Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Warren gets it

While waiting for tonight’s Round Two of the Democratic debates, here’s a look at a fun list developing on Twitter. A few are hash tagged, #WarrenGetsIt. (Disclosure: I have not yet picked a candidate, but Elizabeth Warren is on the short list.)

The first may have been the genesis of the tweets:

@MerrillBarr: Elizabeth Warren has never asked a bartender “what whiskeys do you have?” She’s already checked the shelf.

@PaulaInTulsaOK: Elizabeth Warren always tips at least 25% and never tries to get dinner at the lunch price.

@elizabeth_case: Elizabeth Warren never checks her phone when you’re having a heart-to-heart. It can wait.

@CCoceans311: Elizabeth Warren will let you use her charger. Her phone is at 100%.

@JoeyWesthead: Elizabeth Warren always lets you into traffic with a smile and wave! And – She never takes up 2 parking spaces or parks wonky so you have to crawl into your car/truck when leaving.

@MamalehC: Elizabeth Warren does the surveys at the bottom of the receipt because she cares about the working class!

@Mikestweeting: Elizabeth Warren ALWAYS uses her turn signal, even when it’s late and no one else is around.

@TootsieF: Elizabeth Warren does a little half jog when crossing the street so she doesn’t hold up traffic.

@amberahumphrey: When Elizabeth Warren gives you a ride home she always waits until you flash the porch light before driving off.

@AlishaGrauso: Elizabeth Warren always knows exactly what she wants when she gets to the front of the Starbucks line and never holds everyone else up.

@AuntieTeyTey: Elizabeth Warren always returns her shopping cart before getting in her car and driving away. (She wouldn’t dream of leaving a cart in a parking space.)

@drainladyspeaks: Elizabeth Warren washes her dishes right after she finishes eating, then washes your dishes that you left in there to soak.

@GeenuhFjord: When Elizabeth Warren gives a gift bag, she makes sure it’s not too event specific because she wants you to be able to re-use it.

@realTomChapmans: Elizabeth Warren always rinses out her recyclables before putting them in the bin.

@schristineyoung: Elizabeth Warren always stands to the correct side on an escalator. She understands people have things to do.

@vintagebaby1929: Elizabeth Warren never makes the joke, “so it’s free?” when things don’t properly scan at the register. She knows what’s up.

@tracyjust: Elizabeth Warren stacks all the empty plates and neatly places the silver wear on top at a restaurant.

There are many more; look them up. But, finally, just in case you’re thinking, “Hey, aren’t these a lot like …”

@DavidGillaspie: Elizabeth Warren is coaching Chuck Norris through a difficult time.

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Mexican retreat

Fisherman and pelicans

As mentioned earlier, Leah and I spent the month of March in the small town of Chapala in central Mexico.

I’ve finally finished an Expedition page telling about our visit with some 20 photos. Go straight to that page by clicking this link.

Thoughts and flags

Flags at Tenana Valley State Fair in Fairbanks.Coming back from a restaurant Monday evening, a friend asked why flags were at half-staff.
“It’s because 44 people in the United States — one or two per incident — died Sunday due to gun violence.”
No, of course not. We only offer thoughts, prayers and flag lowerings when the deaths come in large batches, such as the 12 people murdered in Virginia Beach on Friday.
At sunset today, flags and most Americans will resume normal activities. And we can expect another two or three dozen shooting deaths on Wednesday.

UPDATE: As of early Friday morning, there were 40 people killed by guns in the United States on Wednesday. These numbers, by the way, come from www.gunviolencearchive.org. It is also worth noting they do not count suicides, with the exceptions of suicides related to other shootings and “suicide by cop.”

Pick a Dem, any Dem

Pelicans fighting for scraps

Pelicans fighting for scraps discarded by fisherman. Here’s hoping the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential won’t resemble this. (c) 2019 by Steve Martaindale

Let’s run through them alphabetically.

I’m not real crazy about Joe Biden becoming the next president even though his eight years in the right seat while President Barack Obama piloted the nation are important. Plus, he works well with people, Congress and other world leaders. But there are the Anita Hill testimony and other issues. Many consider his centrist leanings a positive, but I’m hoping we can build on the overwhelming progressive results of 2018 to restore and expand policies protecting people, rights and the planet. Lastly, I desire to take a break from old, white males in the White House and he’s all three. However, I will whole-heartedly support Joe Biden if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Donald Trump or Mike Pence.

Cory Booker is hard not to like. He’s incredibly well-educated and an accomplished orator, a welcomed relief from our current situation. He’s a young, black male, but his relationship with the pharmaceutical industry is worrisome what with the huge job needed to fix healthcare. However, I will whole-heartedly support Cory Booker if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Pete Buttigieg, like Booker, is a Rhodes scholar, plus he served active duty as a Navy reservist in Afghanistan. He’s young, but some think he’s too young. If elected, he’ll celebrate his 39th birthday the day before his inauguration, almost four years younger than Teddy Roosevelt. Being a gay man gives him a chance to address more directly some of our nation’s issues. Would it hurt him in the general election? Maybe, but let’s be honest, just about anyone who would vote against him solely because he’s gay is probably a hate-filled version of die-hard Republican anyway. His greatest shortcoming, in my estimation, is his limited experience. However, I will whole-heartedly support Pete Buttigieg if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Julian Castro supplements his mayoral experience with his time in Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I do like his early emphasis on healthcare and immigration reform. A young Latino, he may have crested early in the public eye as he’s been out of office now for a couple of years. However, I will whole-heartedly support Julian Castro if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

John Delaney is a white male who can only be considered “young” by presidential standards, but I must respect his dedication to his campaign. As a congressman from Maryland, he announced his intentions to run for president in July 2017 and opted to not run for re-election to the House in 2018 in order to concentrate on the 2020 election. His biggest problem may be that most voters still have not heard of him. However, I will whole-heartedly support John Delaney if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Remember what I said about not wanting to elect another old, white male? Tulsi Gabbard is the first in our alphabetical list to satisfy all three, if you’re willing to grant that being born in American Samoa to a father of Samoan and European descent is non-white enough. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but she is also the first Hindu in Congress, if one really values diversity. She’s currently a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, with which she served in both Iraq and Kuwait. Her policies, though, are more problematic, particularly her early opposition to recognizing same-sex marriage, a position she has recently reversed. However, I will whole-heartedly support Tulsi Gabbard if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

Kirsten Gillibrand is an inspiring candidate, having taken a lead in the #MeToo movement and standing strong against the current administration. (See her “Brave Wins” announcement video, for example.) Now a liberal New York senator, she will have to explain conservative votes while a member of the House. However, I will whole-heartedly support Kirsten Gillibrand if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

It seems Kamala Harris has done an outstanding job laying the groundwork for a White House bid. This youngish, black woman is an amazing force when questioning people in the Senate. Smart, articulate and tough as nails, one source suggested the worst thing about her was that she’s from California, which is tough for many conservatives to swallow. I’ll refer you to my earlier comment about Pete Buttigieg. Some have said her prosecutorial record isn’t liberal enough. However, I will whole-heartedly support Kamala Harris if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

John Hickenlooper is our next old, white male candidate. He promotes himself as a moderate – excuse me, an “extreme moderate” – which seems to have been what Colorado needed. I’m not looking for another old guy to do the same old things. However, I will whole-heartedly support John Hickenlooper if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

This cannot be, in my view, a one-issue campaign, but Jay Inslee is putting his heart and soul into what many think is the nation’s, indeed the world’s, biggest issue. Yep, he’s all-in on fighting climate change. Of course, he’s also another old, white male. However, I will whole-heartedly support Jay Inslee if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Amy Klobuchar, in addition to effectively needling the current president, is a champion of healthcare reform. She’s another woman who has shone during congressional hearings. The most stinging negative has been that she drives her staff hard, sometimes to the point of it being demoralizing. However, I will whole-heartedly support Amy Klobuchar if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

Next is Wayne Messam, the first candidate I really know nothing about. He’s 44, the son of Jamaican immigrants and mayor of Miramar, Florida. He also played football for Florida State, something he may be better off not mentioning to a lot of people. However, I will whole-heartedly support Wayne Messam if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Similarly, we follow with Seth Moulton, a congressman from Massachusetts and an Iraq war veteran. He also helped lead a failed effort to deny Nancy Pelosi the House leadership, which may indicate a strong progressive streak but does put his judgment into question. However, I will whole-heartedly support Seth Moulton if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

I was heavily behind Beto O’Rourke when he ran for the Senate last year because Texas badly needs to remove the stain on our national conscience that is Ted Cruz. But believing he is ready for the Senate is not the same as believing he’s ready for the White House, though I am perfectly willing to be proven wrong. However, I will whole-heartedly support Beto O’Rourke if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Tim Ryan is another who’s never hit on my radar that much. He’s also another who has a past of not fully supporting progressive ideals. However, I will whole-heartedly support Tim Ryan if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Here’s a tough one. I supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries because I was hoping to build on the fragile foundation Barack Obama had been able to assemble. Bernie was ready to push the big-ticket items that would shape our future, such as healthcare for all and returning respectable tax rates to the ultra-wealthy and promoting education. With his loss, though, I felt from the beginning that he should stick to the Senate, actually join the Democratic Party, and mentor the amazing new faces in Congress. Need I mention that he, too, is an old, white male? However, I will whole-heartedly support Bernie Sanders if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Eric Swalwell, another young congressman, has gone about making a name for himself, especially in taking opposition to the current president, but I have a difficult time taking him too seriously yet. However, I will whole-heartedly support Eric Swalwell if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Elizabeth Warren’s progressive chops are well-established and her nevertheless-she-persisted moment was classic. While I totally empathize with her Cherokee heritage story, because it parallels my own, she should have handled it better. Also, she is an old, white female. However, I will whole-heartedly support Elizabeth Warren if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

Marianne Williamson is another old, white female, but one who brings no political experience. She seems to be focusing on the country having a moral and spiritual awakening. However, I will whole-heartedly support Marianne Williamson if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

Andrew Yang is another inexperienced candidate (even though I believe he’s the only one on this list who follows me on Twitter). It’s generally acknowledged his overriding mission is to introduce the idea of Universal Basic Income into the nation’s dialogue and thought processes. I’ve read a bit about UBI the last couple of years and it might make sense considering the changes technology will press upon the work force and economy unless one or more crazed world leader bombs us back to an agrarian society. But that alone does not a presidency make. However, I will whole-heartedly support Andrew Yang if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Update: Michael Bennet tossed his hat into the ring recently, bringing the count to 21. His impassioned takedown of Ted Cruz on the Senate floor early this year brought him a lot of attention, but he has a moderate background that might not fly well in this primary. However, I will whole-heartedly support Michael Bennet if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Summation

Too many Democratic voters are displaying a tendency of insisting on backing only a perfect candidate. They say they will not support this or that candidate because of an earlier vote or action. Folks, such reasoning is why we are fearfully watching the current administration’s attempts to eliminate constitutional protections such as the balances of power.

Truthfully, there are candidates listed above that I think have absolutely no business being president. I trust Democrats to do a better job of filtering them out than Republicans did in 2016. But the fact is, any one of them will be an improvement over what we have now.

A final thought: I repeatedly inserted the vice president’s name in my pledge on purpose. I still fully expect things to play out to a point where Trump resigns in an effort to save himself and Pence steps in. Pence, in my estimation, is at least as evil as his boss but more dangerous because he knows better how to work the system. Also, of the Republicans who have fled because of the president, many will come back to support Pence.

It’s popularly stated, “Vote Blue, no matter who.” We must all adopt that attitude now. We need to hear out these 21 candidates, allow their messages to work into the system, maybe affecting other candidates’ positions. Those who are less electable will fall out as others strengthen. Democrats do not need to attack other Democrats; that’s a Trumpian move. Support your favorites and highlight why you do so. Let the system work.

Then …

Wholeheartedly support the Democratic nominee, even if he or she is not your favorite. Support and vote Blue, trusting time to eventually take care of your concerns. We cannot afford for you to sit this one out. We cannot afford you casting a “protest” third-party vote. And you will vote Trump or Pence only if you really want to see how this country will collapse under a dictatorial leadership.

Adios

Watering the median

It’s been quiet on this page the past month, but I want you to know there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes, things that will soon appear here.

At the risk of raising more questions than I answer (OK, that’s probably my actual intent), here are some points to be addressed and explained later.

