Monthly Archives: December 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward 2014-2015

Happy New Year 2015

Another year has limped along or flown away depending on any number of factors, foremost among these being our perspective. While the year is ticking along it usually seems slow but in hindsight it seems to have gone by really fast. And as we wait for the New Year to begin it is our habit to sum up the old year and predict what the New Year will bring.

I know we had a tough year in 2014. Our politics finds our nation divided still and it seems to be divided by skin color with Republicans seemingly backing white Americans and the Democrats backing all comers regardless of skin color or sexual orientation. We seem to be deciding whether we will crush minorities so that they will never become the majority or if we will become some kind of global amalgam representing all humans who aspire to freedom and equality.

We have also been through an election, the results of which suggest that Americans are in quite a reactionary mood. Voters have taken a Congress that Republicans made practically useless when they controlled only one house and have handed that same party control of both houses, for some unfathomable reason.

This was the year when patriarchal men, muscle men (thugs), macho men made a comeback and have gone to war and have done so blatantly in the face of a world that is appalled, because we want a peaceful world, a world not necessarily ruled by men all the time, and certainly not, as it sadly seems to be right now, ruled, far too often, by tyrants.

At home this year America has had to do a bit of self-analysis. America had to admit that our criminal justice system has been stuffing black men and boys and even black women into jails at rates that far exceed their proportion of the population and even their proportion of criminal perpetrators in our nation. Then we had to admit that we have a problem with the policing in our communities, policing which is not being applied equally to black and white citizens.

It was a year when I spent much of my time registering new and ever greater levels of shock about the things going on in America and around the world. I believe it is true that you cannot solve a problem until you notice it (nothing like stating the obvious). I spent half of last year with my eyebrows raised, my mouth open in an O and my hand covering the open O – see your emoticons. I have to believe that next year may see us looking for solutions to some of these things I found so shocking.

I have not scratched the surface of the issues that require our attention. We let many things slide this year; things like income inequality, gun control, sexual abuse in the military and on campus, education, climate change, our plastic-filled oceans, infrastructure. I hope we will deal with at least a few of these next year but Republicans have control of Congress and none of these items are on their agenda.

We will also start to rev up for the 2016 elections. Will we hear anything interesting and surprising from our candidates or will it just be all vituperation, all the time?

Oh well, these things cannot be solved this weekend so Have a very Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2015

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

Solving Our Policing Dilemmas

solving racism

We cannot accept the killing of unarmed black men by policemen who can never be blamed for any wrongdoing nor can we accept the killing of policemen by black men even though they will be blamed for their wrongdoing. Our police force keeps order in a crowded world and our society would be far too dangerous without a police force. But killing unarmed black men or harassing black men who are guilty of the very smallest of crimes cannot remain the fairly standard occurrence in our America that it recently seems to have become. This cannot be our new normal. If it is it will lead to untold sadness as we have already seen and it will lead to the very chaos we like to avoid. We cannot enjoy our lives if they must be lived around something as dysfunctional as the relationship between black men and some of the police officers and judges and government officials in this country. Obviously we have not yet found our way out of the wilderness that is racism in America.

stop racist policing

There are reasons why this is happening, there are always reasons, and we must track down the reasons and work to overcome these factors, to engender a new psychosocial dynamic that does not lead to hounding a single group of Americans and bringing us daily stories of senseless grief. Experts have examined the shortcomings of our society when it comes to offering equality for black men. We can describe it, but we can’t seem to overturn the current imbalance. Trace it back, how far back are its roots? (This list is in no particular order.)

Was it the Black Power movement that created irrational fears?

Does it stem from black disenchantment?

How about lack of opportunity?

Is education too slow a path (and then there is that contradiction – slaves were not allowed to read or write and yet now we criticize families in African-American communities who don’t value books and education)?

Does it have any connection to the belief that success is music, sports, drugs? Other careers are slow to bring rewards. The real combo is not black and male so much as black and poor, but there is profiling so negative behavior by people who are of African descent and poor is ascribed to all people with skin tones ranging from light brown to almost black. (Further, I recall that in those delayed gratification studies in which kids were given marshmallows and then told that if they didn’t eat them until the tester came back they would get a reward. It is not dark-skinned people who cannot delay their gratification; it is poor people) – (in fact I grew up in a very poor family and have had trouble delaying gratification all my life).

