This Is War: The Fight To Save Our America Is Just Beginning

It has been just a little over 8 weeks since Herr Donald took office as Liar-in-Chief and proceeded to continually prove his unfitness to occupy our nation’s highest office. Not because he is inept (I wish that was simply the case), but because he is a devious con artist who engages in trickery and deceit to keep everyone distracted while he and the Republicans in Congress dedicate themselves to stripping away our rights and protections in order to give more power and money to a ruling class of wealthy individuals and corporations.

Call it Libertarian. Call it Conservative. Call it whatever you choose, but it is a dire threat to our progressive values and our freedoms as individuals. It replaces government protections with licenses for the wealthy, corporations and religious extremists to bully and discriminate against anyone (especially immigrants, LGBTQ, seniors, poor and low income Americans), pollute our environment, mistreat workers, invade our privacy and more. Even worse, they are also working hard to leave us with no recourse through the court system to stop these abuses.

Now, it is true that we “supposedly” live under a democratic form of government in which citizens vote and governing is done by majority rule. It has become quite apparent, however, that our system has been “corrupted” by the Citizens United court decision, which essentially allows elections (and thus politicians) to be bought with unlimited campaign contributions, and Russian intervention in our political process, especially since it appears that Trump benefited from that intervention. This calls into question the actual validity of the election results and, consequently, the validity of the current government.

With his initial budget proposal, Donald the Destroyer, has take a slash and burn approach to the “liberal enemies” of the far right and corporate rule — such as those notoriously slacking seniors who are served by Meals on Wheels, those future protesters and criminals who are served by free school meals and other beneficial programs, those lewd anarchists in theater, music and painting who benefit from support of the arts, and those elitist revolutionaries served by public broadcasting. At the same time, he is proposing a massive investment in our military, but why? What are they protecting? An underpaid, overworked and over-taxed population of drones who have no healthcare, no rights to privacy, no safety nets and no protection from corporate abuses. Hmmm, maybe that’s really why Trump wants his wall — to keep us from escaping!

Well, enough is enough! The longer this goes, the harder it’s going to be to stop it. And stop it, we must. Any way we can! Many of us have already begun to fight back, but this is going be a  long war. Yes, I did say war, because it is nothing less than a war against tyranny, against ignorance, against prejudice and against the rule of money. It will require many battles and many sacrifices. Freedom does not come cheap. For now, we have a number of peaceful means at our disposal that we must use to the max, including mass public displays of protest, contributions to organizations that are battling for us, access to our representatives at all levels and the ability to organize in groups to stay focused and active in the fight. We must also get involved in local politics to build the kind of progressive government we want and need.

However, we need to recognize this may not be enough. If that time comes, we need to be ready to “just say no!” No, we will not comply! No, we will not surrender! No, we will not disperse quietly! No, we will not accept this anymore! How far do we go with this civil disobedience? As far as necessary! We simply cannot compromise our values, because they define who we are. We cannot acquiesce to their surrender.

We are powerful when we are united in righteous indignation. A government that does not fear the people has no checks on its power. Let them tremble!

The Divine Miss Bri

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Trump’s Address to Congress: Style And Smiles, But No Substance

I admit to missing part of Trump’s address to Congress Tuesday night. However, what I did see left me totally unimpressed, especially watching Pence and Ryan pop up and applaud so often they acted like trained monkeys. (That may be petty, but it was really overdone!)

In an effort to avoid any further sniping, let’s get to the crux of what Trump was saying and what it actually meant. Seriously, there weren’t a lot of surprises aside from his attempt to project a more positive message. Unfortunately, style is not nearly as important as substance. And as far as substance is concerned, he ducked, bobbed and weaved or just outright ignored it. Probably for good reason, because the substance is not going to be particularly palatable for most Americans.

It’s important to understand the realities that affect how things work in our government, at all levels, especially these days. The 1% who have the most wealth (and consequently the most power) pour millions of dollars directly and through Political Action Committees into electing mostly conservative Republicans representatives, senators and presidents. They don’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They have an agenda that works for them and only them. It’s easy for them to extoll free enterprise and rolling back government regulations, and talk about affordable healthcare in terms of competition and ending entitlements, because it puts more money in their pockets and takes it out of ours.

According to an article in The Nation, The 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the population, in a [December 2015] report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) …

“The concentration of wealth at the top isn’t the result of some sort of organic process. The top one-10th of 1 percent of American households controlled about 7 percent of the nation’s wealth in the mid-1970s. By 2000, their share had grown to about 15 percent, and today it’s well over 20 percent. Those at the very top didn’t become three times as smart or lucky or good-looking in the intervening years. They’ve benefited from changes in things like trade policy, the tax code, and collective-bargaining rules—all policy changes they’ve used their wealth to champion.”

