Sunday, December 16, 2012

Using Our Grief to a Purpose

Grief is indeed a part of life, but if it is not also an instrument of change, then perhaps we miss the lesson it is teaching us.

That said, while I feel that we as a nation must share our hearts and our comforting thoughts with the families of those so brutally killed in Newtown, it would perhaps dishonor the victims if we put a lid on our anger and our grief.  A far better use of these feelings would be to channel the anger into action that will help prevent such a thing from happening again.

I am not a hunter and can't even bear to deal with a mouse in the house.  I am not a marksman and stink at any eye-hand coordination computer game.  Yet I can understand that those who use guns for food and for skill-based sport--and who have proven their sense of responsibility--would want to be allowed to have those instruments for their hobby, even though I personally would not want to even touch one.  I can even see my way to understanding why people might want a gun in their home for protection (although I suspect most folks are lousy shots and, again, I wouldn't want one for all the fish in the sea.)

But multi-round ammo clips and automatic weapons are not about marksmanship or about hitting a particular topic for sport or sustenance.  They are for one thing:  killing, and killing as many targets at one time as possible, as quickly as possible.  These weapons belong only in the hands of a "well-regulated militia," meaning the military or the police who are using them presumably as a last resort to stop an onslaught invasion.

They should no more be available to the public than a tank should be available for personal use just because we also have cars.

I am not suggesting that members of the NRA (who contribute mightily to most political campaigns to make sure their cause is supported) are not likewise grieving the senseless loss of life in these shootings in Littleton, Aurora, and Newtown.  I would even like to think they grieve about the constant gun violence in Harlem or other economically-challenged neighborhoods, where the children have become so used to the idea that they will lose a friend, a cousin, a brother or sister to gun violence or the stray bullet in the crossfire that they have numbed themselves to the presence of guns.

But I am suggesting that they are more concerned about their right to buy whatever they want whenever they want and wherever they want over the rights of innocent people to live their lives without fear.  When restrictions and background checks are considered an threat to their liberties versus a protection for the good of society, then they are letting ego get in the way, reflecting the overwhelming 21st century trend of "let me get mine and the hell with everybody else."  Second amendment champions continually refuse to look at the time and the technology of the period when it was written, and in doing so, they ignore the spirit in which the amendment was intended.  They were not sanctioning a free-for-all; they were trying to establish protection for the citizenry. And now, in this 21st century, we should be protecting the citizenry first and foremost.

In these recent horrific and senseless shootings, the weapons used were bought legally (even if “borrowed” without permission).  Most times, these weapons were used by those with severe psychological disturbance—and the treatment of mental illness is yet a whole other subject to be discussed as a nation.  But the fact is that these weapons of massive and rapid attack are readily and easily available for anyone to lay their hands on.  If there is true societal insanity, this is it!

So yes, even in this time of national grief, we’d better use our anger versus letting it subside, because after years and years of letting it all pass, we have not passed any meaningful gun legislation.  If there is any sense in this senselessness, we will use our passion to revamp not only our all-too-easy access to weapons but how we as a nation deal with our anger and our own internal violence.  Let us learn at least SOMETHING from this brutal and senseless tragedy and take action to minimize the chances of it happening again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


Society is a place where we come together for certain benefits of protection and development, and we fashion rules that will allow all the diverse components to function as one.  The world’s population is growing exponentially, and there are simply too many of us trying to coexist without some kind of regulation, some sort of rule of law.  In order to keep this a balanced society where all have equal chances, opportunities for health care, education, and employment must be equal for all.  Some will rise and some will not, admittedly, but if the deck is stacked by those in control as to who will thrive, then equal footing has NOT been provided, and the divide between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider.  If this controlling group is secretive and acting without transparency, then the chances for opportunity being skewed is even greater.  On one hand, you could argue this is following natural law, “survival of the fittest.”  On the other hand, you could argue that if the social contract does not serve the masses, then what is the point of belonging, which ensures that chaos and mayhem will ensue.  Much of this controlling power is vested in economics, but quotients of respect are just as important in this equation.  The chasm between the top minority and the vast majority grows wider and wider.  This situation does not favor the survival of a society, and history has shown over and over again that failure to keep an equitable respect for all has led to that society’s disintegration.  This is not a recommendation for anarchy or revolt—but it IS an observation that the majority will tolerate the abuses of a self-serving minority for only so long.

