Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lost in the Drizzle and Fog

If there is one line that I've repeated in this blog over and over again from the beginning, it is that I acknowledge and realize that anecdotes are not science. So, don't use the following story against me. I once knew someone who worked third shift at a convenience store. As we all know, because news people frequently report, that the third shift at a convenience store can be very dangerous. They get robbed regularly by armed robbers who are probably black, high on drugs, and will shoot the clerks because they don't want to leave any witnesses. In fact, the older sister of one of my high school classmates was killed in exactly this way, I believe during my junior year. The person in this story, however, was never robbed. He was a big guy, not tall or fat (then) but just burly built, and not many people would mess with him based on that alone, and he was not afraid. In 1983 a friend of his gave him a gun for a gift. It was a .357 handgun; a very imposing firearm. We went to the range to shoot it, and it felt good. He started taking the gun to work, just in case. You just never know. And his nights were suddenly transformed. When someone who fit the stereotypical description of "suspicious" he found himself inching over toward the gun hidden beneath the counter. Just in case. You never know. You saw the story in the paper, didn't you? He had never been afraid before, but suddenly, because there was a gun there, he was on the verge of having a moment of choice that would change his life forever. Thankfully, he was capable of self reflection, and he saw what he was doing and stopped taking the gun to work. He still was never robbed, and no longer needed to be afraid of anyone just because of how they looked.

I don't wish to argue about what the Second Amendment to the US Constitution means. I know for a fact that President Obama does not intend to take away anyone's guns, and every politician who has not been bought by the NRA risks his or her job if they take a position that advocates any kind of regulation on the aforementioned "well regulated militia." I know that, while I look at hunters and see some value in what they do, I also know that my friends, family, and acquaintances who are "right wing gun nuts" do not believe that the Second Amendment has anything to do with hunting, but with taking out government soldiers when they kick down your door. A problem that existed in the eighteenth century, but I don't see happening now. Some of those folks talk about permission to protect one's property and family from intruders, which I think is an argument that carries a bit of weight. But not much. If an intruder came into the bedroom of a homeowner with a baseball bat close at hand, the resident would have an advantage over the intruder just based on shock value, that the bat defense would work. When my first husband worked nights and I worked days, and we lived in a "bad neighborhood," I kept a policeman's night stick under my bed. I never needed to use it, but I guarantee that any intruder who tried to do me harm would have found that completely unexpected, and would not have been able to get a shot off before that baton caught them in the gut. No gun required. But yet, one of those acquaintances claims that we lefty, anti-gun apologists always "blame the gun." In the case of the guy in the C-store, the gun did take on a life that changed the behavior of that man completely. When the gun wasn't there, he was fine; when the gun was there, he was fearful and defensive.

My point of using something besides guns for defense of home and family comes from a scary place. The threat of suicide has been quite prevalent in my life, and I have known several people, some in my family, who have had family members commit suicide with the legally owned guns in their homes. This is where science and anecdotes come together: I have had a hard time coming up with hard numbers for this post, which is why it has taken me over two weeks to comment on the gun conversation that has been a growing cacophony since twenty-eight people died in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012. But the one number that has been consistent in all the research I've done is that guns in the home are used so often to commit suicide that health care professionals have come to believe that there is a correlation between the presence of a gun and the very choice to commit suicide. In other words, your family members, and mine, don't come to the decision to kill themselves, and then go buy a gun. In a moment of extreme despair, your twenty-year old son says to himself, "I can end this right now, easily." Then he gets your legally owned hand gun and makes an irrevocable decision.

Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, there has been much discussion about how to prevent school shootings from continuing to happen. There have been several calls, including some from my own part of Texas, Arlington, calling on school administrators to train and arm "willing teachers" to respond early in a shooting incident, and save the lives of children. I have heard so much from so many all my life about the Second Amendment, and how much Americans, and Texans love their guns, that I honestly can't believe that there aren't already teachers who have guns, know how to use them, and would not be afraid to do so. All they would need is permission, and their personal weapons would be in their desk or purse. The problem with this theory are many. For one thing, there was more than one teacher at Sandy Hook who lost her life because she put her own body between the shooter and the children. So, how many more children would have died if one of those teachers were armed, and searching her desk for the weapon, in a moment of chaos and fear, tried to get a shot off that would stop the assailant? I took a rifle marksmanship class in college, and one thing we were taught was never to let off a shot if you don't know you have a hit. So to wait and aim while a shooter with hundreds of rounds of ammunition is spraying the room with ordnance would mean babies dying, and probably the teacher as well. How effective would even a powerful, semi-automatic handgun be against an assault rifle that could get off thirty rounds before the teacher could get off one or two rounds? As that well trained, well armed teacher was falling from the bullets in that thirty-round clip, how off-aim would her arm be, and how many children would be shot by "friendly fire?" In one of these conversations, a very smart young lady I know suggested that instead of arming teachers, perhaps we could place military veterans in schools to stop these incidents short. Veterans do have a rather high rate of unemployment, and they are trained in the use of so-called "assault weapons." On the surface it sounds like a win-win. But there are some terms we know that our military has come to accept in our more recent war efforts. Those terms include "friendly fire" and "collateral damage." The military must learn to desensitize to those awful realities in ways that most of us will never understand. Children die in war, and so do innocent civilians. Sometimes, in the chaos of battle, soldiers shoot each other. That would most certainly happen if an armed guard were involved in a shoot out with a crazed gunman armed to the teeth. And I can't help thinking that these guys who snap and arm up with military grade weapons could also find hand grenades online and take out the armed guards without compunction. Not to mention that when the mass shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech, those schools had armed guards, and Virginia Tech, like most large universities, had its own police force. They couldn't stop these attacks before multiple students died. A life long friend of mine, who happens to be a libertarian and Second Amendment zealot, is also an avid proponent that armed teachers will be a discouragement to gun violence in schools says, "The shooter who premeditates one of these events would think of the armed teachers and not go to a school to shoot children." When reminded of Columbine and Virginia Tech, there is no reply. But when I pointed out an incident that happened on the same day as this conversation, in which a man who was under arrest in New Jersey took a police officers gun and shot three police officers before he was killed by other police officers, he says that this is not a valid example. This man was in a place where the majority of people present are trained in the use of weapons, and many have more than one weapon easily accessible on their person. My friend's argument was that the Sandy Hook shooter premeditated his act, and the police station shooter was acting out of fear, and not thinking at all. But we can't really know exactly what was going through the minds of either shooter-both incidents ended with the shooter's death. Perhaps the New Jersey guy was committing "suicide by cop," and everything he did was premeditated. Perhaps the Sandy Hook shooter was so out of his head with mental illness that he never gave a thought that someone armed might be there to stop him. And would it matter if he was planning to end it with his own death anyway?

And not all the mass shootings occur on school campuses, as shown by the mall shooting in Tuscon, AZ in 2011 and at the movie theater in Aurora, CO. Will we not be able to go anywhere from now on without seeing armed guards? Not even to see a family movie without the presence of armed guards-because of one incident? One comment I saw reminded me that it only took one failed shoe bomber has seen to it that we would have to take our shoes off forever at airports.

I have educators on both sides of my family, and some good friends who are educators. Some of them are full of stories about how both children and their parents disrespect teachers now. I just have a feeling that some armed teacher could snap and take out a class full of students one day when a rude student finally pushes one too many buttons. Or a distraught teacher, who is trained and armed, remembers the gun in her desk and takes her own life in front of her students. As I said earlier, the only hard statistic I've been able to find is that legally owned guns are used for suicide far more often than to defend against an attacker. I'm against suicide, and I can't help but think that since we know that guns are used more often for the suicide of our loved ones than to defend our loved ones against armed intruders, that perhaps rethinking having guns in our homes would be a place to start. I'm not saying the government should take our guns away, as I know I'll be accused of by some gun zealots. I'm saying that gun owners should consider that they are putting their families at risk. In fact, I believe that it is individuals rethinking how we see guns in this country will be the first step in reducing the amount of gun violence we experience. And I will use as an individual example of an irony on the very same day as the Sandy Hook shooting a crazed attacker at a school in China who injured the very same number of school children, twenty, as the Sandy Hook shooter, but with a knife. Not one of those children died. Not one. So while it may be true that guns don't kill people, people with large ammunition clips and military grade weapons do kill people. Lot's people, and quickly. That's what assault weapons were meant to do. Kill people. That's what they are meant for, and that's exactly what they do. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Da-daa Shuffle

Good Morning, World! Where I live, in north central Texas, we are having some of the most glorious, perfectly beautiful weather lately. The sun is shining, but it's not hot. There are light breezes, and the nights are not too cold. We started this year off getting a good amount of rain, but we are now 2.76 below normal. We seriously need some rain or we will shortly be in one of those droughts that we were in just last year, when we went for months without rain, and with record breaking heat. So when I take my walks, I feel almost guilty to enjoy the beautiful days, knowing exactly what this means to the long term narrative. We are in a period of climate change that will have drastic effects on the planet. Dangerous storms, record heat, some areas of increasing drought, and exponential increases in extinctions. I've talked about this before, and I still take a pretty controversial position (at least for a life-long, unabashed tree hugger) in that I don't believe we have the will to make the changes that would be necessary to prevent the change from becoming entrenched. Therefore, earth and humanity as we know it will be ending. Just as mammals were tiny, rat-like creatures during the rule of dinosaurs, and when the dinosaur became extinct, mammals began to evolve in size and intelligence and took over every corner of the globe. (Yes, that mixed metaphor was intentional.) As our intelligence increased, so did our arrogance, and our belief that the earth belonged to us to do with as we wish, no matter how obviously destructive our actions might be. Changes in climate do speed up evolutionary survival strategies, and what kind of humans survive to pass on their genes will be different. Life in the deserts will become impossible, and in a geologic blip, the humans of the future will be unidentifiable to the humans of the future without DNA testing. So, on that happy note, I will walk on such beautiful days. I do not expect to be here for those future humans, as we are talking thousands of years. That does not mean that I do not believe in doing the responsible thing. In the short term, I am just about to have my fourth grandchild. I do not want her to grow up with asthma, which is increasing in incidence and severity due to our unwillingness to curb certain pollutants. I do not want her to spend her life in a concrete jungle, though concrete seems to reproduce faster than any rabbit or krill, creating urban heat jungles everywhere. My stepson, the new baby's dad, and his family live in the farm belt, far away from me, and even that part of the country is growing concrete as more and more families leave farming behind, and their farms are mowed over to build new subdivisions. I don't want my two grandsons, both (about) one year old, having to go to war over water or energy rights. But wars will soon be waged clearly over life-saving resources such as water and arable land. So, whether or not it is too late to keep us from evolving into a more heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant species, with fewer prey animals to eat because animals don't survive as well as plants on a planet with carbon rather than oxygen in it's breathing gas mix, TODAY I don't want to live on a dirty, smoke filled, hot planet without wildlife. And I don't want that for them either. I've enjoyed parks and hikes and walks in places where green was set aside for human pleasure. I hope we don't let that completely die out before those grand babies, and their children get to play there too.

