A tribute to the 99ers: We are not invisible.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nightmares and elections.

My daughter came into my room at 4:30 this morning. "Daddy I had a bad dream and I don't want to go back to sleep." "C'mon, honey I'll walk you back, tuck you in and start your music." "Daddy, it was a really bad dream and it keeps coming back." "Sweetie, you know it's just a dream and Mommy and I are just down the hall." "I know Daddy, but it's really scary and I don't want to dream it again."  "I know it must be scary, but think good thoughts and maybe the dream won't come back." "Okay, Daddy I'll try."  As I tucked her in, I thought, "Wow, I'm having the same problem, but we don't let the kids watch campaign coverage."

The mid-term election is just a few days away and has scary implications. Putting aside partisan philosophy, I want to share a thought all sides can agree on.  Government, especially in Washington is unresponsive and rarely does an adequate job of addressing public needs. Our elected officials vote to better themselves and are corrupt because of gobs of money from lobbyists and special interests.  There's little difference between the candidates and I don't trust them.

Why should Governors, Representatives, Senators, etc. act on behalf of the public? Creating good policy is part of the job description but the populace does not monitor government. Election turnout the last 50 years is no higher than 63% for a presidential election and 48% for a midterm election. The best case scenario is over 1/3 of the voters don't care enough to vote. Why shouldn't politicians vote for themselves, we're not watching.

I realize it's not that simple. The entire system of campaign finance needs to be overhauled. The first step is to show politicians that we are watching. A turnout over 70% no matter the results, sends the message we are all watching. That will begin the turnaround and government will again be for the people.

The action plan is straightforward. Vote, tell everyone you are voting and encourage everyone to vote. Should someone suggest voting is a personal decision, explain why they are wrong. When someone doesn't vote they screw up their chance at a better America (they're choice) but they also screw up my chance at a better America. That is unacceptable.  Better government begins with me and then with you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jackboots, Brownshirts and Woody Guthrie.

Joe Miller's (R Senate candidate, Alaska) security detail handcuffed and detained a reporter at a public rally... for asking questions. At the Rand Paul-Jack Conway debate, a protester has her head held to the ground by a Paul supporter's foot and the candidate says nothing.  Christine O' Donnell's campaign demands a videotape from a radio station under threat of a lawsuit. These candidates have Tea Party support and favor a strict interpretation of the Constitution.  I wonder how they feel about the 1st Amendment? At least the Tea Party is extreme, mainstream Republicans wouldn't allow this to happen. Unless you're Eric Cantor and prefer  to avoid debates. Is this what we are willing to become?

It must be a rule that every summer camper sing "This Land is Your Land",  at least 1000 times.  Written by Woody Guthrie, it's a wonderful upbeat song extolling America's virtues from coast to coast. Unless you know all the verses. Like many Guthrie songs it has numerous verses and most camps don't sing more than a couple. As the song continues it shows a darker side of America alluding to the poor, hungry and disenfranchised.  But even those somber verses lead to the chorus: "this land was made for you and me."

The Republican Party believes in an exclusive America, where a small privileged upper class reaps the benefits and the rest of us fight for scraps.  The GOP has even developed an "extreme" wing, the Tea Party. Using the Tea Party, the Republicans will go to extreme measures to impose their will on the American electorate. I sound severe but I have not heard any "mainstream Republican" decry the intimidation detailed above. I can only assume that the entire GOP finds these abhorrent tactics acceptable.

It is important to remember that this land was made for you and me. Nobody is better than me because they have different beliefs, background, upbringing or race. No one has more rights just because they have more money. Unfortunately, Woody's America isn't free. Sometimes I have to fight for my part of America. The easiest part of this fight for Woody Guthrie's America requires I vote, which I have done. Will you stand up and fight (vote) for this land, made for you and me? The alternative sits before us.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vote to Govern.