So be aware on Tuesday, whomever you vote for, that you are looking not for just leadership, but balance—balance of power, balance of opportunities, balance of protections.  We cannot tolerate any lack of transparency at this point in our precarious history, and those who will lead us MUST have the interests of all in their minds and, yes, their hearts, otherwise we are heading off the cliff.  We deserve a safe environment, both financially and ecologically.  We deserve equal rights, regardless of race, gender or belief.  We deserve access to health care and decent education and jobs, and the system should support all who wish to work with initiative versus doling out help to only those already in “our set.”  Regulation, contrary to the opinion of those who wish to operate without it, is a necessity to provide equal opportunity for all.  Lack of it, as shown again and again, has led to disaster.  As Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  It would be so nice to think we actually can learn, change and grow.

VOTE as if your future depended on it—because it does.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Time to Really Look at What's at Stake

Yes, this is clearly a campaign ad, no denying that, but it really sums up something very important: people can say that the economy is the issue, but really, it is the amalgamation of all the factors that give everyone equal opportunity within the economy that's at stake here. Only by protecting everyone's rights will we solve the economic situation. Years of benefiting only a select few individuals with very little transparency--backroom deals behind closed doors--precipitated the crisis with which we struggle. As a society, we are indeed better off because of the last four years--and we would be far better off financially as well IF there hadn't been blockage of virtually every job stimulus package by Republicans in the House who rarely presented counter proposals but merely said "Getting rid of Obama is job one." The Republicans decried raising the debt ceiling after having supported it in their administrations over and over again, merely to try to precipitate a government shutdown they could blame on Obama. And the reduction of our credit index came NOT because we had debt, but because it was clear that the Congressional gridlock, so bitterly concerned with power versus the protection of the American people, portrayed an venal ineffectualness; there was no desire to make the situation better. Who in their right mind would give a positive credit rating for that kind of behavior? And finally, while Romney one day points with pride to his accomplishments in Massachusetts and then the next totally disavows them, it should be noted that there were a record number of Gubernatorial vetoes which the legislature actually overturned in order to make these positives happen! Check the record and remember the words of Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."Yes, this is clearly a campaign ad, no denying that, but it really sums up something very important: people can say that the economy is the issue, but really, it is the amalgamation of all the factors that give everyone equal opportunity within

So watch this message--and really look at where you are four years later, on all counts, and figure out why.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If you don't know where you fit in . . .

If you are gay, he's said he opposes your having the same rights as heterosexual citizens.  (Even though he once said there's no one more supportive of protecting gay rights than he is--but that was another campaign . . . or was it?)

If you are a woman, he's said you don't have the right to choose what is right for you and your body, and if you are raped--well, truthfully, it's hard to know just WHAT he thinks about that.  (What happens in Des Moines stays in Des Moines, I guess . . .)

If you've cut $716 billion in administrative costs from Medicare and placed it into accounts to fund future Medicare funding, you're Obama--no, wait, you're Paul Ryan!  Or you're Obama.  (I get so confused.)  Besides vouchers are wonderful things, if they're honored . . . and everyone knows that the supply and demand laws of economic theory don't apply anymore, so you're sure to get good rates when there are fewer and fewer companies providing coverage for specific procedures.  And hell, your local providers LOVE dealing with out of state insurance companies, it's so easy to collect that way.  (What?  Oh, we'll talk about that later . . .)

If you are a teacher, you are a corrupt union member and should listen but not be heard at meetings about teaching, because he knows what makes for a good education--and if you can't afford to pay for it yourself or can't get a loan, then ask your parents for the money.  (What would a teacher who works with kids day in and day out know more than the Romneys and the Christies of the world anyway?)

If you are poor, elderly or in the military, then you're a slacker, part of 47% not paying federal income tax--even though someone's only paying 13-14% versus the 33% most Americans pay (and would have only paid 10% if he claimed the deductions his tax bracket provides for him, but having said he pays 13% had to swallow that one).  You are dependent on the government by choice and you have a victim mentality.  (What, you still pay sales tax, state tax, city tax?  Shhhhhh!)

If you are a Palestinian, then you have no interest in peace efforts.

If you were helped by Planned Parenthood, good for you . . . someday, you'll unearth a pamphlet that can help some poor teen.  (It'll be found at a flea market or a yard sale.)

If you thought there was going to be a 20% tax increase on the middle class . . . keep wondering.  (His opponents on the primary debate stages still remember that one, along with offers for $10,000 bets.)

If you are in a financial hole that you can't get out of, it's because these past four years--not the policies of the previous eight years of hidden Wall Street deals that favored the banks and screwed the middle class American--put you there.

If you need healthcare from him, you hopefully got it from him in Massachusetts because he's not helping you out anymore.  (But not to worry, folks, Bain Capital owns several HMOs that are sure to give you the best deal . . .)

