SoCS: journalists

Journalists in the United States have been working overtime to keep us all apprised of the latest facts in the election. I’m very grateful for their hard work and their expertise.

So, this post will be short so I can get back to watching. Another group of votes from Pennsylvania is due to be announced any minute.

Confession: I’m watching as I write.

Yay, journalists!

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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is a word containing jour. Join us! Learn how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/11/06/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-nov-7-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!

some assembly required

As I wrote about Saturday, I’m not doing what I expected I would be today, arriving in London, UK for a month, with two weeks in quarantine and two visiting family, including meeting our newest grandchild JG.

I had spent weeks making arrangements for the trip, letting lots of other things, such as writing blog posts, slide. Instead, I spent a lot of time on the phone and online covering personal and family obligations for the four weeks of the trip plus the two weeks of quarantine required by New York State when we returned. I, along with B and T, also spent hours and hours organizing and cleaning the house to be ready for my sisters to stay here to be on hand for our dad, known here as Paco, while we were away. I had planned time to work on my poetry collection while we were in quarantine. I also had some reading and blogging work lined up.

And now, I need to figure out how to organize myself for the next six weeks.

And in general.

Again.

Still.

In my experience, the thought that I can organize my life and have things go according to plan is an act of hubris or, perhaps, folly. Over these last decades, my life plans have seldom unfolded as envisioned. Things happen. Priorities change. Plans get abandoned or put on hold. This is not a complaint, but an observation.

I know I have limited control, yet I somehow feel the need to make a plan when I sense there is a turning point, or, at least, a juncture when circumstances have changed.

A consequence of the household re-organizing we did to get ready for my sisters to come house-sit is that, for the first time in almost four years, B and I have moved back into the master bedroom, which we had given over to daughter E when she moved back home for almost three years while waiting for her spousal visa to be approved in the UK. The nearby room that had served as ABC’s nursery has now become B’s at-home office; his office building closed in March due to the pandemic and no one knows if or when it will re-open. My desktop computer is now in a guest room upstairs, opposite where T’s room is and has been throughout all the rest of the configuration changes. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are more organized than they have been in years.

I suppose the first part of my plan should be to keep things clean and organized, which would be an ongoing chore as I don’t enjoy cleaning and organizing. One of the things that made the task of getting ready to leave so daunting was the psychic strain of dealing with sorting and packing cards and other memorabilia from the last few years which included my mother’s final illness and death and E and ABC living with us. In truth, I will most likely never have a minimalist house, especially as we are storing things from both my and B’s parents’ homes and our adult daughters’. Some of it may migrate to E and T eventually…

But I digress. There is some hope that I can use our new configuration to my advantage, such as getting used to writing sequestered with my desktop rather than my laptop in the midst of the household.

The larger issue may be to de-clutter my mind. Over these last few years, when intergenerational care responsibilities have been my primary focus, I have gradually been shedding more and more of the things that used to occupy my time, such as extensive research and commentary on environmental/social justice issues and on women’s equality in the Catholic Church. I still care about those things and keep up on them to an extent, but I have let my membership in a lot of the related organizations lapse as I attended to in-person responsibilities. Admittedly, my email inbox is still overflowing with news – and requests for money – from too many entities, but I’m hoping to whittle down further after the election to free up more time and brainpower for other things.

It’s not that I don’t still care about these issues. I am heartened by the convergence of social and environmental justice issues that has happened this year and I will continue to lend support, but I will do it through a few select organizations with which I have a special connection, such as NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby that I joined in observance of the Jubilee in 2000. I am also heartened by the witness and energy of the Millenials and Gen Z in this convergence of social, racial, gender, economic, and environmental justice and will gratefully support their leadership with what experience and wisdom I can offer.

I’m hoping that 2021 will bring a new administration and Congress to Washington that will restore functionality and care for the common good to our national government. The last four years have been disturbing and exhausting and keeping up with the news has become an obsession and a time sink. I’m hoping to get back to a place where it doesn’t take so much energy to keep up with the news so that I can concentrate on writing and other mental work.

