United Airlines

United Airlines raised a real shit storm when they decided to give their own employees four free seats. They went about the whole thing very wrong, and money will get their attention far better than people talking about it over and over. But let me point out one thing, not to excuse them for their actions: many flights for all airlines have been delayed all over the country because of the crazy weather. While people talk about the weather wherever it does not really concern them, it is when the results hit them that they start to see reality. Many planes were grounded, and with them, the employees – pilots, radio operators, stewards – were left stranded. Most of them had flown their absolute limits, according to FAA regulations. I have not flown anywhere since 9/11, but if I were to fly, I’d feel a whole lot more comfortable knowing that the pilots, especially, were not overtired. So all of the airlines have had to get their employees to other airports so they could get people off the ground and in the air. United gave thousands to one family who was stranded for a week, and missed their whole vacation while sitting in an airport – because there were no air employees to fly the planes sitting on the ground.

It was a real nightmare for the airlines, but folks who depend on the airlines to get them places faster and faster, do not stop to realize the stress and strain the airlines are under to get them there safely and on time. And they can do nothing to stop Mother Nature from having her way. Only We the People can do anything about that – and that is through being environmentally friendly to Her.

This does not leave United blameless for what they did to the doctor. I hope he gets recompensed for what happened to him. But it does at least give us a little more knowledge as to what the employees were undergoing at the time. We all live with stress these days, and we have to learn how to handle it.

Carol Stepp, Austin, TX

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The West Wing: Dead Irish Poets

I have written about my binge-watching the first three seasons of The West Wing in the past week or so. I have about four episodes left, and I think I may go ahead and buy the 4th season.

Anyway, last night I reached the episode called Dead Irish Poets, which general motif was Abbey’s birthday party. It had a lot of stuff in it that we should all remember from time to time, but one thing especially stood out for me in this particular episode.

It’s original airdate was March 6, 2002. Season three’s first episode was Isaac and Ishmael, which was a special episode to make a statement of the 9/11/01 attack on the Twin Towers. During those days of chaos after it happened, there was much confusion and chaos among the American people, and a White House that did not do much of anything but debate about going to war. Lots of people were opining on what actually happened on that day. That is not an argument I will get into here, because that is not why I’m here.

Among the things that should have been talked about more at the time was exactly how much Canada did for us in those days that followed. The airplane landings, the hospitality of the Canadians, the out-of-the-way actions many took just to help citizens of the US get back to their own countries. The Canadians really put themselves forward, and NO-BODY EVER OFFICIALLY THANKED THEM. GWB pretty much ignored them because he never said thank you out of the White House.

And that is where Dead Irish Poets came in. Aaron Sorkin, Tommy Schlamme, and John Wells, and I am certain pretty much all the actors in that series, came in to say thank you in the best way possible. I you have any memory of that episode at all, you will remember that one of the subplots was that Donna Moss was discovered to have been born in Canada because of a misunderstanding of whether the town she was born in in Minnesota was actually within the US or Canada when she was born. Another subplot was what Abbey was going to do about her doctor’s license.

So they wrote a scene that combined those two things in a way; a hen party among Abbey, CJ, Amy, and Donna. Donna spoke up about how the First Lady had taken it upon herself and Jed about her giving him his MS meds. It stunned everyone that she had taken the initiative.

But in the last section of the episode, just before Abbey voluntarily gave up her medical license for the duration of her time in the White House as First Lady, she did something to show she very much appreciated what Donna had said to her, and had the orchestra providing the music for her birthday party, play “Oh Canada”, the Canadian National Anthem, and had two soldiers walking two Canadian flags back and forth across the front of the guests. And the guests sand the anthem.

This was our country’s sCandalute and thank you to Canada for their aid to our citizens, and to those on the airplanes that could not land in the United States in the days following the attacks. And it took and very intelligent television series to make the move. I love The West Wing, at least the first three seasons, for many reasons, and this one seems to be one of the best reasons (In Excelsis Deo was the other).

Canada has a great many fans now because of Justin Trudeau, and I am among them. But their actions after the Iran shambles back in 1978, and then in September of 2001, should have just as much recognition, and appreciation. I wish I lived in Canada, but perhaps I am better off in my country of birth to keep these things in memory, and besides I need to stay where my medical problems are well taken care of.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

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Suffer the Children

What kind of world do we live in when the children are the targets for destruction and death? What are we trying to show the lesser angels of every single religious thought that is known?

Children: They are victims of predators, parents who abuse them mentally and physically, religious orders that say children should not be healed by doctors; children who are in hospitals all over the world because a bomb, or a missile, or a suicide-bomber, or a person on a rampage for any kind of reasons.

