Sunday, October 23, 2022

Despite flaws in the system like too much cash, voting is what is important. Be an informed voter!

I can't wait to vote for a candidate--and I don't care what party he/she belongs to--I am looking for someone who needs to point out the complete insanity of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get elected to public office. 

Money should not be the incentive for public service. Holding public office is not a get rich scheme, or at least it shouldn't be.

Why do people have so little faith in government?

Look at the obscene amount of money that is spent every election season. Look at the number of millionaires that make up the U.S. Congress. Money in politics is almost cartoonish! At least it would be if it wasn't so tragic. And, it harms us all! The first priority for public officials should be getting money out of our political process. We need more than lip service. We need reform!

Since I claim to be a lifelong Democrat based on policies, substance, and philosophy, I can assure you that it is not because I enjoy the countless emails, phone calls, and advertisements asking for money I don't have. It is infuriating that candidates require any more from me than my voice or my vote.

In these difficult days when corporations pay zero in taxes, the middle class is disappearing, people beg in the streets, and children go hungry, it is obscene to allow so much money to be wasted to win favor of potential voters. Do we really want to select leadership by awarding it to the highest bidder? The process to elect leaders who represent us in this Republic needs to be fair. Citizens United needs to be abolished.

We all need to pay our fair share in taxes because taxes support government services that are used by all. Taxes should not be favors for friends, family, and campaign donors. 

Nor should religious institutions be exempt from taxes beyond its normal charitable functions. Religious institutions have proven they cannot be trusted to keep their beliefs out of policy-making. That is not what our founding fathers intended as they proposed a strong separation between church and state. Corruption occurs when blurring that line. If churches want to be a business rather than a charity, they too should pay taxes. Simply advancing religion should not be a reason for tax exemption.

Health care should not bankrupt people. Perhaps some of those campaign billions could be diverted toward making health care affordable for everyone. People are living longer because of the advancements in medicine. That is good, but when so many seniors have to choose over their pharmaceuticals or food on the table, there is a big problem. 

Health care decisions should not be made by insurance companies.

Cannabis, a naturally-grown herb which has proven to have health benefits and been used by humans for eons should not be illegal. 

Women need to make their own medical care decisions. The idea that politicians decide what is best for women and their families is unthinkable.

Voting is the ONLY option we the people have to turn things around. It will not happen in one, two, or three election cycles, but we voters must be diligent. We have to do better. We have to be informed. It isn't enough to follow the loudest voices, especially in today's climate where lies are treated as truth for the gullible and easily swayed. 

We the people must all do our homework, at the local, state, and federal level. It is vitally important. We are electing people that affect every aspect of our lives. We must read and judiciously study the candidates. We must watch how incumbent politicians vote on all issues. We need to educate ourselves. With 24-hour news and access to every speech, every debate, every aspect of a candidate's record, we must ensure that we know who we are rewarding with our precious vote. Voting is our link to the democratic system. And it is vitally important.

Democracy will only work when we the people participate. We can only participate if we are informed. Change will come, but it has to come from us. We are the foundation of our democracy. The elected officials merely represent us. These people are not elite, regal, or royal. They are PUBLIC SERVANTS.

We need to elect leaders who will truly represent the peoples' interests and not their own. Money should have little to do with it. 

Change begins now. We must all be a part of it.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Generations fight as women's reproductive rights still under attack

It astonishes me that one of the most divisive and influential topics of the day—this day in the 21st century—still revolves around the right of women to choose to end a pregnancy. It is clear that choice is hers to make and yet too many are trying to interfere in this very personal, private issue. The decision to have an abortion does not belong in the hands of the government. It does not belong in the hands of clergy. It is solely a woman’s right, along with whatever counsel she decides to engage. The decision is hers. And, that is the law of the land.                                                                

Privacy laws protect the names and health conditions of Americans, and rightfully so. But when it comes to pregnant women, there is no privacy. There is only control.

Over the last five years, many changes have been brought about in this country, thanks to our former swindler president who has led a movement to bolster bad behavior, unscientific study, and Reptilian-like conduct.

