Heart of the Matter

After my sister’s death in May, I promised to devote this space to a discussion of the factors that contributed to her death. While I have to a limited extent, I have found that the words just will not come. I don’t know if it’s because I’m still in denial (while the facts are irrefutable, it still hasn’t sunk in) or if my grief is just causing me to have writer’s block. So, the most I can offer you at this time is my word to keep up the awareness on important health issues facing women, and particularly women of color.

The very most important thing we can do is realize we are responsible for our own health, and we need to make it a priority. As important as all the things we have to do on any given day for ourselves, our family, and others may seem, the best way to ensure we’ll be able to continue to do them is to remain healthy … and alive. Don’t make the mistake of thinking “It can’t happen to me.”  Heart attack is no respecter of class, gender, race, ethnicity, or age. Best to err on the side of caution and think, “It could happen to me if I don’t take care of myself.” That’s not to say that you should swathe yourself in bubble wrap and sit quietly on your sofa munching carrots and celery. Just remain aware and be proactive.

Be informed. There is a wealth of information right at your fingertips, free for the taking. The American Heart Association has a wealth of information on cardiac health. Go Red for Women has a wealth of information specifically related to cardiac disease in women. WomenHeart is a lesser known, but valuable resource, as is Heart Healthy Women.

Try to lead a balanced existence. Yes, exercise is important, but 30 minutes a day is generally regarded as at least a good starting point. Unless you are planning to enter a triathlon, there is no need to train as though you are. Find something you enjoy, as you’ll be more likely to continue to do it. Don’t underestimate the value of the at-home exercise routine, especially if you’re just starting out.  Try to get outside for at least 10 -20 minutes a day. Not only will the fresh air do you good, the sunshine (even on overcast days) can help stave off depression.  Communing with nature can also be a good stress reliever.  Watch your nutrition, but don’t go overboard. If you deny yourself those yummy french fries too long, you will end up gorging yourself.  Remember the 80/20 rule: eat healthy 80% of the time, and allow yourself some leeway 20% of the time. Take time to enjoy yourself. I know that may sound a little crazy, but in re-evaluating my situation, I found that I wasn’t doing much of that. By the time I finished all the things I had to do, I was so mentally and emotionally drained, all I did was sit on the sofa and vegetate. It’s been a difficult habit to break, but I notice a big difference in my outlook and attitude when I take the time to make myself happy. It doesn’t have to be anything big: a few hours spent wandering around Barnes and Noble is a real treat for me. Take up a new hobby. Pick back up and old one.

Pace yourself. A major lifestyle overhaul can be daunting and fraught with frustration and failure. Try the “Change One Thing” approach: identify one fitness and one nutritional goal and incorporate them into your life. When you feel you have mastered one goal, set a new one. These goals don’t have to be major: maybe you can resolve to park further away from the entrance of anywhere you go. Or – a big one for me – drinking more water.  Small successes lead to big gains!

We, as women, spend so much time selecting just the right shade of blush, or lipstick or foundation; in choosing the perfect shoe or coordinating the ultimate outfit. Now is the time to check our priorities and put our health first; like our life depends on it. Because it does.

Getting your story straight: Mitt Romney edition

Mitt Romney is in the news again. Contain yourselves.

I encourage you to read the entirety of this fascinating article.

There are two things that stand out to me upon initial reading.

  1. First, this:
    “At that Christmas gathering, the family took a vote on whether Romney should run. . . Even some of Romney’s closest political advisers might have been surprised. When the family members took a vote, 10 of the 12 said no. Mitt Romney was one of the 10 who opposed another campaign. The only “yes” votes were from Ann Romney and Tagg Romney.”What was going on in Mr. Romney’s mind here? He opposed his own campaign before it started?This, to me, is not so much a criticism but a curiosity of our human nature.Perhaps I’m being too charitable. So be it.It’s truly a mind-boggling vote.
  2. “When Romney had mentioned his “lousy September,” it was an evident reference to what may have been the low point of his campaign: the “47 percent” video. He was in California and said at first he couldn’t get a look at the video. His advisers were pushing him to respond as quickly as he could. “As I understood it, and as they described it to me, not having heard it, it was saying, ‘Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle,’ ” he said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a reasonable thing.’ . . . It’s not a topic I talk about in public, but there’s nothing wrong with it. They’ve got a bloc of voters, we’ve got a bloc of voters, I’ve got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived — as a candidate talking about the process of focusing on the people in the middle who can either vote Republican or Democrat.As it turned out, down the road, it became perceived as being something very different.”You mean that you were insensitive to a whole group of people? I asked. “Right,” he responded. “And I think the president said he’s writing off 47 percent of Americans and so forth. And that wasn’t at all what was intended. That wasn’t what was meant by it. That is the way it was perceived.” I interjected, “But when you said there are 47 percent who won’t take personal responsibility — ” Before I finished, he jumped in. “Actually, I didn’t say that. . . .That’s how it began to be perceived, and so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality.””
    Emphasis mine. I truly have no response. This is the most mind-boggling comment from Romney since, oh, the hilarious and inane “Binders Full of Women” gaffe.This insistence of his also seems to be an out-right lie.We’ve all seen the notorious 47% video.  It lives forever.