One of the very immediate conundrums is that I have to wrap my head around being at home on election day this Tuesday. We voted early last Monday and I had myself mentally prepared to be in London, five hours ahead as the election results began to come in. Instead, I think I will be staying up late Tuesday night into the wee hours of Wednesday, as results begin to be reported. We all know that the vote count will take several days, but the early numbers may allow some states to be called on election night. I’m hoping that everyone – the politicians, pundits, and public – will stay calm and that there will be an orderly transfer to a new administration and Congress.

Personally, I’m hoping that I will be able to spend more time writing. I promise that will include some blog posts, although I’m sure I will never be the on-topic, on-schedule blogger-type. I most want to write more poems and do revisions to produce a new version of my collection that centers on the North Adams MA area where I grew up and to which I have returned as a member of the Boiler House Poets Collective. Optimally, I’d like to have it together by spring so that I can do a manuscript review with my poet-friends. I also need to do some more submissions for my chapbook. Rejections have been coming in and two contests that I had planned to enter this fall have been pushed back, so I will need to hunt out more opportunities. I should also send out some individual poems to journals; I’ve been ignoring this for the most part over the last several years but need to get back to it.

I suppose I’d better plan some time for writing holiday cards and letters…

I also need to factor in time for essential shopping and errands for our household and for Paco. The pandemic and the supply chain problems it has caused have made shopping a major undertaking. It has also changed the way I help Paco, as I try to minimize time indoors his senior community’s building. Eventually, when there is widespread vaccine use, I’ll be able to resume regular in-person visits, but for now I am trying to deal with most things by phone and quick drop-offs.

I don’t know whether or not I can make some semblance of a schedule for myself or a plan to better work toward these goals. I had some hope as I started to write this post yesterday, but now I have all the uncertainties of the election, the pandemic, and personal life swirling about in my head.

But, hey, here is a long blog post about to be published, which is in line with my goals, so….

Progress?

Stay tuned.

And send good vibes.

shelter-at-home television

I’m pretty old-fashioned about watching television programming. Not quite as old-fashioned as when we were growing up in rural New England and managed to get all three major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS), albeit not very clearly, with an outdoor antenna. We have a standard cable package but we don’t have any premium channels like HBO or Showtime. We do have a DVR, which replaced our VCR for recording shows to watch later and without commercials. In fact, my usual way to watch television is to watch things from the DVR so I can see the whole show in two-thirds the time as watching it live.

Notice that I also talk about watching television. I don’t usually watch shows on my computer. I can’t even imagine trying to watch something of any length on my phone. I like to have a big screen, although our television is nowhere near the size of what is considered a “big screen” today, so that everyone in the room can watch together. We also only have one television in the house.

There are a few series that we record, but the bulk of my television viewing these days is news programming. Those who read TJCM frequently probably had already figured that out…

When E was living here, she had a Playstation, along with Amazon Prime and Netflix, which I generally ignored. When she relocated to the UK, the Playstation stayed behind. We still have the Netflix account, which I still generally ignore. In truth, I can’t even figure out the Playstation controller.

As a gift for the millions of people sheltering in place, CBS All Access offered a one-month free trial. We signed up specifically to be able to watch the Star Trek franchise shows, the first season of Picard and the first two seasons of Discovery. B and I had watched all the other series in the franchise, but had never seen either of these two paid-access ones.

It’s been fun.

We didn’t do the binge mode, where you watch hours and hours on end. Instead, we would watch a couple of episodes each evening, with maybe a bit more on the weekend when B wasn’t working. B, T, and I have all enjoyed watching the series, revisiting some old favorite characters and meeting many new ones. We even watched some of the shorts, interviews, and behind-the-scenes videos.

Now, we are going to cancel before our free month is up.

After the next season of both shows has completed, we may pay for a month so we can watch everything like we did this time.

Maybe, by then, I will have learned to operate the Playstation.

