Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I laughed, I cried, I didn't think about politics...much

I've been caught up a lot in politics lately, but today is different. Today was full of specific grief and random thoughts on the human condition.

     I have two reasons to grieve today.  The first is that my dad on September 11, 2010.  Thinking about my dad and how my mom must feel with the hole he left in her life after 53 years proved a sobering thought that made me reflect on his life and the person he was.  He was a father who worked two jobs for several years to make life better for his family.  He was an immigrant who had to work when he first came to the United States at fourteen to help support the family, who watched as friends who came over on the boat with him received special tutoring and were allowed to work on their academics.  He told me this bitter regret when he was in the hospital, several days before he died of pancreatic cancer.  It was why he never finished high school.  He felt that he would have been farther along in life if he had been allowed to focus on school.  He had promise as a soccer player and could have easily gotten a scholarship for it.  In spite of overwhelming odds, though, he rose into the middle class from abject poverty, and left my mom with enough to make her comfortable, at least financially.  Grief isn't comfortable, and she's not done with it.

   The second reason, of course, is the attack on 9/11/2001.

    One of my first thoughts of the day was about the firefighters.  One of my friends posted a picture of firefighters raising an American flag.  Think about their job.  They risk their lives--and sometimes lose them, as many did on 9/11--to save total strangers.  That's what they signed up and trained hard to do.  What firefighter decides to go into that line of work with thoughts of money, fame, or power?  What person decides to be a firefighter who isn't selfless?  I have the utmost respect for people who decide to do this job. Other first responders--police, paramedics, and everyone else who rushes to an emergency--deserve that respect as well.   They are what's best in people.

     Soon after the thoughts about firefighters, I saw a story about how this pizza shop in Florida, called Big Apple Pizza, was losing business and getting fake bad reviews because the owner gave President Obama a bear hug.  I didn't see it as a political story. I saw it as a story about hate and racism.  How hate-filled do you have to be that a hug bothers you?  The people who spewed vitriol at the workers may not be racist; they may just have to hate the President that much, but it's still the same irrational hatred.  Disagreeing with a person's policies doesn't warrant being bothered by someone hugging that person.  I have a difficult time believing that this hate isn't rooted in racism.  I don't think the same reaction would have taken place if Scott Van Duzer would have hugged President Clinton, as hated as he was by some right-wingers.

    I thought about how hate-filled people had to be about a hug, and that led to trying to wrap my mind around the hate displayed during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.  White people turned hoses and dogs on black people because they wanted to enjoy the same rights and privileges that white people enjoyed.  They wanted to go to the same schools, ride the same buses (without seating restrictions), eat in the same restaurants (with section restrictions), drink out of the same water fountains...get married to who they wanted to, no matter the melanin content of their skin.   And for that, fire hoses and dogs.  Hate.  It doesn't make sense, and it makes me grieve.

    After the thoughts on racism and other hate, I came back to 9/11, watching a video of Jon Stewart's first show after the tragic event.  It made me think of how everyone gave blood, gave money, wanted to help.  I remember the unity, I remember the anger, the grief.  I remember watching watching the news coverage in shock.  I remember thinking "We're under attack" as soon as the jet hit the second World Trade Center tower.  I remember how we had a moment where we could stand together and rise above the event, bringing out what's best in humanity.  Instead, we were told to go shopping.  Instead, we put troops into a country instead of running covert operations.  Instead, we were fooled into a war (well, I wasn't, but...) with a country that had nothing to do with the attacks.  Instead of remaining united, we became more divided.  We fostered more hatred.

    I think about these things and grieve.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tweet at your own risk

A joke tweet out of context can be hazardous to your...ok, it's not really hazardous to anything, except maybe your Twitter feed.

During day one of the Democratic National Convention, Markos Moulitsas of The Daily Kos tweeted a few tweets about the volume of the speakers that all went something like "Why is [insert speaker name here] yelling at me?"

My response to Markos after the third one was "Why not focus on the message instead of the volume?"

Well...tonight, when Jennifer Granholm made her impassioned speech about how Barack Obama saved the automotive industry and all of the jobs that rescue entailed in several states, my first thought was of Markos' tweets from day one, so I thought he'd find it funny--I did--that someone who sort of chastised him (not sure he remembered it) had the same thought he did during day one (he was right, some of them were pretty loud--but the messages were great).  So I tweeted:

Damn you,  ! My first thought during Jennifer Granholm's speech was "Why is Jennifer Granholm yelling at me?" You're contagious.

