Pay Your Bills, Part II

Recently, President Joe Biden and Congress enacted legislation forgiving $10,000 of student loans for certain individuals under certain circumstances.  I’ve paid off all my loans (and wouldn’t qualify anyway, for myriad reasons), but I do have two kids who have grad school loans and who may benefit from this new law.  As usual, there’s been a lot of self-righteous indignation by Republicans (all of whom claim to have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, paid their own way, having been born in a log cabin they themselves built).  They cry, “this only benefits the rich who take out loans!” (maybe – but not at interest rates that would make doing so advantageous).  The yell, “why should Joe Sixpack be paying off the loans of some loser who majored in Lesbian Dance Theory, who can’t get a job and is living in their parents’ basement?” (even though there are a lot of unemployed kids living in their parents’ basements, some of whom have college degrees and some who don’t).  They yell, “people should pay off their loans, no matter what!” (even though every other kind of debt a person can incur in the US but student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy).

This first argument – that the rich are taking out student loans – is a fallacy that may have had some truth back in the 1980’s, when students could take out nearly limitless amounts of low-interest government loans (as could their parents), making it attractive for the wealthy to apply for such loans at 5% and invest them in financial vehicles making three times that.  These days, there’s a limit to how much students and parents can borrow, and the interest rates aren’t nearly as favorable.  The grad school loans my daughter took out this year are somewhere around 7% (far higher the the current WSJ prime rate).  Not much incentive to take out that kind of debt in the hopes of making a profit in this economy.

Also interesting is the fallacy that people taking out student loans exclusively major in obscure, “worthless” fields, all of which fall within the umbrella of women’s studies (because what value could there possibly be in such work?) and literature (less obviously a waste of time, but still, of no real use in today’s world).

This assumption – which allows naysayers of any discipline not included in the 1963 Penn State Course Catalogue to create ever more silly fields of study they imagine might be offered at those ivy-covered walls of academia where they assume all of those student loan dollars are going – does not withstand the reality that the most popular majors for graduating seniors over the last five years have been business, health professions, social sciences /humanities, engineering, and biology. While the second most popular major (social sciences/humanities) would encompass the ridiculous made up majors that these loan-takers are apparently all studying, most of their peers are obtaining degrees in areas I think we can all agree would have meaningful applications in today’s world.

I don’t think it much matters what people major in, and it is inaccurate to suggest that one’s undergraduate major is determinative of whether or not they will be a productive member of society able to obtain a job with sufficient income to repay their student loans. The larger and more important questions are (1) whether or not everyone needs to or should go to college in the first place, and (2) whether or not college tuition is overpriced – it is.

One can debate whether student loan debt should be repaid by taxpayers. My opinion? Not if the money could have been used to fund universal preschool, after school programs, hot breakfast/lunch programs, after school programs, college counseling programs in underserved school districts, or any other program that would have benefitted the most needy communities’ children in getting a better head start. Will a $10k break make much of a difference for a med school graduate with $300k in loans? Nope. That’s 4 months of loan payments. Drop in the bucket.

Higher education needs to cost less, period. Predatory “for profit” schools (one big reason for high loan balances) need to be better regulated. Kids need to be directed to community college or trade schools instead of college unless they really want or need a four year degree.

But there is a way to avoid taking on too much debt in the first place.  Many schools offer work study and aid, and there are literally thousands of scholarships that go unawarded year after year because no one applies for them. For the neediest students, most schools offer a “sliding scale” based upon the “expected contribution,” which is based upon the family’s economic picture.  Thus, a student accepted to a school that costs $70,000 may only be expected to contribute a fraction of that ($20,000, say, that can be financed by work study, scholarships, and loans).

Students should also consider public universities, which are a much better bargain that private colleges.  Many brilliant young men and women have eschewed the Ivies and places like Stanford or Duke because a public university offered a full ride – and I’m not so sure that the quality of education is any different.  Unless you’ve got your heart set on the Supreme Court (and these days, who would want to be in that club?), it doesn’t matter where you go to college – it matters what you do once you get there.

Life isn’t fair. It would be nice if we were all rich and could have whatever we wanted whenever we wanted it. When our kids were little, everyone we knew had bigger houses and went to Disney ever year. We didn’t. Someone told me I must have a lot of debt because I lived in such a modest house – the same house I still live in. We weren’t poor, we just had different priorities (and $125k in student loans that we paid back). We wanted to be able to pay for our kids to go to college. When they went to college, we were. That was our gift to them. Graduate school is on them.

There has to be a point where you man up and pay your way. The system isn’t, and never has been fair, and the cost of tuition is way out of proportion with other big-ticket items. The result isn’t going to be fewer college graduates, but fewer colleges, as those colleges that really aren’t very special and aren’t offering a quality product for a good price fall by the wayside. And, public universities are always a strong bet.

But if you do take on that debt, it is YOUR debt – and no one else’s, and the only person who should be paying it off is YOU, and here’s why:  The reason most people go to college (or grad school) is because they hope, at least in part, to earn more than they would if they only had a high school diploma, and in most cases, they do – 84% more, in fact, according to recent data.  The cost to earn that college degree, the cost to have an 84% greater earning potential – is an investment in oneself, and I can think of no good reason why, as a general principle, the citizenry as a whole should underwrite the cost of that investment.  It’s true that higher earnings mean higher income taxes, and thus more money flowing back into the public coffers for the benefit of all (hence, the cost of loan forgiveness ultimately inures to the benefit of those who funded loan forgiveness).  It’s also true that taxes are used every day to fund some college tuition for some students – usually those who are economically needy.

