Author Archives: Victoria

Mulvaney: Commodity Boxes are “Blue Apron-Like”

Hey Micky, you’re so cruel!

You’re so cruel and you’re a tool!

Hey Micky!  Hey Micky!

Yesterday – though not getting a whole lot of attention – the White House released its proposed budget, and, as expected, it featured cuts to entitlement programs.

Of particular interest/abhorrence is the cut to the food stamp program.  Mick Mulvaney’s idea is to cut peoples’ EBT balances by half, then provide a box of commodities to make up the difference.  The food included are beans, canned meat, canned fruits, canned vegetables, dry or evaporated milk, grains, cereal, pasta, butter, peanut butter, and other staples.

Aside #1: Mick Mulvaney is the head of the Office of Management and Budget, appointed by 45.  He is a loyal Tea Party member and, of course, very far to the right.

He insists it’s healthy food.  I disagree.

Especially for the elderly or people with chronic health problems, this kind of food is not healthy.

A lot of people try to eat healthily to either manage a medical condition or keep from getting any of the diseases that plague people (especially when older) such as hypertension and diabetes.

Myself, I can’t/won’t eat any of that.  I am trying to manage my seemingly never-ending digestive symptoms (courtesy of my still-mysterious ailment), so currently my diet is low fodmap, high fiber, unprocessed, fresh, and low sodium…and while I do eat cheese I don’t drink cow’s milk (because almond milk is high in calcium and it has fewer calories than skim milk).

I haven’t opened a can of vegetables or fruit in years.  Ditto for canned meat. High in sodium and sugar.  Processed to death.

Yeah, even poor folks try to eat healthy.  We’re not dumb.

Mick thinks we are, though.  He touted the food boxes as being “Blue Apron-like” (“Trump’s Insulting Food Stamp Plan Is Nothing Like Blue Apron”, Sidney Fussell, Gizmodo website, 2/13/18).  Blue Apron is a home-delivered box of ingredients that you use to make an entire dinner without having to buy anything else.  But the thing is, Blue Apron includes fresh, high quality ingredients.

I can just hear him now…

“We’ll market it like those fancy boxed meals.  They won’t know the difference!”

But Blue Apron Is not like a box of commodity food, the kind the USDA gives out to low-income people over 60.  Just because a person calls a mudpie a chocolate pie does not make it so.

Believe it or not, we poor folk can tell the difference between mud and chocolate.

My initial reaction to ol’ Mick’s plan was “hell no!”  Then it was, “I bet they won’t do it because the logistics are too much.”

Nope, they can use the USDA system already in place, I reckon.  Mick’s plan is essentially just an expansion of that program.  That worries me.

Aside #2: I didn’t even know we still had a commodity distribution program until I did a Google search.  Remember government cheese?  It’s like that, but with more food – none of it fresh or unprocessed, except maybe butter.

In case you think, “Well, that’s not so bad,” then let me tell you how it might affect you indirectly.

We food stamp people shop in the same grocery stores that you do.  We buy vegetables and fruit and organic food and fresh meats and…well, anything that isn’t considered “hot, ready-made food” (like rotisserie chicken).

We food stamp folks make up a decent amount of grocery store consumers.  What do you think will happen to prices when we stop buying or cut down on how much we purchase?

What do you think will happen to the workers in the stores, the truckers who bring the food, the people who make the food, and so on, when we reduce our purchases?

It will affect YOU whether or not you use food stamps, in the way of higher prices, store closures, layoffs, or fewer types of products to choose from.

Aside #3: This will affect farmers who sell their produce at farmer’s markets, too, as food stamps can be used there.  

Don’t believe it?  Think there aren’t that many people who could affect the economy this way?

Well…the number of people using food stamps is 45.4 million (“SNAP: Frequently Asked Questions”, Snap to Health website).  That’s a lot of shoppers.

Also, unhealthy diets can lead to more illnesses and more trips to the doctor/ER.  That means higher wait times for everyone.

Oh, but Seema Verma and Mick have a plan for that, too.  They want to charge Medicaid recipients a monthly fee – or face losing that benefit – and they also want to privatize Medicare (which will inevitably raise premiums).

And since Medicaid and Medicare patients comprise a good portion of healthcare consumers, a reduction of our business can result in hospital closing and staff shortages.

That affects YOU, too.  Maybe even your own job.

You see, as I say a lot, we are all interconnected – and I don’t mean spiritually.  Economically, nothing happens in a vacuum.  Draconian public policies affect us all, even if not directly.

Aside #4: By the way, one of the reasons Mick gives for food stamp cuts is “widespread fraud.”  In reality, the fraud rate is about 1% (Ibid).

We knew these cuts were coming after the latest tax bill was passed.  Republicans have done this before – given tax cuts to the wealthy and to corporations, then screamed about the deficit and “balanced budgets”.  They have no problem spending money as long as it is for other people in their income brackets and higher (their donors, in other words).

