Today’s the day.

Today’s the day.

There is no irony for me today, no sense of amusement that our recognized Inauguration Day falls today on the same Monday when we honor the life and recognize the too-early death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday, in our congregation, we sang this anthem and spent a time considering not just its historical significance but also how far we still have to go before we can truly say that all men and women are free in this country.

Too often in the last few weeks have I heard that we are all entitled to keep our guns, that the KKK would not have been controlled without them. And yet, I have come to realize the truth, so simply stated and yet so lost in the mists of time, that without them slavery would have ended before the Declaration of Independence was signed by rich white men who made decisions on behalf of other rich white men.

Given our past year’s worth of revelations, I am sad to say that so little has changed.

I can boil our country’s problems down to keywords. I don’t have to talk about them. I only have to say their names and you will know what I am talking about. That is the awesome and terrible power of the Internet and of the media. From Hurricane Sandy to Sandy Hook, from Aurora to Afghanistan, Algeria, Syria and Israel. From Pakistan to Palestine, there is great injustice in the world, but no less great than right here in the good old U. S. of A.

Selma, Montgomery, Memphis, Jackson, Birmingham and Atlanta stand as just a few reminders of our country’s dark past – one I don’t share except by the color of my skin, because my family did not arrive in Brooklyn, NY until the turn of the last century. Although I don’t share that past, I am no less appalled. Rather, I am learning to make changes so that we can truly fulfill our potential as leaders in democracy and freedom for all.

Today, we have a new form of slavery – just as despicable and yet so little recognized that we prefer to think of THEM and justify all sorts of horrible things because of our obviously European roots. The “war on drugs,” rights to gun ownership, arguments against affirmative action, public school access – these all have a common thread of race that ties them together and keeps our classes apart.

Public schools have become prisons designed to indoctrinate instead of inspiring our children to do better. We want our children to toe the line, to become polite, subservient cogs in the machinery of our corporate system. We eject those who fail to fit, forcing most into what amounts to a lifetime of slavery. We should be appalled at the statistics, not just of the prison populations but of the total number of people we lose every year to violence in general.

In Australia, after a mass shooting in 1996 led to sweeping gun ownership reforms, the University of Sidney launched a web site which I discovered yesterday in response to a conversation on Facebook about gun ownership. The conversation started with an image on the Being Liberal Facebook Page, but it didn’t end there, because a friend posted a link to gun homicides in the US, thinking (I assume) that was the end of the discussion. The fact is, his numbers were deceptive because they ignore all the OTHER deaths by gun in this country and elsewhere. It’s a sad testament to the power of the National Rifle Association that we have to go outside our country to find accurate statistics for gun violence.

From their own web site: “GunPolicy.org is hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health, [at] the University of Sydney. The School provides internationally recognised leadership in public health by advancing and disseminating knowledge — in this case, supporting global efforts to prevent gun injury.”

The Unitarian Universalists have launched a new campaign: Thirty Days of Love. The movement calls for us to think about mass incarceration not just to take criminals off our streets, but as an opportunity to see WHO is being swept into prison and the effect imprisonment has on our country.

On August 28, 1963, a little over two months before I was born, Rev. King gave his “I have a dream” speech, not quite 15 miles from where I live now. It saddens me to know that we still have so far to go to achieve Rev. King’s dream.

President Barack Obama took the oath of office yesterday, so that he can carry on the work he began four years ago. There is still a great deal to do, so long as there are still people who think of him as “uppity” and unfit for office simply because of the color of his skin. I don’t often pray, and seldom to god, but I will pray that the people in this country and elsewhere learn to understand and savor our differences and to choose responsibility over prejudice.

We have a long way to go.

There’s just a few more hours…

There’s just a few more hours…

Here in Maryland early voting has ended. My birthday is just a few hours away.

Election day begins on Tuesday, November 6, with the opening of polls as early as 7am, but hundreds of thousands of people have already made their choices in states allowing early voting, or by mail through absentee ballot. This election is still too close to call, despite all the evidence that shows how big money is manipulating our election system.

Based on some reports, we’ve never seen the number of ads, the privately (and hidden) funding, that we’ve seen in this year’s election, the bulk of funding by  the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove and other “dark” sources who prefer to put their money where their mouths are.

Meanwhile, of our top two presidential candidates, only one has employed questionable tax shelters to hide his money, kept his financing intentionally vague, because there are things he doesn’t want us to know about how he got his money and where it goes. This man, with the power of the Office of President behind him, has the potential for avoiding any sort of criminal investigation simply by virtue of being President.

“Why should we worry about the Romneys’ money?” I hear this all the time from ultraconservative friends who think Governor Romney’s activities are just fine.  Trouble is, if he isn’t straight with us about his views, how can we be sure of the things he will do once he is in office. Bloomberg just reported on the most likely reason the Romneys won’t release their tax forms: It’s called a Charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT).

