Mommy, he’s a bad man

If I were a Donald Trump supporter, hearing “Mommy, he’s a bad man” would be enough for me to withdraw my support immediately.

I was recently told the following story by someone close to me. The television was on in her home during the presidential primary season and Donald Trump was speaking. No one was really paying attention to it except for her 8 year old child. With no prompting from anyone, a few minutes later, the youngster turned to the woman and said, “Mommy, he’s a bad man.” The woman, who is no Trump supporter, said this was a revealing moment for her. The child did not know who the man was or his relevance to the news cycle, only that this was a person who was saying hateful and mean things in an ugly tone of voice. Upon hearing this, she engaged her child in an age-appropriate conversation about the election.

This story exemplifies why Mr. Trump is not only a terrible role model for our children but also someone from whom they should be protected. No matter how much one may despise Hillary Clinton, she refrains from spewing hateful rhetoric and using a disparaging, vitriolic tone of voice.

Some readers may come back with: What about her “basket of deplorables” remark? While admittedly that was an unfortunate comment, she didn’t say all Trump supporters were deplorable, just some and she did preface it with being “grossly generalistic.” Nor did she use a snarling tone of voice to deliver it. Furthermore, there is evidence to support her assertion.* Secretary Clinton pales in comparison to Donald’s ugliness, even having made that impolitic remark.

Below is a campaign ad put out by the Clinton campaign that addresses this very issue.

Ask yourself this: Is Donald Trump really the person you want your children listening to and seeing on television for the next four, possibly eight years?

 

* Clinton, it appears, has her own “basket of deplorables” too. It’s a good deal smaller than Mr. Trump’s, but she has one. You can read more in the Forbes article below.

Clinton’s Got Data Supporting That Basket of Deplorables

Cross-posted at Writing Life

The Flint disaster can happen in your city too

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released their last infrastructure report card in 2013 and gave the United States an overall D+. This country’s infrastructure is in dismal shape, which means many people have been, are being, and will be harmed in some way, be it via a bridge collapse, poisoned water, crumbling schools, sewage or oil leaking into the ground or homes (yes, sewage leaking into the home has happened to me (in New Jersey) and to my parents (in Indiana)), and sadly, the list goes on.

Investment in infrastructure is imperative to prevent it from collapsing all around us. Failure to do this not only poses great safety risks to the public but is also a drain on our economy. Investment doesn’t mean using taxpayer dollars only—private-public partnerships should be sought. Infrastructure must be better regulated too. Some may scream there is too much regulation and perhaps on paper that is true, but time and time again it is revealed post-disaster that systems and equipment were not being adequately maintained or regulated. Prioritizing penny-pinching and profit-seeking over people’s safety should never be an acceptable way to operate.

The Flint, Michigan, water situation could have been avoided. It is an example of the devastating consequences when poor governance, lax oversight, minimal to no accountability to the public, poverty, austerity, and aging, unsafe, or contaminated infrastructure collide. The Republican Governor with his mania for austerity and appointing emergency managers (in Flint, Pontiac, Detroit, Highland Park, Benton Harbor, to name a few) has contributed a good deal to this crisis—and yes, he did, no matter how much some people want to spin it. Governor Rick Snyder asserts that Flint’s water crisis was only brought to his attention in October 2015. Even if that proves to be true, why did he wait three months before taking any action to right this wrong? Continue reading

Remembering September 11, 2001

Every 9/11 leads me back home to Tell City, Indiana

By: Deborah Ludwig

I was working in downtown Cincinnati at the Cigna offices on Seventh Street when my boss received a call from his dad in the New York office letting him know a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. He shared this information with us and we all imagined it was a small plane and that the pilot had somehow lost control.

It was a splendid September morning in Cincinnati, just like it was in New York City: warm, sunny, clear blue skies. The weather was perfect. Soon that blue NYC sky would turn to dark gray then black.

We gathered in the kitchenette where a TV had been turned on and were stunned by what we saw: a gaping hole in the North Tower with fire spewing out of it. I was horror struck, and even more so as we witnessed the second plane, United 175, crash into the South Tower. The shock of it was chilling. We remained glued to the television and when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, I lost it, crying and wondering, ‘what city would be next?’

