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Posts tagged as “lance simmens”

Adeline Ramage Rooney: Social Prejudices And Modern Women

These are precarious times we live in. Trepidation abounds as each new chapter unfolds in the era of Trump. While heartbreak along our Mexican border reverberates across the conscience of America, and the nation searches for its soul, we here in Topanga luxuriate in the beautiful surroundings of mountains, canyons and the Pacific Ocean while we lament what is happening to our country, the world, and in general the future, that awaits our progeny.

On a crisp sunny Monday morning two days ahead of July 4, I had the pleasure of meeting Adeline Ramage Rooney, a local resident, at the Topanga Living Cafe. Our discussion started out as an interview but ended up as an engaging conversation on the awakening of the women’s movement to secure equality in a rapidly changing society that is still dominated by men.

Adeline, originally from Scotland and still possessive of an accent most Americans immediately associate with high brow intellectualism, is co-founder of 8HOURS TELEVISION, an ambitious new unscripted production company. With offices in Los Angeles and London, they create and produce docuseries, formats and competition shows in the music, food and lifestyle genres for a global audience.

For roughly two hours we discussed the broad topic of feminism, defined generally as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. I have long considered myself a feminist, yet only with the emergence of the MeToo Movement have I taken a hard introspective look into whether that designation is indeed justified. Self satisfied that I do indeed fit the description I proceeded with the discussion.

As a married woman in her 40’s, the mother of a five-year old, two stepchildren in their teens, and a significant financial contributor in a two-income family, she feels that many more women of her generation are legitimately equipped to handle the rigors of a professional career but find they can’t get back into the workplace because of societal prejudices.

“I have many friends who are still full of energy and creativity and, having raised kids, are uniquely qualified for fulfilling roles in the workplace due to the fact that they have become experts at running a home and family and juggling so many plates in the air, yet they feel unable to get out there and look for work because the odds are stacked against them,” She opined. Ingrained societal attitudes still tend to bestow a secondary role upon women over 40 in the workplace. “You only need to look at the stats: 60 percent of college graduates are women, yet only 22 percent make it past middle management. That’s just not right.” Rooney concluded.

Of course, complete gender equality may not necessarily be the ideal consequence of a mature and developed society, Rooney contended, while offering “look, men and women are different. Women have different, often highly complimentary strengths and weaknesses to men, but we are only seeking a fair playing field.” So Men really are from Mars and Women from Venus I immediately shot back. While her initial response was no, after a long pause she offered, “Maybe so, I certainly believe that, as a very wide generalization, women will often approach and solve problems with a very different creative methodology than men.”

In an effort to at least try to quantify our progress or lack thereof I asked her if she were to rate on a scale from one to ten, where one represented what I would refer to as the 1950s Ozzie and Harriet version of the perfect marital relationship, one where the wife stayed home, took care of the house, the kids, and tended to the daily operating activities of the household, while the husband went to work, came home, and after dinner read the newspaper and watched the news or sports, and ten represented total equality where she thought we were, “Probably at three,” She offered. Surprised, I did not find this very comforting or acceptable and offered that we still had a long way to go. She concurred.

Inexorably the conversation turned to what I consider to be the quintessential question as regards the matter at hand, are we in fact making progress, stuck in neutral, or sliding backwards? Surprised again she offered that she thought we were slowly making progress. My own assessment was somewhat harsher as I feel we are actually in danger of sliding backwards.

Regardless of the conversation these days, it is virtually impossible to engage in meaningful dialogue without commenting on the empathy or lack thereof of Trumpian policies that range from locker room dialogue on the treatment of women to availability of abortion and planned parenthood programs to treatment of women and immigrant children.

While we seem to have stepped backwards somewhat, we agreed the advancement of women candidates in recent primary elections, and the expectation a wave of younger voters in the fall may presage not only a check on Trump’s policy agenda but possibly the promulgation of progressive social policies geared to promote greater compassion, offered at least some degree of hope and promise.

I can only hope that her positive attitude is a better gauge for the future than my own skepticism. Believe me, on this one I want to be wrong. After our discussion I felt the open dialogue was a refreshing change from the staid echo chambers that currently dominate what passes for policy analysis and political dialogue. In a very real way it was a cathartic exercise meant to rejuvenate the ideals and expectations many of us have for the world our children will inherit.

I would strongly encourage everyone to seek out a friend or even an acquaintance, preferably of the opposite sex, and engage in a regular dialogue on the differences between men and women. Harkening back to college days when such discussions were commonplace, usually with the help of alcohol or marijuana, music, and going late into the evening, back when some of us were dead set on changing the world, a reexamination of idealism in the face of reality may actually be the cathartic exercise the doctor ordered.

Meanwhile, living in California offers promise, and living here where we do is just another beautiful day in Paradise!

