And Here We Are…

The U.S. presidential election stunned a lot of my friends.  It stunned me.  There was no way I could see an openly xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic candidate actually being elected the President of the United States.  Indeed, that is exactly what has happened.  It is a small salve, to me, that he did not win the popular vote.  But it is equally sobering that the vote shows a very polarized nation.  And now we have to wait and see what happens, like the rest of the world.

I pondered this election for many a sleepless night and have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you.  I’ve been voting since 1972.  I’ve watched a lot of elections.  I actually remember elections as far back as Johnson vs. Goldwater in ’64.  But this has been one of the craziest elections I’ve ever seen. Being an armchair amateur of U.S. politics and elections, I will attempt to write about what I see, in retrospect, that might help explain what we’ve all just witnessed.  Perhaps it will bring solace and hope.  Perhaps not.  Either way, take it with a grain of salt.

Without further adieu, here are my thoughts:

  1. Hillary (and her hubby Bill) couldn’t escape the baggage of the now forgotten Democratic Leadership Council which proposed a “Third Way” of mixing conservative and liberal ideas together to create a new economy that would offer benefits to business and workers back in the late 80’s to early 90’s. This was the beginning of the Corporate-Friendly Democratic Party.
  2. The move toward corporations for support of Democratic goals changed the Democratic goals, as evidenced first by NAFTA, and the embracing of free trade agreements.
  3. The move toward big money for funding campaigns made the corporations, celebrities, and other rich folks much more influential in setting priorities for the Democratic party. Worse still, the voices of the working class were eventually ignored while the leadership chased dollars of the rich and famous.
  4. The free trade agreements decimated factories, which decimated the working class.
  5. The free trade agreements required concessions from labor to keep their factories open, which again decimated the working class.
  6. The rise of automation had an incalculable effect on the working class.
  7. And the love of money, celebrity, and status became the Democratic Party’s, the Clinton’s, and Obama’s eventual downfall due in large part to the plight of the working class not being addressed.
  8. Have we all forgotten that Obama, when in the Rust Belt some years ago, mentioned how the folks there, the working class who were no longer working, “cling” to their guns and their bibles? Well, what else did they have?
  9. And no one can forget Hillary’s “deplorables” statement because, while partially true, it also was aimed, again, squarely at working class whites. (Nothing like kicking ‘em while they’re down.)
  10. The Democratic Party leaders embraced corporate crony capitalism with the goal of bettering all citizens. I have no doubt they believed this was the best way.
  11. But in so doing, the Party left its roots behind: the working class.
  12. Working class whites rebelled. They gave into fear and hate of that which is different. For they had 35 years of continued economic erosion.
  13. Working class people of color are rebelling due to the Democratic Party not keeping it’s promises to create better lives for all people who have not known economic opportunity.

And here we are.

Hillary, who makes more in a speech than I do in several years, trying to convince voters, and the working class, that she cares about them. I believe she does. But her ties to corporate influence, celebrities, and rich folk appeared more important than issues of the working class.

Obama tried. But he too was consumed by his own “celebrity” status and loved coming to my city, Los Angeles, for fundraisers. Gawd, he and Hillary and myriad other Democratic leaders flew in to L.A. so often to raise money from the rich and famous that it became a running joke every time traffic was jammed on the 405 freeway!

Would that they had spent more time flying in to Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, and Ohio to commiserate with the working class as often as they went to fundraisers. Just to let them know they care and they are trying.

I’m sure Democratic leadership cares. But then again, I think Republican leadership cares. But I’m also sure they didn’t try very hard to address the issues of the working class.

To me that’s the lesson. Jettison the corporate fundraising, the corporate approach to influence, and get back to your roots, the Working Class, now!

If not, we’re all in for a very rough ride from a charlatan who took advantage of human suffering without having a lick of sense on how to alleviate it.

But hope is not lost.  Perseverance and patience are the order of the day.  Human kindness is still the biggest salve on the planet for bettering ourselves and resolving issues.  Don’t forget, behind all these phobias that are now being expressed; behind the bullying and the hate speech are people who are basically fearful, not knowing their place in society, and in the future.  They’d rather “burn it down” than face an unknown future.  That’s what they’ve told us, in my opinion.  Give them hope.  Give them an economy that does allow them to provide for themselves and those they love.  And, finally, give them compassion even when it is very difficult to do so.  It is our only way forward.

(Clarification: I am not a member of any political party)

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The Spectacle of Bad Faith in Matters of Equality

What is “bad faith” in matters of equality [and stereotypes]

 “…it is only necessary to act in the customary, ordinary, usual, even polite manner. Nonetheless, I doubt that any of us who does so is totally without the knowledge that something is wrong.