But those who take out student loans responsibly – and who are also responsible with their finances in general – will eventually find a way to pay them back, even if it takes time, and even if the interest that accrues on those loans ends up costing as much (if not more) that the principle. The problem is that in today’s society, we have been trained to believe that we deserve to have everything we want – whether we can afford it or not – NOW.  We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need, or take out other loans for the things we think we’ve “earned” – a new home, a new car – because we have a DEGREE! We’ve made it! We DESERVE to have nice things, and we’re making more money than we ever did before.  Getting a college degree is hard work! We ought to be able to have some nice things! Isn’t that the point of it all?

Maybe, but not if it means begrudging a student loan payment, much in the same way we resent having to pay for a new water heater – and absolute necessity unless you really love cold showers, but not nearly as much fun as buying a new sofa. 

You may be saying to me, Wendy, have you not read about all the college graduates who can’t find jobs in their chosen fields, or who can find jobs, but can’t find affordable housing and pay off their student loans? Yes, reader, I have.  What I have also read is that many of those people are looking for jobs in fields that are already overcrowded, or that they are looking for jobs in areas where housing is notoriously expensive.

And once again, we come back to the idea of sacrifice, which means that sometimes you have to take a job you don’t want in order to pay your rent, or you have to compromise about where you’re going to live in order to work in the field of your dreams.  It’s unusual for all but the all-stars to graduate with the perfect job in the perfect city or town with the perfect paycheck – that’s what your twenties are all about:  Living in a crappy apartment eating ramen noodles, working in a job you hate, shopping at H&M, and figuring out what to do with the rest of your life.

Student loans are the ticket to a better life, and it is fitting that the cost of this ticket be paid by the person taking the journey.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice (RIP QEII)

Some have used the passing of Queen Elizabeth II to point out all the things that England should apologize for – its history of colonialism, its role in the slave trade, Camilla Parker Bowles…

Many of these same people have attempted to thread the needle by suggesting they aren’t necessarily throwing shade on the Queen (a woman most acknowledge as having done as much as she probably could have to drag a tradition steeped in moth balls and absurd ceremony out of the Middle Ages).

Rather, they say, it’s important not to forget all the evil perpetrated by the English government (over whom the Queen wields zero power), and not to be distracted by such nonsense as royal weddings, adorable royal babies, royal spats, and, of courts royal fashion – what’s Kate wearing today? Why, look at that hat! That tiara! That brooch!

Which, I suppose is a good point. Except, if that sentiment is coming out of the mouth of a white American, I’m gonna have to say….bullshit. Or, maybe, “Hey, Kettle! What a lovely shade of black you are!”

Because England certainly has some excellent company in the Doing Shitty Things Department.

Slave Trade? We did that – for a lot longer, on a much broader scale, and we even had a Chief Justice (Roger Taney) who wrote in the Dred Scott opinion that black people were chattel – you know, like a teapot. You read that right. For hundreds of years in this country, a black person had no more rights that a f***ing teapot.

Even after Congress said, “Yeah…no,” the Supreme Court was still all Plessy v. Ferguson and was like, “okay, you can go to school, black kids, just not OUR schools,” and you know who had the nicer schools, and it wasn’t the black kids.

Also, the white people who came to this country in the 1500’s and thereafter took away 99% of the land on which the indigenous people already living here inhabited. They killed a lot of those people, either by actually shooting them, or by infecting them with disease, or sending them on death marches from their homes to some remote location that white people hadn’t yet decided they wanted.

And then we kept treating black people and people of color like sh**.  We did the same thing to people who are in the LGBTQ community, and to immigrants from countries that don’t have socialized medicine and really good maternity leave programs, and people who are Muslim.

Oh, and we hate women.

So, all you super-woke Americans looking to poke at the English for their history of Things They Shouldn’t Have Done, I don’t know what moral soapbox you think you’ve got a right to stand on.

I love my country, and it has done great things, but it also has a long history of some pretty horrific behavior – which would be understandable and simply part of our country’s growing pains if we had actually learned anything from our worst mistakes (we haven’t).

So, England, this is my message to you, from one American who finds the royal family somewhat dubious but also realizes she isn’t British and didn’t live through a war where her country was bombed every night for years by freaking Nazis and where the presence of the King and his family may have brought comfort to those who did.

I say to a nation who now mourns a woman who seems to have represented a sense of constancy and determination to keep going, with dignity and purpose, despite the turmoil and increasing chaos of this world:

Please accept my most sincere condolences at the loss of your Queen.

Now, was that so hard?

What’s Wrong with the GOP

Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, a three-term Congresswoman who won her primary 2 years ago by over 70%, lost her primary tonight to Trump’s choice – a woman who supported Cheney in her 2020 run.

Why the flip flop?

Because Rep. Cheney had the audacity to suggest that Trump should be held accountable for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection – a view pretty much every member of Congress shared on January 7.

But then, many of those same members started worrying about what might happen to them if they publicly stuck by their convictions that maybe Trump should not have riled up his blindly loyal base, the throngs of which have reliably demonstrated that they would lick dog shit off the sidewalk if he asked them to.

Those same members of Congress knew in their hearts – and know it still – that only a narcissistic tyrant would ever suggest that his base march to the Capitol, stomp over police and Capitol security, break down doors and smash in windows, attempt to take over the seat of the federal government, and try to lynch his own Vice President.

But they quickly learned that saying so might end up enraging the former Toddler in Chief, and that might cause him to campaign for someone else come election time, and if we have learned nothing else about most politicians, it is that the only thing they seem to care about more than PAC money and lobbyist donations is getting re-elected.

Imagine caring so much about keeping your seat that you are willing to take your principles, your integrity, and your values, put them in a bag with a nice red bow, and hand it over to Donald J. Trump, the world’s most vile, noxious sack of monkey pox exudate. 

