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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Join me on a journey.

I've been listening to Peter, Paul & Mary and the Weavers alot lately.  It's not my love of harmony because I've also been listening to Dylan. Times are turbulent. I'm looking for an anchor.  I love my family but thy're not my anchor. My family is my motor. Anyway, these lyrics struck me in a new way: 

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Frankly, times aren't a-changin' any more. Times have already changed. Unemployed are becoming 99ers every week.  The first 99ers are two months away from chartering the 200 club. There are 5 seekers for each job. The businesses bolstered by taxpayer $$ (that's $$ from you and me) are doing just fine these days. Record profits, record bonuses and hoarding record amounts of cash. These now healthy corporations aren't required  to add employees and equipment. Of course we weren't required to prop up these businesses, but that's another conversation for another day. Fact is they're not hiring and when they do, they rarely hire from the ranks of the unemployed or over 45 crowd.  Astonishment and anger are understandable responses but instead, I've joined a bunch of Hooligans.

This bunch of Hooligans isn't the smash and grab, steal Grandma's purse hooligans. These Hooligans look at the status quo askance, bending  old rules or writing new rules when necessary. These Hooligans may have been insiders once but now relish the role of outsider, regularly establishing new norms and always pushing the boundaries further.  These Hooligans are a tribe, led by Chieftain Sarah Robinson. I've been following her blog, "Escaping Mediocrity" for a bit and she's turned me into a Hooligan. Sarah is launching a month long series "28 Days to Getting Your Sh*t Together", Feb. 1. I've subscribed and I am inviting you to join me.

I am not being compensated to shill for the series. In true Hooligan fashion, I haven't asked permission to invite an entire group to subscribe. As a matter of fact, Sarah won't even know about this invitation until I post and send her the link (Hi Sarah, How ya doin'?). I'm doing this because I expect "28 days" to help me and I want to share whatever I can with others.  The only cost is the time it takes to register, read and react to the posts for "28 Days". There is no fear of failure. My "career elevator" is already in the parking garage, up is the only direction I can go.  I would like any 99er unafraid of rethinking their path to join me.

This is not a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" opportunity. It's insulting to suggest a 99er suck it up and get it together. Consider "28 Days" a "visualize everyone that's denied, dismissed or diminished you and kick those f***ers in the nuts" moment that lasts a whole month. It's been long enough, it's time to kick those f***ers in the nuts. Sign up and put on your steel toe boots. See you Feb. 1.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rambling Rumblings.

I missed most of the State of the Union address last night. I was meeting with a local restaurant owner, assuring him I had the requisite skills to take food from his kitchen door to a neighborhood house.  I think he's going to offer me a two week tryout. When I got home I found I lacked the patience to watch a replay of the speech of the two responses.

According to my Twitter stream President Obama did not mention the plight of the 99ers in the State of the Union. I was not surprised.  The President has never mentioned the 99ers. I don't expect him to start now. Any help for the 99ers is going to have to come from the legislative branch.

Rep. Barbara Lee has committed to introducing legislation similar to HR 6556 which she brought forward  at the end of the 111th Congress.  The support of Rep.Lee and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus is great support for the long term unemployed, but...

The Republicans chose Rep. Paul Ryan (ever notice how his eyes resemble the eyes of stormtroopers in WWII movies?) to give their response to the State of the Union. Rep. Ryan wants to work toward deficit reduction by privatizing Medicare and minimizing Social Security.  I don't see how it will be possible to expand safety nets with a Republican majority in the house unless...

Perhaps unemployment benefits can be temporarily expanded beyond 99 weeks as part of an overall plan to destroy Medicare and Social Security? Talk about a deal with the devil. Are you comfortable with legislation that assists 99ers today and totally screws 99ers (and everyone other than the ultra wealthy) in the future?  Please offer your opinion or an alternative.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The power of community.

I was working as a Funeral Director until September, 2008. Since then, I am occasionally asked to assist at a funeral. Such was the case this past Wednesday, January 19. My friend Karen's father had died. I had served Karen when her mother died and all involved thought I would be a comfort to her at her father's funeral.

If you haven't experienced winter in the Midwest, it's cold. Not Miami down in the 50's cold but cover all your skin or lose it cold. The two weeks prior to the funeral the temperature had exceeded freezing twice. The ground was frozen making burial without machinery difficult.

It is a Jewish tradition (though not exclusively Jewish) to not delegate the burial of a loved one to strangers. Instead, those attending the funeral share the responsibility of filling the grave; each person shovels earth to the extent of their own ability. Filling a grave is considered an ultimate act of kindness and a communal responsibility. The deceased cannot fill the grave themselves and the deceased cannot repay the kindness of those filling the grave.

