Dianne Ponders Crossroad 12/21/16

Dianne Severance

After a respite from writing (because of pneumonia), I am glad to be well and in the holiday spirit. I would say Christmas spirit, but I want to include my friends and family of other religions and beliefs.

While Donald Trump is assembling (lassoing?) a Cabinet, many Americans are still reeling from the shock that he was elected president in the first place. By the time you read this, the Electoral College will have voted, presumably for Trump, and the process of government will grind on.

In the unlikely event that the Electoral College has rebelled and voted for Hillary Clinton, there will be a constitutional crisis this nation has never before witnessed. Would we have to have another election? Would the Supreme Court intervene, as it did with George W. Bush? Would our government somehow be shaken to its very core?

By now, you are asking what all the above has to do with Christmas, or with the holidays.

Actually, nothng and everything. On one side, we have a man of larger than immense ego who proclaims he doesn’t need daily intelligence briefings. On the other side, we have a woman so well qualifited to be president it is a mystery as to why she lost the election. And then there is the question of the Russians hacking into our voting data. And we have Aleppo and … you name the crisis that moves you the most.

I believe our nation is at a crossroad. If the Constitution is found to be strong, the nation will continue, whether the average citizen is happy or discouraged.

Getting back to the holidays… we need to ponder how our actions affect our families, our neighborhods, our jobs, our cities and towns, and eventually our whole country, if not the world. If we hate and mock those who are different from us, we are negating what freedoms our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. We have to be self-aware enough to discern the difference between hateful thoughts and actions and behaviors more suited to the spirit of the holidays.

We can’t continue to hate, to call people ugly, or losers, or less than they are. We must look beyond our prejudices (bred into us from birth and life experiences) and to a brighter view of humanity. We are all struggling, we are all trying in our own ways to survive.

We need to realize that the survival of our nation and of our world boils down to one word: Love. Love for neighbor, love for enemies, and love for those who oppose our thinking. We must love or be destroyed.

Happy Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever your holiday is!

Dianne Ponders Electoral 11/16/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

The surprising outcome of the presidential election had me so stunned I could not write a word in time for last week’s edition. In the wake of the choice by the Electoral College, the country as a whole is still reeling from the shock of Donald Trump’s winning the election.

He did not, however, win the popular vote. And that makes me angry. Does my vote even count, when the Electoral College can nullify it with barely a murmur. We need to pass laws to make our votes really matter. No state should have winner-take-all policies. The vote should be broken down by the actual numbers: i.e., 70,000 for Trump, 100,000 for Hillary Clinton. The numbers can be converted into percentages or tallied so that every popular vote counts.

Here are some facts not known about the Electoral College:
Ebro Darden describes how it’s not the popular vote but rather the Electoral College that officially elects the president.

The Electoral College was created as a compromise between those Founding Fathers who wanted the president elected by Congress and those who wanted direct election by the people. Here are 9 surprising facts about this unusual American electoral institution.

1. In 1872, electors voted for a dead man.
On Election Day in 1872, Democratic candidate Horace Greeley received 66 electoral votes in a landslide loss to incumbent Ulysses S. Grant. Before electors could meet, however, Greeley passed away. Although federal law allows electors pledged to a deceased or incapacitated candidate to vote for whomever they want, three Georgia electors in 1872 still cast their ballots for Greeley. The votes were invalidated, however, because Greeley was ineligible to serve on account of being, well, dead.

2. On four occasions, the winner of the popular vote did not capture the presidency.
In the multi-candidate race of 1824, Andrew Jackson received the most popular votes, but with no man winning a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives chose John Quincy Adams to be president. In 1876 Samuel Tilden earned a majority of popular votes, but Rutherford B. Hayes won by a single electoral vote. Twelve years later, Benjamin Harrison defeated incumbent Grover Cleveland handily in the Electoral College although garnering fewer popular votes. In 2000, George W. Bush captured more electoral votes while earning 500,000 fewer popular votes than Al Gore.

3. Two states do not have winner-take-all systems.
Nebraska and Maine are the only states that do not automatically award all of their electors to the winner of the state popular vote. Three of Nebraska’s five electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the popular vote in each of its three congressional districts, with the other two given to the statewide winner of the popular vote. Maine has a similar proportional distribution, with two votes awarded to the statewide winner and its other two votes given to the winners in each of its two congressional districts.

