Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's in a Name? Depends on Who's Calling It.

Over this past week I packed and cleaned and wore myself out getting ready for a long trip toward the places where I'm hoping merry holiday spirits abide. It would be a cruel trick if they didn't.

During our long, long travels we got caught in not one but two snowstorms.  We spent three nights on the road when one night in a motel would have been more than enough.  When we could finally travel we had to drive well under the speed limit watching for black ice.  Here in Michigan we try not to think about the fact that winter won't even officially begin until Saturday.  We are sick of it already.  (Oh, I know--you New Yorkers have it much tougher, even though--may I remind you again--nearly every storm you get has already come roaring through our neck of the woods.)

You can see where I'm at these days, so forgive me if I don't give two shits about what somebody I don't even know is saying out loud, even if it offends more than half the country's tender sensibilities.

Megyn Kelly said on Fox News that there is no question that Santa and Jesus were two white guys.  This was in answer to an article in Slate by Aisha Harris, who wrote that maybe Santa shouldn't be an old white man anymore; maybe he should be a penguin, instead.

Maybe it was just my mood--I was looking for something to laugh about--but I found the whole thing hilarious.  In fact, I must remember to thank Megyn for putting a ray of sunshine in what was otherwise a bleak couple of days.  The fact that she's not the brightest bulb on the tree was a foregone conclusion even before she said what she said.  Nothing has changed, except that, honest to God, I got an email asking me to sign a petition to get her off the air!  Are they nuts?  For what?  Being so successfully bad at what she does?

And then there's Phil Robertson, that long-bearded Duck Dynasty guy:  I'm betting he was an established oddball long before he said what he said about gays, the bible, anuses and vaginas.  I caught about 20 minutes of that show once, and after the first 10 minutes of it nothing any of them might say would ever surprise me.  But yesterday I got an email from a friend asking me to sign a petition to demand that A&E come to their senses and put the guy back on the air. If the petition hadn't suggested that the suspension was blatantly anti-Christian, I might have been tempted to sign it.  Nobody should be forced out of a job over a few rancid words.  Even that guy.

When MSNBC fired Martin Bashir for saying something truly foul about what should happen to Sarah Palin in order to make her understand how terrible slavery really was, I objected to that firing, too, even though I thought Martin went way over any decent line.

If MSNBC had wanted to fire Alec Baldwin for dismal ratings they were well within their rights--his ratings were dismal--but they chose instead to tell the public he was fired for uttering a homophobic slur while lashing out at a photographer.  It's not as if MSNBC didn't know going in that Baldwin was a loose cannon.  That must have been part of his appeal for them.  In fact, his (or their) decision to play it straight (as it were) is probably what killed the show.  He was no Jack Donaghy.  He was barely even Alec Baldwin.

None of these people are politicians or leaders.  What they say has no impact on policy-making; nor does it change anything for any stranger who might feel victimized by their words.  We don't know those people and they don't know us.  I'm not defending any of them--every one of them said something stupid--but how sensitive is too sensitive?  Is a single utterance reason enough to cause someone to lose a job?

After a successful career spanning decades, the ever-entertaining Howard Cosell found himself at the center of controversy for directing the term "little monkey" to a black player during a televised football game in 1983.  Cosell, clearly no racist, had used the term at least three other times within a span of about 10 years.  He refused to back down, and left broadcasting at the end of that  season.

Thirty years later, we're still looking for insults inside stupid sentences.  It's as if we've never experienced a comments section.  

Read the comment section of any article smacking of even a hint of controversy and you'll see name-calling soaring to spectacularly vile heights. Some of it comes after a public figure has done the wordy deed and the commenters respond in kind, as if they're competing to see how ugly it can get.

Some participants in the comment sections have a talent for it; the vast majority don't.  F-bombs and its various variations dropping all over the place, as if there is no word it can't replace.  MFing L-bombs lobbed at even little old liberal ladies (just saying. . .).

So here I'll make a confession.  I hate the F-word.  I don't just hate it, I despise it.  I have never used it, never written it, and even now, when its usage is more common than breathing, it still offends me.  I grew up in a time when it was so rarely used it was shocking to hear it spoken out loud.  We saw it in writing even less. But even when it's directed at me I don't fall apart over it. What kind of sissy would I be if I went off pouting or calling for heads to roll every time I heard it used in a way that I found offensive?  (Which, for me, don't you know, would be every way.)

I was a young adult when feminism grew strong enough to become an F-word itself. I've heard it all. Words hurled at me by strangers have almost always been meaningless.  They can't hurt me unless I let them.  And why would I let them? Water off a duck's back.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.  And nyah nyah, you lousy cootie.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Terrible Horrible No Good War on Happy Holidays


I’ve been sending out Christmas cards since I was around 16 years old, when my mom told me I was old enough to start sending out my own cards.  The cards I chose over the course of many,many, many years depended on a lot of things, but it never occurred to me—ever–to wonder if my choice of card would offend anyone.

happyholidaysvintagecard

My choices could be anywhere from Currier and Ives winter scenes to merry Santas to red nosed reindeer to Christmas trees to peace doves to celebrations around the world to the Christ child in the manger.  Over the years I’ve received many more cards than I’ve ever sent and I’m happy to say I’ve enjoyed them, each and every one.

Nativity-Scene

Sometimes I would choose my card based on the inside greeting.  It might say “Merry Christmas to you and yours” or “Happy Holidays!” or “Great Joy and Glad Tidings” or “Peace on Earth”.  Something along those lines.  (“Season’s Greetings” went to people I didn’t know very well but felt obliged to send a card.  You know how it is.)

I’ve wished people I barely know a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays without giving a thought to how they might take either salutation.  I love Christmas.  I love the entire happy holiday season from beginning to end.  It’s a wonderful time of the year and once I get my damn shopping done and cook whatever the hell I’ve promised to cook, my heart is full of great joy and glad tidings.

I, a non-religious now, still love the Christian part of Christmas.  The story of the nativity is breathtaking and beautiful.  The Christmas concerts in our local churches are uplifting and glorious.  Christmas carols sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir never fail to cause my heart to swell and my eyes to tear up.

During the Christmas holidays our collective hearts swell so much it’s a known fact that charity toward others grows exponentially as the days of December wane.

There is no question that Christmas is the holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ. The joy of that event has long translated into Joy to the World.  December 25 is a date Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  It corresponds to early pagan solstice celebrations, the sharing of which, for decades, was no big deal.  Those of us who are religious celebrate it in one way and those of us who aren’t choose another.  It is and always has been the joy of Christmas that bound us together.  We honestly thought it was enough.

Now we are engaged in a great religious war.  A baffling religious war.  A religious war that, if I weren’t so immersed in the aforementioned joy of Christmas, I might even call the worst bad joke in centuries.  As jokes go, award-winning bad.  An insult to anyone who has ever celebrated Christmas.

The escalation of this phony war on Christmas came out of the head of one super showman. Oh, there might have been some grumblings over the years about the commercializing of Christmas—a righteous reason to grumble, in fact.  But it was one Bill O’Reilly who turned the War on Christmas into an annual event, assigning two words—Happy Holidays—as the opening salvo to Christmas, and thus Christian, Armageddon.  (Note lack of O’Reilly links.  I don’t want them here.  You can find them for yourself if you choose.  They’re all over the place.)

