August blogging

I am on vacation, in an “undisclosed location”  – here in Vermont. This is supposed to be the relaxing part of the vacation, where we lie around the rented lake house, read, go out kayaking, do a little yoga, do a little walking, do a little cooking, and regenerate. As my mother says, “I don’t want to think or talk about that MAN while we’re here: it’s too upsetting.”

But Charlottesville happened, a deeply disturbing show of force by the neo Nazi movement (white supremacists, lovers of the Confederacy, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them: the nightmare of our country, America’s worst underpinnings), and it was barely denounced with a “both sides are bad” remark by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. And reality intrudes on our escape. Forces one to sit up and take notice. Fills one with disgust.

There is something about August flashpoints: Mike Brown was shot in August, now the show of strength by the “Confederacy Should Have Won” Club. What is it about the month of August that emboldens the racists? Is it warm weather? Are they counting on good people being on vacation and checked out? (Could I come up with more examples if I googled? Maybe. But I’m on vacation and don’t want to, so my point will remain as thin as a whine …).

On the other hand, there is a little wooden sailboat next door this year, and someone takes it out and sails periodically – that person just sailed in to the dock with strong winds right now. And there are kayaks on the lake, and not too many motorboats (and no jet skis so far! yea!).  The violence here is perpetrated by a mink on passing ducklings.

In the world outside of here plenty of people are speaking out. And I am allowed a vacation once in a while.

ElmoreDayAug2017

 

 

Seeing Paul McCartney

I got to see Paul McCartney in concert the other night.  We drove out to the middle of nowhere, to an amphitheater built into a fake hill, and watched one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen.  I’ve been to rock shows where the audience sings every word of the songs of favorite songs; but by the end of this show, the audience seemed mostly in tune, harmonizing, and he had us singing the words to a song we didn’t know and had never heard before …

Paul looks amazing. He moves like a guy who is maybe 45, tops. He played a 3+ hour show without stopping. His voice is very strong, and only started getting scratchy/wobbly near the end … after the songs where he screams a bit.

It was like going to church, when church is good and how it should be. Everyone — all 28,000 of us — was there in the moment, enjoying it, uplifted by the music, feeling like we were in a special moment in time. Feeling grateful to be there, and that life had given us this gift.

He is a pure showman, is Paul, knowing what the audience wants and delivering it, with a mix of new stuff to keep himself from getting bored, and to stretch the audience’s imagination as well. He tells good, short stories from time to time, and the audience loves each one of them.

This show was one of the best-crafted rock-n-roll spectacles I have seen. The sets and lights and videography and camera work and fireworks were all beautiful and inspiring; even the photos of the Beatles managed to be nostalgic without being sentimental or saccharine. The back-up band was very good and having a good time. Paul is Paul.

I’m grateful to have a kid who said “we should go. How much is the limit to spend on tickets?” and organized us into going. I hate the process of buying tickets, but he manages it without anxiety.  I’m also grateful for a boyfriend willing to drive us there and back even though it was way past his bedtime by the time it came to drive home.

Good times.

Time it flies

It’s already mid-July.  Actually, nearer the end.  How did that happen? I looked and I last wrote an outraged post about Trump on May 27, and have written nothing since.

It’s not that Trump has done nothing outrageous since then. Almost daily you look at the news and go “wait what? what did he say?” along with a heaping of “no, surely he’s not that dumb oh god he’s that dumb” and “who could possibly believe anything this guy says?”

Work got busy. I became a candidate for a party office (i.e., not something that will bring me a paycheck should I be fortunate enough to win, and probably there will be no glory either). My health thing meandered through several doctors to a diagnosis (I’ll live).

It feels like there hasn’t been a lot of room for breathing. Or doing anything but breathe in one’s spare time (watching an entire season of Dr. Who was important … and if you are watching an entire season of the Doctor, maybe there isn’t that much time for other things).