Did the tension result from the obvious truth that the whole civil rights movement did not set up a positive relationship between African Americans and the police? I saw the fire hoses and mourned the explosions. Maybe it started there?

Maybe it started with slavery and is a remnant of the master/slave anachronism? I have heard so many unbelievably evil stories of country white men out for an evening taunting black men, tormenting them, making them realize how cautious their behavior would have to be to escape mortal danger and that even that might not be enough. How is someone supposed to react to that? The stories also go that the police do not back up the black men who are being bullied by dangerous, half-cocked cretins, but instead they back up the inbred jerks doing the tormenting. (The KKK still exists.) I have heard stories about people just waltzing in and taking land away from a free black person who scrimped and saved to have a little piece of earth and I doubt that most courts or police officers backed up the black landowner and got their land back or punished the perpetrators in any way. I don’t think these stories are all about things that happened in the distant past. I think some of these things happened fairly recently and some happen even today. I certainly can see how experiences like this do not make for good relationships between black citizens and police officers.

Maybe it started with the War on Drugs and with gangs. Since there were few jobs for black men that paid well and since joining together as a gang gave members both family ties and a power base that made gangs sort of necessary especially if you were going into the drug business. Perhaps these two phenomena just developed at the same time. Calling the whole drug thing a “War” and adding in the scary availability of guns certainly could help explain the high levels of tension between men of color and the police.

Maybe it began when the factories left when African American men were just beginning to be hired and had just entered that more legal brotherhood, the union, which some government leaders are now in the process of gutting. The Capitalists have never liked the unions and they have found the timing just right now to make unions powerless because there are so few left that have the clout they once had. Perhaps a gang became a replacement for the union.

Obviously, I think this dangerous dynamic between black men and mainly white authority is an old one with a long and twisted history. But we can’t have this in the 21st century. It is more than time to stop the unfair treatment. If a police officer is corrupt s/he should be subject to trial and punishment. If courts are biased against people of color those who prolong these old attitudes and prejudices should be replaced. Lifetime appointments to courts are a huge reward for someone, but there has to be some oversight that unseats unworthy appointees. Even those elected to courts are often elected over and over in spite of bad practices because citizens may not know about their behavior or citizen may be also biased. There should be ways to unseat biased elected judges, ways to bring them to justice, before they do terrible harm.

This is like watching a war on our own soil (not the war on drugs, but a war on dark-skinned people) and it has been going on for more than a century. It heats up and cools off. We know how wrong it is. We want this undeclared war to end. We want equal opportunity for all. We don’t want people to be sidelined from “the good life” because they have darker skin or were born in poverty. We accept that not every American feels this way, but it seems as if the majority of us probably do. We want everyone to enjoy their lives and their families and find some measure of prosperity and security, and, right now, we can see that these fine things are not being shared by everyone. We get confused about whether to blame the inequality on those who don’t have equality or on a culture that is rigged. We fear people who seem to dislike us and blame us and perhaps even want to kill us. We sometimes feel that only our police officers stand between us and them, even though we suspect that we may have the whole thing wrong.

So we watch this play out and we can see why there is so much fear on each side. Police officers are being killed and it almost seems like they are being killed in cold blood by people who intend to take them out. We see that there are police officers who are biased or racist or prejudiced who perhaps became police officers to make war on black people and we know that such people should not be police officers, although we do not know how to sort them out of the force.

Black men (and women) know that fighting back against a seemingly unfair arrest or harassment won’t turn out well, but perhaps they cannot respect themselves if they don’t fight back. Perhaps they no longer feel like swallowing their anger. They want everyone in America to believe that “black lives matter” and they are prepared to make a stand. If we don’t get this right this time it is possible that we will be losing our last chance to live together in peace and harmony as neighbors.

I hesitate to even talk about this matter because it is very possible that I will say something offensive. I have tried to spew out all the thoughts that I have had lately on this injustice and this tangled social dilemma. Some people say we need a dialog so this is addressed to people like that. Some people feel that there is no way I could comprehend this situation and that I should keep my opinions to myself. Please feel free to ignore them. I hope there is something of value in this discussion and that others will improve upon it.

