Of noxious weeds

I’ve taken a tour of the 45th president’s speech in Poland and find it disturbing.  This sentence lurks in the skillfully crafted rhetoric:

“We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

Trump’s Speech in Poland, set out here.

The speech contains numerous other references to “faith” which disturb me, but this sentence most clearly shows Trump’s apparent intention.  He seems unaware  or unconcerned that our country does not promote “bonds of faith”, but, rather, disdains them.

As one of our founding fathers wrote:

“Religion and Government are certainly very different Things, instituted for different Ends; the design of one being to promote our temporal Happiness; the design of the other to procure the Favour of God, and thereby the Salvation of our Souls. While these are kept distinct and apart, the Peace and welfare of Society is preserved, and the Ends of both are answered. By mixing them together, feuds, animosities and persecutions have been raised, which have deluged the World in Blood, and disgraced human Nature.”

John Dickinson, Pennsylvania Journal, May 12, 1768, reprinted in The Founders on Religion, ed. James H. Huston (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 60–61.

Broadcasting the intent to promote “bonds of faith” signals a dangerous course.  Americans represent extraordinarily diverse religions.  Many have no religion whatsoever.  Some have no faith whatsoever, instead self-identifying as atheist.  Of 35,000 Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2014, 9% stated that they did not believe in God.  The percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christian dropped  from 78.4%  in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014 .

While these statistics show by extrapolation that Americans are predominantly religious and Christian, nevertheless, it is not all Americans, and the number seems to be shrinking.  Moreover, the separation of church and state has not been abrogated in our nation.  Our government was not formed on the bonds of faith but to escape those bonds.

Some have said that the smoothly talking Trump shows a scripted side that does not reflect his true inclination.  Such pundits point to the late-night, erratic twitter rants of Trump as being a more accurate reflection of his nature and proclivities.  Crude, self-absorbed, vindictive, and outraged, Trump thumbs away at his phone with one-line blasts and condemnation which critics say give voice to his genuine agenda.

If that be so, then who wrote the Poland speech?  Who used Trump to articulate this declaration of intent, this challenge, this defense of faith?  Who defies the Constitutional mandate that the government forsake involvement in religious matters?  “As president, [john] Adams signed (and the U.S. Senate approved) the 1797 Treaty with Tripoli, which reassured that Muslim nation that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”    The Atlantic, 15 June 2011.  Yet now we have a president who stands in front of a largely Catholic nation and professes that our two countries should ally in defense of faith.  

How come we here?  Did we, as comedians aver, fall asleep at the wheel and let the fox sneak into the chicken house — or something worse?  Is Trump the ranting late-night tweeter?  Is he the cool collected defender of faith who stood before a crowd in Poland bussed into the arena to strengthen the local impact of Trump’s message?  If the  suave, appealing speech in which he underscores the importance of faith signals his actual agenda,  the consequences are dire enough.  But what if his scripted speech has its origins in a hidden puppet master who seeks to erode our secular nation?

I find myself shivering at the thought that institutionally endorsed religious persecution will find its footing and come out from the shadows.  I fear that this ripple of “faith-based” rhetoric will creep into our schools, our city halls, and our state capitols right after it entrenches itself in Congress.  I do not think I am overly alarmed.  From the Secretary of Education’s preferences for private school to Trump’s avowal to join with Poland to protect the bonds of faith, Church oversteps its separation from State in many Washington corridors these days.

Be alarmed, my friends.  And do not be complacent.  1984 came and went 33 years ago, and with little fanfare.  But now it seems that its insidious elements have been germinating.  They might now come to flower.  Make ready the weed-killer, for the roots of this invasive pest have grown deep and remarkably strong.

A Pen So Mighty

Of all the extraordinary and disturbing news out of Washington, the current administration’s blocking of news coverage  hits nearly closest to the bone.  Compounding the occasional and increasing selective admission of certain journalists and exclusion of others, yesterday’s pronouncement that recording of briefings would be barred sends a shiver through the heart of America.

The framers of our Constitution pronounced these principles:

“The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.”

Source: The Heritage Foundation,  heritage.org,  quoting  Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, written by the First Continental Congress in 1774.

Think about those words.  “The importance . . . consists [of], besides the advancement of truth. . . its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of government. . . ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and . . . promotion of union among them.”  And what is the purpose of these endeavors?  To “shame or intimidate” oppressive officers into “more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs”.

Conversely, inhibiting the freedom of press allows for less honorable and less just modes of conducting the affairs of government.  These nefarious developments result from prohibiting the “ready communication of thoughts” and preventing “the promotion of union” among the subject of governmental action.

Can you identify any Constitutionally defensible purpose for a wholesale prevention of open reporting on our current administration?  I do not question the careful and selective protection of certain actions which, if publicized, would unduly threaten state secrets or national security.  But such items do not appear on the agenda in White House briefings.  Rather, the ordinary business of governance receives air in those daily affairs.  The people have a right to be informed as to such matters, and we look to the press for information.

The curtailment of a free press promotes governmental corruption, tyranny, and fascism.  We must not tolerate these dangerous actions by our government.   Citizens must protest, or risk watching the America which we love become a distant and wistfully regarded reality.

The English words “the pen is mightier than the sword” were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839.  Though originally intended as a way of describing a cleric’s defense of himself by peaceful means, nonetheless the phrase reminds us that we can keep our American experiment alive by speaking.  Do not let the pen be stilled as it writes of truth.

John Adams wrote in 1765 in his “Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law:

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.  Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees, of the people; and if the cause, the interest, and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute other and better agents, attorneys and trustees.”

One of the first principle taught in law school directs attorneys to attend to their fiduciary duties. The fiduciary duty is an obligation of loyalty and good faith to someone or some entity that is the highest duty known to the law.  Our elected officials owe no less, but without the accountability inherent in a society with a free and unfettered press, their exercise of this duty cannot be monitored.

I lament the shadow thus cast on the integrity of our great nation.  Anyone who does not share my outrage either lives beneath a rock or welcomes the descent into intolerance and the limits of freedom which tyranny demands.  The rest of us must resist.  When the emperor strolls past, block his path and loudly remark upon his nakedness,  with the cameras rolling and the mighty pens poised.


Abuse of Power

Hairs feel the swift whack of a sharp blade as Congressional minds split them.  Rarely  has testimony been parsed so cleanly except from the elevated perch of Senate and House hearings.

Today former FBI Director James Comey quoted the president as saying to him, of Comey’s investigation relating to General Mike Flynn, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”    A Republican on the committee receiving his testimony pounced on the verb ‘hope’, demanding that Comey agree that ‘hope’ has gotten no one prosecuted.

Ah, but we know what Trump meant.  He set the stage:  “Alone at last, so I can say what I want and my underlings can’t shield you.  Grab ’em by the . . .[paycheck].  You like your job, Jim?  Hmmmm?”

Comey did not rise to the bait; and the gavel fell on his tenure which Trump had previously urged him to continue.

This cannot pass the smell test.  It reeks of  rank manipulation of superior bargaining position.  Abuse of power.  Well beyond mutual back-scratching, don’t you know.  Trump is the president of the entire nation.  

Consider this:  “In the end, the constitutional separation of powers supports both sides of the argument over a President’s proper authority. It reinforces a President’s right or duty to issue a decree, order, or proclamation to carry out a particular power that truly is committed to his discretion by the Constitution or by a lawful statute passed by Congress. On the other hand, the constitutional separation of powers cuts the other way if the President attempts to issue an order regarding a matter that is expressly committed to another branch of government; it might even render the presidential action void. Finally, separation of powers principles may be unclear or ambiguous when the power is shared by two branches of government.”

Sourge:  Heritage.org

The FBI investigates.  That assignment of authority put the matter of what Flynn did or did not do and how to respond squarely in the province of Comey and his agency.  Trump had no business hoping for a certain course of action.  Even less should he have expressed that hope out loud to the person responsible for the investigation after sequestering him by ousting others from the room.

