Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘United States Politics’ Category

Unsettled Times

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Folks, the times, they are unsettled. (OK, Bob Dylan, it isn’t. But it does happen to be true.)

We have unrest here in Wisconsin, as there’s an important trial going on in Milwaukee that, depending on its outcome, may set off another round of riots and looting and fires. (Last year, I wrote a post called “Milwaukee Burning” about that, I believe.)

We have unrest throughout the United States for various reasons. Some comes down to how our politicians continue to make the same mistakes, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats (right now, the GOP is in the barrel over their mishandling of Trumpcare, otherwise known as the AHCA), some because of the bombastic nature of our current President, Donald Trump (a man Hillary Clinton quite correctly called “unfit” due to Trump’s willingness to shoot from the Tweet at any hour of the day or night). Some is because we’ve possibly forgotten we have more in common with each other than not…

But I think a lot of it is because too many people are working jobs that are below their ability levels. They’re not making the money they need to pay their bills, much less have any sort of decent quality of life. Way too many people work so many hours, they barely see their children, spouses, or any of their friends, all because they’re trying hard to stay ahead of their bills.

This is called “income instability.” It is not easy to deal with. At all.

Historically, when things like this happen — too many people either out of work entirely or working too many hours for too little money — we end up with a great deal of unrest.

Or, as I put it above, unsettled times.

It’s not easy to live in such times. There’s a lot of inequality out there, whether it’s income inequality, racial inequality, the fight for LGBTQ rights…and then, so many people are so very, very exhausted, they come home, aren’t able to think as well as they would if they had enough time to see their family and friends and decompress a little.

I’m wondering if this — the overarching inequity people can’t help but see —  is why the folks in our society seemingly are more likely to get angry and stay angry.

And then, we have a media that likes to push sensationalism, and only rarely talks about what binds us together. (That does not sell papers. Or buy ads for TV programs, either.)

So we hear only that people don’t agree. That they don’t get along. That maybe we shouldn’t, that our “tribe” doesn’t get along with theirs…that only Democrats/Republicans/Libertarians/Independents/fill-in-the-blank are worth talking to, and no one else need apply.

What I know, though, is different.

I have friends from all walks of life. They are all interesting, funny, special people, who have something worthwhile to say, and worthwhile to share.

Yeah, to some of them, I’m a “token liberal,” one of the few they can tolerate. And to some, I’m too conservative for them, not nearly liberal enough.

But I’m always, always myself.

That got me to thinking…if I can handle all these different people doing different things, saying many different interesting things, why is it that we can’t get it together as a society? Are we too big, too monolithic, to admit to individuality any longer?

I don’t know.

What I do know is, whether we live in unsettled times or not, we have to keep doing our best. And since we’re here on this Earth for some reason, we may as well try to learn from one another rather than insist ours is the “one, true way” (hat tip to author Mercedes Lackey).

So, this week, try hard to listen to someone you don’t normally think is worthwhile. See if there’s even one grain of anything you can agree with, and then talk civilly and with amity about the rest.

Who knows? You may make a new friend.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 20, 2017 at 7:27 pm

GOP Congressman, 4 Others, Shot in VA

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Folks, I’m getting tired of talking about innocent people getting shot while doing innocuous things. But here we are again…

Anyway, GOP Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana (also the House Majority Whip) and four others have been shot in Alexandria, Virginia. The gunman has been identified as a sixty-six-year-old man from Illinois (beyond that, as is my policy, I am going to refuse to identify him); no one knows, as of yet, why this man opened fire today.

Making matters worse, this guy shot the Congressman during a baseball practice.

Yeah. Shot at baseball practice, after shagging flies, taking ground balls, and taking batting practice…one of the most all-American activities there could possibly be. (Does anyone but me remember the ultra-old Chevy commercial touting “baseball, hot dogs, applie pie and Chevrolet?”)

And supposedly, the guy asked, “Are those guys Republicans or Democrats?” before he opened fire. (The story is not clear there, but I’ve already seen this reported at least three times online and via TV in three different ways. There does seem to be some truth to it.)

At any rate, because Congressman Scalise is a ranking member and has a powerful position as party whip, the Capitol Police were there as a security detail. If they hadn’t been there, as newscaster Brian Williams just said on MSNBC, the potential for injuries (or worse, deaths) would’ve been even worse.

But to say “it could have been worse” is damning with faint praise.

The fact is, we have to get a handle on two things right now. First, we must somehow lower the partisan rancor in this country. (Virginia Governor McAuliffe is right about that.) If this guy shot at Scalise solely because he’s a Republican, that’s beyond unacceptable, and goes into the sort of reflexive hatred that was seen in the shooting of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords back in 2011.