 There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right—there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. …And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

And as charitable as I try to be, these opposing quotes by Romney indicate that he will not take “personal responsibility” for his own words or actions.

Excuse me, I need to get back to work so I can be “personally responsible” for not being able to afford health insurance STILL, but making sure my family is fed, housed, and maybe I’ll make phone calls to friends on my Obamaphone so I don’t bang my head on the desk thinking about how out of touch this man–and so many others in POWER–are.

“Excavation is Destruction”

372px-Map_Akrotiri_1600_BC-en

Map of the site where I worked and studied in the summer of 2001, more than 3000 years after it was destroyed in one of the most violent volcanic eruptions

During college, I spent three summers studying in Greece.

(Where else would a Classical language and Philosophy major study?)

I was fortunate to have scholarships all three times.

So. . . . to take a break from politics in this blog–I’m not going to explore how austerity in Greece has really hurt this and many other archeology sites–I thought I’d torture share a poem I wrote while working on an archeology dig in Santorini, during the summer of 2001.

Ancient Akrotiri is sometimes postulated as Atlantis, but better known as the Greek equivalent to Pompeii, is on the southern end of the crescent-shaped island, and we (students) would spend our breaks mesmerized by the Aegean, trying to make out Crete in the distance.

During one of the breaks, I sipped water, ate my τυρóπιτα, or tyropita, and scrawled this in my notebook,  quoting the kindly director of the project, who was also our professor:

Lost in Excavation

“Excavation is Destruction” –Archaeologist Cristos Doumas

Sunburned-dust covers animal bones,
golden beads from a necklace,
and shards of brightly colored tinted glass,
shells from a nourishing ocean feast

And the haunting human bones…

We will be nameless,
Unknown to our children.  Defined as
Merely bones and genetic codes,
males and females in
sickness and health.

Who will remember,
who will remind the children—
our children!—
that these human bones
once simultaneously bore
the beauty and  burden of living flesh?

that the remnants of bones
breathed in the heat, the intoxicating perfume of summer,
saw the clear waves of heat roll across the sandy beach
and the first frost of winter
glisten on the olive leaves?
heard the chiming crickets and squealing donkeys?

Who will remember,
who will remind them that these
dry, brittle, marrow-less bones
smelled the refreshing salt tang of the Mediterranean
and savored the first bites of
harvested grapes in autumn…?  and our
feelings—the vicissitudes of life—cannot be fully discovered,
fully appreciated,
through nucleic acids…

Forgotten loves, fears,
melancholia, euphoria—all are
buried and lost,
for the paper
the clay,
on which we attempt
to record these emotions
disintegrates in the harsh climate.

Shall these heights and depths
of previous lives
remain unrevealed,

or will the child,
while gently scrubbing our bones,
removing  the caked soil and grit,
be a little more gentle, considerate—
perhaps even a little more contemplative—
while laying our long life-abandoned bones to dry
in the rays of the same sun

that was once dimmed by flesh…

Weekend Round-Up

What we’ve been reading:

Running Errands: Looking for Plan B

There is, to my knowledge, only one video on youtube that I’m in:

Watch it. You’ll see me. And a lot of my friends.

If you didn’t catch it, HHS Sebellius and the Obama Administration were ordered, by a Judge to make the Morning After Pill (“MAP” or “Plan B”) truly over the counter for people of all ages. No ID need be shown. Not hide the pills behind the counter, but in the “family planing section” where condoms are.

