Monday, November 4, 2019

Stop the Madness! Sign this Petition!

Hello, fellow outraged citizen. Are you as outraged as we are? Have you had enough? Are you one of those astute, sentient, breathing persons who has noticed that things are all topsy-turvy and upside down and going over a cliff and getting really bad?

They would like you to think that they've won and there is no hope and you're just a little pea in a pumpkin patch, but you're not! NO, YOU'RE NOT!! You can do something about it!! Yes, you!

Please sign petition to let everybody know you've we've had enough!! This kind of thing can't go on!!! Together we can make this happen!!!! We can slap the snot out of those monsters!!! Maybe not literally, but by tapping the keyboard really hard RIGHT NOW, we can get ourselves all het up and--who knows?--maybe even virtually yell loud enough to get through to those crazy characters, who will pretend they can't hear us and will virtually yell back, "I can't hear you!"

But we will have spoken. Yes, WE. Because we can do this!

After you've typed your name and have checked to make sure it has magically appeared on a line provided for just that purpose, you'll be directed to another page where you can cement your outrage for all time by putting your money where your mouth is.

Here, even though you don't know us from a hill of beans, you will give us your real name, your real address, your real phone number, your real credit card number, the amount you would like to donate to our cause (don't be chintzy now, we know who you are), and proof of citizenship (See Below).

(Below) Proof of citizenship requires these three things: An apple pie recipe (no strudel!), a notarized letter from your particular Pastor Person stating he/she has seen you in a place of worship at least 52 times in the past year, and John Wayne's real name, place of birth, and secret location of body mole.

***Sign here if you agree that things can't go on this way and firmly believe in your heart of hearts that you can actually change those things that can't go on by signing your name to an internet petition and giving us money so we can serve you even better by creating more petitions. (Be assured that we will save your name, address, phone number and credit card information for future petitions, saving you all kinds of time when you come back. You're welcome.)

X___________________________________________________ (Your honest and true signature, okay?)


(NOTE: Astute readers may feel they've seen this before. They would be right. I wrote this more than seven years ago. It's been calling to me. What can I say?)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Most Sublime Presidency: What If Amy Klobuchar Should Win?

I’ll start this off by saying though I’m leaning toward someone who isn’t Amy Klobuchar, I’m not endorsing anyone for the 2020 presidential election yet. It’s way too early for me. But I’ve been watching Sen. Klobuchar and what I’m seeing is a compassionate, pragmatic Midwesterner wearing her decency on her sleeve. 

She’s quiet-spoken and without guile. She’s uncomfortable bragging about her own accomplishments but doesn’t hesitate to share her resumé when it’s necessary to remind people of her bona fides. She lurks and waits and then pounces with surprisingly tough precision whenever she sees an opening. She’s a force. Not a tornado, but a steady wind driving us toward safety.

I like her. I really, really like her. I like many of the other candidates, too, but Klobuchar eases my heart. I relax when she speaks. I calm down. I hear what she’s saying and I can picture her in the Oval Office, sitting at the Resolute desk, speaking the plain truth with ease and clarity.

She’s funny the way Barack Obama is funny. Her sense of humor doesn’t lean toward snark. If she uses it to skewer she wraps it in velvet first. I could be comfortable with Amy in the White House, and right now comfort is not a word that readily comes up in politics.

I know, even as I write this, that there will be pushback to what I’m saying here. Someone will dig up a quote or an action that will attempt to prove me wrong. So here — I’ll save them the trouble on this one point: I didn’t like what she did to Al Franken. He was her Senate colleague in Minnesota and she knew him as well as anybody, but, when the time came, she joined the others and urged him to “do the right thing” and resign.

Her rush to tell him to resign was infuriating, considering they were supposed friends, and considering his entire female staff came to his defense. I didn’t think I would ever forgive her for that. But I have. She made me forgive her. She has that ability.

So, yes, I could see Amy Klobuchar as the antidote to Donald Trump. She is everything he is not. But how would she be with foreign policy? With the Republicans who won’t be happy when Donald loses? With the aggrieved Trumpsters who will see her as a weak woman they can easily topple? With the fake churchies who thought they were on their way to a theocracy, if not the rapture?

She’d be just fine. She would surround herself with experts and with people who care about this country’s mental and physical health as much as we all do. She would recruit the best of the best and she would listen. She wouldn’t embarrass us in her trips abroad and she would NEVER shove another world leader out of the way in order to get up front. (Not that any of the others would, either. They wouldn’t.)

But don’t let her Minnesota Nice fool you. She was a prosecutor once. She grew up blue collar tough.Her staff says she can be fearsome. She’s been known to make some of them cry. (Okay, I’m not okay with that. Just so you know.) But there’s something about her that says, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this. We’re going to be okay.”

