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]

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hiring the Alligators

What does it mean when every news outlet in the US is publishing/broadcasting ways to talk to one's children about the election of Donald Trump? Even Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker pens a quasi-serious piece on how he explained this to his 6-year old daughter.

In the days immediately following the election, there were random acts of hate committed in the president-elect's name. A few were here in Minnesota. Some, of course, will be discovered to be bogus, but too many of them are turning out to be very real. And very scary.

Adding to the terror are the appointments to his staff. Known hate mongers like Steve Bannon formerly of Breitbart. Leading contenders for Secretary of State include Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani. Sarah Palin for Secretary of the Interior...the list goes on.

Concerned as I was about the possibility of a Trump victory, I was equally concerned about what would happen if he lost. Well, he won, and the incipient insurrection is coming from not the left...but from the center. And the center is taking to the streets protesting the difference between a win in the electoral college and the loss of the popular vote. This is the second time in recent history (fourth time overall) that a president has been elected with that kind of split. The most recent was George Bush II....and we all know how that went. We're still paying for the wars started by that administration with no end in sight. 

This time, We, the People are faced with a homophobic, misogynistic,  bankruptcy-king facing a string of consumer fraud suits in civil court which his lawyers are scrambling to settle. And he is the duly elected president and we have elected electoral college. The majority of We, the People, felt differently....but not enough to stop this debacle. But I don't want to talk about that.

I want to talk about taking to the streets in protest. I have two words for that idea:


Oh, we all cheered as the regimes in north Africa tumbled one after another. We cheered when the kids of Tahrir Square brought down Hosni Mubarak. Well, some people cheered. I did not. I kept asking, "What are they going to replace it with?" I even wrote a blog episode about it a year after the fall of Tahrir Square.  The bottom line for all the Arab Spring revolutions came down to a lack of Plan B. No one, not one single revolutionary council went into the fray with a government waiting in the wings. It's as if they did not believe they could succeed, but they did....and then what?

Such is the situation here. People are demonstrating, marching, throwing epithets around....but what is the plan? Are you wanting to overthrow the government, and if so, are you ready for the military government that will take its place after the coup?  Because if you overthrow the government, it will require the approval and complicit presence of the generals. Hillary will NOT be the new president. 

So, what is it you're asking for? 
  • The removal of the electoral college? I believe that requires a Constitutional amendment. Could take a while to get one of those through. [Correction, it does not require an amendment, but it's kinda complicated. Here's an explanation
  • President-Elect Trump's resignation before his swearing in? That leaves us Mike Pence as President....and he's the governor who signed the law requiring funerals for miscarried fetuses. 
  • I cannot think of a third let me know if you have one.
Whatever it is, it had damn well better be on its way to being in-place before you even think about toppling this government. For good or for bad, this government is fairly functional and if you bring it down, you will leave this rather large swath of manifest destiny in utter chaos....and I don't think that's a real plan. 

So, what is Plan B?

There is none, at least not one I've seen yet. I'm thinking no one learned from the last go 'round. 

My little cuzlet who's studying in Canada is part of a movement taking to the streets to protest the American election, but they have some very clearly defined goals. He wrote:
1) communicate solidarity with my friends in the States who stand to be personally affected

2) communicate discontent as a global citizen that a solution to climate change is now in peril, and that various precarious international conflicts might be further destabilized

3) communicate to the Canadian politicians that politicians similar to Trump (such as Kelly Leitch) will be met with strident opposition
4) communicate that if Trump pursues and promotes the hateful side of his base, he will be met with nothing but opposition, and 
5) increase the number of people in the crowds by 1, to increase the odds of a media narrative that boy, people are really pissed about Trump and his alt-right supporters.
I followed up the first question with a second: What outcome do you want to see?
1) A President Trump who caves to popular and media pressure and abandons the alt-right and his misogynistic ways and governs more reasonably (following his long talk with Obama I think there's hope for this), and 

2) A Canadian government and populace that remains inoculated against Trump's brand of racism, even as a leading contender for the conservative party aims to promote it.
This is a wise child. (We already know he's smart, he's getting a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Toronto. That's pretty smart.) Smarts are really beyond the point here. This is about a reasonable expectation while still voicing disgust and dismay. And that's an okay thing to do, especially in Canada because political action here directly impacts there. 

