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.

The Media Has to Call a Spade a Damn Shovel!

Owner of Rode’s Camera Shop for the last 8 years, Tom Gram refused to participate in the maskless Trump-staged photo-op, accusing Trump of exploiting his destroyed store for political gain…
So instead they got the former owner (holding sign, above) who supports Trump to pretend he still owns the place.

About twenty years ago, my best friend convinced me to go with her to a nude beach in northern New Jersey (the only legal one in the state). Since it was actually “Clothing Optional”, I knew that I wasn’t required to get naked and agreed to go but that my clothing wasn’t optional. I was in my 40’s and the mother of two children, and my modesty had left the building long before that first trip to Sandy Hook and I was at least game to see what she was so excited about. Besides, I was a nurse, and body parts are body parts.

We had a long ride and crowds to deal with, so we got there early enough to be able to park close to the beach access. Gunnison Beach is one of several located in The Gateway National Recreation Area, a piece of federal property with the only nude recreation area along the coast in New Jersey. It was very popular among the nudist community and was always crowded most weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

We schlepped our gear to a place near the high-tide mark to spread out our blankets and stake in our umbrellas, and I realized that I had made a mistake when I’d decided to remain in my bathing suit. What was that mistake? I’d made it all about me.

I was worried about what these people I had never seen before and likely never would again thought about my imperfect body – as if it could affect my life. It took only a few minutes to realize I had no reason to worry, because no one else was thinking about me at all. With thousands of other naked bodies everywhere, the only ones attracting attention were those at the extremes – either being extraordinarily beautiful/stacked/hung or the not – rather than being one of mostly imperfect but basically average folks all over the beach. That realization allowed me to join my friend for my first nude beach experience without feeling self-conscious, leading to my first ‘everything that never saw the sun before severe sunburn” that was equally memorable.

Clearly, Donald Trump has never had an experience like that – one in which he realizes that he’s the only one paying attention to him, that the world and it’s people don’t revolve around “The Donald”. In fact, Trump insists on forcing those who have dared to point out his lack of importance in their lives to focus directly on him by forcing himself into their cities, as he did in Kenosha despite requests from the mayor and Wisconsin’s governor to say away. Trump didn’t go to Kenosha to spread peace, love and butterflies; he went specifically to encourage further right-wing violence against protestors and continue his ridiculous denial of the systemic racism built into every aspect of American life.

Trump’s incompetence and incoherence for anything that doesn’t affect himself has now cost the lives of more than 180,000 American lost to Covid-19. His bias against the WHO has now led to the US refusing to participate with 170 countries around the world to develop and distribute a world-wide vaccine for Covid-19! Sure, it makes so much more sense for the US to work all alone while almost the entire rest of the planet works together towards a viable, effective vaccine. How can the people around him support such an irrational decision?

Why is it okay that Fox News pundits are making many of the decisions that Trump then issues as dictates ten minutes later? Fox, the ‘news’ outlet least likely to verify a wingnut’s story before broadcasting it to their viewers, has more control over our national security policy right now than all our intelligence agencies combined? Seriously? How can the idiots on Fox & Friends have more influence on the way we’re (not) dealing with Covid-19 than the experts from the CDC?

Why is some crackpot radiologist from Fox now advising Trump on how to ‘manage’ Covid-19? Because Trump only keeps people around him who tell him what he wants to hear, and he’s been waiting for some incompetent physician without any interest in “first, do no harm” to support his fantasy that the virus will just go away and to push back on Dr. Fauci’s science and facts. Of course Trump would bring in this idiot who believes that everyone should just be exposed to gain ‘herd immunity’ no matter that some 2 millions people will die as a result while Dr. Fauci is on medical leave. Trump and those around him get to use rapid testing to clear anyone coming into contact with them and therefore have no fear that they will be infected by an asymptomatic infected person, so why give a damn about the rest of us, right?

Herd immunity is supposed to refer to the percentage of a given population that are successfully vaccinated and gain immunity in order to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the population. It is not meant to indicate the free-spread of a disease vector throughout the entire populace, killing millions and leaving (maybe) the rest immune for life. We don’t know enough about Covid-19 and future immunity to even know if we can get to a vaccine, so going down this path is not only stupid, it’s outright dangerous. Of course, Trump’s disregard for the value of those citizens unlikely to vote for him, especially those of color, makes this decision that much easier for him to make. Having a physician without a clue whispering in his ear is not a good idea under the best circumstances – under the current ones, it’s criminally negligent.