For reasons that I suspect have to do more with a GOP-majority House, we haven’t seen a call for investigations on the CRUT, Bain Capital’s Delphi and Sensata transactions, or other questionable activities that would be all over the news if the same could be said for President Obama or for any other Democratic candidate.

What is a CRUT? Wikipedia has a technical answer. The shelter has been around since 1969, but congress changed the loophole in 1997, just after the Romneys took advantage of the shelter. You’d think the Mormon Church would be concerned that the Romneys might not be tithing to their fullest extent, but that’s where misguided faith in leadership can lead.

See, Governor Romney has said he’s not running as a Mormon candidate. I believe he knows too well the damage he will do to his campaign by being associated with his faith. Don’t believe me, listen to his words as he tries to defend his political views on a woman’s right to choose in Massachusetts.

The original video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFkaCji-UDA&feature=related. You can watch as Romney goes from smooth candidate to angry defender of the faith. He walks out of the interview because he knows he can’t say these things on air. The campaign is so tired of walking back his misstatements, he’s now using a teleprompter.

And in all this, there’s the question of who’s voting for him. While President Obama’s supporters are all over the map, there’s a more narrow majority who favor Governor Romney. On Friday, November 2, Slate Magazine ran a sensational and inflammatory piece by Tom Scocca: Why Do White People Think Mitt Romney Should Be President? Parsing the narrow, tribal appeal of the Republican nominee. His likening this campaign to George Wallace’s disastrous run has led to response articles by NewsBusters, but has generated almost no other buzz since posting. Scocca isn’t the only one to notice the disparity, though, despite the Romney campaign’s  strong desire to cast this as applying to 100% of Americans. CBS News ran a piece on October 26, defining Romney supporters as mainly white working class men. That this might insult his other supporters seems irrelevant.

Other aspects, including Hurricane Sandy’s “October Surprise, the real impact of Obamacare and a slow but steady improvement to our economy aren’t putting a dent in the GOP juggernaut. But it all comes down to this, because Romney has run out of options: Elect me or else.

“You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress,” Romney said. “He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy.”

I am guessing that most of my readers don’t make more than $200k per year. Many of them are sharing my underemployment boat, scraping by, not partying on private yachts or taking extensive European vacations. We’re not wealthy but we are generally intelligent and we know (most of the time) when we’ve been fed a lie.

Here’s hoping that the end of this political nightmare will bring not just four more years of potential recovery but a real end to obstruction.

Time to pay the piper?

Time to pay the piper?

In my post Connecting the dots…, I drew a parallel between Bain Capital’s transfer of Sensata’s factory and jobs to China, and asked some serious questions about how Delphi relates to the Romneys’ taxes.

It appears this whole thing is about to blow up in Mitt Romney’s face, as the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) announced on Halloween, two days ago, with only four days left to Election Day.

From the UAW web article, Unions, good government groups file ethics complaint against Romney for failing to disclose big auto rescue profit:

“The American people have a right to know about Governor Romney’s potential conflicts of interest, such as the profits his family made from the auto rescue,” said UAW President Bob King. “It’s time for Governor Romney to disclose or divest.

It’s clear that the Romneys are doing their level best to avoid being nailed for conflict of interest, but aside from that, their direct intervention in Delphi has cost thousands of people their jobs and homes. From the same article:

“When I first hired in everything was going well,” said Heath Lindsay, a former Delphi worker from Dayton. “I bought a home, got married, and had a child. When the bankruptcy happened, my pay was cut in half and we lost our home to foreclosure.  My pension was terminated in 2007 and was turned over to the PGBC [Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation]. I am eligible for a 401(k), but I can’t afford to contribute to it. When my wages were good, we could get by but I am the sole provider for my wife and kids and life is a lot harder now,” Lindsay added.

Since Super Storm Sandy hit New Jersey and New York, Romney has done his level best to hide his actions deep inside a sham-filled show of support for the storm’s victims, but even this disgusting display of pretend concern has given us a better picture of what President Romney might be like under pressure.

Even more important, Congressional Republicans have done their part to hide the effects of tax cuts on our economy, the biggest possible scam they’ve ever pulled off since taking control of the House and Senate two years ago. They don’t want you to know just how little tax cuts do for our economy because, in the long run, the only people they care about protecting are those who stand to lose big bucks if the tax rates return to pre-Reagan era levels.

We have four days left to the general election. I’ve already voted in Maryland. At last count, I’m one of 43,000 people who have made it to the polls. Today is the last day to take advantage of early voting here, and the polls will stay open until 8pm tonight. Do what you can to vote out the Grand Old Party and help restore America. We can’t undo the Patriot Act, repair our damaged education system, or fix our economy unless we get rid of ALL the obstructionists and keep the White House clear of the Tea Party agenda.