Or the military.  45’s administration wants to give a massive increase in funding to the military, even bigger than some Republicans are comfortable with.  I guess it might be because they don’t want 45 lobbing missiles at North Korea or something.

Anyway, the plan for changing the food stamp program is a bad one.  it was crafted by someone who is hostile towards social support programs overall.  It is supported by Paul Ryan and other Republicans who have made no secret of their hatred of the poor, the elderly, the chronically ill, and the other-abled.

Please contact your congress people and ask them to fight these changes.  Find out who your representatives are here.  Thank you, allies.

Weird news of the week: This story is not only weird, in my opinion it reflects an extension of the tendency for some people to take themselves way too seriously (kind of how they do when they feud on social media).  I’m surprised Disneyland doesn’t just ban all these “social clubs”.

Control freaks in Disney garb.   “Lawsuit Alleges Mafia-Style Tactics Aimed At A Disneyland Social Club”, Laurel Wamsley, NPR news website, 2/12/18.

Recommendation of the week: Why, the Winter Olympics, of course!  I can’t think of anything better to lift your spirits, watching all these athletes from around the world compete.

Be good.  Be kind.  Stay strong.

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Clear Waters and 1% Mud: Social Division in America

 

I stated last week that I would provide the transcript link to Maxine Waters’ response to the State of the Union address, so here it is.  You can also see the video on the same site.

It was not a long speech, but it was right to the point and straightforward.  That’s not surprising, as Rep. Waters (D-CA) has never been one to mince words, nor has she ever backed down when others – mostly white men in Congress – have tried to shut her up.

 

She began by saying:

Yesterday, Donald Trump had the audacity to call upon people to set aside differences, when in reality, he has divided Americans in ways no other modern president has done. We must look at his State of the Union address in the context of all of the ways he defined himself during his campaign and throughout his first year as President. (“Maxine Waters Delivers Scathing SOTU Response: ‘Make No Mistake, Trump is a Dangerous Racist’ “, Tess Koman, Cosmopolitan website, 2/1/18)

She then listed how 45 has defined himself: his response to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville (“violence on many sides”), his travel bans targeting Muslims, his description of Mexicans as rapists, his mocking of a reporter who is other-abled, his tendency to blame people of color for the problems in the US, his attack on NFL players and their mothers, and his disrespect for women.

She went on to relate his policies that alienate our allies around the world: withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement, his refusal to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, and his tendency to insult other democracies while cozying up to Putin.

She mentioned 45’s refusal to acknowledge that he inherited many economic gains from the policies of our first Black president Barack Obama (for example, the unemployment rate drop to 4.7%).

She finished up with stating what the Democrats stand for:

We as Democrats are committed to a growing economy that leaves no one behind. We’re committed to an economy that protects consumers and provides good jobs with fair wages, quality health care, and affordable housing. These are the policies for which I have worked all of my life and on which I will continue to work despite the constant chaos and distractions of this administration. (Ibid)

You know what I wish?  I wish that the Democrats had made one televised response, featuring Joe Kennedy III, Bernie Sanders, and Maxine Waters.  I wish they had split it up and each taken a point or two to expound upon.  I think that would have shown how much unity there is in the party (yes, I know Bernie is not technically a Democrat).

Right now, the Democratic Party is feeling the heat from the (mostly) younger, more progressive members.  I think we progressives make up the majority of the base right now, and it would behoove the party to move along into the 21st century with us.

Considering how the hard right, and even the moderate right, are dwindling in numbers, it makes no sense for the Democrats to even entertain this ridiculous notion of “but what about the white men over 40” anymore.

Look at how society, in general, has moved in terms of how the majority of Americans think.  Most Americans support DACA, think racism is bad, think women should have equal pay and not be sexually harassed, aren’t afraid of people of other religions, support the Constitution (and not just some parts of it), and support legalization of marijuana – to name just a few.

Our society is generally liberal and tolerant.  Why should we cater to people who don’t like change, don’t like progress, and who hold onto disgusting and hateful ideas about their fellow human beings?

One big reason – ha, and you thought that was a hypothetical question, didn’t you? – is because it serves the 1% to keep the divisiveness and hatred going.  Stoking this fire of reactionary ideology is what 45 and the GOP do…and it serves them well, when they can pull it off.

The 1% funds candidates.  Divisiveness serves the interests of the 1% because it keeps people from focusing on understanding how wealth is generated, and keeps them from concluding that some form of redistribution of wealth is necessary for the good of all Americans – even under capitalism.

As long as the GOP, or any other politicians or parties (I’m looking at you, Libertarians and Greens), continue to turn Americans against one another, the 1% is safe.

Bear in mind, the 1% will not tolerate any redistribution of wealth, no matter how small.  They want all the wealth.  And the easiest way to get the populace to give it up is to convince each class that the other class “deserves” to lose income and benefits.

When you consider all the wealth that is generated in this country, really consider it, we could ensure no one lived in poverty, everyone had enough to eat, people had homes to live in, everyone had access to healthcare, and opportunities such as jobs and/or education were available to all.

