Where Are My Bootstraps?

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​Unless you live in Massachusetts where it’s Patriot Day, today is Tax Day. If you’re just filing your taxes now, you’ve realized just how much the Republican Tax Scam screwed you over. Sure they raised the standard deduction, but they’ve taken away most of your itemizations through limits. We somehow managed to do okay despite our taxes rising by over one thousand dollars. In fact, married filing joint is only $100 less tax due than a single person making nearly the same amount. I believe the only reason we didn’t owe was because we were already having too much withheld. Our motto is live on less, so we can repair our house and car in the spring.

We reached our health insurance’s maximum out of pocket in 2018, and we still couldn’t deduct our medical. Or our taxes, mortgage interest, or the little we give to charity. Good thing we don’t give to charity for the tax deduction; we give because it’s the right thing to do when you have more than someone else (even if it’s not that much more).

We have two kids at home and in school and one out on his own, and while he’s been pitching in with his own expenses for quite some time now, his moving out didn’t lower our expenses. He is still on our phone plan, our automatic toll payments, our AAA, our health insurance, and we don’t begrudge or judge him for any of those things. One, it’s cheaper for all of us, and two, it’s what a family does. One day I’m sure I’ll be on his phone plan.

The main point isn’t that I don’t want to pay taxes; I do. It’s my responsibility as an American citizen to pay my share. What I don’t understand is how we allow the wealthy to avoid paying their taxes. I don’t understand how teacher are not allowed to claim school supplies on their taxes, but if you have a private jet, the gas is deductible. It’s absurd that we continue to allow this to happen.

So that’s my rant. Despite it, my taxes were mailed last week, and with no savings, now we’ll struggle until our refund comes and I can pay back the private loan I took out, maybe I can get a pair of glasses that I’ve needed for over a year, pay for half of my hearing aids before they decide to send those to collection, but there will be no new roof (again, this is year 3 of waiting), no smooth driveway (which isn’t as luxurious as it seems – the more it sinks, the muddier it gets, the icier in the winter), no toilet in our upstairs bathroom (a necessity in a family of five), no oven for another six months to a year, no fridge which should have been replaced when we moved in and were lied to about its age.

We have it good, but it still hurts to say no to your kids for something as innocuous as a trip to McDonald’s or a candy bar for no special occasion. I don’t want to spoil them with European vacations, but it might be nice to take a long weekend to Niagara Falls or Washington, DC.

I truly am grateful for what we do have, and appreciate how lucky we are, but sometimes it’s important to let the people who don’t understand “real life” know what is going on in most of America – your neighbors, your friends, your kids’ classmates. I wish the Republicans in Congress would see this, but I’m not sure they’d care to be honest.

I’d like to close this with a link to a 2014 article that is still relevant today about how the realities of living inn bootstrap America and how most daily annoyances are catastrophic for many people living paycheck to paycheck.

Meet the Democratic 2020 Presidential Candidates

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Between exploratory committees and official Presidential candidates, as of this writing, there are 18 Democratic candidates*, and to be perfectly honest, almost all of them are better than the situation we have right now in the White House. Obviously, those running for President have their own policy priorities and while everything should not be seen only as a mirror to the Trump Administration, we cannot lose sight of what is at stake. The last two years have been frightening; horrifying at times, and undemocratic with our civil rights at risk.

With that in mind, I have compiled a list of the candidates’ official websites as well as their full interviews on Crooked Media‘s Pod Save America podcast. Most of them can be seen on several news shows offering their policies; I have found that PSA has a very good track record of tough questions while remaining fair.

I have a few of my favorites who I am supporting. I will probably express that in future posts. However, I have decided that I won’t include links for candidates who have not officially announced (VP Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams) nor will I include announced candidates that I feel are wholly unqualified. After 2016 I think it’s important to maintain a level of expectation of our candidates, and while we have a big tent, and all are welcome, I don’t think we should pretend that all candidates are equal. I think two years of inexperience and incompetence is enough. We need someone who knows what they’re doing. I will update this as more announce. A link will also be included on my We the People Page for updates as they happen.

Cory Booker WebsitePod Save America interview 

​Pete Buttigeig WebsitePod Save America interview

Julian Castro WebsitePod Save America interview

Kirsten Gillibrand WebsitePod Save America interview

Kamala Harris WebsitePod Save America interview  (at the 42:29 mark)

Jay Inslee WebsitePod Save America interview

Elizabeth Warren WebsitePod Save America interview

Andrew Yang WebsiteLovett or Leave It interview

– – – – 

Websites/No Interviews Currently

John Delaney 

John Hickenlooper

Amy Klobuchar 

Wayne Messam 

Beto O’Rourke 

Tim Ryan 

Bernie Sanders 

Eric Swalwell

– – – –

* This number changed literally after I set this up to post. Hopefully it will still be accurate on Tuesday morning!

