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Joe or Donald?

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Right from the start, I’ve been an “anybody with a pulse” voter so the obvious answer for me is “Joe.” The trouble is that I’m not a big fan of him or of his running mate. But, I can’t, with any sort of conscience at all, vote for Donald Trump. It makes me sick to my stomach even to type that sentence.

But, I also can’t vote for a third-party candidate. Yes, I really do wish I could do just that…but, the reality is that in this country, I’d just be throwing my vote away in an attempt to vote “on principle” so I really need to take a look at the platforms and simply compare them.

So, here goes….

Democratic Party Platform can be found here: https://democrats.org/where-we-stand/party-platform/. In case you’re wondering, it’s 92 pages long. Summarizing might be good.

  • Economic recovery in the pandemic: Fully fund testing, increased support for Medicaid, protect scientists from political influence, invest in jobs, upgrade unemployment systems. So far, I’m on board.
  • Universal healthcare: Provide it for all, strengthen the ACA, bring down drug prices, take on big pharma, expand access to mental health and substance abuse programs, protect reproductive healthcare, invest in healthcare science and research. Healthcare is a big one for me – extra points for this one.
  • Overhaul the criminal justice system by preventing people from getting there in the first place, discontinue punishing teens the same way we punish adults, end the war on drugs (YES PLEASE), eliminating cash bail, allowing judges to decide cases and punishments based on merit, ending the use of private prisons for profit, and assistance for those re-entering society. This is a big one for me too. We incarcerate far too many people in this country, and the racial inequities are glaring and unacceptable.
  • Climate change: Launch a clean energy revolution, use federal resources to deploy clean energy solutions, reverse the reversals from the previous Administration that have done enormous damage, invest in union jobs in clean energy, modernize the energy grids, convert school buses to zero-emissions vehicles, use American-made materials, and achieve overall net-zero greenhouse emissions. Yes, please! Climate change is real, it’s a huge problem, and we need to be a big part of the worldwide solution.
  • Immigration: Rescind funding for the ridiculous and ineffective wall on the Southern border, reinstate protections for Dreamers, protect and expand the asylum system for people who have been subjected to violence and humanitarian violations, provide a roadmap for citizenship for undocumented workers, expand the visa cap for victims of human trafficking, and (most importantly in my book) address the problems that create mass migration in the first place! Yes to all of the above. The truth is that I’m the child of an “illegal immigrant” who has been a productive, law-abiding citizen for over 50 years now. This one is very close to my heart.
  • Education: Provide universal early childhood education, increase funding for childcare, expand career and technical education, increase accountability for charter schools, promote school diversity, enforce rights for educators to unionize, and expand tuition-free education for public universities. This one doesn’t go far enough for me, though it’s a good start. I think childcare should be taxpayer funded for everyone (like in Canada) and I think all charter schools should be closed. If you want a non-public education, then you can pay for a private school.

The Republican Party Platform can be found here: https://prod-cdn-static.gop.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL%5B1%5D-ben_1468872234.pdf. Please note that this is from 2016. They opted NOT to write a new one. Apparently, they have opted to stick to a man this year, rather than a platform. I’ll go with the old one, since a new one doesn’t exist. It’s 66 pages long, so I’ll summarize as above.