So, updates:

  1. I’ll live in terms of my health.  I need to get more of the right kind of exercise (and who doesn’t, really?).  And probably lose some weight (always).
  2. I’ve read some books. Some were better than others. Most were life-affirming in some ways. And reading some light mysteries is good for my stress levels.
  3. Other people around me went/are going through their own health things. Those are their stories; but I care.  That goes for cats too.
  4. There’s a lot of politics going on right now. Maybe not where you are, but here in Illinois several important things have gone on a) they passed a budget which the governor vetoed and then they overrode — first time in 2 years we’ve had a budget; and b) governor candidates are all over the place wanting attention. Some are better than others; all deserve some attention.
  5. I’m running for state central committee.  This is the committee that votes to make Mike Madigan chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Put like that, it sounds fun, eh?
  6. My kid has a summer job. Yea! He has to apply for college next fall. (wait, what?)
  7. Saw Wonder Woman: loved it. My favorite comic book character, despite my current fondness for the Marvel cinematic universe.
  8. Work takes up a lot of time. Becoming a fan of universal basic income and universal health coverage.  A part-time job would work for me.
  9. Why is it so hard to think of things to cook for dinner?
  10. Trump and his coterie are still evil. So is Rauner. Why we think putting the wealthy in charge is a good idea is beyond me. Evil and incompetent, all in one. Blech.

Finis.

Stupidity: it’s not an excuse

Between Trump ham-fisting his way through his first foreign trip while in office, and now the revelations about Jared Kushner, my thoughts about both of them boil down to this: rich white boy privilege.

Both Trump and Jared are the epitome of guys who never had to really work for anything, as they were born rich, white, male, and entitled. Both think that they are smarter than they really are, mistaking being in the lucky gene pool for cleverness. Both are completely out of their depth in Washington where the big boys play. And both look pretty stupid when the spotlight is actually shining on them, instead of the fawning they are used to receiving. They’ve been built up by sycophants until they believed their own hype. They are dangerously out of their league.

With Trump, you have the added feature of incipient dementia. It’s becoming so obvious on the world stage, someone in his inner circle ought to be planning a way to ease him into retirement before he wrecks everything — including the family fortunes. But people won’t, because they see their status and position tied to his. But when the ship goes down, it will take them with it.

Already, it’s looking like if you took a position in the Trump administration you’re looking like you just killed your resume. The lack of judgment involved in accepting a position in what is by all accounts a chaotic and unproductive environment is so monumental you shouldn’t be allowed to have any position with any authority ever again.

Stupidity is not an excuse. It’s not defensible when charged in court  – “but your honor, I didn’t know that killing someone who annoyed me is a crime!” – not an excuse.  “But your honor, selling the US out to the Russians, it was just business!” – also not an excuse.

Nor is feeling that you are so right on the issues that you can excuse anything anyone in your party does.

Hubris is the modern American failing, and it could kill us all.

 

It’s hard

Roger Ailes died. That’s the best thing from last week.  And I’m glad he died from complications of a head injury — it sets up a nice fantasy that someone in his inner circle actually pushed him, and is relieved at the success of that push (the medical examiner says there is no evidence of foul play, btw — if you need reality to intrude on the fantasy). It’s just so easy to believe he was as obnoxious at home as he was in the world, and someone got tired of him being at home after he left his working life at Fox … but it’s just believable because he did so much damage to the United States through Fox News, and he was so awful, sexist, and harassing to the women there.  A lech is a lech is a bully is an entitled person of privilege , and it’s hard to believe that anyone who had to put up with him on a regular basis actually wanted to be in the same room with him who wasn’t paid highly to be there ….

And Joe Lieberman for FBI director? Oh please. There’s another awful person who should never be let near a position of power again. Sanctimonious, hypocritical, whiny, cowardly — ugh. When Ned Lamont beat him, and national Dems went to bat for him in the general election — I never understood that. We nearly got rid of one of the worst Democrats ever, and they rallied and raised money and campaigned for him (I’m looking at you, Sen. Obama!). And that came back to bite them, as he was one of the wavering “independents” when they needed votes to enact good legislation … and maybe that was the point, but it just enraged the activist base who pays attention to such things.  We don’t have medicare-for-all, or even medicare for those over 55, because of him. Loser-man.

And Trump goes off to Saudi Arabia to make nice with the country whose nationals did actually bomb us on 9/11 — as every other administration before him.  Blech.