I wrote about Obama’s failure to comply in early May.

About a week or so after, participated in one of several flash mobs you can see in the video above.

The Obama administration decided to obey the Order from the Judge, and make Plan B OTC, no restrictions.

We were told it would take a month or so for the companies that make Plan B to change their packaging and also allot the stores time to make room on the shelves for Plan B.

Fair enough.

That month is over. And I’ve had to run errands that either require I stop at a pharmacy or pass by a pharmacy.

I decided I was going to start checking out a pharmacy a day to see if Plan B/MAP was, in fact, OTC as it’s legally supposed to be.

The first pharmacy I stopped at, I couldn’t find the MAP in the family planning aisle. I approached the pharmacy, noticed during my brief wait, I noted that there was no Plan B behind the counter. When it was my turn, I inquired where I could find Plan B.  A courteous pharmacy tech walked me to the family planning aisle, and seeing that they had apparently sold out, quickly asked that it be restocked. He then showed me–rather proudly–that this particular store also had it in the snack food aisle (I laughed. Milk Duds and MAP anyone?) as well as displayed very prominently in the beauty section, neatly stacked next to nail polish and mascara.

I thanked him for his help and began to leave. “Did you want to buy, um…anything?” He gestured to the box he was holding of emergency contraceptive.

“Oh no, but thank you. I’m okay, I was just checking to make sure it was available over the counter.”

He smiled, we wished each other a good day, and I left surprised that this one chain pharmacy had done such a great job complying with the law.

I stopped at another pharmacy, with my elementary-age daughter. It was actually in a grocery store, and we were getting juice. I saw the pharmacy and thought, “Let’s see what they have.”

In the family planning aisle, I noted not only the lack of MAP, but that there wasn’t even a space on the shelves. We went to the pharmacy.

A tech, who already looked annoyed, asked “What do you want?”

I asked, “Why don’t you have Plan B over the counter and out in the family planning section?”

He perked up (I can’t figure out why?), and asked me to wait a moment. He dug around the shelves in the back, and pulled out a box of emergency contraception.

“We haven’t gotten the right packaging for over-the-counter sales yet. It was supposed to come this week, but….” He quickly searched the computer. “…looks like it was delayed until next week.”

I thanked him for his help.

Most pharmacies in my totally unscientific survey are stocking the MAP properly–it’s near the condoms and tampons. I thought the pharmacy stocking EC in three places was rather impressive. The beauty aisle made sense–there’s a separate check-out there, and it’s almost always run by a woman. The snack aisle? I don’t know, I’m still laughing to myself over that. But kudos, Walgreens. You surprised me.

Also worth mentioning: the pharmacist on duty heard me ask where MAP was on several occasions. One woman put her right fist in the air. Every single pharmacist was supportive, non-judgmental, and helpful.

This is only reflective of a few places in a blue-city in a red-state. (Okay, we’re purple, but since Rick Scott (Republican) is governor, we’re red as far as I’m concerned.)

I wish everyone could have such good, non-judgmental experiences obtaining medications they may need.

Not Far Enough

This past weekend, my family made our umpteenth trek through the nation’s capital.

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We picked quite a day for it.  It was nearly 100 degrees.  And the humidity!  Let’s just say it was the type of heat that would make Satan knock on your door to ask for a glass of iced water!

Our plan was simple.  The children would see each and every thing they wanted to see.  If time allowed, I could do the same.  Which was a good thing, since the only thing I hadn’t seen a million times was the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial.

We spent many hours walking and talking.  We spoke of the American spirit and discussed inventions that changed the world.  We debated which famous American was best, in his/her respective field.  I had to referee the occasional brotherly skirmish.  In other words, it was your typical garden variety family day-trip.

It never dawned on me that I would learn anything .. from my children.

Let me remind you:  It. Was. Hot. My asthma was trying to take center stage.  I had four (somewhat spoiled and over-indulged) boys in tow.  By the time the kids were satisfied that they had seen all they wanted to see, I was exhausted.  And, sure, trying to ensure the satisfaction of four boys can make me a little cranky.  My overall mood was not great.

