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And Away We Go!

I live in New Hampshire.  That means a lot of things, but for the purposes of this post, this means that I get subjected very early in the cycle to a seemingly endless parade of Presidential wannabees who think that winning over the voters of New Hampshire is the way to get elected.

The most recent clown to get spat out of the car is, apparently, John Bolton.  This morning, two of my friends contacted me, separately from each other, to tell me that they’d been informed – one via a newsletter from Bolton’s PAC and another through the local news station’s app – that the former ambassador and right wing darling has a speaking gig in Manchester.

The friend who got the newsletter is apparently a glutton for punishment and has a very high tolerance for bullshit; he’s signed up to all the wingnuts’ newsletters – Michelle Bachman, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum among them – and tells me with a big grin that he gets these regular doses of crazy so he can “know what the enemy is thinking.”  Bully for him; I don’t know if I could handle opening my inbox to see mail from these people, but I do appreciate that he occasionally forwards the newsletters to me so I can see with my own eyes what the whackadoodles are saying to their base.  Observe:

It’s because of my love of country that I am sending you this message from Manchester, New Hampshire, where voters will soon decide who follows Barack Obama as president.

** Okay, let’s start with the preamble to the letter.  Notice how the sentence is structured to give the impression that little New Hampshire is going to be deciding the President’s successor all by its own little self?  I have no idea why New Hampshire is so important in the electoral process; we’re ranked 42nd in population and our voter turnout rates aren’t anything to write home about.  The hysteria with which the “first in the nation” status gets talked about by politicians kind of disgusts me, but I guess it’s a good idea to make your audience feel important and special, so there you go.

Friend,

Like you, I have a deep love of country and a profound concern for our future security and prosperity.

**What does this mean, exactly?  This sounds like a whole load of nationalistic bullshit to me.  “Love of country” and “security and prosperity” are triggering buzzwords that don’t really mean anything, but you can’t tell that to conservatives, so I guess you go with what works.

It’s because of my love of country that I am sending you this message from Manchester, New Hampshire, where voters will soon decide who follows Barack Obama as president.

**There’s that “love of country” and “New Hampshire will pick the next President” bit again.  Is the intended audience for this letter so distracted – or stupid – that they can’t remember what they read two lines ago?

For the past six years, we’ve waited for President Obama to lead and defend our country, and he has consistently failed.

**HOW, exactly, has President Obama “failed to lead and defend” the country?  Give examples with citations, please.

Two more years of danger remain until 2016, and his former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is no more up to the job than he was.

**Danger, huh?  Again, I’d like an example of the clear and present DANGER that faces our country; just one valid example will do.  Also, I’d be interested to hear why the writers believe that Secretary Clinton isn’t “up for the job,” though, of course, they’d have to articulate exactly what “the job” is in this context; I mean, I understand they’re talking about the qualifications for President, but I’ve seen nothing but vague, alarmist buzzword so far, so I’m not sure what they think they’re talking about.  Also, and not for nothing, Secretary Clinton has not declared her intention to run for President yet; I love how all the Republicans are already sinking their teeth into her.

We are – without question – less secure than we were just six short years ago.

**WITHOUT QUESTION, huh?  The letter keeps positing this idea, but offers nothing of substance to back it up.  I’m calling bullshit.

Our country needs a dependable leader who will take responsibility for America’s future. We need someone with a clear plan that can restore order to the chaos caused by President Obama’s absent, incoherent national security policy.

**This sentence is a doozy, isn’t it?  It’s clear from its being in bold that this is an important point, so pay attention, Kiddos!  From the sounds of this letter, we’re in a state of absolute, terrifying chaos; CHAOS, I tell you! 

Again, I want examples; clear, verifiable examples of all this madness the authors see all around them.

Americans instinctively understand that ignoring international dangers makes those dangers neither easier to resolve nor makes them go away.

**”International dangers” seems to be the focus of this statement, and implicit in it is the idea that the Administration has been *ignoring* them.  Americans are clearly smarter than the Administration, and we KNOW better than to IGNORE INTERNATIONAL DANGERS, by golly!  This Obama guy is an ostrich with his head stuck in the sand, huh?

