Thursday, February 15, 2018

The NRA is Killing Us and their Weapon is the Second Amendment

Another massacre. Another killing field. Yesterday, sixteen kids and one teacher at at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were murdered by a teenager blasting away with a semi-automatic weapon. So today we're in mourning--crying, howling, ranting about the unfairness. How could this happen? Why is this happening? Something must be done!

The same old shit. Nothing happens. The families whose lives have been devastated by their losses have our sympathies and we do them the supreme honor of allowing them to weep on TV, or seating them in a prominent place beside politicians at public speeches, but we don't give them what they really want: A promise that it'll never happen again.

The unbelievable numbers of gun deaths in America are more than a national scandal, they're the product of mass insanity. I don't know how else to explain it. The statistics on American gun deaths are so outrageously skewed compared to other civilized nations, some of us (but obviously not all of us) work frantically to make it stop. We have no power beyond our words, and, even as we're blasting our thoughts into the vast Web we know words won't do it.

It goes on and it goes on because the leaders of this country are in thrall of the NRA and they allow it to go on. They're the only ones who can stop the rampages and they refuse to do it.

The words "I believe in the Second Amendment" are killer words, designed to give permission to any nutcase who needs an excuse to use a gun as a final solution .

When pundits or government leaders preface their rants against violent gun deaths with "I believe in the Second Amendment, but..." I stop listening. It's insane to say they believe in a corrupted version of a constitutional amendment deliberately misused and abused by the NRA, when they of all people should know better.

The NRA is nothing more than an industry promoting and selling deadly firearms, and they do it by seducing Americans into believing gun ownership is fun, cool, deliciously subversive, and an absolute goddamn right.


The NRA and their brothers-in-arms, the gun manufacturers, have built a multi-billion dollar industry off of that crazy talk and our own government has done everything in their power to encourage it. Gun lobbyists spend billions of dollars in Washington alone to keep that murderous myth going. The NRA "donated" hundreds of millions of dollars to Donald Trump's campaign. Many more millions went to dozens of members of Congress. Money over lives. They took blood money.

The second Amendment goes like this:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
I've written about the misuse of this amendment before--not that it does any good--but let me repeat: The second amendment does not say what the NRA or certain government leaders say it does. It was designed to give the states the right to build their own militias. Nothing more, nothing less.

(And, before you even go there, the Supreme Court's 2008 Second Amendment decision, District of Columbia vs. Heller, did not give a free pass to the country's big gunners.

This, from Antonin Scalia:
"It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. 
Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms.  Miller (an earlier case) said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those 'in common use at the time'. We think that limitations is fairly supported by the historic tradition of prohibiting the carrying of 'dangerous and unusual weapons. ' "
In order to keep the deadly gun industry going, the profiteers want us to go on believing it's the phrase, "the right of the people", that protects gun owners from....

...from what? A rogue government itching to take away their guns and turn them into slaves? That's crazy talk. That's NRA-promoted crazy talk. That's the kind of simplistic drama you might expect from an apocalyptic movie of the "B" kind.

The killing has to stop and it won't stop until this government, right now, right this moment, decides along with us that it has to stop. They have the power. They can do this. And if they don't, the blood of our children, the next victims, is on them.

But one more thing: Whatever happened to the federal bump stock laws? Another promise broken, with more to come. A full 90 percent of the country wants background checks, and more than 50% want better gun control laws, but our government will not take on the NRA, a private but powerful group holding us hostage, whose sole purpose is to profit from the sale of guns

It's on our government to take this on.

It's on them.

Never let them forget, it's on them.

(Crossposted at Crooks and Liars)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The President is a Damned Nuisance. We Get it. Can we Move On?


It's been over a year now, and the squatter in the White House, that odd, clunky, rich guy who said of the presidency, "How hard could it be?"; that sleazy showman who, early on, saw merit in making fun of people whose only sin was in disagreeing with him (Congress, judges, the FBI, the press, TV pundits, Gold Star parents, Heads of State, heads of social programs...you name it); that ignorant, irresponsible do-nothing who promised jobs where there weren't any, who boasted he would fix whatever ailed the country single-handedly, all by himself, because nobody on EARTH--no politician, no scientist, no scholar--was smarter than he was...


That guy?

That guy is still there.

