Friday, September 28, 2018

Devolution is real

We're pinheads now
We are not whole
We're pinheads all

~~ "Jocko Homo" by Devo

I can think of no better music for today than Devo. 

I honestly don't know how to write about today's Senate Judicial Committee hearing. I watched the entire 8+ hours with disgust, fascination, and despair. 

I feel sick. I feel heartsick. I feel sadness and disgust. 

And I am so fucking angry that I'm not sure how to process it. I thought writing it down might help, but I don't know. (Listening to some Devo is helping more than I had hoped! It seems that devolution is the order of the day.)

My thoughts on Dr. Ford's testimony are that she was credible, sympathetic, and likable. This entire process was new to her and she didn't have much of an idea of how to handle this or how to contact her representatives. I cried with her today (and I'll get into that a little more in a moment). 

My thoughts on Judge Kavanaugh's testimony is that he was overly emotional, combative, and kind of a jerk. I'm not the only one of my friends to wonder if he is an alcoholic and even if he was drunk during his testimony. It was beyond weird. 

I also realize that I am seeing things along partisan lines. I went into this prepared to believe Dr. Ford and already thinking that Kavanaugh had issues. My mind was not changed. 

Here's the thing: one accuser can be denied and brushed off. Two can maybe be the same. But when you get to three or more accusers of the same type of assault, you've got a real problem. And Brett Kavanaugh obviously has a real problem, on multiple levels. Any rational person would wonder why Senator Grassley refuses to call other corroborating or exculpatory witnesses and why he and other Republicans are so reluctant to support an FBI investigation. In fact, when Senator Durbin asked Kavanaugh if he would support an FBI inquiry, he was so flummoxed by the question that he sat in silence. Great job!

Here's another thing: the majority of women (and certainly some men) have been subjected to similar assault and harassment. Dr. Ford's testimony was emotional for many of us for just that reason. Like pretty much every woman, I've experienced my own moments that have stuck with me over the years. I won't mention every single one here because I don't feel like revisiting it all, but Dr. Ford's experience made me remember one incident in particular. 

It was my freshman year in college and I was just starting to break out of my "shy shell" of high school. I was 17. It was a whole new world for me in which guys found me attractive. For a shy bookworm, it was a heady feeling! I was at a party off-campus and there was plenty of booze. It wasn't uncommon to have what we called Hairy Buffalo at parties—a drink that was made in a big cooler, with fruit punch and maybe some fruit slices, and tons of alcohol, usually some Everclear. That is grain alcohol, which is 95% alcohol. It tasted like Kool-Aid, but it would mess you up. 

I don't remember if that's what I drank at that party, or if I just drank beer. Most college parties had a keg, too. I also don't remember if I met the guy in a class or somewhere else and he invited me to the party, or if someone invited me there and that's where I met the guy. I don't remember where the party was, only that it in a house off-campus. 

What I do remember is that I got drunk, and was talking to this guy. We went into a bedroom, but I don't remember if it was his or someone else's. I remember that there were bunk beds just to the left of the door as you walked into the bedroom, and we were on the bottom bunk. I remember that we made out and at some point, he was on top of me and getting more aggressive than I was comfortable with. I told him to stop and he didn't. He had his full weight on me and I couldn't move or get out from under him. I started getting scared and got more forceful about trying to get him off of me and tell him to stop. 

I don't remember what I did or said that finally made him stop enough so that I could get up and get out of that room. I don't remember how I got home, but I probably walked back to my dorm. A couple of days after the party, he came by my dorm room and when I looked through the peephole and saw it was him at the door, I hid in the closet and my roommates told him I wasn't there. He came back more than once and my roommates always covered for me and told him I wasn't there. My roommates were the only ones who knew about it. It never even occurred to me to report it to campus police or anyone else. Hey, he didn't rape me, right? 

I don't remember a lot of things about that incident, but I remember the situation. I remember that he was fairly tall, maybe 6', and he had curly blond hair. I also remember his full name. And thanks to the blessing/curse of social media, after I thought about all of this, I found out that he is on social media and he lives in my area, maybe 15 miles from me. It looks like he has a nice family and a nice life. 

