Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Flight of the Amygdala

I've been thinking about my amygdala.

A couple weeks ago, when I read about our bipartisan impulse to throttle the guy on the other side, to be completely immune to their arguments, and to only view my own 'facts' as the truth, I protested, in my mind at least, that I would never be so unscientific about facts.

Then, I read another article that said something similar. It included the results of a study. I love studies. Oh, I'd dig up these articles for you, but I won't because I have to go tutor kids in forty-five minutes and I haven't showered yet.

The idea is that, similar to when we're cheering for our team, our amygdala gets involved. The descriptions say that an amygdala is that little reptile brain that responds to danger, fight or flight.

Aren't reptile brains, some of them, more complex than that? I hate to think that reptiles have only fight or flight and that they're all emotion and nothing else. That would be miserable. Frankly, I don't see them acting that way. Garter snakes seem quite calm if you approach them quietly. They let you look at them, take their pictures, and don't even freak out when the dog comes along and takes a good sniff along their sides. They just slither quietly into the grass.

But I digress.

Anyway, the amygdala, I am told, is responsible for our safety and when it gets going, we don't make 'rational' decisions. I'd argue that figuring out whether to run or kick a guy in the crotch is completely rational in a situation with a predator threatens to attack you on the street. I've seen it work.

But I digress again. Sorry.

So, all these bipartisan arguments are futile since we're all responding with our amygdalas and no one is seeing the truth.

Is that true? Can't I rely on my team to investigate wisely? Can't I trust the New York Times? What about the Washington Post? CNN? Rachel Maddow?

I can trust their journalism, right?

But then I just now got all emotional and could feel a change in my heartrate.

So, I've been thinking about it, rationally. Or trying.

For me, Donald Trump is the scary clown in the book, 'It' by Stephen King. You know the one I mean. He's everywhere, even in the bathroom with you. He whispers the vile things he's going to do to you. If you go outside, he's there. If you hide in a quiet place, he's there too. Stephen King can make a fucking car scary. He is solely responsible for ruining clowns for me. And fog. I was never scared of clowns or fog before those books. I wonder what he thinks of that whole scary clown thing that happened last fall?

But I digress, over and over and over. You'd better get used to it.

With Trump, there's always pussy grabbing. He said it on tape. I've watched that tape at least six times and it raises my adrenaline each time. Pussy grabbing is terrifying when you're the recipient and you're not with someone who loves you.

And Trump is everywhere. You can't get away from his orange face and pink comb-over. He's in the magazine rack in the bathroom. He's on the coffee table. He's on television. It's like having a fucking stalker.

And I had a stalker, a mild one, but a stalker just the same. Having a stalker grabs your amygdala too.

So, I admit that my reactions, opinions, and yes, even my 'facts' are influenced by my amygdala.

But couldn't this Trump threat just be real enough that fight or flight is appropriate?

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Middle-Aged Housewife's Guide to Fighting Tyranny

Folks, it's not over now that Mueller has been assigned to be special prosecutor, but it might be a good time for a recap episode. If you're one of those people who hates when a sitcom throws a bunch of clips into a shallow plot, this might be a good time for a bathroom break. But I think it's a good to celebrate our efforts.

Identify Issues
-Read New York Times, and Washington Post articles about the Russian Election in the United States, our Constitutional Crisis, gutting humane government agencies, ignoring science. These investigative journalists are our country's true patriots. Tried not to read fake news.


Get Help from Experts
-Read On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, Havel, and Milosc. Have you noticed that library holds on these books are still backed up?

Check. Okay, I'll admit that I skimmed Havel.

Be Consistent and Persistent
-Wrote Paul Ryan, Dave Reichert, Suzan DelBene, Patty Murry, and Maria Cantwell.
-Marched in four protests. Did not get arrested but was photographed among millions of other protesters. Did you see me there?


Discipline with Love
-Tried not to troll Trump's orange face, extreme comb-over, and tiny hands.

This kindness thing is not really my forte.

 Use Your Own Experience

- Wrote about The Metaphor of Being Grabbed and how it was all too real for many of us who listened to the video of Trump saying he could 'grab them by the pussy.'


Be Okay With Your Anger

Check. I told you that compassion isn't my forte.
Realize that You Can't Make Everything Fair
- Wrote One PersonOne Vote but I managed to nod when Mike said the electoral college would never be changed in my lifetime.

