book reviews, politicians, politics, Trump

Reviewing Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House…

I finally got around to reading Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward’s 2018 book, Fear: Trump in the White House, even though I bought the book when it was first published. I still have a bunch of other books about former U.S. president Donald Trump that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I have a bad habit of buying books and letting them stack up, sometimes waiting to be read for years. But I also find reading about Donald Trump particularly difficult, mainly because I find him disturbing and depressing to read about, even if he is also kind of fascinating. I mean, it saddens me that so many people think he’s so great, but it also fascinates me that people don’t see what I can see so plainly.

This morning, after a concerted effort, I finished reading Fear, and I have Woodward’s follow up book, Rage, waiting to be read. I think I finally read Fear because there has been so much press about Woodward’s more recent book, Peril, which was published last month and is about the transition of Trump’s administration to Biden’s. I haven’t purchased Peril yet, but the reviews made it sound like a compelling read. I figured I should read the previous books before I get to that one. I did start reading a new book this morning, but it’s not about politics. I need to take a break after reading Fear. I guess the title was appropriately chosen.

So… on with my review…

Bob Woodward is an award willing journalist and associate editor who has worked for The Washington Post for 50 years. So far, he’s written at least 20 books that have been national bestsellers, and he’s shared in two Pulitzer Prizes. The man has quite an impressive pedigree as an author, as fourteen of his books have been on The New York Times bestseller list. Having just read Fear, I can attest to Woodward’s ability to write. Fear was easy to read and understand, and I never found myself skimming, as I did when I read John Bolton’s book, The Room Where it Happened. Bolton came off as kind of pompous, writing for himself and, more pointedly, his ego. Woodward, on the other hand, writes for his readers. That’s the kind of writing that is a pleasure for me to read.

Fear tackles the beginning of the Trump era. It’s mainly about Trump’s staff, and the lengths they went to try to “handle” him– harnessing the tremendous power Trump suddenly and surprisingly got when he was elected president. Woodward explains how staff members were chosen to work with Trump, as well as the difficulties Trump’s staff faced as they tried to deal with Trump’s overwhelming personality. Many of the people who worked in Trump’s White House were experienced professionals, particularly within the military. On the other some staffers were people who got jobs because of how they looked, or because they were friends of Trump’s… or because they were his relatives.

Steve Bannon gets a lot of coverage in this book, although Woodward was probably kinder to Bannon than he should have been. I always got the sense that Steve Bannon was a bit of a manipulative snake, but Woodward makes him seem more professional than he ever appeared to me in this news.

In straightforward, clear prose, Woodward uses his investigative journalist skills to uncover Trump’s early days in power. Woodward clearly tried to be impartial and often gives Trump more credit than he probably deserves. I can appreciate the attempt at trying to be fair and impartial, especially given the fact that Trump is the most polarizing president I have seen in my lifetime. It could not have been easy for Woodward to maintain such decorum.

I think Fear is a well-written and researched book, and I learned new things by reading it. However, I agree with some of the reviewers who mention that there’s nothing particularly “earth shattering” or deliciously juicy about Fear. The trouble is, Trump was so heavily covered in the press that a lot of what’s in Woodward’s book, while easy to read and digest, is stuff that was already in the news.

I probably waited too long to read Fear. If I had read it when it was first published, I might have gotten a lot more from it. I might enjoy Peril more, simply because it covers the end (hopefully) of Trump’s political career, when things really got weird. But, as I mentioned earlier in this review, I felt like I should read the first book of Woodward’s highly touted trilogy. I did learn some new things, and there were some entertaining passages about some of the interactions Trump had with some of his staff. I particularly enjoyed reading about Trump’s long suffering lawyers, who did their best to get Trump to take their advice rather than simply acting on impulse. Many of Trump’s staffers were the “adults in the room”, but they could never seem to get him to settle down and get to work. Most of them were always “putting out fires” and dealing with Trump’s tantrums.

Anyway, according to Amazon, most people thought this was a good book. Some people thought it sucked. I didn’t think Fear: Trump in the White House was bad at all, but it could have been better. I did feel like the end of the book was a bit abrupt. I was reading about Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, deciding to resign from Trump’s service. Then, suddenly, the book ended, and I was knee deep in footnotes and sources. I do think Fear is a good reference for those who want to read more about Trump. There’s plenty of associated reading to be explored.

I think if I were giving this a rating between one and five stars, I’d give it a 3.5. I found it easy to read and mostly interesting, but I wasn’t too shocked or surprised by much of what I read. If I had read this in 2018, I probably would have had a slightly more favorable reaction to Fear: Trump in the White House. But in September 2018, I was about to move and had a lot of other stuff going on… and frankly, I remember not being able to bring myself to read a book about Trump, because I found him rather terrifying. I still do, to be honest.

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ethics, healthcare, politics, rants

“My body, my choice…”

Just to be clear… I am not in agreement with today’s featured photo. I’m just posting it because it’s an idea I’ve seen floating around since COVID-19 started. I don’t think being in favor of allowing abortion of an unintended pregnancy is at all the same thing as the prospect of potentially making a vaccine mandatory is, especially during a global pandemic. Maybe I’d be more in agreement with the comparison if pregnancy could be caused by breathing.

This morning, I read an interesting comment thread on an article in The Washington Post. The article was about how so many people have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 and hoped that things would be getting back to “normal”. But, as the Delta variant continues to spread, and people stubbornly refuse to get vaccinated or take other protective measures against the virus, no one is able to “relax”. Sadly, the vaccines are not proving to be as protective against spreading the sickness as we’d hoped, although evidence suggests that the vaccines help prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

The comment thread was full of the usual finger pointing and nastiness. But then I saw a comment that echoed a common refrain during this pandemic. It was about being “pro-life”, and how people who refuse to take COVID-19 precautions aren’t really pro-life. The last comment in this thread belongs to me. Because I’ve seen the lame responses from Republicans about how vaccine mandates violate the idea of “my body, my choice”.

