A Case of the Sads – for Elizabeth Warren

From a Google Image Search – Shondaland.com

My best friend’s daughter is now a med student, but she could teach us all how to stay in touch with our emotions. When she’s happy, she is ‘over the moon’, sometimes all she shares on social media is one word ‘sads.’ 

Well that is my word for today, I have a case of the ‘sads.’ I was quietly, in my heart of hearts, rooting for Elizabeth Warren. She touched on the exact policies that would offer broad support to the American middle class. She was progressive enough without being ideological about it. My big sprawling family could have benefited from every one of the things she had a plan for. Even if they were past the need for child care, their children were almost grown and would soon find child care that didn’t cost half their salary highly beneficial. Those same children are even closer to finishing high school and going off to college. We are not a wealthy family. To see their children launched into good careers without massive college debts would be an enormous relief. Many family members are in the Medicare donut hole and have to shell out big bucks to cover the places their medical insurance refuses to go. Having really affordable health care would wipe some of those worry lines off their foreheads. Why should some seniors have to pay $300+ to have their Shingles shots while others pay nothing. 

But I read the Washington Post every day. I read the New York Times every day. I could see that no woman was going to be good enough for the commentators and pundits in 2020. In fact, it became pretty clear that opinions were dead against any progressive winning the Democratic nomination. The Democratic Party is being steered by Republicans who have lost their party. They are in limbo. They cannot stomach a Republican Party led by Trump, but they are not now and never will be Democrats. They have been very active. They write opinion columns; they write books. I am speaking of people like David Frum, George Will, David Brooks and other well-known conservatives who are rogue pool balls now loose on the table and still trying desperately to bring back their brand of intellectual conservatism and Christian morality. There are people like Jennifer Rubin and Nicole Wallace who have become supposedly more passionate Democrats than the actual Democrats. And then there are the moderate Democrats like David Leonhardt who heads the opinion staff at the NYT. All of these people have argued over and over again, in articles and interviews that no progressive can beat Donald Trump; that no woman can beat Trump. It’s hard to tell if the people arrived at this same view independent of the press, or because it is repeated so often, and not always by men. 

Elizabeth Warren, to me, seemed as perfect a presidential candidate as it is possible for a human being to be. Not too old, not too ideological, capable of flexibility, with a warmth that has been very much missed in our recent governance, and with a mission to make sure that millionaires and billionaires would benefit from parting with tiny percentages of their wealth (which they will not even miss) to help America become a nation that is once again thriving and growing, where citizens feel valued and happy because there is hope that their children will also have good lives lived in good health. This would be an America where people could look forward to a comfortable retirement ahead, would know that there will be a rest from their labors. 

Why don’t we want that? Why would we pick any of the old men in this race who seem far gloomier, or far more confused, than the chipper and energetic Warren. But we have been schooled that this is what we must do because one goal is more important than all the others. We must not elect Donald Trump for four more years. We all agree that this is our most significant goal in 2020 and that sacrifices of personal preference must be made to make it so. We have thrown in our lot with the moderate Democrats and the party-less anti-Trumpers because we believe that they are most likely correct. As a woman it almost feels that we are knuckling under once again to the males who dominate our politics, but even so we are pitching in with the majority for a necessary cause and that is what women do.

So here I am saying goodbye once again to the idea of having a woman as the American President and admitting once again that I have backed the wrong horse in this race, although I always knew it would turn out this way. I soothe myself by listing the number of strong women who were in this race. Women will keep running, I feel sure. It is especially poignant to bid farewell to the last viable female candidate in Women’s History month, with all the sweet news coverage of the ‘pinkie swears’ Elizabeth made with young girls all over America. The stories speak of how she is disappointed that she cannot keep those promises right now. Did she create a little subset of girls who will grow up with big ambitions. That would be a nice legacy. And so Elizabeth, Amy, Kamala, Tulsi (not out but not winning), and Marianne farewell for now. We are good at waiting for those ‘historical’ women’s moments to arrive.

Sarah Longwell writing in the NYT on March 9 th offered some backup for the idea that ‘never Trump’ Republicans will vote for a moderate like Joe Biden but will not vote for a Democratic Socialist.

