Monday, July 30, 2018

Top 5 Posts ~ #1: Dear Angie: An Open Letter To A Congressional Candidate for MN-2

Just over a year ago, I wrote an open letter to Angie Craig and published it here. Shortly after, Angie reached out to me....and I duly reported that in a subsequent episode. We got together in my kitchen, we had a great conversation, and I decided she might be the real thing. That opinion has not changed. 
Angie is doing what no one else was doing in this district: listening. This is not to be taken lightly.
Angie's campaign has active offices through the district, in places more often overlooked than noticed. Her team is out there at town events, in the stores, in the cafes, any place people gather, so they can LISTEN to local concerns, local positions, and the challenges of daily living. The thing I keep hearing from friends on the campaign trail is that people are surprised by this...that someone, anyone, actually wants to listen to what they have to say about their own microcosm.
How can that be? How can it be a surprise that candidates and their teams are out there listening to local issues? This should be the most natural part of any campaign. 
But, it's not, At least not in this district. Our sitting congressman refuses to hold town halls for any town.  And seems to believe that's okay. He has said on several occasions he knows what his constituents want.
Not all his constituents might agree with that presumption. 
Listening is more than an interesting exercise. Things are learned, things that are unexpected. Example: in one town, the local hospital is on shaky ground financially, and there is concern it will close. The top local health care concern in that town is not insurance...but whether or not they will even have a hospital to go to. That's huge if you're an hour away from the next available medical center, even if it is the Mayo Clinic.  Is anyone listening to that part of the health care debate? Availability isn't just in dollar$; it's just as much about accessibility.
In another small town where Republicans hold sway, the mayor worked to get workforce housing, a state of Minnesota  program done with federal support, only to get push-back about not wanting "those kinds of people" in town. Know who lives in that housing? Cops. Fire fighters. Teachers. Restaurant wait-staff. The kind of people who work in the town and dearly want to live there because it's their town. Does that change anything in a red-leaning town? No one knows yet. I hope it does. 
That speaks volumes about local needs and local interest and should not be glossed over. Angie and her staff are looking for those stories because they need to be more than heard; they need to be on the agenda. If Angie makes it to Congress, she has to know what her district needs, not what the administration wants her to know. This is the kind of thing that makes or breaks elections. You cannot underestimate the importance people put on being heard by the candidates, as well as their elected representatives. People will vote for the ones who hear, respond, and respect their concerns.
Go read Angie's web page. The section on Clean Campaigns, Clean Government is worth reading all by itself. This is who we should be. Who we must be. 
And now, without further ado.......The Number One WP Episode: 

Dear Angie: 
An Open Letter To A Congressional Candidate for MN-2
July 17, 2017

Dear Angie Craig, 

Angie Craig
I cannot say I was surprised to hear you will take another run at MN-2's congressional seat. In a perfect world, you would be an ideal candidate: you're sharp, erudite, and, dare I say it? funny. You've been a corporate executive, a leader in your field, and active in social justice. These are the attributes we want in the person who represents us in Washington. But this is not a perfect world.

In the letter you sent, you wrote the following:

As Democrats, we must understand better why we have lost these past elections. As I talk with voters, already it has become clearer that we must talk more about how we are going to bring back jobs to the United States and create economic opportunity for more hard-working Americans. We have to be clearer about how we will fix healthcare and acknowledge the problems with out of control costs for many families. I grew up without healthcare. There is no one who knows better if you can’t afford insurance, healthcare doesn’t exist.
If this is how you are planning to run, then we will have 2 more years of that buffoon, Jason Lewis. Your statement is a recipe for defeat. Let me explain why.

You lost by a narrow margin because you could not convince enough moderate Republican voters that you were the better choice. Not DFL'ers....but IR voters. This seat was a bronze statue to John Kline's butt. You did nothing to reach out to the fence-sitting voters that would bring them over to the side that would actually address their looming problems. Instead, the DFL ran you like you were the Anti-Republican and that was a total turn-off to those on-the-fence voters. 

If you are serious about winning the election, you need to form a non-partisan cadre to create non-political town-hall meetings to talk to the voters before you go on a listening tour. They need to talk about the different approaches to health care explaining BOTH the good and the bad on each side...and you know each side has both. To talk about the commercialization of the National Park System and how it impacts their lands. To talk about the EPA, FDA, and associated departments all of which have direct impacts on agriculture. Say what can work, and say what is less likely to work. Again, stress being fair, not black-or-white, liberal-or-conservative, right-or wrong. This is not a lecture; you need to learn much from those voters as much as they need to learn what is at stake. Educate...don't indoctrinate....voters. 

