Saturday, February 25, 2017

Newspaper ad asks Enzi, Barrasso and Cheney: Why Are You Hiding?


This ad was funded by a GoFundMe campaign by "just people" in Wyoming. You can still contribute -- I did -- at  https://www.gofundme.com/uu43mk-newspaper-ad (thank you, Emily Siegel). The copy is hard to read here but if I make it any bigger on my site, it will crowd the sidebars. You can save the image as a jpg, open MS Word, insert it into a template and it should appear in its original size. If not, you can enlarge it. Then you can print out copies and give to all of your friends and family members who voted for Trump and his gang. One of the things I like about this is the plug for the National Endowment for the Arts toward the end. You may not know this, but Wyoming's own Sen. Enzi is a member of the U.S. Senate's arts caucus and a long-time supporter of the Wyoming Arts Council, which receives almost half of its funding from taxpayer funds provided by the NEA. Sen. Enzi had a working relationship with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, back when those sorts of things were allowed in Congress. Sen. Enzi reads books, unlike the current president who is giving marching orders to Enzi, Barrasso and Cheney. Would you blindly takes orders from a boss who didn't read? 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Healthcare march and forum set for Feb. 25 in Cheyenne

How many marches, rallies and rabble-rousing events can one be expected to attend before collapsing in a heap?

That's what people are asking themselves. In normal times, exhaustion already would have settled in. But these are abnormal times. Protests seem to have a bigger impact than just getting on the phone to your elected reps or mailing them a postcard. Trump got to the White House via the adulation of crowds. He will be ushered out of the White House the same way. So, here are a few more ways for concerned citizens to gather together to stump Trumpism which is a mean-spirited, destructive philosophy that will ruin our country.

Healthcare march on Saturday, Feb. 25, 10 a.m., Depot Plaza in downtown Cheyenne, 16th St. and Capitol Ave. Free. Bring a sign. FMI: https://www.facebook.com/events/1348316418561808/

Save the Affordable Care Act forum on Saturday, Feb. 25, 3-6 p.m., at the Laramie County Public Library, 2200 Warren Ave., downtown Cheyenne. Free. FMI: https://www.facebook.com/events/1861553744059620/

Here's a short description:
Do you want to know what is included in the Affordable Care Act? Are you worried about having health insurance for you or your family? Would you like more information about the Affordable Care Act? Are you wondering what "pre-existing conditions" means? Do you have children covered on your health insurance who are young adults? Come and find out these details & more!
Refreshments will be served.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lots of activities for liberal activists this week in Cheyenne

Sixty people attended last night's Laramie County Democratic Party's monthly meeting in Cheyenne.

That may not seem like a lot to you, dear readers in more populous places. But here, that's a good crowd.

Why so many people, and newcomers, at that?

Donald Trump -- he's making our Dem meetings great again.

New Faces. New energy. Groups represented that didn't exist this time last year, groups such as Indivisible Cheyenne. Juntos has been around for awhile but their mission helping immigrants has gone from necessary to critical. "People are in danger of losing everything," said Juntos leader A.J. What he means, of course, are the people who are being rounded up in ICE raids. They can be snatched, Gestapo-like, in the middle of the night and spirited away to camps and then back to their countries of origin. These raids are a byproduct of Trump's immigrant ban, announced a few weeks ago in a fever and promptly shut down by the courts. Trump doesn't have his multi-billion-dollar wall yet, so the ICE raids will have to do for now. Juntos needs volunteers. If you can help, go to the Juntos Facebook page. Juntos hasn't had a chance to work with local faith communities interested in becoming sanctuary churches. Kathleen Petersen announced at the meeting that the Unitarian Universalist Church has taken steps along this path. The congregation held a "community conversation of becoming a sanctuary church" on Feb. 5. Other churches will follow. UUCC is always a leader in social justice issues.

