A Bad Moon Has Risen — A Sociopath in the White House

How I Intend to Survive This — And You Can Too.

One of the perils of being politically plugged-in is the personal price exacted for having that kind of knowledge constantly swirling around in one’s head, even while asleep.

A few months ago, a sense of foreboding over the fascist specter of Trump began to settle in on my spirit. Although I was still producing essays on politics and public policy, it became increasingly difficult to hit “publish.” Writing about municipal finance, fiscal and social policies, legislation, and campaign shenanigans seemed unimportant in the face of our looming national crisis.

Aficionados of the television show The West Wing may recall the episode in which press secretary C.J. Cregg upbraids her coworkers for obsessing on the minutia while they were teetering on the precipice of utter catastrophe — likening it to Butch and Sundance “peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder-filled rapids below, thinking you better not jump because you might drown.” Cregg said:

“It’s the fall that’s gonna kill you.”

That’s the fear that had slithered its way into the very core of my being — it weighed like a cold, heavy stone on my chest. The electorate was falling for a sociopath, and nothing I said or wrote about was going to change that. Who cares about what PAC spent money on whatever issue, or whichever lawmaker was fighting the scourge or virtue of this public policy or that?  If a fascist was about to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — none of it mattered anymore.

The cold stone grew heavier. I was having palpitations.

Two weeks ago, I went to a walk-in clinic with a headache and over-sized heartbeats. My typically normal blood pressure (120/75) was now at 150/96. They sent me straight to the emergency room. Upon arrival I clocked-in at 199/106.

A visit to the special cardiac section of the ER involves many intense-looking people wielding numerous needles, vials, and enough monitors that the patient looks like they’ve just lost a desperate struggle with a tangle of Christmas tree lights.

It’s called a “hypertensive crisis.” Try not to have one. They are often associated with heart attacks and strokes. Mine though, seems to have been associated with the Republican’s toxic nominee.

So, now my worst fear has proven all too real. I was among the 60 million progressive American voters who were shoved over that cliff on Nov. 8, 2016.

But, we didn’t die on the rocks below.

We are hurting badly, yet we will survive to fix this.

I saw a good many of my fellow walking-wounded yesterday. They were at the bank, the restaurant where I had lunch, but the most shell-shocked among them were those middle-aged white women, like myself, that I encountered in the aisles of T.J.Maxx. (Okay, it’s a weird indulgence of mine — I go there often, really to just wander about looking at random and mindless things, particularly when I need to think. The 20-minute drive to-and-from is also spent reflecting — frequently about the politics of the day.) The home-dec section was bustling with dozens of women picking-up objects, considering them, and putting them back. Their carts were empty — just props to lean on in their confusion and despair. They, like me, were desperately grasping for an elusive sense of normalcy.

I did make a purchase. It’s a ceramic star-shaped knick knack — for me, a talisman intended to heal my broken spirit.

At the check-out, I was assisted by a kind man in his early twenties. He inquired of my plans for the sunny day. I replied that was the only good thing about the day — the sunshine, and he hinted with raised brow “Some retail therapy?” Yes.

Also on my daily rounds, I found myself more intensely scrutinizing those individuals who looked suspiciously like Trump voters. No, that’s not mean-spirited to imply someone might possess telltale signs of appearing to be of a particular political persuasion. In the past, while canvassing door-to-door, we used to play a game: Democrat or Republican? Beside the obvious signs like bumper stickers and flags, we’d look for other subtle tells — silk flower wreaths with kitschy placards = Republican, unchecked dandelions and uncoiled garden hoses = Democrat. We had a list that usefully proved accurate once the homeowner opened the door and expressed how they intended to vote.

I contemplated the older gentleman at the table across from mine at lunch — he was a toss-up, until he slung a backpack over his shoulder when he departed.

Surely, I’m not alone in casting an eye of suspicion at fellow citizens, as if in some sci-fi movie, trying to determine if they’re one of us, or the embodiment of evil in human flesh. Okay, with few exceptions, they are not truly sinister, but their poor judgment will assuredly visit a certain hell on this fine nation. And I blame them.

As for those third-party voters — sure, they fucked-up. But only millennials get a pass on this one. They’re entitled to a learning curve, and they will certainly do just that — the hard way. I am confident they will rise-up and make this a better nation just as every last stupid, angry old white male turns toes-up over the next decade.

However, for those Stein/Johnson voters in their middle years — they knowingly enabled the potential destruction of our country over their precious “conscience.” As it turns out, their vote really was one for Trump. Shame on them.

We survived the fall — now it’s time to swim.

Me, I have an important piece to finish writing (and publish) on the looming municipal fiscal debt crisis in Michigan.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Update: I offer this article to the gentleman who is plaguing my comment box, and violating my no ad hominem attack rule.



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Something is Very Wrong With Trump Women

Why Would any Woman Support Such a Boorish Creep?


Photo: Sociological Reflections

Several months ago, I had the unique experience of my step-mom agreeing with me on a critical political issue. Married to my ultra-conservative father, who came to his political convictions at the intersection of his retirement and the birth of FOX News, my step-mom of four decades also eventually succumbed to the constant drumbeat of negative rhetoric. So, it came as a surprise when she spoke up over dinner, right there in front of dad, expressing her strident opposition to Donald Trump. Notably, our conversation occurred many months prior to the GOP candidate’s multiple groping scandals.

She’s a practicing labor law attorney who marks the bulk of her billable hours consulting on workplace practices and policy — and yes, harassment and discrimination are prominent topics of concern. Trump must be a sea of red flags to her.

This election cycle, American women find themselves on the cusp of the centennial of women’s suffrage, and nearly five decades in the wake of the women’s liberation movement, conditions remain little improved. Polls consistently demonstrate men are supporting Trump — a revolting misogynist of the worst stripe to any intelligent women’s estimation.