4. On rare occasions, electors do not vote as pledged.
The Constitution and federal law do not require electors to abide by the results of the popular vote in their states, so occasionally “faithless electors” go rogue and cast ballots for candidates other than the one to whom they are pledged. A slight majority of states require electors to cast their votes as pledged, although no “faithless elector” has ever been prosecuted.

5. More Constitutional amendments have been proposed to reform or eliminate the Electoral College than on any other subject.
There have been over 700 proposals introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. In 1969, an amendment that passed overwhelmingly in the House (338 to 70) and had the endorsement of President Richard Nixon was filibustered and killed in the Senate. As an end-around to a Constitutional amendment, the National Popular Vote interstate compact is working to have states pledge to award their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. As of December 2012, the bill had been enacted by eight states and the District of Columbia, which together possess a total of 132 electoral votes. The measure would not be enacted until states possessing 270 votes approve it.

6. A similar electoral college was previously used by the Holy Roman Empire.
From the Middle Ages until 1792, leaders of the Holy Roman Empire were elected by a college of prince-electors from various German states.

7. Electors are prohibited from meeting in one central location.
To minimize the chances of corruption, bribery and backroom deals, electors are prohibited from gathering in one central location to cast their ballots. Thus, electors meet in individual state capitals to vote.

8. Members of Congress and federal employees are precluded from serving as electors.
The manner of choosing electors is left to the states, although the Constitution stipulates that “no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”

9. The words “Electoral College” do not appear in the Constitution.
Article II of the Constitution and the Twelfth Amendment solely refer to “electors.” The phrase “Electoral College” did not appear in federal law until 1845.

It’s time to get rid of the outmoded Electoral College. We need our voices heard.!

Dianne Ponders Scandal 11/2/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

The revelation about Hillary Clinton’s further email troubles over the weekend poses more questions than answers. In fact, it all smacks of dirty politicis, played by no less than the director of the FBI.

The biggest question is: How did Anthony Wiener, estranged husband of Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abediin, obtain copies of the supposedly confidential emails? Until that question is investigated, anything that James Comey, FBI director, is subject to doubt. Comey is the one who wrote the Senate, especially Republicans, about the emails.

At his confirmation hearing in 2013, Comey promised, “I think it’s incumbent on every leader to foster an atmosphere where people will speak truth to power.”

The newly revealed emails were allegedly sent on Clinton’s private server while she was secretary of state. Earlier this year, the FBI said there was no cause to investigate Clinton’s use and deletion of some 30,000 emails. What changed? What makes the latest emails different from the original ones?

The source of the emails, Wiener, must come under scrutiny. He is the former U.S. congressman who sent sexually explicit emails to a 15year-old girl in North Carolina. How credible is Wiener? What would make Comey take Wiener’s word that Hillary wrote the newly discovered emails?

How can any intelligent person not doubt the source? We need answers before next week’s election, but I am skeptical that any government agency would be able to move that quickly. Comey made a big mistake in revealing even the possibility of the alleged emails, given the timing before the election and the questionable source — Wiener.

Comey, a Republican, should be investigated as to his motives. His standard of always telling the truth seems a bit far-fetched under these circumstances. And Wiener’s estranged spouse, Abedin, should also be investigated, especially if it is revealed bribes were made or promises offered for such statements.

Of course, Donald Trump is capitalizing on the latest news. In Grand Rapids, Mich., Trump declared, “Her election would mire our government and our country in a constitutional crisis that we cannot afford.”

The only remedy to the entire situation is to get out and vote. Trump’s weaseling around paying his taxes, his lies, and his attitude toward women do not make him a credible presidential candidate. So, let’s investigate the entire mess and get out and vote for Hillary Clinton, who at least has experience and knowledge of how a government should be run. And let’s hope she wins and uses that experience and knowledge for the good of the country.

Dianne Ponders Raises 10/26/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

My Social Security raise this year is a joke. Last year, we didn’t get any raise, nada, zero, zip. This year we’re getting three-tenths of one percent. I spelled it out to avoid confusion with 3 percent.