I made my way back to my desk and called my sister Karen, who I knew would be home. She was working on her dissertation. I told her to turn on the television. As we were talking, she gasped and said, “Oh, my God. One of the towers just fell.” Shortly afterwards, we were all sent home. Even away from the chaos and fear, we felt it and didn’t know if we too might be next on the target list. I made it home just before Tower 1 crumbled, as if it were a sheet of ash and smoke cascading to the street.

I spent the next few days glued to the television. Somehow I felt that if I paid attention, sat vigil with the emergency workers, medical personnel, the people searching for loved ones, and New Yorkers trying to cope with the devastation to their city, that somehow I was offering them support, love, and strength. My sister nagged me to turn off the TV because my nonstop mourning was becoming unhealthy.

I thought that with the number of people affected by this tragedy that most Americans probably would know someone who worked in the World Trade Center or knew someone who did. Well, ended up I did know someone. Two people, actually: one who got out, another who did not. Her name was Stacey Peak. She graduated high school a year ahead of me. She was 36.

Remembering September 11, 2001

Stacey was from my hometown in southern Indiana had been living in New York City for about two years, working at Cantor Fitzgerald as a gas/power stock broker. I heard the news from my mother. She told me that Stacey’s mother had received a call from her that morning. She was on the 105th floor of the north tower when she made the call. Newspaper reports later revealed that her mother said Stacey was hysterical when she called, telling her that she was trapped and didn’t know if she’d be able to get out. She told her mother she loved her and then had to hang up.

I am forever haunted by that detail, wondering what those last moments of her life must have been like, the horror of rising flames and intensifying heat, knowing you were about to die. I know that is morbid, but it’s what I can never stop thinking about when I see photos of her lovely face and hear stories from friends and family. I also think of the helplessness her mother must have felt, not being able to protect her, save her. The anguish must have been intolerable and suffocating, as she waited for news of her daughter, holding out hope that somehow she escaped the carnage.

I did not know Stacey except casually, but the hometown connection, and discovering that she was single, never married, living life on her terms, taking acting classes, all of it somehow connected me to her. Sadly, her remains were never found. There is a memorial to her erected in our hometown, Tell City, Indiana, in Sunset Park by the Ohio River. Every year on September 11, the Perry County News highlights a story about her and local news stations in Evansville remember people from the area who perished that day as well.

Healing definitely takes time and the scars from that fateful day remain, the images and stories etched in our collective memory—for those of us who lived through it anyway. So as I do every year on this date, I will take a moment to remember Stacey, send a smile and a blessing heavenwards, say a prayer for her family and friends, and recommit to doing my best to try to make this world a better, more peaceful place.

Cross-posted at Writing Life.

No More Loose Change

By: hlward

As I have shared in this space before,  I love a good conspiracy theory. A worthwhile conspiracy theory needs to start from a kernel of truth, or at least potential truth. Once that kernel exists, the best possible breeding ground is a lack of verifiable information. A few holes in an official story. Maybe some redacted documents.

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If all those things are in place and the event in question happens to be one of the biggest stories of a brand-new century, well, you’ve got yourself one heck of a greenhouse for conspiracy theories.

Unfortunately 9/11 meets all of those requirements. Which is why there are theories refuting every single aspect of the official version of what happened that day and the days before and after. Some of them are fanciful, some bigoted, some outright disgusting.

Another thing about conspiracy theories, though, is that sometimes they have more than a kernel of truth, and sometimes people who are supposed to be able to tell you that something is just a silly theory have been kept in the dark just like you have.

You may remember that former Senator (and all-around good government straight-shooter) Bob Graham co-chaired a 2003 Congressional joint committee into the events surrounding 9/11. You would think that if anyone would be able to shut down foolish questions about 9/11 it would be Senator Graham.

But he has some of the same questions “conspiracy theorists” have. And Bob Graham is nobody’s tinfoil-hatter. He just can’t get the FBI to tell him the truth. Any truth.  Senator Graham has asked enough inconvenient questions to get himself detained at Dulles airport by the Bureau.

