Monthly Archives: March 2018

Counterbalance: Polarization Can Be Good!

First, let me wish people a belated joyous Spring Equinox, and an early Happy Easter.

Aside #1: I wonder what all these fundamentalists in Walmart and elsewhere would think if they knew the actual origins of the Easter Bunny, eggs, and so on.  They’d have a fit!

Ok, now for today’s “good news” monthly post…

There was an enormous March for Our Lives last weekend, with hundreds of thousands of kids and their supporters marching all over the country, to advocate for gun laws.  Cable news had all-day live coverage, and the organizers (the Parkland school students) were being interviewed quite a lot.

As the country seems to move to opposite positions on gun control, I am actually pleased by this.  I am pleased because the contradiction between positions can’t stay at this heightened awareness for long, and change is coming.

We’ve reached a kind of tipping point regarding gun violence, and it’s about time.  Only the most hardened, stupid, reactionary people would argue against some firearms restriction now.

Those few folks…and the National Rifle Association – which is basically just a firearms manufacturing lobby group – might object, but it’s too late for that now.  No one buys their bs.

Also helping is the information that the NRA has apparently been laundering money from Russia (“Senator Seeks Documents on Russia Money Links to the NRA”, Desmond Butler, Associated Press via the PBS website, 2/2/18).  I’m fairly sure that won’t sit well with most Americans.

I’m not sure what kind of legislation will come out of all this, at least until the Democrats regain control.  I’m glad the dialogue has appeared to move from the “mental illness” emphasis to the “availability of assault rifles” focus.

So, that’s the first good piece of news.

Big news for Tool fans (and I am one of those) – the band is finally releasing a new CD in April.  It’s been 12 years since their last CD.   Also being released next month, a new CD from one of Maynard’s other bands, A Perfect Circle.  It’s been 14 years since they released all new material.

Maybe they’ll go on tour, too, though I doubt I could afford the tickets and if I am still in central PA they most likely won’t play at a venue near me.  Plus, I don’t know anyone who would be willing to take me – Tool has a cult following, mostly comprised of people far younger than I (though Maynard himself is 53).

Great news on the Russian investigation – Mueller’s team wants to interview 45 soon, and 45 doesn’t have decent legal representation.  Most of his legal team has quit, and two of the remaining lawyers – McGahn and Cobb – are attorneys for the office of the presidency, not the for the president himself.   Jay Sekulow is his only personal lawyer left (“Trump’s Legal Team is in Shambles. The Timing is Terrible.” Zachary Fryer-Biggs, Vox website, 3/27/18).

The Mueller investigation is also looking into Jared Kushner’s business dealings with Russia, China, and Qatar (amongst other places), and how these contacts and business deals might be connected to 45 and his election campaign (“Mueller is Taking a Closer Look at Jared Kushner”, Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair website, 2/20/18).

Aside #2: I’m not going to comment on the “president and the porn star” news, because I don’t think it’s going to amount to anything.  I think there are much more important issues than 45 paying someone off to not talk about his disgusting sex life.  

Terrific news on the fight against cancer:  A Canadian woman is in remission from lung cancer due to a Cuban vaccine.  She had been given only one year left to live, and her husband went searching for a way to help her because the traditional chemotherapy she was receiving wasn’t working.  He found an organization called CubaHeal, paid $135 and submitted paperwork to the company, and his wife was approved for treatment.  So, off they went to Cuba, she got treatment, and now there is no evidence of cancer (“Woman in Remission After Treatment in Cuba”, Colton Wiens, CTV News Regina website, 3/13/18) .

It’s not cheap, this Cuba thing – a trip to Havana, plus injections, costs $14,500 (Ibid).

But, thanks to the Idiot-in-Charge, Americans can’t travel to Cuba now (“Trump Administration Sets New Restrictions on Americans’ Business Ties and Travel to Cuba”, Tracy Wilkinson, LA Times website, 11/8/17).  He’s just mad that they wouldn’t let him build one of his monstrosities of a hotel there, so of course everyone else has to suffer (“Trump’s Conflicts of Interest in Cuba, Carolyn Kenney and John Norris, Center For American Progress website, 6/14/17).

