Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

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!

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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.

44. Lies

Gaslighting

It is 44 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Saw a Facebook post last night that apparently is making the rounds. It depicts a photo of a reportedly nude man (a black box blocks out the area of his body that might offend us) on a stage or runway. On either side is a young girl holding his hand and each of those girls is holding the hand of another. The girls’ faces are blurred and they are fully dressed.

The accompanying text says, “Ladies and gentlemen … this is the liberal left trying to NORMALIZE PEDOPHILIA! It has begun!”

True to form for the radical right, this is an outright lie generated to inflame the masses who will not bother to confirm it.

The photo is accurate, but it was not a project of American liberal politics. It was a display in an art museum in Brazil. It’s worth noting that, even though many cultures around the world are less likely to equate nudity with sexual perversions, there was some outcry in Brazil over this living art demonstration.

The point for us, those considering how to vote this November is this:

Expect lies and distortions.

If you watched the Beto O’Rourke-Ted Cruz debate Friday, you may have noticed the number of times Beto pointed out Cruz was lying.

Double-check the negativity you hear. If it sounds unbelievable, there’s probably a reason for that. If they’re saying something to defend a man accused of sexual assault, look closely at both sides.

It’s 44 days until we’re able to elect a new Congress to start holding the Liar-in-Chief in check.

45. Power women

women voices

It is 45 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Have you read any of the #WhyDidntIReport posts on Twitter and Facebook?

It grew out of Donald Trump’s malicious tweet directed at Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has raised the charge she was sexually assaulted by the Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh. The president basically said she was lying because he thought she would have surely reported an assault when it happened.

If you’re smart enough to click on a link to read this blog, you understand – to some degree, at least – how a woman might not file a police report, especially a few decades ago. Trump does not have that basic sense of empathy.

People – men and women – responded with their stories about how they were not believed, how they felt it must have been their fault, how they were too frightened. The stories are heart-breaking.

But what makes them even worse is watching elected leaders at the highest levels of our government as they continue to do the same thing.

Dr. Ford’s testimony must be heard without efforts to reduce her status simply because she is the feminine party of a “he said, she said” argument. To assist, a full FBI investigation must be conducted.

I am tired of watching men, mostly old men, mostly old white men, as they struggle to turn back the tide of Woman Power that is surely coming. I am convinced our lives will be better when we have at least equal representation of men and women, as I wrote almost a year ago.

We have many women running for offices around the country. Give them fair and careful consideration when you vote this fall.

And start believing women when they speak up.

46. Start voting

Vote meme

It is 46 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

However, the election begins today, at least in Minnesota and South Dakota.

The Land of 10,000 Lakes and The Mount Rushmore State are, I believe, the first to open early voting this year and both began today.

Notes I made several weeks ago said New Jersey and Vermont start on Saturday, but I’ve had trouble finding verification of those online.

The thing is, outside the fact Election Day is Nov. 6 across the country, voting laws and procedures vary widely and wildly from state to state. Most states allow early voting, but not all. Some require you to give an excuse for why you cannot vote Election Day, which is referred to as absentee voting. Some states’ early voting lasts only a few days and some a few weeks.

Why should I care?

Early voting and absentee voting have been pushed through state legislative bodies for the purpose of making it easier to vote. One 12-hour period on a weekday is tough for everyone to meet, but most people can – if they will – find a time to vote when the option includes several days, especially if weekends are included.

But you should consider voting early even if you’re certain you’ll be free Nov. 6 because, let’s face it, things happen.

In many parts of the country, early November can bring winter storms. Anywhere can be beset by miserable if not dangerous weather conditions. On a personal level, people get sick or must attend to family emergencies, a car breaks down or one might simply forget about it.

Then there is the more nefarious issue.

Many states have put into place extra barriers that make it more likely you’ll be denied the right to vote. For example, make sure you carry a valid photo identification, even if you think you shouldn’t have to present it. Make sure you do no politicking once you pass the posted limits. I would advise you to not talk politics at all once you get to the polling place.

But, should you have a problem while attempting to vote early, you have time to remedy the situation and vote later. Should it happen on Election Day, you might never get your votes cast.

(This is a great time to remind you to make sure you’re registered to vote. Click this link, enter some information about yourself and confirm your status. Do this even if you know you’re registered because some states have been aggressively purging rolls of those who have not voted recently and mistakes have happened.)

When can I vote?

That’s where you’ll need to do a little research.