We simply cannot suffer through more of Obama and Clinton’s misbegotten views of America, their inexperience, and their incompetence. When we elect leaders that don’t care about national security or view it as a political game, you get someone like Barack Obamas who is unqualified, inattentive, and downright dangerous.

**Leaving the grammar errors aside (seriously, People; proofreading matters), the tone of this sentence cracks me up.  The pearl-clutching here is a thing of beauty, isn’t it?  How sad it must be to live in these people’s heads; they are so frightened all the time.

We must be realistic about threats to America.

**”…because this Administration clearly hasn’t been.”  EVIDENCE, Motherfuckers; do you HAVE ANY?!

In fact, adversaries all around the world are calibrating their own policies to take advantage of the remaining two years of the Obama administration. Iran, Russia, China, and radical Islamic terrorists understand that they have a precious opportunity against a weak and ineffective President to advance their agenda, before a stronger, more competent President takes office.

**Oh, I LIKE this section.  “Weak and ineffective” is clearly intended to mean Democrats and  “strong and competent” is, obvs, Republican.  Like how they did that? 

It seems pretty irresponsible to make the claim that foreign interests are plotting against the United States and that they’re going to do some vague but horrible thing to us before the end of President Obama’s term without anything to back the claim up.  I’d like to see the evidence they’re basing this claim on, but I’m not going to hold my breath.  You shouldn’t, either.

And that’s why I am delivering this sobering message at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

**What message is that, exactly?  The one you’ve been promoting in this poorly formatted, conjecture-filled missive?  What could you possibly have to add here?

I’m committed to restoring America’s strength, and I hope that you are with me.

**If you aren’t smart enough to understand the thrust of this letter (because we understand our base and assume that you’re not), we’re going to go ahead and put the message in bold print.  RESTORE STRENGTH!  GUNS!  GOD!  HOO-AH!

Yeah, right.  Okay.

For America,

**More nationalistic bullshit right there.  Don’t you love this?  “For America,” because, ‘Murica!

John Bolton
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

**I think it would be really interesting to look into Bolton’s CV.  As I understand it (and I’ll admit that I’m not exactly a Bolton scholar), he was pretty heavily involved in Reagan’s stellar foreign policies and worked on a number of really distasteful initiatives, such as opposing reparations to Japanese Americans held in camps during WWII and trying to tie immigration policy to the drug war, and let’s not forget that he was a key figure in getting Antonin Scalia nominated to SCOTUS.  Honestly?  That alone is enough for me to oppose him.

P.S. I’m going to need your help. **Oh, OF COURSE you are!**  If we work together, I’m confident we can replace President Obama’s failed agenda of drift, decline and defeatism, **Evidence, Motherfuckers; GIVE ME SOME**  with a strong Reaganite foreign policy.  **BUZZWORD!  Invoke the name of Saint Ronnie and you get all the low-information voters lining up!  Shall we talk about Iran Contra, or supporting interests accused of genocidal practices or Apartheid in Africa, or Reagan’s support for Suharto in Indonesia, or about the Nicaraguan rebels?  Seriously; if you want to talk about Reagan’s foreign policy initiatives, let’s talk about Reagan’s foreign policy initiatives** Click here to join me in fighting for a safe and strong America. **Click here to give me money**

I have half a mind to send this letter back to the PAC and ask them for more information; I really want to know on what they are basing their claims.  If nothing more, I’ll send this back to my friend, though; I think he’ll get a kick out of my response to it.

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An Unacceptable Precedent

“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body.”

-Margaret Sanger

There is a young woman in Connecticut who is being literally detained and forced to undergo chemotherapy treatments against her wishes and without the consent of her mother.  17-year old Cassandra C. is being held at a Connecticut hospital with a guard at her door to ensure that she does not run away.  She was strapped down and sedated so doctors could install a port into her body to administer the chemotherapy she has eloquently and repeatedly stated she does not want.  She has no rights to determine what happens to her body, and seemingly no recourse to challenge the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that has essentially turned her into a medical prisoner of the state.

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There is nothing about this that I find even a little acceptable.

To begin, this is the logical end-result of our society’s hubris in thinking that we have the right to tell people – particularly women – what they can and cannot do with their bodies.  If we do not have ownership over our own bodies, if someone else gets to decide what happens to our physical being without our consent, we are literally slaves; we do not belong to ourselves, but to someone who has the power to control us.