Racing Across America

From a Google Image Search – Forbes
From a Google Image Search – BBC

Racing Across America

We have multiple election campaigns stumping in state after state across America, but an extremely contagious virus is also racing to state after state across America. It’s a good thing that Super Tuesday is almost here because this is looking like a really bad collision. We have an event that calls for social interaction at rallies and town halls and polling places; and germs that spread by air from person to person and call for social isolation. What could go wrong? 

Will the COVID-19 virus force us to change the way we do elections? Will the candidates have to keep their distance from the very people they would like to shake hands with, take selfies with? These are important people for the moment. Money has flowed and will flow to fund their campaigns. Can they protect themselves from germs and still campaign in the same ways they have been? Several of the candidates are not young. Is their health good enough to withstand a bout of COVID-19? Although this is a rather morbid discussion, perhaps we need to have it. If it’s important to have a Democrat in the White House and Democrats in Congress, especially the Senate, then the campaigns ought to give some thought to how they will keep their people healthy.

Florida has the virus; Florida votes March 17. Illinois has the virus; Illinois votes March 17. Oregon has not yet reported the virus; Oregon votes March 19. Washington has the virus; Washington State votes March 20. Wisconsin, an important swing state where campaigning is fierce, has not yet reported a case of the virus; their primary is on April 7. Pennsylvania, also a swing state, and NY both have their primaries on April 28 th. NY has the virus, Pennsylvania does not have any cases yet. I suppose we can be happy that the primary season is almost over. But then the conventions are held and the actual election begins. Will COVID-19 taper off when the weather gets warm as says our large and in-charge president who hates science? We’ll see. 

Perhaps my worries are baseless. Perhaps this will end up being a nothing-burger. Right now if feels like we are waiting for the aliens in Independence Day to nuke our cities and towns. Some common sense measures might help here. “A word to the wise should be sufficient.”

Trump Effects on School Bullying

Reuters – Jonathan Ernst – Washington Post

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently conducted a survey of a wide array of American public schools about bullying. They have published their results in a PDF and also in a non-PDF format.

What they found from educator reports is that school bullying, always a problem, had taken a Trumpian turn. Students and even teachers were cited for attacks on minorities, immigrants, Muslims and many of these attacks invoked Trump by name. “Trump is building a wall to keep you out.” “Trump will ban all Muslims and deport you.” “Trump will send all black people back to Africa.” Some teachers teach that Trump is a good man and they do not report children for using xenophobic and racist taunts. Children feel threatened and find little support from administration. Children have had to transfer schools and get counselling. 

Here are some of the findings of the SPLC, an admittedly left-leaning organization fighting racism and xenophobia for decades. I know that we often hear truths called ‘biases’ these day, but that does not matter. This organization has paid its dues and done the work and kept our attention on discrimination and unfairness and injustice, a mission that is even more important now. 

“Here are the highlights: from the Southern Poverty Law Center survey:

• More than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students—mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslims—have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election. 

• More than half have seen an increase in uncivil political discourse. 

• More than one-third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment. 

• More than 40 percent are hesitant to teach about the election. 

We also know that questions in a survey can be designed to elicit data that reflects the bias of the organization doing the questioning, but there is also anecdotal evidence published in this article and in a Washington Post article to back up the claims that Trumpian-style bullying is on the increase in our schools.

From the Southern Poverty Law article:

“Students do not understand why this has become such an angry and dishonorable campaign. They are taught better behavior by their teachers, and then they see this mess on TV and are confused.” 

Omak, Washington 

“Openly racist statements towards Mexican students have increased. Mexican students are worried.” Anaheim, California 

“Students have become very hostile to opposing points of view, regardless of the topic. Any division now elicits anger and personal attacks.” Jefferson, Georgia 

From the Washington Post article:

“However, a 2016 online survey of over 10,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade educators by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that more than 2,500 “described specific incidents of bigotry and harassment that can be directly traced to election rhetoric,” although the overwhelming majority never made the news. In 476 cases, offenders used the phrase “build the wall.” In 672, they mentioned deportation.”