I am truly baffled by this.

Do I really need to explain why someone who is considering having an abortion is not in the same situation as people who want others to get vaccinated against a disease that spreads through the air? Okay… I’ve got nothing better to do, so here goes.

Everybody has to breathe. There is not a single person in the world who can live without respiring. But COVID-19 primarily spreads through aerosols in the air, and the virus is proving to be extremely wily. Every one of us needs all the help we can get to avoid getting seriously ill. Each new incarnation of the virus is proving to be more contagious than the last, and while many people have gotten COVID and survived, there’s a significant number of people who are winding up in hospitals, seriously ill and dying. Healthcare workers and undertakers are EXHAUSTED, and families are being devastated as family breadwinners are suddenly dying. These are people who are young and were previously perfectly healthy. And they are leaving their spouses and children bereaved and struggling.

An unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that threatens a prospective mother’s life in some way, is not a threat to anyone except the person who is gestating. A developing fetus takes up residence in another human being. I’ve heard and read many Republican legislators referring to pregnant people as “hosts”. As distasteful as the word “host” sounds, there is an element of truth to that concept. A pregnant person is “hosting” a developing person, and that fetus relies entirely on the “host” until it’s born. Many times, the pregnant person is happy to be gestating, but sometimes the pregnancy comes at a bad time. Maybe the person isn’t prepared to be pregnant and is dealing with health and/or economic issues that make pregnancy an insurmountable challenge. Maybe the person is pregnant due to being a crime victim. Maybe the developing fetus has a serious birth defect that would make being born crueler than being aborted.

Lots of issues can come up that would make someone consider ending a pregnancy. Any of the issues that would make someone consider having an abortion are, frankly, no one else’s business. Time and again, I’ve read disgusting comments by conservatives about personal responsibility. So many of them seem to think someone who unintentionally gets pregnant should have to “lie in the bed they made for themselves.” I’ve got news for them, though. NO ONE unintentionally gets pregnant without another person’s participation. That other person isn’t the one whose health is affected by the pregnancy, nor are they the ones whose names are on the medical bills.

Other, uninvolved people don’t want to be responsible for making sure the gestating person gets proper medical care and financial assistance, if it is needed. A lot of the people who think the pregnant person should be forced to gestate against their will also believe they should be shamed and humiliated for being in that situation. Meanwhile, the person who got them pregnant frequently gets off “scot-free”. I might be more willing to accept the pro-life stance if more people actually cared about those babies once they’ve been born. But a lot of people truly don’t care, especially if the baby turns out to have special needs and needs a lifetime of financial and medical assistance.

COVID-19, unlike unintended pregnancy, is spreading like wildfire among unsuspecting people. And no one knows how the virus will affect them. Some people get it and never know they had it. Others get it and are dead within days or weeks. So, to me, it makes perfect sense that the so-called “liberals” are pushing for everyone to be vaccinated. At this point, vaccination seems to be our best hope at arresting this menace before more people die. Maybe someone will come up with an effective treatment, but at this point, that silver bullet hasn’t yet been discovered. People are exhausted by the depressing COVID-19 lifestyle because, for a lot of people, it just plain sucks. So they heap on the pressure for others to do their parts to end the pain. That’s where all the finger pointing and demonizing come into play.

Personally, I’m not a fan of blaming others. COVID-19 is a notoriously easy to spread virus. I don’t think the vast majority of people mean to get infected. A lot of people are doing “everything right”, and they’re still somehow getting sick. But people are frustrated and angry, so they point fingers at others. Finger pointing doesn’t seem like a helpful thing to be doing, in my opinion. But you know human nature… It would be better, of course, if we all came together and cooperated. Fat chance of that happening.

If COVID-19 weren’t so easily spread, I think I would be much less concerned about who’s been vaccinated. I read this morning that the current version of the virus is as contagious as chicken pox. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that having COVID-19 gives anyone permanent immunity. The vast majority of people who get chicken pox will not get it again, although they can get shingles (varicella zoster), which is also pretty shitty. I had shingles when I was 26 years old. It was a mild case, but I sure didn’t enjoy it. It would have been better if I could have avoided being exposed to the varicella virus; that way, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting shingles next time my immune system is on a downward spiral.

I think today’s youngsters, who can get the chicken pox vaccine, are very fortunate. My generation was lucky to get the measles and mumps vaccines. I don’t know anyone who had measles when I was a child, although it was a pretty common childhood illness in previous generations. Lots of people got measles and survived just fine. Others got it and died! Some years later, when being “anti-vax” came into fashion, measles cases went up as some parents, who had never known the horror of measles, stopped vaccinating their kids. Guess what? Some unvaccinated kids started getting measles, got really sick, and were sometimes dying again.

The measles vaccine made what used to be a common childhood illness so rare that people forgot how dangerous it could be. I suspect the same could be true for COVID-19 as it continues to develop and mutate and vaccines and treatments improve. Hopefully, COVID will eventually turn into something much less threatening than it currently is.

Pregnancy, you see, is not spread through the air. People get pregnant, most of the time, by having sex, and one doesn’t have to have sex in order to live. A lot of times, the sex is consensual. Sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, the sex is consensual, but the birth control fails. Sometimes, the sex is consensual and the pregnancy is wanted, but the developing fetus has catastrophic birth defects or the mother’s life is in peril. In no case, is another person’s decision to have an abortion harming anyone else or threatening their very life. The only person who is truly affected by the decision to have an abortion is the person who is gestating and doesn’t want to be, FOR WHATEVER REASON. I get that sometimes the father is distressed by the abortion decision, but it’s not his body or health on the line. It’s not his name on the medical bills. It’s not his bladder being danced upon or his blood sugar or blood pressure being raised. ALL of that stuff solely affects the pregnant person.