Along the way O’Reilly has recruited some surprising foot soldiers.  People I know well are now talking about this supposed War on Christmas, as if it were real and not just somebody’s clever but hateful idea of a ratings guarantee.

I would ask these people:  Where is the battleground?  Where are the bodies?  Who has been injured?  What army has forced them to stop celebrating a Christian Christmas?

Have the churches been shuttered?  Has the singing of Carols been outlawed?  Has any single Christian been inconvenienced at all by the non-religious celebrations of the Christmas Holidays?

I saw a sweat shirt the other day with this banner:  “I’m Not Afraid to Say Merry Christmas.”

Huh?  Who is?  Who in America is afraid to say “Merry Christmas”?

News Flash:  Nobody is afraid.  That would be stupid.  But just in case, since I was going to do this sometime anyway, let’s give it a whirl and see what happens:  (If I’m wrong and I end up dead or something, let me just say right now. . .Really??)


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Why Martin Bashir's Apology Should Have Been Enough


Until Martin Bashir either resigned or was let go by MSNBC this week, I was a loyal fan.  One of the reasons I watched Bashir is because the things that engaged him usually did the same for me.  At my house, in the Eastern Time Zone, he was on at 4 PM, which meant whatever had happened that day had largely been dissected to death by the daytime pundits.  But he had the ability to find something fresh and insightful and, yes, funny, about what was going on out there.  Maybe it's his accent, his enunciation, his eyebrows--I don't know. He is a devilishly clever wordsmith--smarmy, but in a good way.  I have been known to hurry things up just so I can get home in time to watch him.

So I was home and watching on the day he went into that thing over Jake Tapper's interview with Sarah Palin--the part where Palin would not back down from comparing the national debt to slavery.  Tapper gave her many outs, bless his heart, but she stuck by every word.

The interview went like this:
TAPPER: Mitch McConnell has said no more government shutdowns. He didn't think it was a smart idea.
If you were advising Senate Republicans, would you encourage them to do a --

PALIN: What shutdown? What shutdown?

It was a --

TAPPER: Partial shutdown.

PALIN: -- 17-day slim down -- no, a 16-day slim down of about 17 percent of the government. We need to rein in government.

And when is the time, finally, for people to open their eyes and for the media to -- to open its eyes?

What is the time and the magic number, when it comes to debt, when it comes to this trajectory of government growth, for people to say, we do need to start slimming this thing down?

TAPPER: So, you obviously feel very passionate about the national debt. The other day, you gave a speech in which you compared it to slavery.

PALIN: To slavery. Yes.

And that's not a racist thing to do, by the way, which I know somebody is going to claim it is.

TAPPER: Don't you ever fear that by using hyperbole like that -- obviously, you don't literally mean it's like slavery, which cost millions of people their lives and there was rape and torture. You're using it as a metaphor.

But don't you ever worry that by using that kind of language, you -- you risk obscuring the point you're trying to make?

PALIN: There is another definition of slavery and that is being beholden to some kind of master that is not of your choosing. And, yes, the national debt will be like slavery when the note comes due.

TAPPER: So you're not -- you're not work -- I mean I'm -- I'm taking it as a no, but you're not -- you're not concerned about the language --

PALIN: I'm not one to be politically correct, evidently.

TAPPER: OK.

PALIN: And, no, I don't -- I don't worry about things like that, because no matter what I say, no matter what a lot of conservatives say, they're, you know, they'll be targeted and distractions will be attempted to be made to take the listener and the viewers' mind off what the point is, by pointing out, oh, she said the word slavery in a speech, and, I did say the word slavery, because I want to make a point.

TAPPER: You can understand why African-Americans or others might be offended by it, though?

PALIN: I -- I can if they choose to misinterpret what it is that I'm saying. And, again, you know, I'm sure if we open up the dictionary, we could prove that with semantics that are various, we can prove that there is a definition of slavery that absolutely fits the bill there, when I'm talking about a bankrupt country that will owe somebody something down the line if we don't change things that is, we will be shackled. We will be enslaved to those who we owe.
Oh, Sarah.  Clueless, smug, privileged Sarah.  Why is anyone still interested in what you have to say?

See, this is what grinds some of us who think the serious stuff should be left to serious thinkers.  The issue of our country's debt crisis is clearly not something Sarah Palin has studied judiciously.  And clearly her audiences don't expect anything more from her than some funnin' over the fuss the liberals make over every nutty thing the Republicans come up with.

So when CNN's Jake Tapper sits down with Palin for what seems like a real interview with a real leader, giving her the deference a real leader might deserve, some of us, including or maybe especially Bashir, feel the tops of our heads threatening to blow off. 

When Bashir began his segment on Palin's national debt/slavery connection, I was all ears.  Here we go!  Give it all you got, Mah-tin!


He called her an idiot right off, and I, how you say, blanched. I'm all for semantics that are various, but nooooo!  Amateur hour.  Don't even go there!

Then he told the story of a sadistic Jamaican plantation overseer named Thistlewood who meted out unspeakable punishments to his slaves.  Punishments involving feces and urine.

If Bashir has ended his piece with the hope that Sarah Palin might never have said what she said if she fully understood what real slaves had to go through, it would have been a case of lesson learned.  Thank you, Martin, for reminding us all. . .

I fully expected that was where he was going.  But he wasn't.  Reading from a teleprompter with blowup shots behind him of an African slave about to be punished on one side and Palin on the other, this is what he said:

When Mrs. Palin invoked slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate.

Call me prescient but right then and there I saw trouble ahead.

Bashir apologized, of course, on his next show, and he meant it sincerely.  So sincerely, I wondered how it could have happened in the first place.  It wasn't something uttered in the heat of the moment.  The segment was planned, the words were scripted, he said them on the air. Sometime during the hours it took to produce the segment, the initial fury over Palin's noxious jabbering should have abated.

It's a mystery why it didn't, but there it was.

The internet went crazy.  The Right--wouldn't you know?--grabbed this unexpected but oh-so-welcome gift and ran with it.  Alec Baldwin, no stranger to controversy, wanted to know why he was suspended for spontaneous raging at a reporter but Martin wasn't for planning and airing this icky diatribe against Sarah Palin.  The cries for punishment never let up. 

It was an awful, awful moment, but it was a moment come and gone.  It was an ugly flub in an otherwise smart and often enlightening body of work.  It did not reflect who Martin is, was or ever will be.  What he said in that one single utterance, egregious as it might be, was not enough to kill a good man's otherwise trouble-free career.

Martin Bashir has lost his job.  Resigned under pressure, forced out--no matter.  He is among the unemployed because he said something stupid and he should have known better.

We've always been cavalier about someone else's job, and there's no reason to believe it will ever be otherwise.  So, Martin, I will miss you.  I wish you the best.  I hope to see you again soon, because you know I will follow you anywhere.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Politics of Cruelty


I'm coming off of my Thanksgiving week high, settling down, and what's the first thing I think of when I get back to my desk to do some writing?  Cruelty. Institutional cruelty, at that.  Political cruelty.  The kind of cruelty that knows no bounds and fears no punishment.  A new kind of cruelty, right out in the open and expecting rewards.  The New America, courtesy of the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

I had a lovely week.  Our dinner was great, I avoided Black Friday, we celebrated a good man's birthday, and our 350 mile trip back home was uneventful.  No wind or snow or traffic jams, and the ferry, our lifeline, was running on time.