It was not my intention to start on such a heavy note. So, here is one of my light-hearted questions, just so any of my friends, readers or members will know I'm still here: I love my iPod. I love the music I've chosen to have on it. ALOT! I know the songs-when I walk I see drivers laughing at me because I am singing along with nearly every song. Sooooo, so I don't know every second what is coming next, I often pick a playlist and hit the shuffle button. In my mind, that should mean that the computer "cloud" picks songs at random and plays them, then shuffles and picks another song at random. How can "shuffle" mean that the player will repeat songs? That frustrates me all to pieces. Random and shuffle should not mean repeating songs!!!

Yesterday I wanted a nap. But I made the mistake of turning on the 2003 movie, "Love, Actually." This sweet, cheesy romance with an edge has become necessary fare for me to get into the Christmas spirit. Well, this one and "A Christmas Story," but that's another story. I've seen both movies many times, but yesterday, I was so very distracted by the character of Sarah, played by one of my all-time favorite actors, Laura Linney, being in the bed, half naked, with a breathtakingly gorgeous man, Karl, played by Rodrigo Santoro, and the phone started ringing, I don't care who it was. The ringer would be turned off. The schizophrenic brother for whom I could do nothing would be moved aside so that I could have one night of fantastic (in the most literal sense of the word,) passionate love with the man who was at that moment, a bird in hand. Every other love story in the movie makes sense on some level, but that one-no. No way. (Big, lecherous smile on my face!)

So, the lightheartedness is over. We should be over politics by now, and as Don Michael Corleone said in Godfather III, "I try to quit, but they keep DRAGGING me back in!" For those on the right, as I said on election day, I feel your pain. I've been there. But once George W. Bush won in 2004, though I almost always disagreed with his policies, he was my president. At least  until he wasn't. I criticized the policies I disagreed with, and I did give him kudos when I could find something to agree with. I did the kudo thing loudly when in the presence of my majority republican family so that they would know that on my side of the question, there could be agreement. I guarantee you that I am never shown the same respect, whether or not there is a republican president. And the disrespect opposing view points get from the right has been worse than ever since President Obama was reelected. But when I ask for specific disagreements, none are provided. Which, please note if you dislike Obama, only feeds the narrative that it is not his policies, but something else the right has decided to disfavor.

While on the subject of right versus left, much of the discussion during this election season has had to do with income inequality, and the attendant questions of class and race. But I found a term rather disturbing on the news this week; the "donor" class. So now the political power in this country is not divided by party, race or gender-it is whether or not one is a member of the "donor" class? What does that mean for all the people who gave President Obama an average of $200? Shouldn't they be included in the "donor" class?

One of the things people tried to use to campaign against President Obama is that the financial recovery in this country is moving so slowly. Every economist, talking head and politician have called this "recession" the worst since the Great Depression. Well, historically, the Great Depression lasted from the stock market crash of 1929 until WWII, 1939. Ten years. Ten. But we expect the economy (and business) to come back in FOUR years? My, my, we are an impatient people. This has been a growing problem for years, "I want what I want when I want it" doesn't work in the realm of economic downturns, and we need to team up and work together, or it will last more than ten years this time. Ten years. Remember that.

When I said in the above paragraph that we all need to team up and work together and find solution to move recession to economic solvency in this country, I need to include all the employers who have freaked out and punished their employees for Obama's reelection win by cutting hours and staff in order to avoid paying for their health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. So now, their employees qualify for food stamps, and government sponsored health care. Which means more people on the roles of taking money and health care from the government, against which those business owners rail, and it may mean that we need to increase taxes on the wealthy a tad more to cover those additional Medicaid recipients, which will hurt the business owners even more. Not only that, it means that the federal government, which the right keep insisting should be smaller, is subsidizing YOUR payroll. How dreadfully un-American! So it is clearly NOT Obama who is driving the country toward socialism, it is you. How dare you, Sir! How on earth is your behavior conservative in a small government, boot-straps way? Pay your workers a fair wage, let them have some benefits. They will have higher morale and productivity. They will have money to spend on your products, increasing your bottom line. They will be healthier, also increasing productivity. It's a win-win, for them, for you, for the economy...for the country. God Bless America!