* I secured an artist residency with a program in the small town of Chapala, located on Lake Chapala, a short distance south of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Leah and I wrap up a four-week stay when we fly home early Saturday.

* We’ve met and made friends with some marvelous artists from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain.

* We’ve walked all over the town. In fact, since the taxi dropped us off March 2 and until another takes us to the city Friday afternoon, the only vehicles we’ve been in are local buses to make two trips to the neighboring town of Ajijic to visit a farmers’ market.

* Leah has greatly enhanced her Spanish skills and I’ve probably picked up a word or two.

* Our casita sits on the third floor overlooking a crazy intersection, providing hours of watching pedestrians, vehicles and horseback riders weaving in and out.

* There have been nice visits and interactions with local residents.

* The scenery of the lake is beautiful, dominated by a large flock of American white pelicans that are wrapping up their winter and heading north for the breeding season.

* The weather – as it is year-round, the literature says – has been perfect.

* As for the art portion, I came here with one certain goal – to get to know an area foreign to me well enough to use it to create a setting in a future book. That has been accomplished. My writing on book six of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series has been at pretty much a stalemate for the past 30 months or so and I did not want to set myself up for failure by making that my goal. However, due in no small part to the encouragement of others here, I have made considerable headway on “The Reporter and the Apricot,” including figuring out that title won’t work.

That’s enough for now. Also coming will be photos. The only thing I forgot to bring with me was the cord to download my camera into my laptop. The photo above was one I took with my phone out of our casita’s kitchen window. This tanker truck came around often. The driver would cruise next to the median and the hose operator on top sprayed it with water. I’m not sure if it was more to water vegetation or to try to keep dust down during the dry season.

Lastly, if you have topics or questions you think I should address, send an email or private message or leave a comment below.

“The envelope, please…”

Bohemian Rhapsody

A memorable moment from “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Before I wade into my guesses for tonight’s Oscars, a wee bit of background. I’m in no way qualified to do this except I enjoy films and have no problem speaking my mind. I truly hope you’ll pitch in with a comment (at the end of this article) with your thoughts and predictions.

Also, I’m doing this simply for fun. I’ve always regretted watching the Oscars and having seen only one or two of the top-rated movies. This year, I’ve seen all 13 movies represented in the top six categories – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress. I’ve also seen five of the other films with nominations further down the list. (By the way, I published a column a few days ago telling why I felt like some would not win, if you want to check that out.) Let’s go.

Best Supporting Actor

And the Oscar goes to Mahershala Ali, “Green Book.”

His portrayal of Dr. Don Shirley was locked in throughout the bulk of the movie, which is one shortcoming. We didn’t get to see the character change much.

Adam Driver in “BlacKkKlansman” was truly a supporting actor in that he in no way had the lead (which one could argue Ali did) but the story could not have progressed without him. Richard E. Grant in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” turned in perhaps my favorite acting job in this category. Either one of these could easily pick up the gold statuette.

The roles of Sam Elliot in “A Star Is Born” and Sam Rockwell (last year’s winner) in “Vice” were not, in my opinion, enough to warrant a win. The 74-year-old Elliot, however, seems to have a lot of fan support and that is a real thing.

Best Supporting Actress

And the Oscar goes to Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Most of these categories are difficult this year … as we like them to be … but I actually changed my mind since I scrawled my choices down on paper a couple of days ago. “Beale Street” tells an important story, one that much of America does not see or understand, and the character of Sharon Rivers is the thread that binds it together.

Dropping from the lead on my list is Amy Adams in “Vice.” The strength of her Lynne Cheney character shaped the movie as, if we can trust the film, the real Lynne molded Dick Cheney.

Marina de Tavira in “Roma” and the two nominees from “The Favourite” – Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone – could, in true Academy Awards fashion, spring a surprise on this category, particularly since either of those movies could turn into a runaway locomotive on the stage.

Best Actor

And the Oscar goes to Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Speaking of runaway locomotives, that term could apply both to his steamroller performance and to his winning record at earlier awards presentations. I cannot comprehend the task of taking on such a bigger-than-life character as Freddie Mercury, but Malek handled it with aplomb.

Any other nominee could, however, make a case for a win.

Willem Dafoe turned in what amounted to almost a soliloquy for 111 minutes in “At Eternity’s Gate.” That is to say, he was constantly the central figure, fighting with himself and others to express the artistic vision captured within Vincent van Gogh.

Christian Bale made a miraculous physical transformation to play Dick Cheney in “Vice” and accomplished a solid performance atop the makeup.

Viggo Mortensen’s “Green Book” character, Tony Lip, is the fun role actors love to play. We got to see Tony grow a lot through the movie. And, to be clear, this is not Aragorn.

Bradley Cooper is also receiving a lot of public acclaim for Jack in “A Star Is Born,” deservedly so. His tragic tale is written on the lines of the character’s face.

Best Actress

And the Oscar goes to Glenn Close, “The Wife.”

This is the only major category that is not even close, in my mind. “The Wife” was the last of the nominees I was able to see and I went in with no strong leader, but Close’s commanding performance as Joan Castleman instantly won me over. I love it when an actor can say as much as she did without even using words.

Melissa McCarthy is probably my next pick for her role as Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” It’s a complicated role, tastefully accented by McCarthy’s deft humor.

Olivia Colman in “The Favourite” and Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born” certainly became their characters, both exhibiting considerable range and emotion.

Newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, playing the lead role in “Roma” in her first film, was amazing, considering that. I don’t see her grabbing an individual statuette, however, unless it’s coupled onto the aforementioned runaway train.

Best Director

The Oscar goes to Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma.”

I feel less qualified in this among all six major categories. I’m going with Cuaron partly because of all the buzz, in addition to it being a great film.

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman,” has been talked about a lot, but most of the comments have mentioned it more as a makeup award for better work he’s done in the past.

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite,” certainly spun up a grand tale and must be considered a favorite, as well.

Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War,” being not in English and being nominated only in this category, allowed me to view it thinking about the director’s hand. Even I could see effective results that undoubtedly must be credited to him.

Last, and certainly not least, Adam McKay’s “Vice” has been in and out of my consideration for the award. The movie was an effectively woven story of multiple elements and places in time that never seemed to lose me. I think he’s a strong contender.

Best Picture

And the Oscar goes to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Graham King, producer.

Remember the runaway trains in “Roma” and “The Favourite” and the fan-favored “A Star Is Born.” All deserving winners, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the movie that, as I exited the theater, had placed in me a burning desire to create something, to go out and win at something, to achieve what I want.

Plus, of course, I grew into adulthood loving the music of Queen.

“Black Panther” is grand. “BlacKkKlansman” is an entertaining story. “Green Book” was fun and informative. “Vice” spun a powerful image.

But “Bohemian Rhapsody” is my top movie.

Elsewhere…

In addition to these 13 movies, I’ve seen five others that are up for one or more awards. If I counted correctly, that leaves 19 I’ve not seen among the other categories, plus the 15 short film nominations, none of which I’ve seen.

That is to say, the following quick predictions are a mixture of what I’ve seen, heard, guess and wish.

Best Original Screenplay – “The Favourite.”

Best Adapted Screenplay – “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Best Makeup & Hairstyling – “Vice.”

Best Costume Design – “Black Panther.”

Best Cinematography – “Cold War.”

Best Original Song – “A Star Is Born” for “Shallow.”

Best Original Score – “Black Panther.”

Best Documentary Feature – “RBG.”

Best Animated Feature – “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Best Foreign-Language Film – “Roma.”

Best Sound Mixing – “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Best Sound Editing – “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Best Production Design – “The Favourite.”

Best Visual Effects – “First Man.”

Best Film Editing – “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Best Animated Short – Best Live-Action Short – Best Documentary Short – I know nothing about any of these nominees; we’ll just leave it there.

Special mention

The names from the memorial segment most likely to draw an audible response from you and the Academy members: Penny Marshall, Burt Reynolds, Neil Simon, Tab Hunter and Stan Lee.

Over / under on the number of references to there not being a host and/or to Kevin Hart: 11.5.

Over / under on minutes run overtime: 7.5.

Number of times conservative viewers will yell during acceptance speeches: 10.

Let’s get together: I will be live-tweeting whatever crosses my mind during the Oscars (8 p.m. Eastern / 5 p.m. Pacific on ABC). Join me. My handle is @smartaindale and I’ll be using the hashtag #OscarsPalooza. We might even start during the red carpet.

Are we still family?

homeward_bound

The scene as I headed to the transport plane headed home from Antarctica with members of my “family” in February 2007.

Through a series of clicks on the computer this morning, I stumbled across an old column of mine, which, coincidentally, was published exactly eight years ago today on a now-abandoned site.

I titled it “We are family.” Initially, it was about the extended family of people who have worked in Antarctica, but I expanded that point to say, “Common bonds come in many forms.” You know, we share a lot in common with most people.

In today’s America, that seems less true. Or, perhaps, it’s that we now find ourselves emphasizing not what we have in common but what separates us.

That includes me, but I’m willing to defend my divisive nature of the past few years. I’m dropping and/or unfollowing friends because I cannot maintain relationships with people who support a president and a party who promote white supremacy, practice the objectification of women, persecute people of other religions while openly defiling the believes of the religion they claim to support … and so on.

It’s not just on my side. One of my best friends from the Ice, who was once one of the most vocal supporters of my writing, dropped me as a Facebook friend because he could not handle me pointing out truths such as those in the previous paragraph.

Are we doomed to widening chasms between people?

Quite possibly. In fact, I highly suspect those divisions will increase dramatically before we find ourselves coming together. No science or research behind that, just my feelings.

For example, I read something this morning on someone else’s Twitter account: “When I feel down about the direction this country is headed in, I remind myself that every generation is less conservative than the generation prior. We’ve made progress although it’s been painfully slow. Liberals are a flowing river. Moving water can slowly cut through rock…”

I sincerely believe the writer is correct, that more liberal philosophies will win out. That’s simple, really, because those values embrace people. Conservatives of recent years have done nothing but draw together in tighter, more restrictive, more hate-filled clusters.

So, the question is, are we still family?

I think so.

Consider how we, for the most part, banded together to help hurricane victims and those who suffered the wrath of California’s historic fires. When people are in trouble, most of us reach out regardless of differences in ethnicity, religion, even politics.

Will that continue to be the case, even as we’re growing further apart?

We are family

(Originally published Wednesday, February 23, 2011)

You have surely heard about the killer earthquake Tuesday in Christchurch, New Zealand. Media outlets in the U.S. have given the story some play over these first several hours, though that will likely die down rather quickly, particularly if things in Libya continue to deteriorate/accelerate.

I took more note of the quakes than some people for two reasons. One, I spent a few days tramping around the city four years ago and found it and its residents incredibly charming. On a more personal note, looking at the calendar, I knew there were likely members of the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) redeploying through Christchurch en route to vacations and homes as the summer season nears its end on the Ice.

Sure enough, it seems almost 400 were in New Zealand at the time and most of them would be in Christchurch. Rather quickly, information began flying between friends that so-and-so checked in and was OK, another couple had already left town in a rental car to visit other spots on the South Island, and so on.

Not wanting to insert myself into a tragic story and not really knowing how to explain my heightened interest, I initially refrained from posting anything. Then my Ice friend Atlas (who’s currently working in Iraq) relayed via Facebook a post by one of his friends that explained what I was feeling.

“The USAP is the ‘largest family’ that many of us have known,” he wrote. “We are all bonded through Antarctica – no matter if you have deployed or not, no matter if you are a full-timer or contract, NSF, PHI, etc. If you have been in 3 months or 35 years … We are family, and I’m hoping and praying for you all.”

That’s it, I thought. I’m more attuned because we have something in common. I served on the Ice only four months and that ended four years ago. However, the experience was such that I instantly have a link to others who have done the same.

Such links are not uncommon, however.

People feel tied to one another because they come from the same town, state or country, because they attended the same school. Anyone who served in the military can receive a knowing nod from another, even when separated by decades in service. Those who have served overseas in war zones have an even stronger brotherhood, I believe.

Common bonds come in many forms. An experienced parent comforts a new member of the order by offering encouragement and maybe a little advice. People who share similar health problems, from migraines to gout, instantly find a new level on which to communicate.

So far, I’ve heard of no USAP members among the dead or wounded, though it occurs to me I’m thinking the way we often do in times of trouble.