Perhaps we need to adopt a sort of behavioral approach where we change the current dynamic with strategies for defusing these situations which escalate from rather mundane infractions to tragedy. We have experts in behavioral science who can come up with concrete strategies for de-escalation.

Then we need to work to create a new script for the success of Americans of African descent to overlay and eventually shrink the lingering taint of the original negative script that named one group slave and the other master. (Perhaps white men still expect vengeance from black men and if they arrest all black men and put them away they can escape that vengeance – who knows?) These colonial roots may never be totally forgotten or forgiven but they do need to be overlaid with more positive roles for everyone involved, more African American successes, and more unbiased interactions.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Some Luck

There is something about the lives of farm families and the whole farming “schema” we have in our heads that mainlines right into our American spirit. We find the farming life fascinating. We romanticize it. We imagine the hard, hard work of it and the successes and the failures. We try it on for size and shake our heads and say to ourselves, “how can people do this, how can people love this; it’s such a demanding life.” And yet, when we ride by tidy farms with homey farmhouses and barns and sheds and green acreage stretching for miles, or row on row of plastic hats covering baby plants there is a certain twinge we get that signals that here is the “authentic” life and we are missing it.

Jane Smiley has written about farms and farmers before and she has not always painted a pretty picture of the lifestyle. When I read her Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Thousand Acres about a family fighting over their inheritances and jockeying for position in the will, 1,000 acres of farmland sounded more like a curse than a blessing. It’s a story that I would sum up as King Lear in flannel.

But in Some Luck that same Jane Smiley, perhaps mellowed by decades of living and writing, gives us the blessings of farm life. It is just a quiet book of the day-to-day struggles of Walter and Rosanna Langdon. Walter bought a farm in Iowa. Rosanna did not look like a farmer’s wife but she was from a long line of farmers and was determined to be a great farmer’s wife. It’s 1920. Farmers keep cows and chickens and have a vegetable garden. They keep horses to pull their plows and drive their buggies and help with the harvest.

Running a farm involves getting the eggs away from the chickens, wringing the occasional chicken neck, canning, plowing, planting, harvesting, collecting seed for next year’s crop, making butter, milking cows, having children, feeding everyone and on, and on and on. Hard to imagine any time to be bored, although winters were probably pretty long and, without central heating, pretty cold.

These two are young, just starting their farm and their family, but Walter knows farming. The years roll by through the Depression, through the Second World War, through the decline of horse-based farming and into the years of tractors and cars. Walter and Rosanna’s fortunes go up and down as we follow them through the years. We get interested in the children and we wonder what kind of adults they will become.

If you like stories full of excitement and tension Some Luck may not hold your interest. Perhaps farming never appealed to you. But, Jane Smiley is a really good writer. Her writing never gets in the way of her story. It doesn’t call attention to itself but it is so skilled that we feel we are watching Walter and Rosanna from next door. It is a love story to farms and farming and farm families, to a way of life that is almost gone from our nation. I was right in the middle of it when it ended. It touched my heart in such a gentle way.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

What a Week!

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What a week! North Korea hacks SONY – the Torture Report is under discussion –there is a flurry of activity on Cuba (welcome home Alan Gross) – Andrew Cuomo bans fracking in NY (thank you Governor Cuomo) – four prisoners are released from Gitmo and sent to Afghanistan – CRomnibus secrets are unveiled – poignant demonstrators carry signs saying “I can’t breathe, and “Black Lives Matter” – two policemen are shot dead in NYC in their patrol cars by someone who has nothing to do with the demonstrations, but seems to have been set off by them. Hate seems to have the upper hand once again and chaos seems near. It feels as if we must answer every important philosophical question right this very minute and it also feels as if the debate could drag on forever.

The Hack of SONY

How will we deal with hacking when it involves terrorism or the threat of terrorism?

Should our reactions take into account who is doing the hacking or will one policy fit all?

How can we respond to Kim Jung Un so as to forestall future attempts to interfere in American activities?

The Interview is a comedy film, a sophomoric satire full of earthy humor that most Americans find either goofy or offensive. Does it poke fun at Kim Jung Un? Yes it does. Are the people he rules likely to see this film? I doubt it. If he had reacted differently would movie goers around the globe be laughing at his expense? Probably. Would it change the fact that he is the undisputed leader of North Korea? No. It would have showed strength and confidence if he laughed off this piece of silly business. But he did not.

