The Myth About Congress …

The United States Congress.  A diverse body of people from every state in the nation who take an oath to uphold the Constitution, to represent the people in their state/district, right?  Maybe on paper, but the reality is that these days I think most of us have the feeling that we are misunderstood and misrepresented not only in the executive, but also the legislative branches of our government. CongressI speak from my own experience with the ‘representative’ for my district, Warren Davidson.  His values and priorities are so far away from my own that I wonder how he ever got elected.  He annoys me on a daily basis, and I let him have it back, tit-for-tat … not that he likely ever reads my tweets or emails, but I try.  Now, I do realize that within any district, not everyone will have the same views, however an elected official is supposed to represent ALL the people, and in truth, far too many represent only the people who have a lot more money in the bank than anybody reading this blog.

Our friend Scottie posted something interesting yesterday and threw out a bit of a challenge for me to follow up on it, take it a step further.  Never one to turn down a challenge, I took the bait.  The question:  How demographically representative is Congress of the nation as a whole?  Turns out, not very.  This is the chart Scottie posted that piqued my interest:Scottie-chart

The 116th U.S. Congress took office in January, with Democrats taking control of the House while Republicans maintain an edge in the Senate.  The current Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever.  The number of women in Congress is at an all-time high.  The share of immigrants in Congress has ticked up but remains well below historical highs.  Seems a step in the right direction, but …

Before I get into the demographics comparison, I found this cool interactive that will take you only about 20 seconds to see how well, based on five simple criteria, you are represented in Congress today.  Check it out and see where you stand.  My own result was that there are 0 people in Congress like me.  Hey, I’m unique!!! I’m also unrepresented in Congress. So, how did you fare?

Let’s start with women.  There are currently 131 women in Congress, an all-time high.  131 out of a total of 535 is 24.5%.  So, 24.5% of Congress are women, but 50.8% of the population are women.  See the problem here?  Granted, one does not have to be a woman to understand women’s issues, but it helps, especially today when more and more male-dominated state legislatures are passing laws stripping women of the right to make their own reproductive health decisions. Men-women-dem-rep Interestingly, among democrats in Congress, there is a significantly higher number of women, but among republicans, only 10% are women.  Think about that one. women-blacks

Next let’s look at African-Americans.  There are 58 African-Americans in Congress, comprising 10.8% of the total.  Comparatively, African-Americans make up 13.4% of the population.  The disparity here is, perhaps, not as wide as the gender gap, and is much less than it once was, but is still there.  Again, note the difference between democrat and republican.women-blacks

What about age?  The average age at the beginning of the 116th Congress was 57.6 years for Representatives and 62.9 years for Senators.  How does that compare to the population as a whole?  13% of the population are between 55-64, and 16% are over 65.  Seems rather like younger people are under-represented, wouldn’t you say?  On the upside, however, the average age of incoming members of Congress this year was 47, so we are seeing some younger blood … perhaps it’s time for some of those crotchety old men (Mitchell McConnell) to retire?

One of the big dividers is religion.  While there is a disparately higher number of most every religious group, it is interesting to note that not one single member of Congress is ‘unaffiliated’, while nearly a quarter of the nation’s population are unaffiliated with any organized religion.  I fall into that category, as do many readers of this blog … we are not even a blip on the radar of Congress.  To me, this is a problem, for in the past two years, many of the barriers between church and state have been breached and we seem to be on our way toward a theocracy of sorts, which would leave nearly a fourth of the population out in the cold.  More than 99% of republicans identify as Christian, compared to 78% of democrats.religion

While there are many more categories we could look at, I will wrap it up with one very important one, a group of people who are frequently misunderstood and subjected to discrimination, even state-sanctioned discrimination, the LGBTQ community.  This category is the most misunderstood of any, and they are the most likely to face discrimination.  Of late, even our own government, thanks to Mike Pence and the evangelicals who have a hold over Don Trump, are passing laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people.  There are a total of 10 LGBTQ people in Congress today, as compared to an estimated 4.5% of the total population.  A disclaimer is in order, however, for the number of LGBTQ people is likely underestimated, since many choose not to make public their gender orientation.  The fact that there are more men than women in Congress is disturbing, as is the fact that minorities are under-represented.  But LGBTQ is one group whose problems and issues are unique, and frankly if you aren’t a member of that group, you don’t understand.  Period.  You may empathize, but you cannot possibly understand.   And if you and I cannot understand, what makes anybody think our illustrious members of Congress understand?  They don’t.LGBTQ

One other area in which Congress has little, if any, connection to the real world of the U.S. is wealth, as you saw in Scottie’s chart.  It is a pertinent topic, but one that I must save for another day, as I have already spent some six hours doing research, double-checking facts, creating charts, and writing this post.  Suffice it to say that the members of Congress are far ‘above the madding crowd’ when it comes to wealth, and I think this may be one of the most relevant reasons that they cannot possibly relate to “We the People” in any meaningful way.  I hope to do a separate post within the next week assessing the wealth of various members of Congress, how they came to be millionaires, and how that may be influencing their decisions.

