions sound pretty positive to me....for all Americans, including the white working class.

I could go on but what difference, at this point, does it make?

I've heard some analysts say those white Americans who feel victimized by the global economy didn't think she related to them enough. She stood with gays and Black Lives Matter too much. She embraced identity politics too much.

But, if that's the case, what would you have had her do? We are all Americans - black, white, brown, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, male, female, transgender. Would you have have admired her more if she'd faced the reality of division in America by tossing everyone but white Christians overboard as Donald Trump did? Is that the honorable way to find political success? Did you really want a president who picked a "chosen people" and let everyone else go by the wayside?

A friend of mine told me, "face it, Vic, she wasn't a good candidate. People just didn't like her?"

But evidently 2.7 million more Americans liked Hillary than liked Donald Trump.

No, the problem was the insurmountable obstacles that were placed in her path. The media that practically canonized Bernie Sanders while giving Hillary nothing but grief. The media that ignored her actual positions while they harped day after endless day on e-mails. The media enthralled with the man who perfected the inflammatory tweet, the man who would say anything and reporters following after him like panting dogs, hanging on his every disgusting word. Waiting for the next dump of Hillary's e-mails to see if there was anything juicy and scandalous in them. (There wasn't). Doing Russia's dirty work for it.

The problem was a hostile foreign nation mucking around in our election with, we now know, the precise intent of handing our presidency to Putin's buddy, Don. Hacking the Democrats e-mails and giving them over to Wikileaks to spew into the middle of the campaign. Putting out fake news stories about payments to ISIS and suspicious deaths and child pornography rings run out of a pizza joint.

We have also discovered recently that the Obama administration gave briefings to Congress regarding Russia's nefarious actions but the Republicans (those Benghazi-investigating maniacs) met the situation with a big "ho hum".

The problem was a hostile F.B.I. director willing to step right in the middle of an election with a bombshell announcement that more of Hillary's e-mails had been found, possibly requiring further investigation. Nine days before the election with a further announcement seven days later - "oops, sorry, nothing there after all". So, of course the question is: if they could check them so quickly, why didn't they? Before the first statement?

But one thing they were right about - the people who hate Hillary hate her with a virulently purple passion. That's why they'll gladly latch onto the most ridiculous conspiracy theories and run with them. That's why they willingly believe that she's a murderous traitor. That's why fake news landed right in their wheel house.

And now they've stuck us with a man who may be the worst president in our history. An arrogant man with no intellectual curiosity, who acknowledges no rules or traditions, whose business practices are the very illustration of conflict of interest.

Thank you, Republicans. Thank you, Media. Thank you, Republicans. Thank you, Trump voters.

Thank you for nothing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yes, Little Girl, You Should Be Mad

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My grandmother had an abortion in the 20's and almost bled to death.

My mother, who worked for the Department of Defense, took a class with military elites. She got the highest grade in the class but the honchos called her in and said she would certainly understand that they couldn't admit that a female civilian outscored their officers. When the press release came out, they gave a general credit for the highest score.

In my teenage years, us girls knew where to go for an abortion. A friend's mother did it with a knitting needle.

I worked as interim Personnel Manager for six months when my boss quit. Everything went smoothly so I asked the Plant Manager if I could have the job permanently (it paid exactly twice as much as I made) but he said, "oh, no, our people would never accept a woman in that position."

I could go on.....and on....and on.

Since the election, I've received faux sympathy from right-wing Facebook friends who advised me to get a coloring book and some crayons to take to my "safe place". They've asked me if I wanted cheese with my "whine". They've offered to send tissues to dry my tears.

But they have it wrong. I'm not sad, I'm angry.

It seems to me as if God or fate or whoever you want to blame said directly to us women - "you think you've made such progress toward equality. Well, I'm going to show you just how far you haven't come. I'm going to find the most accomplished woman I can, a woman who has spent her whole life in public service, a woman who works her butt off, a woman who is is exceedingly bright. She will campaign on loving one another and bringing people together.

To run against her, I will find a completely inexperienced man, a blowhard, a man whose never done anything that wouldn't benefit himself, a liar, a corrupt man who cheats everyone he comes in contact with. A man whose campaign pushes hatred and division.

Could ever a competition be more stark than this one? But hide and watch, bitches, and see who wins, proving that the best woman isn't as good as the worst man. And to add insult to injury, it will be your "sisters" (ha!ha!) who will pound the final nail in her coffin.

So, yes, Little Girl, you should be mad at all of us who betrayed you. Maybe by the time you grow up, things will have changed but don't bet on it. We seem to be going backwards rather than forward.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

It's Going To Be A Long Four Years

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Well, let's see what we have so far. Trump has been our president-elect for only 25 days and it already seems like forever.