How is it acceptable to the Republican Party that the CDC, FDA and NIH are now being forced to heel by Trump, making statements in defiance of facts and science? Trump’s insistence “over the last six months that “it will go away like a miracle” or that it’s “no worse than catching the flu” fits neatly into his plan towards attaining ‘herd immunity’ by forcing the citizens of the United States to catch Covid-19, spread it to everyone they come into contact with before getting sick and possibly dying or having long-term negative health issues as a result of the virus is further proof of his malicious indifference to the lives of everyone outside of himself.

Here’s the thing, though… listening to Joe Biden’s speeches over the past few months has reminded the country as a whole what a President is supposed to sound and act like. Trump now realizes that everything he’s been trying to throw up to see if it sticks on Joe has been for naught, because we know who Joe Biden is, just like we know who Donald Trump is, and most of us don’t want Donald Trump in charge of anything, ever again. Trump brazenly and in full public view does only those things that offer a clear, personal benefit to himself, his cronies or his reelection; if there is anything that somehow benefits the country or its citizens, that is more coincidental than intentional. Trump’s continued conflation of positive tests with infected people defies logic and reveals that he clearly lacks the mental capacity to continue as president. No matter how many people are tested, those who are passing this virus around are still going to do so, we just won’t know where they are or who they’re spreading it to, helpful in attempts to slow the spread but useless if you want to claim fewer people have been exposed on your watch. What is most disconcerting is that the people most at risk from his calculations are his cult followers, because they believe what he’s telling them.

Trump spreads conspiracy theories, using his Twitter account to push all sorts of crazy stuff to his cult followers, and the far-right gangs showing up at BLM protests proves how effective they are at firing up the most extreme of his base. Trump won’t do the ‘presidential’ thing and denounce these gangs and their long guns because he knows he will be offending his own base, again placing his hopes for reelection above the need to deescalate the situation and call off his minions. He’s emboldening these people to arm themselves and show up at mostly peaceful protests where they initiate violence that has resulted in more than a few people being injured or killed. Who in any position of real authority would foment such insurrection? Since when does the president offer bogus excuses for a vigilante killing peaceful protestors?

We have to do everything we can to ensure that in January, 2021, President Biden is sworn into office and Trump’s misdeeds and crimes are brought into the light. Everything we can.

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Volunteer to help

Donate if you can, as much as you can comfortably afford.

Talk to your friends and family to make sure that they are registered to vote, have requested a vote-by-mail ballot or plan to vote early, and intend to vote for the Democratic ticket.

I have found the last one to be both the one I have the most chance of making a difference with AND the most frustrating to do successfully.  My son, who turned 40 this past May, seems to be getting a good bit of his ‘information’ from people just like me – bloggers with opinions versus actual news media with facts to share, and I have been hard pressed to disabuse him of the things he’s been hearing.  He and his wife kindly agreed to let a couple and their 5 year old daughter move in when they were at risk of being homeless, and it seems that the male of this couple also believes the things my son and I have been arguing over recently, judging by his loud and uninvited interjections into my phone conversations with my son.

On my last conversation with Christopher about the upcoming Presidential election, I felt as if I’d made just a little bit of headway, after he agreed that making the perfect the enemy of the good does not benefit anyone except the Republicans.  I also told him that it’s up to him and his cohorts to do something if they want things to change in big ways, including by running for office, or supporting progressive candidates who support their interests in elections locally and nationally.  Bitching about what came before or what is happening now without putting in some work to get to where you want things to be is just whining and blame-shifting.

Get off your ass and DO SOMETHING!

Trump, the Fascist Swine

John Bolton doesn’t have to publish a book to let the public know what he saw and heard during his time in the Trump Administration; all he has to do is contact a non-right-wing media outlet and agree to a no-holds-barred on-camera live interview or even just offer to make a statement.  Of course, those options do not successfully line his and his publisher’s pockets, so damn the damage Trump does to the country, let’s wait until we can charge people for the information!  No giving anything away for free, no siree!

Not that Bolton’s self-interest is anything new – this is the same man who refused to testify to the House to provide first-hand knowledge during the impeachment investigation, after all.   In fact, most of the revelations Bolton has made in public have been made during paid speaking engagements, not during media news interviews.  Bolton’s behavior is on a par with Trump’s, although with much less power to wield and he appears to share in the narcissism Trump is so clearly suffering from. The point is that John Bolton, in order to benefit his bottom line, is completely happy in his disloyalty to the United States.   His continued silence in the face of rising, brazen fascist actions and rhetoric from Trump is all the proof anyone should need to recognize that Bolton does not care about the country anymore than Trump does.  No one should spend money on his book; we’ll see the most inflammatory parts in the media anyway, so why line Bolton’s pockets?