Opiate of the Masses: Democracy

Special To Topanga Journal

By Lance Simmens

Statue of Liberty

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”(Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations, p. 574).

“Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill

Democracy is still in its experimental phase, although begun in Athens over 2,500 years ago. It is now being tested unlike any time since the eruption of two world wars. Certainly the 20th century was punctuated by a great struggle between authoritarian/dictatorial rule and modern democratic governance. As we muddle our way through a contemporary world where political systems and politicians wrestle with efficiency and power versus civil liberties, freedom, and equality in a seemingly endless battle to gain advantage over both adversaries and allies alike, it appears as though economic considerations may supplant traditional core social values like the rule of law and justice.

The current battlefield is littered with skeletons of what used to be vibrant civil liberties callously abandoned in favor of consolidated wealth. No clearer illustration of such a dismal landscape is evident than what is currently underway in the United States where the blinding light of freedom and liberty is dimming under the weight of Trumpism. Power is increasingly associated with wealth and strength is being measured in military prowess, while science, empathy, tolerance and diversity fall victim to a resurgent Age of Greed.

I attended a conference last week sponsored by The Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles entitled The Struggle For Democracy ( where German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier implored those participating to value diversity and immigration as key building blocks for sustaining democracy. Contrast that with the zero tolerance prescription currently being toyed with on the Mexican border and the Supreme Court decision to allow the President unfettered constitutional permission to pursue virtually any policy couched in terms of national security and a disturbing transformation in what we view as democracy here in the United States starts to emerge.

A cursory review of literature on the definition of a democracy is replete with concepts such as rule of law, judicial independence, separation of powers, judicial review, due process, full and free voter participation, and checks and balances, just to highlight a few. The damage of Republican congressional efforts to effectively hijack the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 were in full view in the 5-4 decision to essentially validate Trump’s Muslim ban. That such chicanery was successfully carried out in full view with not even a hint of embarrassment or shame should serve as a clarion call for reconsideration of our traditional commitment to democratic principles. We are currently traversing dangerously narrow mountain trails without guardrails and democracy is precariously perched upon rugged cliffs while the driver of this bus is seemingly oblivious to either the map or the brake.

Gerrymandering and the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision stipulating the designation of corporations as people have greatly aided the one-party domination that is now a part of a democratic process to deny fair representation to the electorate. Active voter suppression legislation throughout the states deny fair and full voter participation, another dagger to the heart of democratic process. Our long tainted history with literacy tests and poll taxes have given way to blatant purges of voter registration lists by the very judicial body that once served as an enlightened arbiter of democratic principles.

When the levers of government; executive, legislative, and judicial are all skewed towards one political party the only remaining check against oligarchic power is a vibrant free press, and as we have seen with this administration attacks against the First Amendment not only signal a populist purge against religious belief if you are a Muslim but also against the Fourth Estate if you happen to find yourself on the side of the so-called Fake News. The President’s disdain for leaders of the Western alliance and embrace of dictatorial regimes in Russia, Turkey, the Philippines and even recently North Korea raise serious questions for the perpetuation of democracies in Europe and North America. Flattery is the currency that opens the door to corruption and renders strategic long-term thinking meaningless. Charismatic leadership is simply not a sufficient antidote to procedural dysfunction. No matter how skilled the driver, a bus without brakes heading down a mountainside is a prescription for disaster.

Democracy in the United States is under severe pressure right now and a concerted effort to obfuscate, obstruct, confuse, and depress the truth, also known as facts, is undermining confidence in institutions and leadership. The overwhelming degree of outright lying is so blatantly destructive to the national psyche that there is a weakening desire to even participate in a system so incompetent, dysfunctional and corrupt. The dangers of such a diabolical scheme to defraud the American people carry with it potential disruption of a world order that has so persistently been nurtured since the end of World War II that global conflict once thought of as a thing of the past is now seen as threatening.

I am not one willing to chuck democracy overboard. It is an imperfect system to be sure but if advanced in a spirit of compassion and humanitarianism can achieve positive results not only within this nation but throughout the world. America has led in the past and can again lead in the future, but we are straying from our core convictions, those so deliberately laid out in the constitution, where unalienable rights, liberty and justice for all, all men are created equal, and all are afforded due process and the right to participate in our government, must serve as the rallying cry for a more peaceful and productive world.

Trade wars, economic advantage, and greed will only fuel greater inequality and conflict in a world already under siege from our withdrawal from trade agreements, climate change, and strategic alliances. We are foregoing our moral authority and headed in the wrong direction and we must trust our faith in representative democracy in order to salvage leadership throughout the globe. Bombastic narcissism is now the opiate of an increasing percentage of the masses and democracy offers a cure. We the voters must restore an effective check on tyranny through the ballot box. It is all up to us now.