Instead he had his people hack into the SONY computers and release the gossipy snark that passes for private business communication in Hollywood. Embarrassing.  And he threatened attacks on theaters in America if they show the film. This response took what should have been a simple reaction to satire and turned it into a threat against a nation where freedom of speech is treasured. We have escalation!  It’s our move… If we smooth things over we appear weak. Is it OK to appear weak when you are not? Or is it better to let someone provoke a fight we do not want to fight unless we absolutely have to.

It’s easy to see why choosing the perfect response to this situation is more complicated than it should be given the nonsensical piece of business that caused it. Satire, at its base, is not just comedy; it is also social commentary and, however goofy the vehicle that delivers it, there are barbs which only the strong will laugh off. How will America respond to the actions that turned a comedy into a serious international incident? May the coolest heads prevail.

Torture Report

We all believed that Americans do not torture. Well, we sort of believed this. Given what we know of human nature it is difficult once past our idealistic years to think that no Americans have ever practiced torture before.

We were certainly provoked. The events of September Eleventh made us angry but they also made us afraid. For awhile America stood still and we were uncertain that we would find our footing once again. Did the terrorists find our weak spot, we wondered, the spot that could topple America? During those silent days of mourning and shock, when no planes were heard in our skies except the jets leaving to patrol over NYC, we worried that this blow might have been fatal, and then the clock started ticking again and, although we had reeled, we slowly recovered and our anger eventually outweighed our grief.

We needed to avenge our dead and reassert our strength. Would it have been better if our vengeance had been purer than our enemies’ hate? The Patriot Acts may have been passed to protect us from enemies without and within our borders but they took away rights Americans had come to hold dear including our right to privacy.

We had to decide if Iraq colluded with the terrorists or not. We decided we couldn’t afford to assume they were innocent. We decided this based on lies we were given as facts and we suspected these “facts” were lies, but we did not dare to take a chance on our gut feeling. This war in Iraq went against our American grain, another compromise or a necessary evil, hard to know which. Abu Ghraib added another link to the chain of American moral compromises that robbed us of a bit more of our pride. Embarrassing.  But I doubt that we were innocent of such practices in other wars and hostilities; we just didn’t have selfies.

Does that mean we should accept such behavior as our standard practice in wartime? I don’t think so. Hearing our tortures paraded before the world for their disdain reminds us that we are human; that we are, individually and collectively, all capable of immoral acts if our survival is at stake. We also are reminded that we admire people who are able to win over evil without compromising high moral standards. We want to be heroes, larger than life, permeated with goodness and yet with a “goodness” that enhances our power rather than weakens it.

We are embarrassed once again to have people perceive our imperfections. As a nation we aspire to more, much more. Who will we be from now on? Will we restore past glories of ostensibly untarnished morals or will we be ruthless because we must be perceived as such given the state of this world in the 21st century.

I loved believing that we do not torture people, that we do not discriminate against anyone, that we are gentlemen and ladies, civil even when dealing with prisoners of war (or terrorism). I still think we should adhere to the high moral ground as often as we can. About 60% of Americans feel that torture is fine when needed. If torture doesn’t provide useful intelligence does it at least inspire fear in our enemies? Are we becoming barbaric or realistic? Will we take the risk of appearing squeamish about being cruel if it seems necessary? Will we recommit to a humane code of war?

Flurry of Cuban activities

A lot of stuff happened last week between Cuba and America. I don’t really know yet how I feel about this. I have friends in Miami and Cuban refugees or exiles were a big deal there. They changed the whole tenor of Miami almost overnight. Many Cuban people who came to Miami had been wealthy or at least comfortable in Cuba; leaders in the Cuban economy. They were not humble. They pushed other Miami residents aside as they established their new neighborhoods. They lost a lot, but they kept their skills and began again. They do not all favor normalizing relations with a Cuba still in the hands of the Castro dictatorship. But people miss their relatives in Cuba and would like to see them. They are perhaps homesick. Are the Castro brothers still too wily and stiff-backed to deal with? Will we be the only ones “normalizing relations”? Will all the bending be one way. It remains to be seen and that makes us nervous. Are we baring our necks to the enemies’ sword or are we the Trojan Horse that will improve a society from within?

