313 Extracted Words – The Tease – June 2019

June 2019

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a novel in progress.

He packed the old Ford with everything he thought he might need, save the items he would toss in right as they left. He planned on getting there early, at first light, if necessary. He already had the place in mind, if it came to it. Hopefully the dumb shit would take his threat as advice and just hit the road, disappear, never return. But before he could even finish the thought, it soured from clarity. “Got damn, Cleopatra, as sure as you’re a Saluki, that kid’s a dumb shit. A neophyte, liberal, socialist dumb ass.” He spit in the pine needles behind the Ford’s toothy rear tires. “And people think he’s some kind of truth teller, but just like the idiots that mistake you for a Doberman, they don’t even know what the truth is.” He spit again, this time brushing at the stubbly skin covering his taught jawbone. “He’s a coyote, a jackal, and you’ve seen how I dispose of them.” He reached behind the dog and rubbed the wooden stock of his thirty-thirty. “Afraid you won’t get to sniff this one’s bones, though. One shot and we’re out of there. Might not even go back to the homestead right away.” The dog whined through her long nose. “Well, I wouldn’t care for that either. I’d surely miss the place as much as you, but we might have to run for a while. Might be a kick in the ass, anyway.” He smiled at the thought of crossing the heartland during the night, listening to emboldened talk show hosts across the land, their voices turning to midnight anthems, crying out with pride about the mysterious patriot in Oregon, and how he acted so boldly, the way we wished our leaders would. A crack of lightning answered from the sky. “Well Miss Cleo, sounds like a storm picking up.”

UMMM …. About last night …

Keep calm and carry on.

As many of you know, my blog has followers and visitors from over 50 different countries, so I address my friends, both foreign and domestic, it’s going to be all right. Yes, I’m disappointed in last night’s results, but I wasn’t real happy with my choices in the first place. (Frankly, I think that is how most people feel today.) Trump garnered less than 50% of the votes of less than 60% of Americans, a political victory yes, but hardly a binding of hearts and souls with America. Winning an election in this country is not the same as pushing through an agenda. It is the first step, but only the first step in a long and torturous process. In fact, the slow pace of our democracy is part of what fuels the frustration that enables demagogues like Trump to win political elections in the first place. But as I said, elections are not the same as policies, law or action.

On the international stage, consider two points. First, the most powerful nation on Earth just performed a very peaceful transition of power. No small accomplishment in this age. Secondly, in regards to the Middle East, yes we are concerned with ISIS, but the American people have also had a belly full of war in the last 15 years, and Trump’s actual policy statements (aside from the bravado) don’t signal a huge change in involvement there.

On the domestic side, Trump has made many promises about cleaning up Washington. If he succeeds, well, more power to him. He continues to amaze, so I won’t bet against it. But if he fails, then most of his more robust agenda (such as repealing the ACA and deporting millions of immigrants) will not be possible. Bottom line: a plan to attack Congress and lobbyists might get you elected, but it won’t get much legislation passed.

My hope is that he chooses to bite off some small victories first. I would hope he could rally enough votes in Congress for clean water infrastructure, child-care subsidies, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and perhaps even term limits. (Yes, he has pledged to act quickly on all these points). Then even if he loses his political clout, at least we will have gained something for all our angst and embarrassment.

My bet is still on the American people. He is our employee now. It’s our job to keep reminding him of that.

 

It’s Only 97 Days Until the Mad Hatter’s Next Tea Party

Why the f…iscal cliff do Tea Partiers think the next shutdown/showdown will be any different from the last?

 

Ted Cruz and his Tea Party gang tried to extort legislation out of the President. They failed miserably. With a little introspection and time to cool off, what sage conclusion did they draw? “Hey, that was great. Let’s do it again!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn  the Sean Hannity show, Cruz vowed that he was prepared for the next fight. On ABC News, he wouldn’t rule out use of another shutdown. “I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything I can, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” Cruz said when asked by ABC’s Jon Karl specifically about the possibility of further brinksmanship. Meanwhile, the ACA stumbles forward without any attempt to improve it, the budget still hasn’t gone to conference and the next self-imposed economic crisis looms only 97 days away.

During this last standoff, John Boehner was questioned at a press conference about some possible scenarios and how he might deal with them. His answer was the classic “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.” And then he walked off to the laughter of the press corps. Shame on all of them. Someone should have yelled, “Answer the damn question ass-munch. You work for us. Or have you forgotten that?” What he, Boehner, really should have said was … if we can just push this thing out past the first of the year, then we’ll all have a merry Christmas. In the final analysis, that’s all he, Obama and the Senate leaders really did.

So enjoy the holidays. Indulge in some eggnog or tea, whatever you prefer. Send an extra can of soup to the local food bank for the sake of future non-essential personnel. And then let’s all meet back here sometime around the middle of January and ride that fiscal horse through the burning barn of dysfunctional government once again.

