Monday, October 23, 2017

Allow Me To Digest

A few days ago, I was sitting at my friend Jen's kitchen table in Herzliya just outside of Tel Aviv trying to draw a bead on how I would explain the experience of being in Israel. After all, it had taken me 48 years of yearning to get back there. Israel is such a complicated, complex place that even the air overwhelms the senses. Israel is the land of our birth as a people, the place we face for prayer, the landmarks of Torah, the repository of hopes and dreams, real history and revisionist history, real news that shakes one to the core of one's being, and fake news that just pisses people off. It is impossible to love it blindly unless you, yourself, are blind. 

And if you think Israel is an apartheid state, then you don't know what apartheid is and you shouldn't say shit like that unless you've been there and can personally illustrate that bit of antisemitic propaganda. Which you would not be able to do if you've ever been there in the first place. Israel may be a lot of things, but apartheid is not one of them.

The truth is, I cannot describe Israel quite yet. I will, at some point, be able to write about the journey, but the malingering end of jet lag and the lack of clearheadedness make it impossible to say much at this time. I need time to decompress. I need time to sort out the vast array of emotion/feelings/anger that Israel provokes

Yes, I said anger. 

And I'm already planning my next trip. 

Therefore, this is all you're gonna get tonight. 

Toes in the Dead Sea. 


Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you have not been to Israel, go.
Your world view will change. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Harvey and the Nuclear Option

View from the Bay View Hotel
So Saturday night, I'm in a lovely hotel room in Haifa, thinking I would catch some news before I go to sleep. 

Ha.

The channel that's supposed to be the BBC is a 24-hour fundraising thing for Christian fundamentalists. The other choice is FOX-News International. There was no news on FOX, only non-stop hate speech directed at Harvey Weinstein who probably deserves to be pilloried, but the level of screech-and-hate speech bordered on the antisemitic. I was riveted...for a while, anyway...and then my brain kicked in. I remembered what Feckless Leader said:
I did try and fuck her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch...I’m automatically attracted to beautiful ... I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet ... I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
If you were not outraged by Feckless Leader's pussy-grabbing comments caught on tape in 2005, then sit down and shut up now. You do NOT get to have an opinion because YOU are making this a political vendetta. It is not. Sexual predators come from all segments of the population, all races, all political positions, all religions, all occupations: 
  • Rep. Mark Foley (R. Florida)
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner (D. NY)
  • Rep. Jim Kolbe (R. Arizona)
  • Sen. Larry Craig (R. Idaho)
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
  • Woody Allen
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Bill Cosby
  • Roman Polanski
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Roger Ailes
  • Bill O'Reilly
  • Jerry Sandusky
  • James Woods
I could keep going but I won't. 

When I was a young director, being hit on was part of some weird rite of passage. Early in that process, I decided I was not going to sleep with anyone for the sake of my career, although I was propositioned multiple times. That was my choice; I knew other women who made other choices, and even thought knowing what they did pissed me off, it was their choice, not mine. I cannot imagine very many of my rather strong-willed directorial compatriots prostituted themselves outta fear; I think they used sex as a means to an end. 

And no, I still do not think that is okay. I didn't then and I don't now.

Actors, however, are a different story. Casting couches, as they have been called, are as old as theater itself. Best to try to figure out who isn't using a casting couch. Guys like Harvey Weinstein have been around for years. This is nothing new. And there isn't an actress alive who is not fully aware that this exists. And that there are choices. Being young and/or stupid and/or hungry just doesn't wash these days. Sorry. This is the age of instant media. You know better. 

That does not in any way excuse Harvey Weinstein who is not known to be a congenital idiot and should know better. He used dick as a weapon and should probably have it lopped off at the base for that. As should any other guy who uses his dick as a weapon in any circumstance. If you cannot be responsible for your own dick, you lose it. 

There. I said it. 

At the same time, you cannot start going around dredging up ancient history, declaring ME, TOO, and expect to have standing in a court of law. I'm not talking about the current Face Book movement for women to admit to having be victims of sexual predatory behavior. That is different so please do not confuse the two. 

I'm talking about the law. There is a statute of limitations on this stuff, so little that's now coming to surface is useful. What would be useful is every time someone attempts to use sex as a weapon, you stand up and scream NO to the rafters. Whether it's casting couch, or a pussy-grab, or dress-my-way-for-success issue, refuse. Whatever price you pay for saying NO is much cheaper than the price you will pay for giving in. 

And now that this is all coming out into the sunlight...there is support if you need it. 

Meanwhile, back at the White House, this is nothing more than a very convenient smoke screen. 