  • Start anew with a new tax code, lower taxes if it discourages investment, no taxes on charities, reduce corporate tax rates, renegotiate trade agreements with American interest first. Obviously, since they don’t have a new platform, I can’t speak to future goals. But, I can speak to the reform the Republicans did once the current Administration came into power. Make this one go away. Personally, it has been a nightmare. The past two tax years I have owed more in taxes than ever before, and that has been the case for every single I know personally. Get out your paychecks and plan to send a big check to the IRS in April. I really hope they get rid of this tragedy (particularly the SALT tax reversal and the mortgage tax reversal on anything other than primary residences.)
  • Home ownership: Scale back the role the federal government plays in it, review regulations (especially environmental laws) that make it harder for Americans to buy and rent homes, put zoning restrictions under local control. This one is a mix for me. I think the federal government definitely needs a huge role in environmental policy and the housing market (good grief this was a huge part of the problem in 2008) but I’m good with zoning restrictions being under local control.
  • Transportation and public infrastructure: Funding for the FAA to make flying safer, phase out reform provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, de-unionize the TSA, privatize Amtrak. I disagree with everything here.
  • Technology/utilities: Public-private partnerships for internet access to rural areas, expedited processes for upgrading the electric grid, reducing licensing laws. Mix for me – I’m all about providing access to the internet for everyone, but “expediting processes” and “reducing licensing” is code for overturning environmental laws, which is a big no-no for me.
  • Federal workforce: “Review” unions and reduce benefits. Absolutely NO – are you serious? This is how you want to treat Americans who work in service of the country?
  • Reduce the federal debt: I’m not even going to heavily read this section. Needless to say, they have failed miserably in this regard in the last 4 years. (Remember what I wrote about above with regard to the tax changes?) I looked at several reputable sources and the current national debt is about $22 trillion. So, I’m unimpressed.
  • Redefining marriage: It’s for one man and one woman. That’s a no for me. Why do you care? Leave people alone…..after all, you’re supposed to be for smaller government, right?
  • Defending religious liberty: Support the right of people to conduct their businesses in accordance to their religious beliefs. I have huge problems with that. I have absolutely ZERO problem with exercising the right to practice your religion or to have no religion at all. But, I have huge problems with using your religion to refuse service to people who disagree with you. (Feels like Nazi Germany to me….no service for Jews.)
  • 2nd Amendment rights: Defend the right to keep and bear arms. (I don’t see it in the Democratic platform, but I have seen no evidence of either side trying to take guns away.) Honestly, I wish we didn’t have guns at all in this country, but the truth is that if you’re a responsible gun owner, then I don’t really care. Non-starter either way for me on this one.
  • Climate Change: Demanding an immediate halt for funding to the UNFCCC, economic growth before environmental concerns, development over concerns for endangered species. All one big NO for me.
  • Immigration: Support for building a wall on the Southern border, major changes to the asylum system, over-reaching entitlements for the DHS for enforcement of immigration laws. Big fat no on this entire category.
  • Education: Broad range of choices for parents at taxpayer expense, a good understanding of the Bible as literature, end tenure systems in favor of merit-based systems. So, throw out the Constitution and end unions. Big NO.
  • Education Part 2: Support for private and charter schools, English-first approach, getting rid of family planning education, getting rid of federal-funded student loans. No, No, No.
  • Healthcare: Repealing the ACA, patient choice/competition, state regulation of insurance markets, ban on OTC birth control, permanent ban on funding for abortions (which already exists.) No, No, No. This is healthcare for the rich and forget everybody else.
  • Criminal justice: Diversion of first-time non-violent offenders to treatment courts, community courts, and guidance by faith-based institutions. (No problems here, with the exception of “faith-based.” I don’t want my tax dollars supporting any particular faith, unless you’re going to support them all.) Support for the death penalty, mandatory sentencing laws – NO.
  • Unequivocal support for Israel: Why? Pandering……through, truthfully I haven’t seen any evidence on either side for dropping “support” for Israel, so it’s really a non-starter.

And, that’s about it for the highlights.

In the end, the things that are most important to me (environment, healthcare, education) fall more solidly in the Democratic party platform. And, although the Republicans don’t have a platform this year, based on the last platform, the “performance” the past 4 years of the current Administration, and my total loathing of the current President (misogyny, racism, sexism, and his inability to put together proper sentences) all equals a vote in the Joe/Kamala category, even though they weren’t my first choice (or even my 2nd or 3rd!)

And, on a side note – Mike Pence gives me the creeps. Every time I hear him talk, I foresee “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

That’s all for now. Give me your thoughts, but be polite. 🙂

The Business of Drugs

The Business of Drugs
Netflix Original Docu-series
4/5 Stars

I have long maintained my position that all drugs should be legal, taxed, and regulated in the United States, and this documentary didn’t do a thing to disavow me of this notion. It reminds me of the prohibition era and how we tried to legislate morality. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.

This docu-series features a former CIA analyst and her interviews and research on the use of drugs in this country. But, it really isn’t all about addiction and the actual use of the drugs (although that is certainly a part of it.) It’s really more about the distribution process. So, where do the drugs come from? How do they get into the country? What is the history of its use and when did they go from legal to illegal? How are we enforcing laws against drugs, distribution, border crossings, etc.?

