Joe Manchin Promises to Bring TEN Republicans to Our Side!

A review of Joe Manchin’s voting record reveals an old, white man who is against many of the things that Democrats stand for – Medicare for all, background checks for gun purchases, funding for SNAP/food stamps, sanctuary cities. He has voted for Brent Kavanaugh & Neil Gorsuch, Mike Pompeo, Scott Pruitt, Steve Mnuchin, Tom Price, Jeff Sessions & Rex Tiillerson.

Joe Manchin wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post declaring his unrelenting support for the filibuster. A holdover from Reconstruction and Jim Crow, the filibuster has been used by the Republicans not as a means of fostering debate but rather to obstruct almost all the legislation that the Obama administration hoped to enact to help the American people. The Senate, no longer ‘the world’s most deliberative body’, has instead become an example of how the minority can hold the majority hostage.

Debate requires people actually speaking about a subject. The filibuster as it now exists does not require anyone to do anything that remotely resembles debating. Instead, they threaten to filibuster and then demand that the majority find ten of them to end the no-debate debate. What a joke!

If Joe Manchin believes that the filibuster is beneficial to the Senate, and the population as a whole, then he needs to explain how it benefits the majority at all. Even when the Democrats don’t have a single vote majority in the senate, those senators who were elected to represent Democratically led states represent millions more citizens than those senators elected from states like North and South Dakota (there shouldn’t be two Dakotas), the Carolinas (ditto), the Virginias (same), Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa and all the other states with low population density.

It is now obvious that the Senate is no longer able to function as a governing body while the filibuster is available to give the minority an oversized ability to block and obstruct legislation that is favored by a majority of the population. It is no longer realistic to expect that Republicans in the Senate have any desire or intention to do that which benefits the populace because most of these things are in direct opposition to the desires of the donors who support the Republicans.

Audio tape from a phone call from an operative from Koch Industries has been leaked revealing how desperately they’re trying to find some way to make HR1, the bill introduced in the House to strengthen our election system and eliminate dark money from politics, unpalatable to the citizens, and they can’t find anything. The bill is intended to keep the wealthy from influencing the outcome of elections, allowing all of us to donate small dollar amounts that are then matched 6 to 1 by the government with funds obtained by fees assessed against the criminal and civil fines and penalties or settlements with banks and corporations who break the law. Koch Industries doesn’t understand why everyone agrees that keeping dark money out of politics and having campaigns financed by the people is a better way of doing things than what we have now.

If Joe Manchin really believes that the filibuster needs to stay as it is, then maybe it’s time for him to consider going into another line of work. Given his support for the Keystone XL pipeline and other fossil-fuel industry behemoths, maybe he can get a job working for them. At least then, no one would expect he would do what’s best for the rest of us.

Not everyone wants to live in a state with the lowest minimum wage. If Mr. Manchin thinks that $15 an hour is too high an hourly wage, he should explain to us how he expects those making the lowest wages to survive and feed themselves and their families. Joe doesn’t want student loans to have lowered interest rates. He’s voted to take away funding from nonprofits offering family planning, reproductive healthcare and abortions, to decrease funding for food stamps, and to defund Planned Parenthood.

Manchin voted against: allowing the Social Security Administration to implement restrictions of gun purchases for Social Security recipients who have been deemed incompetent to manage their finances; sanctuary cities; amending the system for background checks for gun purchases; increased funding of fresh fruits and vegetables for elementary students; and importing FDA-approved drugs from Canada.

It is time for the Senate to change. Senators are being paid $175,000 per year, and Joe Manchin’s net worth as of 2021 is somewhere between $3.4 – $11.8 million. He, and his Senate colleagues, are doing almost nothing to earn the money they’re being paid, given the gridlock that the right started under Newt Gingrich and perfected under Moscow Mitch. If the Senate as currently constructed cannot be changed to make it function for the people, then maybe it’s time to do something differently. What that would be is above my pay grade, but it’s clear to most of us that what we have now is broken.

Joe Manchin – if you want those of us on the outside to believe that those of you in the Senate give two shits about our lives and our children’s futures, then DO SOMETHING!!!!

Bring ten Republicans over to vote with the Democrats for things that there is overwhelming support for all over the country. Get them to vote for Biden’s infrastructure bill, instead of quibbling about the definition of infrastructure (which, per the OED, is the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society or enterprise). Republicans have for decades underfunded or ignored crumbling infrastructure all over the country in order to give their donors tax cuts.

Republicans are morally and philosophically incapable of putting the good of the country ahead of their own craven partisan needs – Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, to name but a few – and clearly do not give a damn about the country as a whole. What they do care about is their own petty grievances and their perceived victimhood. They refuse to acknowledge that their white supremacist worldview is wrong, and will continue to make out those of us who are pushing for change as the ‘other’ in order to fire up the worst of their base. They are culpable for the insurrection on January 6, 2021, and all need to be held accountable for their behavior.

Are these the people that Joe Manchin believes should have the power to force lengthy debates? Those who are content spreading the Big Lie and using it to support sweeping voter suppression laws all over the country? The same ones who spout Russian disinformation in Senate committee hearings? Those who voted to overturn our election?

This is what Joe Manchin says he wants – allow the minority to prevent the majority from passing legislation poll after poll has shown is overwhelmingly supported by the majority of the people. That is just not acceptable. Someone needs to tell Joe Manchin that what HE wants doesn’t matter. It’s what WE THE PEOPLE WANT that needs to be honored. And WE THE PEOPLE want our government to work for all of us, not just for the privileged or the well-connected.

We all know there are exactly zero Senate Republicans with the guts to do what’s best for the country. Joe Manchin has got an uphill climb drawing ten of them out from the dark side. I wish him luck, but I won’t hold my breath.

What’s the Point of a “Warranty” Anyway?

