Thursday, February 26, 2015

CPAC! A Fond Look Back on the Circuses That Were

It's CPAC time!  I almost missed it!  (My invitation no doubt was lost in the mail.)  Since 2009, shortly after I first started writing this blog, I've been fascinated by the dizzy doings over at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference).  I admit that before I took to writing a political blog, I didn't know much about what turns out to be a venerable old conference designed to highlight the Conservative (and now Tea Party) leanings of the Republican Party.  It's the coming-out party for potential presidential candidates and has been on the scene for over 40 years.  (Honestly? Since 1973? And I thought I was paying attention.)

The main speakers this year are about the same as the main speakers from several years past:  Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, Carly Fiorina, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio,  Rick Santorum, --oh, and Jeb Bush. This year they've added Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" fame, but once again it looks like a snub for Rush Limbaugh. (Heh)
There was a long list of programs, but this one gave me the giggles:  Good Guys Reception, sponsored by the National Rifle Association and Freedom Alliance.  By invitation only.
(There are numerous spots where you can pick up a live feed, so as not to miss anything crucial.  C-Span is as good a place as any.) 

So since this is a big weekend for the Republicans, I thought I would take a look back on the blogging I've done about CPAC since 2009. 

2009: Crazy With Fear: CPAC 2009. My first trip down the rabbit hole.  What an adventure!

2010Square Deal, New Deal, Fair Deal, Raw Deal . Alas, but a mere mention.  I don't know what was going on that year but CPAC obviously wasn't a priority.

2011: Friday Follies:  Mother Jones, Feral Pigs, Palin, Bachmann, Simpson and Da Yoopers. An even tinier mention, having to do with Michelle Bachmann, but the rest of the blog is pretty good.

2012Thank You, Cal Thomas. Mighty Big of You.  I wrote back then that Cal Thomas could probably kick himself for getting involved with that bunch.  Silly me.  He's on the roster again this year.

2013CPAC 2013. Wingers Just Want to Have Fun.  But not too much fun.  The dress code--an entire poster full of dress code--says no-no to the nightclub look and to Walmart wear.  Conference-goers are required to look like they mean business, even if there's funny business going on.
But they did allow zombie costumes at "The Walking Dead, Obama Zombies on Parade" bash.  So that's cool.
2014 Hail, CPAC! Silly Season is Upon us. Can Spring be Far Behind? Wherein Ted Cruz puts on his McCarthy face and Christine (I am not a witch) O'Donnell does a book signing along with Callista Gingrich, one of Newt's wives.  Good times.

So that's it, then.  I'll probably be following along on Twitter and Facebook when I think of it, looking for the fun stuff.  I just hope there is some fun stuff.  I don't know.  The Republicans have been letting me down in the fun department lately.  Ever since they took over the entire federal government, except for that one place where that foreign squatter with the funny name lives.

I hate it when they do things that don't make me laugh.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog, Freak Out Nation, and LiberalandFeatured on MBRU at Crooks and Liars)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Yes, Rudy, It Was a Horrible Thing To Say. Thank You.

According to an article in Politico, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani told a group of Republicans gathered to pay some sort of attention to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker that it's his belief that President Obama doesn't love them, him, or even the entire United States of America.

This is what he said:
"I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."
Well, the pundit class went nuts!  The progressives could barely speak and had to hiss, they were so mad.  The Republicans haughtily explained that there was no need to explain:  What Giuliani said was very, very, very close to the truth.

Giuliani went on Fox News and said well, yes, Obama is probably a patriot but he keeps saying bad things about America, something no other president before him ever did.  He doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, blah, blah, blah.
"I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being," [Obama] said at West Point in 2014. "But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions."
Then Giuliani went on the air wherever he could and kept at it and kept at it and kept at it.  The theme:  Obama is not like us.  He doesn't understand America.  He is, okay, let's just get it out there--the Other.

But Rudy wasn't being racist.  Oh, no.  Far from it, according to Giuliani:
“Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people,” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.” 
And, bizarrely, apropos of nothing, "President Obama didn't live through 9/11, I did."

So at the end of the day, you know who comes out smelling like a rose?  Obama does.  Because every person not so inclined toward stupid--Republican, Democrat, Independent, and Other--will now have to come out and defend the president. They'll have to condemn such remarks and remind the Americans that we're all Americans.  Even Obama.  Some of them--those who know November, 2016 isn't that far away--will have to hold their noses to do it, but do it they will.