Maybe it was because of that fine respite--I don't know--but at my desk those thoughts about where we are on the inhumanity front kept coming through. 

If there is a catalyst, I blame Joe Arpaio, the infamous, publicity-seeking sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County.  He's the guy who thinks it's cute to keep his prisoners in pink underwear.  He stays awake nights trying to come up with ideas to humiliate and demoralize the inmates in his care.  He gets a real kick out of it and never misses a chance to publicly tighten the screws.

To save money, Arpaio says, he feeds his prisoners only twice a day on between 15 cents and 40 cents a meal.  The meals are vegetarian, no salt and pepper.  He's working on charging them a dollar a meal, because, he says, "Everybody else has to pay for their food, why should they get freebies?"

Last Wednesday he took the time to tweet his Thanksgiving menu

"Thanksgiving menu is all set! Hope the inmates give thanks for this special meal being served in the jails tomorrow." 


Five ounces of turkey soy casserole and donated brownies.  56 cents a meal.  Did he do it to save money?  Sure.  Did he have to do it?  No.  (Did he eat it himself?  Have you seen him?)

But Joe is small potatoes compared to the various Federal, state and local leaders busy thinking up ways to stick it to the little guy.  Governors refusing Federally endorsed Medicaid for their citizens.  A $40 billion cut in food stamps.  A fight to block minimum wage hikes.  Cuts in unemployment benefits.  Cuts in Veteran's aid.  Cuts in public education.  Complete and total neglect of crumbling infrastructure.  Refusal to recognize the Affordable Care Act, along with a hearty wish that that damned website would just die already. 

Cruel, cruel, cruel, cruel, cruel, cruel, cruel, and cruel.  Every "no" vote, every obstruction sentences hundreds of thousands to needless suffering.  But because that kind of cruelty is now the American version of politics-as-usual, some of us rail (and not for the first time) while some of us cheer, but in the end, the power is no longer with the people.  Endless, needless, avoidable suffering and nobody goes to jail.  

Except Joe Arpaio, but only long enough to torment his inmates for yet another day.  Then he gets to go home, where nothing can hurt him.  Ever.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! It's All About the Turkeys

Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving!  No blog here today, but I'm sharing a few others from my other blog, Constant Commoner.

This one is about a celebrity chef in Detroit who gave a recipe for turkey to the Detroit Free Press.  I called it "The Only Turkey is the Recipe".

This one I did last night.  It's called "On The Day When Turkeys Don't Give Thanks".


And this one I wrote this morning while watching the Macy's Detroit Parade.  Warning:  It's a bit of a downer.  But it could be uplifting if things go right. . .

See you after the Holiday, when it's back to business.  Stay safe and don't forget those who don't have as much to celebrate.  Sharing is a good thing any day of the year.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Daylight in the Garden of Good and Kowalski

Hamtramck is a tiny city completely surrounded by big Detroit.  It has almost nothing in common with Motown except that they're both temporarily under the thumb of appointed, not elected, emergency managers. 

As with Detroit, Hamtramck's EM has far-reaching and unassailable dictatorial powers.  Hamtramck, like Detroit, is broke, and, according to the emergency managers in both towns, the only way to save them is to sell off all valuable assets--even those that make these towns what they are.

In Detroit, that could be (and very well might be) the venerable, world class Art Institute, but tiny Hamtramck has no such booty.  What they do have is a lovely community garden, thanks to a five-year adopt-a-lot agreement put in place by the mayor in 2011, giving the community necessary protection, along with an incentive to keep those gardens--now called Hamtown Farms--going.

Photo credit:  Hamtown Farms
  But strange as it may seem to those of us who see more value in the community garden part than in the worth of vacant lots, Cathy Square, Hamtramck's EM and resident carpetbagger (in place since way back in June), decided on her own that since the Kowalski Sausage Company next door wanted the garden lots for themselves, (and since a lawsuit restricting the sale of city-owned lots had ended) she should just go ahead and sell them.

Since Hamtown Farms had already invested over $40,000 into their gardens, based on lot prices in the area they thought an offer of $2500 for five lots would be fair.  Kowalski countered with $3000, a mere $500 more. Hamtown Farms saw the writing on the wall and thought that was the end.

When citizens got wind of the potential sale and caused a bit of a stink, mainly because those five city lots sat empty for over 30 years before they were rescued and turned into gardens, Ms. Square was miffed.  Okay, then, she said.  Not worth the hassle. I've made the decision to put them up for auction, instead.  So before anybody could ask, Isn't that, like, still selling them? the bids were opened.

After a protracted bidding war, Hamtown Farms ended up with the winning bids on three of the five lots, but at almost 10 times their original offer.   Kowalski paid $11,000 for the lot with the planted trees, a loss that saddens those who had been nurturing those trees.

But thanks to donors and an Indiegogo fund drive, it looks like Hamtown Farms will get to keep their gardens.

No thanks to Kowalski Sausage.  Whatever happened to public relations, particularly when you're a Polish sausage maker in what was once a traditionally Polish city? The Emergency Manager decreed that all vacant lots in Hamtramck must be sold, so surely there were others nearby that would have suited them just as well.

Considering how much more those lots ended up selling for (far more per lot than any other in the city), you have to wonder what happened there?  Kowalski could have bought two or three lots for what they paid for that single treed lot in the Gardens.  Why were they so stuck on that one?  And what are they going to do with it?
Even more puzzling, why were those particular lots targeted by the EM, when initially they weren't worth that much money and have become such a happy part of the community?  There's no figuring out those bottom-liners.  That's because they're all about the bottom line.  The wants and needs of the people will always take a back seat until they've finished them.  And when they're finished with them they'll be gone.

I live for the day when the lawsuits against Emergency Managers in Michigan are settled and won.  Last November, as everyone but Gov. Snyder seems to remember, the people of Michigan voted down the Governor's plan for Emergency Managers, but his administration sidestepped the will of the people and installed them, anyway.

Hamtramck's EM won't have the kind of clout that Detroit's EM, Kevyn Orr has, but going after a successful community garden where empty lots once stood and making them pay exorbitant rates in order to keep it, tells me all I need to know about where Cathy Square is coming from--and where she's headed.

If I lived in Hamtramck, I wouldn't take my eyes off of her for even a second.


(Big H/T to Eclectablog for bringing this story to light.  For a  PBS video clip about Hamtown Farms, go here.  If you would like to donate to Hamtown Farms, go here.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

On that Day We Lost JFK

On that day I was up in my sewing room, away from the TV.  My four-year-old son was napping, and my 7-year-old daughter was in school. My husband was at work.   It was early afternoon.

I heard the back door open and before I could start to the stairs, I could hear my neighbor, Gwen, shouting something, sobbing. I thought something must have happened to her mother, who had been ailing.  By the time I got to her she could barely speak.  "They shot the president!  They shot Kennedy!"

I turned on the TV and we sat watching, hoping, both of us, that he would be okay. This kind of thing just didn't happen--not in our country, not to this president. We didn't know, of course, that the top of his head had been blown off.