Two months ago, I thought I would stay home on November 2nd because the Democrats had not done enough to support the long term unemployed.  Last month I changed my opinion and committed to vote Dem 2010. The Dems have still not done enough for the unemployed and the future looks worse, but I have met my commitment. Through early voting opportunity I cast my ballot on Monday. I was rewarded for my efforts by Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Sen. McConnell told the National Review that as majority leader his 1st priority is to hold Obama to one term. Sen. McConnell is the most powerful Republican; I commend him for his honesty but condemn him for his legislative agenda.  Despite his claim to represent the public, he does not reflect the concerns of the American electorate. Even more telling is his desire to use power not to govern but to protect power.

I voted for candidates to make policy that moves our country forward. I hope that everyone takes this opportunity to do the same.

Monday, October 25, 2010

1st Amendment, NPR and hypocrites

On Wednesday, October 20, 2010 NPR fired Juan Williams due to opinions he shared on "The O'Reilly Factor." This led to lengthy discussions regarding 1st Amendment rights on talk radio and pledges to defund NPR from Jim DeMint, Eric Cantor and others. The threat against NPR is the usual right wing shell game.

No one has taken Juan Williams free speech nor threatened his 1st Amendment rights. The 1st Amendment guarantee means he can't be thrown in jail but it does not guarantee employment. Many agree with Juan Williams and others disagree. Some think NPR was wrong to fire Williams, some are happy that he's gone.  No matter your belief about the firing, it has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment.

The right wing attack lacks merit. In absence of any substantive policy (other than channeling 8 years of George W. Bush), beating up  "liberal, elite" NPR is yet another attempt to distract voters from real issues. More appalling is the very same people that decried big government intervention with the American auto industry which saved thousands of jobs, are willing to jump into a corporate HR decision over a single employee.

The last 22 months have been a low light for efficient government. Allowing DeMint, Cantor and the rest of the Republican party a larger contingent will only further slow down our government. Vote Dem 2010.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another reason for 99ers and progressives to vote.

I was driving home last night, listening to "Simon and Garfunkel" (yes, I am that old) and thinking about the future. Even though I have heard "The Boxer" often, the closing lyrics carried new meaning.

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders 
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains.

I am a 99er and a progressive.  As a progressive I am realistic about the state of things but, I want change, I want better.  Being a progressive leads to much disappointment because so many people are afraid of change. Often I want to give up advocating for how things should be. Then, I remember those that fought and continue to fight for equality (gender, race or marraige) and realize I can't stop. If past proponents of change had quit, we would not be analyzing the women's vote or the minority vote for the pending election. So I remain and advocate.

It is a bit more complicated being a 99er. I am tired of explaining why I still don't have a job. My wife reworks our budget every time we spend anything. It is very painful watching her. I just want it all to stop. However, it will only stop once I find a job (or two). So I keep fighting to find work, no matter how draining the process. 

I realize how aggravating and frustrating the past 22 months have been for progressives and 99ers. I realize this because I am also tired and angry of having to fight for every scintilla of change. Still I don't have the liberty of giving up, because if I give up the change I want will never occur. So  like Simon and Garfunkel's boxer, I remain.  Remaining means I must vote November 2, 2010 to continue to move the process of change forward. Just like "The Boxer" I must vote no matter how much I would prefer to give up. I will not quit. Will you quit or will you vote?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Too much at stake.

The funding of unemployment benefits is destined to crash. I am not referring to the various levels of extensions in place (until Nov. 30) due to the current recession.  I'm also not talking about TierV/S3706 vital to 99ers and continuing economic stability. According to Politico, the initial 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, funded in partnership by the US government and each state is going crash. Bipartisan cooperation is necessary to avert the pending crisis. Good luck to everyone.

Historically the  party in power after a Presidential election loses seats in both houses of Congress in the next midterm election. Less than two weeks from the November 2010 elections the narrative continues accordingly. Contrary opinion also exists. Neither supposition really matters.

The approaching unemployment funding catastrophe speaks to 99ers and not yet 99ers alike. Voting is the only way to be heard. Staying home indicates indifference. Voter disinterest breeds Congressional disdain which creates further disasters.  Anger and apathy are comforts I cannot afford. Voting is my only option.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What's next?