While Faux News is screeching endlessly about a <gasp> Hollywood liberal who no one thinks is right on an level, the guy in the Oval Office just signed an executive order that undercuts the availability of birth control while complicating the enrollment process for ACA and masking affordable plans. The only ones who benefit from the changes are the insurance charlatans who sell plans that do not meet the basic standards previously set when sold through "associations."

The same Moron-in-Chief de-certified the Iran deal immediately after telling North Korea to expect to be blown up any minute. In other words, the West Wing Cadre has managed to set up potential nuclear war on not one, but TWO fronts. Pushing Iran away from the deal only reinvests them with the power to start up their nuclear weapons program all over again. At the same time, threatening North Korea with annihilation only encourages them to increase their own stock-pile of nuclear weapons. These countries are not stupid. Iran and Korea know there is an seriously unstable guy behind the desk. And they are not going to sit around waiting for something to happen. 

Faux News, ever so helpful to the pussy-grabbing contingent, gave the West Wing Wackos the distraction they needed to push through more dangerous crap. 

And We, the People, too busy yelling "ME, TOO!"  failed to fully grok the notion that the warlock-hunt has taken precedence over very real, very important, and very dangerous news. 

Sitting in Herzliya right now, I can tell you an Iran with nuclear weapons is not an abstract idea. It is real, it is close, and it is part of daily existence. Under the umbrella of the deal, Iran was at the table, there was communication, and progress continued. Cancel the deal, and you're back to having a rogue nation armed to the teeth....pointed right where I'm sitting. 

Now, do you still want to talk about Harvey Weinstein?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Vote for vermin, wake up dead. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Follow The Money And Stray No More

There's an old saw that seems to be truer every year: if you want answers, follow the money. More than ever, We, the People are confronted by paper trails that are green. 

I'm not gonna list the different trails....just pick one, any one and you'll get the idea. Unless you are running for town council in a town with a population under 100, you are out there raising money. Your friends are donating, they're asking their friends, so forth and so on. But anything bigger than a small-town council is gonna take more money that most people have lying around in coffee cans under the front porch. It takes outside donors, sponsors like the kind that sponsor THE PRICE IS RIGHT. It means making your candidate appear to someone with a cheque book. 

Whose cheque book is important. Really important. The hand that is writing that cheque is not doing it as a cursive exercise; they are writing that cheque because something is in it for them. This is about quid pro quo; you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Folks, this is true whether you are Bernie Sanders or Donald Duck. 

Some is paying for those "Paid By..." ads running on radio and television. It's infinitely easier to follow that money than the bucks shelled out for Twitter and Facebook stuff. Our own Senator, St. Amy of Klobuchar sent out an email today:
Advertisers spent $1.4 billion on online political ads in the 2016 election. But there’s currently very little scrutiny for buyers of online ads. With the news that Russia paid for a number of online ads targeted at U.S. voters (including purchases in rubles!), isn't it time we had a system of accountability for online ads that matches the one we have for TV and radio ads?
She's right, y'know. If we haven't learned anything from the Russian extravaganza, then we are fools. At the very least we should be acting on what we do know to make social media giants behave responsibly when accepting ads. Other media has to live by rules; social media should be no exception.

No matter which candidate you are supporting for whatever race, whether it be Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Pastafarian, make sure you know who is writing those big cheques and make damn sure you're okay with the sources. If you are uncomfortable with any source of income for your candidate of choice, go shopping for another candidate. Every single voter in this country should be paying attention to the bucko-factor as closely as he/she watches the bank balance. If you don't pay attention to that number, you have other, more pressing problems.


For the record, I am actively supporting Angie Craig in the MN 2nd District Congressional rest. I like Angie. I've gotten to know her a bit, and I like the person who sat at my kitchen table explaining why I should support her campaign. But trust me to the Nth when I tell you I will be watching her donor list like a hawk. There is nothing worse than a donation from someone who has an agenda abhorrent to me. 



So as we head into the midterm cycle, I just wanna do a public service announcement today: 
FOLLOW THE MONEY.

On that note, I am shutting down for the night. Monday is going to be a crazy day. Many of you will read this a bit earlier than usual, but not to worry, I am not changing any of my late-night bad habits. On the contrary, by the time you read this, I will be off on a bona fide adventure. I'll be writing about it, but right now, it's Monday morning, 1:30 a.m. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Keep your eyes on New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. 
This is the guy who will ultimately know where the money came from 
and where it went. 












Monday, October 2, 2017

You are either with the USA or the NRA. You can't be with both.

I went to bed Sunday night having written a reasonably cogent first draft of this week's episode. I woke up to the Las Vegas massacre. 

