25 November 2012

American excess in perspective

Thursday, November 22, was the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. In addition to giving thanks for the good people and good things in our lives, we use the Thanksgiving holiday to celebrate gluttony, over huge turkey dinners with all the trimmings. We go into it planning to eat too much, and then we do. No qualms about it. It's what Thanksgiving is all about, it seems. It's the American way.

Thanksgiving Thursday is then immediately followed by Black Friday - the busiest shopping day of the year. Many retailers even opened their doors on Thursday night this year, instead of waiting for Friday. While their turkey dinners were still digesting, hordes of shoppers descended on their local Walmart, Target, and Best Buy stores and elbowed their way to the best deals on large-screen TVs and other treasures. It is American consumerism at its most obscene. And it has become almost like a sporting event. No qualms about it. It's the American way.

At the very same time, some 15 percent of households in this country lack food security. Many of these families must routinely skip meals, sometimes for a full day, sometimes for much longer. The lucky ones are able to get food assistance to keep themselves alive.

Even more alarmingly, over 21 percent of American children struggle with hunger today, through no fault of their own. That's some 16 million kids who aren't sure where their next meal will come from - or when. They would be grateful for some of your discarded turkey scraps at best.

Sadly, too many middle class and wealthy Americans have no qualms about this inconvenient truth. They may put an extra dollar in the church collection basket and think they're doing their part to help the poor. Or they may take the easiest way out and blame the victim, blame the mythical "welfare queen". This, too, now seems to be the American way.

Thankfully, in this year's elections, voters rejected many of the politicians - including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney - who would have instituted even more policies that favor the rich corporations over the middle class and the less fortunate. But that is not enough, especially with the Republicans still in control of the House of Representatives.

We must push our leaders to do a serious reality check and adjust their priorities. Our government cannot continue to be a government of, by, and for the wealthy elite and their fossil fuel interests. We must resurrect the vision of our founding fathers, in which the United States of America is a government of, by, and for the people. All of the people.

Until then, even with President Obama in the White House, the middle class will continue to shrink, and more and more ordinary Americans will find themselves struggling to make ends meet. Each Thanksgiving and each Black Friday, we'll have less to eat and less to spend. And more and more children will starve.

20 November 2012

Walmart protests planned for Black Friday (and how you can help)

They're mad as hell, as the old movie quote goes, and they're not going to take it anymore!

After years of abuse by management, courageous current and former Walmart workers are ready to fight back. On Black Friday, November 23, they are planning to picket Walmart stores and warehouses across the U.S.

I'm glad to see them so bravely standing up for their rights. Walmart for years has been notorious for its low wages, poor working conditions, and anti-union policies.

How you can help:

Instead of shopping at Walmart on Black Friday, stand outside the store and lend your support to the protesting workers!

Click here to find a Walmart protest site near you.

18 November 2012

More stubbornness, hatred, and violence in the Middle East

Here we go again. For several days now, Israel and Hamas have been exchanging deadly bombs and rocket fire.

And, like every such episode, nothing will be accomplished by the violence except for needless death and destruction. It will not lead to an ultimate solution to the ages-old territorial dispute in the region. That can only be accomplished politically.

But, as always, there is too much emotional finger pointing, and too much hatred in the way, for the parties involved to seriously seek a true and lasting solution.

And, as always, innocent civilians on both sides continue to pay the price.

07 November 2012

Revenge of the female voters

Tuesday's elections demonstrated that the GOP's war on women comes at a price.

For example:

• The citizens of Missouri rejected Todd ("legitimate rape") Akin's Senate bid in favor of Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

• In the Indiana Senate race, voters chose Democrat Joe Donnelly over GOP challenger Richard ("God's will") Mourdock.

• Here in Pennsylvania, Democratic Senator Bob Casey retained his seat as voters rejected Republican challenger Tom ("similar to having a baby out of wedlock") Smith.

• And, of course, voters across the nation rejected Mitt Romney, who had promised to reverse Roe v. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood, and repeal Obamacare.

While I'm sure many mysogynistic old white men will continue to try to control women's bodies via draconian legislation at the state level, the greater momentum is obviously on our side.

Let's keep the momentum going!

05 November 2012

Why my Republican friend - and her sisters - are voting for Obama

This evening I had dinner with a Republican friend. She and I usually avoid talking about politics, and instead just silently agree to disagree. There's plenty of other stuff to talk about.

But tonight she insisted on bringing it up. It turned out that she wanted to let me know that she will be voting for Obama tomorrow. I think this will be the first time in her life that she has voted for a non-Republican candidate.

She is a fiscal conservative, and complained about "Obama's deficit". But then she explained that she couldn't support the GOP war on women's reproductive rights, and that was her reason for this difficult decision.

She also said that her two sisters, themselves staunch Republicans, would be voting for Obama as well, for the same reason.

I chose not to address the deficit issue. Sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone.

I'm hoping that many other Republican women will see things the same way as my friend and her sisters. Hopefully the misogynists in the GOP have pushed the envelope a bit too far this time.

01 November 2012

Rick Perry racks up 250th execution

On Wednesday, October 31, the State of Texas executed Donnie Lee Roberts for the 2003 murder of his girlfriend.

Roberts has the dubious distinction of being the 250th death row prisoner to be executed under Governor Rick Perry.

According to Salon.com, "Perry has presided over more executions than any other governor in U.S. modern history." George W. Bush, by comparison, oversaw a mere 152 executions.

And, given the fact that Perry bragged about his execution rate (to thunderous applause) during a GOP presidential primary debate last year, I'm guessing that he's proud of this new milestone.

But instead he should be ashamed.

First, he should be ashamed because forensic evidence shows that he likely executed at least one innocent man in 2004 - and then impeded the investigation into the error. This does not deserve applause.

Second, he should be ashamed because more than 2,000 people convicted of serious crimes in the U.S. have been exonerated in the past 23 years based on DNA or other evidence. So that aforementioned case was not an isolated one. This does not deserve applause.

Third, he should be ashamed because it makes no logical sense to kill someone in order to show that killing is wrong. Doing so does not deserve applause.

But none of that seems to matter. Perry kills, and the bloodthirsty right-wing sheep applaud.

I wonder how any of those sheep would feel if, wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit, found themselves strapped to the lethal injection gurney in the Texas death house while the masses applauded their demise - and Perry took a bow.