Friday, December 25, 2009

'Tis the Season to be Liberal

It's Christmas morning, early, and we're lucky enough to have been awakened by the grandkids at 6 AM to see what Santa brought.  This year Santa had to go easy, but the kids didn't seem to notice at all.  They're in a warm house surrounded by people who adore them, their tummies are full, and Dollar Store stocking stuffers are keeping them amused.  They have no reason to be afraid.
They live near Detroit and have heard enough stories on the news and in their own schools to recognize that there are a lot of kids nearby who are a  lot worse off than they are.  There are kids who woke up afraid this morning, and will wake up afraid tomorrow morning, too.  There are some things that just should not be.

Last night we drove around the neighborhood after dark to look at the Christmas lights.  This is a neighborhood just 20 minutes from the center of Detroit where most of the residents are or were car company employees.  This is a neighborhood that has been hit hard.  I've talked about this place before, about the growing numbers of empty houses, red and green tags slapped on the doors--foreclosure notices dressed up in Christmas colors.  The lights are out for them.

Last Christmas season was already a hard one for some but there was still hope, and, though some of the usual Festive homes had dimmed, there were still enough to keep the sky above the neighborhood glowing.  This year there was no more pretending.  It takes a lot of power to keep the strings of lights on, to keep those puffy santas and snowmen inflated.  When times are tough, you have to weigh the luxuries.  In times like these, even electricity becomes a luxury.

No reminders needed around here about how the neighborhood is struggling, but last night it hit home with a punch.  We rolled past rows of dark houses, seeking out the few with doors and windows and roofs outlined with sparkling lights, the huge pine trees festooned with garlands of bright stars, the happy santas in their sleighs, signaling normality, hope, good cheer.   They were like oases on a barren landscape, and they were few and far between.

We are a country in need this Christmas day.   There are too many people going into the new year so much worse off than they were last year at this time.  If the true spirit of Christmas is giving, it makes it easy for those of us who still have something left to give.  We can give of our hearts, if nothing else.  We can do what we can to bring hope to people who can't see the light in front of them.  We can feed them, clothe them, house them; help them without judgment or pity but simply as one friend, one citizen to another, and be the better for it.

As the New Year arrives, we can resolve to use our strength to defeat the forces that keep our people down.  We can make that promise because it's in us to recognize that the power of our country is in its people.  If we let them down, we've let our country down.  It's the message, the spirit of Christmas--the one we've heard before, but worth repeating:

Peace on earth, good will toward all.

And remember the children, please, for they shall lead us.


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In America: The Sick and Dying have to go Begging--in America

"Most of the people I met [at the Kansas City Free Health Clinic] were working people. Eighty-three percent of the people who come to these clinics are employed. But over and over and over, I heard about unaffordable junk insurance, unaffordable premiums, obscene co-pays. During these very difficult economic times, the choice always comes down to food, clothing, and heat or insurance and health care. I also repeatedly heard people say that when they had insurance, they still got stuck with the bills, so what's the point of having insurance? Yes, we all know about that scam."

Eve "nyceve" Gittelson, Huffington Post, 12/12/09

 There is something horribly wrong when a country claiming to be the Leader of Democracy in the Free World turns its back, shuts its eyes, blocks its ears, and cries "Poor" when  it is faced with a shameful, outrageous truth:  That there are citizens of this country--working citizens--who can't afford health care and are turned away from free health clinics held in venues as large as 120,000 sq. ft. because the volunteer staffers are overwhelmed with unbelievable numbers of people seeking medical help.

SHAME on the White House, SHAME on Congress, and SHAME on any person with the ability to do something about it who hasn't.

Read this, please.  Watch Gittelson's videos.  Then take an hour or so to bombard the White House, every member of Congress, the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and every other media outlet that could do something about this abominable health care debacle and hasn't.

You'll note I've left MSNBC off of this list.  That's because they've done remarkable work promoting the efforts of the National Association of Free Clinics.  Ed Schultz has actually gone to the clinics and if you click on the link, you'll see the kind of outrage I'm feeling right now.  It's the admirable truth, but who is listening?  Apparently nobody.)

Keith Olbermann has raised well over a million dollars for them, and literally got the ball rolling enough so that they could rent larger buildings and care for more patients in more cities.  But no matter how large the operation, they inevitably have to turn people away.  They do it with heavy hearts, with tears in their eyes.

Meanwhile the Obama administration and the Congress of the United States bog themselves down in speechifying and face-saving pissing matches.  They've made closed door promises to the perpetrators of all that misery, the so-called Health Care "providers", and now have the nerve to mask their perfidy as sudden concern for our economic well-being.  I've heard enough of their unctuous speeches, their phony concern, their whistling Dixie off-key.

I'm off now to give 'em hell.  I hope I'm not alone.


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peace in Our Time Here on Our Shores

[A] just peace includes not only civil and political rights — it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.
It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

President Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize speech, Oslo, Norway, 12/10/09

As I listened to Barack Obama speak those words midway through his speech in Oslo this morning, they hit me like a ton of bricks.  I don't know if he planned it, or even realized it, but he was talking as much about the plight of Americans as he was of any other citizens of the world.

We are at war here, and we're losing the battle to save ourselves.  The Barbarians are living among us (though not beside us, since their communities are gated fortresses), using  innocuous, often American-sounding names in order to hide the fact that they are busily working from within to destroy the very fabric of our lives.

They go by many monikers -- plutocrats, Fat Cats, moguls, tycoons, Big Cheeses,  Moneybags, Wheeler-dealers, Head Honchos. . .and those are just the nice terms.  (Some of them used to be called "Captains of Industry" but since that ship has sailed, they don't answer to that anymore.)

They do their work right out in the open--no fear--because there are enough  partners-in-crime among the high mucky-mucks in our nation's government to keep them safe and happy.  The enemies of the people don't have to resort to bearing arms or setting up artillery.  No strafing from the air, no carpet-bombing, no picking us off from the roof-tops.  After years of pretending that all of their seemingly destructive actions are for our own good, they've got us right where they want us.

You really have to hand it to them--they vanquished us with nothing more than obfuscation and clever lies--that and vaults overflowing with ill-gotten gains.

They used the tactics of every enemy worth its stripe--first  the stroking ("Let us make as much as we can and we'll make sure it trickles down to you."), then the cajoling ("We're a capitalistic country. You understand about free markets, don't you?"), then the intimidating ("The government will turn us all into Socialists.  Communism won't be far behind."), and finally the outright war ("If you don't let us have our way, we will destroy you--we have the Chamber of Commerce and the entire Republican Party on our side.  You have only what we've allowed you to have.  Chew on that for a while.")

So consequently we have the sort of country that Obama decried in his Oslo speech:  Citizens without access to enough food or medicine, reports of dirty water, an educational system ranking lower than some third world countries, capable men and women rooting around for jobs that will keep their families intact.