But there are plenty of them – plenty. And one by one, those Congressmen and women got very quiet. They found a way to be okay with the outrageous behavior our country was forced to endure for four years, culminating in something very close to treason, all because this man cannot tolerate losing.

Not Liz. She held Trump’s feet to the fire and suggested – hold onto your underpants – that he should not be permitted to get away with attempting to subvert the Constitution. Crazy, I know! Ten years ago – even FIVE years ago – this would have elicited a big “duh!” from the GOP. Now, it appears to be anathema, and Cheney became a pariah, even though her father is a former Vice President so coated in GOP Super-Strength Teflon that he once shot someone in the face, and everyone kind of laughed and then went back to watching “Friends.”

In the not so distant future, however, this country will universally recognize Trump as the staggeringly dishonest, mentally unstable, serial sexual predator most of us already know him to be. Unfortunately, his base knows virtually nothing about him aside from what they have been spoon-fed by Fox and OAN, and they treat and hint of negativity as a fodder for yet another conspiracy theory. These people can rationalize anything – I once said he could be videotaped sodomizing a toddler, and his base would either create a conspiracy theory or else normalize the behavior, which is what they do every time he engages in conduct which, were it ANYONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, they would condemn.

Trump will go down as history as not quite as evil as Adolph Hitler or Josef Stalin (which I guess is something), but don’t think for one minute that the articles that will be written about him will fail to mention those who worshiped at his shrine, but if the do, we’ll, there’s always Twitter to remind the world who proclaimed Trump the Second Coming and who saw a bloviating box of farts with the IQ of a Nerf football.

Until he does, morons like Josh Hawley and Jim Jordan and Lauren Boebert will continue to make headlines as Trump’s cadre of toadies trying to curry favor so he will haul his hairy girth to perform a rally on their behalf where some of the attendees think JFK, Jr. is actually alive and conspiring with the Illuminati to run the world along with George Soros and the Rothschild family.

I don’t like Liz Cheney’s politics. I wouldn’t vote for her over a Dem with good qualifications and a good platform. But doing what she did shouldn’t be an exception – it should be the norm. It used to be.

It’s not anymore, because the party who was supposed to make sure Trump never made it past the primaries couldn’t get its shit together. People like Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush stayed in the race way too long and fought amongst themselves. Rather than having an early pow-wow the minute Trump rode downstairs on his stupid escalator and insulted Mexicans, all of those GOP senators and governors stayed in the race with the arrogance only a man in government can summon, certain HE would be the last man standing.

The GOP failed, and then the public got silly and had one of those Boaty McBoatface moments when the public, given an awesome responsibility, fails to appreciate the gravity of the moment and says, “Fuck it! It might be fun to have a reality TV show host for president! What’s the worst that could happen?”

And you would have thought that Mitch “Let’s make Obama a one-term president” O’Connell, what with that level of focus and determination, could have made SURE Trump didn’t mess it up too badly.

Except McConnell didn’t care.

And that’s why we’re where we are at.

We need people to care about more than their election war chest, their sound bites or how many of the Sunday morning shows want them on as guests. We need our pols to actually WORK FOR US. We need people like Liz Cheney to say, “Not on my watch, and by the way, Jim Jordan, get your fucking hands off me. You started this riot!” (Which she did).

Be like Liz. She’s not a dick.

Don’t be like Trump. He is.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Three Months Later

I’ll admit it – I’m furious that a bunch of Scalia-wannabes on the Supreme Court have overturned Roe. I say this because, while I agreed with almost none of Antonin Scalia’s opinions, I admired his brilliance, his rigor, and his consistency.  With Nino, you knew what you were getting, which was a scathing pen backed up by solid jurisprudence, unshakeable reason, and a judicious sprinkling of such words as “jiggery pokery” that made it impossible to despise him, even if you hated the impact of his rulings.

Scalia’s opinions made crystal clear what he believed, and while those beliefs were undoubtedly informed by his devout Catholicism, they were equally influenced by his judicial philosophy of originalism, which owed no debt to any religion.  Scalia approached every legal matter that came before the Court with the same approach, whether it dealt with hot-button issues such as abortion, or yawn-inducing matters of interstate commerce or patent disputes:  What methods, documents, or or considerations would the founding fathers have taken into account had they been asked to resolve the same legal dispute?

What we have on the Court today, of course, is three women (Sotomayor, Kagan, and Brown Jackson) who have a more modern view of Constitutional law, and six neo-conservatives – five of them Catholic, five of them men.  Of those six, two (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) represented under oath that they would not disturb the Court’s 1973 holding in Roe v. Wade (and then did exactly that).  Of those six, two (Thomas and Kavanaugh) have been credibly accused of sexual assault.  Of those six, one (Thomas) is married to a conservative activist who runs a consulting firm that frequently works with GOP leadership, far right evangelical pro-life groups, and lobbyists on issues that are often before the Supreme Court; and one (Samuel Alito), may just be the Angriest White Man in America (read his opinions if you want to understand how hard it is to be a guy like him).

So, yeah, the Supreme Court is pretty much a joke if the idea was that it was supposed to be a politics-free, non-biased forum.  And anyone who was breathing when Mitch McConnell engaged in contortions worthy of the Royal Chinese Circus to justify holding hearings on Amy Coney Barrett weeks before the 2020 election after having denied Merrick Garland the same courtesies nine months before the 2016 election (not the same thing at all!) could have figured out what was going to happen when the court took up Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization during the 2021 – 2022 term. Some of us hoped that John Roberts could somehow pull off another ACA Hail Mary, but he alone wasn’t going to be able to stop the inevitable juggernaut of four pro-lifers and a Libertarian (Gorsuch) who – finally – had the ability to do what they and others like them had been dreaming of for 50 years.

