These Cuts will Certainly Stimulate

An ‘internal’ Senate Committee memo detailing the latest cuts in the cross hairs of a gang of Senators led by, ahem, Democrat Ben Nelson and Republican Susan Collins include the following:

Eliminations

  • Head Start (I can’t imagine why enriching programs that target disadvantaged children would have any long term benefit anyway);
  • Education for the Disadvantaged (well, giving the little ones a glimmer of hope is probably more cruel than none at all);
  • School Improvement (let’s see – the jobs it would provide to improve crumbling schools PLUS American children getting a leg up in a global economy? Nah. I hear they are converting the bathrooms into classrooms – that cuts down valuable teacher time filling out hall passes.);
  • Child Nutrition (By all means, the US fell to 29th in infant mortality in 2008. We were ranked 12th in 1960. Child nutrition seems a perfectly good place to take the money away);
  • Firefighters (Anyone remember 9/11? Anyone?);
  • Transportation Security Administration (Will this mean I won’t be ordered to all but strip each time I go through the metal detectors at the airport? No, removing my shoes and making sure I have no more than 4 oz of shampoo is now our only defense against the terrorists);
  • Coast Guard (They are building a fence across the American-Mexican boarder – with CHINESE steel – but they don’t want to fund the men and women who patrol the NY Harbor?);
  • Prisons (well with the tanking economy, I am sure we won’t have need for additional funds for this);
  • COPS Hiring – Community Oriented Policing Services Program (This actually makes a lot of sense in relation to the previous cut. I mean, why have more police if the prisons won’t be funded?);
  • Violence Against Women (Bad economy, millions unemployed and frustrated. I’m sure none of this will have an affect on the number of women beaten.);
  • NASA (It might surprise a few that regardless of our economic situation – I think we should support NASA. First, the technology and discoveries they make have drastically impacted our lives – and far more than even the non-stick pan. But we have got to have something to strive for and inspire us. I think there is a place for NASA and I don’t mind the jobs it creates either.);
  • NSF – National Science Foundation (I thought we just got done hating science. Is that back in fashion again? My god, that was quick!);
  • Western Area Power Administration (Ok, I had to look this one up. But from what I can tell, we may want to fund hydroelectric power. Or are we ok with relying on Saudi Arabia? And the report I briefly read indicated that the WAPA – besides having a cool acronym, helped get California out of the energy crisis it was having a few years back. And again – this is infrastructure. This program represents green jobs.);
  • CDC (They got me on this one. I can’t think of a snarky defense for them.);
  • Food Stamps (Let’s do the math: 3.6 million jobs lost since this recession began, 600,000 jobs lost just in January = cutting funds to food stamps. Brilliant.)

All of these eliminations will save us a cool $80 billion.

And what are they looking to reduce?

  • Cut $3.4 billion from public transportation; and
  • Cut $60 billion from school construction.

Figure out your own commentary about this and tell it your Senators. Switchboard number is: (202) 224-3121

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Let’s End the World As We Know It

A few days ago Senate Minority Leader McConnell spoke at a press conference at the National Press Club and forecasted that “the Employee Free Choice Act will fundamentally harm America and Europeanize America.”   While on the campaign in October, a month after the economy suffered from a multi-organ system failure, Senator McCain said, “I think it’s [Employee Free Choice Act] a threat to one of the fundamentals of democracy.”

Well, they have a point.  Passing the Employee Free Choice Act would end the world as we know it.  Now let’s think about that for a moment.  Would that be so bad?  I don’t think the 1.1 million people who lost their jobs just over the past 2 months would think so.  

The Employee Free Choice Act is a pretty simple bill.  The legislation calls for the choice of unionization to be back in the hands of the workers.  It also helps make sure employees who do unionize get a contract with their employers within a year and the bill establishes actual penalties to employers who violate workers’ rights.  This doesn’t sound like earth shattering, world-ending legislation.  But 60 million Americans have indicated they would like to be in a union if given the opportunity.  Unionization challenges the power structure.  Unions create a checks and balances system in business.  There goes the company jet.

