How We Have Failed Since September 11, Redux

First posted here on September 10, 2014

How We Have Failed since September 11

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

 

McConnell finds his voice

After weeks of political laryngitis on the government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) found the will to say that fellow Republican Rep Steve King (R-Iowa) should “find another line of work.”

During a recent interview lasting almost an hour, King said he doesn’t understand how white nationalist, pro Western civilization, and white supremacist language are offensive. Trump says he “hasn’t been following” the fallout over King’s most recent statements. Perhaps Trump’s lack of interest, or outrage, reflect his own comfort with King’s views?

Steve King
(Congressional photo)

In the mean time, King has been stripped of committee appointments by his own party. Without  committee assignments to craft and vote on bills as they are developed, King’s ability to robustly represent Iowa’s only Republican district in Congress has shrunk to hoping he can find anyone in his party to lobby for his district as bills move towards the House floor. James Clyburn, (D-South Carolina) will introduce a call to censure King in the House.

King has announced 39 district town hall meetings this year. I’m not sure those meetings, due to certain protests and counter-protests, will even happen. The country, and the world, will be watching.

Can Governor Kemp deliver for rural Georgia?

Today marks a new era in Georgia, one that follows a contentious race for the governor’s mansion. Will Brian Kemp and the GA Legislature deliver on promises to rural voters?

Rural hospitals are fragile, while access to care is difficult in regards to insurance coverage, number of providers, and transportation. Will legislators swallow hard and request a waiver so much needed federal dollars can make their way to rural citizens and providers?

Will rural residents, and by rural I mean the ones who live on dirt roads or outside any semblance of a crossroads or town, begin to see a solution to high speed, affordable internet access? This infrastructure impacts businesses, schools, and the attractiveness of living in rural communities.

How will Kemp and the legislature handle districting when the census is completed? This issue didn’t get a lot of coverage during the campaigns, but it will impact rural Georgians in big ways as populations continue to shift to more urban areas. What about safe and secure voting?

The clock starts today. When the 40 day session ends, what will wait until 2020, or arrive on Gov Kemp’s desk to be signed?

Two things about this election

There are two things I’ve thought before the election and remain committed to as we wait for more votes to be counted.

1. Georgia needs to change our Constitution to require a Secretary of State to resign if running for a different office. Changing the Constitution shouldn’t be the path to solving every problem, but it is the only way to address the less than above-board election this year, and protect future contests.

2. Yes, Nancy Pelosi has raised lots of money for Democrats, and yes, she corralled Democrats during difficult issues (Democrats say Pelosi has eyes in the back of her head, knows who is in the room, and how they will vote at any given moment). When do we make room for a new leader like this if not now? Could Pelosi be an interim Speaker with a transition plan to pass the gavel, as suggested by my friend and former Congressional candidate Carol Miller of New Mexico? With a wave of newly elected “firsts” across the country, it is time to pass the role of Speaker to someone with solid knowledge of the House and Congress. There is a role for Pelosi, but it shouldn’t be as Speaker of the House.

Hear the candidates with your own ears!

Early voting is underway across Georgia with hotly contested races for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Insurance Commissioner, and of course Congressional districts. Being an informed voter requires doing the homework, and one of the best ways to do that is to listen to the candidates themselves. I love political pundits and editorial columns more than most people, but someone else’s coverage of what a candidate says isn’t the same as hearing them yourself (or reading their policy positions on their web sites).

Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta Press Club are hosting multiple candidate debates that are free and easy for the public to access online. Watch live or find them later on demand, or do both to go back and make sure you are clear on what was said, or just as important, what wasn’t said.

Whether you’ve made up your mind or not, these debates are good opportunities to learn more about the candidates. Time consuming? Sure.

But Georgia state senate and house members, and US House members, have a total of 17,520 hours on the clock during the two years as your representative. Four year representatives are in for 35,040 hours. Invest a little of your time over the next few days to know the candidates better.

 

The new generation of leaders

The Friday Photo

Decatur High School, Decatur, GA

Students walked out or took a knee on Wednesday because #enoughisenough. I stood with them and for them.

Enslaved people are not immigrants

Ben Carson, photo credit Mother Jones

Dr. Ben Carson, recognized as a brilliant surgeon, used some “alternative facts” in comments to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) staff today, as he begins his work there as the Secretary of the agency. Carson chose to describe enslaved people forced onto boats and brought to the United States, as immigrants.

I looked up immigrant, and I never found a definition that parallels definitions of enslave, “To enslave someone is to force that person to work for no pay, to obey commands, and to lose his or her freedom.”