One of the most heinous, and there are many actions of the former president along with his cohorts in Congress who speak with their own forked tongues, is to stack the deck against the law of the land. With highly questionable federal judicial appointments including three members of the Supreme Court, the scales of justice could be tipped so far to the right they could topple. I can only hope Lady Justice has a firm grasp on them.

It is heartening to see the side of reason fighting back again and/or still, evidenced in the recent women’s marches all over the country for reproductive rights. There were protests even in my own state and home town, which is as red as any place in the U.S. It was positively heartwarming. My lifestyle no longer allows for activism, but it is certainly where my heart is and will always be. I am grateful to every organizer, every marcher, and every person who has a hand in trying to change the things that are wrong in our society. We must all do our part, however minuscule. We must all stand together to fight for what is right.

It is disgusting that this fight goes on. Women won the right to control their own body years ago. But then as now, a force, largely of men who think they know better despite having no first-hand knowledge of pregnancy, want to take advantage of the aroused masses inspired by the former president and his ilk.

I hope they realize they may just unleash a fury that surprises them. You know, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Some forty years ago I wrote my first letter to the editor in favor of a woman's right to choose. I was a young woman in my 20's. My getting involved in the abortion issue was rather out of character for me. I had dreamed of becoming a mother my entire life. I loved everything about babies. I never knew anyone who had an abortion and I couldn’t imagine ever having one myself. But I recognized that a woman has the right to choose what happens to her own body, her own family, and to control her own destiny. It is no one else’s decision. I felt the courts were right to allow abortion, for so many reasons.

The anti-abortion movement has always bothered me. It was like people butting into other people’s business where they don't belong. It is not the concern of a bunch of strangers and certainly not the government, to interfere in a decision so gut-wrenching, so personal, and often times, so painful. 

The entire "pro-life" campaign is disingenuous. As people pass around pictures of fully formed, full-term fetuses, they malign abortion. The pictures are so misleading, but isn’t that is their point! It is all about marketing. Who cares if it is truthful?

They oppose all abortions, no matter how the conception occurred, even if it is under the most horrific of circumstances. They don’t care about the health of the fetus or the mother. They just want a birth.

I had been stewing over what I was hearing on the news, which until then I had paid no attention. But I was driven to write that letter when I stopped at an intersection and saw people harassing drivers as they carried huge, blown-up glossy, gory photos of aborted fetuses. It didn’t make me question the pro-choice movement; it just made me angry that anyone would try to manipulate public opinion in such a way and to misrepresent situations they knew nothing about. Behind those pictures were women whose hearts were likely broken and whose lives were changed forever. That is not something to be taken lightly. The more I heard from pro-lifers the more sickened I became. But the worst part was that members of local, state and the federal government were involved. They were spending my tax dollars to fight women. That is just wrong, no matter how it is viewed. So, despite my being young, impressionable, and na├»ve, I felt I had to take a stand against this.

Today, millions have been inspired by the sincerity of the pro-choice movement. It is not just a bunch of pro-abortionists, since no such thing exists, but it is made up of people who want women to have control over their own decisions that affect their own bodies. Millions now march for women’s rights, as in this past weekend. It is heartening to see that protests are no longer made up of just women. Men too, have gotten into the act. Marches now include mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and even husbands, sons and fathers.

Much has changed in the 40 years since I wrote to my local newspaper expressing my displeasure for a government that thinks it has the right to pry into people’s most personal and private decisions.

While I no longer have the actual letter I wrote or the paper it was printed in, I do remember vividly how strongly I felt about it back then. My views have not wavered in all these years. In fact, they have been reinforced. I said then and I say now, that if you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one, but you have no right to force your views onto anyone else.

I am sickened by those who claim this is a right-to-life issue. Right-to-life is just a meaningless slogan, a marketing tool meant to confuse. Interestingly, it consists some of the same hypocritical people who show a callous disregard for human lives taken by the Corona Virus or gun violence. They oppose wearing masks or getting life-saving vaccines. Ironically, they use the phrase, “my body my choice,” when describing their stand. Too bad they don’t apply that phrase to a woman’s right to her own reproductive health. Right-to-lifers are also the same people who advocate for stocking up on military-style weapons, no matter who gets mowed down in the streets, in schools, places of worship, or a fast food joint.

