Monday, December 26, 2016

Ringing In 2017 With A Whisper

I had sketched out something uplifting and optimistic for this week's episode, hoping that by reminding us every pendulum does swing back and forth, there might be split second when life was not so dire and that even in the depths of our fear we could find some pinpoint of light. 

At this moment, I cannot think of a thing that would make me feel optimistic, other than the simple fact 2016 is finally over. 

I do not think we have seen  the end of the horror; I believe we are at the very beginning. Whether it's UN Resolution 2334 or the President-elect's threats to build up the nuclear stock pile, I am not seeing much that makes me thing Donald Trump is going to grow up and be presidential. Out of the goodness of his heart, he's decided to disband the Trump Foundation, lest it get in the way of his job as president. Too bad the NYS-AG won't let him do that until they complete their investigation into the misuse, mishandling, and tax avoidance. 

You realize, of course, that by writing that last sentence, I have opened myself up to be sued by the Trump Machine. Melania is going after a 70-year old blogger (not that age has anything to do with his) because he wrote about a story that happens to be fake news.  This is just an opening salvo, people, so get ready to duck'n'cover. 

Face it, we are all worried about a guy who cannot deal with tweets from Alec Baldwin AND has his finger on the big red button. 

Recently there was an article about how to deal with Trumpenistas in one's own family. There was a wonderful suggestion: at a break in the harangue, change the subject. Ask the hollerer what their dreams are for the children and/or grandchildren. Get them to talk about their hopes and aspirations...and how they think the kids are going to get there. You can learn a lot about who you're dealing with from that question. If nothing else, it might buy you some time to breathe.

For the next week, I will be busy with the galleys for DREAM DANCER. Sometime in the next week or so, the book will be available in paperback on Amazon. I will tell you that holding that book in my hands was about an emotion and surreal experience imaginable. I'll let you all know when the book is up for sale, and I hope you'll buy a copy. It's a good read, a good adventure, and I promise you'll love the characters. We're all gonna need escapist literature for the foreseeable future. 

Wishing every one a safe and happy New Year,

The WP

Monday, December 19, 2016

Drinking The Sand

The Electoral College has voted and Donald Trump is POTUS-elect.

There are insufficient words to describe my disappointment. It's not just that he did not win this election, just as George Bush did not win his election. Both lost the popular vote. Trump's margin was significantly higher than Bush II, and here'a the chart with all presidents who lost the popular vote. You can see this one is quite significant.

Trump has put forward his choices for cabinet secretaries and advisers. Most are assigned to posts in departments they have openly despised. You can read the newspaper to see who hates what. The nominees are not the ones he promised, but are big donors lacking experience in government or diplomacy. Like Mr. Trump.

He has given permission and voice to groups who hate. There is a significant increase in hate crimes across America. He has engaged his own private security force. Their presence and performances at his "thank you" rallies has been, according to eyewitness accounts, scary. 

He has provoked other nations with whom we have diplomatic relations. He has declined to receive security briefings. After maintaining the elections were rigged and dishonest, he refuses to address the specter of Russian hacking into our election process....yet he continues to say it is rigged. By whom? He won. What else does he want?

I listened to President Obama's interview with Steve Inskeep on MPR today. What struck me about the conversation was his careful measured tone. If you've neither heard nor read the interview, take a moment to do it now. It's worth the few minutes it will take you to read it. 

At Talmud class tonight, Rabbi Allen said that he was disappointed there was no voice of the opposition... like shadow cabinets in the UK...and that Hillary had gone silent. My initial response was what is she supposed to do? But the more I think about it, the more I agree with the rabbi. (Don't tell him I said that.) The silence from the other side has been strangely deafening. It's as though the Democrats have abrogated their responsibilities to the mob instead of presenting some sort of reasonable alternative. Who is monitoring the Trump nominees? Who is presenting an "official" counter to their points. Right now, we have no voice of reason to speak to our concerns.

Thus far, he is setting himself up for an imperial presidency and, to be real honest, that's what people who voted for him voted for. I just find it odd that all these anti-flag burning super-patriots are supporting a guy who wants to severely limit (if not repeal) the freedom of the press section of the First Amendment. So far, he has refused to hold any press conferences, choosing instead to invite journalists for "off-the-record" conversations. Hardly the transparency he yammered about. 

