Friday, April 29, 2016

Hey Bernie Fans, you say you want a revolution?

"It's time for liberal progressives to occupy government. We have the momentum and the power. Let's use it. Or we lose it." (Kimberly Johnson, blog in Huff Post Politics, April 27, 2016).

"Agree. I wish Bernie wouldn't just "downsize,"  let his people go, and keep running against the tide, but give his enthusiastic base a state-by-state plan to elect a new US Congress with a Democratic majority that will move the political process toward the changes he says he wants."  
This map from UVA Center for Politics used in Politico article cited below is a good start. The cream colored states are considered "swing" states for the Presidential election, much as in last couple of elections, but it is helpful to apply to Congressional elections too.Those are states where Bernie could harness the enthusiasm of his fan base to elect a Democratic majority in the US Congress on Nov.8, 2016. Other important states for grassroots action are Iowa, Arizona, Minn., Nevada, Florida, Texas, & Wisconsin, and support for candidates in any state targeted by the Koch Brothers & Tea Party obstructionists, such as Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.
Hey Bernie fans, you say you want a revolution? Well you're in the right place at the right time. To bring about the changes you say you want, especially in the area of income and wealth distribution, to actually pass legislation and make laws regulating the big banks and big money in politics like the Koch brothers, sanctioned by the US Supreme Court, we need to strengthen the three branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary.  This is the only way systemic change will happen. If we're all Democrats in this together, believing America is the story of progress toward our ideals, not perfect but hopeful, then we have to stop whining like a Trumpster and work to make this happen.  We need a Democratic majority in the US Congress, a Democratic president, and a progressive and fair Supreme Court that looks and thinks like America in the 21st century.

On November 8, 2016, America will vote for a new president, for all House members, for Senators, and for governors, as well as in many state and local elections. Will we feel the Bern in the states where action is urgently needed? As Kimberly Johnson wrote in the Huff Post,  "If you're truly interested in a revolution, then you will keep the momentum going. You will stay in the game when a battle is lost because the goal is to win the war."

It seems to me that the bottom line for the Democrats and the Bernie enthusiasts is to work state-by-state on every contested election, against every candidate supported by the Koch Brothers, Trump supporters, and Tea Party obstructionists. The mantra should be "A Democratic Congress in 2016."

Obama's presidency, obstructed at every turn by a do-nothing Congress noted for having no alternative policies, no legislation, nothing concrete in the way of options, has shown us how hard it is to get any change whatsoever when an extreme right wing unwilling to compromise controls the House and Senate. The refusal to consider Obama's Supreme Court nomination, obstructionist in the extreme and unconstitutional to boot, is just the most recent tip of the iceberg.  Even John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, sees the rampant dishonesty and pure obstructionism of the Tea Party members, Ted Cruz foremost among them, who would rather shut down the goverment than find common ground. No doubt Obama had to give up the kitchen sink to get Obamacare, and though people rail against him for it, it was, really, the ONLY way he could get it. This is the state of our US Congress today.

Want a revolution? We need to start with this reality. Bernie could develop and lead a game plan for grassroots progressive action from now until November. Bernie's base and Dems working together could help get it done if they really want to increase the chances for positive reform after November 2016. 

I did a little online research just to start thinking about a plan. In the US Senate,  34 of the 100 seats are being contested this November. The winners will serve six-year terms from January 3, 2017 until January 3, 2023. All  "class 3" Senators are up for election; class 3 was last up for election in 2012, when Republicans won a net gain of six seats. Currently, Democrats are expected to have 10 seats up for election, and Republicans 24 seats. Special elections may also be held to fill vacancies. Republicans, having taken control of the Senate in the 2014 election, currently hold the Senate majority with 54 seats. This needs to change if change is what you want. 
In the House of Representatives, all 435 congressional district seats are up for election in each of the 50 states. The whole House up for grabs! Non-voting delegates from DC and the other five territories will also be elected. The winners of this election will serve in the 115th Congress, with seats apportioned among the states based on the 2010 US Census. Think of what a Democratic majority would mean for any change agenda! Tired of political gridlock, Tea Party extremists, and the do-nothing Congress? Get rid of them.
What candidates should a Bern plan be targeting? From what I can gather through a quick online search, here are the Senate Democrats up for re-election who need support: Richard Blumenthal (Conn. Bennet (CO), B.Boxer (CA) retiring ,Patrick Leahy (Vermont),Barbara Mikulski (MD) retiring, Patty Murray (Washington), HarryReid (NEV) retiring, Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Charles Schumer (New York), Ron Wyden (Oregon).

These are the Republican Senators up for re-election:Kelly Ayotte (NH), Roy Blunt (Missouri), John Boozman (Ark), Richard Burr (NCarolina),Dan Coats (Ind) retiring, Mike Crapo (Idaho), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Hoeven (N Dakota), Johnny Isakson (Georgia),Ron Johnson (Wis), Mark Kirk (Ill), James Lankford (Okl), Mike Lee (Utah),John McCain (AZ),Jerry Moran (Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rand Paul (KY), Rob Portman (OH), Marco Rubio (Florida) retiring, Tim Scott (S Carolina),Richard Shelby (Ala),John Thune (S Dakota),Pat Toomey (Penn), and David Vitter (Louisiana).