Everything that happened this week and this month has been fraught with more questions than answers. We have more on our plate than we can easily manage. Why are we at this nexus? Why are all these issues arising at this particular juncture in time. Is this all our post 9/11 philosophical moment? Is this where America moves up a notch to a future wisdom and glory or falls back into an age-old barbarity and decline? Can we have barbarism and glory at the same time? Do the ends reflect the means used to reach them?

Those are the issues we must choose among in spite of our seeming human blindness. Just because I didn’t  go into detail about each item in my list of issues that we had to deal with last week doesn’t mean that each situation isn’t just as rife with differing viewpoints or that it will not affect our future in the same ways as our other imminent decisions. This article is getting longer than I would like so I will take up the other topics later.

Perhaps the nexus will not ever be broken apart by decisive moments. Perhaps we will sort of glide into our future as pieces fall into place. We don’t really believe in the easy way though, do we?

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

Books I Read in 2014

2014

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The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith

The Yard by Alex Grecian

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Trilogy)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Martian by Andy Weir

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace

Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen

The Painter by Peter Heller

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham

Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo

The Bat by Jo Nesbo

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messaud

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

The Book of Life, Book 3, All Soul’s Trilogy by Diane Harkness

The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo

The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

The Last Policeman, Book I, by Ben Winters

Phantom by Jo Nesbo

Countdown, Book II, The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters

World of Trouble, Book III, The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters

colorless tsukuru tazaki by Haruki Murakami

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Bone Clocks by David R. Mitchell

The Other Typist by Suzane Rindell

This is How I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Edge of Eternity, Book 3, The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Reading now and hope to finish by the end of December

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

 

 

Local Politics: Gentrification and Transparency

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Is all gentrification bad? I don’t always think that it is. Gentrification of the blighted center of small cities brings new money, new businesses, new social activities, and perhaps even more cultural experiences to a struggling city business district that may have been looking like a ghost town, a rather dumpy ghost town at that.

So when you turn the business district of a dying city into a vibrant neighborhood, or set of neighborhoods, when you repurpose lovely old 40’s buildings designed for commerce into apartments, town houses and condos over mixed retail spaces, the results can be quite stunning and revitalizing.

gentrysyr

But as the economy improves and as funding for development flows more freely it is not fair to only cater to those who already have access to life’s pleasures. There should be a way to lift up those who are not wealthy and give them a place in that regenerated downtown.

My city, Syracuse, and my county, Onondaga, often pool resources where possible and they have decided that they want to develop a part of our lakefront, a part that was used as a chemical dump and has now been covered over and supposedly stabilized. The mayor and the county executive have decided to locate an amphitheater on that toxic land and they hope it will be an attraction like the amphitheater at Saratoga Springs, NY. I can picture how lovely it would be to sit on an emerald green lawn on a summer evening to listen to or watch wonderful performances, but I think, given our weather, such perfect evenings would be exceedingly rare.

There are many more reasons why this is a bad plan than there are for why it would be a good one. We have winter or clouds or gray days for about nine months of every year. It will compete with other venues. Only that same “gentry” being served by downtown development will be able to afford to attend the events offered. We don’t have access to enough wealthy people to support it. Our art museum is floundering. Our wonderful symphony orchestra which put us on the cultural map for awhile has disbanded and formed again as a smaller group. Ballet troupes don’t come here anymore. (Mosquitoes… oops that just slipped out.) Everything cannot be for the wealthiest among us. The money these two ladies have “found” belongs to all of us not just people who would pay big taxes if it were not for loopholes.

It is quite odd to me that suddenly local money seems plentiful. We have been pinching pennies here for some time now. The state wants to give the city/county money if we come up with a worthy project. The mayor is being quite practical about this. She would like to use it to update the city’s water delivery systems which are antique and which provide us with water pipes which regularly burst under our roads and which require expensive repairs. These are the kind of unsexy repairs which get put off over and over again because they are not visible above ground, because they cause frustration and loss of business, and because they don’t directly provide revenue (although money would be saved).

The downtown landmark hotel that has been taken up and dropped by developer after developer is another project that is suddenly “on” again.