Trump did not, as he likes to claim, win by a landslide. As the chart above shows, he lost the popular vote. He has no mandate. But I don't think that will make a hill o'beans difference. 
The America People want leadership. And in the absence of genuine leadership, they will listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They're so thirsty for it, they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand. 
President Andrew Shepherd 
We've had Presidents who were beloved, who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don't drink the sand, because they're thirsty. They drink it because they don't know the difference. 
                                                The American President - Aaron Sorkin
In the absence of leadership, We, the People will keep on drinking the sand. Right now, we have no real leadership in the wings; we have only autocrats posing as autodidacts, and kleptocrats poised to serve in cabinet posts. What we don't have is anyone seemingly prepared to lead the opposition center stage. 

Rallies and protests are not going to stop the progress of this administration. other news......

The Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated mid-sentence while delivering a speech at an art museum this afternoon. And someone drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market this evening, killing 12. 

Frankly, I have no idea what comes next.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Windchill is no joke. Dress accordingly.

Monday, December 12, 2016

And The Winner Is..........


President-elect Trump, in the face of suspected Russian espionage in the US, and questions about his own "relationship" with Russia, looks to be ready to nominate Exxon chief Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. This is a guy who hasn't just looked Putin in the eye, apparently they are really friends, unlike Trump who still can't remember whether or not he's actually met Putin. And it's pretty clear Vlad the Instigator is liking what he's seeing in unlimited supply of oil Trump will sell him at a very good price to enrich the coffers of the American oligarchs as well as the Russian ones. What could be better than that?

President-elect Trump cancelled his press conference scheduled to discuss what he was doing about his businesses and other potential conflicts of interest, announcing, instead, there will be an announcement about said dealings in January.

President-elect Trump announced yesterday he don't need no stinkin' intelligence briefings because, (and this is a quote, people):

I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years – could be eight years. … I don’t need that.

President-elect Trump advised America he isn't like other people, so he is going to remove the libel laws from the books in order to prosecute journalists who disagree with him:

"One of the things I'm going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we're certainly leading. I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We're going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they're totally protected.

Ya think there's a hidden message/agenda in there somewhere? Pay no attention to the man in front of the curtain!

I'm figuring either he's planning on trying to turn this country into a bigger kleptocracy than it already is, or he is pushing the envelop just far enough to see how long it takes for someone to tell him, "You're fired."

Whatever it is, it's ugly. Even a few of the few Trump supporters I do know have voiced concern about his cabinet cronies. They're exactly who he said he wouldn't hire. But this is what you get when you drain the swamp. Every one ofdthem has, in his/her previous life, worked to dismantle the departments they are now proposed to lead. It's kinda cute when GOP-niks start saying things like "WHAT IS HE THINKING??????"
The Electoral College will change their votes, and they won't change anything at all. I'm just hoping Congress pull their partisan heads outta their collective asses and will at least investigate the Russian part. I don't think they changed any votes; I think they played fast and loose with damaging information and used propaganda technique to undermine at least one candidate. That the Russians orchestrated Wiki-Leaks is just not a question. The timing was too good; it was all staged very carefully. Their minions managed to manipulate America with such finesse that it's seriously scary. But y'know what the really scary part is? All those super-patriot guys with their guns and their flags and their love-it-or-leave-it memes.... missed it completely.  

Hey kids! Let's have a school in the barn!

In my own little microcosm, I finally closed on the old house last Thursday, my new passport arrived today, the galleys for the paperback version of DREAM DANCER are awaiting my attention, and tomorrow at sundown begins the first yahrzeit for my Dad. I keep thinking about what he would have to say about this moment in my life: I'm debt free, unencumbered, and really at the beginning of an entirely new adventure. I think he'd tell me to check my pockets to make sure I have enough commas. 

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a hippie-dippy teenager...and this was before memes were memes. We had posters. There was this one poster hanging on almost every college dorm-room wall: 


I never gave it much serious thought, but when I deposited a rather large cheque from the sale of the old house, I suspected something had just shifted in my world. One of those cosmic rift moments. As I was lighting shabbat candles on Friday night, it dawned on me that this was really a very new beginning and I could do anything I wanted any time I wanted with whomever I wanted. Suddenly, there were no rules, only possibilities. 

