Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The People Speak

After thousands of TV ads, months of speeches, and miles of newsprint, the voters have spoken and have resoundingly re-elected Barack Obama to a second term. Governor Romney and the Republican Party are both said to be in a state of shock as they thought they had the election in the bag. The predictions of Karl Rove, Morris and others that Romney could not lose have been exploded. Rove, calling the network tallies incorrect shows how far off the mark he actually was.

Relying on a pollster which over-sampled Republicans was only one of their major errors. It didn't work for younger voters, either.

Funny, somewhere along the way, they forgot to talk to the "other America". You know who I mean, the real Americans who work every day and maybe live paycheck to paycheck who need their home mortgage deduction or their job based health insurance, but who do not see themselves either as freeloaders or victims. The ones who did not believe the lies Romney told about the Jeep business moving out of Ohio, but who did see the workers at the Bain owned plant in the Midwest being required to train their Chinese replacements before the plant work was sent to China. The real Americans who paid a higher percentage of their earnings in taxes than the man who refused to share the details of his tax returns, even though he had required his VP candidates to do so.

  • They forgot to speak to the 47% disparaged so dismissively at the secretly recorded fundraiser remarks in Florida. (Speaking of fundraisers--who knows the ultimate effect of the billions spent on this election?)
  • They disregarded the millions of first generation Americans of color whose parents had immigrated to this country from across the world who now, as citizens, proudly contribute to their communities.
  • The issues of immigration were mentioned only in terms of building fences and self-deporting. President Obama's limited program of allowing those who came here as children to apply for legal identities was also widely put down.
  • They did not speak to the millions of women who visit Planned Parenthood each year for wellness exams, or who know that access to birth control is a financial issue as it allows them to balance their economics, job opportunities and family size.
  • They fanned the flames of racism with "Code-speak" talk of welfare and food stamps, forgetting the fact that the numbers of welfare recipients account for less than 5% of our population (or about 6 million of our over 310 million people) and are almost split in thirds between Whites and African Americans with a lesser number of Hispanics and "others". The 46 million people on food stamps include the young, elderly, the disabled and those below the poverty line and out of work, accounting for less than 15% of our populace.
  • The oft-repeated promises to disband "Obamacare" threatened many who had finally managed to receive health care coverage for their young children with pre-existing conditions and their young adults while they worked in entry level jobs. These are important family issues, seemingly disregarded by those who said they valued families.
  • While Romney competed aggressively in the battleground states, he lost them all. The recently "red States" of the South also saw some slippage as Florida went for Obama, while he barely lost North Carolina and again carried Virginia.
  • Some have said the Republicans are becoming a party of angry white men. While I will not go that far, I conclude that since Romney won a majority of white voters--who are a decreasing majority in this country--that there will be continued diminishing returns if this is the only outreach of the party.
  • The Republicans dismissed the "Occupy Wall Street" movement without taking time to listen to their words of disillusionment with the increasing inequities between the 2% and the other 98%. They know that the trickle down economics of not taxing the rich or so-called job creators have not worked.
  • They forgot that in this media age, one cannot successfully change the message from state to state or month to month and not be called on it. In the end, Romney was seen by many as untruthful and having no message of value.

Conversely, while the Obama campaign--which I volunteered for--kept the same message from the start of the campaign to the end. It meant something that the Obama campaign reached out not only to their usual Democratic urban base, but also fought for voters in Iowa, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado. In each area, the campaign worked with community members who shared their issues of jobs, education and healthcare and security for their retirement years. In each state, the Obama message of fixing Medicare, securing Social Security and expanding healthcare and job opportunities really resonated. Reducing the costs for college and expanding Pell grants means a lot to people whose home values had toppled and there was no equity to tap into to pay for college. It meant something that Obama recognized that the rich should pay their fair share and the government should not overly burden the middle class which forms the bedrock of our society.