We could do that, and there would still be rich people.  They just wouldn’t be the filthy, unnecessarily “I-have-10-cars-and-5-homes” kind of rich.

You know, they could still buy Gucci handbags and Tesla cars, they just wouldn’t be able to buy one for every day of the week.

Think about it.

Weird news of the week, speaking of Tesla’s…Elon Musk sent his red Tesla into space – yes, the actual car – with a dummy sitting in it.  Playing “Space Oddity” by Bowie as it travels, headed towards the asteroid belt.

Recommendation of the week: Here’s a site that lists things for cats and their humans, everything from “Da Bird” toy (string and feathers) for $10 to an $800 cat tree house.  They even list a how-to book for making your cat an internet star…hmm…might look into that myself!

Be good.  Be kind.  Think, and do it often.

 

Counterbalance – New Feature

I have decided that, on the last Wednesday of each month, I am going to write about people/movements/ideas that are making changes for the better in our world.  I think it’s a good way to keep our spirits up in these terrible, reactionary times.

Last night was the State of the Union address.  I didn’t watch it.  I can no longer stand to see or hear this dictator anymore, not for 90 minutes or 90 seconds.  Plus, everything he says is bullshit, hateful, and self-aggrandizing, so it’s a waste of my time.

I did, however, watch Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) speak.  His words were uplifting instead of fear-mongering, unifying instead of divisive, and hopeful instead of threatening.  Here is a highlight:

We are bombarded with one false choice after another: coal miners or single moms, rural communities or inner cities, the coast or the heartland. As if the mechanic in Pittsburgh, a teacher in Tulsa, and a daycare worker in Birmingham are bitter rivals rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged towards those at the top.

So here is the answer that Democrats offer tonight: We choose both.

We fight — we fight for both. Because the greatest, strongest, richest nation in the world shouldn’t have to leave anyone behind.

We choose — we choose a better deal for all who call our country home. We choose a living wage, and paid leave, and affordable child care your family needs to survive. We choose pensions that are solvent, trade pacts that are fair, roads and bridges that won’t rust away, a good education that you can afford.

We choose a health care system that offers you mercy, whether you suffer from cancer or depression or addiction. We choose an economy strong enough to boast record stock prices and brave enough to admit that top CEOs making 300 times their average worker is not right. – “Read Joe Kennedy’s Response to President Trump’s State of the Union Address”, Eli Meixler, Time Magazine website, 1/31/18.

It was short and to the point.  This is a great example of how Democrats should continue to get their message out to the American people.  Remind everyone what this country stands for, and reinforce the best ideals we have to offer.

Bernie Sanders delivered a response on social media.  Here is an excerpt:

The American people do not want a president who is compulsively dishonest, who is a bully, who actively represents the interests of the billionaire class, who is anti-science, and who is trying to divide us up based on the color of our skin, our nation of origin, our religion, our gender, or our sexual orientation.

That is not what the American people want. And that reality is the bad news that we have to deal with.

But the truth is that there is a lot of good news out there as well. It’s not just that so many of our people disagree with Trump’s policies, temperament, and behavior. It is that the vast majority of our people have a very different vision for the future of our country than what Trump and the Republican leadership are giving us.

In an unprecedented way, we are witnessing a revitalization of American democracy with more and more people standing up and fighting back. A little more than a year ago we saw millions of people take to the streets for the women’s marches and a few weeks ago, in hundreds of cities and towns around the world, people once again took to the streets in the fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice. – “Read: Bernie Sanders Panned Trump’s Broken Promises in His Response to the State of the Union”. Ella Nilsen, Vox website, 1/30/18.

This was the last part of Bernie’s speech.  The beginning and middle were criticisms of 45 and the Republicans.  Those are things with which the readers of this blog are familiar, so I don’t see the need to catalogue them here.

Aside: I was hoping to cite Maxine Waters here, too, but she doesn’t deliver her rebuttal until tonight.  I will feature her speech next week.

It’s so easy to watch-react-expound on the negative, disgusting rhetoric and actions we deal with on a daily basis now.  I get it – heck, it’s half the reason for this blog.

Where democracy is concerned, it is necessary to sound the alarm when things and people threaten it, so we the people can take action.

And it’s also easy, for some, to retreat into a kind of “stop and smell the roses/rise about it all” Zen-like attitude, point out how it’s not productive to “be negative”, or somehow believe that their god is in control and it will all be ok in the end – whatever “the end” might be.

That approach is ok when you are feeling overwhelmed.  Hey, whatever works for you.  But I would caution you about posting this kind of stuff on social media right now, as it tends to come off as preachy, smug, and uncaring about the world around you.

Attacking people for “being negative” is not at all helpful.  It is dismissive and smarmy.

My purpose today is to remind people that, yes, the majority of Americans do not subscribe to hate and greed.  Kennedy’s and Sanders’ responses do not just apply to Democrats; when they say “we”, they mean “Americans”.

