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Posts Tagged ‘politics’


Three weeks ago today 20 little children, their teachers and a long-suffering mother were senselessly gunned down by a seemingly mentally ill young man with assault weapons.

The entire nation watched in horror.  We wrung our hands.  We tsk-tsk-ed.  We said some prayers that day.  We wrote angry rants on Facebook.  Some of us wrote our congresspeople.

Then it was Christmas, a fiscal cliff, a new  year, new stories.  We turned our attention elsewhere.

We must NOT abandon those kids and their families or the families of the brave schoolteachers.

We must NOT just tsk-tsk.

The NRA works every day of the year to ensure guns are plentiful.  What are WE doing?

Did you know that there are over 80 guns for every 100 people in America?

Can you think of one good reason why anyone, anywhere, at any time needs an assault weapon?

Please join me in REGULARLY writing our president, your two senators and your one representative to demand an end to assault weapons, to demand a tightening of gun control measures and to demand better funding and accessibility for mental health programs.

Will this prevent another Newtown, Connecticut?  Perhaps not.  But when the more civilized nations of the world have banned assault weapons or instituted gun control their mass shootings have disappeared.

We can make a difference.  We owe it to those small children to act on their behalf.

I pledge to contact my representatives at least once/month for a minimum of 26 months to demand positive change.  I plan to do it on the 14th of each month.

Will you join me?

Do not abandon those kids

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“Today I am grateful for love over hate, yes over no, the future over the past, hope over fear and WE THE PEOPLE over billionaires, corporations and Super PACs.  VERY VERY VERY grateful!”

That’s what I wrote on FaceBook on November 7.  It’s been a long and often vitriolic election season.  Our country has been so divided.  And, as was true for me in another highly charged time – 1968 and 1972 – it has affected me personally as the political divide in my family has caused pain on both sides.

When I was a child one of my father’s maxims was “if  you  can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” – and after the obvious differences in our family got highlighted with the whole Chik-Fil-A anti-gay-marriage event, my upset has kept me from my blog.

But I woke up on the morning of November 7 after what was, for me, the single best overall election in my lifetime of voting, realizing that I had just participated in a historic event.

The tide has been turned.

The discord isn’t over and there are challenges ahead.

But a very significant change has occurred – we have crossed a threshold and there is no going back.  America, which has been slowly and inexorably changing, crossed a tipping point.  Ward and June Cleaver are dead – the new day has dawned!

The coalition of purported ‘minorities’ are, in fact, the new majority – Latinos, African-Africans, Asians, and single women.

This nation has long been known as a melting pot – and now that reality is the new order.

One of the insightful articles I read (Manchester Guardian? Josh Levs? How I wish I had bookmarked and can’t now find it) said that this election showed that the culture wars of the sixties won.

20 women senators! Our country’s first gay senator!  Gay marriage gets a boost in 4 states – from the PEOPLE, not the courts!

When I was young we dreamed of, longed for, and some worked towards “The Revolution.”  It took 44 years, but it has finally come to pass!

Now comes the work that I personally mapped out for myself at the beginning of this year, and from which I got sorely distracted by divisive politics – Create. Positive. Change

I am very excited about the prospects for America.  I believe in Hope.  I believe in Forward.  I believe in – and embrace – positive change.  Most of all, I embrace “We the People”.  And, as I posted on FaceBook – I am SO energized and ecstatic that We the People won:

“WE THE PEOPLE won – Not the Koch Brothers, Not Addleson, not Citizens United, Not corporations – WE THE PEOPLE.”

God Bless America, land that I love!

From the most re-tweeted tweet ever – victory!

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We are collectively waiting.  Corporations wait with huge coffers of cash (Apple, for instance, is sitting on $98 BILLION).  The unemployment rate, officially, around 8.3% in February 2012, doesn’t include the long-term unemployed – we can guess that 10-15% of working-age people are sitting on the sidelines.  Entire industries (construction, finance, and to some degree manufacturing) have a lot of sidelines going on – in terms of workers, production, etc.  11 % of US homes are vacant – and that number seems to be increasing.  Then there is the tsunami of Baby Boomers starting to cascade into retirement – and the sidelines.