Look for Allies
-Went to Indivisibles meetings and managed to laugh with people who felt as insignificant as I do.

Recognize Hypocrisy
-Wrote Tweeting Hypocrisy but I'm sure I'm not perfect either. Maybe I'm close, but don't test me on that.  

Check, sort of.
Show Gratitude
-Thanked DelBene, Murray, and Cantwell for their persistence. Thanked Obama for his service. -Called Sally Yates a national hero. Well, she is.


It Takes a Village
-Whoops. Wrong candidate.

Find the Humor


Schedule Breaks and Getaways
- Planned vacation. 
-Got passport updated. Might be useful when I go all Desiree Farooz and end up getting arrested for laughing.


Teach Kindness and Compassion
-Talked to my Republican friends. Told most of them I don't blame them for what happened. It was the Russians' fault. And Comey's.


Use Your Words
-Looked up how to pronounce emoluments? I had to practice. If you say it over and over seventeen times, it starts to sound funny.


Respect the Individual
-Didn't write anything that I wouldn't send to my mother, son, or boss. 
-Wasn't a troll. Right? Define troll.
I'm not sure if I could totally say that. Hey, I tried.

Create a United Front
-Commiserated with Mike, my husband, and many friends. One guy threatened to unfriend any of us who posted too much political shit on Facebook, but I still see his posts, so maybe I didn't go off the rails with him. I found solace with my new Indivisibles friends. My favorite moments happened when one woman asked us to sit and imagine the power of all the individuals in all the Indivisibles meetings across the country. 

Use Anger for Good
-Remembered that anger isn't a fault, but I tried to make sure I didn't destroy my message with my use of it.


Listen and Watch
-Watched Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell. I couldn't make myself watch Fox News. So sue me. 

Check, mostly.
Nag Like You Mean It
-Nagged daily. I have been trained by my son to keep repeating myself until things get done. It was the time to use that power.


Use Natural Consequences
-Wrote What is the Price of Treason?  I didn't really mean it about the hangings in that post. Not really.


Offer Choices 
Trump can either resign or get impeached. Has anyone told him that yet? The rest of his administration should check with their lawyers. Some members of  Congress should check with their lawyers as well.

I'll get right on that one. .

What did you do to help our country reach this level of success? Comment a list of your efforts. I'd love to know.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You Could Be Heroes

To the Republican members of Congress:

You can still save face. You can become the heroes. You can restore our Constitution to its healthy bipartisan condition.

The current President is out of control. He is dangerous, impulsive, and cannot be trusted with sensitive material. He appears to be beholden to the Russian government, an antagonistic leadership.

So, if you pursue the investigation together with the Democrats, if you make sure facts come out on the collusion of the Trump administration with the Russian officials meddling in our election process, if you pursue impeachment because of obstruction of justice, you can still have a Republican President. Did you know that?

The two next people in line to the Presidency are Republicans. You don't lose if Trump goes down. You win. You might even pass some of those items on your agenda before the 2018 election. You might make Republicans in the United States happy.

And yet, many of you have dug in your heels in your attempt to stand behind the Trump administration. You seem determined to go down in flames with this narcissist whose sole focus seems to be his television ratings and tweet history. You align yourselves with racists, with misogynists, with people who lie so poorly that photos and documents easily correct them, with people who collude with a foreign government that wants to infiltrate and destroy our democracy.

Do you really want to be those kind of people, followers as our country falls into Constitutional crisis?

Or do you want to get to work, to let the investigations function properly, to remove the haywire administration from the White House? You can use emoluments, conflict of interest, obstruction of justice. It's all there. You could even say that Trump is unable to do his job because of his state of mind using the 25th Amendment.

If you investigate this Constitutional crisis to its nefarious end, you could be regarded as the true patriots of our country. Republicans and even those of us who vote down the center might re-elect you in 2018. You could be the big heroes of this story and still have a Republican in the executive office.

It's your choice.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, May 15, 2017

Shunning Any Dissent

I resist, protest, march. Indivisibles meetings, letters to the editor, opinions phoned, written on postcards, and faxed to my Congressmen and Congresswomen. Yet what have I done but whine and grouse to no effect?

Electorate protest?

Women's march?

Nada. Not even an angry tweet.

Taxes parade?


