If You Plan a Viable Future – VOTE

There are multiple reasons for the embarrassingly low percentage of those eligible to vote who actually vote regularly in elections in the United States. There are things the federal government could do to encourage those who have chosen not to vote to exercise their franchise short of mandating that everyone vote in every election, but that won’t be considered until Republicans no longer have control in Washington.

Why is in necessary for us to register to vote in the first place? We have already given the federal government all the information they need (except for party choice) by applying for a Social Security card, something every parent has had to do for their children since at least 1980. There is no logical reason not to have national automatic voter registration in this country. The right to vote is written into the constitution. The federal government certainly knows enough about everyone in the country in order to add everyone eligible to vote onto the voter rolls on their eighteenth birthday and then share those registrations with the states where the individuals reside. The only ‘reason’ there appears to be for requiring individuals to register separately to vote is to put another roadblock in the way of those trying to vote.

In countries like Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Iraq (yes, Iraq!), voting participation increased between 76% and 81% once automated registration took effect. In a liberal (vs illiberal) democracy, the goal should be to get as many eligible voters as possible to get involved and cast an informed vote; automatic registration is the first step towards higher voter participation and engagement.

The Republicans, however, know that the demographic group that has been most likely to register and vote with them is aging and leaving this mortal coil. Polls show that only 25% of eligible voters align with the Republicans, 31% with the Democrats, and 40% with Independents. Therefore, from the point of view of the Republican Party, encouraging a larger percentage of the eligible voter pool to cast a vote is demographically counter to their purposes. This is a major factor in the Republicans continued hold on power despite having a minority throughout the country as a whole, since fewer voters overall (of which 71% would NOT be Republicans) gives them a disproportionate share of votes cast.

This leads to the outrageous lies being made by the President of the United States spewing conspiracy theories about the security of mail-in ballots. Trump continues to claim for no reason except to scare his own base away from using mail-in ballots that there will be wide-spread fraud. First of all, there was a recent report from the conservative Heritage Foundation that found just 14 instances out of 15.5 million votes. Secondly, the most recent and egregious case of someone using mail-in ballots to commit voter fraud involved a Republican campaign operative in North Carolina. Third and most disturbing, there are actually thousands of mail-in ballots that are deemed ineligible compared with a minimum of in-person ballots, often for mistakes made by the voter or because of a questionable signature match. In order to have fewer legitimate votes disallowed, rules and regulations about verification of these ballots should be standardized across the country.

After Joe Biden is sworn into office in January, 2021, it would behoove all of us to do whatever we can to push for making it easier to participate in the electoral process throughout the country, in addition to all the other things needed to undo voter suppression and gerrymandering Republicans have used since the Nixon administration to keep those not voting for them from exercising their franchise.

The media has to step up, too. Media outlets not specifically designed to propagate right-wing disinformation and talking points must get off of their ‘both-sides’ soapbox. There is nothing consistent with fair coverage that requires any news outlet to give on-air time to anyone from either side when what they are saying isn’t even true. The opinions of party sycophants are of no importance, nor is their outrage at perceived offenses outside of the right-wing media bubble. If those on the ‘conservative’ side of the aisle cannot provide actual subject matter experts who have serious, fact-based information to bring to the discussion, they should not be provided with a platform from which to spread their crap. Climate change, for instance, isn’t a matter of opinion – it is happening, and it is man-made, and anyone who claims anything different without providing science-based hard evidence for their conclusion should no longer be offered the chance to speak. Ditto for those who want to argue about systemic racism, Covid-19, or any other subject which has been scientifically investigated and understood.

I think it should be mandatory for everyone eligible to vote to do so, but in order for that to be an accepted demand, it is also necessary for every obstacle currently placed between the eligible and the ballot be torn down. Automatic voter registration, Election Day as a national holiday and country-wide mail-in ballots would go a long way towards giving more of our fellow citizens the chance to vote without losing time from work, finding a babysitter, looking for a ride, or any one of thousands other reasons why everyone who can do so does not cast a vote.

