Wednesday, December 27, 2017

NPR's Top Political Story of the Year Bracket

NPR had a fun story today about the top political story of 2017. What made it fun was that they treated it like an NCAA tournament bracket, even seeding the stories in each division! (If you're unfamiliar with NCAA brackets, each division has 16 teams. The favored team in each division gets the Number 1 seed, on down to the 16th seed. In the early rounds, the #1 seed faces the #16, the #2 faces the #15, and so forth. That's a really simplified explanation, but I think you get the gist.)

Since I'm both a sports fan and a political junkie, I was all over that! I printed out my bracket and filled it out a moment ago. I think NPR did a good job with the seeds, giving the most significant stories the higher rankings. When I filled mine out, I tried to think about the long-term significance of each story, the impact it had, and the repercussions. I tried to focus on what happened in 2017 and not what will happen as we move into 2018 (and that has major significance when it comes to my pick for the winner, as you will see). I had a couple of lower seeds make it to the second round, but by the time I got to the Elite 8, I had nothing lower than a #5 seed, so NPR did a good job. 

I will freely admit that I am biased in some of my choices, but I really did try to evaluate in the terms of impact rather than my feelings. I'll explain my choices as I get into the Elite 8. You can click the pic to embiggenate and the original NPR story is "Pick The Biggest Political Story Of 2017."

My Sweet 16

1 Trump inaugurated vs 4 Women's March
3 Natural disasters vs 2 Undermine democratic institutions

1 Mueller probe vs 5 McCain thumbs down
3 Gutting Obamacare vs 2 Charlottesville

1 Sexual harassment fallout vs 8 Bannon out
3 Gun violence vs 2 "Alternative facts"

1 Comey fired vs 5 Paris deal withdrawal
3 Gorsuch to SCOTUS vs 2 Tax overhaul passes

My Elite 8

4 Women's March vs 2 Undermine democratic institutions
1 Mueller probe vs 2 Charlottesville
1 Sexual harassment fallout vs 2 "Alternative facts"
1 Comey fired vs 2 Tax overhaul passes

Now I'll start my commentary. I chose Undermine democratic institutions over the Women's March, although the latter was a personal favorite. While I feel that the Women's March the day after the inauguration was an energizing and important moment that galvanized us and made us realize that we had a powerful voice when raised with that of others, I think the undermining of democratic institutions is going to have a lingering and damaging effect on our democracy. We continue to see our judicial system, our law enforcement agencies, and our free press attacked. This is a major problem going forward even after we get rid of the orange stain that is marring our country. 

While Charlottesville was a big deal indeed, showing exactly where the "president's" sympathies lie, the Mueller probe has to be the winner here. It really has been a cloud over this administration and has hampered his ability to get anything done. This is also an ongoing issue, one that is not, as some people have deluded themselves into believing, going to "wrap up soon."

While "alternative facts" are significant in the same way that the undermining of democratic institutions is, I picked Sexual harassment fallout as the winner here. This represents a significant cultural change in how women are treated in our society and we've already seen political changes because of it. 

The passing of the tax bill was significant in that it was the first major legislative win for this administration, and while there will be repercussions that affect millions, this can be changed to be more progressive when we're back in the driver's seat. So Comey's firing was the obvious choice for me here. More about that as we move forward. 

My Final Four

2 Undermining democratic institutions vs 1 Mueller probe
1 Sexual harassment fallout vs 1 Comey fired

Gotta go with the Mueller probe in the first match-up. I mean, we're talking about an investigation of Russia's involvement in our presidential election and whether or not one of the campaigns colluded with the Russians. As Joe Biden would say, that's a big fucking deal. It also is touching on whether or not the "president" obstructed justice in firing James Comey, which could be an impeachable offense. 

So for the second match-up, I had to go with the firing of James Comey. Even Steve Bannon has said that firing Comey was probably the biggest political blunder in recent history. Since Comey didn't just fall off the turnip truck, he did a little maneuvering, which resulted in the appointment of a special counsel, one Robert Mueller.

That means that my championship game is...

#1 seed Mueller probe vs
#1 seed Comey fired

Wow! What a tournament finale! Two worthy stories that are woven together in significant ways. Two stoic, professional prosecutors, both former Directors of the FBI. Two cool customers who know their way around a courtroom and know how to get a conviction. I'd tailgate the hell out of that game! 