Lastly, I have two comments to make on the abortion question, as this is one of the prime drivers, in my opinion, of President Obama's win, and his win may make this discussion less relevant. It has been nearly forty years since the Supreme Court of the United States decided for privacy in the "Roe vs Wade" 1973 decision. Why this is still controversial is beyond me. I do understand everyone who has a moral problem with having abortion. I also understand that in the United States we have freedom of religion, which means that you cannot push your religious beliefs on me. No one, but no one, is pro-abortion. But whether to have one is a question only for a woman and her doctor. But the two NEW points I want to make are these:
1. Some individuals I've known and had discussions with regarding abortion have asked, "What if my (or Beethoven's) mother had known we would have genetic health problems and decided to abort us? The world would have been denied Beethoven's music, for example. But this is a false comparison. The child of rape, or a child born to a mother or family that do not want or can't care for the child, will be very unlikely to grow up to accomplish stupendous things. They are more likely to be poor, possibly neglected due to being unwanted to begin with, and uneducated. Every child deserves to be loved and nurtured. This doesn't mean wealthy; many loving parents in this country are poor or working class, but unwanted children do not usually enjoy a healthy, positive upbringing. If the child is born of rape, how on earth can the mother look at that baby and not see the face of violence and misused power? What if the child was chosen over the health of the mother, and the mother died as a result of the pregnancy? I've read stories of widowed fathers who couldn't bear to look at the children whose existence cost him the life of his spouse, and left him to raise the child on his own. The life of the mother must be a factor when considering this question. Rape and incest must be considered if the majority of Americans (which they do not!) thought there should be limitations on access to abortion. But what was decided by the Supreme Court is that the choice not to carry a pregnancy to term is a matter of privacy.
2. I heard Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, and former presidential candidate, on "The Daily Show" this week talking about this issue. He claimed that "biologically, life begins at conception. Indisputably." And yes, he is sort of right, though I'm not sure it can be called "life." CELL DIVISION begins at conception. When sperm meets egg, cells begin to divide, and eventually, these ever-dividing cells begin to look more and more human. But that is not until a few months have passed. I have heard (though I can't document, since apparently there is no unbiased place to go for statistical information about the number of abortions performed in this country has dropped. I did some research to get exact numbers, but there is little un-slanted information available, and the best statistic I could find only covered 1996 to 2005. I don't like using such imprecise statistics here, because I continue to hope that I will have more readers and followers who will comment or call me on it when I am wrong. I have heard a theory that since the technology to discover the sex, hear the heartbeat, see the baby in utero has come so far, pregnant women feel that it is a human life growing there, and fewer choose abortion. I am okay with that. I am not pro-abortion, I am pro-choice. Especially since this is a country that claims to believe in freedom, and the constitution guarantees equal treatment under the law. No one would ever tell a man he can't have a vasectomy (except perhaps the Catholic church, which is another posting altogether.) But those little sperms do swim, and seem to be able to direct themselves to try and join an egg (do they think?) So essentially, all those white males who keep trying to deny a woman choice are trying to deny her the right to control her own destiny. Family planning has been proven over and over to allow women to pull themselves from poverty, increase their education levels, and have not proven to mean that women do not have children later, even after they have had an abortion. But to call the cell division that begins at conception "life" is not exactly a scientific position to take.

1. "Godfather part III," 1990, starring Al Pacino, quote from Al Pacino
2."Love, Actually," 2003, Made by Richard Curtis, ensemble cast
3. Michael Dale "Mike" Huckabee (born August 24, 1955) is an American politician who served as the 44th Governor of Arkansas(1996–2007).[4][5] He was a candidate in the 2008 United States Republican presidential primaries, finishing second in delegate count and third in both popular vote and number of states won (behind both John McCain and Mitt Romney).[6] He won the Iowa Republican caucuses.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Election 2012 and Mommy Issues

I always try to avoid writing a post simply about politics or religion, but in any 4th year, the presidential election has enough gravity to warrant some discussion. This particular election-as noted in my last post, "Untitled," has been rather harsh, and there are many reasons why, all of them fixable, and hopefully we will be emotionally fatigued enough after this one to consider some of the things we can do differently going on. I suppose the Supreme Court of the United States started us on the downward slide in this cycle, though the notion of "corporate personhood" began with the 14th amendment to the constitution, though that amendment did not unleash the torrents of money that the Citizens United decision from 2010 did. After that decision several multi-billionaires decided that they would spend more money than many Americans make in a lifetime to buy this one election, and their money came very close to poisoning this election. These gentlemen were convinced that they could spend enough money on ugly commercials to make Americans hate President Obama as much as they did. The problem is that many of the things they said in all those commercials were lies, and the people knew it. "The People" do not like to be bullied or lied to, and they showed it by voting for President Obama to have a second term decisively. The popular vote was not a landslide, but it was clear. And now there is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth on the right, and they still refuse to be honest about the real reasons they lost, meaning that they will likely do the same things wrong in 2014 and 2016. We may have a democratic president and senate for a long time to come if lessons are not learned from this. But the right is not the only side that has lessons to learn, and I am in no way denying culpability on the left for the lack of faith the American people have in our elected officials and in the electoral process.

