Thank god I’m (now) a Democrat

Remember that Tea Party protest sign years ago? “Keep government out of my Medicare!”

That pretty much summed up the whole Tea Party movement. These folks were used and abused by the Koch brothers, who greased the wheels of the Tea Party Patriots to get the rabble all riled up. They were supposedly protesting taxes, but it was a time of historically low taxes. Then they were supposedly protesting Obamacare, but only 20% of the population would be eligible for Obamacare, and for them it was a godsend. No, it is not a coincidence that the Tea Party idiots came out of the woodwork in 2009, when the first African-American president was sworn into office. “I want my America back,” one stupid woman famously wailed in a moment of rare honesty.

Let’s be honest. Turn off the reactionary part of your brain and face facts. President Obama is not a communist, not a socialist, and not really all that much of a liberal. He’s NOT coming to take your guns, he is NOT a secret Muslim, and, yes, he WAS born in the United States, if you admit that Hawaii is a state. Obama’s two most famous accomplishments – the early stimulus program (including the Detroit “bailout”) and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) – were Republican ideas.

Yes, his thinking on same-sex marriage evolved, as did Joe Biden’s, as did Hillary Clinton’s, but only after seeing the polls that said the American people were way ahead of him. If you are opposed to same-sex marriage today, you are in a certain minority. Even so, trust me that no one will force you to gay-marry.

Even his “assault on the [precious] Second Amendment” didn’t go as far as the vast majority of Americans (and Republicans!) wanted him to go. He did what he did through executive order, the same process that every president before him has used to effect change. Why is it that everything Obama does is an attack on our freedoms, when every president has done much the same? Because he’s black.

This president has been disrespected in ways that were never done before (i.e.: to the 43 old white guys that preceded him). From his very first State of the Union address (“YOU LIE!”), from the night of his inauguration when key Republicans held a meeting and determined that they would oppose EVERYTHING that Obama wanted, from Mitch McConnell’s famous declaration that the Republican Party’s Number One Task would be to render Obama a one-term president, there has been a unilateral, nasty, and (frankly) treasonous effort on the part of the right to deny this man his duly-elected office. The Republican leadership was willing to watch the American economy go down the toilet, rather than allow this president the chance to help, and thereby take credit for having done so. (If that’s not treason… )

Let’s look at who the Republicans have put forth to challenge for the White House this year, to succeed a good, gracious, thoughtful, and patient man.

Donald Trump is a joke. Period. Who has he not attacked? Even his recent statement that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and it wouldn’t cost him a single vote is disgusting, arrogant, and true, because the drooling right-wing 10% loves him (for all the wrong reasons).

Trump recently polled at 39% of “likely Republican voters.” Even with a healthy 50% voter turnout, this 39% would be more like 20% of Republican voters. Assuming Republicans and Democrats vote in equal numbers (reference the last three presidential elections), that 20% would be 10% of all voters. And since not all Americans are registered voters (too young or too dumb), Trump is actually polling in single digits, where the whole of the U.S. is concerned. In this light, you can see that it truly is the less than 10% drooling right-wing that supports Trump, a fraction of the American public that is getting ALL the attention in the press these days. And increasingly, Trump supporters include white supremecists, who feel emboldened now to come out from under their hoods, because they’ve found a new national spokesman.

Ted Cruz is dangerous. And a liar. With a fluid philosophy that changes as circumstances warrant. He is incredibly bright, calculating, and wholly evil. He may, in fact, be the Antichrist, but I won’t go there. Yet.

Marco Rubio is a little child having a temper tantrum. He is so eager to prove that he’s every bit as manly as Trump, every bit as Constitution-centric as Cruz, that he’s embarrassing himself on a national stage. Before this campaign, he actually showed promise.

Jeb Bush… no.

Chris Christie is his own biggest fan and one hell of a blowhard. Keep your “Jersey attytood” in Jersey. (And now he will, apparently.)

The rest aren’t worth a mention.

If I were a Republican and HAD to vote for one of the current Republican candidates, I would vote for John Kasich. Simply because he is not a rabid, drooling hatemonger spouting nonsensical red meat phrases guaranteed to entertain the rubes, Kasich gets my vote. He is centered, honest, sensical, and has a solid record of actual governance – including negotiation and compromise with the opposite party.

Yes, I “would” vote for Kasich on commonsense ideas, except that I cannot abide his stance on social issues. Common to most Republicans, his thinking on women’s health, social programs, and much else held dear by the progressive element is anathema. If it were a choice of one, I’d stay home, rather than vote for this man.

