Category Archives: Paula Persists

Our National Shame

Today I watched the chilling dash cam video of the Philandro Castile shooting.   I will be haunted for a long time by the image of his girlfriend’s young daughter slowly emerging from that car after seeing Philandro shot 7 times.  He was shot as he reached into his pocket to retrieve his driver’s license, per the police officer’s request.  While he was en route to the hospital, where he would die of his injuries; his girlfriend was (unbelievably) put into handcuffs and held in the back of a squad car.

Last week the jury acquitted the police officer, just as juries have acquitted a long sequence of police officers  for killing black men  and women.  But, This happened in Minnesota, not Missouri or Alabama. Minnesota for god’s sake.  It makes me ashamed.

Black. Lives. Matter.  As a white woman, I hesitate to co-opt that phrase; but I do so respectfully, to make the point that we are all diminished when men like Philandro Castile are executed for what appears to be ‘the crime’ of being black in America.  The history of race in America is incredibly complex–but there can be no doubt that implicit bias is alive and well in every state of the union, not ‘just’ the south.

Black and brown mothers and fathers all over American face the challenge of sitting their children down to have THE talk; a talk I didn’t need to have with MY children; THE talk about being deferential to the police at all times–how to speak (politely) and how to move (slowly); knowing the likelihood of a brown or black child being stopped and questioned is much higher than that of their white friends; and knowing that sometimes, even if their child does nothing wrong, the result can still be tragic.

Racism in America is one of our greatest national shames, manifesting itself in large and small ways in the pattern of our lives.  I see it at work, with a striking imbalance between the demographics of our technical teams and the all-white faces at the leadership level.  My home state of Wisconsin has one of the biggest (if not the biggest) gaps in high school graduation between black and white students.

In her excellent book, The New Jim Crow,  Michelle Alexander demonstrates that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. This effectively strips the right to vote from a large percentage of African Americans, who have been convicted of even minor drug charges.

I had hoped that having a black president for 8 years would have made a difference, but I was naive. Our current administration is a backlash –from those who felt threatened and disenfranchised by that very hope.  Make America Great Again is a thinly veiled slogan for white supremacy, contributing to a culture of white entitlement and acceptance of violence against minorities.

America cannot be truly great unless and until we address the blight of racism.

Lordy, I hope there are tapes

We are living in surreal times, where truth is treated as a variable and negotiable commodity. The D is unable to distinguish between what he believes (and wishes) to be true, and what is factually and historically accurate.  Unfortunately, his version of the truth is given credence by the gravitas of his position,  and by sheer hubris.  Our communication landscape is shifting:  He that dominates the conversation tends to be most effective, regardless of logic or facts.

I recently read an excellent  VOX Post that posits that the problem is NOT that Trump is lying (although he is); but that he is crowding out the truth by dominating and driving the conversation.   The article explains that liars try to replace the truth, which is hard; whereas bullshitters have the easier task of drawing so much attention to themselves that the truth becomes a backstory.  The media is forced to focus on the bullshit, and the truth is drowned out.  

This rings true, and is dismaying for those of us that grew up with a certain sense of fairness and justice– that working hard, doing your homework and being ‘right’ matters.  Today, the bullies are in control , and we  seem to have shifted to a new level of intellectual laziness from which we may never recover.  We hear and heed the loudest  and most belligerent voices: voices that drown out those of the more well-informed nerds, scientists and rule-followers, who have done their homework and anchor their arguments to facts.

This shift of attention from facts to belligerent bullshit is particularly detrimental  and disenfranchising to women.  It is virtually impossible for a woman to be assertive, let alone dominate a conversation, without being shut down and/or tagged with any one of the many derogatory labels we have for strong women (relatively kind examples are ‘bossy’, ‘nasty’ or ‘unlikable’).   Nevertheless, we persist.

Most schools have a no-tolerance approach to bullying, but those policies aren’t effective if the principal is the biggest bully on campus.  It begs the question: How do we wrestle the microphone away from the bully-in-chief?

Even if the White House DOES turn over tapes of The D’s conversations in the Oval Office; and even if those tapes paint him as a huge liar – will it matter?  Lordy, I hope so. 

Circle Breathing

I had coffee with a friend last weekend.  We compared notes regarding our respective acts of rabble-rousing and resistance. My friend is a mostly-retired psychiatrist (in other words, she is WAY smarter than me); who had not been expecting to expend her early retirement energy in active political resistance; yet, here she is.  Here we are.

She and I are aligned in philosophies and have a shared sense of dread, grief, and horror regarding the current administration.   For us, this sensation is both a catalyst to action and a burden–a burden that often takes residence in our guts and minds, like an OCD virus that threatens our sense of inner peace and causes bouts of crankiness that are sometimes directed at innocent nearby targets, such as our husbands.

