Digging Deeper

Though I’ve been on a hiatus of late, I’ve tried to keep up with basic headline reading, dipping my toes into stories of interest [and/or those producing sheer outrage].  The latter pushed my crazy button when I read this headline last week at New Deal 2.0:

Eric Schneiderman Urges Progressives to “Dig Deeper” to Transform the System

Eric Schneiderman, NY State Attorney General, who vowed to take on Wall St., bring the wrong doers to justice and rectify the massive fraud perpetrated on American homeowners forced into foreclosure.  That Eric Schneiderman, the man I willingly and enthusiastically cheered.  I went so far as to send a note of appreciation.

That was then, this is now.

Because Eric Schneiderman threw his lot with President Obama’s weak-kneed, planned-to-fail foreclosure/securitization fraud task force that has effectively done zip, nada, even after the President’s stirring words during his State of the Union Address.  And then, there was Schneiderman’s claim that he would have a posse of investigators [that would be a total of 55 dedicated, blood hound investigators for a fraud estimated to be 80 times larger than the S&L debacle—which had 1000 investigators] to track down and document laws broken, crimes committed and bring the guilty parties to heel.

Camelot  Revisited! Now back to grim reality.

The wildly touted foreclosure fraud settlement was simply another Get-Out-of-Jail Pass (aka amnesty] for criminal enterprises that took American homeowners for a ride—a slippery slide right out of their homes.  For the inconvenience, the shocking upheaval and worry, 750,000 homeowners (of the 4 million homes seized since 2007] will reportedly receive $2000. What a deal! For the scammers, they received a blanket no-accountability kiss from the Obama Administration, by collectively paying $5 billion to states and the Federal government and allocating $20 billion more to ease the distress [loan modification] for a fraction of the 11 million homeowners now ‘underwater.’  Oh, and the pledge [step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back] to sin no more.

Problem solved!

Hummm.  Not really.  Because although the settlement was puny in terms of homeowner relief, it was at least . . . something.  Until we read in late February and early March that a number of states were diverting the settlement funds to plug shaky budgets.

I think it’s reasonable to say that damaged American homeowners have been left holding the bag–the dirty, empty bag.  Again.

But getting back to Eric Schneiderman, the man I had a temporary crush on, the Hero on a Quest Gone Terribly Wrong, had the gall to stand before a group, an initiative ironically entitled Rediscovering Government and give the keynote address, where he reportedly said [in the New Deal 2.0 piece cited above]:

Progressives’ efforts at making significant changes to the system after the financial crisis have mostly borne little fruit, he noted. We therefore “need to dig deeper” see how deeply the unfettered propaganda that less regulation leads to growth and higher taxes always create jobs has affected the American mindset and economy. We also have to aim for long-term, “transformational” change instead of the everyday “transactional” change we usually get bogged down in. We have to move past the election cycles and everyday battles to politics that involve working today to improve circumstances in the future and challenging the way that people think about issues in the first place.

What horse-hockey!

Long-term ‘transformational change,’ instead of that irritating ‘transactional’ change.  Are we to wish upon a star that the crime syndicate dies off, bankster-by-bankster [and all their ass-kissing dwarves]?  Let’s not get into those niggling details of fraud, disgusting greed and all manner of malfeasance, we’ll aim for future transformation?  What the hell does that mean?  Maybe a little corrective surgery down the road, where we implant a human conscience, a sense of honor and integrity into the Wall St. CEOs and their tracker jacker drones?  Otherwise, we might as well change the national motto to:

In Fraud We Trust.

And excuse me, Mr. Schneiderman!  You are the state AG of the Great State of New York.  You were standing square on the power plate and from everything I’ve read you had a fine hand of cards.  But then . . . you folded like a beach chair.

It does no good blaming the Republicans [though they certainly deserve much blame and condemnation] when you’re unwilling to take on the monster, to make good on your own words and vows, only to then turn around and use the editorial ‘we’ in describing what needs to be done in the future.  The future will be forever tainted by the past until we purge the rot and corruption out.  Plastering over an infection never works.  Corruption always bleeds through.  Sadly, I’m sure Mr. Schneiderman [to his ever-lasting shame] knows this.  And how exactly are the damaged parties, progressive or otherwise, suppose to dig for anything?  No job, no home, no healthcare, no future.  Not even a shovel.

Yesterday I stumbled across this:

Corporate America is shifting its focus in product development and marketing to serve the “hourglass economy.” The hourglass has two chambers connected by a slim channel. Translated into economic terms, or better yet, the emerging picture of America, the two chambers represent rich and poor, with virtually nothing in the middle.

