This week I went to a meeting about the Republican power grab in our state of Wisconsin. Republicans have had things their way in Madison with majorities in both houses of the legislature and the governorship. Scott Walker was at the top of his game limiting the power of unions and Democrats. He even attempted an ill-fated run for the presidency. However, since 2016 the trends have started to favor democrats and their candidates. They won a series of special elections with including the race for Senate in Alabama and a couple of open seats in Wisconsin. Things became so bad that Walker began delaying calling for special elections, to keep the republicans from losing their grip on power.
He sounded the alarm that democrats were out to get him after years of cuts in education and health care and the growing opposition to the republican policies in Washington. There were predictions that 2018 would be a blue wave year sweeping in democrats across the country and in many ways it was. Democrats won all the statewide races a couple of weeks ago and they received the majority of votes in the legislature. However, because of unfair election maps, they actually lost a seat. The Republicans have become more ideological because they haven’t had to sit down and make any deals to pretend that they are bi-partisan. This unwillingness to compromise was displayed in a horrible fashion in Wisconsin and Michigan when Republican legislators rammed through bills that would severely limited the power of the incoming Democratic governors and attorneys general.
Democrats across the state rallied, testified against the bills and sent emails. Newspapers wrote editorials shaming the power grab. This graceful show was a leading topic on social media. The satirical newspaper The Onion published a story about the Republicans burning down the state in order to prevent Democrats from coming to power. Even some Republicans like wealthy businessman Sheldon Lubar denounced the bills. The stage is set for a prolonged fight over the next for years with lawsuits planned if Walker signs the bills as expected. I will do my part to resist the forces of conservatives and attempt to restore our state’s battered reputation for progressive politics.
I am reading this book by Ngozi Adichie that was a major best seller. It is the second book I have been reading since buying new glasses last week. I had been struggling with reading previously often crying as I tried to read. I took off my glasses because apparently the part of the lens where one does close reading was too small. There was much about my eyes that was unknown to me. It seems that I am not very good in buying glasses, sometimes keeping them way past the time when they are to be discarded. Other times getting glasses that don’t fit and look ridiculous. Now I have good glasses, my eyes are dry and the streets are damp. Now to find out why everyone is reading this book.
My first Nigerian novelist was the much beloved Chinua Achebe who made me feel the struggle of Africa being ripped apart by colonizers. I read him when I was in college either running from the police or trying to find a girl friend. Now I have these new glasses which make me feel like reading and writing once more. The book puzzles me as it seems to make a lot of jumps in place and time. At first, the main character Ifemelu is a smart mouthed blogger in America getting ready to return home to rekindle an old relationship and being tortured by an African hair braider who seems to be having a mental breakdown. Then she is a child enduring her mother’s religious fantasies in Nigeria. I will see where this leads.
I am reading a long article in Mother Jones magazine by Shane Bauer an investigative journalist who took a $9 per hour job as a corrections officer in a prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America. Bauer details under-staffing motivated by profit, neglect of inmates, neglecting inmates mental and physical health and conditions that would shock any caring person. Bauer looks into the company’s history arising from the swamp like a primordial beast. The opportunity for profit created by mass incarceration needs to be eliminated permanently.
I remember how republican lawmakers howled when President Obama began allowing prisoners access to federal Pell grants to help further their education.The idea was elegant in its simplicity: educated prisoners will be more likely to obtain jobs, and benefit society. There are other proposals aimed at eliminating some of the draconian 3 strikes and your out laws that helped fill prisons. But one of the first places to look for reform is by shuttering the private prison industry and driving it out of business. We cannot continue to abuse our fellow citizens this way.
I urge people to read the article by Bauer and other stories and join groups like the ACLU that are helping to defend prisoners.
By now everyone has heard about the Cleveland Cavaliers and their remarkable victory over the Golden State Warriors Sunday night to clinch the NBA championship. The Cavs became the first team in NBA history to come from behind after trailing 3 games to 1 to win the finals. And of course the victory fulfilled a promise made by Cavs star LeBron James when he returned to the team he had left so publicly for the Miami Heat. He had won two championships with Miami but felt he wanted to do something for the long suffering people of Cleveland. I think the best part of the story is that Le Bron James is helping to fund the education of low income students in Ohio. That’s a contribution long after people forget the championship game.
I have been scanning my picture collections to find the right things that match my words. After much searching, I chose the cartoon above expressing a sense of independence and freedom. I was inspired by a story in the latest edition of the Freethought Today which had an essay from Thomas Sheedy, a high school student who fought to get a non religious student group approved at his high school. Sheedy delivered a speech on October 10, 2015 at the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s 38th annual convention in Madison, Wisconsin.
Sheedy is a 17 years old student from New York State. After spinning his wheels for a while and getting nowhere he got the FFRF involved and before he was approved and on organizing meetings. For his hard work, Sheedy received an award for student activism.
I sometimes read stories from non-religious people who feel very isolated because they are surrounded by so many intolerant people who want to literally bring them to Jesus. I have foolishly entered into relations with religious women “looking for love in all the wrong places” because I found them attractive and it was discouraging to find someone who was more suited to me.