Washington Post

At first I wondered why TV media did not pick up this story and make a bigger deal of it. That would be the normal way to behave. But then I remembered that times are anything but normal. Making this a prominent story in the media might escalate the bullying and the threat level. It is also entirely possible that since the source of the story is the Southern Poverty Law Center it could be dismissed as left wing propaganda too easily. Regardless of the reason, the import of this data about school bullying is just another aspect of many ‘fascist’ influences in Trump’s America. Sadly the only remedy we have to change the national dialogue rests on the 2020 election which the media is turning into a anti-Democratic Party field day. While it is true that the Democrats seem to be in some disarray, each of the Democrats have policies that could change the script from pleasing billionaires to meeting the needs of we the working people. And a primary is a contest. I wish the media did not have to go all sensationalist to attract reader/watchers. This will be a very consequential election indeed. Our children are at stake.

John Katko: Mr. Perfect or Flawed Human

Syracuse.com

John Katko, District 24NY Representative to the US House of Representatives, announced the other night on the news that he was bringing home $11m in grants for use in addressing the housing problems poor Central New Yorkers face. Some of the money will go to the city of Syracuse and some to Onondaga County. Of course, this is good news. In 2015 the Century Foundation published an article called “The Architecture of Segregation” which showed the role that being unable to own a house played in robbing poor people, especially poor black people of generational wealth. Redlining kept black folks in center cities that were losing their tax base as white people moved to the suburbs, and real estate companies found ways to keep black people from following them to more prosperous areas with better schools. It was racism that affected the pocketbooks and bank accounts of those who were denied mobility, who remained in crumbling inner city neighborhoods where the equity in any property people owned there declined as housing prices fell. Pioneer Homes (pictured above), the oldest housing at the heart of the city of Syracuse, was built in 1941 and is still fully occupied.

When children do not see way to join a society that seems to be thriving all around them but does not seem to offer them a way in, they begin to dream about ways to make it rich quick. Those who want to choose a legal route dream of succeeding in professional sports or in music. Those who see friends who seem to have found ways to stay local and strike it rich, are attracted by less legal role models, and by gangs which seem like families who have your back no matter what. A few kids are lured into success through academics, and when community programs came along that guarantee college funding to kids who do well in school the numbers improved. But we all know that school success is not always a path to riches, and unless you are born into a wealthy family wealth is certainly not likely to come instantly. Not having college debt speeds things up a bit. Hope is a tender thing, easily killed in harsh surroundings. The same gangs that offered support to members made inner city communities dangerous places that did not encourage the academic route, and tended to bully ‘nerds.’

To deal with gangs cities went the route of tough law enforcement, getting gang members off the streets and into jail. RICO laws made sure that gang members got long sentences. But retribution and vengeance are fostered more often by long jail sentences and gangs seem to stick and stay alive almost in defiance of law and order approaches. I am a law and order appreciator. Cultures that are not lawful and orderly soon disintegrate into thuggery and chaos. But there has to be something hopeful about administering justice in cities. 

Throwing people in jail, letting them out after time served, seems to mostly produce reoffenders, anger, and unhappy communities where residents hold vengeful feelings in their hearts. It is an endless negative loop and it is wasteful. It allows us to consider some people beyond redemption, as throwaways. People who only wish to inflict harm cannot be tolerated; people who are so addicted to drugs that they will do any crime to support their needs are also menaces to peaceful enjoyment of a neighborhood or a city or even a home. But I firmly believe that we can find more creative ways to short circuit reoffenders than simply sending them back to jail over and over. We can reach people if we find the right carrot, the one that will fire up the light in their eyes and make them want to do something new. As for addicts we can either set up programs that allow someone to feed their addiction regularly, or we can set up enough rehab programs to get people off drugs and, at the same time, find the pursuit in life that will serve as their carrot.

Well, right there in a nut shell is my beef with John Katko. He is a law and order man. He does not think about wasting human beings and providing hope. He believes that when people are bad you punish them and this teaches them to not do whatever they did again. Except we know that punishment only works in a very few cases. Using a stick without a carrot fosters anger and resentment, deep resentment that erodes the ability to hold hope for a better life in your heart. 