Look, I’m tired. We’re all tired. And this is just thinking out loud — maybe this is what we’re going to need after the madness. But who knows? By the time you read this she may have already dropped out. She’s not all that high on the Popular list. Here’s all I’m saying: With Klobuchar there would be no unnecessary drama. It wouldn’t get personal. Chaos would give in to calm. She’s steady. As a rock. She’s forthright. She would hold us together. When this Trump thing is finally over she would work at healing us. I might even sleep the whole night through. That would be nice.


(Cross-posted at Medium/Indelible Ink.)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Elizabeth Warren was Fired for Being Pregnant

It was common practice to punish women for being mothers while holding a job. It still is.

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash
Because we’re the only gender with wombs, women hold an odd place, even in modern-day culture. We’re expected, if not required, to bring children into the world above all else, even when pregnancy isn’t wanted, is inconvenient, or is dangerous. But once we’re pregnant, or mothers — or even women of child-bearing age — we become suspect in the workplace.

Suppose we have children whose needs might come first? What then? How does that jibe in a profit-motivated system where worker bees are required to work their asses off in order for their employers to make buckets full of money? What has to come first, the job or the kid? In this system, it’s the job. It’s always been the job.

I have no idea if Elizabeth Warren planned her pregnancy way back when she was a teacher, but I do know for a fact that she could be fired once her pregnancy began to show. I also know for a fact the reason for the firing would never be listed on paper as “pregnancy”.

The ignorance of those GOP “fact-checkers” looking for a record of Sen. Warren’s claims — that she was fired for having a child — is astounding. There is no record. Of course there is no record.

When I was a kid in school in the 1940s and 1950s, our female teachers were always known as “Miss”. If they were married, we couldn’t know it. If they became pregnant, we couldn’t know it. Why not? Because, while male teachers could have families and could even talk about them, female teachers had to appear asexual. No one wanted impressionable children to be thinking about female teachers having sex.

They had dress codes. They were walking, talking text books with no life outside the classroom. When one of them suddenly disappeared in the middle of a semester, we weren’t told they were on maternity leave, we were simply told a new teacher would be taking their place.

When I was in high school in the early 1950s, two of our teachers were married to each other. That was so unheard of we never stopped talking about it. To us it was kind of…delicious. And subversive.

But it wasn’t just teachers. Women with children were discriminated against in every work place. Women with children were a liability. Their loyalties would never lie with their jobs as long as there were children at home. Children get sick, they need care, they need nurturing. They are a distraction when the clock is ticking, the work piles up, and their employer makes demands that require a Hobson’s choice.

It’s never easy for mothers to put their best into outside jobs. Women with good paying jobs can afford good child care. Women with crap jobs paying too little aren’t so lucky. But every mother faces those days when their jobs demand their attention but their children need them even more.

Women need to be mothers first. That’s a fact. It’s also the excuse employers make to keep women down. Women have always been behind men in work pay, and the reason, often spoken out loud, is because women can’t devote as much time or attention to their jobs. Never mind that not all women are mothers, or that not all women still have children at home. They’re shoved into the same box because it’s convenient — because god forbid men ever have to acquiesce to the notion that women might be their equals.

You may have noticed that no woman has ever been President. It’s a big deal every time a woman wins a job over a man, no matter the title. Being a woman in a “man’s job” is a liability that we should have gotten over long ago, but there are still far fewer women in government than there are men. That isn’t going to change until attitudes change, and as long as the GOP holds the cards, that’s not likely.

When it comes to motherhood, America is a bastion of hypocrisy. Half the people in our country think there’s nothing wrong with forcing women to carry a fetus to term, sending the message loud and clear that their own ambitions will always have to take a back seat to motherhood.

At the same time, there are forces working inside our government to take away any protections families, including single mothers, might need to care for their children. Cuts in everything from health care to food stamps to housing allowances makes the children of those struggling families vulnerable. Our government refuses to take care of the children born to women who have few or no resources. Our government refuses to even see them.

But that will all change if a woman becomes President. Can Elizabeth Warren break that glass ceiling? Or Kamala Harris? Or Amy Klobuchar? The question now is, are we ready for a woman president?

I know. It’s a silly question. Of course we’re ready. We’re long past ready.

~ ~ ~

(Cross-posted at Medium/Indelible Ink)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Twitter: The Essential Battleground for The Resistance

Public Domain - Pixabay

Last week, after Donald Trump, the purported President of the United States, learned the Democratic-dominated House of Representatives would, in fact, begin impeachment inquiries, he took to Twitter to tweet more than 100 times in a single day.  He went from whining, to bragging, to threatening a whistle-blower, to predicting civil war if we didn't stop messing with him.

Trump has latched onto Twitter like a leech on the jugular and uses it as an unseemly venue for official policy, as his own personal PR firm, and as the delivery system for threats and intimidation against anyone or any organization threatening to expose or topple him.

