Friday, February 9, 2018

Being Pro-Life

Last week I read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood for the first time.  It was published in 1985, and found itself suddenly on the best seller list after the election of Donald Trump.  In this dystopian future, corporate greed and science run amok have caused massive infertility.  Religious extremists have banned pornography and forced those women who are capable to breed for the higher class of women who are infertile.  Ironically, Mary McCarthy reviewed it in the Times in 1986 and found it "powerless to scare."  I imagine if I had read it in '85 it would have made me angry.  Now that I am older and have an adult daughter, in the era of Trump when every day results in another horrific attack on liberties, it made me enormously sad.

At the same time, I happened upon an essay by Gloria Steinem from 1980 entitled, "If Hitler Were Alive, Whose Side Would He Be On?"  Gains by women in the Weimar Republic, increased freedom to work and access to abortion, were immediately eradicated by Hitler.  In the U.S. in 1973,  Roe v. Wade produced an immediate backlash, with the first anti-abortion law, attacking the poor by denying Medicaid funding for abortion.  We have seen that the anti-abortion movement, which never goes away, becomes more fervent whenever women's rights grow.  During the Obama presidency, we saw gains in access to contraception along with victories in the fight for employment equality.  The Trump backlash, led by old white men like Lindsey Graham, grows in fervor as the women's rights movement has taken on renewed energy, and the #MeToo movement seeks to hold men responsible for sexual assault and harassment.

So here we are in 2018 with minorities and the poor being attacked by the federal government, from DACA to Muslim immigrants, to attempts to do away with the minimum wage.  And front and center are the legislative assaults on women's reproductive rights.  Right-wing states' rights advocates are pushing federal twenty-week abortion bans, falsely named "pain-capable."  Personhood bills are cropping up like kudzu, along with new and improved twisted bills like "dismemberment abortion ban," which would prohibit second trimester abortions.  Be horrified but don't be surprised to learn that Trump appointee Scott Lloyd proposed something called an "abortion reversal" in order to stop a teenage detainee from completing an abortion already in progress.

And conservative darling David Brooks weighed in last week, offering his unsolicited advice to Democrats, suggesting that we go along with the twenty-week abortion ban because it affects so few women and we could trade them for something else we wanted to get done, I assume something more important than those few women wrestling with the tragedy of fetal abnormalities.  

Under the heading, With Friends Like These...: Bernie Sanders campaigns for an anti-abortion candidate.  And in 2018, we in South Carolina have a Democratic candidate for governor who proposes registering pregnant women "so the state can track their offspring and offer services if their children are not thriving."  This in a state that refused Medicaid expansion and wants to enforce work rules for anyone seeking public assistance.  I shudder to imagine what "services" would be offered.

I have talked ad nauseum about the twenty-week abortion ban, and its basis in false science.  I have ranted about a movement that calls itself "pro-life" but opposes health care for all and gun regulation.  A movement that claims to be for the family but cheers on the separation and deportation of immigrants.

How did we EVER allow this movement to get away with calling itself "pro-life" anyway?  The evil wordsmiths of the right wing have created fabrications of language that would make George Orwell blush.  Paul Ryan's "American Health Care Act" was designed to take health care away from millions of Americans.  Whenever you hear a republican talk about "gun safety" you can bet they are going to get behind whatever jackass bill the NRA hands them, and that bill will allow (or require) more guns in public places, across state lines, on college campuses, in elementary schools.

And you can bet that they all call themselves "pro-life."

It is time to take back the label "pro-life."

I am pro-life.  I believe women and children -- and men for that matter -- should all have good health care.  We live in a country of great wealth, that few of us see.  Without leaving the Koch brothers homeless we could increase their taxes and provide health care for all.

I am pro-life.  I believe that guns and gun owners should be registered, that background checks should be required.  I believe that guns do not belong on the streets, and assault weapons do not belong anywhere outside of a licensed shooting range.  I believe that police officers as well as children playing in their front yards or attending school as well as someone drinking in a bar deserve the right to be safe from an unstable individual with a gun.