Vote.org offers an early voting calendar, of sorts, at this site. It also has links to local offices that should help you. If you have trouble with these, just call your county offices or local media.

 

 

47. In the House

Vote here sign

It is 47 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election. There was no column posted yesterday.

We’re moving back to the races for the U.S. House of Representatives. Here are the 33 Democrats in races currently considered by fivethirtyeight.com as “leaning,” which means they’re close but one candidate has a perceived advantage. Twenty-five are Republicans and eight Democrats.

If this is confusing you, maybe a glance at Monday’s column will help you understand what we’re talking about.

Without further ado, here are the 33 Democrats in races where one candidate is currently considered to have at least a 60 percent chance of winning but less than 75 percent. Click on names to visit their Twitter pages, and then follow and support them. Some were on the toss-up list Monday but have moved since then.

Alyse S. Galvin, Alaska’s at-large.

Josh Harder, California’s 10th.

T.J. Cox, California’s 21st.

Katie Hill, California’s 25th.

Gil Cisneros, California’s 39th.

Harley Rouda, California’s 48th.

Diane Mitsch Bush, Colorado’s 3rd.

Nancy Soderberg, Florida’s 6th.

Kristen Carlson, Florida’s 15th.

Mary Barzee Flores, Florida’s 25th.

Carolyn Bourdeaux, Georgia’s 7th.

Sean Casten, Illinois’ 6th.

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, Illinois’ 13th

Lauren Underwood, Illinois’ 14th.

Sharice Davids, Kansas’ 3rd.

Amy McGrath, Kentucky’s 6th.

Gretchen Driskell, Michigan’s 7th.

Elissa Slotkin, Michigan’s 8th.

Haley Stevens, Michigan’s 11th.

Dan Feehan, Minnesota’s 1st.

Kathleen Williams, Montana at-large.

Susie Lee, Nevada’s 3rd.

Xochitl Torres Small, New Mexico’s 2nd.

Anthony Brindisi, New York’s 22nd.

Linda Coleman, North Carolina’s 2nd.

Dan McCready, North Carolina’s 9th.

Aftab Pureval, Ohio’s 1st.

Danny O’Connor, Ohio’s 12th.

Scott Wallace, Pennsylvania’s 1st.

Elaine Luria, Virginia’s 2nd.

Abigail Spanberger, Virginia’s 7th.

Lisa Brown, Washington’s 5th.

Dan Kohl, Wisconsin’s 6th.

As stated above, some of these races sitting on the border of two fields are subject to moving. Just as some of the names above moved from toss-up to leaning since Monday, here are four races recently added to the toss-up category.

Katie Porter, California’s 45th.

Jared Golden, Maine 2nd.

Kara Eastman, Nebraska’s 2nd.

Tom Malinowski, New Jersey’s 7th.

As always, make sure you’re registered, vote early and take a friend.

Tomorrow, it begins to get real.

49. Senate-bound?

women voices

It is 49 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

In Sunday’s post, I pointed out seven “toss-up” races for the U.S. Senate where we could help by supporting Democratic candidates. Today, using the ratings efforts of fivethirtyeight.com, we’re going to review five races that are deemed “likely Democratic” and one “likely Republican.

If you’re doing the math, that leaves 22 races that are considered slam dunks, in which fivethirtyeight.com assigns one party at least 95 percent odds of winning. Eighteen of those are Democrats and four Republicans.

As for the “likely” races listed below, the website considers them to have between a 75 percent and 95 percent chance of winning. That’s incredibly likely, in my book, but we do know elections do not always play out the way they’re expected. That’s why it remains worthwhile to follow these five candidates and give them a little support.

Alphabetized by state, they are:

Joe Donnelly, Indiana.

Tina Smith, Minnesota.

Mike Espy, Mississippi.

Jon Tester, Montana.

Robert Menendez, New Jersey.

Joe Manchin III, West Virginia.

Each name is linked to the candidate’s Twitter page.

Register, vote early, take a friend.

50. Housework

capitol-visitor-center-exterior-138

U.S. Capitol

It is 50 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

My post yesterday asking you to “support and vote for” Democrats in seven closely contested races for the U.S. Senate should have been clearer.

Point one, obviously, you can only vote in a Senate race that’s happening in your state, if there is one. However, you can support all the candidates. I follow them all on Twitter and am quick to retweet their best. It’s a little thing, but I like to think it might help.