If we haven't had enough of him, shame on us. We're supposed to be the adults here, yet we let this increasingly silly Peter Pan (I don't wanna grow up) dominate our every breathing moment.  Seconds after witnessing that hilariously awful image of an imperious Donald Trump descending on his golden escalator, we should have known the only response to such a spectacle would have been a collective, "Yeah, get outta here, ya big galoot".

But, no. We ate it up. What chutzpah! How gutsy! It was like watching a second-rate horror show, a black comedy, a bizarre but highly entertaining version of the worst politician EVER.

Even now he revels in the absolute power of his naughtiness. He cannot be schooled, he cannot be humiliated, he cannot be convinced that he is not God. And why should he change? Nothing fazes him. He is obsessed with building a wall between the U.S and Mexico and nothing will move him away from it--not Mexico saying they won't pay for it, not the rest of us giving him grief over it, not Congress dodging with, "well, hold on now, let's think about this...".

He knows nothing of diasporas or despair, sees little value in aid and charity, has an uncommon fear of black and brown people--even those who do nothing more than kneel. He's a dream come true to White Supremacists and faux Christians; a recurring nightmare to our Dreamers.

A year in and he still doesn't understand why he--the Great and Powerful Oz--can't just snap his fingers and make it happen. No, he can't let the Vice President do all the work. No, he can't stop the presses when they publish unkind stuff about him. No, he can't fire a judge who happens to be Hispanic. No, he can't wring loyalty oaths out of the FBI. No, he can't cozy up to Russia. No, he can't use our nuclear weapons to annihilate North Korea...

He can't stop Robert Mueller's investigation or force Ruth Bader Ginsberg to retire, either.

And, boy, it pisses him off.

So just last week he accused Democrats who didn't stand and applaud his State of the Union speech of being unAmerican. Treasonous, even. How DARE they? And instead of the press questioning how it is that a President of the United States had never seen a State of the Union address before (else he would have known that's how the damned thing works--the opposition always sits it out), they glommed onto the treason comment and completely ignored his abominable ignorance of American politics.

And here's yesterday's Breaking News: Ever since Trump sat through France's Bastille Day extravaganza last July 14 he's been lusting after his own Tanks and Rockets and Stuff Like That parade, Soviet/North Korea style. He kids you not. He pictures it going right down Pennsylvania Avenue, looking something like this:

Soviet Military Parade, Moscow, 1984
The Pentagon guys are madly trying to stall--red tape, lost memos, the logistics behind hauling our country's heavy weaponry to the steps of the White House--the usual--but Trump has spoken. It'll happen. Nobody will be able to talk him out of it. Thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars later, it'll happen. Because, you see, the president has tantrums.

We know all of this in dizzying detail because our media falls all over itself to suck in and blast out every word, every gesture, every twitterpated "How great am I?" brain fart emanating from this hopeless dunderhead who, through no fault of mine, managed to become, of all the crazy things, President of the United States.

Every week the majority of us watching this debacle say to ourselves, "Well, he's outdone himself this time. It can't get any worse." But it does. It does because Trump revels in this stuff. He wallows in attention-getting controversy. Chaos is his Ecstasy. He just can't quit it, and he won't as long as we go on satisfying his craving.

I'm as guilty as anyone, wasting heaps and heaps of time in shuddery fascination, but the bright new thing is that I've finally become bored with it. The President is getting repetitive and tiresome. His antics aren't hilarious or even mildly funny anymore. Nothing shocks me, and that's a bad sign for a showman.

If he can't entertain us, what good is he? That's the position he's in now. He's done nothing to show us he can be--or even wants to be--presidential, and it's clear, after a year without any real leadership, that we don't need him.

Our focus now must be on the Republican majority in Congress. When they're not enabling Trump, a man they know full well is woefully unqualified and has no business in the White House, they're defending his behavior. ("Nothing to see here, he was only kidding, that's not what he meant, he's what the voters want..."). No mystery there. They're hoping for enough time to undo the few things they weren't able to obstruct during the Obama administration; enough time to kill off any other long-term rules and regulations designed, obviously, to obliterate, or at least irritate, the super-rich.

Their unfettered freedom renders them reckless and giddy. (At last! Can't stop us now!) Trump's antics are distractions they're anxious to keep afloat. It's not Trump who bears watching, it's that bunch in the majority who see democracy as an obstacle to their real goals. We're on to them and they know it. The question now is, how much damage can they do between now and November? The answer comes in how watchful we are.