I am hoping maybe researchers/drug companies will look at this medication, and make it available here.

For those who can’t/won’t take fish oil supplements, some good news for you: A recent meta-analysis of 10 trials involving 77,917 participants published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found “no significant association with reductions in fatal or nonfatal coronary heart disease or any major vascular events” (“Associations of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement Use with Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Meta-Analysis of 10 Trials Involving 77,917 Individuals”, Theingi Aung, MBBS, FRCP, Jim Halsey, BSc, Daan Kromhout, PhD, et al, JAMA Cardiology, 3/18).

So don’t waste your money.  Hey, I think they are nasty-tasting things, anyway, so I am delighted to impart this news to my PCP’s intern, who keeps insisting I take them.

I scoured the internet for more good news, but I was OD-ing on human interest stories, cat and dog rescue narratives, and the like – so that’s all for this week.

Now for the weird news: From Punxsutawney, PA, this great quote – “It’s probably a misunderstanding on their part, because Phil is the messenger.  He doesn’t actually create the weather.”

The context? “Punxsutawney Phil Wanted by Police for Bad Weather Forecasting”, David Moye, Huffington Post website, 3/26/18.  Because the latest snow really pissed off some Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvanians are weird.  Everyone knows this!

Recommendation for the week:  Are you old enough to remember the TV series “The Avengers”, starring Dame Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee?  I found episodes on Daily Motion!  Here’s the link.  For those of you not old enough, check it out – it was a very amusing, well-written bit of madness and you might enjoy it.

Be good. Be kind.  If you see Phil, don’t blame him!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Broken Toe and Lots of Snow!

(Generic snow pic, courtesy of Pixabay)

I think we got about a foot of snow here in Central PA since Tuesday.  Ugh.  Memphis got thunderstorms, and I think I prefer those – though, no doubt, my cats would disagree.

Still seriously planning on moving back south.  I want to be around my new granddaughter, and I really don’t like it here.  It’s boring.

The healthcare is ok, and it’s easier to access here than in Memphis.  Also, as much of a hassle as the buses are here, at least they have frequent ones that go where I need to go.  Memphis, unless it’s changed drastically, isn’t so great for mass transit.

On the other hand, Memphis is a bigger place and it has pockets of activism.  That gives it a huge advantage in my eyes, despite the obvious transportation issues involved (I would still have to find rides to demonstrations, etc).

Anyway, I am not going to post about anything important today, just health news.

I broke my toe about 2 weeks ago, and it still hurts, so my Planet Fitness plan is on hold until I can shove my foot into my Skechers.  Right now, I am hobbling around with a hard-soled sandal-type shoe that the orthopedist gave me.

I went to the endocrinologist also, and she is convinced that the hyperparathyroidism is due to the vitamin D deficiency.  As for the facial flushing, hypertension, diarrhea, and nausea, she says “we need to look elsewhere”.  She wants me to continue to track symptoms and see her in 6 months.

I am not as sick as I was 2 years ago, so ok.  I am tired of pursuing this.  As long as I don’t land in the hospital, I will just keep on keepin’ on.  For now.

I still have other (political) things I want to write about, but I will save them for the week after next – seeing as how next week is the last Wednesday of the month (“good news day”).

So, for those of you snowed in, I hope you dig out soon.  For those in the southern states, I hope you don’t get any more tornadoes.

Weird news of the week: What could possibly go wrong?  “Ax Throwing Gains in Popularity as Pastime, Sport”, Robert Bumsted, Associated Press via the SFGate website, 3/21/18.  Oh, those wacky New Yorkers!

Recommendation of the week:  LowIncomeRelief is a website that lists discounts you can get if you’re poor – of particular interest is ways you can use your EBT card (no, not for paying for non-food stuff, you use it to prove you’re low income so you can get discounts).  Discounts include $6.95/month for Amazon Prime, reduced admission to museums all across the USA, and cheap internet service.

Be good.  Be kind.  No more snow!!