And baby-sitting.  

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Turn off the news. It's all bullshit anyway. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

So Sunday, despite the snow cover, Junior Son, Little Miss and I took Peri's ashes over to Fort Snelling National Cemetery. We brushed back the snow, sprinkled the ashes around FIL's grave, then covered them with snow. I'm sure that was not regulation, and there's probably some rule about it, but we didn't much care. She was his dog in every sense of the relationship. And I think FIL woulda liked that we did that. He probably was waiting for her with cheese in his pocket. 

And another door closes behind me. 

This election has certainly taken a toll on me...and, to be honest, most of the people I know. It's hard to be optimistic when the swamp Donald Trump said he was going to drain was only so he could hire the alligators. The people he's choosing are unskilled labor. He thinks he's putting iconoclasts into place when all he is doing is setting up the collapse of government as we know it.

Bitch about government all you want, but Social Security checks still find their way to your folks. Medicare still covers your parents (and maybe your own) health insurance. The roads are still open for use, the planes still take off and land, the ports operate, and the courts support the Constitution and the law of the land. You wanna compare it to other countries? Sure look at the Finnish schools or Swedish nationalized insurance. No system is perfect, but none of those countries stretch from sea to shining sea either. It's a ruddy miracle states unite to form a federal government that is reasonably functional. Yeah, yeah, it has its shortcomings and disasters, but overall...

Trump tells America he can make it great again. Terrific. Let's see what he's got. 

So before he is even POTUS, he cuts a deal with UTC and Carrier, touting how he has saved a factory and jobs by tough talk and tax incentives. What it doesn't say is that the Carrier plant in Huntington, IN is closing altogether and those jobs are going to Mexico. From the Washington Post Fact Checker:

Trump claimed he saved 1,100 jobs. That’s false.

Earlier this year, United Technologies announced that it was sending 2,100 jobs in Indiana to Monterrey, Mexico — 1,400 from the Carrier plant and 700 from a United Technologies Electronics Controls (UTEC) facility. About 300 administrative and engineering jobs at the Carrier plant and 100 similar jobs from UTEC plant would remain in Indiana. Both announcements were made on Feb. 10.

Trump’s deal would keep 800 workers in Indiana, or about 38 percent of the total who were due to leave the state, according to a spokesman for United Technologies. These jobs were focused on making gas furnaces. About 600 jobs — focused on making fan coils — will still go to Mexico. Meanwhile, the 700 UTEC workers will also lose their jobs to Mexico, though workers at the plant — which makes microprocessor-based controls for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration units — had gotten their hopes up after Trump’s announcement that he had struck a deal with United Technologies.

In claiming 1,100 jobs, Trump is including 300 jobs that never were going to Mexico in the first place. He also is conveniently forgetting about the 700 jobs from UTEC, though both announcements were made at the same time. Trump tweeted Sunday that he will slap a 35 percent tariff on any company that ships jobs to another country, so it’s unclear whether United Technologies snookered Trump or Trump snookered United Technologies.
How about his promises to the coal miners? He can bring back coal? Good luck with that. The abundance and low cost of other energy sources put paid to that idea, cheap natural gas being the lead reason coal demand has fallen off. Not regulations. Not President Obama. It's the marketplace, people.

And if you think his chat with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen was an accident, you have another think coming. Looks like this was a well planned conversation, and one designed to be a provocation directed at China, who, in turn, filed a diplomatic protest. Naturally, Trump tweeted about this. It was so.... spontaneous. Sure it was.

On the home front, the astounding increase in harassment, hate speech, and vandalism directed at "others" is enough to set off bells, alarms, whistles, fog horns, and claxons all at once. Every day, there are more and more reports of violence and harassment directed at Muslims, Jews, and the LGBTQ communities. It's not subtle, it's not hidden. It's right out there in the open. A friend of mine recently poo-pooed my concerns, dismissing them as unlikely to happen. My response? "You would've done well in Germany in 1932."