Yes, seriously.

There are almost certainly untruths we have been officially presented regarding 9/11. Those lies – let’s call them what they are, shall we? – might be for reasons as anodyne as not wanting to embarrass important people. They might be far more sinister. We don’t know. Bob Graham doesn’t know. That’s a problem, and it’s one that won’t conveniently go away.

As a nation we will never be able to put even the wildest of the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 in the ground until we – or at least our most trusted representatives – can get straight, unredacted answers instead of ridicule and intimidation.

I want to see those conspiracy theories settled. I want them buried in unmarked graves and forgotten. But until our leaders are willing to be honest with We The People about one of the greatest national traumas in decades, we will live with this fetid breeding ground of dark fantasy.

 

I dared to challenge a cop… Part 2

In part 1, I shared my encounter with a crooked cop in 1999. He cited me for reckless driving, which was a completely bogus charge. He was in the wrong, and he knew it, which is why he failed to show up in court a month later. I was exonerated, but since that injustice against me I’ve been wary of police personnel and their intentions. I dared to challenge him, question him, at times my voice dripping with sarcasm. There was no witness to this abuse of police power, nor did I have a camera to videotape the incident, as is often the case these days when evidence of police brutality is captured and shared on social and news media sites. It is important to note that I walked away from this heated exchange physically unharmed. Many of our fellow Americans cannot say the same.

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The Black Lives Matter Movement has increased awareness about the number of African Americans killed—often unarmed—by police and imprisoned for even minor infractions. Whether you agree with Black Lives Matter’s ideas or tactics, to dismiss what it is they are trying to accomplish and communicate means racial tensions and misunderstandings will continue during law enforcement interventions and that needed adjustments to policies that will eradicate institutional racism will never happen. It behooves white people to listen to what they are saying, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us, and even more important, to listen without getting defensive.

Brittney Cooper wrote on Salon.com of Black Lives Matter:

“To be clear, the Black Lives Matter Movement is not an anti-cop movement. It is a movement that vigorously and voraciously opposes the overpolicing of Black communities and the state-sanctioned killing of unarmed Black people (and yes, all people) by the police. It is a movement that insists on holding police accountable for their violence and that will hold police to a higher standard precisely because the state gives police the right to use lethal force. With more power comes more responsibility.

 But here’s the thing: White people know this. Conservative Black people who insist on speaking about the rule of law and the issue of Black-on-Black crime know this. This is basic. They know that these young people don’t want to kill cops. They want the cops to stop killing them.”

Law enforcement officers deserve our respect, but respect goes both ways. One can simultaneously support policemen yet still want them to be held accountable for gross negligence or outright murder. The two ideas are not mutually exclusive, but that seems to be what is reflected on today’s social media sites: If you support Black Lives Matter, you must hate all police. If you support the police, you hate African Americans. It’s not that simple.

Still, there are many instances where police officers have been exonerated, even when video proves what transpired. Below are a few examples of police overreach or blatant disregard for life: Continue reading

I dared to challenge a cop… Part 1

“…the officer could be heard saying that the traffic stop occurred “because you made direct eye contact with me and held on to it.”

 “The traffic infraction was verified by the video; however making direct eye contact with an officer is not a basis for a traffic stop.”

The above incident happened recently. The “because you made direct eye contact with me and held on to it” comment reminded me of a police encounter I had back in 1999. I was pulled over by a cop in Covington, Kentucky. I’d been to a holiday party, celebrating with theatre friends and colleagues and was heading home, back to Hyde Park, which is about seven miles northeast from downtown Cincinnati off I-71. It was after midnight,

The encounter occurred at an intersection where there was a stoplight. It was green and I had the right of way because I was turning right. The cop was coming from the opposite direction and turning left. I looked the cop straight in the eye, held that contact for a few seconds as I made my turn, basically indicating/reminding him that: “Hey, buddy, I have the right of way.”