We are those people.  The people that other, richer countries are either pitying or trying to ignore.  The people who had it all and gave it away.  The people who can't muster up the will to fight the enemy within our own borders.  The people who may ultimately lose it all.

As Obama said this morning, "An absence of hope can rot a society from within". He was the champion of hope and we bought it to such a delirious degree, we lifted him into the White House and took to the streets wildly cheering our good fortune. 

Our hope, if not absent now, is at least preoccupied.  We need it back if we're ever going to take care of our own business again.  We need the man who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize today to come home and lead us out of this.  We'll fight as hard as we can, but we can't do it without a leader.  He is it, and it's time he took a good, long look at the one country whose problems he can actually do something about.


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another Requiem for Detroit

Detroit was the arsenal of democracy in World War II and the incubator of the American middle class. It was the city that taught mass production to the rest of the world. It was a place that made cars, trucks and other tangible products, not derivatives. And it was the architect of the quintessentially American idea of putting people to work and paying them a decent wage. It’s frightening to think seriously about what we’ve allowed to happen to this city and what is now happening to the middle class and the American economy as a whole.
                   Bob Herbert, An American Catastrophe, NYT, 11/21/09

The ghost town known as Detroit is where I spent my life from infancy in 1937 until 1952, when we moved to the suburbs.  Even then, Detroit's northern border was only four miles from our home.  I could take a bus to Royal Oak, transfer to an express bus, and be whisked downtown in no time.  After I married, we still lived no more than a half-hour's drive from the center of the city.  I loved Detroit.  I was not one to stay away.

When I was young and lived in Detroit the Cultural Center was my playground and I never got over the fact that I could walk into those gorgeous buildings--the Detroit Public Library, The Institute of Arts, The Historical Museum--as freely as I could walk down my street.

In later years our writers' group, Detroit Women Writers (now Detroit Working Writers), met at the DPL. After our meetings, I often took the long way back to the parking lot in order to take in the atmosphere of that stately old repository.  In one wing, there is the Burton Historical Collection, where we've spent hours and hours researching local and family histories (for free.  I see they now charge non-residents).  The library is near the campus of Wayne State University and students fill the spaces and keep it busy.

From the library, it is a quick walk straight across Woodward Ave. to the Detroit Institute of Arts, where mummies lie, where a secret, winding staircase takes you down to the cafeteria, where Rembrandts visit and small Picassos reside, and where Fredric Edwin Church's huge wall-length Cotopaxi, when it was in residence,  just blew me away.  But, of course, the main event at the DIA is a visit to Diego Rivera's Industrial Murals.


 You don't have to wander far to see it.  It is a straight walk from the main entry.  Kids are thrilled by the suits of armor lining the hallway before it, and are usually bored by the murals.  Little do they know how very near the murals came to being smashed to bits and swept away--like much of current-day Detroit.  I  wrote an article about them in 1986, when two of Diego's assistants, Lucienne Bloch and Stephen Dimitroff, came back to the DIA to participate in an anniversary celebration. As many times as I had seen those walls  (glanced at might be a better description), I didn't realize that the story they told was my story, our story.

Detroit was the seat of industry during America's modern years, a city on the move.  The census rolls show that Detroit held the "fourth largest city" spot from 1920 to 1950, when Los Angeles pushed it to fifth place.  The 1950s were peak years for Detroit, with a population averaging 2.8 million.  Fifty years later, as of 2006, Detroit was the only city in the United States to have a population grow beyond 1 million and then fall below 1 million.  Now it rests uneasily at 871,000 (2008 figures).

(It didn't get past me that my family was one of many thousands that moved out of Detroit in 1952.  By that time, my dad, an upholsterer, had moved away from the auto industry and was working for a furniture maker based at Detroit's northern limits. They found an affordable little house in the suburbs, and all I can say is if they hadn't, my kids and grandkids, in their present form, wouldn't be here.  My future husband lived just up the street.)

Bob Herbert took a tour of Detroit's ruins and wrote an important piece about what he saw, but I hope he goes back sometime soon to take a look at the beauty of Detroit.  There is still much to be said for that battered, bloodied but not totally bowed town.

I would have sent him first to take a look at some of the glorious architectural structures built early in the 20th century by industrialists who saw a future there.  Until about two months ago, I might not have believed there was a chance in hell for that city, either, but an important meeting forced me down into the bowels, to the Penobscot building.

I was as stunned by its beauty as Bob Herbert was by the devastation he saw.  I wandered the halls and felt like I was in a museum again.  Signs of hard times were there--empty store fronts and very few people--but the Art Deco artwork, the gorgeous wood parquetry, the intricately tiled floors, the stately columns were all intact, all preserved, all spit-shined to a dazzling glow.  I hadn't been moved by the sight of a building in a long time, but standing there, I felt as if the dark clouds hanging over Detroit had lifted for just a moment, and the sun was about to shine through.

When I was a kid, my father would take me to the McGregor Library in Highland Park and wait patiently, reading newspapers, while I wandered around that beautiful Beaux Arts building, where I could breathe in the quiet and almost believe I belonged there, where I could gather books in my arms and actually take them home.

There is talk that the McGregor will reopen soon.  When and if it does, I want to be there.

My Detroit, when I was a kid, was a beautiful lady. Now she is our Grizabella.  To be remembered, to be pitied, but not counted out.  Look closely and you will understand what happiness was.

(Click here for the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit Tour and here for the Detroit Rises Tour.)


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Hell with Hunger, Palin's got a book out

The magnitude of the increase in food shortages -- and, in some cases, outright hunger -- identified in the report startled even the nation's leading anti-poverty advocates, who have grown accustomed to longer lines lately at food banks and soup kitchens. The findings also intensify pressure on the White House to fulfill a pledge to stamp out childhood hunger made by President Obama, who called the report "unsettling." 
(Amy Goldstein, Washington Post, 11/17/09)

Every morning I get email alerts from the Big Papers about stories they've published that day.  Yesterday I was skimming the list of articles in the Washington Post, and I saw this:  America's Economic Pain Brings Hunger Pangs.

I read the story and was, as anticipated, duly appalled beyond belief.  This is America and we're talking about hungry people numbering in the millions.  "Hungry" does not mean starving.  It means a scarcity of food.  It means food this morning but what about tonight? It means food today, but what about tomorrow?  It means a rumbling in the stomach because food has to be rationed.  It means that as a country we're following a road we thought we had left behind.

Children in Soup Line - 1930s

So on more than a whim, I pulled up the WaPo website to see where this story fit on their main page, and--guess what?  It wasn't there.   The two top-read stories yesterday morning were about--guess what?  Sarah Palin's book tour blitz.

This week is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness week--not that anyone would notice.   The unofficial event is coordinated and co-sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.   (In order for it to be official, somebody in the ranks of government would have to recognize hunger and homelessness as a real problem.  Though Obama called the hunger report "unsettling", I don't see any emergency mobilizing going on. It's simply another report among many that causes them to shake their heads and make promises they sincerely believe in, but about which they have no idea how to even begin addressing.)