We have some of his picks for his cabinet. Steve Bannon, who as the Breitbart editor, bragged about providing the platform for what they like to call the Alt-Right but is really a White Nationalist movement. We have Betsy DeVos, who never attended public schools, never sent her kids to public schools, never taught at public schools, and would like to see funding for public schools transferred to Christian schools for Secretary of Education. We have Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, who was unable to be confirmed for a judgeship because of his racist attitudes. We have Steve Mnuchen, a former Goldman Sachs guy for Economic Secretary (one who made a fortune in foreclosures during the recession) and his deputy will be another Goldman Sachs guy. You remember Goldman Sachs surely? It was giving speeches to them that caused Trump to call Hillary Crooked Hillary because they were a big part of that swamp he told us he was going to drain. We'll have Pompeo for CIA Director. He could never accept no for an answer on Benghazi no matter how many investigations found nothing nefarious on Hillary's part. We have a Health and Human Services guy who hates Obamacare and hates Medicare and Medicaid as well. He vows to get started on repealing the first and privatizing the second as soon as Trump takes office, which makes him a man after Paul Ryan's own heart. (Of course, the Republicans always felt safe voting to repeal Obamacare while Obama was president because they knew he'd veto it. In other words, all the money they wasted repealing it 60 times was a big farce. Now they have to actually do it and they're talking about phasing the repeal in over three years.) We have the foolish society matron who ran against Hillary for Senator from New York and lied about her resume. I can't remember what she's going to be. It doesn't really matter.

There are others I won't bother mentioning. What a motley collection of billionaires and millionaires and lobbyists and politicians and Fox New "analysts". Most of them have no experience in what they are going to be doing, like Ben Carson for HUD (I'm not sure he's accepted yet). Seriously? These people are going to pull the plug on the scummy hot tub they themselves play in?

There are two with whom I have no quarrel. The first is Nikki Hailey. She doesn't have any experience with foreign policy either but she seems to have a likeable, commonsense personality that should serve her well at the U.N. And General "Mad Dog" Mattis. I trust his judgement although I wonder if he has the temperament to put up with Trump if Trump doesn't listen to him. (And does Trump listen to anyone?)

I hate these games Trump seems to like to play with people's lives and their pride, parading them publicly to Trump Tower or one of his other resorts. Does he just get off on forcing people to come to him on bended knee, do you think? Does it make him feel all-powerful?

Choose your goddamed Secretary of State for God's sake and let the ones you don't choose off the hook. My preference would actually be for David Petraus even though to pick someone still on probation for giving out classified information to his mistress would be rich indeed after all the grief Trump gave Hillary got for unintentionally using an insecure server.

And he needs a wise Secretary of State as soon as possible after all the blunders he's made on the foreign relations front. Inviting a Philippine dictator accused of killing thousands of his citizens without evidence or trial to the White House. Taking a call from the Taiwanese president, a country with whom we haven't had diplomatic relations in 40 the great piss off of the Chinese. Having a more than friendly conversation with the head of Pakistan, offering to do whatever Pakistan wants him to do. Uh, hate to tell you Donald but it is India that is our ally, not Pakistan. Pakistan is the one that harbored Bin Laden and other members of Al Qaida, remember?

He passes on the briefings he could get from the intelligence agencies regarding what is going on in the world and talks on an unsecure private phone. He mingles his business with diplomacy, inviting his children into meetings with foreign leaders. He asks leaders of other countries for help in lowering the road blocks to building a hotel or not allowing a wind farm close to his gold course. His conflicts of interest are many. At least the ones we know about. Since he's never released his taxes we're not really aware of the extent of his foreign financial entanglements. But never fear - on December 15, he's going to have a press conference (his first since July) to tell us how he's going to handle the conflict problem. So far, his plan seems to be to let his kids "control" the business while they all promise not to share information with one another.

It appears that he is going to by-pass the press as much as possible and communicate with the people directly through rallies and tweets. Whether you like the professional media or not, they are crucial to holding a president's feet to the fire. But hey, he told us up front that he wasn't a "go by the rules" kind of guy so we've got no right to be surprised.

And so far, I haven't been surprised by anything he's done. His choices for his cabinet are about the level I would have expected because I never bought his "drain the swamp" promise. It doesn't surprise me that he is a bull-in-the-china shop on foreign policy or that he won't even bother to learn the essentials of diplomacy because he never actually seemed interested in anything very deep or time-consuming. It doesn't surprise me that his first "deal" allowed Carrier Corp. to fire only half its people whiling paying them $7 million to leave the other half in the U.S. Yeah, that was a hell of a deal, all right. It doesn't surprise me that he still seems petty and venal and vindictive because after 16 months of campaigning, that's all I ever saw from him.

It going to be a long, ugly four years.