Listen:  If I go out to my secretary Miranda’s desk, lean close so only she can hear, and whisper, “I hope you change the date on the Stamps.com print-out to make it looked like I timely mailed my tax return,” she knows what I mean.  I want her to do exactly what I’ve said but I want to avoid directly asking for it.  Plausible deniability.  If she gives me what I hope to get from her, she becomes complicit in my attempt to skirt the law.    Is she free to say no?  I pay her.  I control her employment.  She knows that “hope” means “if you want to keep working here, make this happen”.  (Not that I would; in the apt words of #44, this is an analogy.)

You can dance around the deal all day long, people.  Comey knew what Trump meant.  He meant, wink wink, nudge nudge, you want to keep your job, make this go away.  Comey declined to comply and now he bears the title of Former FBI Director. Cause and effect.  “You like your job?  Gosh I hope this will happen.”  It doesn’t happen; boom.  End of job.  Connect the dots.

I don’t fool myself into thinking that Trump will fall due to Comey’s testimony.  Republicans have too much ego vested in appearing to be righteous.  When Trump falls, he’ll trip over an accumulation of garbage strewn in his wake as he slaughters democracy with blow after blow.

Comey has added to that putrid pile.    Whatever else he might be, he has shown himself to be  honorable in this instance.   He knew that if he did not respond with acquiescence, his job would be forfeit.  He followed his ethics.  He put this country before himself.

Thank you, sir.  Well done.

As for Trump, I fear that we have much to endure before his ugliness topples him; and those standing next in line seem worse.  Our country has a long dark night ahead of it.  Build your fires high.  We’ll need them.  It’s always darkest before the dawn.


Trigger Warning: ANTI-BIGOTRY RANT!

I’ll warn you from the git-go:  I intend to rant.  If you do not want to read a rant, STOP READING.  The subject of my rant?  “Race relations”.

I find it more than outrageous that I still have to use that phrase in 2017.  Twenty-seventeen!  Not Seventeen-seventeen!  Not Nineteen-fifty-seven!  The twenty-first century in what I used to consider the greatest nation on earth, and I have to start a post not only with a “trigger warning” about a rant, but with the phrase “race relations”!!!!!

My rant flows from the recent revelation that a Flint official resigned after being caught  in his bigotry.  I chose these words with deliberation.  He only resigned because someone recorded him.  He did not resign because he is a bigot, but because someone publicized his bigotry.  Make no mistake about the distinction.

As reported within the last twenty hours:

“A Michigan official that manages tax foreclosed homes for the county where Flint sits has resigned after an audio recording of him blaming the city’s water problems on “n—ers (who) don’t pay their bills” surfaced online.

“Phil Stair, who was a sales manager at the Genesee County Land Bank, was recorded using racial slurs by local water activist Chelsea Lyons who later posted the recordings to the website Truth Against the Machine.

“In the recording, Stair is heard saying “Flint has the same problems as Detroit, f–ing n—ers don’t pay their bills, believe me, I deal with them,” he said.”

Source: NBC News online.

That bigotry even exists in 2017 sickens me.  That the citizens of Flint suffer at the hands of a bigot nauseates me.  To be honest, that   this issue still exists overwhelms me with exhaustion, and I’m a white, middle-class middle-aged lady in middle-America barely touched by racial bias except by familial affiliation.

If this despicable behavior drives ME to extreme anger, imagine how a person “of color” feels. (God, I hate that phrase too — “of color”.   We’re all ‘of color’, as my son once taught a CASA worker who accused me of being white.  My wonderful then-five-year-old chirped, ‘No she’s not, she’s beige.’)

A year ago or so, someone whom I actually love told me that he was “a little bit racist”.  I said to him then, and I say to him and everyone now:  (a) You cannot be ‘a little bit racist’; and (b) I will no longer tolerate any racial bias.  None.  Nada.  Nothing.  NONE.  I will call you out, and I will take you down.

One can meet a person, interact with him or her, have direct experience, and conclude that their behavior departs from what you find acceptable.  That is not bias.  You’re allowed to choose your associates based upon personal experience and conclusions about individuals.

You are NOT allowed to look at a person’s skin color, or “ethnicity”, and draw conclusions about them based upon their skin color or ethnicity.  Pigmentation does not dictate  worthiness, nor does it drive an assessment of value.  Nowhere.  No how.  No time. Never.  If laws exist which still allow different treatment based upon the hue of a person’s epidermis, those laws repulse me and should repulse everyone.

Hear me now:  Those of us who fit within the definition of “white” started this terrible philosophy of divisiveness based on “color” or “race”.  We caused the need to dialogue about “race relations” by enacting laws which treated Americans differently based upon race.  Those laws arose from our internal choices, that is, the decision that certain humans should be considered superior to others because of their skin color.

While the civil rights movement has pushed us a few inches forward in reversing the path of discrimination, no genuine evolution has occurred because the hearts and minds of bigots resist the change.  Those who have suffered discrimination have worked too long to change it.  They should not be required to change laws which they did not enact and from which they suffer.  Moreover, no one who secretly favors inequality should have any say in the social compact.

I’m aligning myself with those who demand that we stop expecting the victims of our discrimination to cure this evil.   If my refusal to be complicit in the perpetuation of bigotry pushes me into the category of the far left, so be it.  I’m done with pablum.  I’m done with courtesy.  Check your bigotry at the door.  I will no longer make even feeble excuses.  Regardless of your age, your upbringing, or your closeness to me, I will name you:  BIGOT.  I will reject you.


And we will no longer smile when we shut the door in the face of anyone who persists in their bigotry.

We will not hate, but neither will we tolerate.

You are warned.




Unfair Comparisons

The scowl on #45’s face topped a caption proclaiming that he had declared war on the filibuster rule.  Our current president now wants the Senate to suspend the requirement of 61 votes to pass legislation.  We have gotten to 30 May 2017, more than 100 days into the current administration.  The stench of desperation hangs in the dank summer air.

I remembered the recent bestowing of an honorary law degree on Trump, and contrasted that with the actual Juris Doctor possessed by Barack Obama.  My mind naturally began comparing the two, driving me to the internet to recall just how well Obama’s first 100 days had gone.

At Wikipedia, I read the litany:

“Obama began to formally create his presidential footprint during his first 100 days.[1] Obama quickly began attempting to foster support for his economic stimulus package, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[2] The bill passed in the House on January 28, 2009, by a 244–188 vote,[3] and it passed in the Senate on February 10 by a 61–37 margin.[4][5]

“Obama stated that he should not be judged by his first hundred days: ‘The first hundred days is going to be important, but it’s probably going to be the first thousand days that makes the difference.’[6]

Obama’s accomplishments During the first 100 days included signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 relaxing the statute of limitations for equal-pay lawsuits;[7] signing into law the expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), which the White House said provided benefits to 4 million additional working families; winning approval of a congressional budget resolution that put Congress on record as dedicated to dealing with major health care reform legislation in 2009; implementing new ethics guidelines designed to significantly curtail the influence of lobbyists on the executive branch; breaking from the Bush administration on a number of policy fronts, except for Iraq, in which he followed through on Bush’s Iraq withdrawal of U.S. troops;[8] supporting the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity; and lifting the 7½-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.[9] He also ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, in Cuba, though it remains open, as well as lifted some travel and money restrictions to the island.[8]

“At the end of the first 100 days 65% of Americans approved of how Obama was doing and 29% disapproved.[10]

First 100 Day of Barack Obama’s Presidency, Wikipedia.

A little butterfly beat its wings against my ribcage as I ran the related search for #45.  Other than signing a slew of executive orders, of which the most pivotal found immediate death at the hands of federal judges, Trump’s only real accomplishment seems to have been returning the Supreme Court to its 5/4 Conservative split.