The more we walked, the less oxygen I seemed to take in.  I was stopping every ten feet to catch my breath.  I wanted to give up on the journey.  I was urged to give up and “just see it next time”.  But I have lived long enough to know that there may be no next time.  And to be perfectly honest, that stubborn Mommy part of me was determined that if I had been walking through an inferno for 7 hours, I would damn well see that exhibit.  Or pass out trying.

Not understanding, my oldest son remarked: “Mom, I know you want to see this thing, but it’s hot and you can’t breathe.  Maybe we should forget it.  Is it really worth all that?”

[Enter visions of cotton fields, torched houses, protests, jail cells]

To which, I responded: “That is why I must keep going.  Men and women, like King, got sick.  They kept going.  People told them it wasn’t worth it, but they kept going.  Heat wasn’t the only thing beating at them, but.. They. Kept. Going.”

So…we kept going.  I was dizzy, light-headed, and wheezing.  But I kept going.

dc3

Finally!!  We were there!  At that moment, my fatigue vanished.  My initial joy was not in seeing the monument.  It was in pride that I made it without collapsing.  It was all about me.

Once I realized that, I took a step back.  I removed myself from the equation.  I remembered how grateful I am for those –  like Dr. King –  who removed themselves from the equation, daily, so that we all might have a better quality of life.  I read his words on the Inscription Wall, and I felt humbled.  And small and petty.  My small accomplishment of “making it” paled in comparison to the type of endurance he needed.  Every day of his life.

After having splashed my face and arms with water from the waterfall, I turned to the faces of my children.  Observing me.. and my humility.

Initially, I was a little embarrassed.  They, then, did something I will never forget.  They, too, splashed their faces and arms.

At that moment, a lesson was driven home.  Children need to observe humility.  They need to see adults continually fighting for what is right, fighting for a more perfect union.

Sadly, it isn’t  hard for me to imagine Dr. King’s America.

An America of fear, prejudice, and hatred.  An America where equality is privilege.

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.     MLK 1963

An America of poverty.  An America that excuses bad behavior and ignorance.  An America where workers are treated poorly.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.     MLK 1964

An America at war.

It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.”  It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.  We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.     MLK 1967

I can imagine it, because that is MY America, to a lesser degree.  We, as a society, have become complacent and selfish.  We rationalize this by saying we have come pretty far from King’s America.  Well, I say we haven’t come far enough.  I say there is always work to be done.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Related articles:

Two Decades and Counting…

I recall quite well when the military first addressed sexual misconduct in the ranks: Tailhook, 1991. I recall because I was in the Navy, in an aviation squadron, located on then-Naval Air Station Miramar, home of the ever-popular Top Gun. Yes, the pilots on Miramar had a bit of extra swagger, so this unfortunate occurrence was more than a little annoying to them.

As is the tradition in the military, copious training ensued; most of it directed at the Enlisted sailors, none of whom were present at Tailhook. A military-style investigation was launched, which resulted in the ominous conclusion that the entire incident was caused by junior pilots who were not adequately supervised. That’s right: men who were regularly “given the keys” to multi-million dollar weapons platforms could not be trusted to behave themselves standing in the corridors of a hotel. There were also aspersions cast upon the whistle-blowing victim: she knew The Gauntlet was being staged there: she did not have to go that way. Never mind that she was the Admiral’s aide, and The Gauntlet lay on the only path from the elevators to the Admiral’s suite. Even more disappointing was the investigation’s finding that the Admiral knew absolutely nothing about The Gauntlet, though he had traversed that corridor not much in advance of the aide. And even giving him the benefit of the doubt that perhaps this Gauntlet had sprung up spontaneously in his wake, the investigation clearly showed that The Gauntlet was a long-standing tradition of the Tailhook Association‘s Symposia, and this was most assuredly not the Admiral’s first time at this particular rodeo. Once again, it became all about women making trouble in “This Man’s Navy.”

While this type of behavior was originally termed “Sexual Harassment,” there was evidence – however guarded – of sexual assault at least as early as 1996. The first official recognition of the occurrence of sexual violence in the military came in the form of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Response Policy, issued in the wake of the 2003 Air Force Academy scandal, but the giant was not fully awakened until OEF/OIF and the increased presence of women across the full spectrum of combat operations. And while we now know that sexual assault is far more prevalent in the armed services than we ever imagined, we also know that too much of what is being done to address this violent and criminal behavior has been PR efforts and Norman Rockwell programs. Because now we know 80% – 90% of all military sexual assaults go unreported, and 62% of those who have reported the assault have been victimized a second time through retaliation.