Attendees elected ten new precinct committeemen and women. Anyone signed up by the close of last night's meeting now can vote for county party officers at the March 20 meeting. Many of these precinct people were newbies and one was a Republicans this time last year. The precinct is the trenches of the political wars, one we haven't fought very well. We know that grassroots organizing is the way to get people elected. But it's hard work and you have to actually talk to people, engage them on a one-to-one basis. People -- you know how annoying they are! But without them, well, look what happens. Take a look at our current legislative session. More extremist legislation this year as a result of the Republican juggernaut. Mary Throne was House minority leader from Laramie County but was beat by a clodhopper on Nov. 8. She spoke about the horrors of this session. As is the case with many of us, her kids are out (or almost out) of the local K-12 system. "If I had kids in the K-12 system now, I'd be really worried," she said, noting that we are looking at the "potential destruction" of our education system, recently ranked as one of the top ten in the country. A scary thought. But that's the Republican plan nationally, now that we have the anti-education Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the helm. The Wyoming Republicans have their marching orders -- scorched earth for public education.

Wyoming Republican senators spend their days bashing educators when they are not busy waging war on women, gays, wolves, Mother Earth, wind power, etc.

Mary Throne summed it up this way: “No family is going to want to move here, no business will want to move here, without a great education system.”

So much for diversifying the state's economy.

This sums up the attitude of Republicans in Wyoming: “Let’s make Wyoming worse than it is now.” Some wags have called Trump’s ascendancy “the Alabamafication of America.” You know those polls that always show Alabama dead last in education, children’s health, income levels and almost everything else? Well, the folks who gave you Alabama now give you America which includes Wyoming last time I looked.

The Dems argued a bit last night, as is their wont. We should be arguing after our piss-poor showing in November. There is energy in the discontent. That must be turned into action.

Wonder what you can do?

Attend the Laramie County Democratic legislative reception on Thursday, Feb. 23, 6-10 p.m., at The Suite Bistro, 1901 Central Ave., in downtown Cheyenne. Admission is $15, which includes a free drink and cool jazz by the Jane Robinette Trio. Also schmoozing with Dem legislators and other local liberals. A chance to get acquainted.

If coffee or tea is your bag, attend the letter-writing party on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 5:30-7:30 p..m., at the Paramount Café, 1607 Capitol Ave. Materials and letter-writing experts will be available to help with ways to write the most convincing dispatch to your legislator. Helpful hint: no cussing.

If you were part of the Trump post-inauguration Women’s & Allies March in Cheyenne, and you’d like to participate in upcoming marches, including the March for Science and The Tax Day Rally, come to the Laramie County Public Library, 2200 Pioneer Ave., at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26. This energetic group gathered more than 1,000 people on a cold day in January to register our disgust with Trump and Trumpism. Fed them all, too.

I am at our local library right now using the public wi-fi because my home wi-fi is not working correctly. If you are looking for a place to blog surrounded by books that our president doesn’t read, this is the place. Support your local library in any way you can!

Indivisible Cheyenne also is planning events. You can find a link to its site on the right sidebar.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Just how do we get this alien life force off of our starship?

Sitting in my blogging chair since 2005....

I am not a member of the press. I do not represent the mainstream media in any way.

I am a blogger. A progressive blogger, prog-blogger to those who still use the term. An attendee of Netroots Nation. A sometimes blogger on Daily Kos. An embedded blogger (courtesy of the Dean brothers) to the 2008 Dem convention when we thought we entered a new and glorious era of truth, justice and the American way.

I am a Liberal in almost every way.

When it comes to telling the truth, I am s staunch conservative. Truth must be proven. It must be based on facts.

How do I talk about the post-truth Trump administration? A very good question. Fortunately, I do not have to experience press gatherings in Washington, D.C. How would I discern Trump's very strange press conference this past week? It's easy to call him an idiot, a fool, a madman. None of that seems to put a dent in Trump. He just keeps babbling on, no matter what sort of verbal ammunition you use on him.