I guess he didn’t like being challenged by a woman, so he pulled me over, saying I had caused him to veer into the oncoming lane, that I was driving recklessly, when in reality it was he who was doing so. He didn’t have his lights or siren on either, otherwise, of course, I would’ve pulled over.

He stood at my driver’s window explaining this. I challenged him by asking, “Aren’t police officers held to the same traffic laws as the rest of us?” In the meantime his crony cop buddy had walked to the passenger side of my car, gawking in the window at me. Talk about an intimidating and scary situation: a small woman late at night alone with two male cops. I was scared, but I’m an actor, so I played the bravado for all it was worth. In my mind, these guys were the kind of policemen who would plant drugs in someone’s car or orchestrate something incriminating just to make an arrest.

The officer wrote a ticket, handed it to me, and said I could contest it in court. To which I replied, looking directly at him (he could hardly make eye contact with me), “Oh, you better believe I’ll see you in court, officer.”

I drove away, trembling and tears welling up in my eyes. My tough exterior crumbled as I seethed at the injustice of it. I ended up writing the Covington chief of police and carbon copied the Kentucky state attorney general as well as Covington’s judge-executive and three county commissioners. I was willing to pay the fine and court costs if needed because I was not going to just pay the fine and was determined to have my day in court to refute it. I showed up in court a month later, but that cowardly cop was nowhere to be seen. I was exonerated and didn’t have to pay one cent.

This encounter and the fact that the chief of police in Covington never responded to my letter spawned resentment toward policemen. Even to this day I’m a bit distrustful.

Read my detailed letter: Police Complaint

I would be remiss if I failed to admit that I have also been granted leniency by cops on occasion, either because I am a woman or they knew my father, who was employed by the Indiana department of corrections. It is because of experiencing the extremes of police encounters that I view the current narrative saturating the media that states you either “love or hate the police, affording no middle ground” as a gross over-simplification of the dynamics of equal justice and policing at play in our society.

This issue is too vast to possibly address all the intricacies in a blog post. The majority of policemen in this country are decent people who do a good job. They take pride in their work and want to protect and serve. It is a tough occupation and oftentimes a thankless one. They sometimes endure vitriol from citizens, encounter criminals, and face the possibility of being injured or killed in the line of duty, which is frightening, I’ve no doubt.

However, police possess much power and they are armed—at times heavily. They are granted a good deal of leniency with regards to the law that backs them up, even when sometimes what they have done is lawless. There are bad apples in the system and accountability is important when an arrest or traffic stop goes terribly wrong. That’s not to say we shouldn’t mourn the killings of police officers either. Of course, we should, even those in the Black Lives Matter movement don’t want to see cops killed, despite what some in the media are claiming. We can do better. We must.

Part two will focus on over-policing, the Black Lives Matter movement and why they should not be dismissed or demonized, and the contrast between my police encounter to that of Sandra Bland.

Congress should pass the Iran nuclear deal

“Six in 10 Americans, 60 percent, disapprove of how President Obama is handling relations with Iran, up from 48 percent back in April shortly after a framework agreement with Tehran was unveiled.”

The above statement is from an article on TheHill.com last Thursday. These numbers are understandable, even predictable, given that the vast majority of Americans fail to comprehend much of the framework of the deal and are being inundated by political pundits and media talking heads with scary sound bites and foreboding ads produced by opponents and special interests against it. I don’t pretend to fully understand it either. It is complicated. However, I have taken considerable time to delve into the issue by reading articles for and against it in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and other nonpartisan publications. I have come to the conclusion that Congress must support this deal.

I am not alone. Many foreign policy and nuclear nonproliferation experts, nuclear scientists as well as former military leaders feel the same. You need proof? Below are three letters:

29 U.S. Scientists Praise Iran Nuclear Deal in Letter to Obama & PDF of the letter

Statement from Nuclear Nonproliferation Specialists

An open letter from Retired Generals and Admirals

China, Russia, France, the United Kindgom, and Germany also agree – they worked with us on these negotiations.  Should Congress find enough votes to override a presidential veto, the deal is technically broken. The countries working with us will also abandon the deal and we’ll be right back at the status quo where there are no inspections, the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and military force as the only alternative to imposing our demands on a sovereign nation.