I – among many others – was hopeful, if not skeptical that this situation had hit critical mass and something truly constructive would finally be done. However, this rather disappointing NPR interview with the new Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response director, Major General Margaret Woodward, shows that the prevailing attitudes are so ingrained in military culture that even this female Major General defends the status quo of leaving the adjudication of sexual assault allegations in the hands of Commanders – exactly where it does not need to be. Commanders are human. Some do not want a scandal to mar the reputation of their organization, or fear such a scandal will put their career in jeopardy.  And some Commanders are just loathe to ruin the career of a fellow warrior. The one important reality these attitudes fail to address is that these predators choose to commit these offenses. Year after year, the message is drilled home. By this time, it should be obvious to the most casual observer that some people will never grasp the concepts of “No means no” and “Keep your hands to yourself.”  In these cases, more training is not better; it is futile.  But it affords the painfully traditional and out-of-touch military leadership an excuse to continue to fool themselves that they are actually doing something.

Following the most recent rash of events, the Department of Defense announced a Sexual Assault Stand-down. During a stand-down, all operations cease and intensive training and re-training occurs. The agency for which I presently work decided to take a rather curious angle: instead of addressing the issue of sexual assault head-on, they chose to frame the entire day’s discussion in terms of “equal opportunity.” Once again, DoD opted out of an opportunity to “man up” and make its mess its message.

Luckily, there is hope on the horizon in the form of The Military Justice Improvement Act, introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y), and backed by a bi-partisan group of 33 Senators provides some hope for change, but in an historically do-nothing Congress, chances of any meaningful legislation being passed remain slim. This act would remove the chain of command from the adjudication process and place it in the hands of specially trained, impartial personnel. Is it a perfect solution? No. Military leaders are loathe to yield any of their dominion to civilians, many of whom have no military “cred,”  and if the system is set up so that the civilians adjudicating the cases are former military, there is the distinct possibility outcomes will be no different. However, at this point, it seems to be the best we have. I highly encourage you contact your Senators and Representatives and encourage them to support this bill and ensure its passage. Our men and women in uniform deserve the chance to serve honorably. One way to ensure this is to maintain a Military Justice system that provides equal protection to all servicemembers in all cases. This may well be the next big National Security threat, as it significantly and adversely affects the morale of our military. It’s not just their problem. It’s our problem. And the time to act is now.

Kickstart Citizen Koch

The process that led to “Citizen Koch” being pulled from the airwaves illustrates exactly the point that Lessin and Deal’s film makes: Money can not only buy action in our democracy, it can also buy silence.

– Michael Keegan, President, People for the American Way

American democracy has been compromised. In reality, we reside in a plutocracy in which the wealthy and corporate overlords have an out-sized say in legislative and regulatory processes due to their sizable campaign contributions and high-paid lobbyists. This influence the capitalist elite have over our government is unpalatable enough, but it gets even more distasteful when they can stifle the media and the free speech of journalists and filmmakers, or anyone trying to communicate a message. Lest they forget, the Constitution still guarantees free speech to the rest of us too.

An article in the New Yorker recently reported that a public television station in New York, succumbed to pressure, either directly or indirectly, from David Koch to halt the funding and airing of Carl Deal and Tia Lessin’s documentary film, Citizen Koch. Mr. Koch has donated $23 million to public television over the years, and until he resigned on May 16, had served on the board of WNET since 2006. Citizen Koch focuses on the unlimited campaign spending that the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United ruling unleashed. The filmmakers say that the documentary’s title is a “metaphor for American politics today and the outsized influence wealthy individuals and corporate interests have in our democracy.”

It was rumored earlier this year that the Koch brothers had an interest in purchasing the Tribune Company’s newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and the Baltimore Sun. Since the 1990s, media consolidation has been happening at an alarming rate. This consolidation is detrimental to a democracy because a diversity of voices and ideas can too easily be silenced as reporters and opinion writers are directed to reflect the political ideology and interests of the owners.

I have the same problem with billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While I do support many of his policies, he can reek of arrogance. When he decided to run for a third term, he basically spit in the face of New York City voters who had twice voted to limit the mayor and city council members to two terms. (Current mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council, was complicit in changing the law so that Bloomberg and city council members could run for a third term, which is one reason some New Yorkers oppose her candidacy.)