Plenty of people have studied the efficacy of using praise or using blame to encourage changed behavior and praise works better every time. It can’t be false praise. Finding what fires up the furnace in each person is not easy. Public schools are notoriously bad at it unless you are fired up by academics. Even if you are, the chaos in an individual’s life can make the pursuit of academics unrewarding. Why haven’t we, with all our knowledge, our brain power, figured out how to stimulate the imaginations of diverse populations of students? Why are kids still sitting in armed desks in neat alphabetical rows? Some of it is about money and safety. Some of it is about control. Some of it is about institutionalization. If certain schools can find ways to click with kids of all stripes, more schools could do the same. John Katko most likely thinks this is unrealistic and that ‘softness’ will increase violence rather than counteract it. But I think that using praise and blame together might be worth trying. Creative approaches to educating kids in the poorest neighborhoods would be well worth the extra cash they would cost. There are plenty of intelligent minority professionals in inner cities who could be trusted to design programs that entice participation, using their familiarity with poorer residents to best effect.

So, John Katko, a rather inflexible, stern and all-knowing Mr. Law and Order, brings money home and it is for housing. He brings $11 m, which sounds like a lot but probably isn’t, and that money is divvied up among several agencies with differing missions, although all related to housing. Katko is given this money to bring home just in time to help him get reelected. We are all grateful for the money, but the timing is certainly suspect. And as long as Katko remains Mr. Law and Order and does not have any more creative dimensions to his approach to stubborn poverty and crime in city neighborhoods, to students who come to school with life problems that make academic pursuits seem like ‘baby stuff’, the cycle of street to jail and back is likely to continue uninterrupted. More, much more is called for. 

Syracuse recently competed for a tech grant with 250 cities and won one of only a few grants. The grant is for $3m and comes from a big unnamed bank. It is paid out over three years and cannot be used by the city for other initiatives. It must be used to plan and deliver tech skills to inner city residents. Here is some hope. Two pools of money to spend on our inner city. May it be spent as it should be. The money could make a difference. 

As for John Katko, don’t send him back to Congress. We can do better. He is no hero, he is flawed human just like the rest of us, but we can see that his particular flaws may be a lack of compassion and imagination. 

In the Run-Up tp an Election, Who Does That

From a Google Image Search -Nati Harnik – AP – NBC News

In the Run-Up to an Election, Who Does That

Trump obviously feels invincible. He is beyond us all now. He is at the heights he has always dreamed of, but it has not made him nice. He believes that he must use fear to stay there, he must use audacity, and that is something he is really good at. Audacity can be a positive trait that allows risk-taking and pushes a forward agenda, such as a successful business. But in Trump’s case he has the audacity to break laws, to defy even the most gentle of authorities such as his nation’s traditions which never before had to be set into laws. Staying within some of these informal boundaries was a sort of gentleman’s agreement (also respected by ladies). But Donald J Trump is no gentleman, nor does he want to be one. He is a fascist. He is always punching back even when that is not the best strategy. He can’t help himself. He sees every disagreement as an attack. He sees every decision that goes against his wishes as turning him into a victim. He plays the victim well in order to get his way, but once he wins, he is ruthless. If he loses, which he rarely does, he engages in brutal retaliation. He seems to have a cruel heart, but he really has no empathy of any kind. His reactions are all about what he is feeling and how he can soothe himself. He cannot hide his emotions. He likes that his moods are carefully observed by everyone and that people try to keep him happy so he won’t lash out.