These negotiations have taken two years. The deal was hardly thrown together quickly and haphazardly. Yet opponents were lambasting it before they even read it, before it was even released. These are the same, or mostly the same, people who couldn’t get our military into Iraq fast enough. We all know that was an enormous mistake. Now, they once again seem to be intent on seeking a military-only option, which is just wrong-headed. God forbid we actually try to talk to people with whom we have disagreements.

Furthermore, there is so much misinformation swirling about. I’ll briefly address two bits of misinformation that have arisen recently.

  • Iran is given 24 days before outside inspections begin. This is inaccurate. The 24-day inspection rule is explained in detail by Max Fisher of vox.com. He also provides an outline of the inspection process. Summing up, “If inspectors try to get access to sites but at every turn are delayed by Iranian stall tactics, guess what: It will be extremely clear from all this stalling that Iran is not adhering to the deal. Inspections will have worked.” He goes on, “Repeatedly delaying inspectors up to the highest possible limit would effectively prove that Iran was cheating, without the world even having to catch them red-handed.” Furthermore, the U.S. does not have to wait 24 days, tools are built into the process to stop Iran and reinstate sanctions unilaterally at any point in the process.
  • The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Iran would be allowed to self-inspect. That is mostly false. This was an unconfirmed report of a copy of a draft agreement the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had drawn up with Iran pertaining to one military facility known as Parchin. Max Fisher, again, of vox.xom offers an excellent analysis of this on August 20 and posted a follow-up piece the next day. If there is reason to be concerned, then absolutely it should be addressed. However, the Parchin site was not, according to Fisher, addressed in the deal negotiated with the U.S. and other world powers; this was an agreement between the IAEA and Iran.

Last week, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Gary Sick of Columbia University. Ms. Goodman introduced him, saying, “He served on the National Security Council under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. He recently wrote an article for Politico headlined “The Danger of a Failed Iran Deal.””

In the article, he writes that during the 2003 to 2005 negotiations with Iran and other European countries (the U.S. was not directly involved but the Bush administration vetoed these talks for the same reason as today’s opponents) Iran was offering to cap their centrifuges at 3,000. The deal was never made. When Iran returned to the negotiating table in 2013, they now had 20,000 centrifuges and a stockpile of enriched uranium. A deal ten years ago may have prevented that extensive build-up. Furthermore, the fear that Iran would develop a nuclear weapon within a few years has not occurred.

Sick says:

“It is easy to dismiss these predictions as fear-mongering about something that obviously never happened. But it is much more instructive to understand that what they were saying had a basis in fact: During this entire period, Iran was steadily increasing its capability to produce a nuclear bomb. The more interesting fact is that Tehran did not follow through. By virtually every estimate, Iran has had the capability to produce a nuclear weapon for at least a decade. The predictions were wrong, not about Iran’s ability but about its willingness to use that capability to produce a weapon. The entire U.S. intelligence community and most of our allies — apparently including Israel — have concluded with high confidence that Iran has not made a decision to build a bomb.”

Democracy Now interview and transcript 

Is this deal perfect? Absolutely not. Nor do I support all of President Obama’s policies and deals, as I’m often accused. I am not a fan of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in its current form. I do not approve of the excessive use of drone strikes in Pakistan and other areas of unrest around the world, nor do I approve of the growing surveillance state in the name of security happening in this country, which began rapidly expanding under the George W. Bush administration.

Let me offer some final points. A friend on Facebook recently posted on my feed a quote from the Obama administration that read: “A bad deal is better than no deal.” That is a distortion. The actual quote is: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” What is the difference one may ask? Well, it is a big one.

The incorrect quote implies that President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the other P5+1 negotiators are so desperate for a deal that they would push a bad one onto the world, risking the security of not only the negotiating countries’ interests but those in the Middle East and the larger world just so that they can say they had a nuclear deal with Iran.