A coalition of volunteers of every race, every nationality, old and young worked on this campaign for a long time. Call centers were populated by these diverse groups for many months working side-by-side with common goals. When contacts were made in various communities they saw people, such as themselves, engaged in the political process and caring enough to listen to them. A message was also sent when Republicans denied this duly elected President legitimacy, and continued to claim his birth certificate and citizenship were bogus. This disrespect shown by the Republicans in the Congress to the office of the Presidency, let alone to the person of the President, was unprecedented.

Many asked if this would have happened to a white President and saw these attacks as racist. This further fueled resolve amongst communities of color to re-elect this man again. The President won 93% of the Black vote, 73% of the Asian and Hispanic vote and about 45% of the white vote. 55% of women voted for him. Still the President won with over 50% of the vote and received over 60 million votes. Romney got 47% of the vote or about 57 million votes. Although the Electoral College split well for Obama with 332 votes, and 206 for Romney, this election cannot be called a landslide. It is however, in my opinion, a vindication of the Obama message and he can say he does have a mandate to resolve the fiscal issues left over from this Congress' inability to do so.

Finally, the efforts by Republican Governors, legislators and others to suppress the vote in states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and elsewhere, sent a huge message to voters of all races. Whether it was a requirement for voter IDs, decreases in early voting or reductions in polling stations, the message was clear: we are going to make it more difficult for people to vote and even more difficult in Democratic areas. As a result, voters came out and stood in lines for hours and hours, in heat, in the rain and in the dark.

At places in Virginia and Florida, voters were still in line after the networks had announced that President Obama had won. These people wanted to make a statement. They wanted to vote and felt that their vote mattered. The vote tally is still not complete in some states as provisional ballots are still being counted, but it appears that the final turnout numbers might be lower than in 2008. The Supreme Court is going to take up the Voting Rights Act to see if it is still needed. A look at these lines should have provided the answer.

What do you have to say about the election? Let me know.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy: Did you see your Government at work?

Many of us have been glued to our TV sets, computers, and mobile devices as we followed the weather updates and tracked super storm Sandy as it crashed into the East Coast of the United States. We watched updates on The Weather Channel, evening newscasts or on-line sites. We saw updates from the National Weather Service and its National Hurricane Center. We tracked the storm course with satellite feeds from NOAA. We saw FEMA crews dispatched to the devastated areas of several states. But also saw them pre-position resources before the storm?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Multiple Choice Mitt?

Do you remember those multiple choice tests you used to take in school? Answers commonly could be chosen from A to D with perhaps an "E" which would stand for: "none" or "all" of the above. Test takers learned to triage their answers, choosing by a process of elimination, the one best answer which addressed the question. When there were multiple choices which were similar, one needed to discriminate. However looking at the real world today, if you are Mitt Romney, you do not have to do this. You can choose all of the above, most of the time, even when the choices are contradictory.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Makers and Takers?

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has starkly demonstrated his estrangement from the middle class in America. Last week he claimed that the middle class had incomes up to the $250,000 level. That claim is not borne out by any statistic. There are approximately 310 million people living in the United States. The Census Bureau indicates that more than 70 million people earn less than $25,000.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Be Afraid -- Be Very Afraid

Did you see the moves last week at the Republican Convention in Tampa? Aside from the fact that neither former President Bush nor his Vice President Dick Cheney were in attendance, their hangers-on were out in force. Mentioned several times by the networks in commentaries were sightings of Dick Bolton (the mustachioed former UN "wonder") and Dan Senor of recent Iraq policy fame. In addition...

Friday, August 17, 2012

80 + Days of Lying?

There remain only 81 days until the November 2012 election. The pre-convention lies and false claims are already starting to fly from the Romney Ryan campaign. They and their surrogates, who are intent on gutting Medicare as we know it, are using an old tactic and accusing the Obama Biden team of doing what the Republicans want to do. "Are you over 65 -- don't worry, you'll be OK," they say -- "we are only talking about care for people who haven't made it to 55 yet. They are the ones who will face our new improved privatized Medicare plan." As Howard Dean said on the MSNBC Ed Schultz show this week, "The Republicans are following an old Soviet propaganda trick -- lie and repeat it so often that it will seem to be true."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Dream Act -- Deferred -- But Not Denied

Langston Hughes famously wrote about dreams deferred in a poem originally titled "Harlem," asking "if these dreams dry up like a raisin in the sun ... or do they explode?"