I am pro-life.  I believe that women have the right to decide how to care for their bodies, privately and with the advice of a licensed physician.  Period.  In a country where "a man's home is his castle" and George Zimmerman was allowed to "stand his ground" and shoot an unarmed teenager and collect his gun on the way out of the courtroom, you are NOT allowed to legislate a woman's contraception or pregnancy.  There is not an abortion epidemic; there is an epidemic of violence against women, and attacks on reproductive freedom are part of that assault.  There is nothing "Christian" about the "Christian right."  They more resemble the Taliban than Christianity.

I am pro-life.  I respect the right of women to choose to give birth.  I completely respect and admire women who choose to give birth despite fetal abnormalities, or other hardship.  It takes a strength I don't have, and nobody has the right to make that decision for the pregnant woman.  I do not respect those few who have said that they made a mistake by having an abortion, so they choose to prevent other women from making their mistake.  Likewise, if there is a God, she/he made it so that if you choose to have an abortion, you get to do it again when you're ready, so stop talking about all the babies we could have had in the world.  If I had not had an abortion in 1973, I would not have my two wonderful children today. 

There are a lot of different rationales for being anti-abortion.  Those billionaires who fund our right-wing legislators mostly don't really care about abortion; they mostly like the distraction it causes while they pillage and plunder workers and the environment.  Lindsey Graham knows it is a dog whistle that will keep his right-wing base from championing a more extreme primary opponent and keep the big donors happy.

Right-wing Christians entertain so many twisted rationales for their beliefs that it would be impossible to generalize.  Fact free and projected from their own needs and fears, you can find the Rapture Ready, those that believe pregnancy is God's punishment for sex, and those that believe that the fetus is a little tiny baby with an erection that can pleasure itself and feel pain and that is going to be cut up into pieces with full awareness during an abortion.  If that latter image horrifies you, that is exactly its intent.

The anti-abortion movement is mostly powered by those who will keep poor and minority women -- and girls -- from being able to determine their own lives.  This is why, despite all the moaning about killing babies, these same people oppose free contraception, accurate sexual and reproductive health education in the schools, and health clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide reproductive care apart from abortion.  It is the 21st century rendition of keeping them (us) barefoot and in the kitchen.

And this is not just about women.  Smart men know that preventing women from controlling their own reproductive lives can throw an entire family into turmoil.  Not able to work to their potential.  Inadequate time or finances for the rest of the family.  The stress of having to live with a pregnancy; the stress of knowing there are options out there, but you have been prohibited from taking them.

In America, we are prohibiting women from options that are available to the rest of the developed world.  In Canada, Justin Trudeau has recently reaffirmed his commitment to reproductive rights, despite conservative protest.  When we take part in the phony dialogue about when abortion is acceptable, we are agreeing that women are incapable of determining their own paths.

When I was young, Catholics were taking a lot of crap for their large families, and Prescott Bush worked to support Planned Parenthood; later, George H.W. Bush crusaded in Congress for family planning funding.  Back then, they knew that unwanted pregnancies were a drain on resources, but now we have a government that believes it is worth the waste to keep the poor struggling.  With government assistance cut down to bare bones, a poor woman won't get contraceptive care, and when she gets pregnant, can't get an abortion, so she -- and her child -- will spend their lives living hand to mouth.  They won't be able to hold a job much less keep their children well fed and healthy.

Pro-life?  Bullshit.  It is time to take it back.  Time to say:  I am pro-choice because I am pro-life.

It is time to stop drawing lines in the sand for pregnant women to struggle with.  It is none of your damned business.  Embryos and fetuses are not cute little miniature babies.  Viability is the false argument that began it all.  It doesn't matter if it is viable if it is inside a woman's body.  Late term abortions are rare and occur when there are severe fetal anomalies.  Only a woman should make that decision.  Using science or religion to create legislation to control a woman is unacceptable.  We are not incubators.

If you want to save lives, make gun safety laws, provide health care and good education, make sure the poor all have a roof over their heads.  Don't invent an epidemic that doesn't exist so that you can win elections.

For those of you who would like to learn more -- and I hope you do -- here are two excellent books:

Pro:  Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Dr. Willie Parker

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Ironic Cherry Reads... about the Nightmare at the DNC

The Inside Story of the Break-Ins
and Breakdowns that Put
Donald Trump in the White House
by Donna Brazile

I never trust the advance PR for a new political read.  Somebody takes a couple of fiery quotes and distorts the entire message of the book, invariably.  With the possible exception of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, which I have not yet read but imagine to be full of exactly the stuff the media ran away with.