There hasn't been much news for 99ers lately. More hunger, more homelessness but this is so common it rarely makes the news. Unemployment stable in the mid 9's%, net job creation stagnant. Congress is scheduled to work one week in November and reconvene after Thanksgiving "until business is completed."  That working week in November is critical for all long term unemployed, especially the 99ers.

All emergency unemployment extensions (anything beyond 26 weeks) lose funding November 30, 2010.
Experience teaches that any extensions beyond 99 weeks will not be considered until previous extensions are funded.  Voices are calling for Congress to fund these extensions immediately upon returning to work.  99ers must join the chorus and remind all advocates that a Tier V/S3706  must  be included with funding beyond 26 weeks. If we do not plan ahead and work together we will be left behind yet again.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Time to govern.

The USA has been in the midst of a foreclosure mess for a very long time.There are no clear cut solutions to this mess. Bringing this mess to a satisfactory resolution will be complicated. In the end most USA citizens will be affected, likely in a classic lose-lose scenario. That's just the beginning. It appears that most of the reporting has buried the lead when analyzing the foreclosure crisis. As discussed in this "wonky" post on GlobalResearch.ca, the foreclosure crisis is the "canary in the cave" regarding systemic organizational fraud.

It is easy to blame widespread institutional crimes on one party, but it is overly simplistic. Repairing the damage done by lack of oversight will be a long process. I prefer to concentrate on the future.

On November 2, 2010 the USA is facing a referendum on the future. Does the country restore governing power to Republicans, a party that eschews government? Or does the USA continue on a path favored by Democrats; government could and should be a force to move the country forward? No matter which philosophy you choose, it is vital to exercise your choice by voting. An engaged electorate is a vital component of a vibrant democracy. On a personal note, please join me in voting for the Democrats in an attempt to climb out of this economic morass and  move the country forward.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm a lucky 99er

Tomorrow morning my family and I are going to a Pancake Breakfast.  The cost is $5 per person and we really shouldn't be spending $20 for breakfast out. We're going because this breakfast is a fundraiser for my son's friend and schoolmate, Tam.  Tam has (among other things) a rare genetic disease, Senior Loken Syndrome. Tam's in sixth grade and all funds raised will be used to offset the cost of his kidney transplant next month. Tam's mother will be the donor. The transplant will take place at Children's Memorial Hospital, a fabulous children's hospital. Unfortunately, Children's Memorial has no facilities for adults so Tam's mom will be at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

To recap: A sixth grader, suffering from end stage kidney failure due to a rare genetic disease is having a life saving transplant next month. His mother, the donor must be at a hospital, approx 5 miles away.  If successful the follow-up is roughly 2 years.  The family lives 80 miles from Chicago, none of the travel costs are covered by insurance.

I have been out of work for 25+ months, but right now I feel extremely fortunate.  Please join me in sending warm wishes and prayers to Tam and his family.  Updates will follow when available.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Act like a foreign corporation. Influence the upcoming election.

Ever since the Supreme Court puked on a century of case law in Citizens United, there has been tremendous concern about the influence of foreign and corporate money on USA elections. How can I, a 99er combat this influx of cash? The answer is simple: Vote. Commit to voting and tell everyone about my plans to vote. I am adding that I will vote for the entire Democratic slate. The Democrats alone have stood opposed to the Citizens United decision with efforts such as the Disclose Act.

It really is that simple. One by one we will defeat billionaires attempting to hijack our election process with money and it starts with me.  Will you join me?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Outsourcing for comic relief

There is a new show on NBC called "Outsourced". It's about an American sent to manage a call center in Mubai for a novelty company that has sent order processing overseas. Yuk, yuk.

I am familiar with the "fish out of water/culture clash" scenario as a basis for sitcoms. It worked well in "My Favorite Martian", "Mork and Mindy" and "Northern Exposure". Others such as "Hogan's Heroes" and "Bridget Loves Bernie" were controversial. The reason the second grouping had problems was because the scenario is inherently unfunny. The same goes for "Outsourced".

There are many millions unemployed in the US. It is nearly impossible to get an exact count of the unemployed.. The same goes for the unemployment rate. Job creation is slow and many of the jobs that are created are not the same quality as the jobs lost.  Until this crisis is solved, economic recovery will be moderate at best. Outsourcing is a large part of the problem. Outsourcing isn't funny.