They have targeted school yards, McDonald’s, hospitals, front yards, back yards, parks, recreation centers, refugee camps, carnivals, circuses, anywhere children can be found in numbers, and they turn they rage on them – children, the most innocent of all. There are more children on this planet now that have never known anything but war, death, loss of limbs, blindness, loss of innocence. They have never been able to play.

And this has been brought about by mindless men who seek power above anything else. And by religious zealots who have no clue what they are fighting for or against as long as their name gets into the newspapers, or on social media, or on television.

You want an angry god, no matter what name you give him. Because yes, they are all male. Tell me the name of any female god or warlord or leader of a nation’s military who would even think about calling down the war machine on a child.

I know there are perverted women who get involved in the suffering of children in areas of life not war. But while they are included in my assessment of people who target the children, they at least are not killing them by the dozens.

Well, you who are doing these things, in the name of god or religion or selfishness or just plain meanness, you may well be the final straw for all the gods, and maybe goddesses. Because if there is an End of Days where people are going to end up in some burning firepit to burn forever, you are asking for it right now.

Suffer the children, indeed. You make me sick.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

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Social Security

Please pay attention to those two words. Notice what they mean when used together.

After the Great Depression of the 30s, the government under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put together the Social Security Administration for the everyday working people to pay into the system to make sure upon retirement they would have a financial base to fall back on. It was not originally intended to be all, but over time, and the failure of wages to keep up with rising consumer prices, has all too often turned out to be all a person had to fall back on. It was never intended to be a government-run program, though the treasury department did have oversight over the money itself. Which was why originally, the first payments paid out were written on government checks. As computer and on-line programs came into existence, the Treasury Department moved the system into an automatic deposit for our bank accounts, and now the social security payments we get come directly into our bank accounts. Saves them money on paper and postage, but also it could now be handled by the Administration itself.

Later Medicare was another program that came into being as a way to ensure people who retired and no longer had employment insurance would have healthcare. We also paid into it as another savings account that would not pay us back, but which would insure we had healthcare in our old age.

Why, you ask, are you telling me all this? It is because of the present Washington cronyism that works together to scare the hell out of everyone. Cancel or gut our social security? No, they have no authority to take the money that we all have paid into the systems. Look at your social security money as a savings account which belongs to you, and which is being watched over, with interest, by a stand-alone administration. If any government were to take that money and use it for something else, that would be like going to your bank and stealing your personal savings account. That would be totally illegal. The money belongs to you. It is, however, held under certain restrictions built into the plan 80 years ago. You cannot get a lump sum back when you retire. You do not get all of the interest paid into it. You did not pay income tax on the money that went into the system, and some of the interest paid into your account is used to help the administration pay overhead and the people who administer your account.

Same rules and limits dictate your Medicare. Now if, like me, you also get Medicaid because your income is small enough to allow you to have it, that you possibly could lose. But only if it completely shut down forever. But if you are SLMB, or QMB, and have been getting it for some time, you are probably grandfathered in. But it is a supplemental program tied into Medicare.

Now, think about SSI or SSDI, and Medicare or Medicaid you are getting before you turn 62 or 65 or 70. SSI stands for social security implemental, SSDI for social security disability implemental. These programs are set up by the government and are what we used to call welfare. They have nothing to do with the Social Security Administration – they have nothing in common with them other than the same two words were used as a title. That is what is actually in danger of being gutted, or even cancelled. But many people are actually disabled and unable to support themselves, whether because you are mentally or physically disabled. The problem with that system is that many people have learned to play the system, and simply do not want to work because of laziness or just plain dishonesty. Those are the people who need to be sorted out from the legitimate users, and are among the biggest users of alcohol and drugs. Most of these folks go through false medical organizations, or people who are malpracticers, and the hospitals who lie about who they are taking care of, and sending bills to get paid for things they are not actually doing for anyone. This is also the system that money was taken from to pay for wars, or other things that it was never meant for. Quite a few legitimate organizations, like my assisted housing system, are now starting to give drug tests and alcohol tests to these folks who use SSI and SSDI to get into the systems.

So when you start worrying about what might happen to you if you collecting any form of social security, be sure you know what it is you are collecting. You should know if you are just getting back legitimate funds based on your working life and paying into the SSA, or if you are using the welfare program.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

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Followed by the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

I will not be able to write a full review yet because I am barely at the half-way point of the first book, Red Mars.

But here is what I have gleaned out of the 300 pages I have read so far.