The trending hashtag among his male supporters is “repeal the 19th.”

Why does the modern male embrace this caveman attitude? We must have that discussion about men (and we will) — it being a time-honored tradition among women since the stone age, but at this juncture we must call-out women who support the reprehensible beast.

The 2014 documentary, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a film about the 1960’s feminist movement, has a segment of particular prevalence. The topic was the pervasiveness of rape and assault and the routine blaming of women in that time. They cited a specific incident, emblematic of the culture, in which the victim was told by police she was not to be believed because she was not attractive enough to have been raped.

That vile attitude is pure Trumpism, 2016.

Those of us who recoil in disgust at Trump over the repugnant, mendacious, spoiled buffoon that he is, can’t fathom why any woman would support such a dangerous monster. Perhaps seeing Trump for the foul person he truly is might be like those Magic Eye posters of the 1990s, where only perceptive individuals could see the 3D image. Or maybe Trump supporters are Amelia Bedelia literalists, completely unaware of duplicity or ulterior motives — but, in this case the result isn’t comical in the least.

Science points to a phenomenon reported last year in Scientific American in which certain vulnerable individuals are attracted to pathological personality traits — particularly of the likes found in the cornucopia of odious characteristics displayed by Trump.

Or maybe these women are just plain stupid.

Luckily, a majority of women seem to see through his narcissistic facade. What I observe is a deeply troubled man who, had he not been to the manner born, would be clad in an ill-fitted plaid suit while wafting clouds of cheap cologne. However, the rich man/poor man contrast ends there — both Donalds would be grabby braggarts, who apparently bathe in a vat of tikka masala, are awash in too much hair product, and make a living off of cheating and swindling easy marks.

His wife Melania was all over the media this week doing his dirty work, blaming everyone but her loathsome spouse. She threw Billy Bush under the bus, claiming the clueless giggly young man had goaded her husband into “boy talk.” She whined and whined about everyone being mean to her husband and telling all those lies — it’s everybody’s fault but his.

When queried about what cause celebre she would champion as first lady, Melania replied: bullying on social media. That’s rich, coming from the wife of a man who, had he not been well-known and a presidential candidate, would certainly be banned from Facebook and Twitter. Melania sloughed-off his behavior, claiming it was his prerogative.

Michelle Obama, an exceptional first lady and class-act in every way, capsulized the frustration and disgust felt by thinking women in her moving speech last week. Her words were a salve on the wounds inflicted on the American psyche every day by this vulgar cheeto-encrusted manbaby and his apologists and sycophants — of both genders.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

For idiom geeks: Yes, it’s “to the manner born”, not manor. The former is a Hamlet phrase which was cleverly twisted for the BBC series: To the Manor Born — both bearing roughly the same meaning: born of means.



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Trigger Warning — We Don’t Have the Right Not to Be Offended

Freedom of speech is front and center again on American campuses as the Department of Education continues to abuse its authority over university policies. Dirty jokes are now banned, as are expressing suicidal thoughts.

The flawed notion that “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” are healthful, wise, or even vaguely constitutional is not only disturbing but dangerous for the safety and well-being of all students.

Last year, when I was working on an article about 1st Amendment rights on college campuses I asked my son, who attends the University of Michigan, what were the arguments being advanced among the student body in favor of prohibiting certain speakers from addressing college-sponsored gatherings? He explained that some students didn’t want their taxpayer dollars benefitting speech they found disagreeable at a publicly funded institution. Okay, they’re entitled to that opinion, and certainly their freedom to voice it, but no, students and the citizenry at large do not possess the authority to ban campus speech, including that of paid speakers. Complain – yes by all means, ban – not so much. By way of analogy — I don’t much care for my tax dollars going towards war machines and corporate welfare, but that’s not within my direct authority to change.

John Ellison, the dean of students at the University of Chicago, recently sent a welcoming letter to incoming freshmen admonishing them that the administration has no intention of catering to their delicate sensibilities. The only surprise in this communication is that it was deemed necessary at all. Several years ago my son and I attended a campus tour there, and the overarching message was that this was an institution dedicated to the flourishing of a diversity of ideas — both in the classroom, plus, in and off campus. No shrinking violets admitted.

Ellison’s letter specifically cautioned:

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings”, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

Janet Napolitano, the former Secretary of Homeland Security and current president at the University of California, penned an op-ed this week in the Boston Globe expressing similar concerns on the topic. Although mildly critical of Ellison’s stance against triggers and safe zones, she was spot-on in her assessment of the danger of policy creep leading to 1st Amendment violations, reminding us that exceptions to free speech, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater “should be narrowly construed because history teaches us that even narrowly drawn exceptions to free speech inevitably lead to broader limitations.”

This is exactly what is occurring under the cover of expanded and unconstitutional Title IX regulations.

The otherwise laudable and simple intent of the 1972 law has been hijacked over the decades by political appointees at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a division of the Department of Education. Sometimes for better, but mostly for worse, they’ve repurposed the law’s original meaning through a series of surprise regulations — blindsiding schools and bypassing the legal standard of “notice and comment” which requires full disclosure of the question at hand accompanied by an open comment period among stakeholders prior to enactment.

The OCR derives much of its power through Title IX, and they have been wielding it like the Sword of Damocles in the realm of higher education.

In 2011, through new rules they shut-down basic due process for those accused of sexual harassment. Then in 2013, again by fiat, they completely redefined the term to include any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including speech.

Yes, that includes dirty jokes, watching objectionable videos (including the likes of Amy Schumer or Chris Rock), asking a person on a date, casual pick-up lines, films with nudity or strong language….you get the picture — anything college students do on a regular basis.