I’ve been a whole-hearted and enthusiastic user and consumer of electronics and computers since I got my first portable tape recorder when I was about 10 or 11 years old. As the only child of a single mom, living in a home with her parents, I was precocious and had access to tools; an invitation to take shit apart that I embraced early on.

When my little reel-to-reel tape recorder stopped running, of course took it apart to look inside. When I did, I found a little broken belt. I McGyver’d it with a rubber band and was back in business! Sure, whatever I had already recorded sounded a little weird, but any new stuff was fine so long as the rubber band lasted. Who knows whatever happened to that thing?

When Pong became a thing in the 70’s, my brother bought it for our Dad for xmas (sure he did!). He attached it to the TV in the living room, and Dad and Scott played it for a little while, but it was Pong. I don’t ever remember seeing Dad play it again, but Scott and I loved it.

In 1979, I bought my husband an Atari 2600 for xmas, and we would have our friends over and play games on the weekends. Looking back at the games we were so obsessed with compared to the complexity that is available today shows how the technology itself was at least part of the fascination. My favorite game for a long time was Adventure, which consisted of you, represented by a square, moving through assorted mazes that never changed from game to game. Despite this, we’d sit on the floor gripping that rudimentary joystick, practically ripping it apart in a futile attempt to make that square move faster!

Later, we upgraded to the Atari 5200.

Then, we had babies.

We bought an Adam sometime in the mid 1980’s. It was marketed as a computer, but in reality was a glorified word processor/video game chimera. Although it did come with its own printer, it was sold without any kind of monitor so needed to be hooked to a TV like a video game. It had no operating system or GUI Windows or iOs, and BASIC came included on a memory tape. I was trying to learn to code using a book I bought, essentially learning BASIC while raising toddlers. My big success – using about four lines of code, I instructed the printer to print the word “PRINT”. Not exactly the start of a coding career.

Next was the Commodore 64 with its own monitor, floppy drive and dot matrix printer. An 8-bit computer (this Lenovo IdeaPad is 64-bit) with a whopping 64 k of RAM (Lenovo = 1 TB), it had it’s own monitor, so at least I could work on it while everyone else watched TV, and it was the computer I used when I first started nursing school. It was probably the last computer I had without any internet access.

By the mid 90’s, I had the good fortune of having a close friend who was a general manager at CompUSA, which at that time was THE place to get computers and peripherals. Because of his help (and discount), I was able to get several computers over the years with working memory, storage and assorted bells and whistles. Lenny strongly urged me to buy the extended warranty with every computer purchase, and I took his advice for years. His advice was spot on, because every one of those computers had a major problem that ended up with them being replaced with a new one during the extended warranty. All told, I must have had at least 6 of my computers totally or essentially replaced by the manufacturer. Those computers were relatively more expensive for what they did, especially compared to newer ones, so having them replaced a couple years in was generally a good thing. Sadly, it hasn’t made me any more likely to back things up (it seems I like the challenge of figuring out how to access information on drives contained inside bricked computers?).

Since the early 1970’s, I’ve had my hands on or in hundreds of electronic devices, often at the direction of someone in a Customer Service department. There have been occasions when I’ve contacted a company long after the warranty has expired, and in fact recently had what can only be described as my most amazing experience in recent memory. It involved an incredibly expensive universal remote I bought in the early 2000’s made by Logitech called the Harmony One.

The Harmony remote was designed to be programmed while connected to a PC or laptop. At $300, it was a big purchase for an unnecessary item, given I had individual remotes for all the stuff I had, but I was excited at the prospect of having one remote control everything because we have always had ‘components’: stereo receiver, cassette deck (it still works!), CD player, Blu-ray player, VHS, Fios. I hooked it up and made multiple attempts to program it to do what I wanted it to do, then got frustrated. Within a few months the display went white, essentially making it a paperweight, so I wrapped everything up and put it in a plastic bag on a shelf in an unused bedroom, where it sat until late last year.

When I came across the remote, I decided to see if it was fixable. If so, I’d get it fixed; if not, why was I still holding on to the stupid thing? After the holiday crap was stowed, I started searching online and eventually ended up contacting Logitech customer service to inquire about my inability to remove the battery from its compartment inside the remote. Over the course of a couple of emails exchanged between myself and Logitech, I found out that in fact the battery in my remote was defective. Apparently, when the remote was left in the charger for extended periods of time, the battery swelled up and became stuck inside. Because of this, despite it being over 15 years since I purchased that remote (and 14 1/2 years since I put it up on that shelf), I am now the proud owner of a brand new Harmony Elite remote control.

When I read the email advising me I was getting a replacement from Logitech, I misunderstood and thought she was telling me I’d be getting the exact remote I already had, albeit one that was working. I wasn’t as excited about that as I thought I’d be, since it had been so difficult for me to program when I got it all those years ago. I am not, however, an idiot, so I thanked her for sending me a new remote. Now, I can control all the entertainment equipment in my family room from anywhere in the house using my iPhone or the remote, so it’s essentially like having two new way-more-than-a-remote remotes, and I can add other IoT devices to it (when I have nothing more important to do!).

I wish I could give the same high marks to Netgear, whose products I’ve used for years. Last August, my friend Mike bought himself a new Nighthawk X65-AC4000 Tri Band WiFi Router R8000P. After using it for less than a day he believed that it made his WiFi worse, so he offered it to me to try at my house. I (as noted above, not an idiot) of course graciously accepted his offer and brought it to my house to see if it made my WiFi faster than the Verizon-supplied router.

It took a few days and several new lengths of ethernet wire, but eventually I was able to get the router up and running. Since it was still a brand new, less-than-90-days-in-service-router, I was still within the timeframe that Netgear claims it will provide “complimentary technical support, but because Mike had registered the router in his name, they wouldn’t even answer a question until Mike emailed them to change the owner from himself to me.

