(Wo)Man In The Mirror

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Why is our nation in such a mess?

Look in the mirror. Did you vote in the last election; the one that didn’t have a president running? Or did you shrug and say “it’s all rigged” and stay home? You are the reason our nation is falling apart. You allowed others to take away what should be the most cherished freedom of our country – the right to vote.

Our Congress is controlled by people voted in who have promised, and succeeded, in shutting down the government because a small percentage of people don’t like our mixed nation or progressive agendas. They are fearful and they vote in fear. These people vote against their own self-interests (disability, Social Security, Medicare, and other safety net programs) because they have been fed a steady diet of propaganda in the form of Fox News. These mostly white, older, under-educated Americans brought in the Tea Party candidates in 2010 and our country has suffered greatly. In 2014 it became even worse when they swept the Senate. They were all but invited because the majority of Americans couldn’t be bothered to vote in a non-presidential election.

So the blame lies directly on those of you who didn’t vote. YOU are the reason we are in this mess.

Now that we are back in a presidential race, voters who have been staying away are now supporting a candidate who speaks to them. That’s great, but why didn’t you do this during the non-presidential years? Why didn’t you support House and Senate candidates from your state who also spoke to you? Why didn’t you work to find candidates that supported issues you care about? It takes more than a President to make changes in this country, we have 3 branches of government and they all have checks and balances. When you have a sitting President trying to move forward (jobs legislation, help for veterans, banking reforms) but a Congress that is determined to stop him (as they have stated more than once), of course there is going to be gridlock. And you, the American voter, is the one who caused this. Because when you don’t vote, you let someone else vote for you.

Republicans win because Republicans vote. Democrats win in presidential years because that’s when Democrats and Independents get off their asses and actually make it to a voting booth. You want change? Then start getting involved. Learn the name of your local representatives in Congress and research their voting records. Don’t agree with their votes? Vote them out. Find candidates you support. Will they lose? Certainly, not everyone wins; that’s part of the process. You find the candidates who support your issues and then you work to help spread the word about them. If they connect, like Bernie Saunders did, then they will get the attention they deserve.

Does it suck that Bernie may not win the nomination? Yes, but that’s when you put on your big kid pants and support the nominee because they are still closer to your viewpoint that the opposing candidate.

Does it stink to vote for the lesser of two evils? Yes, but you hold your nose and do it. During the 1980s when Saint Ronnie Regan was destroying the country, I voted Democrat in every election knowing that it would be a battle. I never turned away from my responsibility to vote and I supported my candidates even when they didn’t win.

Taking your ball and going home because your candidate didn’t get chosen is childish and hurtful, both to you and to the issues you care about. Opting for a third party is hurtful to the nation; look what happened when Ralph Nader split the left-leaning vote in 2000 and we were stuck with W for 8 years. To all who voted for Nader in 2000, shame on you; you are partly responsible for the mess we are in today. Splitting the vote hurts everyone; we are a two-party nation because those two parties select and elect candidates. The other parties are more than welcome to organize, ask for federal funds, and create their own movement but don’t bash the other parties for being better organized and publicized.

And please don’t whine about the system being unfair. Don’t complain about a process that has been effect for 60+ years; you can work to change it after the election, not during it. Think about someone other than yourself. Which candidate is better for our entire nation? Who would you trust with our nuclear launch codes?

If you are serious about changing this country then start by understanding how our government works. Our vote DOES matter, we just have to get out there and pull the lever, fill in the bubble, mark the box. When you willingly give up the right to vote – a right that our military personnel fight and die for – then YOU are to blame for this country failing.

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Monday Musings: “Your Books Are So Good, I Shouldn’t Have to Pay for Them.”

This is another problem with self-publishing. If you don’t value your work then no one else does, and it spills over to authors who are trying to make a living from writing. Free books hurt everyone.

And So On...

This happened to an author of my acquaintance. She got an email from a “fan” and the gist of it was this:

Dear Ms. Author.

I really like your books. I think they are well-written and I enjoyed reading them. (So far, so good, right? Hang on.) However, I have returned them all because you priced them at $0.99 to $2.99, and that is too much to pay for them. I can’t afford to pay that much for a book, even though I liked it. In the future, can you make sure you make all your books free so I don’t have to return them?

And, when the author in question blocked this “fan” (and it seems, reported her as an abuser of the return system on ebooks), she sent another email chastising the author for blocking her and forcing her to open a second account (presumably to harass the…

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The Song Remains The Same (Not)

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Continuing to watch the live-action train wreck that is the American Primary season, I have come to this inescapable conclusion:
The next person who tells me that “both parties are the same” is going to get punched.

