Saturday, May 31, 2008

* The company we keep – Sixty years ago the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, governments in scores of countries still torture and mistreat their people according to Amnesty International, the world watchdog for human rights violations. I found their recent report disturbing on two levels: acts of inhumanity around the world continue unabated; appearing with the countries of China, Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe for human rights violations is the United States for its use of torture at Guantanamo (and secret detention centers in many parts of the world). Who could imagine in the year 2000 the moral degradation that would take place under the realm of George W. Bush? Who could imagine the complicity of the large number of Americans required for this fall from grace to occur? Where is the outrage from the popular voice who claim they care about this country and its values? Have we pathetically transitioned to believe that the measure of patriotism is wearing a flag pin on one’s lapel? Is this another inconvenient truth?

* The ignobility of going back on your word – A civilized society functions within a framework of rules. Political parties are no different. To whine about rules one agreed to in the event that those rules do not serve ones self-interest is disingenuous and casts doubts upon ones ability to lead. All of which brings to mind Hillary Clinton. Prior to the primary season Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates by the Democratic National Committee because they moved up their primaries in violation of party rules. Only 4 states were sanctioned to hold their primaries in January and neither Florida nor Michigan was among them. Florida lost 210 pledged delegates and 28 superdelegates, and Michigan lost 156 pledged delegates and 25 superdelegates. Obama and Clinton agreed to this decision as well as not to campaign in these states. Obama was not even on the Michigan primary ballot. Florida and Michigan still conducted their primaries and Clinton won both of these states. Having previously agreed that these two states would not count, she now says these votes should count because every vote matters. That was not the case 7 months ago when Hillary Clinton felt she was assured the presidential nomination and the rules had gravitas.

* A note to Hillary Clinton supporters who say they will vote for McCain if Obama gets the nomination – When you support Clinton some of the issues you are supporting are women’s choice, workers rights, Iraq exit strategy, affordable healthcare coverage, veteran benefits and veterans physical and mental healthcare, oversight of corporations and global warming solutions. Barak Obama has a similar platform. John McCain DOES NOT! A vote for McCain is a vote for the same Bush policies, tactics and lobbyist/corporate connections that have put this country in the commode. The “McCain if not Hillary” crowd is reminiscent of the mentality of lower-income religious right voters. They put Republicans in office who oppose raising the minimum wage, enact laws that weaken the bargaining power of the work force, look the other way as corporations ignore work-place safety and side with the health insurance companies to prevent fair and affordable coverage for those who need it the most. If America decides that personality, race or gender is more important than issues we have earned a third Bush term.

* The company we keep – John McCain’s campaign co-chairman is former senator and most recently mega lobbyist Phil Graham. While a senator it was his legislation that cast aside Depression era laws and regulations that led to our current banking crisis. Graham was a pusher of legislation that assisted Enron during its troubles at the same time that his wife Wendy was a director of Enron. As recently as December, while a McCain advisor, Graham was still working for Swiss bankers specifically to help kill the “Emergency Home Ownership and Mortgage Equity Protection Act” and the “Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy Act,” a bill that would have let bankruptcy judges adjust mortgage terms so American families facing foreclosure could repay their loans, and keep their homes. There has been mention in the news that Graham is among the people McCain would consider for Treasury Secretary. The company we keep.

* Quote of the Week – Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura commenting on legal attempts to ban gay marriage: “Love is bigger than government. Who the hell are we as a government to tell people who you can fall in love with? I think it‘s absurd that fact is even being debated. “

Burger Pig er King – I recently commented about the plight of tomato pickers in Florida who supply Burger King and who toil for pittance wages. The company that sings the jingle “Have It Your Way” tried to have its own way by stubbornly opposing wage increases for these workers. Following a nationally supported protest BK has announced it will relent. “The 1-cent increase means that for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick, the workers will earn 77 cents, instead of 45 cents. That is a 71 percent increase, the first substantial one in decades for the workers. At the old wage the pickers typically earned $10,000 to $12,000 a year (working 10 to 12 hour days).” Amy Wagner, a senior vice president at Burger King said, “If the Florida tomato industry is to be sustainable long term, it must become more socially responsible (an epiphany before our eyes). She estimated that the wage boost would cost Burger King about $300,000 a year.” Now this is what really overcooks my fries! An examination of Burger King’s financial statement ending June 2007 shows annual sales of $2.2 billion. Net profit after taxes was $148 million. The $300,000 expense, so that farm workers can have a barely livable wage, represents an insignificant two-tenths of 1 percent of their net profit. The offers a glimpse of conditions these farm workers face each day.