Worse, while the traditional hourglass has two equal chambers, the economic hourglass does not. One chamber contains a small percent of the population and most of the wealth and the other is filled with the bulk of Americans, who have little access to resources and diminished hope for prosperity The hourglass economy has become so entrenched that Bloomberg News credits it with dividing Americans and defining U.S. politics.

Perfect!  Better yet:

Citigroup was quick to notice the hourglass trend that was taking root in 2009. To help investors cash in on the demise of the middle class Citigroup recently issued an hourglass investment advisory that highlights twenty stocks of companies targeting low end consumers and fifteen companies targeting the high end ones. Showing that the hourglass economy is real and gaining momentum, Citigroup’s hourglass index posted a whopping 56.5% return between Dec. 10, 2009 and Sept. 1, 2011, according to financial reporter,Patrick Martin.

Ahhhh, yes.  The American way—investing in feudalism’s bright, bright future.  You cannot make this stuff up.

We wonder [well, some wonder] why the electorate is dispirited, angry and disgusted.  This is a prime example.  Public officials from the President down are suppose to be working for the American public, not an abusive oligarchy.

Yes, the GOP propaganda regarding the ‘magical market’ needs to be exposed for the ludicrous and damaging fraud it is.  Taxes are a necessary tool in running any stable government, not a Marxist plot.  Regulation is a counterweight to capitalism’s reckless greed and worst instincts.  But public officials need to be on board, manning the bully pulpits, educating and inspiring the public to press for and demand honest, effective reform, not a slap-hazard wallpapering job called good when the result is an utter wreck. Elected, public officials [sometimes quaintly referred to as public servants] are suppose to be working for us–the public at large–for our welfare.  Not simply feeding the industrial/military complex, bowing and scraping to corporate financiers.

Literary critics question why The Hunger Games trilogy [a Young Adult series] has become so popular, why it’s had crossover appeal.  Bread and Circuses, the never-ending distractions, the deliciously effective tools of fear and need, so effective that not even our children escape [think students up to their eyeballs in impossible debt].

The allegory is us.

In any case, elections are upon us.  We’re going to hear all manner of pontificating, accusations screeched and name-calling taken to brain-freeze levels.  The really disturbing part?  Both 2012 candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, have sold their souls to the highest bidders.  We, the electorate?  We’re merely spectators sitting in the cheap seats.

Let the corporate dogfight begin!

Btw, for a chilling, even startling essay, I’d highly recommend an essay at Naked Capitalism: Code is Law.  Literally.

It’s another angle to look at and contemplate, one that I haven’t seen discussed before.   The comment section is equally good.

As for the election season?  We’re going to need a good shovel.


Bitter Knitters Unite!

Okay, for all you knitters out there—this one’s for you.  And it’s a Doozie.

A new group has formed in response to the unapologetic Republican Crusade Against Women: The Snatchel Project with the goal of sending all howling male members of congress their very own hand-knitted uterus or vagina because:

If they have their own, they can leave ours alone!

I love the humor of these women!

And look at the variety!

Still, there are many deniers of the ongoing Holy Crusade.  Yesterday, I mentioned a piece in The Hill by one conservative writer Sabrina Schaeffer, who scoffed at the very notion of a War on Women beyond a false narrative hatched in devious Democratic minds.  Another woman writer joined the chorus in the Wall Street Journal, a Mary Eberstadt, who mused whether the Sexual Revolution Had Been Good for Women, answering with a firm ‘No.’   What a surprise.  Ms. Eberstadt presumably explodes four myths in her own mind ala the Phyllis Schlafly tradition—women are restless, unhappy and dissatisfied ever since the Pill changed the world and sex was severed from procreation.

I’m sure this point of view makes Rick Santorum swoon with absolute pleasure. Or whatever the Rick Santorums of the world do when they experience joy. To think you could convince women, any woman to voluntarily march herself back to the Middle Ages is quite incredible. A monumental feat.  No wonder Mr. Sanctimonious refuses to give up!

But I do sense a certain retreat by the zealots, who seem to squirm mightily under the harsh glare of public scrutiny.  Here is the letter recently published in the Daily News Sun by Arizona Rep Debbie Lesko defending her bill [HB 2526], where an employer of conscience can insist a woman prove that she is using contraception for ‘nonsexual’ purposes because otherwise said employer would be religiously offended:

My legislation to protect our First Amendment rights does one thing and one thing alone: It allows an employer to opt out of the current government mandate that forces them to include the morning after pill and contraceptives in their employee’s insurance benefits, if and only if, the employer has a religious objection.  The current mandate, which has been highlighted by the Obama administration’s actions, forces employers to include the morning after pill and contraceptives in their insurance benefits even if it violates the employer’s religious beliefs.