Unintended pregnancies really only threaten the person who is gestating. I know some might argue that the fetus is also threatened, but the reality is, over 90 percent of abortions occur early in pregnancies, and at that stage of development (under 13 weeks), the embryo or fetus is completely unconscious. Abortions that occur later in pregnancy happen at a much rarer rate, and the ones that happen at beyond 21 weeks gestation make up about 1 percent of the total… and they usually happen because there’s a serious medical issue involving the pregnant person or the fetus.

COVID-19 affects everyone. COVID-19 threatens everyone. People who don’t take precautions legitimately put others at risk.

I don’t think the “my body, my choice” argument often heard from people who rally for abortion rights really applies when it comes to COVID-19. I recognize that not everyone can safely take the vaccine, and some people have had adverse or allergic reactions to it, just as some women have adverse reactions to being pregnant. The difference is, you’re not going to get pregnant if a pregnant person breathes on you. Exposure to a COVID-19 positive person might cause you a serious illness, and you might even get sick enough to die or suffer permanent disability, or spread it to someone else who will get very sick. A COVID-19 positive person might not be recognizable, since he or she can be asymptomatic. And again, every single one of us has to breathe, or we’ll die. COVID-19 is spread through breathing. COVID-19 causes people not to be able to breathe anymore.

“My body, my choice”… when it comes to this virus, there really is no such thing. So, until we come up with an effective treatment or something else that greatly reduces the risk of spreading this disease, I am going to be on the vaccination bandwagon. I think it’s our only hope at this point. And I pray more people join me, although I feel a bit pessimistic about the future. This is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

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communication, healthcare, LDS, mental health

“My way or the highway”…

Picture it– a Saturday morning in early July 2006. The doorbell rang. Our mailman, Steve, who knew all of the best gossip on Fort Belvoir, was at the door with a bunch of packages. They were from Bill’s ex wife and sent “restricted delivery”, so Bill had to sign for them personally. In the boxes were a bunch of personal effects that Bill had left behind when he and Ex got divorced in 2000. She had written a letter, explaining that she had expected him to “retrieve” his stuff, but he never had. So she was sending the stuff back to him, along with an itemized list of the contents.

She also included adoption papers for Bill’s daughters, along with an invitation to sign them so her third husband, #3, could officially claim Bill’s daughters as his own. And there were also photocopied letters the girls supposedly wrote, demanding that Bill give permission for them to be adopted by #3. I remember quite distinctly that younger daughter’s letter was especially cold, while older daughter’s was a bit kinder. However, she did include the line, “I’ll never talk to you again” as an ultimatum. As in, “If you don’t let #3 adopt me, I’ll never talk to you again. It’s my way or the highway.”

Bear in mind, Bill had not been allowed a chance to speak to his daughters. Ex refused to let him have any contact with them and had them so mindfucked that they couldn’t think straight. Years later, it turned out that the girls had their names legally changed when they were both 18. Younger daughter said she’d been under a lot of pressure, both to write the letter (which Ex basically dictated to her), and to have her last name changed. But she also realized that she would be changing her name anyway, once she got married. Sure enough, younger daughter did get married and changed her name again. She now freely communicates with Bill– her REAL dad– who is a wonderful person. And it’s been beautiful for both of them. Younger daughter certainly doesn’t consider #3 to be her father and doesn’t really speak to him nowadays.

Older daughter has been as good as her word. She hasn’t spoken to Bill, and remains trapped in her mother’s toxic home. She’ll be 30 years old soon, and younger daughter has said that Ex regularly threatens and demeans her. Meanwhile, life has gone on, and for us, it’s mainly been worth living. Bill would love to have his older daughter in his life again, but she’s made a choice. I hope the “my way or the highway” attitude is worth it to her and brings her much joy… but somehow, I doubt it does. When Bill’s father died in November 2020, older daughter wasn’t welcome at the funeral, even though she had reportedly wanted to attend. Sadly, thanks to COVID-19, Bill wasn’t able to attend, either.

I have shared this story more than a couple of times over the years. I usually share it when I write about parental alienation syndrome or people who have decided to leave Mormonism and get shunned by their families. Since PAS and leaving Mormonism are both factors in our story, it makes sense that I’d share this sad anecdote when I write about those subjects. Today, I’m sharing it for another reason.

This morning, I read an article in The Washington Post about how to have conversations with people about COVID-19 vaccinations. I almost didn’t read the article because, frankly, I’m pretty frustrated by the subject. I live in a place where I can’t yet get a vaccine, even though I’m willing to get one. I see all of my American friends getting their shots, but I’m still sitting here with my thumb up my ass. I’m bored, depressed, and super sick of this lifestyle, especially since I can’t travel, but my husband keeps having to go places for work. It sucks, and I’m so tired of it. I need a new subject to focus on, so my attitude doesn’t completely go down the crapper.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to read what the writer, Allyson Chiu, wrote about talking to people who can’t agree about the vaccines. I thought her advice was very sensible. Like me, she realizes that shaming, threatening, scolding, and lecturing aren’t very effective when it comes to changing hearts and minds about vaccinations. I’ve mentioned this more than a couple of times. When you come at a person with aggression, their instinct will naturally be to defend themselves. When a person is focused on defending themselves, they won’t be listening to what you have to say. You might as well save your breath.

Chiu also recommended positive ways of encouraging people to get the vaccine. Instead of insulting them or making assumptions about the person’s reasoning for not cooperating, she suggests asking people what would make them more willing to consider getting the shot(s). She emphasized being caring and concerned about the person’s welfare, rather than issuing stern ultimatums. Above all, she emphasizes maintaining basic respect with a mind toward preserving the relationship.

I looked at the responses left on the actual article, rather than Facebook. I’ve found that people who take the time to respond on a newspaper article itself, usually tend to be more thoughtful and appropriate in their comments. Also, the people who comment on the actual paper usually have taken the time to read the article rather than just responding to the headline.