In my case, the raise amounts to a little more than $5 a month. Can the government spare it?

I want to blame Congress and say that they vote themselves big raises every year. But it’s not true. Congress has to vote raises for future terms, not their own. And for the past eight years or so, Congress has not voted on raises for the body.

Under the 1989 Ethics Reform Act, congressional members’ pay is determined through a formula based on changes in the private sector as measured by the Employment Cost Index. If lawmakers choose not to freeze their pay, then they would be in line for a maximum 1.6 percent boost in fiscal 2017, or $2,800, according to the automatic cost-of-living adjustments. President Obama has recommended a 1.6 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2017, though some lawmakers have voted for a 5.3 percent raise for executive branch civilians.

Congress has frozen its pay 11 times in the past 20 years, according to data compiled by the Congressional Research Service. In 2014, when lawmakers were considering the fiscal 2015 legislative branch spending bill, then-Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., unsuccessfully offered an amendment to that bill during the committee process that would have provided lawmakers who live 50 miles outside of Washington with a $25 housing stipend for every day Congress was in session. It would have applied to future Congresses since sitting lawmakers are prohibited from changing their own pay while in office. Moran, a 23-year House veteran who lives in Northern Virginia just 10 miles outside of Washington, retired from Congress at the end of 2014.

Moran at the time expressed concern that congressional pay freezes would become routine and part of the annual appropriations process. “I don’t think either party is going to take it upon themselves to try and change this … so I suspect five, 10, 15 years from now, it’s still going to be the same,” he said. The high cost of housing in D.C., coupled with stagnant congressional salaries, would result in a Congress made up entirely of two classes: the short-timers and the independently wealthy, the former congressman argued. Young people with families, mortgages and student loan debt, for example – individuals who can relate to the majority of Americans and their financial struggles – could be deterred from serving in Congress.
The level of inflation has varied widely and so have cost of living raises. Regular Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) began in 1975 when inflation was running high. The first COLA was 8 percent. The raise reached a high of 14.3 percent in 1980. During the 1990s, lower inflation led to more modest increases, which averaged 2 to 3 percent a year. While inflation has never returned to 1970s levels, a spike in energy prices in 2008 meant a 5.8 percent increase that year [source:Social Security.].

So what happens when there’s no inflation? What if the CPI actually drops, a trend known as deflation? Most cost-of-living raises only go one way. There is no pay cut in the case of deflation. The recession did reduce inflation to zero in 2009 — in fact the CPI went down slightly over 2008. That made 2009 the first year when Social Security recipients received no COLA .

My question is: I paid into the Social Security fund for years. So did millions of other Americans. What happened to that fund? Is it being used for other than the retired or those on disability?

My $5 raise: a big whoop! Let’s hope the incoming administration can reform the system and allow a fair increase for Social Security recipients.

Dianne Ponders Debate Two 10/12/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

By now, most of the critiques on Sunday night’s presidential debate have been hashed and rehashed.

I will not attempt to remember all the conflicting positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but I will note that the New York Times fact-checked both candidates’ claims. Trump’s answers, for the most part, were not true, according to the Times. In addition, Trump often strayed from the question being asked so he could air his own agenda.

On the other hand, Clinton’s answers did not stray far from the subject at hand, and the New York Times gave her a more favorable rating on truthfulness.

But Trump stood out in another way besides his lies. His very demeanor and body language on the stage were like those a a predatory bear or lion. As Clinton answered her questions, she would walk toward the person who had made the query. Trump followed close behind and often intruded on Clinton’s personal space.

At times, Trump appeared to loom over Clinton as if he were ready to attack her. He stalked her while she was walking and speaking and loomed over her. His rage, even on the TV screen, seemed palpable.

Other observations: Trump’s eyes were very nearly closed throughout muchof the debate. He looked tired at times, and did not seem to become more lively until about the last half-hour of the debate.

My guess is that Trump had a couple of sleepless nights after the revelation of the videotape from 2005 that showed him to be crude, lewd, vulgar … and you name it … to the nation. He must have had to sit up for hours to come up with a defense of his language against women, one in particular.