You know what I’m talking about. We hear of a disaster and think, “I hope nobody I know is involved.” It’s a natural reaction, I believe, but what does it mean? Is a victim less important if we don’t know him?

That’s not true, of course. We simply tend to protect our own feelings, knowing we’ll hurt more if we share a bond with a victim.

And then there’s the final, huge truth.

We do share bonds. With everyone. No matter our differences, we all have things in common.

We are family and we’re hoping and praying for you all.

Golden countdown

Oscars

Filled with confidence by my success picking Oscar winners last year, I’m pumping up my game this year.

I’ve already seen all eight Best Picture nominees and all but two films (which I’m planning on viewing this week) which will also give me a look at every nominated best actor, actress, supporting actor and actress, and director.

By Sunday, I’ll make and post here picks in each of these six categories, the movie or person I think will win, as well as my personal favorite, should it be different.

At the time of this writing, I’ve not seriously thought about which I’ll pick, instead allowing them to marinate a bit. However, I might be able to eliminate a few by running through the lists. Make notes as you go through these and then comment with your thoughts.

Best Supporting Actor

Sam Elliot, 74, seems to be well-loved and this is his first Oscar nomination, coming from “A Star Is Born.” That is to say, he may garner emotional support, but that’s the only way I can see him winning. Not due to any shortcomings on his part, but the role wasn’t worthy of a nomination.

Sam Rockwell is looking to repeat in this category, winning last year for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” That was the only pick from the top six that I missed (excusing one where I had not seen the movie), giving my nod to Woody Harrelson from the same flick. Not one to learn from my own mistakes, I’m tossing Rockwell aside again this year, not feeling his portrayal of George W. Bush in “Vice” is Oscar worthy.

Side note: I have nothing against people named Sam.

That leaves three in the running: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”; Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”; and Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Any of the three is deserving, but I’ll have it narrowed down before Sunday evening.

Best Supporting Actress

Of the 11 nominated movies I’ve seen so far, the only one I didn’t care for was “The Favourite,” and it has five nominations in the six categories I’m looking at here, including two – Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz – for supporting actress. I cannot knock their performances, but I can tell you right now neither will be my pick.

Remaining are Amy Adams, “Vice”; Marina de Tavira, “Roma”; and Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Best Actor

This is Bradley Cooper’s fourth acting nomination, something which surprised me. He’s still looking for a win, though, which I think will still be true come the 2020 Academy Awards.

Still in the running are Christian Bale in “Vice”; Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”; Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”; and Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book.”

I’ve not yet seen “At Eternity’s Gate.

Best Actress

I’m not ready to dismiss any of the Best Actress nominees yet.

A practical mind says Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma,” cannot be a serious contender because this is the only role she’s ever played, but another could argue that such a performance without a meaty background must indicate her talent.

On the other hand, Glenn Close, “The Wife,” now has seven acting nominations without a win. I’ll tip my hand here: she’s currently my leader among this worthy group.

While I didn’t really like “The Favourite,” Olivia Colman’s performance of an emotionally challenged monarch was masterful. This is her first Oscars nomination.

I wasn’t expecting to be impressed by the acting of Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born,” even though she’s an established performer. I was. This is her first acting nomination.

It would be easy to feel Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” deserves a nomination simply for breaking so well from her lifetime comedic work. That wouldn’t be fair because she flat out did an amazing job. This is her second Oscars nomination.

Best Director

Here’s the second category where I’ve not yet seen them all. I’ll go ahead and drop Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite,” from consideration, even though the film has received a lot of vocal support.

Left in the running are Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”; Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”; Adam McKay, “Vice”; and Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War.” I have not yet seen “Cold War.”

Best Picture

There are eight nominations this year, six of which are based on real people. The exceptions are “Black Panther” and “A Star Is Born,” though the performing arts world is full of stories bearing some resemblances to the latter.

But that’s not why I’m dropping these two.

“Black Panther” was a great movie I enjoyed immensely and it’s still in the running for my personal favorite, but I don’t believe the Academy will award best film to a movie derived from comic books.

As for “A Star Is Born,” I can’t give this trophy to something that’s been done so many times before. Roughly the same story, with the same title, was filmed in 1937, 1954 and 1976. Only the first one was nominated as Best Picture and it lost to “The Life of Emile Zola.”

It won’t surprise you I’m also willing to drop “The Favourite,” leaving five finalists: “BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Roma,” “Green Book” and “Vice.”

Leave a comment below telling me where I’ve already messed up by dropping out your favorite (even “The Favourite”). Also feel free to tell me who I should pick in any or all the categories. I’m at times incredibly impressionable.

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LIII

Super Bowl pic

Just because you didn’t ask doesn’t mean you didn’t want to know my thoughts during Super Bowl LIII. The game, the commentary, the commercials, maybe even some comments from my wife. Well, you’re in luck.

Following are notes and observations made during the NFL championship game in Atlanta the evening of Feb. 3, 2019. While I made these notes live, they were not posted until immediately after the game.

A couple of things to begin with … I do not have a DVR, so there’s no going back to confirm an exact quote, but I’m pretty certain of the quote or its representation if I have it in “quote marks.” Other times, I will summarize.

Also, I may not be able to get all names. I may simply type #25 if I don’t catch or have time to look up his name.

Without further ado, it’s time for kickoff.

Impressive lineup of dignitaries for the coin flip. There is a definite attempt in the pregame and some commercials already to paint a picture of unity and cohesiveness.

Jim Nantz and Tony Romo working the booth.

Rams kick off to the Patriots, who begin on their own 39-yard line. Don’t worry, this won’t be a play-by-play, though Sony Michel opens with an impressive 13-yard run.

The third play from scrimmage and two players are already pushing each other.

And the Rams come up with an early turnover. The announcers are all excited with the possibility of having an exciting game. You can’t blame them; so many Super Bowl games have been rather boring.

First punt and I should let you know I’m a big special teams fan.

First commercial is for something called spiked seltzer. Have you heard of it? It was a cute commercial, but do you think it needed more explanation.

Serena Williams in a commercial lets us know women have the power. I’m all in; y’all take charge because I trust you more than I do men.

Tony Romo says a defensive back is playing “too safe” on a third-down play. Well, I bet he wouldn’t have had he known the play … or had the benefit of making that decision after the play.

First flag and the referee calls a (in my opinion) picky penalty that just so happens to move the Patriots out of a really bad situation. Just happenstance, I’m sure.

Jason Bateman makes an entertaining elevator operator in a Hyundai commercial. Turkish Airlines is pitching a film. Is there a url? Not sure. We flew Turkish once; it was a good transatlantic experience.

“Great coverage provided,” says Jim Nantz. A pet peeve of mine is how easily sports announcers toss out the term “great.” Second timeout by the Patriots – to avoid a delay flag – isn’t desireable with more than 21 minutes to play in the first half.

Leah liked the Olay commercial. Doritos is now hot … OK. Some pet commercial seems to be out of place. Sorry.

Did I mention special teams? Yeah, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski hooks a short field goal attempt. So, that’s a turnover and a missed FG. This would be a great time for the Rams offense, with young QB Jared Goff, to step up and show they belong here.

Nance just points out Gostkowski has missed four field goals in the past three Super Bowls. That’s cold.

Tony Romo tells us his microphone went dead earlier … and nobody noticed. (Seriously, I like Tony Romo; I just wished he had been in a Super Bowl as a player.)

Fourth and 3 for the Rams at the Patriots 42. Punt team is out … will they fake it? Flag. Tony Romo has fun with the officials, who, after a lengthy discussion, decide to charge the Rams with delay of game.

Commercial for the Rock, Dwayne Johnson, in a new movie. Has the Rock ever played a bad guy? I’m not remembering it.

Exspenify is cool. Well, that’s what the commercial says to me.

We come back from the advertising break and there’s a lot of standing around. That indicates a scheduling issue or communications problem in Atlanta, I think.

“Give Wade Phillips credit,” Tony says of the Rams’ defensive coordinator. I’ve said before, Wade has the coolest Twitter handle around: sonofbum.

“He’s going to have to play good,” Tony says of a Rams running back. Look, I know everyone seems to do this, but is it too much to ask for, “He’s going to have to play well”?

OK, the T-Mobile was cute, but what does it really say?

Next is an Audi commercial about a near-death experience that had me laughing out loud.

Second and five from their own 11 for the Rams to start the second quarter. Are they ready? Uh, no … a five-yard false start penalty.

Bud Light … Game of Thrones … what was that, exactly?

It always amazes me the number of network commercials aired during these high-priced events. Does that mean they couldn’t sell them all?

Patriots try an end-around that the Rams sniff out. I like it when an offense slips in a bit of a gadget play; I love it when a well-disciplined defense negates it.

A chance for a reprieve for kicker Gostkowski. He barely slips a 42-yard field goal inside the left goal post. Patriots up 3-0.

Google tells us that every day the most translated words are friendly, helpful and loving. Nice touch.

I don’t like the new kickoff rules. I’ll say that now so I can repeat it if an onside kickoff situation presents itself later.

I think the Rams got a break on that in-bounds call on an 18-yard pass. Belichick didn’t challenge it. You know why? Because they burned two timeouts early in the game and didn’t want to risk losing the third one. Yeah, things like running out a play clock can come back to haunt you.

Full disclosure, though, the Patriots stopped them and forced a punt anyway.

T-Mobile’s the first advertiser – I think – to repeat a commercial. But, wait … they teamed up with Taco Bell. I believe that’s the second commercial that featured two companies. That’s a good plan when they’re so amazingly expensive.

Jim Nantz says, “There’s never been a punt returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history” as the Patriots punt to the Rams. There’s still not.

It was just a so-so commercial for Planters until they cut to Charlie Sheen on a bench saying, “And people say that I’m nuts.”

Early MVP candidate: Julian Edelman of New England.

“Change up the usual” by Stella Artois. That’s cute.

“More than 12 men,” Tony says of a penalty on the Rams defense, “somewhere between 13 and 18.” OK, you got my interest. Why not replay that and point them out? Huh? OK? … Crickets.

Rams defense steps up and stops Patriots on fourth-and-one. Seventy-three seconds left in the first half.

And Goff is sacked again. Punt on fourth-and-two.

The punt dies on the two-yard-line. Great kick. Pats should run out the last 16 seconds. And Brady takes a knee to send us toward the vaunted halftime show.

First, the Toyota Super Bowl Halftime Report. Is there anything they’ve not sold rights to yet? (Don’t answer; I know it will get worse.)

On the break leading up to the halftime show, the commercials are almost all for the network. Guess CBS knows everyone is running to the rest room.

The first comment during the halftime show produced two “greats.”

Nate Burleson predicts the Rams will take more shots down the field to Josh Reynolds. That gives me a chance to point out many of us, when our pro team doesn’t make the big game, look to see who from our favorite college team might be playing. I’m a Texas Aggie, which leaves me with only receiver Reynolds to watch. At the half, he has only one catch for 10 yards.

Winner!!!!! The NFL 100th season kickoff commercial was a treat for old fans. My favorite might have been Franco Harris making yet another immaculate reception. If you didn’t catch it (see what I did there?) then look it up.

OK, I’m taking a break during the show. I’m not a music critic, maybe because I can’t understand why Maroon 5 has seven members. Rest room break!

Back up three lines. It’s warm enough in central Texas that I pulled out a T-shirt after church. Since I don’t have any Rams gear, I chose my Texas A&M 12th man shirt. I don’t have any Dallas Cowboys gear, though I’ve been a fan of varying degrees since Don Meredith’s days. I won’t likely be supporting them again until Jerry Jones abandons the role of plantation foreman.

Patriots kick off to start the second half. Touchback.

Sideline reporter Evan Washburn tells us Bill Belichick thinks his team needs to do more on offense or something like that. Shocking, I know.

Patriots safety Patrick Chung walks off the field with his arm in an air cast. Anyone who has played the game, from high school on up, has stood on the field and watched another player being treated for an injury that could end his career. It’s a sobering moment, and then they go back to playing.

The announcers are building up Edelman. They’re already working on their MVP nominee.

Edelman suckered in Marcus Peters on that play … a big play.

It’s fun watching some of the assistant coaches along the sideline. Sometimes, I think they should wear skirts and carry megaphones.

T-Mobile is back … this time with Lyft. Some marketing genius going on here … maybe.

Verizon’s thanks to first responders is a series it’s been running recently. They have a good message and this one was particularly touching.