As if lumping harassment in with honest to god sexual assault isn’t bad enough, redefining harassment to include the petty everyday behavior of students is the height of absurdity.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports that approximately 300 cases are pending under these OCR regulations — with frivolous claims taking-up critical resources needed to investigate serious crimes.

Robert Sibley, FIRE Executive Director and author of Twisting Title IX, offers a number of compelling examples of recent abuses, among them:

Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis penned a 2015 op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education critical of Title IX’s sketchy interpretations where it comes to faculty members involved in consensual relationships with former students.  She was charged by the university for violating Title IX after several students complained about the content of her essay. When another person stepped forward in her support, he too was similarly hit with charges. Ironically, it wasn’t until she wrote a follow-up piece in the same publication, titled My Title IX Inquisition, that the university was shamed into dropping their harassment case against her.

In his book, Sibley cites another egregious overreach which recently occurred in Oregon to a female student who, while studying during exam week, blew off a little steam by yelling from her dorm room window “I hit it first” to a couple outside. The couple, whom she did not know, complained to her RA, resulting in a personal apology. End of story? No. The student was slammed with five conduct charges over the silly prank, including sexual harassment under Title IX.

The important question is why are schools cowering under this abusive and arguably unconstitutional tyranny? Sibley explains that schools have become more focused on the possibility of OCR punitive actions than lawsuits from students and faculty because the OCR holds the purse strings to federal funding. He estimates that there are currently 60 to 70 lawsuits from students over possible Title IX overreach, saying:

“OCR is the agency that has the ability to go to the Department of Justice and ask them to go through proceedings to cut-off federal funding to a school. At most schools, that’s a death sentence  … Whereas, a lawsuit is most certainly not going to be the death sentence for most schools.”

So, schools continue to settle with litigants, with every party understanding that the OCR would lose in a Supreme Court contest were a school to challenge the rules. FIRE refers to the legal dance as a “game of chicken.” The hostility between academia and the OCR has created toxic environments on campuses where students who are in dire need of support are denied, while minor offenses result in harsh punishments.

At Baylor University the Title IX apparatus has become utterly dysfunctional with one lawsuit calling the school a “hunting ground for sexual predators“, and this week brings news of the resignation of the Title IX coordinator and her lawsuit against Baylor claiming the administration prevented her from doing her job.

It seems that it’s mostly individual students who pay the price for the incompetence of college administrators and federal regulators. And in the case of Northern Michigan University, they may well pay with their lives.

The Marquette, Michigan school had, until very recently, a long-standing policy prohibiting students from discussing thoughts of self-destruction and suicide with fellow students. Known for its academic rigor, NMU had been sending disciplinary letters to students suspected of communicating personal troubles with classmates. Beyond being a clear violation of protected speech, the policy is appalling given that suicide is on the rise in our nation with about 43,000 deaths a year, and many more incidents of failed attempts. A recent exposé revealed that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in particular suffers from a suicide problem — a situation only made worse by the lack of available counseling. Friends and family are typically the first line of defense. Under intense media pressure, including warnings from FIRE about the constitutional issues, the university has scraped the policy.

Clearly, this battle isn’t over by a long shot.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin


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GOP Rep. Lyons Sold Michigan Schools a Bad Deal

The controversial former chair of the Michigan House Committee on Education, Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-86), bought a bill of goods in yet another Mylan EpiPen scam and brought Michigan schools with her. She sponsored and shepherded successful legislation to force all schools to purchase EpiPens based on a gratuitous initiative led by the mother of Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan — the manufacturer of the life-saving medical device which raised prices from around $100 to $600 in a newly created monopoly on the product under her leadership.

While the idea of stocking EpiPens in every school is certainly meritorious, the impetus behind the push appears much less than noble. Bresch’s mother, Gayle Manchin, assumed leadership of the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012. That same year, Mylan sponsored a presentation to the association on the danger of food allergies. The connection between Mylan and the NASBE was further solidified through contributions from one to the other under their respective mother-daughter team, both of them having assumed their leadership positions in January of 2012.


Graphic insert source: NASBE Discussion Guide

The NASBE subsequently developed an Epinephrine Policy Initiative and accompanying Discussion Guide for dissemination among state leaders and lawmakers to provide policy guidelines for state boards of education.

In the discussion guide we find the heartbreaking story of a school child dying from anaphylaxis. (See insert from the guide – right.)

After the passage of Michigan’s EpiPen Law the following year, Rep. Lyons was asked by Legal News.com:

“How did you first become involved in this issue?”

Her response below, verbatim (emphasis mine):

Posthumus Lyons: Our schools are constantly revising policies and practices to ensure that our children are safe during the school day. As the chair of the House Education Committee and mother of four young children — one of whom suffered from a peanut allergy as a toddler and has thankfully outgrown — I’m very receptive to listening to other parents about their concerns relating to safety issues. This issue came to my attention when I heard the story of a seven-year-old girl in Virginia who suffered an anaphylactic reaction in school, brought on by a food allergy. Her school did not have an epinephrine injector known as an “EpiPen” on site and her physicians have stated that had she received the injection her life may have been saved. I don’t want that same tragedy to happen here in Michigan. Minutes matter when it comes to allergies, and I want to ensure our schools are able to respond in an emergency situation. I’m so thankful to the Legislature for passing, and to the Governor for signing this important legislation.

Did Lyons realize that her legislation made Michigan one of eleven states that bought into the Mylan monopoly? Probably not. At the time, few were aware of Mylan’s nefarious activities. However, the story is fluid, with continued testimony in Congressional hearings this week. Presumably, Miss Lyons has connected the dots by now, and, no, Lyons has no record of accepting money from Mylan.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

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Sending it Back to Trump — Postage Paid

Wednesday’s mail revealed a large envelope with a stars and stripes stamp affixed in the upper right, addressed to me from none other than Donald J. Trump. He wants me to help him make American Great Again — a feat which apparently can only be achieved through my completion of a short survey, plus a small donation, both courtesy of a postage-paid envelope (more on that envelope in a moment.)