Every day a new outrage. And when I say “a” new outrage, I mean at least one, if not two or three.  And Republicans can’t understand how Democrats can think James Comey was problematic at best and still be upset that he got fired in the middle of an investigation that was reaching into the administration — no, that’s not hypocritical, that’s understanding you can disagree with someone strenuously and still not approve of him losing his job …

Sometimes beating these F*ckers at the polls feels like it is taking too long.  2018 better deliver. And the Dems have got to stop being patsies for these guys (and there is some evidence that they’re trying to grow a backbone, but there’s also regretable moments of backsliding sometimes — I’m looking at you, Nancy Pelosi, and I am not pleased that you don’t think women’s reproductive health should be a litmus test for Democratic candidates: YES! It’s that important these days. Times have changed: we’ve gotten nothing from being embracing of other’s views — just backsliding on rights. Forget it. Done. Repeal Hyde Now.).

These people. Enough already.

Sickness and the government

I am not feeling particularly well. Something with my lungs, the doctors haven’t figured it out, and I don’t know when they will. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it will go away on it’s own. Maybe this will be an ongoing saga of me going to various doctors and doing research on my own until we figure out what’s wrong. Initial tests show nothing.

It’s the beginning of May now, and the next appointment to see the specialist I need to see is at the end of June, but I already had one with him for early July … so I kept that one. The horrors of waiting for appointments in a capitalist system of healthcare. Supply of doctors is kept artificially low by 1) lack of medical college slots and b) prohibitive expense of training. The result: doctor’s wages are very high, and you can’t get in to see the right one when you need to.

And then there’s my government, which seems to be working really hard to make me a pre-existing condition.  Well, since I’m female I already was. Now I have this thing, which may be nothing and may not be, and I’m sure down the line the Republicans in Congress will decide to make unknown pre-existing conditions subject to penalties as well. Because it’s not cost-effective if health insurance actually covers any of the diseases people actually have.

Although, to be fair, everyone hated this bill, insurance companies included. Doctors, nurses, health insurance companies (which have been thriving quite nicely under ACA, thank you very much), many religious communities, patients, constituents, governors, hospitals …. all hated it. So who was the intended audience? Crazy people? (and by crazy people I do not mean the mentally ill, who as far as I know also hated this bill since it cut their coverage for needed services as well).

I think the unintended consequence — one the insurance companies could foresee as well as anyone else — will be a huge push for a single-payer system. Medicare for all. Universal health care. Socialized medicine. All of it. And the insurance companies will be cut right out of the pie, and all because of Republicans in Congress who let greed overcome their common sense.

And maybe they felt backed into a corner: they had to repeal the ACA because they had said they were going to and they had tried so many times before. They spent so much time on their talking points about how evil it was they believed it themselves.

But the reaction of people back home should have been a tell. People are rising up, defending the ACA. People need to have pre-existing conditions covered. People need to have no caps on medical care. People like being able to keep their kids on their health insurance. There are many things people really like about the ACA, despite it’s faults. They want it fixed, not repealed.

They also didn’t want it replaced with a bill that is going to make their healthcare awful. They don’t want it replaced with something that is going to cause more deaths. They don’t want to go into bankruptcy just to pay for their health care.

The Republicans are severely underestimating the anger that is out there. The ACA isn’t perfect. Many people still can’t afford insurance. The premiums on the marketplace are still to high for many people, who fall in a gap between making enough money to afford it and making too much money to qualify for subsidies. But it made life a lot easier for a lot of people. A lot of the things that don’t work in the plan were trade-offs put in to appease Republicans, who then didn’t vote for it. Others were parts that the courts struck down, making the system much clunkier than designed.

What it isn’t, is universal health care. What it doesn’t fix is the problem of having a middle man between you and your health care, an insurance company who needs to make a profit off of denying health care to people who need it.

And the Republicans just took a step in pushing us toward it at a faster rate. Democrats who are looking to move up are talking about moving toward a universal health care/single payer system.  Democrats who are entrenched, who aren’t thinking about moving up the ladder, are resistant to the calls for single-payer — but Democrats who are ambitious have noticed declaring support for single-payer is an applause line.

Good luck with that healthcare bill you just passed and hung around your necks for the next election cycle, Republicans. You’re already afraid of your constituents in town halls — and really, finding people waving red cards at you threatening is beyond cowardly.

Stuck in your own bubble, what will you do when it bursts? Oh, right. You’ll be out of a job.

March for Science Chicago

Went to the March for Science Chicago today.  Saw many great signs — in fact, here’s one observation: scientists are big on clever signs, and not particularly into chanting.  So it was a quiet, polite, and civilized march.  Not as many came out as for the March for Women — but then, so much else is going on right now ….