Yes, Cassandra is 17 and, as such, is technically a minor.  Minors do not have legal autonomy over their bodies per se;  parents or legal guardians are expected to be stewards of young people and to ensure that they are safe, well cared-for, and adequately nourished.  In this particular case, Cassandra and her mother are in agreement.  This case didn’t come about as the result of a scared, ignorant, or belligerent teenager refusing treatment out of spite or fear or, seemingly, out of a religious or anti-science fundamentalism; Cassandra has very clearly stated that it is the quality, not the quantity of her life that matters to her, and she has decided – with a clear head, if the news reports about the case are accurate – that she would rather enjoy the life she has left without the side-effects and possible complications of chemotherapy.

This young woman reaches the age of majority in 9 months.  Her forced chemotherapy is expected to end in 5.  The moment she reaches 18, she will be allowed to deny any and all medical treatment and to disentangle herself from the interference, however well-intentioned it may be, of the Division of Child and Family Services.  What I want to know is this; what magically changes on her 18th birthday that would render her any more capable of making this important decision than she is right now, and who’s going to compensate her for the five months or more that she has spent as a literal prisoner in the hospital (being tortured, it could be argued; I’ve seen firsthand what chemotherapy can do to a person, and it can qualify as torture)?

I HATE that this is happening.  I understand that the State has an interest in protecting young peoples’ interests and ensuring their safety, but literally imprisoning a lucid, articulate young person and forcing them into treatment she does not wish is a precedent that we cannot allow.

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Out With the Old…

2014 wasn’t really a great year.

I’m not going to recount the reasons why it wasn’t great; aside from my father-in-law’s passing in January, there weren’t any major catastrophes (and, to be fair, Dad’s death was expected and, to a certain extent, timely), but rather a pretty consistent battery of inconveniences, annoyances, and disappointments that all added up to a persistent state of blah for most of the year.

I’m ready to be done with that, and even though I’m not really a big one for putting a lot of importance on the flipping of the calendar, I’m going to try to run with it this year.  I have some changes I want to make, and now seems as good at time as any to begin implementing them.

I spent today doing a hard reset on the house.  The Christmas tree came down and all the cleaning that had to accompany its removal happened this morning.  Going on the belief that one doesn’t need an occasion to make changes, I decided not to wait until January 1st to get exercise routine back on track; I re-started that just after Christmas.  I’ve made plans to meet with someone on Monday who may be instrumental in my reviving my professional life, and I’m very excited about that.  Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about how 2015 is starting out.

I’m planning to focus more on the things that matter to me.  I’m horrified and ashamed by all the reading I didn’t do in 2014, so I’m going to be devoting a lot more time reading.  I’m going to try to spend more time with friends; I had lunch with Laura the other day, Marcus is coming over on Friday just because, and I’m going to spend as much time as possible with Sweet Pea before she goes to California for college in a few weeks.  My plan is to not let more than a month go by without being in the presence of my friends and chosen family.  I want to write more here.  I am going to focus more intently on my work as an intern supervisor, and I’m planning on doing some boots-on-the-ground activism in my community (I have an opportunity to start that on my birthday).

My goal is to feel better in 2015.  I want to be more confident.  I want to not hate going to work.  I want to feel like what I’m doing matters.  I want to not feel overwhelmed by all the little things that I have to do.  I’m a big fan of little changes; I know how to make resolutions stick, and I’m pretty confident that I can make 2015 significantly better than 2014 was.

Happy New Year to you wherever you are; I hope the coming year is good to you.

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To Accept the Things I Cannot Change

My mother-in-law has no business behind the wheel of a car.

In truth, she’s had no business behind the wheel of a car for going on 18 years.  The last time I was in a car with her, I was pregnant with Punk, and I felt lucky to have survived the experience.  In the span of a 20 minute trip, she ran a stop sign, two stop lights, and ended up going the wrong way down a one-way stretch.  When I made it home alive, I told my husband that on no uncertain terms and under no circumstances were any of our children EVER to get in the car with his parents.  He readily agreed, and nether girl has ever been chauffeured by their grandparents.