Some return mail to Trump

Trump, who initially claimed he would use millions of his own vast personal wealth to finance his campaign, is now clearly in full-on fundraising mode. Yep, he couldn’t even keep his first campaign promise.

He’s gaming the campaign finance system in a way not seen before in American politics. As we already know, a good portion of Trump’s reported spending is being funneled right back into his various business ventures — all perfectly legal, yet marginally ethical. Under another completely legal option, candidate Trump could report his own contributions as loans to the campaign thereby allowing him to reimburse himself through funds raised from guileless supporters. If played with finesse, he could actually profit from all the campaign spending and lending.

I’m not as clever as Donald, but as a frugal person myself, I couldn’t bear to see that postage-paid envelope going to waste, so I stuffed it with a number of thoughtful items, with Mr. Trump’s specific needs in mind of course.

September 16, 2016

Dear Donald,

Thank you for mailing me the unsolicited request for a campaign contribution, along with the thoughtful inclusion of a first-class, postage-paid envelope!

In lieu of sending you money, I’ve opted to fill the return envelope with a number of helpful items intended for you and your campaign.

Please enjoy the following enclosures:

  • A complimentary English Grammar for Dummies cheat sheet. You will need this bigly, and at two-pages in length, it will fit nicely, very nicely, into your very small hands.
  • A Bikram Yoga brochure and class schedule. Hot yoga is just the greatest, really the greatest, way to maintain the “excellent health” of which you’ve proclaimed to Dr. Oz leaves you feeling half your age.
  • A special offer for a free flu shot, again to protect your truly awesome 35-year old body — not that you would ever fall ill due to a common infection! This will be super important during the massive, truly massive, flu outbreak anticipated after you repeal Obamacare on your first day in office.
  • An invitation to a Planned Parenthood Healthy Families Luncheon, just because.
  • Baskets full of hugely useful coupons from various really great pharmacies: LifeStyles condoms – size: small; L’Oreal Sublime Bronze self-tanner for a subtly nuanced glow; Revlon Colorsilk haircolor – we recommend shade #45; Optic White toothpaste; L’Oreal hairspray – extra firm hold; 5-Hour Energy drinks for your low-energy friends; and of course, a blood pressure monitor just in case you miss your meds. (I considered sending you an oily fish for your cholesterol problem, but it just wouldn’t fit in the envelope.)
  • And finally, two tremendously delicious recipes, really, they’re the best: one for Duck L’Orange for whatever that thing is growing on your head; and another for the best tacos — you’ll need it after you ban all those taco trucks and send all the Mexicans home.

You won’t believe how surprised, I mean hugely, bigly surprised, I was to receive your fundraising letter and survey! I hope you equally enjoy my reply.

Amy Kerr Hardin

On a slightly more serious note….

A quick perusal of the Trump survey (it’s only 9 questions, with a font size and vocab worthy of a first-grade primer) reveals the candidate’s true estimation of the intelligence of his supporters. The directions for completing the form include a super-sized graphic instruction on how to properly mark a box. Then, on the flip side, he asks for a contribution with the following listed as an option:

“I can’t send a contribution today, but to help pay for the cost of processing the results of this survey, I am enclosing $15.”

Let’s hope that $15 processing fee comes with a Trump Chia Pet too. Yes, they do exist, and I too am curious as to how they might possibly train sprouts to recreate that weird swirly hairy duck effect.

The mailer was presumably vetted by the Republican National Committee, as it is financed through a joint fundraising committee between Trump and the party. A portion of the contributions are allocated to the RNC to fund down-ticket races.

The whole enterprise is genius in its simplistic appeal to the lowest electoral common denominator. First, the push-poll “survey” provides Trump supporters a means to vent (albeit through checking boxes like lab rats), followed by the linkage of the notion of having their voices being heard to their monetary contribution — it’s master salesmanship — if you’re a chump, a really, really huge chump.

Post Script: We learned today that Trump’s latest physical exam showed him an inch taller than previous exams — that one inch made the difference between being labeled overweight or obese. So it seems, even a manbaby can grow.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Apologies to lab rats.



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Meijer Bags Michigan Lawmakers

A Michigan-based political action committee thinks they have it in the bag with their timely $20K contribution to state lawmakers. It was recently disclosed that Meijer Inc. PAC greased the palms of Republican Senators on the same day the Commerce Committee was about to take-up the question of preventing local governments from banning the use of plastic shopping bags.

meijer bag

Photo: A. Hardin

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports that Meijer dollars, combined with other significant corporate PAC money, vastly outspent environmental interests on the cusp of the Senate committee’s discussion on the topic of plastic bags last April. The committee is chaired by Sen. Wayne Schmidt – (Grand Traverse County), who has two profitable Meijer stores in his Northern Michigan district. He was also one of the sponsors of the legislation, which went on to earn Senate approval, and is awaiting consideration in the House.

The bill in question, SB 853, would prohibit municipalities from banning retailers’ use of plastic bags — or as listed in the legislation, “auxiliary containers.”  Meijer is on record as supporting the legislation, and we can surely expect a handsome contribution to GOP Representatives as they take up the bill in the House Committee on Commerce and Trade.

Meijer isn’t the only party to give money to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee — the Michigan Retailers Association and the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers gave a combined $3,500, also on the day of the committee hearing.

As Sen. Schmidt is well aware, Grand Traverse County is not unfamiliar with the bought-and-paid-for influence of the Grand Rapids-based retailer within his community. A decade ago, the mega-store attempted to sway, with thousands-upon-thousands of unreported dollars, a number of elections within the county. Their efforts to create favorable marketing conditions were bolstered by gross violations of the law — a possible felony at the time, until the Citizens United ruling rendered their actions as mere misdemeanors. After years of litigation, the Supreme Court ruling dashed all hope of meaningful prosecution.