I could see from the GUI that there was a new firmware update available, and tried unsuccessfully to download and install the update on the router. I used my laptop, my iPhone and my Kindle Fire over WiFi, then hardwired my laptop to the router, and still couldn’t get the firmware to update. I contacted “technical support” at Netgear, and was given instructions on how to update the firmware that I had already told them hadn’t worked. Despite my contacting them over and over using their messaging system on their website (because email would be too easy, I suppose), no one from Netgear ever fixed my inability to update the firmware, although they certainly made sure to tell me when my 90 days of “complimentary technical support” had expired, advising me that any other help from them would cost me money.

So here I sit, using a WiFi router that cannot update its firmware by any of the means available. Judging by the comments on the Netgear community boards, I am not the only one with this problem, yet Netgear has done nothing to address the issue – unless, of course, I want to pay them extra money to provide support for a WiFi Router just six months old. This leads me to wonder if this problem is a bug or a feature. Why would Netgear provide a free fix to users of their expensive paperweights when they can instead charge those willing and able to pay for the privilege of obtaining the secret information instead?

I have a collection of my previously-used networking devices; most of them are Netgear. I still have them because I’m unsure what to do with them, since they still work. I’m sure someone somewhere not here could use them, but figuring out how to get stuff from here to there is part of the problem. Regardless, my point is that I have used Netgear products for my home for years, but never before have I needed to pay an extortion fee in order to get their equipment to work as promised.

If companies like Netgear are unwilling to support their products for their warranty period, then the buying public should decide that Netgear products are no longer worth the price. While three months is more than enough time for someone to work out the kinks of a new installation, problems still come up with devices that are unrelated to the customer and only addressable by the manufacturer. Netgear’s hard cut-off time period puts all their customers in the position of replacing an expensive item still under warranty because Netgear will not provide technical support for the entire warranty period.

It would be foolish for anyone to invest in equipment from a manufacturer like Netgear with a proud and public-facing policy of taking their customers’ money while refusing to support products under warranty unless it is paid for as an extra fee.

The least Netgear could do is to update it’s ‘warranty’ period from one year to three months; it does no good to have a product that remains under warranty without technical help for a technical (and widespread) defect. Otherwise, what’s the point of the other nine months? The only other alternative is to make it super-convenient to replace the entire unit by sending the replacement out first so the customer isn’t further inconvenienced. Of course, the warranty is only good for the original purchaser and cannot be transferred.

Addendum: As I got ready to post this, I decided to see how much it would cost me to purchase a service contract from Netgear (since I didn’t pay for the router in the first place) to get my router firmware to update. Guess what happened?

I couldn’t even buy support from Netgear.

Update April 16, 2021

I decided to go to Netgear’s Facebook page, where I sent a message about my Nighthawk router. Almost immediately, I received a response from someone at Netgear. By the next day, I was on the phone with their tech support (a nice young man named Jayson, one of the level 2 techs out of the Philippines) who, over the course of three separate calls, determined that my router was defective. I was shipped a “certified refurbished” one that works, including updating the firmware, so I have to give Netgear kuddos for doing the right thing and standing behind their product.

SNAP Benefits Shouldn’t Be Limited to Food

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

In 1990, I was 31 years old and had been married for 11 years to my high school sweetheart (my first attempt at trying to get a man to meet his own potential despite his lack of interest in the whole project!). We lived in a large single home in the suburbs across the river from Philadelphia in South Jersey, with two kids and two dogs. By that year, I realized that the man I married was NOT someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and I told him to leave in March. He finally did so that June, and I got my friend’s sister and her toddler to move in as my roommate. She worked days, I worked nights, so perfect, right? Not so much.

Anyway, one thing led to another and I found myself in the unacceptable position of needing to apply for public benefits – food stamps, welfare and Medicaid – for myself and my children. My father took me there to fill out the application (no internet in 1990, sadly) despite my distaste of the whole idea (I had my own prejudices about ‘assistance’), because I was entitled to it. He was right – I wasn’t able to work because I was recuperating from surgery and my estranged husband (in rehab after a drunk-driving accident that caused him some serious frontal lobe damage) wasn’t working either, leaving us with no actual income.

I was way more fortunate than the majority of women in similar circumstances – single parents without financial support from the noncustodial parent – because my parents were fairly well-off. In addition, due to a legal settlement, and a bargain ‘fixer-upper’ of a house, I had no mortgage payment. Unfortunately, this did not mean I lived there for free – real estate taxes, utilities, cable and such put my monthly expenses conservatively around $1,500 before food. Adding groceries to that total for just myself and two young kids (7 and 10) brought that total to around $2,000.

When I was approved by the state for assistance, I was granted Medicaid for myself and my children (limited to those providers who agreed to accept the meager fees paid for their services) along with cash assistance/welfare and food stamps. The monthly cash payment I received was $475, and in food stamps, $256, about 30% of my monthly bills and about half of my grocery expenses. Of course, those grocery expenses include more than just food.

The non-edible things purchased at the grocery store are (in large part) also necessities and should be included in the benefits. Who among us can manage without laundry products, paper products, feminine hygiene products, health and beauty aids and cleaning products? How much of the average American’s grocery budget includes non-edibles like toilet paper, tissues, etc.?

When I pointed this out to the welfare worker I was assigned to, I was told that this was the purpose of the cash benefit. How I was supposed to pay my bills after I used my cash benefit for my non-edible groceries was not her problem. The only reason I wasn’t forced to sell my home in order to live off the proceeds was because of my parents’ financial support.

It is long over due for the food assistance system to be updated to reflect that actual needs of real families, including the fact that the least expensive food items are also those least healthy for us to eat. Fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins are significantly more expensive than the non-nutritious prepared foods available in the middle aisles of most grocery stores, and produce is almost nonexistent in food deserts where the only ‘grocery’ store is a dollar store.