Every time I sit down to write something astonishing, something that will change the world, it's as if the Universe interferes. My floor needs to be vacuumed. My refrigerator is empty. My phone beeps, rings, and buzzes notifications that are irrelevant to the functioning of the government. My dog asks repeatedly to be let in and out of the back door. And the worst? I succumb to binge watching Scrubs on Netflix and I end up getting sucked in for great swaths of time. Eventually, my husband calls a moratorium on the Scrubs coma and puts on the news. I wake up from my hypnosis, eyes bleary, and I realize I've only been using half of my lung and/or brain capacity in the name of free speech. The best parts of our government are still spiraling the drain. It's an hour past dinner and everyone has eaten Frito's, generic raisin bran, and all of the remaining chocolate eggs hidden in the back of the junk food bin on top of the refrigerator.

Within the first fifteen minutes of any time listening to the news, my heart seizes a bit and I realize that not a single thing has changed as a result of my resistance. More than one hundred days of the Trump administration have passed and no one has come and woken me from the nightmare that is our government. This administration ignores anything that sounds like dissent. They just pretend we don't exist. Did you ever watch middle school bullies play the game of ignoring a nerd? It's agonizing for the nerd. I know. From experience.

This is no different. Millions of us marched around the world in support of science and research, in support of the EPA and keeping our National Parks safe. What did it accomplish?




We were ignored. Shunned. Not even a tweet.

Trump administration ignores any voice of dissent, even millions of voices, and continues to liquidate the arms of the government that interfere with free reign of corporate interests. He started by gagging the employees of the EPA and the National Parks and has moved on from there.

Take note. HR861 calls to disband the Environmental Protection Agency completely. It's content is a single line, but our government has to take it seriously since it's an actual bill. And we can see that it's on the agenda, even if it doesn't pass this time. The Trump administration wants to eliminate laws that keep our air, water, and land clean. You would wonder what person would agree with that. That would be the corporations.

Remember, corporations have the rights of a person, so there are at least a Fortune 500 of them who would approve of dismantling existing regulations among the millions of us who would protest against it. Incidentally, did any corporation wonder that if people are dying from contaminated water, air, and earth, will we be able to buy its filthy products? Ever think of that, you corporations? No. You wouldn't wonder because not one of you has a brain.

Imagine giving the rights of a person to an entity without a brain.

Don't try to tell me a corporation consists of multitudes of brains. No. That doesn't count. Each person has his own right to be a person, to have his or her own free speech. Corporations are the only entities who are given the rights of a human but don't in fact have a brain, a pair of lungs, or even vocal chords with which to express its so-called right to free speech. In addition to that, those people who work for corporations do not agree in unison on that ideology requiring the protection of their free speech. So, no. Negative. Zip it.

Corporations shouldn't get more rights, the rights to eliminate regulations that are inconvenient to their ability to dispose of their toxic waste.

And look at H.J. Resolution 46. It eliminates National Park's rights to limit drilling due to environmental impact to the area. This could ruin the Everglades, already a delicate ecosystem, as well as Mammoth Cave. If you drill from the earth's surface over Mammoth Cave, how do you keep from drilling into the helmet of some spelunker deep in the caverns? Can you picture oil leaking into the river that runs through the deepest part of the cave, the one we float down on our way to the cafeteria? Will the drilling operators have to pay the entry fee and wend their way through Fat Man's Misery to get to the drilling site every day? I doubt it.

What part of 'national treasure' does the Trump administration not understand? Our National Parks are the jewels of our country. Our clean air, water, and earth are sacrosanct, a legacy we are supposed to hand down to our grandchildren.

I'm telling you with my tiny voice. We'd better pay attention. Trump is willing to leave his own grandchildren wearing gold lame hazmat suits with platinum oxygen tanks in their gilded towers. The rest of us will have to suffer or die trying to speak.

Thank you for listening, jules

Correcting Uncivilized Behavior

Here's the thing: When you get ordinary middle-aged mothers like me involved in politics, you know something is fucked up.

Generally, I'm just not that interested in politics. A year ago, I was focused on my own problems, driving Nick to driver's ed, getting estimates on a roof repair, walking the dog, and writing about the daily grind of life in a way that I hoped would resonate with people and make them laugh.