The world that Mitch McConnell, John McCain and the Chamber of Commerce are so desperate to protect is the world of ridiculously compensated executives who award themselves multi-million dollar bonuses after requiring bailout funds, raiding pension funds and firing thousands of their employees.  Is this the world you want to protect?  Has anything about Wall Street, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, or Lehman Brothers inspired your confidence?  Poor management and extreme greed going unchecked eventually had to be felt.  Workers, a thousand here and a thousand there have been the ones to bear the brunt of corporate failure and avarice.  Now we all feel it.  And we all are literally paying for it.  

It is time to build a new economy.  Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ slapped us right across the face.  Stimulate the economy all you want, but give people a say in their workplace, in their future.  It’s time to start a world as we deserve it.

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What They Didn’t Tell You About the Inauguration

Well, it’s been a long sabbatical from blogging.  Work on the election got too crazy and despite all the voice (singular tense on purpose) clammoring for my words of wisdom, I couldn’t tend to my blog.  And then there was the actual break after the election, and then there was the few months of total inertia.  The only thing I worked on was not getting a sun burn and turning back into a human being. 

So yes, I was one of the lucky millions who witnessed history in DC last week.  Let me tell you, being a witness to history is not for the weak.  Regardless of where you were from January 18th – 21st, you couldn’t help but absorb a minimum of 12o hours of non-news news, hearing commentary on the outfits, the speeches, and the crowds. 

Here are some stories from the ground:

I trudged to the Metro at 6 am on inauguration day.  The sun wasn’t fully up yet but I didn’t have to worry about safety.  The sidewalks were full of comrades making the same trek.  Amidst the chaos and clausterphobic crowds, no one seemed to forget why we had all assembled. 

The train platforms were at capacity and it took more than 15 minutes just to exit at the Capitol South Metro stop — one of the designated stops near the swearing in.  One of the Metro employees guided the crowd over the p.a. system.  She repeated the mantra, “Keep it movin… keep it movin…through the gate!’  The crowd responded by shouting, “Yes we can!  Yes we can, get through the gate!”  That was occassionally switched up with shouting, “O-ba-ma” over and over.  It was hard to discern the difference between a crowd in the subway and an Obama rally.

Ironically, though this campaign, this movement, whatever you want to call it, calls for equality and change – certainly won’t affect one thing – not all are to be treated equally when it comes to a political event.  Working in national politics teaches you to always find the VIP tickets.  And know that there are VIP tickets – and then there is the super VIP tickets.  On opening ceremony, my friends and I gleefully laughed at the long lines we dodged when we broke off from the main crowds to go to the ticketed area.  Then we saw our yellow tickets got us only so far.  Alas, we needed the blue tickets. 

I was lucky not to have had the dreaded purple ticket for inauguration.  My friends and I got into the orange section.  But between the mammoth media risers and the Capitol’s marble wall around the steps blocking us, we really saw the inauguration like the folks sitting warmly in their living rooms – on a jumbo tron.  However, we did get to appreciate feeling the crisp – really crisp air.  We sang, “na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey goodbye!’ as Bush came walking out.  We laughed and cried together and embraced total strangers.  And I found it amusing that we spoke about our plans for next time.  “In 2012, I’m getting better seats,” one woman stated matter-of-factly.  No one seemed to question that we would all be celebrating again in 4 years.

The crowd making its way off the mall saw the FORMER President Bush get into his getaway helicopter and we cheered and clapped at his departure.  I wonder what he made of that.  He is so unaccustomed to the sound of cheering and clapping. 

And then there were the galas.  Everyone is going to tell you how amazing they are.  Of course the media covers the best parts.  Well, I’m here to tell you the truth:  First of all, wearing a flimsy dress and open toed shoes in 20 degrees is ridiculous.  The traffic was so bad that my friend and I hopped into a bicycle ric shaw to get to the Convention Center.  That was quite an adventure!  And once there, I don’t know, maybe I’m not a gala person, but I would be particularly upset if I had paid the $150+ to be there (again, in the political scene – one never pays for tickets!  It’s all about the who-you-know hustle).  There was a cash bar with overpriced drinks, the food was good enough to fill you if you needed it, but it was rather ordinary cheese cubes, crudite, and a few pastas.  And the Obamas and Bidens swung by for about 15 minutes each.  That was preceeded by standing in crushing, hot crowds for 30 minutes waiting for the photo moment.  The night was capped off with an over hour wait in the freezing cold outside – again, remember, in flimsy dress and open-toed shoes, for a taxi.  Now I don’t tell you this really to complain.  I am telling you that, in my opinion, you didn’t miss much when it came to the evening’s events. 