Because that’s how you make America great again, by inciting violence in politics.

Donald Trump is the crop that the Republican party has been nurturing for the past 30+ years. Unfortunately for them they thought they planted carrots but what showed up – once unearthed – was a big potato. A really ugly potato. A lumpy, smelly, hard to swallow potato; discolored on the outside but oh-so-white on the inside.

When I used to post politics on Facebook, I tried not to argue with friends who, in their uninformed opinion, stated both parties were equally guilty. I tried to challenge them to find the truth on their own by suggesting they look up Congressional voting records. The voting record is fact, not opinion; when your duly elected politician repeatedly votes down bills that would ultimately help the American people but supports corporate welfare and big oil subsidies, then you are a huge part of the problem of why this country is off track. You are willfully ignorant and prefer snappy comebacks to real data.

And real data is another factor of why we have such diverse politics. Those who support Trump could care less about statistics, videos of violence at Trump rallies, the hateful speeches that he gives. They don’t care. Donald Trump is correct that he could shoot someone in broad daylight with thousands of witnesses and it would not hurt his popularity at all. In the eyes of his supporters, he can do no wrong. People see him as their leader and they will ignore anything that disproves them. You will never convince them how bad a choice this man is for President of the United States. And this is why I stopped posting politics on Facebook; you will never convince people who are passionate to change their minds. Logic and reason do not work.

I do give Trump credit for making some statements that are true. The American people are angry; they’ve lost their jobs, their homes, their retirement, things are not as good (financially) as they used to be, the world is changing. He correctly blames Wall Street and bloated corporations for creating income inequality. However, Trump also blames the poor, immigrants, Muslims, and basically anyone who isn’t white. He stokes up this anger to fuel hatred towards those who have had nothing to do with the fall of America. He soaks up the applause and praise from his followers as if it is ambrosia, and then he doubles-down on the hate rhetoric to continue the flow.

For as much as the media has been vilified by Trump, they continue to follow him and give him air time. Not so much for the other candidates. Equal Time, an archaic practice that early television gave to Presidential candidates, has disappeared from our “fair and balanced” news reporting. Even the head of CBS thinks Trump is great due to all the advertising dollars the company reaps whenever they report on the candidate. The other candidates are ghosts as far as the media is concerned; The Donald is opening the floodgates of money to those who should be watchdogs.

And we all know that guard dogs fail when someone gives them a steak as a distraction.

Now for the good part of all this.

This unprecedented hatred in American politics has energized those who are being marginalized. Those groups that Trump bashes are now joining forces and working peacefully to stop the message of hate. The shutdown of Trump’s Chicago rally showed that by working together, good can overcome evil. We are all getting a history lesson on how Nazi Germany came to be in the 1930s, and many are doing their utmost to make sure that it never happens again. Young people are energized, people who have chosen not to vote in past elections (and helped to bring about a candidate like Donald Trump because doing nothing helps evil flourish), and groups with different agendas have found a common enemy.

So as comedian Bill Engvall so eloquently put it, “here’s your sign” that both parties are nowhere near the same.

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I Won’t Watch (Don’t Ask Me)

The movie The Color Purple is the reason I don’t watch the Oscars.

The 1985 movie was incredible with a great cast, a wonderful adaption of the book, and beautifully filmed. And while it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards there was one category that was overtly missing from the list: Best Director.

Steven Spielberg was not even nominated. Despite being nominated by the Golden Globes and the Director’s Guild of America (winning the DGA award), Steven Spielberg was conspicuously missing from the Best Director category at the Oscars. This is where I learned how completely subjective the Academy is towards movies and their makers. Spielberg was “that Jaws guy” and “that horror director”, so he was completely discounted as a nominee based on his past work and not his current work. It would take another 8 years for the Academy to recognize his talent as a movie director with Schindler’s List.

Many of those who are voting members don’t understand how movies are made these days. A lot of voting members have admitted to not even watching all the films, but voting despite that small detail. While I agree that popularity should not dictate who wins, there are still many performances that are completely ignored. Motion capture is a perfect example of how actors’ performances are discounted despite their brilliance.

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in Avatar and Andy Serkis as Gollum in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and as Ceasar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes gave inspired and amazing performances; but the Academy could have cared less because they were considered special effects. Motion capture requires a lot from an actor to try and give a performance without a costume, covered with “ping-pong balls”, and with a camera in front of their face capturing every move. Talk about distracting.

But the only thing the voting members can take away from this is that the characters were created in a computer. They make a decision based on ignorance.