I note, overall, a disturbing trend regarding democrat vs republican.  Democrats have nearly 5 times as many women in Congress as republicans.  Republicans have a measly 2 … count ’em … two African-Americans, compared to more than 50 of the Democratic Party.  Republicans have zero diversity in religion, and there is not a single LGBTQ republican in Congress.  People tell me that I shouldn’t judge all republicans on the basis of what some do, but … as far as Congress goes, they seem to be a fairly narrow-minded group of old, white, Christian, straight males.  Think about it.

I end where I started … thank you, Scottie, for throwing me this challenge.  I think it is a worthwhile topic, and I learned quite a bit tonight, including why I sometimes feel that I am left behind by those men & women we think are looking out for our best interests.

U.S. Rules The World???

As I noted in a post earlier this week, there is a movement among republicans and groups who misnomer themselves as “pro-life” to overturn Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision from 1973 that gave women the right to make their own medical decisions when it comes to abortion.  A growing number of states have passed or are attempting to pass highly restrictive laws that contradict Roe v Wade and would take away women’s rights.  I had not planned to revisit this issue this soon, but something came to my attention that stirred my anger yet again …

Trump is trying to impose his and the evangelical’s heinous views on other nations as well, cutting off all funding to any overseas organization or clinic that will not agree to a complete ban on even discussing abortion.  The ban, dubbed the “global gag”, was actually instituted by Ronald Reagan, but has been revoked by every democratic president, and re-instated by every republican president since then.  And along came Donald Trump.  Donnie, so eager to please the only people who support him, the radical right-wing evangelicals, has decided that he (or rather people like Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham) knows what is best for the 7.7 billion people living on planet Earth.

In March, the US extended the gag, stating that any organization counselling women on abortion and using funds from elsewhere – even from its own government or a donor in another country – will no longer be eligible for any US funding.  Take, for example, an international health care agency that provides women’s health care, possibly including family planning and abortion counselling, but also treating kids with HIV in other countries … countries where there is no women’s health planning, for it is illegal.  Those organizations will no longer be eligible for any funds from the U.S., not even to take care of sick children in African nations.

My friend Jeannie, who lives in the Netherlands, told me the other day that “The Netherlands have one most liberal laws about abortion in Western Europe, but the number of actual abortions are amongst the lowest worldwide.”  Think about this, folks … facts, not fantasy.  A study published last year by the Guttmacher Institute found that countries with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest rates of abortion and that easier access to birth control drives down abortion rates.

A 2012 study found that when women got no-cost birth control, the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions fell by between 62 and 78 percent. But political appointees under Trump advocate for abstinence-only approaches, which have been shown not to affect unplanned pregnancy rates.  Not to mention that they are impractical.

This isn’t just about abortion, people … this is about making women second-class citizens around the globe.  This is about men’s dominance over women.  In many nations women already have few independent rights, but in the Western world, women have come a long way in the past century or two.  In the U.S., we are now allowed to vote as we choose, to own property, and there are laws to ensure we receive equal pay and treatment in the workplace, though the reality is often something different.  And for the past nearly 50 years, we have been able to make our own health decisions.  We cannot … we must not … allow this abomination to continue.

The United States is a secular nation whereby the government does not favour any one religion over another, and no religious organization or cult should be able to influence the law of the land to the detriment of all others.  The United States is one of 195 nations on this globe, and we do not have the right to set policy in other nations.  It is the height of arrogance to think that we do.  It is time for the evangelicals to understand that they may have a place in this country, but that their beliefs are not shared by us all, and that the rest of us have rights also.  It is time for government to base decisions on facts, not the religious fantasies of one group.

If abortion rights are taken from us, the abortion rates won’t drop, but more women will die as they seek back-alley or do-it-yourself abortions.  That is an undisputable fact.  Let this nation legislate based on facts, and let other nations decide their own policy … nobody died and left the right-wing white evangelicals leaders of the world.  They will take us back to the Dark Ages if we let them.