So, despite never having been enamored with Donna Brazile, I picked up Hacks.  It is a solid reporting of the experience of running the Democratic National Committee during the Trump-created havoc of 2016.  She does begin by talking about the financial mess partially created by Obama and further entangled by Clinton's attempt to help (with benefits).  And she strains in trying to be fair in her narrative of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's chairing of the DNC.

She then goes on to talk about the young men who were running Hillary's campaign, and especially young guns like Robby Mook, who refused to work with Brazile to get funding for state campaigns.  My own knowledge of Mook was his heavy handed involvement in the Democratic primary for South Carolina's 5th Congressional District before the 2017 primary for the special election, so it was not hard to believe that he would consider his own opinion in higher regard than others with different views or greater experience.

With the financial mess and the appearance that Wasserman Schultz made decisions favoring Hillary over Bernie, and the ugly attacks that Trump made whenever he opened his mouth, the hacking of the DNC was the rot that Brazile had to fight throughout the remainder of the campaign.

The story of the Russian hacks and how she fought off the invasions is gripping.  She describes the innumerable and unimaginable ways the hacks affected the campaign:  the staff, the candidate, the American people.  Demoralizing and frightening, the hacks created a pervasive sense of fear in volunteers and paid staff; worse, Trump's verbal abuse opened the door to vicious attacks at home and in the office.  The murder of a young staffer in what appeared to be a botched robbery became fuel for the Fox News conspiracy machine.  This made it not just a tragedy but another outrage to endure during a nightmare campaign season.

Brazile provides a thorough accounting of the hacks as they were orchestrated throughout the campaign.  She notes that the email dumps were well-coordinated with Trump's invective, including his "Russia, if you're listening" remark.  Along with email hacks and strategic dumps, there was concern about wiretaps and bugs.  Threats by phone and online required increased security.

Brazile became the focus of hateful calls and threats after a questionable email purportedly from Brazile to the Hillary campaign was leaked.  The email provided a question that would be used at the upcoming town hall debate.  Brazile believes that the email was a fake, as she has no recollection of sending it and said she would never leak such information.  This faked email may have been cooked up after a false news story appeared accusing Brazile of giving Hillary questions before the first debate.  Though she searched each of her email accounts, Brazile never found the suspect email, but it profoundly affected her career; she was fired from CNN after a long career there as a political commentator.  She suffered enormously throughout the professional slander and following threats.

When I began the book, I thought that Donna Brazile's tendency to personalize the story of the DNC and the 2016 election would get in the way.  Rather, it was her emotional involvement throughout this excruciating and unprecedented assault that gives this narrative passion and meaning.  It was not the lies, the hacks, the bugs, the distortions that is the point:  it is the effect that these had on the lives of the people on the campaign.  And it is the effect that they had, in the end, on the voters.

Brazile's heartfelt message throughout is that we must stop this assault.  Our democracy cannot survive if we do not work together to prevent this from happening again.  She had no help from the RNC in attempting to stand up to the Russians, or to communicate that this was happening to the American people.  Today the republican Congress is doing all in their power to fight an investigation that seems to surely lead to Donald Trump and collusion with Russia to affect the outcome of the 2016 election.  Rather, today they continue to try to obfuscate and blame anyone who might uncover the truth.

With 2018 elections coming fast, we are made vulnerable, once again, by the failure of republican leaders to put country before themselves, and a president who has nothing to gain from an honest and thorough investigation.  If you want to gain an understanding of the intricate ways in which cyberwarfare can influence future elections, this is a good book to get you started.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Our Dysfunctional Family

A good friend and Democrat called me to account for myself yesterday.  She wanted to know, given the complaints I've made about the Democratic Party, why I didn't become more involved.  A fair question, but one that I have mulled over quite a bit, so I was happy to try to give her a good answer.

First of all, I am not a gregarious, or even terribly sociable, person.  I am content at home, working in the yard or curled up with a good book.  A few years ago, I began to attend Democratic functions.  In my fairly long life, I have done that from time to time, but never among such a group of committed, smart and strong women friends as I have here in Charleston.

For awhile it felt good.  I got to meet people that were running the Democratic Party, some candidates, and some who were in government.  But after a time, it became just something I had to do.  That's not on anybody but me.  It is who I am.