The presidency and administration of Donald Trump should have opened the eyes of everyone, whether they have previously voted or not, of the importance for everyone to get informed and cast their vote. Everyone has something that they care about, whether it’s climate change, taxes, election security, money in politics, etc., and the only way to make sure that your government knows how you feel about those things is to vote. Social media could be a force for good, but not as it is currently configured. Print media has suffered mightily in this digital age, and broadcast media has been maligned for real and imagined offenses, making it the individual responsibility of every American to find actual facts about candidates, issues and policies from reputable sources upon which to base political choices.

This country has so much potential to life up to (sort of like both of my former husbands). It’s up to each and every one of us to put our big person pants on and do that which is required of every citizen – learn about the issues, decide which side of the issue you agree with, and vote in every election for candidates whose platforms and plans are what you hope to see going forward.

Vote as if your very future depends on the outcome of every election. Vote as if the life your children and grandchildren will be living will be determined by the election winner. Vote as if the continued existence of the very planet we all live on will be controlled by the next office holder.

It should be painfully obvious by now how very true that is.

Biden Doesn’t Have to Overcome Misogyny

Why is it so surprising to anyone how well Joe Biden is doing pretty much every legitimate poll there is? We all know that the reason Hillary isn’t President of the United States right now had nothing to do with her ability to do the job and everything to do with her lack of male genitalia. That’s the reason why so many people hated her, since there was actually no logical reason for those who never met her to be so vehemently opposed to her being in the highest office in the land. Consequently, Joe Biden’s white male persona doesn’t elicit the same intensely negative feelings, and Trump finds it difficult to trash talk Biden the way he still does Hillary. Trump believes men belong in charge, specifically white men, so he’s now limited himself to a dangerous comparison – Biden’s cognitive and linguistic abilities compared to his own. Somehow, Trump still believes his own bullshit; that he has the capacity to debate Joe Biden on camera and somehow come out looking like he has one functioning brain cell. Seriously, how can his family (excluding his cousin Mary, whose new book I’m halfway through) who are purported to love him not convince him to resign instead of continuing to make a fool of himself live on camera every time he opens his mouth to speak?

For all those old white people, particularly men, who just couldn’t hold their noses in 2016 to vote for Hillary to keep Trump from winning are now perfectly content voting for white, male Joe Biden. This is unsurprising and yet still so sad. How can it be that in the 21st century there are still men too insecure in their own masculinity to find it palatable to have a woman as commander-in-chief?

I’m happy to have all of them vote for Joe Biden in November; anyone with the common sense to recognize that the most important thing in this election is to remove Trump from the White House is welcome onto our bandwagon, but there is one caveat to that welcome. If you want me to be excited because you finally realized what’s happening in the real world, outside the Fox media bubble, then I need to hear you acknowledge that this is exactly where the Republican Party has been heading since the Reagan years, that Trumpism was the only next step the GOP could take given it’s trajectory. I need to hear you admit that none of the awful things Trump has done since being turned loose in the Oval Office in 2017 were a surprise, that they really didn’t bother you all that month, because the main concern of your Republican Party was always to keep all the goodies for yourselves while essentially starving all the rest of us out of the country. I insist that each of you look me in the eye and tell me that your party, so focused on maintaining male white supremacy without regard for the consequences of your actions, has participated without fear of reprisals or a scintilla of empathy for all those you’ve hurt with your regressive policies for decades because it benefited you and helped you maintain your grasp on the power at the highest levels. I don’t want to listen to your false claims that Trump was an aberration, or that your party’s refusal to actually govern since the Reagan administration has been anything other than what it so clearly has been – outright greed, both for money and for power.

Nothing the Republican Party has done during it’s time in power over the last forty years has been on behalf of the actual people of this country – the tax breaks, regulation roll backs, judicial nominations were all done to benefit themselves and their donors while simultaneously hurting everyone else, including their own voters who for reasons I will never understand continued to support these greedy bastards. They have touted their supposed ‘faith’ as a reason to withhold reproductive healthcare from more than half the citizens of this country, because of course women lack the ability to decide what to do with their own bodies and for sure the continued existence of a parasitic being not yet born is ALWAYS more important to them than actual living, breathing beings. That has been brought home to roost during the raging Covid-19 pandemic that Trump and his cronies have so successfully allowed to spread without check throughout much of their voting base.