As I read the comments about the COVID-19 vaccine controversy, I got a strong sense of deja vu. Only, the comments reminded me of ones heard from frustrated and angry parents when a child makes a decision with which the parent disagrees. For instance, when people raise their children in Mormonism, and the family members actually believe in the church doctrine and live by its principles, they tend to be very intolerant of opposing views. They issue ultimatums to the wayward family members, threatening to cut them out of their lives if they don’t conform. They might tell their supposed loved ones, “If you don’t stop rebelling, I’ll never talk to you again.” Or, “You aren’t welcome in my home until you come back to the fold.” Or, “I don’t want you talking to anyone in the family about your ‘beliefs’ or ‘opinions’. Your thinking is ‘wrong’, and I won’t tolerate you leading them down the ‘wrong’ path.”

I’m sure if you asked these folks if they love their family members whom they are so cavalierly threatening to cast out of their lives, they would say they do love them. Sometimes, this is an issue of control, but probably more often than not, these kinds of threats and ultimatums are based on fear of loss. In my husband’s ex wife’s case, she fears losing control and access to certain commodities. Although she joined the LDS church, she doesn’t actually agree with or care about the church’s teachings, and basically, she just uses it for control purposes. Apparently, she only goes to church now when she needs money. However, back in 2006, she sure did use the church and Bill’s decision to resign from the church as a means of trying to exert control and influence. Mormons, as a whole, are pretty famous about being willing to cast out unbelievers. Yes, there are exceptions– some church members are more liberal about their beliefs than others are– but a lot of church members see apostasy as a reason to disown, disinherit, and discard family members over a disagreement about religious beliefs.

And now, with the COVID-19 plague going on, it seems other people are also adopting that same “my way or the highway” attitude regarding the vaccines. Here are a few comments from the Washington Post article.

My honest reaction to anti vaxxers is astonishment and i express that.  That is self- respecting.  Infectious diseases are a fact.  I have no intentions of allowing ignorance on my watch.  (And how do you know that all of the anti vaxxers are being “ignorant”? Have you asked them?)

For antivacciners and antimaskers, it’s good to be compassionate and ask if they need a ride to a vaccination site or if they would like you to buy them some protection.  Ask if they are afraid of getting a shot and offer to accompany them to one.  Ask if they need making an appointment.  Give them a box of gloves.  Ask if they have a smart phone or a device to help them make appointments and to video chat.  (This response, while seemingly well-intentioned, seems rather manipulative and possibly insulting.)

I have mentioned that I am happy to be vaccinated. Usually others are too or are eagerly waiting. If they aren’t going to, I say, ” Really? Hmmm”. Walk away and check them off. I will easily drop any business, service provider or acquaintance and substitute them with a reasonable person. I have no time for this nonsense. (I’m sure the people you’re shunning don’t think of their opinions as “nonsense”.)

I read with interest your article regarding vaccinated parents and unvaccinated kids.  Speaking as a Warrior Mom, it absolutely exhausting dealing with this.  A calm parent with common sense says” My Teen will get vaccinated and my teen will spend time with his peer group.  The Nosy moms need to mind their own business. It is unacceptable and rude to ask your pod of moms ” When is your kid getting vaccinated.”  So let’s be polite and start focusing on summer plans and going to the beach. (What is a Warrior Mom? I’m pretty sure I didn’t have one of those!)

I have no problem telling someone who does not want to get the vaccine that it’s fine but they can’t come inside my home and they need to keep their distance on my porch. This includes my oldest kid who for some reason does not want it. I will be fully protected and my husband and our parents. Honestly that’s all that matters to me. The kid is an adult and can make his own misguided decisions.  (This is the comment that prompted me to write today’s post. It sounds a lot like Mormon parents kicking their kids out or telling them “I will never talk to you again.” I suppose this mom has the right to kick her son out of her life, but I suspect she could eventually end up regretting that decision.)

What a load of touchy-feely crap. FFS why after over a year are we still catering to those who simply won’t be persuaded? HERE’s how to talk about the shots: “I and everyone in my immediate family have been vaccinated. If you want our company, show us your vaccination certificates. If you don’t, or if you aren’t vaccinated yourself, you can count on never seeing us until you are.” Full stop.  Not only does this have the advantage of real world honesty and consequences, it will eventually show what kind of people one is surrounded with, particularly extended family. Their choice with the vaccine will eventually reveal which they value more: family, or clinging to myth, ego, suspicion, and ignorance. (I think this person overvalues his or her own company.)

Like I said… personally, I’m more than willing to get the shot. I’d like to get it over and done with. I have no issues with vaccinations. The science behind them has existed for hundreds of years, and the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine has been in the works since before COVID was a thing. I’m grateful scientists were able to develop them so quickly and I am definitely ready to cooperate, because this lifestyle, truly, is having a terrible effect on my mood and will to live.

But… even though I have my thoughts and opinions about the COVID-19 vaccine, and personally, I do think people should get them, I can also understand why some people are reluctant. I think it’s better to be compassionate toward them, rather than insulting and threatening. And I also think it’s crazy to throw away friendships and family relationships simply because of a disagreement about an illness that wasn’t even on the radar 18 months ago. Seriously? Are you really willing to cast out your loved ones over an argument about COVID-19? Isn’t it bad enough that so many people have actually DIED from this disease and will not ever be coming back? Are you really assuming that your “my way or the highway” attitude is the best way to get compliance, and that the person you are shunning won’t decide your company is that important to them, anyway?

I know some people would say, “But the fact that people are dying is the reason I’m taking such a strong stand about the vaccines. I know I’m right, and they’re wrong!” I get that. And I realize that to many people, it seems like the “my way or the highway” approach is the best, because– they tell themselves– this is the way to “save them”. However, most competent adults don’t take kindly to the negative approach and will resist it. And when it comes down to it, people must be free to make their own choices.

