Senator Toomey Avoids Real Issues

Senator Patrick Toomey (R), Pennsylvania….held a virtual town hall meeting, Thursday. He answered pre-screened questions and didn’t really offer any viable arguments for his support of Trump’s picks and policies.

Presidential Nominees
Toomey said that the Democrats were, “…insisting on stretching out and delaying the hearings and votes as much as they can.” This statement implies that Democrats delayed just to delay. Toomey never addressed the concept that Democrats may actually be trying to get Cabinet members who are competent, have experience in their particular Cabinet positions and do NOT have vested interests that will allow them to decimate a particular Cabinet’s responsibilities. NOTE:  Toomey actually parroted the words of Donald Trump in his discussion of the nominees.

Meanwhile, Toomey has backed and voted for the nominations of Betsy DeVos, Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, and most recently, Scott Pruitt. Backbone and conviction are not words I would apply to the Senator from Pennsylvania.

Lack of Responsiveness to Constituents
Toomey said that, “…organized efforts to block the phone system are blocking phone calls from his constituents.” That was his excuse for phones ringing and ringing and no one answering. That was his excuse for voice mail boxes that were full…for days. Toomey did not consider that instead of some nameless, outside, organized group phone bombing his office, it was thousands of his constituents who tried to tell him that he is not representing them when he follows Trump and the Republican party line.

Repeal of Obamacare
Toomey also parroted Trump’s comments that, “…Obamacare is in a free fall, failing, and failed badly.” Toomey pointed out that only 40% of those in Pennsylvania who need insurance only have one company to choose from — his reason for the “failure” of the system and, according to another source, not actually true.  What Toomey failed to say was that the insurance industry could not make as much money as they thought they would and bailed out of the Pennsylvania marketplace without sanctions.

The Senator also failed to say that more than a million people in Pennsylvania are now potentially vulnerable given the GOP’s push to repeal the ACA. That’s 1 million people who Toomey is supposed to be representing. So, why isn’t he?

While insurance companies weren’t the biggest contributors to Toomey’s political campaign(s), they put their money where their interests were and Toomey was one of their recipients.

Want to see just where Toomey gets his money? Just follow the prompts and you will get a complete and unbiased accounting of the dollars – more than $46,000,000 (yep, that’s million) of them that have helped fund Toomey’s career.

Executive Orders Out Of The White House
Tax Reform – Toomey’s response to the fact that there is money in business but it is not filtering down to the American workers is that we need, “…very strong economic growth, growth yields more jobs and higher wages.” Reforming tax code allows business investment which leads to strong economic growth.  Toomey also said he wants to roll back regulations that prevent economic growth.

Huh. watch your wallets, folks, as Robert Reich says. The plan will favor the rich and hurt the rest of us. What should scare every single one of us who actually has to work for a living is that one of the bedrock underpinnings of the Republican tax “reform” will take more money out of our pockets and put more money in the pockets of business owners and wealthy people.

Travel Ban/Immigration – Toomey did agree that the order was too broad, poorly explained and rolled out broadly. The order should not have excluded green card holders and those who are working with the US military. But Toomey also said he agreed with the fundamental idea of limiting immigrants. When I spoke with Toomey’s office about this issue, his staffer said it was about homeland security and safety but when I mentioned that not one terrorist act had been committed by anyone from any of the 7 countries listed in the ban, there was no plausible response — just the same line that it was for our safety. Does Toomey realize that people read and think and can discern fact from fiction?

Sanctuary Cities – Toomey point-blank said that sanctuary cities prohibit local police from cooperating with Immigration officials when protecting, “…violent criminals” from deportation. Toomey claims that the city of Philadelphia is guilty of releasing violent criminals who are illegal immigrants into the streets of the city where they imperil US citizens. Toomey, however, offered no names, no incidents and no cases in which a violent illegal immigrant committed a crime in the city of Brotherly Love. In fact, a recent Mother Jones article notes that sanctuary cities are actually safer for residents.

Conclusion
Needless to say, I was not impressed by the Republican Senator from Pennsylvania. Pat Toomey needs to hold a face-to-face meeting with his constituents. He should actually take questions from audience members, not questions screened by his staffers.  And Pat Toomey needs to answer questions, not reframe them into the PR speak that allows him to act not in our interests but in the special interests he works for.

