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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Finding Comfort in Little Things

The United States has been upended since the election of a thin-skinned, lying, narcissistic bully and sexual predator. 

Things that previously seemed certain are now very uncertain. We are confronted daily with threats to our civil rights and freedoms, not to mention to the world order. The new president is so far ruling by fiat, signing executive order after executive order, with no apparent attempts to work with Congress. To many both domestically and internationally, our country has become a very scary place, as well as a laughingstock.

To try and maintain my sanity in the midst of this uncertainty and national disunity, I have found myself seeking comfort in small things: a cup of herbal tea before bed, planning an overseas trip (Namibia and Brazil are high on the list), baking, photographing my dogs, listening to music and reading on my new Kindle. I have been an avid reader since I was a little child, and with my new e-reader, I can now carry several books with me on my travels without the weight and bulk of paperback books. Reading allows me to suspend my worries, learn about interesting people, places and events, and on occasion enjoy some well-written fiction.

I also treated myself to a walk along a little-used levee to break up the monotony of walking in my neighborhood as I do every day. I enjoy watching a beautiful sunrise over the mountains as I sit at my desk. Going back to bed after taking care of my dogs on a cold, dreary winter morning is always a welcome treat. My comfortable mattress is even more comfortable when I am snuggled among the flannel sheets and soft blankets. 

And of course, I am doing even more writing these days. Although my readership is small, my blog reaches people around the world. And I have so much to write about these days. The new president and his cronies provide a never-ending series of topics. And I believe it is incumbent on all of us to make our feelings known. 

The little things in which I take comfort have a big job ahead of them if I am to survive the new administration with any semblance of sanity.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I Hope Trump Fails

I've read several posts on Facebook to the effect that "I don't want Trump to fail, because if he fails, the country fails."

Well, folks, I do hope he fails.
  • I hope his plans to 'build a wall' along the border with Mexico that will cost the US taxpayer a minimum of $11 billion fail. We have far more important things on which to spend our money.
  • I hope his plans to set up a registry of Muslims in America fail. If he insists on doing this, expect to see many non-Muslim Americans joining the registry in protest.
  • I hope his (and Congress's) plans to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and not replace it fail, so more than 20 million Americans will not be left with no health insurance.
  • I hope his (and Congress's) plans to slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security fail.
  • I hope his plans to isolate the United States from the world fail. In our global economy and very interconnected world, we -- the most powerful country on the planet -- cannot afford to isolate ourselves.
  • I hope his plans to remove the US from the United Nations fail. Now more than ever, we need a forum where countries can try to work out their differences peacefully rather than resorting to war.
  • I hope Trump's plans to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv, the Israeli capital, to Jerusalem -- a city venerated by all three monotheistic religions -- fail. Relocating the embassy to a city claimed by Muslims as well as by Jews and Christians will set the search for peace in that region back even further. 
  •  I hope he fails in his war on the news media. We need a free press now more than ever.
  • I hope he fails in his plans to remove the United State from NATO. Our allies in Europe need to know that the United States has their backs. And countries such as the Baltic States, Ukraine and others need to know that the US will not allow Russia to invade them again.
  • I hope his and Congress's war on women's reproductive rights fails. Women, not a bunch of old men, should be in control of their bodies. And if insurance companies cover the cost of Viagra for men, they should cover the cost of birth control for women.
  • I hope he fails in his (and others') plan to clamp down on peaceful protests and freedom of speech.
  • I hope he fails in his attempts to gut or eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act. Doing so will threaten our environment and put even more species on the brink of extinction.
  • I hope he and other government officials fail in their efforts to roll back laws that offer equal treatment and protection to the LGBT community.
  • I hope he fails in his efforts to discredit climate change and efforts to protect our planet from the effects of increasing worldwide temperatures

I do hope he is successful in strengthening our economy and creating new, good-paying jobs. I hope he is successful in humanely -- key word, humanely -- figuring out how to control our borders. I hope he and his military leaders are finally successful in eliminating the threat to the world by ISIS and similar radical Islamic terrorist organizations. I hope he is successful in preventing terror attacks at home and on US interests abroad, I hope he is successful in reforming the tax codes if -- if -- doing so will benefit all Americans, not just the most wealthy. I hope he is successful in uniting a very divided country and in making all Americans feel valued and safe.