Once again, we have to ask ourselves – if people who work 40 hours or more every week for a minimum wage job require government assistance for food, housing, healthcare and other necessities, why aren’t their employers required to raise their pay to a living wage?

Taxpayers shouldn’t be required to supplement poverty-level wages, to make workers whole; employers should be forced to provide a minimum living wage that is above the poverty level. Put the burden for this disparity where it belongs; on the companies that pay too little. Republicans (along with Sinema and Manchin) who refuse to address this do not deserve their place in power. Period.

This is Who the Republicans Are

My Republican friends have to explain to me why they aren’t outraged by the hundreds of voter suppression laws being passed by Republican legislatures in 43 states across the country. They must convince me that their silence about this isn’t a sign of their own complicity in this “Jim Crow in new clothes”, to quote Senator Raphael Warnock (D, Ga).

Over the short history of this country, it has been understood that political parties attract voters by virtue of their platforms, which were usually designed to show how much the party plans to do to help their voters when they are elected to office. When a political party loses an election, those in charge of said party have historically reviewed their platform and met with their voters to ascertain what changes could be made to attract more people to vote for them in the next election. Until now.

In 2021, Republicans have concluded that they cannot maintain their minority hold on government if all those eligible to vote are permitted to do so. They instead believe that making it as hard as possible for those they believe will be voting against them to cast a ballot is their only means of remaining in power, and have wasted no time in putting every roadblock they can in front of their own citizens, particularly those with Black and Brown skin.

Those in the Senate who purport to be liberals have to stand up for what is right, and that means immediately doing whatever is necessary to bring SR1 to the floor for a vote. Because Republicans have chosen voter suppression to platform modification, they will do what has worked for them since 2008 – invoke the word ‘filibuster’ followed by a demand for a 60-vote majority to pass any legislation. There is really no other way to go – the filibuster must be not simply changed,, but eliminated. Claims that the filibuster permits the minority to obstruct legislation they do not like and therefore “be careful what you wish for” is proof that the filibuster is designed as a means of obstruction.

A functioning democracy is always at risk of having a reversal of the party in power; that’s pretty much the point, right? In the United States, the minority has been given way too much power to stand in the way of majority rule, which is supposed to be the way our democracy works. While it is reasonable to allow those in the minority to express their opinion about legislation they disagree with, it is ridiculous to allow the party that lost all three branches of government in the last election to decide which legislation is going to pass and which is going to die because they don’t like it.

In fact, Republicans have used this ability to prevent Democratic administrations from enacting anything that the Democrats were elected into to office to initiate. Why is the losing party able to hold the winning team hostage by denying them the mandate they won in an election simply by stamping their feet and plugging their ears while repeating “La, la, la, la, la, I can’t hear you….”? The Senate, formerly considered ‘the world’s most deliberative body’ has been transformed into a two-headed monster; the one on the left has the only functioning brain, while the one on the right is a whiny little bitch.

The citizens of this country spoke loud and clear last November. We voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to lead us out of the mess that Trump and decades of Republican obstructionism brought us to. The Republicans need to get over the fact that they lost and deal with the mandate the American People gave to the Biden Administration. If they cannot do that, they should be drummed out of existence as a political force for decades to come, if not forever.

Joe Manchin (D, WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D, AZ) need to put on their grown-up pants and stop acting as though the Republicans have a shit left to give about anything other than their donors and their stock portfolios. If Senators Manchin and Sinema give a damn about the American people, they’ll stop pretending that the filibuster is anything other than a holdover from Reconstruction used to stymie any attempt at civil rights. Why do they and most on the right find it unacceptable to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour? Have any of them tried today to live on $290 per week (at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr for a 40 hour work week)? That income may allow a high school student to put some funds aside towards college, but there is no independently living adult who can survive on under $1,200 per month in total income. Of course, those who are only making $7.25 per hour have the opportunity to apply for government subsidies for food, rent, heat (in the Northeast) and cash assistance, but why are the taxpayers forced to lift these folks out of poverty instead of requiring their employer to pay them a living wage?

The social safety net programs have been in the sights of Republicans for as long as I can remember, and it’s particularly galling since many of the working poor who need these programs to survive would be lifted out of poverty if they were simply paid a wage that met their cost of living. Why do so many in the Senate refuse to acknowledge that the below-poverty-level federal minimum wage is directly responsible for every dollar of social safety net funds needed to bring those families to a livable income?

No one working a full forty hour week should need government assistance to survive. Allowing businesses to pay so little to their employees benefits the business owners at the expense of their workers. Requiring all businesses to pay their employees a real, living wage lifts everyone up, freeing up trillions of tax dollars to fund infrastructure, climate remediation, green energy, healthcare and so much more. We all do better when we all do better.

Of course, many smaller businesses working with a smaller profit margin may be required to raise prices, and those who are the least profitable may end up closing, but we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Not all businesses are destined for success, and holding down workers’ pay for the exclusive benefit of the business owners perpetuates disparities that have effectively transferred massive wealth from the many to the few. The fact is, none of the people currently taking up seats in the Senate have any relevant experience within their own lives that compares with trying to survive on too little income week after week, month after month, year after year, without any reasonable expectation of a change until you die or retire, often on too little Social Security income. Apparently, Republican Senators (along with the two Democrats noted above) no longer have any capacity to empathize with those less fortunate than themselves. They lack any real ability to fathom what it’s like to live in a world that doesn’t include a huge inheritance or the good fortune of having your way paved by your predecessors without any input or talent on your part. These character flaws make them the wrong people to represent the vast majority of their own electorate. Their ivory towers have blinded them to what it’s like for the rest of us down her on the ground.