It's because he understands the power of Twitter better than almost anybody.

Almost anybody.

There are Trump acolytes, there are trolls, there are bots, there are masters of disinformation everywhere, but I'm here to talk about those of us working against Trump, using Twitter to do it.

We are the #Resistance and we never sleep. We're out there and our numbers are growing. For us, Twitter is a battleground, it's a staging area, it's headquarters for those leading the charge against the tyranny that is Trumpism.

We're the witnesses, the couriers, the voices of the opposition. We follow the good guys and shed light on the disinformation coming from the bad guys, and, if nothing else comes of it, we take satisfaction where we can get it: We know we're getting to Trump when he has to tweet more than 100 times in a single day.

Through Twitter, we get real-time updates on the battles raging on every front, and we send them on, like smoke signals, to the resistance pods all around the country.

Is there a protest coming up? We know about it. Is there a March in the works? We pass along the info, right down to where to catch the buses.

When this rogue administration abuses citizens or foreigners or refugees, we've read the first hand accounts from the victims or their families and we send out tweets to lawyers or scholars or social justice warriors who are known to us now and are ready to help.

When someone fights the system and is in danger of being harmed, we expose the abuses. We know who to tweet to give them a hand. Millions of us retweet the information to give it more visibility.

Twitter is a morass of bad information but it's also a funnel for good journalism.  When the press and/or the pundits get it right, we send their stories into the viralsphere. When they get it wrong, we show them the error of their ways--and we often win. We win because they can't ignore the Twitter warriors coming down on them, forcing them to look again.

Because the other side Tweets, too, we know their thoughts and see right through them. In mere minutes we can counter and dilute their lies. In mere minutes.

As with any war zone, there is a dark side. You may have noticed. There are forces working against the resistance, and they're experts at obfuscating and gaslighting. They're ruthless and formidable and sometimes terrifying. They come from every corner of the planet. Sometimes they're real and sometimes they're not.  It's easy to get caught up in a whirlwind attack meant to intimidate and shut the resister down, but the Twitter Resistance community knows the difference and spreads the word.

That's where courage comes in, and we're bravest when we're not alone. The list below is my own personal list of people to follow on Twitter. I look to them for expertise, for analysis, for inspiration. I trust them. I know they've done their homework, and I know if they make a mistake they'll own up to it.

If you're new to Twitter, don't be intimidated by its uniqueness. Embrace it. When you follow any of these people, be sure to retweet their tweets. Retweeting begets retweeting and, if it begets often enough, it sends a viral message to the opposition. There are more of us than there are of them, and we're real. Don't buy into the lie that retweeting does no good. Getting our message out is part of being a community. This is how we do it.  Commenting helps, too, even if you disagree. This is a dialogue, a conversation, a convention. Be a part of it.

These are our people and they're preaching to the choir, they're using their bullhorns to yell it loud, they're showing us by their light that ethics and decency are not dead. (Some of them are hilariously entertaining, but we need that, too.)

If Trump wants a digital civil war, we're way ahead of him. We're already at the battlements. New recruits are coming in every day. We're an all-volunteer army and we won't stop until we've stopped the madness.

So bring it on, fool.

Some of our Twitter buddies, in no particular order, with no particular significance. Check them out. This isn't a complete list, by any means, and I've left off both the politicians who are with us and the publications spreading the truth (because they're easy to find and I needed to save space), but it's a start:

Neal Katyal
Malcolm Nance
Laurence Tribe
Bryce Tache
Maya Wiley
Judd Legum
Kurt Eichenwald
Elie Mystal
Preet Bharara
Tim O'Brien
John Pavlovitz
Patton Oswalt
Charlotte Clymer
Mimi Rocah
Will Bunch
Dean Obeidallah
Bob Cesca
Ana navarro-Cardenas
Joshua Holland
Rachel Maddow
Howard Dean
Brian Beutler
Prof Helen
Charles P. Pierce
Seth Abramson
Molly Jong-Fast
Josh Marshall
Charles Blow
Neera Tanden
Roland Scahill
Joyce Alene (Joyce White Vance)
David Corn
Glenn Kirschner
Eugene Robinson
Sarah Kendzior
Jason Johnson
John Fugelsang
Kyle Griffin
Jim Acosta
David Rothkopf
Alyssa Milano
Adam Parkhomenko
Dr. Dena Grayson
Tony Schwartz
Joy Reid
Scott Dworkin
Andrea Chalupa
Michael McFaul
Lawrence O'Donnell
Mark Hamill
Soledad O'Brien
Norman Goldman
Aunt Crabby Calls Bullshit
Amy Siskind
Brian J. Karem
Debra Messing
Dan Rather
Asha Rangappa
Rob Reiner
Josh Marshall
Simon Rosenberg
Nicolle Wallace
Barb McQuade
Jill Wine Banks
Natasha Bertrand
Steven Beschloss
Renato Mariotti
Connie Schultz
Jacob Soboroff
Rabbi Jill Zimmerman
David Weissman
Shannon Watts
Susan Elizabeth (my daughter)
And me: Ramona Grigg. Because, as you can see, I know people.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Why Beto's Long Game Just Might Work

 "We're coming for your guns" may be what we need to hear.

