Politics · Uncategorized

MAGA Hat on the Highway

It was one of those moments when I wished I could get a picture. I was driving and alone in the car, so that would have been unsafe, and in any case, impossible to get a good angle.

There was a bright red MAGA hat sitting on the highway this morning, in between lanes of traffic. It had not yet been crushed; cars were avoiding it as one might try not to run over a dead squirrel or a large piece of tire from an 18-wheeler.

I live in Massachusetts. We don’t see a lot of MAGA hats. Trump bumperstickers and banners, occasionally, but few hats. Some months ago, on the highway, a car beeped at my husband and me as it passed, and the driver waved a sign made from a Trump sticker. Our reaction was probably not was he was going for. We laughed at him and figured he was reacting to the Elizabeth Warren sticker still on our car from the early days of her first Senate campaign. Way to own the Libs, dude!

More randomness – what’s the story here?

The MAGA hat on the highway was the kind of randomness I love, like seeing a soccer ball up against the Jersey barriers or a single shoe on the road. How did they get there? In my old home town, a lone demonstrator spent the better part of an afternoon on the town Green holding a large sign that read “The Wrecking Ball LOST!” What was the story behind that?

More than likely, the reality of the hat was that it simply blew unnoticed out of the back of someone’s pickup truck. Maybe its owner will miss it, maybe not. But I like to imagine there’s more to the story.

Picture two people in a truck. Perhaps they argued about the impact of Trump’s tariffs on the construction industry, their livelihood. In a fit of frustration, one snatches the hat from the other’s head and throws it out the window to the road below.

Or perhaps a daughter stole it from her father, whom she lost months ago to the treachery of FOX News. This small act of rebellion won’t bring her father back, but as she tosses the hat gleefully on to the highway, she imagines her father spending half a day looking for it instead of watching TV; a temporary victory.

The best scenario though, is an epiphany on the part of the owner himself about the meanness of our times and Trump’s leading role within it. Unable to continue tolerating the deliberate and gleeful cruelty of Trump and his Wormtongue advisor Stephen Miller, he pitches the hat into oncoming traffic to be run over as Trump himself has done to so many.

Health Care · Politics · Writing Life

Rabbit (rabbit, rabbit) Holes

We got through January. One month of winter down; two months to go.

This meme spoke to me.

I maybe slowly regaining my equilibrium. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been really tired, sleeping a lot, and somewhat worried about it because the last time I felt like this, I was much sicker than I am now. Though I’ve never been a morning person, I have gradually been getting up earlier and less frequently craving a nap for most of the day. It’s been hard to tell whether it’s the fact that I don’t have anywhere to be and am bored and depressed, or if it’s the new medication I’ve been given to steady and slow down my heart rhythm. The doctor says it could be a little bit of both.

I am starting to develop a routine for most days. Mornings are still slow, as I usually have no one but myself and the dog to attend to. L and the boys are gone for the day. I try to eat breakfast, even though I am no fan. I read. After a shower, I either run errands or make phone calls to doctors, insurance companies, and the mail order pharmacy. This is a part-time job for someone, and I wonder how people with full-time jobs manage it. I think these companies must believe their patients are all retired with nothing better to do. So frustrating! If I still have the energy in the mid-to-late afternoon, I may get to write something.

Taken on a warm, sunny, June 1st. [Sigh]

Lately I’ve been thinking about the many rabbit holes I could be winding my way through. The wonder of a writing life, I’ve often imagined, is the myriad directions that research could take me.

One of those rabbit holes is surely healthcare. Between my own frustrations, the vague idea that I might write a book about my transplant experience if it happens, the fact that it appears to have been a major factor in the mid term election and may be again in 2020, I find myself wanting to really dig deep into the policies. I want to better understand the various proposals, and how their backers think they will work.

The need for better solutions for our country is so great. Just in the last few days I’ve seen testimonials on Twitter about relatives losing their lives because meds were so expensive, fighting to get appropriate nursing care for a patient with a long term and eventually fatal disease, coordinating phone calls between insurance company and “out of network” hospital. At the root of all this is the cost of meds and care. Why are they allowed to be so expensive? Why do we pay more than twice as much, per capita, as other industrialized countries and have nowhere near the best quality? How do we bring prices down?