Finally, in my opinion, Pat Toomey needs to start thinking for himself, stop parroting the party line and take into consideration the opinions and points of view of the people who pay his salary, his constituents.

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Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation

Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation is the title of a book I just read, a book I felt compelled to read in light of the current situation in Washington, D.C.

Radical Hope is about the Crow Indian Tribe

Radical Hope may help.

Like many people, I am dumbfounded that our government could be taken over and co-opted so quickly and so thoroughly by people who do NOT, in any way or shape, represent what I believe in, what I love about this country, what I love about the people who live here.

I am also afraid — for myself in the short-term — but for my child, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews — and what their lives will be like in a country where you only count if you are white, male and rich.

So, I found and read this small but powerful book. Written by Jonathan Lear, it is an exploration of how the Crow Indian tribe managed to survive in the face of total cultural collapse.

So, what does this slim volume have to say to me, to you, to any of us that could help us out in a country where Donald Trump is President?

Plenty.

Chief Plenty Coups vision saved his tribe

Chief Plenty Coups radical vision saved his tribe

The Crow were the only indigenous people who kept their land. They were the only tribe not defeated by the US Army. Their entire strategy for surviving a total and utter cultural collapse was driven by the vision of a 9-year-old child named Plenty Coups.

In his vision, the child who was to become one of the last great Chiefs of this Indian tribe, witnessed the loss of the buffalo, the end of the warrior as the center of the tribe’s life, and the destruction of hundreds of years of nomadic life.

Plenty Coups saw the Four Winds begin a war against the forest, witnessing the loss of all but one tree, the tree housing the lodge of the Chickadee.

The Man-person in Plenty Coups’ dream tells him that the Chickadee is least in strength but has the strongest mind of its kind. It listens. Nothing escapes its ears. The Chickadee never intrudes, never speaks in strange company but also, never misses a chance to learn from others – to gain success and avoid failure. Plenty Coups is to model himself on the Chickadee, to develop his body but not neglect his mind. “It is the mind that leads a man to power…”

From these two visions, the elders of the tribe recognized that the white man would take and hold the plains, their land, but if the Crow listened, as the Chickadee listened, the tribe might escape the fate of all other tribes, defeat, loss of life, loss of land.

The Crow joined forces with the white man, waged war against its own mortal enemies, the Sioux, the Blackfeet and the Cheyenne. This was a radical strategy but it was true to the vision. To survive when you are living your life at the very horizon of your understanding, when you can see no future, nothing of your way of life surviving, nothing of your culture as it has been known to you and your ancestors since the beginning of time, this was the only way.

Crow Indian Chief Plenty Coups

Chief Plenty Coups

What Plenty Coups did in the face of cultural destruction was to look to, “…future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Some might call it blind faith but it was anything but that. It was radical; it was hopeful. It was informed. It was courageous.

Our country, our culture, founded on inclusion, freedom of religion, free speech, is under attack. What can we hope, legitimately, when the very sense of purpose and meaning given to us by our culture is collapsing?

I turn to what I learned when I read Radical Hope.

Working together at Women's March in DC

Crescent Dragonwagon marching in DC

We must join together. We must work together even if, in the past, we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

We must convert our anger and angst into action as millions of people did in January of 2017 – marching in Washington, DC, across the United States and around the world to protest the Republican President’s campaign of hatred, bigotry and bullying.

We must have hope, like Plenty Coups, like the Crow, but it must be informed hope – not hope that permits self-deception, not hope that waits for someone else to step in and fix the devastation.

It must be hope that looks the monster square in the eye and does not back down or equivocate. It sees precisely what it is looking at but holds on to the hope that we can find a new path that works for all of us.

We must have courage. We cannot avert our gaze from the reality standing right in front of us – the wholesale destruction of our Constitution, our laws and our country.

We cannot balk at the risk of speaking out or of acting. We must collaborate. We must fight back. But we must start by listening to the enemy, observing how he works, what he does, learning his methods, not to employ them but to turn them to our uses.

Adapting his tactics, countering his moves. we take the high road. Make phone calls to your Senators and Congressmen. Demand that they be accountable for both actions taken and failure to take action. Standing by while our country is torn apart is just as unacceptable as supporting policies that ban a particular religious group or attack people because of their ethnicity, beliefs or gender.

Become an activist. Join a local group that is fighting for our freedom. Wage a battle against the divisive, misogynistic and hate-filled world that the current crop of politicians — people who are supposed to represent us but surely and certainly do not — is creating.