The punditry will be grabbing at Obama quotes to prove he does love his country, he does love you and me, he doesn't love Muslims more than he loves Christians, he's not a Communist or an anti-colonialist, he doesn't just say bad things about America.

And all President Obama has to do is sit back and let it happen.

So thank you, Rudy.  Well done!  Now come on over here and let me give you a big 'ol hug.

(Read it at Dagblog and Freak Out Nation)

Monday, February 16, 2015

An Education By Fits And Starts But Not Degrees

My formal "college" consists of 26 community college credits, half of them in ceramics.  I took two classes in cultural anthropology, fell in love with Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart", and decided anthropology was my life's calling--until my husband called my attention to the want ads in our big city paper.  Not a single call for anthropologists anywhere, and since we were among the almost-poor, and I still had kids at home, I had to think inside the box.

I took a business class taught by a one-handed pianist who should have stuck to his night job.  He invited our class to his concert and, even with one hand, his performance was flawless.  When it came time to evaluate him, none of us could do the honest thing and point out his flaws as a teacher of business.  We gave him high marks for personality.

nouveau girl reading books 1909 I took two creative writing classes taught by an old pot-smoking hippie who wore chains and earrings and orange tennis shoes and who told us right off that he didn't care what we wrote as long as we wrote something.  I thought the guy himself was ridiculous, trying as he did to be George Carlin and Jack Kerouac, all in the same skin, so it took me a while to realize how much I had actually learned there.   It came to me much later, when I was putting together materials to teach my own adult-ed creative writing classes:  What he gave us was a setting where we could write and fail and get a huge kick out of what we were doing.  He was a teacher without judgement but with a knack for finding what could be fixed.

I took a modern literature class taught by a woman I don't remember at all--not her name, not her face, not her teaching technique.  But through her I met Eudora Welty, Joseph Conrad, Langston Hughes, and Flannery O'Connor--writers I might have overlooked if she hadn't brought them (and so many others) to my attention.

And that was the end of my formal education.  Whatever else I've learned, I've learned either by happenstance or serendipity. Being in the right place at the right time.  Stumbling across something that got me curiouser and curiouser and led me to something else that led me to something else.  Unless I got distracted; then it was something else altogether.

 Living near Detroit, I had the advantage of meeting some exceptional writers and thinkers and I latched onto them like a parasite on a host.  I tried to drain them of everything they had to give--quietly, of course, without drawing blood.  I went to readings and workshops and lectures.  I joined groups where professional writers gathered.

They taught me a trade, but it's a haphazard way to get an education.  It's not an education, in fact.  Whatever it is, it's full of holes.  Great gaping holes.  Great gaping embarrassing holes.  (I couldn't find Iraq on a map if you gave me a hundred bucks to do it. I don't know what Pi is and I'm afraid I'm missing something meaningful.  I only recently found out that Goethe is pronounced "Gurt-uh".  Good thing I never had occasion to say his name out loud.)

Now President Obama is pushing for free two-year community college for everyone.  It'll be an uphill battle, but I'm right there beside him, rooting him on.  I don't want anyone to have to take on the task of educating themselves.  It can't be done.  They need teachers.  They need campus life.  They need to argue and debate, to be challenged, to be opened up to directions they might never have taken and ideas they might never have formed on their own.  They need to be pushed and pulled and exposed to a world wholly outside of themselves.

 They need to prepare for jobs, and we as a country need to pave the way.  We need to build again, creating good-paying jobs for them to fill.  We need to smarten up, and the best way to do it is through education.

We know that now.

 Pretty sure we do.

But I could be wrong.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

We Need Paid Sick Leave Because Workers Are Humans First

There's a fuss going on in Michigan over whether the state should mandate paid sick leave for all workers.  It's the Democrats who are proposing it but the Republicans dominate the government, so at this point it's not a question of winning the issue, it's a question of how far their bill gets before it fails.  (The sad backstory:  This same bill was first introduced in 2012.  The Republicans made sure it didn't get to committee for consideration. It was reintroduced in 2013.  Same story.  Now, in 2015, the Dems, bless their hearts, are trying again.)