Probably not.

trepidation

As I am starting to write this, it is about 8 AM EST, which is the same time zone as Washington, DC and I am watching the morning news. The lead story is the impeachment trial, which will begin at 1 PM. The reason it needs to start in the afternoon is that Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the Senate trial while still presiding over the Supreme Court for its sessions that are held in the morning.

Beyond that, there are many unknowns.

Last evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally released his proposal for the ground rules of the trial. Although he has been saying they would be like the last presidential impeachment trial, which was President Clinton’s in 1999, they differ in significant ways.

Perhaps what I find most shocking is that the evidence from the House impeachment investigation is not going to be automatically entered into the record. In the Clinton trial, there were hundreds of pages just from the Starr report, plus underlying evidence, that were entered into the record. I hope that there will be an amendment for evidence inclusion while the rules are debated. Even though Republicans have the majority, they should all vote for evidence! How can there be a trial without evidence?

Sen. McConnell has said that he is coordinating with the White House whose strategy appears to be to argue that the House didn’t have legal and Constitutional grounds for impeachment. Even so, I think evidence is important to make that argument. I myself am curious about how they can argue no laws were broken when withholding Congressionally approved aid is illegal according to the Government Accountability Office (first article) and Roger Stone was recently convicted of obstruction of Congress (second article).

Another strange thing about McConnell’s rules is that the timeline is so condensed. Each side has 24 hours – but only two days – for opening arguments. [Update: McConnell extended this to three days, just as the trial began.] Given that the proceedings can’t start until 1 PM and there will need to be some breaks for participants to attend to personal needs, the trial could go into the early morning hours. This is a punishingly long day, especially for Chief Justice Roberts, who needs to be at the Supreme Court for morning session. It also makes it nearly impossible for the public to watch the entire trial, although some media specialists have pointed out the trial will be ongoing during television prime time. This could lead to the legal teams timing their strongest arguments to coincide with when more voters would be available to watch.

When the rules for the Clinton impeachment were passed, the vote was 100-0. The senators had worked together to come up with the rules. This time, McConnell has drafted the rules himself with no input from Democrats. Given that the Republicans hold 53 seats, McConnell’s rules could pass without amendment. This would fly in the face not only of fairness but also of public sentiment. Support for impeachment and removal from office is about 50%. Support for a fair trial with witnesses is even higher, about 70%. By contrast, only a third of Americans wanted Clinton removed from office. While additional witnesses were not initially allowed, there was a vote for additional witnesses during the trial; they gave written testimony.

In the current trial, unless there is a surprise in the rules vote today, the vote on additional witnesses can’t take place until both sides have presented opening arguments and the senators have had 16 hours of questions. Witnesses are especially important in this trial because the White House has blocked testimony and documents from the House investigation. There has been a lot of circular reasoning from the Republicans on the impeachment and trial.  They are saying that the Democrats haven’t proven their case but the House’s requests for documents and witnesses have been blocked, so how could they prove the case, especially if they won’t accept the evidence that the House was able to obtain, including from some witnesses who honored House subpoenas, even when the White House told them not to?

This is mind-boggling. It’s one thing for the White House to argue that the behavior doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment. It’s quite another to not allow the House to make their case based on facts from evidence, testimony, and the Constitution and laws.

Given that all senators took an oath to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws,” they should vote no on anything that restricts evidence.

I won’t hold my breath…

[Note: this is a synopsis of what I am seeing on the news, with a bit of my reaction. It is certainly at the top of my mind today, but I am also including it because there are people who get news from blogs rather than more traditional media who might be interested, as well as people outside the US who might not have as much access to this information.]
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swept away by the news torrent

I try to keep up with important national (US) and international news. When I was away at my residency week at MASS MoCA earlier this month, I read/heard very little news, which was nice for a bit of a mental break, but it has been a challenge to catch up and keep up.

