Tag Archives: 45

The Politics of Gaslighting

This is a picture of a gaslight.   It was invented in England in the 1790s, and by the next century it was on streets and in houses, being the main form of lighting in England and also in the United States (“Lighting a Revolution”, National Museum of American History website, no author or date noted).

A feature of this type of lighting was the ability to turn the gas up or down, making the lighting brighter or dimmer.  It is this ability that is the subject of the 1944 film “Gaslight”, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer (which was adapted from a play written by Patrick Hamilton (“Gaslight”, IMDb website, no author or date noted).

The character played by Charles Boyer was trying to drive his wife (played by Ingrid Bergman) crazy by turning the gas up and down, when supposedly she was the only person in the house at the time.  The husband would tell his wife that she was imagining this, making her doubt her own perceptions.  He hid and moved other objects, too, always stating that the objects were either not missing, or she stole them, or otherwise manipulating her.

This is where the term “gaslighting” comes from – I bet you’ve heard it used once or twice.

This form of manipulation is on public display every time 45 or one of his surrogates speaks.  It’s more than just “spin”, it’s an attempt to reframe reality in such a way that, once ensnared by the manipulation, the subject can’t think clearly – even in the face of facts that are quite obvious to everyone else.

Falling for this kind of trick is not a reflection of how “smart” someone is, contrary to what many people think.  It is also not a reflection of how educated someone is, how ‘weak” someone is, or how low someone’s self-esteem is.

The truth is, anyone can be manipulated by this technique.  A lot depends on how invested the person is in the relationship, how much the person trusts the one doing the gaslighting, and – especially in the case of 45 supporters – how others around them think and react.

Despite the appearance of a diverse society, the USA has a few “group-think” characteristics that can be manipulated for any purpose, if someone wishes to influence a substantial number of people, using gaslighting.

Aside #1: I think we have seen how this has played out, in terms of the effect of Russian bots and memes on some of the American public.

Let’s just look at one characteristic…

Like all groups, American society experiences “trends”, “fads”, or “crazes” – pick your term.  Everything from consumer products to reality tv shows, large numbers of Americans do fall into the “everyone does/has/watches it, I have to have/do/watch it” kind of thinking that defines a trend.

It doesn’t matter if this trend is harmful to others (Samsung products that are made in factories under such horrific conditions that workers have died), or harmful to themselves (doing stupid things on YouTube), I think it’s safe to say that people are not at their critical thinking best when they succumb to fads.

Of course, sometimes the trends are not harmful – like the hula hoop (yes, I’m old), jogging, or eating healthy food.  But you have to admit, these things tend to “catch on” and become popular in our culture.  Some people do things because “everyone is doing it” – that’s a hallmark of our world today.

It’s become this way with politics now.  Oh, I know, you can look at the 60s and see how people jumped on the bandwagon and became hippies, social activists, and the like – and you can even go farther back in time to see social movements trending.

My point today is, it’s reached a point where there is very little balance around for people to cling to, to keep themselves from washing out to sea with the rest of the ocean of popular culture.

For example, ideas trend quickly on social media and are picked up by others (the news, talk radio, etc) and spread, so there’s often very little time to think about the veracity of whatever idea is making the rounds at any given moment.

45 and his surrogates know this.  By the time one or all of them have spread a talking point, they are on to the next one before people have a chance to evaluate it.

It’s gaslighting at warp speed.

But it’s not just that it’s a conservative talking point – it’s that a lot of what they spread isn’t true.  People can, and do, fact-check this bunch all the time, but by the time the lie is disputed we usually have another false narrative to deal with.

Even people who don’t normally listen to or agree with the right-wing can be sucked into it at times.  A good example of this was the recent drumbeat about gun ownership, in the wake of the mass shooting in Florida.

No matter which position you took, it seemed that most people agreed on the following:

–That there should be ways to more easily commit people for observation (especially kids, using the ‘expertise’ of police and guidance counselors)

–That someone’s mental health status should be a key factor in whether or not they can buy a firearm, and even

–That we should “open up more mental hospitals to get mentally ill homeless people off the street”

You guys know where I stand on all this.  I see it as scapegoating a population that is vulnerable, and I also see it as a clear indication that most people do not understand mental illness.

Aside #2: “Hey, I can do what Dr. Phil does!  I don’t need a degree, psychology is just common sense!”

Anyway, these ideas about the homeless and people with mental illnesses went viral, and pretty soon everyone, it seemed, was advocating them.

Even though there is zero evidence that homeless people have guns and pose a serious risk or participate in mass shootings.  As for police and guidance counselors committing kids, that’s bs too as these people do not have the education or training to do this.

And there’s the whole “which mental illnesses do you mean?” question, as well as the fact that many people with violent tendencies never see a counselor, mental health clinic or hospital so how do you identify them in a gun sale?

This was gaslighting to distract people from the real and solvable issue of access to guns that can kill large numbers of people at a time – assault weapons.

How can people help others, in this age of deception, evaluate what they see and hear on social media, at White House press conferences, and on news shows?  How can we guard against being taken in ourselves?

I believe that it’s very difficult to do those things in the current climate.  Unless someone is predisposed to question everything they see and hear, the noise often becomes overwhelming and exhausting.

I think we’re going to just have to tough it out until November, when the midterms occur.  Because if the moderates and liberals regain the House of Representatives (at the very least), this will change the dominant narrative – or at least put a stronger counterpoint out there.

Politics is a numbers game.  If there are more reasonable, rational people in office, there will be more chances to express ideas that, even if you don’t agree with them, will at least not be lies.

Am I saying that left-leaning people don’t lie as much as right-leaning people?

Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying.  Don’t believe it?  Try looking at websites that keep track of  and fact-check the things politicians say, like FactCheck.org.  Or you can fact-check politicians yourselves, if you are so inclined.

That’s one thing you can do before November. Then make up your own mind as to whether or not a politician is gaslighting you.

Weird news of the week: From CBS news, a report of a UFO over Arizona, seen by pilots of 2 separate jets…“2 Airline Pilots Report Seeing UFO While Flying Over Arizona”, CBS News website, 3/29/18. 

Aside #3: Yes, I do see the irony in reporting weird news in this blogpost. Go fact-check it, then!

Recommendation of the week: Another one for people who like old-time tv, especially in the paranormal genre – the One Step Beyond channel on YouTube.  This show aired in the 1960s, and scared the crap out of me as a child.  It’s interesting to me now because it shows how women were portrayed in that era (hint: not in a good way, really), plus the stories are interesting.  It predated The Twilight Zone, by the way.

Be good.  Be kind.  Facts matter.

 

 

 

 

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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.

https://www.nbcolympics.com/news/maia-alex-shibutani-make-history-their-own-pyeongchang

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.