Okay, you guys probably know the story I'm going to pick as the winner. Yes, it's the firing of James Comey. However, it's not because of my Comey crush, and it does come with a caveat. Or an asterisk, if I want to continue with the sports metaphors. 

I chose it because I think it is the story that had the most impact and most significant repercussions for 2017. When you-know-who fired Comey, events were set into motion like a weird political Rube Goldberg machine. The intricacies of it fascinate me. Comey was directing the FBI probe into possible Yampaign collusion with the Russians, Comey knew that Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself from that investigation, Comey knew something was seriously hinky with the way the "president" was acting and documented it all, Comey got fired, the "president" wouldn't shut up about it on Twitter, and when he mentioned possible tapes of the meeting with Comey, Comey strategically released one of the memos he'd written (in a deliberate manner so that it was unclassified) to a friend and asked him to contact a reporter, hoping that it would result in the appointment of a special counsel to investigate. 

And that is exactly what happened and how Mueller was appointed. Man, if that isn't some Zen master-level maneuvering, I don't know what is. The investigation hasn't just continued, it has ramped up and is going to get even more heated in 2018, in my opinion. I think there is plenty of shady stuff going on for Mueller to dig into and he's going to turn up a lot. 

Which brings me to my asterisk. While the firing of Comey is my pick for the political story of 2017, I think the Mueller investigation could very well be the political story of 2018. I tried to evaluate based on the impact in the current year rather than what might happen down the road. So if Mueller really does turn up some damning stuff on the "president," that wouldn't just be the political story of 2018...that would be the biggest political story since Clinton's impeachment hearings. 

I think the moral of this story would have to be: Piss off the Intelligence Community at your own risk. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Lucy Saves The Day

And so this is Christmas....

"Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon

Happy Chrimbo, pals!

Technically, I started this entry on Christmas Eve, but you get the drift. Like a snowdrift, am I right?! Yes, we are having a white Christmas here at Nutwood. It really is pretty.

I found myself sitting here tonight feeling on the verge of melancholy. I had to ponder that for a while because I really don't get the blues around the holidays. I'm generally a cheery person, anyway, so I was at a bit of a loss as to why I was starting to feel this way.

I mean, our little silver tree is up and the color wheel is going and it makes me smile as much as it always does. All the wrapping is done and I can always count on Ken to find me some fun and unusual stuff, so we'll have fun opening our presents. We'll have mimosas as we open. Our niece Jen is visiting from San Diego and we get to see her tomorrow as well as be around the rest of my immediate family, and we get to eat lasagna.

Beyond my little sphere, I'm seeing wonderful pictures and holiday wishes from everyone, including my homey James Comey, who which us all, no matter what we believe or think, peace. His pal Benjamin Wittes, dismayed by the recent attacks by this administration on the FBI and the Intelligence Community, urged people to donate to the FBI Agents Association, which helps family members of agents in need and provides college scholarships to the children of slain agents. It looks as though they got tons of donations and I was happy to be a little part of letting the FBI know that the majority of us appreciate them.

So all of these are good things. Why the twinge of melancholy?

I finally realized what it was. It is the utter mean-spiritedness of the person currently occupying the Oval Office. Most of us try to set differences aside during the holidays and bask in the glow of kindness and generosity to others. Donating to the FBI Agents Association made me feel better than anything I'll receive on Christmas Da. Watching the political shows Sunday morning, Chuck Todd and Jake Tapper were throwing Merry Christmases and Happy Hanukkahs at everyone, and it was nice. Even if you disagree with someone politically, it's a good moment to set all that aside and just be kind to one another.

But not the "president." He's holed up in his stupid golf resort and posting shitty tweets about the FBI, Comey, Andrew McCabe, and "Fake News." Jesus Christ, man, can you set your ego and paranoia aside for one moment and just be KIND to people? Instead of tossing out schoolyard taunts? "Leakin' James Comey. For Pete's sake. Grow up already. (And the only think Comey's leakin' is integrity and stone cold foxitude. You know I'm right.)

So that's what was making me feel down. Nothing bad in my own personal life. It's that the person who is supposed to be the moral compass of our country is bringing our entire national discourse down with his stupid mean tweets. Instead of inspiring and uplifting us, he is doing his best to drag us down to his level. He is a demotivational poster come to life.