I have a nice family and a nice life, too. But I still remember how scared I felt when he was on top of me on the bottom bunk of that bunk bed in a bedroom in a house off-campus at Ball State University. I bet he has no idea who I am and has no memory of me, the 5' tall, 100-pound freshman. 

But I remember him. Almost 40 years later, I remember him. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty

Help me, help me, help me sail away
Well give me two good reasons why I oughta stay

~~ "Sunny Afternoon" by The Kinks

NO. I will not give you two reasons, Brett Kavanaugh. In fact, take your rapey, punk ass back where it came from!

Everyone has heard about Kavanaugh's accuser by now, right? She went public because people were harassing her and trying to get a statement from her. Good for you, Professor. 

Kavanaugh needs to withdraw now. I had already sent an email to my Democratic Senator, Joe Donnelly, urging him to vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation and that was yesterday before this woman went public. I would hope that every woman who cares about their rights and their autonomy is sending messages to their own Senators, especially the constituents of women like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. 

Listen, I know how it feels. My freshman year in college, I was at a party, and stupidly got myself into a similar situation. This was only one guy and I was able to get myself out of it, but I was really freakin' scared for a while. I was 17 at the time, and Kavanaugh's victim was only 14. Fourteen! 

This is not acceptable. I don't give a fuck that it was 30 years ago. This is someone that could be on the Court for decades, deciding questions about women's health, women's rights, and so many other things that will affect us for the foreseeable future. 

Withdraw now, Kavanaugh. And any Senator that votes for him? You are on notice. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Know Your Rights

Know your rights all three of them

Number 1
You have the right not to be killed
Murder is a CRIME!
Unless it was done by a
Policeman or aristocrat
Know your rights

And Number 2
You have the right to food money
Providing of course you
Don't mind a little
Investigation, humiliation
And if you cross your fingers

Number 3
You have the right to free speech
As long as you're not
Dumb enough to actually try it.

~~ "Know Your Rights" by The Clash
Nike waded hip-deep back into the "stand or kneel" so-called controversy, and boy, did the shit ever hit the fan.
They chose to use Colin Kaepernick as part of the 30th anniversary of their Just Do It campaign and the Internet exploded. Although it was a minor explosion after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the new Bob Woodward book about 45's questionable fitness for office.
The fact that these three things all jostled for attention today tells you everything you need to know about the current state of things, doesn't it? Personally, I'm feeling a little exhausted and beaten down, but I'm still feeling feisty enough to defend Kaepernick.
Some were questioning what exactly Kaepernick has sacrificed and some were comparing him to members of the military who lost their lives fighting for our country.
Make no mistake, Kaepernick isn't hurting for money. This multimillion-dollar deal with Nike ensured that. But because of his protests, he was blackballed from the NFL. His decision to protest pretty much cost him his football career. (He might be grateful for that in the long run, considering the toll that football takes on players, but that's a topic for another day.) His lawsuit against the NFL for collusion to keep him out of football has been given the go-ahead, and that should be interesting.
And of course, the sacrifice of his football career cannot in any way compare to the sacrifice that military members and their families make every day, especially when military members are killed. That's kind of a silly comparison.
But here's the thing: military members swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. That includes the right to free speech and the right to peaceably assemble. They are sworn to defend exactly what Colin Kaepernick is doing.
He is protesting peacefully. He is trying to bring attention to an ongoing and horrible problem in our country right now, the targeting of young black males by law enforcement. (Don't pile on me, please. You know I'm not saying that every cop is a criminal or every sinner a saint. Bonus points to those who get the reference.) This is his right as an American and that right to assemble and protest and speak out must be protected.
Is there an argument to be made that owners had the right to cut him from the team? Yeah, maybe. Employees sign a contract with a company and must abide by the terms, just like social media sites have terms of use and if you violate those, you can be banned from the sites (and yes, I'm looking at you, Alex Jones, you nutter!). If I understand correctly, Kaepernick's lawsuit is more about the entire NFL colluding against him to keep him from playing again. I look forward to seeing how this plays out.
One of the many things to cherish about our country is that we have the right to make our voices heard. We can be loud or we can silently take a knee. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are a bunch of A-holes, but they still have the right to assemble. We also have the right to assemble in opposition to them, and there are a helluva lot more of us than there are of them.
Colin Kaepernick is not a bad person for his protests. He is someone who cares about innocent kids getting shot. Parents shouldn't have to explain to their kids how to avoid getting shot by the police while walking down the street. No one in their right mind can deny that this is a serious problem in our country, and I am glad that Kaepernick is bringing the issue out into the open and I'm glad that Nike chose him for this ad. They aren't stupid. They knew it would generate a ton of buzz, and here I am writing a blog entry about it!
Kaepernick has the right to do this, a right that is guaranteed by our Constitution. Not everyone in the world has this right.
As The Only Band That Matters said, "Know your rights!" 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Small and mean and petty