So they did it.  But before they did it – when there were signs that Kavanaugh (who may be the judicial equivalent of a golden retriever, from what we’re now hearing) seemed inclined to consider changing his vote (because Roberts scratched him behind the ear, told him he was a “good boy, yes you are!” and gave him a cookie) well, the theory goes – Alito went ballistic:  Not only did his dream of a Handmaid’s Tale America seem to be slipping through his fingers, how was he going to go down in history as the guy who wrote the opinion overturning Roe if Roe didn’t actually get overturned?

Which is when the draft opinion got leaked.


See, once the draft opinion was out there, it was going to be SO DAMN HARD to put THAT cork back in the bottle – like, you just weren’t going to be able to do it. 

I mean, what was Kavanaugh going to say if all of a sudden, the opinion got released in June, and everyone was like, “oh, hey, we know there was a draft where Roe was overturned, but then KAVANAUGH changed his mind. Must be all the BEER. You know who else drinks beer? SATAN!”

How do you think THAT would have gone over? You think it’s hard going to Morton’s and having to leave through the back door? At least there are five other justices that are also getting grief!

Imagine you were the swing vote SAVING Roe when everyone (except Susan Collins, that Moron from Maine) thought you were were on the Back Alley Abortion Bandwagon?

So Kavanaugh rebuffed a very weary Chief Justice Roberts who at this minute is turning the car around and driving RIGHT F***ING HOME  RIGHT F***ING NOW because these goddamned kids are driving him crazy!

Yeah, so that’s what happened.  And now, there’s no longer a right to abortion under the Constitution, which is sort of like when they said Pluto used to be a planet, but now it’s not, or when people only used to have to pay their OWN taxes, but now we pay Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and all the other billionaires’ taxes, too. Like, what the fuck is that about?

And so in states where it’s okay to get married at 14 and also, marry your first cousin, or your uncle, you can’t get an abortion under any circumstances, no way, no how, no backsies, and don’t you go showing us any books or science about abortion or anything else because that’s YOU’RE opinion and I’m not buying it, lessin’ I get run over by a Ford Ram Tundra 250 Pickup while I’m walking home from Ugly Tommy’s International Harvester Tavern swigging a six of PBR and my arms get torn off me and my blood and arm guts is squeezing out of me like jelly all over the highway, then I’m gonna want a doctor. And a lawyer, too. To sue the sumbitch what hit me.

Even though some judges (state and federal) are doing their darndest to prohibit these bans, they can’t hold their fingers in the dike forever, and in a matter of months, perhaps, abortion is going to be a privilege – mostly for rich white people (including republican congressman and pastors and Christian businessmen and their mistresses), and women and girls who get raped (something rich white women and men SWEAR does not happen, because you can’t get pregnant if you’re only 10, and SWEAR will fall within exceptions that DO NOT EXIST under many state bans such as South Dakota’s) will just have to learn to BE MORE CAREFUL AND NOT GET RAPED. 

(Also, you women who have pregnancies that pose a risk to your health are gonna have to learn to NOT HAVE PREGNANCIES THAT POSE A RISK TO YOUR HEALTH.  SILLY WOMEN).

(Also, you women who have pregnancies that turn out to be non-viable should be MORE CAREFUL to ONLY HAVE VIABLE PREGNANCIES.  WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?)

(And you women who are just not ready to be a mother? Well, YOU should HAVE THE BABY and spend nine months having to explain that it was a mistake and you are not ready because there are other things you want to do with your life, like getting an education and making sure you can support yourself financially, and that you are not mentally prepared to parent and care for another person for 18 years, and also, you should also have to endure the comments that come with this, like, you are so SELFISH for not keeping your baby, which may actually come from people who say they love you – NICE!- and then also you should go through labor – ALSO NICE! – and then give that baby to another person to raise, all the while knowing you will wonder about that baby for the rest of your life, and maybe that baby will come looking for you even though you don’t want it to, or maybe it won’t, even though you do, and that just sounds like an all around GREAT THING FOR EVERYONE and who knows better how you should live your life than 6 people you’ve never met, 2 of whom like to sexually harass and/or assault women, one of whom likes to pull the wings off bugs, and one who once lived in a cave for 3 years and ate nothing but beetles?)(That last part is a lie).

So.  This was an essay about how I am not so worried about Dobbs.

Here is why:

Things are gonna suck, badly, for a while.  Prepare yourself for it. Be scrupulous about birth control. Consider being a lesbian. So much less mess, probably a lot more foreplay. I hear sex toys are also good fun.

Joe Biden has signed an executive order.  No one understands what it says, and it’s not really going to make a difference, and we think it may only apply to women with an “I” in their name, so that’s not going to be much help.

So, if you want to change things, you’re going to have to do it yourself, and by “yourself,” I mean those of you who haven’t hit menopause.  Those of us who have, care deeply, but we are also tired, our backs hurt, and we’ve sort of done our thing. It’s your turn. 

This is gonna have to be your thing. You’re gonna have to do this.  We did a lot of the “don’t give us that shit” in the workplace, culminating in the #metoo movement. Not all of us sued someone (but a lot of us said something, and did something, grabbed a lot of testicles and twisted – figuratively speaking, of course). We got called honey and sweetie and got passed over for promotions and got put on the “Mommy Track” and had men say disgusting things to and in front of us, and we were expected to swallow hard a “act like one of the boys” if we wanted to get by.

Some of us did (fuck you very much, Judy and Dolores) and some of us didn’t. Some of us had to educate the f***ing idiots in HR, and things still aren’t perfect in the workplace, but they are a shit-ton better. Ask Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer. It took a lot out of us.  We aren’t sure we have it in us to yank Sam Alito off a barstool and kick the shit out of him – figuratively speaking, of course.  But you guys can do it.