It is troubling that Sen. Schmidt would accept a bald-faced quid pro quo from a corporate entity that has a history of disruption within his jurisdiction. Also found in Schmidt’s district is a family-owned chain of stores, Tom’s Food Markets, who offer a five-cent discount to shoppers per canvas bag used — from any store, including Meijer. The local chain has demonstrated a commitment to elimenating disposables. When Meijer opened their second mega-store in the county, they launched a campaign to exchange other retailer’s green bags, namely Tom’s bags, for their blue bag — a pitch which fell flat among local consumers for obvious reasons.

Schmidt is clearly nowhere on supporting local business.

There are larger issues at stake though. First, the obvious threat to the principle of home rule — something Republicans are all for, except for when they’re not. Also, the environmental concerns that prompt communities to enact ordinances banning “auxiliary containers”, such as plastic bags, are very real.

The impetus behind this legislation appears to be ordinances like the one recently passed in Washtenaw County which imposes a ten-cent fee for each disposable bag, paper or plastic, used instead of a reusable container. The Michigan county is not alone in their effort to curb the use of disposable bags — they keep good company with communities like Chicago, Seattle, Boulder, New York, Portland, and Washington, D.C., and the whole state of California, among others. Since 2015, 73 pieces of legislation have been proposed in state houses to regulate disposable bags, with 71 of those bills designed to decrease the use of single-use bags. Many states have already enacted laws to regulate bags. As per usual, Michigan falls outside of the norm.

The National Conference of State Legislatures describes the importance of this kind of legislation:

“Regulating bags can mitigate harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests and the wildlife that inhabit them. Reducing bag use can also relieve pressure on landfills and waste management.”

Joining Michigan in an effort to ban the bans on disposables are six states that, either have legislation pending, or have already enacted a ban on bans. They are Arizona, Missouri, Idaho, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Utah — predominately red states, similarly plagued by retro-grade leadership.

On the side of the environment, California was the first state to take a stand against disposable bags with their 2014 law. They took action after 127 municipalities had already put the kibosh on single-use bags. The primary reason cited was the need to protect some of the state’s greatest assets — its beaches, rivers, and ocean fronts. Nathan Weaver of Environment California, explained the need to protect the state’s waterways:

“From the thousands of sea turtles that are now safer from plastic bags to the thousands of volunteers who remove these bags from our beaches and rivers, this bill means a cleaner ocean for everyone… Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our ocean for hundreds of years.”

It is a shame that Michigan lawmakers show so little regard for its greatest treasure.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Related: Michigan’s bottle return law is 97 percent effective in encouraging recycling, compared to 30 percent nationally, where these laws are less common.

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Diagnosis: Trumpism Infecting the Michigan GOP

“He is projecting an image of hyper-masculinity, demeaning critics, brittle — brittleness in the face of criticism and the strongman idea that ‘trust me, I won’t be very specific, trust me, and I will take care of all your problems.’ And we are seeing in our — in our therapy offices particularly members of minority groups who are very troubled by what they’re hearing and seeing. And so this strongman, brittle ego, hyper-masculinity needs to be named, called out.” — William Doherty — psychologist and director, Citizen Professional Center, University of Minnesota, on the Diane Rehm Show

Trump -the verge

Photo: The Verge

Donald Trump came to Michigan last week to demand, smug-faced, that African-American voters unquestioningly support him. Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, get in line, folks, if you know what’s best. Obnoxious as the GOP candidate is, the party itself isn’t exactly a political Xanadu for black voters. When Trump delivered his RNC acceptance speech, there were an estimated 18 blacks out of nearly 2,500 delegates in the room. Trump’s African-American support is polling at between zero and two percent, a fact not surprising given his checkered history of racism.

Voicing his tightly scripted, teleprompter-driven remarks against a sea of angry old white faces, many draped in old glory-themed sartorial choices, Trump blamed Democrats for impoverishing Michigan cities and leaving the state’s infrastructure in shambles. The GOP nominee boldly claimed that the “Michigan manufacturing sector” would bow to his authority and bring back jobs under his strongman control.  Donald promised “great deals” for the American worker.

How does he plan to single-handedly accomplish all this?

He hasn’t a clue, but that’s not important to him, because his motives have little to do with the well-being of Michiganians, or Americans of any stripe. He’s a self-centered nutjob, and the media is finally talking about the looming public danger of his mental deficits.

A group of over 2,200 mental health professionals have opted to break the 50-year old Goldwater Rule — an ethical guideline which prevents experts from weighing-in on the mental stability of public figures, without personally examining them. They published a statement of concern over the dangerous effects of “Trumpism.” (Excerpts below)

As psychotherapists practicing in the United States, we are alarmed by the rise of the ideology of Trumpism, which we see as a threat to the well-being of the people we care for and to American democracy itself. We cannot remain silent as we witness the rise of an American form of fascism. We can leverage this time of crisis to deepen our commitment to American democracy.

What is Trumpism?

Trumpism is an ideology, not an individual, and it may well endure and grow after the Presidential election even if Donald Trump is defeated. (Variants can be seen all over Europe.) Trumpism is a set of ideas about public life and a set of public practices characterized by:

  • Scapegoating and banishing groups of people who are seen as threats, including immigrants and religious minorities.
  • Degrading, ridiculing, and demeaning rivals and critics.
  • Fostering a cult of the Strong Man who:
    • Appeals to fear and anger
    • Promises to solve our problems if we just trust in him
    • Reinvents history and has little concern for truth
    • Never apologizes or admits mistakes of consequence
    • Sees no need for rational persuasion
    • Subordinates women while claiming to idealize them
    • Disdains public institutions like the courts when they are not subservient
    • Champions national power over international law and respect for other nations
    • Incites and excuses public violence by supporters

At the political level, Trumpism is an emerging form of American fascism, a point being made by social critics across the political spectrum, including Robert Reich, Robert Kagan, and Andrew Sullivan. As journalist Adam Gopnik points out, whether or not the term “fascism” fully fits, it’s clear that the American republic faces a clear and present danger when the candidate of a major political party embraces an anti-democratic ideology. At the cultural level, the Urban Dictionary has defined Trumpism as “the belief system that encourages pretentious, narcissistic behavior as a way to achieve money, fame, and power.”