This is the first paragraph of Goldstein's article:  "The nation's economic crisis has catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track, according to a new federal report, which shows that nearly 50 million people -- including almost one child in four -- struggled last year to get enough to eat."

Fifty million people, including one child in four, didn't have enough to eat last year.  You can cite rampant unemployment, you can blame illegals, you can certainly put the finger on outsourcing and off-shoring, but the report touches on a major factor that nobody wants to talk about:  insufficient wages. 
"The report's main author at USDA, Mark Nord, noted that other recent research by the agency has found that most families in which food is scarce contain at least one adult with a full-time job, suggesting that the problem lies at least partly in wages, not entirely an absence of work." 

So while we talk about "joblessness" and the impact of hundreds of thousands of jobs lost each and every month, we tend to forget that homelessness and hunger also comes to people struggling to make a living in a job market that is increasingly hostile to them and to their families. There are working people living in their cars, for God's sake.

When millions of able-bodied workers with practical skills and functioning brains are reduced to fighting for menial jobs that pay peanuts, under circumstances that not a one of us could have foreseen even 10 years ago, we have to finally admit that for most of us, life in America is not the recurring pleasant dream but the absolute nightmare.

So here I go again:  Jobs, jobs, jobs that pay, pay, pay. . . a living wage, dammit. We can start like this:

We can build factories and roads and bridges and schools and libraries and railroad stations and we can fill those places with art by American artists.  We can put our young people to work maintaining and creating parks and waysides and scenic overlooks.  And we can send our best writers and photographers out on the road to chronicle the Second Coming of the Great Depression. This is history in the making, and it is history repeating itself.  These are real people who, many of them, come from families who were in this place before.  Many of them worked hard and created a life swank in the middle class, only to be dropped back into the dark places of their forebears.  I'm guessing they're ready and eager to get to work.

It goes without saying that we will need to pay our people a living wage for the necessary work they do.  But in turn, they will once again be able to pay their fair share of taxes, they will once again be consumers, and they will once again be shareholders in an America that welcomes and rewards their efforts.

But in the meantime we have to feed people who don't have enough food, we have to house people who are homeless (even as their former homes sit empty), and we have to stop pretending that millions of people without hope for a future is a situation that, given enough time, will right itself.

It's not going to happen without a whole lot of pushing and shoving.  The very thought of a New New Deal sends Corporate America reaching for their buggy-whips.  Back!  Back!  You can have our billions when you pry it from our cold, dead hands!

So.  All Right.  There's a crowbar around here somewhere. . .


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Now, About Those Jobs. . .

We have spent the better part of a year locked in a tedious and unenlightening debate over health care while the jobless rate has steadily surged. It’s now at 10.2 percent. Families struggling with job losses, home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies are falling out of the middle class like fruit through the bottom of a rotten basket. The jobless rate for men 16 years old and over is 11.4 percent. For blacks, it’s a back-breaking 15.7 percent.
We need to readjust our focus. We’re worried about Kabul when Detroit has gone down for the count.          Bob Herbert, NYT, 11/10/09


Why are we skirting the issue of joblessness these days?  There will be no recovery without jobs. None.  We need to get cracking on that promised jobs creation program.  But first we need to get past the notion that creating multitudes of low-wage jobs accomplishing nothing more than servicing the upper class is going to get us out of this mess.

We need to re-build and re-tool factories and we need to produce our own goods. Without the majority of the population employed again in meaningful, productive work, we might as well resign ourselves to serfdom and the lives our people led pre-Industrial Revolution.

We need to stop pretending that we need those cheap goods from China and other slave-trade countries. For one thing, they're not all cheap.  Have you looked at the price of athletic shoes lately? With the exception of one company, New Balance, they're all made by human beings working long hours for mere pennies outside of the U.S.  Do the prices reflect that?  Would those ridiculous shoes cost a ridiculous $300 instead of the ridiculous $80 they now cost if they were made here?  Of course not.  I defy anyone to show me how a shoe company in the U.S couldn't produce an $80 pair of running shoes without making a profit.

Almost everything we buy in this country is made somewhere else by people who work under unconscionable conditions for embarrassingly paltry wages.  Do the prices reflect that?  Of course not.  Every year the cost of everything rises, no matter where the goods are produced.  Our new refrigerator was make in Mexico.  I haven't had a new refrigerator in 18 years, but if that was a low, low, non-USA made, non-union made price just for me, I'm not impressed.

Food, clothes, shoes, tools, appliances, office goods, computers--you name it.  They could all be made here by people earning decent wages under conditions that celebrate humanity while still keeping the company in the black.  For most mid- to high-end items, the prices couldn't be much worse.

It can be done.  We all know it can.  It must be done.  There will be no prosperity without a middle class, and there will be no substantial middle class unless we go back to MAKING things. We have to go back to making quality goods better than anyone else at a price that American workers can afford.  That used to be our claim to fame.  American-made goods were the best.  American wages were the best.  When we were the leaders in manufacturing, we lived in an era of exceptional prosperity, and nearly everybody benefited.  The Good Life was here in America.

We can do that again, and we can do it without breaking the bank.  But first things first. The Fat Cats need to go on a diet.   The hard part will be convincing them that their present way of life is killing them--along with the rest of us.  Their King Midas approach to economic stability looks good when they're viewing it from their hog-laden banquet tables, but they need a Marley's Ghost to drop in and show them how they're going to look selling apples on the street corner.

We can't go on like this.   Unemployment has surpassed that magic number--a national average of over 10 percent.  All hell was supposed to break loose if that ever happened, but of course it only affects the unemployed, so watching the stock market go up, even in the face of it, shouldn't surprise us.   But could it at least infuriate us?

Health care is important.  Getting us out of two wars is important.  Climate change is important.  But there is nothing more important today than creating the kinds of jobs that will bring this country back.  Let's get over the idea that such a colossal undertaking can be done without initial governmental/taxpayer help.  We need a WPA-like program and it should have started on Obama's first full day in office.  Congress should have been prepared to sign into law a jobs program that exceeded even our wildest dreams.  Every able-bodied unemployed person should have been ready to flex every muscle when the time came and we should, all of us, have been pushing that enormous, expensive project from day one and working toward making it the most efficient, effective project this country has ever seen.

CCC Crew, Senatobia, MS 1938

So let's say we work on getting that done.  Now we need to go after the off-shore "American" companies and give them the bad news.  They're no longer a part of us.  They get what they've wanted, including all the benefits of being a foreign company.  Cheap goods, low wages, tariffs. . .  Enjoy--somewhere else.

So.  If Americans want to build a strong America we have to do it the American way:   Honestly, righteously, willingly working hard.  Together.  For the common good.