The pace of news here in the United States has been a particular challenge. Important news stories are breaking all the time – and I’m not talking about the news channels that call almost everything “breaking news.” The investigation into the relationship among Ukraine, the Trump administration, and Rudy Giuliani and his associates is especially concerning. The Congressional investigation is ongoing, but is in its early stages. Any depositions taking place right now are confidential, as grand jury investigations would be in the court system. There have been contradictory public statements from the president, his chief of staff, and Giuliani, sometimes even within the same interview, statement, or tweet-day. (Is there such a thing as a tweet-day? I’m not sure of the proper nomenclature.)

I am appalled by Trump’s withdrawal of support for the Kurds in Syria, who did most of the fighting and lost over 11,000 in the international battle against ISIS (ISIL). That he decided to do this without consulting his Cabinet, national security advisors, and the military leadership is stunning. The deaths, injuries, and loss of homes and livelihoods of the Kurds of northern Syria is his personal responsibility, as he withdrew the United States troops that had been protecting against an invasion by Turkey.

It will be incumbent upon the next US president, whomever it will be, to begin repairing the damage that has been done to our standing among nations. It will be a decades-long process and our reputation will never be fully restored. I hope that Congress will pass new laws to explicitly prevent some of the corrupt and unethical conduct that we have seen from this president, laws that had never been written down as it was assumed that ethical constraints and thoughtful, collaborative decision-making practices would hold. We also need to re-balance the powers of the various branches of the government. The executive branch has become much too powerful. It is no longer co-equal with the legislative and judicial branches; indeed, it has defied both Congress and the courts on multiple issues.

The United States also needs to acknowledge and develop better defenses against cyber war, which can be more wide-ranging and dangerous to civilian populations than armed conflict. Foreign governments have infiltrated or attacked government, corporate, and private systems. We need to better protect our financial, utility, business, and government computer systems to avoid the chaos of election tampering, blackouts, transportation disruptions, business shutdowns, and more.

It would also be helpful to reinforce that the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press does not give license to lie, slander, threaten, exploit, or incite violence.

The list of tasks could go on, but that seems to be enough for one post.

I am very sad to write this about my country that I love so much. I am trying to gain comfort from this quote from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

It is sobering, though, to think about how terrible things became and how long it took for “the better angels of our nature” to re-assert themselves.

We need those “better angels” now, not in some distant future.

 

the last day of residency

Tuesday was the final day of the Boiler House Poets’ reunion residency at MASS MoCA.

There for our fifth year, this was the first time that the museum has carried its summer hours into mid-October. This was great for us because the museum was open 10-6 every day, instead of the winter hours which are 11-5 every day of the week except Tuesday. We all appreciated having additional time with the art, while still having time to meet together to workshop.

We needed to be moved out of our apartments by 11:00 Tuesday morning. I got my things packed and in my van early and went to my studio to do a bit more editing. I followed up with quick trip to the gift store and couldn’t resist a couple of books for ABC. I went back to the apartment to help with the final clean-up. All the poets were meeting back at the studios at 11ish to make some plans for next year and are pleased to have booked dates for another reunion next fall.

Also, in the type of creativity burst that I so admire about the Boiler House Poets, we spontaneously embarked on a second group project for this residency. I described our first project in this post. For this second one, we each chose a line or short passage from a poem we had written about an artwork currently at the museum. Marilyn used her phone to record our voices reading our passage while filming the artwork. It was so much fun, traipsing through the buildings of the museum, reading sntaches of our work for each other and heading on to the next exhibit on our list. I will be sure to post both projects here at ToJCM when they become available.

We had one last lunch together before heading for home. We miss each other’s company immediately, but will be reminded of each other frequently as we work through editing the poems we workshopped together and as we write new poems enriched by the advice and artistic vision of the poets and the artwork on exhibit.

I admit that the re-entry to what passes as normal life here has been a bit rough. I’m still way behind on routine things I missed being away for a week and there are a number of unique events coming up this month. That’s why, despite being behind on things, I am making it a point to get this post about Tuesday written on Friday evening. I’ll attempt to post about events as I can, although, most likely, I’ll be late getting the news out.