But I am also a retired psychologist and an avid reader.  I am committed to learning and observing, trying to make sense of the insanity that is politics, and writing to try to convey what I see in an effort to help turn the tide of corruption and deceit.  I stand somewhere between the typical voter and someone a bit more knowledgeable, so if I don't know that something is happening, chances are the typical voter doesn't know.  And as a life long Democrat, I would like to see a strong Party help us all move forward.

The "election" of Donald Trump was the last straw for women who have been used and abused by male politics.  From wages to reproductive rights to child health care, women have been the dog whistle of the right that nobody talks about.  And too often because of that, it is women that are thrown under the bus by Democrats.  There is no better proof of this than the fact that Bernie Sanders stumped for a candidate that, otherwise progressive, said he could not support a woman's right to an abortion.  Imagine a progressive supporting a candidate who admitted that he believed African-Americans should send their children to different schools, or that gay men and lesbians should not have the right to marry.

On January 20, the County Party held its organizational meeting.  You may recall that it was also the one-year anniversary of Trump's reign, and that on that Saturday a year ago, women marched in protest.  Maybe County Dems scheduled their meeting unaware of the conflict.  But wouldn't it have been something if they announced very publicly that they were changing the date so that we could all get to Brittlebank Park and support the women's movement?

It was the movement that began with the Women's March one year ago that has given voice to #MeToo.  I am neither surprised at those voices, nor am I surprised at the backlash.  The hashtag allowed women to speak up without fear of reprisal, but the next step is debate.  And the one after that is action -- consequences that protect the woman and send a message that a behavior is unacceptable.  Yes indeed, Roy Moore is a whole different can of worms (literally) than Al Franken, but our political stage acts out what is happening at fast food restaurants, high schools and homes throughout the country.  If the Congressional Ethics Committee really did its job, a hearing would have been the way to go, but for Franken to have gone through the charade and been given a slap on the wrist so that members of the Senate could continue to protect their own, it would have been wrong.

Women need to keep speaking up and speaking loudly, or this movement will never get past Hollywood and Washington, to the women without power who need it most.

There are an awful lot of more subtle ways that women are getting pushed aside, and if we are unwilling to look at our own state politics, we are not going to move forward.  Thanks to groups like Emerge America in South Carolina, women are being not just encouraged but assisted in their decision to run for office.  Women are leading, but if men ignore or minimize the candidates in South Carolina, our voters will select the man in the primary, and general election voters will choose "R."  That's on the state Democratic Party.  The one that, to my knowledge, has never been led by a woman.

Republicans know how to message their sick policies, and they know how to unite behind that message.  The other thing they really know how to do is choose their tokens.  Nikki Haley, both a minority and a woman, killed two birds with one stone.  She is smart and attractive, and knows how to toe the Party line, with style.  The republican party knew that putting up a woman would defuse criticism of sexism in the party, just as parading Tim Scott neutralizes accusations of racism and eases any feelings of guilt by white republican voters.

Lately, in fact just over a week ago, Nancy Mace won the race for state house representative for District 99 against Cindy Boatwright.  Nancy is Nikki in the making.  A woman who made a name for herself at the Citadel and has been polishing her conservative image ever since.  When she was unable to defeat Lindsey Graham as a challenge from the right, she settled for moving down to state politics.  Before she moves up again.  And the republican party is going to groom and support her any way they can, because she is going to do their bidding, happily, when she wins.

Could the State Democratic Party have done more (anything) to help Boatwright?  They think not.  And yet we Dems know we are on the right side of the issues.  And we know that far too many voters stay home, too many don't even know there is an election, and surely don't believe it matters.  Where there was a solid get-out-the-vote grassroots movement, here in Charleston, Boatwright won the votes.  Did the County Democratic Party help make the difference in Charleston?

Republicans don't back off when the evidence shows they can't win.  They double down.  And sometimes they win.  If they don't win, they make sure we all know it was some sort of victory anyway.

Brian Hicks wrote a brilliant and hysterical opinion piece yesterday about the republican race for governor here in South Carolina.  You may not be surprised to hear that the primary contestants promise to provide a clown show.  The issues for us should be clear, the republican positions ridiculous.  On the other hand, every-damn-one in South Carolina will know who they are.  As we should have learned from Donald Trump, the only bad publicity is no publicity.