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Islands of Good in a Sea of Hate

 To bring deserving things down by setting undeserving things up is one of its perverted delights; and there is no playing fast and loose with the truth, in any game, without growing the worse for it.
Charles Dickens,  "Little Dorrit"

I stayed away from politics for a few days last week, mostly by choice.  I admit that sometimes it gets me down; the hatefulness, the misdirected energies, the signs of a meaningful recovery growing ever fainter.  I give in sometimes to black moods and it takes a dose of sunshine to get me back on track.  I watched funny movies, played computer games, wandered around my local countryside taking pictures of golden trees and old barns.  It was great.

But yesterday morning--Sunday--the hiatus was over with a bang.  I watched, at my husband's urging, a segment of "The Coral Ridge Hour", a purportedly religious program, where ObamaCare was the sermon of the day.  I came into the program when a video about the dangers of government-run health care was playing.   The lies were so blatant, so transparently Right Wing, and so totally against what I know of Christian beliefs, I sat there either drop-jawed or sputtering.  They lied, and they took pleasure in their lies.  It was Sunday morning and they lied.

They pushed the notions of government-sponsored euthanasia for the elderly  ("Buried deep in the Obamacare bill is a passage that would require all Senior Citizens every five years to get counseling on end-of-life issues.  A less than gentle nudge that at some point the Federal government would like you to die"), wholesale abortions paid for by the Feds, doctors being forced to perform abortions against their moral judgment, rationed life-saving operations, and a guaranteed rapid slide toward socialism if all good Christians don't oppose the Public Option.

They were aided by such notables in compassionate thinking as Star "47 million uninsured Americans is a myth" Parker, a spokesman from James Dobson's "Family Research Council", and somebody billed as "William Lederer, former congressional candidate".

The Coral Ridge Hour is the brainchild of Dr D. James Kennedy, a "minister" in name only.  Dr. Kennedy has been dead for more than two years, but you wouldn't know if from his website or telecasts.  The faithful are carrying on his message of hate and intolerance in a fashion that would make their founder proud.  It was enough to make me sick.

So since I felt back in the game, I thought I would go over to Talking Points Memo Cafe to see what my friends were blogging about.  Once again, I was drop-jawed and sputtering, but in a good way.  I hate to pick out just three excellent bloggers to highlight here, since at any given time there are so many on that site, but these were the three that brought me to my knees.   Their blogs are so passionate, so articulate, so full of goodness.  The perfect antidote to that hateful Sunday morning sermon.

They are here:

The Genocide of the American Middle Class, by flowerchild 
(with links that beg to be read)

Professional Distance, a Discussion of Health Care, by Dickday
 (A necessary heartbreaker)

Hearts Gone Astray, by TheraP
(And then read "The Reason Why", including Doxy's heartbreaking "Elegy", a call for fairness in health care if ever there was one.)

I was so blown away by those four pieces I couldn't even comment.  I was absolutely struck wordless, and it took me until this morning to be able to function again and write the piece I had begun yesterday.

There are good people out there by the thousands fighting the good fight. (Many of them are in my blogrolls)  We need to nurture them, to celebrate them, to emulate them.

So from now on, my Sundays are reserved for them.


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Death to Traffickers in Children - and Nothing Less

(CNN, October 26, 2009)   Law enforcement authorities have recovered 52 children and arrested 60 pimps allegedly involved in child prostitution, the FBI announced Monday.

More than 690 people in all were arrested on state and local charges, the FBI stated.

I can't let this go.  I WON'T let this go.  As painful as this is to confront, and as near to tears as I am right now, I can't ignore this for another minute.

There are children out there--OUR children--who are being kidnapped, raped, exploited and forced into lives of prostitution and abject misery.  They are CHILDREN. They were babies once.  Infants.  Now they're kids.  They should be living the lives that all kids dream of living.  Free from worry, free from harm, free to be as joyful and as silly and as wonderful as any sitcom kid devised.

In a little over six years, 889 children have been rescued or "recovered" through the efforts of a task force of 34 agencies known as the Innocence Lost National Initiative.   The kids who have now been recovered will never, ever be full time kids again.  Those days, if they ever existed, are behind them.  They may have joyful moments--kids are resilient, after all--but they will carry those days and nights of misery with them forever.

I hate that.

I want those people--the people who did this to our children--dead.  I want them never to walk this earth again, never to inhale the same air we exhale,  never to have one more moment to walk upright among the rest of us.   I don't say this lightly.  I'm not writing this in the heat of passion.  I mean it.

In those six years, there have been around 500 convictions, with some sentences as light as eight years.  The longest sentences work out to around 25 years.  That's not nearly long enough.  When those monsters get out, their victims will still be young enough to have to look ahead to years of persistent nightmares.   What could be worse than knowing your tormentor is walking the streets, free as a bird, free of conscience, human in physiognomy only?

We owe it to the children rescued and to the pitiful children still lost to the child sex trade to become warriors in their name.  We watch animals in the wild protecting their young and think nothing of it.  It's the way of nature, after all.  But where in the wild is exploitation?  What other species of animal creates an environment where helpless, defenseless young are served up to the baser instincts of the most dangerous elements of their kind?   None but humans.

We bring these children into this world.  We're high-minded in our seeming concern for them.  We claim to love them all.  And yet we will not take seriously enough our ability to change their lives for the better. We cannot ignore the enemies of our children.  We are in the frontline of a battle for their very lives.  Every child is a child of ours. We are their only hope.

If it takes a village, we are it.

Innocence Lost National Initiative

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The Cyber Tipline

Amber Alert

FBI Crimes Against Children Unit

DOJ National Sex Offender Website

(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here)

Monday, October 19, 2009

No More Wind Energy Drying Devices for You!

I would imagine my grandmother has been turning in her grave a lot lately, but this latest travesty must have her positively spinning.  She was a true believer in hanging laundry out of doors, even on winter days when they came back inside stiff as boards and steaming from the cold.  Even after her daughters decided she was too old to be out there hanging clothes, she refused to use the dryer they installed in the basement.  Her one rule was that the last load had to be out on the lines before 10 AM.  It was a lazy woman who was still doing her wash in what was practically the middle of the day.

Her reasons for hanging laundry outdoors had more to do with tradition and enjoyment than with saving money or helping the environment.  She genuinely looked forward to Mondays, when the washables were scrubbed clean and dried miraculously by nothing but the very air we breathe.

 So, while I miss her terribly, I'm glad she isn't here to see this.  She simply would not be able to comprehend that there are actually people out there who see clean laundry drying on clotheslines as nothing more than the kind of neighborhood blight that threatens to turn communities into rotting ghettos.

Homeowner's Associations across the country are warning residents that clotheslines and all the attendant paraphernalia, like clothespins and clothespin bags and laundry baskets and actual laundry will not be tolerated in plain sight of other humans.