Of all the candidates running for president on the Democratic side, Beto O’Rourke stands out as the maverick, the rebel, the “I don’t give a Flying F” guy who doesn’t pander and doesn’t cower. He’s got a mouth like a drunken pirate and he revels in it. (His campaign is selling tee shirts that say, over and over, “This is F — ked up”.)

Beto is the guy who almost took down Ted Cruz in 2018. That was big. He’s a Texan who speaks perfect Spanish, who waves his arms and bounces around to the point of distraction, but can handle comparisons to the Energizer Bunny because, well, he’s energized.

By rights he should be a force to be reckoned with — he’s young, earnest, charismatic, Kennedyesque— but so far there have been no real poll surges. Nothing that would suggest he might have a chance. It’s a crowded field and there are other, more adept stars who tend to dominate the stage.

But Beto is a force. He shows up on the border, near tears as he reports on the conditions in the refugee camps. He boldly rails against white supremacists from his perch in Texas, a state known for its love of guns and rage, and he minces no words when he talks against Donald Trump. (Tell us how you really feel, Beto.)

He made it clear just days after the August 3 shooting massacre in El Paso, where 22 people died in the district Beto represented in congress for six years, that he had no interest in running for the senate. It’s the presidency or nothing, because he knows only the power of the presidency will allow him to make radical change.

The shootings hit him hard. He took a two-week break from campaigning so he could be with his people in Texas. He went to funerals and visited victims still hospitalized. He gave blood. He listened to horrific stories told to him by victims and survivors, as well as the doctors trying to repair bodies savagely shredded by bullets meant only as the ultimate deterrents on a battle field.

It changed him. He’d had enough. And, as usual, he was going to say so.
In every public appearance, his fury was palpable, his tears near the surface, as he zeroed in on the proliferation of weapons of war in a culture so fearful of “others”, reports of armed white madmen going on deadly rampages have become commonplace.

Beto made a wrenching decision: He could no longer ignore the need to get those weapons out of the hands of anyone who wanted one. No more “We don’t want to take your guns away from you”, as he had earlier promised, however reluctantly. Now, without equivocation, his message is laser-beamed on the absolute removal of military-style weapons from the hands of private citizens.

In an August 22 editorial, he startled everyone by putting in writing what no politician had ever dared. He wrote,
On Aug. 3, my hometown of El Paso, Texas — one of the safest cities in America — was attacked in one of the deadliest mass shootings in our country’s modern history. This was an act of white nationalist terror, and one we could have prevented.
All countries have video games. All countries struggle with mental health. All countries deal with hatred. But only America has more guns than human beings — 390 million firearms in a country of 329 million people — which kill nearly 40,000 people every year.
Some of the nurses, surgeons and doctors heroically treating victims at Del Sol and University Medical Center in El Paso told me they hadn’t seen such horrific wounds since they were deployed abroad in our armed forces, saving the lives of soldiers on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq…
… That’s why, as president, I would institute a mandatory buyback of every assault weapon in America.
He didn’t say “every gun”, he said “every assault weapon” and he’s careful to make that distinction every time he repeats his promise. On August 31 he was in Charlottesville when a reporter asked him how he would address the fears of people who were afraid he really would take away their assault weapons. He said without hesitation:

“I want to be really clear that that’s exactly what we are going to do. Americans who own AR-15s, AK-47s, will have to sell them to the government. We’re not going to allow them to stay on our streets, to show up in our communities, to be used against us in our synagogues, our churches, our mosques, our Walmarts, our public places.”

And at the presidential debate held on Thursday, September 12, he said again, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore.”

It’s clear he means it. He may, in fact, have blown any chance at the presidency, but he has accomplished what he set out to do. He's establishing a radical idea, and radical ideas have to start somewhere.

He has started a dialogue that will build momentum, and as it builds, the idea of an all-out ban on assault weapons will become less radical and more accepted. Millions of us want to see it happen. None of us knows how it would be possible. That’s the next step: figuring out how it can be done.

But first things first. A political leader has said out loud what hundreds of political leaders are saying behind closed doors — we must get assault weapons out of the hands of ordinary citizens. We can’t rely on licensing, or background checks, or even statewide bans, as in California, when gun purchasing is so accepted, so easy, that any restrictions can be readily sidestepped. Literally anyone can buy a gun. Sellers are waiting to accommodate. Enough of them are willing to look the other way. The only solution, as far-fetched as it seems, is an outright ban.

