Category Archives: politics

Witch Hunt?

The jury is still out on the Hillary emails. We still don’t know what the FBI will find. And yet every day new information hits the press. The media enjoys reporting each link as if it is the missing link freighted with truth that will put this issue to rest. But it seems to me that they are treating this as a kind of a crime drama with new clues arriving all the time, hoping that there is a guilty party or parties. The only thing that we really know right now is that this story is being kept alive in the media with very little damning evidence that there is any crime at all to solve, only an election to be won or lost.

Now, apparently, the state department asked Hillary for more information about the use of a private server sometime in the summer of 2014. What does that say? What does that imply? No information is given beyond that the state department asked for clarification and that this does not seem to be the “business as usual” that Hillary mentioned. This information appeared in a story in The Washington Post written by Chris Cillizza who writes a blog for The Washington Post called The Fix. I hear that he tends to lean right.

The second “fact” he gives us in the Post story first appeared in Politico, which also leans right, and it is a release that says that someone has uncovered some deleted emails about Benghazi. Although it looks like these emails may be communications between the Congressional committee and Hillary we are left to conclude that perhaps what is hidden will finally be revealed.

A third fact gives the progress the FBI has made in recovering documents that were supposedly deleted. It is data, although it is presented in two colorful pie charts which make the data look more imposing.

Is this the smoking gun that the GOP has long sought? Will these emails finally nail Hillary and, even better, Obama to the wall, give the GOP the coup de grace for the Democrats that will send a GOP candidate into the White House on a wave of general acclamation. Oh, I sincerely hope not.

The Washington Post seems to have taken a right turn on this. They seem to have it in for Hillary. Do they have a special beef with her or is it more general? Is it a witch hunt or just a ploy to sell newspapers? The New York Times has not held back either. All the great newspapers are writing for their lives. They feel a desperate need to “scoop” the news and we have seen that this has led to a few boo-boos about this story, at least in the NYT.

I did make the mistake of listening to Joe Scarborough this morning and he is never happier than when he can rail against Hillary. He has her practically behind bars. Louis Gohmert, head of the eighth iteration of the Benghazi investigation is once again feeling victory within his grasp. The GOP believes/hopes that Hillary (and Obama) have been using denial to avoid exposing their guilt to the world.

Perhaps you are among those who classify Hillary in the fishwife or shrew category. Well a New York Post article published today claims that Hillary “blew up at Obama…during a tense Oval Office meeting. We can only assume that the two authors were not actually in the Oval Office. They say that a “Clinton source” supposedly snitched on her (someone Hillary thought was a friend). I feel that even though this is hardly considered a reputable source for news I must mention it because the media probably will bring it up soon. There is even a book by a man whose journalism skills are somewhat suspect apparently entitled Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary. The author’s name is Edward Klein.

When I see Democrats acting as if they have to wait and see what the FBI will decide about the Hillary emails and looking around desperately for another viable candidate, then it is fairly obvious that unless something miraculous happens to turn this whole thing around then Hillary may never sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.

Those of us who are Hillary Democrats sincerely hope that if Hillary is covering any crime against the American people (what could it be) (the Americans at the embassy could not be saved) (no words after the fact could change the outcome) then she will find a graceful way to withdraw from the Presidential race. Personally, I think this is just Hillary-bashing. But these leaks, which give us precious little new information, keep coming and seem to be designed to drum Hillary out of the Presidential race.

As for me, for now, I continue to wish that Hillary Rodham Clinton will become our first female President.

By Nancy Brisson

What We Owe the Mainstream Media

Tone matters. The tone of our politics lately has been one of two parties in a verbal war. The language of this war is sometimes hateful, sometimes short-sighted, sometimes revealing. Feelings have been aired that have festered in the bowels of America. Many of these feelings are more than a century old, some of these feelings are new and have to do with economic and cultural change in America and around the globe. Some of these feelings arise out of people’s quite irrational fears that there are vast global conspiracies whose goal is to make America unrecognizable. Others arise out of real change in the economic situation of some Americans. Some have to do with something as basic as which skin color will prevail in America, as if our souls resided in the color of our skin. So people have been passionate, and aggressive, and intimidating, perhaps even letting their passions boil over at times into borderline or actual violence.

But I have to give most of the media kudos for keeping cool heads in situations that could easily tip over into chaos. The media has threaded a careful way through the swollen emotions and the impassioned rhetoric giving people a calmer platform from which to express their ideological concerns, giving their ideas credence when they seem to push humanitarian concerns forward, and perhaps a bit of mild ridicule when ideas seem too reactionary to contribute to cultural progress.