Employers should not be forced by the government to do something against their religious beliefs.  That violates their First Amendment rights.

My legislation does not authorize employers to ask or know about their employee’s contraceptive use, and it does not authorize employers to fire anyone for that use.

The Catholic Church and other faith-based organizations support my legislation.  Under it, employers like St. Vincent De Paul, a Catholic-based charity, would be able to opt out of the mandate.  Since the legislation was written with the help of a national legal organization that fights for religious freedoms, I believe it will withstand legal tests.

Ironically, most of the controversy surrounding my legislation revolves around language already in Arizona law for 10 years — language that I did not even introduce.  Current law allows a woman who works for a church that has opted out of the mandate to have the medicine paid for if the woman uses it for a purpose other than birth control. The insurance company, not the employer, knows that information. The key is that I didn’t introduce that language in my bill. It is already in law and it will still be in law whether my legislation passes or not.

I am not Catholic, and I do not have a moral objection to the use of contraceptives, but I do respect the right of those religious employers that do.

Since I am a woman, I would never create legislation that takes away women’s rights. Women who work for religious employers will still be able to obtain medication somewhere else.  Since Walmart sells it for $9/month, the cost may even be cheaper than the insurance co-pay itself.

If the government wasn’t forcing religious employers to do something against their religious beliefs, I wouldn’t be talking about this issue.  But protecting our First Amendment right to freedom of religion is one of the most important things we can do.  If we lose that, America’s future is truly lost.

It is unfortunate that some in the media are repeating distortions and untruths brought about by the opposition.  I wish they would have called me or the lawyers that wrote it so they could report the truth.  I guess that wouldn’t make a juicy story. Thank you to the media that are publishing my side of the story.

House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko is the State Representative for LD 9.

Ooooo.  A wee bit defensive aren’t we, Ms. Lesko?  All about First Amendment Rights?  Really?  What about the rights of the employee?  Why should any employer have the right to demand a doctor’s note, giving a woman permission to take any medication, contraceptive or otherwise?  And just because you Ms. Lesko are against abortion [note the mention of the morning after pill] does not give you the right to impose your religious beliefs on your constituents, nor does an employer have the right to know anything about my medical history, which would be necessary in this twisted piece of legislation.

This is not a theocracy.  At least not yet.

And why mention the Catholics since you’re not a Catholic yourself?  Unless you know what we know: The Catholic Bishops and Religious Right have made an odd couple’s Holy Alliance to rid the world of witches [otherwise known as Fallen Women, wanton sluts and/or the Daughters of Eve].

Note one other thing.  As with so many others in this Cult of Procreation, Ms. Lesko points a crooked finger, blames distortions on the press, untruths hatched by the opposition.  Rather than taking a long, hard gaze in the mirror.

Mirror, mirror on the wall.  Who’s the worst liar of them all?

I have a suggestion for the knitter’s group.  I wouldn’t limit these handcrafted items to men only.  It’s clear that a number of women need a back up set of anatomically-correct body parts with the scripted note suggested by Government Free VJJs:

Get You Pre-Historic Laws Out of My Uterus!

Better yet, here’s one of your own.

Check out the site.  It will make you smile.  And Lordy, we need all the smiles we can get right now.  Btw, the site provides patterns for your work of art, be it knitted, crocheted or made of fabric.  And though the site invites you to hand deliver the items to your representatives, they are quite happy to have a volunteer do the honors.  Think of these items arriving in the office of your favorite Congressperson, the item unwrapped and then the expression of . . . well, I‘ll leave it to your imagination.

Let the knitting begin!  And remember, these women weren’t polite either:


Have They No Decency?

Women across the US, even the world have reacted to the steady Republican assault on women’s reproductive rights.  There’s no end to the craziness. For the GOP’s ‘official’ stance?  They categorically deny a ‘War on Women.’  Rush Limbaugh went so far to say that the ‘feminazi’s’ don’t really care about his comments on Sandra Fluke.  They merely want to make a stink and attack him and his wildly successful radio show.

A conspiracy against the Premier Ditto Head.  Poor baby.

Strangely enough, I agree with the GOP argument.  This is not a War.  It’s a Holy Crusade to chip away, dismantle and destroy all vestiges of gains made by women since the Griswold and subsequent Row v Wade decisions.  Glenn Beck’s vicious attacks on Margaret Sanger make perfect sense now.  Defame and kill the root, the mother of Planned Parenthood, and you bring down the whole tree, destroying the fruits of Sanger’s effort: universal birth control, sexual education [the earlier the better] and freedom for women to control their own lives and destinies.