But even so, even though we know all of this about him, it is still unusual that he is acting the way he is in the run-up to an election. Meddling in the business of the Justice Department is not usual. Transparently interfering in courts, their processes and their outcomes is just not done. Doing this to keep crooked men out of jail because you like them, or because they are your friends; because they kept the loyalty oath they swore to you (knowing you would come to their rescue), because they refused to testify in front of lawful investigations of a Special Prosecutor is something that is usually done on the down low (or not at all). Doing this so openly in an election year is really, really rare. It suggests that you are so certain that you will be reelected that you do not need to worry about what you do, even this close to an election. Is Trump unable to keep himself in check to achieve a greater goal? Is he playing to his base to show how he treats those who are loyal to him? Is the election already a done deal, is the fix in? Will the electoral college math, the Evangelical machinations, and the Republican dehumanization of the Democrats make a Republican the winner of all presidential elections for decades to come, even though this is no longer a majority party. Trump obviously believes it is all about him, that his people love him so much, and the economy is doing so well that he has a blank check for any behavior that secures his tenure in his little Oval Office fortress. 

He purges sincere civil servants who work in his government for testifying against him. Actually he eventually purges almost everyone. He turns in a budget that would not go into effect until after the election that makes big cuts to social programs. He wants the Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Plan unconstitutional. He reverses clean water protections. What candidate for President, even an incumbent does these kinds of things this close to an election. Presidents often try to do as little as possible and make statements about ‘gifts’ that will accrue to the people if they vote to elect. Why does making such counterintuitive moves seem to make Trump even more ‘Trumpy’? He had to hold an entire party in Congress in thrall to escape being impeached. Now he is putting ‘the band’ back together to help him win this election but I bet he will not listen to any advice from these old pals, like Hope Hicks. Of course, she obviously knows her way around the Trump. I would like to think that Donald is just being overly confident, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we are screwed. And that is exactly what Trump wants me to think. We need to put our energies into making sure that Donald’s cavalier behavior in the run-up to 2020 is just hype.

My Despair: Who’s Using Who?

Trump’s party, his cohort, those who are supposed to ‘have his back’, have actually done Trump a great disservice. Republicans, you know this man. You know you have now unleashed him so he can continue to be used by you so you can hold on to your tenuous grasp on power. I can hear you laughing because you feel very secure in your power right now, but you have chosen a dark road and in the end people choose the light. Trump thinks he is using you, but he is also being used. He knows this – why do you think he uses threats rather than genuine camaraderie to relate to you, the Congressional Republicans.

You have all scored body blows against your opponents, humiliated us, shocked us, took pleasure in your twisted “wins”, and then turned around to do it all over again. Did you really refuse to impeach Trump in order to back Trump, or did you do this because you have begun to thrive on destruction? You gain a sick pleasure at the pain of those who do not agree with you. You have learned the trick of “dehumanization,” used whenever one group of people wants to discount another group of people. But animating a puppet president because he has a mental disorder that allows him to get your dirty work done, because his egomania, his narcissism drives him, is wicked, it’s wrong, it’s gross.

The actions of Congressional Republicans are shameful. You could have ended this macabre dance and you didn’t. We watched you sitting in those ballroom seats like pod people in empty suits (and dresses) clapping and laughing as your master/puppet spewed hate and vengeance. You may even win the next election but you will win nothing worth having. You will be governing an entity that no one can recognize as the United States of America. History won’t just condemn the record of Donald J. Trump. You will always be right there with him. You could have freed Trump, sent him off the Mar-a-Lago to live out his days enjoying chocolate cake and golf, and maybe even his family; or to put his brand on Trump Moscow. You could have saved the Republic at the same time, but you refused.

Obviously, the Republican Party no longer cares for our republican form of government and will use this unloved and unlovable media monster of a man to help turn our government into something else – an oligarchy, a corporate state, a dictatorship, a monarchy, a theocracy. And not one of these forms of government will be benign, having been birthed in calculation, greed, selfishness, and false pride. And although you think you control this man, he also thinks he controls you, and he may, one day soon, find you unnecessary. What use does he have for a Congress? The body will be there as stage dressing. You have given this destroyer absolute power. Nothing good can come from that. You just gave up any control you might have had. The depths to which you are willing to sink determine that what you will create will inspire no one, will lack any pretension to idealism. Good may arise out of evil but not because it was the original intent, only as a response to something repulsive. It is still shocking to think that you have taken our nation to this place. Readers of this may find it too extreme, but I believe that what happens now will bear me out. I hope I am wrong.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Washington Post