Each “episode” in the series details one specific drug – cocaine, opioids, pot, etc. The interviewer does a really great job of interviewing everyone from the farmers, to workers in manufacturing, street dealers, users, and even pharmaceutical reps. It’s really comprehensive and really interesting. I did knock off one star from my star rating, simply because some of the reactions to the interviews are a bit over the top. But, really, it’s worth watching.

In the end, my position on drugs hasn’t changed. In addition to my position that drugs should be legal, I have also long advocated for the position that if you do take illegal drugs, that you are supporting a whole host of evil things. (This is similar to my position about buying goods that are manufactured in many places in the world. If you knowingly purchase goods that are made by people who are essentially living in slavery, then you are supporting slavery.) It’s the same with drugs. If you purchase cocaine, then you are supporting slave-like conditions of the people who farm it and the violence of drug cartels. Again, this is one of many reasons that I am pro-legalization. If we make it all above-board and legal, then you can get rid of drug cartels, violence, slave-labor conditions, etc.

The sad truth is that, although I support legalization of drugs in whatever forms people wish to use them, I am always a great supporter of public funds for rehab. Unfortunately, people are going to use drugs whether they are legal or not (just like tobacco and alcohol) and I believe that’s a personal choice. But, I also come from a background of friends and family members with addiction and it’s not fun. I’ve seen a whole lot of sadness, broken families, jail time, and relationships that can’t be mended.

Let me know if you watch The Business of Drugs and what you think. I hope you learn as much as did!

Shine On with Reese Witherspoon

Shine On With Reese Witherspoon
Available on Netflix
4/5 Stars

If you feel like being empowered, particularly if you are a female, give this series a go. It’s all about women who have inspired Reese Witherspoon, the creator of the show, and how they are leaders in their respective fields.

The series consists of short sections of interviews with women, all of them about 20 minutes long. (That’s actually why I knocked one star off of the review – the interviews are a little short, and I would have loved a deeper dig into each person.) But, the subjects of the interviews are really nifty and I felt like taking over the world after watching each one.

You will be treated to interviews with well-known stars like Pink and America Ferrera, but more importantly (in my estimation), is that you will hear from people who aren’t so well known – like an editor at a major fashion magazine, and the first African-American woman to hold the highest student position at West Point. (Netflix saved this interview for last, and it was by far my favorite. I was truly inspired by her story!)

If you feel like a little need for some more confidence, to be inspired, and to rid yourself of your personal fears of taking the next step for a dream you might have, give this series a whirl. It’s light and easy and fun, but also inspiring. Enjoy!

Anne Frank, Parallel Stories

Anne Frank, Parallel Stories
Available on Netflix
4.5/5 Stars

We all know the story of Anne Frank, but hearing it voiced in sections by the fabulous Helen Mirren makes it incredibly vivid and real. This short, but powerful, series on Netflix has Helen Mirren’s talent, and a whole lot more.

The series follows a young woman who is learning about the holocaust, and shows her text messages as she follows along in her quest to know more about it. Along with interviews with historians, you will also become acquainted with several survivors who experienced things similar to Anne and her family (thus the “parallel” stories.)

Although I am familiar with most aspects of Anne’s story, and the history surrounding it, I am always amazed to hear survivor stories. That alone accounts for a high rating for this series. You can sense in their voices, that their numbers are dwindling due to their ages, and their awareness that their stories are so critical for the world to hear. It’s obvious from some of their comments that they see the world spiraling, yet again, into abuses of “others” and that we cannot allow it to happen again. (Some examples could be how we treat refugees worldwide, the current White House administration in the U.S., the rise of neo-nazis and white power contingents in the U.S., Russia, and elsewhere, etc.)

The series easily gets a 4.5/5 stars. I docked it a half star because I found the text messaging aspect of the series to be sort of distracting and overly dramatic. I was much more interested in the survivor interviews, background information, and truly vivid cinematography and videography.

I think this series is an important one to watch, particularly considering things happening in the world today (especially in the U.S.) Sadly, I think that people think this sort of thing can’t happen again, but clearly it can (and it has!)

Consider watching it. Although it’s obviously not something that is easy to watch, I think it’s important. Leave me a comment with your thoughts!