In the end, however, he wrote off the denigrating words as “locker room talk,:” and tried to hurry through the subject as quickly as possible. When Clinton was indirectly asked what her reaction was, she replied, “As my friend Michelle Obama told me, when they go low, stay high.” I cheered even though I was 1,300 miles away, ensconsed in my own living room.

More and more, Trump is facing the wrath of his party members. Many have vowed not to vote for him or back him during the rest of the campaign. Considering what that old tape revealed, their decisions were not a big surprise.

The next debate will be on Oct. 19. Don’t listen to Trump’s often wild claims — just watch his body language. That speaks louder than words, or in Trump’s case, his lies.

Dianne Ponders “Smart” 9/28/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

The first debate between Republican presidential contender Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton revealed what a cheat Trump is.

In an argument about taxation on Monday night, Trump did not deny skipping income tax payments. He said not paying taxes (finding loophols), “makes me smart.” This remark came while Clinton was trying to make a point, and Trump often interrupted throughout the debate.

For a man who wants to be president of this country, what does that comment show? I recoiled when I heard Trump say he was “smart” because he didn’t pay taxes.

All my working life I paid income taxes. And at filing time, I often had to come up with additional money to pay the taxes the government said were due. It wasn’t always easy. Millions of Americans also find paying taxes a burden, albeit a necessary one, to keep our country operating.

Trump blamed President Obama for the trillions of dollars the U.S. has as a deficit. Maybe Trump should look at himself and all the other corporate goons who somehow avoid paying taxes while the rest of us labor, often at minimum wage and with no guarantees the job will be there next week or next year. By not paying taxes, Trump and his kind only add to the trillions of dollars of deficiti. If he and others paid what they owe to the government, the deficit could be far less than what it is now.

Another reason I was shocked at Trump’s statement is: If Trump wants to be president he has to set an example and pay his taxes like everybody else. And a president is supposed to be loyal to his country. Not paying taxes, or cheating his country out of millions of dollars, shows Trump’s cavalier disregard for our nation and the people in it. Does he think he’s above the law? And what about the thousands of people Trump “stiffed” when he paid little or nothing for work they performed for him.

Throughout the debate Trump behaved about as unpresidentially as one could get (maybe not… he didn’t call Hillary a pig or a slob). He did comment on her appearance and “lack of stamina.”

Yet, Trump himself seemed to be ailing. He sniffled constantly throughout the debate and often had to take a drink of water. In contrast, Hillary stood proud and confident, and in control of her emotions and demeanor.

We have two more debates to endure. Hillary, keep up the good work. Donald will do what he does best — make a fool of himself.

Dianne Ponders Parking 9/14/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

If you have a sign for your car indicating you or your passenger is handicappped, you may recognize this situation.

I drove up to a medical building and began looking for the handicapped parking spaces. I drove all the way around the building, way past the entrance, and finally found the spaces designated were the farthest away from the building entrance. Some P— Poor Planning, I grumbled.

A few days later, I took a friend to a store I never frequent, and the same situation happened. The handicapped spaces were the farthest from the door and in a narrow, one-way lane in the parking lot.

And in other places, I have seen the handicapped parking places where they belong, close to the front entrance of the store, BUT there was a high curb one had to climb to be able to get into the store.

I wonder, who thinks such arrangements are adequate? Actually, does anybody really think, or do the engineers just arbitrarily decide where the handicapped parking should be. Whatever their method, it doesn’t make any sense.

In California, as well as in my home state of Connecticut,
The DMV offers several types of disabled license plates and handicap placards for drivers with disabilities:

Permanent placards and plates. -Temporary parking placards.- Travel placards.
A disabled placard or license plate allows you to park in certain places, but some parking is still off limits.

You CAN park: In marked disabled spaces, such as those with: A wheelchair. Blue curbs. In green curb spaces for unlimited time. In spaces designated for merchants or residents. For free at metered spaces.
You CANNOT park: In striped areas next to handicap parking spaces. At red, yellow, or white curbs.

Apparently, however, there are no rules as to the location of handicapped parking places. So those of us who really need to use them often find ourselves trudging the farthest to the store or library or whatever.

