Follow the Money

Monday, October 15, 2018

Many years ago, when I was just starting my journey of lifelong learning, I took a political science course from the local college.

My professor for this course was something of a cynic, and after all these years, I've remembered one thing she told us in that class: In a representative democracy, the only way to determine the winners and losers in a political contest is to follow the money.

So over the years, my practice has become to find out who the major donors are for each candidate, each amendment, each local law. Once that research is complete, then I have to ask the question: Of these donors, whose interests most closely align with my own? Whose interests most closely align with the good of the people, and the good of the union?

The reason for the first question should be obvious - it's important to know and understand how candidates and legislature will affect your daily and long-term interests. This question is usually easily answered, because it's centered entirely on a narcissistic view of the world. Legislation that costs me money is bad. Candidates who don't care about my well-being are bad. Plus there's the whole "company you keep" truism *cough*Trump Supporters*cough*.

The second question is more difficult, and I would argue, more important. MUCH more important, because it speaks to the long-term health and well-being of our nation. It speaks to the moral necessities each individual holds dear. It speaks to our maturity, both as individuals and as a nation, that we would take the larger picture into account when making our choices.

The clearest example of this that affects me directly is health care. I've never been without healthcare. My kids have never been without health care. I've been incredibly fortunate that my employers have always offered affordable choices in this area, and I've been able to take advantage of this good fortune to the benefit of me and my family.

But not everyone is so lucky. In 2017, 29.3 million people were uninsured. The ACA brought my premiums up, and further expansion of benefits (such as Medicare for all) will likely cost me additional monies, either in the form of premiums, or taxes, or both. But I feel I have a personal responsibility to help ensure everyone in our country has access to basic medical care. Will it benefit me personally? No. Does that matter to me? No. I believe it's the right thing to do, so I do it. Others feel differently, or have valid concerns about sustainability, or object for other reasons. We all have an obligation to vote our conscience, and that's where that second question comes in.

I'm perfectly aware that many people never get past the first question. You can even make an argument that our current political shit-show is a direct result of this pattern of voting by the Baby Boomers. But I think we should all make an effort to do better in this regard.

So I'm going to follow the money on the current Colorado Amendments, and I may post some of my findings in this space. Not the "Lower Age Requirements for Members of the State Legislature from 25 to 21," because that kind of thing is really a matter of opinion based (largely) on the voter's age and experience. But the contentious stuff that is inundating my life every day through mailers, commercials, unsolicited opinions, and yard signs.

And once I've done my homework, it'll be time to vote my conscience. And I hope everyone else who is eligible to vote does the same.

The Men in my Life

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I have some wonderful, progressive men in my life. They care deeply about the women in their lives, and are aghast at the treatment sexual assault survivors have to endure when they try to do the right thing. They speak loudly, and publicly, about the need to believe survivors when they muster the courage to tell, and they have fury in their hearts for the entitled, amoral shits who would perpetrate such a crime. 

And yet. 

This story in the Washington Post reminded me that even the most sensitive of men, even the most progressive, the most supportive, still don't fully understand the scope of the problem that is sexual assault. 

The author of this piece points out that stories of harassment and assault have been pouring into her inbox daily, and many of the writers will not tell their fathers about their experiences. They have many reasons for this choice, but most boil down to an attempt to protect their fathers' feelings from the horror that was perpetrated on their child. These survivors are afraid. They're afraid their parent won't see them the same way. They're afraid their parent will subconsciously blame their kids for their suffering. They're afraid it will break their parent's heart. And they're afraid their parent will take some action that will land them in prison, or worse. 

When I was assigned at a Naval Training Station, I acted as a sexual assault victim advocate in a program that was the precursor to the DOD's SAPR Office. When a sailor on our base was sexually assaulted, a member of my team would be called out to act as a support system for that person. It was almost a given that the victim was without family in the area, and let's face it - dealing with such an event is hard even for the emotionally mature, let alone an 18 year old away from home for the first time who was attacked by someone they thought was their shipmate. These young adults needed help, and our team tried to provide it. 

And each of the individuals I advocated for, with only one exception, had one thing in common: They refused to tell their family about their experience. Their reasons were myriad, and not mine to share, but suffice it to say that the WashPo author gives a pretty good representative sample. 

Men with whom I would associate would never disbelieve a sexual assault survivor because they chose not to report the crime in a timely manner. They would advocate for these survivors, and do everything in their power to ensure the perpetrator was held accountable. Their hearts would break for the survivors, and I believe they have the emotional fortitude to manage this emotional burden. 