Here’s the good news:

1.  More men than ever are getting vasectomies.  Let them.  Encourage them.  They’re reversible. 

2.  By 2050, the majority of America’s population will be Latino.

3.  The percentage of women graduating from college already exceeds that of men, and it has for years.  Soon enough, the same will be true of business school, med school, and law school.

4.  More women than ever are running for local, state and federal government.  The percentage of women in government is still low, but it’s increasing. 

Bottom line.  A lot of white men are fat and lazy and unemployed and hooked on opiates and Donald Trump, who’s going to be dead soon.  These guys are also gonna die, and as they slip off their mortal coils, a new generation is going to emerge, and the power base is going to shift from old white men to POC, women, and people in the LGBTQ community.  Congress, and SCOTUS will follow.

This is going to take time.  It will take less time if young people put down their goddamned avocado toast and video games and get involved. 

By “involved,” I mean, take 1 person with you to vote.  ONE PERSON.  You don’t have to sign up for a committee or run for office, although you might be a really great candidate.

You don’t have to ring doorbells or call people on the phone, although you might find you like doing it, and you will most definitely meet new friends (and learn something in the meantime).

You don’t have to contribute a lot money (because you probably don’t have any, what with the cost of avocado toast and such), but you could probably scrape together $5 for the candidate of your choice (check out their website – they’ll take anything you’ve got!)

And you don’t need to know a whole lot about ANY of the candidates – go on their websites and learn.  Here’s a tip, however:

Since this is a post about abortion, if you want to support people who are pro-choice, most Republicans AREN’T.

So, to sum up:

Supreme Court:  Full of ANGRY and/or clueless men and 4 really smart, thoughtful women (we’re hoping the one wakes up soon – like, REALLY soon).

Abortion Access in America:  Worse than any other developed nation, an embarrassment, the subject of EU sanctions, worse than it was 200 years ago, determined by men, opinion of majority of citizens not taken into account.

What You Can Do to Help:  Vote, march, protest, send letters to SCOTUS and tell the Justices they have become a partisan religious body and thus has violated the First Amendment.

Outlook for the Future:  Sunny.

Some Thoughts on the New King

I’ve been wanting to post on this for a long time – 25 years to be exact. I got busy having kids and working and then I got involved in scrapbooking and sewing and gardening, and then I had a grandchild, but this afternoon I found myself with a few extra minutes, and what with the Queen’s Royal Jubilee in the can, it seemed like a good idea to say what’s been on my mind for years:

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles are dicks.

That’s right. 100%, USDA Certified dicks. SCOTUS voted 8-1 (Thomas was the lone dissenting Justice) that they’re dicks. It’s the one thing that I and Vladimir Putin agree on – I called him this morning, and he said, and I quote, “Charles and Camilla DICK.”

Whether or not you liked Diana, they were dicks, and now I’m going to tell you why.

Charles and Camilla fell in love well before Charles ever met Diana. After a lengthy courtship, Charles asked Camilla to marry him, but she said no because she did not want to live a royal life. (Remember this part because it’s important – HE ASKED HER TO MARRY HIM AND SHE SAID NO).

Then she married someone else, and he (Charles) was heartbroken. Before the ink was even dry on her wedding certificate, however, she (Camilla) and Charles resumed their shenanigans – either beknownst or unbeknownst to her unlucky hubby. I guess if you’re the Prince of Wales, you can do that without worry of offending the Church of England, and in fact, he was encouraged by male relatives to sow his wild oats however he liked, before, during, and after his marriage. After all, what’s the point of being the King if sport fucking is off the table?

The affair continued. The pressure on Charles to find an appropriate wife, however, escalated – Queen Elizabeth II was anxious for her party boy son to settle down – but not just any girl would do. She must be pretty, demure, obedient, of sufficient peerage, and, of course, a virgin. By the 1980’s, however, there weren’t a lot of women over the age of 20 that Charles hadn’t already dated who fit that profile, so he had to start trolling teenagers, and, at the age of 32, he found one Diana Spencer, 13 years his junior, and his 7th cousin once removed on the Spencer side of the family (and 16th cousin once removed on the Tudor side of the family).

After a whirlwind courtship (six months) during which they likely spent very little time actually getting to know each other, and where most of the decision-making about the future of their relationship was being done by other people, they announced their engagement. When asked if they were in love, Charles, that crazy guy, gave the answer every girl longs to hear: “Whatever that means.”

Diana then spent the next several months living in Clarence House with the Queen Mother where, it was charmingly related, the older, beloved Elizabeth had taken the dewy-eyed young thing under her wing to teach her the ways of all things royal. Later, Diana would describe these days as lonely and isolating, as she was cut off from family and friends, including the fiancé with whom she was starry-eyed infatuated. And remember…this is a young girl who never went to university, who up until this time lived in a flat with three girlfriends, taught at a nursery school, and babysat and cleaned for her older sister (the only real maternal figure she had had since her mother left the family when she was very young).

Think about what you were like when you were 19.

Think about how much you had in common with an 80-something year old woman who, it turns out – for all her warm, glowing smiles on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and the adoration of a nation who remembered her, ever steadfast, at the side of George VI during the horror of WWII – was not all that nice to Diana – ever.

And then there was the tragic, tacit, truth that Charles had not picked Diana because he loved her, or even liked her, and EVERYBODY KNEW IT, BUT NOBODY FUCKING TOLD DIANA.

No, she actually thought he loved her, and that it was a fairy tale come to life, and she was so young and sheltered and crazy in the love with this big-eared jackass that no one had the heart to burst her bubble, and maybe there was even a collective hope that he would come to see what was obvious to everyone who wasn’t a foppish, inbred, cosseted pantywaist: That Diana might actually have the potential to be a very good queen indeed, that she might prove to be smart, with good instincts, and even a good help-mate, if only given a chance.