In order to lift the folks at the bottom of the income ladder up, those at the other end of the scale have to pay their fair share in taxes. Trillions of dollars in tax revenue are lost to loopholes, tax shelters and both legal and illegal tax avoidance by the top 0.1%. It is no longer tenable that the majority of IRS tax audits focuses on those claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Why not focus all that energy on those filers most likely to bring in the most in taxes, fees and penalties? Surely auditing one fraudulently filed 1040 by someone with billions in income would be more financially beneficial to the IRS than auditing thousands of low-income filers who did their own taxes and made an honest mistake?

Republicans have used their obstructionism in the Senate as proof that the Democrats can’t do anything when they’re in charge, convincing the slimmest of ‘majorities’ with the help of the tilted electoral college and Senate to put them back in charge. Once there, they prove again that they lack the intellectual and moral authority to actually govern, preferring instead to use rhetoric to keep their base engaged while doing nothing to benefit the citizens of the country. Power for the sake of power, as a means of maintaining power without regard for the will of the people, or majority rule. Republicans have gone all in on the Big Lie, and they’re using it to do everything possible to prevent anyone they deem undeserving from casting a ballot, especially people of color. They have to obstruct because they know that the people will keep Democrats in charge because Democrats get things done.

This is who the Republicans are. Racist to the core. Interested only in themselves. Those who chose to remain within their ranks need to acknowledge that this is their underlying reason for being there; taxes, abortion and guns notwithstanding.

Noooooo!!! Not My Pepe!!!

Pepe Le Pew

Since I was a little girl, my favorite cartoon character has been Pepe Le Pew. I looked at him as a poor, rejected little skunk who just wanted Penelope to love him.

After learning today in WAPO that Pepe is on the block to ‘exit, stage right’, I’m both saddened and disturbed. Sad, because I there won’t be any more Pepe Le Pew Hallmark ornaments to add to the ten or so I already have for my xmas tree. Sad because that little bugger was a big part of my childhood TV viewing, and he was cute. And sad because the reality is hard to deny, when you take a cold, hard look at those old cartoons through adult eyes.

What bothered me more, however, was realizing how I never really thought about the underlying theme of every one of the Pepe and Penelope cartoons – that men force themselves on women because they want to, and that women can do nothing but accept this as the status quo. Sure, as a little girl this wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but that’s the problem; repeatedly exposing little minds to these images, children absorb the lesson that it’s okay for a man to force himself on a woman. They take that out into the world, along with all the other media exposure of women as playthings for men, and it’s no wonder that so many of us have at least once in our lives been sexually harassed or abused.

I say this having been sexually assaulted by a friends’ cousin when I was in eighth grade. I played hookey one day with her and her brother, so during and immediately afterwards I told myself it was all my fault. It didn’t cross my mind at the time that the fact I was wearing my catholic school uniform when he came to pick me up should have been enough to make this grown-ass man make tracks and drive off as soon as he saw me. Or the fact that he knew I was 13 years old and in elementary school with his cousin. I was precocious, as an only child in a home with three adults, and so sounded older than I was. I have no idea how old he was.

When he was done, he drove me back and dropped me off on the corner of my street. Walking home, I contemplated telling my mother what had just happened. As I imagined the conversation in my head, I got as far as this:

“Mom, while Sue (not her real name) & I played hookey today, I got into a car with her cousin and went to his house somewhere where he took me to his bedroom and made me play with him until something squirted out of his penis.” (I was physically mature, but emotionally not so much.)

“If you hadn’t played hookey, this wouldn’t have happened.” Nope, not gonna happen.

I didn’t tell anyone about it until I was 28 years old. Mom, aghast, asked me why I didn’t tell her then. When I told her what I’d thought at the time, she admitted that I was probably right. I know she felt really bad about it, but there wasn’t much that could be done at that point. Ironically, I think I was prompted to say something after we’d watched the Bill Cosby stand up video that was so big back in the late 80’s. Weird.

Anyway, I think it would be better if Warner Brothers would revamp Pepe Le Pew into something less creepy, like maybe have Pepe and Penelope in a consensual relationship. I’m not sure what that could end up looking like, but it could show how people are supposed to treat someone they really care about, and how no means no. But with humor. Kinda like a Looney Tunes cartoon.

Enough Already – Wear A Fucking Mask (Correctly!)

On 3 separate trips to 2 different Whole Foods Market locations as well as a Wegman’s, I was confronted with the idiocy of humans. First, there was a young Black man at the Wegman’s in the produce department, talking on his cellphone with his mask protecting his chin. I took a deep breath, then got his attention, asking if he would please cover his nose & mouth with his mask. He complied without complaint, and I thanked him for doing so.

A few days later, I ran into the Whole Foods and came across a twenty-something White man whose mask barely covered his mouth, leaving his entire nose exposed. Emboldened by my positive interaction at the Wegman’s earlier, I called out “Excuse me!” to get his attention, and then asked him to pull his mask up over his nose.

This time, what I got for my trouble was his snappy reply that “A mask ain’t gonna save your life”.

My mature response, of course, was to tell him to stick his mask up his ass then.

Maybe that wasn’t the best way to encourage mask mandate compliance, so I decided to make up some business cards with friendly reminders about how not to wear a mask (see photos above) with factual information about the benefits of using them to stop the spread of Covid on the back.

Feel free to use them for yourself.

Text from reverse side of cards:

The National Academy of Sciences shows that more people consistently & correctly wearing masks can significantly limit the spread of Covid-19 (https://www.pnas.org/content/118/4/e2014564118).

The benefits of masking go both ways – the person wearing the mask & those around them are safer. Universal mask wearing can help avert the need for future lockdowns, especially when used with social distancing and good hand hygiene.

JAMA shows that 50% of all Covid-19 is spread by asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic individuals (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2774707). So you never know who’s a spreader.

We are all in this fight together, so please consider it your patriotic duty to cover your nose & mouth in public. Your freedom to do as you please ends where it meets someone else’s freedom not to be infected in the store.