The Innocent Man

The Innocent Man
Genre: True Crime
Available on Netflix

5/5 Stars

The Innocent Man, based on a work of non-fiction by John Grisham, is an absolutely gripping docu-series available on Netflix. It is incredibly well-done with loads of personal interviews, great background research, fabulous cinematography, all wrapped up in a nice true-crime-bow.

The series is all about two crimes committed in the 1980s in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma (population under 17,000 people.) Two horrific crimes were committed in a short few years – both murder. One of the crimes resulted in the convictions of two innocent men (both overturned after being incarcerated for 12 years due to DNA evidence.) The other crime resulted in another two men being convicted, both of whom are still incarcerated after 35 years. It’s pretty obvious that both of these men are also innocent.

You will see, as you watch the series, a crazy set of circumstances surrounding the events and crimes. Innocent men on death row, corruption at the highest levels, mistaken identities, false confessions, and more. You’ll question everything. And, it’s particularly stunning to find out in the end that there have now been THREE convictions overturned in Ada, based on DNA evidence. Considering that it’s a town of less than 17,00 people makes this viewer think there is something rotten in Oklahoma.

If you enjoy true crime books and documentaries, you will love this series. If you enjoy social justice work and are on the fence about the death penalty, you will enjoy it. It’s really compelling and it will keep you interested.

If you watch the series, please let me know what you think. Do you think that the 2 men who are still incarcerated are innocent?

Boot Camp with the Sydney Squad!

Happy weekend bootcamp fans! If you are looking for a quick, fun, efficient calorie-burn, look no further than this latest awesome bootcamp workout with Sydney Cummings.

This one is another sports-themed workout. Each workout set is in sets of (4), 30 seconds each. Every set of (4) has a sports move, with a weight-training move. (So, 30 seconds of a sports-move, followed by 30 seconds with hand weights, repeated 3 more times….and then off to the next one.)

Example sets:

  • Volleyball jumps
  • Baseball catches
  • Football shuffles
  • Tennis swings
  • Hockey slides

My Apple Watch says I burned 241 calories in 47 minutes with this workout. (As a comparison, I burned 242 calories in an hour on the treadmill.)

Grab some light hand weights, clear some space on the living room rug, and get to it.

Enjoy!

Evil Genius

I never thought I’d say this, but Tiger King almost pales in comparison to this one! If you like twists and turns, “holy cow!” moments, true crime mysteries, and bizarre and crazy stories with vivid people, you will love this docuseries as much as I did!

Evil Genius is a series about a true crime that I had never heard of before watching the series. It is about a 2003 case in Erie, Pennsylvania, where a man went into a bank with an alleged collar bomb around his neck and robbed it, using a handwritten note that he handed the teller. Shortly after the robbery, the robber was caught in a nearby parking lot, handcuffed, and left on the ground while the police officers on the scene waited for the bomb squad to arrive. Most of the people on the scene figured it was all a hoax, but they waited for the bomb squad to arrive out of caution, while the man sat handcuffed trying to convince the police officers that they needed to follow the written clues from the people who had kidnapped him, so they could get the bomb off of him. I was absolutely horrified when the bomb actually went off and killed him.

What follows over the course of the next few years is total insanity. More deaths, crazy characters, a mentally-ill female mastermind, and the craziest question of all – was the robber in on the plot or was he a victim?

The interviews are extremely well done. The video footage, follow-up interviews with family members, examinations of evidence, and clips of actual events are all woven together in such a way as to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Don’t look for solid answers while watching. You will doubt everything, you will question, and at the end, you really will have to make up your own mind as to who did what.

Evil Genius is available on Netflix and it is absolutely worth your time. If you watch it, be sure to leave me a note to let me know if you liked it. I would really know what you think about who is responsible for the crime!

Holding Up Your Corner

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Holding Up Your Corner
By F. Willis Johnson
3/5 Stars

“We must learn how to pray with our feet” is really what Holding Up Your Corner is all about. The book addresses the how, why, what, and when of how to approach racial justice, within the community, and specifically within our churches.

Acknowledge, Affirm, and Act – these concepts are the primary goals of the book. I was particularly struck by the concept of acknowledging, because, as a privileged white, middle-class woman, I really don’t understand how to do that in a constructive way. “Sin is anything that encroaches upon, impedes, or ignores another’s inalienable rights and nature to be not only free but also whole and alive. Injustice and inequalities of any make or model are sin.” Those two sentences alone felt like a wake-up slap in the face. Sin goes way above and beyond that simple list of do’s and don’ts we find in the Bible.