Trump seems to be an alien life form who feeds on the fear and confusion of his enemies. Remember that Star Trek episode when a shimmering alien life force pits humans against Klingons? The force stokes the fears of both sides and then feeds off of that fear. The only way to get the alien force off the Enterprise is to declare peace and laugh it off. Go see "The Day of the Dove," season three, episode 11.

Scorn and satire doesn't work with Trump. He feeds off of the name-calling. He doesn't get the satire. You have to have a knowledge base to get it upended by satire and irony. Trump doesn't read books. He makes deals. He's using fear and anger against us. And he doesn't get any of our jokes.

Just how in the heck do we get this alien off of our ship?

No easy answer, especially to those of us who pride ourselves in being decent artistic types who pride ourselves in not ranting and raving at the drop off a hat. Will that be our downfall?

Nothing stopped Hitler except brute force. He cheated and lied and schemed to take over his country and then tried to take over the world. No wonder we can't let go of World War II. It was a titanic struggle. The forces of good triumphed over evil. The forces of good used horribly violent means to do so. We never quite got over the rush. Some say that Trump's U.S. looks like like Nazi Germany with the swastika, imperial Rome with to the togas, and Il Duce without the pouting Mussolini. We have the pouting Trump. America First!

Sabrina Tavernise writes today in the New York Times, Are Liberals Helping Trump? In it, Ms. Tavernise posits that the wise-ass and snarky and condescending attitudes of the liberals are driving away moderate Republicans. Where else do they have to go?

She wants to compare the current strife to the late 60s and early 70s, when every public discourse erupted into a fight about Vietnam, civil rights, or how long you could wear your hair. But her prime example goes all the way back to the Civil War years. That's scary.

Liberals are angry at themselves, too, that we didn't prevent this. We just took for granted that the intelligent liberal candidate would win. We didn't treat seriously those big rallies of Trump's. Yes, some of those people were unhinged but many more were just angry at the state of the nation. They turned out to vote on Nov. 8. I helped Dem voters get to the polling stations, visited many around Cheyenne, and long lines were the rule rather than the exception. They were Trump voters. Even worse, they were people who usually didn't vote but by God were going to vote for Trump this time. They were former Bill Clinton and Barack Obama voters who couldn't stomach a liberal woman lawyer in the White House after watching Fox News blather against Obama for eight years. Fuck you, they said to liberals. And now we're returning the fuck yous.

That's as far as my political punditry goes. The Republicans are going to dismantle everything that I care about: Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NPR, NEA, NEH, ACA, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public transportation, clean air, clean water, public lands -- the list goes on and on. There's nothing to hinder this process but a few judges and possible outrage from the citizenry. But a lot of the citizenry love Trump's attacks on liberals and media. And we only have the satisfaction of our witty social media posts,

We will all be stuck in the coming Dark Ages together. Maybe then we can find common ground.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Here are some tips to avoid those typo gremlins

Nobody in the Trump administration asked me for help, but I am offering it anyway.

First of all, a bit of history about typographical errors. They have been with us since the advent of the printing press. And spelling errors, well, they have been with us since humankind began sketching out a language on mud tablets or papyrus or cave walls, whatever was handy.

Humans are fallible. When  you combine that with high visibility, it's an invitation for trouble. I know this from almost 40 years as a writer and editor.

#45's first poster featured either a spelling error or a typo. SCSOE Betsy DeVos's office misspelled African-American activist's W.E.B. Dubois's name on a press release for Black History Month and compounded the problem by apologizing with the wrong form of apology.

We know that these people have the advantage of higher education. In other words, they're not uneducated. Gross negligence is another problem. Impulsivity, maybe, as we know that POTUS is impulsive on Twitter at 5 a.m.

I offer some tips on avoiding these little gremlins in your written documents, whether they appear only on social media or on thousands of posters, one of which will end up in the National Archives. The term "gremlins" is a good description for these little devils. It comes from British pilots in the 1920s, who needed something (rather than somone) to blame for the failings of their rickety aircraft. It really caught on during WWII, when pilots in the Battle of Britain referred to gremlins as the thing that gummed up the throttle, caused fuel leaks and generally ran amok over the whole works. Gremlins persist, which may be the cause of constant dysfunction at the Trump White House.