I'm a pessimist when it comes to the Republican mode of governing anything, but I'm also a realist.  The Republicans (and, to be fair, some Democrats) will always come down on the side of business whenever the issue of worker equity comes up.  That's because business is where the money lies and money begets power. It's the climate we're in until we decide on climate change.

Source:  Wikimedia Commons
The quick statistics are these:  Just under half of all workers in Michigan now have to take sick days without pay.  The new law, if passed, would affect more than a million workers, both full and part time.  The Democratic bill about to be introduced in both the Michigan Senate and the House "would require  employers to offer one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours a person works. For somebody working 40 hours a week, that would equate to 69.3 hours or 8.7 standard eight-hour work days of sick leave per year. It would apply to both part-time and full-time employees."

We're talking, at best, about nine paid sick days a year. One nasty bout of flu could take up half of them.  It's not an outrageous proposal. 

The Republicans saw this coming and came up with an answer to the bill--the House Republican Action Plan.  The first order of business, following the governor's "relentless positive action" ( their words, not mine) is to kill the state's prevailing wage law.  (I admit I'm shocked this law is still in effect.  It guarantees certain workers the same wages and benefits as their union counterparts. I can't imagine how it was overlooked when Michigan became a Right-to-Work state, but never mind:  They've caught it now.

Their second O of B was to address paid sick days/leave:
Eliminating Local Ordinances That Hinder Job Creation:  Municipal ordinances governing wages and benefits known as "sick pay ordinances" institute rules and regulations on local employers in providing sick pay to their employees.  Many job providers are fearful such local actions hinder job creation.  Legislative efforts will be taken to ensure local ordinances are not more restrictive than state standard. 

So the state, as if there isn't enough to do, is now taking on the task of eliminating any local job ordinances that don't fit their idea of "none is good".   If, let's say, Solidarity City decides to consider the fact that most employees are human beings and not machines and comes up with a plan where those human beings can't be penalized for having messy lives that might require their being at home instead of at work, that's a good thing, right?  We're all for home and families, right?

As might be expected, business owners are lining up behind the Republicans, expressing their outrage at such a blatant attempt to strip them of their earnings by forcing them to pay sick people while they're sick!  (I'll just insert here the fact that there were decades upon decades wherein most employees were guaranteed paid sick days.  But we had unions then.)

In this AP story out of Lansing:
The Michigan Restaurant Association says it opposes "one-size-fits-all mandates." The group says restaurants have "thrived without the added costs and intrusions of labor unions."   

To which I say, wouldn't it be great if slavery were still in vogue?  (Hard to take any restaurant association seriously when they're A-okay with waitstaff working for $3.10 an hour plus tips.  So we'll move on.)

So let's talk a minute:

Employees, we can agree that if you need this job you're pretty much screwed if your kids get sick or if you get sick or your partner gets sick or your house burns down or someone in your family dies and your employer not only won't pay you for the days when you need to be at home, but says, "I need you here at work, and if you can't do the job I'll find someone else who can."  So hang on a minute while I go talk to your employers.  Be right back.

Employers, when you hired these employees you must have seen, the moment they entered your space, that they were living, breathing human beings with lives that fill each 24-hour period completely.  If you know anything about yourself, you could probably, if you wanted to, relate to their humanness. You have a family, they have a family.  You get sick, they get sick.  Something happens that keeps you from coming in to work.  Something happens that keeps them from coming in to work.  But here, you insist, the similarities end.  You get paid for the days you're away.  Too bad about them. 

But that's not enough, is it?  You expect such loyalty from your workers you allow yourself to believe that any calamity that might befall your employee is a direct insult to you.  How could they do this, especially now, when they know you need them right here, right now!

Where is your loyalty to them?  You've built a business that you can't run on your own.  You hire people because you need them. They come to work for you because they need you.  They don't become your personal property because you've hired them.  You have entered into a mutual agreement and that agreement requires a mutual commitment.  An obligation.  You're both human and all your good intentions may fall be the wayside now and then, but the mutual agreement still stands.  You need them and they need you.  You're in this together.

So get over yourself and open your eyes to the needs of the people who work for you.  Pay them what the job is worth and never make them have to decide between pressing personal needs and their paycheck. Trust them.  The majority will always do the right thing.

Workers, are you still with me?  There are groups that are working to get this bill passed.  They need your help.  They want your input, your stories.  Are your sick days paid?  Unpaid?  What has happened to you because of it?  Take a minute, please, and show them some support.  They're working hard for you.