And then, come into the room already knowing what they want.

You know exactly what I mean. The truth will set us all free.

The DFL has a golden opportunity to get real information out to the voters explaining what will happen next. Don't squander it with partisan poison.

Be fact based. No hyperbole. No dirt slinging, casting aspersions, denigrating, or anything that even hints of dirty tricks. Speakers can compare and contrast; present differences without politicizing. Tell the truth. I know that's a new concept for some. 

Questions must be answered in a blunt factual manner. Even if two people show up and get their questions answered, that's a victory because they will tell their families, "Hey, I went to this town meeting and this is what I found out." 

Whatever it takes to get the information out the door and into the houses.

Then you can go campaign all over the district to talk about differences in practical, fact-based terms. That's when you tell 'em what you think.
If you go after those IR people sitting on the fence in a way that does not mock, threaten, or otherwise belittle their political leanings, you will win. This is a Republican district and has been for many years, but the voters are not stupid. You need to change the mind of one voter at a time. Sling one single piece of mud, and it's over. 

Basics, Angie, the basics. Go back to the basic, bottom-line, unexciting truth. Don't whip 'em into a frenzy...that's transitory and useless. Educate the rural voters on stuff that impacts them directly: water, land, productivity, and food chain. 

Go back and rethink that web page; it's everything your potential new base will find condescending and a turn off. The cartoons/icons on the crowdpac issues page are insulting to the very people you need. 

You already have the Democratic votes in this district; it's time to go after the Republicans in a way that comforts and assures them their voices and concerns are not simply being heard, but they are being acted upon on their behalf. 

I really want you to win, Angie. Truly, I do.  But you have to want to win the minds...and hearts....of those Republican voters who are beginning to understand what Jason Lewis means to the health and well-being of the district. 

Run, Angie, run....but run with truth and honor. We, the People of MN-2 really need that right now.

Thanks for listening,
The WP

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If your House of Representatives seat needs changing,
focus on the moderate Republicans. 
Give them an honest chance to not be embarrassed. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Top 5 Posts ~ #2: It's Not a Coup, It's a Junta

Well, my hopes for an adult in the room fell short of expectation. McMaster is long gone. Mattis is still there, but basically invisible, having been frozen out of the inner sanctum. Kelly is hanging on by a tweet. Grumbles about replacing him have been filtering out of the oval playpen since June. 

I'm coming to a point where I just don't care. I'm beginning to believe that when 88% of Republicans polled approve of how this administration is dealing with Russia, we are in deeps and serious democracy weeds. Judy Woodruff, in welcoming Amy Walters of Cook Political Report and Susan Page of USA Today to the PBS News Hour discussion on the Helsinki Summit approval ratings, said:
And let’s show the audience some numbers. Among Democrats, the approval rating for the president is what you might expect, only 9 percent. Among independents, 36 percent approval over the president and how he handled the Russia meeting. Among Republicans, it’s sky-high, 88 percent.
I am greatly confused by this. I thought the denizens of the GOP were supposed to be the ultimate patriots, unlike the liberal left. I thought these guys understood Putin is a dictator. Okay, I get the racist approval part, and the white supremacist part, but elevating Putin? Can you imagine what apoplexy that would have occurred if President Obama was standing there going, "Yay, Vlad!" ?

There's not much to say about a country where a significant population seems to think this kind of behavior abroad is okay, not to mention paying off Playmates you were screwing after your wife had a baby. These guys seem to not have any moral dilemma with this stuff. 

So, in the episode below, I missed the mark about how the junta would happen. I had way too much faith in General Kelly's ability to teach, instruct, and instill a sense of statesmanlike practice into the West Wing. My naïveté was showing, like a slip that's an inch too long. So the reign of toddler goes on. After toying with North Korea, he dumped Li'l Kim for his new BDF, Vladie the Not-So-Benevolent-Despot

And now that he's invited Vladie over for a play date, he's eyeing a new best dictator friend: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. He had  very strong words for him this week. 

Kinda reminds me of that time he said this about Li'l Kim: "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening … and as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before."

I think that was just a little "save the date" notice for Mr. Rouhani, dontcha  think?

Li'l Kim, Vladie the Not-So-Benevolent-Despot, President Ayatolla Rouhani....hmmm. I'm betting his next play-pal will be either Rodrigo I-Never-Met-A-Critic-I-Couldn't-Kill Duterte or possibly Nicolas What-Problems? Maduro. 

Maybe I'll have better luck with this  prediction.  

#2: It's Not A Coup, It's A Junta
August 28, 2017

Let me make this as simple as I possibly can.