  • To slide into decisions without allowing oneself to realize that one is making any;
  • to feel dimly that one is enjoying advantages without trying to become clearly aware of what those advantages are (and who hasn’t got them); 
  • to accept mystifications because they’re customary and comfortable; 
  • cooking one’s mental books to congratulate oneself on traditional behavior as if it were actively moral behavior;
  • to know that one doesn’t know; to prefer not to know;
  • to defend one’s status as already knowing with half-sincere, half-selfish passion as “objectivity” –

This great, fuzzy area of human ingenuity is what Jean Paul Sartre calls “bad faith.” When spelled out the techniques use to maintain bad faith look morally atrocious and appallingly silly. That is because they are morally atrocious and appallingly silly. But this only shows when one spells them out, i.e., becomes aware of them. Hence this one effort among many to do just that.”

Russ, J. (1984) How to Suppress Women’s Writing, London: The Women’s Press.

Call Her Captain Katie

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She breaks sound and gender barriers as the first female pilot in the Navy’s Blue Angels!

“I saw the Blue Angels fly when I was a young kid,” Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins said. “I was definitely inspired by that.”

Higgins is a third-generation military aviator and the first female pilot in the team’s 69-year history.

“My dad was an A-7 pilot initially, and then he transferred to the F-18 Hornet, which is actually out here on the line,” Higgins said. “It’s a great family legacy to have, that’s for sure.”

Now, she’s providing the inspiration.

“I think by including a lady on the team, that just shows little girls and guys that women can do whatever they put their mind to,” Higgins said. “Little girls have told me that they didn’t even know that ladies could fly aircraft, that women could be in the cockpit.”

They’ve been in American military cockpits for more than 20 years, but it’s taken this long for a woman to become part of the Blue Angels team.

“We do a very thorough interview where they get to know each one of us and find the right person for the team next year, and so it just so happened that they haven’t had a female pilot that has fit quite perfectly,” Higgins said.

Capt. Tom Frosch is the commander of the Blue Angels and said, “it’s not that we weren’t ready, we were just looking for the right person.”

He was one of 17 officers that voted Higgins onto the team and said they haven’t had any challenges integrating a female pilot into the unit.

“Any female can fly any aircraft in our inventory,” he said.

For more about Captain Katie Higgins, see the article on the CBS News website:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/blue-angels-first-female-pilot-takes-to-sky/

A home for homeless women in East Los Angeles

Homelessness in Los Angeles is a significant and chronic problem.  It is so much more challenging for homeless women to find safe shelter for themselves, their children, and away from addicts, violence, and sexual predators.  The new Guadalupe Homeless Project Women’s Shelter in Boyle Heights is a facility designed for exclusive use of homeless women.  The following article by Maya Sugarman of KPCC (89.3 FM) provides an excellent write-up of the shelter itself, and insight into the challenges facing homeless women in East Los Angeles.

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For more than six years, Vickie, a 63-year-old homeless artist, did most of her sleeping on Los Angeles’ public buses.

“Nobody’s going to rape me on a bus,” says Vickie, who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her privacy. “It’s the safest place for a woman to be. The only problem is you never get to lie down flat.”

Fear of rape, violence and theft had kept Vickie off the streets at night. But she says that fear also kept her away from homeless shelters, where she could have gotten a bed.

“Some of them have bad reputations,” she notes. “The ones that have outstanding reputations are always full.”

What finally coaxed Vickie off of buses was the opening of a women’s-only shelter in Boyle Heights, one of a very few in Los Angeles, and the only one to cater to older women like her. The Guadalupe Homeless Project Women’s Shelter has 15 beds arranged in a converted classroom that used to house an after-school program. It’s run by Proyecto Pastoral, a nonprofit under the auspices of East L.A’s Dolores Mission. Most of the women are in their 50s and 60s. The oldest is 80.

Raquel Roman, the shelter’s director, says the need for a women’s shelter in East L.A. became clear last year, when the body of a 36-year-old homeless woman named Lorenza Arellano was found floating in the lake at Hollenbeck Park. Arellano had often eaten dinner at a men’s shelter that Proyecto Pastoral has run in the community for decades, recalls Roman, but because its beds were not open to women, she slept in the park. Police said she died of a drug overdose, though how she ended up in the lake remains a mystery.

“Her tragic death was a shock to all of us,” Roman says, “and I was really compelled to say, we need to provide services to women in our community that are in the same situation.”

Amy Turk, program director for the Downtown Women’s Center, a day center for homeless women, says that other than the new Boyle Heights shelter, she knows of only two other women-only shelters in Los Angeles, totaling roughly 300 beds.

Yet the need for them is great, she adds, because the fear of violence often keeps women away from traditional shelters, much as it did with Vickie. A majority of homeless women recently surveyed by the center reported being victims of sexual abuse or other violence. A vast majority said they preferred women-specific homeless services.

And yet “we hardly ever see any funding geared solely toward unaccompanied women who are experiencing homelessness,” Turk says. Women trying to escape abusive partners have more options. So do homeless women with underage children, but they tend to be younger, and overall the population of homeless women is getting older.

As they age, Turk notes, they’re getting sicker faster than the housed population, which makes it harder for them to stay on the streets.

Those challenges are evident among the women at the Guadalupe Homeless Project, where each evening they do daily chores before being taken by van to a nearby school cafeteria where they’re served dinner.