Over-60-white-guy with no history of crazy, with a pilot's license, with a seemingly normal family, registers in  a  Las Vegas hotel, and then three days later, shoots up an outdoor concert from the 32nd floor. 

Law enforcement found a cache of 19 weapons and assorted accouterments of destruction in the hotel room. Keep in mind, Nevada is an open-carry state where semi-automatic machine guns and concealed weapons are legal. An unknown number of the semi-automatic weapons had been converted to fully automatic. 

Legally. With one of these.  And you can hide them under your coat. No prob. And you can fully automate the little buggers with with mail-order Slide Fire SSR you can order from Cabela's for less than $300.00. Yes, folks, you, too, can have all the fully automatic weapons you ever wanted...legally...pretty much without any questions being asked. 

Regardless of his motivation, the real truth is over-60-white-guy did not act alone. He had to have help, an accomplice. He had to have been aided and abetted by someone. The guns and the after market equipment had to be readily available to him. And they were. They were out there in every store that sells guns. From Cabela's to Walmart. Not to mention outta the trunk of any number of "gun show dealers." 

These are weapons of war. They are not hunting rifles. They are not sport rifles. These implements have one purpose and one purpose only: to kill people. 

Then, my cousin Howard posted this status on Face Book today: 



You are either with the USA or the NRA. 
You can't be with both.

And it got me to thinking. He's spot on. There is no half-way in this conversation; the NRA is the main purveyor of death in this country. They enable and encourage death by bullet. They are the handmaidens to every massacre we have seen in the last 42 years. 

The NRA made over-60 Stephen Paddock possible. They are the ones who act as his accomplice, who make sure over-60-white-guy can get the guns and the after-market supplies to automate said guns. Who else is out helping anyone and everyone to buy any kind of gun at any time? They are the suppliers and the fixers. They are the ones putting the bullets on the streets and into the bodies of bystanders. They hide behind their posh offices and pretend the are merchants selling a product. 


But it's not a product; it's death.




(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
So what discussion should we be having? 
  • That over-60-white-guy has issues, maybe even a brain tumor that made him crazy and he's wasn't really responsible for his actions? 
  • That he should be labeled a domestic terrorist and rave accordingly?
  • That had more people been carrying guns, someone coulda taken this guy out from across the street?
  • That more than 4 dozen people are dead and more than 525 are wounded because he was not just able to buy semi-automatic weaponry, he was able to upgrade them to full automatic?
Or are we going to have a conversation, and ultimately a set of laws dealing with the ready availability of  semi-automatic guns ? Can we finally hold the NRA accountable for its active role in the continuation of mass murder in this country?

As desperately as we need that conversation, I don't think it's going to happen any time soon. The overly deep pockets of the NRA will continue its congressional purchase policy as long as they can. And they have successfully perverted the Second Amendment into something it was never meant to be: the right to kill.

Don't believe me....try this latest piece of destruction: 


The first responders in Las Vegas were able to find the shooter because they were able to triangulate initially by sound. They could hear the bullets, determine the direction from whence they came, and by using their ears and their eyes they were able to spot the window from which over-60-white-guy was shooting. 


Sound. Ears. Location. 

At the moment, the House is set to hear the "sportsman" bill that will make suppressors (aka silencers) easily obtainable. The NRA claims this is an "important safety-oriented aspect of the bill that will help protect the hearing of America's hunters." 

Sure it will. 

We cannot be a nation made up entirely of tootsie dicks. There cannot possibly be a significant segment of our population that really believes everyone should have access to  silencers, not to mention automatic weapons. There cannot really be people out there lobbying who actually believe adding a silencer to a gun is either sportsmanlike or will protect their hearing. These are the same people who roar around on ATVs and snowmobiles. They can't wear earmuffs like you wear on the lawn tractor or the home work shop? Really? 

I've written about the Second Amendment 5 times:
  1. July 23, 2012:             The Second Amendment ~ Stuff You Might Not Know         
  2. August 6, 2012:           The Second Amendment ~ Part 2                                    
  3. December 17, 2012:    The Second Amendment ~ Part 3: Enough Is Enough          
  4. May 6, 2013:               The Second Amendment ~ Part 4: Blown Away                 
  5. September 16, 2013:   The Second Amendment ~ Part 5: Gory, Gory, Hallelujah! 
I don't want to write about it again. Every year, we have a new "greatest mass shooting" in the US history. Makes it sound like a record to be broken, but it's not. It's a tragedy. Up until last year's presidential election, I actually hoped we might be on the path toward reasonable gun legislation. 