Often the media reminds us of our nation’s rather passionate political history. Our politics has often been verbally, and occasionally physically, explosive. They remind us of the political shambles our nation was in prior to the Civil War. The rhetorical passion was shouted daily in our Congress, in our press, and in our streets. On that occasion people’s passions, unabated by discussion, ended in a brutal war with so many casualties. There have been other times of great passion in American politics such as in the years before World War II when isolationists disagreed with those who thought we would have to go to war against Hitler. It took Pearl Harbor to put the kibosh on that disagreement and unite us against common enemies. The sixties and seventies were certainly passionate times in our nation with the sexual revolution and the cultural revolution and the Vietnam War making America often appear to be two (or more) different nations. None of us who lived through the Civil Rights’ Movement will ever forget the passion of those days, one side with its desire to be treated as equal Americans, the other side holding on to and expressing years of contempt and prejudice with guns shots and hangings and the powerful streams of water from the ends of fire hoses, and so many other hateful things.

Yes, we are a nation of passions and we often find ourselves once again dividing into two segments of our America who are at loggerheads with each other and who feel what they feel so strongly that they would like to actually come to blows over it. But the press sort of operates as the people who stand between the two opposing groups with their hands against their chests to keep them physically separated, and it is the press who gives us perspective on how each of our partisan groups arrived at this impasse.

The way the mainstream press treats extreme speech as real politics and discusses it as it would more moderate politics keeps our government from imploding or exploding. They refuse to give any credence to voices on either side that see the fringes as more in control than the center is. They have kept their heads, partly by treating it all like entertaining theater, partly by helping us connect fringe dialogue to its historical roots to remind us that this stuff did not suddenly crop up out of nowhere, and partly by refusing to get too hot under the collar which could only help foment hysteria.

Right now the press is calmly and as objectively as possible (given that these are human beings who also feel passionate) helping America hold a normal Presidential election in times that feel anything but normal. They have a matrix in their brain, a matrix that tells them what elections have always been like and they are using that historical memory to keep this election, which could so easily go off the rails, on track. We get impatient with them sometimes. They seem too moderate, too data bound, too controlled, and perhaps, sometimes, too stodgy for our heated debates. And yet this very ability to treat our current situation as normal, as just another hotly contested moment in the history of our nation, keeps the process ticking along. We do not really want to break apart our great nation and so, right now, I am thankful that our media are such nerds, such political geeks that they are keeping us all somewhat civil and on track to hold a traditional election according to the rule of law in November of 2016. I think it is called professionalism.

By Nancy Brisson

Lawlessness and the 2016 Election

During the recent Republican debate the candidates paraded their lawlessness for all to see. But they have actually been acting above the law throughout the entire Obama Presidency. They don’t like the 10th Amendment, or they do but they don’t like that is no longer purely adhered to, so they meddle in state politics with their legislative power group ALEC writing actual laws for state legislatures to pass. They have already used new campaign finance rulings to allow big money donors to get Republicans elected to state legislatures in about thirty states so that ALEC finds easy backing for its special interest legislation. Are we supposed to think that this is the American way?

They have convinced some Americans that Obama hates the 2nd Amendment and wants to take away their guns, while they allow anti-government militias to form and offer a version of vigilante “justice”. We saw the Oath Keepers appearing at the face-off between the Bureau of Land Management and rancher Cliven Bundy who let his cattle graze on Federal land for decades without paying the fees that other ranchers paid. We saw the Oath Keepers again, so intimidating, walking the streets of Ferguson one year after the death of Michael Brown as if they had a right to be there and enforce order when there is a flawed but functional police force already present in Ferguson.

Republicans have never accepted Roe v Wade, and I know they are sincere in their beliefs that they need to defend unborn babies, and not women. But Roe v Wade is the law of the land. Since when do we only have to obey laws we agree with? Republicans seem to feel that when the Supreme Court does not agree with their take on an issue then the court is acting as a political body rather than a judicial body. It has never been entirely possible to appoint justices that are not at all political. But since Americas do not seem to elect the same party term after term, the court’s politics has stayed in a kind of balance. When decisions go with the GOP take on issues as in the case of Citizen’s United, Democrats may want to overturn a law they find un-America, but they accept that ruling as law and they don’t suggest that we overthrow the entire Supreme Court.

Republicans, on the other hand, take every opportunity to challenge laws they don’t like by means that actually skirt the law and sometimes go over the line between what is legal and what is technically not so legal. The days when pro-life activists actually murdered abortion providers may have receded for now but only because tricky local laws like trap laws have proven less problematic and more effective. Trap laws write medical standards for abortion clinics that are deliberately set so high that clinics have to close because they cannot comply. These laws are in no way medically necessary. They do allow local governments to break the Federal law without fear of being labelled as criminals and they have been so effective that in west Texas there are no clinics (or maybe one is left) where poor women can get an abortion without having to travel sometimes impossible distances. The only threat to this practice is the courts, but the local courts are also stuffed with conservatives.

Republicans want to rewrite the 14th Amendment. They want to make it clear that only babies born to “legal” Americans can become citizens. In that way they can end the practice of pregnant foreigners who come to America on purpose to provide their offspring with American citizenship documents and all of the benefits that are available to citizens (the non-PC “anchor babies). (Some say this is not even a huge number of people, sort of like the numbers of illegal votes and voters.)