Let Trump be Trump, but without the bright lights and the fanfare. Get him off the stage. Curtain down. Spare us the second act.

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Our Bleeding Hearts Might Have Saved Us

Today marks the anniversary of the Dread Fiend Trump's official entry into politics, not as dog catcher, not even as city clerk, but as President of these United States.



A year has passed and as much as we've spit and hollered, as often as we've watched the evidence of corruption pile up, Donald Trump is still president. He is every bit as bad at the job as we imagined. You might even say he's far worse. But on the bright side, North Korea hasn't nuked us yet, the Grand Canyon hasn't been filled in and paved over, and neither ermine robes nor jeweled crowns have replaced Polo shirts and MAGA caps.

Court jesters are filling the Capital and kowtowing is back in vogue but so far no guillotines have appeared in any town squares. Nevertheless, good people are being banished from the realm by the thousands--families torn apart, falsely accused of unworthiness--and countries that were once our friends now look on us with pity and/or disgust. Many of them can't stop laughing.

We're in a fine mess, with no rescue in sight. If there be heroes, they're mighty scarce and awfully damned quiet.

The Democrats, except for a gallant few, are performing their usual cowardly moves. They sit behind the barricades yelling and shaking their fists, but when it comes to doing battle--twisting arms and bloodying noses--they're outta there.

So here's a radical thought: Let the liberals do it. Give us a chance to show how it could be done.

Liberals, you say, are the classic political nerds, not worth bothering with unless it's to give us our daily wedgies or noogies. Quaint, naive little do-gooders lost in a world of ruthless cruelty without weapons adequate enough to bruise a flea. (That's what they said about Hobbits, too, you know.)

In the 1980s, around about the time the actor Ronald Reagan,friendly Midwestern liberal turned hard-hearted California conservative, was solidly in there as POTUS, the word went out that liberals--those ridiculous "for the people" gadflies--were ruining the country by helping too many undeserving, impoverished leeches, by insisting that workers be represented by hard-nosed unions, by tightening, enforcing, or inventing regulations that were or would be anathema to the gold-plated entities they targeted.

It wasn't hard to convince the many millions that health, wealth, and happiness could only come from a government without teeth, from the benevolence of ridiculously powerful corporations, and, if all else failed, from that venerable standby, Old Testament God.

All that stood in the way were those damned Liberals.

Liberals became such pariahs an entire bloc jumped ship and took on a new name: Progressives. (I would describe them for you here, but I admit I don't know the difference. I hear they're mainly friendly.)

But what we liberals have that others don't are hearts that gush blood whenever injustice rears it's massive, ugly head. We see a bleeding heart as a badge of honor. The same with tears. We cry when things move us, and we don't hide from our emotions. Our anger stems from compassion, our outrage roars at cruelty. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and we don't care.

Liberals have a long history of getting things done. We pulled the entire country out of a great depression by hiring our citizens to do meaningful busy-work, by using our charitable might, by giving dignity and hope back to a country mired in poverty and hopelessness.

We built the unions and gave workers a voice. We put an end to child labor. We fought to give every adult citizen the right to vote, no matter gender or color. We helped the poor and the elderly by creating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Clean Air act, and the Clean Water Act. We ended a recession that nearly destroyed the middle class.

We did all that and more against the wishes--and the might--of fat cats and right wingers who sorely wanted what we're heading for today: a country ruled by non-contributing despots whose only interests are power, greed, and self-preservation.

We are not that country and we never will be. The Trump phenomenon is an anomaly, destined for the history books, a long chapter on how close we came to letting our democracy die.

We're still a majority of the good and, thankfully, most of us aren't ashamed to show it. It's our time now and there's much to do. They're out there waiting for us and they have heavy weapons. The obstacles are scary and formidable.

And here we go.
 ____________
 
A personal note: Today also marks this blog's ninth anniversary. I wrote my first blog post on  January 20, 2009, on the afternoon of Barack Obama's first Inauguration, celebrating hope and sanity with a smidgen of skepticism. No miracles expected, none received.

(Cross-posted at Crooks & Liars)



Sunday, December 24, 2017

On Feeling the Holiday Spirit at Christmas


On Christmas Day, 1914, only four months into the brutality of World War I, a spontaneous miracle happened on the Western Front.  On that day German and British soldiers laid down their arms and gathered together in No Man's Land to share food and cigarettes, sing Christmas carols, and play a few games of football.