Markos retweeted my tweet, then Keith Olbermann picked it up and also retweeted it.  Antics ensued, but one tweet concerned me:

 would you question a man about "yelling at you" in a powerful passionate speech? I don't think so.

This tweet came from Rep. Angela R. Bryant from North Carolina.  

I can understand where Representative Bryant would get this impression, having seen my tweet out of context.  I can't stress enough, however, that if I'd heard a man speaking at high volume during today's speeches, I would have had the same thought.  It wasn't malicious or misogynistic; I respect Jennifer Granholm.  I watch her show.  We have some disagreements about the role of religion in public life, I think, but we agree on policy, and I think her show on Current TV, The War Room, is well done, has great guests, and has a great host.  I have a lot of respect for my former governor.

And the speech--I thought the speech was great!   When she said the line I think more people tweeted than any other, "In Mitt Romney's world, the cars get the elevator, and the workers get the shaft!", I was among the first in my feed to tweet it.  I admired her passion in that speech--I had never seen her so fired up...but I had that little tingle, that one funny little though, about Markos' tweets on day one, and I had to share.

I don't blame Markos for my tweet.  How could I?  I don't blame him for retweeting it, either.  I just wanted to explain that I didn't mean it maliciously; I meant it humorously.  It wasn't a condemnation of Jennifer Granholm.  I'm not like Republicans--I want to hear women roar.  Bring your message loud, and with passion, and I will support you in every way possible.   You deserve a loud, passionate voice--the Republicans certainly have enough of them.  Anyone who reads through this blog's articles will know that I support women's rights and have no malice against women--except maybe Sarah Palin, but that's not because of her gender.  

I encourage Jennifer Granholm to speak with the same level of passion in future speeches.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Open Letter to Gina Rinehart, World's Wealthiest Woman

Dear Gina Rinehart,

    I am not exactly poor, but I'm definitely not wealthy.  I am in the dying middle class in the United States.  I don't know how the middle class is faring in your country, but here, we're an endangered group.

    I'm not jealous of your wealth.  I'm not jealous of anyone's wealth.  I'm angry that anyone who is lucky enough to have made a fortune doing what they do would seize power and work their hardest to ensure that people who don't have the ability or ambition to become mining moguls (although from what I understand, yours is inherited wealth, not something you built yourself) have no influence in things that affect their daily lives.

    You see, we have people who talk just like you do here in the United States.  They consider the wealthy "the hardest-working Americans", while the poor are just lazy, good-for-nothing loafers who just want to live off of welfare.  They want to take away the social safety nets that keep people from starving in the streets when they fall upon hard times, as people sometimes do.  But it's worse than that.

    Far worse.

    A handful of billionaires, most notably the brothers Koch, with their $42 billion fortune, have set out to lobby legislatures across the country to take away collective bargaining rights from teachers, firefighters, police, and any and all others who work for the government that they also seek to control.  They pay people to sit at the ears of politicians, giving voice to their goals and desires that no other citizen could hope to have. They pass laws that benefit their industries, while killing competition in the private sector with their immense buying power.  They seek to make us subjects, not citizens, and the American people gave up being subjects in 1776--as did Australians in 1901.

     You say people who are "jealous" of the wealthy (rather than angry, as I am) should just work harder, socialize less, drink less, and smoke less, but the truth is, society can't be comprised of only wealthy people. It's not possible.  We need laborers.  We need teachers, police, and firefighters.  We need people picking up trash and cleaning sewers.  We need people doing construction.  Do you suggest that none of these people work as hard as you do?  Do you suggest that they all give it up for a dream of being a billionaire mining mogul, or something equivalent?

    The fact is, I know many hard-working people who don't drink or smoke, and keep their socialization to a minimum, but people of your ilk took their jobs overseas to places where the government doesn't offer as strict regulation on working conditions and work hours.  Their ambition consisted of living comfortably and providing for their families, and now that their jobs that paid a living wage are gone, they have to work one job for half the pay and struggle, or two jobs that might not even add up to the same wages as the one--if they are lucky enough to find a second job.

    Then, there are the people I mentioned before, lobbying legislatures across the country.  They are doing something else aside from taking away collective bargaining rights.  They are lobbying to make public services private.   What they do is take a public service, give it over to a private company, hire back the workers who used to make a living wage and belong to a union at much lower wages with less benefits or none at all.  They make this privatization look attractive to communities, because it does appear to save them money, when compared to the cost of service when run by the government.  However, the workers may no longer to afford to live in the community, option for cheaper housing elsewhere.  They will no longer frequent bars, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hair salons, or any number of other local businesses that received the benefit of their patronage.  Even if these businesses do continue to receive some patronage, it must be reduced, because the workers have less disposable income.  In the meantime, the private companies that take over the services have executives and shareholders who live outside the communities--sometimes even overseas--who benefit from the difference in wages between the old workers and the new, and at a lower tax rate than the workers themselves paid.