I remember distinctly when Bloomberg received pushback and criticism from constituents for this power play and in a defensive huff (okay, that’s how I perceived it) proclaimed something akin to the fact that he could finance his own campaign. I lost some respect for him that day. Just because he could finance his own campaign, doesn’t mean he should. But then billionaires live and play by different rules than the rest of us, which is my point.

Americans take great pride in residing in a democracy and boasting about our freedoms. Yet our current democratic system is broken. When moneyed interests are allowed to shape public policy and shred regulations to their benefit regardless of the cost to everyone else, that is a travesty. The American people are the losers. When wealthy donors influence non-profit organizations’ programs and try to suppress free speech in the media, the American people are the losers.

If rich people want to donate money to causes, great, but it should be done because they believe in the organization’s mission. They should not be free to take an organization they don’t like (maybe a public television station) and try to manipulate and shape it with their millions of dollars to reflect more closely their worldview. It is time to stand up for ourselves and stop letting people like the Kochs, Bloomberg, and the Sheldon Adelsons of the world bully us into submission by enticing us with dollar signs.

Wall Street gets bailed out time and again, but not Main Street. A hedge fund manager commits a hit and run of a bicyclist causing spinal cord injuries yet is charged with only a misdemeanor (should have been a felony) and no jail time  because his company would be affected negatively by his absence. A crack cocaine user faces much harsher sentencing than a powder cocaine user (though the sentencing ratio was decreased from 100:1 to 18:1 in 2010 when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act).  These inequities should have us all seeing red.

The funding aspect of Citizen Koch is more complicated than I’ve described above. To get a better understanding of it, watch DemocracyNow!’s fifteen-minute interview with the filmmakers here:

So, I challenge you. Kick in some money on Kickstarter to close the funding gap needed for the Citizen Koch documentary. The filmmakers have 15 days left and have raised $126,084. Their goal of $75,000 has been exceeded, but the funding they lost was $150,000, so to recover that amount, they still need $23,916. I made a contribution today, becoming the 2,747th funder. It’s past time to get serious about protecting our democracy before we hit the point of no return.

ALEC and “Stand Your Ground”

Over the past few days, I’ve heard about Stevie Wonder’s boycott of Florida

To be clear, he’s not simply boycotting Florida, but EVERY state with Stand Your Ground laws.

Then this morning, I saw this meme on facebook: 13239_10152653214733538_166653452_n
Yes, it’s a meme and I am not a huge fan of meme’s. They can be cute and amusing…but I digress.

First of all, at this point in time, I cannot verify Mr. Springsteen said this.

But the meme, true or not, made me think long and hard about the massive push to boycott Florida.

A marvelous quote from another blogger I highly respect comes to mind:

If you make fun of “Texas” (or “Ohio” or “Florida” or “North Carolina” or “Indiana,” etc.), you are by definition including the progressive activists who live there.

These places are our homes. We are working in demoralizing conditions and constant defeat to try to fix them.

Yes. A million times YES. Wherever you are in the States or in the world, think about your government: does it always do what you think it should? Is it perfect?

(If so, do tell.)

But back to the Florida-boycott issue.

I understand the outrage, the disgust, the terror. I am not claiming I understand what it’s like to be black in America and in Florida; I fully recognize my white privilege here. (Read that link, if nothing else. Please.)

I am a woman, however, so I do know what it’s like to be terrorized, by society and our government and the elected officials that technically represent me but don’t really…

Wonder’s boycott calls attention to a set of laws that may be hard to undo.

However, to me, the idea of others also participating in a boycott seems too microcosmic,  too narrowly focused.

(I can’t fault a person of color for not wanting to set foot in one to the states with Stand Your Ground Laws.)

Stand Your Ground (SYG) is a product of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Let’s repeat that: Stand Your Ground is the product of ALEC.

Their name sounds pretty innocent, no? Legislative Exchange…that sounds progressive-ish. Or at least semi-positive.

And just read these quotes from the ALEC website:

With more than 2,000 members, ALEC is the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.

ALEC can claim it’s non-partisan because it’s 501(c)(3). Sneaky, eh?