Make no mistake, this Crusade has been making headway, which has emboldened the zealots in making increasingly outlandish suggestions and demands.

Terri Proud, an Arizona state representative is a fine example.

Most of us have read about Arizona’s proposed HB2625, a bill that would give employers ‘of conscience’ the right to insist a woman obtain a written doctor’s note, proving she’s using birth control for non-sexual reasons. Otherwise, she could be fired.  But wait!  There’s more.  Arizona’s HB2036 would make sweeping changes to abortion, outlawing abortion after 20 weeks based on . . . fetal pain.  Representative Proud, obviously caught up in self-righteous fever, answered a constituent’s request that she vote down HB2036 thusly:

Personally I’d like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a “surgical procedure”. If it’s not a life it shouldn’t matter, if it doesn’t harm a woman then she shouldn’t care, and don’t we want more transparency and education in the medical profession anyway? We demand it everywhere else. Until the dead child can tell me that she/he does not feel any pain – I have no intentions of clearing the conscience of the living – I will be voting YES.

So, in addition to requesting that note from your doctor, if you do get pregnant [you wanton slut] and want an abortion– only before the 20-week deadline, of course–Representative Proud would, in her withered zealot’s heart, demand you watch someone else’s abortion.  How perfectly twisted.  And I so-o-o love the arrogance of this reply.  Representative Proud has no intentions of clearing the conscience of the living.  La-de-dah. God is on the premises!

Who are these people?  More importantly, who do these people think they are?

Well, for one thing they’re cowards.  Because when Proud was called out on this response, she claimed it was a Democratic Gotcha Game.

Remember, these were her words, her email but somehow this is a ‘gotcha’ moment.  Sound familiar?  Poor old Rush smells a set up, too, even though it was his three-day, on-air excoriation of Sandra Fluke that initiated the media firestorm and subsequent advertising retreat.

The Grand Inquisitors morph into sniveling crybabies once exposed to the light.

The list of offensive anti-women assaults just keep coming.  Alan Dick [appropriate surname], a state representative of Alaska has suggested ‘paternal permission’ for abortion approval.  Reportedly, he has stated:

If I thought that the man’s signature was required … in order for a woman to have an abortion, I’d have a little more peace about it.

Obviously a woman cannot make this decision on her own.  She needs the signature of the impregnator to make it official so Representative Dick can have peace of mind. Might get a bit dicey if said impregnation was the result of rape or incest.  A similar bill was proposed [and shot down] in Ohio in 2009. A paternal permission rule would make non-permission abortions a crime.

Pennsylvania entered the fray recently.  Governor Tom Corbett signed an abortion ultrasound mandate and said as long as it was on the ‘exterior’ as opposed to the ‘interior,’ he was right as rain with the bill.  As for insisting that women watch?  “You just have to close your eyes,” he quipped with a smile.   Pennsylvania’s bill requires doctors to perform the ultrasound, offer patients two copies of the image and describe the fetal heartbeat in detail before performing a requested abortion.  Which is still legal, btw.

As maddening as these particular examples are, the far more serious overview comes from the Guttmacher Institute:

Over the course of 2011, legislators in all 50 states introduced more than 1,100 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. At the end of it all, states had adopted 135 new reproductive health provisions—a dramatic increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009.1 Fully 92 of the enacted provisions seek to restrict abortion, shattering the previous record of 34 abortion restrictions enacted in 2005. A striking 68% of the reproductive health provisions from 2011 are abortion restrictions, compared with only 26% the year before.

Several states adopted relatively new types of abortion restrictions in 2011. Five states (Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma) followed Nebraska’s lead from the year before and enacted legislation banning abortion at 20 weeks from fertilization (which is equivalent to 22 weeks from the woman’s last menstrual period), based on the spurious assertion that a fetus can feel pain at that point in gestation. And for the first time, seven states (Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee)—all largely rural states with large, scarcely populated areas—prohibited the use of telemedicine for medication abortion, requiring instead that the physician prescribing the medication be in the same room as the patient. Telemedicine is increasingly looked to as a way to provide access to health care, especially in underserved rural areas.

The chart below gives you a chilling visual on what’s been going on:

Despite the evidence, there are conservative writers insisting that the War/Crusade Against Women has been hatched by nefarious Democrats.  Another devious conspiracy!