The Face of Ugly

I generally try to avoid ranting.  As a rule, my ‘snarky snippets’ are enough to release the pressure that builds as a result of the chaos and corruption of our government and the idiocy of our society, and then I can go back to breathing and writing more well-reasoned pieces.  But sometimes a number of issues converge, and it is blowup time.  I can either blow up at my family, who do not deserve to be the brunt of my temper, or I can let the steam off here on my blog in an all-out rant.  I choose the latter, so please bear with me.

There are two professions that should be above politics, though there is a necessary correlation:  Teaching and Medicine.  There is only one valid reason to enter into either of these fields, and that is a genuine desire to help people, to make a difference in this world, to be a humanitarian.  Anybody who enters either of these professions for any other reason … well, they ought to get out.  If you have any other motive, then I do not want you teaching my grandkids and I don’t want you being responsible for my life or that of a loved one.

Of late, it seems that some in the medical profession have decided they only want to treat people of one sort, while excluding some of the people who may need their services most.  They are bigots and homophobes, and they ought to go work in an auto plant or a bank, for they are not humanitarians.  I am talking, of course, about the recent push by some to allow health care workers to legally discriminate against the LGBT community.

Discrimination is against the law, just in case anybody has any doubts.  We have something called ‘civil rights’ in this country, or at least we did until just over two years ago.  I would also remind you that this is a secular nation, meaning our government is not tied to any specific religion and does not make laws that discriminate pro or con any specific religion.  Until, that is, the evangelical Christians and Donald Trump came together.  Suddenly, under the Reign of Trump, it is said to be okay to refuse health care to LGBT people.

Why, you ask?  Because the bulk of those who support Trump are these evangelicals and Trump believes he only needs to serve his supporters, not the majority of us who cannot stand the ‘man’!  So, along come the ‘evangelicals’ and they say to Trump, “Hey, Don, our bible says that sex between two men or two women is a sin, and so we want to have nothing to do with those gay and transgender people.  Can you help us out here?”  And so Don helps them out.

From the New York Times

President Trump on Thursday announced an expanded “conscience rule” to protect health care workers who oppose abortion, sterilization, assisted suicide and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

The rule establishes guidelines for punishing health care institutions with the loss of federal funds if they fail to respect the rights of such workers.

“Just today, we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities,” Mr. Trump said in a Rose Garden event for the National Day of Prayer. “They’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.”

The ‘rights of such workers’???  What about the rights of a sick person or a child???  What about the human rights to an education and health care?  What about civil rights???  Only about 25% of the population of this nation identify as evangelical, and yet that 25% … that minority … now gets to decide on the laws of the land for us all?

As those of you who have followed this blog for a time are aware, I am not religious, but I respect the religious views of all others, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Jains, and all others.  I shy away from discussing religion on this blog for that very reason … I recognize that there are many different sets of beliefs out there and I would never willingly offend any.  That said, there is only one qualifier:  don’t shove your religion on others, including myself!  This latest move by King Trump is doing just that.  It is saying that a nurse can refuse to take the blood pressure of a gay person, an ambulance driver can refuse to transport an accident victim who happens to be transgender and instead may leave him by the side of the road to die.Helping othersThis nation was founded in part on religious freedom, and yet now, some 230 years later, the current regime is attempting to force this entire nation to believe as a mere 25% of the population believe.  What is wrong with this picture???

I want you to think about a question:  What’s next?  Yes, what’s next … we know there will be a ‘next’, for when Trump gets his way once, it emboldens him to go on and push for more.  So, by autumn will he sign a new rule saying it’s okay to deny an education or medical treatment to African-Americans?  Far-fetched, you say? I think not.  The bulk of his supporters are evangelicals, and they got what they wanted.  The bulk of his supporters are also white and believe that this nation should favour Caucasians.  Will they get their way also?

Bigotry takes on many forms from homophobia to misogyny to Islamophobia to racism and in every instance it is a result of fear … in every instance it is the face of ugly.  I look around this country … a country I’ve lived in all my life, a country I thought I knew … and more and more I see the face of bigotry, the face of ugly.  I see the arrogance of those who think they are somehow superior based on the colour of their skin, or their religion, or even their gender.  I don’t like what I see, do you?  Think about it.

