Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Shock to the System or Three

The past 24 hours have not been kind to us, but we are on the other side of it now and beginning to sort things out. It began yesterday morning with a scam on my computer for which I fell, then had to spend half the day undoing. Then, at three in the afternoon, our precious Meg suffered a pulmonary embolism. We lost her just after six pm. This morning, on my way to work, a deer collided with the front right part of my car, doing significant damage to the vehicle and killing the deer. Bad things happen in threes, they say. I am living proof. The scam began around nine a.m., when we tried to look at an “article” link to “Jane Fonda Dead.” Instead of information or misinformation about the actress, a pop-up blocked my computer access and warned me that if I did not call the number on my screen, I could lose everything in it. The man on the phone claimed to be from Microsoft Security Services. For the price of a three year security anti-virus program, $199.99, they would unlock my computer, rid it of the 1400 viruses and warnings they found inside, and make it run again. I caved in a panic – which they were counting on me doing – and arranged the purchase through a company called Allay Hub, to be deducted in ten days from my account. Then, while their technician “fixed” the computer, I called Microsoft directly and learned that Microsoft would never block me like that, that this was most likely a scam. On their recommendation, I called my bank, put a stop payment on the future fee, and changed my access information to my accounts. I called Microsoft back and that rep told me he could clean my computer up for $149, then discounted to $109 because of my stop-payment charge from the bank. He did emphasize he was not forcing me to do this, merely suggesting. I declined and called my computer whiz nephew in Holland, who guided me through making sure my system was okay and the program they installed was uninstalled. Through him, I discovered I was fully protected already and that my computer was, in fact, clean. I wrote a scam report to the Better Business Bureau. I also e-mailed Allay Hub (they do not have a webpage, oddly enough) demanding they remove the account and not make the charge. This morning an agent called me and agreed. I still will monitor my banking daily to be sure. Third bad thing second: hitting a deer is all too common in Montana, and an awful thing to happen. It is almost always fatal to the deer and always damaging to the car, even at slow speed at four in the morning Still, the first rays of sunlight came out at the insurance office when I filed my claim. The young woman who helped me suggested one body shop because the one recommened by the claims agent was fully booked into January. I followed her suggestion. This one will start work next Tuesday. Even just doing their job, people can be kind, and that is refreshing. Bad thing number two. At three yesterday afternoon, while I was on my way to pick up Xander from school, Meg cried out in pain on Diane's lap. Her legs stiffened out and she lost control of her bladder shortly thereafter, while Diane called the Vet and called me to hurry home. The Vet worked on Meg for three hours, but there was no coming back. We finally ended her misery. Four grown adults surrounded this little five pound Chihuahua, crying our eyes out. But Meg was special. She touched many lives. I think she was more popular than me. Granddaughter CharleeRose almost always says, before anything else, “Yay Meg! Yay Meow!” For her, Meg was the Queen and Jane the Queen consort, and the rest of us are staff – Meg's staff. This will be hard on her and on Xander, but it is hardest on us. It amazes me that such a little animal can cast so big a shadow over our lives. I keep listening for her bark whenever I say, “Coming!” Diane keeps checking the room to see where she is. But, as the song says, our hearts will go on, Meg firmly and permanently residing there. We received several notes of condolance, many with memories of Meg, this morning. I could barely read them through my tears, and am grateful for all the love and comfort offered. As one friend said, given the number of beautiful creatures who have graced our lives over the decades, Meg will have one huge greeting committee. And she'll run the roost. Yay Meg!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The True Trump? Minority Rules

Politicians lie to get elected. They will say just about anything if they think it will help them. Many Americans seem to be pinning their hopes on the idea that Donald Trump's rhetoric is not really Donald Trump. Maybe he's a closet progressive. Maybe he does know what he's doing. Maybe he doesn't hate women, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, refugees, immigrants, Mexico, gays. Maybe he does respect the Constitution of the United States. I think Trump is who he is, just short of being a fascist. This election tore the cover off America to reveal the depths of its divides. People can deny all they want that the election was about white male America holding on against the rainbow coalition, but it was. They can claim it was not about race, but it was. Even if you voted for Trump for some other reason, perception is reality. You look racist to me. And if you didn't vote at all, you are telling us something even more profound, that there is nothing about this country for which you are willing to fight. You no longer care, or you feel the system no longer cares about you. Almost half the registered voters said so. It is said that a people always gets the government they deserve. I fear that this election will prove to be a self-fulfilling prophesy and that civilization as we know it in America is about to disintegrate into a dust cloud of bigotry and apathy. There is another saying: bad things happen when good people do nothing.

