Category Archives: Social Issues

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.


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.



Guns & Mental Health: Missing the Point Again

As we all know by now, there was a horrific school shooting in Florida on Feb. 14.  17 students and teachers were killed when a former student shot them with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

There have been 34 mass shootings since January 1st of this year…and it’s only February 21 (“Mass Shootings”, Gun Violence Archive website).

Total stats on gun violence (from January to February 2018), including “unintentional” shootings and “defensive use” are as follows:

Total # of incidents: 7,481

# of deaths: 2,072

# of injuries: 3,543

# of children (0-11 years) killed or injured: 79

# of teens (12-17 years) killed or injured: 395

Home invasion: 308

Defensive use: 213

Unintentional shooting: 240

This doesn’t include suicide, police deaths, or death by cop (Ibid.).

Contrast these numbers with the pediatric death rate (so far) during this year’s flu season (December until now in February): 84.

And this is considered an epidemic.  People are being urged to get a flu shot, get their kids flu shots, wash their hands, be wary in public spaces, and so on.  As well they ought to be.

But talk about gun violence?  Sure, as long as no one mentions guns.

I think that’s crazy.  “Deaths due to guns” is the only topic I can think of that doesn’t usually address what is a major reason for all these deaths – guns.

7 of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in the country have involved the AR-15, or similar weapons:

The Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada (Oct. 2017, 59 killed, including the shooter)

The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida (June 2016, 49 killed) *

Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut (Dec 2012, 27 killed, including the shooter)

First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (Nov 2017, 27 people killed, including the shooter) *

U of Texas, Austin, Texas (Aug 1966, 19 killed, including the shooter) *

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida (Feb 2018, 17 killed)

Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California (Dec 2015, 16 killed, including the shooters)

*Weapon used was similar to the AR-15.

The point is, semi-automatic weapons can kill a lot of people in a very short time.  That is their purpose – to kill people.

They are not used for hunting.  They are military weapons.  There is no need – I don’t care who you are – for a private citizen to own these types of weapons.

If you must buy a gun, buy a handgun.  Buy a shotgun.  Buy a hunting rifle. You can defend yourself with any of these.  Banning assault weapons or military-grade weapons does not violate anyone’s Constitutional right to bear arms (“Supreme Court Justices Allow Ban on High Capacity Guns”, Lyle Denniston, Constitution Daily website, 11/27/2017).

Which brings us to the “mental illness” component.

Many people, including the Idiot-in-Chief, are calling for stricter controls to prevent “mentally ill people” from buying guns.

Aside #1: You ought to be wary of any stand 45 takes, as it inevitably is the wrong one.  This case is no exception.

Let’s look at this logically, ok?  For which mental illnesses are you going to prevent people from owning guns?

Depression?  Ok, that’s 8.2% of the population (19.4 million adults).

Anxiety/panic disorders?  Ok, that’s (in total, all forms of anxiety) 22.3% of the population (49 million adults).

PTSD? Ok, that’s 3.5% of the population (7.7 million adults). (“Facts & Statistics”, Anxiety and Depression Association of America website)

And those are just the people who go for help.  The actual numbers are higher.

“Well, hey now,” you might be thinking, “I mean really crazy people, like psychotics or people with bipolar disorder and the like.”

Ok, here are more facts for you:

Only 3-5% of all violence, including gun violence, can be attributed to people with severe mental illness (“Gun Violence and Mental Illness: Myths and Evidence-Based Facts”, Joel Miller, American Mental Health Counselors Association website, 10/3/2017).

Most gun violence is perpetuated by people who are, well, violent.  As in, people who engage in domestic violence, have severe problems with drugs and/or alcohol, have a history of being violent towards others in general…you know, the kind of people who often get referred to “anger management classes”.

Having conducted those kinds of classes, I can tell you – they don’t work.

They don’t work because people who are violent do not see their anger as unreasonable.  They don’t see it as odd, or a bad alternative to other ways to handle conflict, and sometimes they see it as “self-defense”.