I've had some very interesting conversations with some people from the right in the days since the election, and read comments from other that have made me want to cry and laugh at the same time. I may have mentioned here before that there are few liberals in my Texas, Baptist family. And so I've become accustomed to "putting my Zen on" when we are together, mastering the smile and nod, muttering the line, "Yes, that's one way to look at it," or changing the subject. Thursday, November 8 was my dad's birthday, and I needed to ask my mother some questions about our family gathering this Sunday. I would not dare bring up the election with her, as she would have been deeply offended by my euphoria, and I knew she would not be happy to begin with. So I phoned her when I got to work and started to log in to my computer. Dad answered and after chatting briefly, he put her on the phone. "Hi, Mom! How are you this morning?" I knew she had not been feeling well, and it about to have sinus surgery due to an intractable sinus infection. "I'm sick." I assumed, naively, that her illness was due to this known sinus problem. "I'm sorry, what's wrong?" "The election." My teeth went directly on edge, and I wanted to stem the conversation without actually having it. "He won the popular vote and the electoral college. The people have spoken." I have know for some time, as a result of the conversations I described above, that she despises President Obama, and, though she denies that anyone does her thinking for her, when I ask her to tell me specifically why, the words that come out of her mouth can be traced directly back to Sean Hannity, of Fox News 3. I was not expecting the following lecture on how "those poor blacks and Hispanics who voted for Obama have no idea how bad things are going to be for them now. They don't know that they will have to pay tax on the over-the-counter diabetes supplies because of Obama-care, and so will you, because blacks and Hispanics have a larger incidence of diabetes." I noticed that my password had expired, and it wouldn't accept the one I was trying to put in. "Mom, I have to go choose a new password." "Fine." Click. The very notion that the "poor blacks and Latinos" were too ignorant to know what's good for them, and needed "Daddy Warbucks" to be elected and look after them seemed insanely antithetical to the republican notion that it is not the government's job to take care of anyone. My euphoria was only slightly deflated. The very next day Congressman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin made a similarly shocking comment, that the democrats won because of "an ignorant electorate." I can only say that my mother, who lives in a white enclave suburb of Fort Worth, goes to a white church full of conservatives who see the world as she does, and has never spent time with anyone non-white except when she was working, along with Congressman Johnson don't know the same black and Hispanic people that I do. But then, I went to an integrated school from second grade (1964) and have had a multi-cultural life ever since. So I know that all the stereotypes that she and her friends cling to about non-white Americans are essentially not true. Yes, there is always someone who fits a stereotype, and every time one who already believes those ideas sees one, he/she thinks, "See, it really is true." But the vast majority of people of any kind have some characteristics of the stereotypes of another group, or stereotypes of their own group. But to ascribe President Obama's win to an "ignorant electorate" is insulting on so many levels that I can't begin to express it. I voted for Obama. Twice. I would vote for him again. And there are many negative words that can be assigned to me, but I am not ignorant of political issues-I've followed politics since I was eight, and I've grown more liberal as I've got older. Please-call me ignorant to my face!

Bill O'Reilly, also of Fox News 5. made some comments which were strikingly prescient, if he hadn't muddied up the points by keeping on talking when he said that "the white majority establishment in this country is over." There was much kerfuffle about that remark being racist, but I said then, and still say, he was right. That is the problem; that is why the Tea Party is so afraid of, not only Obama, but all motions on the left that include acceptance of the "other." Change is always hard, and giving up entrenched power is even harder. And now, the establishment is becoming more and more diverse. There are Muslim congressmen, there are lots of women, some homosexuals, and many people of many shades of brown in positions of power. Another Tea Party supporting (former) friend of mine said to me after President Obama's first election that "he wants to CHANGE America." No, Dear, I'm sorry. He isn't changing America, he is reflective of the change that has already taken place in this country. We have always been a colorful country, the difference now is that women and people of color have advanced their own claim to the same protections and freedoms promised to all Americans. Gays have those same rights too, but they are coming more slowly to full citizenship in this country. Hopefully soon they will be considered "real," "complete" citizens with all the rights due to them under the United States constitution. But the Tea Party is in denial about what it means to be a "real American," and they are in denial that we never actually had a country anything like "Leave it to Beaver" or "The Andy Griffith Show." During the years of the 1950s that they long for a return to, women and children were still essentially considered "property" of the "man of the house." Blacks were considered second-class citizens, and could not eat at the same lunch counters or see movies in the same theaters, or swim in the same public pools as their white counterparts. Nor could they vote without fear of harassment, or in some cases, death by lynching, they were confined to "urban," read "inner city, poor" neighborhoods and low paying, low skilled jobs. When it came to "who you know," rather than "what  you know," not many white managers knew any black people, and therefore, black people were not able to advance their economic class. This has changed, in part because of social programs such as The Pell Grant, which helps the poorest attend college. I can remember working in the financial aid office of a major state university, and many white families would complain that poor people got a break their children didn't get. And while I was prevented from replying honestly, I couldn't help thinking that if those poor people did not get a college education, they would remain poor, and would need government assistance going forward, and these white people would also complain about that, accusing the poor of "not wanting to improve their lot, just wanting the government to pay their way." If education is the key, then working class people becoming educated is the only way to balance the class system in this country, and pull themselves up from endemic poverty. This has nothing to do with race, but class and economic circumstances.