     So I look at all of these things, and I say, yes, I'm definitely angry with you.  Not jealous.  Angry.  When I hear statements like yours, it stirs my passion to do something about your kind, so please, keep talking.  We don't live in a world where we believe you wealthy people rule by divine right.  We have the power to tax and regulate you out of business, if only we rise up to use it--and I think we should use that power on anyone who would try to buy government to try to rule over us.

One who would not be a serf, but a citizen.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

American Totaliarianism

I'm sure I'm not the first to make this observation, but the Republicans resemble a totalitarian regime attempting to take power, not a party trying to legitimately put its ideas up against those of it's largest rival, the Democrats, or the smaller parties nobody ever hears from on the national stage, such as the Greens or the Libertarians.

There are a handful of billionaires funding efforts to bust unions, suppress votes, and privatize public services.  The voter suppression is the most telling of their efforts.  Consider, for example, this statement from a legislator in Pennsylvania, where a voter ID law they passed could keep nearly a million voters from casting a ballot:

Now, people who listen to the right wing noise machine will tell you that these laws exist to prevent voter fraud, but as Cenk Uygar shows in the video, actual voter fraud is minuscule--but the suppression is huge, and affects mostly voters who would typically vote for Democrats.

Fortunately, many states have killed laws designed to suppress votes in their courts, but the fact that they even had to take a single case to court regarding something that would disenfranchise voters is telling: Republicans don't want Democrats to vote, because they know their ideas aren't popular.

Republicans have also engaged in redistricting in ways that will benefit them.  A simple search of YouTube will bring up video of Republicans in several states redistricting to benefit themselves and take seats away from Democrats.  Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Kentucky, North Carolina, Illinois...the effort goes on in state after state.  Republicans clearly want to rule, not offer the people a choice.

And it's not just the United States they want to rule, either.  They want to rule the world, and they want to do it through securing Middle East oil resources, not because we get the majority of our oil from there (we don't), but because the region is a major source of fossil fuel in Russia and China.  Europe also gets oil from the Middle East.  The Project for the New American Century had several people in its organization who worked in the Bush administration, and Romney has 17 advisors who also worked in the Bush administration.  Romney's saber-rattling at Iran during his acceptance speech at the RNC clearly shows that he wants to continue the work the Bush administration began, but of course, it's in the name of Iran's nuclear program, not because they want to take over the Middle East.  It echoes the Bush administration's claim that Iraq was an imminent threat with weapons of mass destruction, including a fabled nuclear program.

Another example of Republican aspiration to totalitarianism manifests itself in their record use of the filibuster.      Several Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, who was vocal about it, resolved to make President Obama a one-term President by making all of his attempts at changing policy fail in Congress.  Instead of doing everything they could to help the economy, they thwarted jobs bills, watered down the stimulus, blocked infrastructure improvement legislation, and simply did everything in their power to keep President Obama from doing what he wanted to move American forward.  The President was able to help the economy in spite of their efforts, but they could have been part of the solution, and had they compromised and cooperated, the whole country would have gained the benefit.  They did not have to bow down the President as an overlord and rubber-stamp everything he wanted to pass, but even as Obama reached out to them on issues of policy, they would not even attempt to compromise.  They just said no.

We don't even have to speculate regarding what would happen if the tables were turned, because we saw it during the Bush administration.  When the Republicans had control from 2002-2006 of all three branches of government, they deregulated industry and the financial sector to the point where the American people were no longer protected, and they did it behind closed doors, with the Democratic minority relegated to meeting in the basement of Congress.  They didn't even want to hear arguments from Democrats on the floor.  They will do the same again if they gain equivalent control.

There's more...so much more.  I could talk about how voting machines aren't made as available to districts that typically vote Democratic, where Republicans are in charge of their distribution.  I could talk about how they actually influence the textbooks that go to our children's schools, changing history and science to fit their agenda (2/3 of all textbooks are published in Texas, and the state has enormous influence over the textbooks.  The GOP controls that state).  I could talk about how the right wing noise machine influences voters to believe fairy tales instead of facts, ignoring real criticisms of the President to appeal to emotion and patriotism, rather than to reason.  I think, however, that the things I've listed should give any reasonable person food for thought.