Another rabbit hole is for more of a fiction project I’ve been contemplating for years but never had the time to pursue. The good and the bad thing about this one is that there is research to be done in my grandmother’s town, bringing back lots of memories. There used to be a fairly famous resort hotel in that town, and that whole culture is fascinating. Imagine being able to vacation somewhere for a month, or the whole summer. We can’t really do that anymore.

With the 2020 election gearing up already, I am probably going to write more about politics. I’m also starting to read more about publishing in magazines, and though I’m not sure my one time fantasy of being a travel writer will ever come to pass, there is all sorts of other stuff that captures my interest. As always, I just have to pick a direction.

Politics · Uncategorized

New Year, New Candidates, Same Stupid Sexism.

It’s been a little more than 48 hours since Elizabeth Warren announced that she was formally exploring a run for President in 2020, and already we are questioning whether she’s “likable” enough. Politico even ran a column asking if Warren could avoid the Hillary Problem. It then proceeded to run with every negative gendered stereotype ever ascribed to Warren, Clinton, or Nancy Pelosi; as a matter of inquiry, of course.

Courtesy of Warren.senate.gov

In the coming weeks, the media is going to want to talk about Warren’s Harvard salary, her Native American claim, the tone of her voice, and other nonsense, content-free “analysis.” Look for “But her DNA” to become the new “But her emails.”

In a few months, we can expect the same kinds of reporting about Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and maybe even Amy Klobuchar. Because the media has learned nothing from their role in the 2016 election.

We are still rehashing what went wrong in 2016. It comes up every time there is movement from Special Prosecutor Mueller’s office. As the conspiracy picture slowly becomes more clear however, we still can’t absolve journalists and pundits of their malpractice when it came to covering Hillary Clinton. It continues today.

Former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook captured it perfectly on Twitter:

Elizabeth Warren has a rich and complicated history of policy advocacy. She is a professor and a politician. She has the rare ability to describe complex banking and other regulation to the average consumer or voter in terms those of us not educated in these practices can understand. How much of that will be covered in the coming months and how much will we instead be subjected to articles highlighting how people feel about her?

Regardless of what candidates we are covering or supporting, we should be talking, in whatever media available to us, about policy priorities. What are the various healthcare proposals? What will they take to implement? What steps can be taken to rein in campaign spending and lobbying corruption? How much public money is being spent on privatization efforts, and what are the returns to the taxpayers? How do we connect immediate action on climate change to economic prosperity? What are the plans for combatting gerrymandering and voter suppression?

Too much time in the news cycle is spent not on the details of a bill, or a regulation, but on how people react to what they have been told it means by the politicians. We spend so much time on poll numbers, slicing data to illustrate and emphasize a divided electorate, and not enough on describing what a proposal really means to the people in the real world. It’s not just the politicians who are disconnected, it’s the media too.

Look, those of us who write about politics love the horserace. But the horserace is the environment, it’s not valuable information.

Are you writing about a candidate? Examine your language. Have you described the candidate’s outfit, or hairdo, smile, or some other personal attribute that would never be mentioned about a male? Do you find yourself using adjectives that are generally reserved for women? Why? Are you writing serious political analysis, or a piece for the Styles section? What policy questions have you asked or researched?

It will be a long road to November, 2020. We cannot afford the outrageous detours of 2016. Let’s do better.

Politics · Uncategorized

A Sigh of Relief

Voting Booths – Creative Commons Photo

It was a big enough win. Sure, the loss for Beto O’Rourke was disappointing (next to Scott Walker, Ted Cruz was the guy I most wanted to see the end of), but the Dems took the House, and restored a path to some accountability for Trump.

As of this writing, the Governor’s race in Georgia and the Senate Race in Florida are still being counted. There are rumblings that the Governor’s race in Florida is tightening, even though the Democrat, Andrew Gillum, conceded last night.

What we might have learned from 2016 was not to concede so early. We didn’t know the extent of Russian interference or voting irregularities in 2016. This year, widespread voting problems, broken machines (or those delivered without power cords)  and blatant suppression efforts mean every candidate in a close race should fight until the end. See Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico.