Do your part to help!

 

Still standing…

Still standing…

Six days left.

It appears Hurricane Sandy is the October Surprise folks have wondered about. The unexpected size and devastation in the super storm’s wake (it still hasn’t finished with the states, though the storm has finally dissolved across the lower part of Canada) leaves a lot of questions  unanswered.

The storm’s intensity has surprised the people in its path, not only with its extensive damage, but also with the areas it left mostly untouched. So, too, will this election bring about vast changes in some areas and not in others.

I had amassed twenty or thirty links to articles I wanted to read and possibly include in this post as indicators of the things you should consider when you go to the polls (if you haven’t already gone). The list below is all that remains. I suggest you read these articles before you vote, though I strongly suspect you’ve already made your decisions.

I’m off shortly to vote at an early polling place in Maryland because it’s my civic duty and because I want to make sure that I take advantage of the opportunity. Nobody knows what will happen in the next six days. As the blue sky finally shows here in Maryland, I can smile and be thankful that I survived this storm knowing in my heart how many others did not. Even if they have their lives, some of our brothers and sisters have lost everything they own, washed away or destroyed by water and mud.

There are six days left until Election Day. If you really, truly want to know what the next President will do, listen to what he does NOT say as much as what he does now. President Obama has canceled campaign stops because his duty is to the people. Gov. Romney is taking advantage to stump and offer ill-timed photo ops when he should do what he can to give direct aid to those who need it most.

I can’t say it any better than Susan Eisenhower why you should vote for President Obama and why you should select candidates for the House and Senate who will move our country forward and not simply stand in the way of progress. The numbers don’t look good, especially for the House race. The obstructionists are winning, and so we’re likely in for another two-year slog (at least) before parts of the country are finally fed up enough to choose change instead of retrograde politics.

We can no longer look to the past to recapture the golden era of cocktail parties and social-climbing. We should be all about social justice now, for those of us who are denied their civil rights through marriage equality bans, by blocking or destroying chances for our youth to reach for higher goals through the Dream Act than working at the counter at the local McDonald’s. You each have it in your hands to improve things for your fellow humans. It all comes down to this.

Two years ago I was still mourning the loss of my father from Lewy Body Dementia and reeling from the death of a board member at my theater who had finally succumbed to breast cancer when I packed up and headed to Florida for the [failed] launch of Discovery and a week at the parks.

On the way there, another friend was on the brink of death from cancer in California and my friend Richard was in the hospital for what we thought would be another relatively brief stay that turned out to be his last. His birthday was October 30 and in all the hubbub of trying to get to Disney on schedule, I managed to forget.

We made it there in time for Halloween, had a relatively up and down week where we kept readjusting our schedule to accommodate the on-again, off-again launch windows, until finally Kennedy Space Center decided to scrub the mission so they could do a thorough check of the shuttle.

We pulled out of Epcot’s parking lot late on my birthday, November 6. When we finally stopped for dinner, I chose Perkins and ordered pumpkin pie (instead of chocolate cake) in honor of Richard’s birthday. Kayta passed away while we were on the road. At some point near the same time, Richard went from ill to critical and I found myself breaking speed laws to get north as quickly as possible.

Aside from the obvious ugliness of the last few days, I have a couple of years’ worth of grief and baggage floating around in my particular morass of a brain. Coupled with this, I last spoke with my father for my birthday, almost three years ago.

Forgive me if I seem angry a lot lately. I’m sick to death of the rhetoric that says the needy should just suck it up and take the cards they’re dealt. I’ve lost so many friends in the last few years, along with family members, I can hardly keep track anymore. Many of them died because they couldn’t afford better care, or the right medicine. Funerals are in my future as we move into the real fall and winter. And as we progress through the next five to ten years, these events will increase. Baby boomers are aging and the excesses of the sixties, seventies and eighties are catching up with them.

This is the real disaster that frightens the rich. They know what universal healthcare will mean to the country as 75 million people age, become unable to give their share of the work and pay taxes. The more we understand the foundations of autism, the scope and breadth of other diseases, the costs of mega storms like Hurricane Sandy or the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, the cost of tsunamis and storm surges in Japan, the more they realize where their money will go and how hard it will be to justify their comfy multi-million dollar homes.

This hurricane has taken away so much, even though parts of the US went untouched, even as I grieve for those who are in the cold and dark because of a senseless act of nature, I’m incensed at the political rhetoric that would seem to portray these victims as money-grabbing freeloaders who only want to suck the futures away from our children.