Like many of you, I listened to or watched much of John McCain's memorial services this week. Today I watched the funeral held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. 

I've been pondering this all week as I've watched, and Charlie Pierce had a good piece in Esquire that made me think that I wasn't the only one thinking that Senator McCain might have been giving the current "president" a big old eff you as he planned his own funeral.

As I watched the eulogies today, I wondered if I was over-thinking what some of the speakers were saying. Was I searching for meaning where there wasn't any? Was I projecting? Was I hoping that some of these family members and statesmen were issuing rebukes? 

Well, Meghan McCain was pretty obviously rebuking the "president," and I suspect that her death stare was directed at Ivanka and Jared on more than one occasion. But what about Presidents Bush and Obama? Was I reading too much into their words? 

Nope. I wasn't the only one who saw and heard what was happening. It wasn't just me and my friends; it was reporters covering it. They saw it, too. 

Whether it was President Bush talking about Sen. McCain detesting the abuse of power or bigots and swaggering, or President Obama saying that "our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that," they were issuing a stinging rebuke to the politics that the current "president" has foisted upon our country. 

I was struck this week by just how "small and mean and petty" this person in the Oval Office seems in comparison to Senator McCain. Believe me, I am not suddenly a person who thinks that McCain walked on water. I disagreed with him on so much and I'll never forget that he issued in this current "know-nothing" movement by his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. 

But I never once doubted that he had done his best to serve his country, that he was an honorable person, and that he loved his country. I have many doubts of the current "president" about all of these things. From "I like people who weren't captured" to this:

"It’s amazing, I can’t even believe it. I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world, it is a dangerous world out there. It’s like Vietnam, sort of. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier,” Trump said in the interview when Howard Stern asked how he handled making sure he wasn’t contracting STDs from the women he was sleeping with." (People magazine.)

Well, here's some straight talk, you miserable excuse for a human being. You were neither a great nor a very brave soldier. You were just some asshole spending his daddy's money and screwing his way through Manhattan. You don't get a Purple Heart for that, you jerk. Any dumbass can screw around. All you need is a dick. No courage is involved.

My heart goes out to the entire McCain family. I spoke at my own Dad's funeral eight and a half years ago and I know how tough it is to say goodbye and to speak during that time. Meghan, you did great and your Dad would be proud. 

Apparently, the "president" headed out to play golf after Meghan's eulogy. He also spent the morning tweeting rather than showing an ounce of respect to McCain and his family by keeping his yap shut. How shocking. Everything the "president" has done this week has highlighted how his character pales in comparison to so many others. 

Did John McCain plan this to remind us all of how politics can and should be in our country? I suspect that he did. I know that my Mom has been watching and I hope that other family and friends who support the "president" take this service and the words of the speakers to heart, as well as the decades of service that John McCain gave to his country. 

The rhetoric of the "president" is antithetical to who we are as a country, to our values, and to our Constitution. As his misdeeds begin to come back to haunt him, and as Robert Mueller closes in on him, he becomes increasingly isolated and more dangerous. Perhaps Senator McCain's death and funeral will serve to remind us all of who we are and who we want to be. 