* Speaking of unhealthy food – “A congressional committee is investigating whether some private U.S. laboratories were instructed to withhold samples of tainted food so that importers could get their goods into the United States… Testing on some samples was conducted repeatedly until the food passed.” This is similar to my experience with high school French class but the only one I was hurting was me. "This repeated testing is done without alerting the FDA that potentially dangerous food has been imported into this country.” When will people begin going to jail for assisting and enabling amorally myopic entrepreneurs who endanger people? Since the answer appears to be never, I have an alternative suggestion. Force the importers and lab technicians that ignore tainted food to eat it! The linked article goes on to give the convoluted reasoning why a lab has not broken the law when not reporting tainted food to the proper authorities. If current law is lacking or defective, fix it. The new law should also require importers and lab technicians to consume a sample of any edible product that they certify as safe. That would go a long way toward making the system fail safe.

* Helping Republicans with their message – The Republican Party attempted to develop a slogan that would encapsulate their message to the common people. Their creative team came up with “The Change You Deserve”. Not exactly brilliant but also copyrighted for the anti-depressant drug Effexor XP. With the Republicans in need of a new slogan readers at were asked to submit helpful suggestions. Hundreds were submitted and 20 selected that include:
~Pennies on The Dollar: The Change You People Deserve
~Vote For Us Or You'll Have To Marry One Of Them Gays
~Government Is the Problem and If You Elect Us, We Will Prove It
~A Chicken Hawk in Every Pot!

Venlafaxine is the drug that is marketed under the brand name Effexor XP. Some of the side effects include nausea, headache, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, insomnia, increased blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, dizziness and increased risk of suicide. On second thought, perhaps the Republicans have earned the right to use the Effexor XP slogan.

* Speaking of risk to health – The American Lung Association, on behalf of health and environmental groups, has filed a law suit against the Bush administration. The suit argues that the administration failed to protect public health and the environment when it issued new smog requirements. For quite some time I have wondered why Bush and his cohorts have ignored with disdain the health and safety of the American people. My current working theory is that they and their families are androids and not subject to the normal health concerns of sentient human beings.

* Question of the Week – What transpired for Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary, to go from Bush defender, apologist and spinner of the artful alibi to come out with a new book excoriating Bush and his minions? Was he rescued from the mind-numbing Stepford Wife syndrome experienced by Bush employees or did he locate his conscience? In any case it was enjoyable watching the Bush administration spokespeople doing the dance of the deniers and saying that Scott was a good friend who lost his way. It was not enjoyable seeing further confirmation about how the Bush administration screwed America.

* Onward Christian soldier(s?) – A U.S. Marine on duty guarding the city of Fallujah, Iraq has been handing out coins. No, this has nothing to do with alms. One side of the coin said, "Where will you spend eternity?" The other side of the coin said, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16." The breadth of this activity is not known but it has been confirmed by the U.S. military. Local U.S. commanders are investigating since the military prohibits proselytizing any religion, faith or practices. The 150,000 U.S. troops in harms way in Iraq do not need evangelical soldiers inflaming the Muslim community and giving further encouragement to the extremists already on the edge. I thought the stupidity surrounding the Iraq fiasco had reached its nadir. Hopeful but wrong. I wonder if God needs a chiropractor from shaking her head in disbelief.

* For quite some time I have found the growing influence of the religious right in America unsettling. Some of my objection to this development was obvious to me and some was more intuitive and difficult to verbalize. I recently came across the following observations that brought more clarity to my concerns:

“There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.
The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.
This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.”
Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine (1928 – 2007) a founder of the Society for Humanistic Judaism

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

especially appalling is the tomato fiasco. Thanks for bringing it to our attention again including the article in The Nation. Fortunately there are folks like you & your readers who can think for ourselves, as Rabbi Wine said, to help publicize & suggest solutions for these grievous crimes against humanity. May I say Have a nice weekend? Ruth & Scott