We must have radical hope. We must work together, ethically, raise up a new culture from the bones of the one being destroyed by the Republican party and its monied interests.

NOTE:

The photos of Chief Plenty Coups reproduced with permission from Little Big Horn College, a 1994 Land Grant Institution, is the Crow higher education and cultural center.

The photo of writer and author Crescent Dragonwagon in DC is courtesy of Dida Gazoli and is reproduced with the permission of both women.

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TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY-Let’s Start The Revolution

Where are all of you?

Where are the baby boomers who took this country by storm in the 60’s and 70’s – the activists who said no to war, no to discrimination, no to inequality?

We forced passage of the Civil Rights Amendment. We demanded equality for women and forced Congress to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). We helped stop the Vietnam War and brought our young men home.

This is OUR COUNTRY. OUR GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR US.

Now is the time to stand up again, to stop the wholesale destruction of the very laws and institutions that have made it possible for everyone to have a fair chance at a decent life.

Social Security – a program we have paid our hard-earned money into for more than 50 years, is under attack. Affordable health care for ALL citizens is being dismantled. Medicare and Medicaid are on the chopping block.

Funding for the arts, education, and the environment have been cut. The EPA, the National Park Service, and the USDA have officially been gagged – ordered not to communicate at all with the public either via social media or the press.

Step up to the plate, folks. This time, we aren’t fighting for ourselves; we are fighting for our sons and our daughters and our grandchildren.

The current disregard for the law, for the Constitution, for our rights as citizens of the United States signals the beginning of the end of America as we know it…unless we begin to fight back.

Do something as simple as joining the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which has already filed suit against Donald Trump for his failure to disclose his finances and tax returns – a clear conflict of interest and a violation of Constitutional law.

Call your SenatorsCall your Representatives. Choose your battle – whether it’s education, the environment, equal rights under the law, Social Security, affordable health care. Have 1 or 2 points you want to make and make them. If you need scripts to help you get started, check out sites like Indivisible Austin.

Then call again, tomorrow and the next day and next week.

Fight back! Take just one step every week.

Let an activity like the women’s march on Washington be more than a moment; let it become a movement, to quote Cory Booker.

Don’t give in to your fear and frustration, to the sense of being overwhelmed. That’s how they will win. And we cannot let them win, not for our sake but for the sake of the generations following us.

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After the Inauguration: Joining the Battle for America

Great sorrow and great joy are doing battle in my heart this morning. It is like being on the edge of a razor blade, trying to decide how to move forward in a world that now has Donald Trump masquerading as president of the United States.

Like millions of other good, hardworking Americans, I am afraid this morning but I am also hopeful thanks to Katrina Kenison’s post inaugural post.

As I read Kenison’s words , my sorrow started to lift. As I read the comments others shared, my fear abated a bit. This is my world. These are my kindred spirits. In my heart, I know we can do this.

Each and every one of us can take the next step out of our comfortable lives and begin to sing the glorious song of love and inclusion and hope that built this country – the song that will become a roar if all of us join in.

I am grateful, this morning, for Kenison’s insight. I am grateful for Kenison’s inclusion of Clarissa Pinkas Estes’ writings. Both are warm blankets on a cold morning. I await her ideas for taking the next steps and will be generating some of my own.

I will not be diminished by the coming battle; I will not be a bystander in the face of hate, injustice and greed.

Come on America, the America I live in and I believe in. Join in. Let’s start, “…mending the world.” We can do this.

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Why? An Answer For Me

Most of my life has been lived outside the mainstream.

As a kid and a young adult, I always felt my difference as pain, as loneliness. And I wished that I could be like everyone else, that I could be popular that I could somehow transform from the short, pudgy, smart girl I was to the cheerleader or the prom queen.

I wanted to be on the inside, invited to parties, going on dates, gossiping, laughing at the oddballs and outsiders. I never made it – not in high school, not while working my way through college at Walt Disney World, not in graduate school and not in my long, rich career.

For years, decades actually, ranging across the 45+ years of my peripatetic career, I longed to be part of the crowd that always seemed to be having such a rollicking good time, drinking, laughing, talking, sleeping around, no cares, no worries, no anxiety.