It became clear with the events surrounding Kim Davis (the clerk who would not allow any marriages because she could not, in all conscience, allow same-sex marriages) and, in fact, with the reactions of Republicans to the very action by the Supreme Court that made same-sex marriage legal in all American states that Republicans, who are often convinced that same-sex relationships are abominations, are incensed by the actions of the Supreme Court. These people, fierce advocates of state’s rights, perhaps because the Federal government is too far ahead of the curve in terms of national policy, feel that they are being persecuted for their evangelical religious beliefs and are claiming that the court is not supposed to pass laws.

However, the court did follow proper procedure. The Supremes did not assign themselves this issue and then rule on it. Some state passed a law which others in that state fought and then they appealed to the highest court to settle which law would stand. The Supreme Court decided to take that case and before the decisions was made everyone held their breath. It was clear that one side would be unhappy with the outcome depending on what it might be. Once the court takes a case it is obligated to make a ruling and that ruling carries the force of Federal law. Since the court’s agreement was not the outcome Republicans wanted they now complain that the court is partisan and needs to be disbanded and replaced by a new system as designed by Republicans.

These things all might seem childish. “If I can’t have my way I will take my toys and go home”. Except that each one of these folks has submitted their application to be our next President. The campaigns and the debates can be considered our screening process, our interviews. Who will we hire?

These Republican candidates who claim to revere our Constitution seem to be unable to accept where it has taken us and now they want to go back to fundamentals and start over with exactly what our forefathers wrote (as interpreted by the GOP) (except the slave parts, I assume). It seems to me impossible for 21st century Americans to get inside the personas of our 18th -19th century forefathers. The entire cultural milieu in which the colonists swam was too different. Anyone who claims s/he is able to channel the founders is either lying or has gone off the deep end.

As far as I am concerned, these folks are in rebellion. They cannot accept the rule of law as it exists. They cannot take the time to go through the proper channels to change the law. They are on the edge of treason and they sound increasingly desperate These GOP rebels have basically stopped governance as we know it for seven years now, not to mention their more formal government shutdowns and shutdown threats. If they don’t get their way now, in this 2016 election, what will they do? If you were the boss of a stable company (country) would you hire anyone who has acted like an insurrectionist? I would be happy if their application would find a permanent home in that old circular file. You may think that treason and insurrectionist are too strong and these words may turn you off but you must admit that these Republicans have certainly been disruptive and that they would like to disrupt even more if they win the Presidency.

By Nancy Brisson

State’s Rights Movement – Dooming Democracy

Whew! That was a long debate last night, but I did not learn anything new about the Republican take on the issues. Eventually I want to talk about some of what was said. First, however, I want to tackle this topic of “state’s rights”. I have read the Constitution. I know that it says that any rights not designated to the Federal government belong to the states. I know that not many rights are assigned to the Federal government. Mostly the Federal government is granted military rights and rights necessary to keeping the government funded and functioning.

But the Constitution also describes Congress in some detail and it is made clear that it is the job of Congress to pass laws on behalf of the people so our forefathers obviously expected government to lay down an extended body of law. As a result there has been an enormous collection of laws and traditions which have collected over our 230+ years that adds essential detail to a very (and deliberately) sparse constitutional document.

What the Republicans want to do is scrap the body of law and tradition which has expanded the reach of the Federal government and they want to return to a strict adherence to the original wording in the Constitution. Republicans have talked about this for years – Federalism as in the Federalist papers wherein colonists (founders) argued endlessly about how much power should devolve to the Federal government and how much to the states. This is fairly esoteric stuff and it is possible that Republicans like to pontificate about Federalism to impress us with their superior intelligence. Most Americans that I have met do not sit around talking about Federalism or state’s rights. They may, however, complain about government interference in their daily lives as in the “nanny state,” which is where the Republicans, who seem to have all majored in Constitutional Law, connect with their base.

I don’t mind a continuing dialogue about state’s rights but I think we need to evaluate why Republicans are so strident and extreme on this subject right now. Of course, with eight years of a Democratic Presidency, Republicans are bound to be experiencing the political equivalent of “road rage.” They have never liked Obama and have painted him as weak in a never-ending stream of character assassination. So there is that. There is the worry that Democrats will raise taxes on the rich. If the Federal government gets smaller they won’t have to. So some of this is about protecting wealth. They will never forgive Obama for squeezing through the Affordable Care Act. Then there are the things he tried to do with immigration and the Dream Act which he passed through executive action. There was the red line which he walked back in Syria. There was Benghazi and the IRS. The Republican have measured out the Obama administration in mostly made-up scandals. The final blow to the GOP was the legalization of same sex marriage for which they blame the Supreme Court and, of course, Obama.

The list is long – they don’t like that Obama turned down Keystone. They don’t see how any human energy regulations on CO2 emissions can possibly help with climate change even if it is real. They don’t like Common Core and they blame its adoption on, guess who, Obama. There is nothing Republicans like about the past seven years.

It is small wonder that they are rabid to ditch the Federal government. They have been consolidating power in the states. They are going to find it difficult to elect a President because – small tent, although they probably will hold on to Congress, because – gerrymandering. If they can drown the Federal government in that proverbial bathtub they can do an end run around the Federal government and make their own state laws about things like education, energy, taxes, business regulations, marriage, and marijuana.