For Democrats in South Carolina, unless the Party steps up with TV ads, billboards, and well publicized events, our candidates will be the best kept secret of 2018.  And that will be a shame.  Great candidates -- and we are fortunate to have lots of them this year -- still need help making headlines.  It would be a shame if, when states like Alabama are able to send a Democrat to the Senate, we are unable to change the color of our local, state and federal government.

We need leaders who are unafraid to shout out the issues and point out the hypocrisies of their republican opponents.  We need the ugly antics in the State House and in Congress made public, daily.  Fund raising emails might work better if they are linked to a candidate; otherwise we are going to donate directly -- if at all.  Issues and republican Newspeak need to be explained -- for example, republicans should not be allowed to do the damage to small businesses they get away with while claiming they are the party of small business.

Boeing and Mark Sanford understand that voters still watch TV.  Even as I fast-forward through commercials on the DVR'd local news I can't miss the polished anti-union or pro-candidate messaging from the right.  Debates -- primary and general -- get the name and the message out.  It was shameful that in 2014, PBS refused to air a debate between Brad Hutto and Lindsey Graham; the forum that was aired instead of a debate allowed Graham the upper hand and was so polite as to be ineffectual.  I truly hope that does not happen this year.  We need our party to push for debates anywhere and everywhere they can put our candidates' faces and ideas in front of the public.

Mark Sanford and Tim Scott know when to show up.  And how to get publicity.  And when to stay quiet.  And they have republican staff that knows how to get their names in headlines in the Post & Courier, and in the local Beaufort and Myrtle Beach newspapers.  They have buffed their down-home images so that every white haired lady except me and my friends believes there isn't a day that they don't do a good work for the people of South Carolina.

I may be wrong.  If candidates believe they are getting what they need from our Democratic Party, I would like to know.  I would also like to know what candidates believe the Party could do for them in 2018.  This, like #MeToo, is a talk we need to have.  Because, more than anything, dysfunctional families need to talk.   

Friday, January 12, 2018

Make a Difference on January 16!

Last year we marched.  This year we vote.

And we can start to turn the tide in our state legislature on Tuesday, January 16.  Cindy Boatwright is running for South Carolina House District 99.

District 99: From Hanahan and Goose Creek to Mount Pleasant

You can find out if you are in District 99, and where you should go to vote here.

This is a great opportunity to start to move our legislature, and our state, forward.  2018 is going to be a year that Democrats can go from almost winning to moving from red to blue.

And why is this important?

2020 will be the next census year.  Republicans knew in 2010 that control of state legislatures was critical to controlling Congress, because that is typically who determines district lines after the census.  By turning a few key races red, republicans were able to create district maps to favor their own party.  This is done by packing a few districts with Democrats, and spreading out republicans across more districts.

This is how my own District 1 became District 6, so that my vote would be cast for the overwhelmingly elected Jim Clyburn, and I would not be able to vote in a potentially more contested District 1 (against Mark Sanford).  Here is how the 2012 gerrymandering in South Carolina is explained by Daily Kos:

  Proposed South Carolina non-partisan congressional map.
Interactive version • District summary stats
Drawn by: Republican governor and legislature
Intended to Favor: Republicans
Delegation: 1 Democrat, 6 Republicans
2012 Vote: Obama 44, Romney 55
Summary: Republicans effectively maximized their seats
Net Change: Democrats gain one seat
There is no need for the VRA 6th District to contain parts of both Charleston and Columbia, as this was solely done to pack Democrats. By dropping Columbia from the 6th, the metro area fits neatly into the 2nd District. It is possible to draw the 6th without any part of Charleston in it, but this causes the 7th District to become quite ugly. Furthermore, the 1st would still lean Republican even with all of Charleston.
The impact of this map is that the 6th remains strongly Democratic, while the party gains the 2nd District. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson had a relatively poor performance even in 2010 in his gerrymandered district after the incident where he shouted "You lie!" at the president during a speech before Congress. It is highly unlikely that Wilson would have been able to win a seat Obama carried by 3.2 percent. All five of the other seats would remain strongly Republican.

(from Daily Kos, June 17, 2015) 

But that is only one reason to get out and vote on Tuesday.  The other important reason is the candidate and where she stands on the issues.