Carlette Luka, a 59-year-old from Hawaii, has an easy smile and a jovial demeanor, but suffers from high blood pressure and a bad hip. She uses a walker. Before arriving at the shelter, she says she often slept in a graveyard to avoid trouble.

Another 59-year-old, who sings in her church’s gospel choir and asked not to be named, treks out on foot every morning to look for work but is slowed down by plantar fasciitis and pre-diabetes. Several women are getting treatment for mental health issues.

The goal of most of these women is to eventually find a job and an apartment, a task made difficult by the reluctance of many employers to hire older women, according to Roman. Some of the women at the shelter face the added complication of being in the U.S. illegally.

But some of the women are starting to get back on their feet. At 53, Eva Gonzalez is among the shelter’s younger residents. She once had a business designing and selling dresses for quinceañeras. For reasons she’ll only hint at, she lost the business, and then her home. She stayed in hotels and with friends, then finally heard about the shelter and secured a bed there.

For weeks, she struggled to find work.

“They told me I was too old,” she recalls. Gonzalez finally found work selling dresses in downtown L.A.’s garment district, adding that she’s saving money and plans to get a place of her own.

Unlike some of the women living with her in the shelter, Gonzalez says she still has time to start over.

http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/03/31/50656/after-a-homeless-woman-is-found-dead-a-shelter-for/

1/3 of Male University Student Respondents Would Rape a Woman if there were no Consequences, According to Study

Sadly, I read about a new study  in the science journal Violence and Gender, titled “Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders”, where one third of male responders in the study would rape a woman if there were no consequences.

Quoting from The Independent:

“Amongst other questions they were asked how they would act in a situation where they could have sexual intercourse with a woman against her will “if nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences”.

31.7% of all men participating in the study would force a woman to have sexual intercourse in such a “consequence-free situation” – which is rape.

Worryingly, most men who indicated that they would commit rape did not even recognise their actions as such.

When explicitly asked whether they would rape a woman if there were no consequences, only 13.6% of participants said they would do so, a marked fall on those who had described that they would commit rape.”

For some reason, the male respondents, when the action was made clear that what would be happening was legally defined as rape, lowered the percentage saying they would still rape a woman.

There seems to be a disconnect among the male respondents about what IS rape.  And somehow this disconnect seems to maintain that it is NOT rape if it is a consequence-free situation.

It appears there is still lots of work to do with education and ethics for university college males.

Link to the study: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/vio.2014.0022

Link to the article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/a-third-of-male-university-students-say-they-would-rape-a-woman-if-there-no-were-no-consequences-9978052.html

On Christmas Eve, this “gynandromorph” Cardinal perches alone

sn-cardinalA gynandromorph is an organism that contains both male and female characteristics. The term gynandromorph, from Greek “gyne” female and “andro” male. (Wikipedia)

I came across this fascinating article on the rare occurrance of a gynadromorph in birds.  It appears that this phenomena is must more frequent in butterflies, but very rare in other species.

Quoting the article “Half-male, half-female bird has a rough life” by David Malakoff of sciencemag.org:

“This bird might look like a holiday ornament, but it is actually a rare half-female, half-male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis, pictured with female plumage on the left and male plumage on the right) spotted a few years ago in Rock Island, Illinois. Researchers have long known such split-sex “gynandromorphs” exist in insects, crustaceans, and birds. But scientists rarely get to extensively study a gynandromorph in the wild; most published observations cover just a day or so. Observers got to follow this bird, however, for more than 40 days between December 2008 and March 2010. They documented how it interacted with other birds and even how it responded to recorded calls. The results suggest being half-and-half carries consequences: The cardinal didn’t appear to have a mate, and observers never heard it sing, the researchers report this month in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. On the other hand, it wasn’t “subjected to any unusual agonistic behaviors from other cardinals,” according to the paper. Intriguingly, another gynandromorph cardinal sighted briefly in 1969 had the opposite plumage, they note: the male’s bright red plumes on the right, the drabber female feathers on the left.”

One can only hope that the human species is at least as tolerant, and perhaps even kind when such individuals exist in our world.   🙂

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/12/half-male-half-female-bird-has-rough-life

http://www.wjoonline.org/doi/abs/10.1676/14-025.1?journalCode=wils

Study links cortisol levels in women with abuse / domestic violence

225px-Cortisol2.svgA new study by the University of Oregon has found a correlation between heightened cortisol levels and female victims of abuse and domestic violence.

While this is not surprising to me, it is a way to determine, scientifically, if a person has suffered trauma recently, and lends credence to building bodies of evidence to support the victims of domestic violence.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

“Existing studies have focused on the women’s HPA-axis activity only,” said the study’s lead author Hyoun K. Kim, a scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center and courtesy researcher in the UO Department of Psychology. “We indeed found that women’s, but not men’s, victimization was associated with multiple indicators of diurnal cortisol levels. It has been argued that interpersonal violence is more detrimental for women than for men, and our study suggests that it might indeed be due to disruptions in HPA-axis activity.”

To read the complete article, please go to this link:

http://uonews.uoregon.edu/archive/news-release/2014/12/oregon-study-links-physical-violence-stress-hormone-women