Some of these folks are more politically astute than others. No problem. But get rid of the Tea Party and extremists candidates who diss America without any alternative policies. Clean House!

From what I can tell these are the states where there are contested elections for the House: AZ, CA, FL, NH, NV, IL, Iowa, Maine, Minn, NY, TX and WI.

These are the states where there are heavily contested elections for Senator: Nevada, with Harry Reid retiring, Florida, for Rubio's seat, Avotte in NH. There may be others. Sen. Roberts, Kansas, has to go for example.  I think it's really critical to have a Democratic majority in the Senate. Just look at what McConnell is doing to the democratic process by refusing to hold hearings on the President's Supreme Court nominee. Today I saw that Republican Senator Roberts of Kansas is stalling an Obama nominee for Army secretary, who happens to be gay. These guys are among the most anti-American trolls going, dissing America at every turn and undermining democratic principles. Get rid of them.

The Bernie research teams and state teams could get on this now, draw up a plan for action, keep the momentum going. How much stronger a progressive America would be if we had a Congress and a President who worked together. It would also mean a stronger, more modern Supreme Court. Bernie could help make it happen. It's probably the most important change of all.


Some sources: 
--Google "House and Senate Political Rankings at 2016." and "do nothing Congress." Wikipedia has basic information on the electoral process.
--https://www.yahoo.com/news/house-votes-repeal-u-retirement-rule-obama-threatens-203619282--sector.html Why we need a new Congress to bring about the kinds of changes Bernie says he wants.
--http://www.opensecrets.ood/2016elections/fl/Senate-Seats-up-for-Election-in-2016.htmrg/races/  for interesting info on who's getting what financial support, and

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

50+ Years Later: A Joyous Reunion with Old College Friends

Lovely Dataw Island, Cathy's adopted home where she lived with her husband Tom and is an Island historian, preservationist and community leader, so Sarah and I had the best tours of the Island and surrounding Islands around Beaufort. We had an expert tour of the Sams PlantationTabby Ruins; boarded the Santa Elena tall ship that anchored in Port Royal, a reminder of the 16th-century Spanish history of the Islands; walked on the beach under a clear blue sky; visited the pretty town of Beaufort and the Point, a neighborhood of Antebellum mansions and grand Victorians; enjoyed a fantastic "Lowcountry Chamber Music Concert" with Cathy's friend Ann at the Art Center; shared wonderful lunches and dinners with the best conversations imaginable; savored a meal of fresh shrimp right off the boat at Dobson's, which looked like Forrest Gump's shrimp boat! What a special time, a walk down memory lane. 
What's it like seeing your college roommates and closest friends after 54 years? I was nervous about it, but it turns out I didn't need to be at all. It was wonderful, kind of like watching a home movie in fast forward, traveling over time from the innocence and curiosity of young girls at the beginning of life's journeys, to the vim and vigor of old ladies with lots of experiences under our belts and the humor to match.  We reminisced, shared memories, remembered some things differently or not at all, got updated and recharged, laughed a lot, and created new memories to warm our days.

After graduation from Wheaton College in Norton, Mass, where we spent four years together learning, experimenting, and exploring, Cathy and Sarah went off to New York City and I to Madison, Wisconsin. They kept in touch with each other and several mutual friends then and through the years, while I disappeared off the planet.  God knows why I seemed to never look back over a period of my life that was so important, why I neglected to stay in touch with friends who meant so much to me.  I confess to a terrible failing. I'm guilty of inconsiderate and selfish, unkind behavior. Thoughtless youth, yes, but really so incomprehensible. I got into my graduate student days to such an extent I left the past behind.  How could I? Still, Cathy and Sarah were kind and forgiving, and we were happy we finally came together after all these years. I'm reminded of a blessing for old age: "May the light of your soul give you wisdom to see this beautiful time of harvesting..."

And harvesting is what we did. From the seeds of our individual choices and our shared experiences we harvested the gems of our years.  We reminisced under towering and ancient Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss, felt the winds of time sweeping across Dataw Island and over the replica of the old cargo ship, Santa Elena, and enjoyed the culture and special beauty of the South Carolina lowcountry around Beaufort. We were all history majors at Wheaton, remembered our wonderful professors and the high caliber of our education, and we understood the complex history and heritage of the place we now shared. Cathy is active in preserving Dataw Island's history and a leader in her adopted home, so we had an expert and knowledgeable guide. We were on the same page politically, too, which made for some great and hilarious conversations.

It was a magical mystery tour on many levels adapted to the aging spirits of three old college friends. We were "red hat" ladies in purple, like in Jenny Joseph's famous poem, making up for "the sobriety of our youth," letting the inner sparks fly freely and with gay abandon.  There's an energy and freedom that comes with age, not to mention some experience and wisdom about life, and we three shared in them with great pleasure.  I tend to go light on "the wisdom" factor, and a bit more heavy on the "life's a daring adventure" side, and Sarah and Cathy do, too. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine I used to say, "It's amazing where life takes you, if you take life as it comes."  I still think so.  Life took Sarah, Cathy and I full circle to Dataw Island, SC, and we just let the winds of time fly over and around us, our red hats sailing off into beautiful sunsets and beyond an orange full moon into brilliantly starry nights.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Magical Ireland

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, the elegant and the humble.