Cindy Boatwright has specific plans to correct the problems in our state.  From fighting corruption in state government to taking on the opioid epidemic, from improving education to making our streets, homes and schools safe from gun violence, from protecting our environment while creating incentives for small businesses, Cindy knows what will work and what will improve our lives in South Carolina.

By comparison, Nancy Mace, who unsuccessfully primaried Lindsey Graham in 2014, actually ran against President Obama.  In other words, she is a right-wing republican who will say whatever it takes to win.  On actual issues, she really doesn't have any new ideas.  Scratch the surface of her concerns about issues from environment to education and you will find Donald Trump and the republican party:  deregulation and low taxes, while cutting protections for workers and safety nets for seniors and the poor.

While her statements on the issues remain vague, one thing is certain:  Nancy Mace will work hard to get ahead in the republican party.

If you are thinking about not going out to vote, let me assure you, your vote counts.  In Virginia, a house seat was lost by one vote, resulting in continued control of the House by republicans.

Let us not be shaking out heads and saying to one another on Wednesday, "So close...."

There will be lots of people who you know who have no idea there is an important election on Tuesday.  There will be others who don't know the candidates or the issues.  This is your chance to make a difference here in South Carolina, and in your community.  Spread the word, and get out and vote.



SC House District 99

Tuesday, January 16

Last Year We Marched.  This Year We Vote!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bigger Than Yours

Yesterday and today the twitter world, as well as major media like The New York Times, is all abuzz with the words of a really stupid, sexually inadequate bully.  The fact that those words have the power of the presidency of the United States behind it is shameful.

Despite the media's vows after the 2016 election to be more responsible in their reporting, it is impossible to tune into any media outlet, social or otherwise, without be overwhelmed with the obsession with Donald Trump.  And it's not that they are uncovering anything new.  It is the same crap with different names, the same strutting with different symbols for the same miniscule body part.

Yesterday he was demanding an investigation of Huma Abedin.  He continues to insist on investigating James Comey and Hillary Clinton, just as shortly after being sworn in he insisted that Barack Obama be investigated for wiretapping White House phones.  These insane accusations are not just the rants of an insane world leader -- which they are.  They are also the kind of attacks a bully makes when he is most afraid of being caught.

Sadly, this bullshit has had the effect of capturing headlines and focusing editorials and panels on the absurd tweets and ruminations on what this all means.  We have spent hours going over whether Donald Trump has deep motives and intentions, whether there is something going on in the big head that houses that tiny reptilian brain other than diverting attention away from his own crimes and the fear of being caught.

Donald Trump did not start attacking innocent people with ridiculous accusations when he took that escalator on June 16, 2015.  He has spent his entire life deflecting questions about his own adequacy by attacking others, at times seemingly at random.  This year we have seen it in all its absurdity as he has flattered, then attacked allies like Michael Flynn and Jefferson Sessions, and attacked, then flattered opponents like Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney.  People like James Comey and Robert Mueller have been in and out the swinging door of Donald Trump's good graces so many times they must have to check the headlines on a daily basis to see where they stand.

Anyone who has the power to come close to exposing him gets the full force of his abuse of presidential power, beginning with Sally Yates and currently with Robert Mueller.  He has used the legal system in this country to threaten lawsuits to keep at bay prosecution of his own illegal activity, from dirty business dealings to sexual harassment. 

I am feeling like I have already fed into his narcissism by going on about what we have been witnessing for far too long.  The fact is that people like Steve Bannon and Paul Ryan have been steering this presidency and the course of our country while we have been watching Trump have tantrums.  We have a judiciary that is being taken over by radical right-wing extremists.  We have environmental safeguards and worker rights being dismantled by deregulation.  And we have the rich getting richer on the backs of the rest of us, who were already struggling as health care and education deteriorated.

The man who is incapable of telling the truth has led us to a state of exhaustion.  The kind of exhaustion that leads us to want to escape or to attack.  Where the leader lies non-stop by indiscriminately calling others liars, we may wonder why we should be so concerned with facts.  In 2018, election season may see us attacking each other rather than those who are truly the enemies of our democracy.  Where emails and Facebook posts may come from white nationalists or Russian trolls, where republicans determined to push through their long dreamed of right wing agenda send sincerely deceptive messages, we may end up slugging each other and spreading misinformation.

