Thursday, July 27, 2017

And Now For Gutting The Military

Yeah, Trump again. Another broken promise. More encouragement for us to hate. Why is it a surprise? Just because it's another broken campaign promise? Haven't we gotten so used to them by now that it's just another day in "paradise"?

So the latest verbal vomit is keeping out and/or kicking transgender people out of the military. He did promise to be a friend to the LGBT community. It's on video: go watch it. Did he not know what he thought he was talking about? Did he think the "T" stood for teddy bears? Or does he just think they are easy targets, without defenders, as a subject for another midnight tweeting spew that would distract us from any of the other awful things he's doing or trying to do? You know, like a shiny thing over there to draw our eyes from, say, Russia? Dismantling laws? Destroying our clean water and air?

Looking at our military now, post draft era, we have volunteers, either brave or foolhardy souls willing to give their lives, or maybe just an arm and a leg or two, in what they believe is the defense of our country. (Sometimes they're right about the "why" of it. Another rant for another day.)  Volunteerism wasn't the first or only change to who served in our military. It started with allowing African Americans in, once enough folks put aside their prejudices to fight alongside fellow soldiers whose contributions didn't depend on skin color. We allowed gays in, since a few smart somebodies finally figured out, like somebody once said, that it doesn't matter if they are straight, just whether they can shoot straight. (Too bad it took so damn long!) Besides, they'd been there contributing all along, just hiding who they were. Now we even allow women in some combat roles, because they found out we don't lack courage and can shoot straight too, besides changing tires and fixing engines, etc. Of course, we still have to prove our combat readiness in high status positions, but growth is happening.

Now we turn to the least understood, most belittled minority in our society, the transgender individuals. (Hey, was your first thought "drag queen"?) Try to get past that nonsense mantra about God not making any mistakes. Think, instead,  evolution still trying to see what works towards survival and what doesn't. Read a bit, take a sociology or anatomy class, and you'll find out about plenty of anomalies in how we humans are put together.

Start with, say, genetic diseases. You can all name half a dozen, even if you don't quite realize the genetic component. While you're doing that, recall that nobody calls any of them lifestyle choices. Add in other anomalies like, say, a sixth finger. (Remember Anne Boleyn?) That was neither a choice nor an indication of witchcraft as thought at the time, just genetics doing something different again.  Did you know, being mammals, some of us are born with rows of nipples rather than a single pair? Do you call that a moral fault?

Just like other body parts have variety, so do genitals. Some babies are born with ambiguous parts, and somebody decides for them what gender they will grow up to be. They could be wrong. And some people with perfectly typical genitals grow up knowing that's not who they are.

But they are still as human as the rest of us. They have the same rights and obligations, the same capabilities and flaws. And if they want, under our volunteer system, they can still make perfectly good soldiers. You know, so you don't have to if you don't want to. And if you do want to, they'll have your back just like you'll have theirs.

Right now, estimates range as high as 15,000 transgender individuals serving our country as soldiers. But Trump wants to kick them out. He "claims" he made the decision after consulting "his" generals. But the Pentagon was in an uproar after those tweets, as nobody had heard a whisper of this policy change, much less been consulted. And by the way, though he is Commander in Chief, those are our, the country's generals, not his.

Besides Trump showing off his dishonesty and flagrent prejudices, what would be the consequences of such a move? Well, how would those soldiers be replaced? Have we got another 15,000 folk out there just dying to become soldiers (Yes, Virginia, pun intended) whom we've put on waiting lists because "their" slots have already been filled? If so, how long would it take to train them to the current levels of expertise of the soldiers Trump wants to kick out? And let's just imagine what, say, Kim Jung Un would think are his new possibilities for attacking us in the meantime? What could Putin get away with? Syria? Fill-in-the-blank?

How would these soldiers be removed? They joined and served just as honorably as their fellow soldiers. Would we force them out under a dishonorable discharge just because of a policy change, along with all the losses of rights and benefits that would go along with that? (Hey, NRA, you want 15,000 folks suddenly unable legally to own a gun?) Do they lose college opportunities? Health benefits? Employment chances?

What about the so-called extra cost of having transgender soldiers? First, statistically few of them chose surgery, opting for hormonal treatments. Compare that to the "simple" cost of dealing with limb loss or brain injuries happening to our "regular" soldiers? Hell, even supplying Viagara to soldiers costs us way more than the needs of transgender soldiers. And while on that topic, why the hell are we supplying Viagara to soldiers? I thought we were supposed to be keeping their minds on their jobs. And don't we already have too many cases of rape in the military, as well as with residents of countries where our soldiers are stationed? Are you telling me that erections win wars? Seriously?

