This Town? Our Country?

What’s it gonna take to blow the fuse that’s holding our citizens’ rage from exploding?

normatalksabout. . .

It’s the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It’s Women’s Equality Day. We have much to be thankful for—I wouldn’t go back, as a woman, to the days when I couldn’t own property or get credit without my husband’s permission. No African American would go back.

And yet, we seem to have hit a wall.

Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers interviewed Mark Leibovich this week. He is the author of This Town, a blistering look at the way Washington works. 

Mark Leibovich

This is what Moyers said in summary. 

We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below.

The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock…

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Hey, Republicans: Remember Ike?

Republicans love to reference The Gipper (aka Ronald Reagan, as in “Win one for …”). Great line from Reagan’s formative movie role in “Knute Rockne: All American” spun off years later to become a rallying cry for the GOP’s presidential candidate, actor and former governor of California, Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan campaigning“The Gipper” became Reagan’s iconic moniker, helping him win the election and move to the White House to became a lifetime idol of the Party. Widely revered and often quoted.

Well now. Years earlier the GOP had another candidate, WWII’s former Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight Eisenhower. They liked him a lot, as did many Americans back then – remember “I Like Ike”? During his two terms in office, he sponsored the first civil rights bill, sponsored and signed the bill that created our interstate super highway system, he balanced the budget three times (partly by refusing to cut taxes or increase military spending, constantly warning America about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex”) and ended the Korean War.

Dwight EisenhowerBut do the Republican’s raise him as an icon? Do they quote him and reference his fiscal policies? Maybe because he wanted to control military spending, create jobs by building a great national transportation infrastructure, spend money on education and pay attention to civil rights. Such ideas don’t seem to be primary in today’s GOP mindset.

Instead we have gridlock leading to a crumbling infrastructure and educational system, tax cuts for the rich and barriers for citizen access to the ballot box.

Here’s what Ike said in his final speech as president:

“We – you and I and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

Wow! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our elected leaders in state and national governments thought like Ike and acted accordingly?

What’s it gonna’ take for us – and our leaders – to wake up and do the right thing? For our country, our kids and the generations to follow?

Today, phantomhood seems more likely. Think about it.

Life Lesson from a French Brioche

In Jodi Picoult’s latest book, “The Storyteller,” Sage Singer, baker and the novel’s heroine, turns to her kitchen for comfort. And in so doing reveals the power of baking to teach us all a lesson about ourselves and coping when events seem to unhinge our emotional stability.

“I decide to bake something that requires my undivided attention: brioche.

Brioche copy“It’s a bread that is an anomaly—50 percent of it is butter, yet instead of being a brick of a loaf, it is melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, airy. To make it on a hot, humid day like this is an added challenge, because it requires all ingredients to be cold. I even refrigerate the mixing bowl and the dough hook.

“I begin by beating the butter with a rolling pin while the dough is mixing. Then I add it, in small portions, to the mixer. This is my favorite part about brioche. The dough doesn’t quite know what to do with all that butter, and begins to come apart. But with enough time, it manages to bring itself back to center, to a satin consistency.

“I turn off the mixer and rip off a hunk of dough the size of a plum. Holding it between my hands, I pull it slowly to see if it sheets—growing transparent as it stretches. I set the dough into a container and cover it tightly with plastic wrap, then place it on my counter and begin to clean up the kitchen.”

Read that middle paragraph again – and join me in saying “Vive la France, la brioche, Mlle Singer et spécialement Mme Picoult!” 

A Decade Later – One Judge & One President Put Women First

Well now. Finally. Obama moves to protect women’s reproductive rights, as reported by Michael Shear and Pam Belluck in The New York Times:

U.S. Drops Bid to Limit Sales of Morning-After Pill

Contraceptive pill for day afterThe Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with political repercussions for President Obama.

The government’s decision means that any woman or girl will soon be able to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription.

The Justice Department had been fighting to prevent that outcome, but said late Monday afternoon that it would accept its losses in recent court rulings and begin putting into effect a judge’s order to have the Food and Drug Administration certify the drug for nonprescription use. In a letter to Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the administration said it would comply with his demands.

The Justice Department appears to have concluded that it might lose its case with the appeals court and would have to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. That would drastically elevate the debate over the politically delicate issue for Mr. Obama.