I am not calling for a petition drive or a phone protest. There are too many important things happening to spend energy on a television show.  Use "Outsourced" as a teachable moment. If someone is talking about "Outsourced", suggest the show's concept is offensive. Talking TV with the neighbors? Tell them outsourcing costs millions of jobs. "Outsourced" is nothing to laugh about.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Will you let our house burn down?

Events of the last 10 days have presented 99er NOVOs and progressives a unique referendum. To recap, Gene and Paulette Cranick live in Obion County, TN. Their house is not within the South Fulton, TN city limits.  The Cranicks are served by the South Fulton, TN fire department. Those that do not live in the South Fulton, TN city limits must pay a $75 fee annually to qualify for fire department services.  The Cranicks did not pay the fire protection fee this year.  On Wednesday Sept. 29, 2010 the Cranicks house caught on fire. The fire department did not respond to calls to assist the Cranicks. The fire department arrived when a neighbor's house (they had paid their fee) was in jeopardy. Despite offers to pay anything by the Cranicks and the neighbor, the fire department allowed the Cranick's house to burn, watering the fence line and remaining to protect the nieghbor's house. The Cranick's house burnt to the ground.

November 2, 2010 presents an opportunity.  Our country is on fire facing potential long term damage.  The Democrats have failed to move forward on many agenda items including: single payer health carecap and trade, EFCA. For the long term unemployed the Democrats did not provide a safety net that matches economic realities. The Democrats have not paid their $75. (The Republicans offer a return to the policies of George W. Bush; they have failed to buy a hose) I will not sit silently while America burns.

I am voting for every Democrat on my ballot on November 2, 2010.  Although imperfect, the Democrats have the best chance of putting out the fire currently burning in USA. Will you watch the fire burn or will you vote to save "our house'?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

House burns while firefighters watch.

Firefighters watched while a house burned in South Fulton, TN for lack of a prepaid $75 fee. How could this happen in the USA? Blind loyalty to a principle, for example, lower taxes to control wasteful government spending.

Unhappiness with an over-reaching government is an American value; it's a primary reason the USA exists.  The driving force for smaller government in my lifetime goes back to the Great Communicator. In truth, the size of government is immaterial. The effectiveness of government matters. Effective government requires a broad spectrum of ideas and an open exchange to work towards consensus. Voting as a block for the sake of politics renders a representative democracy useless. The result is lack of government.

I do not think the tragedy in Tennessee is a case of Republican vs. Democrat. Firefighters watching a house burn for the sake of money is common sense vs. tree stump stupid. Anyone that thinks it was OK to allow the house to burn, welcome to the U.S. Forest Service.

The preamble to the Constitution charges the people with  "promote the general welfare" among other responsibilities.  What would Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would say about watching the house burn?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mignon Veasley-Fields, Role Model, Hero but only half right.

When I got a chance to review email Friday night, I found another outstanding article from Donalee King. Donalee reviewed an exchange between Ed Schultz and Mignon Veasley-Fields. Ed Schultz has been the strongest media voice advocating on behalf of the 99ers. Ms. Veasley-Fields, a 99er has also been an advocate for the unemployed, consistently available to educate about the plight of the 99ers.  When Ms. Veasly-Fields (I know her as @agape122) speaks for the 99ers, she speaks for me.

In conversation with Ed, Ms. Veasley-Fields laid blame for the failure of S3706 on both parties in Congress.

"Well Ed, yes, we have committed that we are going to encourage our fellow 99ers to vote for either party that their choice. However, ??Ed, yesterday was very disappointing for us. And even though we are trying to tell them to vote, many of them are not going to vote even though the No NOVO says to go ahead and do this. They were disillusioned by what they saw on the Senate floor yesterday. We were grateful for Senator Stabenow for her effort, but we thought it was just sort of put together really quickly like a dog and pony show in order to get us to vote for them. This is a sentiment across this nation." Ms. Fields told Ed.