 

Tailoring the Message to the Demographics: Democrats Win in PA

Last night, after a very close race, it appears that Conor Lamb won District 18 in Pennsylvania, by a mere 627 votes (“Pennsylvania Special Election Results: Lamb Wins 18th Congressional District”, Nate Cohn/Josh Katz/Sarah Almukhtar/Matthew Bloch, NY Times website, 3/14/18).

Aside #1: I would have used Pittsburgh news sites for the story, but none of them are reporting it except in terms of how the Republicans are challenging it (“GOP Gearing Up to Challenge District 18 Results, Impound All Voting Machines Used in Special Election”, Chris Potter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website, 3/14/18).

I watched the results come in on MSNBC and CNN.  I turned on local news at the usual time (11PM), only to find that none of the local news channels were covering the special election.

None.

Aside #2: I live one hour east of Pittsburgh/District 18.  Only one channel here is owned by Sinclair – for more information on this right-wing company, see “A Short History of the Right-Wing Politics of Sinclair Broadcasting”, Alex Kaplan, Media Matters website, 7/18/17.  I am at a loss to explain the total news blackout here.

Conor Lamb is not particularly liberal in many of his views.  His first campaign TV ad, for example, featured him shooting an AR-15 (“He still loves to shoot”).

Jobs, health care, social security.  Wants to work with Democrats and Republicans.  Thinks there needs to be new leadership in both parties.  He has repeatedly stated he doesn’t support Nancy Pelosi.  He doesn’t support a ban on assault weapons.

I am shocked, actually, that this TV ad admitted he went to a Catholic school – PA has a history of being virulently anti-Cathoilic; as a matter of fact, it was a main talking point for the KKK here.

Also surprising is that his ad had a couple of African-Americans in it.  I assume that was a nod to the left-leaning base.  Didn’t want to lose any urban, progressive Pittsburgh voters.

Aside #3: I guess I sound cynical, but I am of course happy he won.  Because he’s better than any Republican.

So the Democratic Party tailored their candidate and their message to the demographics of the district.  Most of District 18 is Republican, with a pocket of Democrats in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh).  Allegheny County constitutes 40% of the district vote.

Most of the district is white, middle to upper class, and retired folks.  It is one of the last bastions of reactionary “values”.  “Trump Country”, people call it.

But the Democrats were smart about this.  They sent Lamb to senior centers – a huge voting block for Republicans all across Pennsylvania.  Lamb also appeared with Jon Bauman of Sha Na Na in various places in western PA (“With Seniors Breaking for Dems in #PA18, Bowzer of Sha Na Na Tours Pizza Parlors of Western PA Rallying Support”, Mike Elk, PayDay Report website, 3/8/18).

Aside #4: I like Jon Bauman.  He is a progressive who knows how to convince people that voting for Democrats means voting for their self-interest, especially elderly folks.  He utilizes nostalgia to promote progressive thinking.  I really do admire that.

Conor Lamb is a mix of conservative and liberal politics (Conor Lamb website).  And that worked in District 18, but just barely.

One of the mistakes the Democratic Party made in 2016 was not sending Hillary here.  Oh, they sent Bill, but he spoke at the AFSCME hall in Duncansville (about 2 miles from here and no, I didn’t go, as I was in the hospital). There was virtually no publicity for it, either.

They should have sent Hillary.  They should have had her hit the senior centers, so those people could meet her.  Most of them only knew what they heard on right-wing talk radio about her.

Aside #5: Every senior center van – the shared ride van that takes people 55+ and people with disabilities to the doctor, errands, and such – has a driver who listens to right-wing talk radio.  Many of these drivers opine on right-wing subjects and spread fake news such as President Obama being a Kenyan.  And most seniors here think all that’s true.  I have met only 4 other Democrats on the vans since I have been riding them in the past 8 years.  And they spoke in whispers, they were so intimidated by the driver and the other passengers.

Sending Bill was not a bad idea, but he didn’t speak in a venue that most people would go to.  He should have hit the senior centers, too, and possibly some local coffee shops/buffet restaurants and other places you find oldsters here.  Maybe hospitals, too, for the medical professionals’ vote.