Brian Kemp, the scumbag who as the Georgia secretary of state oversaw his own election for governor and stole said election from Stacey Abrams, has passed a rule preventing all local officials in his state from mandating the use of face masks to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Greg Abbott, governor of Texas and fellow Trump sycophant, refuses to mandate masks in his state or allow local leaders to put out their own mitigation efforts as well while the largest hospital system in the world is overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. And then there’s Ron DeSantis, another Trump ass leach whose stupidity is on display every day as he continues to refuse to address the pandemic raging through his state that may have the highest percentage of white elderly people in the country. They and they ilk clearly have no interest in preserving the lives of those already born, many of them in their twilight years and a disproportionate number of whom are black and brown skinned, since they, like Trump, don’t believe that most of those people are ‘their voters’. This is what the Republican Party has come to, after decades of public policy almost laser focused on their white supremacist ideals. Trump’s birtherism during the Obama presidency fit right in with their plans; Mitch McConnell’s complete obstruction of anything to benefit the public proposed by the Obama administration only served to further their cause, and Trump determined to do everything he could to erase the legacy that Obama and his scandal-free eight years in office accomplished for the good of the people.

For his entire life, Donald Trump has been able to repeat his lies over and over until everyone else accepted them as the truth, even when they knew it wasn’t. Because he never had to get a real job anywhere other than at his daddy’s company, Donny was never required to follow rules or listen to anyone outside his own head. Thus, we are living in a pandemic as though we were a third-world country. Because he was deprived of love or affection by his father’s sociopathy, he lacks any ability to feel empathy for anyone. He has never been able to care about anyone except himself, despite his three marriages and numerous children. Trump recognized that a beautiful woman and children on his arm and trailing behind him made him look more successful, so he made sure to find women equally interested in his money. Not that I blame them for being mercenary – Trump is just a complete asshole to be around, self-absorbed and selfish, and would never have had a wife or any kids if he’d been broke. I can say that with confidence even though I’ve never met him in person; beauty may be skin deep, but assholery goes all the way through to the bone!

Trump has caused so much destruction, both intentionally and through his ignorant negligence of the way the federal government works, that it will likely require more than two continuous terms of Democratic administrations to put things not just back to the way they were, but more importantly, better in ways that help bring financial, social and legal equality to all the marginalized communities while also enshrining into law requirements for those holding higher office in this country to prevent someone like Trump, whether on the right or the left, from ever taking advantage of our system of norms again. It should not be possible to allow a clearly lawless individual like Trump to continue to break the law simply by virtue of winning an election – no one should be above the law, especially the person in the most powerful position in the country!!! It should not be acceptable for the Attorney General to politicize the workings of the Justice Department to benefit a lawless president without fear of recriminations. And the time has come to put into place requirements for some realistic prerequisites for everyone who wants to run for president in this country, including comprehensive psychological evaluations and cognitive testing that verifies that everyone trying to get the job has the ability to handle the responsibilities and evaluate the information necessary using written words (not just pictures) to make actual informed decisions versus our current straits with an ignoramus who consults with his own brain. No one who lacks the basic ability to express empathy for others should be able to throw their hat into the electoral ring regardless of their political leaning; ditto for those without compassion or who have a known history of repressive behavior towards minorities, people of color or women.

My son, who turned forty this past May (I know – I was an infant when I had him!) has fallen into some kind of cynical hole that has convinced him that almost everyone involved in politics does so for personal financial gain. He is still unable to even lie to me by assuring me that of course he’ll be voting for Joe Biden in November. He continues to insist that Hillary as president would have done a better job handling the pandemic only because it would have helped to get her elected to a second term, not because it was the right thing to do, and I can’t figure out what to say to him that will help change his mind. A few weeks ago, I asked him to forward to me his ‘news sources’, since last I’d heard he was listening to some guy on YouTube, which honestly is no different than reading this blog and assuming everything I opine about is true. Yes, I try to fact check the things I can, but much of what I’m writing here is my opinion, which, like assholes, everyone has. He sent me a couple of links, which I found were commentary and not fact-based, and I disputed his sources by advising he seek out those with actual journalism. After that first attempt, I’ve received no new links and still he insists that his skewed perceptions are reality. It’s disturbing, to say the least.