What are the Effects of Trumpism?

  1. Fear and alienation among scapegoated groups, beginning with Latino immigrants and Muslims, and then other groups who become identified as threats
  2. Exaggerated masculinity as a cultural ideal, with particular influence on young people and economically insecure men
  3. Coarsening of public life by personal attacks on those who disagree
  4. Erosion of the American democratic tradition which has emphasized the agency of we-the-people instead of the Strong Man tradition of power

Why Therapists Must Speak Out

We must speak out for the well-being of people we treat and care for in our work. Trumpism will undermine the emotional health of those seen as the “other” in America—both historically denigrated groups and those whose turn will come. And it will compromise the integrity of those who are seduced by the illusion that real Americans can only become winners if others become losers. The public rhetoric of Trumpism normalizes what therapists work against in our work: the tendency to blame others in our lives for our personal fears and insecurities and then battle these others instead of taking the healthier but more difficult path of self-awareness and self-responsibility. It also normalizes a kind of hyper-masculinity that is antithetical to the examined life and healthy relationships that psychotherapy helps people achieve. Simply stated, Trumpism is inconsistent with emotionally healthy living—and we have to say so publicly.

We must speak out for the well-being of our democracy, which is both a way of living and acting together and a set of political institutions. Therapists have taken for granted how our work relies on a democratic tradition that gives people a sense of personal agency to create new narratives and take personal and collective responsibility for themselves, their families, and their communities. Reliance on a Strong Man who will solve our problems and deal with internal and external enemies is a direct threat to the democratic basis of psychotherapy. Therapy only flourishes on democratic soil.

Why speak collectively? Our responses thus far have been primarily personal—and too often confined to arm-chair diagnoses of Donald Trump. But a collective crisis faces our nation, a harkening back to the economic depression and demoralization of the 1930s (which fed European fascism) and the upheaval over Jim Crow and Black civil rights in the 1950s. Fortunately, the resolution of these crises led to a deepening of American democracy, not the abandonment of it. Martin Luther King, influenced by his mentor Bayard Rustin and by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, didn’t just critique unjust systems from the outside. He called for strategic, collective work to take back an American democracy that belongs to all the people. As therapists, we have been entrusted by society with collective responsibility in the arena of mental, behavioral, and relational health. When there is a public threat to our domain of responsibility we must speak out together, not just to protest but to deepen our commitment to a just society and a democratic way of life. This means being citizen therapists who are concerned with community well-being as much as personal well-being, since the two are inextricably joined.

Where We Stand as Citizen Therapists

We understand the draw of Trumpism and we acknowledge that some of our fellow citizens, and some of our clients, may vote for Donald Trump not because they embrace all aspects of Trumpism but because they are frustrated with their circumstances and fed up with the current political system. We are against Trumpism and its architects, not against those who are inclined to give it a chance to change the direction of the country.

But we reject the false equivalence of saying that because there is dishonesty and demagoguery on all political sides, why not support someone from the outside? Trumpism is qualitatively different. To repeat: Trumpism undermines the core of American democracy by promoting the idea of a single leader who will bring greatness to the nation by battling Those People. Democracy requires personal and collective agency so that we can work together across differences to solve problems and develop a shared way of life. Psychotherapists must be firmly on the side of democracy and work in solidarity with groups directly threatened by current and future versions of Trumpism. This work will not end with the election in November 2016. The wake-up call has been received. Our first response is this manifesto. More to follow.

Therefore, as citizen therapists we stand united against the dangerous ideology of Trumpism, and we encourage others to join us in a deepened commitment to a democratic way of life that engages the talents, yearnings, and capacities of all the people.

What Trumpism looks like in Michigan:

It’s no secret, there truly is a monster of sorts infecting Michigan Republicans, like a pestilent guinea worm — insidiously working its way in through the lowest extremities and emerging at the top, in the form of Attorney General Bill Schuette. Most recently, Trumpism has reared itself in an attempt to officially label 94-year old former Gov. William Milliken as irrelevant and not representative of core GOP conservative views, citing the governor’s wholesale rejection of Trump, and endorsement of  Hillary Clinton.

It occurred earlier this month in Grand Traverse County, a comparatively affluent, well-educated, and mostly Republican corner of Michigan where the revered statesman and his beloved family have called home for generations. The local party passed a resolution denouncing Gov. Milliken. The motion was promoted by Jason Gillman, an outspoken Tea Party member known for his hate-filled anti-gay obsession.

Gillman, with his obtuse positions on LGBTQ issues, often displays a classically diagnosable homophobic preoccupation, including his comments likening gays to pedophiles while he served as a county commissioner. Gillman justified his dislike of Milliken’s values thusly:

“Much in the way our nation has been beset by ‘gender confusion’, it seemed the former state executive has had a political identity crisis for some time.”

Gillman’s dad, a retired attorney who served in the Milliken administration, had a very different opinion. Michael Gillman, spoke with a number of media outlets expressing his opposition to his son’s resolution.

“I think we’re at a critical time for the Republican Party and I think that it’s important that we do nothing to diminish or attempt to exclude anybody who is going to call themselves a Republican.”