Seeing Is Believing

Our friend Hugh is a much deeper thinker than most of us. Well, he taught Philosophy in college, so he should be, yes? Last year, Hugh published a book, a compilation of some of his best posts, and this one was included in it. I, of course, own a copy of the book, and it is a treasured volume, for my copy is autographed by Hugh himself! This post is thought provoking on at least two different levels and addresses ‘faith’ and ‘freedom’. Hugh’s posts most always make me stop and think, and this one is no exception. Thank you, dear Hugh! By the way, I notice your book has almost sold out on Amazon! Congrats!

hughcurtler

Years ago I wrote an earlier version of this post and it fell on deaf ears. While I admittedly have written a number of rather weak posts,  I thought this one of my better ones. In fact, I included the earlier version in my book, Alone In The Labyrinth. In any event, I found it especially relevant in these trying times when we seem lost and face an uncertain future with a purblind leader on a planet that is under attack by greed and self-interest.  

In one of the most dramatic portions of that most dramatic novel, The Brothers Karamazov, the two brothers Ivan and Alyosha meet to discuss the “dossier” that Ivan has put together to prove that God does not exist. It is a collection of brutal stories of human cruelty, capped off by the gruesome story of a landowner who turns his dogs loose on a…

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WHY????????

Ask yourself this question:  Why should it be necessary in the United States, a developed Western nation, a nation where people are educated and claim to be good, caring people … why should it be necessary for states to legislate fairness?  Why should a state have to make laws that say, “you cannot refuse to rent a house, or to employ a person simply because they are African-American, or because they are gay”Why do we have to do that?  Aren’t some things just common sense?  Why do you care if the person working in your factory is gay or straight?  They aren’t hitting on you, for Pete’s Sake!!!

Sorry for the rant, but this one galls me to no end.  We learned from the Civil Rights era of the 1950s – 1960s, didn’t we?  Didn’t we learn that all different sorts of people make the world more interesting?  Didn’t we learn that a woman can be just as good a lawyer as a man?  And now, haven’t we learned that gay people are just as nice, just as caring, just as clean, honest and hard-working as straight people are?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed two bills into law last Friday which seek to protect LGBTQ New Yorkers from discrimination and abuse.  The first new law, known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) codifies a 2015 executive order banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Under GENDA, New York businesses may not discriminate against transgender or non-binary New Yorkers in employment, housing, education, or public spaces.

The second new law bans so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy, a discredited form of treatment which purports to turn people with same-sex attractions away from those desires. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “the potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.”

My hat is off to the New York State Legislature and to Governor Cuomo for these two laws.  But I still ask … WHY do we need these?  Why are some people, especially, it would seem, religious groups, determined to either condemn or change gay people???  And why on earth would anyone in their right mind subject either themselves or a loved one to a psychiatric treatment that is known to cause terrible emotional problems???  But wait … you haven’t heard the worst of it yet.  Consider this single sentence from ThinkProgress …

Yet, while both new laws are undoubtedly victories for LGBTQ rights, it remains to be seen whether either law will have staying power in the face of a Supreme Court that is increasingly hostile to civil rights claims brought by non-conservatives.

WHY???  Why does it matter whether claims are brought by conservatives, moderates or liberals?  WHY should civil rights be disavowed?  Is it the intent of the conservative thinkers on the Supreme Court to walk back civil rights reform all the way to the days of segregated bathrooms, water fountains, schools and buses?  The Supreme Court is supposed to uphold the U.S. Constitution, not the doctrine of the Republican Party or the religious right!

Members of religious groups have 1st Amendment rights, the same as anybody else. What they do NOT have is the right to impose their will on the rest of the nation!  What they do NOT have is the right to discriminate against an entire group of people with whom they disagree, or who they simply do not like!  And the United States Supreme Court is supposed to judge fairly what is right for the entire nation, not for only white Christians!

I certainly hope that the New York laws can withstand the bigotry that now resides in the highest court in the nation.  Meanwhile, speaking of the Supreme Court, four conservative members of the Supreme Court joined an opinion calling for an expansion of the rights of religious conservatives to defy laws they disagree with — and a fifth justice, Chief Justice John Roberts, appears broadly sympathetic to this agenda.

One of the Christian right’s top policy priorities is to effectively create two different codes of law in the United States. The first code, which applies to people who do not hold conservative religious views, is rigid and unmoving. The second code, which would apply primarily to Christian-identified conservatives, contains broad exceptions for people who hold the “right” religious beliefs.

bullshit

The endgame is a world where Christian conservatives can treat much of the law as optional, giving conservative Christians broad immunity from the rules that govern all other Americans.  For example, these groups want to have the legal authority to deny housing or employment to members of the LGBTQ community but would be up in arms if it were suggested that, say, a Jew could deny housing or employment to them on the grounds they are conservative Christians.  That’s the biggest load of you-know-what (see above picture) I have heard, but what’s worse is that, as was the case in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court upheld the discriminatory acts!