Apparently not.


Waiting for Congress to do something is what we do best. Expecting congress to do something is a pipe dream. The refusal to take up gun legislation has become a hallmark of our government. If the shooting was an "act of pure evil," then silence in the face of repeated mass shootings is an act of pure cowardice.


Of course, had over-60-white-guy been some other color or a practitioner of a different faith, well, that would be a very different story. The fallout would be spectacular. The conversation we would be having is not the one we need, but the convenient, divisive one that slapped label after label after label onto a human being regardless of applicability. Instead, we are wondering why a seemingly successful, reasonable human being like over-60-white-guy shot up a plaza. Already people are making excuses for him. 

Talk about white privilege. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Normal people don't send "warm" condolences; that's just weird. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

When The NFL Gets It Right

Whatever lofty thoughts I was planning to share during these 10 days of repentance have gone through the goal posts. 

Disclaimer: I cannot begin to tell you how much I loathe football. I do. I refuse to watch a bunch of doped-up bullies running up and down a field banging into each other until their heads sustain permanent damage. I think college football is a farm team system that has precious little to do with providing kids with an education. Pro football is nothing more than a form of legalized slavery with owners, trades, prohibitive contracts, and rosters. Too many players are exploited by unscrupulous rogues as soon as they get a little money in their pockets, and then ignored when brain injuries shorten their lives. I won't even go into the above-the-law attitude of some of those pretend-heroes who offer up bad behavior as a right (think Randy Moss and the Minneapolis meter-reader.) I know the various leagues and associations are trying to clean up individual team acts, but there's a long way to go.

HOWEVER... and isn't there always a however......

 Credit2016 Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
This past weekend, pro football did the right thing; the teams stood up/locked arms/knelt down for the Constitution of these here United States. They used their Constitutionally guaranteed right of free expression to protest the treatment of black Americans in their own country...and by extension, the moronic utterances of our elected head-of-state. Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick's San Francisco 49'ers teammate and the first to join him in kneeling, wrote an amazing essay in the New York Times:
After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.
What began a year ago as a protest about racism in America quickly became a Constitutional crisis over this past weekend when the Feckless Leader opened his trap in Alabama. Oh, the Looney-Tune list on that speech is endless, but this line jumped right into the end zone:
Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He's fired!"
The President of the United States is calling for the denial of civil rights to a segment of the population. Granted, that segment is made up of NFL players and personnel, but it's big enough to constitute a class....as in Class Action. But somehow, as important as all this is, I wonder what he's really hiding.

So, here's where the brain-rubber meets the Alabama road. He cannot possibly shut up, and comes off sounding a bit too much like Caligula at the gladiator match
The NFL ratings are down massively. Now the #1 reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening … with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard: 15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They’re ruining the game! That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Steve Mnuchin, is trotted out to appear on  Martha Raddatz's show to defend his führer's remarks sayin,
This isn’t about Democrats, it’s not about Republicans, it’s not about race, it’s not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time. That this is about respect for the military and the first responders  and the country.
Clearly, Mnuchin missed the point. It is exactly about race. He glosses over the genesis of the action, and the growing size of the issue. He dismisses it and that, besides being wrong, is dangerous. He cannot belittle the actions, and he cannot pretend this is not happening. And because the Doofus-in-Chief took to the airwaves, it also became about free speech, free expression, and what exactly the First Amendment allows. In case you forgot:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Yup. That kinda says it all.

But, I keep hearing Charles During singing Sidestep from Best Little Whorehouse In Texas like an earworm. Can the West Wing possibly be stupid enough to believe a little slight-of-mouth is gonna be distracting? 

Maybe. So I'm thinking we should be looking for something else. Kinda like the St. Paul Winter Carnival Medallion Hunt....only more obtuse. 

Let's see what else is happening. Hmmm... 

Rocket Man:
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!
Seems L'il Kim of North Korea isn't happy with this at all:
Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy [North Korea], we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hardline countermeasure in history. Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation,” he continued. “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.
This was followed by North Korean foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho's statement to reporters:
This is clearly a declaration of war, ... The U.N. Charter stipulates individual member states' rights to self-defense. Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the United States' strategic bombers even when they're not yet inside the airspace border of our country.
And if that was not enough...

Maybe a new travel ban? Venezuela is added to the list of countries with security "issues." Venezuela? There are several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, who have better terrorism track records than Venezuela...which makes me think there is something else involved...like oil?

How about the wall that keeps coming up in conversation? Feckless Leader threw the Dems a bone with his DACA statements...but don't believe them. He's bent on deporting all Mexicans. See, then, when there is no produce in the supermarkets, Americans will sign up in droves to be field workers. Yeparoo! Full employment!  That's the ticket!