Women’s reproductive rights groups, who had sued the government to clear the way for broader distribution of the drug, cautiously hailed the decision as a significant moment in the battle over reproductive rights but said they remained skeptical until they saw details about how the change will be put into practice.

The drug prevents conception if taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse.

“We will not rest in this fight until the morning-after pill is made available without delay and obstruction,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer and the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood said: “This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity.”

The F.D.A. issued a statement Monday night saying that it planned to drop its appeal. “To comply with the order, the F.D.A. has asked the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step to submit a supplemental application seeking approval of the one-pill product to be made available O.T.C. without any such restrictions,” the statement said. “Once F.D.A. receives that supplemental application, the F.D.A. intends to approve it promptly.”

The decision is certain to anger abortion rights opponents, who oppose letting young girls have access to the drug without the involvement of a parent or a doctor. For Mr. Obama, the decision could rekindle a high-intensity, politically turbulent debate about contraceptives even as he is already dealing with a series of distracting controversies and national security leaks.

Mr. Obama had expressed personal concern about making the drug more broadly available last year and offered support to Kathleen Sebelius, his secretary of health and human services, when she blocked a decision by the F.D.A. that would have cleared the way for nonprescription distribution to all girls and women regardless of age. He said that as the father of two young girls, the idea of making the drug available to them without a prescription made him uncomfortable.

But a federal judge angrily accused the administration of blocking the drug because of politics, not science, and ordered Ms. Sebelius to reverse her decision. Last week the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City partially refused the Justice Department’s request for a delay in the judge’s order while the government appealed.

In its letter to the court, the Justice Department outlined the procedural steps that the F.D.A. plans to take. It said the maker of Plan B One-Step, Teva Pharmaceuticals, has been asked to “promptly” file an application asking for no age or sales restrictions, and that the “F.D.A. will approve it without delay.”

Once that is done, the F.D.A. expects makers of generic versions of Plan B One-Step — the most popular of those is Next Choice One Dose — to ask for a similar arrangement. The F.D.A. will evaluate those requests, based on whether it decides to give Plan B One-Step any type of market exclusivity, but most likely generic pills will also eventually be available without restrictions.

The Justice Department said it would not remove restrictions from two-pill emergency contraceptives because it is concerned that young girls might not be able to adequately understand how to take two separate doses. But two-pill versions are a diminishing fraction of the market.

The fight to make emergency contraceptives universally available without a prescription is more than a decade old. Plan B, the trade name for the morning-after pill, was approved in 1999 as a prescription-only product. In 2001 the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a citizens petition for it to be made available over the counter or without a prescription.

By December 2011, after years of pressure from women’s reproductive rights groups and the companies selling the drug, the F.D.A. was poised to lift all age restrictions. By then the F.D.A. also said it had determined that the drug was safe. But in an unprecedented move Ms. Sebelius overruled the agency. She said at the time that she had based her decision on science because she said the manufacturer had failed to study whether the drug was safe for girls as young as 11, about 10 percent of whom are physically able to bear children.

In April, Judge Korman once again ordered the government to make all morning-after pills available without a prescription and without any sales restrictions. In a stridently worded ruling, Judge Korman wrote that Ms. Sebelius’s decision to overrule the F.D.A. “was politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.”

He also accused the federal government of “bad faith” in dealing with the requests over more than a decade to make the pill universally available.

“The F.D.A. has engaged in intolerable delays in processing the petition,” the judge wrote. “Indeed, it could accurately be described as an administrative agency filibuster.”

Obama, the IRS and the Law

Bush signs Patriot ActOne of my favorite blogs is Blithering Idiot written by a woman (“teacher, mom, wife, sister, aunt, friend, and a Gemini”) who does indeed blither but is far from idiotic.

Her June 8 blither made me shudder at my own idiocy in quietly acquiescing to the tenets of the Patriot Act – those very tenets that the GOP/TeaParty/Fox and yes, even Progressives/Liberals are now finding wildly offensive.

Here’s her “blither” – long, but shudderingly to the point:

Who’s Mad? Who’s Really, Really, Mad?

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety -Benjamin Franklin

Hey Ben, ever heard of nukes?

Please tell me who exactly I’m supposed to be mad at?

Obama?

Be furious, you say, at Obama for spying on us. How dare he! He is evil! This an ourage! Impeach! Impeach!

Okay but here’s the thing.

He is following the law we Americans ignored and acquiesced to back in 2001.