A totally unexpected person lifted me out of my looming funk. I had music on but still had the TV on after a football game, muted. As I started writing this, I looked up and saw that CBS was airing the colorized "I Love Lucy" Christmas special, so I had to turn off the music and watch Lucy. Within moments, I was laughing so hard I was crying. While I love the original black and white series (and have the whole thing on DVD, of course), there is something special about seeing her vibrant red hair and seeing them all as you would expect to see them in real life. The episode after the Christmas special was one set in Hollywood, and the colors of the hotel room and the dresses were a sight to behold.

Ken even came out of this office to take a short work break and watched a little bit and was laughing as hard as I was. In one scene, Lucy was trying to act cool in this chic Hollywood dress shop, and of course, she stumbles and falls walking up the stairs. I cracked up and said, "Do you understand why she's one of my idols?" Ken said, "Because she was clumsier than you?" I had to admit that that is part of it!

Thank you, Lucy. Even all these years later, you can still make me laugh and make me happy.

You see, that's what the best among us do. People can inspire us in many ways. FBI agents can work as a team to foil a terrorist plot planned for Christmas day. Others can wish people peace and happy holidays, despite their differing political or religious beliefs. Some might be gone from us but have left a legacy of laughter and can brighten our day when we need it the most. Some create art and music and stories that make us think and maybe even help us reflect on who we are and where we want to be.

The best among us uplift and inspire and do their best to help, inform, or entertain others. They make us want to be better people.

The worst among us?

They send out shitty tweets.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Senator Franken did the right thing

I don't feel happy about writing this. I don't have a song in my heart and I don't want to include another photo of Al Franken looking downcast as he exits the Senate building. So here is a picture of Sheeba.

I also realize that I'm going to piss off some of my pals on the left with this post. It won't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last. I might even lose a few friends over it. But I need to say this, if only to get my own thoughts in order about it. 
Before I write anything else, I would recommend that you read this piece by David Atkins writing for Washington Monthly, titled "Defending Franken is Neither Moral Nor Pragmatic." He articulated my thoughts quite well but I want to add my own.
Let me start by saying that I love Al Franken. I loved him on SNL and I loved him as a Senator. He was a great progressive voice and he did plenty of good during his time in the Senate. I loved his most recent book and it remains my favorite of 2017, although it pains me a bit to say so. 
Since he resigned, I've seen plenty of friends on the left say that he was wrong to do so and that Senate Democrats (led by female Senate Dems) were wrong to force him out. I've seen the argument that what he did wasn't "as bad" as what the "president" did and what Roy Moore has been accused of doing. I've seen conspiracy theories about how it was all a right-wing plot and a deliberate attempt to get him out of the Senate.  
I've read through all of these things and while I understand the points that many are trying to make, I just can't get past the fact that there are multiple women who have told very similar stories. If we are going to believe the stories of the accusers of the "president" and Roy Moore, we cannot ignore the accusers of Senator Franken.
This smacks of cherry-picking to me. It pisses me off when people do it with religion, it pisses me off when people do it with science, and I'm learning that it pisses me off when people do it with sexual harassment allegations. You can't just decide that one person is a credible accuser and another isn't. That's not to say that some accusers can't be proven to be lying about it, but that is not what we are seeing now.
I feel that we cannot continue to rail against the piggish and abusive behavior of people like the "president" and Moore if we ignore the piggish and abusive behavior of those in our own ranks. If the past couple of months have shown us anything, it's that sexual aggression and disrespect toward women (and occasionally other men) knows no political boundaries. Both sides do it.
Our side has done it.
If we are going to accept and work toward a cultural shift in the way women are treated in our society, we must admit that our side has its own faults and we must work on them and vow to do better. Ignoring Franken's accusers does the opposite.
As for the argument that the other side has done worse and they are getting away with it, that is a lazy argument that lowers the bar rather than raising it. I understand that politics is a rough business and that sometimes you have to be a honey badger in order to win, but that doesn't mean that we have to stoop to allowing our candidates or politicians to wallow in the mud right along with the other pigs.
I demand better. We all should. I know that I am not alone in my dismay about the coarsened political discourse of the last year or two. That doesn't mean that I am ready to start behaving that way, too (although I might say more in private discussions than I do online). I still believe that we are capable of reasonable discussion and that compromise is not necessarily a bad thing. 
Beyond that simple fact, we need to be more like President Obama and play the long game here. While Sen. Franken's presence in the Senate would be a good thing, we have to think about what will be happening in 2018 and 2020. How can we maintain the moral high ground and campaign against the serial abusers on their side if we give those on our side a pass? We can't. Not only is that the wrong thing to do ethically, it is the wrong thing to do politically. Which is exactly what Mr. Atkins was writing about in his article. 
I know that it's frustrating to see this playing out. I'm frustrated, too. I still think that Sen. Franken was a good Senator and I believe that he helped a lot of people in Minnesota and in the country. But we cannot and must not hold their side to one standard and our own to another. I'm all about fairness. If our side does something wrong, we need to acknowledge it. Does the other side always do that? I laughed when I wrote that sentence. Of course, they don't.
But that doesn't mean that it is now okay to do the same things that they do.
Democrats need to stand on our policies.
We are on the side of human rights, we are on the side of equality in all aspects of our society, we are on the side of working people. We are on the side of making the über-rich pay more than their fair share because they want for very little and can afford to do so. We are on the side of those who need a hand up in order to get out of a bad situation, whether it is addiction, debt, poverty, or abuse. And yes, we are on the side of women, because we want to control our own bodies, we want to be believed when we tell our supervisors that we were harassed, we want our kids to have a fair shot at a better life, and we want to be able to get out of abusive relationships.
We must be on the right side of things. I am truly sorry that Senator Franken was one of the sacrificial lambs, although that is probably too innocent of a metaphor. But it simply had to happen that way.
More women are running for office in 2018 than we've ever seen. We are motivated, we are ready to work, and we are pissed off. Tolerance of the bad behavior of someone (or someones) on our own side is not going to give us any credibility or moral authority when we run against hypocrites.
Hold the high ground, Democrats. Not only is it the smart thing to do, it's the RIGHT thing to do. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Bogeyman Is Dead