I don’t understand hatred very well, to be honest. But we must identify it, and deal with it, and try to defuse it, before it ever gets to this level, if we possibly can.

Second, we must make it easier for people to access mental health care. It’s difficult now for people to go get needed help; they often can’t afford it, and yet without decent mental health, what kind of life can you have?

At any rate, I deplore this violence. It disgusts me. I do not want to ever see anything like this again.

But as it’s now happened so many times — at theaters, at various public events, now at a baseball practice — I can’t say that is likely.

And that makes me very, very sad.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 14, 2017 at 10:41 am

Quick Wednesday Thoughts

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Folks, I continue to deal with hand issues, and I also have a number of projects hanging fire…so this will be a quick “hit-and-run” type blog, where I tell you what’s on my mind in blurb form.

Ready? Set?

First…what in the world is up with President Donald Trump? I mean, every day, there seems to be a new scandal, something worse happening than the day before. He seems to have come into the office completely unprepared, and due to his impulsivity and other issues, he seems to enjoy scaring the Hell out of people, at home and abroad.

My primary thought here is, “Please stop doing this, Mr. President.” (And that I have to call him Mr. President still irks me something fierce. What did we ever do to get this guy?)

And my secondary thought is, “If there have been criminal — or worse, treasonous — acts committed, the Republican-dominated Congress has to grow a spine or some testicular fortitude. Because we can’t have this happening in the ‘land of the free and home of the brave,’ at all.”

Second, the weather in Wisconsin has been all over the place lately. We’ve had cold weather, hot weather, not too much medium-range weather, and it either is raining in buckets or it’s dry as a bone. I can’t figure it out.

Except for one thing…as weather forecasters can seemingly be wrong every day of the year and still get paid, why didn’t I sign up for that gig? (Yeah, they need more math and science than I had, but I’m sure I could’ve learned it. Ah, well.)

Third, I wonder sometimes about relationships. Why is it that we can try so hard, and get nowhere in them?

I was very fortunate in finding my late husband Michael, but before him I made a couple of bad mistakes. (Of course, what is the definition of a “good” mistake, anyway? One that leads you to the New World when you’re looking for China?)

All I know is, if you’re the only one trying in a relationship, it’s not a relationship. It’s you talking to yourself, and pretending like fire someone else cares when he or she really doesn’t. (Or doesn’t care enough to be useful to you.)

Learn from my mistakes.

And learn from my lone success, too…there is someone out there who will get you, completely, even if you don’t know who that is right now. Refuse to settle for anything less.

Fourth and last…I refuse to give up. I will keep trying.

I just wish I could get a small break in the action where something completely positive happens for a change, that’s all.

Anyway, that’s about it.

What’s going on with you, and what are your thoughts? (What annoys you, or makes you smile, or anything?) Tell me in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 17, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Speaker Ryan, Listen to Your Constituents

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Folks, this is my semi-obligatory post about the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act in the United States House of Representatives, otherwise known as Obamacare. As Speaker Ryan is my U.S. Rep (surely for my sins), I’ve decided to speak directly to him.

Speaker Ryan, you’ve been my representative for many years. But I am frustrated with you.

Why?

You do not talk with your constituents at all. You haven’t for years, as far as I can tell, but it’s gotten much worse since you assumed the Speakership a year ago.

Because you don’t talk with your constituents, you are out of touch with how people in Southeastern Wisconsin feel about everything. Including the Affordable Care Act…which is why I am now going to explain it to you.

I did not approve of how the ACA was passed back in 2010. I felt a huge bill that wasn’t read should not ever be voted on, because no one had any idea what was in it. I actually agreed with you at the time about that, in fact…along with Lindsay Graham and a number of Republican Senators who didn’t agree with the way the ACA was rammed down the throats of the Republicans serving in the Congress at that time.

However, what you seem to have learned from that is, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” That is, the Democrats rammed the ACA down your throat, so now, you want to stick it to the Democrats in turn.

How does this help the American people? Quite simply, it doesn’t.

And it doesn’t help your constituents here in Southeastern Wisconsin at all, Speaker Ryan. We are poor, for the most part. That means most of us are getting help to have healthcare because of the ACA. The process was horrible, but it actually did help some people, including a whole lot of your constituents…

But now, you want to take it away, and make it much harder for the poor, sick, and elderly to get any decent quality of healthcare.

Make no mistake, Speaker Ryan. This was a heartless thing to do.

I am aware that the Senate is not even going to look at this version of the bill. Whatever comes out of the Senate may be far different than this, and your bill and the Senate’s bill will have to be reconciled before it can go to the President’s desk and be signed into law.