The executive and legislative branches of our government are already compromised by power, greed and corruption.  If the judicial branch goes the same way, as it appears they are prepared to do, this nation can no longer possibly be called the United States of Anything.  As my wonderful late mother-in-law used to say, “Folks is folks … some are good, some aren’t … but in the end, we’re all just folks”.  Think about it.

Nick Sandmann’s Parent’s Hire PR Firm To Fix His Image Disrespecting A Native American Elder

Everyone by now has heard and seen this story, seen the disputes over who did what, who was the victim. These children are an example of what unconscionable, rich, greedy, arrogant adults produce. Sickening. Gronda has done what I couldn’t even start to do in writing a post about this situation … please take a moment to read her excellent work. Thank you, Gronda, for I couldn’t even tackle this one just yet.

Gronda Morin

Covington Catholic High School has received national attention in the wake of videos showing students from the school mocking Native Americans outside the Lincoln Memorial after a rally in Washington. Lisa Cornwell/AP Photo

By now, anyone who’s plugged into what’s been happening in the news are well aware of what happened on Martin Luther King weekend on the 18th Of January 2019 when a young man Nathan Sandmann with other high school students from Covington Catholic High School, after a day of participating in a March for Life rally while near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, can be observed disrespecting an elder Native American Viet Nam vet and advocate for Indigenous causes, Nathan Phillips

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The Ultimate Hypocrisy …

Did you ever wonder what Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, does for a living?  Well … ‘for a living’ is likely a misnomer, for I’m fairly certain that Mikey brings home enough to pay the bills … but Karen is, indeed, gainfully employed.  She is a teacher.  An art teacher.  At a school.  A school that bars LGBT students … and teachers.

The school is Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia, where Ms. Pence previously taught from 2001 to 2013.  The school does not allow gay students and requires employees to affirm that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, despite the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v Hodges. The school’s employment application equires candidates to describe their faith in Jesus Christ, affirm that they are a born-again Christian and vow to adhere to specific standards in their personal and professional lives.  Welcome to 1692, the year the Salem witch trials began.  Welcome to the Dark Ages!  Is it not the ultimate hypocrisy that the wife of a man who has sworn to uphold the Constitution is so blatantly in defiance of the values espoused in that document?

Item #8 on the employment application requires that an applicant initial the following statement:

“I understand that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman,” it reads, adding that certain “moral misconduct” would be disqualifying, such as “heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female.”

Karen Pence signed her initials, agreeing to the above statement.  Karen Pence, the wife of the man who is likely to, through order of succession, become the next President of the United States.  Think about that one for a minute.

Unlike public schools, private schools can require students and employees to follow specific religious beliefs and adhere to certain behavior in their private lives. They are not restricted from teaching from religious texts in class and are not subject to employment discrimination laws.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, I am not against any religion per se, although I do not ascribe to any religion myself.  I believe in the doctrine of “live and let live”, and as long as people do not attempt to enforce their own beliefs on others, I do not care what religion people choose to follow.  But this … is an abomination.  If parents wish to send their children to a parochial school, as long as they are willing to fully fund their child’s education with no assistance from taxpayer money, I have no problem with that.  However … when said religious schools are exempt from federal employment discrimination laws, then yes, I have a problem … a BIG problem.  When they exclude children who do not fit into the narrow confines of their own moral views, then yes … I have a problem.

For those who might not understand my objection, let’s turn the tables just a bit.  Let’s say I want to start up a school for African-American LGBT students and I refuse to hire any white Christians, simply on the basis that a) they are Caucasian, and b) they are Christian.  How long do you think before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) shuts my school down?  Yep … less than a day after the first complaint. eeoc-1Discrimination, whether it is in employment, education or housing is wrong.  Discrimination against a specific race, age, disability, national origin, religion, gender, or gender identity is wrong.  Such discrimination is against the law.  Period.  And here’s a really terrifying thought …

“It is a place that partners with families, always looking far into the future, preparing a generation of young people who will someday take our place as parents, teachers and leaders.” 

Mike Pence, Karen Pence and the Immanuel Christian School need to get over their feelings of superiority and come into the real world where people are different, yet can live together in a world of peace, mutual respect, compassion, and love.  Isn’t that, after all, part of the Christian dogma?  Or has it changed?