For years, my various bosses, Division VPs and Line of Business Presidents in corporations and GMs and News Directors at television stations and up and down the East coast told me I didn’t fit. I was an oddball, a weirdo, not quite one of them. They constantly cajoled, ridiculed, and bullied me about my “misanthropic view” of my co-workers.

They also used me to, “…get the job done.”

Anywhere there was a problem, striking workers, poor business performance, failing systems, failing management — it didn’t matter what was going wrong – universally they sent “…Pat. She’ll figure it out, fix it, clean it up.”

And I did. And they paid me handsomely.

Why was I successful when no one else was? I was on the outside.

I didn’t care…about people, about feelings, about belonging. I found the problem, cleared the trash out, fixed the system or the management and moved on. I was not just disliked; I was hated. If I showed up at a unit, everyone knew I had the highest level of backing. Everyone knew someone was going to be fired.

When people actually had the courage to tell me they didn’t like me, my standard response was, “You don’t have to like me; we’re not sleeping together. You have to figure out how to work with me. So get on with it.”

Why? Was I stronger than the rest? Better? Braver?

I always wondered why I was able to carry my loneliness on my shoulders year after year, why kept doing the dirty job of cleaning up behind the elephants.

Sunday morning, November 27th, 2016, in response to a simple question from my husband, I knew why. I hung the laundry out that morning, before the sun came up. Yes, it was cold out — freezing, actually.

When he asked why, my short, simple answer was, “It was the right thing to do.” Not the easiest, not the least painful, not the fastest but the right thing.

Something shifted every so slightly the moment those words slipped out of my mouth and into the cold, clear air of dawn. I knew why I didn’t open the door, go inside with the everyone else, give up a bit of myself to be one of them.

It was the right thing to do.

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Trump Signals the End of Our Democracy

My brother, Bob, used to talk about the impending end of our democracy. I am glad that Bob did not live to see it.

The end has arrived. It is embodied in the man recently elected – not by popular vote but by the Electoral College – to the highest position in this country. the President of the United States.

If you don’t believe me, please read American Has Never Been More Ripe for Tyranny.

This is not Facebook hype or Twitter trash. This is article is well-thought out; it is insightful and it is terrifying. Written in May of this year, 2016, before the primaries, before the conventions, before the debates, its author predicts what was going to happen.

It has happened.

Andrew Sullivan builds his case meticulously, without rhetoric, without “sound and fury” but brick by brick.  Sullivan quotes the work of another author, Sinclair Lewis. Perhaps you read his novels in high school. But most of us never read or even heard of It Can’t Happen Here – Lewis’ 1935 novel about what would happen if fascism…were to triumph in America.

Lewis imagined American fascist leader is Senator called Buzz Windrip —  a “Professional Common Man …who was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic.”

The description sounds familiar but Windrip was fiction written more than 80 years ago. Unfortunately, Sinclair Lewis’ writing, like Sullivan’s, was predictive, as well.

Read the article. It will scare you but it will also help you understand how we come to have Donald Trump as the President Elect of the United States of America. If you don’t want to read the entire article, read the final paragraph. It pretty much says it all for me:

“…Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.”

We are witnessing the end of democracy in America. I, for one, will be glad to leave this world before it gets as bad as I think it will.

 

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10 Ideas for Living a Good Life in Bad Times

Face it. We live in a very uncomfortable time with some very uncomfortable realities.

Donald Trump is actually a viable candidate for President. The alternative, Hillary Clinton, is no better than La Donald, just a different shape and different background. On November 8th, 2016, the American public gets to choose between a male bully with megalomania and  no morals or a female cobra with ever-changing ethics and situational morals.

Can you say Hobson’s choice?

Whoever wins this election, these United States are in for a rough ride, facing international sanctions and national crises — all of our own making and all born of greed and the overweening desire for power and control.

I can’t change any of this. All I can do is live my small life. You can’t change any of this either. So, this morning, I offer a way for you and I and anyone else who is tired of the trash talk, afraid of the looming future and worried about their loved ones, some insights from  one of my very favorite intellectuals, writers, and muses.

Maria Popova offers 10 core values which, she has gleaned over the 10 years of writing her amazing blog – Brain Pickings

My Sunday mornings are spent with a cup of coffee and her newsletter – my break, my solitude, my weekly dose of philosophy, culture, insight, learning and being.

I offer Popova as an antidote to the idiocy we see all around us. I offer her as peace in a world fraught with panic. I hope she brings you the same joy that she brings me.

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