Gillman, the younger, is burning down his party’s tent. Grand Traverse County Republicans are watching in silent horror at the barrage of letters to the editor condemning their resolution. Among the many voices in opposition, a second-term GOP delegate penned one of dozens of letters to the local paper:

“I am not proud of the Grand Traverse County Republican party now, since it has been overrun by unhinged radicals who are using the party for their personal playground. What an embarrassment!” — Karilee Walter, letter to the editor, Traverse City Record-Eagle

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Litigator Trump Seeks Legal Ass-Coverage With “Unification” Claim

“It is not necessary that the defendant intend to, or be able to carry out his threat; the only intent requirement for a true threat is that the defendant intentionally or knowingly communicate the threat.” — Ninth Circuit Court 

Trump x

Trump speaking at rally in Wilmington, NC

Sorry Donald. Your “unification” argument, as sometimes protected under a Supreme Court First Amendment ruling, just may not apply here.

It’s All About the Precedent

Anyone who’s been within earshot of the internet or TV media over the past few hours knows that Donald Trump has once again stepped in a stinking pile of his own excrement with his veiled lone wolf threat to incite the assassination of Hillary Clinton, or perhaps a Supreme Court Justice:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is I don’t know.”

Within minutes of his public statement the media rightfully exploded with cries of foul play, including an assertion from former NSA Director Michael Hayden that Trump should be cuffed and taken downtown:

“Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him.”

While perhaps any ordinary citizen would find themselves under the glare of a bare lightbulb for the duration, what is the risk Trump will be held accountable for his brazen remark?

In an unusual moment of panic-driven clarity his campaign staff issued the following statement, no doubt with a cadre of legal advisers as ad hoc editors:

“It’s called the power of unification — 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power. And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.” (emphasis mine)

That may seem like the bull shit it truly is, but the word “unification” is a sly pre-emptive legal maneuver based on Supreme Court precedent which protects otherwise violent speech that seeks to unify.

Justia Law informs us that, while the area remains a bit murky, there are bits and pieces of legal precedent available to those wishing to cover their butts — legally speaking. A number of cases have dealt with First Amendment protections and threatening speech, including Watts v. United States in which the defendant, Watts, a military draft protestor during the Vietnam era stated at a public rally that “If they ever make me carry a rifle, the first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J.” The Supreme Court decided that his speech was protected because it was not a “true threat” intended to incite others to act and was mere “political hyperbole.”

However, the next major test of violent speech, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Company delved a bit deeper into the topic of intent. This is where the idea of unification for a cause comes into play. The court conditionally protected violent speech:

“An advocate must be free to stimulate his audience with spontaneous and emotional appeals for unity and action in a common cause. When such appeals do not incite lawless action, they must be regarded as protected speech.” (emphasis mine)

Trump’s words may only meet half of that test though. Another case, Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists, a case involving the incited murder of abortion providers put before the Ninth Circuit offers some much-needed illumination on the topic of what defines a “true threat”:

“[A] statement which, in the entire context and under all the circumstances, a reasonable person would foresee would be interpreted by those to whom the statement is communicated as a serious expression of intent to inflict bodily harm upon that person… It is not necessary that the defendant intend to, or be able to carry out his threat; the only intent requirement for a true threat is that the defendant intentionally or knowingly communicate the threat.” (again, emphasis mine)

A lone wolf call has been made by this mad man, and no clever press release in the world can un-ring that bell.

Trump’s dangerous 15 second blunder on video here:

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Striking Back at the GOP’s War on Women — On All Fronts

“The highest court in the land has affirmed that each of us deserves compassion, respect, and dignity in making health decisions. Now it’s time to work toward a future in which all of us—wherever we may live and however much we earn—can get safe & affordable abortion care if & when we need it.”All Above All statement on reproductive rights after the recent Supreme Court decision

Texas strike down -- All Above All

Photo: All Above All

As recently as last week, much ado about nothing was made over the issue of reproductive rights and Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, a practicing Catholic who like many of his faith are willing to tolerate some cognitive dissonance in order to support a women’s right to choose.

How important is the presidential election in terms of women’s reproductive rights?

A President Clinton would stay the course on Roe v. Wade, with a progressive Supreme Court nominee and a willingness to wield the power of the veto pen. No threats to women’s health rights in Washington with her at the helm.

However, a Trump occupancy of the oval office would be a crapshoot on abortion, as with everything else, including thermal nuclear war. The Republican nominee has vacillated from vowing to criminalize abortion seekers in one breath, to calling himself “prolife with exceptions” as he exhales. Under Trump, all matters of state will be subject to the shifting moods of a chimeric child, who just this week proved he doesn’t even like babies. A manbaby himself, he will control women’s rights –leveraged as a bargaining chip against a Congress he’ll suddenly discover is impervious to his temper tantrums. He’ll need to get their attention with an ultra-conservative high court nominee — and Roe v. Wade will become history. Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, is about as dangerous on reproductive issues as they come — including his wacky beliefs that condoms are just too modern and they don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Yet, against the backdrop of the daily political gaffes and pyrotechnics in the national spotlight, it’s those elections at the state level that continue to plague the ongoing battle over uterine sovereignty.

Those who voted in Michigan’s primary election this week are among a minority of the electorate who understand what is truly at stake. Gerrymandering of districts has rendered a political lock on party bias of legislative seats — thus, lawmakers are chosen on the first Tuesday in August, not in November. Unfortunately, GOP incumbents ruled the day. And Michigan can expect more of the same.

When Gov. Snyder took office in 2011, one of the most conservative groups of Republican lawmakers moved into Lansing, controlling both houses, and poised to unleash a nonstop barrage of assaults on women’s reproductive health. They’ve attempted a number of TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) — laws designed to make it impossible for clinics to function due to unnecessary regulatory burdens. GOP lawmakers also tried multiple times to sneak through proposals for forced transvaginal probe requirements on patients prior to abortions, with one such bill still pending in the House Committee on Health Policy. One of their most reviled achievements is the rape insurance law — requiring women to seek additional insurance for abortion coverage, even in the case of rape.