A side note:  Mike Pence’s daughter, Charlotte, wrote a book about a bunny … or more specifically, a day in the life of the Vice President as seen through the eyes of her bunny, Marlon Bundo.  Last spring, late-night comedian John Oliver re-wrote the book just a bit, making old Bundo gay, hooking him up with another boy bunny, and sending the two on a quest to get hitched.

Oliver’s book was an instant success, and even Charlotte Pence bought a copy, saying …

“I have bought his book. It doesn’t have to be divisive. I think that everybody can come together over Marlon.”

And the real kicker … the Trevor Project—a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, which split the proceeds from Oliver’s book with an AIDS nonprofit—announced that it had shipped 100 copies of the thing to Immanuel Christian School!  Along with the books, they included a note …

“Policies and rhetoric that exclude or reject LGBTQ youth can lead to increased risk for suicide and depression, and it’s our organization’s mission to end suicide among LGBTQ young people.  With your help, we hope you will change your school’s student and employee policies to accept LGBTQ students and employees.”lgbt flag

 

The Conversation — Part III (Conclusion)

This is the third and final part of my series about … anything and everything!  I’ve really enjoyed this, felt like I was actually chatting with Mary all the time.  I hope you guys feel free to chime in on any aspect or topic addressed here.  As with the first two, Mary’s comment is in normal text, my responses are in blue.

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And none of this mentions the third world countries and the horrible living conditions and poverty and starvation that are in their daily lives. And we think this will change?

No, sadly the situation in the third world countries is likely, with the effects of climate change, to become far worse in the coming years.  It would take the cooperation of all the industrialized nations and their willingness to work together to help those in poor nations, to make a concerted effort to combat the loss of arable land, to help find solutions to provide potable drinking water, and to help them become economically stable, not to mention providing a wide array of health services.  All of which is a pipe dream, when the industrialized nations cannot even agree on the simplest of concepts.

Some may say I’m pessimistic, but I feel I’m realistic. Maybe it’s just the way of Mother Nature. We are the destroyers and the only ones who can bring about a possible eventual return of a healed planet, when we are gone and nature can flourish once again in peace.

Until recently, at least a few of my friends said I got on their nerves with my optimism.  But that optimism has faded with the things I have seen from the human race in the past few years.  Like you, I consider myself neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but rather, a pragmatist, a realist.  The reality is that the human race is not living up to its potential, and in the process of destroying the planet, we are also destroying ourselves.  There is still time for us to start listening, learning and trying to change, and there are signs that some are, but unfortunately not enough.  I liked a comment Robert Vella made on Part I of this series … that we have to find a way to make Joe Blow feel like he is part of the solution.  When we figure out how to do that, then perhaps there will be hope.

And although the environment is of the utmost peril to fix if at all possible, something must be done to change people’s minds about the validity of science and the scourge of racism.  Education, to me is key. The two things that work against it are far right religion and racism pure and simple.

You are spot on!  Education is the answer to both of these things … making people realize that science is not a hoax, and that all people are equal, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identification, height, eye colour, language, culture, etc., etc., etc.  And education begins where?  In the home.  We can blame the Department of Education for a lot, rightfully, and we can blame the colleges for not stepping up to the plate, but we, as parents and grandparents, have the most influence over our children in their early, formative years.  Racism breeds racism, bigotry is carried from one generation to the next.  The question, then, becomes … how do we break that cycle?

Future generations could maybe slowly reverse this environmental damage through scientific research and new technologies, but not if science is not taught and respected.

I think that if we wait for ‘future generations’, based on what I have read of the IPCC and NCA reports on climate change, it will be too late.  We have to convince governments and industries that if we don’t act now, the human race won’t survive, and it won’t make a damn bit of difference how much money they had or how large their investment portfolio, how many rooms in their mansion, or how many trips to the Riviera they took.  In truth, I suspect that those who claim to deny a belief in the science behind climate change know that they are being obtuse, know that the science is real, but are just too stubborn to act, for it might require sacrifice on their part.  And some of the extremely religious, I imagine, believe that their god will not allow anything bad to happen.  Blind faith, they call it.

Wars will continue as long as politicians and big business makes money off of them.

Agreed.  Many profit greatly from wars, especially arms manufacturers.  Others lose their lives, their sons, their husbands …

Racism and bigotry in the US will continue as long as religion castigates other non Christian beliefs and lifestyle choices.