All across the nation, states are looking for ways to boost their economies and become more economically competitive. Each state confronts this task with a set of policy decisions unique to their own situation. However, not all state policies lead to economic prosperity and while some states achieve economic prosperity, others continue to struggle in their efforts to revive their economies.

Fortunately, the United States, with its “50 laboratories of democracy,” provides us with empirical evidence to track exactly which policies lead to economic prosperity and which fail to deliver.

Doesn’t this just warm your heart and make you want to decorate the town with American flags waving?

The American Legislative Exchange Council works to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.

This quote is a tad more telling of what’s really going on at their closed-door meetings.

“Advance the the fundamental principles of free market enterprise?”  (emphasis mine; paging Ayn Rand.)

“Limited government?” (except for uterii. Forced birth is okay; ALEC is responsible for drafting the anti-reproductive justice bills that seem to be–sadly–sweeping the nation.)

“. . . partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.”

Any alarm bells yet? You should be shaking in fear right now. And angry as all get-out.

ALEC is writing your states legislation, and they’re doing it with a very heavy hand toward against progressives, women, people of color–okay, most minorities–and in the interests of  Big Business. ALEC is anti-worker’s rights. 

Of course, that’s just in the name of the “free market.”

*sigh*

ALEC is nefarious and evil in my progressive book.

SYG is a symptom of the disease, not the disease.

ALEC, and relatives of ALEC, are the disease.

At this point, it should be little surprise that the biggest donors and supports of ALEC are the Koch Brothers.

The best way to protest? Don’t boycott a state. Boycott the people and companies behind ALEC. 

If you have a smartphone, there’s a wonderful (free) app called Buycott.

Via:

1. Download Buycott to your smartphone. (Google Play Store & Apple Store have it.)
2. Create a login.
3. Click on the Campaigns tab.
4. Scroll down to All Categories.
5. Pick Civil Rights.
6. Pick Boycott ALEC Corporations. (It should have my name way down in the campaign description.)
7. Join!

Pondering The American Dream, Part I

More often than not in this space on Sundays we talk about poverty, or at the very least, economic inequality.  In this brief post, let’s think about the difference between income and wealth.

It’s easy to mistake income inequality for wealth inequality.  The traditional media conflates the two regularly, and for most of us who aren’t financial managers, we often don’t make the distinction.  That’s a serious error on our part. Let’s be clear on terms and then we’ll talk about why they matter.

“Income” is how much money an individual – let’s say, you, earn.  For kicks, let’s say in a year.  Income is, for most of America, a paycheck.  Maybe you have some investments that earn you a little passive income, but more than likely, your income is that what you deposit in the bank on Friday.  It’s also where most of your taxes come from, because that’s what we’ve decided as a nation (for some reason) is the most necessary thing to tax.

“Wealth” is what you have if you manage to put some of that income aside to grow.  It’s what happens if you’re lucky enough to not be “upside-down” on a home mortgage and can build equity in your home.  It’s your 401K, etc.  It’s what happens when your Uncle Scrooge McDuck dies and names you in his will.  It’s what we mean when we talk about what someone is “worth.” As in, “Alice Walton is worth seven-gazillion dollars.”

Here’s where it gets tricky:  There are folks in America who are “worth” many hundreds of times what you are, but can tell you with a straight face that they relate to you because they aren’t making much either.  The “I’m retired and on a fixed income” people who still manage to own (and use) two vacation homes.  Through a variety of tax tricks (some of which are depressingly straightforward) they’re actually paying lower taxes (and certainly at a lower rate) than you.

If their “income” is coming from something that can be classified as long-term capital gains, for instance, they’re only paying a tax rate of 15% … no matter what their income is.  And they’re not paying a Social Security contribution.  I probably don’t need to tell you that your paycheck is taking a bigger hit than 15%.

So right up front, you can see that we have chosen to value wealth as more important than work as a nation (because, after all, our tax code does not lie about our national will – it is an honest reflection of our priorities).

With that understanding under our belts, I submit that we stop talking about “income inequality.”  It’s not a relevant issue.  Alice Walton and her army of accountants could easily decide she has no “income” in any given year, and if we use income as a relevant gauge of personal economics, you and I would be better off than Alice Walton.

Let’s keep the focus on wealth inequality.

In Part II next week, we’ll talk about that wealth gap and why it is killing the dream and growing poverty in America.