While many actors feel that the Oscars are less important for recognition than the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards, where they are judged by their peers in the industry, it is still galling to me that voters who are no longer in the business or have no concept of how the industry has changed are tasked with picking the “winners”. And even more disrespectful is when those nominees are very, very, very white. If Kenneth Branagh had filmed Chi-Raq, the Academy would be falling over itself to make nominations.

There needs to be a better system.

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Everything Is Awesome

I have been waiting impatiently for the release of Deadpool and was set to see it first thing Friday, February 12. But Mr. Murphy, of Murphy’s Law (the saying, not the TV show) had other plans for me. I got sick on Thursday and I’m still fighting it. But I dragged myself out of the house on Tuesday the 16th to finally see the Merch with a Mouth.

I write a series of books where the main character (well, the one who talks anyways) speaks sarcasm fluently, so anything with a lot of snark is right up my alley. The film did not disappoint and after seeing it I have dubbed it “The Greatest Romance Film Of All Time”.

Yes, a romance film. While that my seem bass-ackwards to those who are only vaguely familiar with the movie, let me make my point – without spoilers of course, every point that seems spoilery has been seen in the trailers.

Love At First Sight/Snark
When the couple first meets there is an instant attraction and they verbally have a “who had it worse as a child” sparring match. This is a standard plot device of any romantic film. It doesn’t matter that the guy is a merchant for hire who kills people and the gal is a woman who sells her body, they are people and they form a relationship.

Committed Relationship
The relationship is committed. He supports her and she supports him. They compliment each other. They both have respect for one another. Yes there is a great montage of sex scenes but people in committed relationships have sex. Sex is a great thing in a committed relationship.

I took my 16-year old son to see this picture and we had a wonderful discussion on love and relationships. I know the kid watches porn on his phone, I’ve seen it. But instead of chastising him I used it as an opportunity for open discussion. Porn is unrealistic, even the people in the industry know that. Kids today with their abstinence-only sex education have legitimate questions about sex and relationships that no one will answer. They want to be educated but the American culture has such a hard time with discussing sex that we give them tons of violence instead. It’s stupid.

Also, my son is autistic and everything has to be explained very bluntly because he doesn’t get subtlety. Much like Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Surviving Tragedy
The guy is diagnosed with cancer – everywhere. It’s terminal. He wants to leave so she doesn’t have to watch him die. She is tough, she won’t let go. She looks at all options, all remedies. She never once considers leaving him alone with such a huge emotional bag to carry.

Enduring Faith
So the guy gets his special “treatment” and the side effects result in the “one avocado having sex with a slightly older avocado” condition of his looks. He loses faith in himself. He thinks he can never go back to her because of his looks. It is a shallow and simplistic assumption. He completely underestimates the love his woman has for him. He falters, badly, with deadly consequences.

It’s very much like a rom-com but with lots of gratuitous violence and an awesome, explosive ending.

As a female movie-goer who loves action movies this film is to be applauded for it’s depiction of the main female characters. All of them were treated with respect, given meaningful roles, and they all kicked major ass. There is a female villain that holds her own with the giant silver guy and their fight is awesome.

As a movie buff, the opening credit sequence was the best I have ever seen with a major shout-out to the writers who are the most overlooked professionals in this business. Writers are the tortured souls of film, giving their carefully prepared works to studio executives who then tear through the thoughts and words like Vikings through an English village.

 

[POST SCRIPT: Regarding the horrific reaction to male genitalia being seen on the screen, it’s completely overblown. The guy is fighting naked, his penis is going to be seen however briefly. That is what happens when you fight without clothing, people. Hate to scare you, but we are all naked under our clothing.]

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Oh Donations, We’re Begging You Please

NOTE: This was supposed to be posted on December 30, 2015 but end of year bad stuff happened and it didn’t get done.

(Apologies to Simon and Garfunkle for transposing the lyrics to “Cecilia” to fit my title.)

It’s the end of the year so it must be donation time.

Back when I had money I would donate to left-leaning causes and PACs. I want Citizen United overturned and I want big money out of our politics. These days politicians don’t even try to hide the fact they have been bought and sold by the wealthy in this country. And while I’ve been broadly affected by the Great Recession of 2008, apparently these non-profits didn’t get the memo. In a single day I get multiple emails written in panicked tones that these organizations need to meet their year-end funding goals if I could just send them $15, $25, or $50 to help out.

A quarter of my weekly grocery budget is $15.

Just because a group has the label of non-profit does not mean that executives/board members don’t draw a salary. Some of those incomes are outrageous for organizations that are supposed to be helping others. Seems like they are helping themselves first. Granted not all non-profits do this, but the laws allow the controlling board members to get paid for their time.

Back in 2011 I discovered the Coffee Party, a supposedly non-partisan political group that wanted to overturn Citizens United and foster civil and fact-based discussion about the problems that our nation faces. When they decided to sell memberships and get organized I signed on and was one of the founding members. Then came the application for non-profit status.