This election cycle was particularly scary with its attacks on women through the attempts to limit women's reproductive choice, and the attacks on the poor and people of color, attempting to go back to the pre-Civil Rights era and deny them the ability to vote. This one is a BIG lesson for the right to learn. It does not work. The men who made anti-woman comments lost in large numbers. And all the people whose right to vote the right attempted to deny voted in large numbers. The right "pissed off" the majority, and paid a large price for it. I would suggest that you don't try that again, Governor Rick Scott 6. 

The religious right is another group that has been particular disenheartened by these election results. They have fallen for the lies that President Obama is not a Christian, and is likely a "secret Muslim." I must say thank you to comedian Larry Wilmore 8. If President Obama is a Muslim, he is a very bad one. He has been the most followed president in history. The crazed wing of the right has been trying to find anything they can to discredit him, and if he were a Muslim, he would, at least once by now, have been caught dropping to face the east and pray, as is required by the Muslim religion every day, five times a day. There is no way on earth that President Obama is a Muslim. I'm sorry, get over that one-he is NOT A MUSLIM. And if he were, who cares. We have religious freedom in this country, and he can worship, or not, ANY WAY HE CHOOSES. But the comments I have found offensive are the people who talk about how they prayed for Obama to lose-they now believe God has a lesson for them to learn because they didn't get what they wanted. One friend though commented that she prayed for "the right man to win." So now, she says, she has to admit to herself that God is in control, and the right man won. I probably shouldn't find that comment as offensive as I do. At least she is using her prayers as a lesson to accept that Obama won, and she is to behave like an American, and support him whether she agrees with him or not. But it seems so arrogant to me to think that any one person's prayers have that much power.

The fact of the matter is that President Obama won the majority of the popular vote, and a large majority of the electoral college. We can debate all day about whether the electoral college is still relevant, but for today, we are about to enter four more years of an Obama/Biden administration. This means that gay people's rights are advancing, which is a good thing. It means that women's reproductive rights are safe for another four years. It means that, like it or not, more people are about to have access to health care. There are many ways The Affordable Care Act 9. could be improved. But access to health care without costing consumers to pay huge prices for the uninsured visiting emergency rooms instead of having a family doctor, is a step in the right direction. It is not socialism-people are required to buy insurance, if they can, just like in Massachusetts under Romney, but the government is not taxing the American people in order to give universal, single payer health care. Rape is not a gift from God, nor is the potential pregnancy that may come from such a horrible occurrence. Some women who get pregnant through rape may decide to keep and raise the child, and love it despite its tragic beginnings. Some may choose that they cannot. The choice belongs to the woman, no one else, and that choice is intact. Since my first election, in 1976, I have voted for some winners and some losers. Sometimes a presidential candidate I voted for lost. Twice. So, as I said on election day to those whose candidates didn't win this year, I have been there. I feel your pain. But there will be another election in two years, and perhaps your side will win. Perhaps not. Well, probably not, if you continue to lie to yourselves about the real reasons you lost. Don't tell women how to think about rape and contraception. Don't tell people they can't vote. Don't make hateful comments about, what you must not have realized is the majority of the American voting public now. America is changing. Change is inevitable, and it is up to any given individual whether to embrace change and make it positive for themselves, or continue to fight it in ugly, hateful ways, and make yourselves ever more irrelevant.