And/or Hillary should have spoken at Penn State.  Bernie spoke at Penn State in State College, and had a huge draw.  Hillary could have at least spoken at Penn State Altoona, sheesh.

I want to be clear here – I don’t think the primary reason the Democrats lost Pennsylvania in 2016 was because they didn’t campaign much in central PA.  It was the gerrymandering that gave Republicans an unfair advantage all across PA.  But the way the Democrats campaigned didn’t help Hillary at all here.

Aside #6: Until the citizens won the redistricting fight, PA was considered to be one of the most gerrymandered states in the country (“About Gerrymandering”, no author, Fair Districts PA website, no date).

Those districts have now been redrawn, and by the time this year’s midterms come up, the election results should be a better representation of the voters (in other words, more Democrats will be elected).

But, on a national level, the Democrats are going to have to campaign harder and smarter.  Even with redistricting in PA, the Tea Party is still active and they still mobilize people better than the Democrats do – and that’s going to hurt us down the line.

However, I am torn about all this.

On one hand, I am desperate for the Democrats to wrest control away from the Republicans, because Republican policies are hurting and killing our citizens, destroying our environment and national parks, and encouraging white supremacists to engage in violent acts.

And also making us look pretty stupid and reactionary to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, I am that part of the Democratic Party base that would be considered “the far left” – I support identity politics, for example.

I vehemently oppose Democrats who maintain we have to shut up about racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all the rest of the issues that separate us from “Trump country”, in order to get the white vote.

So, while candidates like Lamb can win elections for the party, I fear what’s going to happen once he and others like him are in office.

Will he listen to the party, or will he stick to the conservative line and vote for Republican policies?

He already stated that he supports tariffs.  He already stated he doesn’t support stricter gun laws.  Both of these positions are disastrous for consumers, most service workers, and people who don’t like being shot by right-wing lunatics.

Is the Democratic Party moving to the right?  Where does that leave a fair number of its base?

There was a recent online town hall meeting with Sanders, Warren, and my favorite panderer Michael Moore – it was about “saving the middle class”.

Is that going to be the theme now?  Forget the poor, the elderly, POC, all the people who are truly disenfranchised – as opposed to people who are taking a hit on their investments, mortgages, and vacation plans?

I don’t like to see anyone hurt.  But there is a vast difference between someone’s mortgage rate going up, and someone who is homeless or can never hope to own a home.  Considering that Republicans are trying to implement policies that can actually result in a lot of deaths, I’m sorry but I don’t give a shit about your investments.

I don’t have the answer to this problem of the split in the Democratic Party.  I don’t think 3rd parties are a good idea, because they don’t get enough votes and they often result in Republicans being elected.

I think Tom Perez is way too interested in toning down the Democratic Party message, and if he continues to do that he might lose a good part of the base.  A base that has nowhere to go now.

Not voting is never an option.  Never.

Weird news of the week: “Sconegate in Lanhydrock: Cornish Cream Tea Lovers Demand #JamFirst”, Bethany Minelle, Sky News website, 3/12/18.  

The issue is which is put first on a scone – jam (for Cornish teas), or clotted cream (for Devon teas)?

This is weird only to Americans, I think.  I like the pictures heh.  Personally, if I could find a decent scone with cream, jam, and a good cup of black tea here, I wouldn’t care which way I put toppings on it.  Sigh.  I really miss tea time.  It’s just not the same here in the US as it was in Northern Ireland.  And I have no idea in what order you put clotted cream and jam on a Northern Ireland scone.

Recommendation of the week:  “Better Off Wed (Annabelle Archer Wedding Planner Mystery, #1)”, by Laura Durham.  Yes, it’s a cozy mystery but it is laugh-out-loud funny, very well-written and doesn’t have the usual clichés.  Great read for a good laugh.

Be good.  Be kind.  Laugh a little.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevertheless, Sexism Persisted…

I want to address something that I’ve written about before, but it seems to be a problem that just won’t go away.

It’s the problem of sexism within the left.

Not everyone on the left, of course.  And I am no single-issue commenter, as you guys know, but this just irks me so much I feel the need to vent.

As we are all aware, the right-wing in this country has women adherents, just as any other point of view has both male and female proponents.