The current president knows jackshit about foreign policy. He knows even less about American civics. It’s highly unlikely he’s ever read the Constitution of the United States unless someone gave him the Classics Illustrated version.

Currently, there are three generals running the west wing: Chief-of-Staff Gen. John Kelly (Ret.,) Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis (Ret.,) and National Security Advisor, Lt Gen. H.R. McMasters. There are also 7 members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Since Kelly has come on, there seems to be a general house-cleaning going on. The big alt.right faction has gotten the jackboot on the way out the door: Bannon is out, Mooch is out, Gorka is out.  That didn’t stop the toddler-in-chief from giving the Charlottesville raiders the thumbs up.

But then he gave an almost cogent speech on Afghanistan…which was a180° turn from his campaign platform…you remember, the one where he castigated President Obama for remaining in Afghanistan? Clearly not written by him. Too sane sounding.

Sane didn’t last long. He was back to weird the next day.

So while there may be adults in the room, there seems to still be a lack of toddler control.

Which may, in turn, be a smoke screen. While the toddler is saying incredibly stupid things either while sitting on the can or standing at the podium, all attention is focused on him.

Example: Pardoning Sheriff Joe Arapio was not only bizarre, it was a giant distraction from the real news of the day – Hurricane Harvey. At today’s press conference with Finnish President Shauli Niinisto, the toddler blurted out why he announced the pardon when he did: 
Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they were normally...
It’s all about him. And he doesn't know the difference between a pardon and a commutation. 

Interestingly, former sheriff Arpaio was pardoned before he was sentenced. A pardon dismisses the crime that has been committed; it is an admission of guilt. A commutation shortens the sentence. Presidents are loath to give pardons; they mostly give commutations. This is how one respects the law. The toddler dismissed the idea that Joe Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court, which means the court told him to stop doing something, in this case established racial profiling, and he ignored that court order. The pardon dismisses the rule of law.

We are watching the slow, systematic collapse of the United States government. I'm not sure We, the People, can do much except prepare for the possibility of the degradation of the rule of law. 

Which makes forming a junta even more fascinating. Is there an expectation of further degradation of the rule of law?

I want to believe Kelly is attempting to protect the three branches of government and ultimately, the Constitution. I want to believe he is setting the pieces in place so if the toddler runs off the rails, the government will be able to shore itself up and pull itself back together. I want to believe they will do the right thing to keep fascism from our streets.

I want to believe this, but on the other hand, John Kelly is surreptitiously moving the pieces around the chessboard. Pay no attention to the guys behind the curtain?

Have you ever seen a good junta? I'm not sure they exist. 

Or, then there's the other scenario: the junta is in it for the power. Is Kelly positioning himself to lead a takeover of the United States, wresting the government from the tatters of democracy while putting himself in charge of the new order?

Now is the time we should be paying very close attention to the guys behind the curtain; otherwise, when we figure it all out, it might very well be too late.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Nice People didn't speak out in Nazi, Germany, because, after all, 
it was none of their business. 
Don't be a nice person. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Top 5 Posts ~ #3: Yes, We Have No Pajamas

For a very long time, Yes, We Have No Pajamas was the #1 most popular post. No longer. There are 2 ahead of it, both political in topic. This no longer surprises me...the politics of the time are dire; people on both sides are paying attention to the developing reality.

Especially on Monday, July 16th, 2018. Remember that date. It's the one that will go into history books. And not for a good reason. 

No other president in the history of these here United States, ever sucked up to an autocrat/dictator they way Feckless Leader did today. It's just never happened. He called our most staunch allies, "foes," and the Chinese and Russian dictators our good friends. He's already kissed up to Kim Jung-Un, so I suppose his next adventure in boot-licking  will be a visit to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. 

Anyone remember Neville ChamberlainHow he was excoriated by the people of Britain and the world for attempting to appease Hitler with the Sudetenland concession? I could not think of  a more recent example of public fury until I got to Hanoi Jane. Now, let me just say I was never a great fan of this action even when I was marching against the war. Was she a war criminal for going there? I don't think so. Fonda didn't give anything to the North Vietnamese except her opinion. She had no state secrets to sell, she had no tariffs to deploy, no bombs to drop. She was a celebrity with a mouth and that's it. The only power she had was that which we gave her by jumping up and down. And she was called a traitor over and over and even by some today. I get it. 

Any other politician who attempted to ally this country with Russia and China away from NATO and the rest of the western world would have been pilloried by the GOP. Today, there are plenty of GOP followers who are sucking this right up. They think this is all okay. I have one thing to say to them all:

Когда-то КГБ, всегда КГБ. Учить русский; вам это понадобится.