“Structurally, President Trump had the advantage of a Republican Party majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, but was unable to fulfill his major pledges in his first 100 days and had an approval rating of between 40 and 42 percent, “the lowest for any first-term president at this point in his tenure”.[3]”  

The First 100 Days of Trump’s Presidency, Wikipedia.

It’s an unfair comparison in many ways.  Obama’s intellectual abilities sharply contrast with those of Trump.  His ability to reason and articulate; his solid oratorical style; his quiet composure; all give Obama an advantage as a statesman.  Moreover, Trump’s main ability seems to be in the down-and-dirty game of cage-rattling, possibly useful in high stakes business maneuvers but not the stuff of true leadership on a global scale.

I can’t decide whether Trump’s multiple business failures mean anything to his supporters.  I’m hopeless at business myself, but even I would never hire Trump based on his track record.  He principally seems to skate on his masses of inherited money, some of which surely has been lost in bad ventures but much of which must have been busily multiplying.    I’ve heard his supporters call him a smart man, but his limited vocabulary and seeming inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality belie such pronouncements.

My idle speculation leads me to the conclusion that 62,979,636 people looked at Donald Trump’s swagger and envied him.  People tend to elevate those whom they admire to positions which they themselves feel inadequate to fill.  By the same token, when we  feel threatened, as many did under President Obama, we look for something most unlike that which we fear and cling to it for safety.  The lingering nuggets of bigotry; the uncertainty planted by the birther movement; the doubts flowing from the slow, steady improvement in the economy driven by forces that the ordinary citizen couldn’t comprehend; these factors lured 62,979,636 voters into reaching for a sharper, wealthier manifestation of what they thought they saw in the mirror.

We cling to what looks like us, especially if that familiar image seems to have risen to the zenith of success with little effort.

So in many ways, the comparison between Obama and Trump fails from fatal flaws.  Obama stands no chance.  He did what his detractors most resented:  He succeeded, even without white skin, crude talk, or sensational scandals.  How dare he?  In the face of such audacity, the masses fling aside substance and grab at Flat Stanley, who has made his one-dimensional way around the world.

And come home still wearing his idiotic grin.



In Which My Watching Eyes Shed Tears

The Republican General Assembly of Missouri reached a new low this week when Rick Brattin of Harrisonville defamed a significant portion of the population.  Brattin objected to an amendment to a proposed anti-discrimination bill by stating that:

“When you look at the tenets of religion, of the Bible, of the Quran, of other religions,there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being.”

The amendment would have extended protection from discrimination  to include gender orientation and identity.  The bill’s sponsor scrapped the amendment though presumably not directly in response to the outrageous statement made by Brattin.

Put aside that Brattin’s interpretation of “religion, the Bible, the Quran and other religions” has no legitimate place on the floor of a state legislature.  Ask yourself this question:  Do you want your state representatives to have such narrow minds as Brattin?  Is it acceptable to allow our governing body to cast its sweeping and senseless condemnation on our fellow citizens?    I do not accept this.  I reject his bigotry.

My eyes wept when news of Battin’s statement hit my inbox.  I wanted to gather all of my LGBTQF friends to my bosom and shield them from his ugliness.  I found myself trembling in rage.

Then I thought even more broadly to the implications of Brattin’s terrible condemnation.  What about me?  I had a child without benefit of being married to the child’s father.  Am I lumped in the religious zeal of this little man’s crass rejection because of Biblical condemnation?  Is there a Scarlet letter “A” upon my chest which makes  me something other than “a human being”?   And what of my son — who once would have been called a “bastard”.   Would Brattin say that he too is less than human because of his status?  Or that he should be denied the equal protection which our state and federal constitutions afford all persons?

Brattin takes his courage to speak such wretched vitriol from the current political climate.  This tears the social compact asunder and threatens the very essence of our values.  We cannot condone this.  We cannot let this slip past.  We must #RESIST.



An Update to Virginia’s Question

I struggle to understand what has happened to American values.

The Google Fiber technician who replaced my old equipment today understands these values.  He came from Iraq in 2011 with his wife and two small children.  They have all become American citizens.  He stood on my steps reading the sign in my window and then held both of his hands around mine.  The contrast hit home:  My small beige hand against  his strong brown fingers.  Thank you, ma’am, thank you from all of us.  It seems that some immigrants appreciate being welcomed; possibly most of them do.

Where were American values when 49% of those casting votes last November picked a pussy-grabbing, disabled-persons-mocking, creditor-shafting man ignorant of geography, history, and civics as president?

Just before the election, Republicans flocked to disavow Trump because of his boast about sexual assault.  Yesterday, they flocked to the Rose Garden to celebrate their successful passage in the House of Representatives of what most believe to be a piece of legislation which will huurt poor people, seniors in poor health, and anyone with a pre-existing condition.

I do have Republican friends, though we avoid each other these days.  I would mainly gape at them in chagrin, trying to understand what kind of person wants to reverse progress and make life substantially more difficult for most Americans.  I don’t think they are all outrageously wealthy or cold-hearted.  But when Republicans in Congress push a healthcare plan that makes even doctors and hospitals  shudder, you know that American values fell by the voting wayside.

Ironically, good old #45 praised Single Payer Universal Healthcare in Australia right after convincing the Puppet Masters in the House to move this nation farther away from modern medical coverage.  No one reacted more beautiful to Trump’s seemingly oblivious statement than The One Who Got Away, Senator Bernie Sanders.  His spontaneous guffaw could get him convicted for laughing, as we recently saw in the outrageous instance of a woman’s reflexive outburst during AG Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing.  But Deity Of His Choice Bless Him Anyway, because, well, you all know you wanted to laugh, too.

Otherwise, nothing remains except crying.

My liberal friends post the same three or four questions on Facebook these days, most of which end with the call to Trump voters to admit that they’ve been had.  I don’t think anyone understands that the Trump voters have been had but that it’s too late.  Extracting admissions won’t help.  All we can do now is band together and try to save America from those in Washington who seemed hell bent on driving us over the cliff.

Members of Congress can afford to ravage the Affordable Care Act.  But the rest of us will not survive if they do.  We’ll lose our coverage; or we’ll lose coverage for pre-existing conditions; and we will not be able to afford the treatment that insurance now provides.

We deserve better.

Most developed nations have some form of Universal Health care, rather than the garbled junk that Trump and his cronies want to foist upon us.  Ask yourself this question:  Why does Congress want to deny Universal Health care to the citizens of this nation?  I can think of no good reason.   Universal health care benefits everyone, not just the wealthy.

Oh wait.  Perhaps I just answered my own question.

And that, Virginia, proves that Santa Claus is a Democrat.  Maybe even a socialist.


The sign in my window.




You Are What You Eat

On the way home from court today, I nearly ran my car off the road when I heard that the Trump administration relaxed federal rules about school lunches.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue blamed healthy food for discouraging consumption.  At least, that’s how it sounded to me.  His actual words:

“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” said Perdue, who traveled to a school in Leesburg, Virginia, to make the announcement.

Source:  http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/government-relaxes-nutrition-standards-school-lunches/

I corrected my swerve, shaking my head.  Good Lord almighty, I said outloud, to no one.

Is our Secretary of Agriculture so uninformed as to believe that healthy food cannot taste good, perforce, if you serve healthy food, then kids will not eat it?

The PBS article continues by stating that whole grain grits have little black flecks which children do not like.  Fair enough.  I’m not a fan of grits myself.  I realize people in the south adore them.  In fact, when I lived in Arkansas, I learned that the three major food groups were grits, grease, and gravy.  But relaxing the rules on serving whole grains seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Perhaps instead  of allowing schools to receive federal money even if they utilize processed, high sodium food, we should consider funding nutrition and culinary lessons for school cooks.  I fed my son whole grain bread his entire life.  He attended a pre-school where they ate without protest whatever was served, and as far as I know they were not physically abused.  The kids adored their teacher.  She fed them foods that corresponded with the letter of the week — Avocado, artichoke, Borscht, broccoli,  carrots, cucumbers. . . you get the picture.