On other battle lines along the front, "Merry Christmas" signs were hastily constructed and held up to cheers from the other side. Without orders and in spite of warnings from their superiors, the soldiers on both sides declared a truce for, at the very least, one magical day.  For some, the truce lasted for days into weeks, or until new troops replaced those who had been involved. There are reports that it happened the next year and the year after that and each year on Christmas Day until that terrible war ended.

For generations, Christmas has held that kind of good will magic. No matter who we are or where we are or how we got there, that holiday spirit endures. 

For a few days out of the year millions of us do our best to take kindness to a whole new level.  We wake up with a song in our heart, feeling good.  We want to do things.  Not to others but for others.  For a precious few days near the end of the year we like people.  We really, really like them!


Unless we don't.  Unless we're those few "It's Merry Christmas, Dammit!" people and someone nearby has the nerve to either ask for some life-changing help or to say "Happy Holidays!" out loud.


"Happy Holidays!"  That simple phrase, known for what seems like forever throughout the world as a perfectly acceptable seasonal salutation (preferable in almost all circles to the truly lifeless "Season's Greetings"), turns out to be a secret code for declaring war on Christmas

I'm out of the woods and in the big city now, and I'm happy to report that "Merry Christmas" is everywhere.  So far nobody is showing signs of preparing for battle against Christmas. Our December has not suddenly turned gray. Tanks are not on the move anywhere. There are no soldiers in freezing, muddy trenches in America. The War on Christmas is a lie. So who's making this up?  The Scrooges. The Grinches. Those nasty, wasty Grinches who don't have a clue about the true spirit of Christmas. That's who.



The why of it is more elusive.  There are dozens of reasons, none of them good, but Fa La La and Fiddle-de-dee,  who cares? It's Christmas and 'tis the season!

Still, I feel the need to say this plain: I, a secular-liberal, love my Christmas. Christmas is in my blood, pagan as my blood may be, and  I've been celebrating it for what seems like an eternity.  Through new births, and great losses, through times thick and thin, this is the one Happy Holiday season that I wouldn't ever want to miss.


I love Christmas carols as much as I love sweet secular Christmas songs and it's okay because it's Christmas.


As much as I love the Chinese Restaurant scene in "The Christmas Story",  it's also possible to really, really look forward to interpretations of  The Bible's nativity scene.



So when I say I want to wish you Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas, you'll just have to trust that I mean it from the bottom of my heart.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Al Franken Shouldn't Resign


 Yes, I'll say it, and I hope it's not too late: Al Franken should not resign. He shouldn't be forced to resign, either by the Democrats who (rightly) can't abide double standards or the Republicans who would love to see a Democratic knock-down. I can agree that what he did to Leann Tweeden was stupid, gross, and as close to sexual predation as it gets, and still want him to stay where he is.

Leann's story came out yesterday and it's shocking Sickening. I've read Franken's new book, Giant of the Senate, so I know he was no angel during his years as a funny man. He recounts in the book how even he had doubts about his past and how it would play when he ran for a job that followed in the footsteps of his hero, Paul Wellstone. Franken knew his state, knew his politics, had a great education, and was smart as hell--but his chief claim to fame was as a sometimes raunchy comedian. (He should have been a shady billionaire blowhard instead. Pure Teflon.)

The former Fox reporter says he kissed her during a 2006 USO skit but went too far, tongue inserted where it wasn't wanted. (Note to men--and women, too--unless you're in the throes of hot passion, grinding face to face--both of you--don't try to stick your tongue down someone's throat. Coming as it does, unexpected and/or unwelcome, the recipient will gag on what feels like a cold, slimy slab of liver. You must know that by their reactions. Just don't do it.)

And worse, while Tweeden slept, Franken thought it would be cute to pretend he was groping her breasts, and even funnier, have his picture taken while doing it. (She was wearing a flak vest and it's not clear whether or not he actually touched her, but the picture is there and it's insulting, demeaning, and damning. Leann Tweeden has every right to be appalled by its existence.)

So, all that said, how could I, flaming liberal feminist, active #MeToo member, wish for Al Franken to go on working in the Senate? I confess I've been torn over this, asking myself why I should accept Franken's admission and apology and still go after Roy Moore or Donald Trump for their ugly sexual transgressions.