Politics in Trying Times: Watchdogs

Yesterday's depression has been shrugged off. The sun did rise this morning. I was not surprised. At three a.m. I headed off to work, seeing the great Orion standing high over me, on guard, as he has been for eons. It was a cold morning, brisk and bracing and crystal clear, and it felt good against my skin and to my essence. Then I drove down to work, about a mile away from my house and six hunded feet lower in altitude, as well as next to Flathead Lake. There, the fog settled in. Orion was hidden. And I remembered this was the day after the day after. A shiver ran down my spine. I received a number of responses to my election day postmortem Trump check-list blog. One stood out, reminding me not to be a sore loser but rather to move on in unity. The people have spoken, lets work together and accept the will of the people. I wondered if she meant the way the Republicans in Congress accepted the overwhelming will of the people in 2008, but I let that slide. I only replied, “I worry.” I thought but did not say that I was not so much sore that Clinton lost but embarrassed that Trump won. I did not re-state the point of the list, that so much good work is at threat of being undone. I only worry. For the second time in this century and only the third time in US history, the candidate who won the popular vote did not win the election. Trump did not get the majority of the vote. In fact, he got barely a quarter of the eligible vote because almost half the Americans who were registered to vote decided to stay home in 2016. This means he did not get a mandate from the people, not by a long shot. He squeaked by. Almost three quarters of America said no to him or just said, no thanks. He must now reach out to all of us, to me, to you, and not with pretty words but reasonable acts. Let me be plain. Conciliatory speeches aside, the divisions among the American people have been laid bare. The country is obviously in pain and is not united. I want America to succeed, to move forward, to become the great place everyone seems to think it is. But if an action by our government is wrong, I will oppose it. If my civil liberties are impaired, I will exercise them all the harder. If good laws are gutted, I will protest. I will be peaceful but I will be clear, and I will be one voice among many. In the 1960's I argued with a good friend. She said that my dissent (over Vietnam) would destroy America. I said that dissent was the power, the strength, and the safeguard of democracy. If dissenters are shouted down, democracy is murdered. I will shout louder still. A true friend tells you when you're wrong. A true patriot does the same for his country.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Trump Presidency Check-list

The Trump Presidency: What to Anticipate: If Americans think they gutted the System, they're wrong. They just handed it to the very people who willfully made it ineffective. Tyranny of the minority is about to take over. So I thought we should create a watch list of the things that we can look forward to in a Trump Presidency. Universal health care – dead. Tuition free college education – dead. Social Security – in jeopardy. Medicare – in jeopardy. A woman's right to choose –- in jeopardy. Civil liberties – on hold. Immigration reform – shelved. Humanitarian Actions – stopped. Religious freedom – curtailed. Income equality – “not my problem.” The minimum wage – held steady. Trade policies – up in the air. Bringing jobs back to America – outsourced. Tax cuts for the wealthy – day one. A balanced budget – fuggetaboutit. The Public Debt – increased exponentially. The credit rating with the world bank – lowered, if Trump tries to renegotiate or defaults on thedebt, or declares a federal bankruptcy. Funding for public access programs – cut. Military spending – increased. NATO – in jeopardy. Tensions with our allies – increased. The Iran nuclear treaty – withdrawn. Relations with Cuba – probably safe as long as Trump sees a business opportunity there. Climate change – ignored, denied, or worse, fired. The glass ceiling – repaired and restored. The Draft – reinstated. Watch this check-list. Add to it if you like. Maybe the Donald will rise to the job, maybe he will exercise and encourage reasonable policies to the benefit of all. Hard to see. I feel like a San Francisco 49er's fan who wears his team logo sweatshirt daily with pride. Oh, wait, I am that guy. People offer me their sympathy, but I'm on my own.