It’s time we people with disabilities speak up to our state representatives or members of our local governing bodies to get the parking spaces better placed. A few phone calls and/or letters ought to do it, at least in some locations. I will call my state rep, and I hope you do the same with yours. Good luck!

Dianne Ponders Parks 8/31/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

This year is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of national parks. Many of them are still pristine in beauty and a true gift to the people.

Others, however, are falling into disrepair because Congress does not allocate enough funds to keep trails open and address other maintenance problems.

The Republicans now are proposing that some of the national parks be sold off for private development. Proponents of this plan say it will address housing shortages across the country.

Baloney!

The only ones who will benefit from converting national parks into private areas are the megadevelopers, i.e., Donald Trump and his ilk.

The parks are our heritage. We the people are the owners of the parks. We support them by paying our taxes and visiting the parks, and paying whatever fees are charged to camp overnight or for a longer period.

Not surprisingly, Yosemite National Park in California took the top honor for waterfalls, with 25 percent of survey respondents picking it as their favorite. Waterfalls are a major tourist attraction at this iconic park, for good reason. Yosemite Valley’s high granite walls offer dramatic settings for falling water, and the copious snowmelt creates rushing cascades throughout the park in spring. Visitors can easily drive or take short hikes to reach some of these falls, including Sentinel Falls, Ribbon Fall, Bridalveil Falls, Vernal Falls and Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North America.

Many other parks have their own beauty… Yellowstone for its Old Faithful, Grand Canyon in Arizona and every other national park in the U.S. for its unique attractions.

We cannot afford to let developers like Trump, and Congress, take away our national heritage. People need to know there is a place of beauty to go to, even if it’s only a once-in-a-lifteime event. I had the privilege of seeing Acadia National Park in Maine several years ago. The seascape was amazing and refreshed my very soul.

We can only pray that many of us write or contact our representatives in Congress and tell them that to privatize the parks would be stealing from the people of America.

Dianne Ponders Hate 8/17/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

In the small town of Forest Grove, Ore., a a 15-year-old honor student who happens to be of Mexican heritage was subjected to open hate in her school.

According to the New York Times, several other students made a sign reading “Build a Wall” and chanted the phrase during student gatherings.

The 15-year-old, Briana Larios, who was born in the U.S. blames Donald Trump. She plans to be home-schooled so she doesn’t have to face the daily verbal attacks and gang mentality.

“People now feel that is OK to say things that they might not have said a year ago. Trump played a big role,” she told the New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristoff.

Whether it’s building a wall to prevent Mexicans from crossing our borders to thorougly “vetting” people from Muslim-majority nations, Donald Trump is spewing more messages of hate.

In his recent visit to Fairfield, Conn., my home turf, Trump made sure to say “blame the media” for his recent problems with poll numbers. More hate.

His castigation of the Kahn family, who lost a son fighting for the U.S. in Iraq, is yet another example of Trump’s hate-filled mind.

Trump doesn’t choose his associates very well either. His latest gaffe, is choosing Roger Ailes, the former Fox news chairman, who was ousted last month over charges of sexual harassment as his advisor in preparing for this fall’s debates.
The New York Times says Ailes is aiding Trump’s team as it turns its attention to the first debate with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island, according to four people briefed on the move, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Two of them said that Ailes’s role could extend beyond the debates, which Trump’s advisers see as crucial to vaulting him back into strong contention for the presidency after a series of self-inflicted wounds that have eroded his standing in public opinion polls.

For Ailes, being connected with Trump’s campaign could be a form of redemption after he was pushed out of the powerful network that he helped build. And for Trump, having Ailes taking a hand in his preparations for the debates adds immeasurably to the messaging and media expertise in his corner — and could raise alarms within Mrs. Clinton’s camp about just how aggressive Trump plans to be in those encounters, the Times said.

It was not clear when Ailes began helping the campaign. He resigned his post at Fox News on July 21 amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by former female employees that occurred after a lawsuit by the former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

Sexual harassment is disrespect, even hate, when you stop to think about it And what about the time he called women he didn’t like “fat pigs.”

Trump refuses to apologize for any of his actions, saying why should he change what has gotten him so far in the presidential race.