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What Are We Doing? Child Immigrant Detention Centers

Special To Topanga Journal

Billie Holiday, the great jazz singer, wrote God Bless the Child in 1939 as Hitler was preparing to invade Poland in direct reaction to the appeasement he had secured with Neville Chamberlain the year before. The world was descending upon darkness, but for Holiday and the children who had experienced the dark days of the Great Depression those prophetic words seem apt today, especially today.

By Lance Simmens

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
Sot the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own


Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own


Today, somewhere between 2,000-3,000 children are on their own. Exposed to strange surroundings, with no one to hold them, comfort them, love them. Ripped from the arms of their parents or at the very least the touch of family members who risked life and limb, sacrificed savings, endured unspeakable hardships, all in search of the opportunity for a better life only to face the cruel and harsh reality of political gamesmanship that is as meaningless as it is absurd.

“To inflict such pain on other human beings, especially for crass political purposes, should surely reserve a special place in hell for those charged with positions of great responsibility.” Lance Simmens

President Trump turned Lady Liberty on her head today. Valuing might over right, strength over perceived weakness, apathy over empathy, bluster over diplomacy, and blind fealty to a past that never existed over the promise of a bright future the President of the United States of America showed the world that he is not only ill-suited to the position he occupies but a danger to the perpetuation of a world order that has been built over the past 70 years.


In his quest to satisfy a burning narcissism that prevents him from either thinking rationally or correcting a self-inflicted policy fiasco that will affect innocents for quite possibly the rest of their lives, Trump continued to hold children and their parents hostage to a fantasy that building walls holds the key to perpetual blind ignorance of the complexities that shape our world.


Ironically his decision on the immigration crisis that today grips the Southern border between the US and Mexico comes on the heels of withdrawal from the UN Council on Human Rights. It also comes on the heels of an ever-widening trade war that pits the US against two of its strongest trading partners and allies: Canada and Mexico. Trump’s fondness for strong authoritarian leaders (Kim Jong Il, Duterte, Erdogan, Putin) and his public disdain for traditional allies in Europe and North America threaten to further diminish America’s moral leadership on the world stage. When coupled with his ambivalence towards white supremacists and ultra right nationalists, embrace of deregulatory actions that subject millions of American citizens to serious health risks due to pollution, and an aversion to anything resembling either historical perspective or a governing philosophy, the country is more divided than at anytime since the Civil War.


All of these events are cause for great alarm, however the blatant abuse of children stirs passions amongst people of all colors, liberals and conservatives, religious and non-religious, educational and income levels, rural and urban, Red State, Blue States and Purple States. It is simply an abhorrent display of callousness that defies rational explanation. He may have attempted to quell the firestorm with a vacuous signing ceremony today that will not only address the problem but will most likely create additional complications while the children we have incarcerated and their parents grow more and more desperate to cope with the betrayal of everything we as a nation are supposed to stand for: equality, justice, freedom, opportunity and an abiding sense of fairness that shine like a beacon for the world to emulate.


Today we fumble in the darkness of our own cowardice. Republican congressional leadership heaps lavish praise upon a leader who has rendered them spineless. Today’s actions exacerbate the steady decline of the nation, and I can honestly say that while I love my country and what it stands for I am deeply ashamed to call myself an American in light of such travesty.


As a single father of two millennials my heart aches, and I simply cannot imagine the pain and suffering of those who have no idea if they will ever again see their loved ones. To inflict such pain on other human beings, especially for crass political purposes, should surely reserve a special place in hell for those charged with positions of great responsibility. In a representative democracy such as ours we are dependent upon a regimen of checks and balances that must protect us from the worst impulses of a charismatic leader. Currently, our system is failing.


As I survey the dismal state of affairs afflicting the nation I am surprised and disgusted at the lack of a concerted response from those who wear the uniform of the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies who are complicit in this atrocity. Is there no sense of perspective, integrity, pride in either the oath taken to the constitution or to one’s sense of values to protect the public health, safety and welfare?


I watched a high-ranking Border Patrol official defend his actions by invoking the pathetic excuse that he “was only following orders.” This was the same rationale prevalent at the Nuremberg trials following World War II. It was sickening when those who proudly wore Nazi uniforms and were involved in unspeakable atrocities invoked it then and it is similarly sickening today.


No position is worth sacrificing the virtues, values, and human compassion necessary to make decisions that affect others’ lives. Where are those who see what is going on and reject it. St. Augustine developed a legal maxim over 1,500 years ago, which is as relevant today as it was then. It has been used by St. Thomas Aquinas and as recently as last century by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in his famous treatise “A Letter From Birmingham Jail” and is as follows: lex iniusta non best lex, which translates to an unjust law is no law at all.


It is time for all of us to stand up and demand that the injustice we are perpetrating upon God’s children cease immediately and that a major emphasis on reunification of parents and children commence with all deliberate speed. There is no higher priority right now and anything less is a crime against humanity.



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