My hope for 2018 is that those of us who hunger for a return to democratic government stay true to our values.  That we think before we tweet.  That we debate our opponents with passion, but also with facts and that we argue issues rather than fire off attacks on personality or innuendo.  That we don't hide behind safe positions that in the end will hurt the weaker among us.

Let us not pit those of us with democratic values one against the other with cruel and meaningless argument.  Let us support candidates who will fight for us all.  The fascism of the Trump administration has brought us together in ways we did not think possible a year ago.  We have seen it happen with elections in Alabama and Virginia.  If we can continue to fight together against greed and tyranny, we can win back our democracy.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Creepy Congress

Corrupt, sleazy liars.  We could all go on and on.  It has reached a point these days, between sexual harassment and blatantly stealing from the American people to add millions to their donors' wealth, that words fail me and I have had to resort to verbal emoticons:

Ugh.  Yuch.  Blech.  Euwww.

It is really inconceivable that Mitch McConnell has been able to get away with bending and breaking rules so flagrantly.  But it is happening.  Congress is now made up of salivating dogs that haven't even swallowed their tax cuts and are already sniffing for the next meals, Social Security and Medicare.

Gross.  Disgusting.  Sick.

And as if raping our country wasn't enough to turn our insides, we have lately been forced to confront what every-damn-body knows about men's scorn for women.  And Democrats, no surprise, are complicit.

So let me just vent a little about what we have all known as acceptable behavior until now, and just how STUPID it is.

Men continue to treat women nursing babies as though they are committing a dirty act, and don't allow it in public.  That asshole contaminating our White House actually made a point of being grossed out because Hillary needed a bathroom break during a debate.  But apparently it is a THING for men to lounge around their offices without their pants on.  After all, LBJ lowered that bar by insisting that staff talk to him while he was on the toilet, with the door opened.  Although, to my knowledge, it was just male staff to whom he was giving the benefit of his full perspective.

What the fuck are they thinking?

It's funny -- not haha funny but sad, pathetic funny -- that I heard no one during the debates about John Conyers and his need to allow his private parts to breathe, wonder why the hell he didn't lock his damn door.

African Americans have known all along that white folk behaved as though they were inconsequential, invisible.  And that that behavior was intended to put them in their place.  Women, we need to recognize that men have been doing that to us.

From the coining of the words mansplaining to manspreading, the younger generation of women has been letting us know that they have caught on.  Panels of old white men making laws about our genitals and reproductive systems is obscene.  More important, it reinforces the message that they know better than us, and reminds us in no uncertain terms that they are in charge.

So it really shouldn't have come as a surprise that Trent Franks had asked female staff about inseminating them, offering money for the service.  What IS surprising is that it was only when the women were concerned that he was talking about sex, not artificial insemination, that they decided to go to the House Ethics Committee.  Because, after all, asking a member of your staff to impregnate themselves for you without sex would have been okay.

What the #MeToo movement has done is shown in more ways than we could have ever comprehended, how not just overtly sexual but also ridiculously inappropriate behaviors have shamed and stifled women.

We have indeed only scratched the surface of the sexism that kept Hillary out of the White House.  I am glad that the accusations of sexual harassment by creepy Matt Lauer led to us all taking a second long look at his condescension and bullying of Hillary Clinton during a candidates' forum.  But what of Chuck Todd, who could not say a critical word about Donald Trump without stating that Trump and Hillary were the most disliked candidates in history; of course, much of the distrust of Hillary came not from any proof ("I don't know why; I just don't trust her") but from comments like those of Chuck Todd.

And, women, we have to stop making excuses.

I had a really hard time with Al Franken.  My excuse: the incident happened before he was senator, and his whole schtick had been pushing the edge.  In fact, Leeann Tweeden accepted Franken's apology as sincere and stated it had not been her wish to have him removed from office.  And, except for the stupid and gross behavior that he sees as comic and women see as, well, stupid and gross, he is an amazing progressive senator who has stood strong for women's rights.

That's where all this gets tough.  We have lost Franken in the Senate and may well end up with the homophobic pervert Roy Moore.  And let us not forget the sexual predator that is contaminating the White House.