Sabrina Schaeffer for instance wrote that the ‘war on women’ narrative is risky business for the Democrats because Republicans managed to close the gender gap in 2010, the first time in 20 years.  Ms. Schaeffer might take another look.  The most recent recent polls indicate Democrats opening a 15-point lead with likely female voters.  Schaeffer wrote:

But the effort by the White House to position Republicans as openly hostile to women is not only absurd, but also doomed to be a failed strategy. President Obama and Democrats have tried to create a caricature of conservatives in which opposition to the Health and Human Services “contraception mandate” means Republicans are trying to take away women’s birth control and reverse gender roles 50 years.

While this may play to their feminist base, it’s destined to fail with female voters at large. Contrary to what groups like NOW suggest, women today are not interested in playing identity politics; . . .

I agree on one point.  Women are not interested in playing identity politics on issues we thought resolved two generations ago. However, unless Rick Santorum is secretly a Democrat, I see neither evidence that he was forced into his rigid Morality Police posture [that would be on your knees] nor that he was set up for a gotcha moment.  Nor do I see any proof that the other ‘go along to get along’ candidates had a gun at their heads while taking equally outrageous positions. Only Ron Paul has deferred [for the moment] on the major communal female bashing.

Then there were those grand, unforgettable moments: Congressman Issa’s panel convened to discuss contraception, a panel devoid of women; the Blunt Amendment; the witch hunts on Planned Parenthood.

Sorry, these wounds were self-inflicted, clear cannon blasts to the foot.

That’s not ignoring how the Democrats have happily, even giddily taken full advantage of the GOP’s gender tone deafness.  It’s been a gift since the Administration was, in fact, losing support among women [the Stupak Amendment, weaseling on Plan B availability for young girls, tossing Elizabeth Warren under the bus, etc.].  Women have ‘suddenly’ become attractive entities with an election looming. Quelle surprise!  Yet the Republicans are doing the heavy lifting for the WH, voluntarily hemorrhaging female votes with their nonstop fixation on our sexual parts and what we do with them.

The ‘why’ of this furor remains a mystery.  Yes, the GOP seems to be pandering to the religious right in all their insane glory.  Some commenters have suggested [and this has absolutely crossed my mind], the GOP wants to blow the election.  Or perhaps, they’re inciting the attacks to appeal to those men who resent autonomous women, who dream of the good ole days, the sepia-tinged era of Leave It To Beaver, where Mother dusted the house in high heels, pearls and matching sweater sets.  And Dad, of course, was the font of undisputed wisdom.  One blogger suggested this might be the Republicans’ idea of a jobs program—put women back in the kitchen, thereby opening the job market to unemployed men.

Whatever the Republican reasoning, it appears to be backfiring.  But the election season is young [it just seems pointless and endless].  Still, if I hear one more story on transvaginal probing, zygote personhood or paternal permission slips, I might take out a full-page ad in the NYT, reading:

Have you no decency, Gentleman.  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Or anything remotely resembling sanity!


Blueprint For Accountability, Long Overdue

Mark your calendars for this Tuesday, March 27th, 7:00 pm [EST].  Why?  The Culture Project will be running another of its Town Hall discussions, a live stream production from Georgetown University.  Stellar participants include:  Eliot Spitzer, Matt Taibbi, Dylan Ratigan, Ron Suskind, Van Jones, Heather McGhee and Jessie LaGreca.  See brief bio background here.

The discussion topic?  It’s all in the title—accountability, the very essence of a sound democracy, yet sadly, an ingredient we’ve seen purposely, repeatedly ignored and shunned by government and corporate leaders alike.

Occupy Wall St. brought public attention to the problem—the yawning divide between the 1% and everyone else.  Now, the hard work begins: how do we, public and private citizens alike, steer ourselves back to the premise that the Rule of Law is essential and applies to everyone.  How do we make our demands felt inside a broken, corrupt system, where our vote is compromised by big money, our voices drowned in the sludge of corporate and financial interests?

The plan or blueprint needs fresh dialogue, new ideas.

What precisely is the Culture Project? you might be asking. From the site:

CULTURE PROJECT is dedicated to addressing critical human rights issues by creating and supporting artistic work that amplifies marginalized voices. By fostering innovative collaboration between human rights organizations and artists, we aim to inspire and impact public dialogue and policy, encouraging democratic participation in the most urgent matters of our time.

The Accountability series is a slight departure from what the group has done before—programs addressing human rights issues.  But in a sense all of our rights are at peril, as is self-evident in the on-going Presidential campaign rhetoric.