If you can't afford special education programs or you're growing up in a poor neighborhood or don't have cable, don't worry, you can't get vitally important education programs on PBS that enrich the culture . . . oh, that's right, I guess you won't be able to after all . . . (Oh, and again, Bain can fill your educational needs with all their fine Clear Channel programs, like the always factual and informative Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck programs . . .)

If you're wondering what he really thinks . . . He will say it all with a smile and with vehemence--but he will spray it with non-stick cooking spray beforehand so that no facts are left to cling behind, to identify what he actually believes.  And if you are writing down what he is saying today, write it in vanishing ink because he will say something else tomorrow.

If you think he's lying, you're wrong.  He's just "living in the moment."

If you think you have no way to stop him, you're wrong.  Vote.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Okay, I have to say it, no matter how hard I resist.  (This election year is the most exhausting on record, especially for those of us who never thought ourselves particularly "political.")

This idea that 47 percent of the population cheats by not paying taxes (coming from a man who salts his money away in foreign accounts and is loop-holed into the smallest bracket) is obscene and the ultimate reflection of what we will get from a Romney presidency.  Even if the money is refunded, I have still given it to the government for use until my refund (and in my case they owed me, not the other way around--which is often the financial situation of the majority of the 47 percent).  I also pay into social security, Medicare, sales tax, and state and city tax.  We don't really know much about where or what Mr. Romney pays, do we? For a man so under fire for his own taxes, the choice to make this statement alone is clearly poor judgment--and despite it being a hidden recording (which I do not approve of), it was not a private statement but at a fund-raising dinner, a public event.  When one is obfuscating non-stop, it is way too easy to put one's foot in one's mouth, which this candidate does with great regularity.

Also--doesn't one join a society for its infrastructure?  Its ability to administer such commonly used and needed items as healthcare, education, roads, protection and shelter?  Safe food?  Government by its very definition was not designed to keep people out but to protect and serve its membership.  This is not dependency or freeloading entitlement--these are the benefits of living in a country, the fiber and responsibility of any society to take care of its members, not just the exclusive elite.  It is often the conservative Republican defense to point to cheaters and scofflaws (and away from themselves doing larger scale versions of the same thing!), but an honest look at the average American would prove that there are not the number of cheaters the right claims, that there are people with legitimate needs.

As for his plans for the country, his game book?  Details will be available AFTER the elections.  He and Paul Ryan seem to think this is an appropriate answer, one size fits all. The only headline he seems to be willing to commit to is 12 million new jobs in the next four years--which sounds impressive until you realize that all economists of both sides have said that if either candidate did NOTHING, this would still be the projected rate of increase for the next four years.  Either the Romney team has no concrete plans for how they would fix the economy or they know that once declared no one would like it (or vote for them).

Again, Mr. Romney's disdain for the people of this country is clear--the people he loves are those in his own tax bracket, and his care doesn't extend much beyond that (other than to court votes, so he and his cronies can go back to what they were doing during the Bush years.)  His campaign continually comes up with new plans to "re-introduce" the candidate--don't you think we've already had enough introductions?  If he's not let us know who he is by now, then he never will.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Failure of Education Following a Business Model

Okay, business is a process of buying and selling consistent product, and it is crucial to the economy, granted. It succeeds when it dishes out the same at the lowest common denominator to everyone. But there is a HUGE mistake when it is applied to education, where the business model fails consistently—and it is proven every year by the "improvements" modern administrators and politicians add to it and the test results that follow. Education is not about dishing out the same to all, sink or swim. It is about stimulating all to find their own voice, individuation, and CAN be done when standardization is not the sole deciding factor of a successful teacher. It can be done one-on-one and it can be done with a large class, as history has shown us from the little red schoolhouses that used to be the norm in this country, providing Nobel laureates, Pulitzer-prize winners, and future world leaders. Education's equal opportunity should be in its stimulation of all, not in its doling out of a restricted curriculum and its success measured in digitally-scored testing. If you want to know why we have slipped educationally as a nation, just compare and the results are brutally clear. Of course, developing a group of individual thinkers is terrifying to politicians and bureaucrats, as they are harder to control than sheep. But then again, those who would enforce their power never see the greater advantage of having an educated, powerful, creative electorate. (Then again, these folks also think government should function that way and approach it in the same, mind-numbing way.)

As a new year in education begins, let’s honor our future with creative teachers who open doors and imaginations first over those who are aim for the highest percentile test scores. Let's aim for the highest-quality, happiest-learning students.