The Mueller Report

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Before Twitter makes me run away screaming, tearing my hair out, and before listening to a zillion podcasts with a million takes on the “Mueller report”, I have a few of my own takes that may be relevant to the average non-political, what has happened to our country, how can I make it better person.
First, as of this writing, no one has seen or read the “Mueller Report”; at least not those people on cable news and the internet who are talking about it. Special Counsel Robert Mueller finished his investigation – there is some debate as to whether or not it came to an end organically or if it was rushed to finish from orders from the Department of Justice – but the crux of the facts are that Mr. Mueller submitted his report to the Attorney General.

At that point, over the weekend, the Attorney General (Bill Barr) sent a four page letter to Congress, of his, let me repeat and emphasize – HIS perception of the lengthy report. Four pages isn’t nearly enough to do a substantial summation of the two year investigation.

That is literally all we know.

As far as the public is concerned, Attorney General Barr is the only one to have read the report, aside from Mueller himself.

A reminder from Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and DNC chair: “I confess to being disgusted with the American media in general. Just heard again in NPR that “the Mueller report cleared President Trump”. No one in the American media has read the Mueller Report.”

What we do know: 

1. The Trump campaign did not conspire with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

This is a good thing.

However, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t break protocols, share classified information, or set up their Administration to make things better for Russia (China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia as well), and the sanctions. We’ve already indicted thirteen Russian nationals for election interference as well as connected one Russian national to espionage, money laundering through the NRA, and have had Trump campaign officials and Administration officials plead guilty and are in jail currently or will soon be serving their jail sentence.

2. The President was NOT exonerated on the obstruction of justice charges.

How do we know this? Mr. Barr stated it in his four page letter to Congress.

3. This Administration is continuing to undermine the rule of law and prey on our most vulnerable citizens, most recently the disabled athletes of the Special Olympics and trans active duty military service members.

4. It is unusual and without precedent that a Special Counsel looking into presidential wrongdoing would send his report to and suggest that the Attorney General (appointed by the President in question) look into whether criminal charges should be filed, charged and brought to trial.

For one thing, the Department of Justice has a longstanding policy of not indicting a sitting President. Their intention has been that any legal ramifications for the President be adjudicated through Congress’ role of oversight and impeachment (if warranted).

For another thing, looking back at our two most known special counsel investigations – Watergate and Whitewater – in both of those instances, the Special Counsel sent their findings back to Congress to make their determination. It should be expected that Robert Mueller, by all accounts the straightest of strait-laced and examine each page by-the-book former Marine, former FBI director, special counsel would have sent his findings to Congress to determine the next steps; not to the handpicked Attorney General who has already expressed his opinion on Presidential liability in this specific case prior to being tapped as AG.

5. My feelings are that we need to remember that when the Trump Admin people and their surrogates (including essentially state-run Fox News) say there are no indictments we need to remind them that there were over thirty and the Department of Justice, which the special counsel is a part of, doesn’t, according to its tradition, indict a sitting president. There are also at least sixteen other related investigations ongoing into the Trump Organization and Administration’s fraud and malfeasance.

Please also remember that Mueller’s job wasn’t to find anyone “guilty“; it was fact finding. As stated by his attorney general, the President was NOT exonerated; not by a long shot.

6. Additionally, we don’t need a special counsel to tell us what we’ve witnessed over the last two plus years: this administration failing our most needy, promising to protect health care and pre-existing conditions and now taking that away, promising not to touch social security and medicare and now reducing the budget to unsustainable margins, raising the taxes of the middle class to give billionaires and corporations tax cuts that they do not put back into the economy as promised, starting a trade war with China and sending our farmers into bankruptcy, the disturbing policy of separating families at the border and putting kids in cages, sexual abuse in detention of children, deaths by negligence of children in detention, tracking minor girls’ menstrual cycles but refusing pre-natal and post-miscarriage health care, and detaining American citizens without due process, and a host of other promises broken.

7. We need to continue to speak out where we see bigotry and hatred, especially when it comes so easily from the GOP.

8. We also need to remind everyone, in particular that the press is not the enemy of the people. They are the enemy of authoritarians who like to do their work in the dark. Journalists shine a light on the corruption, although with this administration, a lot of it has been done in the light.

9. We also need to address the culpability and complicitity of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell who has singlehandedly allowed this undemocratic takeover of the Senate and the judicial branch, holding the American people hostage.

