Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy Charleston Y'All

I was delighted to find that Occupy Charleston has its own website.  Visit the site and become a follower.  Let's build this movement!

Even those folks who voted for Jim DeMint are the 99% -- they just don't know they are one of us yet.

Just as the Occupy Oakland protesters shouted to the police, "You are the 99 percent!", we need to let those who have been led to vote on the right that they are indeed one of us.

They too are unemployed or underemployed, their children unable to afford college, or get a job after graduation.  They may have to choose between health care and mortgage, or may no longer be able to afford either.  They are unable to retire although they are exhausted.  If they are employed, they are constantly at risk of losing their jobs or of wage and benefit cuts.

They have learned, as have we, that while their incomes stagnate, insurance costs skyrocket.  They continue to not have alternatives to being gouged by the oil industry because deMint and his ilk continue to vote cuts for mass transportation and alternative energy exploration.  They are unable to get loans because Wall Street is hoarding the billions it has made through gambling with our hard-earned savings.

And when their bodies ache from standing in front of a classroom or behind a sales counter or tending patients in a hospital or nursing home, they too will be told to tighten their belts and wait another year or two to retire, while those earning over $107,000 will continue to not have to contribute a penny over that amount.

So this Occupy movement can only grow, as long as we all fight the lies and let our friends, family and co-workers know that we are all in this together -- we are the 99 percent!

Monday, October 17, 2011

On God and Wall Street

We're hearing a lot from our elected officials about our values, actually, their values, because it is safe to assume from listening to them, that ours suck.  We have heard about what needs to be done to prevent gay marriage, a woman's right to choose whether she needs to have an abortion, and the decay of American civilization by allowing in the creeping scourge of immigrants and other religions.

But I never did learn in church about Jesus speaking out against love for one another, in fact, he lectured his apostles about their judging of a prostitute.  I never heard that Jesus spoke in favor of killing our enemies; in fact, he taught that we should love our enemies, which I find difficult to do when they are telling me the world would be better off without the likes of us breathing its air.

In fact, Jesus' message really was about looking inside ourselves, not about judging others.

The thing that drove Jesus crazy, though, was moneylenders, the ones that plied their trade in God's house especially.  The thing that Jesus spoke up against most was greed, the greed that hurts the poor, the children, the sick and the old.

So I applaud the Occupy Wall Street movement in this country and across the world.  Can it be that we are finally speaking out against greed instead of humanity, and beginning to work together to hold the wealthy and powerful accountable?

I believe Jesus would have been in that crowd.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Depths of Inanity -- and Back

If I am going to be truly honest and open-minded, when I listen to Scott Brown's January, 2010, acceptance speech, I really have to say, "What a charming rogue."  This has absolutely nothing to do with his positions on issues, or how good he will be for Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.  He is not good for us, not Massachusetts, and not the U.S.  He is heavily funded by Wall Street, and his method in the Senate appears to be to pick apart meaningful bills, so that they are gutted and impotent, when he does not vote to kill proposed regulatory measures outright.

He is  shrewd.  He knows when the tide is turning and a simple flirtatious wisecrack is no longer going to appease the voters.  This is when he acts like he really, really wants to vote for, say, the jobs bill, so why don't they just take the important parts (the parts that are going to look good to the voters) and leave out the bad parts (the parts that are going to actually affect Wall Street and the corporations).

So thank you very much to the person at the October 4 Massachusetts Senate Democratic Primary Debate who asked Elizabeth Warren how she paid for college.  I guess she could have given the long-winded answer about a hard-knock life and working her way through school, but I believe she was so taken aback by the question that her sense of humor kicked in and she replied that "I kept my clothes on".

Of course that became the quote du jour, and of course of all that happened at that debate, that was the comment that Senator Scott Brown was asked to respond to.  Mr. Brown, of the "take my daughters, please" school of humor, lowered the bar further by responding, "Thank god!"

Which everybody in the media then had to comment on.  Ad nauseum.

Elizabeth Warren, who has been fighting -- hard -- for our financial survival against the big banks and corporations that pay for Scott Brown's campaign, now has to learn how to deal with idiot America.  I expect that she will do it with her usual aplomb.  I just wish that, for this important race, it was not necessary.

So allow me to end with Warren's closing debate comments:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When the Air (Waves) Were Free

I wonder how it happened, back in the olden days, that we ended up with television networks that were free.  I can imagine the Congressional hearings that would go on today, with some hee-haw from the south whining something like, "Do you think it's fay-ure that folks is gointa be able to make those teevee people pay all that money to put on those shows on thay-yure teevees for free?

Of course, it's not free, and never has been, because sponsors have always sponsored television and radio in this country, and sponsored it so that they could profit from it.  And not too long after those wonderful days when Congress decided to give us public radio and television, so we would have a non-commercial source of information and entertainment, those folks that we elected to Congress and the White House decided that it wasn't fair that we should have that for free.  And of course that wasn't free either, because we paid for it with our tax dollars.