Well, yes, they're lowlife scum and don't deserve my defense--I agree--but I want the punishment to fit the crime. Franken has plenty to apologize for--gross, sexist stupidity is finding its day in court and, after so many decades of unfettered applications, it can't come too soon--and he has apologized. Twice so far, without the usual equivocations. He is as disgusted with himself as we are. Leann Tweeden accepted his apology. She said she doesn't want him to resign, adding that he does good things for the people of Minnesota while still acknowledging it was wrong and these things shouldn't be ignored.

She's right. They shouldn't be ignored. Spreading sunshine all over the place encourages women--and sometimes men--to come out of the shadows and tell their stories. We are at a crossroads now and we have to get it right. Sexual predators, no matter who they are, need to be exposed. We should, of course, look to punishment, but who gets to decide what form and how much?

Did Al Franken do something worthy of expulsion? There's the dilemma. I want women like Leann Tweeden to be able to come forward without consequence to tell their stories. I want the men who abused them to feel their pain, to get it, to show us they've learned from these revelations and will work to put a stop to a culture that has for too long equated power with the freedom to use sex as a right.

I believe Franken gets it. I want him to stay in the Senate because his work is important. Too important to set aside. He does good work there. He asks relevant, sometimes burning questions, does his homework, and works for the disenfranchised, the underdogs, the people hungering for attention to their condition. The loss would be painful.

I want him to work for us, against the Trump administration and the GOP majority, against any hateful agents who try to diminish or harm those of us without power. I want him where he can do the most good. I want him in the Senate.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog, Crooks & Liars, and National Memo)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Me too: Every woman has her story.

With the not-so-shocking sexual revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Bill O'Reilly, Bill Cosby, Anthony Weiner, James Toback, and, yes, our current president, Donald Trump, comes even more revelations from women who have suffered in silence for years and have now come forward, loud and clear.

Women's March, Washington DC, January, 2017
In recent weeks the hashtag #MeToo has become our social networking battle cry--our admission that it happened to us--but the story of its inception needs to be told.  When Tarana Burke, founder of JustBeInc, was a young camp counselor she often counseled young girls who had been abused or neglected or both. One encounter in particular ended badly and Tarana begins her story this way: "The me too Movement™ started in the deepest, darkest place in my soul." 

It's a troubling but familiar story many of us know all too well: some stories are so painful, so close-to-home, we find ourselves turning away when we're needed most. Tarana built a movement on her shame.

As a young girl, as a young woman, I had my share of sexual harassment--leering men, provocative gestures, unwanted, uninvited touches or grabs, ugly invitations to perform sexual acts. None of us, I venture, were immune.  I fended off rape twice, but don't consider myself lucky or blessed. If the boys in question hadn't stopped I would have been just one more among those vast numbers of rape victims. (One I never saw again; the other I ran into from time to time, both of us pretending it never happened.)

There are many ways to violate but none are as demeaning, humiliating, and harsh as rape. And because rape is so horrific, we tend to underplay or diminish those sexual acts that insult, that defile, but don't quite penetrate. As ugly and disgusting as the encounters are, we breathe deep. We were spared. We go on.

Many of the #MeToos have been harassed, solicited, violated, and raped by men who hold power over them. It's far different from a casual, unwelcome advance by a stranger or co-equal. Our normal response to the latter is a sneer, a laugh, a flick of the finger. There is no real threat.

And there's the difference.

We live in a culture where we women are supposed to be able to take care of ourselves, but if we can't it's our own fault. It's what comes from the "freedom" reluctantly given to us by men who reserve the right to make more restrictive rules if we try to go beyond their chains. We see it in government, in corporations, in the church. We see it in all situations where men hold power and use it as privilege. They may grant us our wishes, but we'll have to pay a price.

Our silence condemns us: "Why did she wait so long? How do we know she's telling the truth?" 

Speaking out condemns us: "What did she do to provoke him? How do we know she's telling the truth?" 

Seeking a legal remedy condemns us: "She just wants money. How do we know she's telling the truth?"

Our sisterhood, our solidarity will save us, but so will the millions of decent men who understand and work at keeping us from sexual harm. It takes courage to speak out. We'll commend the brave and stand by the challengers. We will not stop until every last man with the power to diminish or break us understands we will not be silenced, we will not be broken.