Aside #1: I am just using “male” and “female” as general terms to make a point.  I am not deliberately excluding transgender or gender nonconforming folks.  I am aware that not everyone identifies in a binary way.  What I am writing about today is a basic level lack of understanding of gender issues, so I am keeping it basic.

What I am objecting to is the use of misogynistic memes and statements to attack women on the right.

I don’t like right-wing women, either – just as I don’t like right-wing men.  I realize, also, that right-wing women can be some of the biggest promoters of sexism around.

But it’s not a good thing, nor should it be an acceptable thing, to throw the c word at them, imply or outright say that they’re literal “whores”, attack their looks/weight/age, or write about how you want to rape/kill/torture them.

I’ve seen all these things in comments sections of websites frequented by leftists, and it’s upsetting – especially the violent ones.

And challenging them on these things?  Forget it.

I get accused of being a 45 supporter, a “radical feminist”, a “Hillbot” (supporter of Hillary Clinton with no mind of her own), or of over-reacting.  In fact, I have seen a couple of women basically chased out of comments sections due to challenging the sexism in them.

There are many things to attack about right-wing women’s beliefs.  There are so many, in fact, that I can’t be bothered to list them all.  But they are not peculiar to women – they are typically held by men on the right, too.

But let me be clear: when you reduce the complaints to what amounts to “I hate your gender” comments and memes, you are exposing your own deep-seated hatred/fear of all women.

“What?” you might be asking.  “Not me!  I am an ally, a brother, a progressive! I don’t hate or fear women!”

Ok, well, if that’s true, then STOP IT.

Look at it from a woman’s point of view: when you call women ugly, or fat, or make cracks about their ages, or state they perform sexual acts on politicians (for example), or attack anything totally related to their gender stereotypes and not their ideas…that makes some of us react and think, “What about us?  What does he think about us?”

We’re “not like those c___s”, those other women?  We’re somehow different?

But some of us are old/fat/”not attractive” too.

It’s similar to a POC being told, “You’re not like those other ones.”

Do you see it now?

Men who wouldn’t dream of attacking a POC’s ideas by using racist slurs somehow don’t see attacking women by using sexist slurs as unacceptable.

But it is.  It is because it reduces all women to stereotypes, to sexual objects.

It creates distrust and fear amongst the very women you claim to be allied with.  It makes us feel uncomfortable around you, especially if we don’t look like the societal norm and especially if we are survivors of domestic violence.

Aside #2: By the way, my abuser was a leftist – except when it came down to women and feminism.  So, yeah, it does happen.

When you respond with defensiveness, and try to justify your attacks by citing how hateful and awful right-wing women are, it’s not working, dude – because you’re not attacking their actions or words, you’re attacking them as women.

And when it comes to the “I’d like to rape/tie up and kill/beat her to death” comments…

That’s horrifying.  I don’t think I have to spell out why.

So please, don’t send me pictures that demean any woman, or post that crap on Facebook.  Use your big-boy ideas and criticize Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Betsy DeVos, Dana Loesch, and others on the disgusting ideas they promote.

Not their looks.  Not their clothes.  Not their ages.  Not whatever sick sexual thing you can conjure up.

And if you have rape/torture fantasies, seek help before you hurt someone in real life.

Lecture over.

Weirdness of the week comes from the Chicago Tribune website.  At first, I thought the story would contain a bit about how recipients of Amazon products they didn’t order wanted to return the products because it’s not right to take stuff that you didn’t pay for…but, alas, they’re just annoyed because “someone has our information” (name and address).

How disappointing.

“The Mysterious Tale of the Couple Who Keep Receiving Free Amazon Packages – And Want it to Stop”. Marwa Eltagouri, Chicago Tribune website, 2/7/18.

Recommendation of the week is for Planet Fitness.  I just joined this past week because they are only $10/month, and they have trainers there you can work with for free.  Went to my first session yesterday, and I really liked it.  They go out of their way to make you feel comfortable, and there were all ages/sizes of people there.   I’ll let you know how it goes.

Be good.  Be kind.  Keep warm.