The first of the series was launched with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in a discussion on torture and the War on Terror.  Subsequent presentations featured Robert Kennedy, Jr. ,who spoke to the continuing diminishment of American values and Cornell West last September spoke on the 40th Anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion.

I wasn’t aware of these programs.  Hattip to Alternet for bringing me up to speed and alerting readers about the program scheduled for Tuesday night

This is another example of networking getting the message out and a live stream presentation made available, reaching a far wider audience than would normally be the case.

Personally, I’m a great fan of Eliot Spitzer.  Despite his past personal problems, I think he has a true gift in explaining the financial/legal shenanigans that Wall St. adopted and continues to practice as business as usual. All at the expense of the American public.  Dylan Ratigan has his own MSNBC TV show, Monday through Friday.  He’s a former financial guy himself and has a book out “Greedy Bastards,” which has spent weeks and weeks on the NY Best Seller’s List. He’s been screaming daily about the country’s breakdown, the systemic corruption and lawlessness pervading everything—the financial sector, education, healthcare, energy, etc. Matt Taibbi writes for the Rolling Stone and has been equally merciless in calling the TBTF’s out for the highway robbers they were and continue to be.  Add the other voices on the panel and I suspect the conversation will be lively and worth the 2-hour investment of time.

Live stream program will be found here.

Should be an interesting, informative night.  Let the brainstorming begin!


Social Media And People Of Good Will

We’ve seen the power of social networks in action—the Arab Spring, the explosion in Athens, the spreading Occupy actions around the world.  Facebook and Twitter have by-passed conventional media outlets, giving private citizens eyes on the world in real time, regardless of geographic location.  You Tube and live streaming have piped uncensored images to all corners of the globe.  But recently, there’s been a new development in usage, a reach-out campaign by two Israeli graphic designers, horrified by the bellicose rants for war in their own country, Iran and the US.  The saber rattling has gone unabated as politicians, commentators, and Heads of State seemingly try to outdo one another with Dirty Harry rhetoric.

Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir had a simple idea.  There’s a certain beauty to simplicity.  The couple designed a template to be used on Facebook, posters of themselves that say:

Iranians.  We will never bomb your country.  We love you.

Initially, their friends scoffed and said they were crazy and naïve.  Several messages they received at the beginning were cynical, mocking in nature.  But then, other Israelis joined in and Iranian responses followed.  In fact, the two Israelis started receiving messages from around the world.  Citizens talking to citizens, devoid of leaders, diplomats, generals and propaganda.

We don’t want war, the messages read.  We’re sick of war.  We’re sick of the people leading us into war.  The You Tube posting states it clearly:

Crazy?  Naïve?  Perhaps.  But I couldn’t help recalling that old line from the Vietnam era: What if a war was planned and no one came?  What if?

We’re living in dangerous, uncertain times but along with that comes great opportunity for change. I really like the idea of individuals reaching out in creative ways to change the unchangeable, to push against the unmovable.  No guarantees, of course.  There are few positive stories out there anymore but this just happens to be one.  More information can be found here.


Back To The Good Ol’ Days In The Great State of Tennessee

It’s not often you get to board a time machine and travel back to say . . . 1925.  Unless you live in Tennessee. 

I knew I was living in crazy-land when the citizens of this state gave Rick Santorum the GOP win on Super Tuesday.  But they’ve broken the mold with the passage of HB 368, affectionately referred to as “The Monkey Bill.”  Why the cute nickname?  Because we’re back to the days of the Butler Act, where the Tennessee legislature actually made it unlawful to teach the subject of evolution in the state’s public school curriculum.  Only the Biblical version would do, thank you very much!

So, here we are in the 21st century with mind-boggling advances in science and technology, medical advances, which would have been deemed science fiction a few short years ago.  And how does Tennessee react?  A fast dive into superstition and magical thinking.  Back to the Scopes trial and Inherit the Wind.

To add to the madness, these pygmies have tried to sell this legislation as a move forward for ‘academic freedom’ and to protect teachers, who wish to present ‘alternative theories’ on evolution and climate change.

What alternative theories?  Like this?

I am forever grateful that I did not educate my own kids in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains.  But I pity the children of others.  We’re in a high-tech world with abundant competition around the globe; competitors would love to cut the US off at the knees.  And Tennessee is going to be teaching creationism as a credible substitute to evolution, claiming it will improve critical thinking.  As for climate change?  I’ve never bought into the instant doomsday scenario. Nor do I think cap and trade is the right way to go. But . . . unless you’re living in an underground bunker, the climate is having a mega-personality crisis.   We cannot pretend the changes around the world aren’t happening—glaciers melting, ice shelves breaking apart, bizarre storms, droughts, etc.   Nor can we afford resorting to childish positions–God would never let us to destroy ourselves, so let’s party down and pollute everything in sight.