We can hope. And we can act. Patriotism demands it. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Down the rabbit hole

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead

~~ "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane

I recently got into a brief discussion with someone when Ken brought up the subject of Alex Jones and his ban from several social media sites. (I told Ken later, "I can't punch you because you have cancer!")

I said that I thought the final straw was Jones saying that Sandy Hook was a hoax. The response was, "He didn't say that." 

I was a little taken aback and said, "Yes, he did." 

The response to that was, "There's a lot of misinformation out there. Find a clip where he said that and send it to me."

So I found the clip where he said it. Audio AND video.

And I sent it. 

Six days later, I got a response:

To all my friends and family, 
When it comes to our views on politics and religion, they are wide and varied, yet I believe we can find common ground in the bedrock of our First Amendment. We must support the right of all voices to be heard, or we will all be silenced. Please contact your government representatives urging them to reject censorship and uphold free speech. 
Respectfully, XXXXXX

That is some pure-D bullshit right there. I'm pissed. Let's break it down.

First, it was sent to only two of us. Hardly "all my friends and family." 

Second, Jones's comments were on social media sites, which have terms of use. If you violate those terms, these companies have every right to ban you from their site. 

Third, nobody is silencing Alex Jones. He still has a website and I guess he still has a radio show. I really don't know because he is not someone I pay close attention to because he is a fucking LUNATIC. This is not a censorship issue, it's an issue of hate speech, slander, fraud, and abuse of various social media platforms. 

Fourth, this Jones asshole said that the parents who lost children in a school shooting at Sandy Hook were ACTORS. That they faked their children's deaths. This is vile, unconscionable, and there is absolutely no defense of it. If you're defending this, I question both your morality and your sanity. 

Finally, this person should have had the guts to address me directly. Even if they couldn't do it in person, they should have had the decency to use my goddamn NAME in their response. My email with the video was not an attack in any way. I was kind, respectful, and loving. I was challenged to find a clip of Jones saying that Sandy Hook was a hoax because this person said, "He never said that." I found the clip and sent it to them and I got this shitty, generic response. 

No, I cannot and will not cut ties with this person for various reasons. But I have lost respect for them when it comes to this sort of thing. This showed me that they are in complete denial and will not accept any refutation of their worldview and narrative. I wrote recently that I was done trying to argue with supporters of the "president." This experience reinforces that. I attempted this outreach in good faith and this is what I got. It's not just a matter of not wanting to waste my time or energy. 

It's also that anyone who sends an email like this in response to my proof isn't worthy of debating me. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Movie time!

No Trump!
No fascist USA!

~~ Green Day chant

I don't write movie reviews very often because I'm more of a "do your own thing" kind of person. People like different things. 

But every once in a while a movie comes along that I think is so good, so clever, so powerful, or some combination of all of those things that I want to write a little bit about it and about why I recommend it so highly. 

"BlacKkKlansman" is one of those movies. We just got back from it and I'm still thinking about it and still processing my emotions. You've probably heard about the storyline because the movie has been getting a lot of buzz. A black cop begins a dialogue with the local chapter of the KKK and a fellow cop (a white guy) impersonates him to infiltrate the group. Sounds kind of implausible but it's a true story! Don't worry, no spoilers ahead. 

It was directed perfectly by Spike Lee, all of the actors were great (including a local kid-made-good, Adam Driver), and the storyline, set in 1979, resonates powerfully in today's atmosphere of divisiveness and racism. 

There are some very tense and uncomfortable moments. The racism made me feel ill. If someone had turned on the lights and looked at my face, I'm sure I had a look of disgust several times. 

There are also some laugh out loud moments. Thank you, Mr. Lee, for breaking the tension once in a while! The sly references to the orange creature occupying our White House were funny but also made me feel sad. Who would ever have thought that we'd reach this point? There is also a lovely dance scene in a club that brought a tear to my eye. It was just beautiful.

There is some good, suspenseful action-type stuff, but I won't say any more about that. We definitely get some satisfaction but it is short-lived as we are reminded in a very sobering, powerful way of what is happening in our world right now. Especially this weekend's sad one-year anniversary of the white power march in Charlottesville, Virginia. I read that Spike Lee purposely released it this weekend and I think that was a good move.