Criminy, there is just way too much going on right now to write about it all and some of it is more than a little disturbing, so I think I’ll write about something fun: the death of Charles Manson.

Okay, there really is nothing fun about it. I’m not making light of this and I’m not trying to be glib. You might notice that there are no song lyrics or a music video accompanying this post. Nothing about this makes me have a song in my heart. I even struggled to come up with a photograph to use for this post, because I really didn’t want to post one of Manson or any of his happy followers. So I chose Linda Kasabian, who was a follower, but after driving the getaway car on the night of the Tate murder, was appalled and chose to help the prosecution by telling everything she knew. While she was part of the Family, she was instrumental in putting the majority of them in prison, including Manson.

Like many people my age, I am morbidly fascinated by those murders. I was only 7-years-old when they happened, so I really don’t remember much about it other than my parents being worried about us all being murdered in our home. When the Bugliosi book, Helter Skelter, came out in the early ‘70s, my parents read it and I suppose I read it not too long after that. I still remember the paperback. Some interesting reading for a girl in middle school, that’s for sure, but I don’t recall my folks being upset with me for reading it.

So in an odd way, the Manson Family and the murders were a part of my childhood. There was the strange, train-wreck thrill of learning about this horrific murder, but there was also an element of being fascinated by the whole thing. I admit this without shame, because I was a kid coming of age, and I was trying to find my way through the world. There has always been a part of me that wondered that if I had been born a decade earlier, or in another place, I might have become part of that scene. Not the Manson Family, necessarily, but I had a fascination with the counterculture and a desire to be different. To rebel. I’m glad I realized pretty quickly that that would have been a horrible option. I might be a rebel, but I’m a peaceful one.

Manson was kind of a shadow over my formative years. I’m still fascinated by the whole thing and I loved the show “Aquarius,” and I’ve got a couple of books to read concerning his miserable life. I don’t mean it to sound as weird as I’m sure it does, but I’ve always had a morbid fascination about killers. It’s not that I revere them—quite the opposite—or that I like them in any way, shape, or form.

I’m fascinated by the psychology of it all and by what happened to them that made them that way. By all accounts, Manson’s childhood was miserable and abusive. Was he hardwired to be a murderer or did his circumstances turn him into one? How does an Ed Gein happen? Or a Jeffrey Dahmer? Is it solely mental illness or a combination of factors? What causes people to follow someone like Manson and to kill at his bidding? If I had grown up in a different place or in different circumstances, would I have been vulnerable to that type of manipulation?
These are all things that I think about. So when I read last night that Manson had died, I felt a strange combination of relief and sorrow. Relief that this monster is no longer upon this earth, sorrow for his victims (both the murdered innocents and those who fell prey to his murderous ideology). Relief that maybe I don’t need to wonder anymore if I would have been vulnerable to such manipulation. I even felt a measure of sorrow that he had such a horrible childhood and that maybe that’s what made him become what he was. I wonder if he’d gotten better care, including psychological care, as a child, would he have been able to live a relatively normal life?