Luke Wilson and Colgate … well, that was a little discomforting.

Ohhhh. Almost a Rams TD.

Big sack by the Pats, then the Rams tie it up with a 53-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. Are we in for another exciting finish?

“They’ll call that every time,” Nantz says of a defensive holding penalty. Uh, Jim, are you familiar with what happened in the NFC championship game?

Wow. That’s the end of the third quarter already?

I looked this up for you before Jim and Tony bring it up. Super Bowl VII was the lowest-scoring Super Bowl game in NFL history. The Miami Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins 14–7.

HEB, a regional commercial, ranks up with the best with a “Cast Away” spinoff.

“When everybody plays, we all win.” Microsoft weighs in on the welcomed theme of inclusivity.

Potentially a big penalty on the Patriots.

Burger King may have taken the weird ad lead with its #EatLikeAndy spot.

Budweiser touts brewing beer using wind energy. As if the radical right hadn’t had enough to get upset about with all the equality and diversification commercials, now they see that beer is taking a bend to the left.

Seven minutes left and we get our first touchdown; New England goes up 10-3.

Unrelated, I just opened my third beer of the game. That’s not much for some people, but that’s a full evening for me. By the way, it’s a stout named King Grackle brewed by Texas Beer Co., in Taylor.

A strangely entertaining spot from Amazon with capable support from Alexis.

Rams seem to be working their way back, but an unnecessarily desperate pass is picked off by the Pats at their own 4-yard line.

“Knowing keeps us free,” says The Washington Post in what serves also as a tribute to slain journalists.

Fourth and two inches. Hey, Bill, I’d go for it.

No way I’d kick. Too many things could go wrong, but it appears they are kicking. Gostkowski is good for a two-score lead. By the way, it again skirts in near the left goal post.

If nothing crazy happens, this will still be the lowest-scoring Super Bowl game of the first 53.

As a side note, I’ve probably eaten more Frito’s corn chips and bean dip than I should have. Luckily, like birthdays and Christmas, calories don’t count on Super Bowl Sunday.

I like Tony Romo’s thoughts on taking a Hail Mary pass early.

Greg Zuerlein comes out to attempt a 48-yard field goal and rely on the aforementioned sorry kickoff rules.

However, his kick is wide and it’s up to Tom Brady to take a knee and win Super Bowl LIII.

Good night, folks.

Respect

claudia and mita - rushmore 2018

Claudia and Mita as they were starting their trips back home last fall.

Last summer, we arrived at Mount Rushmore a few weeks before my designated job was open, so they put me to work in the parking lot.

Most of the time, I was partnered with Mita and Claudia, two students from Taiwan (many international workers, particularly those from Asia, adopt Anglo names to make it easier for us). I loved visiting with these two ladies.

I worked the crosswalk, sending RVs and other large vehicles to them to park. Periodically, one of them would relieve me for a break and they always insisted I take one. (I quickly convinced them I would not walk to the office for my break because that would mean climbing the hill again; they seemed to understand.)

One day, when Claudia ordered me to the shade for a rest, I said, “You take good care of me.”

“That’s because you’re old,” she said without missing a beat, “like my grandfather.”

Yep, I thought, at some 40 years her senior, that’s likely true. Frankly, I was pleased, even honored, by her words.

My wife commented this weekend about how most of the international students treat us. It’s with a level of respect – as elders – that we extended older folks when we were younger. Leah even pushed the point a bit further, suggesting that American youth don’t really do that anymore.

Is that true? I don’t want that to be true.

But …

It’s been my practice, through the years, to hold the door or to yield way to people. Maybe they’re older. Maybe they’re limited in their mobility. No offense, but I grew up holding doors for women, even young women.

As I’ve reached senior status, I’ve been more willing to let a younger person extend me the same courtesy, not because I need it but to give them the opportunity to display respect for an elder.

Many do, for sure, but I’m afraid an even larger number do not. They will rush through the door in front of me, leaving it to shut in my face, or they’ll walk shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder down a sidewalk, forcing us onto the grass.

It does me no physical or even emotional harm, though my physical needs might certainly change in the future, but it could be a barometer of the decline of respect.

Whether you’re young, old or in between, what do you see?

Yes, already

Spurred on by the incredibly successful Blue Wave … and obviously anxious to build upon it … the process of Democrats selecting the person they feel can best unseat Donald Trump if he’s still president in 2020 has begun.

Just like that.

We all have known to expect a high number of candidates. Early filings, announcements and teases are proving that out early.

What can I say? This should be entertaining.

Just for the fun of it, here’s a rundown of candidates and potential candidates as listed in Wikipedia. They’re divided into subsets, each of which is alphabetized.

Major declared candidates

Julian Castro, Texas, former HUD secretary and mayor of San Antonio.

John Delaney, six-year congressman from Maryland who did not run for re-election in order to focus on the presidential campaign.

Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii, just began fourth term in U.S. Congress, of which she was the body’s first Samoan-American and first Hindu member.

Richard Ojeda, West Virginia, retired major in the U.S. Army, state senator since 2016 who just resigned to concentrate on this election.

Other declared candidates

These have not previously been elected or appeared in polls but are otherwise notable.

Michael E. Arth, listed as artist and public policy analyst among other things, is from Florida but was born on a U.S. Army base in England to two U.S. citizens.

Harry Braun, from Georgia, is no stranger to presidential campaigns as he ran in 2004, 2012 and 2016.

Ken Nwadike Jr. may not sound familiar to you, but you might recognize him as the Free Hugs guy, he’s from Florida and is a motivational speaker and peace activist.

Robby Wells, from Georgia, is a former college football coach and ran for president the past two elections.

Andrew Yang, New York, an entrepreneur and founder of Venture for America.

There are almost 130 more who have filed.

Those with scheduled announcements

In other words, they’re not officially in yet (wink, wink).

Kamala Harris, a first-term U.S. senator, formerly attorney general of California, expected to announce next weekend.

Marianne Williamson, a spiritual teacher and activist from California.

Exploring

Those who have announced they are exploring the idea of running, which usually means they’re running.

Jay Inslee, governor of the state of Washington since 2013 and previously a U.S. representative.

Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts, senator since 2013.

Interested, hmm

These folks have expressed varying degrees of interest.

Michael Bennet, senator from Colorado.

Joe Biden, long-term U.S. senator and vice president to Barack Obama, from Delaware.

Michael Bloomberg, another billionaire from the Big Apple, but at least this one has political experience, serving as New York City’s mayor more than 10 years.

Cory Booker, just elected to second term as U.S. senator from New Jersey, previously mayor of Newark.

Sherrod Brown, senator and former representative from Ohio.

Steve Bullock, governor of Montana since 2013.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., since 2012.

Bob Casey Jr, senator from Pennsylvania since 2007.

Oscar De La Hoya, yes, the boxing champion from California.

Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, California, since 2013.

Kirsten Gillibrand, senator from New York since 2009 and previously a representative.

John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado and former mayor of Denver.

Eric Holder, U.S. attorney general from 2009-2015, from the District of Columbia.

Angelina Jolie, the actress and philanthropist from California.

Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota since 2007.

Terry McAuliffe, governor of Virginia 2014-18.

Jeff Merkley, senator from Oregon since 2009.

Beto O’Rourke, representative from Texas 2013-19.

Tim Ryan, representative from Ohio since 2003.

Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont since 2007, representative 1991-2007, and runner-up for the presidential nomination in 2016.

Eric Swalwell, representative from California since 2013.

Speculative candidates

One might say there is or has been a public swell of support for these folks to run, but they’re said nothing supporting or shooting down the idea.

Stacy Abrams, state representative in George 2007-2017 who made a close race for the governorship last election.

Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee 2014-18, who made a close race for the governorship of Florida last election.

Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans 2010-18.

William H. McRaven, retired U.S. Navy admiral, from North Carolina.

Joseph Sanberg, co-founder of Aspiration Inc., from California.

Adam Schiff, representative from California who’s proven to be a thorn in Trump’s Twitter side.

Howard Schultz, from Washington, former CEO of Starbucks.

No, thanks

More quickly, a look at speculative candidates who have publicly declined.

Michael Avenatti, who gained fame as Stormy Daniels’ attorney; former California Gov. Jerry Brown; the previous Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; former FBI Director James Comey; North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo;

Jamie Dimon, finance executive; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; former Sen. Al Franken; former Vice President Al Gore; Luis Gutierrez, former representative; actor Tom Hanks; media executive Bob Iger; actor Dwayne Johnson; Sen. Tim Kaine;

Caroline Kennedy, former ambassador to Japan; Rep. Joe Kennedy III; former Secretary of State John Kerry; Rep. Seth Moulton; Sen. Chris Murphy, Gov. Phil Murphy; Gov. Gavin Newsom; Michelle Obama, former first lady; former Gov. Martin O’Malley;

former Gov. Deval Patrick; NBA coach Gregg Popovich; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; conservative talk show host and former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough; philanthropist and activist Tom Steyer; Sen. Jon Tester; former state Sen. Nina Turner; Rep. Maxine Waters; television host Oprah Winfrey; and Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg.

Stay tuned.

Mini expedition

moonrise

A couple of months ago, while Leah and I were returning to Central Texas from South Dakota, we spent two weeks in the southern Texas Panhandle.

One neat thing we did was spend a day meditating on the plains of Caprock Canyons State Park.

It was a neat experience and I decided to do a little something about it for my expedition section.

Find it here.

What’s up

Steve at Tornillo

I apologize. I meant to post notice here that I would be absent for a while and let you know where I am.

For a week now and on into the new year, I’m standing as a witness to a migrant children’s prison at Tornillo, Texas, outside El Paso.

I’ve set up a site to document what is happening. Find it at TornilloChristmas.com.

The photo above came from Guardian.com after Beto O’Rourke spoke to the gathering last Sunday. Yep, that’s me in the background livestreaming it.

Surfing

quarry hotel

Today’s a free holiday for many folks. By that, I mean we took care of the observances for Armistice Day / Veteran’s Day on Sunday … well, if it wasn’t raining too much … so, this Monday is truly a day off. (Yes, I know, like all holidays, many people work to keep the world turning.)

The Wi-Fi at our RV park is better than average, so I use it if I’m not streaming or doing something sensitive. Upon signing in, it automatically opens the msn.com home page. Many websites maintain such a landing site, featuring an assortment of headlines from numerous sources. Usually, I just close that tab or window and continue doing my thing.

But … today is a free holiday, so I started clicking. Let’s go surfing now.

Ask the Salty Waitress: Should I tip on the pre- or post-tax total? – The name of the column, “Ask the Salty Waitress,” should give you a good idea how she would answer the question. It’s a quick, fun read that ends with, “… and generally try not to be a cheapskate.”

25 Recipes No One Makes Anymore – But Should – OK, pet peeve time. Usually, when you see a headline containing “X Number of Whatever,” it’s going to be a slideshow, which means you have to click through each of the 25 or however many items one page at a time, driving up their click rate and draining your bandwidth. It must be incredibly interesting to me to do so. In this case, I clicked to the first frame, which featured cinnamon toast, and then closed the window. I will not mention any more stories that require you to click through multiple pages.

This Was the Price of Milk the Year You Were Born – The title is a little misleading in that it lists the price every five years, those ending in 0 or 5, dating back to 1930. In addition to seeing that a gallon of milk cost about 93 cents when I was born, the relatively short article talks about what influenced the price changes.

Here’s How Long It Takes Your Body to Reverse the Damage of Smoking – Allow me to cut the drama: 16 years. This study says it takes 16 years for smokers to reclaim their health. There’s more information in the article, if this applies to you.

13 Ways You’re Ruining Your Cell Phone without Realizing It – Of course, surfing means you’ll run across more links that send you another direction. This has tips for protecting your phone and, no, it’s not a slide show. Much of the advice concerns battery management.

We Never Got Flu Shots. Then the Flu Almost Killed My Husband – I don’t want to hear that you never get flu shots and never get sick, even if it’s true. Such statements discourage people who really should be protected. (And you getting the shot helps protect those who are unable to get one because of other health issues.) Just read this couple’s story.

This family of swans has learned to use pedestrian crossing on daily commute – The headline says it all. A 1-minute, 45-second video.

Tesla Owner Uses Autopilot to Avoid Parking Tickets – Another video, this one 45 seconds, but the headline is better than the video.