No one really ever gave her a chance, and for all the lessons in how to properly curtesy and pour tea, there was little emotional support in the days leading up to the wedding. And what is a 19 year old who is about to take part in the wedding of the century supposed to do when she starts to have doubts? When the entire WORLD is talking about your wedding and selling tea towels and egg cups and souvenir buttons and glasses and mugs and china plates and pretty much anything that can be embossed with your image, and you’ve ordered a dress with a train that’s 20’ long…it’s sort of hard to call it all off.

Especially when you’re 19, and the only person you have to bounce stuff off of is an 80-something year old woman who remembers having the shit bombed out of London by Nazis for 4 years and barely surviving Hitler, and who probably doesn’t have much patience or sympathy for a 19 year old bride-to-be with the jitters.

This whole time, by the way, Charles and Camilla are still banging away like the ugly-ass horse-faced dicks they were and are.

So, Charles and Diana get married. For a short time, Charles seems to finally appreciate what the people of Britain (heck, the entire WORLD) see in his wife. She lovely! She’s charming! And unlike any other royal in history, she appears to actually care about her subjects…even the ones who aren’t rich, pretty, or titled! She wows everyone with her warmth and style, she produces two boys right quick, and that smile…my, she is dazzling!

But then she becomes too dazzling, and Charles (who, we must remember, has never stopped his studies in animal husbandry with Camilla), gets jealous and mad. People like Diana more than him, which is SO unfair, because HE is descended from GOD and SHE is not, and ALSO, Diana has the audacity to want to be a hands-on parent AND to be involved with charities with which nice people most definitely do not associate – AIDS and mental health, for fuck’s sake. It’s just too, too much. And why no love for Charles, with his interest in organic gardening? That’s a real thing, and no royal has ever done THAT before! Charles sulks and retreats and makes Diana feel unloved. Diana develops an eating disorder. She dances with John Travolta during a visit to the Reagan White House. Charles stands by looking like a frumpy old mop.

Charles and Camilla continue their uber-icky relationship, which can probably best be summed up by a hacked mobile phone conversation in which Charles says he wishes he could be Camilla’s tampon – oh, yes, he did. So, so gross. Not that women menstruate or use tampons…not that part…but you would hope a man with a Cambridge education could manage an expression of libidinal desire that did not involve an aspect of life that most women find, at the very least, an inconvenience.

The affair continued for the entirety of Charles and Diana’s marriage, during which time Camilla – such a dick – referred to Diana as “that ridiculous creature,” apparently willfully ignorant of her role in placing Diana in that position (ridiculous or not) in the first place. One wonders what might have become of Camilla had Charles (1) actually fallen in love with his first wife; or (2) been loyal to her regardless of his feelings for Camilla, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT MARRIAGE IS, YOU WIDE-HIPPED ASSHAT, but here’s the thing: When a man asks you to marry him and you say no, then marry someone else, then continue to sleep with that man, even after he marries someone else, you don’t get to criticize his wife, even if you are a soulless cow without a conscience.

Diana was aware of the affair before she even walked down the aisle. She tried the best a 20 year old could to make the marriage work, but you can’t really make a marriage work when the person you married was in love with someone else before they met you, and never stopped being in love with that person; and also, never loved you, never wanted to marry you, and only DID marry you because his mother made him. That’s a marriage that was never going to work, ever, unless both participants are masochists.  A hundred years ago or more, a wife would have simply sighed, accepted it, and resigned herself to a loveless marriage.

Not Diana. She wasn’t going to tolerate the loveless farce of her marriage, nor the Douche Bag Dick and his girlfriend, Stinky Butthole Dick. It’s true that Diana was not blameless – she used the press to her advantage when it suited her, she didn’t always play fair, she knew exactly how other-worldly popular she was, and that a picture of her doing anything had staggering influence. Her death proved just how true that was.

I was a Diana fan – not because she was pretty or had a great sense of style, but because the royal family – which more and more makes very little sense to me as an institution – plucked her up and tried to bend her to its will at a time when she had no power. Her own husband threw her to the wolves knowing exactly how well she was likely to fare, and treated her with so little respect or compassion, she might well have been one of his servants. Diana placed her children first (to the extent she could), and focused her service on those who were the “least of His people,” insisting that her sons join her in bringing attention to some of the world’s not so pretty places.

It is true she could be frivolous and petty and immature, and that her relationships after Charles were often obsessive and did not exhibit the best judgment. For a person who had led a sheltered, motherless childhood, and who then was thrust into a media spotlight the likes of which perhaps only one or two people in history have ever experienced, with no real guidance from anyone who truly cared about her, perhaps she can be forgiven her missteps.

After her death, Charles and Camilla – those two big dicks – finally married. Apparently, Mr. Parker-Bowles got tired of being the world’s most famous cuckold, and his marriage to Camilla ended. Now, 25 years after Diana’s death, C & C appear together like an old married couple, dandling Diana’s grandchildren on their laps, petting dogs, and looking every bit the well-heeled, silver-haired older couple that may someday be King of England and whatever they will call Camilla.

Maybe they have rehabilitated themselves enough for Britons to accept and love them should Charles ascend to the throne. Maybe Camilla will make a wonderful consort, a sort of Jill Biden-Michelle Obama-like modern king’s wife (the precursor to the kind we know Kate Middleton will surely be).

But in my book, they’re both dicks.

Harvard Degree Not Required

Not every kid was meant to attend college.

Being “gifted” does not exclusively apply to the intellectually superior.

If you measure a fish’s value by how well it can ride a bicycle, you would probably conclude that it had little worth.