If hate is the wellspring of Trump’s bizarre behavior and attitudes, we are in deep trouble. We cannot operate as a civilized nation if our society is driven by a hate motive. We cannot allow that to happen.

Dianne Ponders Rights 8/10/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

On Monday of this week, failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio proposed that sanctions be imposed on women who receive abortions. I don’t know whether Rubio was even around when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have a right to choose what they feel is best for their bodies.

If men had to bear babies and have their menstrual periods, I doubt whether any restrictions would be imposed on having abortions.

I don’t think I would have had abortions with either one of my children, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be told by some cold, uncaring man (or woman) what I can or cannot do with my own body.

Following is a summary of the Roe v. Wade case as reported by CNN:

January 22, 1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, affirms the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth amendment to the Constitution. Thiis amendment guarantees all persons equal rights under the law, including women’s right to choice.
1971 – The case is filed by Norma McCorvey, known in court documents as Jane ROE against Henry WADE, the district attorney of Dallas County from 1951 to 1987, who enforced a Texas law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life.
The Case:
The Constitutional Question: Does the Constitution embrace the right of a woman to obtain an abortion, nullifying the Texas prohibition?
The ruling allows for legal abortions during the entire pregnancy, but set up conditions to allow states to regulate abortion during the second and third trimesters.
The Decision:
The Court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision gave a woman a right to abortion during the entirety of the pregnancy and defined different levels of state interest for regulating abortion in the second and third trimesters.
The ruling affected laws in 46 states.
Legal Timeline:
1971 – The Supreme Court agrees to hear the case filed by Norma McCorvey, known in court documents as Jane ROE, against Henry WADE, the district attorney of Dallas County from 1951 to 1987, who enforced a Texas law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life. The Texas law had been declared unconstitutional in an earlier federal district court case (United States v. Vuitch, 1971). Wade ignored the decision and both sides appealed.
December 13, 1971 – The case is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
October 11, 1972 – The case is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
January 22, 1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, affirms the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.
June 17, 2003 – Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) files a motion with the U.S. District Court in Dallas to have the case overturned and asks the court to consider new evidence that abortion hurts women. Included are 1,000 affidavits from women who say they regret their abortions.
September 14, 2004 – A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismisses a motion from the original plaintiff in Roe v. Wade to have the case overturned, a court clerk tells CNN. McCorvey’s motion claimed she had new information that would affect the 1973 case.
The Players:
Norma McCorvey, who was known as Jane Roe, was a Texas resident who sought to obtain an abortion. Texas law prohibited abortions except to save the pregnant mother’s life. McCorvey was pregnant when she became the lead plaintiff in the case. She gave up the baby for adoption.
Norma McCorvey has since come forward and changed sides on the abortion debate. In 1997, McCorvey started Roe No More, a pro-life outreach organization that was dissolved in 2008.
Henry Wade – District Attorney of Dallas County from 1951 to 1987. Norma McCorvey sued him because he enforced a law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life. He died on March 1, 2001.
Sarah Weddington – Lawyer for Norma McCorvey.
Linda Coffee – Lawyer for Norma McCorvey.
Jay Floyd – Argued the cause for Texas in the first argument.
Robert C. Flowers – Argued the cause for Texas in the second argument.
Supreme Court Justices Opinions:
Majority: Harry A. Blackmun (for the Court), William J. Brennan, Lewis F. Powell Jr., Thurgood Marshall
Concurring: Warren Burger, William Orville Douglas, Potter Stewart
Dissenting: William H. Rehnquist, Byron White.

I think Marco Rubio ought to do his research before he tries to deny the right to choose to females, who are, after all, citizens of the United States.
No matter that Norma McCorvey later changed her stance on abortioons, women still must be able to choose what is best for themselves.

Dianne Ponders Unity 7/29/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

It will be official by the time you read this: Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president, barring any unexpected developments.

But Clinton faces an uphill battle. As of Tuesday, Trump led Clinton in the polls by 44 to 39 percent(I keep wondering who they are polling, no one I know). Many people are saying that they do not like either candidate: Trump for his vulgarity, egomania and his inhumane pronouncements about immigrants, Muslims and women. I frankly wonder if Trump is human or a robot for somebody else, maybe the Russians, since he and Vladimir Pputin, Russia’s president, are such good friends.