Lies Are NOT “Unsubstantiated Claims”

I have been a Kindle subscriber to The Washington Post since 2016, and I read it nearly every day, often checking back later, to keep up with the dumpster fire that has been the last 4 years. Over that time, the media has tried to call Trump’s lies what they are, but it’s still not happening consistently. Today, I started to read Jose A. Del Real’s article The turbocharged battle over truth is just beginning and was struck immediately by:

“President Trumps stands as a singular figure in American history for his willingness to entertain conspiracy theories from the Oval Office, and none has been more damaging or far reaching than his unsubstantiated claim (boldness added) that the 2020 election was rigged against him.”

Jose, please call a spade a damn shovel. What Trump is doing is not an “unsubstantiated claim”, it’s an outright lie told to gin up support among his base supporters. It’s how he keeps all of us tuning in again tomorrow to see what happens next. His psycopathy is the best combination of all the worst traits whose reality TV exposure and experience provided a deadly combination that has led to where we are now.

Please, mainstream media – words really do matter. Couching Trump’s lies euphemistically as anything other than a falsehood gives them cover. Do not legitimize an illegitimate act; call a spade a damn shovel already.

Remember as well – Trumpism and the Republican Party are one and the same.

My Outrage Hiatus Has Ended

My blood pressure began rising during the 2015-2016 Presidential primaries, and I was put on my first antihypertensive medication in 2016. I was confident when it first started to go up that it was related to Trump and the election, and nothing that has happened between then and now has changed my opinion. This has been made more worrisome as my doctor first increased that first medication dose and frequency, then added two additional blood pressure meds before convincing me last month that I also needed to add a diuretic to my daily regimen.

Doc had tried on two prior occasions to add the diuretic, and I balked at the idea because, well, I’m 62 and gave vaginal birth twice, with the bigger baby weighing 8 lbs, 11.5 oz., and women who have carried pregnancies and birthed babies have much greater likelihood of developing some type of urinary incontinence when they are older, particularly if they no longer have a partner (because it really is true if you don’t use it, you lose it!). I have been dealing with what is euphemistically referred to as “stress incontinence” (sneezing, laughing, coughing can all cause some urine leakage) or “urge incontinence” (you lose the ability to hold your urine once you’re aware of the urge to urinate), and I wasn’t at all willing to make it even harder to deal with, however, at the urging of my PCP I finally agreed to start a low-dose diuretic in help lower by my blood pressure.

So now that Biden and Harris won the election, has my blood pressure dropped? Sure, a bit, but I don’t think it’s due to the election. After all, Trump and the Republicans continue to spew their conspiracy theories to the right-wing media bubble, and it all becomes this big circle jerk. It’s hard to believe that Ben Sasse, (R), Nebraska, is one of the reality-based Republican Senators, but his open letter to his constituents tells the stark truth – that all these Republicans know that Trump lost the election to Biden, but in order to attract Trump’s cult base to their future campaigns, they’re willing to destroy the democracy. For their own political benefit, they are all in on the undermining of our electoral process.

I know that what we think we all want more than anything is a return to what we had before Covid-19 spread, but certainly all of us know that what we had before was decades past what we think of as “normal”. The wealth inequity has grown exponentially worse since the 1960’s, racism has not gone away, and right-wing extremism has been normalized. With these as the new normal, how can we possibly want to go back to that?

We got to where we are because of multiple Republican administrations that legislated the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in our lifetimes while simultaneously shredding the social safety net to disproportionately harm minorities and people of color. They have specifically legislated to ban more than half of the population from deciding for themselves what they want to do with their bodies, denying reproductive and gender equity whenever and where ever they could. In 2020, they supported and lied for the most corrupt president and administration in the history of the country, refusing to respond to a worldwide pandemic on behalf of the public health and public good, spreading baldfaced lies and denying the science on mitigation efforts while many of them watched their own stock portfolios increase in value. They refused for months to consider additional financial stimulus for the millions of our fellow Americans who, through no fault of their own (largely due to Trump’s callous indifference and inability to perform any of the essential duties of the presidency) lost their jobs in industries that cannot come back until enough of us are vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. The Republicans under McConnell instead tied their possible vote for another stimulus to a blanket corporate liability waiver for not just covid-related problems, but actually any kind of lawsuit from employees or customers, which of course hurts all of us while protecting the rich and corporations from the consequences of their own behavior.

While we wait for the results of the Georgia Senate runoff elections, I have to keep hoping that we will win both seats. I hope that everyone who has internet access has listened to the tape that the Washington Post obtained of Trump spending an hour of his time on Saturday trying to extort the Georgia Secretary of State to commit election fraud in order to give Trump a fraudulent win of the state’s electoral votes. There is only one explanation for that entire call if Trump wants to avoid being criminally charged, and that is to have himself declared mentally incompetent and removed from office using the 25th Amendment. If he refuses to acquiesce to this, insisting that he doesn’t lack capacity and knew that what he was doing was wrong, then his intention cannot be denied and he therefore meets the legal threshold for, at the minimum, grand jury indictment.

Every one of Trump’s enablers, including Senators, Representatives and all of those who have participated in his administration without telling the truth about what was going on until their books were published, must be held to account. These people are right-wing extremists and as such should have no place in a democratic government. Their obvious refusal to stand up against all the things that this administration has done over these longest four years of our lives deems them one and all ineligible to hold any elected office anywhere. Period, full stop. These are the elected officials whose loyalty to Trump plainly matters so much more than any oath they took to uphold the Constitution.