I’ve seen people posting that he can rot in hell. I don’t believe in hell, so I can’t say that. He is now exactly where we will all end up. Dead and gone. The only thing that will be left for any of us is our legacy. His is a terrible one and nothing can erase that.

It strikes me as strange that these murders that happened a couple of thousand miles away from where I grew up and ones that I don’t remember happening at the time cast such a shadow on me. I honestly don’t know what to make of that. I remember that my Mom got Susan Atkins’s book where she wrote about her having her jailhouse conversion and becoming “born again.” I read it back then and I wouldn’t mind reading it again.

I remember thinking then that it seemed like an easy way out of the horrible things you’d done. No matter what you had done, God would forgive you. (A while back, I read Henry Lee Lucas’s book in which he had the same jailhouse conversion. That seems to happen a lot.) I wonder if that was apart of my disillusion with the dogma of certain types of religion? It still seems odd to me that some would condemn those who don’t believe exactly the way they do to “hell,” but people like Susan Atkins get a pass because, hey, she accepted the Lord and repented! That still bothers me a lot.

I have felt very at-odds today, very unsettled. I think there is an element of him being a bogeyman of my childhood and now he’s dead. He loomed large over our collective conscience and never quite seemed to fade away into obscurity. He is probably the most evil (and I rarely throw that word around) and notorious person of my lifetime. And he’s dead.

I don’t celebrate anyone’s death. But I guess I can be okay with the death of someone who was a shadowy, menacing part of my formative years.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

No Puppet, You’re the Puppet

This is the fairy story of a tangerine puppet.

~~ “Tangerine Puppet” by Donovan

He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.' And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.

~~ The President* of the United States

There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever.

~~ James Comey

Master of Puppets
Today we had the pleasure of hearing were subjected to the current Resident of the People’s House telling the world that he believes a former KGB Colonel over America’s Intelligence agencies, including the FBI, the DIA, and the CIA. He specifically called out certain directors of these agencies, including James Clapper, John Brennan, and dear James Comey as being “political hacks.” He did this while overseas on his big Asia trip. He demeaned, disparaged, and defamed our Intelligence agencies while on foreign soil.

Over the past year, he has done plenty of things to disgust and enrage me. This is among the worst things he’s done.

To begin with...Vladimir Putin? Seriously? This is not a nice guy, he does not want to play nice with America, and he does not do nice things to people who oppose him. He is the definition of NOT NICE. He was not a nice person when he was in the KGB and he is not a nice person now. What is this strange obsession that the Resident has with Putin? Why does he toady up to him? I’m not a psychiatrist and I don’t play one on TV, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would see it as a dominance/submission thing. The Resident knows that Putin is the stronger and more dominant personality and so he instinctively wants to curry favor with him. He longs for the approval he can get from pleasing the more dominant personality. To go a little further, I’d be willing to bet that it stems from his father issues. By all accounts, his father was a distant, domineering figure who offered little in the way of love or empathy to his son. So he instinctively cowers before someone who is more dominant.

Or maybe he’s just a big jerk! That’s a distinct possibility.

But what really burns my bacon is that the Resident is going after our Intelligence Community. I’ll be the first to admit that they make mistakes and need to be committed to working on identifying those mistakes and working on them. I believe that they generally try to do that.

I believe ^THIS^ guy.
These are devoted men and women who work diligently to find those who would do us harm and to stop them from doing it. They put their lives on the line to catch the Bad Guys and I am grateful for them. I wonder how many attacks they have stopped and how many lives they have saved?

It strikes me that the Intelligence Community is the vaccines of the political world. By that, I mean that they are victims of their own success. Vaccines work behind the scenes with little fanfare. Vaccines save lives. But people get complacent. “Oh, no one gets measles anymore. No one gets whooping cough anymore. I don’t need to get my kid vaccinated.” You know why you don’t see a lot of measles or whooping cough anymore? Because VACCINES, you tool! So because vaccines have been so successful in preventing these infectious diseases, you think that there is no risk of your kid getting one of them. That is horribly wrong, and we are seeing far too many results of outbreaks due to this kind of mistaken thinking.