Even worse, Trump has served to distract us from the economic issues by attacking immigrants, rescinding Federal support of equality for transgender students in schools, and fostering a mean-spirited rise in racial and ethnic  prejudice as part of a nationalistic policy.

So the challenge for Democrats is to not become just the party of “NO” like the Republicans during President’s Obama’s administration. It is time, however, for the Democratic party to come up with realistic options that do not compromise our values while addressing the needs and concerns of all Americans.

First and foremost, we need to address the wealth and income inequality situation by making sure that those who make the most pay their FAIR share to support the country that allowed them to make so much money. Much has been made about tax cuts for the wealthy spurring investments in companies which in turn produces more higher paying jobs as the money trickles down. Sorry, but that has not worked worth a damn so far. It’s better to put that money in consumers’ hands first, because demand stimulates production rather than the other way around.

Supporting unions, raising the minimum wage, and some form of universal, affordable healthcare, along with lower taxes, factor into increasing disposable income among the middle and lower classes. Plus, making improvements in the quality of public education and lowering the cost of post-high school college and vocational education are critical elements in creating the skilled workforce of the future. And, we must assure equality for all in employment, housing and public accommodation regardless of religion, race, sex/gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s simple … we must be a nation of equals and respect those who not exactly like us. Our differences are what make us a stronger nation.

In the same vein, we need to change how we treat the 1% with stricter campaign finance laws, no income cutoffs for social security and medicare taxes, and fewer overall tax breaks. Now, I do suggest, for those who invest in start-up companies and select other business opportunities, that we offer them targeted tax breaks that reward them for contributing to specific growth. We should also maintain strict regulation of the financial industry, because 2008 taught us that they cannot be trusted to act wisely without oversight.

Finally, as far as environmental and safety regulations are concerned, we should establish a bipartisan commission of experts in various fields to examine regulations with an eye to making them more efficient in achieving their purpose in protecting people and the environment. that should also help make them most cost-effective, although that is not the primary focus.

This is hardly a comprehensive list of things we need to do, but it should be a good start for conversation. Now is the time to get engaged and participate in shaping our future by determining party platforms and encouraging people to run for office who support those platforms.

The revolution rests with each of us. Get involved!

Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the old ways and help new ideas grow!

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Anti-Transgender Bathroom Laws Need To Be Flushed: Conservative Fears Are A Lot Of Crap

Why is it that conservatives, in particular, automatically fear what they don’t understand and immediately assume the worst without a single shred of evidence to support those fears? Please, tell me, because I’m totally fed up with their absolutely unjustified opposition to transgender students and adults using the bathrooms that correspond to the gender they identify with. Their fears and assumptions are basically crap!

First of all, let’s establish that being transgender isn’t just something we made up. We’re born this way. It’s not a choice. It’s a fact of life. And just because you’ve never experienced what’s it’s like doesn’t mean it’s not real. As Johanna Olson, a physician who specializes in healthcare for transgender youth at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and who was quoted in an article on The Atlantic.com, says that “genitals don’t equal gender.” Plus, gender identity is not necessarily an either/or proposition, but rather “a continuum along which any individual may fall, depending on a variety of factors, including anatomy, chromosomes, hormones and feelings.”

 According to Transexuality.org, transgender youth face an especially tough challenge both at home and at school. In fact, survey results indicate that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school. And it’s not just bullying from fellow students, but also the way they are treated by school officials, from not being allowed to present as the gender they identify with to being forced to use the wrong bathroom for their gender identity and even being excluded from school activities. This causes extreme stress and negatively impacts a transgender student’s ability to learn, to grow as a person and develop the self-confidence to be successful in life.

Again, the Atlantic article states that the federal Office for Victims of Crime reports that transgender individuals face ‘shockingly high’ levels of sexual abuse and assault. Two in five attempt suicide at least once in the course of their lifetimes.”

And it affects more students than you might imagine. For example, The Atlantic article cites a Los Angeles Unified School District survey which found that 0.5 % of students identified as transgender. But while the percentage seems small, it amounts to 3,000 students. That led to California instituting a landmark law prohibiting discrimination against students based on their gender identity. Unfortunately, a lot of states and local school districts ignore the statistics and the damage that can be done. So, the Federal government needed to take action.

