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.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Same Old Game

Every day just the same
Old rules for the same old game
All I gained was heartache

~~ “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” by The Police

Yesterday, I was feeling lowdown, dirty, and mean. Just kind of generally pissed off at the state of affairs right now, you know? I’m still pretty pissed off about the stranglehold the NRA has on our nation, but today was mo bettah.

This is purely instinctual and most of you know that I don’t like to deal in gut feelings very often. I want facts and rational thinking. But I also know that sometimes you get a feeling about a person when you meet can just tell that they’re a bullshitter, or that they’re full of themselves, or that there is something inauthentic about them. I’ve learned to trust those instincts as I’ve gotten older. That’s why I knew early on that the Yam was the King of the Bullshitters, and I have been proven right over and over again.

So anyway, today I felt a subtle change in our nationwide gun debate. To be clear, I don’t think that anything will be done soon, because we apparently have a bunch of ball-less wonders in Congress (and that includes both sides and both genders) who love their handouts from the NRA. Do I expect any forthcoming legislation? Nope. And that makes me feel as sick and disgusted with things as ever.

I can’t put my finger on it but something just seems a little different. I could very well be wrong and I might just be putting my own confirmation bias on it. But this is two horrific shootings in just a few days and I wonder if some people aren’t starting to wonder if this is how we really want to live as a nation. It will forever be to our shame that we didn’t do something after Sandy Hook and we all bear that shame. (Some of us more than others.)

There was also something off about all the “thoughts and prayers” comments that were spewed everywhere today. It seemed as though lawmakers were just spouting the usual lines and that even they didn’t believe them anymore. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is sick of these useless platitudes.

Nothing is solved and nothing will be solved for the foreseeable future. This is a hard truth to accept. But it is also a truth that the majority of Americans want to see strengthened background checks and common sense gun laws. Will that solve every problem or prevent every mass shooting? No. But can we at least start fucking somewhere? Why is that so difficult? It’s a reasonable question.

Yet another gratuitous Comey photo
Last night, I immersed myself in “The Walking Dead.” Today, I stayed home and did my best to get back to my Happy Place™, or at least a place where I wasn’t filled with disgust and rage. I succeeded pretty well. (When I heard Ted Cruz speaking, I decided that enough was enough, and I switched over to music.)

I found some joy today as James Comey switched to his real name on Twitter and he is 100% his own self on there now (and a verified account, to boot). Those books aren’t gonna sell themselves, right? He’s good at the slow tease on Twitter. I should probably rephrase that, but I’ll let it stand. I put on my dangly silver peace sign earrings and that made me happy, too. Sometimes it’s the little things.

I can’t snap my fingers or wiggle my nose and make things better. But I can make an effort to find some peace in my own little corner of the world, and then I’ll go from there. Gotta put your own oxygen mask on before helping others, right?

Here’s the mono version of this great song. I think it has an interesting sound to it, and I might like it better than the album version.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

More coping

You came along and you made things right
You are my song and you are my melody

~~ “Melody” by *repeat repeat

Well, it’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?

The Mueller investigation is bearing fruit, so that was a positive thing. I’m grateful for that.

I was happy to be at the Notre Dame-Wake Forest game on Saturday and see a win. It was crummy weather and we got rained on a lot, but we got the win. And it didn’t snow!

But things took an ugly turn.

I’m still trying to find the positives in things. I’m trying really hard.

Another gratuitous James Comey photo (Jaaaaaames)
At the game on Saturday, I got to experience some of the right-wing’s hatred of Hillary and I attempted to use an approach that James Comey (Jaaaaaames) recommended to me. Reach out, keep your cool, have a conversation. Ask questions in a reasonable way. I tried, I really did. And it didn’t make one bit of a difference, at least not that I could tell. Unless maybe, just maybe, they’ll think about the comments they made and think about my reaction, and think about why they felt the need to tell me they loved me. Perhaps a bit of a crisis of conscience there? I don’t know. But I found it really disturbing and upsetting.

Today, we found out that there are more Russian connections in the Yaministration, ones that the individuals lied about in their confirmation hearings. This is not normal, it will never be normal, and we cannot let it become normal.

Finally, we had another mass shooting, this time at a church in Texas. As of this writing, there are 26 confirmed dead. The usual platitudes from congresscritters were uttered: “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

I cannot begin to tell you how completely and utterly sick I am of hearing about “thoughts and prayers” with every goddamn mass shooting we have in this country. Those seem to be happening on an almost daily basis. They just keep on offering up those “thoughts and prayers” and people just keep getting their goddamn heads blown off, including kids.

Fuck the NRA. They are a cancer upon our society and they are active participants in the murder of innocent people. How long is it going to take to have legislators who will stand up to this awful, awful group and say, “I don’t want your blood money.” How long? Who will have the balls to do it?

I watched the coverage for a while and then I had to stop. I keep writing about this bullshit, this bullshit keeps happening, and I don’t see an end to the bullshit anytime soon. Let me say it again: Fuck the NRA. And while I’m at it, fuck you, too, Wayne LaPierre, you horrid wankstain upon humanity.

So! What did I do to try to cope with this latest round of disgust and anger? I went with music, as I almost always do. A current favorite is *repeat repeat out of Nashville and something about their music makes me feel good about things. Their music can rock most righteously, but there are also moments of sweetness and light, especially in the vocals of Jared and Kristyn.

I needed some sweetness and light this afternoon. I think we all could use some sweetness and light.

Put this in your earholes. It might not change things (that’s up to us, isn’t it?), but it might lift your spirits for a moment. And sometimes that’s what we need to keep on keepin’ on.