1.In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad - 118 U.S. 394 (1886), the reporter noted in the headnote to the opinion that the Chief Justice began oral argument by stating, "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."
2.The Supreme Court held in Citizens United that it was unconstitutional to ban free speech through the limitation of independent communications by corporations, associations, and unions,[21] i.e. that corporations and labor unions may spend their own money to support or oppose political candidates through independent communications like television advertisements.[22] This ruling was frequently interpreted as permitting corporations and unions to donate to political campaigns,[23] or else removing limits on how much a donor can contribute to a campaign.[24] However, these claims are incorrect, as the ruling did not affect the 1907 Tillman Act's ban on corporate campaign donations (as the Court noted explicitly in its decision[25]), nor the prohibition on foreign corporate donations to American campaigns,[26] nor did it concern campaign contribution limits.[27] The Citizens United decision did not disturb prohibitions on corporate contributions to candidates, and it did not address whether the government could regulate contributions to groups that make independent expenditures.[22] The Citizens United ruling did however remove the previous ban on corporations and organizations using their treasury funds for direct advocacy. These groups were freed to expressly endorse or call to vote for or against specific candidates, actions that were previously prohibited.[28]
The majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, was relatively short, less than 30 pages; the dissenting opinions of Justices Kennedy and Scalia in Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission actually provide a more complete picture of the majority's thinking, in many respects. Chief Justice Roberts wrote a concurring opinion to address concerns about stare decisis, and Justice Scalia wrote a concurring opinion about the history and meaning of the First Amendment. Justice Thomas wrote separately to announce his disagreement with the majority's decision not to strike down the mandatory disclosure requirements in BCRA. Justice Stevens wrote a lengthy dissent to analyze the development of First Amendment doctrine and campaign finance restrictions and to rebut the arguments of the majority and concurring opinions.
4.Johnson attributed Obama's win on the heels of those Republican gains in Wisconsin to an uninformed electorate who voted in this election but not in the [Scott] Walker recall.
"If you aren't properly informed, if you don't understand the problems facing this nation, you are that much more prone to falling prey to demagoguing solutions. And the problem with demagoguing solutions is they don't work," Johnson said. "I am concerned about people who don't fully understand the very ugly math we are facing in this country." Huffington Post
5. William James "Bill" O'Reilly, Jr. (born September 10, 1949) is an American television host, author, syndicated columnist and political commentator.[3] He is the host of the political commentary program The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel, which is the most watched cable news television program on American television.
6.The Tea Party movement is an American political movement that advocates strict adherence to the United States Constitution,[1] reducing U.S. government spending and taxes,[2][3][3] and reduction of the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit.[2] The movement is generally considered to be partly conservative,[4][5] partly libertarian,[6][7] and partlypopulist.[8][9][10] The movement has sponsored protests and supported political candidates since 2009
7.Richard Lynn "Rick" Scott (born December 1, 1952) is a businessman and the 45th and current Governor of the U.S. state of Florida
8. Larry Wilmore (born October 30, 1961) is an American writer, actor and television producer, and is the "Senio Black Correspondent" on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show." 
9.The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA),[1] commonly called Obamacare[2][3] (or the federal health care law), is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.[4]
**Most notes come from Wikipedia

Saturday, November 3, 2012


I haven't been here for awhile, not because nothing in life gave me pause, but because of the sensory overload that the last month has provided. The attack in Benghazi, Libya, Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 election providing bookends to the period, along with some happy times such as the marriage of my youngest stepson to a wonderful girl, and seeing that side of the family for the first time in four years. Believe me, there are many questions that have sprung to my mind with all this happening around me. I think I've said in every election since I was old enough to vote (1976) I've said that it is the ugliest I've ever seen, and this one is no different. But with the racism and anti-woman comments coming from the right, I think I can back up this comment. It's not the things the candidates are saying about each other this year, it's the things that the right is saying about the people they are hoping to govern that ASTOUND me. These things are included in the list below:

1. How is it that Mitt Romney is able to continuously bellow such bold faced lies, he faces no consequences? When he lies about Chrysler moving Jeep production to China, and he is challenged on it, he doubles down on the lie instead of taking it back? There are numerous examples of this, and yet the lies, while the tumult eventually dies down, no one is able to make the "Liar, liar" label stick and cost him.

2. I must thank Gloria Steinem for this one; how is it that no one running for office has figured out that if women earned equal pay for equal work, we would add billions of dollars into our economy, and a great deal of money into our tax system. When I saw this comment, it just made so much sense to me, that I couldn't help wondering how no one has thought of this as a campaign point.

3. George Carlin 2. used to do a great comedy bit about how airlines butcher the English language (probably in the late 80s.) I experienced some of this while flying to Illinois for my stepson's wedding. For example, "Fasten seat belts while seated." Really? Have you ever tried to buckle one of those damned things while standing? It is not even possible. Sorry, they don't extend that far.

4. There are commercials on TV for a certain brand of multivitamins that claim "research shows that cell health is important at every stage of your life." Really? All of our tissues, organ, bone and muscle, are made of cells. So how big of a stretch would it be to figure out that cell health is important? Do they really need to tell us that?

5. Every time I need to buy razor blades for myself or my husband, I get depressed at how much they cost. I look at this tiny piece of plastic with teensy shards of metal wrapped in it, and can't imagine that there is any possible reason for them to cost as much as they do. What on earth is the markup for them? It must be thousands of percentage points.

6. I saw at the grocery store some granola bars (like this should surprise me for processed food of any kind!) with a note on the box that said they had a "yogurt flavored coating." This coating is intended to fool the public into thinking these granola bars are a bit healthier because of the yogurt. But it is only "yogurt flavored coating!" Are American consumers so dumb? Maybe.

7. There is also a candy, to which I used to be addicted, called Sixlets. They come in tiny packages of eight. Why are they called Sixlets? I also noticed once, being a fervent label reader, that the little package said "chocolate FLAVORED candy." So I checked the ingredients and these little delicious morsels are made of carob. There was a time when carob was touted as healthy and sold in health food stores-why wouldn't they announce that these things are made of carob instead of chocolate. Well, I guess I can answer that one-we have since discovered that chocolate is good for you, and who buys carob anymore? Of course, the sugar coating on the carob can't be claimed as healthy, but that's another story.

8. Why can't people figure out when to use "less" versus "fewer?" When you go to the express lane at the grocery store, you should "Ten Items or FEWER!" Things that have a plural require "fewer." It is "less" when it is things that don't have a plural-"I have less and less time to get things done!" "I'm not making less money, it just buys fewer things than it used to."