Karen asked me to remind the cemetery crew their services would not be necessary to close the grave. "Karen the ground is frozen. There is one shovelful of earth. It weighs 2000 pounds", I said.  "Barry, my friends buried my mother, they'll do the same for my father.  It's what we believe in."  I chose not to remind Karen that her mother's funeral had been in early summer.  I asked the cemetery crew to stand out of sight but to be available if needed.

There were about 20 people present at the funeral. Once the Rabbi finished the eulogy and prescribed prayers the burial began. I was right about the frozen mound of dirt. Karen was right about her friends. Everyone took turns shoveling to their ability. When necessary, some took charge of loosening the frozen dirt with a pick or shovel. After approximately a 1/2 hour, despite the cold air and frozen earth, with everyone taking turns in rotation, the grave was filled. Acting together with purpose the community had fulfilled their role. I had planned on using this example as an introduction to the strength and depth of the 99er community. Unfortunately another more pertinent example surfaced.

The same day as the funeral an article in the Hartford Examiner about 99ers in peril referenced a post on Rant Rave. 99ers are at an increased risk of suicide. 

The next night I was glancing at my Twitter history during the late news and was referred to a comment on YouTube:

I have no choice but to give up. My rent is due tomorrow (21st) and I have 18 bucks and change in my pocket. Tonight will be last time I'd sleeping on a bed in a warm room, I dont think I will last on the streets, conceivably, tomorrow will be last time I wake up.
I am not religious man, but, may God helps whom still hanging on the hope one day their life will be back to “normal”. I thank God that I don’t have anyone counting on me for their survival.
May God bless you all.
As you follow the thread you see the immediate response from the 99er community.  Offers of ideas, support and even a call to local law enforcement to prevent a potential suicide. The Denver Post summarized the actions the next day, Friday.
99ers are not alone. There are many experiencing the same feelings, thoughts and challenges. Don't go through this hell by yourself. Give back to the community when you can.  Offer support. Participate in advocacy opportunities to the extent of your ability. Join the Jobs Party. Take a minute to get your resume to Rep. Jackson.  Be ready to support Rep. Lee as she introduces the 112th Congress version of HR 6556. Do what you can to advance the idea of jobs and safety net. Help those that are unable to help themselves. It's the responsibility of community. It's the power of community.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Game on.

The NFC Championship Game begins in just a few hours. The Green Bay Packers vs. the Chicago Bears for a trip to the Super Bowl.  This is football nirvana.  I'll be back on the cause for unemployment rights tomorrow. Today is for the Bears. Go Bears.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Party time!

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is asking for the unemployed to send him a resume. His aim is to put a face on the unemployed. "We've got a Democratic Party, a Republican Party, a Tea Party. We need a Jobs Party." (Props to Mike Thornton for a top notch piece. I'm just collecting the loose change.)

99ers, this is not opportunity knocking.  This is opportunity screaming at us before it bites us in the nose. In December, the Congressional Black Caucus announced support for Tier V. Now, one of the CBC members is asking the unemployed to inundate his office with pleas for help. 99ers didn't get this commitment  from McDermott or Stabenow.  Rep. Jackson is creating opportunity for 99ers to advocate on their own behalf.  He is trying to help 99ers generate momentum to sway public opinion. We must participate.

Rep. Jackson's resume collecting and Donalee King's 99er Action Plan is the 99ers early opportunity to make a case for Tier V to the 112th Congress. Please join in and help move the nation toward a Jobs Party.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A lesson from the eyes of Tiger.

Long before Tiger Woods was a punchline for late night talk shows he was the best golfer in the world. Ever. Maybe except for Bobby Jones but that's not pertinent to the rest of this, so Tiger Woods was the best golfer in the world. Ever.

In August, 1996 Tiger Woods left the collegiate ranks and became a pro golfer. From 1997 through 2007 Tiger was PGA Player of the year 9 times during those 11 years. What happened in 1998 (see #3) and 2004? Tiger Woods changed his golf swing. Why did he change his swing? In 1998 he wanted to become more consistent and versatile.  More consistent than "Player of the Year'? In 2004 he felt like he could become better. Better than "Player of the Year" the last 5 years? The old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" didn't apply. A self-driven need for excellence moved Tiger and both times the "lost year" paid off for multiple years that followed.  Tiger obviously understands the difference between investment and expense.

For 99ers the message is clear. Tiger was willing to change a successful formula and rebuild his swing to get even better.  As a 99er, I don't have to risk the downside of change.  I can re-evaluate my resume, job search, networking etc. without fear of failure. I can rethink my position on "surviving the new economy" to find ways to "thrive in the new economy". I'm already at/near the bottom.  The risk of not achieving is here.  Changes I make can only improve my prospects. The time for bold action is now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Takin' it to the streets.