And that includes everyone--from a Hollywood mogul, to a boss, to a family member, to a church leader, to the President of the United States. They are no longer safe from us.


(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reporting In: Getting My Life Back




Yesterday, 9/11/17, was a bittersweet day for me.  I couldn't forget it marked the 16th anniversary of the day the Twin Towers went down in NYC, but the day was something of a celebration for me:  It marked the last of  30 radiation treatments, ending, finally, a long journey that began last November, when a biopsy of a breast lump confirmed what we all suspected: cancer.

I've purposely not written much about this part of my life. While it took almost all of my energies, the ugliest parts don't need to be revisited. But if I could, I would heap mountains of rewards on every single professional person who helped me through it.

Between Tidelands Cancer Center in Murrells Inlet, SC, where I had my mastectomy and aftercare, and Karmanos Cancer Center in Petoskey, MI, where I did the chemo and radiation, my care was simply amazing. 

Because cancer is such an awful diagnosis, I suspect a good part of their training is in kindness and empathy. If it is, they all passed with flying colors.  They touch, they hug, they look you in the eye.  They sit and listen. They come up with little take-home gifts you can't help but love. (One was an ingenious hand-made temporary prosthesis called a "knitted knocker", complete with a nipple.)

They worry about how you're doing when you're not with them and sometimes call, just to make sure everything's okay. They worry about finances, drive times, and lodging, and do what they can to help.

They were, in short,  my indispensable life-lines. I told them all that I would miss them terribly but I hoped I never had to see them again.

(This is not to diminish the incredible love and support from my family and friends. They were wonderful throughout--and still are.)

In five days I'll be celebrating my 80th birthday. Even after all of this I don't feel 80 years old and I can't see spending the rest of my life dwelling on either my age or my cancer. As I rebuild my energy and regain my health I have time now to think about how this will change things. So far I haven't come up with anything. No epiphanies, no revelations.  I want to get back to how it was before this. That's all.

I hope I'll be writing more, and if I've learned anything it's that I really must stop double-spacing between sentences. It makes me sad that I have to do it, and I'll probably mess up now and then, either accidentally or on purpose, but it seems to drive even really nice people crazy and I hate that I might be responsible for that.

I'm still going after Trump and Hillary-haters and those guys in Michigan who are ruining my state.  Some things never change.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why Your Religion Shouldn't Be My Problem

My cousin Arlene was a devout Catholic, so deeply involved with her church the priest at her funeral service told us he was nervous that he wouldn't do right by her last wishes, worried that she would be wagging her finger at him from somewhere up there, showing her disappointment if he somehow messed up. She planned her last rites down to her choice of music, of scripture, and even of altar cloths. It was a tribute to her service to her church that they worked so hard to honor her.

She was a good person who died too soon, having so much more to give. Her devotion to her God was a prominent part of her life, but she did not and would not demand that someone like me should have to follow her lead.

I, too, do not demand that anyone follow my choices about religion. The fact that I don't believe in a god or feel the need to belong to a religion doesn't mean I want to diminish anyone else's devotion or beliefs.  Forms of religion have been with us for thousands of years, the idea of a supreme being and an afterlife so firmly entrenched I am considered the odd one for not going along.

I'm okay with that, as long as everyone else is.  But there's the problem. I try to be a good person--I don't cheat or steal, I haven't hit anyone since I was a kid, I keep my lies to little white ones--but I'm a pro-choice liberal feminist who votes with the Democrats and I don't go to church.  I'm one of them.

I'm all for religious freedom, but I believe even more in freedom from religion.  I'm thankful that I live in a country wise enough to build into our constitution the requirement that church and state must not mix. I'm grateful that there are enough citizens--many of them devout believers in their own forms of religion--who fervently agree with the founders.  But there are forces working now to change that, and I admit they're starting to worry me.

The opposition to same-sex marriage has less to do with legality and more to do with intolerance masked as religious belief.  The political attacks on Planned Parenthood, abortion, and contraception share the Old Testament tactic of blaming and shaming women. The made-up war on Christmas has morphed into a made-up war on Christianity, with no signs whatsoever of widespread or even close-up persecution.  And lately we're seeing citizens, politicians, and religious leaders alike praising God for the likes of Donald Trump, as if he were the coming Messiah.