The blowback to Beto’s insistence on an assault weapon ban is fierce, as he might have expected. Members of his own party are praising his honesty while not quite getting there yet. Both Kamala Harris and Corey Booker have plans to do away with assault weapon sales but they’re swimming in red tape, trying to be all things to all people. They aren’t nearly as convincing as Beto. Yet.

Some colleagues, like Delaware Senator Chris Coons, are afraid he’s playing right into the NRA’s hands. He told CNN’s Poppy Harlow he’s worried about Beto’s debate comments:
I frankly think that that clip will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying that Democrats are coming for your guns.
And, as expected in this culture now, Beto is getting death threats, like the one from a Texas state legislator who tweet-warned, “My AR is ready, Robert Francis”, invoking Beto’s real name, doubling as a reminder of what happened to Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy.

But the message is indelible now: If we want to end the massacres we have to ban military-style assault weapons. Beto O’Rourke did this for us and, while we may not reward him with the presidency, this is how he will be remembered. As the leader who finally cut through the bullshit and gave it to us straight. He opened the floodgates and, as with every radical idea, we’ll need to get used to it. Already Adam Schiff is calling for petition signatures to reinstate the assault weapons ban. (kuuuuu)

Joe Biden is reminding voters in a tweet that he worked on banning assault weapons before and he’ll do it again as president:
25 years ago this week, Senator Feinstein and I led the charge to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We beat the @NRA and got it done. As president, I’ll do it once again. We will get these military-style weapons off our streets.
Kamala Harris is pushing a red flag law that will allow the temporary seizure of guns in the hands of White Supremacists showing signs of acting on their threats. (Key word: temporary.)

So, if we’re lucky, Beto’s Democratic colleagues will get braver. They’ll test the waters to see if they can survive the onslaught. They’ll waffle until it seems safe. They’ll yell as if they mean it, and then they’ll add exceptions to keep voters happy. But all the while Beto will be howling to be heard and his message will stay the same.

In time, the notion of an assault weapons ban will become not just acceptable, but necessary.

In time, the howling will be coming from the other side. And when the ban is in place, when military guns in the hands of private citizens becomes a painful memory, when statistics show the number of lives we’ve saved — by the thousands — we’ll wonder what took us so long.

. . .

(Cross-posted at Crooks & Liars)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Eighteen Years After: We Remember 9/11

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Eighteen years have passed -- more than a decade and a half -- but for those closest to the terror, for those whose loved ones were caught in that unimaginable rage storm, for those who trained for this, who mobilized and fought so hard to try and save the lives already lost to them, we pay tribute by refusing to forget.

The pictures are all that is left.  They stay with us and resonate as terrible, beautiful works of art.

The agony of the men and women who could do nothing but stand by and watch the towers fall reflected and drove home our own agony -- even those of us in the hinterlands who watched the horrific events unfold on our TV screens, helpless to do anything but gasp and moan and rock with a kind of psychic pain most of us had never felt in our entire lifetimes.


As painful as the dredging up of the images of that terrible day is to us, there is no sense of dread as the annual anniversaries approach.  Every year, on September 11, we want to remember.  9/11 has become a watchword.  Nobody in America has to be told what those numbers represent.  

  Every year on this anniversary, in a ceremony to honor the dead, family members gather for the recitation of the names of the men and women lost to us on September 11, 2001.  The names are being read alphabetically.  For one brief moment the people live again.  We do this for their families and for us.  They're not just numbers or actors in an unimaginable event that became the catalyst for change, altering our lives forever.  We need to keep their memories alive in order to recognize their humanity, and possibly our own.

We remember.

We remember.

We will always remember.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The President’s Mission: Let Him Entertain You

Trump loves schlock, shock, and chaos, especially when the theater is on fire.

Image: Reuters
Remember that day in mid-June, 2015, when Donald Trump rode his golden escalator down into the depths, digging deep into a Chaplinesque version of Benito Mussolini as he announced he was going to run for president and not only save a dying America but build a great wall and make Mexico pay for it ? Remember how we laughed? 

I wasn’t the only one who saw his imperious ride down the escalator as tongue-in-cheek performance art, a bid to push that crazy idea he’d been tossing around for years — a run for the presidency — and,what the hell, give it another shot. He drew the cameras and the crowds, and his addiction for attention got the hit of all hits.

Remember his nonsensical attacks on President Obama, pretending he had proof Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii but in Africa, where Trump’s agents were already scouring the countryside, talking to people who, he said, swore they remembered his birth, swore they saw the future president in swaddling clothes? Remember when he promised to reveal all? Soon?

He knew he had nothing. WE knew he had nothing. But he got the attention he craved and he rewarded us by giving us something to talk about.

Getting attention is everything to Donald Trump. He craves attention and it’s an addiction that consumes him. He ran for president, not because he and he alone had to chops to get the job done, but because he craves attention. (It’s clear he never expected to win. It was never his intention.)