Surprise, surprise, Secretary Perdue:  Healthy food, including whole grains, can be delicious even to children if the person who prepares the food has the skills and knowledge to do it well.

I’ve abandoned hope that the current administration will apply logic and reason to what they do.  I can’t stomach hearing the president.  He sounds petulant and stoned in turns.   I turn away.  I’ve stopped listening to NPR in the morning.  The erosion of our American values frightens me.  With each new announcement, I shudder and cover my ears.

But when the administration attacks such solid rules encouraging progress in how America nourishes its future, my skin crawls and I realize that I must protest — even though I’m convinced that no one in Washington cares what any of us think.

For the record, then:  You are what you eat.   Healthy food has been demonstrated to increase student performance.    See, e.g., Caldwell D, Nestle M, Rogers W. School nutrition services. In: Marx E, Wooley SF, Northrop D, editors. Health Is Academic: A Guide to Coordinated School Health Programs. New York, NY: Teachers College Press; 1998. pp. 195–223.    “Nutrition has been called the single greatest environmental influence on babies in the womb and during infancy 1, and it remains essential throughout the first years of life.”   The Urban Child Institute, Nutrition and Early Brain Development, 25 March 2011.

  Moreover, studies have shown that making healthy food available for school lunches does make a difference:

“Increased availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products as components of school meals may be an effective strategy to promote healthy eating behaviors among children. Improving the nutrition standards for foods offered in competition with federally reimbursable school meals may enhance the positive effects of school meal programs on student eating behavior.”

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196854/

Yet rather than applying its considerable power to helping schools comply with the regulations that have been in place for five years while still satisfying their students’ desire for deliciousness, the current administration scraps the pivotal portions of the rules.  Go ahead and give them processed flour and salty snacks, Perdue seems to be saying.  Better they eat junk than don’t eat!  Not true, sir; not true.

When my mother-in-law grew weak enough to decline healthy food, I encouraged my father-in-law to let her enjoy the ice cream bars with which he had been trying to bribe her.  “Calories is calories,” I assured him.

While it might be true for a frail, elderly woman, that principle does not apply to children.  They need to consume calories that count.   Good nutrition promotes their development and hence their success.  Our last president and his entire administration understood the difference.  Evidently that understanding has left the building.



Michelle Obama in the White House garden.


The O’Racist Factor

True confession time.

For four years, I was married to a white Christian male who voted Republican and worshiped at the altar of The O’Reilly Factor.  He commandeered the couch and the tube every evening to pay homage to the hate-mongering on Fox News.  I retreated upstairs to a book and a cup of tea, not because I did not love my husband but because I could not tolerate the screaming and the hatred.

Now the monument to the very worst of American men has crumpled beneath the practical realities of capitalism.  Don’t believe for one moment that the people who amass their wealth from the powerhouse which is the Fox network care about women or diversity.  They care about money.  O’Reilly’s continued presence at their network cost them advertising.  Apparently Rupert Murdoch could handle the few million bucks thrown at claimants to silence them.  But when fifty advertisers pulled their contracts from the O’Reilly Factor, well, as Trae Crowder would say, That shits wild, man, we ought to be payin’ attention.

O’Reilly’s racist and sexist attitude spoke to millions.  I can’t help thinking, though, that if the companies whose advertising dollars floated him for twenty years had developed a collective conscience sooner, perhaps the November election might have gone another way.  Our current president rode O’Reilly’s lava of anger to the White House.  Certainly, other hoarse voices sounded the call to arms of the Trump voter.  But O’Reilly bellowed the call wearing an expensive suit in front of millions every day.  He gave legitimacy to bigotry.

A wise millennial who shares my DNA and convinced me to vote for Bernie Sanders predicted that America would get the president whom it deserved.  I fear that he might have been right.  We fell asleep at the wheel and while we dozed, our baser instincts took over and steered us straight into Hades.

My mother raised me to believe that we ought to treat every human being on the planet  the same.  The same.  I vividly recall the moment when she flinched with something I now recognize as regret.  I came home from school one day, early in my Freshman year of high school.  I brought an article from TIME magazine which contained a story about a family, complete with pictures.

I’m confused,  I told my Mom.  I have to write an essay commenting on this article, but I don’t understand what’s so great about these people.  The TIME writer had been a little oblique.  I stared at the photographs of a happy, loving bunch — Mom, Dad, five or six kids.  A small family by my parish’s standards.  I couldn’t figure out why my teacher felt this to be worthy of a five-paragraph exposition.

My mom gestured to the breakfast room table.  We sat down and she spread the pages of the magazine open.  Do you see anything odd in this picture, she asked.  I shook my head, genuinely mystified.

My mother laughed, but her laughter carried that hint of chagrin.  She skimmed the article itself, but couldn’t find any reference to the remarkable nature of this story.  She finally told me:  One of the daughters was black; her siblings were all the white biological offspring of their parents.  In 1970, a cross-racial adoption merited headlines.

America has not come so far after all.   A majority of us still assemble on either side of an imaginary colored line.  In fact, deep in the gut, many of us still shudder at the sight of oddity:  The unshaven filth of homeless bodies; the covered heads of Muslim women; the flash of metal braces on crippled legs.  These frighten and confuse us.  So we sit on couches and bond with racist old men who grope the interns in the break room.  As long as the bills get paid, those who employ the angry mouths who spew vitriol at the camera turn a blind eye to the divisive rhetoric which drives their ratings.

Bill O’Reilly’s firing made headlines yesterday.  The late-night talk show hosts got their own ratings boost from ridiculing him.  As funny as I found The Daily Show’s depiction of O’Reilly’s racist ways, that gallows humor should give way to something stronger.  Rather than mocking O’Reilly to boost their own ratings, troubadours of truth should be combing the streets for signs of hope.

Yes:  that’s it.  Let’s consign the criminals who rape our women and slander our citizens to the corridors of justice.  Instead of expanding the fifteen-minutes of fame accorded to people who promote racism and sexism, let’s snatch the microphone from their hands.  Let’s take it into the audience, and find others who quietly move America forward, towards acceptance, and harmony, and peace.

Like this guy — say his name — RICK STEVES.  As told by the Seattle Times,

“In 2005, Steves formed a unique partnership with the YWCA and Edmonds Rotary to improve and operate his Trinity Place apartment complex as supportive housing for families.

“The 24 units in Lynnwood have since helped 61 impoverished families, including 125 children, get back on their feet and avoid homelessness. Most current occupants are single mothers seeking to get their children back after overcoming addiction.

“This was more than just philanthropy. It was also a creative and compassionate retirement plan. Steves benefited as the value of his property increased, but even more so from the pleasure he derived from helping those desperately needing a home.

Steves, 61, has now made enough money with his Edmonds-based travel business that he no longer needs the asset to retire comfortably. So he recently gave the $4 million complex to the YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish outright.”

Now that’s somebody we oughtta be talkin’ ’bout.




What it is, Is Scary

Here’s the thing.

I’m a little overwhelmed.

The job being done by this administration frightens me.  You see, they want to decrease the availability of decent health insurance, healthcare for poor women, school lunches for kids in need, and better education for all.  I can’t even fathom that the five or six people whom I know who voted for the current president support such appallingly discriminatory policies.

My twenty-something son and his girlfriend march every week in support of a better government but I wonder if we have any control over the insanity.  Trump’s press secretary either stupidly or arrogantly denies that Hitler used gas on his own people when thousands of German Jews suffered during the Nazi regime, many of whom were slaughtered in the gas chambers.  Trying to recover, he refers to concentration camps in which six million Jews died as “holocaust centers”.  I’ve heard people say that he wasn’t intending to deny the Holocaust, he is just a buffoon.