Time will tell what kind of president Trump will be. At the present, tens of millions of people in the United States are extremely fearful and worried about his presidency. Let us hope he uses the immense power of his office to benefit all. The world is watching.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Psychology of Eating

The psychology of eating is a new interest of mine, sparked by the loss last summer of my ability to taste or smell anything.

Since I came home from England with a terrible upper respiratory infection last July, I have been unable to smell or taste anything. The ear, nose and throat doctor I saw believes the infection either killed or seriously damaged my olfactory nerve, and that my condition is not likely to get any better.

So since then, I have not been able to enjoy the taste or smell of food. I can still smell dangerous or toxic things such as bleach, nail polish remover or sulfur in the air at Yellowstone National Park. The nerves that alert me to those dangers still work. But no longer can I enjoy the smell of a flower or perfume.

I have never been a 'foodie' or enjoyed expensive or fancy meals. But I did enjoy grilled salmon, fresh-baked bread and cookies, and the aroma of home-cooked (not microwaved) meals that would fill the house.

Some people with anosmia -- the lack of the ability to smell -- overeat in an attempt to compensate for the loss. Others eat less because they can no longer enjoy the food they eat. I am in the middle. My eating habits haven't really changed, and my weight has remained the same. 

I have handled the loss pretty well, although there are times when I feel saddened. It took a while for me to realize that there is no point in ordering a slice of yummy dark chocolate cake, because it is devoid of flavor. Although I no longer am able to enjoy the sweet taste of ripe strawberries, something I love, I still make a point to eat berries and other fruit because I know these things are good for me. I still savor my morning cup of hot spiced tea every 
morning, although I may as well be drinking a cup of hot water. 

This is where the psychology of eating comes to play. I continue to eat the things I have always enjoyed despite not being able to taste them. In my mind, I am enjoying the taste of chocolate or salmon or fresh berries. Once in a great while I get a hint of the flavor of something, as I did while in Costa Rica last year. I was able to slightly taste the seasoned rice and beans that are part of every meal. Sometimes I detect a hint of cinnamon in my breakfast cereal, but most of the time I might as well be eating the cardboard box.

Food is such an integral part of modern life. We like to get together with friends and family to share a meal, and many of us enjoy making a special meal to share. I have a local friend with whom I get together for lunch fairly regularly, to catch up with each other's lives. We still do this despite my inability to enjoy my meal.

If I have to lose one or two of my senses, I guess that not being able to smell or taste anything is the easiest to lose. I can't imagine not being able to see or hear, although I have lived with a major loss of hearing in one ear for more than 50 years.

I will keep hoping that by some miracle, I will regain at least some of my lost senses. Until then, my mind will have to remind me of the foods that I once enjoyed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What Are You Doing on Inauguration Day?

What will you be doing on Jan. 20, inauguration day in the U.S.?

On that sad day, the United States will get a new president, elected by only a quarter of the population of the country. I refer to that day as coronation day, as the president-elect is already acting like a king whose country's laws do not apply to him and his family.

So it will indeed be a sad day for our nation and the world, to have as its leader someone who is more obsessed with beating Arnold Schwarzenegger's reality television show ratings than in getting national security briefings. This is someone who packed his only news conference with paid staff to cheer his answers and to boo reporters' questions. This is someone whose party meets in the middle of the night to begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act that provides health insurance to more than 20 million Americans, with absolutely no plan to replace it. This is someone who attacked via Twitter John Lewis, who nearly died in his fight for civil rights in the 1960s. This is someone who canceled his announced visit to the Smithsonian's Museum of African-American History on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

As I recently responded to someone on Facebook who asked how people plan to observe that day, I intend to wash socks, clean toilets, pick up dog poop from my yard, and perhaps read a book or watch a movie. Since the fuhrer-in-waiting is obsessed with ratings and having the biggest this or being the best that, I intend to join others who hope to make this the least-watched inaugural of recent times. My television set will be turned on to any channel that doesn't carry the inaugural. That way, statistics will show a larger number of viewers watching anything except the coronation.