Can you imagine what those same conservative hot-rocks would be screaming if it had been President Obama standing there trashing the country to the world. Or Hillary Clinton? Give me a break. What a bunch of hypocritical troglodytes. 

On that horrible note, here is something completely inane:

It was an innocent, friendly kind of social question: What did you get for Christmas? There was no intent to mock, tease, or otherwise deride anything about said gift. But I could not help but howl when he told me “jammies …and flannel sheets with snowmen on them.” 

I couldn't stop myself. I asked if the jammies had feet. No, they did not. Well, that’s somewhat of a relief. My next thought was to ask if the jammies are flannel (they are,) and  then whether or not to warn him about the Velcro Effect. I did. But the  vision of a grown man in flannel pajamas velcro'd between flannel snowman sheets just danced in my head.

I felt terrible about thinking these thoughts and decided instead that further research was required.

With the help of a colleague, I narrowed the term “pajamas” to mean a 2-piece ensemble made of either broadcloth or flannel that comes in a single package. The top should have buttons, and the bottom either an elastic or drawstring waistband. In other words, that which one imagines when one says “pajamas.” For the sake of Minnesota, thermal pajamas were included but excluded from this most scientific sampling were Joe Boxer flannel pants paired with unassociated t-shirts and/or scrubs.

Okay, the results are in. Almost 60 guys from all over the country were asked whether or not they wore pajamas to bed; of those polled, only 3 admitted to wearing pajamas, and one of those specified thermals in winter only. Otherwise, no way.  The rest of them had great answers like, “Not since I was ten,” or “Does a big t-shirt count?”

Every time I asked the question either in person or over the phone, there was this kind of shnorkly guffaw, like I couldn’t possibly be asking this question. And the routinely incredulous “no” made me wonder if I was, perhaps, asking something excessively weird. Apparently yes.

So, I began running a secondary survey for women, asking, “Are pajamas sexy on men?”  This was an interesting question and I had no idea what the response would be. Other than a single, “Only if George Clooney is in them, and even then it’s kinda iffy,” crack, without exception, the answer was no.

Moms report sons stop wearing pajamas around the age of 9, with pjs being replaced by  over-sized sports jerseys and later on, with weird t-shirts.  Some wives reported the sport jersey thing has carried over into adulthood, especially during football season.

Does any of this mean anything? I’m not sure, but I do think it speaks to a greater overall trend toward informality. Pajamas imply some kind of structure; one wears them specifically when one goes to bed, the same way one wears a tuxedo to a black-tie event. One does not take the trash out in one’s pajamas. And these days, one does not loll about in them unless one is called “Hef.” A haphazard collection of boxers, flannel pants, and decorated t-shirts signals an attitude of would-be cultural defiance. One may select the pattern of flannel pants, but more time was probably spent picking out just the right KISS t-shirt at that concert 20 years ago. 

And should you dare to ask what women do find sexy, the answer is “clean and commando.”  Really; I kid you not. 32 women were asked, and 27 of them went with the buck naked option. The other 5 said, “bottoms” as long as the top was buff.  Oddly, buffness was not an in-the-buff requirement. Go figure.

Wifely Person Tip o’the Week
There truly are times when less is more;
other times, not so much.

Her Majesty the Queen's Bonus Tip o'the Week

Monday, July 9, 2018

Top Five Posts ~ #4: Dignity of Earth and Sky versus Feckless Leader

So, before my brief remarks about this week in Loonyville, let me just mention I finished binge-watching The Handmaid's Tale. How Margaret Atwood managed to be so prescient is downright scary. Watch it if you want to be scared shitless.

Meanwhile, the man Feckless Leader has nominated for the Supreme Court just happens to be the same judge who wrote the opinion saying a president should be exempt from investigation while in office and, by the way, can pardon himself. Brett Kavanaugh has a raft of opinions that favor a certain religiously oriented point of view, so I shall leave it to the Democrats in congress to screw this one up on their own. The guy may look  reasonable enough, but don't be fooled.

Meanwhile, this may be the 4th most popular blog, but leads the pack in global hits. For reasons I cannot explain, this lady speaks to people in a way similar to the Statue of Liberty. There is something about her. The emails she generated were amazingly positive and respectful of her being. One reader wrote: 
I did not realize such a monument existed. Why didn't I? She should be shared, cherished, and on a postage stamp. 
 I could not agree more. 