How is the IC similar? They are also victims of their own success. They work behind the scenes to ferret out those who want to hurt us. They save lives by finding these plots and stopping them. We get complacent and say, “Oh, we haven’t had a big terrorist attack in years. We need to curtail the Intelligence agencies and we can even cut their budgets. They don’t have that much to do now.” You know why we haven’t had a big terrorist attack along the lines of 9/11? Because of the INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY, you tool! They are working to protect us every damn day, often at the risk of their own lives. They don’t crow a lot about their successes, probably because if we knew how many attacks they have thwarted, we’d have a hard time sleeping at night. Sometimes I wonder how they do. Their work has to take an incredible toll on them personally, emotionally, and probably physically. Yet they do this to keep America safe.

So when I hear the Resident saying that he believes Putin over these hard-working Americans who are devoted to keeping our country safe, I just want to flip the table over and rage against the machine. His comments are horrible and absurd and have no basis in fact. Talk about a useful idiot.

And Brennan, Clapper, and Comey are “political hacks?”

I know a political hack when I see one. And they ain’t it.


Never ever touch that kitten, no, no, no
Now roll up your tongue
And put it back in your head
Wipe that silly grin off your face
It's gonna be more than
Just your fingers get red
Boy, I'm putting you in your place

~~ “Don’t Touch The Kitten” by Kitten and the Hip

There is so much to write about today that I had a hard time picking one thing. I’m really fascinated by the crazyass spy shit going down with Michael Flynn and other players but maybe I’ll write about that later this weekend.

What really weighed on my mind today, though, was everything coming out about sexual harassment and assault allegations against numerous men. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard all about them, so I won’t list them all here. I’d like to get to bed at some point tonight.

My feelings have run the gamut from disgust to rage to sorrow. It has also caused me to have some unpleasant flashbacks to my own experiences. Nothing that I experienced was as bad as what many others have experienced, but it left a mark on me nonetheless. So much so that I remember them quite well decades later. I think I’ve written about them before, but I’m going to write about them again, because there is a theme here, both with my experiences and that of others.

In my first job, in addition to working as a technologist in the lab, I had to go up to the floors and do phlebotomy. I was in the Cardiac Care Unit one evening shift to do a blood draw on a patient. The patient was a difficult stick and I didn’t get it on the first try. The cardiologist happened to be in there with the patient, and he put his hands around my waist—he really grabbed me and squeezed me a little—and moved me out of the way. He said to the (male) patient, “I bet it doesn’t hurt as much when they’re as pretty as this one, does it?” When I went back down to the lab, I was shaking. My coworkers asked me what was wrong and I told them about it. I eventually talked to the lab supervisor and apparently there had been other complaints from nurses who said that he behaved inappropriately with them. This same doctor would call the lab and yell at whoever answered the phone and on one occasion, called one of my coworkers a cunt. As far as I know, no disciplinary action was ever taken against him.

My ex-husband and I were out boating with his brother and his wife. I was heading back with my sister-in-law and my ex and his brother were joining us later. My ex leaned in the passenger window to give me a kiss and he grabbed my breast and squeezed it, right there in front of my sister-in-law. I told him later to never do that again because it was disrespectful, and he never did.

In my second job when I was working evenings, I was informed by one of my friends, a guy on the same shift, that another guy was going around telling people in graphic detail exactly what he wanted to do to me. I confronted the guy and told him to stop it, and if he didn’t, I’d go to HR. He denied it and I said deny it all you want, but cut it out or I’m going to HR and I’m going to file a harassment suit. I never heard about any other incidents where he was talking about me to the other guys on evening shift.

There have been various and sundry incidents over the years (getting groped in a club, for instance), but those three are the main ones that have stuck with me. As I’ve thought about it over the years, I realized that the common denominator was what I mentioned in the second incident: disrespect.

In two of the three incidents I was working as a professional, and their actions reduced me to nothing more than a bag of meat. I wasn’t a woman with a science degree. I wasn’t working to help patients. I was just a walking cock holster. What a diminishment of my abilities and of ME, Beth, someone who learned and went through a lot of training to do the job I did. As I look back, I am stunned at just how disrespectful and demeaning it was.

In one way, I was fortunate in having the profession I did, which was a female-dominated one. I had a couple of creepy male bosses over the years, but none that ever made any moves on me or made me feel threatened or made me feel like my job was threatened. Not every woman is that fortunate.