You can resolutely choose not to associate with people who refuse the shot– that’s your choice. And they can refuse to get vaccinated and wind up excluded from things like concerts, cruises, and flights. That’s their choice. But to say something along the lines of, “You aren’t welcome in my house.” or “I don’t want to see you again.” or “I’ll never talk to you again.” or “It’s my way or the highway” may cause a great deal of regret in the long run. Now is not the time to be extremely adversarial. As Joe Biden said some weeks ago, “We are at war with the virus, not each other.”

Everyone is struggling right now, and many people are legitimately frightened. Some people are frightened of catching COVID-19 and dying or living with “long hauler” syndrome. Other people are legitimately frightened of having the vaccine and suffering ill effects or even dying from it. Even if you and I think they’re being “silly” or even “stupid”, that fear is legitimate to them, and it can be difficult to overcome legitimate fear. Whether or not their fear has merit, they will probably remember your reaction to their fear, how it made them feel, and respond accordingly.

Interestingly enough, as I’m writing this post, I’m reminded of a quote that is often attributed to Maya Angelou. If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’m a big fan of verifying quotes to make sure the right person gets credit. Well, it appears that Maya Angelou is probably not, in fact, the originator of this quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It turns out, the originator of that quote was highly likely to be Carl W. Buehner, who was– surprise— a high level official in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! The earliest evidence located by Quote Investigator was in a 1971 book of quotes by Richard L. Evans, also a high ranking Mormon, who was the program narrator for the weekly radio and television broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir called “Music and the Spoken Word”. The Mormons, for all of their dysfunction and propensity for misguided interventions regarding the religious beliefs of their loved ones, sure do put out a lot of quotable quotes for the masses.

It was also a Mormon woman named Laurel Thatcher Ulrich who said, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Ironic, given the fact that LDS women are very much second bananas in the church’s hierarchy and the demands to “conform” to the rules and mores of the church are well established and known. Ulrich went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and later became a professor at Harvard University.

Clearly both of these quotable Mormons are highly intelligent and talented folks, even if I think their beliefs in Mormonism are ridiculous and certainly not worth shunning loved ones over. I don’t know if Ulrich or Buehner ever did have family members who decided the church wasn’t for them, but I do know that the LDS church is famous for people taking a “my way or the highway approach” regarding obeying the principles of Mormonism. Those who step out of line will be dealt with and, if the infraction is serious enough, potentially cast out of their families or even the church itself. That action kind of flies in the face of those “feel good” quotes, doesn’t it?

Isn’t it possible that people who aren’t ready to get the shot are similarly valuable? Do you really want the COVID-19 vaccine to be the hill your relationship dies upon? Again, isn’t it bad enough that people are literally dying of COVID-19?

This doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t believe you should protect yourself. If someone refuses to follow protocol and you don’t feel safe around them, you are well within your rights to protect yourself. What I propose is approaching the naysayers with basic respect, compassion, and kindness, rather than hostility, sternness, derision, and ultimatums. Don’t use a “my way or the highway” approach in your attempts to persuade. Because there is a real chance that they’ll choose the highway. That might ultimately be alright with you, but I would encourage you to think about it carefully before you go there. Make sure you can live with the results of your “my way or the highway” attitude, because taking that approach may actually put you on the Highway to Hell.

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disasters, expressions

Choosing the harder right over the easier wrong…

As a new week begins here in the land of perpetual lockdowns, my mind is on a heartbreaking opinion piece I just read in The Washington Post. A public health nurse practitioner, writer, and former Army Captain named Jackie Munn wrote about how her parents both contracted COVID-19 a few months ago. Munn’s father, a 28 year Army veteran, had tried to care for his ailing wife, Julie Anne Oeser, while he was himself ill. Unfortunately, Ms. Oeser’s condition deteriorated and she had to go to the hospital. She had initially resisted going, fearing that she wouldn’t come home. Sadly, she was right. On January 26, 2021, as many people were getting their first COVID-19 vaccinations, Julie Anne Oeser died. Her family stood around her bedside. She had spent 11 days in the intensive care unit, battling the novel coronavirus.

Jackie Munn is understandably very angry that she’s lost her mother, who was 62 years old and had “few preexisting conditions.” She writes that her family had “done its part” to fight COVID-19. Munn’s sisters, Jess and Jenn, are also in healthcare. Jenn works as an emergency room nurse in a hospital east of Los Angeles, California. Jess is a medical laboratory scientist at a Kansas City area hospital. Their parents had taken the pandemic seriously and followed all precautions, to include social distancing, hand hygiene, and wearing face masks. Both planned to be vaccinated, although Ms. Oeser died before she was able to take that step.

Jackie Munn writes, “…as a West Point graduate and combat veteran, I was taught that good leaders chose the harder right over the easier wrong.” She acknowledges that her father and older sister, both veterans like her, and been trained to do things that might be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but serve the common good. And she’s understandably pissed off that so many Americans, many of whom were egged on by our former leader, Trump, have decided not to “do their part” to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Birx speaks about the vaccines now available.

Munn blames Trump, of course, as well as Dr. Deborah Birx, who was herself an Army colonel and had been part of the COVID-19 task force in the Trump administration. She served as the COVID-19 Response Coordinator for Trump’s White House. Birx was recently in the news admitting that many COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented if people had taken the virus more seriously and Trump had been a more responsible leader. I remember watching Deborah Birx on video, looking visibly uncomfortable as Trump spoke about COVID-19. She knew the truth, but unlike her colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, she did not feel that she could say it out loud. She’s said that she had many “uncomfortable” discussions with Trump. My guess is that he threatened her.

She didn’t feel empowered to speak out during Trump’s reign. She says she should have been more outspoken.
These folks felt “muzzled” by Trump. Dr. Birx says that after the first 100,000 deaths, the subsequent carnage wrought by the virus could have been prevented.