Trump has been so wrong and so awful in so many ways. Can we stop him this time?

Can we?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boy Scouting? Boo Hiss!

I guess I was very naive when I was a girl scout. Even when I was a girl scout leader. I just didn't get the messages. Ones like nobody gay was welcome. Of course, back then it was "Dyke" but I still never heard the word, much less the exclusion or its so-called justification. Were we that different from Boy Scouts? I just saw moms and daughters, never thinking some might be excluded by anything other than lack of interest in joining, or lack of interesting things to do. Race? Religion? So far as I knew, since they never entered into the equation for me,  I can't tell you if the girl scouts had those policies back then, or even now. I hope not. They were boring, but idealistic, so that was the standard I set for  myself as a result. (Yes, the boring part too. All those icky girly role aspirations.)

The boy scouts caught my attention, and not in a good way, when they tried to exclude gay scouts and leaders. First, who knows if they're gay when they join cub scouts? More to the point, who cares? And by the time one goes through the whole system and becomes a scout leader, why should sexual orientation be an issue? It's not like gay equates with pedophile. Priest, maybe. Coach, maybe. Next door neighbor, maybe. Pedophiles are out there, after all, but sexual orientation does not a predator make.

So the organization of boy scouts lost my respect. And silly me, I thought that was the end of it.

But then, Trump. I just heard a few things in the news which decreased my respect for the boy scouts even more, after thinking it wasn't possible. Trump spoke to them. He was never himself a scout, but hey, any president should have the right to address them and inspire them by setting a good example, right?

Good example? Are we talking the same President? First, he puts down our previous president, Obama for any of you with short term memory issues, and gets the crowd to go along with him. That alone violates so many points of the boy scout oath that I don't know where to begin, but let's end with "brave", because the courage to challenge the president's spew appeared sorely lacking. I get it in the kids, somewhat, but the leaders?

Then, Trump, being Trump, insists that the loyalty part of the oath be directed, not at their fellow scouts, not to whichever God they have been raised to worship, not even to their country, but to him. Trump. Again, so wrong on so many levels. Sadly, again cheered not just by the boys but their leaders as well.

In my apparently ongoing naivety, I assumed that once the scout troops got home and out of the spotlight, their leaders would have a good discussion with their troop members on what scouting was really supposed to be about, as opposed to the verbal vomit spewing from Trump's mouth. But when I heard that the leaders were cheering Trump on, I lost all hope.

Hey, didn't Der Fuehrer start with the young boys as well?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Says It All, Doesn't It?

"If I were to run, I'd run as a Republican. They're the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they'd still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific."

Donald Trump
quoted in People Magazine

UPDATE: I've been informed this can't be backed up. What a shame. It so-o-o-o Trump. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Computer Trails: How Stupid Is Stupid?

We see it over and over, in situation after situation. People up to all kinds of  mischief keep leaving computer records of their deeds, as if they left no records behind them. It's not just the Trumps being stupid so publicly, or fraternity brothers after a hazing turns deadly texting their girlfriends.

Having an affair? Texting your honey? Think you'll never get caught?

Cheating your company? Think the transfer of funds is hidden?

Bullying a classmate? Think you're anonymous?

Videotaping your break-in and vandalism or theft for some warped idea of bragging rights? Think nobody can identify you? Better yet, think nobody has security cameras either inside the store or covering the street from two doors down?

Sending nasty comments about your boss over the company email?

Posting sex tapes thinking they're private?

Got your most sensitive company records on the same network as your email and browsers?

Seriously, how stupid is stupid, really?

Remember this: if it's sent over the internet, it's not - NOT! - private.

Somewhere a record is kept. Someone is willing to share it. Somebody is willing to hack your data. Somebody wants to get paid for your information, if not simply using it themselves. You may be perfectly innocent and still perfectly stupid.

Even your best precautions may not be good enough. You can change your most obscure passwords regularly, use different ones for different accounts, install the latest security software, stay out of wi-fi public networks, scramble and encode everything. Somebody can still break through.  Somebody will. Just because you don't know how to, don't trust that nobody else will figure it out.

And by the way, teach your kids, too, that the internet isn't private. It is possible to be a little less stupid, at least for some of us. Some never learn.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Good Bye Five-O, Good Riddance

I know you're more appropriately supposed to say "Aloha", but that has so many meanings with positive connotations that I just couldn't do it this time.