Is that supposed to reassure me?  That I have to choose between the White House Press Secretary being a Holocaust denier and being an idiot?

Trump fires 59 missiles on Syria after tipping off the Russians about his intentions so that Syria can hide their aircraft.  All he manages to do is damage an air strip.  He drops the MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS on Afghanistan, then flies down to Florida to golf.  He sends Pence to South Korea but warns that he might have to retaliate on North Korea.  Oh good.  Then if Trump gets impeached and Pence gets bombed, who’s next in line?

Why aren’t more people TERRIFIED and PROTESTING?

Well, lots of people are protesting; thousands some weeks, hundreds other weeks.  Rogue federal employees risk their jobs by tweeting or Instagramming the truth as they know it.  But really, people.  What can we do?  The Republicans control Congress and the White House.  An insane person occupies the Oval Office and could not care any less about most of America, including his own base.  Our country’s foreign and domestic policies depend upon his mood and whether he’s awake at 3:00 a.m. sending out irrational tweets to people who criticize him.

Which the First Amendment allows us to do, by the way.

I heard an interview with former President George W. Bush on NPR this week. My God, he sounded almost reasonable.  Almost intelligent.  Almost . . . Presidential.  I found myself feeling wistful when he acknowledged that even the presidency has a learning curve.

What it is, people, is damned scary.  Anyone who is NOT terrified has buried themselves in pulp fiction and the Top Stories in their Facebook feeds.

The rest of us keep our passports at hand, and pray that Canada will let us cross the border.


And the beat goes on

I was just about to write a post about the egregious abridgment of our First Amendment rights implicit in the current administration’s attack on Free Speech by demanding to know the identity of an anti-Trump Twitter account.  Twitter has sued to block the efforts.

And then, I got a message from a friend:

Trump has ordered a strike on Syria.

Good God almighty.  I’m scrambling to figure out what this will mean to the people of Syria, already war-ravaged and persecuted.  What will this do to the men and women of our Armed Forces?  And for what?  Is this a reasoned, rational, intelligent, well-planned move?

I understand that the president felt constrained to act when he heard stories of children being killed by chemical warfare.  But did this move take into consideration the whiplash effect of attacking Syria?  Will the people of Syria suffer more heinous retaliation after the dust settles?  Will this launch America into a full-fledged military effort?  What of the UN?  Were UN officials consulted?

USA Today reports that:

“The attack essentially follows the plan that the Pentagon had set in September 2013, according to a senior Defense official not authorized to speak publicly about the operation. That plan was devised after President Obama had set a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons. Syrian President Bashar Assad had used the weapons that killed 1,400 civilians, but Obama did not order an attack. Instead, Assad agreed to turnover his stockpiles of chemical weapons, a pledge he obviously reneged on in light of Tuesday’s use of what experts believe was sarin gas on civilians.”

USA Today, 06 April 2017.   So, hear this:

Syria kills 1,400 civilians and Obama makes a plan, and uses the existence of that plan to broker a deal.  Then Syria reneges on the plan four years later, killing 27 children.  Trump responds within twenty-four hours by launching a military strike.

Is this well-advised?

This strike apparently happened shortly after Trump’s friend Putin in Russia threatened retaliation against us if we did just that.  My head spins — what has happened — now we have launched a military strike, tomorrow we will be defending ourselves from an invasion by Russia.  Does anyone in Washington have the presence of mind to devise a comprehensive plan for our international relations?

We sit here fearing the loss of our individual rights. . .

. . .while Trump hobknobs with the Chinese president at his personal luxury resort in Florida, and the Senate goes nuclear to force us to accept Trump’s Supreme Court pick after stalling for a year to avoid appointing Obama’s nominee, and the Trump kids sashay all over the globe making decisions for Daddy. . .

. . . and the beat goes on.


Rightly and Truly Screwed

When 48% of the American voters translated into a majority of the Electoral College and placed Donald J. Trump into office as the 45th president of the United States of America, one thought flashed in my brain:

We are rightly and truly screwed.

I’ve been raped, robbed, run over, shot at, smacked around, and presumptively doomed.  Though I’ve never been an undocumented immigrant crossing the border in the dead of night or the child of a crack addict left on the doorstep of a dingy police station, I’m no innocent.  I understand politics.   I know that a president’s term only lasts four years.  Winds shift.  Sands drift.  We survived Bush 2.0. Surely we can survive this, too?

One of the few Republicans of my acquaintance who spoke to me about the election results said that he intended to give Trump a chance.  I rolled my eyes as I read that e-mail and calculated the likelihood that our friendship would survive the first 100 days.  I haven’t heard from him since early February.

You know the country faces serious issues when a former member of the president’s cabinet turns out to have been on the undisclosed payroll of a fascist government halfway round the world.  Backtrack in that sentence to note that we just passed the sixty-day mark in this new administration and we already experienced the forced resignation of a senior cabinet member who now faces Congressional investigation.  He asked for immunity.  The Senate Intelligence Committee rejected his request.

Over in the House of Representatives, the fox seems to have gotten cozy among the hens.  Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee now conducting an investigation into dealings of the Trump administration with Russia, already denies a conflict of interest when the smallest child in the dimmest classroom would say otherwise.  His cloak-and-dagger duck-and-run involved an Uber car and an unidentified White House staff member slipping Nunes onto the House grounds, supposedly without the knowledge of the West Wing.  HIs committee appears befuddled and outraged but ineffectual.  They cry, “Foul!” but he’s the chair and won’t recuse himself.  The White House shrugs and the Democrats wail.

In the White House itself, some mighty big grinning seems to be the order of the day.  Trump’s son has reneged on his promise not to keep Daddy advised of their collective accumulation of wealth.  Ivanka moves into a federal employee position after vowing to be just “Daughter dearest”.  Melania has not yet moved into the presidential quarters; #45 still incurs more for his weekend golf jaunts than the social services benefits his budget would ax; and Sean Spicer scolds members of the press for their mild rebukes of his lame protests and evasive answers.  Film at 11, oohhh ahhhh ahhh.

Meanwhile, the efforts of the last eight years to protect Earth’s climate from the deleterious effects of human activity face certain reversal.  The rights of the LGBT community seem to be on shaky grounds.  Even school  lunches face the chopping block.

Not that I ever believed that Donald Trump could impact America’s greatness, but I have to ask:  How could anyone think that what we see happening in Washington translates to #MAGA? I don’t ask this question rhetorically.  I troll the internet trying to find a sane defense of the current administration’s behavior.  My search finds decidedly mixed reviews, like this one from Rich Lowry.   The best that one could say for #45 is that he’s good material for the late-night comedians.

I worry about America.  It will take a lot  of beating and keep its head high.  The  nation has endured two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights revolution, a Great Depression, a Great Recession, and the assassination of two of its greatest sons, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.  We’ve survived the Dust Bowl, the Japanese-American internment camps, inflation, Black Friday, and the collapse of the housing market.

But we have never had a presidential administration which seems so determined to sacrifice our nation on the horns of its ego.  When rich, powerful people play Let’s Make a Deal with the American dream, it’s difficult not to panic.

I’m holding out for a hero.  Or a heroine.  Or both.  Illuminate the Bat signal and call for Wonder Woman.  It’s show time.


What’s a Person to Do?

My head’s spinning.

After seven plus years of voluble criticism of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans and the president failed to pass their hastily composed substitute.  They didn’t just “fail to pass” the bill; they pulled it from consideration.  It turns out that eight years did not provide enough time for them to create legislation which could secure enough votes in their own party.

Meanwhile, legislation continues to be submitted and voted into law signed by the president.  For a list of bills which have made it to the desk of #45, click HERE.