Senators vowing to attempt to disenfranchise millions of voters, including some of their own:

Tommy Tuberville (AL), Kelly Loeffler (GA), Mike Braun (IN), Roger Marshall (KS), John Neely Kennedy (LA), Josh Hawley (MO), Steve Daines (MT), James Lankford (OK), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Bill Haggerty (TN), Ted Cruz (TX), Ron Johnson (WI) and Cynthia Lummis (WY)

House Representatives (by state)

Alabama – Mo Brooks, Jerry Carl, Mike Rogers, Barry Moore, Robert Aderholt

Arizona – Andy Biggs, Paul Gosa

California – Mike Garcia, Kevin McCarthy

Colorado – Lauren Boebert, Doug Lamborn

Florida – Matt Gaetz, Byron Donalds, John Rutherford, Bill Posey, Brian Mast, Scott Franklin

Georgia – Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jody Hice, Andrew Clyde, Barry Loudermilk

Idaho – Russ Fulcher

Indiana – Mike Braun, Jim Banks, Jackie Walorski

Kansas – Roger Marshall, Ron Estes, Tracey Mann, Lake LaTurner

Louisiana – Clay HIggins

Maryland – Andy Harris

Michigan – Lisa McClain, Jack Bergman, Tim Walberg

Mississippi – Steven Palazzo

Missouri – Sam Graves, Vicky Hartzler, Billy Long, Jason Smith

Montana – Steve Daines

Nebraska – Adrian Smith

New Jersey – Jeff Van Drew

New Mexico – Yvette Herrell

New York – Elise Stefanik ***Note that this idiot is the only Democrat to sign on to this coup attempt.

North Carolina – Madison Cawthorn, Ted Budd, David Rouzer, Richard Hudson, Greg Murphy

Ohio – Jim Jordan, Bob Gibbs, Warren Davidson, Bill Johnson

Oklahoma – Markwayne Mullin

Oregon – Cliff Bentz

Pennsylvania – John Joyce, Dan Meuser, Glenn “GT” Thompson, Mike Kelly, Lloyd Smucker, Guy Reschenthaler, Fred Keller, Scott Perry

South Carolina – Jeff Duncan, Ralph Norman, Joe Wilson, William Timmons

Tennessee – Bill Hagerty, Chuck Fleishmann, Mark Green, Diana Harshbarger, Scott DesJarlais

Texas – Lance Gooden, Ronny Jackson, Louie Gohmert, Brian Babin, Randy Weber, Pete Sessions, August Pfluger, Jodey Arrington

Utah – Burgess Owens, Chris Steward

Virginia – Bob Good, Rob Wittman

All of them should be shunned for the remainder of their public lives, removed from office and denied any ability to seek office forever.

Remember their names.

Bittersweet

For only the second time in my life, today I was reduced to actual sobbing after it was announced that Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States. Unlike 2016, however, today my tears were those of relief that the era of Trump as president is almost over, that soon I will no longer be under a constant level of anxiety and stress worrying about what awful thing the president was going to do to the country and the planet in order to enrich himself. I actually felt lighter after I heard the news, as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

My tears were tinged with a not insignificant amount of sadness because more than 70 million of my fellow citizens (7 million more than voted for him in 2016!), despite the unending disaster that has been the Trump administration, were still fully supportive of him and the Republican enablers down ballot. There will be many in the media who will tap dance around the reasons for that support, especially given the votes of Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans in Miami Dade County, but there are two underlying conditions that provide all the proof I need to know that a combination of misogyny and racism is what draws them to him like moths to a flame.

The Republican Party (which many insist on referring to as ‘Trumpism’) long ago gave up any pretext that it was interested in the legislating or debating of anything beyond the appointment of right-wing judges, deregulating their donors’ industries, and maintaining their hold on power by any means necessary. Right now, the future of the Senate remains in flux pending the results of two run-off elections in the state of Georgia for the seats currently occupied by David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Trump toadies who have no business in government.

My 38 year old daughter, who with her boyfriend recently moved 1,500 miles away to Florida and just announced that they’re pregnant with my first grandbaby to replace the theoretical one whose future I’ve been so freaked out over. The texts, postcards and letters I sent to people all over the country were written with all the grandchildren in mind, the ones whose future the Republicans have continued to trash in their wanton destruction of anything that remotely resembles the democracy as we were told it was designed. We are now at a place where we cannot afford to sit back and savor the Biden/Harris victory because we have another election that is nearly as important as the one we have just won.

Georgia was in the unique position of having both Senatorial seats on the ballot this year, and both of those elections are now going to a run-off in January. With Trump off the ticket and no longer there to boost the base, both Democratic candidates, John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, have a higher likelihood of success on January 5, 2021. Our volunteer and financial efforts should be focused on these two races between now and then in order to gain the majority in the Senate (with the addition of the Vice-President’s vote) and castrate Moscow Mitch. When the only strategy the Republicans have is to obstruct every piece of legislation the Democrats create, there is only one party that benefits, and that’s the Republican and its donor class. The rest of us – all Americans, and all equally deserving of a government that puts the needs of the people over and above their own – must step up and do whatever we can to ensure that the Democrats take Senate in January and bring the awful era of McConnell as the arbiter of legislation comes to an end.

I’m going to enjoy this win today; tomorrow is the first day of the fight for the Senate. After that, we have to address the right-wing media bubble, because that’s where those 70 million who still support Trump get all their information. It’s not ever going to be possible to have any kind of discussion if only one side of the argument uses facts while the other side spews disinformation and conspiracy theories. Republicans and their media conflate freedom of speech and of the press with saying whatever you want on media platforms regardless of the facts.

We all know one or more of those 70 million people; my nephew is one of them. I love him, but I don’t know if there’s anything we have in common anymore except our surname. What I find most disturbing is that I never would have expected my nephew, with a huge circle of diverse friends, would be so easily sucked in by the Trump cult. It makes me sad for the future of his children.