The theater was silent as the movie ended. 

It is a very powerful movie that has plenty to say. It's a message that we need to hear. And you know what? It made me feel determined. When I hear some racist white (or orange) A-hole say, "We're taking our country back," I think, "It's my country, too, motherfucker, and you're not getting it. Not without a fight." 

A great movie. You should go see it.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Politics, like rust, never sleeps

East is West, left is right
Up is down, and black is white
Inside-out, wrong is right
It's back to front and I'm all uptight

~~ "Back To Front" by The Kinks

All is well on the homefront. Ken continues to do well with his treatment and is feeling good. So it's time for a political post! I might not be as obsessive consumed as I usually am but politics ain't beanbag and politics never sleeps. 

The constant news cycle is exhausting and I have to step away at points. This week has been particularly exhausting as the "president" ramps up his attacks on Mueller and his investigation. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that a certain orange toddler is a wee bit scared! And well he should be. 

While I continue to read my political newsfeed and keep up with what is happening, I have come to a conclusion on a related matter. I'm done debating with Yampeople. Finished. I just won't do it anymore. It's a futile effort. 

This was actually a hard conclusion to come to. I feel okay about saying that I pride myself on putting forward a cogent and often convincing argument when it comes to debating things. I can be passionate and persuasive and fiery when I need to be. But this attitude towards debates assumes that the person is operating from the same place as I am—one of objective truth and verifiable facts. It has become increasingly obvious that his supporters and I are not in that same place. Hell, I sometimes wonder if we're on the same planet. 

This decision came about because of a recent CBS poll that showed that the "president's" supporters trust him for their truths over friends and family and certainly over the media. By a huge margin. So that's that. If I state a verifiable statistic and they say, "I don't believe you," we are done. I don't make this shit up and I don't just pull stuff out of my ass. If you are coming from a place where you refuse to believe something that is a verifiable reality, why am I wasting my time with you? It's very similar to anti-vaxxers and I stopped arguing with them a long time ago. 

I have friends on the left who continue to debate in the hopes that they'll reach one of those truly independent people who question what is going on and is possibly questioning their support of this "president." This is reasonable and I applaud them for it. However, I can recognize those people and if they want to reach out to me and discuss things with me, I'm happy to. But I also recognize those who will continue to support this "president" no matter what. I see the stupid, easily-debunked memes my right-wing cousin shares and the latest is learning about this bonkers Q-Anon conspiracy bullshit. If you believe that crap, I am no longer going to waste my brain cells on you. My patience is at an end. 

I still enjoy reading about what might be motivating some of these people, whether it's books like Hillbilly Elegy or others in that vein. It's an interesting exercise and I learn things but I'm never going to be able to relate to someone who completely ignores facts and blindly accepts what someone is telling them. I just can't. There are all kinds of stories about trying to reach out to these voters and bring them back to the Democratic fold. Why? Why waste your time, resources, and energy? The "persuadables" are easily identified. Watch a couple of minutes of that rabid crowd at the rally in Tampa yelling "CNN sucks!" and the lovely flower flipping the double bird at the camera and tell me if anything you say can convince these people that they are getting duped. 

If you tried, you'd probably get back something like, "I don't care. I like him because he tells it like it is and he talks just like me." Well, if you're an ignorant racist yahoo, you're right. He does talk just like you. 

There are certainly non-stupid people who follow him and if they have rational arguments, I'll talk to them if they want. I still have hopes for those people. But I've decided that it really is pointless to seek out a debate. I've lost my objectivity and I'm sure my disdain and frustration would show through. (I have a terrible poker face.) But I'll keep doing my thing and posting my opinions and they can make up their own mind. 

So what to do if we don't reach out to them and try to understand them? That's easy. 

We beat 'em. 

Our friend Bob and his daughter Una have an album coming out this fall. Here is their video of the title track, "For Tomorrow." Put this in your ear and eyeholes and get fired up and ready to go. The protest song lives!