It is tempting to cut them loose and give them our blessings except that we are the United States of America, not the Loosely Affiliated States of America. If states have their own school rules, etc. we will soon look more like separate nations than separate states. The USA will look more like the EU. This would be a sad state of affairs and, although we might still be America, we will not be the USA.

Remember, some of these states have even encouraged militias in case they have to go to war against the Federal government. This is the point at which I see the current state’s rights movement as sedition. Didn’t we already have this war? We all recognize that the South and the North, the East and the West still have their differences, their special needs, and their unique points of view about key concerns, but we lose too much power, too much tradition and history, and too much gravitas in the world if we become divided into 50 separate states. This is not just nostalgia talking, extreme state’s rights would put an end to a Democratic experiment that our forefathers began and the entire world would be poorer for not having our governing example before them as an option. By selfishly insisting on having your way about small things, you chance removing hope that an organized, considered, and considerate society can indeed exist and survive.

By Nancy Brisson

Union Busting is Bad for Us

In order to attract business back to America the people’s representatives seem willing to dismantle the structures that the people have set up to defuse the rapacious greed of corporate owners, CEO’s, boards, stockholders, and even some employers who run mid-size businesses. After events like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City when employees (mostly women) could not leave the burning building because the doors were locked and exposure in the news of some of the horrors of child labor, and after a number of accidents and diseases which resulted from the lack of labor protections, people stood up and demanded regulations, they bled and died to win the right to set up unions. The unions helped win other benefits such as health care and set hours, vacations and weekends, pensions and higher wages.

There is no guarantee that our corporations will leave the East and return to the West. This is just a theory some people, mostly Republicans, hold to be true. They want us to gamble away our unions and the rules and regulations that tame capitalism and they have no interest in pleasing America workers; they are interested in pleasing the stockholders who dictate to these corporations because they invest in them.

It seems useless to protect unions when there are no jobs to bargain about or employers to bargain with. Unions were hard won though and we should not be so quick to let wealthy businessmen end these brother/ sisterhoods that stood between employees and employer abuse. If unions prove to be obsolete somewhere down the line because we no longer have to work at all then that would be the time to turn them into museums. As long as we adhere to economic capitalism we will continue to need unions.

It is also sad to see what has happened to the unions of those who work in the public sector (government). Obviously plans to make government smaller and to privatize everything (get rid of civil service) and teachers who get paid by federal, state, or local governments and force teacher to work for private employers are already being implemented although we have not ever voted on this stuff. Yikes! Doesn’t it sound like someplace we have already been? If unions were necessary once and public service employment didn’t work well without them then why are we going back there? These are issues about power, control, and budget cuts (meaning lower salaries).

And suppose our corporations are tempted to return and put us back to work once more; how low will salaries have to fall to be competitive and to earn profits large enough to please those stockholders who want to see their portfolios gain value every day?

I guess the point I am trying to make, and that I make over and over again, is that we should not let these extremists take away the things we fought so hard to win like unions, both public and private. But the middle class is not yet ready to turn into a bloc of activists. Some of you are still doing well. Some are not. Some are caught in a kind of shock at how quickly and completely life can change.

If we are not activists yet it is because so many have not lost the gains they worked a lifetime for. Perhaps ordinary citizen’s losses will reach a critical mass and we will all become courageous like those brave green activists in Oregon – the ones who lived for a few days at the end of bungee cords hanging from a bridge in order to block an ice breaker that was leaving to help Shell Oil rape the Arctic. (Oil always spills.)

By Nancy Brisson

Morality in America: Secular or Religious?

America wants to be and believes that it is a moral nation, at least as moral as flawed humans know how to make it, but we are in the midst of a tug of war to decide if our morality will be secular or religious. It is unclear why we are even having this argument. The Constitution and our forefathers clearly come down on the side of religious freedom for American citizens and they have left enough written documentation to convince most of us that the founders of our nation felt that the best way to insure religious freedom is to separate government and religion. This would seem to negate the formation of a Theocracy.

However, some in present-day politics are trying to walk back our traditional understanding of what our founders intended while claiming that they can channel the actual intentions of those who wrote our founding documents. They argue that America harbored only sects of Christianity in Colonial times and that, if our forefathers had been faced with Muslims, or Buddhists, or other global religions that have found a home in modern day America, then they might have written about religion and government in a different way, or they might have made America a Christian nation. But wishing it, or even positing it as a logical conclusion, does not make it so. I would like to think that our founders were far-sighted and wise, but think the 3/5 rule which turned some people into objects, and think about the blatant elitism of our forefathers, which suggest that they were products of their times, perhaps overseers rather than seers.

Examining the differences between secular morality and what advocates mean when they long for religious morality might help inform of us of which way we would like to go. The right wing Conservatives, with a preponderance of Evangelical Christians offer us some insight into religious morality. We get an impression of an Old Testament sensibility, a return to the rules as laid down in Leviticus. We have the Ten Commandments, of course, but when we turn them into very literal rules for our nation they would change America a great deal. I won’t go through them one by one.