So what is “the sidelines”?  In this sense it is “a sphere of little or no participation or activity.”  However, I think there’s a sense of impending and previous participation implicit – so to me it’s more like limbo “an intermediate or transitional place or state.”

I think of the sidelines as a resting place.  The coach has pulled me out of the game – but temporarily.  I am watching the action on the field, maybe drinking some Gatorade, catching my breath – and beginning to plan my next moves.

I believe any sentient being can see that we are on the brink of – and to some degree, amidst – great, sweeping change.  The old order is very rapidly dying away and yet the new one is yet to be born.  It is a gestational, liminal time, to be sure.

What then, shall we do?  I wrote about one such solution in this post – Power to the People! Let’s Turn this Country Around.  I wrote this post right after my beloved friend was diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal liver cancer – so I got distracted.  It may be time to revisit implementing some of these ideas.

I’m also participating in The 99% Spring and plan to be involved in that.

There is so much abundance – time, energy, talents and money – sitting in abeyance while people are hungry, lonely, angry and tired.  Isn’t it time to change that.

Please join me in the 99% Spring.  And if you are interested in beginning dialogue on the ideas I laid out in Power to the People, let’s dialogue about how we can begin.  Margaret Mead was right:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I’m in.  You?

 

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Tuesdays are Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets

I recently read Bill Clinton’s “Back to Work:  Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy.”  It’s a good book to read any time, but particularly helpful in this election season, with the very idea of having a government under attack by a fringe element on the far right.

Regardless of one’s political persuasions, it seems to me that we are all clear that we’re in a very liminal age and that America’s role in that new age emerging is very up for grabs.  Baby Boomers and our parents are aware that the world in which we came of age is really all but gone.  Younger people are aware that their future seems highly uncertain, and is possibly permanently damaged by the economic meltdown we’re just barely coming emerging from.

Unemployment, while not at Great Depression levels (whoa, that must have been scary!) is the highest it’s been in the lifetimes of everyone under 70.

What then, shall we do?

I’ve read several books lately that attempt to answer that question.  The two most pertinent are this book and Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandlebaum’s That Used to Be Us (see also this link).

Both are good books.  But if you have time to read just one, you may want to read Clinton’s book in that he is far more succinct.

Like Friedman, he spends more time on the problem than the solution – in this case, the first five (of six) chapters).  However, if, like me, you are a progressive/liberal/Democrat/leftist/socialist in a family of Republicans, Clinton provides very good facts, figures, graphs and talking points.  It’s my opinion that the Republicans are the greatest spin-meisters known to mankind – getting poor people to vote in their worst instances, bamboozling people to think Obama has caused or added to the debt (the biggest contributors were Bush and Reagan) and otherwise obfuscating the facts to present the agenda of the Koch Brothers and other wealthy puppeteers.  Clinton’s charts, graphs and statistics tell another story.

The final chapter “How Do We Get Back into the Future Business” lays out 46 specific things that can be done – most of them RIGHT NOW – to get America back to work and to restore some of what we’ve lost since the long slide began with Reagan.  He groups these into some broad-based ideas:

  • Get the money flowing
  • Build a 21st century infrastructure
  • Lead the world in green technologies (my favorite section)
  • Restore our manufacturing base
  • Double our exports
  • Increase the role of the SBA
  • Use ‘crowdsourcing’ to fund small businesses (think Kiva and the like)
  • Give companies incentives to train the workers they can’t find (there ARE lots of open jobs – Americans just don’t have the needed skills)
  • Provide extra incentives to hire people who have been out of work more than six months
  • Give employers incentives not to lay off people in the first place
  • ‘Insource’ jobs we’ve been outsourcing (I think this is starting to happen)
  • Provide incentives for young people to go into so-called STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering and math) as we did in the past for doctors for rural areas
  • Grant more H-1B visas to immigrants in STEM fields until we have enough Americans to fill the gap
  • Bring more tourists to the US
  • Promote affordable opportunities to “buy American”
  • Offer a prize for ideas that promote innovation and job creation
  • Replicate ‘prosperity centers’

As you can see, it’s full of ideas (46 of them!) and specifics.