(Bill Giest went after the story on "Sunday Morning". You can see it here. )

The debate is getting hot and heavy, even to the point of bringing the blasted gov'mint into it. You can go here to sign a petition stating it is the inalienable right of every man, woman and child to line dry. They're asking for a one day photo-op of the First family airing out their (clean) laundry.

Some states are already working toward rescuing the line dryers from the tyranny of the energymongers.  Vermont, for instance, passed the "Right to Dry" for all Vermonters, as described here by Lyman Orton, proprietor of the Vermont Country Store.  Lyman has been "raisin' the dickens" about it for the past few years and. . . .but I'll let him tell you.

Colorado, Hawaii, Main, Florida and Utah already have such bills in place, and Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Oregon aren't far behind.  They're working on it.

Even the New York Times got into it.  This from their article:  “The issue has brought together younger folks who are more pro-environment and very older folks who remember a time before clotheslines became synonymous with being too poor to afford a dryer,” said a Democratic lawmaker from Virginia, State Senator Linda T. Puller, who introduced a bill last session that would prohibit community associations in the state from restricting the use of “wind energy drying devices” — i.e., clotheslines.

A film crew in the UK is producing a film called, "Drying for Freedom", due in theaters not necessarily near you in 2010.   Click here for the trailer.

This is big, folks.  But, wouldn't you know?  Certain people don't like the idea of anybody telling you you CAN hang out your laundry.  They much prefer those who tell you you CAN'T.  Tammy Bruce's take on it is this:  "You can have my dryer…and washer…and refrigerator when you wring them from my warm, smooth hands."  She sees going back to hanging out the laundry as drudgery, and maybe she's right. but what if you just want to?

I have a dryer now, but for the first three years in the house I live in, it was air dry or nothing.  In the summer I hung laundry outside and in winter I hung them on drying racks, thereby adding needed moisture to the dry heat of a closed-up house.

I still love hanging out when the weather is good.  When it's heading toward bad, I often hang out for a while and then throw them into the dryer to finish up.  I like the way clothes feel when they've been wind-dried and I like the way they smell.  I like the idea of saving a few bucks on electricity, too.  And I really like standing out there, clothespins in my mouth (the way my Mom always did), arranging those pieces just so, until they're not only set for optimal drying but are aesthetically pleasing, too.  All of the white tee shirts are hung side by side, shoulder to shoulder.  The socks match up, heels all facing the same direction.  Sometime I even color-code.  You can get much more creative with line-drying than you can by throwing things into a dryer.  That's a definite plus. (And nobody around here would ever dream of telling me I couldn't.)

But what I especially love about this whole argument is that it's like feathers flying instead of poison-tipped arrows.  I haven't laughed so much over a cause I might actually care about in a really long time.


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Americans At War over the Peace Prize: Go Figure

If the [Nobel] award just represented the political views of a handful of left-leaning, self-satisfied Norwegian Eurocrats, as some critics have charged, then it wouldn't matter whether Obama had won it or not. But of course it means much more. The Nobel Peace Prize, irrespective of the idiosyncratic process that selects its winner, is universally recognized as a stamp of the world's approval. For an American president to reject such a token of approval would be absurdly counterproductive.
Obama has shifted U.S. foreign policy away from George W. Bush's cowboy ethos toward a multilateral approach. He envisions, and has begun to implement, a different kind of U.S. leadership that I believe is more likely to succeed in an interconnected, multipolar world. That this shift is being noticed and recognized is to Obama's credit -- and to our country's.  Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, October 13, 2009

I am one of those people who, along with the recipient himself, was astonished at the choice of Barack Obama for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.  Yes, I initially thought it was a dubious choice--coming even before our president had had a chance to prove himself.

I watched some of the comments that day, and I followed some of the blogs, and I saw where this, predictably, was going.  Too soon, too political, too celebrity-driven.  I was prepared for that.  I wasn't prepared for the numbers of liberals and progressives who saw it as nothing short of absolute insanity.  Naomi Klein called the award "very disappointing and cheapening of the Nobel Prize".  She called the committee "delusional".

Michael Moore said, "You have to end our involvement in Afghanistan now. If you don't, you'll have no choice but to return the prize to Oslo."  ( Later, he retracted a little, saying, "I went back and re-read what I had written. And I listened for far too long yesterday to the right wing hate machine who did what they could to crap all over Barack's big day. Did I -- and others on the left -- do the same?")

There are those who bring up Mohandas Gandhi and the fact that, even though he was nominated five times, including a posthumous nomination in 1948, he was never awarded the Prize he so richly deserved.  They bring him up more than 60 years later as an example of why we can't trust the Nobel Peace Prize committee to do the right thing.

There are those who bring up civil rights leader Martin Luther King and say he was only awarded the Peace Prize because the committee felt bad about never having given it to Gandhi.

(There are those on the other side who still haven't forgiven the committee for snubbing Ronald Reagan.  The Obama pick is like rubbing sea-salt in the wounds.)

 I'm trying to look at the bigger picture:  Our president received a prestigious award for which he did no campaigning, no bribing, no begging.  The fact is, he received it, I'm proud that he received it, and now we all, including Obama, should make the most of it.

Instead we're engaged in a debate over whether or not he deserves it, and what the possible motives of the Peace Prize committee might be.  It doesn't matter.  He received it.  It's an honor.  It doesn't tear down the Nobel establishment.  It doesn't make us look bad.  It can only add to the credibility and prestige we've been trying to rebuild across the globe.  But it will only do that if the world is allowed to see us as a nation more proud than outraged over the honor given our president.

But, as usual, we come across like the foolish children the world has known us to be for all too many years.  I expect the Republicans and the Right Wing to tear this action to pieces.  This huge honor going to our new black Democratic president mere months into his presidency?  Right up their alley.  More ammunition to store in their already overflowing arsenals.  (Click here for the 8 Most Outrageous Attacks on Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.)

But the liberals?  The progressives?  The so-called people for peace?  They see it as nothing more than a frivolous attempt at repudiation against George W. Bush.  (Robert Reich said, "The Prize is really more of a Booby Prize for Obama's predecessor. Had the world not suffered eight years of George W. Bush, Obama would not be receiving the Prize. He's prizeworthy and praiseworthy only by comparison."  While there may be a kernel of truth there, and while I might even see it as a good thing, I don't know this for sure and neither does he.)

They see it as a wrong-headed attempt by the Norwegian Peace Prize committee to push Obama toward more aggressive global peace-making efforts.

At the very least, they see it as yet another swelling of what some view as the already humungous Obama ego.

They don't see it for what it is:  Our chance to make an impact on the world; a chance to show them we're not who they thought we were.  Our chance to hold our heads high and be proud of what we've done in choosing Barack Hussein Obama as the President of the United States.

We've been looking for a way to salvage our history, our heritage, our worldview and, maybe especially, our dignity.  We may just have found it in the Nobel Peace Prize.  So can we please let's work at keeping the shine on that medal?