Is it the latest attempt to repeal the ACA that, as of this evening, is supposed to be dead in the water? They tried bribing Maine and Alaska with additional funding directed specially at those two states but Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said, "No." That means McCain, Rand, and Collins have effectively killed the bill. At this writing, Lisa Murkowski is apparently still on the fence.

Or could it be the cockamamie tax proposal? That's a killer right there...middle income earners, those between $49,000 and $89,000 would probably see a tax increase with the removal of the mortgage interest deduction and the state/local income tax deductions. The top wage earners should see their rate drop from 35% to 20%...although Trump wants that rate at 15%. Yep, that sure benefits the middle class.

Nope. None of the above.

 © 2017, Steven G. Artley, ARTLEY CARTOONS 
Folks, if you're paying attention to the NFL and the rest of the smokescreen, you are missing the really big picture. Our Constitution is under stealth attack and if you're thinking about what the Vikings are or are not doing, you need a new reality check. 

No one gives a rat's ass if the NFL players stand, kneel, or spit nickels. It's a distraction shifting your focus away from the real issue, the biggest of which is the existential threat to the Constitution. 

We have a president who is doing more than saber-rattling; he's positioning this country for a short overseas incursion to be followed by a civil war here. Laugh all you want. Just start connecting the dots; I'm pretty sure you'll get the same picture I'm getting and it's not pretty. 


The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

...comes from Stephen Colbert: 
Tonight: I’m not worried about the guys with the regular footballs.
It’s the guy with the nuclear football who scares me to death.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Broiler and figuring out where to go next.

I heard the news today, oh boy, the Saint Clair Broiler is closing down. 

The Broiler was around the corner from our first house, but we used to go there long before we lived there. They had great malts (Al Gore was a fan) and great grilled cheese sandwiches. It was one of the first places the kids could walk to on their own... with the summer mother's helper. Even after we moved to the 'burbs, it was still a place to meet my friends for a cup of coffee or to go to after something else. And after Ziggy had the poor form to leave the building, it was the place where I went to regroup. I wasn't regular enough to be recognized, but I was always welcome. I wasn't crazy about the recent updating, but I didn't go for the decor. It was about the place and the smell and the grilled cheese sandwiches. The last time I was there, the server was saying how the landlord wasn't taking care of the building and it was getting to be a problem. I worried after that...because I think I saw the handwriting on the wall. I just hoped I was wrong. 

But apparently not. Our beloved Broiler and its glorious neon sign will be leaving us too soon. And I will have to find another place to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and regroup. I am none too happy about this at all.

But, it's that time of year for new beginnings. School starts, new pencils are sharpened, New crayons are in the book bag. As the trees shuck their leaves, we can shuck some of our baggage without too many people noticing. It's a really natural starting-over point. 

And Jews all over the world get to do the year-in-review thing. Like I've said in other years around this  time, owning one's own behavior is a challenge for a lot of people. Owning up to one's own bad behavior can be even worse. Some people can make an entire career on not owning one's own behavior.

Unlike the wild party-hardy January 1st new years celebrations, this version is about introspection and growth. You can't have one without the other. Jewish or not, everyone should have a day when they take stock to decide what comes next. What worked and what didn't? If I could repair something in my own world, what would it be? What fight will I choose to make mine, and what fight will I abandon? 

These are never easy questions, and this year, especially, they may be exceptionally important. 

  • Do we continue to fight the White House and its minions, or do we lay that aside to focus on the elections to come? 
  • Do we stop fighting Congress about climate change and bring that fight to the local level where we can change things one municipality/county/state at a time? 
  • Do we continue to beat our breasts for things we cannot possibly control or change, or do we accept who we are and what we are as we begin the hard work to improve the world immediately around us?

These are not easy questions.  This isn't about running away or hiding. It's about changing the things we can change, then moving up the change ladder to bigger and better changes. 

My British grandmother used to chide me about being "penny-wise, pound-foolish," and she didn't mean my weight. She would to talk to me about how I spent my emotional and practical capital. 

"You can expend all your energy trying to change the whole world at once," she once told me after a particularly frustrating demonstration at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza in front of the UN, "or you can use up some of those pennies teaching the same thing to neighborhood children. One is a brick wall, the other is an investment in the future." Of course, I argued with her...but I recall knowing she was right. If we really wanted to change the world, old guys sitting in the UN didn't make for a useful target. We needed to be changing the world coming up behind us.