For every one of you who notices the changes, sneaky or outright, that this administration is trying to push on an unwilling populace, there are others who see these things, too.  You are not the lone voice in the wilderness.

Your outrage is echoed many times over.  Your dismay is channeled into action by demonstrators, citizens at town hall meetings, and young people running for office.  Even if you can’t join them, for whatever reason, your concerns are being addressed.

That doesn’t mean you sit back and do nothing.  No, you do what you can.  Write emails, sign petitions, post on FB and other social media, talk to others, even just wear a tshirt that expresses your opinion.

Just remember, there are so many more of us than there are of them.  We’ll get our country back.  And I am pretty sure we’ll remember to never let this happen again.

Weird news of the week:  Man collects blotter acid art!  I know my friends will appreciate this.  He said the fact that it’s on the wall as art has kept him from eating it, though the article notes that blotter acid degrades with time and he probably wouldn’t be able to trip off it.  “The San Francisco House Filled with 33,000 Tabs of LSD”, Colton, Ripleys.com website, 1/30/18.

Recommendation of the week:  Another Randy Rainbow video!  Sure to bring a smile:

 

Be good.  Be kind.  Keep on truckin’.

 

 

 

Talking Stick vs Talking Box of Rocks

On Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, the government shutdown came to an end.  It lasted 3 whole days, 2 of which were weekend days.

The title for today’s blogpost is a reference, in part, to something Susan Collins (R-ME) showed off to newspeople – a “talking stick”.  She said it was a stick a friend gave her (and that it was originally from Africa), and that she used it to “control the conversation” she and 17 other politicians had as part of their discussion regarding how to end the government shutdown.

Presumably, one would hold the stick when one wanted to speak.  Here she is, holding it:

During the discussion, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) threw the stick to/at (depending on your p.o.v.) Mark Warner (D-VA) – because he interrupted Alexander – and the stick hit a glass elephant of Collins’, chipping it (“Area Adults Forced to Use Talking Stick”, Charles P. Pierce, Esquire website, 1/23/18).

Aside #1: This incident was made fun of by people on Twitter, and deservedly so.  Mostly regarding how it was a metaphor.  You get the idea, I’m sure.

This group apparently made the recommendation to end the shutdown by an agreement between Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

At the end of it all, it was Schumer who announced the Democrats had made a deal with McConnell to fund the government until February 8, with McConnell stating he “intended” to begin debating an immigration bill (“Shutdown Ends After Democrats Agree to Trust That McConnell Will Allow “Dreamer” Vote”, Sean Sullivan/Ed O’Keefe/Elise Vieback, Washington Post website, 1/22/18).

Odd.  McConnell promised Jeff Flake (R-AZ) the same thing, in December (“Flake: Senate Will Vote on DACA Bill to Protect Young Immigrants in January”, Daniel Gonzalez, The Republic, AZ Central website, 12/20/17).

Needless to say, this didn’t happen at all in January.

As far as I’m concerned, that – and a myriad of other reasons – causes me to believe that McConnell won’t honor his promise to Schumer and the Democrats.

Even if there is a debate or a vote on immigration, who knows what that will mean?  McConnell has stated he is tying immigration to the border wall and “U.S. security”, which is vague and also suggests that Republicans will back 45’s stupid, unnecessary, and expensive wall demand.

Aside #2: McConnell stated “Let me be clear: This immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset and an amendment process that’s fair to all sides.” (“Trump Signs Funding Bill to End Shutdown; Immigration Debate Continues”, Mary Bruce/Miriam Khan/Adam Kelsey/Trish Turner, ABC News website, 1/23/18).

Maybe the vote will be to end DACA (“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) once and for all, which expires in March because 45 signed one of his zillions of executive orders to phase out the program.

Maybe it will be ignored, and the Democrats will again attempt to shut down the government on February 8.

Maybe there will be a proposal by a bipatisan committee to rework immigration law, including DACA, but 45 will reject it because he’s a racist who doesn’t want to do anything but deport every undocumented person in this country, even if this country is the only home they’ve ever known.

I’m betting on that last scenario.

Why?  Because 45 already did that, which resulted in the shutdown we just recently had (“Trump Might Finally Get His Shutdown”, Russell Berman, The Atlantic website, 1/16/18).

Republicans reframed this as “Democrats shut down the government because they didn’t get their way on illegal immigration”.  From the thumbs of their master, via Twitter:

“Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!” (“Trump: Democrats Want Unchecked ‘Illegal Immigration’ “, Mallory Shelbourne, The Hill website, 1/20/18).

Aside #3: You see where the “box of rocks” part of the title fits, right?

Why did 45 reject a deal that he had previously said he would sign?  He did, you know, and it’s even on videotape (“Trump Says He’ll Sign DACA Deal, Pursue Comprehensive Immigration Reform”, Christina Wilkie, CNBC website, 1/9/18).

After 45 met with the bipartisan group and promised to agree with whatever they came up with, a few hours later Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) came up with an agreement and presented it to 45.

He rejected it.