If Trump prevails, the prospects for this country are scary. Even with the checks and balances of the Supreme Court, the Congress, and all the parts of the Executive Branch in place, Trump could destroy the country as we know it with his rhetoric and visions of a Hitler-like government.

Clinton is the better candidate. She doesn’t stoop to calling people names  or worse, as Donald Trump does. He doesn’t apologize and continues to make statements demeaning to anyone who isn’t in his realm of obsequious followers. Clinton said she will not call Trump anything and stressed that she will be the president of the United States.

Clinton has vastly more experience dealing with heads of government and other world leaders, Trump has none. She knows how to reach across the aisle in Washington politics. She will unite her party. She will win over Sanders’ supporters. She will help them understand what this country could become if Trump became the presidency. She will reach out to Sanders’ supporters to work with her, Clinton supporters and each other to win the national election.

Clinton will make history by becoming the first female president of the United States, by showing her strength and organizing her party and supporters to work for not just Democratic success, but the benefit and good of the country.

If she fails, our nation is in grave danger. God forbid!

Dianne Ponders Parks 7/20/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

In honor of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday this summer, we’re celebrating the young Americans who will keep our parks safe for the next 199 years.
What better way to commemorate this important anniversary, than by hitting the trails and checking out America’s most treasured spaces!

The above paragraphs are taken from the government’s Web site on national parks.

But if Donald Trump wins the presidency, the optimism and the joy of having wildlife areas and other national treasures will be over. Trump wants to dump national parks. He would privatize many of them, opening them up for forest clearing and development.

As it is, our wildlife have nowhere to go in many parts of our country because of urban and suburban sprawl. In many areas of our country, bears, cougars, deer and other wild animals have been seen meandering through city streets and suburban back yards. Deforestation of our national parks would endanger not just the animals but also human beings who try to approach them.

There are 58 national parks in the United States, many of them unsung natural oases full of majestic beauty. And while the marquee parks—Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite—are well worth visiting, there are drawbacks, namely high admission prices and enormous crowds.

Which state has the most national parks? California has the most (nine), followed by Alaska (eight), Utah (five), and Colorado (four). The largest national park is Wrangell–St. Elias in Alaska: at over 8 million acres (32,000 km), it is larger than each of the nine smallest states. And of course there is the land around the Grand Canyon, which Trump may use to build to build the Great Wall of Mexico.

Trump has many controversial positions (I won’t dignify them by labeling them as parts of his platform), but destroying or infringing on our national parks would cause chaos. Animals would migrate to populated areas or stay in areas that would be developed by greedy real estate moguls, endangering themselves or the people who settle or work in those places.

As I write this, Trump is on the verge of receiving the Republican nomination for president in a record vote. He has made 141 statements that have aroused anger and fear. Many of those statements make me question his sanity, but I chose to focus — for now — on the national parks. They give us a connection to th e land that would be severed if Trump has his way. We need to know that there is always a place for us to go to restore our bodies and our spirits. We can’t let Trump or his denizens get away with destroying the people’s lands.

Dianne Ponders Feelings 7/13/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

On Sunday, I went to brunch with my friends at our favorite diner. While we were eating, a local police officer came in and stood by the counter, waiting for a takeout order.

The shootings last week of two civilians by police officers and the killings of five police officers in Dallas have been weighing heavily on my mind.

I have mixed feelings about whether our police are losing control or whether the mores of our civilization are crumbling. I don’t know whether police officers are totally to blame in these shootings. I wonder whether some of the individuals who were shot brought their fate upon themselves. I really don’t know.

While the local police officer was standing there, I wanted to go up to him and show him my support. After all, police protect us and help us, don’t they?

But I took one look at the expression on the officer’s face and decided to let him be with his own demons. His eyes looked angry. His lips were clenched in a grim line. I don’t think any word of encouragement would have been welcome. The officer seemed too wrapped up in his own raw emotions.

Earlier that day, a march and a protest rally against the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota of two young black men had been conducted at our local police station. I wondered whether the officer in the diner had come from patrolling the rally scene.

Some of the people from my church, which is about two-thirds black, went to the rally, including our black female pastor. Thank God there were no reports of confrontations or other trouble.