When he saw he would be just one of 12 other candidates on the debate stage, he knew he couldn’t compete politically so he chose to do the thing he does best: He went all entertainer. He built an act around teasing and tormenting his fellow candidates. He called them silly names. He made airy promises that nobody in their right mind believed. When he wasn’t painting the government as weak and inept, he was sloshing bright red MAGA paint all over a government he portrayed as dark and sinister.

People — even those who saw right through him — sat up and took notice. The press loved him. The deplorables loved him. And he loved that he finally found something that would make them love him.
Nothing excites Trump’s Vaudevillian brain more than a rapt audience. So to that eternal question, “Is he serious?” — no, he’s not serious. This is what he lives for.

When he uses the words “beautiful” and “fun” in totally inappropriate sentences, (“Kim Jong Un writes me the most beautiful letters”. “Are you having fun? This is fun. Right?”)he wants us to be entertained. It keeps us from looking beyond his carefully built caricature to see how ugly his ugly side really is.

But he’s a weak man, a pretender, and he can’t go on hiding his weaknesses behind a clown face forever. He is not a president. He’s not even a comic example of a president. He’s a menace because he isn’t serious, and he isn’t serious because that would require studying and contemplation — two things this president works overtime avoiding.

His only function is to keep the Trump legend alive. We knew before he was president that he’d go to any lengths to promote himself. We knew, for example, that he became “John Barron” and sometimes “David Dennison”, pretending to be his own press agent. We heard the tapes of his phone calls and recognized not just his voice but his distinctive speech patterns. We knew it was him. He denies it.

We knew he was dishonest and corrupt and given to fits of red hot revenge, but if we thought we could shame him by exposing him, we learned early on it was a lost cause. He feels no shame, no remorse, no regret, no guilt. Any human feelings were long ago replaced by his need to build the character he plays into someone the world would see as heroic.

We’ve suspected there’s something more — that he’s not all there —but we keep waiting for the constitutional checks and balances to kick in. It stops being funny when this president uses his formidable powers to attack and destroy at will, and counts on his popularity to keep the madness going.

Under his watch real people, including refugee families held at the border and often separated from their children, are suffering in ways so horrific we want not to believe it.
Under his watch the economic and military experts, the scientists, the teachers — the country’s caretakers — have been labeled inept and rendered useless.
Under his watch our infrastructure and our safety nets are disappearing.
Under his watch thousands of brown-skinned hurricane victims have been left to die.

We’re in deep trouble, but in order for Trump to keep it from seeming as impossibly awful as it is, he has learned to go for the giggle. How bad can he be if he can make people laugh?

So when he says he wants to buy Greenland, or be president forever, or maybe even be God’s chosen one, he anticipates the deliciously satisfying fuss and he can forget for that moment that he may someday be indicted for various criminal activities, that history will not be kind to him, that the stage lights will dim and the crowds will disappear and he’ll go back to being that Donald Trump that nobody liked, that Donald Trump that everyone saw as a joke.

It’s those last laughs that will finally get him.

. . . 

(Cross-posted at Indelible Ink

Saturday, August 31, 2019

How Unions Gave Us Labor Day

In praise of a movement battered and bruised but not down

JFK at Detroit Labor Day Parade, 1960 — Photo: Walter Reuther Library

I come from a union family and I married into one. My father-in-law sat in the 44-day sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, when General Motors refused to recognize union rights for workers.

When I was a little girl I remember standing in a long line with my dad so he could vote for a union contract after a strike. I remember the Labor Day parades along Woodward Avenue in Detroit — union members marching, thousands strong, the parades lasting for hours and hours. (Like the one above with JFK.)

Strikes were hard on our families. They knew, going in, there would be hardships — no end in sight, no money coming in — but the goal was for better wages, better conditions,and for a sense of dignity that every working person deserved.

I remember being scared because I saw my parents were scared. I remember feeling relief when the ordeal was over and even small concessions were considered wins.

America was strong when unions were strong. Over the years their clout has diminished and there is no doubt workers are the worse for it. Wages are down and so are protections. Dignity and a sense of purpose is long gone. We were building a country and we were proud of our efforts. Now we aren’t.

I’m a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO (NWU). I pay my union dues gladly, knowing as a freelancer they’ll have my back if I ever have a dispute I can’t handle. (Because that’s what unions do. They advocate for workers.)

The NWU works with publications on contracts for freelance writers, negotiating for reasonable rates and conditions. (This is their agreement with The Nation.) They issue press passes and provide legitimacy to writers who find themselves trying to navigate a system set up to take, and only rarely give.

In 2018 my union took on Ebony Magazine and won an $80,000 settlement for 45 freelancers who hadn’t been paid for their work. There’s little chance those writers would ever have seen money due them without the clout of a strong union behind them.