I once played "Teach Your Children Well," by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young for her, and she asked me to write out the lyrics. Years later, when my folks brought my grandparents to visit Ziggy and me in Poughkeepsie that first year we were married, she handed me a card, and inside was a cheque ...and the lyrics. I still have the card. She'd written, "In the event you ever need these."

If you want to change the whole world, you hafta start someplace...like inside your heart and your home. Then, you get to step outside your front door. Look around your street, your neighborhood, your town, your state. What do you see? What works? What doesn't?

Now, what can you do to make something work better?

To those who observe the Yamim Nora'im: may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy and healthy new year. 

For everyone else, may you, too, be inscribed in the Book for Life for a happy and healthy new year. 


The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Okay, people: step back. Look around. Figure out what you can fix. 


Monday, September 11, 2017

We Stand On Hollow Ground

Today is September 11th. All day. Until midnight. I was acutely aware of what day it was from the moment I woke up and turned on the morning news show, just as I had 16 years ago. Only this time, I did not see the fire in the first tower and then the plane flying into the second. I was upstairs, but there was no one downstairs to whom I could call : PUT THE NEWS ON NOW. This morning, I just saw boats littering the streets of one of the Keys. I'm not sure which one. 

One aunt was still safely ensconced in a shelter in Orlando with her nephew, his fiance, and the dogs. The other aunt managed to make it to Connecticut thanks to my cousins, one of whom just happens to be a hurricane disaster mastermind. Really. Like a rocket scientist but for extreme conditions. (Not a joke.) And by nightfall tonight, the shelter aunt was back home, happy to be there, even if there's no electricity. 

Yes, there is a difference between the destruction of the World Trade Center, part of the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania and a couple of savage hurricanes. One is man made and the other....well, that's open to discussion. 

I was all prepared not to write about 9/11, and then I made the mistake of listening to the speeches at the Pentagon this afternoon. Clearly, it was not written by the toddler-in-chief because it had words he could not pronounce....like sanctified. It came out as sacrificed...which almost made sense but not quite. But the one that got me...the one that absolutely convinced me this jackass had done nothing more than glance at the damn speech before he gave it was 
Today, as we stand on this hollow ground, we are reminded of the timeless truth that when America is united, no force on Earth can break us apart -- no force...
It's supposed to be "hallowed" according to the White House transcript, which, by the way,  had acknowledged the other gaff : The sacrificed [sanctified] grounds...

Anyone who has ever been around actors knows what an actor who is unprepared sounds like. That speech was totally green. And don't tell me he's not an actor because you know damn well that's all he is. If I was the speechwriter on that, I woulda quit before the ceremony was over. This orange troll does not deserve to have good speech writers. With that stupid finger thing he does with his teeny-tiny hands....they should be just lopped off at the wrist.

For one of the most important, emotional speeches he will ever give, the first 9/11 speech should've been flawlessly delivered....and it came out sounding like a frickin' cold audition. I was so totally insulted by his lack of preparing....that I'm pounding this keyboard in absolute anger.

Folks, if you're not getting this, let me explain: he just told our nation he doesn't give a flying fart in space about We, the People. We, the People, are not worth preparing for. This troll cannot be bothered to, at the very least, read the speech before he delivered it. He read flat. He read disinterested. He read boring. What's worse, he read bored. 9/11 is not a national tragedy; it's an American family tragedy. It touched every one of us...except, apparently, the current occupant of the Oval Office.

His words are, just to be very clear, TOTALLY MEANINGLESS. They are meaningless to him, they are meaningless toward us.

Now, hold on to that thought for a moment while I go get a glass seltzer. Noch besser. 

Now, where was I going with this. Oh, yeah; I remember.

This has been a week of totally meaningless in the West Wing. He played the Dems like a violin section, wooing them in to cut a deal on the debt-ceiling, funding hurricane relief, and assorted other garbage. This scene was right outta some movie. Brings in the two schlubs, Pelosi and Schumer, throws them a bone, then sits back to bask in the good press, all the while, thumbing his bright orange na-na-na-boo-boo nose at the GOP. This was so badly staged I cannot believe anyone fell for it.... but the lame-brain media did, lock, stock, and trash barrel. You see, he did not ask for anything in return, and folks, that is not how that pig-in-pearls behaves. Nope. He will turn around and demand something onerous back for that little indulgence...because that is exactly what it was. I mean, how blind do you have to be not to see that one coming down the pike? 

When I think about the terrorists, the guys engaged by Osama bin Laden to bring down those planes, I'm not thinking they were rocket scientists. I don't associate any of them with advanced degrees in science or math. I think of them as brain-dead simpletons who believe they were gonna get virgins in paradise for committing heinous acts of murder. It wasn't that they were simpletons; they were uneducated. And if you have uneducated minions, you get murderous foot-soldiers who do stuff like that. 