As in, “He called me a (insert insult here) so I hit/shot/threw something at him.”

I cannot even count how many times I heard that.  They really think that retaliating with physical violence against any form of disrespect constitutes “self-defense”, and no amount of reasoning can convince them otherwise.

And that point of view cuts across all race and class lines.  I’ve seen every kind of person express that idea, from the Mississippi Delta to inner city Memphis to Central Pennsylvania, and beyond.

It’s not a big leap to imagine that someone with a grievance against someone – or against people in general – who has that attitude towards anger and revenge is going to go out and buy a weapon that can kill as many people as possible.

Is that “mental illness”?  No, in my opinion, that’s not clinically “mental illness”.

Some could argue that yeah, it is, no doubt due to a personality disorder.  I might agree with that, as there are aspects of that kind of thinking.

But if we made that the criteria, who is going to evaluate folks for that?

Most people with personality disorders do not seek treatment.  They don’t see anything wrong with the way they think.  And, quite honestly, they are notoriously treatment-resistant if they ever do find themselves in counseling (usually forced by family or the law).

We even reward people with personality disorders in our society.  Look at 45.  Look at a lot of famous and wealthy artists/musicians/actors/politicians/CEOs and so on.  Many have personality disorders because the kind of profession they’re in lends itself to a certain ruthlessness involved in rising to the top of it, and attracts people with personality disorders. They can behave very badly and most of the time they get away with it

Aside #2: Let’s face it – a diagnosis of some kind of personality disorder is not going to carry the same kind of stigma that other mental illnesses do.  Some people now even brag about having one, or try to make nonclinical distinctions between “malignant narcissism” and just regular plain old “non-dangerous” narcissism.  Any clinician who has treated folks like that, or any victim of folks like that, knows that this distinction is bullshit.

How about people who have been committed to a psychiatric facility?  Even those who are held for 72 hours against their will for being “a danger to themselves or others”?  Surely they should not be able to own guns?

Besides the problem of the profit hospitals make from involuntary commitments – and they do, I’ve seen this in my workplaces – there are also the facts above that I mentioned about violence.  Most people are committed due to “suicidal ideation”, not usually “homicidal ideation”.

Should someone who is suicidal have access to a gun?  Well, no.  Usually we tell family members to get guns out of the house or lock them up.

But we don’t usually say, “do this forever, he/she is never going to get better.”  Especially in hunting country, that would just be stupid.

Aside #3: I am not a hunter.  I am not a fan of hunting.  I do respect people who hunt for food, as many do in rural places.

And what about involuntary commitment for false reasons?  I’ve seen that, too.  That goes on your permanent health record, you know.  So someone who has no reason to be committed other than due to a dispute over an elderly “patient’s” money, or in other suspicious circumstances is marked for life and cannot get a gun if he/she needs one (like in the case of abuse)?

Or how about medical records of any kind that mention a mental illness?  Are you going to tell me that a woman with PTSD or depression due to domestic abuse hasn’t the right to get a gun to defend herself in case her abuser tracks her down?

See, I am not against gun ownership.  I am against owning firearms that are used to kill a lot of people.  This is not a “ban all guns” vs “gun rights” debate – that’s a false dichotomy the NRA promotes.

This is about innocent people dying.  And the common denominators are semi-automatic rifles.  Rifles that are not necessary to own.

Let’s take those out of the equation.

Weird news of the week: This is why the British are considered so civilized – “Police Officer Accused of Taking the Biscuits”, Sky News website.  The article states that “it has not been clear what kind of biscuits he took” and the representative of the Met Police is quoted as stating that the theft “showed a fundamental lack of integrity”.

(Well, heck, if they were Penguin biscuits, I would definitely agree!)

Recommendation of the week: The Shibutani’s skate to Coldplay and a bronze medal. It’s worth sitting through the Coke commercial, trust me.

Be good.  Be kind.  Don’t let anyone scapegoat people with mental illnesses, it could be you or someone you love someday.







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.

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, 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.