Underground Hotel Built Inside a Quarry Will Soon Open – Admit it, who hasn’t always wanted to stay in a hotel built mostly underground inside a Chinese quarry? Am I right? Reservations open soon at only $487 a night. Send me a postcard!

The word is …

Seahorses on beach

Want to feel your age? How’s this?

I was doling out headaches before there was “acetaminophen.” I’ve been causing a stink since before “refried beans.” Heck, I predated “decaf.” I’ve been around since before “certified mail.”

I know this thanks to a site provided by Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people, called Time Traveler.

What they’ve done is group, by year, what they call “first known use,” the earliest recorded use in English of the oldest sense of the word defined in the entry. For example, in the second paragraph, the noted words were dated, in order, 1958, 1957, 1956 and 1955.

I solicited volunteers through Facebook and came up with these:

Darsha’s parents were married in 1994. Debuting in usage that year were Botox, cybercafe, dot-com, LASIK, MP3, pole dancing, roofie, spoiler alert, spyware, task bar, webcam and wifebeater (for a man’s white tank top).

Tina was married in 1978. Entering the English lexicon that year were attention deficit disorder, bed and breakfast, bustier, chemical peel, control key, dramedy, face time, gimme cap, half-pipe, hepatitis C, improv, off-grid, pad thai, sticky note and Stockholm syndrome.

Vicki was born in 1960. Added to the things she was yet to learn were AC/DC, a-go-go, arcade game, brain drain, cockamamy, coin-op, dial-up, discotheque, Eurodollar, hardnose, hate crime, health spa, junk food, kook, lab coat, mayo, square one, theme park and valet parking.

Pick a date and dive in, but I warn you it could turn into a time suck (first used in 1991).

Oh, one other point. The dictionary is not limited to our life spans. Consider the words allied, bowler, bulldog, dexterity, laughingstock, opulent, reportable and trash.

Take a guess as to when they were first printed. Try 500 years ago … 1518. Wish them a “happy birthday” and they should understand as both of those words have been around since the 14th century.

0. Life post-election

i voted sticker

Today is the U.S. congressional midterm election.

If you’ve not voted yet, do it now, but let’s assume everyone has voted or made plans to do so. Let us talk about life after the election.

Please tell us how your life will change tomorrow. Two answers are perfectly acceptable, since it may depend on the outcome of the elections.

If you promise to participate and will comment with your personal thoughts, plans and ideas, then I’ll go first.

At the time of the 2016 presidential election, two years ago, I was working on the sixth book in my JP Weiscarver Mystery Series. The fifth, “The Reporter and the Marmot,” was published the preceding July. I never have a rigid schedule, but I was easily on track to finish “The Reporter and the Apricot” (title subject to change) by spring 2017.

Following the election, though, I found it almost impossible to be creative or to stay focused on my writing. I felt a calling to use whatever talents I had to correct what I saw as a near-irredeemable mistake.

Two or three times, I pulled out the manuscript and started back to work, but it never lasted long. There was a name-the-character competition I completed a year ago, but I still haven’t introduced the character in the story. I just checked and the last time I saved any changes to the document was last January.

So, you guessed it, I’m planning to send my political commentary on a sabbatical (well … almost) and get to work on the book.

In my defense, it’s not that I’ve quit writing, just directed it from my novels. This post is my 81st during the 100-day countdown to the election. The Word document says it contains almost 28,000 words, enough in itself for a small book. Plus, there was much more in the 20 months or so leading up to the countdown.

With the election in our rearview mirror, I can return to writing blog posts about less pressing matters. For example, I want to tell you about several hours I recently spent over a two-day period in Caprock Canyons State Park, watching the world around me and listening to my thoughts.

There you have my plan for what to do after Democrats ride a Blue Wave to begin repairing the damage recently done to our country.

If that doesn’t happen today, if we have a replay of 2016 … I honestly have no idea what will happen next in my life.

Your turn. Scroll down to the comment section and tell us what you foresee happening with you.

Thanks to those who have followed along and contributed comments, likes and shares during the 100-day countdown. I can only hope we helped persuade some people to vote. At the least, when folks talk in later years about this era in our country’s history, we can say we tried to do something.

1. Make it count

protect your vote

It is one day until Tuesday and the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Election Day is tomorrow, which means early voting has ended in most states. If you’ve not voted yet, you must show up Tuesday and cast your vote. You’re down to your last chance. That means not walking away if there’s a long line, not going in unprepared, and not taking no for an answer.

Review the graphic above.

Know where you’re supposed to vote. It’s often not the same places where early voting was conducted. If you’ll be going after work, double-check the hours. Though 7 a.m.-7 p.m. is common, some differ. Carry a government-issued photo ID with you, more than one if you have them, even if your state doesn’t require it. Having one with a physical home address is preferable because it affects where you are eligible to vote.

If you get in line before the polls close, they are required to let you vote, even if it takes hours. Do not let them turn you away. If you have problems, ask for help. If that doesn’t fix things, call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

If you are in line to vote when your polling place closes, and anyone tries to keep you from voting, you may also contact the Department of Justice Civil Rights Department by phone (1-800-253-3931), email (voting.section@usdoj.gov), or submit a complaint on their website.

Finally, here’s some less technical advice.

Consider that you may be in line for a while. Carry a book or a well-charged cell phone. You’re also familiar with your bladder requirements; need I say more? Behave yourself. Don’t start talking politics. You might be tempted to persuade someone to your thinking, but don’t go there. If someone is challenging you, just refuse to participate.

Is there a friend or two who hasn’t voted? Ask them to accompany you; y’all can entertain each other and maybe even save spots during rest room runs.

With any luck, you won’t have to wait. Whenever you do vote, be sure and pat yourself on the back via social media and/or show off your “I Voted” sticker when you stop for an ice cream treat.

And, just in case you need to hear it again … Be sure to vote Tuesday.

2. Final plans

Caprock moonrise

It is two days until Tuesday and the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Here’s a quick message for those members of the Blue Wave looking for a constructive, last-minute action they can take to help bring home a Democratic win.

Many of us have been living this struggle for weeks and months. Doing so can cloud one’s vision and lead to thinking everyone else is equally well-informed.

That’s not always true. So, here’s the idea I appropriated from someone else online.

Ask a compassionate friend, someone who tends to care about others, if he/she knows about the separation of families at the border and the incarceration of children, about Democratic plans to help more people afford medical care, about the Robert Mueller investigation, about Republicans’ stated plans to steal Social Security funds to pay off their tax scam, about Republicans ignoring the warning signs of global climate change … and so on.

If not, educate and then help your friend make a plan to vote Tuesday.

Finally, if you’ve not voted yet, make sure you do.

3. #GOPVotingBlue

prickly

It is three days until Tuesday and the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

We’ve been talking the last couple of posts about who should vote for Democrats during this election. (Hint: it’s pretty much everybody.)

The best commentary on that point, as I mentioned at the close of yesterday’s post, is that many lifelong Republicans are crossing over – and encouraging others to follow – to vote for Democrats. Sometimes they’re talking about specific races; many times they’re mentioning voting Blue down the ballot. Many are bailing out on their party until it corrects its course; some are declaring they’ve changed parties … period.

This is what I’ve been waiting for. Optimistically, I expected it to begin much earlier in Trump’s presidency. Surely, it did, but there was no movement large enough to create a stir.

Now, perhaps emboldened and further enlightened by the Blue Wave, more are coming out, such as former Florida GOP Congressman David Jolly, who encouraged Republicans to vote for Democrat Andrew Gillum in the Florida governor’s race.

So, even if you’ve always voted Republican, you, too, should vote Blue. … Unless you’re an ultra-rich white male, in which case you can justify voting red.

4. Protest?

third party-2

It is four days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Thinking about casting a “protest vote” this election? Maybe throw some support to a third party because you’re fed up with politics? Perhaps write in Mickey Mouse or Goofy?

Please, not now.

Believe me, I’m not against what you’re thinking about. In 1992, because I wasn’t excited about either George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton, I cast my vote for H. Ross Perot. In 1980, I was one of only 5.7 million people to vote for John Anderson, my protest of the control two parties held on the system.

Alas, what we have is a two-party system. A third-party or independent candidate can occasionally win an election, but those are rare and already well known – Sens. Angus King and Bernie Sanders, for example.

So, why not now?

Things are different this year and likely will be again in 2020. There’s already a protest vote that’s gained incredible momentum and is positioned to accomplish something, maybe even achieve a lot. That is the Democratic Party, aka “The Blue Wave.”

As such, the tweet above rings true. A vote for any third-party candidate this election is essentially a vote for the Republican party and its maleficent leader because it weakens the wave.

Also, I’ve heard from many lifelong Republicans who have already voted with the Democrats this year. Some, surely, are trying to save their party by weeding out those who are destroying it. I’m fine with that; we need two capable parties. Y’all come over and help us save the country and maybe you can soon reclaim and reform the GOP and we can maybe soften the Blue Wave and the bulk of us can resume working together.

third party

6. You Blue?

Democrats believe

It is six days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

One thing I see repeated a lot these days is, “I cannot understand why any _____ supports Republicans,” with a wide assortment of people placed in the blank. That gave me the thought, as we’re only six sunrises removed from Election Day, to consider who seems to be a natural to support the progressive movement that is the Democratic Party.

It makes sense for the following citizens to vote Blue:

* Women

* Blacks

* Latinos

* Native Americans

* LGBTQ

* People who may require medical care

* People whose loved ones may require medical care

* Those who support the entire Constitution, not only the Second Amendment

* Gun owners who don’t mind being responsible gun owners

* Victims of assault

* Students and their supporters

* Young adults

* Patriots

* Veterans

* Folks depending on Social Security and Medicare

* People who are not wealthy

So, unless you’re an extremely wealthy white male, it makes no sense for you to vote Republican at this point in time.

Vote Blue. Vote early. Take a friend.

7. Corruption

accomplices

It is seven days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Remember the Teapot Dome Scandal? If you’re like me, it’s one of those dark times in American government that we heard about in history class but happened a long time ago and … and … “I’m sorry, Coach, but I didn’t read the assignment.”

For a refresher, this History.com article explains it as “an unprecedented level of greed and corruption,” featuring “ornery oil tycoons, poker-playing politicians, illegal liquor sales, a murder-suicide, a womanizing president and a bagful of bribery cash.”

Now that we’ve gotten an idea of how embarrassingly horrible Teapot Dome was, let’s move to this New York Times article from Sunday, “Trump’s Corruption: The Definitive List,” which states, “Compiling the list made us understand why some historians believe Trump’s administration is the most corrupt since at least Warren Harding’s, of 1920s Teapot Dome fame.”

There’s an additional reason this article screamed out to me – besides pointing out how horrendous is this White House. Several weeks ago, I made a note from something I read claiming real Republicans were considerably bothered by the party’s “culture of corruption” and Trump’s use of the office for personal gain.

Is that true? I would love to hear that substantial numbers of Republicans have finally found something distasteful about what’s emanating from the Oval Office. So, let’s take a brief look at what the Times article says.

However, there is much too much information, so I’ll just list the themed categories and a bit from each. You really need to read the article. The first seven categories are grouped under the heading, “Trump and Family.”

Foreigners are paying the Trumps

“Officials from foreign governments have realized they can curry favor with Trump by spending money at his properties.”

Americans are paying the Trumps

“American officials and business leaders have also spent money at Trump properties, sometimes in an apparent effort to please the president.”

Trump Inc. is expanding overseas

A Trump-related project in Indonesia received a $500 million loan from a company owned by the Chinese government. The president responded by lifting sanctions on another business with close ties to the Chinese government.

Kushner Inc. is wooing foreign investment

Jared Kushner has exhibited to his father-in-law that he, too, is adept at trading political favors for sizeable investments from other governments.

The presidency has become a branding opportunity

His Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, has doubled its membership rates.

Taxpayers are subsidizing the Trumps

While visiting or staying at one of his properties almost one of every three days, Trump is directing taxpayer money to his own business.

Trump Inc. gets special protection

The president personally axed a plan to move an FBI office and instead ordered building a new facility at the site, which would prevent a competitor hotel from challenging his for business.

The next six categories are under the heading, “Trump’s Cabinet, Aides and Allies.”

Friendly businesses also get special treatment

“More than 164 former lobbyists work in the administration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including several who regulate the industries that once paid their salaries.”

Family, friends and donors get perks

“The president and his aides have repeatedly shown they are willing to use the government’s prestige and power to help their friends and relatives make money.”