And all Herr Trump has said is: "stop it."  Yeah, like that's gonna have an impact. 

I cannot take the bullshit. Really. I keep going back to Charles Durning doing SIDESTEP from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas: 

Look, I'm all for ruffling feathers and changing the status quo. What I'm not for is lying, prevaricating, and being stupid. These guys are not playing chicken with widgets. These guys are going to have access to military deployment and big red buttons. 

I have no faith the Congress is going to do anything to stop the march of hatred heading smack dab toward us. I have no faith that the Supreme Court is going to be functional in a year. And I have no faith that the middle class of this nation will survive. 

Most of all, I want to be proven wrong. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the week
If you need to renew or obtain a passport, do so sooner rather than later. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

When The Kids Are Safely Married....Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I opened with that old joke about a priest, a minister and a rabbi. The punchline was, "when the kids are safely married and the dog dies."

Funny thing about that joke...

When I wrote that opening, Peri had already begun the process of leaving us. She'd been ill for several months, and nothing we tried seemed to have any impact. Never a strong dog, those who knew her best, including me, felt sending her for invasive tests would be incredibly stressful for this timid, shy, and very neurotic pup.

Let me explain about my dog. 

In early December 2008, while on my annual jaunt to see the folks in Florida, Ziggy called to say Shayni, our 12 year old Canaan was throwing up blood. FIL, our live-in vet, said, "pancreatitis," and hit the nail on the head. Into the hospital she went. She was doing really well and seemed to be coming outta the woods...and then she was gone. We were devastated. 

For about a week, we thought "no more dogs, until we saw how FIL was lost without his buddy.  He was hinting he wanted another Canaani, and we set out to find a rescue/re-home. We'd just about given up when Shayni's breeder reached out to us. She had a gorgeous but very passive/timid year-and-a-half year old that could no longer stay with the other dogs, and unless she was re-homed to someone who knew the breed, AND could deal with a very neurotic pup, she would have to be put down. Bag o'smelly socks was sent to Illinois post-haste, Praline Sundae was spayed, and when she was healed up enough to travel, Ziggy and Junior Son went to get her. 

What we didn't know was that the cancer was already attacking Ziggy's organs and this would be the last hurrah. But from all indications, Peri already knew; we would learn Canaani are sometimes used as cancer-sniffers. When he needed to be comforted by his dog, she was hiding in the laundry room. 

After Ziggy had the poor form to leave us, my father-in-law began coaxing her out of hiding, as much for his good as for hers. It took months and a whole lotta cheese, but a bond was eventually formed. Amazingly she bonded with the kids' puppy Bialy. And she learned to slowly warm up to people. She would never be exuberant or tail-wagging friendly; she was timid, passive, and scared of her own shadow. She hated to be walked; I always called it taking her for a drag. She wouldn't poop if anyone was looking, and she pulled all the way home if another dog was in sight.  She was who she was, she who would never be a "normal" dog. We all loved her for who she was, accepted her for who she was, and let her be who she was. 

Peri was with us less then a fortnight when Ziggy's cancer was found. She became the touchstone for my father-in-law as he watched his son succumb to the disease. She became the focus of our household as FIL and I began to navigate our new reality. Peri became the reason I had to get out of bed in the morning. 

As FIL grew weaker over his own last few months, Peri spent more and more time just sitting with him on the sun porch. For days after Grandpa Sieg left us, I often found her just standing the middle of the living room where his hospital bed had been. She began spending more time on the floor next to me instead of on her bed in the corner.

I know the decision to move was a tough one for my girl who did not like change. She liked the little balcony outside my kitchen, and she seemed to finally be adjusting...when she stopped. There were changes and they weren't good. 

We treated what presented as irritable bowel disease, but the treatment didn't really do much. We tried other protocols, and did a long line of non-invasive tests, including extensive ultrasound on her stomach. They saw a mass. There were long conversations with vets, her breeder, and other knowledgeable folks, and no one wanted to start doing invasive tests on this tender, fragile flower of a dog. The fear was that the fear would be unbearable for her, and tantamount to cruelty. Like Ziggy, we let her have her own timetable. She guided us along as she continued to lose weight; she was disappearing before our eyes. 