Their beliefs, baffling as they may be to many of us, are their own until they're not. When it builds to a point where politicians attempt to make laws based on biblical beliefs, boldly seeing it as their right now, we draw the line. Our resistance, it should be clear, is not meant to undermine anyone's religious liberties. We do it to protect our unalienable rights--theirs and ours.

The freedom to worship does not translate into the freedom to rule.  Our laws, our rights, are based on constitution and common sense, and if they intersect with certain agreeable biblical teachings, it's not just coincidental. The idea of fairness and tolerance is, or should be, universal.

But lately religious tolerance has had to take a back seat in favor of  Old Testament meanness. The religious right is neither religious nor right. It's a usurpation, a corruption of centuries-old Christian philosophy, used and abused as a means to gain access to power.  The connection to a religion based on Jesus' teachings is in name only, yet their numbers are growing.

They are gaining power in the halls of congress and in local politics. Donald Trump courts them, promising to help them in their quest to insert their beliefs into our justice system. In turn, they praise Trump, claiming God called him to service, conveniently overlooking his long public history of egregious transgressions in hopes that he might do what he promised.

I mean. . .

Worship in your churches, sing your hymns of praise, pray, and, by all means, comfort the sick and the sad.  But don't bash and hate and call it God's work. When you demand respect for and subservience to your religion, you force our hand. We will resist. We must resist. 

This is not your America. It belongs to all of us. Even those whose faith, color, lifestyle, gender, or country of origin might not fit your idea of acceptance. That's the beauty of constitutional rights; they trump everything else.

They've even been known to save us from ourselves.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

How the G-Man Worked To Bring Down POTUS

After former FBI director James Comey's testimony on Thursday, there were questions about why he waited so long to go public with all he knew.  He'd had two one-on-one meetings with Trump, along with several Trump-initiated phone calls, all deemed inappropriate, at the very least, by anyone who knows anything about how our system is supposed to work.

Comey first met with Trump at Trump Tower on January 6, when the then-FBI director had to tell President-elect Trump about some Russian-generated salacious material against him.  There were others in the room, but Comey said he was  unnerved by the tenor of Trump's comments and began recording the details on his laptop the minute he got back into his car.  He shared those notes almost immediately with other FBI members, so there would be no question about fuzzy recollections or later alterations.

The first private meeting took place on January 27, at a dinner set up by the White House. Comey testified he had no idea he would be the only guest until he walked in the door and say a small oval table set for two.  The conversation took an awkward turn toward his loyalty to the president.  Comey says Trump said, "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty."  Awkward pause, wherein Comey blew it by not saying, "My loyalty is to the country, to the constitution, blah, blah, blah".  Instead, he said something about honesty, and then muttered--to his own chagrin--something about "honest loyalty". Which Trump, of course, took to mean he'd just finagled a loyalty oath from the director of the FBI.

Game on!

On February 14, after an Oval Office meeting, Trump asked everyone but Comey to leave the room so they could talk about Mike Flynn, who had resigned as National Security Officer the day before.  According to Comey, Trump said Flynn was a "good guy" and he hoped Comey would see fit to "let this go". Comey says he only agreed that Flynn was a good guy and made no promises. Comey again took notes and discussed it with other FBI officials. He didn't go to the DOJ, he said, but asked DOJ head, Jeff Sessions, to keep him away from any more one-on-ones with Trump.

Then there were the phone calls, all generated by the president. The whole thing must have seemed satisfying and so buddy-buddy to Trump. Comey, as uncomfortable as he might have felt, took the meetings and took the calls and never told Trump this was wrong.

I submit it wasn't simply because Comey didn't want to hurt Trump's feelings.  Comey is the consummate FBI man and his sniffer is in fine working order. He was on the case and Trump was his mark. With each encounter came more revelations, more ammunition to use to build a case.  He took copious notes, clearly written to share when it came time for a showdown. (He knew contemporaneous notes had been accepted and used effectively in courts in other FBI matters. )

How long this might have gone on if Comey hadn't been fired is anybody's guess, but the firing opened the floodgates for Comey.  If he had insisted at the very start that private conversations with the president were off-limits, his case against Trump would be non-existent.  It may come down to "he said, he said", but given Trump's penchant for lying to save his skin, it'll be more like "he said, he lied".