 One more thing. Do not treat Spell Check as the last word on your document. Apology, apologies and apologize(s) are all correct. Too and to are both words. Their use depends on context. Can you say context?

Some recent examples:

1. Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor, wasn't too careful when he talked to two (or maybe two-and-twenty) Russian sources about U.S. national secrets.

You can see how to, too and two are used. Two-and-twenty is antiquated, best relegated to nursery rhyme and blogs. Besides, it could have been two million for all we will ever know.

2. Betsy DeVos offered no apology for giving money to all of the Republicans who voted for her nomination as Secretary of Education. She does apologize that it wasn't more, but that will be taken care of shortly.

Apology is a noun and is used here correctly. Apologize is a verb and it is also used correctly here. One of these days, all of these hacks will apologize to the American people but we won't hold our breath.

3. White House spokesman Stephen Miller msaid out loud that we shouldn't dare question POTUS's decision, whether it by on national security or Ivanka's clothing line. We can only conclude that he speaks with great precision, but obviously is batshit crazy.

That's all for today, language nerds. Your humble narrator signs off until I am needed again, which will be soon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

In memoriam: John Clark Pratt

I called him Dr. Pratt because it seemed appropriate. John Clark Pratt possessed a deep voice, military bearing, steely gaze. No surprise after 20 years in the Air Force, some of those in Vietnam (and neighboring countries), and then a stint teaching at the Air Force Academy.

At Colorado State University, he taught creative writing. He was the only writing prof hanging around the Eddy Building as I prowled around on a summer day in 1988. I dropped in. He gave me some of his time and, when I left, thought I had found the right place to get my M.F.A.

I was right. Dr. Pratt conducted one of my first writing workshops. He helped me fine-tune a sci-fi story that he thought was pretty good. You don't read too many sci-fi pieces in writing workshop. It's mostly dysfunctional family minimalism (DFM). No surprise, since most of the students are in their 20s and fresh out of their undergraduate experience and not too far away from their tormented youth. I was older, late 30s, fresh from a corporate PR gig and before that, years as a journalist and then a free-lance writer. If I had a tormented youth, it was way behind me.

I wasn't a better writer than my younger peers. I just wrote different stuff. I was used to being edited and revised and wasn't upset when others took a hand to it. So I published and kept writing, going through critiques, stopping to chat with Dr. Pratt along the way. He had published two great books about the Vietnam War, The Laotian Fragments and Vietnam Voices. In the latter book, he put together a pastiche of poets and writers, veterans and peaceniks. He had helped start the CSU Library's Vietnam War special collection. Nosing around in that collection, partitioned like a bunker in the basement of the old library, which in the late 1980s still had its card catalog and a new but rudimentary computerized system. While hanging out in the bunker, I discovered its future wars section. My first novel manuscript rests in that collection. It's the only way you can read it, if you're interested.

Dr. Pratt passed away Jan. 2 in Fort Collins after a long and gallant battle with cancer. We'd been in touch a few years ago when he was looking for a publisher for his new novel. Still writing, even as he battled the Big C. He wondered if my Denver publisher might be interested in the book. I asked. They were, but I don't think it worked out as the press vanished shortly thereafter. It felt good to do him this small favor. Then two weeks ago, I found out from a writer friend that Dr. Pratt had passed away.

Last week, I received a call from a woman whose club was preparing Dr. Pratt's household for an estate sale. She said she found in Dr. Pratt's library my business card and letter in a copy of my short story collection. She invited me to FoCo for a preview of the estate sale. I went.

It's too bad I no longer am accumulating books. My shelves are full, I have many boxes of books in the basement and I am retired. But I thought it might be a way to help in some way, maybe use it as a way to say farewell to Dr. Pratt.