Once again, a glorious day in Chicago for a protest march. Couldn’t ask for nicer. And we actually marched: it wasn’t just a stand. Marching is nice: a lovely walk with several thousand of your closest friends concerned about the same thing: data, the planet, evidence-based decision-making, climate change, the weather, new cures for whatever ails us, and so forth.

The fact that these marches happened all over the world is not just dismay over the current political situation in the United States — though that is a large part of it. It’s a global dismay that our dear leaders are not valuing science to any great degree. What is valued is money and corporate power.  Art and science are getting left behind.  And our world may not survive that choice.

When we can’t do anything about climate change at a governmental level, it’s left to individuals to make choices to protect the environment: and while individuals can do a lot, they cannot do it all. It is more powerful when the governments come in and prevent corporate entities (and themselves) from pushing harmful emissions into the air — and when the push for non-harmful, green efficiencies come not just from consumers but from government standards.

Plus, what good does cutting funds to the Center for Disease Control bring? More people dying from preventable illnesses, less tracking of epidemics, less support for communities experience epidemics: more death.

Add in the EPA, the NIH, the NSF, NOAA, NASA … and the consequences are damning.  More people will die who needn’t have died. More people will have less quality of life than need be.

Bottom line, this world is going to suck if we don’t do something.  Stand up and march, write your legislators, stop using plastic bags, take public transportation, ride your bike — but we need to keep funding research and we need to have government regulation to prevent disaster.

The Dark Ages were not man’s finest hour. Let’s not return to them.

MFS 4 22 2017 DATA

No, we don’t automatically support war

Read so much about how Trump’s ratings would go up now that he’s fired missiles at Syria.

Despite the fact that a large portion of the American people are tired of war in the Middle East.

Despite the fact that he campaigned against getting involved in Syria, criticized Obama for thinking about missile strikes in Syria, and many people thought he was less likely to start a Middle East war than Hillary.

Despite the fact that the Syrians were using the bombed airfield again the next day (memo to Trump: you could use some lessons from Mayor Richard M. Daley on how to take out an airfield in the middle of the night and leave it un-usable ever again).

Despite the fact that bombing an airfield didn’t actually help gassed children, and that the causalities of the bombing were mostly civilian.

Despite the fact that two things happened in the immediate aftermath of the war: Raytheon stocks went up, and so did oil prices.

Despite the fact Trump owns stock in Raytheon and rising oil prices help the Russians. (Memo to the press: everything else is just theater.  Learn to recognize theater when you see it: concentrate on the concrete end-results.  Prices went up on what? Who benefits?)

So we’re all suppose to rally around a “war president?” Really? When it was so transparent most Americans can see through the charade (even if Washington-based pundits can’t)?

I got news for you: bombs don’t help gassed children.  Bombs don’t help a refugee crisis. Bombs aren’t going to stop the humanitarian disaster there.

Bombs are not a humanitarian response to anything. They don’t work that way. In fact, they are the opposite of humanitarian aid.

So no: not distracted. Not impressed. Not my president, not my war.

Can we allow Syrian refugees to come in, now? Re-settle them, give them food and water and shelter and medical attention? And jobs? That would actually help.

 

Reading

There really isn’t enough time to read all the books, is there? There are so many books I would like to read, and then there are the books I think I should read … but there isn’t time. The books I should read get left on the shelf, because I have too little time to do anything but read for pleasure.

Books are always a guilty pleasure. Guilt because somehow we are always that child reading in the dark, after being put to bed, crawling out of bed to read by a night light or the light from the hall, or a flashlight under the covers. It’s that time you are supposed to be socializing, but would rather be in a corner with a book.

As a child, I brought a book with me everywhere. Just in case. Just in case there was a chance to read. Just in case I needed to have something to do while the adults talked. Just in case there was waiting time. Just in case I was bored and could retreat into a much more interesting world. I read in class (I finished my work early, so there was always time to read while others continued to work).  I read as much as possible. I found libraries, I frequented used book shops, I finally found a part-time job in a local bookstore as a teenager.

As an adult, you are expected to socialize at parties rather than retreat into a corner with a book. It’s one of the disappointments of adult life (indeed, there are many). And I can’t finish my work early and sit there and read the rest of the day: I have to figure out something else to do for my employer so my salary is justified …

As I did not find a job that pays me to read (oh, to be a researcher … to spend time in libraries during the day during the week … ), I have only my “free” time to read. Free of work, free of social life, free of political work, free of household maintenance, free to retreat into another world.