Carson told HUD staffers, “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

What alternative history book did Carson get that version of optimism on the part of enslaved people? I’d say you couldn’t make this stuff up and try to pass it off as the truth, but if you are Secretary Carson, apparently, you can try.

What I’m reading about last night

What I’m reading about last night (link to the address is below from the New York Times):

WAPo: “In describing his bleak vision of a ruined United States exploited by foreigners, Mr. Trump wrote a series of checks he almost certainly cannot cash.”

The ugliest moment in the 60-minute address came when Mr. Trump announced the formation of an office on “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement,” and then introduced families of people allegedly murdered by illegal immigrants. It was an appeal to raw prejudice and fear that will do nothing to promote the national unity he claims to be seeking. (emphasis added)

WAPO: Fact checking demonstrates that Trump continues to take credit for things he didn’t do, including the sourcing for DAPL pipeline materials

WaPo: Why any glow from last night won’t last very long

WaPo: The word you didn’t hear last night

NYT: Video of the address to Congress and NYT Washington correspondents comments and analysis during the speech and the Democratic response

NYT: Did Bannon and Miller talk Trump away from a pivot on immigration during lunch yesterday?

NYT: Five takeaways from last night’s speech

Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution on pouring money into the military,
“In short, this is not a carefully thought-out strategy from the Trump administration, based on consultation with the experts and our allies. Instead, the man who took five draft deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam, the man who says that he knows better than the generals how to defeat ISIS and who claims he understands the military because he attended a military-themed boarding school, is offering a military strategy fueled largely by his own deep personal insecurities.”

Who isn’t in the room now?

Gen John Dunford, Jr. left, is the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council. Senator Dan Coats, right, has been nominated to serve as the next Director of National Intelligence.

The duties that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence include participating in discussions and decision-making in the National Security Council.  Trump has decided that they don’t need to attend unless specifically asked. Their job every day, all day, is to protect our country. They’ve been told to wait in the hall.

Who will be attending National Security Meetings?

Steve Bannon, Trump’s strategist and former Breitbart Executive Director, said in august 2016,“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Trump’s strategist, Steve Bannon, who does not go through any confirmation process with the Senate, as Cabinet and other high-ranking officials are required to do, is now a member of the National Security Council. Two men with military and diplomatic experience were sent to the hallway to make room for Bannon.

What are Bannon’s politics in addition to anti-Semitic and misogynist views? In August of last year he told reporter Ronald Radosh,“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Trump is giving his chief strategist free rein to do that.

The millions of people who have filled our country’s streets, airports, Congressional offices, and jammed phone lines, are doing their part to protect the Constitution and our government from the hands of those who are determined to destroy all of it.

 

Calling his bluff

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto refused to fall victim to Trump’s childish demand that Mexico pay for a wall that Trump insists on building on the Mexico-United States border. Instead of tolerating the behavior of a spoiled child, Neito said he’d just stay at home.

Every business threatened by Trump’s insistence that he would impose tariffs and taxes on them if they don’t do exactly what he wants, should be watching. If they are smart, they also know that Trump doesn’t have the authority to do that- Congress levies taxes and tariffs.

Bullying is breaking a good relationship with a continental ally. Will it prove to embolden American companies to follow their own course, leaving Trump to look like the fool he is proving himself to be?

The cancellation of this working meeting comes on the heels of senior State Department officials leaving their jobs en masse, according to the Washington Post.

Jay Bookman at the AJC has an outstanding column today on the first six days of Trump’s administration.

 

“The little voice in your heart must guide you”- my daughter’s letter to her children

The Friday Photo
January 20, 2017
reposted with permission from my daughter McKinsey Cummings

photo credit McKinsey Cummings, Macon, GA, Martin Luther King Jr, Day, January 16, 2017 Chase, 8.5 years old, Ella, 10 years old

An Open Letter  to My Children on MLK Day

4 days prior to the inauguration of He Who Must Not Be Named: I’m sorry. Sorry that the world you were born into is about to change. Sorry that the value I raise you with: honesty, kindness, and fairness to all will not be the values reflected by the head of government in this country. When all this is over you will be teenagers and trying to find your place in the world. You will have heard and witnessed things I would have never thought possible for your generation. I promise I will show you the path of generosity of spirit and deed. And that the little voice in your heart must guide you in the face of overwhelming animosity that is sure to come. #notmypresident #bluedot #notthis

If your plane has been hijacked….

This saying has been circulating since the election, and I understand the thinking behind it.

It also reminds me of the passenger-heroes of Flight 93, who overtook hijackers on their September 11, 2001 flight, forcing the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field instead of its intended metropolitan target.