But then Walter Cronkite, fighting back tears, announced that our president was dead.

A while later, long before school was supposed to be out, my second-grader ran into the house.  She was terrified.  When the school staff heard the news they made the decision to send the kids home, but they also decided to leave it to the parents to tell the little kids what had happened.  My daughter remembers seeing her teacher cry; she remembers running the three blocks home with a bunch of scared, crying kids, and then running into the house, only to find her mom a hysterical mess.

Soon after our daughter came home, my husband arrived.  The news came over the PA system and within minutes everyone had shut down their projects and left for home.

The next few days were lost to anything other than being glued to the TV.  Our horror had to take a back seat to trying to calm two little kids, to reminding them they were safe, assuring them that nothing would happen to them, but at the same time we could not turn away from the television set.  So when our children saw President Kennedy's two sad little children being led through the funeral procession, what they saw and understood, throughout all this, was that somebody's daddy had been killed.

AP Photo

 In those early days the rumors flew.  The mafia, along with Jack Ruby, was behind it. (The theory was that he killed Oswald to silence him.)  Castro was behind it. Johnson hated Kennedy and he was behind it.  Oswald's wife, Marina, a Russian by birth, knew something she wasn't telling.  Nobody could comprehend that one lone gunman could have caused such chaos and grief.

And 50 years later, there are many who still wonder.  (I'm not one of them, for what it's worth.)  But today, a half-century removed,this day is set aside not just to reckon with John Kennedy's death but to look back at his time as president.  His was a presidency like no other.

He was the first to give photographers such unencumbered entry into his day-to-day life.  He was the first to allow movie cameras into the Oval Office, and because he did, we were able to watch him handle and agonize over crises, to accept his mistakes, to see him interact so intimately with his aides, with his children, and with U.S and world leaders.  Television allowed us a kind of unprecedented intimacy we couldn't even imagine with the presidents before him.

But on November 22, 1963, it was network television that riveted us, that forced us to witness the most painful event in contemporary presidential history.  And today, 50 years later, because television was there, we're riveted again by watching that raw horror and the sad aftermath as if it were only yesterday. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Walmart, the Benevolent Provides Bins for Low-Wage Employees Food Drive


Everybody knows the Walton family, the people who put the "Wal" in "Walmart", is the richest family in America.  They're so rich you would have to pile up more than 40% of the wealth in the entire United States to even be on the same level.  If each member of the family lived to be a thousand years old, they couldn't even begin to spend all of their fortune.  So asking them to pay their employees a living wage and a few measly benefits is like asking them to give up, say, 1/10,000th of their fortune.  (Don't quote me on that; you know me and math.)

But I'm ever the optimist, so I put these questions to them:

Q:  Why won't you Waltons listen to reason and start paying your employees--um, Associates--a livable wage?  It would barely eat into your profits, and people would like you better.

A:  We don't wanna.

Q:  Why not?

A:  Cuz

So there you have it.  I tried.

But someone at a Canton,Ohio Walmart must have gotten wind of our concerns because something new and wonderful has appeared in their employee area:

Photo credit:  Cleveland Plain Dealer

 As you can see, the bins in which poor Walmart employees can donate food items so that other poor Walmart employees might enjoy Thanksgiving dinner are brand new!  These are not moldy old bins that might have held who knows what kind of gross, horrible stuff.  Oh, no! They're clean and nice and, if you're into that sort of bin thing, fall-fashionable.  They are lined up purple and orange, purple and orange, purple and orange.  Like that.

But wouldn't you know?  Some employees walked in there, read that sign, took one look at those lovely color-coordinated bins, and took offense.

[A]n employee at the Canton store wasn't feeling that Walmart was looking out for her when she went to her locker more than two weeks ago and discovered the food drive containers. To her, the gesture was proof the company acknowledged many of its employees were struggling, but also proof it was not willing to substantively address their plight.
The employee said she didn't want to use her name for fear of being fired. In a dozen years working at the company, she had never seen a food drive for employees, which she described as "demoralizing" and "kind of depressing". 
 Strikes against Walmart are planned for Monday in both Dayton and Cincinnati.  I reached out to the Waltons for some clarification, but all I've received so far is this terse comment:


"No comment."
 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Protecting Wolves by Throwing Them to the Wolves?


Yesterday I wrote about Opening Day for Michigan’s deer hunting season.  But yesterday was also opening day for a hunting season not seen in Michigan for almost 50 years.  Despite pushback from many different organizations, and petitions set up on a whole lot of petition sites, our grand Poobahs in Pure Michigan caved once again to special interests and instituted a hunting season for wolves.

Yes, wolves.

Gray-Wolf-7 There was a time not so long ago (pre-1965) that our wolf population was zero, and we didn’t like that.  Other states had wolves; why didn’t we?  So in 1965 we gave wolves legal protection in our state. How we got the word out to the wolves, I don’t know, but over the years a few of them began to straggle in.

In 1974, after only six confirmed sightings in nearly a decade, we decided something had to be done.  Four wolves were captured in wolf-heavy Minnesota and plunked down in the Huron Mountains in the Upper Peninsula. Within eight months they had all been killed.  (Nobody ‘fessed up.  Surprise.)  None of them reproduced. (See Gray Wolf timeline here.)

Sadness at the DNR.  They wanted a wolf population in the U.P.  With the help of the Michigan Wildlife Fund (See below) and other protections, including habitat enhancements, wolves finally began to appear in greater numbers.

The population expanded (Woo Hoo!), but with the expansion came more and more incidences of predation.  The wolves were killing livestock and pets and were spotted too close for comfort near human population centers.  Once their numbers grew to more than 400 the DNR began to see them as a liability and not an asset.

Could there have been any other outcome?  The Upper Peninsula isn’t a zoo or a preserve.  Wolves will be wolves.  But this was excellent news for the hunting interests out there salivating, hoping against hope that wolf numbers would continue to explode and that Canis lupus would keep that wolfish behavior going.

They have long been making plans for the inevitable wolf hunt.

And yesterday it happened.

In the Detroit Free Press:
Engadine Feed & Supply store owner Dick Pershinske said he looks forward to entering the woods Friday for Michigan’s historic, first-ever wolf hunt.
“I’m an avid hunter, so this is an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often,” he said today. “It may be the last hunt, too, if the environmentalists get their way.”
As hunters excitedly prepared for the hunt this afternoon, the mood was far more somber about 300 miles to the south in Mt. Pleasant, where the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe planned a candlelight vigil for the animal so iconic in their tribal heritage.
“The gray wolf is significant to our culture,” said tribal spokesman Frank Cloutier. “It’s a part of our creation story, very significant to who we are and what we believe.”
The hunt calls for a maximum of 43 wolves to be harvested in three designated zones of the Upper Peninsula. It is slated to run from dawn Friday through Dec. 31 or whenever the target number is reached. Michigan has sold 1,200 licenses for the hunt.
Ah, there it is:  Twelve hundred licenses sold when a mere 43 wolves can be killed.  ($100 for residents; $500 for non-residents)

It’s not about culling predators (which wolves most certainly are, but they knew that in the 1970s when they were encouraging the population.)  Farmers and homeowners already have the right to shoot predators, including wolves, on their property.