But of course, he will lie, as he always does, and say his inaugural was the biggest and the best ever. After all, 'many people' will tell him that. He has already lied when he boasted that Washington, D.C.-area dress shops have sold out of ball gowns. In reality, the demand has been extremely low. A mere 200 buses have requested parking permits on Jan. 20, but 1,200 have requested permits for the following day, when the Women's March will take place.

His inauguration committee has been unable to get any A-list entertainers or performers to participate. The traditional parade will be extremely short due to the refusal of many organizations to take part. But of course, according to his people, that's to allow the new president to get right to work. But work on what? Dismantling the Affordable Care Act? Gutting Social Security and Medicare? Selling public lands to the highest bidder?

So on Jan. 20, I will join with many other Americans in refusing to watch, either on television or online, any part of the inaugural events. I will also stay away from Facebook on Jan. 20 to avoid seeing anything about the coronation. I will turn my profile photo black as a sign of mourning for our nation. Please join us in refusing to watch the coronation ceremony. It's a small sign of defiance, but if enough people speak up, perhaps we can in fact derail the fuhrer's plans.

Monday, January 16, 2017

I Am Tired

I am tired. Very tired. My soul aches.

I am tired of everything that is wrong with this world.

I am tired of watching members of Congress rape and pillage our country to line their own pockets. I am tired of Congress taking benefits from middle and lower class Americans to line their pockets and those of their rich friends and corporate benefactors. I am tired of watching the president-elect attack good people -- people who have accomplished so much more than he ever will -- simply for disagreeing with him. 

I am tired of state legislators in my state wanting to solve the ongoing budget shortfall by again taxing food and getting online companies to collect sales tax on purchases, despite the companies having no physical presence in the state. Raising taxes, whether sales, gasoline or new taxes, hits hardest those who can least afford it. Whatever happened to living within one's means, whether one is an individual or a government?

I am tired of having to fight to keep our public lands from being sold to mining or logging companies. I am tired of having to fight to protect our wildlife, especially our predators, from being hunted to extinction for 'fun' or 'sport' or to placate the cattle ranchers. I am tired of watching our planet -- our one and only home -- be destroyed by humans, whether through overpopulation or climate change or greed or massive amounts of garbage and other pollution.

I am tired of divisiveness and hate crimes and misogyny. I am tired of innocent people being murdered while shopping, doing homework or going to church. I am tired of elephants and rhinoceros being slaughtered to feed the insatiable demand for ivory trinkets.and rhino horn magic potions. I am tired of people being insulted or discriminated against because of their religion or race. I am tired of religious fanatics of all faiths trying to force others to live according to the fanatics' belief system. I am tired of wars and attacks on innocent people trying to get on with their lives.

I am tired of species after species being pushed to the brink of extinction. I am tired of cruelty toward animals being acceptable. I am tired of women leaving their infants with their boyfriends to abuse and kill. This has happened repeatedly in New Mexico. The mother goes to work and leaves her baby with the boyfriend, who kills or severely abuses the baby. I am tired of women having to fight to retain control of their bodies, to choose what course is right for them in their unique circumstances.

All these things that make me so emotionally tired don't have to be that way. Abuse, killing, pollution, greed -- all these things don't have to happen. We as a species should be -- can be -- better than this. There are enough resources to support everyone if we use them wisely and fairly. We don't need another shopping mall or coffee shop or development in what used to be wilderness. We don't need to build more gigantic houses. We don't need ivory trinkets or magic potions made of keratin. There is room enough for bison and wolves, elephants and giraffes, to exist in the lands they have occupied for millenia.

I am tired of feeling powerless. Please join me, find what makes you angry and tired of fighting for, and join the fight to make this world a better place. As the late Mother Teresa said, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Thanks So Much, Fellow Americans

I want to thank all those Americans who voted for Donald Trump in last November's presidential election, as well as those who voted to give Republicans a majority in both houses of Congress.

Thanks to you, more than 20 million Americans are about to lose their medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to you, those who were forced to pay into Social Security and Medicare through decades of payroll taxes are at great risk of having their benefits slashed. 