By now, Trump has fired Jeff Sessions and clearly has designs on ending the Mueller investigation. Things will move quickly, but last night’s win was a sign of hope that all is not lost in our Democracy. It has also re-energized a party that was fighting for its life. Democrats have flipped several states, grown their numbers in state legislatures, and now have begun to rebuild the foundation they were lacking in 2016. This helps head off some Republican attempts at gerrymandering, voter suppression, and election manipulation ala Brian Kemp and Kris Kobach.

There’s so much work to do between now and 2020, but when your team gets a big hit, you suddenly feel the momentum shift in your direction, you can often see your way clear to winning the game.

Politics · Uncategorized

Election Day

We’ve been waiting for this for two years. So much has happened since 2016, it makes your head spin to think about it. It’s been a long two years.

Today we braved the foul weather and, in many places, long lines and ornery voting machines. Hopefully it will be a positive outcome.

I’m not turning any news on until the polls close on the East Coast. That’s a few hours from now and it’s going to be a long night.

I think I’m going to take a nap.



Me voting in 2016: Hermione


Me voting in 2018: Trelawny

Politics · Uncategorized

The Worst People

KavanoThe Trump regime’s determination to employ the worst possible people has yet another notch in its belt with the Kavanaugh hearings this week. Somewhat forgotten after all the claims and denials surrounding the attempted rape accusations of Christine Blasey Ford is the appearance of Kavanaugh having lied under oath about several things even before the allegations became public and Dr. Ford’s name was revealed.

Utterly without integrity, the Republicans are trying to force Kanavaugh on the women of this country in their determination to deny us bodily autonomy and agency.  That there’s an attempted rape to complete the picture of the privileged male seeking control over women is really not that surprising, is it?

Early in the hearing, in an attempt to humanize Kavanaugh and soften his image, much was made of his role as a girls’ basketball coach. He even jokingly referred to himself as “Coach K.” Later, members of the team were brought in to sit behind him. He used those girls as props, and more than likely, as an attempt to shield himself from protesters who would likely be less vocal with the young team there.

But no amount of political theater can disguise what’s happening here. Behind Brett Kavanaugh’s smug smoothness is perhaps the final nail in the coffin for Roe v. Wade, the potential further restriction of the availability of birth control, described by Kavanaugh as  “abortion inducing drugs.” Though he claimed to be using the words of the plaintiffs in that case, the dog whistle was pretty clear.

As of this writing Dr. Ford is negotiating the terms of her testimony to the committee. Among other things, she is asking for her named witness, Kavanaugh’s alleged accomplice, to be subpoenaed a well. As others have noted, these are not the moves of someone making a false accusation.

Not surprisingly, Republicans are doing all they can to undermine her testimony before it even happens. The eleven Republicans on the judiciary committee are all white males,  some of whom presided over the Clarence Thomas nomination and the grilling of Anita Hill and should know better, but they are doing all they can to bully Dr. Ford before she even comes to their hearing.  Kavanaugh is being coached for his testimony on the accusation by staff in the White House including Don McGahn and Bill Shine, who has plenty of experience with unwanted sexual advances, having enabled Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at FOX News.

A few have attempted to discredit the accusation by suggesting that Dr. Ford was confused or had mistaken Kavanaugh for a classmate (who is undoubtedly surprised to have been dragged into this thing). Now a main proponent of that theory has given the game away by posting the whole thing on Twitter (since removed), so who knows if they’ll bring that up in the hearing itself. For his part, Mitch McConnell vowed “we’re gonna plow right through it.” He was speaking about the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to Family Research Council Values Voter Summit.

Republicans are making it clear that they do not value women. They don’t care about women’s rights, their safety, or their agency. They are determined to walk back the rights we have gained and make it as difficult as possible to be equal partners. They used to be more deceptive about it. Now they are throwing it in our faces. There are plenty of anti-abortion judges that could have been nominated here. By elevating their second justice accused of sexual misconduct, Republicans are forcefully declaring open season on women.

The way we viewed and spoke about the sexual activity of teenagers in the 80s is different from the messages and expectations of today. I understand that. As this story  unfolds, I keep thinking about Fast Times at Ridgemont High or an attack that took place not far from where I grew up in New Jersey, told in the book Our Guys. Even as the attitudes of privileged white boys go though, Kavanaugh seems pretty egregious. His yearbook entry from his elite private high school reads like a how-to manual for toxic masculinity. His activities at Yale run along the same vein.

It makes you wonder how the parents of that girls’ basketball team feel about “Coach K” now?