If you bring on the likes of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to head NASA, what message are you sending to the kids in school? That to head an august agency you have to be a moron? That having a degree in engineering or physics is a waste of time because racing model rockets will teach you everything you for running a space agency? When they say things like they don't think climate change is man-made, you have to wonder what century they're from...the 19th but certainly not the 21st. When the West Wing advisors cannot be bothered to present qualified candidates to the oval office, having done their jobs by vetting them before hand, what do you think is going to happen?

When We, the People, elect this level of stupidity (on BOTH SIDES, people; just to be very, very clear) al-Qaeda comes roaring back to life. And that's what they've done. For 16 years they have laid low, but now, fully aware of the powers of the brainiac occupying the Oval Office, they are back in action. If you believe for one New York minute that they are afraid of the toddler, or Mike Pompeo of the CIA and their ridiculous threats, guess again. They are not. Just read about Pakistan's clearing of Benazir Bhutto's assassins if you want to see just how scared they are. 

We make our own hell. We, the People, do it every day by wasting resources and tolerating a president who refuses to understand we do make our own hell. We enable the White House to hire the Pruitts, the Bridenstines, and the DeVoses who see only $$$$$ destined to line their own pockets instead of the children of this country. They never see We, the People. They never really look at what cutting funding to shoreline research really means, so when Houston is flooded and the water is full of toxins...they can't grok the idea that the poison is man-made.

You see, my cousins Arthur and Kenny Simon died in One World Trade. Father and son. And son was a new father. I remember them on a lot of days, not just 9/11. And I don't want to ever think that We, the People, allowed al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or North Korea to start a war because they knew the president was impotent. 


Yes, toddler-in-chief, you do stand on hollow ground. In fact, it's giving way beneath your feet with every wave or your teeny-tiny hands. Make all the speeches you want. But understand this, every time you appoint a know-nothing to an important post, you are aiding and abetting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and North Korea. They already know you're atoothless troll, and they know just to play you. 


The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If the government won't act responsibly, We, the People, must do what we can.
Start small. Clean up your own act first. 
Re-use, recycle, buy less packaging.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

President Strangelove: “Have a good time, everybody!”

Labor Day is always bittersweet. The holiday marks the last day of mental summer and the first day of practical autumn. We always started school the day after Labor Day, so after that last day at the beach club with the smell of sand and surf, we faced that seductive aroma of new crayons, freshly sharpened pencils, and a new leather briefcase...or, when we were a little older, thick rubber straps with hooks that would take your eye out if you weren't careful. We didn't know from childproof anything. No car seats, no seat belts, cement playgrounds with monkey bars. Yeah, we broke a few bones here and there, but nothing we couldn't grow back. 

I don't know if it's because the High Holy Days of the Jewish new year usually fall in September, or it's the start of the academic new year, but whatever the reason, I really do think of this as the head of the year. All things are possible in September. 

Not all possible things, however, are good things to be possible.

During those years  I was sharpening pencils and sniffing crayons, I was also mastering duck-and-cover in case of nuclear attack. We absolutely believed our hallways and desks would protect us from nuclear exposure. Yep-a-roo, we sure did. All we had to do was get down on our knees and tuck into a ball and we would be safe. 

Well, 58 years later, we're not so safe. US Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley addressed the Security Council today, Labor Day, saying:
Kim Jong-Un’s action cannot be seen as defensive. He wants to be acknowledged as a nuclear power. But being a nuclear power is not about using those terrible weapons to threaten others. Nuclear powers understand their responsibilities. Kim Jong-Un shows no such understanding.
His abusive use of missiles, and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war. War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited. We will defend our allies and our territory.
The idea that some have suggested of a so-called freeze-for-freeze is insulting. When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won’t.
The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means to end this crisis, and that means quickly enacting the strongest possible measures here in the UN Security Council. Only the strongest sanctions will enable us to resolve this problem through diplomacy. We have kicked the can down the road long enough. There is no more road left.
I understand what she is saying. She may be closer to the mark than a lot of us want to believe. But what makes this terrifying is that we have a toddler-in-chief with access to nuclear launch codes. This guy is running this like a schoolyard bully. Fire and fury? Is he frickin' kidding us? 