The other incident involved my own husband, which is appalling in its own right. He felt that it was okay to grope me in front of others, like I was a possession rather than a partner.

Aside from disrespect and diminishment, there’s another D (and no, it’s not DICK, although that obviously plays a part). Dominance. Such harassment is an obvious attempt to exert dominance, but it also happens in subtler ways. Interruptions, overtalking, condescending remarks. We’ve all experienced that to a certain degree. Sexual harassment is a more overt form of attempting to dominate.

So as I’ve been thinking about this stuff for the past few weeks, I’ve watched more and more women tell their stories. Talk about power in numbers! Just knowing that we aren’t alone in these experiences is empowering. I had a male friend on Facebook ask me this morning what I thought was going to happen going forward...that it seems that women are being believed now whereas in the past they weren’t believed or were demonized for coming forward.

I said that this feels like a tipping point to me. (I’m not the first to use that phrase about this subject. I’ve seen it used several times. It’s a good description, so I’m using it, too.) People like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. are experiencing major fallout from the accusations. I’m not sure their careers can be recovered or rehabilitated. My hope is that as we move forward, men will start to think about their actions and how it might impact their careers and think twice before acting on their impulses. It would be nice if they would think about how it’s just FUCKING CREEPY BEHAVIOR, but I guess we’ll take what we can get. That won’t happen overnight, but I think we have indeed reached that point on the teeter-totter where we are seeing inexorable movement.

I think it also means that women just aren’t going to take this crap anymore. I expect more women to speak up and speak out. I think that will happen in the workplace, too. When I look back on my incidents, it didn’t even occur to me to not speak up. I felt that the behavior was inappropriate, creepy, and unfair. It seems that even in my 20s and 30s, I had a low tolerance for bullshit! But not every woman has felt able to speak up, especially in male-dominated careers. I think we have seen a complete change in that in the matter of about a month, which is absolutely astonishing. We’ll see if it starts happening in the political world, too.

Speaking of that, I’ll mention one related thing. Back in January, a Republican legislator in Virginia made a sexist remark on social media about the women’s march. Something to the effect of “I hope they get done in time to get home and make dinner.” A Virginia woman saw that and it pissed her off. She decided to run for that guy’s seat in the legislature and damned if that nasty woman didn’t beat his misogynist ass! I raise my glass to her!

As I told Ken tonight, to use that line from “Network,” “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” A lot of us are feeling that way. And a lot of good men are stepping up and saying to the harassers, “No. This is wrong and it stops now.” Together we can change things. I believe that.

I’m not even going to get into Roy Moore tonight, because that walking slimetrail needs his own entry.

But I do feel like there has been a seismic shift in things. Don’t you? This snowball is only going to get bigger.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Just For One Day

And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be Heroes, just for one day

~~ “Heroes” by David Bowie

I promise that this isn’t going to turn into a “Today in James Comey News” blog. Although this is a wee bit about him, there is a broader subject here: our collective need for heroes.

I thought of this because as I’ve followed his Twitter feed and watched his number of followers continue to climb (so much so that his pal Benjamin Wittes jokingly complained about how Comey already has a lot more followers than he does), I’ve seen a common theme in what people tweet to him. Basically, it’s thank you for your service and courage in speaking out and standing up to the “president.” He also seems to have a devoted female following, so it’s not just me! But overall, I get the impression that people see him as a person of integrity who is trying to do what is right.

I know, I know...there are still those who think he is a partisan hack. He’s also attracting an increasing contingent of trolls who think he should be locked up. That’s not going to happen but nothing good comes from arguing with those people. I’m also not going to argue with my friends who are still mad at him about the email thing and don’t see him—or the FBI, for that matter—as any sort of hero. I’ve laid out my reasons for why I changed my mind about him and came to believe that he made the decisions he felt he had to as Director of the FBI. I’m not going to relitigate that.

But I’m seeing a genuine desire for justice. People talk about their “Justice Crushes,” including Comey, Mueller, and other lawyers and legal types who are either working on the investigation or providing commentary on complex legal matters. We are experiencing what many of us consider to be a truly dangerous attack on our republic and on its checks and balances. It seems that the judicial branch is what is keeping our heads above water right now and stopping the “president” from going full-on dictator.