I hope that more people now recognize that John Bolton, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, et al are not showing their patriotism now, as the world watches the United States turn into a tin pot dictatorship – they are trying to be let into the lifeboat.  They had a chance to make a difference during the impeachment, although we’ll never get to know if their information could have swayed the Senate Republican denizens to put country over party.  Their continued silence at that time means they now have ownership in the absolute abdication of responsibility or accountability that Trump has exhibited, this fascist bent including the most recent abuse of power, subverting the Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and protest by using excessive force to get a photo-op.

So again, thank you to all the former administration collaborators/employees/sycophants who have waited until now to tell us what most of us knew before the 2016 election – that Trump is a useless piece of shit who only got where he was by stealing his father’s money and abusing the legal system, the latter a skill he has continued to benefit from since taking office.  I’m unable to understand why, with the first-hand experience you have all had with this incompetent boob, it took so long for you to speak up, although there are still more of you who remain silent out of greed or what?  Fear?  Of Trump?  Seriously? 

Trump may be tall in height, but he is otherwise a very small, scared, shell of a man.  He has never, in his entire life, ever been required to do anything he didn’t want to do.  His ego is so fragile; he is utterly incapable of acknowledging his mistakes or obvious lack of understanding for so many things that they require their own blog post!  His opinion of himself is inversely proportionate to his actual knowledge base, making me wonder who he paid in order to graduate from college and graduate school.  There’s no question why he keeps all his school records hidden – it’s impossible to pretend you’ve always been all that and you’re a “very stable genius” if your post-secondary records reveal you graduated “summa cum prematurely”.

All who have kept silent, regardless of your reasons, have culpability in what comes next.  For those who served in the military, thank you for your service.  That said, when your country really needed you, this time to put only your reputation on the line, you refused to do so.  When you offered your life in service, you were one person out of thousands doing so, but when you were one of only a select few who could have averted at least some of the ongoing crises, you sat back and did nothing.  That’s not patriotism.  That’s greed… or cowardice.

The silver lining to this huge thundercloud of disaster we are now living through is this – we are now painfully aware that there is an overwhelming need for sweeping changes regarding things once considered ‘norms’ but not officially enshrined in statutes and laws.  No longer can we go blithely along, expecting that those with the power will do what’s expected of them without the force of law that provides for swift and fair repercussions when the executive branch refuses to submit to oversight, ignores subpoenas, or misappropriates money using bogus emergency declarations. 

It is now no longer acceptable for those in positions of power, including in the Senate and the House, to remain in their seats indefinitely; twelve years for either chamber, whether consecutive or not, should be the maximum amount of time anyone can serve, and maybe it’s time to change the House from two year terms to three years.  Along with this, there has to be huge election reform, particularly with regard to election financing.  Elections must be federally funded in an equitable way, while allowing actual people only (no companies, corporations, SuperPACs, or other entity) to contribute to those they wish to, using some type of voucher system so that everyone, regardless of income or wealth, can participate in this part of politics.  The time for only the most wealthy to have all the political power is over.

It is no longer reasonable for judges throughout the judiciary, up to and including the Supreme Court, to be given lifetime appointments.  When this was first written into the Constitution, the average lifespan was 35 years, so a lifetime appointment was only a few years.  Now, judges routinely sit on the bench for 25 years or more, leaving at an average age of 78!  There is no reason at this point in our development to continue with this outdated method of populating the bench.  All federal judges must serve for a limited period of time with every president given the opportunity to name two justices to the court during each term (see https://fixthecourt.com/fix/term-limits/).  Although there is always the possibility of an unexpected death of one of the justices, having a term limit means that death is not the most frequent reason justices leave the court.

It is no longer acceptable for lobbyists to have a place in Washington, DC.  The wealthy, including corporations, foundations, foreign governments, and who knows what else, should no longer be allowed to continue their unfair and undemocratic ability to influence policy that disadvantages the rest of us.  Corporate welfare at all levels must be eliminated; no more subsidies for giant agribusiness, the fossil fuel industry, the pharmaceutical industry, etc.  Once, monopolies were broken up into smaller companies, now they’re approved and allowed to overtake everything, concentrating the wealth at the very top.  This should never have been allowed, and must be undone ASAP.

Racial inequality and oppression must be addressed.  It requires all white people to work at it, since we are the ones with the problem; the black folks are the ones who suffer because of our problem.  Every one of us must work, every day, in all ways, to change not just our own misconceptions and biases, but we have to speak up when we see or hear them in the people around us.  That’s the only way we can begin what we’ve been pretending was done after the Civil War – treating people of color with the dignity and respect we have often only shown to fellow white people.  See White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism at your local bookstore or ebook platform.