Point two, by all means, support the other 28 Democrats running for Senate. (Yes, there are 35 due to special elections in Minnesota and Mississippi.) I did not list the 23 who are considered likely to win or the five who are considered likely to lose (relying on projections from fivethirtyeight.com).

Continuing with that way of looking at where to concentrate our efforts, let’s examine some of the more interesting races for the House of Representatives.

As I said yesterday, don’t take predictions like fivethirtyeight’s too seriously. They’re saying (as of early Monday afternoon) there is an 82.3 percent probability Democrats will take control of the House, that there’s a good chance they can even gain 38 seats or more. (They need to pick up 25 seats to take control of the House.)

Don’t take that for granted. Remember we went into the 2016 general election with everybody from Donald Trump on up feeling it was a lock for Hillary Clinton.

Before we run through the 48 House races that are closest, I’ve a question for you. Do you know which district you vote in? If not, you can find it on your voter registration card. If you’re not registered, click this link and take care of it. If you are registered, it will confirm that fact and tell you what district you’re in.

The following list of the closest House races is alphabetized by state. I’m printing only the Democrats’ names to avoid confusion. Therefore, if your district has an incumbent Republican fighting for his or her seat, you won’t see that name, which is why you need to know your district or at least your Democratic nominee.

Eighteen races are considered toss-ups, so your influence in them could be particularly effective. Each name is linked to that candidate’s Twitter account.

Gil Cisneros, California’s 39th District.

Diane Mitsch Bush, Colorado’s 3rd.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Florida’s 26th.

Brendan Kelly, Illinois’ 12th.

Cindy Axne, Iowa’s 3rd.

Paul Davis, Kansas’ 2nd.

Amy McGrath, Kentucky’s 6th.

Gretchen Driskell, Michigan’s 7th.

Elissa Slotkin, Michigan’s 8th.

Joe Radinovich, Minnesota’s 8th.

Andy Kim, New Jersey’s 3rd.

Antonio Delgado, New York’s 19th.

Kathy Manning, North Carolina’s 13th.

Danny O’Connor, Ohio’s 12th.

Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, Texas’ 7th.

Gina Ortiz Jones, Texas’ 23rd.

Leslie Cockburn, Virginia’s 5th.

Kim Schrier, Washington’s 8th.

You know, that’s enough for today. You have your work cut out for you to check your voter registration and then follow these 18 candidates. Tuesday, we’ll go over another batch of races that right now are not quite as close.

51. Warning

gun watch

It is 51 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election. There was no post yesterday.

An article appeared on The Associated Press’ website this afternoon. Written by Julie Pace, Catherine Lucey and Zeke Miller, it was headlined, “Grim warnings for White House, Republicans ahead of election.”

Don’t buy into it.

I’m not discrediting their work, which outlined cautions from “top Republican pollster” Neil Newhouse that things are not looking very good for the GOP in the election 51 days from now.

He said the economy and jobs would not sway voters in midterm elections as much as how they feel about Trump. And, according to the presentation (as if we haven’t all heard it) is the majority of Americans, including a “sizeable percentage of Republican-leaning voters,” do not feel good about a president who is making a mockery of the country he’s supposed to be leading.

OK, so if I believe their story, why do I say, “Don’t buy into it”?

They touched on that, too, writing that the warning appears to be a strategic move by Republicans to scare their diminishing base into voting lest those nasty Democrats take charge and start doing Congress’ job of providing checks and balances against the White House, maybe even impeaching the president if he hasn’t already resigned, not to mention protecting marginalized people and fighting against the rising tide of white supremacists. (Most of those words are mine, by the way; they were not quite that direct.)

Don’t buy into the warning of a Blue Wave. The Republicans are already spreading lies and stirring up fear to drive their voters to the polls. I don’t know how it works, but even after they screamed for eight years that Barack Obama was coming for all their guns, not a single gun restriction was put in place. Yet, they’re crying again that the Democrats are going to take your guns.

And the sheep believe it.

That’s why you and I must keep up the fight, continue to educate voters, encourage folks to register and then to show up and vote.

We must finally remove the stain of the far-right experiment before our country is further damaged, before it is shunned by the rest of the world, before it becomes illegal to have dark skin, to worship in any way other than the radical Christians, to be gay, to come from another country.

Don’t buy into the suggestion that Democrats have the elections wrapped up. We must press on to gather new state seats, to win an astounding majority in the House, even to flip the Senate.