Still. I am frustrated that you did this, Speaker Ryan. You spearheaded this in order to force a vote to repeal the ACA and replace it with yet another omnibus bill that no one’s read but has some truly awful stuff in there among its lowlights. (I don’t see where taking money away from the poorest of the poor — that is, taking a great deal of money away from Medicaid — is helpful in the least. Especially if there’s no help forthcoming…what are we poor people supposed to do, anyway? Just go out into the streets and hope we get run over by a bus?)

So, congratulations, Speaker Ryan. You have won a “victory.”

May it give you exactly what you deserve.

Your constituent,

Barb Caffrey

Thoughts about Transgender Bathroom Rights, and Newest Guest Blog

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Folks, some days I just get so frustrated, I want to scream.

Why? Well, today’s news is that the Trump Administration apparently wants to rescind the Obama Administration directive regarding transgender students and bathrooms. The Obama directive more or less said that transgender students should be able to use the bathroom that suits their own, internalized gender; the Trump directive, which appears to be imminent, would rescind this directive and make trans students use the bathroom their outward gender would dictate instead.

This is incredibly annoying in many ways.

First, a young person who already identifies as being in the wrong body for their psyche is not looking to “convert” anyone. They just want to use a bathroom that makes sense to them.

Second, a young person who feels like he or she is in the wrong body already needs all the help he or she can get to figure out himself/herself. Being able to use the restroom that he or she identifies with is an easy thing to do to help, and preventing that person from using that same restroom just helps isolate that person even further.

So how does rescinding the Obama directive help anything?

The only point the people on the right who are in favor of rescinding Obama’s directive (which, fortunately, are not that many) have seemed to say is, “Well, this way, boys can’t use female restrooms by pretending to be girls!”

My answer? If these overly-concerned people really believe young men, already an angst-filled subset of the population, are going to suddenly identify as female to use female bathrooms, that is just silly.

(A young man who does that deserves what he gets, in other words.)

Anyway, I’m a straight woman. I’ve never dated a woman, never kissed one either, and never plan to do so — I am attracted to men. But that does not mean I don’t understand how stupid this is.

So, compared to that, my latest guest blog, about my route to publication, seems very small. But as I’m the writer of a book about two troubled souls who both end up transgender (and stay very much in love with each other), CHANGING FACES, I figured I’d let you know what I think.

And even though it is a very small thing in context, do, please, take a look at my newest guest blog. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll remind you that trans people are just like anyone else.

Because they are.

Presidential Recount in WI — History in the Making

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During the last couple of weeks, as I recuperated from the move (and all the sturm und drang thereby), I’ve been watching the United States and its politics with more than my usual share of bemusement.

Why is that? Well, we had a Presidential election where one person, Hillary Clinton, was fully expected to win. Yet she was not the winner; instead, Donald Trump somehow came out of nowhere and took the election away from her.

(Yes, I’m phrasing that precisely. Give me time, please.)

Because of the many statements Mr. Trump gave over the past eighteen or so months, (he confessed to disliking and mistrusting Muslims, to name just one example), many ordinary Americans were concerned at his election to the Presidency of the United States. Marches ensued, most of them peaceful, to show Mr. Trump and those who stand with him that the United States is not a racist, sexist, misogynistic, or LGBTQ-hating country.

Now, to Mr. Trump’s supporters, these marches seem nonsensical. Why protest something that hasn’t happened yet? We’re supposed to give every new President-elect time to show his or her true colors, and we usually do as a nation.

And yet, this was far from an ordinary election. Mr. Trump said many incendiary things. And people are already concerned about Mr. Trump’s apparent lack of impulse control…plus, when you add in all the statements Mr. Trump made about the election being “rigged,” that gave many a cause for concern.

Including Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, of all people, who was one of two people to file for a Presidential recount in the state of Wisconsin after raising millions of dollars in just a few days to do so. The Green Party has said they don’t expect to find many improprieties, but they do want to know what happened in Wisconsin.

As a Wisconsin voter, so do I.

I don’t know what happened in Wisconsin, but I would’ve bet money — a lot of it, if I had it — that Donald Trump could not win this state. Considering Democrats were highly motivated to vote, and there was and remains a sizable #NeverTrump faction as well, I don’t understand at all how he won here.

A recount should answer that question, once and for all.

And lest you think I’m only asking for this as an avowed Hillary Clinton voter, think again. I am all for recounts. I’ve even taken part in one before as a neutral observer — the recount of the state Supreme Court race between Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. What that recount found was that there were uncounted votes out there, and it did narrow the gap between Prosser and Kloppenburg slightly — not enough to swing that election, mind you, but enough to show that there were indeed some additional votes that hadn’t been properly tallied the first time around.

