The One Girl In All the World – Part 1

buffy-with-rocket-launcherToday is a good day for a Buffy marathon. If you’re a reader from the old days, you know I’m a huge fan of the series. It’s one I revisit regularly, and I find it an excellent antidote to depression. It can be funny, uplifting, heartbreaking, and occasionally terrifying  – frequently in the same episode.

I came to the show late, after resisting the importuning of one friend in particular. I hit on it in 2006 while spending some time off my feet trying to heal an ankle and foot injury that I had ignored for too long. I can’t count how many times I’ve rewatched all or part of the series in the intervening years, but I always find something new to appreciate.

This year’s rewatch started last week, and I’m almost through the second season. If you haven’t watched the series, I highly recommend it, and today I feel like writing about it. This will be pretty much spoiler-free.

First thing I’ll say is this: watch Season 1. Watch all of it, even though the production values aren’t great, some of the acting is sketchy, and there are some really bad and dated episodes. The thing about Buffy is even the bad episodes have something to offer in terms of character development and clever dialogue. David Boreanaz, in particular, is heinous in his first appearance, but he must have had a truly inspired acting coach, because his improvement was as rapid as it was marked. He really came into his own in Season 2.

The two-part pilot “Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest” introduces (or re-introduces, if you saw the movie) us to a slayer who really doesn’t want any more to do with the vampires who caused her so much trouble in Los Angeles. She and her mother have moved to the small town of Sunnydale for a new start after she was expelled from her old high school. She’s not expecting the school librarian to be her new Watcher, and she doesn’t know that they’ve jumped out of the proverbial frying pan into a Hellmouth, a mystical place that draws not only vampires but all manner of demons. So much for the normal life she craves.

Most of the Season 1 episodes are “monster of the week”, with the monsters serving as metaphors for the struggles of high school life, but one in particular sticks with me, “The Puppet Show”. Back in the day when I most decidedly did not watch Buffy, I would sometimes see it on in reruns, and for some reason it was always this episode. I half-watched it several times and dismissed it as silly, but in context of the show it is about as serious as one can be when the primary guest character is a talking ventriloquist’s dummy. It’s the first time the series overtly takes a hard look at the life of a demon hunter and the near-inevitable tragedy it entails.

“Prophecy Girl”, the season finale, carries through that theme and sets up character and plot threads that will echo all the way through the following six seasons.

Season 2 takes a darker turn from the beginning, as Buffy struggles with some well-earned PTSD. In the process, she almost succeeds in alienating the friends who are her essential support system. “School Hard”, which introduces vampires Spike and Drusilla, demonstrates just how important her friends and family are. There are a few more “monster of the week” episodes and a fun Halloween romp, but the show settles down and gets serious with “Lie to Me”. If you’ve made it this far, you’re not likely to give up. The “Surprise/Innocence” two-parter is brilliant – and contains one of my favorite ass-kicking scenes. I defy anyone to get through “Passion” without chills and tears. It leads inevitably to the events of “Becoming” Parts 1 and 2, and that’s where I am right now.

Buffy does the hard work even when she doesn’t want to. She protects the weak and defenseless and asks nothing in return. She loves her family and her friends. She’s willing to look past her preconceptions and learn new things. She’s a leader and a team builder, and she recognizes (most of the time) that she can’t go it alone. She may wish that her lot had fallen on someone else, but she’s committed and serious about her mission. She’s a role model for all of us who try to change the world in the midst of living our regular, messy lives.

More later.

Project and Deflect – and a Call to Action for Obamacare

Donald Trump told us on Saturday that he’d share his great secret knowledge of hacking either yesterday or today. Is anyone actually holding their breath? The New York Times published its usual Transition Briefing this morning, and there’s just so much wrong it makes me want to scream. Here are the bullet points:

■ President-­elect Donald J. Trump appears to side with the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over United States intelligence agencies.

■ Mr. Trump finds something “very strange” about his intelligence briefing on Friday — even though the White House says it was always planned for Friday.

■ Mr. Trump will hold his first news conference as president-­elect on Jan. 11 – at least that’s the plan.

Yep, the man who will be dependent on our intelligence agencies spends an inordinate amount of time trashing them. He takes the word of Julian Assange over the results of their investigations. No chance at all that will come back to bite him. And us, by extension.