That question has also been explored in the U.S. among immigrant communities over the last decade as the American-reared children of undocumented individuals have grown to maturity and face a truly uncertain future. These young people, many of whom came here in their toddler days, have seen their dreams thwarted and their futures threatened by deportation through no fault of their own. There was no path to citizenship for them as legislative proposals about amnesty, fines and "buy-ins" have been defeated repeatedly. Through courageous marches in their communities and in Washington, DC, these young people, many of whom have known no other country, press their quest for citizenship and the right to opportunity, education and employment.

Lack of a social security number denies these students access to student loan programs and in-state tuition, even though they may have spent their entire educational preparation in state or county schools. Lack of a valid social security number increasingly means lack of employment opportunities in the above-ground employment market. For some, the path to citizenship lay only through military enlistment with the promise of citizenship after service. Sadly more than one young man received retroactive citizenship as Taps was played at his gravesite. That should not be the only option open to the children of immigrants. No mother ever gives birth to a child only to deny his or her dreams.

Friday, President Obama stepped in with an executive order permitting good students to apply for valid work permits, so they can use their hard-fought gains in education to better both their lives and those of their families and become productive members of this country and their communities.

Although not the long-sought National Dream Act -- to allow funding for college education by access to loans -- (not granting a free college education to so-called illegals as claimed by opponents!), it takes away the threat of deportation which has long hung over the heads of this group of young people.

Recently the Washington Post profiled an upstanding teenager about to graduate from high school in Richmond, Virginia, but unwilling to celebrate as she was facing deportation the following week. Presaging this announcement, her deportation was stayed and she may apply for this new legal status.

From the Department of Homeland Security:

Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case-by-case basis:
  • Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honoably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  • Are not above the age of thirty.

Maryland voters now have an opportunity to enhance this change in policy by passing the Maryland Dream Act at referendum this November. The Dream Act was passed into law by the Maryland General Assembly in 2011. However opponents, many of whom used rumor and misdirection in their referendum signature campaign, will be mounting a strong and negative effort to defeat this law at the polls. Although many of the signatures were thought to be spurious, the referendum was allowed to go forward in a court hearing this week.

Many expect outside forces such as the Tea Party to come into the state and push anti-immigrant messages. I am hopeful that saner and more reasonable blue state Marylanders will go to the polls and keep the law, as written, in place. Sadly, it will take all of us working with each other to make sure people do not fall prey to the many innuendoes which will certainly be employed in the efforts to defeat this legislation. Maryland has a very low threshold to petition a law to referendum, which is one of the reasons we are facing two ballot measures this year. The other one addresses the civil marriage equality act which passed earlier this year.

Was politics in play here? Of course, the President has been criticized by many in the Latino and other immigrant communities for not getting the Dream Act passed, and was being pressed to do something. However, as he said "It was the right thing to do."

The response from Republicans was not enthusiastic.

As noted in the article above, candidate Romney would not answer a question asking if he would reverse this action if he were elected. Senator Lindsay Graham called the actions "possibly illegal" and Congressman Steve King threatened to sue the President. Of course Rush Limbaugh voiced the expected Republican anti-immigrant line and his words were echoed by many of his ilk. Senator Marco Rubio, thought by some to be a possible VP candidate for Romney, departed from the party line and pushed for his more restrictive Dream Act light which has not garnered much support. Rubio, who is of Cuban background, has not been a supporter of amnesty or more inclusive immigrant reform.

I am hopeful that President Obama's actions will be a first step toward uniting our country and not dividing us into groups for and against undocumented individuals. At base, we are all humans with hopes and dreams for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Perhaps the fact that I became a grandmother this year has made me more sensitive to generations forever separated by our fractured immigration and deportation policies. For too many years we gave a wink and a nod to the rules of entry as our economy was booming and we needed workers in many areas. But then, as the easy money went away and the economy of Main Street was trammeled by the actions on Wall Street, we suddenly shut the gates and told those we had previously welcomed, to go home. Now we are faced with about 12 million undocumented immigrants who are ignored by many in the mainstream.