Because, really now--wallowing in the dirt is so. . .yesterday.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

This Wretched, Reckless Approach to Health Care: It's Killing Us

We may be slow learners, but the rest of the industrial world has figured it out: Universal, single-payer or national health care systems. That's the reason why all those other countries cover everyone, have better patient outcomes, cause no one to declare bankruptcy or lose their homes because of medical bills, and spend less than half per capita on health care than we do.
We could do it too, by reducing the starting age for Medicare from 65 to 0. There's still time to act.  -  Michael Moore,  Huffington Post, 9/29/09 _____________________________________________________________________

 It doesn't matter what you say.  It doesn't matter what I say.  It doesn't matter what Robert Reich says.  It doesn't matter what Bill Moyers says.  It doesn't matter what Wendell Potter says.  It doesn't matter what Michael Moore says:

It doesn't matter what Jay Rockefeller says.  It doesn't matter what Anthony Wiener says.  It especially doesn't matter what Barack Obama says.

What matters is this:  We, the citizens and taxpayers, may win a skirmish or two, but in the end Big Business will win the battle.  They owned us yesterday, they own us today, and unless we finally get wise and get tough, they'll own us tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

They own us because they've ceaselessly, endlessly, without thought of the consequences, bought and paid for the loyalties of the majority of our elected officials.

We haven't quite come to terms with it yet--mainly because we can't quite believe it. We expect that sort of maneuvering by the Republicans.  Going against the Common Good in favor of the capitalists is in their DNA.  They apparently can't help it.

But the Democrats?  The Democrats.   The Blue Dogs--those dirty dogs--have sold us out. But the Blue Dogs aren't the only ones.  Not by a long shot.  On the Senate side, Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln, Kent Conrad, Bill Nelson and Tom Carper all voted against the public option.  Not surprisingly, they've all had their fingers in the Health Care honey pot.  According to Raw Story, those five senators have up to now received some 19 million dollars from the opposition to health care reform.  That opposition being, of course, the Health Care industries.  Those industries, I have to remind myself, that are devoted to caring for our health.

Sixty votes is the magic number.  Sixty Senate "yea" votes means a filibuster-proof passage.  It's the number that, if it isn't there, stops everything.  Convenient, isn't it?  It means even those who side with the insurance companies but don't want to admit it have an easy out.  "Can't vote yet because we don't have the 60."  Okay.  So what?

Where are the Dems who, if they're too cowardly to go for Single Payer, will at least put the vote for Public Option out there?  If it's voted down, after jawing about it for hours or days or weeks, then start all over again.  Put it out there again.  And then again.  Wear those filiblustering bastards down.

Millions of sick people are without a safety net.  People who could be saved are dying here. There is no reason, save greed, that we don't have a government-sponsored health care system.  I know it.  You know it.  We all know it.  If it's not in our budget, then shame on them.  They built that bloated budget on taxpayer money coerced from us through fear and outright lies.  Now that we need it for actual Common Good, they're going to pretend it's asking too much.  No.  They've asked too much of us for too long.  Now it's payback time.  They owe us.

So what are we going to do about it?  How long does this conversation go on?  There are people in our government who are intent on holding this up, and they're out there openly, blatantly, recklessly, holding this up.  We know who they are.  And they know we know who they are.  And they don't care.

So what are we going to do about it?  Good God. . .are you as sick of this as I am?  Enough, already. There are some enormous asses out there for the prodding, so. . .where the hell is my pitchfork?


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Danger in Underestimating the Right Wing

I found this on a website called The Progressive Puppy this morning.  I'm still shaking and bordering on the incoherent, because I honestly don't know what to DO about this. 

The JFK poster appeared all over Dallas just days before he was assassinated.  I don't know how widespread the Obama poster has been, but the three of these pictures together tell a story that just cannot be denied.  (Thank you, Max Pearson.)

There is something going on in this country that is insidious and destructive and dangerous.  We just can't go on pretending that it comes from fringe groups in small numbers.  Not when we have the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs and Michelle Malkins and even so-called Christian ministers advocating taking Obama down.  They may not be selling violence outright, but they're adding flames to the fire, and they know it.  It draws audiences and constituencies, and they know their people well.

These are the same flame-throwers who, if something does happen to President Obama, will be the first to say, "Don't look at me.  I didn't do it."

At the same time, I don't want to be one who says, "I didn't do enough".  I could cite dozens of websites here that advocate violence against our president, but I won't.  A Google search with the right words is enough to give me nightmares again.  It's out there, and it's growing, and it's becoming mainstream.

It's only one step from becoming normal behavior.  One of our Four Freedoms.  But speech can inflame.  Speech can incite.  Speech can be accessory to violence.

We've already seen the next step past freedom of speech.  We've seen assault weapons being carried into political rallies, where the president is scheduled to speak.  Gunslingers coming to shut the president up.  Now it's at the threat stage--next will be the actual shooting.

When do we finally get it that this is no longer a Free Speech issue?  This is anarchy, and we're standing around making jokes about it, pointing fingers, shaking our heads, and then turning away, as if ignoring the so-called crazies will dilute their messages of pure hatred.

They're just getting started.  When the first "citizen" walked into a public auditorium with a gun slung over his shoulder and nobody stopped him, it gave permission to dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, to follow.

Nancy Pelosi teared up the other day when she talked about the very real dangers in the advocating of violence.  What was the reaction?  A campaign of hatred and ridicule against Nancy Pelosi.

I'm not about to carry a gun to get my message across.  All I have are words, and in this present atmosphere, they're pretty puny.  But I see what's happening--this all-out hatred, this increasing call to violence--as wholly un-American.  This is NOT who we are.  This is NOT who we were meant to be.  Generations of Americans didn't work their asses off to bring us to this.  This is not a vast Right Wing conspiracy, it's Right Wingers out in the open, advocating anarchy, threatening to "take back" a country they've never understood, never nurtured, never respected.

They don't deserve it and they're not going to get it without a fight.

Or are they?

(Addendum:  read Bob Herbert's column here.)
[It's] time for other Americans, of whatever persuasion, to take a stand, to say we're better than this. They should do it because it's right. But also because we've seen so many times what can happen when this garbage gets out of control. Think about the Oklahoma City bombing, and the assassinations of King and the Kennedys. On Nov. 22, 1963, as they were preparing to fly to Dallas, a hotbed of political insanity, President Kennedy said to Mrs. Kennedy: "We're heading into nut country today."


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who Loves Ya, Labor?

On Tuesday two emails appeared in my box,  both asking me for help in doing something about the sorry state of labor in this country.  One was from John Sweeney, the outgoing AFL-CIO president.  This is his message in its entirety:

Dear Ramona,
Yesterday at the opening session of the 2009 AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh, I had the opportunity to thank my family, staff and labor leaders from across the country and around the world for their commitment, personal sacrifice and hard work during the past 14 years. Today, I want to thank you.