So I suggest that:

1.  We keep talking.  There are no right and wrong answers.  Not yet.  There will always be fuzzy lines, but there can be a lot more clarity, as long as we keep insisting on being heard.  As long as we are not afraid to argue; the differences will lead to clarity in time.

2.  We learn to say NO.  The saddest thing about Leeann Tweeden's experience was that a professional woman was unable to immediately and unequivocally tell Franken to knock it off.  Women need to learn to do it.  And we need to make sure our daughters are able to do it.  Without fear of repercussion.

3.  We insist on real consequences.  Right this very minute, while Paul Ryan is having wet dreams at the thought of killing Social Security and Medicare, Mitch McConnell is chuckling over the fact that the Dems have lost two strong progressive voices in Congress and he is about to gain one demented sexual predator, who, like the other one he supported, will endorse any piece of shit bill the republicans push through.  And, for that matter, it is time to get rid of the Congressional slush fund that pays, through our tax dollars, for findings of misconduct.

Yes, that's right.  Congress has its own special deal with the US Treasury that fines levied due to findings of misconduct will be paid with tax dollars.  WHAT THE HELL IS THAT???

A few weeks ago, Saturday Night Live had an hilarious sketch featuring "Claire from HR."  Laugh your ass off, and then listen to it again, because, absurdly, this is reality.

There is so much misogyny in all workplaces, yet it seems fitting that we begin by shining the light on the swamp creatures in Congress.  After all, by being charged with making the laws that we live by, they have come to see themselves as above the law.  Their behavior has become more egregious, their stated intent to ignore our needs more blatant, as this sick Trump administration blunders forward.

It is fitting that on January 21, women led the way to resistance, and we will continue to fight for what is right.  Respect for women should be our top priority.

Because as Hillary Clinton said, "Women's rights are human rights."   

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanks, Obama

The Ironic Cherry reads...

Thanks, Obama:
My Hopey, Changey
White House Years
by David Litt

This is a hopey, changey kind of book.  It comes out just when we need the smiles, the chuckles, and yes, the hope.

David Litt began campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008.  From there he moved on to speechwriting for the President.  He began at the bottom, and takes us along on his wild, bumpy, sometimes scary, sometimes hilarious ride.  It is partly about his growing up, partly about the maturing of Obama's presidency, and partly about the transformation of America.

The personal anecdotes are hysterically funny; he is brutally honest about the workings of the West Wing and also about himself.  He doesn't let himself get too carried away with his own importance, but he doesn't mind telling us when he feels damn good about his accomplishments.  His periodic meetings with President Obama are priceless, and tell us as much about the President as about Litt.

It turns out that it is a wonderful review of Obama's eight years, just as we are sometimes feeling as if they didn't actually happen.  He takes us from the campaigns to the fights over Obamacare and the budget.  We witness presidential approval ratings sink as he struggles to first work with and then hold back a Congress determined to do damage to his promises to the American people, and then we watch them skyrocket when, in 2015, he decides it is time to do his work with or without Congress.

We also get behind the scenes of the amazing Correspondents' Dinner speeches, and the moods of the writers and the President as they are developed, including the critical edit the day before the Bin Laden raid.  And the "bucket" list.  And of course, the development of the skit with "Luther, Obama's Anger Translator."

And then there was that week in June of 2015, with two great Supreme Court victories and the horrific shooting at the Mother Emanuel Church here in Charleston.  And Barack Obama gave a moving and eloquent speech, ending with him singing Amazing Grace.

Litt says, "In less than two days, Barack Obama had secured his place in history....  I now lived in a country where health care was a right and not a privilege; where you could marry who you loved; where a black president could go to the heart of the old Confederacy and take all of us, every color and creed, to church."

And around about that time in Litt's book, he brought me back around from despair to hope.  Because, as we saw in last week's election, when women, African Americans, Hispanics, Muslim and transgender Americans ran for office against hate and bigotry and won, Obama's legacy can't be erased.  The American people have come together to prove that we stand for liberty and justice.  We will continue to fight for the gun legislation that Obama was unable to see in his terms in office, and for the women and minorities that are being victimized by the current administration.

Or, as POTUS says, "We haven't won every battle.  We've still got a lot more work to do.  But when the cynics told us we couldn't change our country for the better, they were wrong."

Thanks, David Litt, for reminding us of that.