Cabinet officials make unethical stock trades

Some Trump officials appear to have made policy decisions benefiting the companies in which they owned stock.

Trump’s orbit receives cash

“Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, reportedly used his position to offer private briefings to a Russian oligarch to whom he owed millions of dollars.”

Cabinet officials take junkets

You might question the integrity of Trump’s Cabinet choices, but you’ve got to admit they love to travel on someone else’s dime.

Trump’s team enjoys interior decorating

Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, spent $139,000 in taxpayer money on new doors for his office, for example.

The final, and most important, section is “Where is Congress?”

It has shirked its constitutional duty

“The biggest scandal of all, however, is not even the corruption of the Trump administration. It’s the inaction of Congress. … (T)he Republican leaders … have enabled the most corrupt administration of our lifetimes.”

And this is where a story about a corrupt president finds a role in an election where he’s not running.

To address the corruption, we need to change the leadership in Congress. We do that by electing as many Democrats as we can and insist they earn their keep.

Again, read the entire article for more details.

Early voting is ongoing in many places. Final voting takes place nationwide next Tuesday.

Vote.

8. Youth vote

youth vote

It is eight days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

It’s being said that young voters may not turn out. A recent Gallup poll said only 26 percent of potential voters aged 18-29 said they were “absolutely certain” they would vote.

In a way, it’s understandable. You may feel disassociated from the rancor of politics today. You could justifiably think the problems were created by the old folks … let them come up with solutions.

Do not forget, however, that problems such as rising healthcare costs and diminishing opportunities will someday soon land at your feet. You need to put your voice into play now.

It is not unprecedented that society leans on young adults. During the greatest global threat of all time, World War II, it is estimated the average age of U.S. soldiers was 26 years old. Many entered the service at 17-19. Young adults likely saved the world from being overrun by dictators.

So, yes, vote. Research the candidates, find those who best represent your beliefs and go vote.

Oh, and if you need any more incentive, the same survey found that 82 percent of those aged 65 and older were absolutely certain they will vote.

Vote early and vote with friends.

young voters

9. Peek

aa-shelby

It is nine days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Yesterday, I wrote about the wildly ranging misinterpretations of liberals. To follow up on that, I scrolled through my Twitter feed and pulled out some examples of progressive thought.

I don’t mean to mislead; there are many more posts of frustration, desperation and anger, but tweets like the following are by no means rare. Presented in the order I came across them:

aa-barber

By @MarisaKabas

Jews and our allies gathered tonight in New York’s Union Square to hold vigil for those killed in Pittsburgh today.

As we mourned, members of the Muslim of the community guarded us.

One Rabbi said “there is only one religion – and that is the human religion.”

aa-bryce

By @OkCallMeAL

Every day in Toronto, I ride the subway in the world’s most diverse city. Next to me on the subway are immigrants from all over the world, from every race & religion. We co-exist in harmony, because we believe there is greater strength in diversity. Oh, and we don’t carry guns.

aa-shelby

By @luminousmax405

The Islamic center that was near the #TreeofLifeSynogogue raised 15,000 dollars for the victims and their families. Things like this give me hope when the world is so dim.

By @Emma4Change

Voting on November 6th is what all the cool kids r doing 😎 ((they’re also hydrating and doing they’re homework eyyo))

By @AubreyMarcus

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

-Neil deGrasse Tyson

By @daralynn13

My Muslim neighbor just stopped to let me know how sorry he is for the loss to my community. He asked how he could help. He asked how I was feeling. He listened. Then he hugged me for the first time and told me he is here if I need anything. This is the America I’m fighting for.

10. That word

liberal definition

It is 10 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Meanwhile, Trump and his far-right conservative supporters keep shifting their messages about liberals.

Liberals are … socialists who want a free ride, snowflakes who want a trophy just for showing up, and an unruly mob out to commit violence. Yes, according to Republicans, Democrats can one day be weak and ineffective and the next day too dangerous for society. They get away with it because their followers don’t hear anything except, “hate Democrats” and “fear liberals.” And that’s exactly what they want to hear.

But, what are liberals? The graphic above – using a favorite line by Mandy Patinkin from “The Princess Bride” – offers a definition to help us understand.

More specifically, let’s use the tip I shared in my previous post: Research. Click here for the Democratic Party platform that came out of the 2016 convention.

Here are some highlights: raising workers’ wages, protecting and expanding Social Security, create good-paying jobs, making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, ending systemic racism, fixing our broken immigration system, guaranteeing civil rights, respecting faith and service, combat climate change, protecting our public lands and waters, ensure the health and safety of all Americans, ending violence against women, support our troops and keep faith with our veterans, confront global threats, protect our values, and a leader in the world.

Sounds neither snowflake-ish nor violent, does it?

I understand your hesitance to associate with liberals and risk being identified as one. But your concern is based not in fact but in the lies that have been perpetrated for decades by the Republicans.

The fact is, liberals are usually good people and most of them make great friends. They allow you to be just the way you are as long as you’re not hurting others. And it’s incredibly refreshing to work toward helping people in need rather than putting your boot on a person’s throat while he or she is down and out.

11. Lies & fear

us vs them

It is 11 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Is it Lies & Fear or is it Fear & Lies?

Never mind; it really doesn’t matter. In whatever order they’re doing it, Trump and the Republicans are making it work.

(NOTE: I wrote the bulk of this before the package bombs began appearing and that’s definitely not the fear I’m talking about. However, the GOP’s lies and fears surely fed the mind or minds implementing this recent episodes of domestic terrorism.)

And they’re awesome when it comes to wielding the tools of lies and fear. I would not have thought such a huge swath of God-fearing, America-loving, my-country-right-or-wrong self-styled patriots could be turned by repeated lies into a dependent pile of cowards lashing out in fear at the “snowflakes” they’re warned will take away the conservatives’ resurrected white-is-right lifestyles.

Quick public service message here: If this article has already made you angry, if you think I’m talking about you, then please discontinue reading and go back to your Fox News coverage. As I’ve been saying throughout this countdown to the election, this series is intended for folks who are confused by all the lies and fear they’ve been hearing and are seeking answers.

Here’s the deal. I’m just an old, retired newspaper editor whose greatest strength was a high-quality BS detector. People are pushing agendas all the time, sometimes utilizing smoke and mirrors, and the folks who are supposed to help protect us have been overwhelmed.

In fact, when I started writing this entry, I planned to address some of the biggest lies out there as we’ve entered early voting across much of the country and are only 11 sunrises from Election Day. However, confronting all the lies and fear is a crushing endeavor.

Therefore, I have two points of advice for you.

  1. Don’t believe them

Inspired by the unprecedented lying ability of Trump (who I consistently refer to as #DonTheCon on my Twitter posts for good reason), Republicans have chained Truth to a clothes line in their fenced-in back yard and have unleashed upon society zombie hounds of horror to terrify their masses with baseless disgusting fabrications about political enemies.

My wife and I have been vacationing while easing our way back to our winter home and have watched more television than usual the last couple of weeks. I have seen only one Republican ad – for a local office – that did not rely on one or more of Trump’s scare tactics. You know what I mean: things like (a) immigrants are crashing our borders with the intent of eating our children, or (b) Democrats want to take all our money and send it to a sect of Hare Krishna monks in Asia, or (c) Democrats want Medicare for all to more easily kill off old white people … or some similarly mindless drivel.

Don’t believe them.

  1. Research

If you hear Lyin’ Ted Cruz (one of the few things Trump got right) say, for example, Beto O’Rourke wants to confiscate all your guns, check it out. A simple search will turn up O’Rourke’s issues page, which details his desires, primary of which are background checks on all gun sales and to stop selling weapons of war. That’s a far cry from banning all weapons.

If Trump or one of his enablers is talking trash about something, hit up the major news organizations. My first stop is usually The Associated Press, still the standard for sticking to facts.

Here’s a graphic that can help you consider the best places to get your news.

Those that are listed toward the top tend to report facts while those toward the bottom are more likely to lean toward persuasion or blatant fabrications. Those in the horizontal center are more neutral while those to the left or right have a habit of reflecting some or more bias.

So, concentrate on those that are high and center – the AP, Reuters, ABC, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, PBS, The Hill, Politico, BBC, AFP, Bloomberg, Time … that’s a pretty good selection.

Stay away from Fox News, Forward Progressives, Breitbart, Palmer Report, Infowars and others in the red box on the bottom, labeled “Nonsense damaging to public discourse.”

Research.

There you go. Filter out the lies, determine what candidates stand the best chance of helping our nation and serve all of us while leading to a better life for all. In most cases, you’ll find that person is running as a Democrat. Vote for those people.

15. Vote!

Vote meme

It is 15 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

I’m a Texan. Therefore, a lot of my readers and friends live in Texas. So …

Early voting has begun in Texas!

It continues through Friday of next week; check with your county offices if you don’t know where to vote. Be aware that early voting locations and Election Day voting locations usually differ.

women voices

Do what you need to do to make sure you vote. If possible, do so this week, even today.

That said, let me warn you about something.

I’ve already heard reports from other states about what a great turnout Democrats have been getting. We might hear the same thing in Texas.

Don’t believe it!

First of all, they don’t know how people voted.

vote dem

Most importantly, however, is that a strong start does not win a race. You must run effectively all of the way through and have a strong finish. If Democratic voters start saying, “I hear a bunch of Democrats are turning out. They’ve got this; they don’t need me to show up.”

Wrong!

Remember two years ago when everybody knew Hillary Clinton would win the presidency? Too many Democrats did not bother showing up and too many others cast “protest” ballots. Sure, she still got more votes than Trump, but the shortages in key locations turned things sour in the Electoral College.

Besides, we don’t need to squeak out wins. We need to blow them out of the water. We need to send a signal that Americans are tired of appearing like a white supremacist-supporting, woman-hating, billionaire-worshipping, withered up corpse of what once a world leader.

Be great. Vote today, vote Blue, vote Beto … and go with a friend.

Vote here sign

16. Make history

Bluish blue wave

It is 16 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Want to make history?

Answer carefully. In addition to people knowing your name, they’re also trying to get a piece of you. Privacy is low, future expectations are high.

But there are other ways to make history, such as being a part – even a small, though vital, part – of a historical movement. You get to bask in the warm feeling, enjoy the benefits and even brag to your friends, but you don’t have to hire a PR person or private security.

Join the Blue Wave and look at what you can help accomplish.

  • Turn around apathy. In the latest midterm election, 2014, only 35.9 percent voted, the lowest since World War II. With a tsunami of progressive voters flooding the polls during the election, we can float that figure much higher, maybe even topping the 48.4 percent turnout in 1966.
  • Reinstate integrity. When the entire world laughs at and/or takes advantage of our leaders, it’s time to clean house. While we cannot vote out Trump and his appointments this year, we can put into office a slate of Democrats to provide appropriate checks and balances.
  • Improve public health. It’s beyond my ability to explain how Republicans have worked so fervently to deprive people of medical care.
  • Support oppressed people. Women, people of color, the economically disadvantaged … among others … deserve respect and a fair shake. Look into the Blue Wave and you’ll find many of those folks already involved.
  • Help others vote. It’s no secret Republicans have been actively suppressing voting rights and justifying it by spreading false or grossly exaggerated stories of voting abuse. Democrats have been working to defend all citizens’ rights.
  • Save the planet. Addressing the rapidly growing problems associated with global climate change, as well as the general poisoning of our home, has been too steep of a hill for the Republicans to attack because it means reducing the rapidly growing piles of money and power for them and their financial supporters. Help put our planet’s well-being ahead of their profit line.
  • Do good things. Fill in here what excites you. There is so much more to gain.
  • Maintain your independence. Will the Democratic Party forever remain the leading voice for all these concerns? I cannot say it will because power-grabbers have a way of grabbing power and warping it to their benefit. A Blue Tsunami emanating from a groundswell movement should offer long-term guidance, but you’re not locked in. If things change, you and I can move our support where it is better used. That’s another benefit of being just a cog in making history.

Are you registered? While the deadline has passed in many states, others have not. Some states even allow registration when you show up to vote. Check your status here.

Early voting has already begun in many states. If offered in yours, please plan to vote early. That is … actually make a specific plan and then do it. Voting early usually means shorter lines and also gives you an opportunity to reschedule in case of bad weather or other impediment. Make it fun; take a friend along.