During President Obama’s administration, guidance was given to schools that receive federal funding which classified gender identity as protected under Title IX rules. This meant that students should be allowed to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity regardless of the biological sex listed on their birth certificate. Now the Trump administration is leaving the decision to the states and local school districts. And, just like any other civil rights issue, this is the official code for allowing unjustified discrimination.

Why does this matter so much? Because where you live in these United States should not affect your basic human rights, but for transgender people it makes a huge difference. In Connecticut, where I live now, I enjoy the same basic rights and protections as everyone else. And, since I am a transwoman, that includes the right to use the Ladies’ Restroom wherever I go. Guess what happens? Nothing out of the ordinary. I go to answer the call of nature and that’s it! Nobody has ever seemed to notice or care, because there was no reason for it.

Pre-operative transgender individuals have no interest in exposing their genitals to anyone else. In fact, it’s the last thing they want to be reminded of because it’s just damned depressing. Also, the fears of a non-transgender person being assaulted by a transgender individual in a restroom (or anywhere else) are completely baseless. According to the Advocate in an article on Mic.com., There has never been a verifiable reported instance of a trans person harassing a cisgender person, nor have there been any confirmed reports of male predators ‘pretending’ to be transgender to gain access to women’s spaces and commit crimes against them.

Don’t believe it? Consider this excerpt from the article Sexual Assault Misconceptions by the Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center at the University Michigan:

x Misconception

If we allow transgender and gender non-conforming people to use whichever bathroom they feel safest in, sexual assault in bathrooms will increase.

 Truth

This misconception is rooted in the false belief that people who are transgender or gender non-conforming are sexual predators. There is absolutely no evidence of this. There are no statistics that support the idea that LGBT individuals are more likely to commit sexual assault or be sex offenders than heterosexuals or cis-gendered individuals.. In fact, sex offenders are disproportionately likely to be heterosexual cis-gendered men.

And that’s not all! According to an ABC News story, “a coalition of over 200 national, state and local organizations across the U.S. that work with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors are objecting to the justifications given by lawmakers to forbid transgender people from using the bathroom of their choosing.”

Also, according to the coalition in this story, “Over 200 municipalities and 18 states have nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people’s access to facilities consistent with the gender they live every day. None of those jurisdictions have seen a rise in sexual violence or other public safety issues due to nondiscrimination laws. Assaulting another person in a restroom or changing room remains against the law in every single state.”

Now if you really want some solid statistics involving assaults, try chewing on these for a while:

  • According to Justice department statistics, in 8 out of 10 cases the victim already knows the person who sexually assaulted them.
  • According to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality, 64 percent of transgender people will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.

So, if you’re still hung up on forcing transgender students or adults to use a bathroom that’s not consistent with their gender identity, you’re the problem not them. Get over your inexcusable ignorance and prejudices, because you’re on the wrong side of the facts and the future.

On the other hand, if you believe in in equality for everyone, here’s how you can help. Call or write your state legislators, your Congressional representative and your U.S. Senators to express your support for eliminating discrimination based on gender identity for both students and adults. You can also contact a number of groups that support this initiative including:

Freedom for All Americans , the Human Rights Campaign  and GLSEN.

Remember, there is no equality until it applies to everyone!

Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the ignorance and let equality grow!

The Divine Miss Bri

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The R.A.I.N. Catcher: Oprah KO’s Puzdner … Flynn Flam … Trump Playing Russian Roulette … CNP: The Dark Shadow of Fascism

Welcome to The R.A.I.N. Catcher, a new blog feature where I try to gather together a quick overview of the latest developments in our battle against the forces of darkness which threaten our progressive ideals and the basic human rights we have up ’til now always taken for granted.

Puzdner Was Never Going To Work For Labor

Talk about double entendre — Puzdner had a love/hate relationship with his employees … he loved to hate and disparage them. Opposed to the minimum wage laws and virtually anything else that favored labor, Puzdner made Ebenezer Scrooge look like Mister Congeniality. Already a troubling choice, a tape of his ex-wife’s appearance on Oprah talking about being the subject of spousal abuse was pretty much the final nail in the coffin that led to him withdrawing his nomination to which we say GOOD RIDDANCE! Of course, we still have to worry what kind of overseer Trump will nominate next.