The Commandment we are most caught up in right now is Thou shalt not commit murder. Here is the Pro Life argument in a nutshell. How will we ever get around the moral argument about whether or not the killing of an unborn baby, whether it is a mere blob of cells, a possibility of life, or whether it has taken fetal form and resembles a child is murder or whether that Christian concept is not the business of our government. We know women have aborted unwanted children since the beginnings of time and at great risk. Sometimes the timing of a pregnancy is so wrong or the circumstances of the pregnancy are so repugnant that a woman is almost obsessed with stopping the pregnancy. Sometimes a woman knows or senses her own life will be in danger if she gives birth to a child or even shows anyone that she is pregnant. Since pregnancy falls within the female realm, the decision about aborting a pregnancy should fall within the female realm and the process should be as safe as possible and should definitely not involve rooting the fetal cells out with a stick or a coat hanger. If the GOP truly wants to end abortion then they need to set up humane systems to help women through to term and to find parents for the children that are the result of unwanted pregnancies. Until these systems are in place I don’t see how women will agree to ending legal abortion.

Besides adopting a literal interpretation of the Ten Commandments, we have those who suggest that we need to heed things that are often incidentally described in the Bible as the Christian traditions that pertained at the times when the Bible was written, although quite a few centuries passed before we had both the new and the old testaments. So we have those who admonish women to be submissive and to allow their husbands to control the lives of the family. I’m not sure, given what we now understand about the way this can lead to domestic abuse of wives or children or both why we would ever want to take power away from women ever again, or why women would freely give up their position as equals.

Those on the religious right argue that having women once again assume a submissive role in relation to their husband would restore the nuclear family, end crime, end immorality and end sexual and gender “deviation”, in other words, would put LGBT people back into the closet or put them in danger of being punished for their “immoral” behavior. And then, they (these new patriarchs) argue we could end all this political correctness crap and, in fact, life would be good. Society’s rules would be simple and clear, and right and wrong would be spelled out according to God and Jesus [or to someone’s interpretation of acceptable Christian protocols for living a Godly life].

The Bible does not talk about evolution, so we would just bury centuries of scientific inquiry? Science, in fact, comes up with so many conclusions that appear to be at odds with the Bible that we can expect that abandoning scientific pursuits will bring us all closer to the heaven. Will we punish those who have curiosity built into their psyches? Well we will certainly have to pass laws against such investigations of our world and decide how we will punish those who persist. Can you see how this could all get out of hand very fast? Do you want an America that lives out the dream of the Puritans? Do we want to measure our government’s laws by any particular religion? Will we have a democratic government if it is “God” (as interpreted by man) calling the shots?

Clearly sticking with secular morality grants us the freedom to maintain a democracy. But what rules apply to secular morality? That is what makes it all so difficult to enjoy freedom because a citizen must frequently judge what will offer maximum freedom to the most people, while doing the least harm. This is an enormous task. We often get the balance wrong. Here we rely on the dialectic to set things right. When things go too far in one direction forces drag events back towards the center.

So take the case of campaign finance, which most of us agree is totally out of whack with the very foundation of democratic government. Once our Supremes agreed that corporations were people we gave our elections back to the very elite who argued for ascendancy at our nation’s founding. We gave our elections to the wealthy this time, not the landowners, although I’m sure they all own land (perhaps not in America, though). President Obama’s election proves that small donors have some power, but the right wing is trying hard to negate that. Republicans have more milestones on their agenda to turn our governance over to the wealthy. Now individuals can give as much as they wish. Republicans manufactured an IRS scandal and raised such a ruckus that no one can reevaluate the use of 501 C-4’s again. Even the ploy to pass a flat tax needs to be examined very carefully because it is most likely a political IED. In fact Republicans would like to simplify our government right to death.

We are trying to make sure that secular morality, that old golden rule of ‘Do Unto Others as You Would Have Others Do Unto You’ is still a guiding force in our nation. We are trying to practice a new American Exceptionalism that relies on diplomacy and a ‘live and let live’ spirit (whenever possible) rather than the old idea of exceptionalism that says we must loom over everyone and threaten to beat them into submission because fear is the only emotion people really understand.

The American experiment to respect each other and to share power is still an exceptionally idealistic one and, in that sense, our exceptionalism still lives and, if we were allowed to cooperate with other world governments to help lift people around the globe and turn the planet into a safe, stable, and healthy world the morality of that would far outshine any Puritanical rule of lockstep religious practices and prejudices that could ever come out of the atavistic longings of the right wing of the Republican Party in America.

By Nancy Brisson

Dissing Hillary

Despite the noise the Donald is making that is making it difficult for most of the GOP candidates to attract much attention, the party is still managing to sling mud at Hillary, even in major news outlets like the NYT. They are still trying to whip us into a frenzy because Hillary used her own server and picked and chose what emails to reveal and which to delete or save as personal. Interestingly enough I learned on a recent Sunday morning from Howard Dean, who is the head of Hillary’s campaign but who could not really lie successfully for long on this because it can easily be fact-checked, that even government employees who use a government server sort out their own private emails before handing over the public ones. I think this story is over – it should have no legs, but I am sure we will continue to hear about this more often than we would wish.