Knowing that she’s out there driving around has always bothered me, though.  She’s got dents all up and down both sides of her car that she SWEARS just appeared out of no where one day.  She freely admits to ending up in another STATE when she’s driving home from someplace; she just continues on the highway until she hits a tollbooth that she suspects she shouldn’t have to go through, and only then does she realize that she’s driven a good 15 miles (and a state line) past her exit; the fact that she has to traverse a huge bridge over a major river – not to mention passing several signs that welcome her to this new state in bold letters – doesn’t clue her in to her error a whole lot sooner is, frankly, terrifying to me.

The fact of the matter is that my MIL is a cantankerous, rigid woman who will absolutely NOT hear that she can’t do something.  It was all we could do to get her from a manual transmission to an automatic a bunch of years ago; my FIL had to lie to her and tell her that a manual wasn’t available in the car she wanted in order to get her to switch because she INSISTED that she was PERFECTLY CAPABLE of driving a standard (he, at least, was aware enough to notice that she went from first to fourth gear and burned through clutches at the rate of about three or four a year, not to mention how distracting shifting was; her driving is bad enough without her not being able to make the car go when she wanted it to).

The other day, she was driving my 30 year old nephew (let’s call him Adam) to a restaurant in a part of town she’s been to a dozen times; in fact, she picked the restaurant, so we were pretty confident she could get there.  Adam sent me a frantic text message about 10 minutes after they were expected to arrive, telling me they were hopelessly lost (from his description, they were about 20 minutes away, headed in the complete opposite direction, in a very rural part of the neighborhood).  By the time she’d got turned around and headed back to town, she’d run a red light, bolted into an intersection with a high-speed road, and was very nearly hit.  She refused to pull over, she refused to slow down (Adam said she alternated by going impossibly slow and speeding – 50 in a 30 at one point – and would not relent; she knew what she was doing, by God, and no one could tell her any different).  By the time they’d arrived, Adam was pale and shaking and sweating, but MIL behaved as though nothing had happened.  At one point in the dinner, she actually said (and this is a direct quote), “I’d say I saw parts of town I’ve never seen before, but I didn’t really SEE any of it.”

All I could think was, “Holy shit.”

Bruder Chili drove her home – Adam rode with me – and nothing else was spoken about the incident that night.  When we all reconvened at our house later, we decided that something had to be done; Adam was genuinely terrified, not only for himself, but about the idea that she literally could have killed someone – herself, or someone else (not to mention him) – and was pretty insistent that she not have the opportunity to do that again.  By the time we went to bed, the men had resolved to talk to Mother about it in the morning.

Then the morning came, and they all chickened out.

To be fair, I don’t blame them.  There is literally no way that that conversation could have gone well, and the end result would be that she’d dig her heels in harder, insist that she’s a PERFECTLY CAPABLE driver (do you see a pattern here?) and not spoken to the boys for likely a long time; Mother has a way of expressing disapproval that makes her family quake in their proverbial boots.  *I* would have no problem laying it down for her, but Mr. Chili forbade me from going to the house that morning.  Not that I blame him; it doesn’t matter whether the matter were laid out gently and obliquely or bluntly and straight-out.  Short of selling the car out from underneath her, there is literally no way we can get her to concede to stop driving.

I’ve decided, for my own part, that I’m going to focus on the things I can change.  If I can’t confront her directly – and I can’t – I can at least lay down the edict that NO ONE I love is EVER to get in the car while she’s behind the wheel, and everyone readily agreed (Adam most of all; his eyes went wide and he said, in his lovely British accent, “Right, you don’t even have to forbid me; I’m NEVER doing THAT again!”).  I’m doing some investigation to find out who her doctors are and as soon as I know, I’m going to be making some phone calls; all the articles I’ve read about getting elderly people off the road have suggested that the best way to get that process started is to get in touch with the elders’ doctors and have THEM initiate the process.  I’ll call the State tomorrow to find out what, if any, provisions are in place for elderly drivers, and I’ll likely call her town’s police department and give them her license plate number and ask them to be on the lookout.  I spoke to her pastor today; she’s promised to have a conversation with her in the new year about perhaps scaling back her nighttime driving.  It’s not ideal, but it’s a start.