The pitchfork brigade we're seeing in some places is not about reasonable expectation.

So, here's the thing. DON'T TOPPLE THE GOVERNMENT unless you really want a military junta running these here United States. That's not how to change this. There are better things you can do.

Begin now to take back the midterm elections. Work on finding candidates that are, above and beyond everything else, honest. Tell them being the nominee means: 
  1. no dark money, 
  2. no superpacs,
  3. no attack ads, 
  4. no hyperbole, 
  5. no lies. 

The job of a candidate is to talk with the constituency about the needs of the constituency. Work on providing concrete examples to contrast and compare. Advise the candidate there will be no sinking to the gutter level. RAISE the bar on the conversation, and don't let it slip. This coming election is not about big words and lofty ideas; it's about what your district needs from Washington. The midterms will be about how the first year of a Trump presidency is perceived by the voters. The conversation has to be pragmatic and factual. Everyone is tired of bullshit. 

And we're about to be tired of something infinitely more tragic. 

Well-documented reports are coming in from all over the country about children harassing children. White kids telling black kids to "go back to Africa, we don't want you here," Muslim girls having their scarves torn off their heads, Muslim boys being pushed around, swastikas on lockers, walls, and cemeteries, dark-haired kids being beaten up because they look Latino. The message that sends is the most terrifying of all...that kids think it's okay to beat up on other kids because Donald Trump was elected POTUS. 

It's all about perception. I say that a lot. Really. I know. 

So, here's what to do:  you don't like what you're getting, change it....but change it with the midterms. This nation is all about peaceful transition of power. We, the People neither need nor want a coup. Don't risk a full collapse unless you have one seriously good plan on to how to run a government already in place and with the full backing of the not-so-silent majority. If you don't....well.....just look at Donald Trump's newest face. This is a guy who just stepped into a big, steaming pile of political and intellectual manure. Sure, it's rich in nutrients and will make things grow...but it's not instant like Jell-O Pudding. It requires experience.

Just look at that face. It's the same look the kids used to give Ziggy when he was trying to explain rocket science to toddlers. Can't say it inspires much confidence

"Shit, what the hell is he talking about"

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Draining the swamp does not meaning hiring the alligators 
as they emerge from muck.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Just So You Know.....

I really don't have much to say about this election. It's over. A new president has been elected. Now we sit back and wait. 

While we're waiting for Donald J. Trump to take the oath of office, we're watching what's happening around us. Today, at Maple Grove High School here in Minnesota, there was new graffiti to greet students in the boys' bathroom:

Granted, this was in a high school and high school guys are not known for their social smarts as a rule, but even so, this is scary stuff. 

The graffiti is stupid, but these guys thought it was okay to do this. And therein lies the scary piece: it's not incoming President Trump who is all that scary (although he does have his sophomoric moments) it's what his presidency will unleash. There is a segment of the American population who view his election as a referendum on alt.white America. 

Note the response with the red arrow I drew. That's almost as scary as the encounter at the gas station.

If minorities are worried, it's for a reason. We've seen this before. 78 years ago today, November 9,1938; there are still living eyewitnesses. It was called Kristallnacht

I can imagine why Jews in Germany were thinking this little Austrian paper hanger would be a flash in the governmental pan. But he wasn't and by the time people figured this out, glass was shattered and the borders were closed...except for the one you could pass through on a train heading into Poland. Jews were denied escape routes. President Roosevelt refused entry to the St. Louis; 908 passengers were turned away from the US, Cuba, and Canada. They were sent back to Europe. Many journeys ended in the gas chambers across Europe. 

That was then and this is now. 

Social media provides instant information. We understand what David Duke means when he twits his "people" got Donald Trump elected and his "people" are taking back America.