I don’t know if I’ll succeed in convincing my son to cast his single vote in Pennsylvania for Joe Biden, and I think it’s unlikely to matter by then as Trump continues to be ignore that hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are dead because of his sociopathic incompetence and millions are infected with Covid-19 and may have lifelong health problems as a consequence. Even Trump’s repeated lies cannot outpace the virus, and his own followers have found themselves forced to make an existential choice….

Is sticking your thumb in the Democrats eye worth risking your life?

Memory is Fluid

It seems to me that writing a blog is the equivalent of having a diary that you let anyone who happens by read whenever they want.  I don’t know if there’s any rule, official or unwritten, about how much to reveal versus what you should keep under wraps, especially about the people in my life who haven’t exactly given permission to have their lives exposed on the interweb for others to see. 

I’ve so far made a point of only identifying others by first name, since everyone in my life has names that are popular, so using a Mike, Rose, Anna, Chris or Joey doesn’t reveal the individual I’m referencing except within my own circle.  Outside that circle, I could be talking about almost anyone.  At least, that’s my perspective now.  I’ll see how this goes when my friends and family have found themselves in my posts and decide, based on their reactions, whether or not I have to change their names in the future.  No matter what, I think it’s impossible to avoid having the people in my life recognize themselves in my posts, since they have memories too and can recall the things I do.  Memory, though, is a funny thing.

In college, I had to write a paper for English class about the fluidity of memory.  That semester, I was also taking my Intro to Psychology (or was it Abnormal Psychology?) class, so I was really deep into the human brain and its assorted foibles.  I had never considered how flexible memory actually is, or that the simple act of recalling a past experience can change that memory to something other than what it originally was.  For instance, my late friend Simone had a litter of kittens coming, and I was positive she had promised to give me a female from that litter so I could join her in breeding Himalayan cats.  I looked forward to the birth, and was excited when she told me that two of the kittens were female, so I didn’t quite know how to respond when she started talking about keeping both females for herself. 

Eventually, I approached her to ask why she hadn’t given me a kitten like she’d promised, and Simone told me that in fact she’d said she would give me a female kitten only if she already had two she could keep herself.  Since the litter had contained only two females (I can’t recall whether there were males), there wasn’t another for her to give to me, so if I wanted to be a breeder of kittens, I was going to have to actually buy a female someone else.  This was over thirty years ago, and I still have no memory of Simone telling me she would give me the third potential female kitten.

The point of all this is that memory itself, without a contemporaneous written record, can be folded, molded and rewritten until it becomes something that bears little or no resemblance to the actual experience that occurred in the first place.  The person with the new memory has no idea that what they remember as an actual event has been altered.  Because of this fluidity, there are untold numbers of people in prison based on eyewitness testimony that in all likelihood has been manufactured by the repeated questioning and retelling of the witnessed event to police.  It is possible to convince large numbers of people that they witnessed something or someone by slowly and repeatedly altering actual memories in little ways until the story they all tell matches what those doing the investigating think it should be.  Sort of what Trump does at his political rallies.

This brings me to the accusations that have been brought against Joe Biden by Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer from thirty years ago who last year complained about being made uncomfortable by Joe’s tendency to be a little too touchy-feely with all people, but especially women throughout his life and political career.  At that time, Tara claimed that Joe’s tendency to put his hands on a woman’s back or shoulders, or to touch a woman’s hair made her uncomfortable. Ms. Reade claimed that she’d filed a complaint with the personnel office on Capitol Hill and reported this ‘harassment’ to three supervisors within Biden’s office.  Reade is unable to find a copy of the complaint she says she filed.  All of the people who worked in Biden’s office at that time deny ever hearing any complaint from Reade about this, and in fact deny anyone filing such a complaint against Biden, and there is no documentation to support this claim.

Recently, Reade has changed her story, reporting that she was asked to bring a gym bag to Biden in a public hallway in the Senate building, and that Biden assaulted her right there in this public area, forcing himself on her, putting his hand down her skirt and then up inside her, digitally penetrating her while forcibly kissing her.  She reports pushing him away, and that he responded to her rebuff by saying, “Come on, man, I thought you liked me.”