And now (drum roll, please,) #4 

Photo: Ken Wolter/Shutterstock
Meet Dignity of Earth and Sky. She's 50 feet tall, and stands on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota. She is a Plains Indian woman, a member of either the Dakota or Lakota Sioux nation, native people to this land.  She was designed by Dale Lamphere and her dynamic star quilt was created by David Claymore. Three Native American women posed for the sculptor. She was a gift from Norm and Eunabel McKie to mark the State of South Dakota's 125th anniversary. The dedication ceremony took place on September 17th, 2017.

The diamonds of the star quilt are not stationary; they move. Star quilts replaced buffalo robes as gifts for life cycle events, the most important of which were the memorial quilts commemorating the Lakota dead. Dignity's quilt is made of glass painted in shades of dark and light blue; they catch the light of day and spin with the winds of the Great Plains.  As Mr. Lamphere said of his creation,
Dignity represents the courage, perseverance and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota cultures in South Dakota. My intent is to have the sculpture stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred, and in a sacred place. My hope is that the sculpture might serve as a symbol of respect and promise for the future.
A friend posted a picture of Dignity on her Facebook page and I wondered how the hell I missed this, especially when it's just not that far from me. I wondered how this did not get huge amounts of coverage. And then I knew why.

We were busy focusing on the smokescreen: shitter-twitters, Feckless Leader's refusal to disclose the Mar-a-Lago Resort visitor list from January 20 and March 8, denials of Russian collusion, un-presidential world appearances, the White House dithering on the Paris Climate Accord. On September 17th, Tropical Storm Maria was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. We, the People, could've used a little break from the bullshit had anyone bothered to tell the country about Dignity's dedication.

We woulda heard if it was a statue of Custer. Boy, would we have heard about that! 

Or not.

While we were missing the dedication of Dignity, our government was undermining the rules of checks and balances in an ongoing attempt to shred the fabric of our star quilt. While we are distracted, they persevere.

Meredith Corporation has announced its intention to buy TIME magazine. with backing from the Koch brothers. As my friend Jill Cozzi (aka Brilliant at Breakfast) noted,
Having completed their purchase of the U.S. government, the Koch brothers now set their sights on the press.
Should we be concerned?

Net Neutrality is on the chopping block. The Department of Justice appears to be demanding AT&T sell Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN, or sell DirecTV as a precondition for approval of the $85 billion merger with Time Warner. The Oval Office Occupant routinely trash-talks about journalism, journalists, and the news media while he consistently lies like a rug. 

We've been so busy obsessing about fanny pats, that we seem to have given a pass to a predator who now says that's not him on the video tape saying all that stuff about grabbing pussies and 
I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
Well, he now says it's not him on the video tape, that it's an imposter. In that case, I guess it's not and we should all just forget it ever happened. That's the same stand Feckless takes on Putin's meddling in our elections and Roy Moore chasing 14-year old skirts. Who should we believe....that pathological liar...or our lyin' eyes?

Instead of focusing on important stuff, like federal judicial appointments, the latest Keystone oil spill in South Dakota, the bogus tax Ponzi scheme, or dueling agency heads over at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we are falling for every trick in the GOP playbook. 

On the bright side, the Washington Post had a moment of clarity and actually vetted a story that turned out to be a honey trap: A woman approached The Post with dramatic — and false — tale about Roy Moore. She appears to be part of undercover sting operation.


But do pay attention to what this sick, sick individual said to 3 of the surviving 13 Navajo Code Talkers on Monday:
 You’re very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas. But you know what? I like you. Because you are special. You are special people, you are really incredible people.
How dare he even talk to these men who gave their all for a country with a history of hatred directed at them...while standing in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the president who signed the Indian Removal Act and was responsible for the Trail of Tears? Could you possibly see Angela Merkel giving an award to Jews who survived the Holocaust while standing in front a of portrait of Hitler? It would NOT happen in Germany, but it sure happens here. 

His thrall, Sarah Huckster, had this to say when confronted about her boss's racist remark: 
I don't believe that it is appropriate for him to make a racial slur, or anybody else. I don't think that it is was and I certainly don't think that was the president's intent. 
This is not a leader. This is a teeny-tiny putz with a teeny-tiny brain to match. He hates. He dismantles. He destroys. He abuses. He lies. He runs to do evil. I wonder if Jared gave him a copy of the Al-Chetthe Yom Kippur confessional, and he's making his way down the list. He does nothing but bring shame and humiliation on this nation. 

Today was no different. And we tolerate it anyway.

In a contest between Dignity of Earth and Sky and Feckless Leader, there is no contest. Dignity wins every time, hands down. Dignity of Earth and Sky represents the best that we can be. I don't need to tell you what Teeny-tiny Brain represents. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Silence is not a protest.
Silence is acquiescence.
Remain silent at your own peril.