My friend John met me there. He taught with Dr. Pratt and he too is retired. Linda showed us into the room containing Pratt's research books. The director of the Vietnam War collection had already been out to sort through the material. John and I found some collectible books that hadn't been priced as well as well as some wonderful early editions, especially of books from the 1960s. A row of Joseph Heller's books, including early hardcovers of Catch-22. John Updike, Ken Kesey, Kenn Babbs, Timothy Leary. Pratt knew them all, and was interested in all of the voices of the sixties. I thought, "Wouldn't it be great to have books that a mentor cared enough to keep?" The answer was yes. But I resisted. John and I found excellent copies of 1984 and Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, both of which we turned over to Linda for pricing. I found a first edition of James Burke's first novel,The Lost Get-Back Boogie. It was an LSU Press original and back before the author became Best-Selling NYT-Author James Lee Burke. English majors would like the fact that an excerpt of the book was first published in CutBank, University of Montana's excellent litmag. I found a big box of Vietnam War research material, including a Look Magazine cover with the header, "We're Winning in Vietnam." It was fall of 1967, just a few months before Tet.

I attended Dr. Pratt's funeral at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church. His adult children recounted their memories and we had a few laughs. The Poudre River Irregulars, minus its banjo player, played a few tunes, closing out with "When Those Saints Go Marching in."

I am thankful that I had Dr. Pratt as a mentor. He saw things in my writing that I did not. He encouraged me when I needed encouraging. You never know what kind of impact people will have on you. It's important that you give them a chance and see what happens.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness a great read

Imagine it's 2009 and you're a 24-year-old newspaper reporter living and working in New York City. An exciting life, sprinting all over town for stories and interviews. At night, hanging out in bars with your main squeeze and young friends. One day, you wake up with bites on your arm and imagine that your body and tiny apartment are infected with bedbugs. Then you start to hallucinate. Paranoia grips you and you are convinced that your boyfriend is cheating. You have trouble speaking and then erupt in epileptic convulsions.

I'm going crazy. That's your first thought but it's wrong. You are in the beginning stages of autoimmune encephalitis. Your brain is on fire. Your immune system is attacking your brain. Seizures, convulsions, hallucinations are part of it. You speak in tongues, as it says in the Bible, and if you lived in medieval England, your contortions and babbling might be mistaken for demonic possession. If you lived in 2009 America, your loved ones might think you were in the grip of schizophrenia or some other mental illness. You might end up in an institution for the rest of your life, which could be short if you contract the illness in its most lethal form.

Susannah Cahalan was lucky. She found the right neurologist and became the poster child for the disease which, before her, had only been diagnosed 217 times. She recovered and, being a dedicated journalist, wrote a book, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. It's now a movie.

It's scary reading. Compelling. My daughter Annie gave me her copy. She is bipolar and devours books on mental illness or supposed mental illness. She intends to become a music therapist once she and her therapists get a handle on her illness. She will be a good one, too, as she has experienced a good decade of struggles within the mental health system. It's not really a system. It pretends to be but not enough attention or time is devoted to it. We tend to warehouse those with mental illness, especially those who have the more challenging schizophrenia or schizo-effective disorder or are bipolar, which used to be known as manic-depression.  These people are challenged every day. They can be treated but it takes so much time and attention and money which could be spent on more important things,, such as a billion-dollar aircraft carrier to fight Islamic terrorists lurking in an elley in Mosul. Or more tax cuts to the ridiculously rich. Heaven help the needy amongst us now that Trump is running things.

I just finished reading Brain on Fire. It's well-written and, as I already mentioned, scary, especially for those of us who struggle with mental illness -- or have loved ones who do. Highly recommended. Not sure about the movie -- haven't got around to watching it. It screened in September at the Toronto International Film Festival and received lukewarm reviews. Read the Hollywood Reporter review here. Read the book instead. A 2012 New York Times review by Michael Greenberg offers insight.