If your plane has been hijacked, and you know it is on a suicide mission, do you sit by idly? Or, do you organize and try to regain control of the plane, putting it on its right course?

Check the dictionary

The Friday Photo
January 13, 2017

I did some checking on definitions last night. Carl Bernstein, who, with fellow reporter Bob Woodward, earned a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post after uncovering and reporting the Watergate break-in and resulting coverup, tagged Donald Trump’s campaign manager and staffer Kellyanne Conway, as the incoming administration’s Propaganda Minister. Bernstein bestowed that title following her complex and unsuccessful verbal gymnastic routine with Anderson Cooper over Trump’s media event on Wednesday.

I googled Propaganda Minister and the second listing was:

Jospeh Goebbels

Jospeh Goebbels served Adolf Hitler as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of the Third Reich.

Kellyanne Conway, staffer for Donald Trump (photo posted on RawStory credited to CNN)

Another word getting lots of use in recent months is gaslighting. Wikipedia definition: Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. The online resource goes on to offer examples: Sociopaths and narcissists frequently use gaslighting tactics. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but typically are also convincing liars, sometimes charming ones, who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their own perceptions. Some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners by flatly denying that they have been violent.

Gaslighting may occur in parent–child relationships, with either parent, child, or both, lying to each other and attempting to undermine perceptions. Gaslighting also occurs in examples of school bullying. The word gaslighting is often used to describe the tactics of the President-elect. Teenvogue, of all places, had an excellent editorial on Trump’s tactics.

Donald Trump, photo credit The Politics
Forum

Nine points on Trump’s “press” conference

There were LOTS of things said during Trump’s “press conference” today that either conflict or contradict what he has said or Tweeted in the past, or were simply outrageous. A few of the highlights:

1. Trump made all kinds of claims about removing himself from any business conflicts, or rather his attorney did in an eye-glaze-over statement. He also said he could manage to run the government and his companies too.

2. The President-elect almost stomped his feet while trying to make CNN reporter Jim Acosta quit asking a question, finally resorting to “You’re fake news.”

3. Despite statements from Congressional Republicans that they aren’t prepared to repeal and replace ACA in the near future, Trump said all that would be happening soon.

4. He wants a report on hacking within 90 days from US intelligence agencies. Didn’t he get a report last Friday?

5. Trump asserted that, he “will be the greatest job producer that God ever created.” That’s a pretty bold statement. Will Trump singularly receive confirmation that he has hit that mark? Will it be Tweeted so everyone can see it? And what happens if things aren’t going well and God decides we need a course correction?

6. Only the media wants to see his tax returns. Um, no, lots of Americans want to see them.

7. Of his Cabinet choices, Trump said, “generally they are smart.” I sure wish he would identify the ones he thinks aren’t so smart.

8. Trump says the wall on the Mexican border will be built, and he isn’t willing to wait on the funding from Mexico. He wants American taxpayer dollars sunk into it now.

9. After a rambling event that included shouting at a reporter, Trump was asked what will happen if his sons don’t do well with running the family businesses. He gestured towards the stacks of papers that are supposed to demonstrate some type of disconnection between the President-elect and his businesses, and then, pointing to his sons, said, “You’re fired.”

Except Trump also said he won’t know what is happening with his family companies because his sons aren’t going to discuss them with him. How can Trump fire anyone if he is in the dark?

 

 

Required reading

The public intelligence report on Russian interference in our Presidential election last year was released from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence yesterday. It is less than 25 pages long in content.

Reading this is where the work of being an engaged citizen begins. Showing up at the voting booth isn’t enough.

Odds and ends

Trumps cuts the diplomatic corps loose
Last night a report from the The New York Times was making the rounds about an edict from the incoming Trump administration that all politically appointed ambassadors are to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day. This directive runs counter to previous administrations of both parties.

Trump didn’t understand until he met with President Obama after the election that the incoming administration has to staff the West Wing. Now he is rushing to have our country’s representatives to allies like Japan, Britain, and Germany vacate their offices on January 20th.  While it can take months to get ambassadors confirmed, I’ll venture that Trump gets someone cherry-picked by Vladimir Putin in place right away.

On the other hand, this positions the Democratic Party and voters to hold the Trump Administration responsible from day one on diplomatic actions.

In the mean time, or worse, for the long run, does Trump plan to handle our diplomatic relations with late-night Tweets?

White House Press Briefings
Last week Trump staffers said they didn’t like having White House press briefings broadcast live. Instead, they want the media to report out on the briefings.