He’s now claiming that intelligence officials have “delayed” his briefing on the hacking until Friday, although those officials say that’s when it was originally scheduled. Something tells me he’s looking for an excuse to put off his great revelations, even though he already knows “things that other people don’t know.” Yeah, sure he does. The man doesn’t even use email. I bet he wouldn’t know HTML code if it bit him…well, you get the idea.

He also continues to exaggerate the “terrible things” that were discovered in the leaked DNC emails. No, Donna Brazile shouldn’t have given the Clinton campaign a heads-up on a debate question, but it had to be the most obvious question ever: someone from Flint was going to ask why the government wasn’t doing more to get the lead out of the city’s water? Who would ever have anticipated that? CNN fired Donna Brazile even though they kept former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on the payroll while he continued to stay in close touch with Trump and receive checks from the campaign for “strategy consulting”. Are we really supposed to believe he didn’t serve as a two-way conduit of information?

This is all part of Trump’s ongoing “project and deflect” strategy that served him so well during the campaign. He preemptively slandered the highly-rated Clinton Foundation with accusations that only turned out to be true of his own foundation. By the time the truth came out, he’d managed to convince far too many people that up was down, left was right, and right was wrong. It’s a strategy he has used over and over with great success. He took to heart the saying about a lie going around the world before the truth gets its shoes on, and we let him.

acaOf course, I – and the Times – have somewhat buried the lede that all this distraction surrounds his support for repealing Obamacare. For EIGHT YEARS, we’ve heard “repeal and replace”, but we’ve never been told what the replacement will be. Now Congress wants to “repeal” and defund but delay implementation for some undefined period of time. This make NO sense. It will leave health insurance markets in chaos and, more importantly, hurt the people who need coverage most. Speaker Paul Ryan says he wants to “create a transition and bridge so that no one is left out in the cold,” but he won’t tell us what we’ll be transitioning and bridging TO. What’s his plan, to repackage Obamacare (which had similarities to a Heritage Foundation reform plan until a Democratic administration implemented it) and rename it Trumpcare?

Whether or not you purchase your insurance through an Obamacare exchange, we all benefit from the end of lifetime limits and exclusions for pre-existing conditions. The ability to keep kids up to the age of 26 on family policies has been a great thing for many of us. These aspects are popular, but they won’t work without the less popular individual mandate – an idea that the Heritage Foundation championed until it was included in Obamacare. It doesn’t take detailed knowledge of the health insurance market to recognize that spreading the risk over a larger pool of people is necessary to help keep costs under control. Insurance companies *are* in business to make profits, after all, even if they claim to be non-profits (I’m looking at you, Blue Cross).

While I think it’s important to call out Donald Trump’s lies and misrepresentations and whatever the Wall Street Journal decides to call them, the most important thing to do today is to call your Congress members and tell them you oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, at least without a legitimate plan to replace it. Don’t know the numbers? Click HERE  and HERE to find them. It’s just a couple minutes out of your day that might make a big difference. At least it will be more productive than sitting around waiting for Trump’s promised press conference.

Happy 2017?

Today we ring in a new year, or, as has been pointed out numerous times in the past few days, a human construct that is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I’ve seen people doing their best to find something about 2016 to celebrate, and there are certainly things for which I am grateful: family, friends, home, and the ability to babble on the internet as much and as often as I want. That last may be in question this year if Our Dear Leadertm decides to crack down on things that hurt his tiny feelings dissent. Let’s hope not.

2017-01-01 11.13.44.jpgThis year it will be the small things that make me happy. Today I met an adorable springer spaniel puppy named Annabelle. She chewed on everything – my fingers, her leash, her person’s shoe. At one point she even grabbed the handle of her leash and walked herself. I think she has the right basic approach. Go for what you want and don’t worry too much about what others think. However, she still needs to learn that it isn’t okay to hurt others along the way. I wish I thought Our Dear Leadertm had learned that lesson in his 70 years of life.

It’s nice to spend some time at the beach with my Dear Husband, even if we’re mostly hanging out watching football. It will be good to get home and see the children before #3 Daughter goes back to college. Yes, the nest is empty at our house, although we are happy to have temporary residents when they need a place to crash. We downsized this past summer, moving from a very Republican neighborhood where we’d lived for 22 years to a very Democratic neighborhood where the neighbors are friendly and appreciate our candidate signs.