It was just announced that the County legislators are in the process of voting themselves raises in the neighborhood of $38,000 each.

Where is all this money coming from? Whose money is it? A little transparency would be nice. Explain exactly where the money will come from for each of the projects under discussion (including the raises) and give residents a chance to decide exactly how any money that came from taxpayers, at any level of government, should be spent.

And widen the scope of city/county residents who will benefit from gentrification by targeting a few less “gentry” and mixing in just a few regular folks.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

 

The Fault in Our Stars – Movie

The Fault in Our Stars

Are some of us born under an unlucky star? We all have challenges and sadness in our lives but there are people who get more than their share, at least it seems that way sometimes. My family knows a family with a child born with a rare mitochondrial defect. These parents were told it was highly unlikely that this genetic defect would present in another child. However, they now have two children with this same genetic disorder which makes life complicated for the two children and their whole family. It is a life full of medical crises and near-death experiences. Each one of us probably knows one or several people whose lives seem to be lightning rods for tragedy.

Hazel Grace Lancaster, played by Shailene Woodley is one of these young people who appears to have been cheated by fate (or just her genetic material). She has a cancer that is tough to fight, that can go into a sort of remission but will not be cured. By the time Hazel is a teenager she is an old hand at chemo and is fairly fatalistic about the rest of her live and with good reason. She stands to miss the good parts of life by just a hair. She is most likely clinically depressed.

With great reluctance she agrees to go to group therapy – a cancer support group. That’s how she meets a friend, a friend who understands her feelings because he has fought cancer too. Once she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) we know she will not miss the rest of her life. We know something will happen that will make both of their struggles less burdensome for a while. What does happen is at the heart of this movie.

We expect that things will not end well in this film. We expect to go through a lot of tissues. Are these two done with adversity? Not at all. But they have something they never had before; they have each other. I heard that the book was great, that lots of people read it and loved it. Well, I loved the movie and, although it did have the predictable arc of tragedy we expected, there was something quite upbeat about it because of the spirits of these two young people.

I didn’t need too many tissues. How something so sad seems to also contain a sense that these two have been handed just a tiny soupçon of cosmic joy is due to the skill with which John Green wrote this story (which seems as if it might be based on a real story probably because he worked at a cancer center with children facing fatal illnesses and multiple medical procedures). Tears yes; total meltdown, no.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

Ready For Hillary

 

Ready for Hillary3

I am ready for Hillary. I am ready to give as much support to her campaign for the Presidency in 2016 as I can. I am ready to vote for her. I have waited a lifetime to see a woman in the White House and Hillary Clinton is the best prepared woman in the United States at this time. She has “paid her dues” and she has “walked the walk”, and “talked the talk”. She knows the key figures in every nation around the world and they also know her. She has sat with these world leaders and socialized with them and negotiated with them.

Do I have some worries about Hillary? I do, but I probably caught them from the media. I worry that although she is a Democrat she is fairly moderate and I am not so moderate. However she has to be further left than the Republicans who are about as far to the right as you can get without falling off the political spectrum altogether.

Will the GOP treat her as they have treated Obama – after all she also is not a white male?

Is she strong enough to stand up to the “mean team”?

Does she really, really want to be President? Washington is so toxic right now a person would need to be extremely motivated to want to take on Congress in its current incarnation. Does she have the will to make it through the gauntlet? If she says she has the will then I will believe her.

She has only spoken out a few times from private life and the press has felt that her answers were not carefully considered and Presidential. The press has been quite critical of Hillary. Can she learn to phrase honest answers that strike a perfect chord with the majority of Americans? Can we accept that no one is perfect?

I’m not sure when honesty became the worst move in politics. I’m not sure when it became a political requirement that you must espouse the exact same positions throughout your career and if you don’t then you are considered unacceptable for office. I get that we value consistency but total inflexibility doesn’t seem to be a positive trait for the leader of America or any country. An evolving position on a subject is not necessarily the same thing as someone who flips and then flips again for reasons of political expediency.