Finally, social media has to be brought to heel.  Jeff Zuckerberg does not care about the damage being done to our social discourse, so long as people keep clicking.  Jack Dorsey will keep letting Trump and others like him post false, misleading and inflammatory things in order to keep people coming back for more.  These and other social media platforms, while not the creators of the information posted, have a responsibility greater than that of the established media giants.  The ability of their platforms to spread in a nanosecond makes it more imperative that they be held accountable financially so that they are more likely to do what other media outlets have been required to since the beginning – prevent the dissemination of lies, propaganda, etc., and be required to prominently post retractions and corrections when something slips by. 

Vote the Democratic ticket – only by taking power from the obstructionist Republicans can we hope to see the changes we need.  Then hold those we vote into office accountable.

Vote – For the Sake of Your Children

Today, I had an interesting conversation with a 30-something young man I’ll call Jim, who told me that he does not vote.  This young man has volunteered for the armed forces, but does not think he has any need to participate in the democracy for which he was willing to sacrifice his life in the Middle East, and I still don’t really understand his lack of interest in voting.  He has a young daughter who will have to survive in the world after we’re all gone, so why does he not feel the need to cast a ballot? 

The fact that he (like me), lives in New Jersey, where the only likely outcome in November will be for Joe Biden, doesn’t excuse his lack of participation.  He told me he’d been a Bernie supporter in the 2016 primary against Hillary, and has come to the conclusion that no matter who we cast our votes for, the system is rigged, sounding more like Trump than Bernie.  It sounds to me as though Bernie may need to step up to a microphone to try to put this conspiracy theory to bed and disabuse his followers of their cynicism about voting. 

This is not my first conversation with Jim about voting.  Previously, we discussed the Democratic primary, and I encouraged him to vote with his heart for the candidate he most wanted to see as the candidate, but that, in the general, we all need to vote for the winner of the primary to get rid of Trump.  Even then, before Biden became the presumptive nominee, he wasn’t willing to agree to do that.  Now, it seems, his decision has become refusing to exercise his franchise at all, including at the local level, where things that matter to us happen, too.

I’m not sure what I need to say to Jim to help him to understand that his refusal to vote ensures that his voice is not heard at any of the levels of government that influence his life on a daily basis.  Sure, one vote out of millions may not matter much at the national level, but he isn’t the only one with this attitude in his cohort group.  His cousin, my daughter’s partner, hasn’t even registered to vote since returning to the state in 2018 (although I did print a registration form for him last week).  He too was in the army in Afghanistan; he too joined after 9/11.  I’ve tried to talk to him about politics but had to stop when he kept insisting that things wouldn’t have turned out any better if Hillary had beaten Trump in 2016.  I don’t want to alienate him by arguing when I’m unlikely to succeed in changing his viewpoint.  

I’m saddened by both these young men’s lack of interest in participating in the democracy that both of them fought for.  I know that both of my adult children learned from me that voting is something we as citizens should view as our duty, and they both accompanied me to the voting booth when they were young.  I’ve always felt that voting should be mandatory, not optional, although in order to do that it must be easier for everyone to do, whether by making the time available to vote longer than one weekday or by using universal mail ballots, and it’s interesting that now, during Covid-19, mail-in ballots are the one way we have of keeping everyone safe from the virus while allowing votes to be cast. 

I know that my kids vote, especially for the president, although my son Chris doesn’t necessarily vote the same way I do.  In 2016, he cast his presidential ballot for Jill Stein because he too thought Bernie had been treated unfairly by the Dems; as a resident of Pennsylvania, his third-party vote was essentially a vote for Trump, and we have had several heated discussions about it in the interim.  I hope he sees his way clear to voting for Biden in November, since doing anything else is, per Bernie, “irresponsible.”

I have cast a ballot in almost every election since I voted for Jimmy Carter for president in 1976.  Some of my votes have gone to the winner, while others have not, but I haven’t let that keep me from voting during subsequent elections.  When the younger members of society abdicate their responsibility and leave voting to those in my age range, they end up with representatives who in fact do not necessarily represent them in government.  Climate change is happening at an alarming rate, economic inequality is worsening, and things can only improve if everyone is fighting on the same side.  Having a swath of the population choose to stand by and do nothing is unacceptable. So please – REGISTER AND VOTE.  It’s your responsibility as both a citizen and a parent.  Your kid deserves better.