Graham later commented that he thought Stephen Miller had talked 45 out of it (“Graham: Stephen Miller Makes Immigration Deal Impossible”, Jordain Carney, The Hill website, 1/21/18).

Stephen Miller is very far to the right (“How Stephen Miller Rode White Rage From Duke’s Campus to Trump’s West Wing”, William D. Cohan, Vanity Fair website, summer of 2017).  He especially doesn’t like Latinos (“How White House Advisor Stephen Miller Went From Pestering Hispanic Students to Designing Trump’s Immigration Policy”, Fernando Peinado, Univision website, 2/8/17).

I can’t really be too mad at Schumer for making this deal, because the Republicans were also framing the shutdown as Democrats not caring about the CHIP program, which provides medical care to low-income children (“The Best Reason For Democrats Ending the Shutdown Now: CHIP Funding”, Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker website, 1/22/18).

Schumer, pressured by the optics and also by the reality that 9 million kids would be out of healthcare, did the only thing he could do – he gave in.

Aside #4: Republicans let time run out on CHIP in September of 2017, and actually that makes them responsible for the CHIP debacle, but when did facts ever matter to them, especially when it’s their fault?  

But I am a little angry because I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to take a stand and then back down soon after.   When dealing with bullies like the current administration/GOP, this is seen as a sign of weakness and it encourages them to continue their dishonest, bullying ways.

And, predictably, the Bully-in-Chief tweeted:

“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that if there is no Wall, there is no DACA.  We must have safety and security, together with a strong Military, for our great people!” (“Trump to Schumer: If There is No Wall, There is No DACA’ “, Louis Nelson, Politico website, 1/24/18)

Aside #5: What’s with this random capitalization of words, anyway?  So ignorant.

There you have it.  Democrats fell for the taunting and spin, and also projected their principled ideals (like honoring one’s word) on Republicans – who have no such ideals and have proven that over and over again.

It’s impossible to trust – or it should be impossible to trust – a party that uses every dirty trick, and Russian help, to win elections.  A party that has consistently broken its word (see link on Flake and McConnell, above).  Yet it seems that the Democratic leadership hasn’t learned this.

Do they really expect someone who has referred to African countries, El Salvador, and Haiti as “shithole countries”, and prefers immigrants come from white places like Norway, to support any bill that allows a pathway to citizenship for a predominantly Latino population? (“A New Low: The World is Furious at Trump for His Remark About ‘Shithole Countries’ “, Laignee Barron, Time website, 1/12/18)

A party and leader who run 45’s re-election campaign (!!!) ads that state that Democrats are complicit in murder because they support immigration reform and DACA? (“White House Defends Anti-Immigration Trump Campaign Ad, Calling Democrats ‘Complicit’ in Killings”, Associated Press, PBS News Hour website, 1/22/18)

I think it is the height of naiveté to expect any realistic or humane attitude on immigration from 45 or the GOP.  I think Schumer will find that out very soon, and I hope he has a better plan for it than the last time.

Weirdness of the week: “An Alabama Town Held a Candlelight Vigil for a Taco Bell After it Went Up In Flames”, Ryan Thaxton, Mashable website, 1/23/18.

(They weren’t serious.)

Recommendations?  An app called MyPlate.  You use it to count calories – it’s easy, trust me –  and to track any exercise you can think of (it even tells you how many calories you burn walking around a store pushing a shopping cart!).  It records dietary information on a ton of food, and if it doesn’t have what you eat you can easily add it.  Available at your app store.  Also available online, if you don’t want to put it on your phone.

Be good.  Be kind.   “Fool me once…” etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk is No Longer Cheap, It’s Dangerous

“I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.” – John Locke

Today, a Republican senator from Arizona – Jeff Flake – gave a speech on the Senate floor.  Oh, it was somewhat impassioned and seemed so, so sincere, criticizing the Idiot-in-Chief for trying to undermine the First Amendment of our Constitution by labeling every news item he (45) doesn’t like as “fake news”.

Pundits lauded this as “Senator Flake standing up to President Trump”.

Pffft.

A Google search quickly brought up Sen. Flake’s voting record on the site “Five Thirty Eight”, where we can see that this “courageous” politician voted in agreement 90% of the time with Not-My-President Trump (“Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump”, Aaron Bycoffe, FiveThirtyEight website, no date given).

What’s clear to me, after seeing how he votes, is Flake – who is retiring from his position this year – appears to be setting the stage for wresting control of the Republican Party away from 45.  And, of course, running for president in 2020.

He wants to be seen as taking the moral high ground, a “reasonable” and “moderate” Republican.

But he is just another dangerous politician.

For example, he voted for the horrendous tax bill just passed, that sets up the basis for curtailing or eliminating entitlement programs.

Aside #1: Kentucky was quick to start the ball rolling by making Medicaid recipients (up until age 64!) go to work if they want to keep their healthcare.  Never mind that 60% of Medicaid recipients already work, we gotta get Grandma and Grandpa out there too, the slackers!

That is just one example.  If you click on the link I provided you can see Flake’s record in all it’s disgustingness.