My family is fractured, something that started long before Trump ran for office in 2015. When my dad was on hospice before he died in 2008, my brother and sister-in-law brought him to live with them in their house for the last two months of his life. During that time, I made sure to go over there every week, and always took him to any appointments if they were scheduled on my days off. Never during those months did either my brother or his wife ever tell me that they needed me to do more, so it was a shock to me when I found out after my dad’s death (when I couldn’t do anything to change things) how they felt. Before Dad died, the whole family spent Thanksgiving at my house and Easter at my brother’s. Since then, we spend no holidays together and it’s unusual if we even speak to each other on holidays now. My brother will tell me how important it is for us to stay in touch since our family is so small, but I don’t feel like he means it anymore. I suppose anything is possible as long as we’re all still here.

Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.

Only Two More Days

I’ve always been the person who walks into the room and then forgets why I went there in the first place, sometimes requiring a trip back to where I came from to jog my memory. Recently, it has gotten so much worse that I was actually starting to worry that I might have early-onset dementia. I was getting myself set to bring up my concerns during my next visit with my PCP when I read an article in The Washington Post about election stress disorder, something that wasn’t even a thing until Trump.

A therapist based in Washington, DC coined the term during the 2016 election, describing those with the disorder as having “continual worry and obsession with the election that spills over into all areas of your life.” Based on that, I suspect that there are millions of us in the US who have been suffering from the disorder continuously since Trump won the 2016 election.

Two days before the end of voting, record numbers of votes have already been cast all over the country, and it is reasonable to believe that many of these early votes are for Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. The Republicans, who have based their electoral strategy since the Nixon administration on voter suppression and disenfranchisement, continue to file lawsuits in battleground states in order to stop the counting of legitimately cast ballots because they believe those votes will be for their opponent. Within those states with Republican legislatures and governors, it is not inconceivable that they could fraudulently interfere with the counting of ballots and appoint electors based on their own personal preference rather than on the will of the people of their states.

What is wrong with the Republicans as fellow Americans? How is it acceptable to them that the leader of their party has been using the bully pulpit of the presidency to spread disinformation about the security of our elections with his claims about vote rigging if he loses? The answer to that question, as has been the case for most such questions over the last four years, is that they don’t care how much damage they do to the foundations of our democracy if the end result is their continued hold on the reins of power. Not only have they placed their party over the country, they have placed themselves as a minority over us all as sole arbiter of how our country should run for decades to come, regardless of the will of the majority.

The Republicans have taken core principles of our democracy and twisted them into a means of oppressing those with whom they disagree. Freedom of religion does not mean you can use your religious belief to discriminate against someone who doesn’t follow those beliefs, it means we are each free to choose whether or not to have a religious belief at all. Your freedom of religion ends where it begins to infringe on my freedom to not follow any religion.

Religion, specificially christianity, has gotten entirely too enmeshed within our government, and we have under Trump (likely the most godless hypocrite to hold the office) watched helplessly as his appointees have boldly admitted that their faith is a huge factor in their policy and decision making. Mike Pompeo and William Barr proudly profess their catholic faith as if the bible doesn’t instruct them to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and to be a good samaritan and help those in need. They, like many who profess to be devout are actually using their supposed ‘faith’ as a way of diverting the attention from their naked desire for power, not the most ‘christian’ way to lead.

Not in my lifetime had I ever been forced to worry every day about what awful thing the president and his administration was going to do, until this incompetent, malignant narcissist was inaugurated in January, 2017. I don’t want to have to waste any more of my life freaked out over something over which I have absolutely no control on my own, because all it does is create a constant level of anxiety 24/7 which gets elevated every time Trump does something no other president would have ever considered doing.

When is the last time a president used his the power of the presidency to spread lies about mail in ballots? What president in modern history has promoted conspiracy theories that have led some to take up weapons in defense of fabricated children? What other president has refused to denounce white supremacists? Which of the previous 44 claimed that all media is ‘fake news’? How many others have used their presidency to line the pockets of their personal company with millions of dollars in taxpayer funds? Who are the others who tried to extort an ally in need for disinformation against his political opponent by withholding military assistance? Which of the former White House residents have used the pardon power to reward their friends and to keep them silent? And find me another president who did done nothing while more than a quarter million Americans died over eight months from any cause.

Donald Trump is the absolute worst person ever to hold the office of the president in the history of our country, period. While some of the ones early on were just terrible, they had much less power and were therefore able to hurt a smaller number of humans overall. Trump has had much more of an opportunity to spread his awfulness all over the world. Millions fleeing wars, famines, climate degradation and despots have been further tortured by this administration’s clamping shut the gates to the country. Not only is this in and of itself unamerican (given that we non-indigenous Americans are the result of our ancestors coming from somewhere else), it is cruel, short-sighted and xenophobic. Now with this pandemic, instead of the United States working with the world to find a vaccine and treatment, he’s decided to go it alone out of his selfish world-view that it’s all about him. His inability to understand that the United States isn’t the same as a sole proprietorship company and therefore cannot be treated as if it is his personal fiefdom.

I’ve mailed postcards and letters to voters in Florida, hoping to encourage them to vote, only to find out that my daughter’s boyfriend hasn’t even bothered to register to vote in Florida! I’m tired of hearing young people complain about the government they have while they refuse to participate and vote in order to change things. Don’t leave the voting to old people and then complain about what the old people voted for. The only way for us to get a more progressive government is to vote more progressive people into office, and you cannot count on old people to do that (full disclosure – I am 62 and have voted Democratic my entire life). Young people, who have more to lose, need to quit complaining and start doing something – find others who feel like you and get them to run for something. It’s past time for you to act like adults and do the hard work – get us old folks out of office and show us what we should have done years ago.

I know Joe Biden isn’t the one you wanted to vote for in 2020, but you have only two choices this election. You can vote for democracy and choose the Democratic ticket, or you can choose authoritarianism and vote for Trump. The two-party system sucks, but it is what it is; wasting your vote on a third-party candidate only benefits Trump. There is no excuse for anyone who truly believes that we can do better as a society and as a country to do anything other than vote for Joe Biden for President.