I cannot imagine why Hillary or anyone else would care to be the President of the United States of America right now, but if Hillary Clinton is ready to commit to this enormous responsibility, then I am ready for her.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

 

 

 

The Inexorable GOP Agenda or Riding the Gravy Train

gravy train5

I’m not the kind of person who gets a thrill out of fear. I never wanted to sky dive or swing at the end of a very long bungee cord. However six years ago when I decided I had to listen to Glenn Beck to see what all the hoopla was about I was shocked at what I heard. He seemed to be inciting Americans to revolt against our government or at least to stockpile guns in case it became necessary to do so. He flashed photos of Obama talking to crowds in Europe. Then he flashed photos of Hitler haranguing crowds in Europe prior to WW II. Using photos makes it sound like he chose subtle symbolism to get his point across, but attacks on right wing talk radio were anything but subtle. Someone at The Washington Post counted the number of times Glenn said Hitler and Nazi in the same breath with Obama and it was in the middle three figures.

That’s when I decided that I was afraid of the right wing of the GOP and that I had to expose the hate and bad politics that they were spewing. Even so I thought that perhaps they were being so extreme because they thought that saying audacious things would get them elected.

When they started busting unions and blaming the victims of unemployment for causing their employers to leave the country by being too greedy for things like wages, pensions, health insurance – all things employers initially invented so they could offer lower salaries that included delayed benefits for workers, I began to suspect that they were serious. Did these employers know at the time that they would walk away from their promises when times were harder and they came due? Perhaps not, but they have done exactly that.

I have learned over the past six years that the list of items Republicans ticked off over and over again that we gave the innocent-sounding name of “talking points” were things Republicans truly believed in and would continue asking for. Where did they get these “talking points”? They got them from their wealthy donors, lobbyists, and corporate bosses. Who did they sell their ideas to? They sold them to the truckers, the downsized factory workers, the disaffected farmers; the very people whose world they were planning to turn topsy-turvy, the very 47% who Republicans claimed were deadbeats living off the government teat. Not one of these people thought of themselves as being part of the 47%.

Recently we have learned that 99% of us belong to that group of Americans who have not been quite up to snuff, not quite successful enough; Americans who deserve to be put in our place, which means anywhere where we won’t stand in the way of the money as it is funneled to the 1%. Republicans do seem to honestly believe that government programs have turned the poorest Americans into underachievers. And there are many in the 99% who agree with them. There may, of course, even be a kernel of truth in it, although “blame the victim” was not a game we used to play. Is the best cure for chronic non workers to take their supports away – leave the poor among us desperate so they will have to work or die? Well that will be fun to watch (not). People who have no skills and no experience don’t just one day go out and find a great job. The “old-timey” system of taking on apprentices and teaching younger people a trade at the right hand of an expert no longer functions as it did. Perhaps the poor could not help failing when the privileged yanked away the upward mobility ladder just as they got their feet on it. If we want people to be productive and self-sufficient we need to be sure they have opportunities to learn useful skills and we need to create more effective programs to accomplish this than we have in the past.

So we are already seeing the Republicans making some headway with their anti-social agenda. They are like the wind that finds a way through every tiny crack and opening. They have already cut food stamps (the SNAP program) enough for food pantries to see increased demands for donated food. They did this in the Farm Bill and they did it some more with the last budget CR (continuing resolution) crisis when we ended up with the Sequester.

This new CRomnibus Bill is just another gravy train for the 1%. It has the 99% on the hook for bailouts of banks in case the banks gamble with clients’ monies and lose again. It carves a chunk (1.4%) from guess who – women, infants and children (WIC) (so much the old civilized rule that called for saving the women and the children first). Our heroes (that’s sarcasm). Let’s stick it to women, infants and children (and then we’ll take away their birth control – not in this bill though) and that will show them. There are also hefty increases in the defense budget which apparently are not even needed.

Carry on, GOP, in your campaign to make sure the wealthy will no longer have to pay their purloined dollars to the poor who have been lazy and deserve to be punished and who will have nothing to fall back on (which is supposed to give them gumption); and carry on in your plan that assures the wealthy of profits with bailouts as insurance. Show people what America will be like if we put you in charge of the whole shebang. Show them now so there is a chance they will catch on before the 2016 election. Unfortunately, I think you have done your homework well and we will not be able to stop the GOP train even if the people do wise up.

I have two more big fears.

1) What can we expect from the 2015 Congress?

2) What will America be like with Ted Cruz and his Old Testament father for our President in 2016?

Yikes!

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>