Remember, after 9-11, we Americans were shitting the bed over the terrorists nuking us in the middle of the day so we said, “Go ahead government, do what ya gotta do.”

D-O W-H-A-T-E-V-E-R-I-T-T-A-K-E-S.

Yup, we said that kids. You did and I did and we did. We did it through our silence. We gave the all clear.

Christ, when a dog gets abused we can get a whole country to write emails to politicians and march into the streets but this one? This one we gave a pass.

Please don’t deny it.

Make us take our smelly shoes off before we get on a plane? Sure.

Profile Muslims? Absolutely.

Spend gazillions of dollars for Homeland Security and screw our basic needs at home like education, research, etc. Fine.

Do it! Just do it!

But today, on June 8, 2013, some of you are incensed. Oh yes, you are screeching about the 4th Amendment and how this president is destroying it.

The funny thing is, I don’t really remember you guys, the ones who are pissed off at Obama, being annoyed with Bush when he enacted this Patriot Act stuff.

In fact, I’ve seen and read plenty that proves you kinda liked it when old Georgie did it. You said it was “necessary” to combat the terrorists who were bound and determined to kill every American so that they could get their 52 virgins in heaven or some such thing.

That includes Congressmen, reporters, talking-heads, and YOU…and ME.

I didn’t like the Patriot Act then and don’t now. However, I don’t recall writing emails to my legislators or marching, well, mostly because no one marched so I’d look pretty stupid out there by myself.

But anyway, if you are all up in arms today (just as you presumably were not all up in arms over back in 2003), how about we also manage to bring forth a little anger for the Republicans in Congress who just loved the Patriot Act when it was passed and has been re-authorized every 5 years who are now just stunned and outraged by its use?

Let’s try asking Rush. O’Reilly, and Hannity and the sniveling turds on Fox who are today just choleric over the latest revelation of government overreach where they get off changing horses in mid-stream?

While we are at it, this getting all prickly I mean, who am I, are we, supposed to be pissed at over the “targeting” of “Tea Party” groups at the IRS?

Obama?

That awful Obama! Why he is “out to get” his enemies and this whole “scandal” is because he told the IRS to do this…well…maybe not in words, but he used his secret mooslim decoder-ring to flash signals to the Cincinnati office to do it. Impeach, I tell ya! Impeach!
Really? Why again is that? Because ( once again) we have had hearings (are having hearings), and so far, there hasn’t been a shred of evidence, not only linking this to Obama, but to anyone in the White house (unless you count the secret mooslim telepathy Obama uses to force his minions to destroy his enemies with).

Should I be mad at the IRS workers?

Why? Because they were in essence, doing their job, trying to enforce the law (yes, in an “unfair” way), which hundreds of groups took total advantage of after Citizens United. No one was denied their precious tax-exempt standing except PROGRESSIVES folks. If they were being sinister and heavy-handed and had a mission to seek and destroy the Tea Party groups, they did a crappy job of it. Couldn’t they even deny one group? They suck.

How about instead I be angry at the Tea Party groups who engorged themselves using our tax code? Remember, the people who hate paying taxes wanted to pretend they weren’t being political and trying to elect people who would reduce their taxes.

These groups who are NOT supposed to be engaging primarily in political activities who most certainly are doing NOTHING but engaging in politcal activities and want to be able to do it without revealing donors and paying taxes.

I mean like really, you think that Karl Rove is mostly engaging in “social welfare” with his tax exempt groups? Uh-ok.

Benghazi? Mad about Benghazi?

Oh do puleeze inform me about who the hell did supposedly what and who the Hades I’m supposed to be enraged at?

Obama (Yawn)?

Please tell me again exactly WHY I’m supposed to hate him for this again? Because after 50 billion “hearings” at taxpayers expense, talking-head mannequins on the nightly “news” programs who practically slobber and drool when they talk about this episode in history, and Facebook friends who cannot articulate a single, proven act or lack of acts that hasn’t been explained by the military and others in the agencies who looked into this, I am still at a loss.

Actually, how about I get pissed off at the TEAPUBLICANS? The Teapublicans, who REJECTED a bill that would INCREASE funding for security at overseas embassies.

The word hypocrisy springs to mind in an awful lot of these instances.

As far as the NSA controversy is concerned, the honest to God truth is that a part of me says that those “in the know” have seen the data and honestly cannot make a decision to end this surveillance state because they believe it would allow a terror attack that could conceivably wipe out a city (dirty-bombs), or take down a jet-liner, or release poison into a subway system.