It’s not about feeding families (nobody eats wolf).

For the state, it’s all about giving hunters a new sport.  It’s all about the money.  Not only the uptick in license fees, but in years ahead the kill limit will increase and Michigan will benefit as one of only a handful of Midwestern states allowing wolf hunting.  The economic run-off could be big.

In Michigan we can pay extra for license plates that will aid our favorite organizations.  We have one with a picture of a loon, for example, that aids the Michigan Non-game Wildlife Fund.  We can also check off a box for the same fund on our Michigan Income Tax forms.
From the MWF page:
Since 1983, over $10 million has been raised for these important management efforts through voluntary check-off contributions on the state income tax form, sales of specialty license plates, and by direct donations. Six million of that $10 [million] dollars has been placed in a permanent trust, and interest from that trust will continue to support threatened and endangered species well into the future.

The Nongame Fish and Wildlife Fund is responsible for:
  • restoring Trumpeter swans to their historic wetland areas;
  • reintroducing the Peregrine falcon;
  • implementing the Michigan Frog and Toad Survey;
  • helping the wolf population through monitoring and education;
  • establishing over 120 watchable wildlife viewing sites;
  • relocating osprey to expand their range in Michigan;
  • surveying abandoned mines to protect bat wintering sites;
  • identifying rare plant sites; and
So now that they’ve decided our once threatened and endangered wolves are out of the woods, where will the wolf money go?  Will the DNR keep “helping” the wolf population they so purposefully worked to expand, now that the crew in Lansing has caved to the hunting special interests and reclassified the wolf as fair game?

Note, too, that not a single dollar of the money going toward wolf protection came from hunters’ license fees, even though they’re the ones who’ll now benefit from all that TLC.  The general population donated all of it, thinking it would actually go toward protection and education.  Nobody ever mentioned wolf-hunting.

John Barnes at MLive quotes Bob Graves, one of the Upper Peninsula hunters yesterday (My emphasis below, because, yes, they really say this crap out loud.  I’ve heard it, or something like it, more times than I care to count):
“Yes, I’ll take the pelt, but that’s not why. It’s not (being) here to put a trophy on the wall, it’s to experience the outdoors, and to hunt a majestic animal, a beautiful animal.
There is another reason too, adds [Mark] Bird, 62[, of Kent City]. “This might be Michigan’s only wolf hunt. It might be just once in a lifetime opportunity.”
So that’s it.  There’s talk of putting the issue on the ballot in 2014, but, even with enough signatures, and even with an iron-clad “no” vote, there’s no guarantee our current Koch-based administration won’t just ignore the will of the people.  They’ve done it before.

( Iggy Pop’s letter to Governor Snyder.  Go, Iggy!)

As of this writing, three wolves have been taken.  The DNR keeps track and so can we.

________________
In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf.  In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy; how to aim a steep hill shot is always confusing. when our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide rocks.
We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.  I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes-- something known only to her and the mountain.  I was young then, full of trigger itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters paradise.  But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
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NOTE:  A big Thank You to Chris Savage at Eclectablog for choosing this post as a Guest Post for his website today.  Check it out!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Run, Bambi, Run! Man Is In The Woods

Today marks the opening of hunting season here in Michigan’s north woods.  The schools are closed in most upper state communities, including ours.

Opening Day is an annual holiday for the kids, even though only a small percentage of them will be out in the woods with guns. For many of them, today will be their initiation in deer camp, and it’s a day they’ve been waiting for all year.   I don’t quite know when it started but I do know that up here it’s one of those holidays that is so sacrosanct nobody questions it.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 I chose to live where I live, knowing I would be the odd woman out when it came to hunting and killing animals.  I’ve lived here for enough years now to have grown used to the fact that almost everybody I know here either hunts or looks forward to the benefits of the hunt.

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  I haven’t become complacent about it, but I do know it’s more complicated than a simple wish to make it stop.  Up here, where unemployment measures in double digits and people are noticeably poor, I’ve come to recognize that a deer kill means  food for a struggling family.

And who am I, a meat-eater myself, to turn up my nose? As long as we’re into eating meat, animals must die in order to keep our freezers full.  I try not to think about that, hypocritical as that may be, but it’s a fact, isn’t it?

But hunting for sport is different.

deer in yard small


With hunting as sport, meat in the freezer is a byproduct of the main event, which is killing for the sheer thrill of killing.  No matter how the industry tries to mainstream it, they can’t get away from the fact that there’s nothing sporting about much of what we call “hunting.”

Hunting no longer means tracking your prey.  It means sitting and waiting, often in a comfortable covered deer blind or tree stand.  The folks up here stake out their territory and begin building bait piles weeks ahead of opening day, in order to make the deer feel comfortable enough so that they’ll stick around until the day the shooting begins.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA


Around this time every store and gas station takes to selling 30 to 50 pound bags of corn, carrots, and sugar beets.  Deer feed.  Big white blocks of salt lick are stacked alongside the feed.  Artificial musk and urine scent can be sprayed on the bushes and trees surrounding the covered, camouflaged stand from which the hunter “hunts”.   There are deer calls and deer decoys. There are sprays to kill human scent.  Camouflage clothing is not just big business, it’s an up north fashion trend.

Motion sensor trail cameras catch deer on the move, even at night.

trail cam deer 11 2012


Hunting rifles have become high-tech, with state-of-the-art scopes that see in the dark and at long distances.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if they can see around trees, too.)

The most shameful thing that can happen to a hunter during hunting season these days is to come home empty-handed.  If the hunter doesn’t come home with at least one carcass, a quick look in the mirror will pinpoint who is to blame.  Every aid known to man is at their disposal.    The deer will come.  What it takes after that is simply to aim and shoot  Aim.  And shoot.

By the way, when we go for our walk today (and every day through hunting season), this is what I’ll be wearing:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA



Note:  All photos in this piece belong to me.  If you want to reprint please ask permission first.  Thanks.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Learning the Gettysburg Address - A Ken Burns Project


 Filmmaker Ken Burns has embarked on a new venture--this one based solely on Abraham Lincoln's magnificent speech at the consecration of the Civil War battlefield cemetery in Gettysburg, PA.  Lincoln's address, on November 19, 1863, took just over two minutes to deliver,unusually short for any time, for any president, but those few words were so poetic, so powerful, it lives on as our best known, best loved presidential speech. 

Burns began working with a group of students at the Greenwood School in Putney, VT–most of them afflicted with autism and other learning disorders, including ADHD–after learning that on every anniversary of Lincoln’s famous speech, each of the kids memorized and then took turns reciting Lincoln’s famous speech.  To celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the president’s address, he decided to film the students’ recitations.

From there he began to think large--no surprise--and thought it would be great if all Americans would memorize the speech, make a video of their recitation, and send it to him to include on the website he'd set up called, "Learn the Address".

Every living president and dozens of well-known Americans have already participated, and all of their entries are on the website.  They're all there and they're all inspiring, but one of my favorites is the one by Gabby Giffords and friends.

I don't know how to do it myself or I might try it, but if you know how and want to do it, make a video of your reading or recitation of Lincoln's stirring speech and follow these submission instructions.  Then, if you read it here first, please send me a link so we can see it, too. 