Don't get me wrong. I try to vote with knowledge of the issues and candidates. And I was pissed when the obstructionist Congress shut down the government but didn't lose a day of pay. In 2001, I overcame inertia when George W. invaded Iraq despite the fact that none of the terrorists who hijacked airplanes had come from Iraq.

Yet, my daily life was about daily life. Politics was like a bit of food that got stuck between my teeth. It was good for grousing with my friends. Mike paid more attention to politics than I did, telling me the latest news at night when we settled down together.

Now, I'm alert. I'm involved. That means something is wrong.

When Nick was young, I listened to the sound of him playing in the other room with his friends. Yes, it was loud. Sometimes, it was irritating. They went to the edge of rudeness, calling each other 'buttheads' or some other generic insult. But occasionally, there was a moment when it fell off the side of civilized and I would march into his room.

 "You will not shoot rockets at the cat," I said one time.

"You will not play kamikaze and trash each other's Lego castles," I said at another.

"You will not play murder games," I demanded.

It crossed the line of what is civilized when they pretended to murder each other, one lying on the bed and clutching until the poison took effect. They explored the edges. I showed them where the edges were. I was loud and firm when they crossed the line.

So now, Trump and his administration keep crossing the line.

Freedom of speech is on trial. A woman laughed at Jeff Sessions and he had her arrested. She laughed.

Sean Spicer tells lies to our faces over and over. He's lied about stuff we could see, crowd sizes, angry tweets, and the meaning of well-defined words.

And whenever someone gets close to the truth, someone gets fired. Just look at who's been fired so far: Preet Bharara, investigating money laundering; Sally Yates, warning of Michael's Flynn's inappropriate conduct; James Comey, investigating the Trump administration's ties to Russian influence on our election.

Doesn't it creep you out that Comey said he was asked to pledge an oath of loyalty to Trump? Doesn't it freak you out that Yates was the one fired one business day after warning the White House that Flynn had compromised his position and he was only fired three weeks later because it leaked to the press? Doesn't it piss you off that Bharara was fired before he could follow up on a money laundering investigation in Russia?

We should all be pissed off! Why isn't Congressman Dave Reichert, a man who used to be a Sheriff, more concerned about upholding the laws and Constitution of the United States than playing along with Trump?

Where are our checks and balances now? Have too many members of Congress already pledged loyalty to Trump? What are they receiving in return? Are we in Constitutional crisis right now? It sure feels like it.

I'm telling you, I am listening to what's going on in the other room and it has crossed the line. The President of the United States is supposed to be a public servant, not a king who spends his people's tax money on vacations to Florida every weekend. He's supposed to support his people, not divert their resources to his corporations and those of his rich cronies by eliminating existing regulations. The President of the United States is supposed to be outraged when  another country interferes with our democratic process. He is not supposed to encourage meddling in our elections or congratulate the interlopers. He is not supposed to invite them into the Oval Office.

And so I'm standing here, being loud and firm: The Trump administration has crossed the line of civilized behavior and they need to be forced to behave. Now!

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Appoint An Independent Bipartisan Commission, Now!

We need an Independent Bipartisan Commission for Trump's involvement with Russian interference in our elections.

The New York Times noted that immediately after Trump said he'd already decided to fire James Comey, he leaped to a discussion about the FBI's Russian investigation. That's where his own mind went on its own without a teleprompter, from firing Comey straight to his alleged fake-news involvement in the Russian interference.

All the while, other staffers including the Vice President tried unsuccessfully to convince the world that Trump followed the recommendation of Rosenstein and that the timing had nothing to do with the FBI's investigation of Mike Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and other unnamed individuals who were allegedly paid as foreign agents.

And Trump asked Comey for his loyalty at the dinner they had together.

We have to pledge loyalty now?

To a king? To a dictator?

We are not required to pledge loyalty to a President. That's not how it works.

What will we call Trump's position if the Department of Justice doesn't follow through with this Russian/election problem?

Checks and balances are in jeopardy of being broken. Constitutional crisis is on the horizon. Democracy could very well be on its way out the window. Without a fair investigation, we may have no confidence in the democratic process on which we depend.

The answer is an independent bipartisan commission.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sally Yates is Our National Hero

Sally Yates was fired the Monday after she gave warning to the White House that Michael Flynn lied to the Vice President, that he could be blackmailed by the Russian government, and that his "underlying conduct was problematic in and of itself."