And yet, I wonder how many of them truly understand that in their own circles, among the women they know personally or professionally, those who are casual friends or acquaintances, one in six of those women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. They understand the statistic, to be sure - but have they looked at their circles and wondered, "Who among my friends and family have been through this horror?" I know I do, often, usually when I'm contemplating (again) what behavior will keep me safest in an unknown situation. 

I guarantee you, men - you know people who have been sexually assaulted. They won't tell you, for a variety of reasons, but it's true. The survivors are all around you, and you really have no idea who they are. Because, through no fault of your own, you have the luxury of not having to think about it.

Worse - so much worse - than I thought

Friday, September 21, 2018

Yesterday I finished Fear: Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward.

I expected a high quality project, because, Bob Woodward. The man is a giant in journalism, and while he has his critics, very few journalists have as much access as him, and are as scrupulous about ensuring his material is factual.

I'm not going to summarize the book's findings, as they've been all over the media since the book's release, but these are my personal take-aways:
  • 45 is dumber than I thought, and that's saying something. Who this book characterized is someone who is apparently incapable of critical thought or analysis. Complex issues confuse him profoundly, to the point where he ends up just shaking off all those pesky details and facts and goes with his feelings. And since his feelings are driven entirely by self-absorption and egomania, expressed in terms of rabid nationalism, the resulting decisions lack good judgement, to say the least. 
  • 45 is far less rational than I thought. It was apparent during the campaign that he was egomaniacal in the extreme, but this dude brought the United States to the brink of a nuclear exchange basically because someone pwned him on Twitter. Are you fucking kidding me? It's like having Dr. Strangelove in the White House.
  • 45 has no desire (or apparently, ability) to learn. He came into the White House as the least qualified Presidential candidate in history, and guess what? He still is, 22 months into the job. He's had qualified advisors in the West Wing, but when they try to educate him on how the economy works, or how national security works, or how those things are tied together, or basically any topic vital for an effective President to know, his response was (I shit you not), "I don't want to hear that." Lalalalala I can't hear you...
  • 45 has reached the pinnacle of the Dunning-Kruger effect. And the worst part is that his ego will not permit him to even consider the idea that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. 
  • Certain members of 45's staff and advisors have tried to rein him in. They've tried every trick in the book to keep 45 from tanking the economy, engaging the U.S. in another preemptive war, and personally breaking the law whenever it suits his personal agenda. In fact, these efforts have reached the point where staff's behavior is skirting coup d'état territory. This is not okay. I mean, this is REALLY not okay. I want 45's ego-driven decision making checked as much as the next bleeding-heart liberal, but I am devoted to the Constitution and the rule of law by virtue of my service and my values. Even though the man is a fucking disaster, and the country will likely take decades to recover from his fuckery, he is still the legal, duly elected President. Having unelected staff make policy decisions in direct contradiction to his wishes paves the way for a shadow government to control future presidents in the same fashion. NOT OKAY.
  • The reason 45 won't be interviewed by Special Prosecutor Mueller is because his attorney refused to allow it. And the reason isn't because the attorney thought 45 had something heinous to hide. It's because, as the attorney notes, "He's a fucking liar."*
This book did not reveal anything that hadn't crossed my mind in the last 22 months. It just revealed how much worse things are in the White House than I thought. It made me wish even harder that the Democrats take the House and/or the Senate this year as a way to limit his power. It made me hope beyond hope that the RNC chooses a candidate to challenge 45 for the Republican nomination for President in 2020. And it scared the shit out of me because I can also imagine this shit-show becoming America's new normal. And that last part also makes me profoundly sad.

*This was not a revelation to anyone who reads anything more complex and factual than the Drudge Report. The public record clearly shows 45 lies as a matter of course, rather than using dishonesty as a way to hide his misdeeds. He's just a pathological liar - lying is his default reaction.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Eighth Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program is over, and the winners have been selected via a Random Number Generator.

The total number of entries reached 235 this year, which means me and the Smart Man will be donating $500 to the Douglas County Library Foundation. This will allow us to continue to have the naming rights to the Parker Library "Maureen 'AJ' Ramey Memorial Garden."

The winners this year are Stacey, who read Shadow Ops: Breach Zone, by Myke Cole, and The Mechanicky Gal, who read In the Shadow of Lakecrest, by Elizabeth Blackwell. 