Inherit the Wind

I swear, I do not know what it’s going to take.  Some horrific super-cell storm wreaking death and destruction of such proportions that even the Bible thumpers accept reality?  Does California have to fall into the Pacific before the scales fall from the eyes of the blind?

The idea that any school would replace science with pseudo-science for political/religious purposes is beyond outrageous.  This really is a race for the bottom when politicians are applauded for supporting bills designed to leave children uninformed and ignorant.  Did I mention that the Tennessee Senate vote was 24-8? [the House version of this stinker passed last April] Only eight Tennessee Senators had the guts to vote for science.  The vast majority hopped on the make-believe train.

The Huffington Post had a piece on this legislative monstrosity.  There’s a video at the site that I encourage you to watch—watch until the end.  There’s a young man [who unfortunately I believe is for real], questioning the validity of evolution.  This is what ignorance sounds like.

The one saving note on this embarrassment is that the 2005 Dover, Pa. case [several school board members had approved intelligent design introduced to the science/biology curriculum] was overturned using Federal precedent.  I’d be amazed if this nonsense [assuming Republican Governor Haslam signs the bill] isn’t challenged very quickly.  The Tennessee Science Teachers Association opposes the bill, as well as the National Center for Science Education and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As for Tennessee?  It has made itself and its residents a laughing stock.  Again.  Just to be clear.  Though I now live in Smoky Mountain land?  I’m a New Jersey native. Even Chris Christie—the Big Guy–believes in evolution and climate change.

I never cease to be amazed at the slide into stupidity we’re watching.  But this?  This deserves a stupid award.


Occupy 2.0

Until this past weekend, the Occupy Movement was flying under the radar, percolating beyond public view.  But members returned to Zucotti Park on St. Pat’s Day to celebrate the Movement’s six-month anniversary.  From on the ground reports, the demonstration was peaceful.  Until the NYPD arrived.  Then there was trouble—a number of arrests and one woman reportedly had a seizure after she was thrown to the ground and handcuffed.  Several participants said it took 17 minutes for the police to react, after which an ambulance was called.

For naysayers, the Occupy Wall St. Movement [OWS], their members and reasons for being were summarily dismissed before they began.  Who is the leader of this motley group? journalists and pundits asked repeatedly.  What do these people want?

Surprisingly, there is a leader or so I’ve read, someone well known to Occupy organizers but deliberately kept out of public view.  As far as what they want?  The answer seemed perfectly clear to me at the start because I think it’s what most Americans want or if they don’t want it, they expect it: an end to the gross inequality in the country, for which Wall St. and Government collusion holds the lion’s share of responsibility and an end to ‘bought’ elections, where the 1% and corporate interests routinely choose our leaders, shape policy and control the message, known in polite circles as ‘perception management.’

All of this transcends parties, btw.  We’re talking Republican and Democratic parties alike, regardless of how many times we enter the ‘lesser than two evils’ spin.

You don’t need to be a psychic to ‘get’ the OWS message.  You don’t even need to be a member of Occupy.  All that’s needed is a modicum of alertness, a shaking-off of the trance-inducing distraction and deflection of pundits, media hounds and political operators.

So, what has OWS managed to accomplish, thus far?   According to the critics—not a damn thing.  But is that really the case?

Last summer, the headlines were ripe with talk of deficits, crushing debt and woe is me.  We need a Grand Bargain, wisemen crooned [translation: we need to cut public services].  Somehow, we always have money for foreign adventures, national security, weapons and surveillance equipment.  For instance, how many drones will be in American skies by 2020?  Hummm.  Try 30,000.  That’s the Federal Aviation Administration’s rough estimate.  The ever popular ‘shop ‘til you drop’ hee-haw isn’t working either, even with the news that ‘average’ Americans are flocking back to restaurant dining. Despite a stumbling economy there is money for weapons and drones and assorted homeland security gear.  When it comes to education, infrastructure, home mortgage write downs, decent healthcare, aide to our poor, disabled and elderly?  We’re just stone-broke and need to be put on an austerity diet. See Paul Ryan’s reiteration on social program slashes and numbers that don’t add up.  It’s a nice set piece that will contrast with the soon-to-come kinder and gentler Democratic version.