And in other news, Trump’s wife still resides in NYC costing tax payers millions each day (so the press tells us; I’ve not yet found a government report but I’m considering a FOIA request).  Trump has gone golfing something like 12 times which hits the budget for a whale of money each trip.  The “we didn’t talk to the Russians” story developed a myriad of tiny cracks because, well, they did.  Bernie Sanders has prepared a single-payer health insurance bill — because, well, he’s Bernie and he and Elizabeth Warren continue to try to save us from ourselves.

Here’s what Senator Sanders has already proposed:

S. 495: Medical Innovation Prize Fund Act

Sponsor: Sen. Bernard “Bernie” Sanders [I-VT]
Introduced: Mar 2, 2017
Referred to Committee: Mar 2, 2017

S. 469: Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act

Sponsor: Sen. Bernard “Bernie” Sanders [I-VT]
Introduced: Feb 28, 2017
Referred to Committee: Feb 28, 2017

 Each has a potential positive effect on America.  Neither poses any harm to America.  Each is given a 1% chance of passage.  Just F all Y’all’s I.


Meanwhile, the president of the United States continues to spread warmth and love.  He’s setting falsehood records and feuding with his own party.  When Trumpcare got pulled from the roster of legislation being considered by the all-Republican Congress, he first blamed Democrats (credit which they’d love to take but, well, did I mention it’s an all-Republican Congress?) and then blamed Paul Ryan.  And in other news, he’s insulted numerous folks in the last week, and Prime Minister Angela Merkel of Germany managed not to vomit when she had to cover her degrees to make the U. S. President feel less stupid.   We women have gotten adept at pretending we’re inept around unqualified men.

Trump cemented his reputation by handing PM Merkel a fake NATO bill, causing international embarrassment and insuring that the USA will be stricken from Germany’s Christmas card list.

Partisan divisiveness still grips Washington.  Trump forges ahead in slashing climate change regulations, apparently trying to revive a coal industry which has been mechanizing and shrinking for years.  He’s installed climate-change deniers into cabinet positions.  There’s a suspected racist in the A.G.’s office.  Trump’s daughter, who sells made-in-China clothing in her  fashion line, has an office in the White House.

America has not gotten greater; in fact, its image has taken a few hints in the eyes of the world as we crack down on helpless Dream Act young people and turn blind eyes to Syrian refugees fleeing a war-shattered nation.


So what’s a person to do?  I’m still watching.  Still marching.  Still making phone calls and wearing a safety-pin on every jacket and sweater to let people know they are safe with me.  I’m still writing letters.  Still praying.

And I’m still listening to my twenty-five year old son, whose insight seems to be rock-star and who gives me a reason to hope for America.  I haven’t yet despaired, even though we have a buffoon for a president and Russian fingers in every American pie.


In which alternative facts rear their ugly heads again

I found the one Republican couple in Northern California and had to bite my tongue to avoid getting caught in the quagmire of their self-delusion.

I had fair warning.

As I stood in the little office of HI Pigeon Point Hostel waiting for the manager to finish his cigarette and re-open, I foolishly smiled at a young Korean mother, thinking her to be a visitor from abroad.  My smile encouraged her to ask from where I came, in a disturbingly American accent.

“Kansas City,” I admitted.

“Oh, that’s amazing,” she cried.  “Have you heard of IHOP?  Not the restaurant but the Church?  It is my LIFE-LONG DREAM to go there!  If I could go there, I would fulfill the number one item on my bucket list!”

My smile dimmed, but I remained valiant.  We chatted a little more (about which I have elsewhere blogged), and when Michael returned, I let her go first.  I didn’t even snicker when she insisted that she herself could not sign the register, a task she deemed suitable only for men, an idea that Michael certainly didn’t endorse but which her husband apparently also held.

See?  Fair warning, indeed.  One, International House of Prayer.  Two, Men Sign Registers.  Three — well, to understand the third element of my fair warning, see my blog entry from Friday.  And no, I’m not linking to the International House of Prayer.  I don’t want to be complicit in their mission by sending anyone to their website.

I didn’t see the Korean lady and her husband again until Saturday.  I sat on the back patio of my dorm, innocently eating tofu and carrots, pretending that I had not been embarrassed by setting off the smoke alarm.  The two of them abandoned their own back patio to sit on our deck chairs.  I had just apologized to a young lady from France for the political climate which she had found on arriving in the US.  I invited her to return again in four years.  “Or maybe eight, if we’re not lucky,” I cautioned.

“Oh yes,” said the Korean woman.  “Our country has been in such bad shape but now it will get better.”

Didn’t I tell you that I had been warned? But did I remain silent?  Of course not.  “How do you figure it has been in bad shape?” asked I.

“In 2016 the unemployment rate was at an all-time high!” she exclaimed.  I shook my head.  “2008, you mean,” I corrected her.

“No, no, 2016 under that criminal man,  that Muslim Obama!”  My stomach lurched.  “But now Mr. Trump will save us!” she continued.

“You’re confused,” I tried again.  “The Obama years brought the country back from the Great Recession.  We made a recovery and the economists say the recovery will continue, slow but steady, depending on the policies of the new administration of course.”

She shook her head and her husband, who had been silent the entire time, let out a belly-laugh.  The woman said, “You are absolutely 100% wrong.  I lost my job in 2009 and have not been able to find a new one.  None of my friends have jobs.  The economy has slowly gone down hill under Obama. Thank God we got rid of him.”

By this time, my tofu had gone cold and my stomach had twisted into a knot.  But I persisted.  “I think you should try getting your news from another source,” I suggested.  “Fox won’t give you the truth.” She scoffed.  “It’s the only real news,” she maintained.  “I don’t watch fake news.”  And she lifted her baby from her husband’s arms and trounced away.

I saw a woman with whom I had previously chatted come out of the next-door house.  I stood, making my way to the table at which she sat.

“May I join you,” I asked.  She gestured to the bench beside her.

“I couldn’t stay over there,” I admitted.  “Apparently, the one Trump supporter in Northern California thinks that Obama wasn’t born in the US, is Muslim, and caused her to lose her job.”

The woman laughed.  “We’re not all like that,” she assured me.  “Don’t worry.  Some of us out here in NORCAL are sane.”

We fell silent, watching the sun set, while I plotted my revenge on a certain lady, of Korean descent, who apparently has no idea that she’s been deluded by alternative facts.


Food For Thought

Fair warning:  I am on the coast of California.  Right at this moment, I sit at a kitchen table in Seal, one of the houses of Pigeon Point Lighthouse hostel.  Children have been running through the living room singing in French, German, and English.  Therefore I might make less sense even than normal.

But I have been thinking about food.

Specifically, I have been pondering the subject of what type of American president would advocate getting rid of the Meals on Wheels program.  As an adjunct to that thankless contemplation, I have been reviewing the characters of the handful of people whom I know who admitted to voting for Trump — even bragged about it — and trying to determine if they will be happy about legislation which adversely impacts Meals on Wheels.

If so, I seriously misjudged most of them.

Oh, not Trump.  I recognized him for what he was from the start:  A rich, self-absorbed con-artist.  I recognize the con when I see one, because my father was a bit of a con-artist himself.  He’d say, You can’t con an old con-man, you know.  I would laugh and say, I know, Pops.  We had that conversation in my childhood but also later, when I was in my 30s and went to visit him.  Never trust a con-man, Mary, he would remind me.  How right.

So:  I’ve seen all of the statistics being bandied about the internet.  A billion a day to keep Trump’s wife at her separate residence in NYC.  Maybe 10 billion.  Maybe a million.  Similar exorbitant, unthinkable sums for those weekly golf trips that Trump takes.  Certainly we have to protect the president.  Other presidents have taken golf trips, though not every weekend and not while advocating cutting No Kid Hungry and Meals on Wheels.

Food.  Not golf, or a gold-lined living room in Trump Towers.  Not a weekly trip from Washington to a swank residence in Florida.  Food.