The actual quote stated means that if the Administration had felt the deal failed to meet certain standards, then there would be no deal. The fact that there is a deal means that the parties involved believe it is sound and is the best they could achieve. Could they have done better? Perhaps, some seem to think so. However, President Obama would not be lobbying congressional and senate Democrats if he did not believe this deal was in the best interest of the United States and that it was a solid one. On this, I agree with my president.

Those proposing that we should never negotiate with Iran or trust them because some of their leaders are shouting, “Death to America!” is short-sighted. Many Iranians, even some in the top levels of government, see this deal as a chance to escape the crippling sanctions they’ve endured for decades. Iranian citizens do not necessarily hold the same views against the West as the Ayatollah and the hardliners in their government. We Americans certainly don’t agree with our leaders most of the time, why would we believe all Iranians think the same way as their leaders? Many Iranians want their country to be able to participate in the global economy; they are tired of being isolated. Many are hopeful that this deal will improve their economic lot and thus the quality of their every-day lives for themselves and their families. Of course, they want this.

Military force and re-instituting sanctions are all options should Iran cheat. Military force should always be the last option because it costs dearly in lives and treasure. This deal must be given a chance and lest we forget, and many have or don’t even know U.S. history with Iran, the United States (the CIA) helped the United Kingdom overthrow a democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, in 1953 and installed a dictator. The United States is at least somewhat complicit in the turmoil happening throughout the Middle East today. It’s time to restore some balance, and if possible, to do it through a diplomatic and peaceful process.

Congress, pass the deal.

Related articles:

What the Iran-Deal Debate is Like in Iran

There is a Path to a Better Deal with Iran

Iran deal opponents now have their “death panels” lie, and it’s a whopper

The AP’s controversial and badly flawed Iran inspections story, explained

Defending Hillary…Again

Bob Cesca’s post today (see the excerpt below in italics) on Salon.com about Secretary Clinton’s email server produced a moment of déjà vu. I wrote about this same issue back in April here on Everbog: the double standard applied to Clinton versus others on the right, and yes, the left too.

The Hillary Clinton double standard in a nutshell: Why aren’t we talking about Jeb’s email scandal too?

“Does it matter that Clinton used a personal email server? Of course it does, and she ought to face scrutiny for it — only insofar as every high ranking official who uses a private email account ought to be scrutinized. So far, it’s really only Clinton who’s being hectored about using her own server. The fact that she’s running for president is a fairly decent excuse for doing so, but if that’s the case, why isn’t Jeb Bush being just as heavily flogged about it?

Back in March, The Washington Post published an article detailing how Bush used his private email account and its accompanying personal email server to send and receive what seems on the surface to be sensitive messages relating to National Guard troop deployments and post-9/11 security concerns. His email was sent and received via a private “homebrew” email server based inside his Tallahassee office. Bush “took it with him when he left office in 2007.””

Read more

My April 13 post, Defending Hillary, touched on several of the same points that Cesca’s article does. Defending Hillary highlights similar actions by Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Andrew Cuomo, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Colin Powell, and members of Congress as well as reminds readers of the 5 million missing emails during the G.W. Bush administration related to the attorneys general firing investigation.

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What You Need to Know About the Clinton Email Controversy does a decent job of summarizing the details surrounding this issue.

  • This is not an investigation into Clinton but rather the security of her emails.
  • It is possible emails get classified retroactively.
  • Clinton has turned over her email server now because the FBI specifically asked for it. Previous requests have come from Republican members of Congress, not a government security agency.
  • Experts agree the worst decision was using the private server in lieu of a government one in the first place.
  • Questions will continue to dog her during the 2016 presidential campaign as more emails are scrutinized and she goes before the House Benghazi Committee in October.

Read more

Clinton’s opponents will continue to milk this issue for all it’s worth. She would do the same to her opponents, to be fair. To the extent it hurts her campaign is yet to be determined, and there is a long road ahead to Election Day 2016. Admittedly, Hillary Clinton can be her own worst enemy, but I refuse to pillory her for doing what others have done too. As stated in my April post, and it is worth reiterating, policies need to be implemented requiring legislators at every level of government to adhere to transparency and accountability guidelines and that all communication of government business be conducted on a government server, period.