So we have one Republican pretending to spar with his leader.  I am not impressed, and you ought not to be, either.

It’s so tempting to cheer anyone appearing to stand up to the Bully-Elect, because things are so awful and most Republicans either don’t condemn anything 45 does/says or they flat-out lie for him (“Sens Cotton and Perdue are Outed for Lying on Trump’s Behalf”, Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post online, 1/16/18).

Also, I think that moderates, liberals, and other folks who lean left want to think the best of people, even Republicans.

That’s a mistake.  A dangerous mistake.

We have to judge people by what they do, not what they say, especially in this political climate where lying by the right-wing is as natural to them as breathing.

The Not-My-President lies, his press secretary lies, his Ass-Kisser-Assistant (Pence) lies, and, except for the people who are leaking information on what really goes on in the White House, everyone who works in this administration lies.

We can only judge them by what they do.  And hold them accountable, no matter how many times they insist we “misheard”, “misinterpreted”, “are making things up”, or “aren’t supposed to take the president literally”.  The reaction of Republicans to any criticism or confrontation is to gaslight the public.

I don’t think most people are falling for that now.

Before you yell, “But his base!” may I remind you of who 45’s base really is?

It’s the people who fund him.  The Russian SVR, and the 1%.  And wannabe 1%-ers.

So, while his base is small, even when you include who really is responsible for him, they are well-funded.  And you need to consider, part of the reason 45 goes on campaign tours still is to reinforce this idea that his base consists only of rural whites who come out to see him.

Because they’re just a bunch of dumb rednecks, right? Not particularly dangerous, and if they are…well…we have people on “our side” who will fight back.

As long as we continue to focus on this small section of the population, most of whom do not have two nickels to rub together, we are distracted.  Heck, most of us won’t even admit there are middle-class to upper-middle-class supporters who support 45 – that cuts too close to home.

Never mind, though, because our real opposition is the 1%.  We can never lose sight of that, we can never be manipulated into fighting each other.

Because as dangerous as their speech and actions can be, we’ve got to remember that they see our speech and actions as dangerous, too.  

The difference is, it’s much easier to shut us up or punish us for what we say and do.  And if we don’t get it together and unite, we might find ourselves unable to fight back.

Because they hold the power.

Remember Leonard Peltier, still in prison.  Think about Red Fawn Fallis, arrested for something she didn’t do – because she is a human rights advocate and a Lakota.

You want a window into the future about how the 1% and their servants will eventually come after us?  Look at how they have dealt with indigenous people since they landed here with their dreams of conquest right on up until today.  There’s your signpost.

Aside #2: That is not to diminish how other groups in American society are treated, such as the unjust imprisonment and/or murder of POC, or the violence against women and LGBTQ community, or…I’m sure you can think of others.

Focus.  On actions, not words.

Weird news of the week: Mind how you deal with sneezes…“Man’s Throat Ruptured After Holding His Nose During Forceful Sneeze”, Rebecca Taylor, Sky News website, 1/16/18.

Recommendation for this week: Website (GovTrack) listing all the committee meetings in Congress, for all you political junkies. I would bet you can see most of these on CSPAN.

Be good.  Be kind.  Watch what people do, not what they say.

 

 

The Upcoming Struggle to Defend Social Security…

…and other entitlement programs.    

I want to start out by defining what the word “entitlement” means, in this context:

“A government program that provides benefits to any individual meeting certain eligibility requirements.” – Dictionary.com  (emphasis mine)

Notice that nowhere does it use the word “deserve”.  Because, in this case, “entitlement” is simply a word to describe a social program – albeit an unfortunate choice of a word, in my opinion.

Nevertheless, people who support programs such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as people who oppose those programs, tend to use the word “entitlement” as meaning this:

“The belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” – Dictionary.com

(This does not usually apply to peoples’ attitudes about SNAP and TANF, however, as you have to be straight-up poor to get those.  The Social Security and Medicare people think of, especially these days when these programs are under attack, are the ones people “earned” by having money taken out of their paychecks.)

No one, except the poor and a few enlightened progressives, thinks that the poor are “entitled” to anything.

And, of course, that’s my beef with all this screaming about “hands off our Social Security” stuff I see on Facebook and elsewhere.  Because, well, you guys know me – always bringing it back to the poor folks, and how some of the not-poor progressives need to adjust their attitudes.

Side note #1: I think you already know this, but the “not-poor progressives” group I am referring to does not include my friends.  My friends already understand what I am writing about.

So…to continue…I see all kinds of memes on my FB page, posted by others, that encourage people to write their congresspeople and/or attend protests and meetings in order to express displeasure at the upcoming Paul Ryan-led decimation of Social Security (though he is going after Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF also).

Comments about these posts range from “Leave my Social Security/Medicare alone, I PAID for those and I am ENTITLED to them!” to…ok, just kidding, there are no other comments on posts like that.  It’s all about how people paid into Social Security/Medicare so they deserve to get them when they retire.