One could call the dialogue change a bizarre coincidence but public conversation pivoted after Occupy came on the scene.  We went from Oooooo, we need to slash Medicare, Medicaid and refigure Social Security to why is Wall St. getting bailed out on the backs of the taxpayer?  Why do we have a system where the profits go to the top income bracket, while risk is carried by Main Street?  Why have the wages of middle-class workers[if they're fortunate enough to still have a job] barely kept pace with inflation, while the top 1% has had a 275% increase in income?

Uncomfortable questions, the sort that make politicians squirm.

OWS has also focused attention on home foreclosures, working with foreclosed families to save their homes.  The Movement rallied the public in a Change Your Bank Day strategy that is estimated to cost TBTFs a $185 billion in transfers to community banks and credit unions.  Religious organizations have joined the effort.  According to Think Progress, The New Bottom Line, a coalition of faith groups has pledged to remove $1 billion from the major banks this year alone.  OWS also pushed against the ATM fee-increase proposal; the banks pulled back.  In late February, Occupy the SEC submitted a 300+ page document, urging regulators to resist the financial sector’s desire to water down the Volker Rule, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall St. reform.  The group that put the document together was comprised of former Wall St. workers.  OWS members also stood with private landowners, Tea Party members and environmentalists protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that the President has expressed a new-found love for.

Not too shabby for six months activism.  Yet still the critics howl.  Where is the direction, what are the goals?

The Movement is young and still developing but you cannot fault it for sitting on its hands.  More importantly, the Occupy spirit is global in nature because many activists are ‘graduates without a future’—young, educated and fed up.  Paul Mason documented this facet of the worldwide

Arundhati Roy

social/political movements in his book, “Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere,”  and Arundhati Roy wrote this in a recent essay: “Capitalism, A Ghost Story”:

As Gush-Up concentrates wealth on to the tip of a shining pin on which our billionaires pirouette, tidal waves of money crash through the institutions of democracy—the courts, Parliament as well as the media, seriously compromising their ability to function in the ways they are meant to. The noisier the carnival around elections, the less sure we are that democracy really exists.

Sound familiar?  The neoliberal model, the gross inequality that rewards the few at the expense of the many has circled the globe, creating universal discontent and misery.

So, what’s coming up for 2012?  What will Occupy 2.0 look like?

I’d suggest checking the OWS page here for an updated list of scheduled actions.  OWS plans to be in Chicago in mid-May to protest the NATO Summit although the city is throwing up barriers to prevent demonstrations.  Somehow, I don’t think the protest will be stopped.

May 1 will be a National Action, the day traditionally known as International Worker’s Day.  This year OWS is calling for a General Strike across the country.  From the Occupy site:

We are calling on everyone who supports the cause of economic justice and true democracy to take part: No Work, No School, No Housework, No Shopping, No Banking – and most importantly, TAKE THE STREETS!

This Saturday, March 24, a Disrupt Dirty Power protest has been called in NYC to jumpstart a month-long action until Earth Day, April 22.  More information here.

Sunday, March 25, Occupy Town Square IV will focus on public parks and other public spaces in NYC.  More info here.

If you’re interested in local actions in particular states, towns, cities or countries, info can be found at the Occupy Together site here.

And if you want to eliminate the idea of ‘a failed movement’ from your brain. Check out the participation map here.  The scope is massive.

The essay I mentioned by Arundhati Roy is well worth a read—highly informative, even shocking about vulture capitalism’s impact on India.  Be prepared, it’s long.  As Roy moves into her concluding paragraphs, she writes this:

Capitalism is in crisis. Trickledown failed. Now Gush-Up is in trouble too. The international financial meltdown is closing in. India’s growth rate has plummeted to 6.9 per cent. Foreign investment is pulling out. Major international corporations are sitting on huge piles of money, not sure where to invest it, not sure how the financial crisis will play out. This is a major, structural crack in the juggernaut of global capital.

Capitalism’s real “grave-diggers” may end up being its own delusional Cardinals, who have turned ideology into faith. Despite their strategic brilliance, they seem to have trouble grasping a simple fact: Capitalism is destroying the planet. The two old tricks that dug it out of past crises—War and Shopping—simply will not work.

Disaster capitalism has certainly lived up to its name, be it continuous war, environmental degradation or exploding poverty.  What is Occupy about?  Speaking for myself, Occupy is about a break of faith with a global economic system that serves no one but an elite minority, where infinite money and power is the only morality.  The movement is a massive rejection of the ongoing mantra: there’s no other way.  Occupy challenges that static position, calls on us to envision something else, something better than the consensus mind.  It dares us to shake off the old and embrace a sense of possibility.  It demands we wake up, now.