Flip, Flop And Spy: Flynn Story Sounds Like Trump Flim Flam

I suppose I’m showing my age, but for you youngsters out there film flam is a classic term for trickery and deception. And wow, we certainly have a lot of that surrounding now-former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Already highly suspect as to his overall sanity, Flynn was appointed by Trump despite warnings that he might be susceptible to blackmail by the Russians. Then in the course of phone conversations with the Russians, he apparently lied to  the Vice President and was guilty of a number of other curious lies, omissions and  highly questionable ethics, if not actual treason, which were leaked to the media. So Flynn resigned, but the stories coming out of the White House are contradictory and actually belligerent, including Trump blaming the media for false news and leaking intelligence. Okay, so which is it: real intelligence or false news? It can’t be both! Very troubling!

Truth About Russian Connection During Campaign Could Prove Fatal To Trump Administration

Along with the Michael Flynn fiasco, more evidence is surfacing that Trump campaign officials may have had contact with, and possibly colluded with Russian government officials (i.e. FBS spies) during their efforts to illegally interfere in our election process and aid in the election of Trump. It could very well spill over into charges of treason. There is increasing demand for a Congressional investigation. We can only hope that the Republicans will pursue it with the same tenacity that they showed in their investigations of the Benghazi attack and Hillary’s emails. Otherwise, they will be demonstrating a level of partisanship that borders on treasonous!

Extremists Make Council for National Policy A Dark Threat To Freedom

If you’ve never heard of the Council for National Policy (CNP), don’t feel bad … that’s exactly what they want. It’s a very secretive cabal of hard core conservatives and far right wing extremists that basically wants to turn America into a fascist religious state. They recently released a manifesto that is quite troubling. According to The Washington Post:

“The five-page document produced by the Council for National Policy calls for a ‘restoration of education in America’ that would minimize the federal role, promote religious schools and home schooling and enshrine “historic Judeo-Christian principles” as a basis for instruction.” [Read the story here.]

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It should also be noted that Betsy DeVos’ has family on the CNP. Scary!

I’ve started digging into the CNP and it’s like opening a rats nest. Trump has called on a number of its members for input on policy for his administration. Though they try to keep their membership secret, a 2014 list has become public and shows a high number of white nationalists, homophobics and religious extremists involved. You can read more about their dark aims here. It is quite chilling! I promise to shed more light on these “Dark Lords of the Sith” as they are sometimes called.

Get To Know Our Enemies Because Knowledge Is Power!

Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the lies and let the truth be seen!

The Divine Miss Bri

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Confirming DeVos for Education Secretary Shows GOP Needs To Be Taught A Lesson

The future of public education in America could very well end up as a barren wasteland with the reckless vote by Senate Republicans to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Widely considered to be totally unqualified for the post, her nomination and confirmation perfectly demonstrate  just how low our political system has sunk with a man voted into the White House who apparently can’t read more than 160 characters (the max allowed in a Tweet) and a Senate full of lap dog Republicans who only serve their rich donor owners rather than the citizens of our country.

The Atlantic raised serious concerns in an article regarding DeVos’ evasiveness in responding to questions about her qualifications. “DeVos—who has never taught public school, never attended public school, and never held elected office—sidestepped questions about everything from how she will ensure that groups she has backed financially in the past will not feel pressure to behave a certain way to whether guns belong in schools.

Or consider this from the New York Times in its coverage of her confirmation. “For many in the education community, Ms. DeVos’s full-throated support for charter schools and vouchers — which allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious and for-profit schools — is emblematic of a disconnection from the realities of the education system. Neither Ms. DeVos nor any of her children attended a public school. And she has never taken out a federal student loan, which is striking when considering she will head a department that is the country’s largest provider of student loans.

It’s no wonder that senators were swamped with calls from outraged citizens demanding that a person so unqualified not be given an opportunity to wreck our public education system and jeopardize the futures of our children and grandchildren. It is heartening that all 48 Democratic senators and even 2 Republican senators (both women it should be noted) cared enough about our concerns and the fate of public education voted against her nomination.

Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Koch Brothers, and the rest of his Republican Trump rubber-stampers voted to cripple public education in their efforts to create only 2 classes — the well-educated wealthy and the uneducated drones who do their bidding. I wish that was just hyperbole, but that’s what they’re working toward.

However, the Republican arrogance in confirming DeVos and ignoring America’s concerns may well prove to be their undoing. An already restive electorate has just been given another very strong motivation to show these conservative dinosaurs that their time is up and start putting progressives in their place who care about Americans and will work toward a better future for all instead of just a chosen few.

It will be a long haul and take an unflinching commitment, but the GOP will learn  that when you pour gasoline on a fire that’s already burning, it will blow up in your face.

Get active now! Check out www.resistancemanual.org, www.aclu.org, www.hrc.org and www.democrats.org! Together we refuse to go backward!

Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the roadblocks to progress!

The Divine Miss Bri 

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