The problem, though, as clearly outlined in both Clinton’s book and Friedman’s is political gridlock.  And while they both have suggestions (in the problem section) on addressing that, the underlying issue (we have become a plutocracy, not a democracy) isn’t really addressed.  Clinton DOES admit to being wrong in repealing Glass-Steagall, which, of course, greatly exacerbated the problem.

But asking politicians to fix Washington is asking the fox to guard the chickens – it is not in our interests to do so.  That,however, is another topic.

So, I recommend this book to anyone who cares about America, cares about getting us ‘back to work’.

Have you read “Back to Work”?  What’s your take?

 

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The problem:  Where to begin?  Income inequality in America, crumbling infrastructure, corporations trying to wrest control of the Internet, Citizens United, global warming….pick your issue!

The solution:  Say no! —- and — Say yes to an alternative!

I spent a lot of last year being outraged.  Well, I’ve been outraged a lot since 2008, watching America change into an entrenched plutocracy.  Being outraged, per se, only hurt me.  Not paying attention (the tactic I see many – most? – people use) is probably worse.

Now I’m focusing on two alternatives, both of which will create positive change (as you know, that’s my theme for 2012 – create positive change).

Say no to what you don’t like.

Or say yes, to a better alternative.

At a philosophical level, I feel the better strategy is to say yes to the better alternative.  My mom used to tell us “you become what you think about” (wise woman!) and one of the tenets of my church (Unity) is that “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind” – i.e., our thoughts create our reality, so best to choose positive ones.  I agree with that.

But this pugnacious, passionate Irish girl still gets riled up at injustice and inequality.   Rather than wishing I were less bombastic, it’s occurred to me that I can do both – focus on creating good, put my energy into the new world I wish to see.  But also continue to say no.

What saying no looks like for me:

  • Attending “Occupy the Courts” in Chicago this Friday
  • Writing about what needs changing
  • Boycotting companies that are egregiously wrong (top of my list:  Wal-Mart, followed by Target and BP)
  • Getting more involved in Occupy Chicago

What saying yes looks like for me:

  • Getting more involved in the Transition Town network
  • Getting food from local sources – farmer’s markets, CSAs, my friend’s garden, Farmer Nick (local eggs and chickens)
  • Buying locally in general
  • Seeking sustainability from the very small acts (cloth bags rather than paper/plastic), to the medium (buying a shredder with my friend rather than each of us buying one) to the larger (investigating co-housing)

I plan to explore more of these this year and will take you along for the ride.

How are you saying no right now?

How are you saying yes right now?

Which feels more natural to you?

I really want to know!

 

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Tuesdays are Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets

I promised you more about Tom Friedman’s new book That Used to be Us.  And since I wrote that post I’ve finished one book by Paul Hawken (The Ecology of Commerce) and am half way through another one (Blessed Unrest).  I have so many ideas I want to share with you from what I’m reading.

But, listen.  Something’s going on in America.  It’s big.  To quote earthquake forecasters and fishermen – “This could be the Big One.” 

Back in the hot month of August in Chicago in 1968, when I was 19, long before the Internet, or Facebook or Twitter, young people got the vibe that something was going on.  Come to Grant Park.  The whole world is watching.  I really thought the revolution we had all talked about was truly at hand.  That the America we dreamed about was right around the corner.  That war was over and we would Give Peace a Chance.

My generation blew it – and really, I think Pat Robertson was right – it was that event, more than anything else that caused America and the Left to break up.  If you ask me, we had the right ideas, but the wrong way of delivering the message.

We live in perilous times.  As I’ll tell you when I write more about That Used to Be Us (I promise! soon!), we are facing huge forces that so easily could crush us all – environmental peril, unchecked corporate greed and control, a crumbling infrastructure, economic meltdown.  We have failed to address the issues that are most important (quoting Friedman here):  globalization, the IT revolution, chronic deficits,  and our pattern of excessive energy consumption.

And the economic practices that were put into momentum with Ronald Reagan have coupled with unprecedented corporate greed to create a true plutocracy.