Trey Gowdy keeps asking Hillary to testify before his panel (the 11th) to investigate Benghazi but when she finally names a date he says he did not request her appearance on that date. If he leaves the date of her appearance open then he can complain again and again, thus setting off a new news cycle each time, saying that Hillary is waffling and perhaps unwilling to appear. He can delay and delay until just before the 2016 election. Monday morning news sources tell us that Trey Gowdy also wants to grill Hillary about that private server and Benghazi emails that he claims are still missing, which was never under the original purview of this committee.

Apparently people don’t believe such game-playing is going on or they believe that the games are being played by both sides. The media hardly ever presents a favorable view on Hillary. They remind us over and over again that Americans feel she is untrustworthy. Clearly the media feels she is untrustworthy. Is this Hillary’s most important personality trait? Does she lie to the American people for nefarious reasons of her own or in order to hide the truth? Is there any proof of this behavior or is it just a media interpretation? We all have flaws and we will never find ourselves electing a perfect person as President. What flaws can we live with and what flaws are deal breakers? For the media Hillary’s flaws seem fatal and she gets very little positive press.

In the local paper recently, on the opinion page, is an article that blames Hillary for putting up with Bill’s philandering ways. They suggest that her interest in raising the bar for women and children is fake because she always made insulting remarks about Bill’s conquests or, as one women describes them, his sexual assaults (á la Bill Cosby).

Of course women handle wandering husbands in all kinds of different ways and denial is a frequent one I would think; and as we might guess the public nature of these revelations probably did not make these infidelities any easier to deal with. So how much does Hillary’s sniping at these women who knew very well that Bill was married really say about her treatment of women who live lives of poverty and risk throughout the world. Perhaps her past experiences make her more empathetic. Just how Hillary gets to be burdened with her husband’s sins is a mystery.

One last point (f0r this particular article) – have you noticed that the opposition chooses the most unflattering pictures of Hillary it can find (and I will also admit that her own team probably picks the most flattering pictures it can find).

For now though, I am happy that Hillary is not trying to take on all of the 16 (?) GOP candidates and that she is keeping a low profile until the Republicans choose their candidate. She is offering up a lot of policy. You would think that the election was happening this November, but it is actually not on the calendar until next November. Hillary seems to be losing a lot of ground in the press. Even the people on my Facebook page don’t seem very enthusiastic. Once there is a single Republican candidate I hope she is able to communicate her sincerity strongly enough to convince us all that she is tough enough that she would make a great President.

By Nancy Brisson

GOP is Obsessed with Planned Parenthood

People are calling the attempts of the GOP to completely defund Planned Parenthood a witch hunt and, sadly, there appears to be some truth to the claim.

The GOP has had this on their agenda for years and right now they feel empowered to finally accomplish their goal. But we have to ask ourselves why? Why are these politicians (our representatives) so psyched to do this right now? Unless the Republican base consists of only Evangelicals and some Catholics, I find it difficult to understand why attacking a family planning organization that has given usually poor women around the globe assistance with their reproductive health and their family planning is so high on everyone’s agenda. Is this really where America wants to put its energy? Aren’t there a few (many) pressing matters to consider that do not have religious overtones?

The videos, engineered by pro-life (anti-abortion) groups that offer exposés of what macabre and illegal things Planned Parenthood has supposedly done with fetal organs and tissues, may disgust some, but I have to ask them, what did you think was happening to aborted organic materials (fetuses)? Doesn’t it suit the “circle of life” better if fetal tissue, rather than being discarded, perhaps incinerated, is used to save lives now and in the future? You don’t have to be a cold-hearted monster to believe this, although perhaps you have to temper your religion with more than a dash of scientific objectivity.

It is not up to Evangelicals, or even Catholics, to decide whether we are depraved or just modern. After all, they believe that God will punish us if we are just rationalizing behavior that is actually evil. The reason they can’t just let God take care of us sinners, is because they think that God expects them to root out evil in the world or they will lose their place in heaven. I get very nervous when zealous people set out to rid the world of an evil that not everyone perceives as such.

Watching what the GOP controlled Congress does when we know that President Obama will probably veto any defunding bill gives us a very clear picture of what will happen if Conservatives win control of all three branches of government. This is what will most likely happen if we don’t elect Democrats in 2016. You know what to do. Or at least you should know that this Republican triple whammy could destroy our choices and perhaps even our democracy.

By Nancy Brisson

Stripped Down Government: Hot Rod or Junker?

We have all heard the Republican talking points about a million times, or perhaps a billion. We know that they believe that smaller government is the ticket. When they speak about smaller government they are not always very specific about what that means. Some Republicans want the government to divest itself of all of what they categorize as socialist influences. The want to end the programs of the FDR New Deal that remain and they want to get rid of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the poverty programs and the affirmative action programs. That would mean that welfare goes, Social Security goes, housing assistance programs get tossed out, Medicaid goes, Medicare goes, and education will no longer be a concern of the federal government. Consumer affairs will come back off the roster and environmental concerns will no longer be the bailiwick of our representatives in Washington.