But just yesterday, news came that The Arizona Republic is getting tough on staffers who are looking into union representation. They’ve gone from assuring them they don’t need a union to threatening lawsuits over what they call “surveilling” other staff members in an effort to coerce them into joining. The workers say it isn’t true.

Gannett, their parent company, is notorious for working against unions, which nobody but me seems to consider odd: Newspapers, those bastions of free speech, keep working to muffle voices pushing for representation. But there it is. That’s where we are now.

Every year around Labor Day I grow nostalgic for those days when labor was strong and management had respect for them — if even reluctantly. I think about those early labor advocates and marvel at their efforts, when the prospect of good wages or protections or even dignity seemed foolish and misguided, considering the good will of the businesses who were kind enough to hire them. (I’m kidding.)

So in case you missed them, I give you some quotes I’ve shared over the years on Labor Day:
Labor is the great producer of wealth: it moves all other causes.
Congressman Daniel Webster, 4/2/1824
“The first thing is to raise hell,” says I. “That’s always the first thing to do when you’re faced with an injustice and you feel powerless. That’s what I do in my fight for the working class.”
 Mother Jones
With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than the other association of men.
 Clarence Darrow, The Railroad Trainman, 1909
The history of America has been largely created by the deeds of its working people and their organizations. Nor has this contribution been confined to raising wages and bettering work conditions; it has been fundamental to almost every effort to extend and strengthen our democracy.
William Cahn, labor authority and historian
We insist that labor is entitled to as much respect as property. But our workers with hand and brain deserve more than respect for their labor. They deserve practical protection in the opportunity to use their labor at a return adequate to support them at a decent and constantly rising standard of living, and to accumulate a margin of security against the inevitable vicissitudes of life.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, fireside chat, 1936
If I were a worker in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to join a union.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
The first thing a dictator does is abolish the free press. Next he abolishes the right of labor to go on strike. Strikes have been labor’s weapon of progress in the century of our industrial civilization. Where the strike has been abolished … labor is reduced to a state of medieval peonage, the standard of living lowered, the nation falls to subsistence level.
George Seldes, Freedom of the Press, 1935
The right to join a union of one’s choice is unquestioned today and is sanctioned and protected by law.
President Harry S. Truman
Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.
President Dwight Eisenhower
There’s s a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.
Walter Reuther
In light of this fundamental structure of all work… in light of the fact that, labor and capital are indispensable in any social system … it is clear that even if it is because of production in any social system … it is clear that even if it is because of their work needs that people unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.
Pope John Paul II
The history of the labor movements needs to be taught in every school in this land. America is a living testimonial to what free men and women, organized in free democratic trade unions can do to make a better life. … We ought to be proud of it!
Vice President Hubert Humphrey
Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.
President John F. Kennedy, 1962
The AFL-CIO has done more good for more people than any (other) group in America in its legislative efforts. It doesn’t just try to do something about wages and hours for its own people. No group in the country works harder in the interests of everyone.
President Lyndon Johnson, 1965
Without a union, the people are always cheated, and they are so innocent. Cesar Chavez, United Farm Workers Union

Labor Day is an American holiday created by labor unions.  It became a national holiday in 1894, and since then it has been celebrated on the first Monday in September, without fail.   We celebrate the labor movement on Labor Day each year because working hard and playing by the rules (whose rules?) was not and never has been a ticket to success in America.  It took the labor movement to gather enough strength to make sure hard working, rules-playing workers got a fair shake in the workplace.

Click here for the history of Labor Day.

And I leave you with the song that says it all:

Happy Labor Day weekend.  Remember who we were when we were at our best.

(Cross-posted at Indelible Ink)

Friday, August 30, 2019

I didn’t Leave Bernie, He Left Me

How I can agree with Bernie Sanders’ ideas and still not want to vote for him.

Jim Young — Reuters

I’m a liberal and Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist. Both of us have our roots in good old FDR blue collar pragmatism. I thought, way back in 2011, when I wrote glowingly about him, that if he ever decided to run for president I would be first in line to cheer him on.

I wrote:
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont, held the senate floor for 90 minutes yesterday, talking directly to President Obama, pleading, cajoling, scolding — begging the president to take the lead on obvious things like lifting the poor and the downtrodden out of the depths, protecting them from any more grief, and demanding that the rich pay their fair share of U.S. taxes.

He was voicing everything I believed and he was one of the very few. I wanted to go on liking him. I wanted it so much I went on pretending I did long after I had grown squeamish about what I was seeing from him.

I wanted to believe his shouting and his finger-wagging was simply because he was that immersed in wanting to do the right thing, but his haughty smirk when his audience reacted to his many accusations seemed out of place for someone calling for solidarity. In time it became clear that his idea of doing the right thing was to build himself up by attacking any Democrat who wasn’t willing to go along.