A part of me is also appalled that the Fourth Amendment is basically null and void since 9-11 and the Patriot Act.

Another part of me says hold your nose and justify data-mining for the safety and security of the country. After all, they are looking for terrorists wishing to do us harm and not concerned with how many cat pictures I post on Facebook.

But the third part of me (I’m divided into thirds) feels what I felt a long time ago. The Patriot Act signaled the end of an era where we used to feel we had privacy protections. But that’s not the only thing. You use a computer right? Why do you think the ads on the right side of your Facebook pages seem tailored to what you buy? You do realize there are little cookies that come with every click on a web-site. You do realize that corporations have for years been buying and selling all there is to know about you to other companies, right? Did you give your permission to them to do that? Probably not, but we’ve just rolled over and accepted that this is the way things are in the age of cyberspace.

Crap, I bet there’s a guy in China or Iran who is watching my every click at this very moment, let alone Obama, who I bet some idiots are actually picturing in their minds (?) with some rockin’ Beats slung over his massive ears and his nose pressed up against a computer screen watching our every move.

I don’t know how else to express this thought but to just say it. We seem to be getting mad at the wrong people or the wrong thing. How about we get mad at ourselves for once?

We can have security or we can have total privacy, but we can’t have both, said President Obama, and he is right.

But I think you smart ones know that.

If we put the genie back into the bottle, and repeal the Patriot Act, chances are, we may not foil a major attack on Americans somewhere. There just might be a disaster somewhere on our soil and we need to understand that right here and right now.

We need to be grown-ups and realize that. We need to be real about it. We need to decide right now what direction we want to go in. If…when…it happens, we can’t start wailing that our government is not protecting us. Nope. Those days are over if that happens.

We need to be honest with each other and ourselves, which is something I’ve seen very little of lately.

And when it comes to getting ourselves worked up into a lather over what’s going on in Washington, perhaps, just perhaps, we should be irritated at ourselves first.

We Americans are as much to blame as anyone in government. We find it so easy to point fingers at them but WE THE PEOPLE aren’t holding up our end of the bargain. We want it both ways to Sunday. We want to be for it before we are against it.

We suck.

I can include myself. And you?

———————————————————–

Well now. Are you shuddering? At yourself? Think about it.

A Billionaire’s Advice to Obama


tom steyer's letter to Obama
Well, now. The Washington Post reports on a letter billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer sent to President Obama threatening supporter backlash if the President waivers on his claimed opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Read this story and stand by for June 20 announcement by Steyer:
Politians often listen more to money than to their constituents or to those whose votes put them in office. Let’s hope President Obama’s listening to all three on this key issue.

Why Immigrants Are Good For America

Here’s a story you should remember the next time someone starts grousing about “those immigrants.”

Ruth Strakosa (from CMF)

Immigrant Ruth Strakosa being intrviewed on CMF’s “Voices That Matter’

In 1996, nine year old Ruth Strakosha immigrated with her parents from Albania to America. Speaking only Greek and Albanian, but no English, she stepped into a fourth grade class in Orlando.When she finished high school she was class valedictorian, then later graduated in the honors program at the University of Central Florida and was selected as a member of the first class at the University’s new medical school where her study continues. CMF Public Media producer Desta Horner tells the back story:

Being An ImmigrantIn 1996 Zhanetta and Petraq Strakosha arrived from Albania with their nine year old daughter and four year old son. They followed in the footsteps of the grandfather who had come to work in the United States more than 70 years earlier. In Albania, Petraq was an engineer and Zhanetta was an economist. But they were unable to practice their religion openly and their personal freedom was limited. The fall of communism in Albania made it possible for them to acquire the necessary documents to come to the U.S.

Arriving in Orlando they found menial jobs and began the hard work of settling and succeeding in a country where the language and customs were new and daunting. Like immigrants of the past, they encouraged their children to strive for a good education as the key to success. They struggled, learned English and eventually became citizens of the United States.

In the interview below, their daughter Ruth remembers the early years when she stepped into a fourth grade class speaking Albanian and Greek but no English. Listen as CMF producer Desta Horner talks with her about the problems facing immigrant children in America today:

Here’s A Thought thanks Desta and CMF’s “Voices That Matter” series for letting us share this story.