If you asked for an absentee ballot or if your state sends everyone mail-in ballots, return it now.

Finally, enjoy the fact paparazzi are not hounding your every move, even though you played an important role in saving your country.

17. The con

It is 17 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

During the 1988 Democratic National Convention, Ann Richards, future governor of Texas, rather famously said of George H.W. Bush, then the vice president and GOP presidential candidate: “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

We lost Ann Richards in 2006. How I wish she was still around to offer her wisdom on Donald Trump, speaking of being born with a silver foot in one’s mouth.

Take, for instance, his wacky comments this week about … oh, I don’t know; let’s pick … global climate change.

A little background: In 2012, Trump said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

In January 2014, because it was snowing in Texas, he tweeted, “Global warming is an expensive hoax!”

These are not rarities. Vox, more than a year ago, compiled 115 examples of him tweeting his skepticism of climate change.

Just last Sunday, in an interview on “60 Minutes,” he seemed to accept climate change as fact but insisted it could change back. What a convenient untruth.

Tuesday, in an interview with The Associated Press, when pressed with the consensus of the scientific community, the president responded by saying, “I have a natural instinct for science.”

And therein lies my theory on why Trump is such a horrible president. It begins with the silver foot … uh, I mean … silver spoon.

The New York Times earlier this month published a deeply researched story that revealed Donald Trump was “earning” $200,000 a year from his father at the age of 3. The president has insisted he is a self-made billionaire who received minimal assistance from his father. However, the Times found that, in his 40s and 50s, he was receiving more than $5 million a year. There were also allegations of fraud.

Note that the paper converted money to today’s dollars.

So, what kind of life does the pampered son of a millionaire have? Like the 800-pound gorilla, whatever kind he would like.

light bulbDonald Trump’s desire has always been to control reality. With enough people around him paid to administer to his every whim, that wasn’t much of a problem. If he said it wouldn’t snow in Manhattan in January, they would tell him and everyone else there was a heavy pollen problem that winter.

It instantly became more difficult when he moved into the White House. When he lied to say his inauguration crowd was much larger than it was, there were stacks of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.

And so it goes.

He wants to be buddies with heavy-handed, murderous dictators and, of course, he’s called out for it. So, he says, “My autocratic friend tells me he’s innocent and I believe him, end of story.” (OK, that’s a paraphrase on my part.)

The tax scam endorsed by Trump and pushed through by Republicans last year has already shown to be just what we said it would, a tax break for billionaires who would not pass on the savings to the workforce and whose lowered tax rate would drive our country deeper into debt, so much so that those same Republicans are already laying the groundwork to steal our Social Security and Medicare monies to cover their sins. But the president still says it’s great. To be fair, it is great for him.

To summarize: Whatever you want to hear, he will tell you it’s the truth and attack anyone who says differently. Then, he does whatever he wants and leaves you holding the bag and paying the bills.

Basically, that’s the definition of a con artist.

What do we do with a con artist? Don’t believe him or her. Do not give up any money or personal information. Call the police.

If the con artist is the president of the United States, we must trust the checks and balances of our government to protect us. Presumably, the legislative branch wouldn’t let a con artist get away with it; alas, the Republican-controlled Congress has been on the take – figuratively if not literally – from the con and has abandoned its responsibilities. The courts are charged with keeping things in line with the Constitution; alas, Trump and the GOP Senate have been effectively packing the courts with judges who might very well be beholden to them, the effect of which we might be forced to deal with for many years.

What next?

We vote.

Even though it’s still unknown whether Trump was involved with the Russian hacking of the presidential election (He said he wasn’t, but see above.), we’re sort of stuck relying on getting a fair vote. The best thing we can do is overwhelm the polls with votes for those who will protect us from a con artist, who will evaluate things such as global climate change with an eye on facts, not a con artist’s “natural instincts.”

Early voting has opened in many states and soon will in others. Vote early, vote Blue, and take along a friend.

20. Goodness

hiker friends Peggy and Leah - July 19, 2014

People helping people.

It is 20 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

How about a good story for a change?

My wife and I left Mount Rushmore pulling our RV just in time to get away from a heavy winter storm in early October. (As storms sometimes do, this one did not live up to its billing, but we were gone before then.)

We arrived in Garden City, Kansas, after a steady rain had set in. We stayed two nights, mainly because of the rain. Next stop would be outside Canyon, Texas, with plans to stay there a few days and explore Palo Duro Canyon State Park. (Did you know it’s the second-largest canyon in the country? Neither did we.)

Heavy rains had ended by the time we arrived at the RV park, where we found a muddy site. Trusting the ground was solid enough for us, I pulled into the pre-arranged site (the owner is generally not present at this place, as was then the case) and my truck’s wheels started spinning.

We fussed with it for a while. I could probably drive off if I took the RV off the truck, but the trailer was far from level, not fully into the site and, most importantly, we would have to hook up to pull it out eventually. Additionally, more rain was expected that night.

Now the good story.

The first local resident we saw (there were only seven RVs there) was a woman walking her dog. Well, she used the dog as an excuse to check up on us.

Let me do a sidebar on RV park etiquette.

There are two types of people watching from their trailers while you’re driving into a park and setting up for your stay. One is the person – OK, it’s probably a guy – who comes out to tell you how to do everything. Don’t be that guy. The other type will greet you, make small talk and offer help, advice and information if it’s needed.

After determining our problem, the woman (amazingly enough, we did not exchange names) actually apologized that her husband had recently had major surgery. “Otherwise, he’d be out here to help us.”

Soon, though, she contacted a neighbor who owned a tractor-trailer rig that was parked on the county road. After looking over the situation, he fetched a chain, unhooked his cattle trailer from his truck, splashed through mud to get in place, hooked up and pulled my truck and RV out of the muck.

He was what we like to call a good ol’ boy. I do not doubt that, if he voted in 2016, he probably voted for Trump. I’m generalizing and making assumptions here, one that he doesn’t keep up with politics too well, and also that he’d love to see American being great again.

Our personal challenge continued. We immediately left that park because the other sites were no better. It was a Monday in October outside Amarillo, Texas; we’d find some other place.

We thought.

Parks were full, parks were flooded. We called as far away as Lubbock and Tucumcari, N.M., before redirecting and booking a Super 8 motel in Amarillo that had a truck parking lot where we could leave our rig.

Meanwhile, Leah located a park in Silverton, some 80 miles to the southeast, and the owner promised an established site that was high and dry.

Next was to get there.

Tuesday morning, I checked the highway department’s road conditions website and found the highway to Silverton had two areas reported under water, but the information was from Monday.

Finally, I called Swisher County government offices in Tulia to see what they knew of the roads. The man who answered the phone in the county judge’s office said he felt they were open, but he took my number, called the local highway department office for a report and then called me back to confirm the road was safe for travel.

Ain’t that grand?

Oh, one other thing. When I answered his call, he said, “This is Judge Keeter.”

Yes, the county judge not only answered the phone himself but contacted the highway department and then called me with the information I needed.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Since almost all my thoughts these days are couched in political good guys and bad guys, I couldn’t help but consider that this Republican politician had helped me. Well, I assumed he was Republican because the entire Panhandle voted for Trump. In Swisher County, Trump got 75.8 percent of the vote and Hillary Clinton only 21 percent.

I took that as good news, even though he would likely have deduced from my voice that I was an older, white male and assumed I, too, was a Republican. We must take our good news where we can find it.

The rest of the story, though, is I learned Judge Harold Keeter is a Democrat.

That’s OK. It doesn’t change my hopes about people.

21. Cruel lead

performative cruelty

It is 21 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Do you remember Goofus and Gallant, the cartoon strip appearing in the Highlights for Children magazine?

Both the magazine and the strip remain in monthly publication, a fact that’s likely better known to those with young children. If you’re not familiar with the comic, it contrasts in very simple terms the good actions of Gallant with the bad actions of his brother, Goofus. The idea, obviously, is to subtly teach right from wrong.

One strip from my childhood has stuck with me particularly well. I don’t remember exactly what Gallant was doing in his half of the frame, but Goofus was taking pleasure in stepping on ants.

The key is “taking pleasure.” I have baited fire ant mounds when they were a threat, swatted flies in the house and slapped mosquitoes sucking my blood. If a spider is outside, I generally go around it and move on, but if it’s in my house, the encounter might be a bit squishier. But it’s not something I delight in. (OK, when a fly’s been buzzing my face for a couple of hours and I finally swat his behind, maybe I celebrate a little.)

The Goofus and Gallant message, of course, wasn’t limited to insects but life in general. It’s a lesson Donald Trump and his rowdier followers failed to embrace.

Adam Serwer, a staff writer at The Atlantic, examined the president’s blatant cruelty in “The Cruelty Is the Point – President Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear.

Read it; you’ll recognize a few ant-stompers you know. More to the point, you’ll visualize those photos that have been way too prevalent, depicting red-faced, screaming, full-of-hate supporters of the president at one of his numerous ego-stoking rallies.

Serwer starts his story talking about photos from other rallies, specifically those that ended in the gruesome deaths of blacks in America just a few decades ago. He noted how the white men grinned at the camera, straining to get into the photo alongside a mutilated corpse of a human being.

No, we’re not talking ants or flies here.

The writer cited numerous examples where Trump exacted various forms of cruelty on people near and far. The article particularly examined how the president chose to mock a woman who stifled decades of pain to tell the story of being sexually assaulted. Trump wasn’t alone, of course, as the crowd began chanting, “Lock her up!”

This is not new information. Republicans can harvest nothing beneficial from having Trump in the White House other than the fact he’s not a Democrat and he isn’t black. Their bonus is they enjoy seeing him punish people not like them – people of color, who more recently immigrated here, who worship differently, who love differently.

As one Zakariah Johnson tweeted a few months ago in response to information that Trump felt the separation of immigrant children from their parents was not aggressive enough: “Trump’s power is based on performative cruelty. That is what his supporters voted for – not for any policy, and not for any other principle than to do the worst thing to people outside the fold at every opportunity.”

One reason, outside pure joy, why Trump feels he must be cruel can be seen in a Twitter thread by NBC News correspondent Katy Tur where she explained there is nothing Trump is more afraid of than looking weak.

In his mind, it seems, he can appear strong and tough when he’s taking a hard line, hurting someone, where another person with compassion and empathy might balk.

She made another notable point, that Republican leaders at times did not want him to do something or another, but he would anyway … because it was loudly endorsed by his rabid crowd.

He would hurt someone, and they would cheer approval, a sadistic pep squad.

As Serwer wrote in closing: “Trump’s only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united.”

They feel good, proud, happy and united when people are hurt.

We will feel good, proud and happy when we unite in the fall election to put a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, so they can begin protecting people the Republicans love to damage.

Vote early, vote Blue, take a friend and be happy.

22. Broken

coffee mug crack

Broken

It is 22 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

As we were awakening on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, as we were questioning the unbelievability Donald Trump might be our next president, as we were looking for a way out … we were advised by one Republican after another to accept the fact they had won and we had lost.

After all, wasn’t that what they wanted? To be “winners”?

Winning is all that interests them. Confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was a win they had to have, regardless the price.

There is no way (we pray) he was the best-qualified judge out there. He certainly wasn’t one who could pull bipartisan backing. For some reason, Trump and the GOP wanted him. Knowing how Trump likes to own people who will give unconditional support, I cannot help but believe the judge promised the blooming dictator to help provide him total judicial cover. Now, don’t quote me on that as it’s just my gut talking.

Victoria Bassetti, a contributor to Brennan Center for Justice, laid it all out in her opinion piece, “How the Republicans Broke the Senate in Confirming Kavanaugh.”

It was an exercise of brute power, even with the slimmest of margins, insisting to get what they want, despite its threat to the country.

The destructive actions (and inactions) of this administration are widespread – public faith, international relations, needs of the poor, honor, environment, on and on – so it might not seem too much of a stretch that it also … well, let Bassetti put it in her words … “broke the Senate for the foreseeable future.”

In the upcoming election, we can begin to lay a foundation to repair things. Vote Blue this fall.

That includes in your state legislatures, statewide offices, congressional races and Senate.