This time, though, may turn out to be different.

Already, in three Wisconsin counties, votes have been taken away from Mr. Trump — enough of them that Mr. Trump’s lead over Mrs. Clinton has shrunk by 5,000 votes. (And when you only win by 27,000 votes to begin with — less than 1% difference — that’s a sizable difference right there.) This is before the recount; this is what county clerks have found on their own, without prompting — errors much bigger than any found during the Prosser-Kloppenburg recount.

So, if the county clerks are already finding problems before the recount, just how many other problems are they going to find during it?

Before you ask, I fully believe that the county clerks of the state of Wisconsin are reliable, sober professionals. Regardless of their party affiliation, they want to do a good job. (Kathy Nickolaus, former county clerk of Waukesha County, did not seem to know what she was doing. But thankfully, she’s out of office now.) They certainly don’t want anyone to believe that the vote was tampered with — or if it was, they want to know about it first, and figure out how to stop it from happening ever again.

But something odd happened here. Something that does not sit right with me. I am a long-time political observer who’s called at least 25 elections successfully, and yet this one, somehow, I didn’t? When there was no raw data to suggest silent Trump voters before the fact? (And considering how loud and proud some of those Trump voters have proven to be nationwide, the whole idea of silent Trump voters seems like an oxymoron anyway. Just sayin’.)

So I’m happy we’re going to have a recount of the 2016 Presidential election.

No, I don’t expect it to flip the state of Wisconsin for Hillary Clinton. But if it does, I’d not be entirely surprised, either…because it’s been that sort of year, hasn’t it?

Anyway, expect more posts on this subject, as I am vitally interested in the results. (And I do intend to be a neutral observer, again, if I can. Why not?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 26, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Election 2016: My Personal Essay

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Folks, I’m going to try to do something that right now is hard for me, but necessary.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know I am a left-leaning Independent voter, and that I’ve supported Hillary Clinton’s life and career for years. I believe she’s an honest, hard-working, capable, and extremely intelligent woman who’s been badly misunderstood over the course of her lifetime. I was proud to vote for her in 2008 in the primaries, and again this year in both the primaries and in the general election.

I am deeply saddened that we will not have Hillary Clinton as our next President.

There is much about Donald J. Trump that scares the willies out of me. That he has no experience at all running a government is the main objection; that he can say intemperate, rude, vulgar, sexist, and bigoted things are my main secondary objections. I did not believe he was fit to be President. I also believed the American people would reject him.

They did not.

Instead, they have largely embraced him. Which to me feels utterly alien, because I had thought we’d gotten past much of what Mr. Trump embodied already.

But we obviously haven’t.

At this point, I hope that Donald J. Trump will prove to be a far better person than he’s ever shown, and that he will somehow become a better President than I fear.

I admit that I am scared. I am a low-income, disabled, widowed woman writer, already without much in the way of a safety net. Trump by the words he’s mouthed over the course of the primaries and general election will take what little safety net I have and rend it asunder.

He does not appear to care about people like me, at all. I’ve known that all along. That’s why I opposed him, strongly.

Instead, I believed in Hillary Clinton and her promise of incremental change. Change usually does come by increments; you have to work hard for change, for improvement, for anything at all.

As a writer I know that; I start out with a blank page, and by the end of my efforts, I have something brand-new. But it takes time, thought, effort, more time, thought, and effort; write, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, write, edit, etc., until the final product is in and done.

I understood how hard it is to make any positive changes whatsoever. I thought the United States, as a country, understood that as well.

Either they didn’t, or the hatred of Hillary Clinton was a much bigger factor than anyone ever thought.

Anyway, Donald J. Trump is a very wealthy man. He has never stood in my shoes. (Hillary Clinton hasn’t, either, but I at least felt she could empathize.) He does not know how hard it is to get from day to day, what happens when you have only one car and it has a major repair you can’t pay for (thank you to all who backed me in 2014 so I could get my car repaired, BTW; without GoFundMe and some very good friends, I’d have been completely out of luck then). He doesn’t have any idea what it’s like to lose a home to foreclosure, or to lose your whole retirement because of the 2008 stock market crash (as many did), or to have to struggle and scramble and fight, day after day after day, so you can continue to do what you believe you were born to do.

So, my analysis is simple: I’m going to keep doing what I need to do. I’ll create, and write, and hope for the best. I will continue to do my best to spread optimism, light, and help to all I can, because that’s how I’m made.

I realize even a President Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been able to help me with much of that. But her policies would’ve led to a more optimistic country, by and large; I firmly believe that.

Now, all bets are off.

This is not what I’d hoped for, and I am afraid.

But I will keep going.

My late husband Michael and my late best friend Jeff would not expect any less.