I don’t know if every Republican running for office agrees with this whole agenda, but the Republican Party has a lot of wealthy masters and they have a lot of support groups which also, on the negative side, often become pressure groups. Any time you listened to Republicans on Meet the Press over the past 6 years they all reiterated the same list of (obviously Party-approved) talking points. Since they now realize that we have caught on to this and that it makes them sound a bit robotic, they seem to have abandoned this tactic. They still all the say the same things but they are allowed to use their own words a bit more often (or perhaps the Party has written individual scripts). The actual talking points are the same ones we have listened to for the past six years.

Well, I will say that getting rid of all these social programs would certainly trim our budget. Would our taxes stay the same? Would they stop taking Medicare and Social Security “contributions” out of our paychecks? While we might enjoy that at first could we buy the same level of care and old age security with the money that was returned to our paychecks? Perhaps employers would just trim back our pay since they would no longer be required to send funds to the federal government for health care and employee retirement? I have always thought that health care should be separate from employment and since the Hobby Lobby decision I believe that even more strongly. But will we really use additional money in our paychecks to buy our own health care and pay into a retirement plan, or will we be the happy-go-lucky American consumers we have been trained since birth to be and just “spend it up”? If we are issued a voucher to buy our own health insurance and retirement plan will the voucher cover the costs of these two items? If, as Republicans wish, business is confronted by a much lower level of regulation, won’t the costs of health care keep creeping up and won’t they always outpace what we can afford? Will our retirement plans give us the returns we need to live on in our old age, or will the returns fall far short of ever higher living costs? Does a voucher system make you feel secure?

Closing the Department of Education opens whole other cans of popping snakes. Will there be national standards for teachers and schools? How much will education vary from state to state? Will a person schooled in Alabama be able to seek employment in New York City? Is this all about the passion some folks have for putting the Bible into schools and setting science on a back burner, because most scientific discoveries do not appear in the Bible (a book written 2,000 years ago). There is no Darwin in the Bible; there is no Einstein in the Bible; the Bible does not talk about climate change (although if I remember my Leviticus the Bible gives believers a lot of rules to help them live a healthy life in the world they lived in at that time). I do not understand how having differing school standards in each of our states will be a good thing.

I do not see that we have managed to wipe out poverty in America yet, so it seems counterproductive to throw out the matrix of services we have developed to at least try to save poor people from scraping bottom. I know that Republicans think that the matrix we created has become as harmful and controlling as the fictional Matrix that Keanu Reeves saves humans from. I have heard them say again and again that we are now making it too easy for poor people to find a comfortable spot on the grid and just hang there. And while I agree that there may be people who do that, I don’t agree that this describes the vast majority of poor people who find themselves consistently at the bottom because they lack skills and perhaps do not understand the value of training and education or because their pay is so low that even if they get a foot up the grid, the slightest crisis sends them back to their previous level or below it. How many times will you keep trying to move up the matrix, if you keep failing to find a sustainable new level?

I don’t like this kind of Social Darwinism. American success is about survival of the fittest this theory goes; either find a way up or see if someone will be charitable. So while Congress keeps fixing the laws so that fewer and fewer dollars must be divided by more and more people, while the wealthiest Americans roll in money and put a foot in the face of the climbers, they also want to dismantle any assistance for those trapped at the bottom. This is not American in any sense of the word. This is the old world of aristocrats and serfs. This is a world with no middle class. This is a one way ticket back to the Dark Ages.

To some Republicans smaller government means that the Federal government would get rid of the IRS and would stop regulating business. Republicans tell us that if we deregulate, business will come flooding back to America and there will be a get big boom in economic activity and profit. I don’t know how much more profit the top 1% will have to corner to allow some largesse to overflow onto the peons but I suspect their appetites are quite voracious. There are not a lot of specifics mentioned in their deregulation plan. What businesses will come back? Will the steel industry come back? How about the electronics industry? Will the cooler business come home? Will we merely continue to move oil and gas and coal to other manufacturing nations? Republicans only talk about old businesses, businesses that we once had in America. They lead us to believe that deregulation will bring back the fifties. Will deregulation really provide our “new” prosperity? What about new innovative businesses? Will deregulation help us with that? Can we hang on to the car business? What about farming in America? What will the businesses of the future be; solar, wind, space industries, new infrastructure, environmental businesses to change the energy landscape of towns and cities? Could we possibly also become the world’s think tank and sell our innovations elsewhere to be implemented by others? Not if we keep making it more difficult and more expensive for Americans to go to college.

Are the people in the Republican base, who are holding America’s future hostage while they whine about how America has changed, really calling the shots in America? I think they are. They don’t want to be forced to wear seatbelts? They want the Federal government to get rid of consumer safety rules. They want the Federal government to make laws against things that violate their religious beliefs but to stay away from controlling their lifestyles. Well, not having so many rules does sound sort of appealing, but when vehicles collide and no one is restrained by a child seat or a seat belt the horror component in accidents rises and so do the medical and court costs. We have learned that what some people perceive as free costs the rest of us a lot of dollars. I would rather pay for someone’s college education than pay to rescue them from a troubled country where they should not have traveled in the first place. I contend that our loss of freedom is directly proportional to the rise in world population and is probably, in some measure, unavoidable.