The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.


 But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 


 It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Obamacare Rollout was Bad. The Fallout is Even Worse. But the Plan Just Might Work.

 The ACA rollout is a mess.  I mean, really--only six people were able to sign up on the website the very first day?  Insane. 

But what did we expect?  They're saying the website doormen woefully underestimated the numbers of drive-bys and joiners on that first day.  It's rumored they only planned for 250,000 visitors.   After all the fuss about Obamacare, they actually thought a mere quarter-million curiosity-seekers would line up to get inside?  On any given day on YouTube the antics of a single adorable kitten can get more than 250,000 hits.

This is Obamacare, O ye gentle incompetents over there at HHS.  What were you thinking?  You've got a few million people out there breathlessly awaiting the day you admit defeat and shut the whole thing down.  Many of those same people are in positions of power.  The spotlight is on them every time you screw up.  They get to call you names and then, if you fail or even falter, they get to say "Told you so."

They're already saying you're pushing a plan that will never work, that it's a scam, that it's the devil's work.  To their minds it's settled, then.  Obamacare is a scourge and it needs to be eradicated from the face of the earth.

The hitch in all this is that they're not obligated to come up with something else to take its place.  Nobody expects that.  Their one and only role is to find the nearest public stage and read from their "Eviscerate Obamacare!" scripts.  And where are you in all this?  You're in the wings setting up their scenes and feeding them their lines.

Republicans, to a person, worked overtime for years to stop any hint of a public health care plan.  Even one as watered down as Obamacare is a danger to them and their monied interests.  But in spite of their hopes and plans for interference-free health care practices and profits, the unimaginable has happened: The Affordable Care Act, a frail shadow of its original promise but a threat nonetheless, is now the law of the land.  Now all these frantic losers are left with is a chance to work overtime to make sure it doesn't succeed.

The U.S Supreme Court gifted the opposition with yet another roadblock:  Individual states now have a choice and can opt out of portions of Obamacare--including the Medicaid options.  They'll have the extra advantage of letting the Fed (that's us) pay for anything they don't want to be a part of.  Talk about a prescription for failure.  I'm guessing they're ecstatic about it.

The Essential Wendell Potter, former CIGNA CEO turned whistleblower, makes it no secret that what we need in this country is universal health care.  He's not happy with the ACA rollout disaster, for several reasons, including this one:
"HHS wasted valuable time trying to persuade more states to operate their own exchanges. Officials apparently deluded themselves into thinking that even some of the red states could be persuaded that it would be in their best interests to have a state-run exchange than one run by the federal government. In hindsight, those officials wasted months in which time and resources could have been devoted to making sure the federal exchange would work on Oct. 1. HHS officials should have realized from the beginning that Republican governors and state legislators had no incentive for Obamacare to work. There wasn't a chance that they would operate their own exchanges if doing so might enhance the chances that Obamacare would be perceived as a success. "
 No kidding. Texas, anyone?  Potter has been on this since the beginning, exploring the depths to which the opposition will go in order to kill the dreaded Obamacare.  It's not a pretty picture.  (More from him here and here.)



We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is just the beginning.  Universal health care is in the infant stages; there will be falls and failures all over the place until we get it right.  Outside of Medicare and military care, we've never been anywhere close to the kind of public options we're heading for now.  Some of it will work, but some won't.  We'll adjust.  And we'll never want to go back.

The powers opposing this first step won't ever adjust, either.  They'll fight this to the end and beyond.  (They can't help it; it's in their DNA.) We have to make sure they'll lose.  But first we have to make sure we have the weapons to fight them.  That would mean--you ready for this?--a health insurance program that works the way it was promised.

Nobody ever won a battle by handing ammunition to the enemy.

__________________________

Also posted at Alan Colmes' Liberaland.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why Do we Plebians keep blaming the Super-rich? Because, Dammit, They're to Blame

We're an odd bunch, we Americans.  We've had a hate-hate relationship with the very rich for as long as we've existed as a country, but damn their golden hides, we can't stop taking care of them.

After all these years we've become used to sparring with the super-rich over how much they get to keep and how much they should share.  They want to keep it all.  We want them to behave like responsible citizens, and they don't think they should have to.

It's a long-standing battle, but it was infinitely fairer when they needed us as much as we needed them.  Most of them built their fortunes while still being Americans in America, by being major forces in the building of the strongest, richest country in the world. Now there is almost nothing American about the major corporatists, but we still insist on treating them as if they were a part of us.  We can't help ourselves.  We cling to our nationalism, to our sense of superiority, and even after decades of sliding downhill, of watching our resources leave our shores for parts unknown, we can't believe our industry, our infrastructure, our wealth, is gone.  We refuse, in fact, to believe it, even though our roads, our bridges, our buildings, our very way of life is crumbling around us.

We are slow to learn.  It's one of our least likable traits. As our factories and our mills closed, one by one, we heard over and over that we would be stronger as a nation if we adjusted to becoming a service economy.  Many of us knew a scam when we saw one, and protested mightily.  Others kept harping about buggy whips or some such. 

A service economy meant only one thing:  The many would be serving the few, with no real rewards for the many. If we stopped building things, we would be dependent on other less stable economies for our goods.  We would lose an entire sector of workers without making provisions for a new kind of labor.  If wages went down--or became non-existent--our tax base would shrivel, as well.

So what did we do?  We went along.  We rewarded the super-rich, those vainglorious bastards who shipped our jobs and our wealth out of the country, not just by cutting their taxes to bare bones, but by treating them as whole-cloth Americans while they turned their backs on us and refused to do anything more for our country than live here.

We really should have known better, but once again, we've let big money nearly destroy us.  They've grown stronger, thanks to us, and now they've invaded our lives, right down to choosing the politicians most likely to let the super-rich maintain the status quo.

These are not the Rockefellers or the Vanderbilts--the money people who, ruthless and greedy as they were, hauled us into the industrial age and built this country, brick by brick.  They wanted it all, too, but at least they knew to keep it within our shores. They weren't above buying politicians in their day, but their power only went so far.  They were rich but their riches didn't own us for decades on end.

Now it does.  It buys politicians and courts and it buys silence.  It buys respect where respect is not deserved.  And we're growing poorer and shabbier every day.  We're a shadow of our former selves while the stockpiles of the very rich have grown beyond their wildest dreams--and our wildest imaginations.

They don't need us.  They don't want us.  And as long as we keep insisting that everything's gonna be all right, the super-rich will be alive and doing exceedingly well in America.

As for the rest of us--we'll be exactly where they want us.


(Read the article in Truthout that prompted this. It's an issue that needs to be up front and on our minds come the next election cycle. If we stop blaming them we'll have nobody to blame but ourselves.)

Note:  Cross-posted at Dagblog and Alan Colmes' Liberaland.  Featured on Crooks and Liars MBRU. Appreciate it!)


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Stop Ted Cruz? Stop the Presses!

Ted Cruz, that notorious commie-hunting senator from Texas channeling a certain notorious mid-20th century commie-hunting senator from Wisconsin, is just one in a long line of rock star politicians who think they've latched onto the best way to get their cockamamie ideas across:  Get out there and make shocking accusations against either individuals or authority with such astounding stagecraft, the press, the media--indeed, a sizable section of the population--will become such slathering groupies they won't know what hit them.  They will lift you onto their shoulders and carry you along to Celebrityville without a thought to what you're actually saying or why you're saying it.