One hundred people set off from Terra to go to Mars, to make it habitable for human use. These 100 people are 35% Russian, 35% American, and 30% a mix of a number of other races, mostly mentioning the Japanese. They are half male and half female, expected to form permanent attachments on the way. Naturally, the 300+ days it takes them to get to Mars, we start seeing a lot of jealousy, splitting into factions, each faction wanting one thing, and then arguments start between members of the factions. There is one psychiatrist among the geologists, lab scientists, builders, manufacturers, medical staff, every thing that might be needed in setting up a whole new world. And he has mental problems. There are quite a few memorable names of people we start getting to know. But the main folks we are getting to know are Maya, a Russian, John and Frank, both Americans, Nadia, a Russian woman who is both a builder, and the steadiest thinker and problem solver among the group, and Hiroko, the Japanese who runs the horticultural gardens and animals. John and Frank have been long-term friends, but Maya has had sex with first Frank, and then John, and ignoring Frank. Frank is a trouble-maker, and begins to resent John because he has Maya, and is the only one who has ever been on Mars already.

Then there is Arkady, who wants his team to set up Phobos military-style, and who has a mean mouth, to keep stirring up trouble. And Ann, who does not want Mars terraformed at all, but wants to keep Mars as it is. There is also apparently a stowaway, brought on by Hiroko, and everyone is going to both Nadia and Michel, the French psychiatrist. I have already learned that Hiroko has taken her own group from the horticultural bunch and left, taking Michel and the stowaway with her/them. So far, we don’t seem to know where she is. But at the point I am at in the book, there have been several other nations who have sent ships with up to 500 people to Mars in to different places to begin building their own towns. At this point I know there are Russian towns, and Arab towns, and others like the Japanese and the Chinese.

And Ann who doesn’t want any of it (and why on earth did she choose to go with the first hundred?). And sabotage is wide-spread over Mars.

(My personal choice, had I gone on such a trip, would be to terraform Mars.)

So this is where I am in this set of books, with two more books to follow (Green Mars, Blue Mars). And what I have learned up to this point is that if 100 people cannot come up with a common agenda, there is going to be trouble. And this is exactly what is going on here in the United States, and much of the rest of the world off in its little corners.

We declare we all want to live in peace. But only if that peace comes about through each individual’s idea of what peace is. They couldn’t come up with a Declaration of Independence in the Heinlein book from the 40s. Now 50 years later, Robinson’s Trilogy is beginning to sound as if the same point is being made.

We the People, many of us, do not know how to live under a document that simply was written over 200 years ago that does not say exactly what they want it to say. I’m talking about the Constitution. I definitely could also be talking about the Ten Commandments, and then christianity has the Beatitudes to live heir lives by. But everyone wants every single document ever written to specifically say what they personally want it to say. And we/they elect politicians to stir us up over what should be minor differences between each and everyone of us to make instruction lists and want everyone to honour their own personal wishes. If 100 people cannot even come to terms with one another, how can our millions and billions of human beings on any planet live together in peace and harmony.

I think love and compassion and tolerance of our differences should be hallmarks of getting along. All the power should be left to whatever deity, or philosophy, each of us believes in. Instead, we live on a planet where there are the power-hungry, the money-hungry, the religious fanatics who have got it all wrong, and a definite criminal element which plays the system, and very few people who do not live with those mindsets, but who even have personal wants, and even those whose politics are the same cannot get along because there are other beliefs which keep getting in the say.

So here we sit, and we write, and we express our opinions to everyone whether they want to hear it or not, and we friend and then unfriend one another for disagreeing with us, and we whine day after day about things that should not even exist.

And as long as human beings exist, I doubt any planet or moon we choose to live on will be the great, peaceful place we all wish it could be.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

Posted in Crime, Economics, Equality, Freedom, global warming, Health, Medicine, Mental health, personal thoughts, Politics, Religious, Science fiction, Terraforming, Voting Rights, War | Leave a comment

Why this can never be a perfect world, for anyone

I have been reading nothing but science fiction these days because there is so much out there from 50-70 years ago that is speculative sf about the future of humankind. Here are some of the things I have picked up in books I apparently never read.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein. The moon has been settled, but the people want their freedom from Terran oversight. So they deliver a message, and several of the characters actually go to Earth (which is difficult because of the weight it puts on their hearts by going into the gravity, much stronger than their own). The attend peace meetings, and talk over things, and add people to their cause. Naturally, politicians want to keep the Lunites under their rule. And they send their prisoners to the moon to do the work. But they all want to be free.

The story is an epic, consisting of three books. Book one introduces us to everyone, and starts the Free Luna organization. Three main characters spring out of this: Manny (Manuel), the Russian; a Spanish professor, and a computer named “Mike”, who has very human interactions with Manny and the Prof. There are, of course, many second level important characters, but these three are the drivers of the storyline.