I work right now as an IT contractor at a large bank, right across the street from the Chicago Federal Reserve.  For the past three weeks a growing number of activists are outside my door into work as part of the now global Occupy Wall Street movement.  At first they reminded me of us – I saw a young man in pajama pants with his homemade sign and long scraggly hair and thought “oh, boy, your message is WAY too important to be diluted by looking like someone who the bankers and Fox news (who are out almost every day on my street) can dismiss.

But lately it’s a much broader mix.  Elders (yes! even older than me!), union workers, and many people holding signs that say things like “Yes, I have a job and I am here on my lunch hour so you can keep yours.”

I can feel it.  I can smell it.  It is coursing through my veins.  This time “could be the big one.”

A few years back my brother lent me a university course on CD on Plato’s Republic. I had not read any Plato other than The Symposium (which I greatly enjoyed) and I have to say I was shocked at how radical he was.  One thing that really stood out to me was his clear laying out of the succession of styles of government.  He said that what follows a plutocracy (a government by, of, and for the rich – ie., America) is violent revolution, then democracy.

I want our democracy back.  I smell the revolution coming.  I just hope it isn’t violent.  Because when I see the signs (not in Chicago, but in pictures of New York) saying “Eat the Rich” – well, you’d be dining on some people I love. And, really, some of you might think that ***I*** look like a hefty appetizer.  I don’t think that’s what we need.

But a change?  A way to get America back from the repeal of Glass-Steagle and from Citizens United (which firmly sealed the deal on making it an official Plutocracy)?  yes, we need that.

And as we chant in front of the Federal Reserve:

“The people

United.

Can never be defeated.”

We ARE the 99%.  People – join me. It is time to WAKE UP.  Now.  Act!

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Tuesdays are Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Tom Friedman’s new book (co-written with Michael Mandlebaum) is masterful.  It’s called “That Used to Be Us:  How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We can Come Back.”  The title – That Used to Be Us – came from a speech Obama gave. 

I’ll do a review next week but I’m so excited about this important book that I wanted to do a little sneak preview.  Do you know of Tom Friedman?  Maybe read some of his other books, such as “Hot, Flat and Crowded” or “The World is Flat”?  He’s a brilliant New York Times columnist, journalist and author of many books (I’m just citing the other ones I’ve read).  I do believe this is one of his strongest books.

If you’re an American I would think that, like me and Tom Friedman, you’ve noticed that we’ve been slipping.  A lot.  We’ve taken our eyes off the ball – focusing instead on the mustard stain that the lady in the bleachers has on her shirt.  Really, I think THAT makes more sense than some of the marginalized “issues” that our press and the whacko extremists in BOTH parties conjure up.

Friedman and Mandlebaum give a detailed analysis of how we lost our way, what we SHOULD be focusing on, and how to get back on track.  Not get back to where we were – because the world has changed so much – but get back to WHO we were.

The book is comprised of five parts:

Part I:  The Diagnosis
1. If you See Something, Say Something
2. Ignoring our Problems
3. Ignoring our History

Part II:  The Education Challenge
4. Up in the Air
5. Help Wanted
6. Homework x 2 = the American Dream
7. Average is Over

Part III: The War on Math and Physics
8. “This is Our Due”
9. The War on Math (and the Future)
10. The War on Physics and Other Good Things

Part IV: Political Failure
11. The Terrible Twos
12. “Whatever it is, I’m Against It”
13. Devaluation

Part V. Rediscovering America
14. They Just Didn’t Get the Word
15. Shock Therapy
16. Rediscovering America

I’ve underlined most of the book and swear I could write a post about almost every page – there are so many facts to absorb. But better than the facts are Friedman and Mandlebaum’s  analysis.  Their ability to get the 50,000 foot view and make sense out of what heretofore had seemed baffling is one of the things I like most about this book.

I’m savoring the last 20 pages, then I’ll let it marinate in my brain a bit more – I’ll be back to you on this.  But meanwhile, if you’ve read the book I’d love to hear your take. I think it should be required reading for Americans.  All Americans.

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