Where are they to go? States such as Arizona, Georgia and Alabama think they can harass and frighten their populations into leaving and have partially succeeded. The problem just moves somewhere else. Texas Governor Perry, not the best candidate by any stretch, was castigated by his fellow Republicans for trying to voice a modestly fair approach to immigrant students. The Latino population is currently the fastest growing segment of our society. Our country is moving toward a majority-minority population basis and we must as a society deal with this reality. Montgomery County has already become a majority-minority county.

What would you conclude? Perhaps my years of teaching many immigrant students at Montgomery College, who cherished the American dream, has made people from other lands seem less foreign to me. In actuality, the students are here and can eventually become productive American citizens if we can work through this matter in a humane way.

We need to deport fewer individuals and move toward some type of an amnesty. Each person has their own story and their own destiny. We need to nourish, encourage and give a hand up to those who have been kept in the shadows far too long. Our society can only benefit from their knowledge and hard work. Our country was built by immigrants, both legal and undocumented and we can measure the growth of our democracy by their accomplishments. We can and should move forward together as Americans with a shared goal to strengthen our democracy.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Is Anyone Listening to Women?

This month The New York Times, The Washington Post, several op ed columnists and TV commentators all remarked about the astonishing fact of a Republican War on Women. This "war" was, of course, denied by those on the right, but evidence is much to the contrary. Aside from the contraception legislation and abortion restriction proposals being put forth by many on the right, other issues which pertain to the interests of women continue, such as women’s access to unrestricted health care. Women, many who thought that these subjects were settled a generation ago, are finding themselves again on the defensive.
One of the major debates is found in the Congressional discussions about the Renewal of the Violence Against Women Act -- VAWA. The bill which supports shelters, self-help and educational programs, among other options, for victims of violence has been passed by the Senate but has been stalled in the House. Changes added there have led to a veto threat by President Obama. The Violence against Women Act has already been renewed on a bi-partisan basis 3 times in the last 18 years.

The main arguments against this renewal regarding taxes, immigrant rights, and domestic violence as made by the Republicans are seen by many as spurious. One of the major sticking points for the Republicans in the proposed renewal of the Violence Against Women Act was a requirement to mandate that Native American women subjected to domestic violence or rapes on the reservation by non native men could bring them to tribal courts and they would be subject to tribal justice. Republicans were claiming that these "American" men would not be getting a trial by a jury of their peers and needed to be tried through the Department of Justice. Since reservations are sparsely populated and law enforcement is intermittent and separated by wide distances, such changes would mean that fewer rapes would be prosecuted. Historically 70% of the reservation rapes are never reported, whether the accused are native or non-native men.

Many Alaskan native women voiced a distrust of law enforcement since domestic violence claims had previously been disregarded leading them to subsequent and repeated violence. New this year, would be allowances for protection for gay, lesbian and transgendered victims of domestic violence. Also included are broadened protections or visas for immigrant women, some of whom request protections against being sent back to their home countries or being threatened with loss of their children. State laws against immigrants and the undocumented populations such as in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama have made it more problematic for victims of violence to come forward as they fear they may jeopardize their visa status by speaking out.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has broadened its outreach to the Native American and immigrant communities and is encouraging the Department of Justice to develop statistics on levels of violence in these communities.

Recently, census data released showed that non-white births in the United States for the first time exceeded white births in the 2010 census. Do the overwhelmingly numbers of white males in the Republican led House understand what these facts are telling us? According to Bloomberg News, four states -- Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas, plus the District of Columbia -- now have majority-minority populations. Non-Hispanic whites now account for slightly more than 63% of the total population, Hispanics are noted to be about 18.7 %, African Americans average 12.3%, while Asians are about 4.8%. Most of this growth is attributed to births, rather than immigration.