And so I read for pleasure. And I parse books by how much comfort they will bring my life, whether my mind will be stretched in good ways or beyond what I can bear at this juncture. I begrudge the time: I look at my bookshelves, at the unread books, at the old friends I would like to re-read, and at the ones that would teach me something new – and I would like the time to read and re-read them all.

Where can I get a job that pays me to read the lovely books I don’t have time to read?

Snow day

So I worked from home today.

I didn’t intend to. I got up, showered, dressed, put on boots, got my kid up, made two lunches, and went outside.

I cleared about 4 inches of snow off my car. Maybe 5, if we’re generous. The kid came along, got in, and we drove to the bus stop. I did not have to shovel the car out of the parking space. There just wasn’t that much snow.

Drove out of the hood on the sketchy side streets. This is fine: side streets are the last to be plowed, that makes sense. Least traffic, last plowed.  But then I got to the main roads: and they did not seem to be plowed or salted either. Lots of cars on them, just after 7 am, but no plows, no salt trucks.

I was hearing on the radio the Kennedy was over 2 hours in from O’Hare. That is absurd. It’s a ridiculous time. I thought to myself, well take local roads, maybe go southeast on Milwaukee. It’s got to be moving faster, right?

Every major road I was on was a mess. The great northwest side of Chicago had no roads plowed.  I saw one truck out: going north on Pulaski as I was going south. That’s it.

At some point as I was white-knuckling it down a major artery of the great city of Chicago I thought: I’m not going to make it in. I have to turn around and go home, or I’ll be on the road ALL day trying to get to the southside.  What is it, about 17 or so miles from home? Yeah, not going to make it.

So I spent two hours on the roads this morning, during rush hour, to get as far as Belmont before heading home. Not quite three miles. And back. So … six miles in two hours.

Now the really horrible part of this was that it was completely unnecessary. I have made it into work in far more snow than this, in far colder temperatures than this, in far worse conditions. The roads weren’t bad because of the snow.

The roads were bad because of choices made by our elected officials. There was a dearth of snowplows not because Chicago – a northern city – doesn’t have snowplows. Nor do we lack salt at this point in the season: we had no snow at all in January and February which is exceedingly rare (and very weird and unsettling).  The weather forecast was dead on: there was plenty of warning that the weather would be exactly what it was.

No, there were no snow removal trucks out because our Mayor is awful. Maybe he didn’t want to spend the money on overtime for the Streets and Sanitation guys, because if he got them up before dawn to take care of the roads before rush hour, the city would pay overtime.

Or maybe he’s getting back at the aldermen of the northwest side (and south side, and west side, and …) for not supporting him enough and raising questions about budgets.

Or maybe he’s just incompetent and hired incompetent people to run Streets and San. He doesn’t really care about actually making the city livable for it’s people. It’s not what he considers an important part of his job portfolio.

But wait, you say. The city isn’t responsible for the Kennedy and that was terrible. Yes, the expressways are under the purview of the State of Illinois, and the responsibility of IDOT, so not the Mayor’s fault there.

So let’s move on to our stubborn governor, who can’t get a budget passed in Springfield because he is too bone-headed to know you have to compromise with legislatures, equal branches of government being what they are and all. He is not a CEO, he is a governor. Not the same thing. State government is not a business, and can’t be run like one.

I’m guessing that IDOT has a cash-flow problem, like every other state agency, and wasn’t prepared for this snowstorm. Or perhaps, like the mayor, the governor put incompetent people in charge. Being a Republican, there’s no reason to suppose he believes government should work for the people. But you’d think he’d care that his buddies in the northern and very wealthy suburbs could drive their BMW’s into the City to get to the office …

Or maybe not. Maybe he just wants to ram home how disfunctional state government is, so he can continue to dismantle it.

I’ve gotten to work plenty of times in worse weather than this. The fact that we had the worst travel times EVER this morning was no accident and not a result of the relatively minor snowfall we had (4-5 inches? In Chicago? Pah. Trivial). That was a direct result of the choices made by the Mayor and the Governor.  Equally incompetent, equally smug and ego-driven.

The Twin Disasters.