A person who never got an “A” in anything may turn out to be the finest person you ever met.

Three of my kids have college degrees. One does not – she lacks the intellectual capacity. She has a job she loves where she is valued, works very hard, and is treated with great respect by her co-workers for her conscientiousness and the pride she takes in her work. She has accomplished more than we ever imagined for her after we were given a diagnosis we never expected and, for a long time, refused to accept.

My three college girls are great kids – they also work hard and have much to be proud of. We communicate on a completely different level, and our relationships change and grow and deepen. It’s harder with Allie, because her ability to be in relationship is the heart of her disability, but the growth she has demonstrated over 28 years has been staggering to watch. She has developed a level of insight that rivals that of her neurotypical sisters – and that is nothing short of Nobel-prize level work in my book.

Our kids’ academic accomplishments are fun milestones to celebrate, and with all we go through as parents, why not? But Allie has taught me – thank God she has taught me – that the grades and AP exams and college acceptances mean so little compared to raising decent children (although those two things are not mutually exclusive).

When it first occurred to me that Allie would never go to college, I was devastated. Then came the period where I wondered if there might be some other area where she could excel – and she is a gifted rider – but I finally learned that she’s just my Allie – and she’s really pretty magical just the way she is.

Some kids are academic dynamos, or compete on an Olympic level in sports – they are superstars, otherworldly, who win every award and will probably excel at everything their entire lives.

Most kids are not, but they do okay. Then there are kids like Allie, whose gifts are harder to see, and perhaps not as worthy to some. That’s okay – the people who know her understand, and I can always tell if someone is going to be worth my time by how they treat Allie.

I’m so glad she’s mine.

Johnny Depp Is Not that Innocent

I haven’t been watching the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial closely, but I have seen a lot on social media trashing Heard as a crazy psycho-bitch and lauding Depp as the innocent victim of her rampant abuse. Since I haven’t listened to the testimony and the jury has not rendered a verdict, I can’t weigh in on who did what to whom, although it’s worth noting that an identical lawsuit brought by Depp in the UK last year (alleging defamation by Heard for calling him an abusive spouse) ended with a verdict in Heard’s favor.

I’m troubled, however, by the tone of the coverage of the trial on this side of the Atlantic, a lawsuit brought after Heard wrote an op-ed in which she identified herself as a survivor of spousal abuse. It seems that the decision to “author” the article (it’s now widely acknowledged that it was ghost-written by the ACLU) was pressed on Heard, who agreed to it largely as a publicity stunt to promote her upcoming movie “Aquaman,” which in itself should tell you a lot about movie PR and the depths to which the ACLU has sunk of late.

In any case, public opinion and social media have gleefully cast Depp as the weary, unfairly accused victim of Heard; as a man with demons, a man with an artistic spirit; a victim of child abuse from an early age, almost as though that should explain away whatever he may have done to Heard. He’s just so deep and soulful, with just the right amount of naughty-boy Jack Sparrow charm – of course he’d be a handful!

Heard, on the other hand, has been portrayed as  a cross between manipulative she-bitch and lunatic. I’ve read that Heard may have borderline personality disorder, and since I have a close relative with that diagnosis, I have been on the receiving end of the confusion, abuse, erratic behavior, rage, utter lack of reason, and lightning-fast change in mood that makes such relationships so extremely difficult to manage. Any marriage in which one partner has a diagnosis of BPD is going to be tumultuous.

There seems to be at least some evidence, however, that Depp engaged in behavior that was at least somewhat troubling, and even abusive – texts, emails, statements to others, disturbing testimony from Heard, and incontrovertible proof of Depp’s substance abuse issues that suggest a less than stable person, not to mention hardly the most reliable source when it comes to documenting the history of events that happened years ago. In other words, there’s at least some reason to believe there might be SOME truth to what Heard is saying. Thus, if Heard’s allegations of physical abuse are legitimate, the way she is being treated – by women, no less – is not just disturbing, it is setting back the work of feminism and domestic abuse awareness and #metoo back by about 50 years and making it okay, once again, to blame the victim. Priceless.

What’s even more concerning is that, if Heard is indeed mentally ill, those who are making fun of her by, say, producing videos of her testimony set to a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” soundtrack, are unspeakably cruel and continue to stigmatize mental illness in a way that is entirely unhelpful.

The behavior that has been ascribed to Heard must be humiliating for her to have to listen to (she pooped in his bed?) but for some reason – because she’s pretty? Because she’s a celebrity? Because we like Johnny Depp and think he’s funny? – we are laughing at a woman who (1) may be a victim of domestic violence and/or (2) may be mentally ill.

That is appalling.

Frankly, Depp’s main goal in bringing it in the first place likely has nothing to do with whether or not the public believes he abused Amber Heard (obviously, the public does not care), but has everything to do with winning back the role of Jack Sparrow.

You can hate Amber Heard, and maybe she is just a big fat liar who isn’t mentally ill. Maybe she is just another ambitious actress trying to garner some sympathy and fame, and if that’s true, it’ll out soon enough. She was with Depp for 7 years and obviously benefited from his connections, but the only movie anyone can remember her making is “Aquaman,” which I’m told was not great.

Or maybe she’s a really troubled woman, or maybe he beat her, but maybe we should just shut the f**k up and let the people who are in the courtroom listening to the evidence do their job and then accept their verdict, and in the meantime, do something to help victims of domestic violence – male and female alike – or the mentally ill, who deserve our support and respect, and NOT our derision.

And we can also mind our own f***ing business.

The Supreme Court is in Trouble – Part II

There is a certain kind of man who is furious that America, in 2022, is a place where Black, Latino, immigrant, female, LGBTQ, disabled, non-Christian people are beginning to have a seat at the table in politics, business, law, medicine – fields that were traditionally reserved to them – the Straight Christian White man.