I Know the President is Listening (In) – But Are You, Congress?

Congress has the power to tear down the Patriot Act, but will they?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Congress passed the Patriot act, they can repeal it. At the very least, they can tweak it. But are they even listening to our complaints?

I have heard a great deal of rhetoric, but very little actual determination on the part of our representatives, those empowered and obliged to protect our rights. Upon the revelations of Mr. Snowden and his involvement with the N.S.A. last week, I contacted the offices of all three of my members of Congress. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

It has been a week and no response. This is shameful and we will not let it go.

Now the NSA has revealed more taps without warrants. If we allow this to go on, the shame will be on us as well. Just ask yourself, why was this program kept secret? The initial, obvious and pat answer from the security hawks would be that the program could not work if it was made public. But think about that. The program has been exposed and do you think it’s being shut down. Not a chance. So it appears that the hiding was from us, not the terrorists.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Two Hundred plus years old and the meaning is still crystal clear. What is being allowed is wrong. It’s time for Congress to act.

VOTE

Today isn’t your first chance, but it is your last of 2012, to vote for President (as well as many other offices and issues).

Vote. People have died for this privilege. Vote. It’s as simple as that.

VOTE

Komen Cures My Rant

I was all set to blast the cancer charity, but then cooler heads prevailed.

I was getting ready to rip on the Susan G. Komen Foundation for pulling their future grants for Planned Parenthood and then they changed their mind. So, I must now congratulate them on their wise reversal. If this debacle has had any plus side, it’s that it has educated many people on the role of Planned Parenthood. Far from an abortion mill (abortions represent less than 5% of their activities), PP  provides screenings, mammograms and a litany of other services, including adoption guidance and contraceptives. The best way to prevent an abortion remains to prevent pregnancy.

Thank you Susan G. Komen for doing the right thing.

Mayor Bloomberg is a Fraidy Cat

First he was afraid of terrorist trials, now he is afraid of … books?

In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg spearheaded the effort to turn away the high-profile trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. New York was the Justice Department’s preferred venue to prosecute this terrorist and serve justice, showcasing America’s commitment to Democracy and the rule of law. Bloomberg’s justification for preventing the trial from taking place in Lower Manhattan was that it would “cause disruption.” Little did we know his true fear … that all those people coming to town for the trial would bring books with them. Ahhh, the horror.

When the police destroyed the People’s Library at Zuccotti Park, the outrage was loud and instantaneous. The Mayor gave assurances that the books were safe and unharmed. It turns out, that was really not the case. Of  the  thousands of books that were confiscated, a little less than 1300 have been returned. About 500 of those were damaged beyond use. Almost 3000 more are still missing.

The Mayor's darkest fear.

 

In Zuccotti Park, Dostoevsky and the Bard had joined Hemingway, Jefferson and Luke in spreading democracy. Mr Mayor, you built your communications empire on the power of words. Please wield that power responsibly. Return, restore and replace these books. All of them. Even Bloomberg By Bloomberg. I’m sure there’s a section on free speech in there somewhere.

For more information, read this.

Ohio issue 2 could be a preview for 2012

The battle to repeal senate bill 5 could be a harbinger of the coming presidential election.

Update: Since this post was published, senate bill five was overwhelmingly repealed.

When John Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio, signed S.B. 5 into law earlier this year, it was a decided victory for the Tea Party. But, similar to Wisconsin, the outcry against the law, which eliminates most collective bargaining rights (including strikes) for public employees, met a loud and active response. But unlike Wisconsin, where the focus was on recalling those who voted for the offending bill, Ohioans took a different approach. They started a petition that resulted in getting issue 2 , the repeal of the union-attacking S.B. 5, on next Tuesday’s ballot.

Governor Kasich could see a referendum bid ending badly for his administration. As soon as it became clear the issue would make the ballot, he called for negotiations. But smelling political blood, the opposition rebuked him. The latest Quinnipiac polls show they were correct in doing so. The law is being crushed 57% to 32%.

The ramifications for next year’s general election are manifold. Big money has arrived, unions on one side and groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks on the other. Ohio is traditionally huge in deciding Presidential elections, and if these poll numbers hold, it appears the Republicans have work to do before next November. Issue 2 is also the first place where the Occupy Wall Street movement could have a political effect. Although reluctant to back any one candidate or piece of legislation, OWS (through Occupy Columbus) is backing repeal of the law. It is interesting that the group allows speakers at their events to have the podium, no matter whether they are for or against it.

Unions represent infrastructure for the political left. If they take a hit in Ohio, you can expect Republican governors across the country to follow suit. But if the polls are to be believed, such overreach could backfire and feed the flames of the OWS movement.  Learn more here.