Pro -lifers play to the lowest common denominator. 

People allow themselves to be manipulated by this and other marketing campaigns designed by unscrupulous politicians who will do anything or say anything to keep their seat of power. It is just so sad. I wish people would wake up and listen to the whole story, rather than just one side of it. Politicians who take positions to use their constituents to gain wealth and power need to be voted out. And everyone should have the right to vote them out, but that is another topic for another time.

If we put as much money into education as we do campaigning for government office, it wouldn’t be so simple to manipulate the public into believing misinformation and outright lies.

Lady Justice has her hands full. I certainly hope she can handle it.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Better heads must prevail

American Flag, Textured, Rough, HarshAs we prepare to elect new leaders in this country there better be big changes ahead; safeguards must be put in place to guard our democracy against Trumpism or anything resembling it. We must not ever let this happen again.

Admittedly, I am not completely comfortable with one political party controlling all three branches of government. I believe in checks and balances. But in this case, at this time, this is not so much about electing Democrats as it is about ousting the tools of Donald J. Trump. If that happens to be electing Democrats for President, the Senate, and House, so be it.

Voting for party over people is simply wrong-headed. Party politics is like a cheerleading squad. They make the noise and entertain the crowd, but it is the actual elected leaders who take to the grid and score the points. They are supposed to serve the country, not their friends and family. Once an election is over, it is time to govern. Governing covers ALL the people of the country, not just the cheerleaders. Dissent is a part of the process. Truth must be the cornerstone that arises from all points of view. And it must be transparent because good governance is when those in power do the people’s business; it does not do its own business. Policy must be public, not personal.

Because these things are obvious and evident, I am at a loss as to why Donald J. Trump has not been stopped.

The time I thought Trump had gone too far was in December 2018 during a summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland. We all watched in horror as he fawned over Russian President Vladimir Putin in plain sight, dismissing Putin’s own admission that he favored Trump in the 2016 election over Hillary Clinton. Despite Clinton receiving nearly three million more votes than Trump, he won the election, even using a foreign government to help him cheat his way into the White House as evidenced by the Mueller Report.

Trump should have been stopped. Why wasn’t he?

This strategic error by Democrats and Republicans with a conscience, if there are any left, has resulted in this ineffectual out-of-control man simply takes whatever he wants and does whatever he pleases. When he doesn’t get his way, he is like a three-year old having a tantrum when in a grocery store when Mom refuses to give him candy.

Why do we look the other way when he maligns good, decent, hard-working people who simply disagree with him, people who have devoted their career to public service, or who have earned medals for their honor or bravery?

Why do we let him steals tax dollars from the military for his pet project, building a wall to satisfy his own white nationalist agenda?

How can look away when he touts his desire to stop mass-shootings, but does nothing except cow-tow to the NRA and his gun-toting pals despite the harm it does to the country or innocent people?

Why do we put up with the thousands of lies he tells, abuses the power of the office of the Presidency for his own gain, and when he refuses to divulge his tax returns even though he said he would? So much for transparency.

Why do we ignore it when he sacrifices our country to play dealmaker with murderous dictators, resulting in the tortured death of an American citizen journalist, or when rioters kill an innocent woman, or when families are separated from their children who are put into cages and left to die?

Why is he allowed to get away with perhaps the most egregious deed, his response to the ongoing Corona Virus Pandemic? Trump’s inept leadership has contributed to the death of more than 70,000 Americans, as of this writing.

In general, he has pillaged our government, using every means to profit from his position and enrich his family business; he has castigated anyone who wouldn’t boost his fragile and pathetic ego; he’s used his position to destroy lives and careers of dedicated government workers because they dared disagree with him. Men, women, and children have suffered needlessly under his watch as he implemented policies, not for the benefit of the public but for himself and his friends. On second thought, he has no friends, only accomplices. Many of them are just like him. Ironically, he uses them at the same time they are using him. The rest of us are just pawns in their game. That is just not right!

To safeguard our democracy, we must ensure that this will never happen again. We must elect leaders who will stand up to this kind of incompetence, arrogance, and malfeasance.

As a journalist years ago, I remember covering local village meetings. The prevailing attitude was often times, one of secrecy. Elected officials didn’t want anyone to know what they were doing. It was my job to inform the public. I was often at odds with them as I stood up for the public’s right to know. That is what journalists do.

With some elected officials, it is almost as if the public is a nuisance, in the way. To counter, they implement rules to limit public testimony or hold closed-door meetings, or whatever they can to limit public input and public criticism. They wanted to do their business in secret, giving no credence to the fact that it was not their business; it was the public’s business. Often times, they were simply unaware, ignorant of what they could and could not do. Sometimes they were merely leery of a negative reaction by the electorate. Everyone likes to be liked. But in some cases, their motives were more nefarious.

Just reading about their own actions in the paper was enough to cause them to rethink an issue or when enough readers learn and react, individual members of the public can put enough pressure their leaders to get them to back down.

That was just a small town, and not unlike small towns everywhere. But when such behavior occurs on a national scale, the consequences are much more dire. That is what is happening now, in the Trump Administration. Trump has an agenda, to reign supreme with absolutely no constraints. He doesn’t think he needs anyone to tell him what to do because after all, he believes he knows it all; he believes he is a stable genius, whatever that is. He believes in his gut instincts. Never mind the fact that he is just a spoiled little rich kid who doesn’t know what it is like to work for a living. He was a bully all his life and knows nothing beyond getting what he wants any way he can.

What might be more dangerous however, are his enablers—the Senators, House members, and acting cabinet members who he’s systematically put in place and even the judges he has appointed that owe their fortunes to him. Coincidentally or not, they all just happen to be members of the Republican Party.

So this is why Democrats must be elected this year. It is not so much to implement Democratic policies as it is to break up the ‘Good Ole Boys Club,’ which is what this government, has become.

In small towns, the ‘good ole boys’ can be kept in line or even defeated by a few people showing up at a town meeting or a few letters in the local newspaper, but that isn’t the case on such a large, national scale. It has already been tried, evidenced by the women’s march the day after Trump was inaugurated and culminating with his impeachment, where Senators chose their own fate by looking the other way to Trump’s behavior. At another time in our history, Trump’s deeds would have resulted in a rope around his neck or a lineup of guns aimed at his head. Hopefully, we are much more sophisticated now, or are we?

Few could have predicted how this President would have maneuvered and manipulated facts and spread his venom throughout the land, preying on the less educated, those too busy to follow, or the ones who simply let Jesus take the wheel. Combine all those with the filthy rich who have long ago ignored their conscience in favor of their own greed, and you have a good chunk of people who might follow the lead of a lying, cheating, philandering, psychotic ‘leader.’

So, what we have now is a king. Short of losing the election later this year, he will continue to rape and pillage America for his own gain, using and abusing everyone, including the most intelligent, free-thinking, and accomplished individuals who still make up the better part of this country. It is up to us to decipher the difference between real news and fake news. It is up to us to stay informed. It is up to us to spread truth whenever we can. And it is up to us to support a better way, better candidates, better education, and better ideas going forward.

It is up to us to stop this madness.

Monday, December 16, 2019

I remember this day; I remember Stephen Balz

My family had just moved into our new house in Chicago’s western suburbs a year earlier. I had a birthday just three days before. I turned 9. I was making new friends. I was a happy kid. Life was great, until this day 59 years ago. In some ways, that event far away changed my life.

On Dec. 16, 1960 two airplanes collided in a horrific mid-air collision over Brooklyn, New York. At that time it was the worst air traffic disaster ever experienced. 134 people died.

But the one thing that brought this incident close to home for me was that a lone survivor was a young boy, just two years older than me, who lived for a few hours before succumbing to his injuries the following day. His name was Stephen Balz. He was flying alone that day, enroute to Grandma’s house for Christmas. His mother was waiting for him at the airport.

His family lived in Wilmette, also a suburb of Chicago, but on the north side of the city. Our new house was just a few miles south of O’Hare Airport, where Stephen’s plane took off from.

Our old house was next to a set of railroad tracks. I was accustomed to the sounds, having lived my whole life there. The trains never bothered me as they rumbled down the tracks with their syncopated clickety-clack sound. But airplane noise was new to me. The engines roared and screamed. In those days, airplane noise was deafening.

After that day, I was afraid of the planes flying over the bed where I slept. I remember sleepless nights as I stood on my bed looking out my windows and watching the planes roar past our house at just above treetop heights.

Years earlier, I used to enjoy watching them. In fact, my family used to spend hours at Midway and later at O’Hare Airport watching planes take-offs and landings. It was a source of entertainment just as the jet age was beginning.

But hearing about this accident had me on edge. It so disturbed me, that I couldn’t get the image of that young boy out of my head. Accounts at the time related that as he lay in the snow he told his rescuers that when he looked out the window of the plane, he recalled that New York looked beautiful in the snow, like a fairy land.

For years, I had remembered his name. I remembered the photo of that brave, little boy just two years older than me.
Then along came the Internet

For some reason I googled the name I remembered for a lifetime.

I was completely shocked to come face-to-face with the photograph I had carried inside my head since I was just 9 years old, the picture that haunted my memory.

I am grateful to the technology that allows us such a view into our own past, our own subconscious mind, even if it is painful.

I began to read everything I could about Stephen and about the crash itself.

I’ve seen thousands of airplanes over the years. Airplanes and airports have seemingly always been a part of my life. But to be confronted with the images of a broken airliner with parts and pieces scattered among normal looking neighborhoods remains a frightening and terrifying spectacle.

The Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn was just one of two locations marking this tragedy. Another site, one on Staten Island where the other plane fell from the sky turned a field into a graveyard with parts of bodies strewn among carefully wrapped Christmas packages.

I can barely imagine the devastation this caused to so many people who just wanted to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. The story itself breaks my heart.

Yet, some good has come out of this horrific tragedy, as it always does. It provided lessons about air traffic safety, contributing to what makes aviation one of the safest modes of transportation available.

I will always remember Stephen and the good, caring people who came to his aid. I continue to read about this tragedy and the human toll it took. Somehow I feel I owe it to Stephen to remember. I’ve carried his memory with me for 59 years. I suppose I will take it to my grave.

So on this day of remembrance, continue to rest in peace Stephen.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veteran's Day, a personal view

Arlington National Cemetery
Today our nation recognizes and honors veterans, all those men and women who have given up years of their lives and more, to defend the freedom our country has avowed since its founding. This is something we must all do, especially on this day and at this time. Whether traveling to a foreign land or staying at home to vote for better leadership of our country, we must all do our part.

I refuse to say Happy Veterans Day because this day is not happy. Too many of this country’s men and women remain in foreign places, far from home in locations they would rather not be. Too many veterans have died during and after leaving the military, or suffered from illness and health consequences directly related to their military service. So many others have been ignored and mistreated, despite efforts to do the very best we can.

We can’t even celebrate all those veterans that have come home since so many have not yet done so. So many more have come home only to be buried by their loved ones. Statistics on veteran suicide are horrific.

Somehow, saying “thank you for your service” seems shallow and over-used in so many instances.

I’ve been to Arlington National Cemetery. I have never seen a more moving scene. To view row after row of stones, as far as the eye can see, marking individual graves of sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers whose lives were taken too soon, is one of the saddest things I’d ever seen. And to think there are 137 national cemeteries in 40 states. This country is only 340 years old! We have to do better.

I recognize the calling of those who have joined the military, for whatever reason. But in my view, the best way to honor our veterans is to end all wars, to make Veteran’s Day one where we can celebrate world peace and everyone who has contributed to it.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Voting is important; they are supposed to speak for us

Most politicians at the national level have proven to be vindictive, greedy, self-centered, and more involved in their own political future than in that of the country or their own constituents.

The politicians that are supposed to represent us don’t care what we think. Just write a heartfelt letter or call your congressman or senator to see how little they care what you think. Responses come in the form of mass-produced form letters that often times aren’t even seen by the addressee. Responses are handled by their staff and it is up to these unknown, unelected employees, who answer our questions or respond to concerns.

When I have been able to interact with my representatives, I’ve found the general attitude to be annoyance, as if the public is in the way, a barrier to their getting their work done. And their work hardly focuses on the public good or what the public cares most about; it focuses on cash donors with the bottom line being their own election bid.

To me, the problem is that politicians are supposed to be public servants. They are our representatives that do the public’s business. They manage the country in which we live in the government that is of the people, for the people, and most importantly, by the people. Everything they do, they do in our name.

Being a Congressman or Senator is not meant to be a life-long career. That has to change and the solution is term limits.

Imposing term limits as a policy would not be an easy task, since lawmakers would have to support legislation that would put the good of the country over what has become a lucrative career path with corporate kick-backs, deal making, and oh, so many perks. It would take some very open-minded politicians, the likes of which we have not seen in decades, to propose legislation that would bring about term limits.

If term limits are not possible legislatively, we, the represented, have only one choice. We, the voters can impose term limits ourselves. We have the option every two years for Congressional Representatives and every six years for Senators, to vote them out! Voting is our only tool, so we must use it wisely.

Voting is our only option.

When voters get no response from their representatives, we must resign to get rid of them. When we learn that our representatives are not worthy of the office they hold, we must resign to get rid of them. If our representatives choose their corporate funding sources over our concerns, such as what we’ve seen in the health care debates, we must resign to get rid of them.

When candidates lie to our faces, such as the Republican candidates that claim they will protect pre-existing conditions at the same time they voted or sued to end this provision in our health care insurance, as outlined in this story,, we must resign to get rid of them.

There are new examples every day of dastardly deeds unbefitting a representative of our government. If this is as bothersome to you as it is to me, remember that we can change things. It will take some time, but eventually, our leaders will get the hint. If the makeup of Congress changes every two years, it will become clear that if our public figures don’t do their job or don’t do it on behalf of the people that put them there, then they must go.

There are times we will be forced to elect the lesser of two evils

The lesser of two evils is not as bad as it sounds. Sometimes, the two-party system advances candidates that we consider unappealing. Instead of simply voting for a partisan, which is done all too often, become an informed voter. Don’t look at the party; look at the individual who if elected, will speak for you. Study what the candidates stand for. Hear their message, which does not include the hundreds of “attack the other guy” ads being run by way too much money in the political system. Do your homework. There are so many resources available today, at your fingertips.

Voting is one of your most important obligations as a citizen of this country. You will choose the men and women that speak on your behalf in this and other parts of the world.

Tuesday is Election Day. Do your part to make this country a better place. Vote!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day, my favorite day of the year

Today is my favorite day of the year -- Earth Day.

Mother Earth was kind enough to give presents -- a gentle rain shower that turned our Arkansas back yard into a rain forest. The sun is shining now. Like all females, Mother Earth is prone to changing her mind. As I look out the window into the woods, droplets of rain on the still new leaves sparkle as the warm sun caresses them. The landscape shimmers as if dressed in sequins. Thank you Mother Earth. The effect is spectacular.

Almost thirty years ago on this day, I experienced a kind of environmental awakening that has forever changed how I see and think about things. This new kind of spirituality inspires deeper thought, a kind of peripheral vision that takes in new dimensions, and a sense of connection to all living things.

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe," said John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, who was born on this day.

That quote has been my favorite since I first heard it. Connections are not always clear. Sometimes they are difficult to discern, but we must not be blinded by the obvious.

On that day so long ago, I walked with a group of other nature lovers along a trail. It was a time when "Save the Earth" was a popular slogan. I was disturbed about oil spills, killing dolphins in tuna nets, too much plastic that never degrades, landfills overflowing with trash that could be recycled into useful products, and the very future of the only planet we can call home. But as I walked the trail, in the forest remnant that had been largely untouched since it was carved out by glaciers hundreds of thousands of years ago, I realized that humans aren't able to save the earth any more than they can affect it. Mother Earth will save herself, even if it is at our expense. I fear for humans who totally miss the point. The only thing that man's work will destroy is man.

I'm saddened that little has been accomplished since that day in 1990. And I am frustrated -- no angry -- at recent political attempts to reverse protections of the environment.

Even though I'm unhappy that there must be legal efforts to thwart man's destructive behavior against himself, it is too important not to be supportive since not everybody gets it. My hope for the environmental future of mankind is that more people realize the connections. 

...initially posted in 2010, but still relevant today