Trump and Our Water

Lonely plant in the parched earth submerged in the ocean Some graphics in this image is provided by NASA and can be found at http:/photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18033; To create a file was the program used Photoshop CS5. The image created by 31.08.2013

Trump’s SOTU address was designed to humiliate Democrats and lift up his sycophants and he certainly accomplished that. Trump is extra, special good at humiliation. Perhaps this is a new trait we look for in our Presidents now. He chooses minions who are equally good at dehumanizing their enemies, who just happen to be anyone sneeringly referred to as a “liberal.” Soul-sucking may be a dominant feeling we will need to steel ourselves against over the next four years if Democrats don’t win in 2020. But bouts of abject depression are not our worst worry. An article in The Daily Beast this morning talked about what Trump has been up to while we were tuned into his impeachment.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/here-are-the-terrible-things-trump-did-that-you-might-have-missed-in-the-midst-of-impeachment

Trump put our access to fresh water in even more jeopardy than it was already in, Margaret Carlson tells us.

“He moved to poison the country’s water and pollute its air, allowing emissions even greater than the auto industry had asked for, and lifting the ban on toxic chemicals like PFAS. You might have missed the change to runoff rules that over time will turn every city into Flint, where the water is so toxic its residents had to bathe in Evian. The Environmental Protection Agency, so-called, has reopened negotiations with cities, including the nation’s capital, to allow them to dump raw sewage into its rivers until they can afford to upgrade their sewers. 

Last Thursday, the same agency finalized a rule to strip protection for streams, wetlands and groundwater, to the pleasure of real estate developers and fossil-fuel producers. It’s all part of Trump’s crusade to remove all traces of Obama and to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining (the head of the EPA is a former coal-mining lobbyist), and oil drilling—soon to be happening in a national forest near you. His support for the Trillion Trees Initiative, proposed by the World Economic Forum in Davos, will hardly compensate.”

Trump is dangerous because he poses a threat to our republic/democracy. We know this and we are trying to fight it, however unsuccessfully. But the threat to our water supply is far more existential. We cannot survive without fresh water. Some places in the world have always been deserts, where water was so scarce that life was only able to keep a tenuous hold on the land, people had to move from oasis to oasis in order to be able to trade for goods they could not make or grow. These problems have been somewhat ameliorated by cities that have better transport options and can even supply locations in the hinterlands. However, the news still brings us pictures of places where unstable water supplies, or impure fresh water make life a hardscrabble proposition. Recently there was an article about a town in India that had completely run out of fresh water. 

Obviously freshwater resources are not equally distributed in America. In our own desert places water runs when it rains and dries up when rain is scarce. Some of our rivers have been tamed by damming until they are mere shadows of what they once were. We are surrounded by oceans full of water, but it is all salty; we can’t drink it. Given that people now understand that when their water runs out there are still people on the planet who have enough water, we will either have to share our water (which people will be unlikely to do), or we will have water migrants roaming the planet to find a place to live with plentiful fresh water, or we will have water wars. Think about how aggressive America might become if our own water became undrinkable. 

Water is a closed system. We do not manufacture water. The planet has a water cycle so that water moves around, is picked up in one place and put down in another, but the water cycle does not distribute water equally. The water cycle does seem to be able to take water out of oceans without taking the salt. Too bad this trick is beyond our means. There is no extra water being created in space and hosed down on the planet. If we make our freshwater toxic, we rob the system of water that cannot be replaced and, most likely cannot be cleaned. Every time we put an oil or gas pipeline over a freshwater aquifer or reserve there is a chance we could contaminate water that serves thousands or even millions. We should not be taking these kinds of chances with our fresh water. Our president is a wrecking ball.

Let’s talk about water in the campaign against Trump. Let’s make ads that show what could happen if we lose our fresh water or if water gets scarce somewhere else while Trump’s immigration bans forces more people to migrate, always to Europe, never to America. Things could go catawampus pretty quickly. Besides, we need a message to counter Trump’s new ‘victims of socialism’ ads which were also announced in today’s papers.