Last year, in response to the bogus Planned Parenthood tapes which where doctored to appear to show the organization was marketing baby parts for profit, Michigan conservatives rolled-out a number of proposals, all disingenuously intended to solve a problem that was clearly fabricated just to drum-up support, and dollars, from the far right.

Michigan lawmakers were successful in enacting one TRAP law back in 2012 which requires certain clinics to be licensed as freestanding outpatient surgical facilities, thereby potentially limiting the number of available clinics. Michigan is one of 25 states to have a similar kind of TRAP law on the books. However, a comparable law in Texas was recently struck-down by the U.S. Supreme Court for creating an undue burden on women seeking abortion services. The decision was remarkable given the unequivocal concurring opinion of Justice Ginsburg, who wrote in no uncertain terms that TRAP laws like these will not “survive judicial inspection.”

The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group on sexual and reproductive health, provides a interactive tracking database on reproductive healthcare which indicates the women of Michigan are grossly underserved. One-third of women aged 15-44 are living in areas without an abortion provider, with an ongoing trend of decreasing service, leaving over 80 percent of the state’s 83 counties unserved.

Twice a year Guttmacher additionally publishes a state-level report on legislative initiatives potentially impacting reproductive rights. The July 2016 report finds that Michigan lawmakers are not alone in their continued offensive on sexual and reproductive health rights. In just the first half of this year, 32 legislatures have attempted to ban or curtail abortion:

32 states

Source: Guttmacher Institute

However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for reproductive rights. Headway is slowly being made in an effort to repeal the Hyde Amendment — a provision attached to annual appropriation bills for the past four decades to prevent the use of federal funds for abortions, more specifically Medicaid dollars, with some exceptions in extreme cases.

Guttmacher published an analysis last month on the impact of the Hyde Amendment. They discovered, to no one’s surprise, that it disproportionately impacts low-income populations, and primarily women of color. Nationally, seven million women of reproductive age, half living below the poverty level, are unable to use their Medicaid coverage for abortion services. Slightly more than half of them are women of color.

So, where’s the good news?

Guttmacher reports is that grassroots organizers and activists are working hard to get the message out in both Congress and in state legislatures. Their efforts also include:

  • All Above All, a network of reproductive rights and justice groups, has led the grassroots effort through activities such as social media, college campus visits and a petition to Congress.
  • Digital campaigns, including the 1 in 3 Campaign and #ShoutYourAbortion, encourage women to share their stories about abortion in order to destigmatize the procedure and strengthen support for abortion access.
  • In Congress, legislators are gathering support for the EACH Woman Act and the Women’s Health Protection Act, both of which directly aim to roll back federal and state restrictions on abortion coverage and care.

As long as there remain conservative lawmakers bent on returning us to the stone age, the fight for reproductive rights marches on.

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Step Aside Cleveland, Michigan’s Got its Own GOP Sh*tshow – Follow the Money

There’s a New Easy-to-Use Tool Now Available to Follow the Money in Michigan Politics

“Right now, it can be difficult for a member of the public to find the true answer to the question of who’s given the most to my representative. The idea behind this new tool is simple: Make it easier for people to investigate who’s written the largest disclosed checks over time to benefit specific elected officials.” — Craig Mauger, executive director of Michigan Campaign Finance Network


Image: Occupy.Com

It’s been a brutally hot summer, and understandably many of those otherwise adroit members of the electorate have glazed-over from the GOP’s flaming dumpster parade. Yet, for those precious few Michigan voters still in possession of their faculties, who find themselves capable of peeling their weary eyes away from the rolling RNC shitshow in Cleveland (literally, with a norovirus garnish), there is a valuable new resource available for them to use to examine the fundraising habits of those equally critical down-ballot officials.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network has developed a user-friendly searchable database designed to reveal who is buying state lawmakers, along with various other officials. Because now, more than ever, it’s important to take a break from the national conflagration, and spend a moment considering the political landscape at home. Hate to agree with Ted Cruz, but more attention must be paid to state and local elections.

Every two years the entirety of the Michigan House is up for grabs — a biennial prescription for a legislative logjam deep in the bowels of Lansing. It’s a condition especially prone during the busy campaign fundraising season. Starting in January, and running through November, with no meaningful action through the summer months other than a half-assed budget — all of Michigan suffers. Relief is not achieved until the lame-duck session in December, when the retentive sluices open-up to spew forth some of the most foul proposals — effluent intended as a giant stinking thank you to big money donors, and a flaming bag of crap for constituents.

Naturally, Michigan House members are cranky. Just imagine if you could only unload every two years.

MCFN header


The new MCFN database provides us with an easy-access, detailed list of the corporate laxatives Lansing prefers. It’s much easier to navigate than the clunky secretary of state site. No cramping, very smooth.

In addition to lawmakers, the new tracking tool includes the governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and funds for both party caucuses in each house. Naturally, of interest are the monied sponsors of current Attorney General Bill Schuette, with his gubernatorial aspirations and political machinations well-known over the years. His snail’s crawl to the governor’s mansion is no secret, with him occupying every elected office below, excluding dog-catcher. Schuette’s political finance profile includes many of the corporate heavy-hitters expected in Michigan politics. It’s worth a look-see.

The MCFN tracking tool identifies top donors to each candidate, and additionally discloses various sources not necessarily tracked by the secretary of state, such as PACs, administrative accounts, and reporting nonprofits. The database provides voters with a more complete picture of the money trail. The information is updated regularly as new reports and disclosures become available.

So, get on it folks! — See who’s bankrolling your elected leaders.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin


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