Book two then carry us through all the steps it takes politically to bring a Free Luna about; meetings with upper echelon politicos on Terra, and threats of embargoes and wars and power plays. Sound familiar yet? This book was written in 1946. Heinlein definitely had his finger on a pulse of what was to come. And he wrote this right at the finish of World War II.

Chapters 15 and 16 cover the “Congress” to write a Declaration of Independence, but guess what. Practically every person on the Moon is involved with one group or another in a desire to make the Declaration include their own personal choices of living, including adding things about religious rights, human rights, prejudices, biases of their own, and moralistic ideals. But, of course, even the groups fall into chaos because all of the people in them have wants of their own, which don’t also agree with the next person to them.

In book 3 they go on to war with Terra. Missiles flying from Terra to the Moon, the moon sending rockets containing tons of rocks, enough to beat sites down to bedrock. The scientists on the moon do try to keep from dropping rocks on cities and shorelines, so they won’t be killing people. And they made announcements days before hand, over and over, to tell the citizens where they were going to do this, so they can clear out. But, of course, the people close by decide to take picnics and friends and families to these sites, thus getting killed, and then Earth politicians accuse the Lunites of killing off large numbers of people – making it the moon’s fault. In many cases, some of those rock bombs were falling on military units, but they were warning them ahead of the shots.

Terra on the other hand was shooting missiles directly onto areas full of people, and manufacturies, and underground cities. And this is where I finally found out where tanstaafl came from – a word I had been familiar with 30 years ago, but never knew where it came from. The people I would ask were secretive. I found that most veteran sf readers think you only get to know things if you started reading at a very young age. I didn’t get involved in the genre until I was about 46, in 1987, brought about by the Star Wars trilogy.

But I digress. Basically the book ends with many nations on Earth (not including the US) suing for peace, and the moon got its freedom. One of the three main characters dies, one goes on to become president/emperor/king, and one disappears completely.

To be continued in the next blog………..

Carol Stepp, Austin, TX

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Life under reality

What have I been doing since I last wrote here?  I’ve watched the TCM 31 days of Oscar, and saw many films that I never saw.  Lots of old black and whites from the 30s and 40s, as well as newer films involved with the Oscars in many ways.  It has been entertaining, and nonstressful.

I quite the Board of Directors at Gaston Place, and no longer attend the Bingo games.  Last time I called a game, I has requested that everyone be polite and considerate of everyone playing.  But it was a no-go.  Then the president of the council told me I could not change people. My reply was if I could not change people around here, how could I possibly  think I could change Washington.  What I finally decided was that if I could not change them, at least they could not change me.

I have begun packing up some of the unnecessary items for my present needs, like winter blankets and coats and books and DVDs, of which I seem to own about 130 or so.  I am watching syfy a lot, and reading science fiction.  Our move seems to be getting pushed back further and further, and I don’t know from time to time when the construction is going to being.  So I bide my time.

I don’t watch MSNBC much these days because every time I turn it on, I just read about another atrocious thing the trumpeter and his cronies are doing to this country.  I don’t read Facebook much any more because I just read about what such-and-such MAY finally bring him to impeachment.  Al I want to know is that he is finally being brought up on impeachment  charges.  The people who could stop him are too chicken shit to actually do anything.  He is bringing these people to their knees, and while down there, they are kissing his feet like he is some of a god.  Every one seems to be afraid of him.

I am not afraid of him, but I am not able to do much about him, and so I ignore him.  I just believe this country no longer has a president, but a dictator who is getting by.  Are we going to have a russian government?  No, we are too big.  Smaller than the old Soviet Union, but a lot more people, and this country is obviously going to have to split itself in two, and let the conservatives rule their part, and the liberals/progressives to have the other.

Until people more powerful than I am actually do something, I will live my life the way I want it to be – in compassion and patience and peace and love.  And allow my money to do the talking with the SPLC and ACLU, and I’m going to quit donating to the DNC until they stand up on their own legs and quit dithering about what is wrong, but not seeming to do anything to change things.

What else can I say?  I will never accept the trumpeter, but I am disabled enough by my knees now that I cannot physically DO stuff any longer except write what I feel.  Yet I need to save what is left of my sanity.  At least I am old enough not to care if bombs start falling and people start shooting and WW III begins.  I will hide myself away, as I do here where I live, and comfort myself with things I personally love, and do.

I will write at least once a month and talk about music, and books, and life in general as I live it.  And politics again when I feel like there is something going on to fix things. And despite what the McConnell and the Ryan want to do, I feel safe that my Social Security (not SSDI) and my Medicare/Medicaid will remain intact.  If you are worried about your own, then you need to take charge and quit letting other people do it for you.

Now I’m going back to on-line jigsaw puzzles.

Carol Stepp, Austin, TX

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