Although I haven’t yet been personally affected by COVID-19, my heart goes out to Jackie Munn and the rest of her family. And yet, I also have some empathy for Dr. Birx. It’s easy for people to say she should have done more. They aren’t in the position she was in, and they weren’t directly dealing with a man like Trump, threatening, bullying, and browbeating them into doing his bidding. I can’t help but realize that Trump is a malignant narcissist, and if you’ve never had to deal with such a person, you have no idea how difficult it is not to bend to their will. They can be extremely convincing, even if they aren’t the U.S. POTUS… and when they are someone as powerful as Trump was, with many minions ready to carry out his wishes, it seems like an impossible situation to be in.

I don’t blame Dr. Birx for deciding to retire. I think it’s a shame that all of the legitimately good work she’s done over the course of her career, to include work in mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS, is going to be tarnished by her unfortunate connection with Trump. I think she was in a no win situation. I can see why it was so hard for her to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong,” even if doing so might have saved lives.

Naturally, I had to read the comments on Jackie Munn’s piece. It was a lot of the same polarized crap we’ve been reading for over a year now. Many people– I’d say maybe 85%– had nothing but condolences and commiseration to add to Munn’s piece. It really is a sad read, and it resonates with a lot of people. A few other people were obviously ignorant pro-Trump trolls, who are clearly belligerent and selfish. But I also noticed a few people whom I thought made sense being called “trolls” or angrily shouted down by the masses. Here are a couple of examples:

Those of you who “know” me, know that I’m not a fan of group think or echo chamber comments. So many people seem to want to pat themselves on the backs for doing the “right” thing, for the good of everyone else. I’ve seen so many self-congratulatory and outright pious comments from people who claim they have done everything correctly and figuratively spit on everyone they assume isn’t toeing the line created by the likes of Dr. Fauci. Don’t get me wrong. I admire Dr. Fauci’s work, and I think he’s a very smart man who knows what he’s talking about. He definitely knows a hell of a lot more than the average Internet user. I also agree that people should do their parts to control the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more rational discussion, rather than chastising and insulting perfect strangers online.

I had to quit reading the comments when I realized I’d started rooting for the people who were gamely taking on all of the arrogant lecturing and blaming done by those who are all about everyone being forced to do the “right” things. I am not a fan of forcing people to do right, especially when people take a black and white, zero tolerance view. There are always situations that require exceptions to the rules, and the people who require exceptions should have a chance to be heard without being screamed down by others. I don’t like to be the devil’s advocate myself, because I find dealing with the deluge of irritating comments from graduates of the Google School of Public Health too tiresome and ultimately pointless. But I do secretly cheer on those who take on these folks. Most of us can Google. Not all of us are going to come to the same conclusions. That should be okay. People should be allowed to share their thoughts and opinions if they want to, and the ones who make some sense should have their thoughts respectfully considered, even if their conclusions are eventually rejected.

I’m getting especially “prickly” when I see some all knower write something like “You do know that…” or “Pretty sure that…” or “And your medical/public health degree is from…” or “What about seatbelts and helmets…” I don’t think the COVID-19 situation is akin to the other safety measures enforced by law. Ms. Munn is obviously gutted that her mother has died. I can’t blame her for that. I don’t blame her for trying to place responsibility on other people, either. It’s only natural. But even if everyone was wearing a mask and social distancing, there’s a chance her mother still would have gotten sick. There may have been far less of chance, but the chance still existed.

Not everyone is going to get onboard with the new rules. Some people never will, no matter what we do. There’s a good chance those people won’t spread COVID-19, despite breaking the rules. On the other hand there’s a good chance they will. We don’t know who passed the virus to Jackie Munn’s mom, but we do know that it’s an extremely contagious bug, and even if someone does everything right, as Ms. Munn’s mom presumably did, people are still going to get sick, and some people are still going to die. Hopefully, with the advent of the new vaccines, those numbers will drop significantly.

I think it’s useless to point the finger at random people who aren’t doing what they’re told. Those people have their reasons for not cooperating. Maybe you and I think their reasons are stupid, but they obviously think they’re right. And unless we stop and talk to them and actually listen respectfully to what they have to say, they probably won’t cooperate, even if they’re dead wrong. How many random strangers are going to change their habits just because someone insulted them and left an angry comment? On the other hand, if we engage with them from a place of respect and decency, maybe we can come to a meeting of the minds. Maybe then, more people will “choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”

A few days ago, I got into a minor scuffle with some woman from Australia. Well, actually, she tried to start a scuffle with me. I ignored her, which probably pissed her off. Anyway, what happened was, I had read an article about a type of dermatitis that is being caused by mask wearing. Many people are getting perioral dermatitis and mistaking it for acne. The condition doesn’t clear up when they use acne remedies, and they have painful reactions, as their sensitive skin is abraded by constantly wearing the masks.

A woman posted that she was dealing with this condition herself. That’s when Tiffany from Australia responded that she’s owned a medical practice for twenty years, has to wear masks, and just sucks it up and drives on. The original poster came back and reiterated that the dermatitis was actually very painful. Tiffany still had no empathy for her. She wrote that she has the dermatitis too, but she still does her part and masks up. Here’s a cookie, Tiffany.

Enjoy.

I was a bit disgusted by Tiffany’s lack of regard for this woman and her valid complaint. So I wrote, “You made a choice to go into healthcare, where masks are required. Most of the rest of us didn’t. It’s not nice to discount other people’s legitimate problems.” Several people agreed with me, and I got quite a few likes for that comment… not that I needed the likes. They just told me that I wasn’t the only one who found Tiffany’s “suck it up and drive on” attitude annoying.

Next thing I knew, I got a message that Tiffany wanted to “connect” with me. I discovered her message maybe an hour or so after that exchange. I had a feeling she was going to blast me privately. I didn’t read her whole message, but saw enough of it to know that she felt I had no right to call her out for her virtue signaling and she was telling me off in my PMs. The end of her message was, “Cat got your tongue?”