I will leave you with this tweet from former Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who I agree with one hundred percent:

“Again, I am relieved that our president did not conspire with Putin during the 2016 presidential election. Think about what a mess we’d be in as a country if he did. At the same time, Trump et al did a lot of things with Russians in 2016 that maybe weren’t illegal but were wrong.” (3/26/19)

Susan B. Anthony: Suffrage and Equality, and How Far We Still Need To Go

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​One hundred ninety-nine years ago today, Susan B. Anthony was born into a Quaker family in Adams, Massachusetts. Her activism began early at her family’s hearth as the entire clan was involved in the anti-slavery movement as well as temperance movements all throughout their lives.

Her birth year of 1820 was coincidentally one hundred years before the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified.

In 1868, she, and her longtime close friend and women’s rights collaborator Elizabeth Cady Stanton published a weekly newspaper called The Revolution, focusing on women’s rights and calling for women’s suffrage as well as highlighting other opinion and discussion pieces in relation to suffrage as well as politics and finance. It’s motto was: “Men, their rights and nothing more: women, their rights and nothing less.”

I think we’re seeing a resurgence of this attitude if not the outright message. Coming to a head in 2017 with the #metoo movement, women are finding their voices and speaking out when they feel ignored or condescended to, which happens in all walks of personal and professional life.

When the 15th Amendment was proposed and ratified (giving former male slaves the right to vote), Anthony was firmly against it, feeling that African Americans and women should receive voting rights simultaneously rather than continue to give men, regardless of race more rights than women.

In 1872, she brought her Declaration of Rights for Women to the nation’s centennial in Philadelphia, wanting to share it at the official celebrations. Permission was denied, but Susan B. Anthony, leading a group of five women interrupted the speaker and handed the Declaration to the him. Leaving, she handed out copies to the crowd, and then found a public space nearby and read it to the crowd that had formed around her.

1872 was also the year in which Susan B. Anthony cast her vote. In doing so, she was arrested and brought to trial. Prior to the trial, she went around the county doing speaking engagements. Her speech was titled, “Is it a crime for a US citizen to vote?” At her trial, she was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine. She refused. Instead of the judge holding her in contempt, he declined any further action, and the fine has never been paid.

‘Failure is impossible’ quickly became the watchword for the women’s movement” according to her Wikipedia article. Those three words were taken from comments made by Susan B. Anthony at her eighty-sixth birthday celebration a few weeks before her death:

“There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!”

She and Stanton were the first to lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the organization’s name was changed to the League of Women Voters, still a formidable voice for voting rights.

In addition to her house in Rochester, NY named as an historic landmark and her gravesite visited on many Election Days, most especially in 2016 when Democrat Hillary Clinton ran as the first woman nominated by a major party, she was also commemorated on a US postal stamp in 1936 and is the first woman to have her likeness on a US coin when her image was depicted on the dollar coin, first minted and released in 1979.

Commemorative Stamp 1936, US Postal Service. Public Domain. (c)2019

Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin, 1979. Public Domain. (c)2019

In reading the title of her speech: Is it a crime for a US citizen to vote? it made me realize that as far as we’ve come, we still haven’t come all that far. We saw in 2016, an amount of voter suppression that many didn’t recognize in prior years. Some of it was so obvious as to be racist and sexist that it boggles my mind that it was allowed by officials and ignored by the media. The questions asked of Secretary Clinton, and the ridiculously higher expectations and almost impossible to meet standards expected of her in relation to her male opponents was embarrassing. 

Even more embarrassing is the way the media is currently treating the four women candidates for the Democratic nomination. I hear about Sherrod Brown’s ties to working class families, and reflection on Joe Biden’s status as elder statesman, and they haven’t even decided if they are running for 2020. However, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobucher are being lambasted for listening to rap music, eating fried chicken, mocked for family lore, and treatment of her subordinates instead of where they stand on the issues. Is the idea that Amy Klobucher expects her staff to live up to her expectations more problematic than a President who lies constantly about everything, even the insignificant? Bill Clinton played the saxophone on television, Mitt Romney has a car elevator in one of his houses, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is in jail for sexual misconduct, but no, let’s find out if Amy raises her voice trying to get things done. Journalism is in a tailspin, and I thought we were, if not past this sexism then at least pretending to be fair in public.

Also standing out significantly is the Georgia governor’s race in 2018, the Voter ID laws that disproportionately affected the Native American population in North Dakota, also in 2018, closing polling places, shortening voting times, which thereby increased lines and eliminated the working class who can’t afford to leave work early or go in late. Deciding that polling places didn’t meet accessibility requirements for the general election even though there were no problems during the primaries, and those polling places that didn’t meet the requirements were in primarily African-American districts (in Georgia, where the Secretary of State who is in charge of those things was also running for governor. He won. Big surprise there.) There is still a congressional seat in North Carolina that has not been certified because of blatant fraud.