At the same time he should be focused on North Korea, he also has domestic issues that required his attention. Houston is still under water, but he told reporters, after visiting a shelter, the people he saw were "pretty happy with what's going on." Really? As he went to hand out some boxes with hot dogs and chips, he said, 
There’s a lot of love. As tough as it’s been, it’s been a wonderful thing to watch....I’m going to do a little bit of help over here. Have a good time, everybody!
Meanwhile, chemical plants are burning, and this administration is rolling back more regulations. I checked with two of my chemical engineering buddies to see if any of the changes were involved in the Arkema fires. The answer was probably not at this time. In the end, it's all about risk management and it's unclear what process they had in place for floods. There are, at this time, too many questions and not enough answers forthcoming while even more people are evacuated due to excessive levels of air pollution. And then there's the matter of toxic waste sites that are now flooded...

But it's not that bad. After all, in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh, where hurricanes hardly happen, but monsoons sure do,  the most recent has killed nearly 1,300 people and directly impacted the lives of 45 million. What are we complaining about? Our people are having a good time in the shelters. 

As if this wasn't enough for one weekend, the toddler-in-chief announced he's cancelling DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This is the act, started in 2012, that protects illegal immigrants who were brought here as children. Those kids are called Dreamers for a reason: they dream of remaining here as citizens, unafraid and free.  Here is DACA by the numbers as prepared for NEWSWEEK  by Julia Glum:
 1. There are more than 43 million immigrants in the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute. 
2. About 11 million are undocumented immigrants.

3. An estimated 22 percent of undocumented immigrants are under age 25, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

4. The Migration Policy Institute said in 2016 that about 1.9 million people were eligible for DACA.

5. About 788,000 have had their requests for DACA status accepted, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

6. In order to apply for DACA, immigrants had to be younger than 31 on June 15, 2012.

7. They must have come to the U.S. before turning 16. They must have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.

8. In a Center for American Progress survey of roughly 3,000 DACA recipients, nine-tenths of respondents said they had jobs.

9. Their average hourly wage was $17.46 an hour, up from $10.29 before receiving DACA.

10. About 72 percent of respondents were in higher education.

11. After getting DACA, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they got driver's licenses. About half became organ donors.

12. A Morning Consult poll from April found that 56 percent of registered voters said Dreamers, another name for people who came to the U.S. as kids, "should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements."

13. The Center for American Progress estimated that the U.S. would lose about $460 billion in GDP over the next 10 years without DACA.

14. About 700,000 people could lose their jobs.

15. More than 1,800 governors, attorneys general, mayors, state representatives, judges, police chiefs and other leaders signed onto a letter supporting Dreamers and DACA recipients.
Look closely at #13. A $460 billion dollar loss in GDP. I wonder how much revenue from federal income tax would be lost as well. Gotta be significant. That's 700,000 losing their jobs, so the question must be asked, who will replace them?

Listening to MPR yesterday, I heard some GOP flunky explain how all those DACA jobs would be filled by Americans who are looking for work. Sure they will. The same way they're gonna sign up to be field hands harvesting crops. 

Who will run the businesses started by DACA recipients? Or will the local governments just hand those over to Americans to run? (Where have we heard that before?) What will happen to the employers who counted on their DACA workers to be contributors to their companies? And the students whose teachers are DACA recipients? And the patients whose doctors are DACA kids? Has anyone bothered to think this through? 

Yeah, I know there's a six month waiting period before it goes into effect; however, when has this Congress accomplished any sort of meaningful legislation? They had 8 frickin' years to come up with an alternative to the ACA, and they couldn't even present an idea that sounded sane. Now they say they're gonna tackle the tax system, something in dire need of overhaul, and the first thing they come up with is taxing earnings destined for 401k's. What planet are these morons on? The planet without oxygen because obviously that supply to their brains has been cut off.

When you have an imperial presidency...like North Korea or Venezuela or the United States these days, the president can do whatever he wants. The Founding Fathers, who must be spinning in their graves, set up a system of checks and balances for our government that are now being completely ignored. I'm having trouble figuring out which one of these disasters is the real one and which are the smoke screens. 

In Stanley Kubrick's brilliant satire, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, it's the Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper who is unhinged and starts the bomb rolling, not the president. Frankly, I think the movie should be required viewing for all of We, the People right about now. I have to wonder whether or not there really is a Plan R or a Russian Doomsday device. Right now, nothing would surprise me. 

Or, it could be North Korea thinks it's The Mouse That Roared. Kinda hard to tell at the moment. 

It's all so ridiculous that it's hard to believe any of this is real. This is not the way to run a country...unless you're a tin-pot dictator running a banana republic as your own personal money-laundering operation. Juan Peron had nuthin' on our toddler-in-chief. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Go find some pencils and sharpen them.
You'll feel better.