It used to be that if you were a straight (or, at least, pretending to be straight) White Christian man (or SWCM), all you had to do to be successful was have a pulse and not kill another White person, even if you were a raging alcoholic who beat his wife, cheated on his taxes, and had weekly nooners with his secretary, Blanche, at the No Tell Motel.

Nowadays, it’s not enough to just be a SWCM. You have to have skills and qualifications, and if you’ve got some blemishes on your record (like, you raped an unconscious girl on the campus of Stanford and the judge made you go to jail for 2 whole weeks), well, you may have some ‘splainin to do at your job interview for Bank Manager, and maybe that more qualified and less rapey person of color/woman/LGBTQ person will be hired instead.

It just sucks when that happens!!

Over time, some stinky butthole SWCMs grudgingly learned to adapt. Some didn’t need to, because they never saw people who were different from them as a threat in the first place.

But a nice healthy segment of SCWMs never got over the certainty that their maleness and Whiteness and Christian-ness and straight-ness just made them better than everyone else and entitled them to all the jobs and all the money and all the power.

So, when that notion was challenged, and those guys stopped automatically getting what they thought of as their birthright, they were puzzled.

Then they got mad.

Then they started blaming all the people who weren’t SWCMs, and then they started voting for people who told them that the immigrants stole their jobs, that successful women were only successful because they’d slept their way to the top, and people of color who held prestigious positions had only gotten them because of affirmative action.

And, oh boy, did they love Donald Trump.

Because Donald Trump knew what these guys wanted to hear. He knew what they wanted to see. He knew what kind of world they wanted to live in.

A world run by Straight White Christian Men.

A world where women have no power.

A world where people of color know their place.

A world where the LGBTQ community is terrified to be out and open lest someone tie them to a tree and kill them by throwing rocks at them until they’re dead.

So Trump set out to feed his SWCM army by giving them the jewel in the crown – an end to abortion – not because he has ever given a shit about “unborn life,” (god only knows how many abortions he’s paid for) but because he knew that the best way to keep women out of the halls of power is to take away their ability to control their family planning.

If you can keep a woman pregnant and giving birth all the time (without the privilege of two law professors’ salaries and live-in child care, a la Amy Coney Barrett), she’s unlikely to plan an overthrow of the government. If you can keep her from getting an education while you’re at it, so much the better. Why else would religious cults (let’s include the Catholics, the Mormons, the “Quiver Full” sects) have always encouraged their flocks to eschew birth control?

Keep the women pregnant. They’ll be too busy to ask you the hard questions.

It’s no accident that the Second Wave Feminism

Movement of the 1970’s followed swiftly on the heels of the birth control pill. All of a sudden, women had a reliable option for preventing pregnancy – one their partner (if they even had one) didn’t even have to know about. And all of a sudden, women were demanding the right to have a credit card in their own name, to be able to own a piece of property on their own, even if they were married. To be admitted to all-make institutions of higher learning. To run the Boston Marathon.

So, today’s ruling isn’t just about not wanting to carry a pregnancy to term. It’s about five straight men (four of them white, all of them Christian) deciding once again try to keep women out of the halls of power and back home, pregnant, raising children, too tired and too busy to hold them accountable.

This is what men who hate women do.

Amy Coney Barrett, I don’t even know what to say about you, except at least one of your daughters is probably going to hate you one day.

But make no mistake.

Clarence Thomas.

Samuel Alito.

John Roberts.

Neil Gorsuch.

Brett Kavanaugh.

These men hate women.

Watch what happens next.

The Supreme Court is in Trouble – Part I

Three Supreme Court Justices lied under oath.

That oughta gripe your cookies just a tiny bit.

Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett all testified under penalty of perjury that they considered Roe v. Wade to be settled law not subject to amendment.

I guess they changed their minds.

And Ted Cruz was worried about the books at the school attended by Justice Brown Jackson’s daughters (which, incidentally, are also the shelves of the school attended by Caroline and Katherine Cruz).

Lots of people are up in arms, and they should be. Some are blaming RBG for not retiring sooner so that her replacement could have been nominated by Obama.

Well, I guess she could have. Knowing what we know now, she would have to have stepped down some time in 2015…before the election cycle had got too hot. We know that by February  2016, when Antonio Scalia died, it was already too hot, which is why Merrick Garland is now Attorney General, and not a Supreme Court Justice.

So, yes, I guess RBG should have stepped down prior to February 2016 and further tested how much of a turd bucket Mitch McConnell would turn out to be. I think that is a super great and valid argument. Of course, once Trump was elected, I think we all believed (those of use who cared about a court that did not have a conservative super majority) that RBG was hanging on for as long as she could, although when she did die, none of us who care about a court that does not have a conservative super majority ever believed that Mitch McConnell would apply the same rationale in keeping Scalia’s seat open until after the election as he would where RBG’s seat was concerned. That woman’s family hadn’t finished sitting shiva before Amy Coney Barrett was having tea at the Capitol.

You would hope that the third branch of government, which was always intended to be the “purest” and least subject to politics and back-door wheeling-dealing, would remain, despite the disgusting partisan farce that has been playing out for the last thirty years, would have tried to keep itself clean, and in some respects, it has little control how future justices are vetted and brought to the bench.

Once there, one hopes that the gravity and history and power that informs every word they write and act they take is burnished by an appreciation that they follow in the footsteps of the justices who issued landmark opinions that shaped this country for good.

But now it seems this inveterate institution that the public used to respect and revere now holds a place of respect somewhere around the National Enquirer and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

John Roberts, you’ve got your work cut out for you.