Five-O used to be a staple of Friday night viewing, The last couple years I found myself getting more and more indifferent to it. Steve and Danny were turning into squabbling children, and disfunctional families have never been my idea of entertainment. Three-year-olds with guns, whoopee. There were still a few decent story lines and great scenery that kept they  eyes on the screen most weeks, but the two main characters kept me squirming. No, not in a good way.

Now the last shoe has dropped. If my vote counts, it'll be coming off the DVR schedule. Why now? I just heard they dropped the last two actual adult characters on the series, Grace Park (Kono) and Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho).

The worst part is the reason they were both dropped. Had they gone off to bigger and better offers, starring in better shows, I would have said Halleluia for both of them and followed them both to see how much I liked the new shows where they ended up. But it's a much nastier reason than that. It seems the Hawaiian characters weren't getting paid as much as the white guys, and the show refused to equalize their salaries. So, the two characters I like to watch are gone because the ones I dislike and am totally bored with are paid more?

Chin and Kono, you two are more ohana than Steve and Danny will ever be. I wish you the best in whatever comes next for you two, and hope it beats the hell out of Five-O!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cleaning... Sort Of

Boy, could I use a bandana! One of those big enough to cover my head above the eyebrows and keep about three quarts of salty sweat out of my eyes. The stuff stings! Messes up my glasses too.

Spoiler alert: Minnesota is back! By that, I mean the humidity that I used to take for granted, the crap which makes stepping outside and moving three feet totally miserable. And that's without even counting mosquitoes! I so fondly recall when we first moved to Arizona, cleaning the crap out of the house and moving our own possessions into newly painted and scrubbed rooms, knowing it was a bit warm and being totally amazed that "warm" translated to 90 degrees!

I think it's only somewhere in the 80s today, but I can't swear whether that's temperature or dewpoint. Perhaps both!

It started - and ended - modestly enough. Now that the critters are gone, it was well past time to sweep floors. I had actually done that once, a week ago. Thought I did a pretty good job, too. It seems the dirt and fur thought otherwise. (I swear the stuff just creeps out at night just to laugh at me!) I reached my limit of sitting in the chair and looking at a recurring supply of the stuff, and dug out the broom and dustpan again. Furniture was easy enough to move around. (I found out I can get rid of Steve just by turning Stephanie Miller on the TV. He does not appreciate her sense of humor.) So both he and Rich were out on the screen house with their various smokes, and taking advantage,  I swept.

I couldn't actually tell I'd just done this same thing a few days ago, with all the fur, but even  more annoying, due to its endlessly recurring supply, was the compilation of leaf bits getting tracked in on shoes from the front entryway. The wind always catches the leaves and blows them up to the door, and walking through them crunches them and brings them in.

They had served a purpose throughout early summer. We get various birds building nests in the entryway, and "decorate" the concrete pretty thoroughly as the young grow beyond the confines of the nest before fledging.  A steady pile of leaves are easier to sweep up than the walk is to scrub. But fledging happened two weeks ago, so I was out of excuses, especially as the bits kept creeping into the house.

So today was the day. The garbage bins head curbside tonight, so what gets in them goes away. I don't even bother with bagging the entryway stuff anymore. If the garbage company doesn't appreciate a dozen scoopfulls of damp crunched leaves, they are free to return them. If I just sweep them over around the corners of the house to fertilize something else, an errant breeze will just return them all in a day or two. There are already plenty on the nearby trees to start the process all over again in the fall.

But, oh! Was it a miserable job! Halfway down the walk I was already blinded in one eye by all the salt, even though I was repeatedly wiping my face with the collar of the shirt I was wearing. (Actually, pajamas, but shhhhhh! It's a t-shirt, and who needs to know from the street?) I stuck with it anyway, knowing if I quit, it'd all just be there waiting for me another day soon. Inside and out.

So, in order, I need: a bottle of water, a chair, half a dozen paper towels, first for me and then a final one for my glasses, and a good long shower.

So, of course, here I sit, blogging!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What NOT To Blame On "Obamacare"

HMOs have been around for years and years. The first one I joined, my only insurance choice offered at work, cost me the ability to visit a favorite doctor. The second one, a version of Medicare "with benefits", again limited my choices of whom to see. I've been too lazy, now that I'm out of that one, to hunt up a primary Doc I like better, but as soon as we get back from summer vacation I have one in mind to try.