"Takin' it to the Streets" was the first Doobie Brothers album and single to feature Michael McDonald. It's significance was it took the band from it's power bass trio beginnings to include more keyboards.  It was also the first step in the band's journey from arena rock to county fairs. "Takin' it to the streets" is also the 2011 theme for 99ers. Here's hoping "takin' to the streets" is more successful for the 99ers.

Takin' it to the streets is necessary for the 99ers for many reasons, of which I will list two:

The previous strategy of fax/phone/email bombardment failed to produce significant press coverage or legislative debate.  The phone/email/fax rallies with the "One Nation" rally and other regional marches helped get the solitary unproductive Senate vote for TierV Simply put, doing more of the same will produce more non-results.  This is not a reflection on the efforts, dedication, judgement or commitment of the various people and groups responsible for all the efforts for the 99ers in 2010. Unfortunately these talented dedicated advocates produced a product with no tangible results. Remember Betamax and Prodigy? It happens.

As a rather long aside, before I leave 2010 I want to send a great big wet kiss to Ed Schultz. After putting HCR front and center daily on his shows, Ed was asked to take up the cause of the 99ers.  He stuck his neck out, said yes and became our strongest media advocate. The results were unwelcome, but without his efforts I think many would have no idea what it means to be a 99er. Love you, Big Ed, keep on telling the truth. Please forgive my digression.

Logic may be a rare commodity in the 112th Congress.  For example Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) a Tea Party freshman this past Sunday on "Meet The Press". As part of a roundtable discussing the ramifications of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Labrador was asked about gun control.

MR. GREGORY:  ...a, a view about the guns, the debate here.
REP. LABRADOR:  We have to be careful of this debate a little bit. Washington, D.C., last week had seven murders, and they have some of the most--strictest gun laws in, in the United States.  So I don't know that it's the gun laws that are going to make the differences.  It's the responsibility that each individual has to, to carry guns safely.  And, and, you know, there's still a question about law enforcement.  This man was known to be deranged, and he was also known to have already said some things about certain officials in town.  So where was law enforcement?  And we need to ask those questions.

I'm not sure what Labrador's inference was about law enforcement, but it appears that in the same thought on defending the 2nd Amendment he wants to limit the 1st Amendment.  I realize consistency is not the strength of Teapublicans but shouldn't the entire Bill of Rights be equal in the same statement? It is unreasonable to think that faxes, email (logic?) etc will sway this inconsistent thought process.

It's time for 99ers to take the debate (as if) for TierV beyond the logic of the head and speak to the emotion of the heart. It's time to go beyond well intentioned but marginally successful conventional methods. It's time for takin' it to the streets.

TierV to survive.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not by might.

On Saturday, January 8, 2011 Jared Loughner attempted to kill Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He failed but managed to kill 6 others and wound 14 including Rep. Giffords.  This act of non-random violence by a crazed individual has renewed the call for a more civil tone in the ongoing political debate about everything. This appears to be rather complex since no one has laid out a road map for decreasing the vitriol.

In unrelated news Debbie Friedman succumbed to pneumonia Sunday, January 9, 2011.  Friedman had an extraordinary voice not only in the literal sense but also in her interpretation and presentation of scriptural and liturgical themes. Her body of work spanned 50+ years. Some of her music has been incorporated into regular worship at many congregations. Her songs will still be sung for generations.

One of Debbie Friedman's earliest compositions was her adaptation of Zechariah 4:6:
 "Not by might and not by power, but by spirit alone shall we all live in peace." Imagine that.

Peace achieved via spirit, whether divinely inspired or simply the spirit of community before self. That's the recipe for peace. Too simplistic in a complex world?  The best way to attack complicated projects is to break the problems down to simple, basic components and put those pieces together to reach the goal. And the goal is simple: Turn down the heat and increase civility in the political debate. Begin with spirit, it's that simple.

Not by might and not by power but by spirit alone shall we all live in peace.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Politics means never having to say you're sorry.

Yesterday's post was written to be non-partisan. I hope I succeeded. Today, not so non-partisan.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik criticized vitriolic political rhetoric during a press conference about the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He in turn was criticized by Sen. Jon Kyl and vitriolic right wing bloggers for having the temerity to suggest that perhaps the tone of  political conversation might have contributed to the attack. Some have even called Sheriff Dupnik's comments an attack on the 1st Amendment.