The dog that arrived at the beginning of the Seven Years of Loss stayed with me until a few days before I will close on the old house. She was there when I lost Ziggy, FIL, my Dad, my Mom, and when I left the House That We Built. In so many ways, Peri became the bookends. She knew her job was done, and I could stand on my own two feet. 

Yes, there is cheese involved.

The Junior Son was with me as I held her close on that last morning. We told her we loved her, and we told her to go find Grandpa Sieg; surely he has cheese in his pocket for her. 

Wifely Person Tip o'the Week
Don't complain about the recount.
If nothing else, it will put speculation to rest. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rainbow Sheets and Kumbaya

Thursday is not only Thanksgiving Day for this family; it's the day on the American calendar when my dad left the building. A year ago. Thanksgiving night. 

I wondered how I would survive without Dad, the keeper of the commas, the repository of arcane English, and the funniest guy I knew. This year, I learned to live without punchlines minus the jokes ..."You're a mean drunk, Superman," and numeric joke equivalencies....#73...a classic. After I lost Ziggy, Dad resumed his traditional role as resident comic. This year, neither jokester was here to make me laugh and life wasn't nearly as funny as it could've been. 

On the less funny side, I keep wondering what my staunch GOP father would say about President-Elect Trump, the people populating his advisory staff, or the minions extending their straight arm salutes. If you think I'm kidding, watch this all the way to the end:

All by itself, this woulda killed my Dad, the guy who was in a tank at the Bulge, at Ramagen, and at more than one concentration camp. My Dad, a part of that Greatest Generation that gave their lives so what happened there wouldn't happen here, would've wept. 

It doesn't much matter that Mr. Trump looked into the 60 Minutes camera and said, "STOP IT!" It doesn't much matter that Jewish Jared Kushner, his son-in-law is a part of his inner circle, or that his daughter converted to Judaism. Trump may not be Hitler, but his henchmen sure sound like Goebbels, Goering, and Eichmann, not the patriots he insisted they are in his speech today. (And here's a Muppet NewsFlash for Ivanka and her family....being a Trump is not going to save you when they come for the Jews. Just so you know. )

Who Donald Trump appoints, what they have said in the past, and what they have supported in the past does matter, and the appointment of well-established hate-mongers provides a real avenue of expression for the Alt.Right movement. They are no longer fringe, they are moving into the mainstream. Richard Spencer and the rest of his cadre believe this election "opens the door" to their ideas as the legitimate expression of the American will. 

It is not. 

There is no mandate here; the raw numbers support that. Hillary's popular vote margin continues to widen, although not enough to impact the electoral college. So no matter what President-Elect Trumps wants to think, his way of thinking does not represent the will of We, the People. He only represents a portion and not a very big one at that. 

Not sure about that? Here is a pie chart of the raw vote count: 

Clinton - 62,391,335 votes  ....Trump - 61,125,956 votes
differential 1,265,399

We can all pretty much agree the big winner in the pie is the no-show section. After that, it's Clinton, and then Trump, followed by Johnson, then Stein. Yeah, the margin between Clinton and Trump is slight, but really, 1.26 million votes are still a whole lotta votes.

So here's the big take away: hate does not have a mandate. It's still a small portion of We, the People, and as such, we can still make sure it doesn't take root. There are more of us than there are more of them, and now is the time to get off our collective asses and start making sure the swamp monsters Mr. Trump is putting into positions of power have their teeth yanked right outta their scaly heads. 

Make noise. Go demonstrate. Stand up. Be heard. 

We know from the 60s we can make a difference. We don't have to settle for reactionary homophobic, xenophobic hate rhetoric. If they wanna march in white sheets....we'll march in rainbow ones. The lessons of the Third Reich are not lost on our parents, and the lessons of the 60s are not lost on us. If they want to shout SEIG HEIL, we'll sing goddamn Kumbaya if we want. 

Watch the video again. Right now. 

Then, make noise. Go demonstrate. Stand up. Be heard.

Hell's bells, people; We, the People, cannot be observers. Like our Founding Mothers and Fathers, We, the People are an Activist People. And we're not about to stop now. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
The only President who gets to complain about the theater is Abraham Lincoln.
[thank you Steven Colbert]