Like so many others, I was convinced early on that the Republican nomination was Jeb Bush’s to lose. When Trump entered the race, and for months after that, I believed his campaign was a satire, a funny “impression” of a campaign. All of the news sources treated him that way, too. But after a time, something strange happened – the journalists started treating Donald Trump as if he were a serious candidate.

Want a serious candidate? The Democrats have two this time. Both are competent, compassionate, and capable of leading the U.S. While the “clown car” that is the Republican slate continues lurching its way along, Sanders and Clinton show a glimpse of what used to be – politics that is respectful, courteous, fact-checked, intelligent.

Yeah, it’s good to be a Democrat.

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Living with an SUV

The 2016 Ford Escape SE

I never wanted a “sport utility vehicle.”

07_escapeMy wife had leased a series of Ford Escapes (2004, 2007, 2010) and loved them, but it always struck me as like driving a truck. I preferred a somewhat lower center of gravity, a steadier track through the twisties, and – above all else – a manual transmission. You know, “driving.” Oddly, when Ford redesigned the Escape for the 2013 model year, my wife didn’t care for it and instead picked out a Focus SE. After playing with her new car for a week, I picked out a Focus of my own. That was three years ago, and the leases for these two expired at the end of October. In talking about our next vehicles, we decided to go with only one.

1978 Ford Mustang IIThe last time the two of us shared one vehicle, it was the new 1978 Mustang II we bought for $5,000 shortly before we married. We kept that car for ten years, 110,000 miles. Our babies became young children and almost entered their teen years in the back seat of that car. Eventually, we would add a second vehicle, and then that’s how we rolled for almost 30 years now.

We decided to go with one vehicle, since rarely did we really need two, so one or the other was just sitting. But with only one vehicle, it had to be a one-size-fits-all approach.

  • The layout had to be flexible, whether for passengers or cargo. That meant a “utility vehicle.”
  • It had to be at least front wheel drive, for slippery conditions and/or snow.
  • The vehicle had to be efficient, economical, good looking, with a bit of fun factor.

16_escapeThat’s the 2016 Ford Escape.

The Focus showed that we really needed a vehicle with room on occasion – space for large loads, like a Christmas tree or an appliance or a piece of furniture.

My old Mustangs would be stopped and garaged by as little as 1/4″ of snow. This was okay when we had a second vehicle with front wheel drive, but with only one vehicle now it has to be front wheel drive. The Escape has “intelligent four wheel drive,” and I can’t wait to see how it handles the white stuff.

The interior of the Escape is very similar to the Focus, so we’re used to the layout. The seating is a bit more upright, but there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve had several trips to the grocery store by now, but not an excuse yet to fold the rear seats flat and extend the cargo room. And the rear seats fold FLAT, unlike the Focus, in a 60/40 option.

The Escape is a bit of a pig. The Focus would get an average 30mpg on its 12-gallon tank, so I usually filled up at 300 to 330 miles. The Escape doesn’t seem to get better than 24mpg, but it has a 15-gallon tank, so I still fill up every 300 miles, but that fillup costs a bit more (say, 25% more).

And while the Focus had a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine, the Escape has an even smaller 1.6 liter four, but it’s turbocharged. This is the same Ford EcoBoost engine also found in the exciting Fiesta ST, but in the larger, heavier Escape body, it’s not about to power down any quarter miles. Still, it does have surprising pickup for a tiny engine in a large body.

(The other options for the Escape are a less-powerful 2.5 liter four or the 2.0 liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine from the Focus ST.)

Major caveat – I don’t care for SUVs. I prefer my automobiles lower to the ground, a lower center of gravity, a stiffer ride. The latest Focus is a driver joy, with its European set-up and handling. The Escape is too high and too soft for my tastes.

That said, I’ve pushed this Escape on highways and back roads, and it has never failed to hold up. At speeds up to 100mph on a straight highway, the track is solid, but I wouldn’t recommend such speeds as a routine. I doubt that the Escape has the accident avoidance capabilities of a performance automobile. The Focus would enter a tight turn and then want to accelerate through it. The Escape enters a tight turn, and then I hold my breath waiting for the tires to lose grip (they never have). There’s much more of an instinct to overbrake going into the turn. I tend to drive the Escape more like a truck.

Now here’s the funny part – the new Escape and Focus are built on the same platform and have surprisingly similar specifications:

Spec 2016Escape 2016 Focus
wheelbase 105.9″ 104.3″
length 178.1″ 178.7″
height 66.3″ 57.8″
width (w/mirrors) 81.8″ 80.5″
track front 61.5″ 61.2″

Other than height, the two vehicles are within an inch of each other. The Escape sits higher, with a higher center of gravity, so there’s a feeling that it’ll want to tip over in a tight turn (it doesn’t). Still, there’s a reluctance to dive into a corner or to apply throttle to pull through a turn.