The past couple weeks have been a good opportunity to take a mental break.  The D is doing an excellent job of exposing his own incompetence and blinding narcissism–without any help from myself, his many detractors or the ‘fake’ media.   In my friend’s words:  “he is doing our job for us”.

The D’s  firing of FBI Director Comey is a clear obstruction of justice; the initial reason given was Comey’s revelation of newly discovered Hillary emails in the late days of the 2016 campaign; a laughable and ironic justification from The D regarding an act that he previously praised, and one that most likely tilted the balance of election in his direction.  On the heels of that debacle, The D shared classified intelligence with his Russian BFFs during a cozy photo op (for Russian press only). That may be one traitorous act too many, even in the eyes of Republican cronies — time will tell.

There is a rumor that several Republican’s are considering withdrawing support from The D  in a belated attempt to restore their integrity–or at least a facade of integrity.  This may be a window of opportunity for them to actually hear what their constituents are saying during the current Congressional break.

Ultimately, The D’s cluelessness and blinding narcissism will be the primary reasons for his seemingly inevitable downfall.  The House of Cards is starting to crumble; the cracks in the orange veneer are getting more obvious.  As much as I’ve enjoyed a week or two ‘off’, watching events play out; I/we cannot return to the not-my-problem complacency that allowed the D to be elected in the first place.

I used to sing in a choir.  For long-sustained notes, we used a technique called ‘circle-breathing’: each chorister sneaks a breath at a different time, so that the audience hears one seamless long-sustained note, without a perceptable break.  Circle-breathing depends on teamwork, recognizing that each individual needs to occasionally catch their breath.

To my persistent friends–take a breath when you need to and protest loudly when you are able.  Collectively, our voice is unbroken and undeterred.

 

 

 

Spiraling

Well, well.  We may finally be getting an answer to the question I posed just a few days ago: Is there any act that is too outrageous, unlawful, unconstitutional, self-serving, embarrassing or cruel  for Trump to be held accountable by the Republican’ts?

Given recent events, we are seeing the faintest glimmer of hope that a few Republican’s are being reintroduced to their spines:  the edges of the dark cloak of loyalty are starting to fray.   Mere obstruction of justice (firing of Comey) wasn’t compelling enough:  But–the casual sharing of highly classified information, for purposes of self-aggrandizement, to his Russian buddies just may just have crossed a line that even the Republicans won’t (or can’t) defend.

This post is short – by the time I press publish, there will no doubt be new plot twists and revelations to consider.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

 

Tweeter in Chief

The latest SNL Skit nailed it.   Alec Baldwin, as Trump, freely admits he fired former FBI Director, James Comey, because of the Russian Thing.  The interviewer looks surprised and asks as an aside: ‘Wait, did I finally ‘get’ him on flagrant obstruction of justice’?  Only to realize:  “No, it doesn’t matter – nothing matters anymore”.  Trump/Baldwin then further demonstrates his absolute power by beckoning his lapdog, Paul Ryan, with a little bell to serve him ice cream.  Unfortunately, The parody is spot-on.

The Republican majority has given Trump a blank check to run roughshod over our Democracy.  There appears to be no act that is too outrageous, unlawful, unconstitutional, self-serving, embarrassing or cruel  for Trump to be held accountable by the Republican’ts.  

Trump has been given free reign to spew his incendiary lies and tweets; to obstruct justice; to use his position for profit; and to flaunt his outright contempt for our Constitution, our laws, the media, the judiciary and civil rights.  We tell our children that actions have consequences;  yet that is clearly not true for our Tweeter-in-Chief.

Democrats, and much of America;  are relegated to the role of bystanders watching a catastrophic runaway train wreck playing out in front of us in slow motion.  Despite our screaming and waving our arms, donations, appearing at town halls, signing petitions and other energetic forms of resistance–the casualties continue to pile up, and the stench increases.

I was a teenager during Watergate.  While I had little political consciousness at that time;  I remember being affected by the message that even the President has limits to his/her (still hopeful) power; no one is above the law or the Constitution.  We are now at an equally critical crossroads in our democracy.  Is our democracy still stronger than a corrupt President?  Will checks and balances finally kick in–or will we continue our slide down a dystopian slope?

While we don’t know yet how this will end; We do know that without an active, engaged and vocal resistance, things will get far worse.  While it sometimes feels like spitting into the wind, we  must continue to fight — putting up as many roadblocks as possible against the runaway Trump train.

Trump must be stopped.  Our Democracy and way of life depends on it.

 

 

The TrumpCare Shit Sandwich

A warning–I am cranky this morning. If you are allergic to strong language or opinions, move on.  There are lots of pictures of kittens on Facebook.