So it is no wonder that we see people like Comey and Mueller, stolid, stoic, and implacable, as heroes of sorts. The mental image (whether true or not) of Comey being appalled by the new “president,” disgusted by his requests for a pledge of loyalty as well as overstepping the boundaries of the necessary separation of the president and the Department of Justice resonates with all of us who have ever had a boss we found to be acting unfairly or unethically. The mental image of Robert Mueller, working diligently to ferret out any whiff of corruption in this White House or the campaign, is important to those of us who want justice to be served. We’re not talking about blowjobs here...this is about possible interference by a hostile foreign power trying to do us harm and possibly enlisting members of a campaign to help them (even if they may have been useful idiots). As Comey said, “This is a big deal.” And as Joe Biden said about something different, “This is a big fucking deal.” (Still applicable to this, though.)

We want the bad guys to be caught and we want to see them brought to justice for their crimes. That is engraved in our collective consciousness. When we see cops chasing down and tackling someone who committed a crime, when we see the FBI working doggedly to track down terrorists, when we see prosecutors building a case to convict, when we see justice prevail, it is something that makes us feel that things are working the way they are supposed to and it makes us feel safer.

Is the system perfect? Far from it. Guilty people go free. Innocent people are jailed and sometimes even executed (that’s why I can no longer support capital punishment). We see miscarriages of justice (I’m talking to you, O.J.) followed by the meting out of justice (I’m talking to you, O.J.). We see mistreatment of people and wrongful deaths. No, it is not a perfect system, and we need to keep having the conversations in order to make it better and better. Those conversations should never stop.

Heroes take many forms. I have friends who are heroes to me because they have turned their own personal tragedies into advocacy for various causes. We encounter everyday heroes who stand up to bullies or stop on a highway to help someone change a tire or push someone out of a snowy ditch. These are little actions that help make the world a better place.

We all have that potential; it’s just a matter of doing what is right and helping others when we can. I think we all feel that deep down, so seeing people like Comey (talk about standing up to a bully!) or Mueller seeking justice is something that speaks to us all.

I don’t know what will happen. I can only hope that justice will be served. Served like the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen.

Tuesday’s Good Tidings and Great Joy

If the phone rings
Tell him nothing
Or maybe one thing
That hell is coming
'Cause he wasted your time
In a year you'll be mine

~~ “Drinking Lightning” by AWOLNATION

Believe it or not, I didn’t obsessively watch election coverage Tuesday night. Even I have my limits, and watching returns from the Governor’s race in Virginia seemed a little much. Besides, we went out for dinner and then to a Notre Dame men’s basketball game (our first of the season!), so I focused on that and left politics behind for a few hours.

But after the game, we listened to CNN on the way home and learned about the good night for the Democrats. It wasn’t until later, when I read more in-depth analysis of how good a night it was, that I realized that we had kicked some serious ass.

I can’t pretend to know what this bodes for the 2018 midterm elections. We are still a year away from that. But Tuesday was a very good night. It was if a switch had suddenly been flipped. Like many of my fellow Democrats, I have been dealing with occasional feelings of despair and dread throughout the past year. As I’ve written, I do my best to cope by using various tactics, including music, books, and the goodwill and good cheer of family and friends. It works most of the time (at least for me), but I still have my dark days and my angry moments.

Tuesday night changed all that. Various people tweeted about how our hope is back. I absolutely agree. But I said that it is more than that: it is EMPOWERMENT. Just as we fought against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, people have been working on campaigns that fight for progressive principles, and we won BIG Tuesday night.

This is the most hope I have felt for a year. People are motivated, people are pushing back against the Yamagenda, and people are saying “Enough!” This is an amazing thing to watch! We are seeing that our efforts are having results and that is a powerful thing. It is a reminder that political efforts at the most basic level (canvassing, phone banking) can accomplish something.

If any of my fellow Democrats are still feeling despair, I say, “Take heart!” The people of America are standing up and speaking out against hatred, bigotry, and divisiveness. We are speaking out for diversity and inclusiveness. There is still plenty of work to be done but enjoy Tuesday night’s victories for what they were: a rejection of those who seek to divide and sow seeds of hatred and bigotry.

Forward, Warriors. Our mission is clear, our hearts are true, and the democratic process in our country is not dead yet! Let’s work!

Hey, check it out...I made it through an entry without mentioning James Comey! (Jaaaaames.)

Dang it! (An entry about that coming soon.)