Despite Trump's campaign promise to leave Social Security and Medicare alone, and to 'repeal and replace' the ACA with something 'better', he and his colleagues in Congress have already taken steps to gut or cancel these life-saving programs. This pledge, like everything else that comes out of his mouth, is nothing more than a lie. The Republicans have had the past six years to come up with a replacement for the ACA, and of course they have nothing.

These so-called representatives, who represent only themselves and their wealthy benefactors, are in such a hurry to kill the ACA that they have resorted to meeting in the middle of the night to avoid public scrutiny of their underhanded actions. 

Apparently these selfish, greedy, self-entitled 'representatives' don't care that without medical insurance, people will go bankrupt trying to pay for medical care, and possibly die without treatment. And I suppose they feel that the senior citizens living on their $9,000/year Social Security checks are living it up on their so-called 'entitlements.'

Medicare pays for my twice yearly injections to treat osteoporosis, each of which costs $2,520. When I was first diagnosed, my doctor prescribed a much cheaper pill because that's what the insurance company required. Unfortunately, I developed a severe allergic reaction to this medication. She referred me to a specialist, who gave me a choice of two equally expensive treatments. Would I die if I could no longer afford these injections? No, but my risk of broken bones and the required treatment, possibly including surgery, hospitalization and physical therapy, would far exceed the cost of the preventive injections, not to mention the impact to my quality of life. 

Never in my more than 60 years on this planet have I been more disgusted by and angry at the members of Congress. They seem to see their positions of power as nothing more than a way to enrich themselves and their wealthy friends. I would love to know how much it cost the insurance industry lobbyists to buy off the members of Congress dead set on removing health insurance from people who otherwise would have none.

Did those who blindly swallowed Trump's promises think that he -- a self-entitled, narcissistic multibillionaire sexual predator -- would actually care about the working class of America? And according to Sen. Bernie Sanders, "If the ACA is repealed, the wealthiest 400 families would receive a tax cut worth an average of $7 million each." Now there's a real surprise ... NOT.

I'm really disappointed that so many Americans were willing to ignore Trump's misogyny, his attacks on Muslims and Hispanics, his mockery of the disabled, his history of refusing to pay individuals and businesses he hired and who performed the agreed-upon work for him, only to be stiffed. His supporters may claim they are not racist or misogynists or any other despicable kind of person, but he showed very clearly during the campaign what kind of person he is. And they chose to vote for him.

Regardless of why they voted for Trump and his cronies, the bottom line is, they supported this vile person and put him, with the collaboration of the electoral college, into the most powerful position on the planet. And let it be known that I was not a fan of Hillary Clinton or of the other candidates for the presidency. I have never voted a 'straight ticket' in any election. My choice of candidates depends solely on their position on issues of importance to me.

So thanks a lot. I'd like to think that only those who voted for this reprobate will suffer the damage his administration will inflict, but sadly, all Americans will pay the price as well. Well done, fellow Americans. I hope you are proud of yourselves.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The People You Meet

I travel for the opportunity to visit new places, to learn about different countries, people and cultures, and to be able to photograph these places.

My computer hard drive is filled with tens of thousands of digital images. But one of the things that stands out from my travels, even years after my return home, is the people I have encountered. I'm far from being a 'people person,' preferring my solitude and quiet to being in the thick of things. But every so often, I meet some memorable people during my travels.

I am still in touch via Facebook with my guide from my first trip to Kenya in 2014. We hope, his schedule permitting, to meet when I am again in Nairobi this summer. And I remember the conversations I had with some Russian women in Moscow when I lived there for a few months in 1999. One was an old lady sitting on a cement wall near a McDonald's restaurant. She was holding a sign asking for money to help feed her very old dogs, who rested near her feet on a piece of cardboard. I remember a brief conversation with another older woman near a famous Moscow convent. She was feeding a stray dog a cheese sandwich. When I told her that I would like to buy a bag of dog food for her from a nearby grocery store, after explaining that I carried dog food with me to help Moscow's many homeless dogs, she declined. She explained that while she lived on a measly pension, she wanted to help as best she could, and that whatever she did had to come from her.