In the meantime, there were a lot of years without any insurance. I qualified for Medicare before Obamacare took effect. I guess you could say I "aged out" of the program. At any rate, I know what it's like to be without insurance, when that means being without healthcare except for the barest minimum I could afford, and often having to tell my Doc that whatever she recommended just wasn't possible. I would have loved Obamacare. I still do for all those who are getting by on it now.

Yes, I still and will always believe that a single payer system is the best of all possible choices. Try Canada - though right now they try to keep us out because so many uninsured folks sneak across the border for free-to-them healthcare. Yes, even with Obamacare. There's a glitch in our system. It could have been easily righted, if only Republican ideology hadn't worked overtime to ruin the system rather than fix a glitch. And no, you don't have to take my word for it: just learn to read... widely.

Medicare was expanded in many states so that those with limited incomes could get financial support for their healthcare premiums. If you check out the maps of where that happened, and compare it to the red/blue used in denoting politics, you'll find out that mostly red states, with Republican governors and state houses, refused Medicaid expansion even though it wouldn't have cost them a penny. It was, after all, covered by federal funds, money that their own taxpayers had pumped into the system in, say, income taxes. Other taxes too. Hey, why not get your own money back, doing something useful for you? And if you check those same maps, you'll find that the states benefiting from the Medicaid expansion are mostly those colored blue, politically. There are exceptions, nearly all because a few Republican governors considered the welfare of their citizens over their own political futures. Check out Ohio.

It has become the Republican mantra in the last couple of decades that taxes are evil and the richest among us are to be supported rather than asked to pay a bigger share. Corporations are sacrosanct, and tax breaks to lure them into our communities are sound strategy. Somehow we, the people, have disappeared from this value system, though every two or four years pleasing lies are bandied about to lull us back to sleep so we can't see what is happening. Hey, maybe we can get rich too! And Keep It All!

So we swallow the lies rather than working together to fix the glitches in the system. One of the most widely publicized glitches is in the VA healthcare system. There are solutions. Put more money in the system. Spread care out into the private sector when demand overflows capacity. Put better, smarter administrators in charge, ones whose primary objectives are actually serving those veterans who have sacrificed nearly everything protecting us. But that would cost, so we ration care and essentially throw away those whose service has ended.

I can't help thinking if we reinstituted the draft, where every Senators' child and mogul's grandchild were called up to serve, their actual care afterwards might be improved. No exemptions, no deferments, no excuses not to serve. Of course, we might also get fewer stupid wars, so win-win, eh?

But we still come back to that institution, where spending money on healthcare is rationed not by need but by profit, that venerable old HMO. You get the cheapest care, not the best. Anybody with "MD" after their name will do if the price is right and the care is limited. (Hey, what do you call the person who graduates at the bottom of their medical school class? Doctor!) Medicines are dispensed by cost, not efficacy or lack of side effects. Lab tests look for horses even if you are suffering from a zebra. You need permission to see a specialist, and get to sit back and wait however long for an opening.

If you think I'm angry, even though this no longer affects me, let me just tell you about two people I know trying to live - literally live - with the limits of their HMOs. The first is the wife of a former coworker. I hadn't seen him for months, and we finally had time for a chat. He'd taken on a second job, just to pay for his wife's medications. She had lung cancer. A new drug was on the market, and she/they decided to try it. Otherwise she had only a couple months left. At the point of our conversation, it had been over a year, and the tumors had all but disappeared. She was feeling great, optimistic that they might actually beat this monster. The problem was, each pill cost them $90! And insurance refused to cover any of it because they were experimental. So his hours were now so long I don't know how he survived on the lack of sleep. I bumped into him again about a year later and his wife was still thriving. He was looking more than a little ragged, however.

Another friend hasn't been feeling his best lately. His HMO finally allowed him one of those cheap smear-on-the-cardboard tests for colon cancer. No, not even the full colonoscopy. And yes, lest you think he should just have gone out and gotten a whole regimen of diagnostic tests, money is tight enough that some days food is an issue, there is no car nor computer or version thereof that many claim are reasons nobody is actually poor anymore in this country, so get over it. The test came back positive. He can get right in to see the specialist he needs... late next spring!

Yes, this is July.

If you believe in prayer, indulge. His state doesn't appreciate free Medicaid, so he can't even afford what the rest of us think is a given now under Obamacare. A little glitch fix blocked by Republicans could have helped, but we can all see where they're going.

Uhhh, you are awake and paying attention, right?