But all that did was make us vulnerable, by virtue of our greed and gullibility, to the accusation that we are paying for services we don't use, and why should we?  Always works.  Now we have commercial "public radio" as well as fund-raisers that make us pay for the privilege by having to listen to the fundraisers as well as cough up the bucks.

And of course now we have a different battle for the airwaves, that of internet accessibility.

Those of us who have, of course, just assume everyone has, and if they don't, they should just go buy it.  But once again, those who have cannot fathom those of us without.

When my daughter was a teen, and wanted a car, I had her and her brother sit at the kitchen table with pencil and paper, and I recited the monthly bills.  Then I gave them the monthly income.

My daughter leapt from the table in a rage.

The facts were hard.

And those of us who are still fortunate enough to be truly in the "middle class" just can't imagine that some of us live on $20,000 a year or less, don't have health insurance.  Too many of us live on the edge of the precipice, and yet we pay a criminal amount for our cable television because they figured out how to take away our free t.v. and we need that connection, and yes, that escape.

The haves can't fathom then that so many of us cannot affort that $60 a month to hook up to the internet.  Sure we can buy, many of us, a cheap laptop.  It is the connection to the world that we just cannot afford.

And now we have our members of Congress accusing our President of all kinds of nasty business because he is attempting to provide free wireless internet access to the American people.

They are going to scare us by convincing us that the cost will be prohibitive, like it isn't when it's private, and that the actual wi-fi will -- I swear -- interfere with our GPS.

Could we please smarten up?  Can we stop acting like the great unwashed listening to a snake-oil salesman at a carnival?  Can't we see, just this one time, that these clowns (not to mix the metaphors too badly) are afraid that we will get something for nothing.

What actually happens, just as free t.v. did back in the olden days, is that free connectivity would open up a whole lot of business for those weasels that pay Congress to keep our hands off their stuff.

But, I fear, the appetite for greater wealth and power has gotten so voracious in this new millennium that even that penny to pay the poor in order that they may serve the wealthy cannot be pried from our masters' hands. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why Whistleblowers Don't

Here in the land of "right to work" it is comical to imagine complaining about a problem.  The primary attribute desired in the work force in South Carolina is compliance.  So over the years I have worked in the low-level, low-pay county job, I have learned only to complain about things that the boss also doesn't like, or that the boss has not himself implemented, or to grumble to those few people who have no management titles or responsibilities.  There are three of us.

Here's a management technique that has proven to increase compliance:  make nearly everyone a manager.  You can give them shit pay, but as long as they are supervising somebody they will have a hand in the pie and defend the workplace.

I have a little job, of little importance, that I do well, and I have at times enjoyed.  I am hanging on by a thread for the remaining years before I can collect social security.  I have learned, over and over and over and over in my life, that complaining, regardless of the validity of the complaint, or how nicely it is framed, does not work.  At best, your boss dislikes and distrusts you, in the middle you may be given more distasteful hours or tasks, and at worst, you could be given a transfer or lose your job altogether.

We've seen the movies about whistleblowers, there have been enough books written about the fates of the complainers.  The handful of big complaints brought to light by courageous people that have actually made a difference is infinitesimal, and the process extraordinarily painful, the positive outcome often negligible, temporary, or nonexistent.

Without consciously being aware of this, most of us minimize our importance, our perceptions, our grievances.  We believe that we are lucky to have a job, our employers are smarter than we are, we have no right to complain.  And if we are lucky, we don't think too much about what's wrong.

Yet, when we hear about something really, really, bad, let's say torture at Abu Ghraib, we are amazed that it happened.  That people were complicit while others looked the other way.  We should be astounded that anybody ever comes forward, because the system is such that there is rarely any good that will come of doing the right thing.

Will you risk your security for the whistleblower?  If the answer is no, or if you can't answer, you have illustrated why whistleblowers don't.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Fear Factor

Our new-found and readily exploited fear and fascination with Shariah law is just the prescription for bringing Hitlers (and deMints) into power.  Religious radicals of the Christian variety believe that it is just as important for them to dictate punishments for what they perceive as our transgressions as do the radical Islamic fundamentalists.  They too would have sinners imprisoned, perhaps killed, for crossing their lines.

Our absurd focus on whether Shariah law would find its way into our courts is occurring at a time when we are genuinely at risk of that precise type of tyranny coming from the Christian radicals.  Troubled pregnant women imprisoned for crack addiction has been a reality for some time.  The hunger to make abortion illegal, along with the consequent absurdities of attempting to impose a definition on life before birth should lead us to wonder what punishments will be determined to fit the crime.

We know that there are those among us who believe that abortion is punishable by death; if life is defined by these religious "scholars" and pseudo-scientists as occurring at conception, there will need to be punishment meted out to those offenders as well.  And who will police these criminals?

Then we need to address the issues of interracial relationships, as well as the religious practices of those who are not Christian.

We are on a slippery slope indeed here, are we not?

If you do not see shades of Hitler and bin Laden in the religious dictates of the Bachmanns and Perrys, then you are not taking their words to their logical conclusion.

Because what our Christian fanatics in this country are proposing, at the same time they are feeding the fears of Shariah law, is a Christian Shariah law.  Or, if you recall, an Inquisition.