Bigotry in all its forms will continue as long as people believe, whether because of religion or society, that they are somehow superior to others based on some irrelevant criteria.  We keep fighting the same battles over and over, thinking that we’ve finally learned something, and then, a generation or two later, we fight the same battles again.  It’s the fatal flaw of the human race.

And thus concludes this three-part series.  I hope you found it interesting, found some food for thought, and maybe even shared your own opinion on some of these topics.  Special thanks to maryplumbago for sharing her thoughts, and for agreeing to participate in The Conversation.

Links to Part I and Part II, in case you missed them:  The Conversation — Part IThe Conversation — Part II

Snarkier Than Usual Snippets — Part I

A few stories I read last night truly made my blood boil and make me want to punch somebody.  As I am a kind and generous person who believes in sharing everything with my friends, I am sharing these stories with you so that you, too, can experience the rage that I felt.


A truly WTF moment …

There have been very few times in my life that I have actually wished something bad to happen to somebody, but this is one of those times.  No, it isn’t Trump this time … it is a man named Dave Johnson.  Dave is the Republican Party Chairman for Columbiana County, Ohio.  He owns the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton, a regular stop for politicians running for office in Ohio, and served as a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Last Sunday, Dave posted the following meme to his Facebook page …Dave Johnson Calif fires meme

“God’s punishment to Liberal California”???  WTF???  

In the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, California, the death toll is so far at 80 people and expected to rise.  As of this writing, 699 are still unaccounted for.  The fire has burned some 151,000 acres and destroyed approximately 15,000 homes and businesses.  And that is only one, albeit the worst, of the many, deadly fires that have plagued California this year and last.  And this excuse for a ‘man’ calls it “God’s punishment to Liberal California”?  Hey, GOP … really, is this the best you’ve got to offer???

As you might imagine, the outrage was immediate and ol’ Dave took the post down later the same day, but in an interview, he stands by what he said.

“Look, that’s a meme. And it’s how I feel about liberals, but did I mean that God is going to punish everyone who lives in California? No. It’s a figure of speech, and I probably shouldn’t have done it. But I did, and it doesn’t change how I feel about what’s happened in California.”

Somebody put this man out of our misery!


Unfit to parent …

Meet Emily Scheck …Emily-Scheck.pngEmily is 19 years old, a sophomore and cross-country runner at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.  One day at the beginning of the school year, Emily received a series of angry text messages from her mother … her mother had found pictures of Emily and the woman she is currently dating on a social media site and was horrified.  Emily had not come out to her parents, knowing how they would react, but now the cat was out of the bag.

Emily’s “Christian” parents insisted that she would quit college and they would seek conversion therapy for her, else they would write her out of their lives.  Say what???  How does a parent just … poof … write their own child out of their life???

Emily refused to leave school and made it quite clear that she has no interest in any form of therapy.  Good for her!  The next day, her father traveled the 85 miles to the Canisius campus, unceremoniously dumped all of Emily’s belongings into her car and proceeded to remove the license plate from her vehicle, for he had already removed her from the family’s insurance policy.  He even included her birth certificate.  Her mother’s final text message was …

“Well, I am done with you. As of right now, declare yourself independent. You are on your own. Please don’t contact us or your siblings.  Because you disgust me.”

As it was the beginning of the term, Emily hadn’t yet bought her books, and now she couldn’t afford to, so she was reduced to borrowing friends’ books.  She managed to get two campus jobs and somehow squeeze them in along with her classes and athletic practices.  Before long, one of her friends came up with an idea and started a GoFundMe page, hoping to collect $5,000 to help Emily pay for licensing her car, getting insurance, buying books, and buying food!  Well, long story short, the GoFundMe quickly went to $58,000!!!  Yes, you heard me right!  About a year’s pay for most of us!  But … the NCAA has rules, and one is that its scholarship students cannot get outside contributions.  Emily would have to give the money back to the donors, or risk losing her scholarship.

Eventually, the NCAA relented in light of Emily’s special circumstances, and Emily was able to keep the money, which will help her get through the next three years of school.  Isn’t it a damn shame, though, that two parents can just disown their child for no reason at all other than their religion tells them to hate gay people?  Damn shame.