It helps if you can muster such vitriolic anti-government sentiment there's no chance your minions will consider that you might be fudging it when you insist the Obama administration is "bound and determined to violate every single one of our Bill of Rights", or there are still godless communists lurking around yearning to yank the capitalist bones out of all of us, or there are members of your own party who are working against you when all you're trying to do is save millions of hapless citizens from certain disaster.

It helps if you don't recognize that the disaster is you.  Much easier to pull it off if you can convince yourself you're really on a mission to help and not destroy.  (But if you must destroy, remember you're only destroying in order to, yes indeedy, build a better. . .ah, who cares?  You've got 'em right where you want 'em.)

That's Ted Cruz.

Newsbusters.org
Anyone else think Ted Cruz isn't just channeling Joe McCarthy, he thinks he is Joe McCarthy?  I have to give it to him:  He has McCarthy down to a tee.  He looks like him, he talks like him, he acts like him.  Compare the two side by side and there's no getting around the resemblance.  The shifty eyes, the strategic pauses, the weird gesticulating, the signature haughty-talk--through his teeth, using his nose and not his diaphragm for the air intake, the over-the-top, anti-everything rhetoric.  It's all Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

We've all noticed it, and there's a reason for that:  Ted Cruz wants us to notice it.  It's a major part of his grand strategy.  He's sure he knows us better than we know ourselves.  He wants us to believe there are evildoers around every corner.  Sometimes they're so well disguised we might not even recognize them.  But he does.  He knows who they are..

Never mind that more than three-quarters of the country--including a good number of his own Republican colleagues--wishes he would take his Joe McCarthy Tribute Show off the road and retire it forever.  There's only one thing that could make Ted Kruz happier right now, mere weeks after coming off of his triumphant Shut the Country! tour--if he only had a real-life Edward R. Murrow dogging his every step. 

Cruz, not to be outdone by his doppelganger, lives for attention.  Dana Milbank addressed it in a piece he wrote as the Cruz-instigated government shutdown ended and the Republicans were forced to do damage control:
Cruz left the reporters after a few minutes, but when he noticed the TV lights and microphones outside the Senate chamber, he stopped and reversed himself. After repeating his statement for the cameras, he took a question from CNN’s [Dana] Bash, who pointed out that there has been “a lot of bruising political warfare internally, and you’ve got nothing for it.”

“I disagree with the premise,” Cruz informed her. He said the House vote to defund Obamacare, rejected by the Senate, was “a remarkable victory.”

It was a revealing statement: For Cruz, the victory is not the achievement but the fight.
 Exactly.  Ted Cruz hasn't yet come to the end of Joe McCarthy's story.  It ended for McCarthy when the press finally tired of the phony drama, finally came to grips with the depth of destruction (and possibly their own roles in it),  and turned its back on him.  When Joseph Welch uttered the now famous words, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" it was as if the dawn broke and, in an instant, the darkness ended.  (Full text here) The crowds, the politicians, the press, cleared the room, leaving McCarthy behind.  He was heard saying to no one in particular, "What happened?  What did I do?"  Nobody answered.  He was done.

And someday soon, hard as it will be for him to believe it, Ted Cruz will be done.  It will happen when the press decides it's time and not a moment before.  They hold his celebrity and his power in their hands and if they've learned anything from the past,  I hope they've learned there is no honor in building up demagogues simply for their own peculiar enjoyment.

I look forward to the day when they're finally over that.

__________________
Cross-posted at dagblog and featured on Alan Colmes' Liberaland 

__________________________
Picked up on Crooks and Liars MBRU.  Thanks, Tengrain!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Medicare and Obamacare: Same Old Story

Note:  Thanks to Alan Colmes, I am now a regular contributor on his website, Liberaland.  He posted this piece this morning, so if you're interested in reading the complete piece it continues over there.  Thanks.
__________________
 
In the next town over from us the recycling station is in a huge semi-trailer.  You have to climb six narrow metal steps to get up into it, but there is an aisle you can walk down and there are huge open boxes in which to throw your stuff.

The beauty of it is that while I’m dropping off my own recyclables, I can dig through the newspaper and magazine bins to see what’s there for the taking.  Through the years we’ve found some fascinating reading, some of it as current as yesterday, but last week we found a treasure trove:  Seventeen Consumer Reports magazines, ranging from1965 to 1980.

What struck me as I read through them was how much actual watchdogging went on within those pages; and what lengths they went to explain their findings. Page after page of small print, as if they actually anticipated that their readers would want to take the time to read it all. (No internet, no cable. I get it. But still. . .people read this stuff.  They read it.)

Back in June, 1966, their headline story was about the new Medicare law taking effect in July. The law was complicated.  Every aspect of health insurance, hospitalizations, physician and pharmacy services, and medical goods had to be considered.  Nothing like it had ever been done on such a large scale before. The Government was poring an estimated $3 billion plus into it during the first year alone. Who would pay for what?  Who would gain the most?  Who would lose the most?  (Sound familiar?)

(Continue here. . .)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Threat of Obama's Worst Enemies

Leaving aside the usual suspects--the terrorist factions round the world, the seething Middle East mountain and desert folk--who are President Obama's worst enemies? The Republicans who saw it as their mission to keep him from winning a second term but failed? Those 30 members of the House and the Tea Party now holding the country hostage over an already approved health care plan nicknamed after this president? The Religious Righteous? The far Left disillusioned? The whites-only-as-long-as-they're-not-women crowd?

Let's face it, the possibilities are endless.  This president has enemies. Some of them would have been his enemies no matter where or what, but many others--too many others--didn't think to hate him until someone else told them to.


They're the ones I worry about.  When someone like Larry Klayman, the head of Freedom Watch, tells a Tea Party crowd we have a president who "bows down to Allah"  and then says, "I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up,"  that is not a Martin Luther King-inspired call to reason, it's a call to insurrection.

There are people out there who will hear that and it will sound to them like a call to action, not against the government but against this one man. This man who, they've been led to believe, is so all-powerful he has managed to gain control of a country that is not even his.  With that crowd he is and always will be unworthy, a usurper.  He does not belong and the haters will never get over having that man, that black man, in the White House.


They'll deny that it's about race, but it's about race.  A glance at any Right Wing website's comment section should be enough to scare the bejeesus out of anybody, including Barack Obama.  They don't just want him gone, they want him dead. 

Pick a demagogue--Palin, Cruz, Paul, McConnell, Bachmann, Gohmert.  Any one of them.  He or she, I guarantee you, will not repudiate a single word coming from the Right Wing Tea Party ranters.  The ranters are useful.  They spread the fear and bring in the votes.  But if anything bad ever happens to this president, those agitators fueling the fire will be shocked. . .shocked, I tell you!. . .that something like this could happen.  They will not have seen this coming.


But we will have. The haters are in a rage over Obama's win of a second term.  Now the cries for impeachment, the only other legal choice, are swirling.  If that doesn't work--and it won't--what then?  The foaming masses have been conditioned to go after Obama, to stop him, no matter what it takes.  In their minds something must be done.