I've loved our labor movement all my life. There is no greater honor than the opportunity to serve working people. It has been an amazing 14 years, and together we transformed the debate over globalization and helped redefine the global labor movement as a champion of workers' rights. We called the hand of the greedy corporations that sent our jobs overseas, scammed our mortgage markets and nearly destroyed our economy.

We brought health care and labor law reform to the top of our national agenda. We seated a pro-working-family majority in the United States Congress. We elected a champion of working families as the first African American president in the history of our country.

We changed the direction of our country, and we should be just as proud of how we changed our movement. We built the strongest grassroots political operation in our country and brought hundreds of thousands of union volunteers into the fight to protect the dreams we share. We knew we were faced with building a movement on changing ground, and we reached out to organizations and workers outside our walls.

At the opening of our 2009 convention, I'm filled with optimism. We've helped create one of those rare moments when history invites dramatic improvement in the human condition.

But the excitement over our possibilities is tempered by the realities of our times. We're seeing glimmers of an economic recovery, yet nearly 20 million of our brothers and sisters are still without work. The poor and the out-of-work are no longer invisible or abstract figures—they're our friends and neighbors, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters.

We're on the cusp of the greatest advance in labor law reform in 70 years, but we're taking heavy fire from the corporate captains of deceit. We're closer than ever to winning our long struggle for universal health care, but our success has kindled a firestorm of meanness stoked by politicians playing on fear, racism, nativism and greed.

Every one of our achievements represents unfinished business—and the tasks we're challenged with are daunting. But if there is one thing we've learned over the past 14 years, it is this: Miracles present themselves on the shoulders of commitment, unity and action.

At the center of these is unity—the solidarity that flows through the marrow of our movement. For us, solidarity is more than just a strategy, it's a way of life. We believe in helping each other. We care about our brothers and sisters.

Solidarity is what gives workers the collective courage to form a union, to fight back against a greedy employer.

Solidarity is what compelled thousands of first responders and construction workers to risk their lives at Ground Zero eight years ago last Friday.

Solidarity is what saved 155 airline passengers who could have drowned in the icy waters of the Hudson River.

Solidarity is what compels a firefighter to dive into an inferno to save a stranger, a teacher to refuse to give up on a child or back off from a battle with a school board.

Now it is up to you to bring even more solidarity, revive our economy and make it work for everyone.

We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act and help millions of America's workers lift their lives and realize their aspirations. We will guarantee every family in America health care when they need it. And we will be true to our enduring mission of improving the lives of working families, bringing fairness and dignity to our workplaces and securing economic and social equity in our nation.

That's our mission, that's our job—let's get at it.

John J. Sweeney
AFL-CIO President
Labor Warrior At-Large

The other email came from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.  I won't print the entire thing, but if you want to read it, the link is here.

It started, "Dear Ramona", and was signed by Mark Mix, head of NRW.  (Somewhere down the road, I either accidentally wandered onto their website or they got my email address from somewhere and added me to their list. However it happened, I've been getting regular emailings from them.  At first, I couldn't believe what I was reading and I almost took my name off of their list.  But then the "know your enemy" strategy kicked in and so, when I can stomach it, I venture into enemy territory and open one of their links.)
But what struck me about those two emails was the stark contrasts of opinion about the same issue.  Who is right?  (The question is rhetorical.  I know the answer.)

Mark Mix (no relation to Tom Mix, he says. That should make Tom very happy.) and his crowd want me to believe that:
The Right to Work principle--the guiding concept of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation--affirms the right of every American to work for a living without being compelled to belong to a union. Compulsory unionism in any form--"union," "closed," or "agency" shop--is a contradiction of the Right to Work principle and the fundamental human right that the principle represents. The National Right to Work Committee advocates that every individual must have the right, but must not be compelled, to join a labor union. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation assists employees who are victimized because of their assertion of that principle.
Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO wants me to believe they're wrong:
To set the record (and the name) straight, right to work for less doesn’t guarantee any rights. In fact, by weakening unions and collective bargaining, it destroys the best job security protection that exists: the union contract. Meanwhile, it allows workers to pay nothing and get all the benefits of union membership. Right to work laws say unions must represent all eligible employees, whether they pay dues or not. This forces unions to use their time and members’ dues money to provide union benefits to free riders who are not willing to pay their fair share.
Mark Mix and pals ask, What effect does a Right to Work law have on a state's standard of living?
The National Right to Work Committee has called attention to the fact that Right to Work states enjoy a higher standard of living than do non-Right to Work states. Families in Right to Work states, on average, have greater after-tax income and purchasing power than do those families living in non-Right to Work states, independent studies reveal. What's more, Right to Work states have greater economic vitality, official Department of Labor statistics show, with faster growth in manufacturing and nonagricultural jobs, lower unemployment rates and fewer work stoppages.
The AFL-CIO says the opposite:
Right to work laws lower wages for everyone. The average worker in a right to work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states ($35,500 compared with $30,167).[1] Weekly wages are $72 greater in free-bargaining states than in right to work states ($621 versus $549).[2] Working families in states without right to work laws have higher wages and benefit from healthier tax bases that improve their quality of life.
While Mark Mix and posse see smoke signals on the horizon:

How does compulsory unionism affect government policy?

Compulsory unionism is primarily responsible for the Tax-and-Spend policies of the U.S. Congress. Under their federally-granted coercive powers, union officials collect some $4.5 billion annually in compulsory dues and funnel much of it into unreported campaign operations to elect and control congressional majorities dedicated to higher taxes and increased government spending.
The AFL-CIO sees a safe haven:
Right to work endangers safety and health standards that protect workers on the job by weakening unions that help to ensure worker safety by fighting for tougher safety rules. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 51 percent higher in states with right to work, where unions can’t speak up on behalf of workers.[3]
Mark Mix sees coercion everywhere but in the boss's office:

What is "exclusive representation"?

"Exclusive representation" is the special coercive privilege, given by federal law, that empowers union officials to represent all employees in a company's bargaining unit. This "compulsory union representation" deprives employees, even in Right to Work states, of their right to bargain for themselves. Union officials demand this power, then use it as their excuse to force employees to pay dues for representation they do not want. The unions see it as protection:
Federal law already protects workers who don’t want to join a union to get or keep their jobs. Supporters claim right to work laws protect employees from being forced to join unions. Don’t be fooled—federal law already does this, as well as protecting nonmembers from paying for union activities that violate their religious or political beliefs. This individual freedom argument is a sham.
The email from Mark Mix might have scared the beejesus out of me if I hadn't already seen his kind in action before.  He said:
During the last elections, Big Labor spent more than a BILLION dollars in forced-dues cash to create a national tidal wave of victories for its handpicked candidates. Now they’re demanding PAYBACK!The union bosses are moving at lightning speed to ram through the most extreme socialistic items on their agenda --they’ve been waiting decades for exactly this moment!But at the very top of their agenda are moves to seize more special privileges for coercive unionism. In fact, forced unionism power grabs are at the very heart of the bailout bills, health care overhaul bills, and numerous other laws being pushed by Congress right now.
Man!  Where do I sign up?   But. . .what's this?