He latched onto “corporate Democrats” and kept it up long after the 2016 primaries, when he should have joined the Dems in supporting not only Hillary Clinton but every Democrat working to get elected in every city, county, state, or federal battleground. He didn’t do that. He balked at everything, including handing the primary vote over to Hillary when it was clearly long past time. He talked up “revolution”, pushing his followers to stick with him long after the space between the primaries and the general election had closed behind him. He tolerated chaos from his own ranks when what we needed desperately was unity.

It comes down to this: Bernie is my first choice as revolutionary leader. As revolutionary leaders go, Bernie ranks right up there at the top. But if Bernie should win the presidency, his days as a radical revolutionary leader are over. He wouldn’t in a million years be able to accomplish as much as he might if he stays on the outside pressing for the goals he has outlined during his campaign…

 …A president has to be all things to all people. The leader of a revolution has to stay focused on the cause. Bernie, if he wins, won’t be able to do that and he’ll disappoint the people who are counting on him to make radical change. They’ll start a revolution without him, or in spite of him, or against him.
I haven’t changed my mind. Donald Trump may have shown us what the true Dark Side looks like when it gains ultimate power, but the Democratic presidential candidate can’t be a frothing revolutionary. Some would like to think we’ve moved that far to the left, but we haven’t. And we shouldn’t.

I’ve never been convinced that Democrats shine as a party when they move away from wanting to be allies to all Americans, and not just some Americans. We’re not the party of dividers. We’re at our best when we’re lifting each other up, not dragging each other down.
I submit that Barack Obama’s popularity stayed constant mainly because he refused to get down in the mud. He refused to attack his allies or to get vicious when he was going after his enemies. He understood the honor and the obligations of his office, and he’ll be remembered for that, long after Donald Trump disappears into the twilight.

I am a Democrat. I’ve been a Democrat for more than 60 years and I’ll never be anything else, no matter how frustrated or disappointed I am in my political family. There are ways of doing battle without digging in the dirt. I’ll always believe the Democrats must take the high road. It doesn’t make us weak, it makes us right.

We take the high road by showing what we’ve learned over the years — that we can and must help others while helping ourselves. We don’t see kindness as weakness. We can be revolutionaries without losing our way. Our eyes are on the prize and our prize is a country working toward the common good.

Bernie Sanders never became that Democrat. He relished the chaos in 2016 and did nothing to calm the waters. His talking points never became action. His talk of being a champion of women or people of color, for example, is still more fluff than substance.

His followers have built a long-lasting cult around him, and he’s using them again to rise to the top. I sincerely hoped he wouldn’t do that, but since he has, I’m out. I haven’t decided on a candidate yet — it’s much too early — but I do know Bernie Sanders won’t be my choice for the primaries. (If he wins the primaries, I’ll deal with it and support him. Because that’s what Democrats have to do.)

The defeat of Donald Trump is essential if we’re ever going to get those programs that both the left and the moderates agree need fixing. We can only defeat him if we work together. When Bernie shows signs of wanting to work together, I’ll come back and write a different story. But until then, this one will have to stand.

. . . 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Why I Need to Be Here. And There. And Everywhere

The last time I wrote here was in April, when I announced I was leaving and probably wouldn't be back. Well, here I am. The truth is, I missed this place. I spent more than 10 years here, so it's hard not to come back to see how it's doing.  I come back often to read the stories in my "Necessary Voices" sidebar, and I sometimes grab an old story from my archives to revise for my Medium pages (See below). I love coming back here. It's like home, even though it's no longer my office.

I'm writing almost exclusively on Medium now, and it's pretty satisfying. I'm building a readership there, which is what every writer wants, and it's almost like having my own blog. Almost.

I've started my own Medium publication, Indelible Ink, and I'm editing and publishing stories by other writers, as well as my own.

I publish a periodic newsletter promoting those great writers who honor me by writing in my pub. It's here if you want to take a look.

The increased attention at Medium has given me the confidence to push further and start sending things out to paying venues again. I hadn't done that in years. (I'm working with an editor at Huffington Post this week on a non-political piece that requires some editing but will be published soon. I can't tell you how excited that little triumph makes me. It's really kind of pathetic. )

I don't write as much about politics, and that's by design. I  needed that break after so many years of trying to save us from ourselves without making even a tiny dent. When the realization hit, it hit hard--I was wasting my time, and nobody even noticed.

So, yes, I'm whining a bit, but I'll get over it. I can't see myself ever going back to a 24-hour-a-day concentration on Trump and the failings of America. But I have to say something. Terrible things are happening, and I can't avoid them. I know me. I just can't.

It feels good writing here again. I missed the old place. But I haven't left the neighborhood. I'm just up the street, so how about coming to visit me there?  I'll be back here now and then, just for old time's sake.