Schultz countered: "But if the Republicans, but Mignon, if the Republican Senator had not stood up, this would have gone through, and you would have had the votes, and you would have gotten an extension. It's the Republicans. Why take it out on the Democrats, the majority Party that time and time again has been there for the unemployed?

"To which Mignon replied: "Well you know, Ed, we have gone back in the history of the tiers. We as 99ers have tried to figure this out ourselves. What has happened is we can remember the time in which the Republicans said, "Sure, get another tier. Use the stimulus funds. And the Democrats said, 'No, we need to find sourcing for unemployment.' So now we're thinking back on that, and we're realizing it's not the Republicans. It was the Democrats that caused us to be in the situation that we're in. We want the Democrats to come back before this election, and we want them to come back and rectify this, Ed."

I don't need to comment on the actions of the Republican caucus, their actions are self-declaratory. So I am going to concentrate on the Democrats and their total mismanagement of  the legislative process.

Even before Senator Bunning blocked benefits in February, the Republicans made their strategy obvious: Party unity to block everything.  Still the Democrats attempted to include the Republicans in the legislative process.  Memo to Charlie Brown (as played by Harry Reid): No matter what Lucy (as played by any Senate Republican) says, nor how much you want to believe her, as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Lucy will pull the football away.  You will always land flat on your back, every time. As long as the Dems continue to play Charlie Brown, progressive agenda items (extended unemployment benefits) will remain blood battles. Until the Democrats approach the unemployment safety net and job creation together as a long term issue the results will be substandard.

Use of  "dormant" stimulus funds to pay for any Tiers of unemployment benefits is questionable politics and curious policy. Politically, I doubt the Republican's sincerity (see memo to Charlie Brown above) in voicing this suggestion. Ignoring Tea Party crazy candidates,  Republican Senators are the party of David Vitter, John Ensign and Jim DeMint; hypocrisy and arrogance defined.  As for policy, the "unspent" stimulus funds are already allocated to specific projects. Spending these funds on a safety net today makes them unavailable for job creation tomorrow. Without continued job creation there will be a greater need for the same safety net in the future, merely shifting burden within the same demographic. This type of "Darwinism" is often replicated in a laboratory experiment: Starve some mice,  put 1 or 2 pieces of cheese in their common area and watch the mice fight it out. As policy this tactic is a favorite of the wealthy. Keep the disadvantaged fighting amongst themselves. While competing against each other for limited resources the disadvantaged won't organize for their common good. The result maintains the status quo, a primary goal of well healed conservatives and totally contrary to a progressive agenda. 
Hungry and homeless are neither progressive nor conservative issues. Hunger and homelessness are human issues. Unfortunately the current conservative responses to these social issues are...? I don't know the conservative response to hunger and homelessness because I haven't heard any. Clearly, I disagree with using unspent stimulus funds to pay for extended unemployment benefits. But it's okay to disagree with someone, even a hero like Mignon Veasley-Fields. It's counterproductive to squabble like hungry lab rats.

Do you agree or disagree about using stimulus funds for unemployment? What about unity of message for the 99ers?

Friday, October 1, 2010

DC Rally Tomorrow: It's About Time

Our day is almost here. Tomorrow is the One Nation Working Together Rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. It's about time.

I came to One Nation Working Together as a member of the long term unemployed. The USA needs good paying jobs for the sake of all citizens. One Nation stands for more than that: It stands for full equality, a safety net for those at risk and world class public education. In short One Nation Working Together represents middle class values.

During my formative years it appeared the USA was on track for embedding these middle class values permanently.  Somewhere between  my High School graduation and my kids entering middle school America took a wrong turn and turned on the middle class. This must be rectified. So it is about time for tomorrow's rally.

It is important that the rally is not the culmination of efforts to restore the middle class. The rally must be the beginning.  For me, my children and my grandchildren. So I intend to keep middle class values in my daily conversation. As just one guy in the Midwest I ask that tomorrow's rally become an annual event. America needs it and Americans deserve it.

What are your thoughts about tomorrow's rally? A beginning? The end? A stop along the way? What does the One Nation Working Together rally mean to you?