I also remember sitting on a bench near the sea in Split, Croatia, during some free time. An older woman asked whether she could join me. In her broken English, she told me about life under the communist government of the former Yugoslavia. When she learned that I speak Russian, she recited a poem in Russian that she had been forced to learn while in school.

More recently in Ireland, I was in the small coffee shop of my hotel in Cork, having some tea and waiting for my room to be ready. A woman seated nearby engaged me in conversation and invited me to join her at her table. We decided to have lunch together. After lunch, she invited me to join her on a trip to the nearby marina. On the way, she treated me and the cab driver (whom she knew) to ice cream. I asked her for suggestions about what to see and do during my one full day in Cork, and we stay in touch via Facebook.

While in Kenya on safari last February, I fell and broke my wrist. The nurse who took me from my room to surgery introduced himself as Barack. I learned that he is a real student of American history, and he kept my mind off the incredible pain in my wrist by discussing American presidents. I told him he knows more about American history than do most Americans.  

The Scottish woman who was my tent mate during last year's trip to Kenya has become a friend, and we will once again share accommodations during this year's return visit to Kenya. We will be joined by an English couple we met on that trip. And I'm still in touch with a Kenyan man who works for the Save the Elephants group in Nairobi who kept me company as I waited to be discharged from the hospital following surgery. I was injured at the camp run by Save the Elephants, and the camp manager asked this man to keep me company. He assisted me in finding the correct office to accept payment for my stay, took me to lunch and then drove me to the airport to meet up with the camp manager and her husband, who flew me to my next destination.

I am still Facebook friends with one of the guides I met during my first visit to Turkey in 2013, and she has invited me to visit her and her family, something I hope to do. And an American woman I met during that trip has met me in Africa three consecutive years to explore that vast continent. She won't be able to travel in 2017 due to a medical issue, but we hope to meet again in Africa in 2018. 

I'm also still in touch with my Costa Rican guide from November's trips, as well as a British-American woman from Kenya who now lives in France. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to meet for dinner in England the delightful couple I met on a safari in South Africa.
And of course, I can't forget the several wonderful Americans I met during various travels with whom I am still in contact. 

Travel truly does make the world a smaller place. It broadens one's horizons and opens us to different ways of life. And it connects us to people we might otherwise never have met. When I hear about terror attacks in Kenya and Turkey, I can better relate because I have visited those places and I have friends who live there. Travel has taught me the value of making friends, and shown me that despite our differences, people are all the same.
I've heard it said that it is experiences, not things, that really matter and that we will remember. My life has been enriched by meeting these people, even if only for a few minutes. I treasure the relationships I have formed with those with whom I am still in contact, and I'm looking forward to creating more experiences and friendships in 2017.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Deep, Slow-Burning Anger

To say that I am angry is a gross understatement. 

My anger is not one of those 'You idiot! Why did you cut me off?" kinds of anger. It is not an anger that flares up brightly and then dies out. No, my anger is deep and slow burning. I know this isn't good for my health or my mind, but it shows no signs of going away any time soon. This is not about my candidate losing. I have backed losing candidates during previous elections at all levels of government. I did not strongly support any of the candidates for president. No, my anger and fear are about the fact that this country, with help from the Kremlin, elected a mentally ill, lying, tax-dodging, misogynistic, hate-filled bully. Add to that a large number of members of Congress who support him and his agenda, and our country is in real trouble.

The new US Congress wasn't even sworn in yet when it met in secret to approve legislation to gut the independent ethics committee. Word quickly got out, the general public flooded congressional offices with irate phone calls, Trump tweeted (what else?) his disapproval (not of the plan, but of the timing), and the bill was soon withdrawn.

So what was the next order of business of the new Congress? Was it dealing with the budget deficit? Infrastructure improvements? Defeating ISIS? Homeland security? Veterans? Creating jobs? No, it was a rush to allow the sale of public lands. Here's a simple explanation for the brain dead Republicans who think this is a great idea: Public means the lands belong to the American people. They do not belong to members of Congress to sell. 