But the capper came yesterday, when Trump was asked at a press conference if he would be willing to testify under oath that Comey lied about his version of their conversations. Trump said, and I quote, "A hundred percent". 

I call that a clear victory for the G-man.


(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)



Friday, May 26, 2017

Our First Un-American President

When Donald Trump rode down that golden escalator in June, 2015 and announced he would run for President of the United States, the guffaws could be heard round the world. What a colossal doofus!  A shady real estate mogul, a beauty pageant owner, a dubious celebrity famous for firing people, saw himself as the perfect person to fill the highest job in the land. Clearly the run would be short-lived and hilariously inept.  In his long history as a famous figure, there was not a moment spent in public service. No sign that he knew a thing about governing or world affairs. No sign that he even cared. What on earth would qualify him?

The closest he had ever come to government involvement was when he pretended he had proof positive our then-sitting president, Barack Obama, was born in Africa, making him illegitimate and unfit to serve.  It turned out, of course, to be a lie, but the fact that the lie would not die energized Trump and gave him the idea that he of all people might just be able to pull that president thing off.

He blustered his way through a long campaign that put him in front as the fiery populist against a rigid, anachronistic loser of an establishment. Along the way he discovered the benefits of the religious right, a gun culture based on fuzzy Second Amendment logic, fears of a rogue government fueled by right wing talk radio and Fox News, and a work force desperate enough to want to believe a slimy billionaire known for stiffing underlings could be their messiah.

The seduction of screaming crowds hooked him but good.  From that first rally forward he would do whatever he had to do to win. He knew he had to give lip service to the needs of the country, but it would always be Trump first, cronies second, and the country a distant third.


He saw early on that his crowds loved him most when he dropped his billionaire mantle and pretended to be one of them. He took to wearing flaming red "Make America Great Again" baseball caps. He developed a rumpled look, used superlatives like "beautiful, fantastic, the greatest", and made promises he could never keep about what he and he alone would do if elected.

He waged war against the press, a known fascist tactic, and the press, to our surprise, didn't fight back. They ate it up.

But his ace-in-the-hole turned out to be Hillary Clinton, a far more qualified candidate who, after years of attacks from both the left and the right, was waging an uphill battle. Just as Trump had pressed for Obama's birthplace illegitimacy with no basis in fact, he took to calling his opponent--without a shred of evidence--a crook. He built a flimsy case based on a handful of errant emails and rejoiced when his crowds took to chanting "lock her up!"

He found he could say anything and his followers would buy it. He was eerily on to something when he said "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn't lose any voters."  He knew his people far better than we did.

And then the thing happened that was so far-fetched no one but a few observant pundits would have believed it:  Donald Trump became president of a country that had long warned against creeping fascism and the threat of oligarchy.  His mission was to take apart a government based on constitutional regulations and social constructs, and now he was on his way.  His motto and guiding principal is as he said soon after taking office: "I'm president. I can do what I want."

Did the Russians have a hand in attempting to alter our election?  Of course they did. Could Trump surround himself with any more Russian operatives? Yes, he could and probably will.  A country that once saw Russia as our enemy now embraces a president who cannot and will not condemn them.  In time, we'll find out why. We will follow the money and find out why. But in the meantime, who are these people with access to our most sensitive secrets? Top security clearances go to anyone Trump wants in the room. The vetting process--a process once seen as serious and inviolate, with a threat of jail for lying on security clearance applications--is another in a long list of obligatory regulations meant only for other people.

Already, less than a half-year in, the Trump administration is embroiled in scandals of a magnitude far beyond anything we could imagine that night we gasped at the realization that this vicious, egotistical, supremely unqualified man-child would be leading our country.  The scope of scandal is breathtaking, even at this early stage, and it promises to get worse.

And now Donald Trump has taken his Ugly American act outside our borders, showing the rest of the world what a terrible choice we've made.  In every country he has visited--Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, Belgium--he is an embarrassment, an object of ridicule, a preening, ignorant, crude representation of the worst of us.

He is our first un-American president.  Americans now have to decide what that means and how we'll deal with it.  Our true character is being tested and the fate of our nation depends on the course we take.  Trump may see our presidency as a joke, and Washington as his playground, but we've struggled too long and too hard as a country to become Donald Trump's willing foils. No matter what he says, he just isn't worth it.

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars)