The value of conservatives

Sunday, May 1, 2022

This was in my inbox this morning, and gave me some food for thought. 

As I continue to sort my thoughts regarding the schism in our country, I have come to realize that I don't - and never have had - a personal issue with conservatives when the word is used to describe the pre-Reagan Republican Party. I no longer agree with their platform, but I consider them the loyal opposition, and understand they're worthy of a place at the table. There is value in balancing the desire and need for change with the cautiousness of conservatism in a democratic republic. I used to be a Republican, after all.

There are still a few public servants out there who fall into this category, although they're few and far between these days. Mitt Romney. Liz Chaney. Susan Collins. Lisa Murkowski. The GOP calls them "RINOs," Republican in Name Only, and they're right - they are RINOs. Instead, let's call these Congresspeople conservatives, while the rest of the GOP can keep the moniker "Republican."

Because in today's political climate, to be a "Republican" politician is to work to undo our democracy through any means necessary to achieve Republican goals and to support the ultra-rich, disregarding the will of the vast majority of Americans. And if you stand by, see what's happening and do nothing, then you forfeit any claim you might have had to public service and patriotism, and you certainly forfeit any claim to the word "conservative." 

There are those who consider Islam, or liberalism, or progressives, or the boogie-man de jour an existential threat to our country and way of life. But I think it's those who would support autocracy who pose the biggest threat. Autocracy and authoritarianism are the exact opposite of how Americans are supposed to govern ourselves, and supporting it is the most unAmerican thing a citizen can do. 

January 6th was an insurrection, an attempted coup, and those who planned and executed it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, regardless of who they are and what positions they may have held or hold today. And those who passively supported it should never be allowed to influence our government again, in any capacity. Let them pay for their cowardice by becoming pariahs in the present and excoriated in the history books of the future. 

More on Lashes

Saturday, April 30, 2022

As you all know, I recently tried lash extensions in an effort to reduce my beauty requirements during our upcoming trip to Italy. This experiment was NOT a success, so my friend Cindy, a master aesthetician, recommended Le Grande Lash serum to see if I could get those suckers to grow, and here's my status report.

Before: 

After:



After, with makeup:


I'm going to call this a success, especially because I really don't want my lashes to be any longer with mascara than they are now. 

This is not a look I believe I can pull off at my current age. I do wear glasses, after all, and I live in a high-wind area. What if I took flight?

I think I'm going to stick with the Le Grande Lash product from now on, and my trusted and true Blinc mascara. Ciao, Baby! 

On Gas Prices and Partisan Politics

Thursday, March 10, 2022

I'm getting pretty tired of hearing all the bitching about high gas prices. Not because people are bitching, though - higher gas prices are a burden for folks who don't make a ton of money. I've been in that economic bracket, and it sucks, big time, especially when wages haven't kept up with inflations since what? The late 70's?

No, I'm tired of it because (AS USUAL) it's become a partisan talking point which ignores all the facts in service to party talking points. So I did some research, and here are the results. Take it, leave it, stick your fingers in your ears and sing "Lalalalala" all day, I don't care. But the next time this silliness comes up, I'm referring the purveyor to this blog post.
  • The price of gasoline is not controlled by the President - ANY President, regardless of party. If it was, the United States really would be a socialist nation, because private enterprise would all be nationalized and operated by the government. But our government doesn't have that power, regardless of the way the right flings the word "socialist" around without actually knowing what it means. 
  • According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the top five sources of U.S. petroleum imports were from: 
    • Canada - 52%
    • Mexico - 11%
    • Russia - 7%
    • Saudi Arabia - 7%
    • Colombia: 4%
  • According tot he U.S. Energy Information Administration, the top five sources of U.S. crude oil imports by share of total crude oil imports in 2020 were:
    • Canada - 61%
    • Mexico - 11%
    • Saudi Arabia - 8%
    • Colombia - 4%
    • Iraq - 3%
  • Based on these facts, it seems pretty evident that the bad guy in this scenario is - surprise, surprise - BIG OIL. Consider:
    • Exxon, Shell, BP, and Chevron have their highest profits in seven years, over $75B. Yes, that's billion with a "B."
    • Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco are using 40% of these massive profits to execute stock buybacks instead of lowering gas prices. 
    • These companies are laughing all the way to bank (or the Cayman Islands, same-same) while Americans struggle to fill their tanks. This is what they've always done, and will continue to do, because they're rewarded for this behavior beyond the dreams of avarice. 
  • The Keystone Pipeline is not a factor in gas prices, regardless of what Tucker the Entertainer tells you. 
    • The Keystone Pipeline is complete. It currently carries 540K barrels of oil per day.
    • The Keystone Pipeline only carries "tar sands oil," not crude oil, which isn't used to make gasoline. 
    • The Keystone Pipeline is owned by a Canadian company and comes from Canada. This makes it an import.  
    • The extension of this pipeline (Keystone XL) has been cancelled by the private Canadian company who owns the pipeline. The US government did not force them to do this, they examined the cost-benefit analysis and made a decision base on profitability, which is what private companies do. If we lived in a socialist state, then the president could take control of these lands and nationalize oil production/distribution. But again, we don't, so you can't blame the President (regardless of political party) for failing to do so. Unless socialism suddenly isn't destroying America, in which case the Right has some explaining to do.
I'm in no way saying Russia's invasion of Ukraine has not had an impact on oil prices. But in this case, I don't think it's an entirely a case of "supply and demand." I think it's a case of "Oil executives can never have enough money, regardless of how much they get." 

But as usual, mass media and partisan talking-heads and politicians are trying to make it out like it's Biden's fault, or Trump's fault, or anyone's fault except our own corrupt system. Imagine what we could accomplish if we started holding the right people accountable. Just imagine. 
_________

ETA: My friend Alex reminds me that this "we should be energy independent!" trope is going around again. Except we don't WANT to be energy independent because we still want to drive huge, low-MPG vehicles, and support fossil fuels, and fail to support renewables. If we want energy independence, then we have to actually, you know, DO something about it beyond bitching. 

Thoughts on the State of the Union

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

I got up early this morning to watch the recording of last night's State of the Union address.

As a general rule, I tend to think SOTU addresses are performative, both for the President and the current "loyal" opposition. In many ways, I just wish Presidents would just write a memo. The SOTU is required under the Constitution, but it's not required that it be given in person. Phoning it in would be less dramatic, however, and that's really half the point, these days.*

It's no secret that as a general rule, I like President Biden. I think he's a committed, dedicated person of good character, and has the best interest of ordinary Americans in mind. I don't agree with everything he does or says, because the only President where that would be the case would be me, and I have zero intention of ever getting involved in political service again. 

So onto the speech itself. 

Russia and Ukraine 

The President rightly called out the multilateral action being taken by the Western world in support of Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues. After the last administration shredded our standing with our traditional allies, the President's accomplishments in healing those rifts should be front and center in the list of his accomplishments. Democracy matters, and countries that violate international law should absolutely be held accountable. Go, Uncle Joe. 

COVID-19

The President called out our new "normal" in terms of the pandemic. I think the best thing that can be said of the pandemic is that from now on we're going to have to treat COVID the same way we treat the flu. A new vaccination every season, some people are going to get it no matter what, and yes, a certain number of people are going to die every year of this disease. I appreciated that he asked EVERYONE to stop considering pandemic response as a political talking point. It's a reality, and will continue to be present in our lives the same way all human disease is present. So let's stop treating it like it's a political issue. It's not. It's a public health issue, and should be treated as such by all concerned. 

"Defunding" the Police

Since Biden was never in favor of defunding the police (Faux News talking points aside), I think it was smart of him to touch on this specifically and reiterate that the solution is not to defund the police, but to offer other solutions to the problems faced by police forces all over the country. Like funding more human services resources so that the police are out there dealing with crime, rather than dealing with the mentally ill, people who are neurodiverse, etc. 

Social Programs

It seems certain that the whole "Build Back Better" thing is a dead duck. Instead, the President is focusing on other social programs such as voting, innovation, etc. Here's where things get sticky, at least in my opinion. All of the things the President wants to do are wildly popular with American voters. But none of them are being brought to the Senate for a vote because of Republican filibusters. I guess they figure that if they're not actually called upon to vote, then they can't be held accountable for the fact that their party opposes tons of legislation their constituents want? They're not really fooling anyone who's actually, you know, paying attention, but since so many Americans don't pay attention, it's probably working. 

Republicans

Ah, Majorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebart, you are the freeze-dried whackaloons that just keep on giving. Both of them DRAMATICALLY turned their backs on the Cabinet as they entered the chamber, and as usual, Lauren Boebart just couldn't keep her pie hole shut. Her outburst in the middle of the President's remarks regarding cancer in members of the armed forces was completely off-topic, non-sensical, and - of course - unseemly. What is it about SOTU addresses and Republican outbursts? Republican Representatives - keeping it klassy, one SOTU address at a time. 

Inflation and the Economy

The President tried to address inflation, but the fact of the matter is that he can't control inflation, just like no other President before him could. I've never held the President accountable for the economy, for the most part. I didn't hold former President Trump accountable for the COVID economy, and I don't credit former President Clinton for the booming economy during hi Presidency.

However, it's no lie that our economy has grown 5.7% in the last year, the largest growth in the last 40 years. It's no lie that our unemployment numbers have dropped in the last year. It's no lie that inflation is steady and growing. And it's no lie that the deficit will drop by over 50% at the end of this year, while the deficit went up precipitously under the former administration. I also agree with the economists who note that the American Rescue Bill has helped the economy tremendously. It's also worth noting that this Bill passed without a single Republican vote. Which didn't stop Republicans from going home and telling their constituents how great the Bill was, re-elect me, why don't you. Because of course it didn't.

I agree with the issues the President called out as things we can accomplish as a nation if we just end the partisan bickering and get to work: 

  • The opioid crisis
  • Giving mental health services the same resources as physical health services
  • Support our veterans
  • Cancer research

I have a hard time believing Republicans can't agree to these initiatives, but since 2015 they've catered to the lowest common denominator, and it doesn't seem they can stop stooping lower and lower in order to reaffirm their position as the sycophants of former President Trump's cult of personality. So they'll probably oppose any measures related to these issues, as well, because they can't be valuable if a DEMOCRAT proposes them. 

I also find it extremely interesting that based on CBS's poll of voters, 78% approved of the President's SOTU address. So I consider this a win for Uncle Joe. 

______

*Now get off my lawn. 


Lash Extensions Review

Thursday, January 6, 2022

 

This year, the Fam intends to go to Italy for a well-deserved overseas vacation.* In order to have a maintenance free beauty experience, I thought getting lash extensions and a wash and wear haircut would be indicated. I haven't moved on the haircut yet - my regular stylist is out on maternity leave and I don't trust anyone else to cut my hair that short, but I thought I'd give the lash extensions a whirl to see if they'd suit. 

The short answer: No. No, they don't. 

Here are my lashes prior to the lash extension application:


Here are my lashes immediately following the first lash extension application:


And here are my lashes two weeks after my first fill:


As you can see, my left eye held up pretty well. This is about what I'd expect after two weeks, as I had anticipated a need for fills twice a month or so. 

My right eye, however, was a fricken disaster. The lashes on my right eye started falling off almost immediately, and continued to fall off at an accelerated pace compared to my left eye. I adhered to every recommendation the esthetician gave me including not getting them wet for 24-48 hours after application, a special washing formula with a custom brush, only brushing them out with a clean spoolie when they were dry, wearing a sleep mask since I sleep on my right side and friction with my pillow might have caused the surgical glue to come loose. Nothing changed this outcome. 

Since the left eye was in good shape at the end of the two week period after both the initial application and the refill, I don't fault the esthetician for this outcome. Clearly she did a good job based on the results on my left eye. My right eye is just a PITA when it comes to this service.

So I'll be letting the remaining lashes fall off naturally, and stick to my tried and true Blinc mascara from now on. Lash extensions are expensive, and unlike permanent makeup, it's an ongoing, monthly expense to maintain them, plus requiring two trips a month to the lash studio. Applying mascara daily takes one minute, and I only have to buy new mascara four times a year. 

Thoughts for a New Year

Sunday, January 2, 2022

 

And so, 2022 begins, much like 2021 began.

2021 wasn't ALL bad. For most of 2021, I took better care of my body. I got to spend time with my Sistahs and their incomparable Fellas. No one I know personally lost their life to COVID or complications from COVID. The Smart Man started a new job, which he genuinely likes. I got promoted and received a raise. I saw my niece marry the love of her life, a splendid young man who sees the light in her, just as I do. My Mommy continues to enjoy good health and still lives independently. The Smart Son is settled into his career, and doing well. 

U.S. economic output jumped 7% in the last three months of 2021. Overall growth for 2021 was ~6%, and is predicted to grow another ~4% in 2022, the highest growth the U.S. has seen in decades. America's economy improved more in Biden's first 12 months in office than any president during the last 50 years, largely due to Democrats' American Rescue Plan. Democrats have also earmarked $1.2 trillion for long delayed and much needed infrastructure investment.*

But let's be honest: 2021 wasn't really a good year, either. We're still dealing with the Omicron variant of COVID. Over 5.5 million people have died of coronavirus so far. Trump Republicans (which seems like ALL Republicans these days, the cowardly fuckers) continue to politicize vaccines and masks, ensuring more Americans will die unnecessarily of this disease. Additional Americans will die because there will be no hospital bed for them, as ICU wards continue to fill up with unvaccinated COVID patients. 

We've watched the Republican party lose their collective shit and whatever pretense they once had of living in a fact-based world. We had an insurrection in our capital, which retRumplicans have basically denied, and over the last year, we've continued to be exposed to the Big Lie. Much of the country believes the Big Lie, and take pride in their complete lack of critical thinking skills on this topic. 

How can I, as an individual, live a happy and meaningful life while watching the fall of the country I spent so many years defending? How can I come to terms with those who refuse to vaccinate and mask for the common good, because "freedom" or selfishness or "you're not going to tell ME what to do?" How can I help prevent our nation's fall while the far right continues to use such an effective fascist strategy to cement their power and disenfranchise all who don't agree with them? 

This has been on my mind of late. No one knows how long the pandemic will last, especially with the virus evolving so quickly, and worldwide vaccination hovering at less than 50% of the population. "Waiting until it's over" no longer seems like a viable option. I don't know that life will ever return to a pre-pandemic state, and I feel that I need to find a new normal, a new way to live in this new world. My depression has been going through peaks and valleys this year, and caring for my mental health is now something which requires a new strategy. 

It's very tempting to isolate myself, ignore the latest shenanigans of the retRumplicans, surround myself with like-minded people who I know will do whatever's necessary not to spread disease. But that's clearly not the answer. As a citizen dedicated to the rule of law, I have an obligation to try and save that which I've fought for. As a human being who cares about our species, I have an obligation to try and do whatever I can to help humans move past this pandemic, whether those humans chose to support the common good or not. 

It's a conundrum. At the very least, I think I'm justified in deciding to spend time only with those who have chosen to get vaccinated and follow the CDC's recommendations regarding masks. I don't want to get sick, or worse, make the high-risk people in my life sick, because of someone else's political beliefs. I will continue to follow the science, regardless of how politicians try to make the science a matter of political opinion rather than a fact-based thing. 

As for our country, I will continue to vote my conscience, I will continue to call out bullshit wherever I find it, and I will continue to stand up to the bullies who would shape our nation into an oligarchy to serve their own purposes and quest for money and power. I will continue to support politicians who live in a fact-based world and at least behave like they care about other human beings.

But is that enough to find peace of mind in this new world? My mind constantly spins on what I can do to make the rest of my life meaningful, and happy, and to help build a world where the Smart Son can live without fear. It doesn't feel like enough. I don't know if anything I do will ever be enough. I fear I'm losing hope, which would be the worst possible outcome. 

So my focus for 2022 will be "hope."  Hope for a world where the common good is a priority for the majority of humans. Hope for a country on the brink. Hope for myself and my family, that we may find meaning and joy in a changed world. 

Just...hope.

_________

*I say "Democrats" because these measures passed without a single retRumplican vote, even though those duplicitous bastards claimed credit for them to their constituents. All the retRumplicans have done is complain about the cost, conveniently forgetting that the freeze-dried whackaloon they choose to follow presided over the third largest increase in National Debt in our country's history, right behind George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln, both of whom were paying for wars. Hypocritical, lying motherfuckers, the lot of them.