And that’s just the personal stuff. News is happening so fast here in the US that it is nearly impossible to take it all in.

I hope you’ll stay tuned…

Update 10/14/19 – The first video is available through this post.

SoCS: the current state of affairs

Seriously, watching the news in the US these days is like watching a soap opera!

The richest man in the world reveals a plot from a tabloid to get him to stop an investigation into them by threatening that they will release compromising photos of him and more text messages about his affair that is what landed him in a divorce from his wife of twenty-five years, who is now likely to be a very, very, very rich woman, but then will he not still be the richest man in the world – or maybe it’s the country. It’s hard to keep track…

But wait, there is more! The owner of the tabloid is an old friend of the president and they – they meaning the owner and the business – are currently in a cooperation agreement with the federal judiciary because they acknowledged that they paid hush money to two women during the presidential campaign so that news of his (the president’s) affairs with them would not hit the papers right before the vote. As part of this, they are not supposed to commit any new crimes or they will be prosecuted for what they already confessed to. So, does their behavior regarding the richest man rise to the level of a crime?

Meanwhile, the brother of the woman with whom the rich guy had the affair that broke up his marriage is in a friend and business relationship with several people who are being investigated or who have been indicted by the Mueller probe. So, was he the one who leaked the private messages to the tabloid? Or was it – insert serious music here – someone at a federal agency who was trying to discredit or harm the rich guy because he himself owns a newspaper, the Washington Post, which has done a lot of investigation and reporting on the current administration and Russian oligarchs and other shenanigans?

Stay tuned because no one knows what shoe will drop next!

If this were fiction, people would say it is too far-fetched. But here we are, listening to these reports on the news or reading it in the papers or online.

It’s no wonder my head is spinning. Metaphorically.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to begin the post with an adverb that ends in -ly. Bonus points for ending with one, too. Not that anyone is keeping score. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/02/08/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-9-19/

uneasy times

I thought that I had mentally prepared myself for DT’s presidency, thinking that Congress would step up and cooperate to create sound legislation to keep us on a reasonable track.

I was, of course, totally wrong.

As of today, the United States government is in partial shutdown for a record 27 days and counting. 800,000 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay, including the Coast Guard, air traffic controllers, and food inspectors. There are also one million contractors who work at government facilities who are not working and who, unlike federal workers, will not get back pay when the shutdown ends. Besides the workers and their families, there are also other businesses that rely on government work/ers as their customers, and are experiencing big drops in revenue as a result of the shutdown.

One of the frustrating things is that this shutdown should not have happened in the first place. After a prior (brief) shutdown, the last Congress had agreed on spending levels for all departments for 2018-2019. Some of the appropriations bills were passed by both houses of Congress; these departments are not affected by the shutdown. The remaining bills followed the previously agreed upon funding levels, but were not voted on in time to go into effect before the shutdown began. Although the House in the new Congress has now passed the same appropriations bills that the Senate in the prior session had previously passed, Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell will not hold new votes on these bills to re-open the government because the president doesn’t approve, citing lack of $5 billion for a wall on part of the southern border.

It is, however, Congress’s Constitutional duty to control government spending. Therefore, I think that the Senate should pass these bills so the government can re-open – and because it is their duty to fund the government. Then, the ball will be in DT’s court. He can sign the bills and everyone can get back to their jobs serving the public. He can veto the bills, which would return them to Congress for a vote to over-ride, which might be possible as the pressure builds on Republican members of Congress to restore government services. The third option is that the president refuses to sign the bills without vetoing them, which would mean that they take effect in ten days.

The government needs to be about its business of serving the people. The human toll is already mounting and will continue to mount if government is not fully open soon. Many current government workers may be forced to take other jobs to support themselves and their families, which would be crippling to the functions of the affected departments when they do re-open.