9. I don't know anyone who still has a water bed. I never had one, but I once house-sat for someone who had one. I had never slept on one until then, and he was very proud that it was top-of-the line, and had a heater. This was in the early 80s, and he was very cool to have a heated water bed. Now it is the twenty-first century, and I am seeing commercials for mattresses that promise to keep the consumer cool all night. Really? Back then we wanted to be warmer, now we need to be cooler? Yes, there are millions of baby boomer women entering menopause, and we do have a problem with what some call "hot flashes," but I like the term "power surges" better. A cool mattress would be fabulous. But it also brings to mind for me that every part of our lives is getting warmer. On a television program that I love to watch, The Young Turks, (Current TV) the host, Cenk Ugyur 3. showed a chart yesterday that tracked the actual temperature trends for the entire last century, and there is no question that our temperatures are moving higher. This is not a hoax, this is real, and the data is there to prove it. Whether it is caused exclusively or partially by human behavior can be debated (if you don't like science) but the warming trend is undeniable. I have discussed here before that I'm not sure that we can still change the effect much, and evolution will take us where we have made plain that we want to go, human extinction, and another invasive species will take over the niches that we have carved out for ourselves.

10. Rape (and the resulting pregnancies) are a gift from God, and therefore, no woman should be allowed to abort a child conceived during a sexual attack. This idea, promulgated extensively by white, fundamentalist Christian, republican males, is breathtakingly monstrous. I have been the victim of sexual violence, I have worked with the victims of sexual violence. I have come through the 1970s and the women's movement, for which no longer blaming the victim of rape was one of the major bullet points. Suddenly, seized with the dreadful fear that the America they fantasize existed back in the 1950s is changing colors and power structure-which means including women, who back then knew their place (in the home, cooking for the husband who works and brings home the only paycheck, raising the children during the day, seeing to his pleasure and comfort overnight) is disappearing before their eyes. We have a black president. The most effective Secretary of State in my lifetime is a woman. There are MUSLIMS in our CONGRESS!!! The country is turning more and more brown, whether due to mixed marriages, people immigrating from places where the skin is darker, whatever the reason, we are no longer a predominantly white, Christian country. This is a good thing in reality, but it scares the shite out of these people stuck in a time warp, Mayberry 4. fantasy. So since they slept through the beginning of these changes, now they are afraid, and think the only way they can bomb us back to the Dark Ages is by seizing control of what they used to control-women, minorities, etc. Reproductive choice is the first way to take back control over women, and removing protection for the victims of rape is a good place to start. I love babies. I do think babies are a gift (of nature, not God,) but if I had borne a child by the man who attacked me, I would probably remember that every time I looked at the baby, and remembered the event. I'm sure I would have loved the child as best I could, but by the time that happened, abortion had been deemed legal by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. It was determined by them that reproductive choice for all women is a choice between a woman and her doctor. Period. This should not still be a conversation that we continue to have forty years later. No one, not even my husband, can dictate my medical choices. My doctor and I know my body, and are the only ones who can make medical decisions for me. But I digress. The thing that makes me so passionate about this question is the notion that some God somewhere would give such a "gift" to a woman who is a victim of such a violent misuse of power. I don't believe in God, but I certainly could not believe in such a God as this. This medieval notion of sexual violence and pregnancy being a gift from God reminds me of the Italian judge back in the late 90s who said that a woman wearing tight jeans can't be raped because she must help take off her clothes in order to complete the act. There are thirty-one states in which a rapist can sue for visitation rights if their victims become pregnant and deliver the child. Can anyone imagine what it would be like to have to see one's rapist every other weekend, holiday, and one month in the summer?5. If republicans wish to deny that they are engaging in a war on women, then the attacks on a woman's health choices, on Planned Parenthood and other providers of health care must stop. The 1950s are over. The America of the television past and Norman Rockwell paintings never existed-it was all sentimental drool. There was poverty, suffering, racism, inequality, corporations raping the country and being questioned by no one, and now we won't stand for it anymore. Women make up more than 50 percent of the American population. We will not be reduced to second class citizenship, forced to accept violence and subjugation anymore. We won't know for sure until Tuesday, but I have a feeling that President Obama will be reelected next Tuesday, and I would advise the aging, white male, fundamentalists to admit that it is no longer 1530. It is 2012-deal with it.

1. Gloria Marie Steinem (born March 25, 1934) is an American feministjournalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women's liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s.
2. George Denis Patrick Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) was an American stand-up comediansocial criticsatiristactor and writer/author, who won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums
3. Cenk Kadir Uygur (Turkish pronunciation: [ˈdʒɛŋk ˈujɡur]; born March 21, 1970), is the main host and co-founder of the progressive Internet and talk radio show, The Young Turks (TYT) The Young Turks also appear on Current TV, a liberal cable television news channel.
4. The Andy Griffith Show is an American sitcom first televised by CBS between October 3, 1960, and April 1, 1968. Andy Griffithportrays the widowed sheriff of the fictional small community of MayberryNorth Carolina. 5. facts