I'm back from a magical mystery tour of Ireland.  What made this travel adventure all the more special was sharing it with my daughter Elissa. We're both wrapped in green now, and the luck of the Irish, so coming back to emerging Springtime in Sylvania seems like coming around and completing a sacred Celtic circle.

DUBLIN! Dublin music, dance, architecture, culture, from street life to Trinity College Library and Book of KellsElissa with the Sylvania Advantage, where she is the graphic designer; the president's house, St. Patrick's Cathedral, celtic cemetary; the Taylor pub (at least one on every corner), and Searson's restaurant. 
Elissa on a Dublin walk.
Our Gate 1 tour around the Emerald Isle, with informative, awesome and entertaining guide Doug, started in James Joyce's Dublin, where we took in statue-lined O'Connell Street, rows of Georgian houses with colorful doors, Phoenix Park, where the president resides, St. Patrick's Cathedral, dedicated to Ireland's patron saint, and then to Oscar Wilde's famed Trinity College and Library, which houses the magnificent 8th-century Book of Kells, an illuminated Gospel book in Latin, a lavishly decorated masterwork of western calligraphy. That evening we enjoyed an Irish feast with Irish whiskey, wine and beer, and Irish music and dancing, at an Irish pub, all enthralling and fun.

We got into the spirit of Ireland that day, even though Elissa and I preferred walking about central Dublin's streets to paying a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, which occupies several city blocks and bolsters the Irish economy! But before our first pint, as they say in Dublin, we did learn the Irish toast "Slainte" (pronounced Slahn-che), to your good health, which stood us in good stead to the end of our visit.

A bookstore displays books
on the 1916 Rising.
Galway street poster
We were in Dublin on Easter Sunday, 27 March, when the country commemorated the 100th anniversary of "The Rising" of 1916 and the massacre of its now-revered freedom fighters seeking Irish independence. England's brutal response increased support for Irish republicanism, leading to the rise of Sinn Fein and
Our itinerary
the Irish Republican Army (IRA).  It also laid the foundation of what the Irish call "the Troubles" of the late 1960s to 1998, a violent period of nationalist and sectarian revolt that resulted, at last, in peace and an independent Republic of Ireland. A part of Northern Ireland (in white in upper right on map) continues under British tutelage with its capital in Belfast, but a sense of cultural unity also persists among the Irish people.

Waterford, Kilkenny and nearby landscapes. An excellent 
local tour guide, Patrick, lead us around his hometown of Kilkenny. 
Killarney by Elissa. She loved the gluten-free fish & chips, and onion rings!
We also had a great Thai dinner. 
From Dublin our trusty bus driver Barry, who navigated the winding roads with ease, took us to Waterford, home of the famous glass makers; the Blarney Castle en route to Kilkenny; around the famed Ring of Kerry through Killarney National Park on the Island's southwestern tip, and also past the remote Michael Skellig, the dramatic location of the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Who can forget that scene of Rey hiking with determination up those rocky green slopes to meet Luke Skywalker and present him with the magical lightsaber that belonged to his father and grandfather. 

From County Kerry in the southwest we headed north to Bunratty Castle and an interesting "Folk Park" of 19th-century reconstructed or rebuilt Irish homes, then to the fabulous Cliffs of Moher with its Henry Potter feel, and onto beautiful, bustling Galway. 
Bunratty Castle and the Folk Park, an outdoor museum of 19th-century Irish homes. Our tour group  (there were 40 of us from all over the US ) had a nice guided tour of the castle.  We missed the popular 'medieval banquets,' but got a good sense of the place.  

Iconic Irish Images
Doug's Irish "gift of gab," so eloquent and so rich in humor and insight, entertained us all the way as we drove through one iconic landscape after another.  Near the town of Limerick on the River Shannon, Doug read us several limerick poems. Elissa, so creative and clever, such a dear, added a wonderful limerick of her own to the travel festivities, which Doug read with pleasure. I hope she posts it! We learned Irish history, about the language, about farming, about Irish gypsies. So many fabulous stories! We had a wonderful overview of a lovely country with bustling towns and modern cities, beautiful countryside and farms, and gentle landscapes dotted with ancient ruins and fences made of thick shrub or ancient stone. Our Ireland tour enveloped us in the warm, soft feel of Irish wool with a overlay of sparkling emerald green.
Galway, once a small fishing village, is now one of the fastest growing cities of Europe, according to our tour guide Doug. It's on the Shannon river, which is now full of rushing water at a very high level and turbulent.  Our hotel, Jurys Inn, was on the river and in walking distance to the heart of the city. Wish we could have stayed longer but we got a great feel for the city. 

Cliffs of Moher, a mystical landscape.  George Bernard Shaw called it "a part of our dream world."