There’s a lot to unpack in this accusation, and of course, everyone who comes forward no matter how long after the incident should be listened to, and their accusations should be investigated.  I know personally that it took me some fifteen years before I mentioned to anyone that I’d been molested by the cousin of a friend when I was thirteen years old and playing hooky from eighth grade.  I never said anything to my mom then because I knew that the first thing she was going to do was to yell at me for cutting school, since I couldn’t have been molested by this guy if I’d gone to school in the first place.  Since my Mom was there when I made this revelation, she admitted that I was likely correct in assuming I’d get in trouble for skipping school first, before we even addressed the molestation part.

Having said that, however, let’s revisit the fluidity of memory and how easy it is to end up mis-remembering something.  I don’t doubt that something happened to Tara Reade, but I don’t believe that what she claims is what actually occurred.  Reade says reported the assault to her mother at the time it occurred, and she told a former neighbor in 1995 or 1996, two or three years after the alleged assault, who has come forward in support of Reade’s accusation.  A call made to the Larry King show on CNN in 1993 is purported to be the voice of Reade’s mother, who is deceased, but the caller does not mention sexual assault or harrassment and there’s no way to verify if it was Reade’s mother on that call. 

Joe Biden does not have a reputation of being a skirt chaser, although there have been several women who also spoke out last year that they were made uncomfortable by Biden’s documented tendency to touch them – hands on their shoulders, kissing the top of their heads, and other non-sexual physical interactions that were previously not considered taboo.  It is only recently that men are finally getting it, that women are not here as a gift to the men in the room, either as eye candy or as a plaything, and the culture that existed just thirty years ago is not the way things are going to be anymore.  There is a big difference, however, between a man putting his hands over your clothes in a non-sexual manner versus forcibly kissing someone or digitally penetrating them against their will.

I’ve worn skirts – and after my marriage ended in the early 90’s wore some short ones that provided opportunities for consensual adult activities.  Using that access requires going under the skirt from below, but Tara Reade’s story claims that Joe put his hand down the waist of her skirt before digitally penetrating her vagina while also kissing her against her will.  This seems physically challenging if both parties are willing participants.  Tara’s description of this part of the alleged assault troubles me because it doesn’t make sense on its surface.  Why would a man get his arm all tangled up in the waist band of a skirt when he could just stick his hand up from the bottom?

Assuming for the sake of argument that Biden would even have considered such a thing, why would anyone, in the midst of the Bob Packwood scandal, do so in a public place where anyone could come by and see what was going on?  How crazy would a man be to do such a thing out in the open?  It’s not like he was just propositioning her to go get a room, she’s claiming he was up to at least his elbow down her skirt while digitally penetrating her vagina and attempting to kiss her.  I have to say that I find the entire story not quite right, when added all together. 

Could Biden have thought Tara Reade ‘liked him’ and was game for a roll in the hay, no strings attached, then decided that he’d go for it right there, out in the open, while Bob Packwood’s political career was in free fall over sexual harassment allegations?  I suppose anything is possible, but I believe it’s highly unlikely both because Biden has no history of behaving this way and events at the time would have given pause to him if he were so inclined. 

Biden has been in the public eye for decades, and never, during all those years, has there ever been even a hint of sexual scandal.  Usually, these creeps, like Bob Packwood, did these things over and over again because they could do so without repercussions.  As recently as the Kennedy presidency, the media didn’t report on sexual scandals involving politicians because they viewed it as a private matter unrelated to the man’s position in power.

There are only two people who may know what happened the day that Tara Reade brought that gym bag to Joe Biden so he could work out at the gym – Reade and Biden.  Biden has emphatically denied that the incident with Reade occurred.  The rest of us have no way of knowing for sure what, if anything, actually happened between Reade and Biden.  Reade’s refusal to do interviews with any mainstream media (versus Trump-leaning outlets) does not make me more likely to believe her.

But here’s what I do know.  Today, we have a man in the White House who was a known sexual predator and boasted of grabbing women “by the pussy” on tape before the 2016 election, and Republicans still voted him into office.  Keeping this allegation in the headlines is useful only for the Trump campaign, because their only hope for keeping Trump in office is to so dishearten Biden voters that they don’t bother to vote. 

I still support Biden for president, and will cast my mail-in ballot for him both in the June primary (since Warren is no longer an option) and in November.  That is the only thing that matters at this time in our democracy.  Voting for anyone else, or simply not voting at all, is unacceptable.