Have you ever walked into a room full of children to find family heirloom in pieces on the floor and ask "What happened?" The 1st one that says "I didn't do it" is the culprit. Perhaps if the Sheriff's criticism didn't hit the target, the response wouldn't be as vociferous? More importantly, in Brandenberg v. Ohio the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that speech likely to incite imminent lawless action is not protected by the 1st Amendment.  I believe an attempt to kill a U.S. Representative qualifies as imminent lawless action. Also, Sheriff Dupnik never suggested abridging anyone's 1st Amendment rights. He merely suggested exercising restraint in rhetoric,a nuance obviously lost to right wing hate mongers. Finally, Sheriff Dupnik did not ascribe the counterproductive caustic rhetoric to either (any) political philosophy. The offense taken by the right wing blogosphere proclaims "the lady doth protest too much, methink."

Instead I suggest the offended angry right go learn the lesson of Sue Lowden.  Ms. Lowden was the front runner for Nevada Republican nomination to challenge Harry Reid for Senate. Polls showed Lowden way ahead of Reid in a general election. (Un)fortunately Ms. Lowden, while attempting to criticize Pres. Obama's health care reform initiative, made a remark about bartering chickens for health care. When asked about her non-21st century approach to affordable health care, Lowden chose to reiterate rather than retract the statement. Both Harry Reid and Sharron Engle capitalized on this gaffe. Engle won the Republican nomination and Harry Reid won the Senate race. A simple "I chose my words poorly" and Sue Lowden would likely be Senator Lowden and the Republicans might control the Senate. That's the power of "I'm sorry."

The responsibility for the high volume discord pervasive in today's political climate does not rest solely with any party. Still if one (either) party is unwilling to consider they're portion of the mess jointly created, the mess can't be cleaned, not even for the memory of a nine year old girl.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The day before

My Rabbi taught: "Say the Shema the day before you die". " Rabbi, How will I know when it's the day before I die?" "It's best to say the Shema every day, just to be sure", he replied.

Over the last 36 hours everyone seems intent on releasing a statement about the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The county dog catcher just released a statement decrying the random act of violence of a single cuckoo.

Note to all those well intentioned (and even those myopic, cover my ass, not so well intentioned): Next time try and make the statements before it's a day late and six dead short.

Silence isn't golden.

There was a shooting yesterday in Tucson, AZ.  There were shootings in other cities in the world, too. The target  in Tucson was Representative Gabrielle Giffords. The shooter killed six and wounded nineteen. The shooting took place at a scheduled public event for Representative Giffords. Speculation is that the shooting was politically motivated. I don't think the victims families care about the shooter's reasons.

In October I posted about thuggery during the last weeks of the 2010 midterm election. I cited cases of intimidation on behalf of Republican candidates and the milquetoast (if any) response of the candidates. To be clear, scare tactics are non-partisan.  To further clarify, Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Eric Cantor or any other politician are not responsible for the shooting in Tucson yesterday.  The responsibility for the shooting rest solely with the assassin and any accomplices, no one else. I apologize that the only examples I cite involve Republicans; both sides have quietly benefited from bullying. The incidents I selected were readily available to me.

The Pima County Sheriff expressed his displeasure at the vitriolic tenor of political discourse in this country.  I agree with him but the approach is too simplistic. Although violence (as was in this case) is calculated the results of violence are random.  3 senior citizens, a nine year old and a judge are among the collateral damage of yesterday's shooting of Rep. Giffords. Now that it's timely to say something, it's also too late. You can't wait until people are dead to decry violence and it's causes. If you want to lead from the Capitol or the Statehouse, from in front of a camera or at a microphone you need to call this stuff out before the word "victim" is used. Every day violence must condemned. It isn't newsworthy when you talk about it everyday. That's the point.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The day they raised Ole' Dixie up.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fl 22nd), do you realize the people you are aligned with want to repeal Social Security and Medicare? Once that's accomplished they're going to try and repeal the Civil War. Good luck in all your future endeavors, Rep. West.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Advocacy is for the young.

I grew up watching Viet Nam war protests on TV. These "end the war marches" usually occurred on a college campus. This makes sense. Young people with disposable time and a guarantee of shelter and sustenance make great advocates. I'm not dismissing the energy and ideas of students. I'm saying that middle aged with family and no clue as where to sleep or how to eat means no energy to fight. Any energy is used to locating shelter and sustenance.  Striking the balance between job search and safety-net solicitation is delicate.

Wouldn't it be simpler to focus all energy into job search? Yes, but with 5 seekers for every job many seekers will be unsuccessful, no matter what.  So the battle for a lifeline continues and consumes energy that could be allocated elsewhere.