 Now I’m writing to all of the Foundation’s best supporters because, according to my calculations, if you and our other most generous supporters gave a gift of $250 to the Foundation today, it would be enough to fully fund the rest of our 2009 program.
I realize that $250 is a lot to ask, but so much is at stake.

You see, I know a few people won’t give at all right now. They will count on others to carry their load.

That's why, if at all possible, I ask you for a very generous contribution of $500.

That may be more than you’ve given in a single gift before, but I hope you will seriously consider digging this deep.

More than anything, such a request is a testament to just how critical the Foundation’s ongoing projects and financial needs are.

But, if I can count on generous donors like you to give such a contribution now, I could put aside any thoughts of scaling back our program and focus on the business of challenging Big Labor’s abuses.

I hope you understand how much is at stake.

With the resources provided by your contribution, the Foundation can maintain and perhaps even increase its aggressive attack on Big Labor’s compulsory unionism schemes. Your support could not come at a better time than now, given the challenges we face.
We’ve been able to rely on you before, and I’m hoping that you’ll come through for the Foundation now. If, for some reason, you just can’t send $500 today, please give at least the full $250 or whatever you can afford right away.

Whether you give $500 or $250 -- or if a lesser amount is the most you can afford right now -- please submit your Supporter's Directive giving me your advice and be as generous as you are able.

Please, help today. Your contribution will make a difference.


Mark Mix

P.S. The union bosses are moving at lightning speed to crush all opposition to expansion of their government-granted special privileges. This is their best shot in decades to move Card Check Forced Unionism and other radical measures into reality.

The National Right to Work Foundation has its back against the wall as we fight Big Labor’s assault. Yet at this crucial moment, I fear the Foundation will not have the resources to fight against all the threats you and I face.

Please let me have your advice by filling out your Supporter’s Directive today. And I really hope you will make a tax-deductible contribution of $500 or at least $250 or whatever you can afford today.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. . . .(catches breath). . .ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. . . . .(rolls off couch). . . .ha     ha     ha.

I had such a headache.  You wouldn't believe. . .

So I went back and read John Sweeney's letter.  Poof!  Headache gone.  All it took was a breath of fresh air.


Monday, September 7, 2009

For Labor: A Pat on the Back, a Hail and Farewell

"Less than a century ago the laborer had no rights, little or no respect, and led a life which was socially submerged and barren….American industry organized misery into sweatshops and proclaimed the right of capital to act without restraints and without conscience. The inspiring answer to this intolerable and dehumanizing existence was economic organization through trade unions. The worker became determined not to wait for charitable impulses to grow in his employer. He constructed the means by which fairer sharing of the fruits of his toil had to be given to him or the wheels of industry, which he alone turned, would halt and wealth for no one would be available…
"History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
-  Martin Luther King, AFL-CIO address, December 11, 1961


The story of the labor movement in America is a sweeping epic, a saga of betrayal and redemption, a tender love story, a tragedy worthy of the Greeks.  As in any good story, there is hope, there is conflict; there are victims and villains, there are cowards and there are heroes. For some who have followed the story, the end has already come.  For others, the hope lives on.  But, as in any great movement, in any great story, the paradigm changes, the characters along with it.  For labor, the days of glory, of prosperity,  have dwindled.  There are many who see this as a sign of progress.  They've already picked out the casket.

So it is fitting, as we come together to mourn the loss of the strength of America, to  remember and celebrate its existence, and the people who worked to keep it strong.  From Samuel Gompers to Eugene V. Debs to Mother Jones to John L. Lewis to Frances Perkins and the Roosevelt Administration to Walter Reuther to Cesar Chavez  to Martin Luther King to the Willmar Eight to "Norma Rae" , there have been those who stood tall and gave their all to preserve and protect the working class in this country.

Most of those named here are gone now.  If they could come back today, would they lament the present conditions?  No question.
Would they see their own hard work as wasted?  Not likely.  For how much worse would it  have been without them.
Would they put their heads together and come up with a solution?  Oh, yes--yes they would.
Would the solution be revolution?  We could only hope.
Would they lead us again?  Right down the path to victory.

But they are not here, and time and events have passed them by.   There are still some who fight the battles of the workplace with a fervor we could only hope would make a difference, but shouting the truth in the wilderness is, in the end, about as effective as whispering in a crowd.

Labor Day, the celebration of our laborers, began as a union event in 1882 and eventually became a nationwide holiday.  I can remember my dad taking me to a huge Labor Day parade in downtown Detroit when I was a child.  The crowds lined Woodward Avenue by the thousands, but they were almost dwarfed by the rows of marchers holding banners and singing the songs of labor. The people lining the avenue cheered them on mightily, raucously, my dad along with them, and I cheered, too.  The outpouring of emotion was frightening, yet thrilling.  And even at that young age (I couldn't have been more than eight or nine) I sensed that we were a part of something important.

Are there still Labor Day parades today?  Are they in celebration of labor and not just the holiday?

According to the DOL:  The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

 Our new labor secretary, Hilda Solis, said this at the Union League Club of Chicago on September 2:

From the Great Depression to 9/11, Americans have faced tough times and we beat them. Together. This time will be no different. The fact that the daughter of immigrants is the nation's 25th Secretary of Labor is testament that anything is possible in our country. My mother was a minimum wage worker at a toy assembly plant and was a member of the United Rubber Workers Union, now the Steelworkers. My father worked in a battery recycling plant and was a Teamsters shop steward.
Many people have influenced me, mentored me, and inspired me:
  • Martin Luther King Jr. who sparked my passion for civil and human rights;
  • Dolores Huerta who had her ribs broken in the struggle but never her spirit; and
  • Cesar Chavez, who inspired me and the world by simply saying: "Si Se Puede!" --Yes, We Can!
I am a product of:
  • The women's movement.
  • The labor movement.
  • The environmental movement.
  • The social justice movement.
  • And I'm married to a small business owner.
I'm proud of all that. It is what defines me and shapes my goal as Labor Secretary: Good Jobs For Everyone.
And here's what I mean by "good jobs":
  • Jobs that can support a family by increasing incomes and narrowing the wage gap;
  • Jobs that are safe and secure, and give people a voice in the workplace;
  • Jobs that are sustainable and innovative — like green jobs — that export products not paychecks.
  • And jobs that rebuild a strong middle class.
I want to believe, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that the people who labor in and for this country will take back their rightful positions as the vanguards for prosperity, and that those in power will be there to move them forward.  To all who labor in the factories, in the warehouses, in the fields, in the offices, in the schools, and behind the counters, may this day be the turning point.  May tomorrow bring the changes that have so long been promised.  

Our force is in our numbers.  Our weapons are pride and determination.  Our hope is in ourselves.


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here)