Before the application I had been part of many intelligent and rewarding discussion with both the organizers and general forum users. Questions were answered with useful explanations, everyone was on the same level and willing to help however they could. But when they organized as a  501(c)4 non-profit and gave certain members officer positions the helpfulness stopped in its tracks. Questions sent to the Membership Officer went unanswered, the forums became heavily moderated, and the spirit of purpose was completely lost. In fact the entire group has fallen off the political radar; a Google search only showed articles from 2010 with almost nothing after that.

Did you know that the Red Cross is being run by former executives of AT&T? The organization was running over budget so “business people” were brought in to fix it. Unfortunately a corporate business model does not work well for a non-profit, which is supposed to serve. Control was taken away from the local Red Cross Chapters and a top-down management structure was enacted. Needless to say it has failed miserably because when disasters happen the local Chapter knows better than anyone what is needed and what resources are available.

For a detailed article on the status of the Red Cross from 2014, go here: https://www.propublica.org/article/the-corporate-takeover-of-the-red-cross

So to summarize, organizations who pay their top people very well want people like me to give them money. Even AARP wants money from me and I’m one of the people they are supposed to be helping. Under-employed for over 10 years, rejected from jobs due to my age, no retirement, no savings, no income, and I’m supposed to pay them.

Robert Reich stop emailing me; it’s over.

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Rainy Days and Mondays

Actually I like rainy days, but definitely not Mondays.

I was thinking about where I am in my life, especially as my 53rd birthday draws near. I was born in the 60s when our futures seemed so bright. A man walked on the moon, vaccines promised greater health for common – yet deadly – diseases, and there were these things called “computers” that were used to make everything run better and faster.

I grew up with the assumption that I would finish school, go to college, get a job, and be financially secure. I never aspired to wealth or success, I just wanted to make a decent living. Now, in 2015, that dream has been shattered. In the 1990s I was working at a very large corporation in San Diego and read about off-shoring jobs during that time. It made me wonder what would happen when all the jobs went away.

Unfortunately I found out since the current state of employment reflects just that.

Prior to when I started working in the 80s, businesses used to be proud of their employees. Having many employees meant the business was successful, employees added to the value of the company, and if the company was in manufacturing then the employees could also be the customer. Henry Ford understood that concept when he made sure pricing for this automobiles fit what his workers could afford.

Not so much these days.

The 80s ushered in the Gordon Gecko “greed is good” mantra and the business model shifted from “share the growth” to “I’ve got mine, screw everyone else”. Employees suddenly became a drain on profits and shareholders were now the ones in charge. Merger-mania was abundant and the larger companies were gobbling up the smaller ones not only to obtain their assets but to get rid of the competition. Many jobs were lost due to duplicate positions after the merger.

With the Tech Boom in the 90s, I watched in horror as venture capitalists literally threw money at young people who knew anything about this Internet contraption. However the money never really went towards building a business, it went to buying expensive cars and luxury homes; if the start up managed to grow an actual, thriving company they turned around and sold to the highest bidder. Once again people lost their jobs and the guy at the top got all the money. Screw you, peasants.

I didn’t work much during the early 2000s due to my younger son being diagnosed as autistic. This is where I earned that dreaded disease called “a gap in employment”. The Gap in Employment stigma is worse than a pirate’s black spot, it leaves hiring managers in terror. After too many online application questions asking me to explain employment gaps, I wrote the following:

Gaps in employment are not contagious and will not spread to other employees, if hired. The affected applicant can lead a normal and healthy life with gaps in their employment. Gaps in employment are easily treatable but may affect the applicant for an extended period of time.

(Side Rant: Why bother asking me to upload my resume when you’re just going to make me type it all into the job application? )

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The great crash of 2008 and my subsequent divorce have left me with nothing. No job, no retirement, no savings, no home ownership (I rent), and no car ownership (I lease). I lost everything. Add in the fact that age discrimination is alive and well, I doubt I will ever have a decent paying job ever again. I have too much experience, I know more than the hiring manager (they hate hiring people who are smarter than they are), and I understand California Labor Laws. They can’t take advantage of me so they wont’ hire me. I can’t even get a job at Walmart, that’s how pathetic I am.

I have done plenty of temp jobs, but many of them end before I am eligible for Unemployment benefits so I used up all my retirement and savings to keep myself afloat in between jobs. I have been advised to move away where there are more jobs, but the child custody arrangement for my younger son doesn’t allow me to leave.

I was told if I followed the rules that I would have a secure and successful life. Unfortunately the rules changed.

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