In a world of fake news, and Trumpsters’ proclivity to gaslight, that makes sense- why let the public hear the briefing for ourselves when the Trump administration can hope that the media simply parrots whatever was said by his staffer? I enjoy listening to the questions and hearing the answers myself. Robert Gibbs, Obama’s first press secretary, had a good sense of humor and enjoyed word play. His briefings were interesting and sometimes entertaining. Trump doesn’t seem to enjoy the company of people who are witty, or use big words. But I’ll still listen.

Being Present Redux

I thought the hardest day of 2016 was going to be the morning of November 9th. My eight year old grandson, who said a woman ought to have a chance at being president, called to ask me who won the election. I couldn’t choke back my tears. I guessed the worst thing I would do in 2016 was tell him that I was seeing a world I didn’t want for him.

I was wrong.

Less than a month later my 10 week old grandson, Brayer, suddenly stopped breathing, and his 26-year-old parents made the hard decision to remove him from life support.

Brayer
Brayer (the morning after waking his parents up every hour during the night)

There aren’t many hours left in 2016, but after putting part of  Christmas dinner in the oven on Sunday and walking down to the cemetery to find my daughter and son-in-law sitting by their infant son’s grave, well, 2016, I don’t have anything more to give, and those two young parents don’t either.

As November’s disappointments settled in, and the month of December has crept along, I find myself returning to a commitment I made in 2012, which was a promise to myself, and others, to Be Present in 2013.

As the election season sped up this year, I knew there would be lots of work ahead.  I didn’t think the work would be bare-knuckled battles against the Twitter-length ideas of a man with a really bad comb-over, scary illusions of his abilities, the temperament of a tired three-year old, and a failure to understand that facts are facts, regardless of whether they go along with what you believe or want for yourself.

My calendar has dates marked for Being Present. Events are easy because they require setting time aside in advance. The bigger challenge for me is Being Present in some capacity every day. It means living my values every day, and holding businesses, community leaders. elected officials, and their supporters, responsible for theirs. This is not the time to look away from hate, racism, intolerance, violence, and so many isms.

On November 9th I told my grandson Chase I will do my best to build a better world for his generation. I have to Be Present every day in 2017 to do that work. And in doing so, my hope is that the ragged edges of my heart will begin to mend too.

 

Van Jones put his finger on it last night

Last Thursday I drove to Hendersonville, North Carolina for an annual event called Life Is A Verb Camp. On the way home Sunday afternoon I opted for less interstate and more two lane roads.

In addition to the fall-colored leaves I saw lots of Trump/Pence signs, which really didn’t surprise me as a fellow Southern rural citizen. What had been floating around in the back of mind for a long time began to move more to the front of my thoughts; how are the polls capturing the rural voter? Are they getting to us at all? Am I underestimating the urban turnout?

Last week Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight polling and punditry kept setting aside the poll numbers at a certain point in his figuring, which dogged me about who people say they will vote for and what they will do in the privacy of the voting booth.

Last night Van Jones put his finger on what I was thinking: white-lash. It has been a large and unspoken element in the room on top of the anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic, anti-woman, my version of Christianity is the only one, anti-choice, denying access to affordable health care, putting profits before our natural resources, loosening gun control laws, and the list goes on and on.

I live among the voters who showed up in force at the polls and elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence; white rural Americans.

It should not be a surprise to readers of Rural and Progressive that I write from a perspective that there are two Americas, an urban and a rural America. Many rural Americans harbor some level of racism. I’ve heard it and seen it. For some people that has been the unspoken driver behind opposition to all-things Obama. And it brought people out in force to elect a TV personality whose favorite line is, “You’re fired.”

Yesterday white rural America told Donald Trump and Mike Pence, “You’re hired.”

I may live in rural America, but the not so subtle racism and divisive values espoused by Trump and Pence are not my values. And they aren’t the values of every rural American.

I’m no less proud of being a Hillary supporter today than I was yesterday, because I believe in a country where diversity is valued and celebrated. That’s the country I will continue to help build.

Trump has no idea how our government works

Today Trump said he would call a special session of Congress to roll back Obamacare if he and a Republican controlled Congress are elected.

He can’t do that until he is sworn in. And duh, guess who else will already be in town and ready to work?

We can’t afford to have a President who doesn’t have a clue on the mechanics of our government. And shame on voters who don’t know better either.

Try this on for size

Trump supporters, male and yes, female, are burning up Twitter with the hashtag #repealthe19th. The 19th Amendment gave women the vote. Multiple polls show that if only women voted in November, the slam-dunk for Clinton/ Kaine, and probably most Democratic Congressional candidates, would be deafening.

I have a suggestion for men and women who think repealing the 19th Amendment is a good idea: sit this election out and see how that feels.