Jim Acosta is back … BUT …

AcostaYesterday, Jim Acosta had his full White House press credentials returned to him, and as a result, CNN has dropped their lawsuit.  I was a bit surprised, glad for Acosta, but in one sense, leery of CNN having dropped the lawsuit.  It seems to me that until this is stamped “Paid”, the issue is likely to rise again and again.  But then …

Later in the day, the White House released Trump’s new set of ‘rules’ by which the press must play.  They are as follows:

Please be advised of the following rules governing future press conferences:

(1) A journalist called upon to ask a question will ask a single question and then will yield the floor to other journalists;

(2) At the discretion of the President or other White House official taking questions, a follow-up question or questions may be permitted; and where a follow up has been allowed and asked, the questioner will then yield the floor;

(3) “Yielding the floor” includes, when applicable, surrendering the microphone to White House staff for use by the next questioner;

(4) Failure to abide by any of rules (1)-(3) may result in suspension or revocation of the journalist’s hard pass.

My opinion?  This is a blatant attempt to curtail the freedom of the press.  However, given that neither Sanders nor Trump never … NEVER … answer any of the questions that are important, the White House press briefings have become a joke, and his press conferences even more so.  I would love to see the mainstream media boycott the press briefings for about a week, for the really important things will be found out by other means anyway, not from Ms. Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  The press will, as they have been forced to do for nearly two years now, have to rely on those ‘anonymous’ and ‘insider’ sources, for that is the only way that We The People will have any idea what our paid government officials are up to.

I look for Sanders/Trump to seize on any excuse to pull the creds of reporters who don’t “play nice”, those who, like Acosta, ask the tough questions, hold the prez accountable.  When that happens, I hope to see lawsuits by any and all of the media outlets.  SOMEBODY needs to hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire, and if our free press cannot do it … then who can?  Who will? Think about that one.


And since I have more, but am already over 1,000 words, I shall quit for now and produce Part II a bit later.  No need to thank me for sharing my angst … ’twas my pleasure!

Turn a Blind Eye …

Consider this from yesterday’s Washington Post

“A group of prominent U.S. evangelical figures, including several of President Trump’s evangelical advisers, met Thursday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose role in the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi remains unclear.”

What strikes me about this is how these same evangelicals openly condemn women who have an abortion, take birth control, or leave their abusive husbands, but they are willing to meet with a man who has blood on his hands and is a known violator of human rights.  Can anybody explain to me how a woman who refuses to be a punching bag is worse than a man who just this year threatened to behead a woman and her husband for being human rights activists?  Or how the marriage of two men is somehow more terrible than the bombing of innocent men, women, and children in Yemen?khashoggi-posterAll indications are that Mohammed bin Salman authorized or ordered the brutal murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi last month, yet Donald Trump continues to throw his support behind bin Salman.  And why?  In part, because his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to, but also because Trump has significant financial interests in Saudi Arabia.  Trump has denigrated the leaders of many of the nations who are our allies, such as Canada, the UK and Germany, but at the same time, he is willing to befriend a cruel dictator … a man who almost certainly murdered one of our own.toon-3That Trump is such an unconscionable ‘man’ should not surprise us, but I am highly confused by a group of so-called evangelical Christians who are willing to turn a blind eye to bin Salman’s many human rights violations and sit around the fireside chuckling and telling jokes as if he were just another of the ‘good ol’ boys’.Evangelicals meet MBS.pngJust as an aside, does anybody remember that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia?

toon-4The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act allows the president to impose sanctions, including freezing of assets, against individuals or entities responsible for or acting as an agent for someone responsible for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” or if they are government officials or senior associates of government officials complicit in “acts of significant corruption.”  In other words, Trump could freeze any assets held in the U.S. by the Saudi government or by bin Salman.  Instead, Trump sends a delegation of his trusted ‘religious advisors’.

The group was led by author/activist Joel Rosenberg (pictured at top).  As to why they agreed to meet with bin Salman, an article in Religious News Service (RNS) sums it up …

“U.S. evangelical leaders decided to meet with the Saudi crown prince despite the Khashoggi controversy because Saudi Arabia is among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most important nations in the Middle East, in all of history.”

So … still have any doubts about what takes precedence in the evangelical community?

The Saudi royal family is consistently ranked among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights.  Their human rights violations include capital punishment, torture, human trafficking, censorship and imprisonment of journalists, killing of homosexuals and transgenders, and the list goes on.  But, the religious leaders seem to have no problem overlooking those minor details.toon-1Trump’s evangelical advisory board has come under fire before for having tested the limits of separation of church and state by advising Trump and White House staff on issues including taxes, health care and judicial appointments.  And now, they are assisting in setting foreign policy, supporting a cruel dictator.  Ah well, they’ve been turning a blind eye to Trump and his obscene behaviour for two years now, so what’s a little bit of murder, beheading and dismemberment among friends, eh?  Especially when there’s a profit to be turned.toon-2