Want to Refute a Republican? Show them the 7’s

Are Obama’s policies failing, or are Republicans strangling the recovery?

Update: This post has been updated since the initial September 2nd posting to include a link to the statement by S&P and a more precise mark for the Dow on January 20th, 2009.

Even the most staunch Obama critics won’t deny, he was handed a crap sandwich in 2009. And no one thinks we have come back nearly far enough. But the narrative that Obama is making things worse simply does not align with the facts.

Confuse them with facts.

Now, I understand that producing charts and indexes isn’t going to pull the crowd in around you at the water cooler, so here is an easy tool for remembering where we were, economically, when the President was inaugurated. The number 7.  GDP was in a free fall at an annual rate of negative 7%. We were hemorrhaging jobs at a rate of minus 770,000 a month. The Dow had crashed to 7949 (okay, a 949 snuck in there, but you get the picture). And unemployment was at 7.7%. To compare those numbers to where we are now, just peruse the business section of any local newspaper. Most of those indicators are referenced on a daily or weekly basis.

So, for instance, today’s big number, zero. Zero jobs added in August. A big fat goose egg. Sounds terrible, and it’s not great, but remember the  7’s. Zero jobs added is far better than 700,000 jobs lost. Next, look at the stock market. Remember 7949? Even after a rocky August following the debt ceiling hostage taking by House Republicans, it still closed over 11,000. That’s a nearly 50% increase in 30 months. Oh President, please stop with your horrible policies. You’re killing my 401k (???). Let’s look at GDP. It’s limping along at 1%. But it was dropping at negative 7% when Obama took office. Turning a train that big around that fast is no small task.

And last, the big number. A number so big, it gets its own paragraph. A number so big, it will make or break the President in the next election. Unemployment. It stood at 7.7% in January 2009. It now stands at 9.1%. Unemployment is a lag indicator. In fact, the unemployment rate peaked at over 10% in early 2009. And it was starting to come down, ever so slowly, but at least it was headed in the right direction.

Enter the tea party in January 2011. When the new Republican majority took office, they said the focus would be jobs. Instead, they read the constitution into the record, passed a budget that would end medicare but not deficits and brought us to the brink of default, causing a first-ever downgrading of the U.S. bond rating. The following are two excerpts from the S&P downgrade statement:

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.

And …

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues,

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/text-of-sp-downgrade-of-us-rating-2011-08-05

But enough about the freshmens’ glorious job-creating, freedom imploring, liberty impregnating policies. Let’s look at those pesky little numbers since THEY took office. In January 2011, when the Tea Party was sworn in, we were gaining jobs at a rate of 200,000 a month. Today, as we said, zero. GDP was growing at 2.5%, now it’s at 1%. The Dow was at 11,700, now it has dropped to 11,400. Unemployment has gone from 9.0% to 9.1%. And they’re criticizing the President’s record?

It is obvious, they both have a great deal of work to do. But you don’t. It’s easy. Just remember the sevens and you can master any Obama basher. Of course, when they say, “No way, that’s not what Sarah and Michele say”, just refer them to those pesky numbers .

Raise Your Hand And Repeat After Me …

Live, in the Iowa debate, all the Republican presidential hopefuls took the “no tax increases” oath.

[Update: The day after the Iowa straw poll, Tim Pawlenty dropped out. Rick Perry jumped in, and yes, in the September 7th debate he joined his ultra-conservative counterparts by raising his hand and taking the oath. Ross Perot has yet to be sighted.]

The moderator repeated the question, upping the stakes, asking if they would take a ten-to-one deal. Not one of them would. For clarity, he even asked them to raise their hands if they would refuse such a deal. They all raised their hands like good little Grover Norquist marionettes.

To me, this was the most revealing part of the debate. It means even if a bill offering 5 trillion dollars in cuts linked to only 500 billion (about half of what would be raised by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire) in new revenues came to their desk, they wouldn’t sign it. Such rigid ideology is not what this country needs and it’s not what the public is looking for. A majority of Americans favor higher taxes on the upper crust as part of a balanced approach to deficit reduction. None of the candidates on stage wanted to acknowledge that, not even Romney, who used just such a balanced approach to help balance the budget in Massachusetts.

Last week’s Standard and Poors announcement specifically listed the Republicans’ unwillingness to budge on revenues as a major reason for the downgrade. It appears none of the candidates even read the report. Or they don’t understand it. They continue to push the policies, lower taxes for the richest Americans and de-regulation, which led us here in the first place. They seem more interested in keeping their pledges to the kingmakers on “K” Street than fixing the problems on main street.

Hopefully, when Rick Perry enters the fray this weekend, he’ll bring Ross Perot and some pie charts along with him.