If had responded, I might have said, “I didn’t even realize you had messaged me until I saw my phone. I don’t get those notifications on an iPad. Moreover, your decision to PM me doesn’t require me to answer you. If you want to address me, you can do it publicly and respectfully. Otherwise, I have nothing more to say to you.” What I really would have liked to have said to her, and anyone else who PMs me uninvited and is abusive is, “We don’t know each other, so piss off!” In the end, I chose to ignore her completely, which probably left her feeling like the wind was let out of her sails.

I wonder how many people would like to get in on the discussion and have valid perspectives to add, but choose not to because of bullies like Tiffany who want to call them “babies” or tell them to get over themselves. Likewise, while I completely understand Jackie Munn’s anger, frustration, and outrage that she lost her mother at age 62, I don’t think issuing a blanket blame toward anyone who isn’t doing what she thinks they should be doing is productive. Would she be just as angry if her mom had gotten the flu and died? How about if her mom had had an accident? Would she have felt better if many more people were wearing masks and her mom still died of COVID-19? It’s possible that could have happened, too. The bottom line is, the situation Jackie Munn is in is terrible, and it seems unfair. But we’re in a pandemic, and people are going to die, just as they die in wars and other catastrophes. It doesn’t mean the situation isn’t horrible and tragic– but unfortunately, blaming the world for her mom’s death isn’t going to bring her back from the dead.

Now… to wrap this up and get on with my day…

A few days ago, I wrote a protected post about a situation we’re in right now. It’s going to require some tough choices that may make things temporarily worse before they’re better. Or, they could make things permanently worse. And yet, Bill and I both know that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s something we should have done a long time ago. I was thinking of that situation when I read Jackie Munn’s words– the lesson she learned at West Point– “choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.” It’s so easy to turn a blind eye and let people get away with doing bad things. But in the long run, it can cost dearly.

I’m truly sorry about Jackie Munn’s loss. I absolutely appreciate all she and her sisters have done to fight COVID-19. I’m going to continue doing whatever I can to stop the spread. I stay home about 90% of the time and, on the very rare occasions when I do go places, I follow the rules. But unfortunately, I also know that the virus is very contagious, and some people can and will do everything right and still get COVID-19. It’s not necessarily anyone else’s fault when this happens, and I don’t think it’s helpful to blame others. It’s just a sad fact that until more people are fully vaccinated, people are going to get very sick, and some will die.

Yes, we should do all we can to reduce the numbers and cooperate for the common good. But there will be casualties regardless, and there will be heartbroken people who will suffer tremendous losses, no matter what they do. I also realize that I may very well be among those who will lose, as Bill and I anxiously await the vaccine ourselves. May God help us all.

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complaints, narcissists, poor judgment, rants

“A man’s got to put in overtime to get me off…”

If you happened to notice the three book reviews I reposted this morning, you might have noticed a theme. This morning, I have sex on the brain. It might be because of a spam message I got on messenger yesterday.

This is just one of thirteen spam messages I got yesterday, but it’s by far the funniest of the lot.

Lately, I’ve been responding more to comments on newspaper sites. I think that has prompted spammers to send me messages like the one above. The vast majority of people write “Hallo” or “Hello” to me. I especially get tickled by the ones who think I’m German and attempt to write to me in Deutsch.

I usually just delete these messages without a second thought, but the one above cracked me up. I shared it with my friends. One even responded by inviting me to share her page with this guy. She’s kidding, of course. We shared a laugh. Laughter is a good thing right now.

Last week, I got two spams from the same guy– clearly someone from Ghana who had hijacked someone’s Facebook photo and location and was sending out these random invitations to chat. On that particular message, he referred to me as “Bud Queen” and congratulated me for looking “clean”. That one cracked me up the first time, but then he came back!

And the rest of the funny ones I’ve gotten over the past couple of weeks and shared for my friends’ amusement appear below…

As I was thinking about these “invitations” to chat with strange men, I remembered a funny scene in Eddie Murphy’s hilarious 1989 film, Coming to America. He and Arsenio Hall are in a bar meeting women, and they’re all very strange or annoying.

So much to love about this scene. I miss going out. And I relate to the woman who can’t be satisfied, starting at 35 seconds. So… I don’t think James Michael and I would be a love match.

I watched that clip again as I was writing this and it made me laugh. That’s a good thing, since I was getting pretty annoyed by the news last night. First off, I read a very pathetic article about a bunch of people who stormed the Capitol last month. In the article, it stated that many of the people who got in trouble are folks who have serious financial problems. Case in point, 50 year old Texas real estate broker and life coach Jenna Ryan, who projects an air of success and supposed sexuality is, in reality, broke. A couple of weeks ago, she was accepting donations for her legal defense fund. Then she wrote that she didn’t “need” the donations, but people would be “blessed” for helping her. Now, come to find out, she’s actually in pretty serious financial trouble and has been for awhile…

Now, y’all know me. I try to give a lot of people the benefit of the doubt. I’m not a big fan of prison. I try to realize that everyone makes mistakes. However, I am also not a big fan of narcissism and, frankly, Jenna kind of reeks narcissistic tendencies. I was about to share her Twitter, which until yesterday, was on full display. But I just went to her page and it looks like she’s deleted her account. I found my way to Jenna’s Twitter account (which should have been deleted weeks ago) after reading an article describing her as “gorgeous”.

A bunch of people were calling her out for her “attention seeking” behavior.

Most people, when they get called out like this, retreat into the shadows. But at least until yesterday, Jenna was still engaging the masses, who were not falling for her sob story. From the Washington Post:

Despite her outward signs of success, Ryan had struggled financially for years. She was still paying off a $37,000 lien for unpaid federal taxes when she was arrested. She’d nearly lost her home to foreclosure before that. She filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and faced another IRS tax lien in 2010.

And yet, just a couple of weeks ago, as she begged for donations for her legal fees, she tweeted this:

So… basically, besides being pathetic enough to fall for Trump’s bullshit and getting involved in criminal activity, Jenna is also a liar and a fraud. She’s not unlike those spammer scammers who try to engage middle-aged broads like me, thinking flattery and the promise of a sugar daddy is a “blessing”.