The overall feeling I got from last week was that this is our inauguration.  The clock doesn’t start just on President Obama’s agenda.  This is a time for all of us to act; engage; shape our destiny.  When I really think about it — the amount of work is daunting.  What this inauguration signifies is the chance to work.  This is the chance to affect change.  I am thrilled to be daunted.

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I am Not Voting for Barack Obama

We are all getting a million viral emails about the election.  Some of them are really outstanding.  It’s hard to say who is getting what – and I wanted to share this written commentary.  I could not have said (or written) it better myself.   

From ‘Anonymous’:

Who Are We Voting For?

I’m a middle-class white guy living in Jacksonville, Florida.  I’ve got a wife and two kids.  Because the kids had no school today, I took a vacation day from work, and took the kids downtown to vote early.  Fifty-nine minutes later, two smiling children and I proudly sported a “I Voted” sticker. 

Exit Polling Alert – I did not vote for Barack Obama.

I voted for my ancestors, who believed in the promise of this country and came with nothing as immigrants.

I voted for my parents who taught in the public schools for decades.

I voted for Steve, an acquaintance of mine from Kentucky, who was killed by an I.E.D. in Iraq two years ago.

I voted for Shawn, another acquaintance friend, who has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.  He is scheduled to deploy back to Afghanistan soon.  His family earned $11 a month too much to qualify for food stamps when the war began.

I voted for April, the only African-American girl in my high school class.  It was years before it occurred to me how different her experience of our school must have been.

I voted for my college friends who are Christian, Jewish, Mormon, and yes — Muslim.

I voted for my grandfathers who worked hard in factories and died too young.

I voted for the plumber who worked on my house because I want him to get a REAL tax break.

I voted for four little angels from Birmingham.

I voted for you too.

But mostly, I voted selfishly.  I voted for my two children; who are not thinking past their ballet and baseball practice in an hour.  But I am thinking about their education, their future, the burden we will saddle upon them, and the brighter future they deserve.

I voted for a world where they can be confident that their government will represent the best that there is in this country, and in turn, will demand the best of them.

I voted for a government that will be respected in the world because our actions will earn that respect.

I voted for an economy that will reward work above guile.

I voted for everything I believe in.

Yes, I filled in the circle next to the name “Obama.”  But it wasn’t him I was voting for — it was for every single one of us, and those whom I love and protect most of all.

Who else is there to vote for?

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Lacks Experience. Untested.

He himself admits he has a lot to learn.  He became a lawyer and spent 8 years in the Illinois Legislature. People noted that, ‘his ambition is a little engine that knows no rest.’  He got married, had children, and, in the process of running for US Senate, got national attention.  Only a few years later he has the audacity to run for US President.  And he won.

His name was Abraham Lincoln.  And to jog your memory, he lost the US Senate seat he ran for in 1858 against Stephen Douglas.  Though the debates brought him the national acclaim that helped him win the Presidency just 2 years later.  So, in fact, Barack Obama has MORE qualifications than Lincoln had to be President.

Woodrow Wilson served as a public servant for just 2 years as Governor of New Jersey before becoming President.  But before you even dare make comparisons to Palin – I should note he was one of those Ivy League elitists who got his law degree and became an academic (like Obama) and had been President of Princeton before becoming Governor.

Would today’s Americans vote for a Lincoln?  For Wilson?  What would the Republican Party say about some of our greatest leaders?  

What would have been Jesus’s platform?  Wouldn’t he want food and shelter for the masses? Sounds like big government to me.  I would think he would want everyone to have health care (uh oh, ‘everyone’ sounds a lot like – gasp – ‘universal’), I’m going to make a leap and assume he would want peace in the land.  Is that sort of like a ‘timeline’?

No one exactly knows how Obama will perform as President.  But I know he believes in increasing the number of people covered by health insurance.  I know he supports the Child Health Insurance Program (McCain doesn’t).  I know Obama understands we are in historical economic meltdown while McCain and his close advisors are calling us a bunch of ‘whiners’ and his comments about the ‘fundamentals of the economy being strong’ wasn’t taken out of context and he wasn’t talking proudly about workers — workers he actively seeks to rob of the freedom to form unions.  No one can really say how the US can extricate itself from Iraq — a war we had no business ever waging.   But I do know McCain said he would be there for 100 years if necessary.  And regardless of any tactical strategy – how dare he say ‘bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.’  