Any 99er I know is tired, but the 99ers must carry on.  There is another call to action in the works.  Please commit to join the fight (again). Your participation is necessary for all of us. Tier V to survive.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Last Word (until next time).

"The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" has been on MSNBC since September 27, 2010. It airs at weekdays at 10 PM EST between the 1st nightly airing of "The Rachel Maddow Show" and the 1st nightly rebroadcast of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann". On December 16, 2010 O'Donnell announced the inception of the K.I.N.D. Fund. The fund's purpose is to provide over 46,000 desks for children in Malawi. Most schools in Malawi have no desks. To date the fund has raised over $1,700,000, or 35,400+ desks. In less than 3 weeks the fund is over 75% towards reaching it's goal. Wow.

Imagine, a show that's been on a little over three months raising $1.7 million in under three weeks. That's fabulous. I am with this effort 100% in spirit but current unemployed circumstances preclude me from participating financially. What Mr. O'Donnell is doing is amazing but I must ask: Mr. O'Donnell could you please give the 99ers the same nightly exposure you are giving the K.I.N.D. Fund? The 99ers need help and the energy of those that gave the $1.7 could go a long way.  Mr. O'Donnell, will you please help?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

112th Congress: 99ers Preview

As we approach the onset of the 112th Congress, 99ers have one goal: survival. The path to survival is not easy to find nor easy to traverse.  How many (former?) 99ers will see the 113th Congress? Only time will tell.

Mike Thornton gives a realistic glimpse into the rosy employment predictions of 2011. Frankly the analysis is uglier than the 2011 Tea Party Swimsuit Calendar (Yes, that's a mean-spirited unfair cheap shot and I'm proud of it). Donalee King gives a review of the (unsuccessful) strategies of the 99ers in 2010 and starts to detail the plan for 2011.

I am not criticizing the activism for Tier V in  2010. I'm proud of all that was attempted on behalf of the 99ers and honored to be considered a colleague of all those that fought for the 99ers.  Unfortunately all the hard work resulted in exactly zero floor votes on extending unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks; the late September kabuki theater for S3706 doesn't count for squat.

I wholeheartedly agree that 99ers need to spend quality face time with our elected officials. I also think it's imperative to involve not yet 99ers and non-99ers. Reaching not yet 99ers will be most easily achieved by keeping the plight of the 99ers front and center. A graphic similar to the Doomsday Clock with the growing number of 99ers reflected weekly, daily, hourly (said graphic design is currently beyond my pay grade) until...

As for non-99ers, hopefully many will join those gainfully employed or voluntarily retired that 99ers count as friends. Other non-99ers may need to be brought along in more aggressive (no violence, never violence) manner. Blocking highway access or government buildings at starting/quitting times comes to mind immediately. Given time, I'm sure other non-violent forms of public education will surface. Perhaps even the Tea Party and union advocacy groups will become staunch supporters of the 99ers.

Eliciting support from the Tea Party is simple. An explanation of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" in  The Declaration of Independence in conjunction with "provide for the common defense/promote the general welfare" from the preamble to the Constitution should be sufficient to garner Tea Party backing. I suggest an illustrated format with lots of pictures and short sentences in a large font. (Another mean-spirited cheap shot and I'm still proud).

Obtaining stronger labor union support is also simple. Union history along with a reminder that unions don't organize at D.C. cocktail parties should provide for stronger support for the 99ers.  This union history need not be illustrated, at least for now.

I apologize for my cynicism and hope you appreciate my snark. Time to get it in gear. Tier V (for many) to survive.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Good news and bad news

The onset of the 112th Congress brings good news: The sponsors of HR 6556 from the 111th Congress plan on continuing the fight. More than anything (except for jobs), 99ers need a constant voice advocating the common sense of a safety net until jobs are available. Perhaps a push from the Black Congressional Caucus will provide the voice of reason.

The onset of the 112th Congress also brings bad news:  In addition to a large Republican majority, any new bill must contain a statement citing the constitutional authority to write the bill. Then the Rep. that wrote the bill must show their birth certificate and out three communists.

It's hard to soar with eagles when you walk with bat-shit crazy cretins.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Eve (Yesterday)

I have lived in the Midwest my entire life. I have spent every New Year's, as far east as Cleveland and as far west as Rockford, in the Midwest. Yesterday (New Years Eve) was rainy and in the 50's. I have seen New year's with bitter cold or heavy snow or something in between. I have never seen rain on New Year's Eve in the Midwest. I think God (if you prefer nature, or the elements, or random that's okay but I prefer God) was shedding tears for the lost year for the 99ers.

Ancient civilizations also saw rain as a symbol of good luck.  I like that.
Peter Yarrow - Weave Me The Suns...