This Escape is equipped with a reverse camera, which allows you to see what’s behind you at bumper level. VERY handy for backing up to an object (wall, curb, paper leaf bags) and for parking (of course). The two colored lines extend directly from the back bumper outward and show distance markers. Turning the steering wheel generates two white lines that show where the vehicle will go if the turn is maintained.


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The First Woman President

I was saying on Twitter last night that Hillary’s campaign is like a crash course in misogyny.

I am married to a strong (and often opinionated) woman, and I have a grown daughter who is one of the finest people you’re ever likely to meet. I thought I was attuned to the troubles that women face in everyday life, but my eyes are being opened wide these days and it’s exceedingly ugly.

When I scan the replies to Secretary Clinton’s tweets or even to tweets of people who just express an interest in voting for her, I see nasty, nasty, nasty people out there with a profound hatred of everything woman. I don’t get it.

There was much to-do recently over a segment on Morning Joe (MSNBC) where host Joe Scarborough and journalist Bob Woodward waxed poetic about Hillary’s speaking style – “she shouts too much.” Shrieks, too. They went on and on about her shrill voice turning off potential voters and how the great Ronald Reagan knew how to hold a mic and keep his voice down (’cause, you know, “man”).

Hillary shouts

Someone put together a video mix in response, showing some of the male candidates shouting and yelling, and at the end was Hillary just quietly answering a serious question. Now which talk show hosts are complaining about all of these men shouting? At best, they get made fun of on SNL or The Daily Show.

In my humble opinion, the real shrieker – the voice I can’t stand hearing – is Ted Cruz. There’s almost a cartoonish quality to his voice, a “regional theater” practiced style (as one writer put it), that I cannot abide. And listening to Donald Trump on the stump is like having a conversation with a gangster.

Hillary Clinton has been hounded, investigated, interrogated, called before Congressional committees, slandered, insulted, held up as Satan’s spawn or the ultimate expression of the Evil That is Woman

One of the questions that folks love to keep asking is why Hillary made $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman-Sachs over the course of a year. I thought she answered it very well during a recent town hall event: “Well, that’s what they offered me.” Fact is, Hillary is very much in demand as a speaker, and her average fee per event is $225,000, ranging up to as much as $400,000 for a single appearance. She can get that because she has earned that. She was, after all, The Most Admired Woman in the World for 20 of the 23 years 1993 through 2015. But ONLY HILLARY is asked to make public transcriptions of her speeches, whether to Goldman-Sachs and clients or whomever. Who else has EVER been asked for this?

I wonder if anyone has ever asked any of the male candidates (of which there are many) about their own speaking fees. I know that some of W’s post-presidential appearances were criticized because of WHO he was talking to, but no one ever thought he was being overpaid. In fact, I just Googled “Ted Cruz speaking fees,” and I got an article about his loans from Goldman-Sachs, a link to his agency, a couple more articles about questionable dealings, and then a WHOLE BUNCH of articles about Hillary Clinton and Goldman-Sachs. So if Ted Cruz is speechifying and collecting fees, nobody is talking about it.

Women who support Hillary are accused of “voting with their vagina” (yes, really), as if the only reason a woman would vote for Hillary is because she is a woman. No man is ever accused of voting with his penis, if he supports any of the male candidates. (This might also have something to do with the fact that, other than Shirley Chisholm, we’ve only EVER had old white men to vote for.)

“Bernie Bros” have all kinds of reasons why they are voting for Bernie Sanders, thereby codifying their intellectual superiority. They must think that if you are going to vote for Hillary Clinton, it’s only because you haven’t done any research and you’re voting with your heart, not your head. (In other words, you’re WRONG and probably a woman.)

Since Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, Hillary Clinton has been hounded, investigated, interrogated, called before Congressional committees, slandered, insulted, held up as Satan’s spawn or the ultimate expression of the Evil That is Woman. And still, today, she handles it with aplomb, with quiet strength. Watching her testify before the Benghazi committee (STILL ongoing) and the stark vision of this competent woman versus a host of Republican men dying to make their bones by bringing her (finally) down, I couldn’t help but be mightily impressed.

Clinton at Congress

Most of the candidates running for president this year are a joke, of one kind or another. But of all of the candidates on either side, the strongest is a woman, and Hillary Clinton is the one I want to see in the Oval Office.

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