I want to tell you, I don’t actually dispute that.  It’s ok by me if people get Social Security/Medicare when they retire.

What I object to is the idea that only they are “entitled” to social support payments when they can no longer work.

It’s something that makes us poor folks cringe, the idea that one should only get benefits if one has paid for them.  And with that cringing comes the knowledge that, if saving their “paid-for” benefits and leaving us with none is an option, the working and middle classes will have no problem with doing that.

Because they deserve it, and we don’t.  This attitude is what causes many poor folks to think they don’t have the right to fight for their benefits, and also causes many of us to avoid organizations that are mostly filled with the “I-paid-for-my-benefits” crowd.

That’s actually bad for the organizations – not only in terms of consciousness-raising, but it decreases their numbers significantly when they, say, want to conduct a mass action.  Or when voting is an issue.  Or when they need a lot of people to email their representatives.

“But why is this attitude so wrong?” you may ask.

Well, let me give you a personal example.

I worked on and off most of my adult life until my 40s.  I say “on and off” because I also had 3 kids before I was 30 (all planned), and I had them because I actually wanted to raise kids, so I attempted to work nights so my then-husband could watch them once he came home from his day job.

That would have worked brilliantly, except for the fact that my then-husband would be asleep when I got home from work, and the kids would be running around the house unsupervised.  This happened so often that I was not able to keep any job I had for very long.

After my kids were grown, I was in university getting my degree, then out of university I was working as a therapist for various organizations – and got fired from nearly all of them.

“Yeah, well, it’s your fault for getting fired.”

Unfortunately, in this for-profit healthcare system we have in this country, I always got fired for choosing the patients’ mental health over the hospitals’ profits.  I can explain all the ways in which I did that, but that’s another blog post (or you can search the blog for the times I have written about this already).

The point is, I never amassed enough work credits to be able to claim “conventional” Social Security – you know, the kind people state they worked for.  What I get is SSDI, Social Security Disability, and SSI (Supplemental Security Income). That’s for everyone who is unable to work, and who are poor.

And, by the way, FICA does not pay for SSI, so calm down.  It’s funded by general tax revenues – you know, the taxes paid for by richer folks than you, until recently (see the GOP’s tax bill they just passed).

Side note #2: Of course, having worked, I, too, paid into the system with FICA, just “not enough”.  They have some kind of formula they use.  I will never “get back what I paid”.

Ok, so what about mothers who did this?  I wasn’t the only one.  If we end up unable to work at all and on disability, are we just supposed to be homeless, without medical care, without food and so on?

Why would anyone with brains and a capacity for empathy think that?

I’ll give you another example.  Not a personal one this time.

What about kids who are born with problems?  Problems so severe that they cannot work when they come of age?  Are they just supposed to be on the streets, or in institutions?  I guess some people would prefer they just live in institutions, so they don’t have to see people like that.

Who is going to pay for these institutions?  And why do people with disabilities not have the right to live freely, not locked up?  We tried that years ago, just locking people up in institutions, and they were horribly mistreated plus no one deserves to be locked away just for who they are.

Because that’s what we as a society did – we locked people up in institutions just because of who they were.

Thankfully, until the Idiot-in-Chief and his cruel Republican friends (like the disgusting Mick Mulvaney) are successful in rolling back all the civil rights gains that people who are other-abled have won, we don’t live in a world like that presently.

Side note #3: There’s this, though (“Congress Wants to Change the Americans with Disabilities Act and Undermine the Rights of People with Disabilities”, Tyler Ray and Vania Leveille,ACLU website, 9/6/17).

“But people who don’t work don’t contribute to society,” some people argue.

Do people who get SSI and SSDI, SNAP and so on buy things?  We do!

We buy clothes and food and medicine and gas (those of us lucky enough to be part of the 85% of Americans who have a car, don’t be snooty), amongst other things.  Do people have jobs in order to provide goods and services?  They do!

Side note #4: The next time you turn up your nose at all the poor people you see in the stores you shop in, just think about how many people that business would lay off if it weren’t for customers.  Look at it for any business, even hospitals.

People do not exist in a vacuum.  Commerce continues whether the person participating in it is poor or not – no one asks for proof of income before you can buy a shirt, for example.  Money from SSI and SSDI is the same color as money from SSA.

So stop being such an “entitled” jerk about it all.  Go read some books on how capitalism works.  If you can’t be empathetic and compassionate, at least look at what “entitlement programs” actually do for you in terms of consumerism.

Maybe that will skew your beliefs a bit.

Weird news of the week: Yoga with Goats in Connecticut.  The idea is that you do yoga, and the goats do whatever they want, like climb on you and frolic around.  Better with cats, I think.

Recommendation of the week: Another tip for us poor folks – if you sign up for Red Robin rewards (free), you get a free burger during your birthday month.  You get anything free at Starbuck’s during your birthday month, and a free drink at Dunkin’ Donuts.  There are other programs, I’m sure, but if you know someone who is poor please tell them about these.