So, how does the anti-immigrant, anti-health insurance rhetoric play out in the populations of minority families, many of whom have children? How are the anti-education, anti-safety net, every man for himself speeches by those such as Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and others on the right addressing the interests of many in this country? Could it be that these politicians are counting on the low voter turnout typically seen in some minority communities, or are they counting on a divide and conquer mentality, saying whatever they think each group wants to hear? Special interest groups continue to speak up in all political races; however, it seems some voices are being heard more than others. Traditionally, more women turn out to vote than men. In 2008 the gender gap showed 56% of the women voted for Barack Obama and 43% voted for John McCain, despite the presence of a woman (Sarah Palin) on the ticket. A candidate ignores these voters at their peril.

So what’s a woman to do? Some say: get even. Many women have filed for Congressional office this year (more for Democratic seats than Republican seats) according to an opinion article in the Washington Post. Women need to lift their voices, so they can be heard and heeded.

So, if you are a woman, how will you make your voice heard in November? If you are a man, how will you work to help issues relating to women? Let me hear from you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tax Time Comes Around

About this time every year many elected official release their tax returns to show how diligent they are at paying their taxes. Just this week President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, released their returns as did VP Joe Biden and his wife Jill. Multi-millionaire Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, indicated that he had a complicated return and was filing for an extension until October, but promised that he would release "something" before the election. As some of the pundits indicated, getting together all of those off-shore bank account reports does take time. For the last tax report, released through his campaign, the indications were that the Romneys paid about 14% on total earnings from stocks and investments of over 21 million dollars. Actual income earnings were somewhere greater than $374,000 -- mostly from speaking fees -- although Romney downplayed these amounts saying it wasn't very much. Just your average Joe?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wars Against Women's Rights -- Why?

If you are a woman, you must be as I am, spinning around as you are trying to keep up with the latest volleys in the cultural wars against women seen in this primary season, especially from the right. From Mitt Romney speaking out against Planned Parenthood (an organization which has been helping women for almost 100 years), to Rick Santorum decrying the use of contraception, it seems as if we are suddenly in a time warp, back to the days before diaphragms, birth control and a woman's right to choose. The discussion about expanded contraception coverage seemed to explode when most had thought this was a settled question.

From statehouse to statehouse in the Republican legislatures elected by the Tea Party zealots, a new battle is being waged, but not on the financial front as might have been expected, but rather about the reality of a woman having control of her own reproductive rights. From threatening a woman's ability to obtain prescribed contraception medication, determination of medical choices for abortion privately without coercive propaganda or avoiding intrusive unnecessary procedures, various legislative bodies have felt it their business to avoid other pressing economic matters and insert the need of the state to speak to these concerns. Not only has the state, in some instances, required the invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure prior to elective abortions, it also requires the patient to pay for the test. One state has even required physicians to tell women seeking abortions that the procedure causes breast cancer -- a despicable statement which has been roundly disproven by multiple research studies. Medical societies are now asking about their liability when their members are required by law to lie to their patients.

In Virginia, which is fighting the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court, claiming that government cannot compel a person to purchase insurance coverage, there is apparently no contradiction seen when women are required to pay for the ultrasound procedure. When a test is done, which is not seen as medically necessary, medical insurance is not required to pay for it. Can someone explain the difference between these two positions? The Republican Party claims to want less government involvement in everyday life. Does it really mean only in the everyday lives of men?

Then we come to the words of radio host Rush Limbaugh and the verbal assaults he made on a Georgetown University Law student who had been invited to testify about birth control and was refused by Committee Chair Darryl Issa in favor of an all male panel. She had planned to talk about the needs of women who use Birth Control Pills (BCP) for medical reasons not pertaining to contraception. She spoke instead to media outlets in a very respectful and thoughtful discussion of the costs for these BCP medications and the need for insurance coverage. As a consequence, she was repeatedly and savagely attacked over several days in the coarsest terms, (“slut” being the mildest phrase used by the crude radio host). However none of the Republican Presidential candidates have had the moral strength to speak against these remarks. Maureen Dowd has described this well.