Jenna Ryan also recently whined about how she doesn’t think she deserves a prison sentence for doing what “her president” asked her to do. She hoped Trump would pardon her, but wasn’t smart enough to realize that Trump doesn’t reward failure. The attempt to “stop the steal” wasn’t successful and made Trump look even worse than he usually does, so he’s not going to reward anyone involved with that. Anyway… having read that story about how Ryan and her rioting pals are mostly people with no money and no hope, I was left feeling pity… for Jenna’s two mini goldendoodles, who will have to be rehomed if she winds up in prison. From the Post:

Ain’t she cute in her Trump hat?

“We just stormed the Capital,” Ryan tweeted that afternoon. “It was one of the best days of my life.”

She said she realized she was in trouble only after returning to Texas. Her phone was blowing up with messages. Her social media posts briefly made her the infamous face of the riots: the smiling real estate agent who flew in a private jet to an insurrection.

Nine days later, she turned herself in to the FBI. She was charged with two federal misdemeanors related to entering the Capitol building and disorderly conduct. Last week, federal authorities filed similar charges against two others on her flight: Jason L. Hyland, 37, of Frisco, who federal authorities said organized the trip, and Katherine S. Schwab, 32, of Colleyville, Texas.

Ryan remained defiant at first. She clashed with people who criticized her online. She told a Dallas TV station that she deserved a presidential pardon.

Then Trump left for Florida. President Biden took office. And Ryan, at home in Texas, was left to wonder what to do with her two mini-goldendoodle dogs if she goes to prison.

“Not one patriot is standing up for me,” Ryan said recently. “I’m a complete villain. I was down there based on what my president said. ‘Stop the steal.’ Now I see that it was all over nothing. He was just having us down there for an ego boost. I was there for him.”

Poor baby. My heart is breaking for her. Sounds to me like she and Trump are birds of a feather, only he’s a more charismatic and successful con man than she is.

After I was done reading about Jenna Ryan’s legal and financial woes, and those of her fellow insurrectionists, I moved on to a trio of articles that appeared in the Washington Post and The New York Times about the benefits of double masking. I’ve already vented my spleen on how I feel about being expected to “double mask” (wear two face masks at one time). I’m not going to do it again with this post. Instead, I’m going to offer an observation.

I read some of the comments for the double masking articles on The New York Times and The Washington Post. I am now left with the impression that there are a lot more obnoxious assholes per capita in the D.C. area than in New York City. Or, at least the readers of the two papers are different. The comments for the Washington Post were mostly of the virtue signaling, shaming variety, with people getting downright rude and nasty when someone dared to even joke about this subject. Or, if someone rightly pointed out the face masks don’t stop COVID-19 (and they DON’T), people would indignantly share pro mask articles.

To be clear– face masks help slow the spread of disease by preventing some of the droplets from getting into the atmosphere. They don’t actually stop the virus. Lots of people have gotten sick while wearing a mask, gloves, or anything else. What works best is physically staying the fuck away from others, which is very difficult for most people to do. Hence the need for masks.

And, as I have pointed out many times, wearing a mask does present legitimate problems for some people. Most people can wear the mask just fine, but there are some people who can’t. They have a right to be heard, too. But God forbid you dare write that in any comment section for the WaPo. You will quickly be labeled a “Trumper” or a “COVIDIOT” or something else by perfect strangers. People will immediately pile on to tell you that whatever your issues are with the masks are 100% bullshit– or they will ask you for your “qualifications”. I dare someone to ask me that. They’re usually very surprised when I tell them that I actually have a MPH from a real and accredited university, rather than the Google School of Public Health.

By contrast, on The New York Times‘ comment sections, I noticed people were much more tolerant of those making light of the suggestion to wear two masks (as opposed to simply wearing a better fitting or better quality mask). The comments were more even-handed and some were legitimately hilarious. There weren’t a lot of anti-maskers there. Instead, it was people who were a little bit more open to having a discussion without attacking. It was kind of refreshing. But then, I have spent some time in the D.C. area and I know for a fact there are a lot of self-absorbed and self-important assholes who live there. And I have visited New York a few times and I always come away with the impression that New Yorkers are a bit more cosmopolitan and sophisticated. It’s much more of a cultural melting pot than D.C. is. D.C. is a place where narcissistic people gather to get into power, and they often do it with dirty and dishonest tactics.

And finally, just before I went to sleep, I saw this photo… Many people love it. They think it’s cute and funny. Let me go on record to say that I don’t love it. If I saw this sign, even while properly donning a face mask, I would turn around and walk the other direction. Being rude and insulting is not a good business practice, in my view. Lecturing people and calling them childish or stupid is not going to change their minds.

I hate this sign. If I saw this sign, I would NOT give this person my business. It’s not because I’m “anti-mask”. I’m “anti asshole”. I don’t think this kind of confrontational and belligerent attitude is helpful. But anyway, I don’t live where this food truck is located, so I doubt this guy misses my business. My response to him would be a hearty “Fuck off.” But I would say it with my RBF.

Anyway… I apologize for the obvious tension in this post. I am a bit angsty for a lot of reasons. Germany will stay locked down until at least March 7. I’m bored and depressed and tired of all the stupid bullshit. I’m wondering what the point of living is. I think most people are assholes, mainly because I read too many comment sections and get yucky spam scams in my messenger. And I’m just tired of all the negativity, insults, and directives from perfect strangers who know about as much as what they’ve read on CNN… as well as clueless twits like Jenna Ryan, who thinks she should get a “pass” for doing incredibly stupid and self-destructive things in the name of “patriotism”.

I probably ought to go find myself a good video game or porn site and lose myself in fantasy for awhile. Maybe that will help me cope as I fantasize about my next journey out of my neighborhood. But, as I pointed out earlier, “a man’s got to put in overtime to get me off.” It’s probably a good thing my vibrator is German.

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