I don’t want to limit my MIL’s independence; she’s done far better in this first year without her husband than I ever expected, and that’s due in large part to her ability to get herself to the places she wants to be to do the things she wants to do.  I would rather limit her independence, however, than get a phone call from the State Police telling me that she’s been injured or killed in a crash that she caused – or, perhaps worse, that she’s killed someone else.  Her car keys aren’t worth her life, but we can’t be the ones to tell her that.

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Hands Up; Don’t Shoot

On Sunday last, as the Rams’ offense was introduced on the field, tight end Jared Cook and receivers Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, and Tavon Austin stopped near the tunnel and raised their hands in the gesture that’s become a symbol of the strain and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

nfl_a_rams01jr_C_600x400Apparently, this put a lot of people right off their feed.

“St. Louis, Missouri (November 30, 2014) – The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.

“Five members of the Rams entered the field today exhibiting the “hands-up-don’t-shoot” pose that has been adopted by protestors who accused Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson of murdering Michael Brown. The gesture has become synonymous with assertions that Michael Brown was innocent of any wrongdoing and attempting to surrender peacefully when Wilson, according to some now-discredited witnesses, gunned him down in cold blood.

“SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said, “now that the evidence is in and Officer Wilson’s account has been verified by physical and ballistic evidence as well as eye-witness testimony, which led the grand jury to conclude that no probable cause existed that Wilson engaged in any wrongdoing, it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again.”

“Roorda was incensed that the Rams and the NFL would tolerate such behavior and called it remarkably hypocritical. “All week long, the Rams and the NFL were on the phone with the St. Louis Police Department asking for assurances that the players and the fans would be kept safe from the violent protesters who had rioted, looted, and burned buildings in Ferguson. Our officers have been working 12 hour shifts for over a week, they had days off including Thanksgiving cancelled so that they could defend this community from those on the streets that perpetuate this myth that Michael Brown was executed by a brother police officer and then, as the players and their fans sit safely in their dome under the watchful protection of hundreds of St. Louis’s finest, they take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, that is way out-of-bounds, to put it in football parlance,” Roorda said.

“The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. Roorda said he planned to speak to the NFL and the Rams to voice his organization’s displeasure tomorrow. He also plans to reach out to other police organizations in St. Louis and around the country to enlist their input on what the appropriate response from law enforcement should be. Roorda warned, “I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well I’ve got news for people who think that way, cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

Um…. no.

My take on this – for what it’s worth – is that the people who object to this are the same people who want us all to just stop talking about it, because the more we talk about it, the angrier we’re likely to get and the more likely it is we will demand that something meaningful be done about the blatant discrimination and injustice that Mike Brown’s murder has come to represent.

This afternoon, while enjoying lunch out with Bean and my favorite nephew who’s visiting from England, I overheard two older ladies talking about Ferguson. The one facing me, whom I could clearly hear, was in the “the kid was a thug and a thief” camp; she was spewing all the character assassinations and racial bullshit that the right wing media has been hammering ever since Mike Brown was gunned down in the street, as if the kid’s demeanor justified his murder.

As I walked past their table, I wondered what, exactly, makes people like these women feel the way they do (if, in fact, they really feel that way; there’s a possibility that they’re just parroting the prescribed message and really don’t know what they think themselves).  There is clearly something about this – something well beyond the murder of an unarmed teenager – that makes people (especially white people) deeply uncomfortable.

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Love Is…

… letting your kitty outside – even though you worry about cars and dogs and fisher cats – because you know it makes her happy.

We’ve been letting Kes venture outside the last few days.  So far, her trips have been short – an hour or so at a time – and she’s always come bounding back when we call for her.  That doesn’t mean I don’t worry like a mother when she’s out, though, and it doesn’t mean I don’t wish we had GPS for cats (I’d buy that shit in a HEARTBEAT).

The kittens have been out once or twice, too, but only under the close supervision of humans.  None of us is ready to let the kittens out on their own, and while they’ll stand at the window watching Kes walk into the yard, they don’t spend their time pining by the doors, so I’m not as motivated to let them wander as I am to give Kes some freedom; she clearly wants it.

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Election Day, 2014

I voted today.

In fact, I was the first person in line at my polling place.

What’s more, I made such a big deal about how excited I was about being there and voting that when I put my ballot into the machine, the man who was monitoring the thing pointed to the little “1” on the screen, smiled at me, and said, “See that? That’s YOU!”

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