Remember your brothers and sisters in Haiti, Cuba and elsewhere along the coast as well as your own family, friends and familiar places. The temperatures are dropping and many of these people are without heat, light, or even homes. Snow has fallen in West Virginia because of the merged cold front. It’s not just about flooding.

Don’t do what I did during Katrina. Collections of tangible goods are meaningless. These donations waste valuable time and resources. If you can spare something, give to the Red Cross, including your blood. Those of you who swear by private donations, now’s the time to step up and give money or volunteer your time if you can.

Thank you.

Why ‘Voting Your Conscience’ in Deep Blue or Red States Is a Terrible Idea For Those Who Don’t Want a Romney Presidency (The popular vote may become a factor this year.)

Big Mitt Romney Supporter Caught In Voter Fraud? (Texan Meat Loaf seeks to cast ballot from former L.A. home.)

How The United States Is Reinventing The Slave Trade

Mysterious Docs Found in Meth House Reveal Inner Workings of Dark Money Group

No Exception: Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock aren’t outliers. Banning abortion for rape victims is the new Republican mainstream.

A Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians (WARNING: this post is going to be oh-so-very-triggery for victims of rape and sexual assault. I am not kidding.)

Retired NSA Analyst Proves GOP is Stealing Elections

Hatches battened…

Hatches battened…


(A Mighty Wind is Blowin’ – New Main Street Singers, The Folksmen and Mitch & Mickey.)

The DC Metro region has been in increasing panic mode for two days, in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.

People have cleared store shelves of flashlights (though not batteries, so much), milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper and water. The governments (local and federal) have shut down tight for the day, or offered liberal leave to those more essential staff.

I’ve spent the entire day getting my place ready, by charging the batteries in my laptops, LED lantern, and cellphone. I’m not ready to say “bring it” because this is a serious storm, but at this point there’s not much more I can do to prepare.

I am truly hoping we don’t lose power, but we’re ready if the worst happens. I’ve got us covered for cold (sleeping bags), car’s gassed up, though I live on relative high ground, and now that the city fixed our storm drains, and my lawn’s raked and mowed, I feel confident that we’ll be okay.

The most compelling sign that folks are taking this storm seriously is the overwhelming turnout we’ve had in the last two days for early voting, which started on the 27th. Lines wrap around the outside of polling places. It’s heartening, considering the high stakes in this year’s election. Not just presidential, but also with Maryland’s questions on the Dream Act, Marriage Equality and Gambling Expansion.

We’re nine days out. Who knew the October Surprise would have such a charming and innocent name. I have absolute faith that President Obama will handle this crisis the way he needs to, not by taking time off to work on his campaign but by ensuring that everyone in  Frankenstorm’s path will have access to safety and quick help.

I’ll check back in, maybe with photos as we reach daylight. My camera’s charged and ready. Here’s hoping there’s not a lot to photograph.

Stay safe, everyone!

East Coast Preparations for Frankenstorm

East Coast Preparations for Frankenstorm

UPDATE: A MORE PERFECT STORM: SANDY COULD MAKE U.S. HISTORY

As the East Coast braces for monster ‘Frankenstorm’, I learned something new today. Morning Edition had a news story about preparing for the storm and mentioned calling 311 as a non-emergency number for reporting downed trees and such. I had no idea such a service existed, so I checked it out when I got home.

Surprise! Not only does this service exist, it’s not exclusive to our region. If you didn’t know about it, here’s more info: 3-1-1 Dispatch

The things you should do now include the following (a sample of sensible prep):

  • Get cash now (in case of power outs).
  • Purchase enough drinking water to last at least three days for each person in the house. That translates to roughly three gallons per person.
  • Do NOT run out and buy perishable foods like eggs, milk (unless it’s shelf-stable like Horizon packaged milk) or any other product that requires refrigeration. Instead, pick up canned foods that do not need cooking except for taste. (Progresso soups, tuna, dry cereal, etc.)
  • Acquire enough batteries and make sure everything that needs recharging is at full battery. Check those batteries in long-term rechargeable equipment. (My Coleman LED lantern won’t stay charged anymore. Time to replace the battery!)
  • Gas up the car, now. Make sure you have stuff to dig out in the event you’re stuck, and toss in a sleeping bag or two, for warmth. ALWAYS clear your tailpipe of snow before running the car. People do die of carbon monoxide poisoning when they start their cars with snow-filled tail pipes.
  • NEVER use a propane stove indoors!
  • Seek out shovels, ice melt (preferably pet-safe), boots and other supplies now, while supplies are still in stores. Waiting three days could mean the difference between finding what you want at your leisure and discovering stores are entirely out of everything.

With luck, things will be better than predictions say they might be, and if you don’t use those supplies now, you’ll have them on hand for later in the season.

Stay safe and check in as needed.

Theme: Elation by Kaira.