The last “beef” I have with Republicans; at least the last one I will discuss here, is this atavistic push we are seeing to put Christianity into our government; to turn us into a Christian nation. It seems clear, however, that that ship sailed a long time ago. We have taken in people from every continent and every nation who have become citizens of America. It is too late to declare our country a Christian nation. It would now violate our Constitution as it might not have when our nation was founded. The forefathers may not have foreseen Muslim Americans or Buddhist Americans or even Jewish Americans, but they all hated government telling anyone how to worship and they did not found a Theocracy, no matter how deeply your religious beliefs call on you to win converts to the church. I do have faith that a government can strive to be moral without being religious, but that the fairest way to have a moral government would have to be the simplest way, perhaps adhering to something like the Golden Rule.

If we want more efficient government, government that is more responsive to the needs of the American people, government that tries to control spending and keep debt within some kind of reasonable boundaries then I am all for that. Creating a Federal government that is pared to bone and offers no national oversight over a Capitalism that can become extremely rapacious, offers no succor to the neediest citizens, and offers no security to the hardworking middle is to create a barren government robbed of all traces of the idealism that was proudly built into our Democracy.

By Nancy Brisson

How I Became a Political Activist

political activism

I got an e-mail yesterday asking me to tell the story of how I became a political activist. But the roots of my fighting spirit did not grow in political soil. My parents voted but we did not sit around the dinner table discussing politics. We talked about who needed shoes and how the family would be able to afford them.

In fact my father would have been thrilled if we did not speak at all or if we took turns in an orderly fashion. However, there were ten people around that table and Dad was not always home for dinner because for years he worked the second shift. My two brothers sometimes launched a reign of terror at the dinner table and our meals were always chaotic. Someone often spilled milk which dripped down through the leaves in the dining room table. Our dinner was more like a swarm of locusts who ate every bit of food and then moved on.

Dad had a scientific mind. He was an electrician but he seemed to have an innate understanding of physics even though he left school in the eighth grade. He loved to read and I read whatever books were available so since he loved science fiction that is what I read. Science fiction books often have heroes who fight injustice, although they do it in space. Science fiction allows a reader to consider how societies function and to be entertained at the same time. Some futuristic lit was utopian and some was dystopian so this genre is one that looks at good and evil on a grand scale. Most of the good in sci-fi is present when a society values fairness and justice. Evil empires are unjust and do not value fairness. So I don’t know if I was born with a nose that sniffed out unfairness and injustice in the world or if I learned those values from the books my Dad shared with me. Perhaps, if those values were hard-wired in me, my brain was born to fire on all its neurons when reading science fiction.

Politically, my high school years were dominated by the Cold War with Russia. We dropped bombs at the end of World War II and I guess we expected retribution at any moment. My college years were dominated by assassinations and the Civil Rights’ Movement. As I was leaving college the Beatles were traveling ever Eastward and we were demonstrating against the Vietnam War, sort of. We were actually smoking lots of pot, listening to really great music, dancing, and talk, talk, talking. All the things America experienced in those years, not just the antiwar movement, but the women’s rights movement, the effects of the birth control pill, a new air of freedom that expressed itself even in our clothing and our lifestyles activated my mind to make judgments about the fairness and justice in America, and America was not doing very well.

Fortunately I found a career in a program that sent economically disadvantaged and minority adults to college after delivering some coursework to help them succeed. For many years this satisfied my craving for fairness and justice, and many of the issues that I would have wanted to fight for had been somewhat resolved for the time being. It was time to help those people who were born with too few choices find their futures and our school’s staff got better and better at doing this.

When I retired from teaching (and I retired early) my Dad was sick and could no longer drive. I was the only one in the family who could retire and help my Mom who did not ever drive. I had little time for political activism until after Dad died (or traveled to a galaxy far, far away). Save me a spot Dad.

a galaxy

That was when I began to hear from people who were listening to talk radio and I realized that Dad was not the only one who was going to a distant galaxy. It didn’t take long from the time I began to hear the nutty things people were saying for me to tune in to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. After listening to these two accuse a nice young Senator and father running for President of the United States of being the new “Hitler, the fairness and justice I was born and bred to fight for made me decide that the world had to hear equally strong messages that were not so filled with hate. The haters are still fighting for control of America, ironically at this moment which also celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

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My unfairness/injustice genes have found their moment. I have tried to speak against the most extreme reactionary and fearful voices we have heard in America in many years. I decided to fight the fever on the right by writing about the sanity and compassion on the left. That is the arena where I decided to fight the good fight and I still am a very tiny voice talking into a strong wind that is still blowing from the right. I do not believe that the left is always good and the right is always bad; I do believe that the right is currently not selling anything America should want to buy.

By Nancy Brisson

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