Of course, this is not happening in a vacuum. Over the past couple of weeks, in court filings, testimony, interviews, and investigative reporting, there have been ever more alarming stories about the administration’s relationship with Russia and with NATO and sad and disturbing stories from the Middle East. It seems that the White House is overwhelmed with its responsibilities and incapable of dealing effectively with either domestic or foreign affairs.

The United States government has weathered a lot of storms. I’m hoping and praying we come through this one, too.
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unsettled

This month has been a demanding one personally; hence, I have managed only a few posts this month.

I will spare you the bureaucratic details that have been occupying so much of my time and headspace, but the situation is made all the more difficult by the public unraveling going on around us.

Although I have cut back on the amount of news that I see, the continuing revelations of foreign entanglements with United States elections and governance have been truly disturbing, as has evidence that the Russians have been detected infiltrating computer systems involved with the upcoming midterm elections in November. The Manafort trial, more books and articles being published about the administration and the investigation, DT’s tweets, and interviews with members of the administration and the president’s lawyers add to the unsettling mix.

The past week has also seen a lot of coverage of the grand jury report on sexual crimes by Catholic clergy and coverup by church officials in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The behavior described in the report is appalling, sinful, and criminal and my heart breaks for the victims and their families, but, unlike many people, I did not find the report shocking or surprising. We have heard similar stories from other US dioceses and from other countries for years now.

Some Catholics feel that the Church is being attacked or singled out for criticism, but I don’t feel that way at all. I see the root of the problem as abuse of power. Sexual violence is one form of abuse of power, but there are many others, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, financial and employment discrimination, racism, and sexism among them. All of this has led some priests into a culture of clericalism, which, in turn, led to the coverup of crimes by “brother priests” and the silencing or ignoring of victims, who are usually lay people, although sometimes also members of religious orders, other priests, or seminarians.

For many people, the Pennsylvania report highlights the lack of accountability among bishops. While this issue has been on my mind for years, it is gaining new prominence in the Catholic and general press now and is being more openly discussed among lay people, theologians, and ethicists.

Pope Francis, when he visited Chile, made the mistake of dismissing sexual abuse survivors and supporting a bishop who mishandled credible allegations against priests. After public outcry, Francis appointed an investigator. Upon receiving the report, Francis changed course, met with Chilean survivors, and called all the bishops to Rome. All thirty-four bishops offered their resignations; at this point, Francis has accepted five of them.

There are now calls for the United States’ bishops to also offer their resignations, which the Pope could accept or not on a case-by-case basis. This is occurring in the aftermath of the resignation of retired archbishop of Washington, DC Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, after reports of abuse of both minors and adult seminarians. He has been ordered into seclusion; it’s not clear if he will be laicized if he is found guilty at a canonical trial, as has happened with priests.

Of course, for most bishops, the issue will be if they covered up crimes of priests in their dioceses or moved priests to other locations where they abused still more minors or vulnerable adults.

For me, there is also a larger crisis of leadership. If a bishop fails to protect children and teens from such terrible crimes, how can he credibly claim to be leading and caring for all the Catholics in his jurisdiction? For a variety of reasons, I have been avoiding dealing with the bishops in my diocese, concentrating instead on parish-level ministry and the Church as the people of God, not as a hierarchical institution.

Still, I can’t help but think that personal complications would be easier to bear if the government and the church were functioning with stability and rectitude.

SoCS: Yikes!

Why, you may ask, was the first “Y” word that came to mind for me “Yikes”?

If you are from the US, you probably realize that the answer is itself a question, “Have you seen the news lately?”

(Yes, I know that I am encouraged to not watch news, but it is all around and it is less stressful for me to keep up with it than to have imagined developments intrude unbidden into my thoughts.)

While there is the occasional good “Yikes!”, such as the news that there may actually be a peace treaty officially ending the Korean War/Conflict, more often they are less positive or negative stories about court cases or crimes or investigations or legislative proposals.

And, seriously, Paul Ryan fired the Jesuit priest who has served as Congressional chaplain since 2011? Yikes! Why?
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “why/Y.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/04/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-28-18/