In Michigan:

Mothering Justice


Paid Sick Days

National Partnership

(Guest-blogged at Eclectablog.  Cross-posted at Liberaland, dagblog, and Freak Out Nation)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Things We Leave Undone While We Sweat The Small Stuff

Photo: America
In this country millions of children are going hungry.  There are as many reasons as there are hungry children, but not a single one of them is the fault of the child.

This year's count puts the homeless at nearly 600,000. Many of them are our veterans, come home from wars with wounds that won't heal.  Nearly a third of them live on the streets.  Some cities work diligently to keep them off the streets, not by sheltering them but by making their attempts to sleep outdoors more difficult.

Our public schools are barely holding together, as funding, along with creativity and our ability to see our children as our future, declines.  The future of our public learning institutions is in jeopardy, and there are some who see that as a good thing.

Men and women in their middle years are now taking jobs normally held by teens or retirees.  $20 and $30 an hour jobs are long gone for the masses.  A $15-an-hour job is now classified as a goal to reach instead of a hurdle to jump over.

People who were promised adequate retirements are finding, 30 years after the pact, that nothing was written in blood.  The money they worked for and counted on has been stolen away and they have no choice but to accept it.  As criminal as it seems, it's just the way it is when times are bad and we all (well, almost all)  have to tighten our belts.

Our need to keep health care obscenely profitable is responsible for shortening lives and causing needless pain.  We seem not to be able to make the connection when ad campaigns by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and hospital chains bombard our airwaves.  Someone is paying for those ads.  We try not to think about who that might be.

Our roads and bridges and buildings are crumbling and we're supposed to believe there is no money to fix them.  We wait for the inevitable disaster that will open the vault to the funds hiding there all along.  Large numbers of people will have to die as a sacrifice before more can live.

Private interests are carpet-bombing the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We say we don't know how to stop them, apparently not even noticing that we've made a habit of nurturing and promoting politicians who make no secret of their allegiance to them.

But I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know.

So why aren't we talking about these things all day every day until something gets done about them? Why aren't we seeing periodic updates on these insults to the human spirit on the news?

A hungry child wonders where she'll be sleeping tonight.

A good person working hard to build a safe future suddenly finds herself jobless with no comparable employment in sight.

A man nearing retirement age finds that the equity in his house is worth a third of what it was 10 years ago, and his retirement package is worth even less.

A person gets sick.  The illness becomes chronic.  Work is out of the question, but the costs to stay stable have risen and are now beyond reach.  Next step: bankruptcy.

Tent cities are springing up, then being torn down.

And so on.

These stories get published and most of us react the way the writer intended, but the big news takes over and the stories, sad as they are, get lost.

Big news like (you knew this was coming) sports world scandals, Sarah Palin doing anything, God's personal messages to certain GOP leaders, the hurtful words one public person used against someone else, and the interminable, advertiser-driven, celebrity happenings.

When was the last time the news media was so captivated by a story about any of the abuses I've listed, they made it "Breaking News" and stayed on it for days on end, without regard for regular programming?

When was the last time the public went on a rampage against those abuses, protesting in numbers so powerful they couldn't be ignored until change finally came?

Never.  It has never happened.  Which is why we're still where we are, and the perpetrators are still where they are--growing stronger in a place where they need not be afraid.

There are powerful factions out there working to build our country to their liking.  They welcome the distractions, and often manufacture them in order to divert our attention away from their efforts to take us down.  After decades of practice, the demagogues have fear-mongering down to an art form.  It's no accident, for example, that Ted Cruz looks, acts and sounds like Sen. Joseph McCarthy.  Or that Rand Paul confuses libertarianism with liberty.  Or that a vengeful, gun-toting God has suddenly become the Right's co-pilot.

They understand the media better than we do.  They know that religion, bigotry, and misogyny push the right buttons and keep the noise going.  They know enough of us are easily distracted and will believe anything but the truth.  Those people are their ace in the hole.  They couldn't win without them.

Our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to bring the dialogue back to the bigger issues and keep them front and center.  Our story is the story of the masses.   We owe it to ourselves to get it right.

(Cross-posted at dagblog, Daily Kos, and Freak Out Nation.  Featured on Crooks & Liars MBRU)