So let's be real clear about this: 1930 was then and this is now. Donald Trump may be president, but that's not a license to kill, bully, round-up, or terrify. We, the People will not stand idly by while segments of our population are terrorized by roving gangs of white supremacist miscreants. This is still the United States of America and we still have a Constitution. 

We, the People, will stand back and let Donald J. Trump and the newly minted Republican Congress take control because they won the election. This is how a democracy works. We will watch to see what they do;  if they do well, We, the People will applaud and support their effort. And if they fuck up the country we'll vote them out on their collective keisters in the next go 'round. 

But keep this in mind: we are not the sheep we once were. And if We, the Jewish People, have to teach others how to stand up to this bullshit, we will. Never again... for ANYONE. 

That's tikkun olam....repairing the world. And that's what we will do. 

The WP's Bonus Tip

It's all about vigilance, not vigilantism

Monday, November 7, 2016

We ARE All Bozos On This Bus...and there's no getting off.

Signing of the Constition
by Thomas Rossiter   c. 1860
By the time most of you read this, election day will be well underway. 

On November 5th, 2012, I wrote my first presidential election episode, Erev Elections: Get Out there And Vote. I reread it and much to my disappointment, not much has changed. I still believe the same things, I still have a bit of a Pollyanna expectation that something good will happen.

But the truth is that no matter who wins We, the People are in deep and serious trouble. Our nation is at stake. If Trump wins, there will be a concerted effort to strip millions of Americans of their health care insurance. Immigrants and minorities will see their status change about as close to overnight as one might get. There will be a renewed attempt to dismantle the FDA and EPA, leaving both the environment and the citizens of this nation at serious risk. The speed of executive orders will keep Congress devoted preventing the new President from running amok.

If Hillary Clinton wins, the GOP has already promised to block any and all nominations to the SCOTUS. They have undying pledged fealty to the proposition that no program, no action, no process she puts forward will ever see the light of day. 

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has all but promised an insurrection. 
Just thinking to myself right now, we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump.                                                                                                                                                                            Donald J. Trump - rally in Toledo, OH, 10/27/2016
What does that mean? He manages to telegraph his intent via Twitter and ads.

Senator Al Franken made an interesting observation on the Trump campaign's last economic ad, the one that specifically targets three Jewish public figures: Janet Yellen, George Soros, and Lloyd Blankfein. 
This was something of a German shepherd whistle, a dog whistle, to sort of the, a certain group in the United States...                                                                                                                                                              Al Franken, CNN State of the Union (minute 2:53)11/06/2016
This is not a grand departure; this is merely confirmation of what we already knew. Just as we are all aware of the significant rise in threats against Jewish journalists as documented this summer in  The Atlantic. And the rhetoric over this campaign has give tacit approval to alt.right groups to pursue their fascist agenda. It's not simply targeting Jews, it's targeting minorities, LGBT community members, and the disabled...anyone who does not match some arbitrary white man's standard. You do realize, of course, that list would include Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson, don't you?

And for the record, James Comey should be fired. He violated the Hatch Act. Didn't matter which candidate was being skewered. He violated the Hatch Act. And he knew he was violating the Hatch Act because any lawyer in Washington would've advised him that he was about to violate the Hatch Act. The bullshit was lobbed over the wall and whether or not there was a gram of truth in it (there was not) the damage was done. That was intentional. And that was a clear violation of the Hatch Act. 

Are we all clear on that now?

Nothing I can say here or now is going to make a whit of difference. No one is going to change a mind because reading this. The best I can hope for is that my readers recognize the peril we face with both candidates. There are no winners, only losers, and we are the big losers in this contest. We, the People, have lost any shred of democracy credibility with the election. Our standing in the world is degraded, and our days of influence are numbered because of the actions of our cross-party leaders. There is no redemption on the horizon, only more embarrassment. 

Vote. Vote for whomever you feel will allow you to live a full and healthy life. Vote for the one you think has the best interest of ALL of We, the People, at heart. 

We get the government we elect, and by extension, the government we deserve. 

G-d bless America. We need it. 

That's all.

The WP's Tip o'the Week
Be honest, be up front, and be prepared.