Congratulations winners! Your prizes are in the (e)mail!

Last Chance to Log Books for the Summer Reading Program

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I'm a big slacker and forgot to close comments on the Summer Reading Program yesterday morning. So I'll take pity and leave them open until tomorrow morning for your last minute entries.

Get your books entered TODAY for a chance to WIN!

Honoring the Fallen, Helping the Living

Monday, August 27, 2018

Please Join Me in Supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


July 31, 2013 was the worst day of my life. It was the worse day of my life because that was the day the Police Department came to our home to tell us that our precious daughter Moe had died of suicide at the age of 22.

Moe died of uncontrolled mental illness. She experienced severe depression, and was under a doctor's care for her condition. But we lost her anyway, leaving a Moe-shaped hole in my heart that nothing is able to fill.

Every day I mourn her loss in this world, and I would give everything to have her here with us again. But I can't do that, so instead I choose to perform service projects in her memory such as serving on our local Library Foundation Board, since Moe was an avid reader and used our library extensively.

And I also support AFSP's mission in helping people who are at risk overcome their lack of hope and help those who have been affected by suicide.

This is the second year I've been up to participating in this event personally, but this will be the sixth year the Maureen's Marchers team is hitting the road in my baby girl's name on the annual Out of the Darkness Denver Metro Walk. The money raised in this event will go to fighting suicide and supporting AFSP's goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025.

Please help us honor our lost, beloved Moe-Moe and consider donating to the AFSP by clicking the "Donate" button on this page or on the sidebar. All donations are 100% tax deductible and benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), funding research, education, advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide. The AFSP is a Charity Navigator 3 star charity, and they spend 83.4% of their total budget on program expenses.

"When you are sorrowful look again at your own heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." ~ Khalil Gibron

As always, thank you for your support.


Jesus Wept

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Here is a synopsis of the current news cycle, compiled by my buddy Vince. Presented without "spin" or comment.

Today Republican Representative Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, have been indicted for using $250,000 worth of campaign funds for personal expenses filing false campaign finance records. This includes wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations, and conspiracy.
Today former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 of the charges filed against him - filing a false tax return in each of the years from 2010 through 2014, as well as not filing a form in 2012 to report a foreign bank account as required. He was also convicted of two instances of bank fraud, related to a $3.4 million loan from Citizens Bank and a $1 million loan from Banc of California. The jury was deadlocked on the other ten charges, and a mistrial for those charges has been declared.
Today President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud as part of a deal, which includes jail time. Cohen is the fifth Trump associate to have pleaded guilty or be charged with criminal wrongdoing since Trump took office, including his former national security adviser, his deputy campaign chairman, and a former campaign policy adviser.
Today Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, revealed in a post that Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts and pages for what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” generally networks of ostensibly independent outlets that were in fact controlled centrally by Russia and Iran. Facebook also announced that it was removing pages and accounts “linked to sources the U.S. government has previously identified as Russian military intelligence services.”
Last night, Microsoft President Brad Smith said that Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) successfully executed a court order to transfer control of six internet domains created by APT28 (also known as Fancy Bear or Strontium, and associated with the the Russian military intelligence service GRU) before they were used in any attacks. The idea was to have people think they were accessing links managed by US political groups but redirect them to fake ones run by the hackers so passwords and other information could be stolen.
Smith said one such site appeared to mimic that of the International Republican Institute, which promotes democratic principles and whose board includes Republican senators, among them John McCain, who have been critical of President Vladimir Putin. Another is similar to the domain used by the Hudson Institute, which hosts prominent discussions on topics including cybersecurity.
Yesterday Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a declaration "County Fire has experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon. This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services. Bowden's declaration was submitted in an addendum to a brief filed by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission seeking to overturn the recent repeal of net neutrality rules in a lawsuit.
Santa Clara Fire paid Verizon for "unlimited" data but suffered from heavy throttling until the department paid Verizon more, according to Bowden's declaration and emails between the fire department and Verizon that were submitted as evidence.
The throttling recently affected "OES 5262," a fire department vehicle that is "deployed to large incidents as a command and control resource" and is used to "track, organize, and prioritize routing of resources from around the state and country to the sites where they are most needed," Bowden wrote. "OES 5262 also coordinates all local government resources deployed to the Mendocino Complex Fire," an ongoing wildfire that is the largest in California's history, Bowden wrote.