Support and vote for Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Bill Nelson in Florida, Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, Jacky Rosen in Nevada, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and the rest of the Democratic candidates to help swing the Senate. (Each name links to that candidate’s Twitter page.)

Tomorrow, we’ll look at some of the House races that are particularly important. Leave a comment or otherwise contact me with suggestions for that list.

53. You must vote

keep calm

It is 53 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Register, stay informed, get to the polls, vote early, take friends.

 

 

54. Young vote

Obama vote frame

It is 54 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

President Obama has had enough.

If my pleas for you to vote aren’t sufficient, perhaps he can persuade you to register, to make sure you’re still properly registered, and then get out early to vote.

In this video, he is primarily talking about young voters, which by and large tend to not show up during elections. And isn’t that who I’ve been trying to talk to here? Non-voters and those who traditionally don’t bother with midterm elections?

Obama is taking the somewhat non-traditional step of critiquing the president who followed him. This presidency – which he said exhibits “unprecedented behavior that violates norms that in the past have been observed by both Democrats and Republicans” – is not new to criticism. Every living former president has called out Trump from time to time.

Obama offers advice to young voters: “But what I’ve told them is they shouldn’t be discouraged. They gotta step up and vote.”

You have your concerns – from the cost of education to protecting the environment – but your voice will not be heard if you don’t help elect people who will represent your message.

Additionally, we need to elect women and men to Congress, and to statewide and other offices, who will stand up to Trump’s bullying, fear-peddling, deceitful tactics and provide legal checks on his policies that are damaging the country.

Bonus: This applies to you even if you’re not a young voter.

55. Slacking

Brennan trump disgraceful

It is 55 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Nothing new today, but I’ll make up for it tomorrow.

Meanwhile, register, stay informed, get to the polls, vote early, take friends.

 

56. Lies

lying dont believe

It is 56 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Another quickie for today’s countdown to the election. It sprang from hearing President Trump lying … again … this time about how wonderfully his administration handled the hurricane in Puerto Rico a year ago.

The truth is his response was abysmal and was made incalculably worse by the fact they ignored reality and simply continued to sing praises to the nothingness they accomplished.

So, here are a few memes and quotes about lying.

Register, stay informed, get to the polls, vote early, take friends.

Liars hate honesty

lying no respect

liars lie

57. Health II

healthcare - gofundme

It is 57 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

A few additions to yesterday’s post.

healthcare - non-profits

healthcare - countries

Make sure you’re registered to vote and then help put more Democrats in office this fall.

 

58. Health

for-profit medicine

It is 58 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.

Why am I bugging you – for the 43rd consecutive day now – to make sure you’re registered to vote and then to help elect more Democrats this fall?

There are many reasons I’ve mentioned before, often more than once. To answer my question, though, I’m going with healthcare.

President Obama in no way was able to “fix” healthcare, but the Affordable Care Act that he dragged out of Congress made some good inroads. It was a first step, but Republicans are trying to tear it down.

I was doing some looking around for possible places to work next summer and saw something like this on the page of an employer: “XYZ will provide healthcare benefits to new employees as is required by the Affordable Care Act.” In other words, I read between the lines, there may be no such offer without ACA.

Republicans are doing all they can to return us to the days where more and more people cannot afford insurance and where they sometimes cannot afford the copay even if they do have insurance. It is disgusting how many Americans file for bankruptcy because of medical costs.

medically bankruptAccording to this Forbes article last month, a third of the fund-raising campaigns on GoFundMe are to cover medical costs. GoFundMe runs 250,000 medical campaigns – an average of almost 700 a day – that raise $650 million each year.

Currently, some states are trying to relax ACA guidelines, the most ominous effort being doing away with a requirement that insurance companies provide coverage of pre-existing conditions. That hits home for a lot of people.

I had bladder cancer seven years ago. It was successfully removed and hasn’t come back, but if I had to change policies and another tumor arose … there’s a good chance the surgery would not be covered, and we would face some tough decisions.

The solution includes considering healthcare a human right, not something only wealthy people can receive. It means removing the for-profit aspect of the industry. Universal health care can be done; dozens of countries are doing it successfully right now.

It will be difficult to make that happen, but nothing is changing if we don’t break the Republican stranglehold on progress.

And that, my friend, is one reason you owe it to yourself, your family and your country to make sure you’re registered to vote and then help put more Democrats in office this fall.

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