Fortunately, there has been a backlash as advertisers have deserted his show almost universally, for a while at least. Will this blow over. Is this a tempest in a teapot? I do not think so, as everywhere I travel, women are reeling from such descriptions. They are wondering why such savagery not only erupted, but why was it not rebutted by these candidates who trumpet their religiosity? Conversely, President Obama called the student, Sandra Fluke, and apologized for the abuse she had taken while trying to promote a noble cause. He mentioned that he would not want his daughters treated in this manner, and indeed, no woman should be subjected to such public conversations. Other media hosts have been taken permanently off the air for less. Clear Channel should follow suit.

Public opinion polls have indicated that more than 95% of American women either use or have used BCP at some point during their reproductive lives. Annually, in the U.S. there are more than four million live births -- about 10% of these are born to teen-aged mothers. About 41% are born to unmarried mothers. The largest numbers of teen births are found in the southern states and lower midwestern states. (Reference citation).

Planned Parenthood makes available low cost contraception to its clients. In fact, these services far exceed their terminations of pregnancies. They are the largest providers solely because they are the only national organization with presence in many states. Onerous laws, harassment and intimidation have driven solo providers out of many states even though abortion has been legal in the US since 1973 as decided by a Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Currently 88% of the counties in the U.S. do not have abortion services easily available. Ninety-seven percent of areas outside urban centers have no easy access. (Reference citation).

Yet many young women endure great hardship to obtain access to services. No one, (to my knowledge) is claiming that these four million women became pregnant by themselves, so why is there this dysfunctional attitude toward contraception and abortion? In hard times, adding another member to a family is often difficult. Isn’t contraception a responsible solution? Access to inexpensive contraception lessens the need for abortion services, so why is there such a disconnect here? Why is the woman being treated as if she were a solo player in this process? As a nurse, I believe that a woman should be able to have access to the health care which she deems necessary and not be damned for her legal choices by predominantly male elected officials. Generations ago, some states forcibly sterilized some mentally ill and developmentally disabled adults that today is seen as abhorrent. Have we learned nothing since then?

I urge women everywhere to speak up and speak out, for if we do not protect our rights and those of our daughters, there appear to be few who will do it for us.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let Rainbows Flourish

News item: Maryland's House of Delegates, on a close vote, approved the Civil Marriage Protection Act recently. The measure, which was approved by the Senate last year, will go to the Upper House for what is hoped to be a perfunctory approval and then on to the Governor for his signature.

"I wish I knew how it would feel to be free!" When I listen to the debates in State Houses across the country about equality in marriage, the words of this civil rights song come to mind. I hear parents of gay children speak about their families. I hear children parented by those in committed same-sex relationships speak of the moral values they were raised with and watch them demonstrate their scholarship and achievements. I hear both men and women in long term same-sex unions speak of their wish to have the same legal rights for home ownership, survivorship, pension and insurance benefits, and medical decision making opportunities for their partnerships as their married neighbors currently enjoy. In short, I hear their wishes to truly be free.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Women, Healthcare and Political Will

Breast cancer obeys no political guidelines, follows no ideological dictums, disrespects age, race, gender and sexual orientation.

Reproductive options through birth control, which first allowed women to dictate their pregnancy choices, came of age in the 60s. Subsequently women began to make demands on the social and political systems for equality. Concurrent with the civil rights advances being made at the same time, women wanted equal pay for equal work, parity in athletic and scholastic opportunities, and the chance to push through the glass ceilings and mommy tracks common at that time.

Now some 40 years later we unfortunately are fighting the same battles with women's bodies as the field of battle.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some Thoughts About the Republican Primaries

Everyone who reads my blogs knows that I am a Democrat, so why am I watching the returns from South Carolina with such interest? There has been so much movement in this primary recently -- with Perry leaving the contest and throwing his support to Gingrich, and millions being sent into the race under Citizens United-driven Super Pacs, that leads have see-sawed all week. Also, in a surprise happening, Santorum was declared the Iowa winner in a recount, this time by over 30 votes. Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson donated five million dollars to the "Winning Our Future" Super Pac run by a former Gingrich aide.