With the latest Trump Care bill, The Republicans just fed us all a shit sandwich that they won’t eat themselves. They made sure to exempt themselves from the Amendment that they just passed–without even acknowledging the utter hypocracy of that stance.

In March, the original TrumpCare bill was pronounced Dead on Arrival and was rejected by Doctors, Hospitals, AARP, and anyone with a knowledge of how our health care system works. It lacked support to be put up for vote because (as it turns out) Republicans determined that it was not cruel enough.

The Republicans fixed that problem: the revised Bill / Amendment is cruel enough to bring a smile to the lips of even the most malicious tea party dude. The ‘old’ bill only cut coverage to 24 million Americans, early predictions are that 129 Million Americans will be uninsurable under the new bill — primarily those who are ill and/or elderly.  Some people with a history or heart disease or cancer, or even acne, heartburn, back pain, asthma, hay fever or hives could be rendered uninsurable for life. (A factoid is from the LA Times).

Why are they doing this???  It clearly isn’t because this plan provides such great health care for the American people (some Republicans admit they didn’t even read the damn thing).   There appears to be two motivations, the first is to repeal and replace ObamaCare (ACA) at ANY cost, because they despise anything and everything associated with Obama; and secondly because the bill results in a significant tax break — for the wealthiest Americans of course.

In other words: The Republicans are providing a tax cut for the wealthy by gutting health coverage for millions of Americans.  If that isn’t a shit sandwich, I don’t know what is.

The silver lining (although I realize shit sandwiches do not have linings and that I have mixed my metaphors)… will be a harsh backlash against Republican House Members in the 2018 elections.  When the healthcare bill passed in the House, Democrats sang “na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye” to GOP members facing reelection in 2018.   It is upon all of US to ensure that this prediction holds true.

This is the time for engagement and action.  Use your time, your talents, your energy, your dollars and your votes to assure that this bill does not pass the Senate and that sanity will be restored in 2018.

 

 

Small Things Matter

Today, I am particularly nostalgic for the Obama’s grace and class.  Barack and Michelle always treated each other with respect and love.  In contrast, The D rarely misses an opportunity to display his  boorishness and lack of common decency.

The D consistently ignores Melania and leaves her to her own devices when going from Point A to Point B, as recently depicted in their exit from AirForce One, which is in sharp contrast to the more congenial descents of other first couples.

Monday, the D flung some poor kid’s hat into the crowd after signing it at the hastily organized White House Easter egg roll–He essentially stole some kids hat to fling into the crowd.  He also failed to put his hand over his heart during the National Anthem, until Melanie gave him a poke.

The D recently took to Twitter to defend former Fox-News pundit, Bill O’Reilly –days before O’Reilly was fired due to a egregious pattern of sexual harassment towards female colleagues.  O’Reilly and The D personify the despicable old-boy mindset that any women is fair game to be ogled and groped; or insulted if they are deemed too unattractive to ‘deserve’ their revolting advances.

To me, his outright refusal to shake hands with Angela Merkel remains as a low point in a very deep well of boorish behavior.  Although–perhaps being ignored when offering a handshake is preferred over enduring the bizarre hurky-jerky, wood -sawing motion of the D’s handshake.

In addition to his astonishing misogeny, the list of character flaws is long. The D is absurdly vain and self-centered; frequently going off-script to congratulate himself and/or nonsensically describe how awesome he is;  with  forehead-smacking results.

During an appearance with the Italian prime Minister, the D referred to the great opera tenor, Pavarotti, as his great friend:  despite the fact that Pavarotti has been dead for 10 years:  Perhaps they used to party with Fredrick Douglass, another great (and deceased) friend of The D’s.

The D is too thin-skinned to attend the up-coming White House Correspondence Dinner.  (On a side note:  Women were not allowed to attend the dinner until 1962, when a persistent (and probably nasty) woman by the name of Helen Thomas raised a ruckus about it.)

Individually, some of these events are merely fodder for a national eye-roll.  As a whole, a picture emerges of a leader who lacks basic emotional intelligence and is unable to feel empathy or respect for others.

I have a personal litmus test I use when gauging how responsible or trustworthy someone is.  My conclusion for The D is:  No, I would not trust him to feed my cat.

 

 

Orange is the new Crack

 

Addiction can come in many forms. I am addicted to Sudoku– it started as a harmless hobby, but has become an addiction that interferes with important life activities, such as blogging and sleeping.  So far, the only people harmed are myself, my husband and my doggie—who looks at me beseechingly, wanting to play, while I embark on ‘just one more game’ on my I-Pad.

The D’s regime administration feeds upon the addict-like zealous support among his passionate faithful. (For new readers, I refer to #45 as ‘the D’, since I got tired of typing “he who shall not be named”).    Like addicts everywhere, his true believers are adept at rationalizing bizarre, cruel, unlawful and unprecedented presidential behavior; without regard for consequences or impacts to others—anything to feed the insatiable power-lust of their leader.