For Senate, support and vote for Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Jacky Rosen in Nevada, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester in Montana, Mike Espy in Mississippi, Bill Nelson in Florida, Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Tina Smith in Minnesota, Robert Menendez in New Jersey, Dianne Feinstein in California, Christopher Murphy in Connecticut, Thomas R. Carper in Delaware, Mazie K. Hirono in Hawaii, Angus S. King Jr. in Maine (yes, the incumbent independent), Benjamin L. Cardin in Maryland, Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota, David Baria in Mississippi, Jane Raybould in Nebraska, Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Robert Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island, Jenny Wilson in Utah, Bernie Sanders in Vermont, Tim Kaine in Virginia, Maria Cantwell in Washington, Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, and Gary Trauner in Wyoming.

It’s time we make good things, not break them.

23. Collapse?

IMG_1054 (2)

“The middle class is collapsing, while inequality has skyrocketed — and that means the vast majority of Americans live right at the edge of ruin — every single day.”

It is 23 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

The previous post included a quote from Umair Haque (originally trained in neuroscience, now a London-based consultant, often cited as one of the world’s great thinkers) in which he called out America’s Generation X members for not stepping up to modernize America into a decent, working society.

Had you clicked the link and read the headline of his article, “Why America Stayed a Backwards Society (and Collapsed), While the World Grew (and Prospered) – The Unholy Trinity of American Collapse,” you may have wondered what he meant by backwards society and the American collapse.

Had you read the article itself (I admit, this is one of those times he’s difficult to read; I re-read sentences and paragraphs two or three times to unravel his meaning.), you would have found some damning accusations and labels. In fact, if you count yourself among those who believe the United States is, hands down, the best country on the planet in which to live, I suspect you wouldn’t have even finished reading.

Here are some of the phrases he tossed around about the good ol’ US of A:

“America’s a bizarre, weird, gruesome outlier among nations: an exceptionally backward society.”

“Just 20% of women make up political office, as opposed to 40-50% in Europe, less even than in Pakistan.”

“80% of people live paycheck to paycheck and can’t muster $1000 for an emergency.”

“Kids are routinely mowed down at school, and told to wear bulletproof backpacks — or put in concentration camps.”

“An apartheid state.”

“Grim and poisonous residue of supremacy, capitalism, and tribalism.”

“Economic attitude of extreme self-reliance, of naked, aggressive self-interest.”

“Social attitude of tribal supremacy — whites above everyone! Men above women!”

“A stunted, decrepit, crippled thing, a sham democracy.”

Say what?

OK, so he thinks America is in decline, even collapse. What does that mean? What is his evidence? What are his standards?

If you dig into Hague’s recent writings, he’s brought it up often. In an earlier article, “The Anatomy of American Collapse – How America Imploded Socially, Culturally, Economically, and Politically,” he specifies more concretely what he means. (I found this one an easier read, by the way.)

Samples:

“People fighting bitterly among themselves.”

“It’s as if America is hell-bent on confirming, as visibly and proudly as possible, the worst suspicions that all its fiercest critics had.”

“The result of incomes flatlining for decades, while the costs of the essentials of life, whether healthcare, education, rent, finance, food, or media, have all skyrocketed.”

“The middle class is collapsing, while inequality has skyrocketed — and that means the vast majority of Americans live right at the edge of ruin — every single day.”

“America is the world’s first poor rich country — what it means is that in terms of people’s lives, their lived experience is one of frustration, resignation, anger, and despair. Their expectations haven’t been fulfilled.”

When the generally accepted idea of hard work leading to prosperity and an improved life, when that idea is shattered, “people are going to grow mistrustful of their institutions and systems. They’re going to grow resentful of each other. They will grow afraid of the future. And probably hostile to the world, too. The rules are broken — why follow them anymore? Why bother with democracy, with civility, with decency, with any of these things? What did they ever do for you? … Maybe by dehumanizing and scapegoating those dirty, filthy animals, those Mexicans, those Jews, those Latinos, those blacks, those Muslims — just like those strong, strutting men who tell you will be great again — you will get ahead. Maybe these new rules will work for you — where the old ones failed you so badly.”

“The poisons and venoms of authoritarianism, of kleptocracy, of fascism, of theocracy, are now beginning to really kill the body social, political, cultural, and economic.”

I hope I’m not sharing too much. Seriously, read the article … slowly, deliberately, leaving yourself open to a new way of thinking. What if he’s right? If so, we need a groundswell movement to fundamentally change things before this country goes all “Lord of the Flies” on us.

We must begin investing in people, not corporate machines. I’m talking healthcare, education, employment, respect for everyone. We need to accept the idea our society is no better than how we treat the poor, the damaged, the vulnerable. We need to learn enough about the rest of the world to realize there are great people, traditions and cultures everywhere. We should figure out America is not the answer to everything.

So, can we correct all of this with the mid-term election in 23 days?

Certainly not.

But we can take the first step by disciplining electorally the politicians who have allowed Trump and his hate-filled, rich-enriching, cruelty-loving minions to run rampant over decency. We must remove from office every Republican possible.

This would send an indelible message not only to them as they rebuild but to the newly empowered Democrats, as well. We must then stay on top of them, reminding that we have taken charge and are willing and able to boot them from office, as well.

We the people should feel the calling to press our new leaders to help us make deep, fundamental changes to our economic, political, social and cultural structures, changes that put people first.

Umair Hague is doing his job as a philosopher and observer, pointing out the American Dream is wearing no clothes.

The onus falls on us, the American people, to stitch together communal fabrics into an embracing, loving new society.

Radical, yes. More radical than watching the country implode … I think not.

25. Blame game

vote dem

It is 25 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

I’ve happened to see different articles this week casting blame in diverse directions concerning how our nation put itself into such a lose-lose proposition.

Wrote Timothy Egan in The New York Times: Baby “Boomers gave us Donald Trump, the draft-dodging, tax-evading, wife-cheating poster child for ’60s-bred self-indulgence. It’s boomers who are bankrupting the nation with a trillion-dollar deficit from a selfish tax cut. And it’s boomers who are ignoring climate change while the earth convulses and heads toward an early end.”

Wrote Aaron Blake in The Washington Post: Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook “noted, for example, that younger voters (millennials), perhaps assuming that Clinton was going to win, migrated to third-party candidates in the final days of the race.”

Wrote Umair Haque on Eudaimonia and Co.: “The generation born in the 1970s (Gen X) was the first one which could ever really try to modernize America, bring it into line with modern notions of democracy, civilization, and prosperity, to make it what people would call a decent, working society. And the problem is that generation has failed at precisely that challenge, in abysmal, ruinous, and catastrophic ways.”

So, should blame go to my generation, my daughter’s generation or those even younger?

By all means, yes.

On the other hand … I don’t care about placing blame.

Here’s the problem: We must fix it and start repairing the damage. All of us – young, middle, old – must head to the polls. We must forget casting protest votes and whining about a candidate who, while markedly better than the Republican, isn’t everything we want. We must vote Democrat. We need to elect many more women, people of color, and younger leaders. We must teach Republicans what they’ve been doing will no longer fly with us, forcing them to pull back from their make-the-rich-richer and blame-those-not-like-us game plans. Believe it or not, we must help them save the Republican Party.

Who do we blame?

I do not care.

However, if we fail to cause a massive Blue Wave this fall and in 2020 … we’re all to blame and our world will suffer.

29. Getting real

registration deadlines

It is 29 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election. Various reasons have kept me from posting the last few days; please accept my apologies.

You must vote in the general election just four weeks from tomorrow to do your part to help put the brakes on the dictatorial dream of Donald Trump, but you must first register.

And you need to do that NOW.

Consider the image at right as a reminder but double-check the date in your state. I say that because I know Texas’ deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 9. Maybe it differs from the chart because the seventh is a Sunday and today is Columbus Day.

Seriously, though, don’t ponder the chart too long, just visit the site linked here to make sure you’re registered. (I just checked mine again to make sure I haven’t been removed for some reason.) It will direct you to your state’s site to check your registration and, if necessary, to register.

Easy-peasy.

You’ll notice on the chart that a growing number of states allow registration up to and including the date of the election. If you’re in one of those states … don’t relax. Go ahead and register now just in case there is a problem.

For the same reason, please vote early if it’s allowed in your state. Or vote absentee. Yes, they will mail a ballot to you (conditions may vary). During the mid-term elections of 2006, I was working in Antarctica and cast my ballot from the frozen continent … that was actually pretty cool.

Register. Vote early. Take a friend. And vote Blue.

38. #WhyIDidntReportIt

WhyIDidntReportIt

It is 38 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election. There was no post Friday.

I carried the following with me all day. It was a 15-hour day, not atypical for end-of-season in tourism work, so I had plenty of time for it to steep. However, I’m certain I cannot do it justice.

An old friend – someone with whom I worked some 20 years ago but didn’t ever know that well and who is now a Facebook friend – posted her incredibly poignant #WhyIDidntReportIt story on the social media platform, starting with the deep statement, “It’s time. Be kind.”

I have no intention of itemizing a remarkably well-written list of offenses committed against her by a series of men. She mentioned two instances where guys threatened her with guns, and how she pretty much stopped speaking for two years, and how she had not been able to hold it together to finish college, and … and … and …

As often as we’ve heard women come forward with such stories, from the #MeToo movement to #WhyIDidntReportIt, we really, really must admit there is a problem. Not only is it real, but it’s gargantuan. Seriously, men, you don’t need to read my friend’s statement. Ask women dear to you; odds are you’ll find stories you had no idea existed.

It is definitely way past time for men to “man up.” Not only must we control ourself and grant women the respect they deserve, but it’s time for all of us to rain down holy hell on the weak men among us – those with whom we work, play or … yes … worship – who take pleasure in recounting their sexual conquests. We must tell them when they’re wrong. We should do whatever we can to communicate it is sinful, evil and dehumanizing to force oneself upon another person.

My friend, after listing several reasons for not reporting the assaults, added this:

“Because of the stories I still can’t tell.”

My heart broke yet again. All this … and even more she is not yet able to talk about.

My friend is a courageous, amazing woman.

She still deals with assaults committed decades ago. Then she decided it might help other women if she spoke out.

I love your bravery, my young friend. May it help you find peace. May your tormentors squirm under the pain of a righteous gaze as they try to hide a horrendous past.

#BelieveWomen

#BelieveSurvivors

#ElectWomen

40. Believe

It is 40 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

 

#BelieveWomen

#BelieveSurvivors

#ElectWomen

 Make sure you’re registered, vote early and take a friend.

 

41. Respect

obama - go vote

It is 41 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

The events surrounding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is really all one needs to see how desperate the Republican Party is to force its will into reality regardless of the concerns of the governed.

Blocking the vast majority of the nominee’s records and ramming the process into high speed when, two years ago, they used the same blunt force to totally ignore President Barack Obama’s nominee for a year is proof enough they only want to fill the seat, even if the nominee has possibly perjured himself to the point where he could be impeached by a more level-headed Congress.

Then add how the GOP senators and president have handled the allegations of sexual assault.

Even if the women making the charges are lying, a proper response would be an investigation. That, by the way, is what the woman scheduled to testify Thursday is seeking in order to have her story proven.

Like I said, the fact Republicans care nothing about decency, morality and justice is painfully obvious.

If, like me, you’re tired of our country being the punchline for a joke, prepare to take action in this fall’s election to put Democrats into office to start effecting changes and to put checks on the clown who would be king and those who enable him.

Make sure you’re registered, vote early and take a friend.

42. Joke?

Love everyone

It is 42 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

I had a wonderful opportunity Sunday evening to chat with a particularly engaged and informed young man from Taiwan who is among the students we’ve worked with this summer at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

It appears he sought me out after learning about my background. He did an admirable job of guiding the conversation to pick my brains about the United States, the world and where we are today. In return, he allowed me to do the same, granting me insight into his view of his home country, including its tenuous efforts to be considered not a part of the Republic of China.

He guarded his words somewhat but made it clear he understood the Trump presidency is damaging the country. I asked about healthcare in Taiwan and he said they had universal care, adding, “We know healthcare in the United States is very expensive.”

He knows the president of the United States – once casually referred to as the leader of the free world – is now its clown.

That was Sunday, two days before Trump was literally laughed at by the world.

If, like me, you’re tired of our country being the punchline for a joke, prepare to take action in this fall’s election to put Democrats into office to start effecting changes and to put checks on the clown who would be king.

Make sure you’re registered, vote early and take a friend.

43. Voter?

register

It is 43 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Are you registered to vote?

If no or not sure, click here and get registered.

If yes, ask a friend the same question. If needed, help him or her prepare to vote this fall.

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