And it only takes one.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Charlie Pierce's Brilliant Take on The Electeds out to Destroy our Government. We Did This. (Well, not ME)

Have you read this?  Charles Pierce is a genius at grabbing the god-awful truth and shining bright lights on it.  His latest Esquire piece, "The Reign of Morons is Here", is pure Charlie--raging, brilliant, and, of course, spot on: 
We have elected the people sitting on hold, waiting for their moment on an evening drive-time radio talk show.
We have elected an ungovernable collection of snake-handlers, Bible-bangers, ignorami, bagmen and outright frauds, a collection so ungovernable that it insists the nation be ungovernable, too. We have elected people to govern us who do not believe in government.
 And this:
We did this. We looked at our great legacy of self-government and we handed ourselves over to the reign of morons.
This is what they came to Washington to do -- to break the government of the United States. It doesn't matter any more whether they're doing it out of pure crackpot ideology, or at the behest of the various sugar daddies that back their campaigns, or at the instigation of their party's mouthbreathing base. It may be any one of those reasons. It may be all of them. The government of the United States, in the first three words of its founding charter, belongs to all of us, and these people have broken it deliberately. The true hell of it, though, is that you could see this coming down through the years, all the way from Ronald Reagan's First Inaugural Address in which government "was" the problem, through Bill Clinton's ameliorative nonsense about the era of big government being "over," through the attempts to make a charlatan like Newt Gingrich into a scholar and an ambitious hack like Paul Ryan into a budget genius, and through all the endless attempts to find "common ground" and a "Third Way." Ultimately, as we all wrapped ourselves in good intentions, a prion disease was eating away at the country's higher functions. One of the ways you can acquire a prion disease is to eat right out of its skull the brains of an infected monkey. We are now seeing the country reeling and jabbering from the effects of the prion disease, but it was during the time of Reagan that the country ate the monkey brains.
But you really need to read the whole thing.  In a nutshell, it is what we've done to ourselves.  It did, in fact, start with Ronald Reagan. and many of us could see the handwriting on the wall even then.  He wasn't called "the Teflon president" for nothing.  The press saw a sunny personality and a gift of gab, loved reporting on this former-actor-turned-President of the United States, and ignored what was really coming out of his mouth.  His mission was to decentralize and eventually decapitate a government that, on looking back fondly now, was working just fine for most of us.

Bill Clinton, instead of working to fix the path to destruction, followed the yellow brick road.  Outsourcing and off-shoring gained a friend, much to our dismay.
 
George W. Bush proved to the crazies that they could win as long as they kept their leaders mediocre and clueless and talkin' like good-ol-boys.  
 
And Barack Obama, given the gift of an entire progressive movement standing by his side and ready to go to work, blew it almost from the start by bringing in Wall Street cronies and by thinking beyond any reason that he could compromise with people who made it crystal clear their main goal was to destroy him.

So here we are.  They're doing what they've promised to do:  they've already shut down the government, if even just temporarily, and if we've got it right--got their message--this is only the beginning.   
 
If the people who voted those crazies in, and are still cheering them on, can't be persuaded to do the right thing and get them out of there, we either have to do a better job of convincing them, or we have to give in and enjoy the ride.
 
I don't know about you, but I'm with Charlie.  No way in hell are we going to do that.
 


Friday, September 27, 2013

Goodwill Misses the Meaning of Good Will

When 19-year-old Andrew Anderson started working at the Goodwill store in East Naples, Florida, he thought his job was pretty cool. He was working in a place where poor and low-income people came to buy the things they couldn't afford anywhere else.  

"It makes you feel amazing," he said, "makes you feel you can actually be the person to help them."  

Andrew worked at Goodwill for three weeks and from his place behind the counter he saw people come on bicycles with, as he said, "wearing all the clothes they had, with two, three dollars, max."  It was his job to collect the money for the goods they purchased.  When he saw the poorest of the poor coming through his line he began discounting whatever the item cost. He loved the smiles he got from the folks who saw their bills cut in half.  He thought nothing of it and didn't really want thanks.  He saw it as paying it forward.

His bosses saw it another way.  They fired him for stealing from the company, even though he never took a thing for himself and later offered to make up the difference himself.  They weren't amused.  They had him arrested.
"I wasn't actually stealing. Goodwill is a giving and helping company, so I took it upon to myself to be giving and helping because I feel people deserve it," Anderson said.
But the teenager quickly went from paying it forward to the Collier County jail.
"My heart just dropped into my stomach," Anderson said.
Store officials fired Anderson and reported the incident to deputies. They arrested him Tuesday and charged him with grand theft.
The statute for grand theft reads, "Theft -- Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property." - Per Collier County Sheriff's Office
Anderson says he never knew giving discounts was wrong or even illegal.
"The intent I had was to help people, just like Goodwill says, we help people," Anderson said.
 Well, up to a point, Andrew, and only on their terms:
"Our stores are not around to give a hand out, they're around to give people a hand up by providing funding, said Kirstin O'Donnell, a spokesperson for Goodwill Retail and Donation Center in East Naples.
"In incidents like this, we always prosecute and the reason why is when people steal from Goodwill, they're not stealing from the company, they're stealing from the mission of our organization."
Well, sure, Andrew shouldn't have taken it upon himself to give discounts at the thrift store, but couldn't his bosses have just taken him aside and told him that?  Did they really have to fire him?  Who wouldn't want such a good kid working for them?
And really? They had him arrested??  
I'm trying to picture the scene at the station house, when poor Andrew is hauled in there and made to admit he did what he did.  I'm seeing a "Barney Miller" segment, where Wojo is doing the grilling.  Andrew tells his story and even before he's finished Wojo is wiping away the tears.  Uh oh..  Wojo barricades himself and Andrew in Barney's office, and we know there is no way this kid is going to jail.  
I'm waiting for Goodwill to do a mea culpa.  We were wrong, people!  While we don't condone what Andrew did, we did a poor job of explaining how this thing works.  It was an honest mistake!  Come back!  We're good people!  We're Goodwill!
Andrew says now, "My heart was in the right place, my head was in the wrong place."
Your head and your heart are just fine, Andrew.  And I predict once Wojo springs you and this is over, there will be employers waiting in line, begging you to come to work for them.   Everyone should be so lucky.

A Goodwill store in Naples, Fla., reversed course today and decided to drop grand theft charges against a teen employee who had given discounts to poor customers.
The decision came four days after the store had fired Andrew Anderson, 19, and had him arrested for granting discounts that totaled $4,000. As recently as today, the store defended its actions saying the money could have been better used on Goodwill’s other charitable projects.
Really, Goodwill?  That $4,000 could have been better used on Goodwill's other charitable projects?  Do you know how much the big guys upstairs make?

No?  Well, let's just look:
[Goodwill International CEO Jim] Gibbons' salary and deferred compensation amounted to $729,000 in 2011, the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southern California got $1.1 million and the Portland, Oregon top executive received more than $500,000, NBC reported.
And don't think I didn't notice in that same article that Goodwill had to 'fess up to paying a disabled worker 3 cents an hour in 2008--all legal, of course.

But Hooray for Andrew Anderson.  That's what good will looks like.