And not just food but a bit of companionship, a regular knock on the door.  Meals on Wheels volunteers know the folks on their routes.  My best friend manages a Meals on Wheels program at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City.  She’s been known to do so much more than deliver food for the people whom she serves.  My son did some of his service hours with Katrina and her children at that MOW program.  I know first-hand how vital she is to those who receive the meals which she cooks and brings, and who also depend on her for errands, a kind word, and even emergency assistance if they’ve fallen.

Put aside partisan politics.  Ask yourself:  What kind of person would find it acceptable to spend millions on weekly golf trips while threatening funding which makes possible the provision of weekly lunches for impoverished and often disabled elderly Americans?  What kind of person would vote for someone who finds that to be a fair reallocation of tax dollars?

Marshall Rosenberg tells us that negative behavior “is a tragic expression of an unmet need”.  I try to empathize with Trump —  I really do.  I reject the notion that any person is purely evil.  But Trump?  Close.  Close.  Meals on Wheels, people.  How can this be a partisan issue?  Is it just Democrats who see the value of feeding the poor elderly among us?  It isn’t as though those octogenerians are falling down on the job.  They did their job already.

I had an argument with a Trump supporter last fall about whether there was a hunger problem in America.  It’s a myth, he insisted.  There is no hunger in America.  Besides, if kids or seniors are hungry, the government will feed them.  I just stared.  I couldn’t believe that anyone could start a sentence with the words, “There is no hunger in America”.  Perhaps not in your house, I wanted to say.  But I grew up middle class.  I once saw my mother use a straw to save milk from the floor after one of us kids shattered the bottle of the only gallon she would have for a week with which to feed the eight of us.  And we weren’t even poor, not really; not as I have seen poverty since then, going on home visits as a guardian ad litem.

Seniors in high rises, with bed sores and COPD, creep to the door when they hear their MOW volunteer knock.  They gesture to the metal folding table by the worn recliner where they sit, day after day, looking at local news shows or staring out of the window.  They clutch their house-coats and their thin cardigan sweaters.  Their tired faces crinkle.  In trembling voices, they thank the person delivering their food.

Some of them have never flown, much less to another state for a golf weekend.  Some of them barely can pay the water bill for their one-room apartments.

Trump’s budget does not directly defund Meals on Wheels.  But it does call for the elimination of one program on which some of the nation’s 5,000 Meals on Wheels groups rely,  Community development block grants, a $3 billion program intended to give states and cities more flexibility in how they combat poverty.

As summarized by USA Today:

“The majority of Meals on Wheels programs get most of their federal funding through the Administration for Community Living, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services that serves the elderly and disabled. That agency has a $227 million line-item for ‘home-delivered nutrition services’.

“Those programs are authorized though the Older Americans Act, a law so popular that its renewal passed Congress last year without any recorded opposition. And while Trump didn’t single out that specific program, Health and Human Services will receive a 16% across-the-board cut.”

Sixteen percent.  A hefty segment.  So that brings me back to what I’m pondering.  Who does that?  What kind of president thinks it’s preferable to budget the weekly decampment of him and his entourage so he can hobknob with other wealthy folks and play golf in Florida, while slashing a program which feeds poor, elderly Americans?  A person who considers his weekly golf trips to be more important than feeding poor, elderly Americans.

What kind of person is that?  I cannot decide what unmet need Trump attempts to meet by putting his lavish lifestyle into the national budget while taking community block grants out of it.  I can’t decide what kind of person votes for someone who prioritizes spending like that.

I’ll keep pondering.  In the meantime, if you’re confused about these issues too, click on over to John Pavlovitz’s blog, and take his theories for a spin.  They might resonate with you.

Unless, of course, you voted for Trump.  Though come to think of it, if you voted for Trump, you stopped reading long before I got to that link.

Author’s note: This picture has made the virtual rounds, purporting to be a snapshot of a remorseful Trump voter.


Let the little children come unto. . .

Lately the thought of little children being injured, sick, and hungry has troubled me.

I saw the picture of a five-year-old handcuffed after the first executive order banning people from certain countries from entering the U.S.  I enlarged that picture and studied it, trying to understand why that child posed such a threat that handcuffs became necessary.

I’ve seen the haunting photographs of children dead on beaches after their families fled war-torn nations, desperate for some comfort in other lands.

News article after news article scrolls by, showing tiny emaciated bodies in the laps of medical staff.  My heart clenches.

I don’t watch a lot of television but the shows that I like are mostly on the Food Network.  That channel seems obsessed with funding “No Kid Hungry”.  Then I read about the current administration trying to pass legislation which among other insanities, will cancel the federal school breakfast and lunch program.  My stomach aches just thinking about the thousands upon thousands of children whose families cannot feed them, who now depend on schools across America for basic nutrition.

Then I see the absolutely astounding dollar figures for protecting our current president’s wife who chooses to remain in New York City; and for transporting him on his numerous golf excursions just in his first five weeks in office.  Estimates vary, but everything that I’ve read suggests that the cost to “protect” Trump and his family   will far exceed that of the prior administration., in part because of the split residence and in part because of the extravagant trips to Florida.

I return to the No Kid Hungry page and read that one in five American children has inadequate nutrition.

What happened to our national priorities?

How can we accept this?

Why do we allow this?

When did we become so splintered or selfish that we tolerate the lavish lifestyle of our leaders and ignore the heart-breaking poverty of 1/5th of our children?

And why do we have to depend on a television network’s hourly entreaties for Americans to send money to help feed the hungry mouths in homes across this country?

Or is it the leaders who wear blinders and forge ahead in their golden carriages while the rest of us parse out ourmeager net incomes to help those less fortunate even than we?

I’m not a Christian but my parents raised us in the Roman Catholic Church.  Over and over as a parochial grade-schooler, I heard the story of Jesus Christ admonishing the church elders, “Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them, for such is the kingdom of my father.” (Mathew 19:14).    Every religion has similar teachings.  Judaism teaches involvement and concern with the plight of fellow human beings. Every life is sacred, and we are obligated to do what we can to help others. The Torah states, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy brother” (Lev. 19:16).  The Koran admonishes:  “Give to the near of kin his due, and also to the needy and the wayfarers. Do not squander your wealth wastefully; for those who squander wastefully are Satan’s brothers, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.”   (17:26 – 27).

I could continue, citing chapter in verse in every religion developed on this planet.  These values make their way into our religions because they underpin our existence.  They used to fuel our government’s decision-making.  Now we slice programs intended to serve these values in favor of spending millions to protect  the president when he golfs or his wife in her golden tower.  Every president has required such details, but they seem to be escalating while programs to serve the poor fall under a cruel surgeon’s knife.

What monster have we created?  And how can we save ourselves from its thunderous wrath and stumbling, senseless, uncaring destruction?

Ask these questions.  Ask them again and again.  Ask boldly and relentlessly.  Keep asking until your voice reaches Washington, and do not stop until the  answer resounds; until our government again proclaims its commitment to all of America.   Do not stop until the answer rings like the bell of Liberty across our nation:  From sea to shining sea.



Here. Now. This.

Of all the sickening things that have astounded and unnerved me since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America, among the top five has to be the resurgence of hate crimes.  In fact, the incidence of viciousness arising from bigotry has accelerated to the point at which The New York Times now has a column entitled, “This Week In Hate”.

“2016 was an unprecedented year for hate,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow and editor of the Intelligence Report. “The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists. In Steve Bannon, these extremists think they finally have an ally who has the president’s ear.”

Southern Poverty Law Center, 15 February 2017.

Law enforcement around the country reported a rise in hate crimes since the election, including the New York City Police Department, which announced a 115% increase in a statement on 05 December 2016.  More recently, Jewish cemeteries in Missouri, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia have been vandalized in ways indicating hate-driven perpetrators.  