Election 2016: The Day After - Buyer's Remorse

I should be wearing black because I am in mourning. The American voter has chosen. The voter has voted against his/her own interests and put the Republican Party in charge of the hen house for at least two years with Donald Trump at its head. Entitlements are in jeopardy. Social Security is in jeopardy. 85 years worth of gains in civil liberties and progressive reform may well come undone. The position of the United States in the world theater is now shaky. I was certain we would not take this route, but we did. Seven million less democrats turned out to vote in 2016 than in 2012: it is our own damn fault. Maybe I should be happy. The American voter gassed up his big pickup truck, slipped into 4-wheel drive, and went off road. It will give me four years of things to blog about and comedians four years of constant material. It may galvanize liberals and progressives into something resembling a movement. Instead, I am scared. I want to believe it's a good thing. Maybe Trump will surprise me. Maybe he is a hidden progressive in conservative's clothing. Maybe more people will watch the Trump Show as broadcast from the White House and become more interested and involved in politics outside their own back yards. Maybe progressives will unify in opposition. I doubt it – more likely, as with the Brexit vote, Americans will suffer from buyer's remorse but do nothing. Politics as usual appears to be dead, but it's not. Gridlock seems to be dead, but we shall see. The Republican Party now effectively controls all three branches of government once Trump's first Supreme Court justice nominee is approved. There are no checks. There are no balances. The Russians and the Chinese are happy: we just passed the hat to them. Corporate America is happy: we just improved their bottom line. I, however, feel miserable. But who cares? As for the American people, they know not what they have done. White America has said: I am still powerful; do not ignore me. But we were played. I am certain that America will slip into an also-ran status on the world economic and political scene. I hope I am wrong about that. I hope I am wrong about all of this. So much seems at risk, placed their by an electorate that chose celebrity over experience, the past over the future, the rich over the citizenry. God help us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016: Pre-Postmortem

It's over. The long dark teatime of the soul has ended. The electioneering is done, the speeches, the promises, the rhetoric, the misrepresentations and exaggerations, the hyperbolie, the distortions and insinuations, the out and out lies. I haven't blogged in a long while. I've been traveling and visiting with dear, dear friends. And, frankly, I have become exhausted by politics. A large part of the reason is the Trump Show and how absurd it got, barelky worth a comment anymore except to see how close he has come in the polls. But the Donald is right about one thing: the election is rigged. Not FIXED, as in bought by cheating at the polls, but RIGGED. Big money supports all sides. Mike Pence is in the pocket of the Koch Brothers. Trump himself is his own big money if we take his questionable unsubstantiated words on faith. As for Mrs. Clinton, I want to believe that she is not beholding to any special interests but you don't raise so large a warchest without raising the question: whom do you owe? I see her as the real outsider in the election, ironically enough – new wealth, not part of the power elite, and squeezing past every attempt by that elite (through the Republican Party) to tarnish her and ultimately destroy her. But it doesn't matter. Politics is a side show. On November 9 Trump will parlay his presidential run into a TV netowrk and recoup his expenses tenfold. The presidential race was a business investment. Pence will wait for 2020. Hillary will be President and Congress will still do nothing. Merrick Garland will be fast tracked into the Supreme Court by a suddenly desperate lame duck Senate, but that's all. No wonder so many voters are angry – what real choice did they have? Our vote has been co-opted, our choices at the top and down ballot have been hand-picked for us by the wealthy. But that doesn't mean our vote is meaningless. There is a clear choice between Clinton and Trump, a clear difference. And there are the down ballot elections: let the incumbents beware. In the end, it was not a great choice, but it was a clear one: bigotry or civility; isolation or involvement; stagnation or progress; ultra-conservatisom versus progressivism. It's over. You chose. They're counting even as I write these words. And no matter how silly we are or how important we imaginbe ourselves to be, the world will go on. The sun will come out tomorrow. 360,000 people will be born toimorrow, 150,000 will die. The world's human population will increase by 210,000 hungry mouths in that twenty-four hour period, At least one species of life will go extinct. Tomorrow. Songs will be sung, stories told. Problems will be solved, new problems discovered. Who we elect as President is important, may be crucial. But we have heard it before: this is the most important decision ever. Not so. Decision made, it's time to move on.