Also high on the Republican to-do list is to repeal the Affordable Care Act (i.e., 'Obamacare') with no plans to replace it. Such a move would cost -- who else? -- the American taxpayers $350 BILLION, result in the loss of 3 million jobs, and leave more than 20 million Americans with no health insurance.

Another 'priority' is gutting Social Security and Medicare, long a dream of the weasel from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan. I guess these 'leaders' figure than the $9,000/year or so that some seniors get from Social Security is too much. I, and others, believe that members of Congress should get the same health and retirement plans as do everyday citizens.They were elected (why I will never understand) as 'representatives' of the people -- not as kings and rulers.

What Trump and his Republican henchmen are doing or planning to do should come as no surprise. They are doing what they said they would do -- destroy Obamacare, Medicare and Social Security. 

I also am angry about the growing attempts to roll back the hard-won rights that women and gays now enjoy. Are we to stand by silently and watch these rights be eliminated? I think not.

If there is a protest march in my area on inauguration day, I will be there. And I will join the millions of other angry, frightened Americans who will not watch the inauguration on television or online. We will not be on Facebook on Jan. 20 to avoid learning anything about the coronation of the incoming fuhrer. And until things change, we will continue to be angry.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Is This What America Has Become?

I hate politics, and I hate what it has done to our country. Politics this election cycle has made our population more divided and hate-filled than I can remember during my six decades on this planet.

Since this country elected its first African-American president eight years ago, the Republicans in Congress have done everything in their power to block his appointments and programs. 

Someone please tell me how being inveterate obstructionists is serving the people of America. Explain to me how going on a weeks-long break while leaving important legislation and decisions hanging helps this country address its myriad problems. What does refusing to even hold hearings on the president's nominee to the US Supreme Court do to advance our country? These people are acting like a bunch of preschoolers who won't play unless they get their way.

When I was working, refusing to do the job for which one is being paid would have been grounds for termination. But members of Congress set their own rules. They are, after all, not mere mortals. They know what is best for the country and for Americans.

And have you noticed that everything is Obama's fault? It doesn't matter that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were started by his predecessor, a Republican. Everything that goes wrong is Obama's fault. The most recent example of this is a story posted online about a veteran who allegedly froze to death while Syrian refugees lived in warm and toasty houses paid for by the government. The trouble is, this sad story, if true, happened in SWEDEN! This minor detail appears to have been either overlooked or ignored by some of those who posted comments. What is especially interesting is that people were upset because this might happen in the US because of the shameful way US veterans have been treated by the Obama administration.

A couple of points need to be made here: Treatment of veterans seeking medical care from a VA hospital has indeed been shameful. Months-long waits to see a doctor, and manipulation of waitlists to make the problem seem less severe, are totally inexcusable. But to blame this problem on the president is ludicrous. It's not as if he issued a secret executive order telling the VA to make veterans wait a long time for an appointment and then to lie about it.  Yes, this mess happened on Obama's watch, but it is unfair to blame the entire situation on him. And sadly, people in the US, veterans or not, do freeze to death every winter.

In my opinion, sharing this story and commenting that "Americans are a minority" in the US and that Obama is letting tens of thousands of 'unvetted' immigrants into the country is designed not to educate or to inform, but to inflame and to plant seeds of fear in the populace. If by "Americans" the commenter meant 'whites,' yes, this country will reach the point in a few years when whites do become a minority of residents. Even non-whites can be, and are, Americans. But exactly what is the point of posting this story? Is it to stir up more animosity toward immigrants because of what might happen? Exactly how does the act of admitting vetted immigrants result in the failure of the VA to provide timely medical care to veterans?

And what about calls to boycott Chobani yogurt because its founder is a Kurdish immigrant from Turkey who employs 300 immigrants from Syria and other countries among his 2,000 employees? In addition to helping these immigrants support themselves and their families, he also gives a large portion of his considerable wealth to help refugees around the world. Sounds like a real threat to America, doesn't he? Would those calling for a yogurt boycott prefer that the immigrants remain jobless and thus more prone to the call of Islamic radicals to join their cause?

Consider all the hate crimes being carried out in America, whether the targets are blacks, Muslims, gays, Jews or police officers. And let's not forget all the statements from the Republican president-elect and his fellow party members demeaning women. Comments about "legitimate rape" and other equally ludicrous statements are not uncommon among this group of 'leaders.'