I think in the long run it is better to look for the progressive, and atheist people in our communities. They are out there. Reading in the library, jogging down our streets, canvassing for candidates, or reading The Humanist. We will just have to keep following our beliefs and remember that we may inspire people we don’t even know.
I liked most of what I heard President Obama tell us last night in his State of the Union address. Let me go through a brief checklist:
- Taxing the rich: check and double-check. The rich have made out like bandits and basically own the Congress due to a horrendous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. I could tell by the sour expression on the face of Mr Orange, John Boner, that the President had struck a nerve.
- Middle Class tax cuts: again check and double-check. we need a much fairer system that rewards work. It was an excellent set up having a solid example of a woman and her family who are working hard and playing by the rules but need a hand up to help pay for things like child care.
- Diplomacy first and war only as a last resort.Checked The negotiations underway with Iran over their nuclear program were cited as a prime example. Some members of Congress have proposed imposing further sanctions on the Iranian economy at a time when the chances for a diplomatic solution are at a critical juncture. The President promised to veto anything that Congress approved tightening the screws on Iran instead of continuing to talk.
- Marriage equality: the President has thorough embraced equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people at that is a first. The fact he did so openly in front of the Supreme Court justices seated there in front of him was not lost on anyone. Check and mate
- Free community college for 2 years to help low-income workers improve their skills and get better jobs. Paid for by the taxes on wealthy Americans, this common sense approach to investing in people helps sharpen the contract between Republicans who focus on increasing tax breaks for their wealthy donors and Democrats who work to aid the middle class. This proposal harkens back to the post World War II era GI Bill of Rights that helped send a generation to college and buy homes.
- I was very glad to hear President Obama take credit for the vast reduction in the number of American troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan. he inherited those wars from George W. Bush who conducted them without any thought about how to end them, whether we were prepared to fight and what a successful outcome would be. . This all results from American meddling. George W. Bush who conducted them without any thought about how to end them, whether we were prepared to fight and what a successful outcome would be. Iraq remains unstable and a miserable group of extremists called ISIL has taken over a large portion of Iraq and Syria. President Obama developed a strategy to mobilize and train soldiers from Syria and Iraq backed by American air support to help repel the invaders. He remains steadfast in his commitment not to be dragged into another long and drawn out occupation and he called for Congress to authorize the use of force, in other words, declaring war against ISIL. Whatever happens, he wants Congress to help own it. We are log past the debate over whether the initial invasion was a good idea; we are now talking about how to help repel a bunch of people from the 13th century.
- Related to the issue of military occupation is our obligation to help the veterans who sacrificed for their country get back on their feet. Dr. Jill Biden and Michelle Obama have been the public faces of the campaign to help employ veterans. How wonderful to have two such capable women as spouses for the Vice President and the President. This is part of a larger effort that includes reforming the Veterans Administration, modernizing the veterans health care system and ending homelessness among veterans.
- President Obama continues to push for infrastructure projects including roads, bridge, improved mass transit and other items. he has been doing this throughout his presidency including the passage of the stimulus package. We continue to hear about crumbling bridges and repairing and replacing them ought to be a bi-partisan issue including raising the gasoline tax enough to help cover the cost. However, the unfortunate thing about many of these Republican members of Congress is that they view any federal proposal as socialistic and don’t understand the concept of investing for the future.
There is much to admire in this list and so many other things that the president has proposed as being the right thing for America. I would have added the idea of completely legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol. We can save billions by moving away from the failed war on drugs which costs lives while imprisoning far too many people. The president’s policy on Cuba sounds like a solid idea, and he asked the Congress to pass legislation towards that end. However I would take it even further by returning the Guantanamo Bay to Cuba and removing that relic of gunboat diplomacy. Cuba should truly belong to the Cubans.
The other thing that must be said is that President Obama said he has no more campaigns to run because he won both of his presidential campaigns. Having said that, he has laid out a progressive vision that progressive candidates can use in future campaigns. i would say yes to a candidate similar to what President Obama articulated. Why not? i would have said much the same damned thing.
One of my first adult jobs after leaving the US Army was at the notorious Willowbrook State School on Staten Island. It was an institution for people with developmental disabilities. If you google Willowbrook you will find that it had been exposed by Geraldo Rivera when he was a reporter. On television and in a a book he tore the lid off a pattern of neglect and mistreatment. We need to protect vulnerable people like those who were at Willowbrook so that they can feel safe and secure that their needs are being met.
They need to believe that the caregivers in and out of institutions have their best interests at heart. We need to understand that as workers we are putting their needs uppermost in our minds. In the idealistic days of my youth, i believed that social change was possible. We baby boomers could get into the institutions like Willowbrook and make a difference.
It was only summer but the things I learned while on that job stayed with me as I began to work in the mental health field. It is hardly surprising that I work in a hospital much like my mother. It was her influence working with developmentally delayed adults in our home that led me to apply at Willowbrook. I still think it is possible to change the system, otherwise I would have quit long ago. I am looking forward to America fulfilling the promise that was made regarding deinstitutionalization. Recovery is possible.