So, how do we combat this?

Should Election Day be a national holiday so more people can vote without losing time and money from work? Why do certain segments of political partisanship want less people to vote, not more despite their being eligible and wanting to vote?

Should we have a standard set of questions to address to each office-seeker when they’re being introduced as a presidential candidate?

Why do we continue to allow the Senate Majority Leader to lie about what the American people want (as shown in poll after poll), and allow him to not bring bills to the floor that have passed the House?

Why do we allow the White House and the President’s enablers in Congress to block investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 and 2018 elections? I would hope that no one wants a foreign power controlling our votes and who is elected to our national offices, but it seems that some of those politicians blocking access and investigatory avenues are dominated by their monetary reliance on that same foreign power. This is wrong. When will they come to their senses? When will their patriotism extend to real American sovereignty and equal rights instead of their false flag patriotism?

How do we also encourage voting participation?

Why do some from one side think it should be harder to vote, whether because of economics or transportation or accessibility?

This needs to be addressed before the 2020 election. 2020 will celebrate the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. We should come together for a comprehensive overhaul of the registration and voting process to make it accessible to all eligible voters. If we wait much longer, we won’t have anything worth voting for.

Trump Used Her Slain Daughter to Rail Against illegal immigration. She Chose a Different Path.

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We all have choices that we make on a daily basis on what kind of life and world we are leaving for our children. One of my intentions this year is to be conscious of what I take in and share.

This is more than a feel good story.

Mainly, because there is nothing about any of this that feels good. A woman has lost her daughter. A boy has lost his parents (in a different way). And our country has lost its way.

I can only  hope that it’s not too late for any of us.

Link to article

George Herbert Walker Bush (1924 – 2018)

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​Not sure if this is going to be longer later, but – I’m sad that George Bush 41 passed away. I’ve been listening to both the hagiographies and the realistic assessments of his presidency and public service career. Whatever else he was, he was a kind and decent person who cared about and loved his family and his country deeply. He had faith and beliefs that he kept in his heart throughout his life. He had a good sense of humor, and he made it okay for us to not like broccoli.

He signed the Americans with Disabillities Act and when he was asked to intervene in pushing back the Iraqi regime out from their invasion of Kuwait, he acted. He forrmed a multi-national coalition including Middle Eastern/Muslim countries, and when their objective was done (Hussein going back to Baghdad), he didn’t push an imperialistic doctrine.

He saw, and contributed, to the peaceful end of the Cold War after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, including the reunification of Germany, which is likely one reason that Chancellor Merkel came to pay her respects.

I didn’t vote for him, but I worked for him…kind of. I was a civilian in the Navy’s child development program. In addition to our regular group of military children under five, we were also joined by a couple of displaced kids when their parents were called up and their reserve units were activated during the Gulf War. Oddly, I was less politically active and vocal during Bush’s Presidency than just prior when I was in college and studying political science.

When he pledged not to raise taxes, then got into office, and saw the reality of the economy, he took a leap (and it probably cost him a second term), and for the good of the country, he raised taxes. For the good of the country.

He also closed military bases, which included my being laid off.

At 17, after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted, volunteering for the Navy and was the youngest aviator. He was shot down over the Pacific. He then went to college, and over the span of decades was Congressman, ambasasador, director of the CIA, Vice President and President of the United States. A lifetime of service. A good man.

He should be admired.

This eulogized more than I had originally intended.

The point I wanted to make is that if you’re waiting for someone who is unproblematic in order to eulogize them and offer condolences and respects upon their death after a lifetime of service, you may as well stop now. There is no such person. There will never be any such person. Even Saint Mother Theresa didn’t always believe in G-d, and she’s a saint. The point being that take a forward glance towards the future of state funerals and name the one, unproblematic one that we’re allowed to feel bad for, to admire, to want to emulate aspects of. They are all problematic to someone.

That doesn’t dismiss the valid feelings they invoke, but it may need some additional perspective. 

George HW Bush was a decent man, with morals and he attempted to be better, not better than anyone or any of us or anyone around him, but just better.

And in this world of Wisconsin Republicans overthrowing the duly elected incoming state government (is this the tyranny the NRA has warned us about? But that’s another discussion, isn’t it?), we could all use a little bit more decent.

Giving Tuesday

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In this time of holiday joy and generosity, please do what you can to support those organizations who help throughout the year.

ACLU

Planned Parenthood

RAICES

Random Acts

Where I Give My Support (list not inclusive)

Scroll down to the Stands links for a collection of worthy charities, all of whom do good works.

Add your own recommendations in the comments with how to reach them with donations and what their organization does.