His supporters regularly rally against their own best interests in support of policies that will strip away health care, transfer even more wealth to the 1%, destroy our environment, erode human rights, and ensure the proliferation of ignorance by compromising the education of our children.  Like addicts (and following their leader’s example) they will find others to blame—specifically Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Addicts can only be cured once they admit they have a problem; which is unlikely to happen with the dial set to Fox News 24/7.

Yet—who am I to judge?   My own ‘dial’ is set permanently to the Huffington Post and similar news feeds.  Am I equally blind to rational points of view that differ from my own knee-jerk reaction to oppose all things Trump?   Am I capable of objectivity, or am I so completely outraged that I will be unable to recognize it if and when The D does something decent?

This is a marathon.  It is important to take breaks periodically to regroup, re-center, and assure that we maintain the will, the energy and the humanity to continue without burning out; without losing sight of what we are fighting FOR, and without becoming the flip side of the orange demagogue that we rail against.

Orange is the new crack – Don’t lose yourself in the fight.

 

 

 

 

 

Ding Dong, The Bill is Dead!

(Sung to the tune of Ding, Dong! The witch is dead–from the Wizard of Oz)

Ding, Dong! The Bill is dead. Which old bill? The Trump Care Bill!
Ding, dong! The wicked bill is dead.

Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Bill is dead. It’s gone where the Crap bills go,
Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Bill is dead!

As a legally registered voter, in the country that we all love
I welcome this failure most regally.
But we’ve got to verify it legally, to see
To see?
If the GOP; Is morally, ethic’lly,
Spiritually, politically,
Positively, absolutely
Undeniably and dangerously Inept.

As a pundit, I must opine, I thoroughly examined them;
And the GOP’s not just inept, they are really most sincerely inept.

Then this is a day of celebration for all who Care.
Yes, let the joyous news be spread ; The wicked bad BILL for now is dead!

 

Cracks in the Orange Veneer

It has been a rough week for The D.  Despite having slept or tweeted through basic civics lessons and intelligence briefings he is learning the hard way that there really are three branches of government, and that his words and actions have consequences.

How disconcerting for The D to have his latest travel ban struck down, using his own words to interpret intent.   The D has been remarkably successful in avoiding any consequences associated with his outrageous statements and/or tweets.  However, this week, a ‘so-called’ judge from Hawaii referenced The D’s  own words to determine the intent of the travel ban as a way to prevent Muslims from entering the country.  (Yet another excellent reason to move to Hawaii.)

How troubling for The D to be criticized for his lack of evidence to support his tweets accusing Obama of wiretapping. The D does not feel it is necessary to validate any information he infers or gleans from cable news shows before tweeting misinformation to the world.  Prudence is not in The D’s vocabulary. He is the master of setting a ‘perception’ based on his own wishful thinking–perceptions which take hold in the minds of his faithful.  He never lets so-called ‘facts’ get in the way of his beliefs.  However, these tweets are being challenged on numerous fronts.

How upsetting for The D to have his name associated with the Alternative health care proposal put forth by Paul Ryan (a.k.a the Fourth Stooge).  This plan has been widely panned as Dead on Arrival and is opposed by hospitals, the AMA, Republicans and Democrats, AARP, and anyone who has in-depth knowledge of health care–including my  friend Jean.  (Who KNEW it could be so complicated??)

The Congressional Budget office (using a technique foreign to the current administration called ‘math’) determined that 14 million people would lose coverage in 2018 and 24 million people would lose coverage by 2020.

Certainly The D himself hasn’t demonstrated  enthusiasm for the plan; although on the campaign trail he promised a plan that would ‘cover everybody and be a fraction of the cost’.  Where is this magic pixie dust Donald?  I really want some!

How distressing for The D to be critized for his proposed budget and his outlandishly lavish spending at tax payer expense.  It is dismaying, but no real surprise that the proposed budget slashes popular programs such as Meals on Wheels, NPR, and the EPA.  Apparently, we cannot afford  meals for shut-ins, but we are shelling out millions for endless golf weekends at Mar-A-Lago (tax money that ends up going to The D himself, cause he owns the place), and $183 Million for Melania and Barron to continue to live in NYC.

Finally, The D closed the week by demonstrating a remarkable lack of class and grace by refusing to shake Angela Merkle’s hand.  What an ass.   It’s really embarrassing to be an American lately.

The good news is that some checks and balances are finally, belatedly, coming into focus.  Concerned Americans continue to speak up in vast numbers, Hard questions are being asked by the media, and investigations continue. Let’s hope the march towards some degree of sanity and accountability is just beginning–with more challenging weeks in the near  future for The D.