I wish I were more like Sally Yates. In her Congressional hearings, she was straightforward. She refused to answer any questions that would compromise the FBI investigation or that were classified. She wasn't emotional about being fired. She spoke of the facts, she knew the Constitution and its details. I loved watching her spar with Republican senators over her response to the immigration ban. She knows her stuff.

"The efforts by a foreign adversary to interfere and undermine our democratic processes - and those of our allies - pose a serious threat to all Americans" Yates said

The Russian interference in our election and any continuing interference in the way our country is run should worry everyone. This is 21st century warfare. We need to investigate. We need to expose the truth. Thankfully, our investigative journalists at the New York Times, at the Washington Post, and and at MSNBC are doing that for us. We need to prosecute those Americans who made the Russian interference happen, even those who knowingly stood by and let it happen. And we should set up barriers to the kind of interference with the way our country carries out its democracy.

Sally Yates was involved in the first and second steps of this process. The Trump administration wants to cover up what she knows, blowing smoke about a renewed war with Afghanistan. Though we don't know what it is yet, there's a reason for them to blow smoke, to cry 'fake news.' The Trump administration didn't make it easy for Sally Yates to speak out, but she's there, still doing the right thing, speaking the truth, clearly and concisely, for everyone in the world to hear.

I just hope we listen to her.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My Milk Carton Plug in the Belly of a Bird

There's a word for what I have: eco anxiety.

I just listened to a new podcast hosted by Ashley Ahearn that finally named it for me. Eco anxiety, the depression that happens when the problem of sustainability just seems so overwhelming, so paralyzing, so fucking oppressive.

Okay, you're right. It's only one of the things that's wrong with me. Thanks for that.

Still, have you ever heard me complain about all the plastic in the gyre? You know, that floating plastic island the size of Texas that exists in each of the oceans? It keeps coming back to me, this awful thing we're doing without even thinking.

A single human mind can't really think globally all that well. When I shop for food, it's hard to imagine where my food came from, how many gallons of gas were consumed to make it arrive at my hand, how much plastic from its packaging will remain for decades after I've finished eating it, or worse, letting it rot in the fridge and throwing it out unopened. It's a paralyzing thought, this gyre the size of Texas, something that is filled with the plastic packaging from food I buy every other day.

It is a killing thing, a plague on our sea mammals, on our fish, and on our sea birds. I think about the little plastic plug I pull out the first time I open a milk carton. Do I need that plug? Really? Do I need to eat from a plastic container of lettuce every single day? Do I need to grab a Ziploc bag when I could put my food into a reusable container instead? If I were to collect my daily plastic, would I kill a single albatross every night with what I throw away? I just might.

Chris Jordan is my new hero. He went to Midway and filmed the beauty and the agony of the albatrosses there and the plastic that ends up in their bodies. Watch. And that's just the trailer to the movie.

Don't you feel small? Don't you feel a little bit paralyzed to do anything about it? I do. Name it: eco anxiety.

And yet, I'm headed to the park with my dog and after that to the grocery store. If I can keep Chris Jordan's story in my head for just twenty-five minutes, I can think about how much plastic I buy when I bring home my food. I can choose food based on packaging. Do I continue to buy the lettuce in a thick plastic tub when I could get it loose or in a bag that contains much less plastic.

Less plastic.

Maybe we should have a plastic tax, a price we pay per ounce at the grocery store every time we buy something with plastic packaging. Wouldn't that go over well in the Trump administration? What a joke.

Still, we have to work toward solutions despite the fact that our federal government no longer believes in sustaining the planet. WE have to do the work.

Yet it's hard to keep moving forward. It's hard to write to companies that make our favorite food and tell them we can't buy it any more because of their plastic packaging. It's hard to look at the plastic we regularly throw away and wonder which ways we can cut back, even small steps. Products are moving toward using more plastic and not less. Have you looked at pet food lately? Big thick plastic bags instead of the heavy paper it used to come in. I know, if you dropped a forty pound bag on the floor before, the damn paper would split and you'd be on your knees picking up kibbles for an hour.

But at what cost do we switch to the heavy plastic bags for the convenience of handling them more roughly?

All those dead birds, and seals, and dolphins, and whales.

So, I know you're out there, struggling with your own eco anxiety. Do something beautiful. Do something energetic. Listen to loud music. But don't give up.

The albatross needs you.

Thank you for listening, jules