I’m not making any resolutions this year. No point in pretending I’ll stick with them. But I do plan to write a lot and walk the dogs as much as I can and snuggle with the cats and try to figure out better ways to cope with chronic pain. I’ll push back at every opportunity when Trump and the Republicans in Congress try to implement policies that will hurt my neighbors, wherever those neighbors may be. That’s a bare minimum, and it may be all I can manage.

What are your plans for 2017?

Donald Trump: God’s Chosen President?

trumpchosenbygodI can’t decide whether it’s more funny or sad to watch a certain segment of Christian try to hold up Donald Trump as a fine example of the faith. Some of them really believe God intervened in the election to prevent lifelong Christian Hillary Clinton from becoming president – in favor of a man who brags about grabbing women “by the pussy” and says he’s never asked God for forgiveness because he doesn’t “bring God into that picture”.

Last night, I was reading some comments on Facebook and came across one guy who quotes lots of scripture and is totally convinced that Trump is indeed going to make America great again. He was asked repeatedly which century he’d like to go back to in order to recover America’s greatness. When he finally responded, he said, “The century that Jesus was born is my personal favorite.” Really? Let’s overlook for now that the USA didn’t exist in the century that Jesus was born. It was a time of incredible hardship for the people of Israel – they were living under a foreign dictatorship, unable to practice their faith as they wanted (those moneychangers in the Temple were there to rip them off, not help them out), and faced with torture and a horribly cruel form of execution if they rocked the boat. Women and children were property (thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife or his house or his servants or his ox or ass…you get the point). There was no Facebook where people like him could spout off.

trumpassaultchristianityI’m pretty sure what this guy really wants is a return to the days when rich white (nominally) Christian men ruled the world and everyone else “knew their place”. That’s what Trump and his billionaire’s club cabinet picks seem to aspire to. Trump has said and done nothing to make me believe he has any real relationship with the Middle Eastern Jewish rabbi who said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Good news to the poor. Freedom for the prisoners. Healing for the sick. Empowerment of the oppressed. These are nowhere to be found in the Trump Doctrine. How can Christians claim him as one of their own? How can they reconcile his policy proposals with the words of Jesus?

Part of the quote below has been widely attributed to President Jimmy Carter, but according to Snopes it was actually John Fugelsang in 2013.

Congressman Stephen Fincher, a Republican from Tennessee, just took the Bible so far out of context he had to apply for a visa.

Fincher is a fierce opponent of food aid for poor Americans. You know, like Jesus. He recently fought to cut $4.1 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If you only watch Fox, that means ‘food stamps.’ And thanks to the fine work of Fincher and his colleagues, 2 million working American families, children and seniors have already been cut off from food assistance.

So during a recent House agricultural committee debate, he decided to show how Christian it is to turn your back on unemployed suffering Americans by quoting one of the favorite Bible passages of revoltingly fake right-wing Christians — 2 Thessalonians 3:10 — “anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”

Fincher and the GOP … cut services for the poor and taxes for the rich. And it’s a free country. They’re allowed. But if you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t. And that’s why representative Fincher is our ‘revoltingly fake Christian of the week’!

And all I can say to that is AMEN.

Don’t Get Fooled Again

The New York Times published some excellent graphics yesterday of Donald Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. It’s a good thing for us to see these, because otherwise we can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume. The conflicts are so numerous and so massive that we’re in danger of shutting down under the deluge, and we can’t do that if we want to maintain any integrity within the federal government. Here’s one example: Trump’s new hotel in Washington DC, which is located in a building that is leased from the General Services Administration. The lease forbids any elected official from being part of or benefiting from it. Not only will Trump benefit from the business in general, but the hotel has been marketing itself to foreign diplomats as the place to stay when they’re in town.

Trump, whether purposefully or simply by some low cunning instinct, is doing his best to distract from his corruption with stupid tweets and a victory tour, and Congressional leaders have made it clear, at least for now, that Trump’s business conflicts are a-okay with them. We need to keep our collective eye on the ball.

Don’t let the deluge distract us from the individual raindrops.