But my feelings are still mixed. Will the relationship between police and the people they serve further deteriorate? Can all these shootings be a precursor to what could become a civil war? Is our civilization as we know it in danger?

All these questions have been plaguing me, and I have no answeers.

Dianne Ponders Winning 7/6/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

By the time you read this, there may be a new Mega Millions winner or an even bigger jackpot than the $454 million it was going into Tuesday night’s drawing. Or maybe there won’t be a winner and I’ll have another chance. I bought two tickets at $1 apiece, so buying a dream didn’t cost me much at all.

I have fantasized what I would do with that money. First of all, at my age, I would take a lump sum payment. My friend worked it out that after state and federal taxes, I would receive about $144 million. That would be more than sufficient for my simple needs — which would grow in proportion to how much I won.

I would donate 1/3 to charity, set up trust funds for my grandsons, and keep the rest for me to live in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.

What else can I say? There was a drawing about six months ago, and a person from Chino, Calif., was one of three winners of a monstrous $600-million plus prize. Two people stepped forward, but the Chino winner has not. The deadline to claim the prize is ne year. So far, that person has not come forward to claim the prize. Now, that person has six months to claim the prize

I wonder what would make a person wait so long to claim 1/3 of a $600 million prize. Certainly, a winner would have to get bank accounts, trust funds and oother legalities in order. But to wait six months and not say a word? That’s not my style. I would be blatting it from the rooftops and worry about the fallout later on.

What I would do personally: Buy a condo, where I could live and someone else can do and worry about all the outside work. I suppose I could buy a mansion, but as I get older a condominium appeals to me more.

I would also buy a new car. Nothing too fancy. A Bentley or a Rolls maybe? Or, to be more realistic, the most luxurious Mercedes I could find.

Of course, I would have a housekeeper and a cook who would live in and cater to my every whim.

I would take trips to Europe, Australia, China, Alaska, Hawaii and wherever else my fancy takes me — all in a private jet with my own pilot and crew.

Maybe I would run out of money by then… but I would have had a hell of a good time!

Dianne Ponders Generosity 6/29/16

Dianne Severance

Dianne Severance

Between massacres and Donald Trump, my outlook on life had taken a downhill turn until last Saturday, when an act of generosity brightened my day (if not month).

I have been without a reliable computer for a few weeks now and was unable to write even a few lines for the Sierra Prospect. Frankly, I was not in a position to buy another computer. Then on Saturday, my doorbell rang and there was my neighbor with what looked like a computer box for a desktop and a big smile.

“What’s this!” I exclaimed, as James walked into my apartment with his booty.

He replied, “I told you I was working on something to get you a better computer, and here it is!”

He then proceeded to disconnect my old clunker (which had Windows XP and the slowest response time since the building of the Ark). Two hours later, after much hard work and a few groans along the way, my new (used) computer was working and I was able to let Liz Fisher know that I would write a column for this week.

I could write reams of copy against Donald Trump, I thought, but the idea made me stomach sick. As for my position on gun control, I believe we need to keep the assault rifle off the public market. I am sure the country’s founders did not imagine the rampant gun mentality — or madness — that rages through our country now. From Columbine on, we’ve been assailed by almost weekly or monthly tales of mass slaughters to the point we are almost numb to them.

I chose to write about generosity because James’ story is one of pride and bigness of heart.

He has served in the military, and had several good jobs as a computer expert with such companies as IBM. When he became ill with a rare form of leukemia he was forced to take on a job as an apartment building superintendent. Now, he is disabled and on a fixed income, like the rest of us in my apartment building. His medical bills are monumental, and he lives in constant pain from tumors throughout his body.

Yet, he finds ways to be of service to many of us and to give us joy and pride and even an every-other-month treat of Dunkin’ Donuts.. I asked James what I owed him for the computer, and he replied evasively … nothing. I finally persuaded him to let me buy him lunch, and I called in the order on my charge card.

After the computer was installed, James ate his lunch (by then almost supper). I again asked him what else I could do to pay him back and he refused once again to discuss it.

So, this column is a tribute to a friend and his generosity, and to his courage and example of living a brave life. He has made my life richer.

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