And just this week, Republican Congressmen -- as the first act of the new Congress -- met in secret session to approve legislation that would gut an independent ethics committee. After a huge public uproar and objection by Trump (who opposed the timing but not the content of the legislation), the bill was quickly withdrawn. Now these same 'representatives' have set their sights on repealing the Affordable Care Act, although they have no plans to replace it. If this happens, some 20 million Americans will suddenly be without medical insurance. And they plan to 'reform' both Medicare and Social Security, which means slashing benefits. I guess these fine folks don't give a damn about the millions of seniors who rely on Social Security to live, and who need Medicare to deal with their health needs. As a Republican from Nevada stated in a speech, the elderly are just a drain on society anyway.

Don't get me started on Republican efforts to sell public lands -- our lands -- to private enterprises. Or maybe the lands will be handed over to the states so they can be 'developed'. 

So this is what our once-great nation has become. Let's give even more tax breaks to the millionaires, billionaires and corporations, and take even more from those least able to afford it. 

Is this how Trump and his minions plan to 'make America great again'? One thing I know for sure -- the American public is prepared to keep a watchful eye on everything the incoming administration does and to raise hell if it tries to do anything to enrich itself to the detriment of the populace.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Year Ahead

It's Jan. 1, the first day of 2017.

I can't say I was sad to see the end of 2016. Like every year, it had its ups and downs. 

On the down side, I broke my wrist while on safari in Kenya and needed emergency surgery at 1 a.m. Despite having one of the top surgeons in Kenya do the surgery, and despite the bones now being fully healed, the wrist still isn't totally normal. But it does what I need it to do.

I dealt with an itchy rash on my back and sides for a good part of last year. And despite being seen by two physicians and two physician assistants who specialize in dermatology, I still don't know the cause.

Worst of all, I lost my sense of smell and sense of taste following a terrible cold in late July.  The specialist I saw said the virus most likely killed the olfactory nerve, so the odds of getting these senses back are not in my favor, but I haven't given up hope just yet. 

And of course, the biggest down side for me and millions of others is the election of a lying, ill-informed, arrogant buffoon to the highest office in the land.

On the plus side, I got to travel to several amazing places -- Ireland, England, Kenya, Costa Rica, India and South Africa, plus Monument Valley, Yellowstone and the canyons of the southwest -- this year. 

My daughter married a terrific young man who serves his country in the US Air Force. Their plans to deploy to Japan were halted when she developed a vision-threatening eye condition, but at least they still live not far from me. 

I had surgery on both eyes to remove cataracts, which significantly improved my vision.

I'm not going to make resolutions for 2017. I do, however, hope to lose a few pounds that I gained during this year's travels. I hope to improve my photography skills and get more of a following of my photography site ( All proceeds from sales of prints and other products will be donated to the Save the Elephants scholarship fund, to help deserving pasturalist students attend high school.

I hope the slaughter of animals for their ivory and horns, and for 'fun' by big game hunters, comes to an end. I would love to see more protections for America's great predators (bears, cougars and wolves), but that seems highly unlikely under the incoming administration

And course, I would love to see an end to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and in the Middle East at large.There is no place in a civilized world for terrorism. I don't care which religion people practice, but which religion to follow, or not follow, must be an individual choice. No one, not in the Middle East or in the US, should be forced to live according to the dictates of another's religious beliefs.

Rather than tearing people down, let us work to lift people up. If you don't like what someone else believes or practices, ignore it. Go on about your life. Does the fact that a gay couple wants to be treated the same way as straight couples are treated really impact your life? Does a gay couple's marriage threaten your marriage? I don't see how or why it would. So why try to take away rights we all should have. Don't believe in abortions? Then don't have an abortion. But don't take away that right from a woman who believes it is the best thing for her. The same can be said for other things, including religion. 

We humans can do so much better than we are doing to help people and the planet. Let's all devote ourselves to doing whatever we can in 2017 to help make the world a better, kinder place. A good place to start is working on ourselves. Are we the best people we can be? I know I'm not, and that's a very good place to start.