 

A Glimmer of Hope for Alabama

Middle Daughter is taking some well-deserved R&R after her amazing work for Democratic candidates in New Hampshire this fall, and, as she is the queen of cheap travel, she found an affordable ticket to Paris, flying out of New Orleans, of course, because it’s less expensive that way. This morning we stopped by Crestwood Coffee for a quick breakfast before heading to the train station.

aldemocraticreformcaucusforwardalabamaWhile we were there, we ran into a friend who has been fighting the good fight in Alabama for years. He works with Forward Alabama and the Alabama Democratic Reform Caucus, two organizations that are committed to restoring the Democratic party to viability in this state. I can’t imagine another job that would result in more bruises on the forehead.

alabamademocraticpartyAlabama Democratic Party Chair and Co-Chair, Nancy Worley and Joe Reed, are, inexplicably, more interested in maintaining their own power than in getting Democrats on the Alabama ballot, much less elected. Kyle Whitmire wrote eloquently about this issue in October, before the world fell apart:

If ever there was a moment for Alabama Democrats to take advantage of the other team’s self-destruction, this was it. And not just because the national Republican Party nominated a psychopath bent on burning it all down. In some alternate universe where the Laws of Political Physics apply, the Alabama GOP should be dead of at least three self-inflicted wounds.

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard is going to prison.

Any minute now, acting Alabama Chief Justice Lyn Stuart will dump Roy Moore’s personal belongings in a box on the Dexter Avenue sidewalk.

And Gov. Robert Bentley? His reputation is so screwed up, he’s using Trump’s locker-room-talk/sexual-assault-confession to make himself look better. No, really. He is.

This should be the Alabama Democratic Party’s moment, but as Benjamin Franklin and every high school football coach ever said, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”

The Alabama Democratic Party couldn’t be more prepared to fail if it stocked a doomsday bunker with Limburger cheese and brown bananas…

…Worley is nominally in charge as chairwoman. Her signature accomplishment has been describing how she got stuck on the toilet — in her annual holiday letter to party supporters. Anyone familiar with the Alabama Democratic Party knows that Reed really runs the show. On the state executive committee, he has strung together a symphony of sycophants and coterie of co-conspirators to keep anyone he doesn’t like out of the party.

Realistically, the Alabama Republican Party leadership could probably do the same and still win, but the Democrats forfeit by not even putting alternative candidates on the ballot.

joereed

patriciatodd

One of the biggest losses in the lost Blues archives is the history of Joe Reed’s campaign against Patricia Todd (D-54) in 2006. Long story short, she won a runoff in her initial election to the state House, and he did everything in his power to overturn the results. She wasn’t beholden to him, and that wasn’t acceptable. She’s one of his few losses and one of the best things to happen to the Alabama legislature. There’s a lesson in that, but the State Democratic Executive Committee has yet to learn it, perhaps because Reed likes to punish people who go against him (I distinctly recall one SDEC member losing her position for daring to go against him in 2006, but I can’t find the link).

House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-28) encouraged Worley and Reed to resign for the good of the party, and he’s right – they need to go. The party leadership has allowed itself to be sidelined. The statement Nancy Worley released after Donald Trump’s election win was a joke. Her response to Craig Ford was to call him racist and sexist, and while there’s plenty of racism and sexism to be found in Alabama, pointing out that she and Reed have failed to do their jobs is just recognizing reality – a reality they refuse to grasp.

So I celebrate my friend’s commitment to changing the party in Alabama. The ADRC is even now recruiting candidates for local and statewide office and providing them with support and training. A combination of health issues and sheer frustration made me give up on Alabama politics a few years ago, but seeing him in action gives me hope. After all, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Seasonal Blues

So..happy post-Thanksgiving. I’ll be honest – I hate this time of year. It’s been stressful since the kids were small, but now it has some terrible associations: my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in November of 2005 and died in January 2007, and my brother died ten months later on Veteran’s Day. Not much to be cheery about.

This season has been full of ups and downs. Our middle daughter organized get out the vote efforts for Hillary Clinton and Democratic candidates in New Hampshire. Oldest daughter and I went up before the election and spent five days canvassing and doing paperwork. It was a real pleasure – having lived exclusively in red states, I’ve never been on the giving or receiving end of canvassing. MD’s area outperformed expectations, and despite the horrific Presidential election result, New Hampshire went blue, with a win for Clinton, a flipped Senate seat, and an all-Democratic and all-female Congressional delegation. We’re really proud of her and the work she did.

I keep looking for the overall silver lining, but it’s really hard to find. I miss the hell out of Danielle Juzan, who wrote here in the past as Del. I still can’t believe she’s gone. Her commentary on this election would have been priceless.

This place is called Birmingham Blues, and I definitely have them. But hiding under the covers isn’t an option in Trumpworld. I’ll shake it off. Resistance is NOT futile.