Sen. Joe McCarthy has 6 years more experience than Obama in the US Senate.  This ‘lack of experience’ argument against Obama should then agree that Strom Thurmond was the best guy for the job while he was alive. Experience should be appreciated and examined.  Ultimately, it comes down to a platform and a set of values; the candidates’ experiences shape and support these factors or makes us question their veracity.

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Ideal Qualifications of a Vice President

That’s what we’re going for when we vote, right?  Not the most qualified, or the smartest, or the person who has the right experience (not just the longest experience).  We’re not looking for someone who shares common values, or someone who is closest to representing our interests.  No, apparently, we want someone very quaint or maybe someone we would feel comfortable having a beer with.  Yes, that is going to make me feel secure about the world and our role in it.

Palin has represented less people in her town than I have represented in former bargaining units.  Palin can sometimes see Russia on a clear day (does this mean she wants to clean up the environment to increase her foreign relations experience?); I can see the moon – I guess that means I could run NASA? 

Here is what Palin has to say about her experience in her own words:

Circa 2005-ish.  As she wrote in “Who’s Yer Daddy”, which you can find as part of her “Sarah Palin for Governor” site – from 2005.

“I’m thankful for all my dad taught me and allowed me to do. I’m glad he dragged my butt out of bed early, early autumn mornings to hunt ducks with him before cross-country running practice. He wouldn’t put up with my wimpy reasons why I couldn’t thaw frozen fish egg bait in my mouth, like he does, when ice fishing. But he did understand when I looked up at him quizzically once upon his request to “please hold those” while he searched for something to put our freshly butchered moose’s eyeballs in so his students could observe them later that day. He graciously understood, and I didn’t have to hold those ungulate’s warm parts that morning in the alders.”

First of all — I have a whole new appreciation for my Dad.  THANK YOU Dad for not making me put frozen fish egg bait in my mouth nor hold random animal entrails.  Dad is going to get a father’s day card in October ‘just because.’ 

Secondly, when are we going to hear some bragging about the time she got health insurance for the 108,000 Alaskans who are uninsured (27,000 of them are children; Get more info from FamiliesUSA).  What about the time workers put their jobs in her hands.  I wish her Dad told her that those ‘strong fundamentals’ of our economy, aka, workers, would do a whole lot better with the freedom to form unions.

WHAT, I wonder, must happen in order for the American public to become immune to distractions?  I wish it would come – and I’m also terrified at what it would take.

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McCain Won’t Take Your Gun — You will Just have to Pawn It

There is a side of union members that I do not understand.  When talking to some members, the conversation about the election starts and stops over guns.  “I won’t vote for Obama because NO ONE will take away my gun!”  I hear it a lot.

I have three things to say about the issue.

First, Barack Obama won’t take away guns.  He was quoted as recently as June of this year in the Washington Times saying, “I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms.”  Obama is also committed to protecting the habitats of fish and wildlife and expanding access to places where sportsmen and women can hunt and fish. (Obama campaign policy position paper, accessed 7/8/08)

Secondly, I see outrage and passion when people talk about their guns.  Where is the outrage and passion for their jobs?  Where is the indignation when their job goes overseas; when retirement plans goes up in smoke; when their children’s futures are less secure?  Take away my job, my healthcare, my future, my children’s future – yeah, that’s a bummer but what can I do about it – but don’t you DARE take my gun! 

I admit, I’m not a gun person.  But I do respect the Constitution.  And just like I want to fight like hell for the first amendment, I understand and respect the second amendment. 

But the right to bear arms is not being threatened.  Your job is being threatened.  Your retirement plan is being threatened.  Your children’s futures are being threatened. 

What if we all raised our paychecks and Social Security checks over our heads and declared that a potential McCain administration would take away our jobs and our social contract from our cold, dead hands!

Third and last point, there are record numbers of guns being sold to pawn shops over the past 8 years because people can’t afford their homes and sky-rocketing gas prices with the stagnating wages they earn.  So guess what – it is Republicans who are taking away your guns!

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