As a white middle-class female, I’ve been on the edge of discrimination but not the direct victim of it.  A restaurant refused service to a black friend and myself in 1980.  Someone told my son that he was “too white for this school” when he started ninth grade. Twenty years ago, a woman accosted me in a shopping center demanding to know where I’d stolen my niece, an adopted African-American toddler.  But I cannot say that I truly have felt the fear and anguish which racial and religious discrimination levy on those whose skin color, cultural heritage, or religion cause the kind of hatred that led to the murder in Olathe last month, or the toppling of headstones in University City.

The political atmosphere which validates this hatred permeated the presidential campaign.  Whether Donald Trump himself endorses bigotry or just took advantage of the closeted hatred to ride its terrible wings to Washington does not matter.  The climate of our country allows the unleashing of hatred.  Unless Trump condemns both the violence and the beliefs which its perpetrators use as justification, the haters will accelerate.  Feeble protest will feed their fire.  The burning will destroy the fabric of America.

A friend recently suggested that the hatred could not prevail as long as “people like us” protest its fury.  I do not agree.  The voice of middle-class America will not silence the spectre of evil.  Only those who summoned this demon can send it back to hell.

Trump must speak, and he must speak with vehemence.  His cabinet must join him with a unified voice.   Congress must proclaim that America will not tolerate bigotry.  Until Washington insists that hatred has no place in our society, this boil will continue to fester.

The rest of us should also speak.  But our leaders must be first and loudest.  If they do not give voice to a strong and unequivocal condemnation of this rise in hate crimes and the disease which propels the madness, then the voice which they must hear should be ours:  Loud, clear, and unrelenting, in solidarity with those whom the haters continue to defile.  We will not tolerate this abuse.  And we will not tolerate anyone who stands silent while the haters rampage.

Say it:  Here.  Now.  THIS.



Appearance of Impropriety: Oh THAT meeting!!!

The morning news blares:  Jeff Sessions lied!  Said No Meeting With Russians About Campaign!

AG Sessions’ response denies lying.  He does not recall what was said in the September meeting with the Russian ambassador and whatever it was, didn’t relate to the campaign.

As quoted by the Washington Post, here is just one question-and-answer on point:

“At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“ ‘I’m not aware of any of those activities,’ he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.'”

This reminds me of some of the dodge ball answers given by President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky debacle.  More recently, the meeting between President Clinton and AG Loretta Lynch on a plane during last year’s campaign sounded similar alarms.  I said then, and I’ll say now:  Lawyers are ethically mandated to avoid even the APPEARANCE of impropriety.

As far as I know, Mr. Sessions is an attorney carrying a law license which was issued by a state with some version of a code of ethics.  Though not every state has adopted the ABA Model Code of Professional Ethics, every state has something similar or a version of the ABA’s model rules.    A Google search found Canon 9 of the Alabama Code:


A Lawyer Should Avoid Even the Appearance of Professional Impropriety.

AG Sessions should have said, “I met with the Russian ambassador in my capacity as a Senator, and we discussed XYZ.”  He did not.  He has some ‘splainin’ to do.  The appearance at present is one of professional impropriety.  This does not mean it cannot be explained; but it should, and because he holds high office, that explanation should be given to the American people.

Until that explanation comes to us, we should consider Attorney General Sessions to be on notice that his job might be forfeit.  He works for us, and we should consider whether to place him on probation until his conduct improves.  We’d do the same for a minimum wage worker.  Attorney General Sessions should be held to no less a standard than the average American worker.  In fact, because he holds a license to practice law and occupies the highest nonjudicial law job in the nation, the standard to which we hold him should be correspondingly elevated.

America deserves no less.





Srinivas Kuchibhotla

32-year-old engineer and husband






In the face of unrelenting hatred which has found its strength and validation in the ugliness of this presidential campaign and election:


Equal Educational Opportunity: An American Myth

I have mixed feelings about House Bill 610.  Here is a summary of the bill, in case you’re living under a rock and have not seen it:

“This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states.

“The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA’s geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.

“To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.

No Hungry Kids Act

“The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)”

Working from the bottom up:  I oppose abolishing the “No Kid Hungry Act”.  While I had no difficulty feeding my child during his school years, 90% of the students at his K – 12 campus qualified for the breakfast and lunch program.  I absolutely agree that a child must be fed in order to focus on school.  Our public schools need funding to insure that no empty bellies sit in school desks.

But I also think that equal education is a great American myth.  We pretend that children in high-dollar zip codes don’t get fancier buildings and newer books.  We roll our eyes when parents of disabled children press districts for greater accommodations.   Society winks behind the backs of children in Appalachia and Harlem.  Anyone who thinks that education is equal lives under that proverbial rock.

On the other hand, here is what we lose if this bill passes and #45 signs it into law, which he most certainly will do.

The bill will eliminate the Elementary and Education Act of 1965, which is the nation’s educational law and attempts to insure equal opportunity in education.   The ESSA is a comprehensive program that covers programs for struggling learners, AP classes, English as a Second Language programs, and programs for students of color including Native Americans;.  It also addresses Rural Education, Education for Students who are Homeless, School Safety, Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability for these and other Programs.

For children with disabilities, the ESSA insures access to the general educational curriculum; mandates needed accommodations on assessment testing; guarantees use of the Universal Design for Learning in materials; and requires school districts to use research-based instruction and curriculum in schools, especially with students who represent groups that have been consistently under-performing or underachieving.

The ESSA also requires that states write Title I (ESSA-granted federal funds to assist students and schools in poverty) plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including: Reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools; reducing overuse of punitive discipline practices; and reducing the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion).

All of this goes away if the ESSA does.

The argument in favor of eliminating the ESSA focuses on “states rights” and the right of the individual parent to make school choices by endorsing tax vouchers for families utilizing private or parochial schools.  Thus, this attack on federal education laws suggests that instead of our national horizon insuring the closest thing to equal education for our students, we should leave that task to the states.    This will doubtless be disastrous.

The laws of states are not uniform in many areas.  Exceptions are so scarce as to be easily identified, such as the Uniform Commercial Code and the Uniform Probate Code.  If states are left to enact individual educational schemes to address equal education, our country’s children will doubtless suffer.  Only the wealthy will be able to afford quality education adapted to individual needs.  The rest of America will return to the broken buses, ancient text books, and crowded classrooms of pre-1965 ilk.

The reason we have national legislation attempting to equalize access to education lies in this disparate provision of educational opportunities through the states.  The education of children insures their productivity and the potential of economic success.  This in turn enhances the fabric of America by providing our future job force, and our future leaders, researchers, doctors, and scientists.  No one loses; everyone wins.

As with the Affordable Care Act, the ESSA has flaws.  But removing one set of regulations before replacing it with another, better scheme defeats every objective served by education.  If the separate states already had statutes in place to serve the goal of equal education, I might take a different view of the repeal of ESSA.  But they do not and likely will not.  If the only aim of repeal of this federal regulation is to allow for states to take the reins on this critical issue, then perhaps we should let them have a guide wire before letting go of the controls.

I had a long conversation with a young mother yesterday in which I asked if she knew what Congress intended to do with the educational system in our nation.  She shook her head.  This impacts you and your daughter, I cautioned.  I  need to educate myself, I guess, she replied.


Education knows no equal; and equal education knows no rival.  Congress should be expected to address and implement new solutions before removing those presently in place.  We, the people, must demand a measured approach to the enactment of all legislation.  If we do not make such a demand, then when we crawl out from under our respective rocks, fifty years of progress in the American education system will be lost.

The progress we have made does not really guarantee equal access to education in America.  But the ESSA took education fifty years closer to equal access.  Without it, we will regress.  Quality education will become a privilege accorded to the wealthy few.

And that, my friends, will not make America great.


Political and social commentary from the Missouri Mugwump.