When we think of affirming, we need to “go into your community and be with the devalued ones. Ask questions about what they feel, what they experience. Admit to them your feelings of fear or inadequacy or whatever. Tell them you want to understand-that you want to help.” Amazing, really, that it’s all about conversation.

Acting, of course, if the most important step, and the one that (in my experience) is most completely ignored by most churches. (As one example, I spent my entire childhood in the church and did not ONCE hear even one single thing about volunteering or serving in the community in any way, shape, or form. I had to become a Methodist as an adult to get a peek into that wonderful world.) Of course, “acting” needs to be deliberate, and it needs to be helpful and valuable to those we would like to “help.” The author discusses a very specific framework that congregations can use (from the National Association of Social Workers) with concrete examples of how to do it. And, in the “suggested next steps” section, the author again lays out how churches can proceed in getting started on having these difficult conversations, and what to do about what you discover within the context of those group conversations.

Overall, I found the book to be informative and helpful. I did knock some stars off of my review (for a review of 3/5), for two reasons. One, it was a bit dry and I had trouble focusing at times. More specific examples would have been helpful. Two, the book did not have many specific examples (such as organizations to contact, etc.) much at all, and the examples the author did give, came really only at the end of the book.

If you are a current pastor, or if you belong to a religious organization that wishes to help in the community like United Methodist Women, Catholic Charities, DAR, etc., I think that you will enjoy this book. I would especially recommend this book for pastors, particularly pastors who lead churches with a non-minority majority population.

Enjoy the book, and please leave a comment if you enjoyed it (or if you didn’t enjoy it!)

I Am a Killer

Photo by Craig Lloyd on Pexels.com

Docuseries: I am a Killer
Available on Netflix
5/5 Stars

Knowing that every inmate in this series is safely locked behind bars did not take away from the “creep” factor of it. I am a Killer is dark, twisted, and creepy. It’s also fascinating and I was really disappointed when it came to an end. The series is super well done, as it brings together interviews from the convicted, interested parties, detectives, prosecutors, family members, and the community. You will see and hear it all and, if you’re at all like me, you’ll be completely gripped…..and confused.

Each segment is 45-50 minutes long and views like a mini-movie. No narrator is available (lending to the “creep” factor I mentioned above.) Snippets of facts are written on the screen, detailing the crime, while interspersing personal interviews with various people, most notably including the person convicted of the crime.

The interviews with the incarcerated is what is most compelling about this series. Not a single one of them claims innocence, but the degree to which they take personal responsibility for their actions differs from person to person. Also very compelling are the wildly different views presented of the crimes themselves. Once you finish listening to the convicted person you might think one thing, and then listening to the cops involved or family members and you’ll question everything. It’s very psychologically interesting.

The cinematography is super well done, with shots of the prisons and crime scenes. The interviews don’t leave much out, so viewers will certainly feel a lot of the pain from the crimes.

In the end, the entire series is so well done, you won’t want to stop watching it. I wanted to hear all sides of the stories presented. I wanted a conclusion. My only small complaint was that some sides weren’t told. (In other words, sometimes families would not talk on camera, or other people involved. I can’t say that I blame them, but sometimes bits were missing that left me wanting to hear the “whole” story.)

If you enjoyed Unsolved Mysteries from the 90s or some of the 20/20 true-crime stories, you will enjoy this series. If you’re like me, you’ll feel some guilt over giving these people a voice. That said, they also give a voice to families and friends, and I think it’s important from a psycho-social perspective to try to understand why people do what they do.

You will learn a lot watching it and I hope that you do. Leave me a comment after you watch it and let me know what you think!

Crazy Bootcamp fun!

I’ve written about Sydney Cummings before, because I’m such a big fan. But, I felt compelled to write again because this bootcamp is, bar none, my favorite bootcamp workout EVER! It’s sports inspired and super fun. Best of all, I was positively dripping in sweat about 15 minutes into it!

2 exercises in each set, 4 sets each, all in sports-themed drills:

  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Baseball
  • Hockey
  • Kickboxing

Enjoy!