(My birthday is tomorrow but I am on a diet so no free goodies for me!)

Be good.  Be kind.  Everyone is entitled to respect and love (except Republicans heh).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon-Ridden Days, Nightmare-Ridden Sleep

With apologies to Yeats, who wrote this in his poem “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen”:

“O what fine thought we had because we thought/That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.”

Here’s a link to the full poem: “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” by Yeats

He was writing about Ireland, of course, but I think there are similarities with today’s political/social climate.  Plus, I love Yeats – he was the focus of my never-finished dissertation.

I haven’t written much, for a long time – not here, anyway.  But one of my New Year’s resolutions is to re-start this blog, and continue writing every Wednesday.

I can’t give you any good reasons or excuses why I have not been writing.  Some of it was this illness, some of it was a chronic state of upset over the election of the worst president in US history, and some of it was feeling overwhelmed in terms of subjects about which to write.  We here in the US are living each day in crisis.  Every day brings a new situation to worry about.

It makes sense in terms of narcissistic personality disorder, as 45 is responsible for creating chaos and crisis on a daily basis.  It’s what they do.  I’ve seen it time and time again in outpatient and inpatient settings, and usually was not sucked into it, but it’s hard not to howl at the TV when it’s happening to the entire country.  In a clinical situation, me ignoring behavior like this has an immediate impact on the patient; but, in the situation where the whole country is being played, me ignoring it or attending to it makes no difference.

That’s a hard thing to deal with.  And I didn’t want to deal with it in this blog.  Many clinicians and laypeople address this on a daily basis, and I can’t really add anything to the discussion.

So, briefly to start out, a health update: After many tests, and after switching endocrinologists (Dr. Asshat was pissing me off more and more), it appears as if I have hyperparathyroidism.  I am still taking Vitamin D and drinking copious amounts of calcium-fortified almond milk, and I get blood tests tomorrow.

My next endocrine appointment is Jan 16.  I am hoping it comes out that this is the actual problem, and that I don’t have to go see another specialist.  This endocrinologist thinks that it is secondary hyperparathyroidism due to Vitamin D deficiency, but the tests over time do not bear this out.  We’ll see.

The title of today’s post was chosen due to the imagery of dragons stampeding during the day – i.e., hearing and seeing all the wildly scary news on a daily basis – and having nightmares when finally crawling into bed, having no escape from the day’s insanity.  I imagine this scenario is true for the majority of the country right now.

I wonder, sometimes, what I would tell a client/patient if I were working right now, and was listening to the anxiety and depression that can be aggravated by societal upheaval.  Addressing the basis of the problem can, and does, get a therapist fired for “being too political”, but not addressing it and just suggesting the person medicate, meditate, and/or take up a new hobby just does not seem helpful.

We, as therapists, tend to put way too much responsibility on the client/patient, and not enough on the environment and other conditions that are aggravating or even causing symptoms in the first place.  Yes, we all can (to some extent) control how we deal with information, but we do not live in a vacuum where we can just “rise above it all”.

Not when the environmental stressors are due to actual things that might materially affect people, like cutting social programs and the like.  It’s really easy to be unaffected by 45’s policies when those policies do not affect you personally.

That seems really obvious, what I just wrote.  But it’s far too easy to put the entire weight of treatment on the client/patient alone, when a little bit of material relief would do a lot to ease symptoms.  Or when some kind of action the client/patient could take would make them feel as if they are trying to change the conditions that cause the symptoms.

I could see myself giving a client/patient the therapeutic assignment of “write an email to your representative”, if the person is overwhelmed with worry about his/her disability being cut, for example.

I could see this being relayed to another staff member or client/patient, who then writes up a complaint and sends it along to my supervisor.

Along with that, the client/patient is usually reassigned and/or talked out of writing an email to his/her representative, which is fine with them because, typically, clients/patients don’t like therapeutic assignments of any kind.  That’s why so few therapists assign them.

That’s also why so many therapists’ clients/patients don’t get better.

As I, hopefully, inch towards resolving my health issues and look to applying for jobs again, I am going to have to think a lot about where I can reasonably fit in.  I’m not seeing anyplace, to be honest.  And, without a car, my choices are really limited.

But that’s another blog post.

In weird news, Nebraska cops ruin Christmas by arresting elderly couple for weed.  The folks were trying to bring holiday cheer from California to Boston and Vermont.  The couple are the parents of the county prosecutor in Burlington, who has disavowed any knowledge of the felony his parents committed.  Jerk.  These people need a GoFundMe page.

Recommendation for today is for Schwan’s.  It is a food delivery service that’s been around for ages.  I am recommending them because they take the SNAP card.  Yeah, it’s expensive and you don’t get nearly the same amount of food you would get if you shopped at, say, Aldi, but it’s ideal for someone who is house-bound and it beats all hell out of Meals on Wheels (which, though free, has food that’s utterly disgusting).  So if you know someone who uses SNAP and has a hard time getting to the store, please tell them about this.

Be good.  Be kind.  Have a better year than the last one.