Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lesson of 2010

For the past two weeks I've been struggling with what to write in my last post for 2010.   After all, everyone was writing some type of year-in-review post so, if I was going to add my two cents to the blogosphere, I really didn't want it to be just one more rehash of the year in politics. Nor did I want to write just another tome about the ups and downs of care-giving.  I waited and while I was waiting for inspiration, my social media friends were all but writing this post for me.  So here I am in the last few hours of the last day of 2010, writing a blog post about what I will take away from ( or would rather forget about ) the year 2010.

If there is on lesson that I learned in 2010, it is that the chief reason that we, as a society, remain so divided is because we simply love to argue.  More often than not, we would rather spend days and weeks arguing with and belittling those with opposing views, rather than making the effort to listen to and try to understand opinions that don't concur with our own.   Sadly, there are even some who when they can't find an enemy to argue with, pick arguments with their "friends".

Think I'm wrong?

For instance, I recently posted a link on my Facebook wall to a petition that asks the European Commission to stop the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD), Directive 2004/24/EC, which is set to remove access to the vast majority of herbal medicinal products beginning 30 April 2011.   Most people who really know me know that I am a true believer in alternative medicine. They also know that I am not opposed to traditional medicine but I believe in a more holistic approach to good health and healing.

So what happens?  A person whom I truly respect and whom I know shares a very different view on the subject of alternative medicine posts the comment, "Not feeling that petition, I'm afraid."  Ok, I respect this person's opinion and I would have never sent them this link directly because I know that this would not interest them.   So, I ask myself,  if this person knows that I strongly support this issue and they don't, why did they feel the need to leave a comment?   They could have just glanced at the post, found it to be of no interest, and then moved on.  After all, a Facebook wall isn't really a place for a serious exchange of information and in depth discussion.   Of course, I could have read their comment and just moved on too.  But sadly,  I wrote a snarky reply.   Now the "friend" has written that they think that I must think very little of them.   All part of the lesson of 2010.

So you say, "that's just one incident and doesn't prove that we are a society that loves to argue".

OK, before you dismiss my theory and start writing your comment to convince me that I am totally off base, let me offer as evidence two stories, straight from recent headlines, that have more than proven my point.

Feminists Against Julian Assange v. Feminist Supporters of Julian Assange


Animals Lovers who Hate Michael Vick v. Animal Lovers who believe that humans deserve a second chance.    ( Ok, I was a little biased in the way that I worded that one. )

I promise that I won't bore you to tears exploring the merits of the various positions on either case because, if you're like most people, your mind is already made up and you don't care what the other side thinks because, "THEY ARE WRONG".  Right?   Besides,  if you frequent social media sites you've seen these issues debated in ultimate fighting style matches of 140 characters or less.  However, if you are following these debates closely, you have to admit that people are talking "at" each other rather than listening to each other.

Not long ago, I shared my thoughts on the DemocracyNow broadcast of the debate between feminists Jaclyn Friedman and Naomi Wolf over the sex crimes allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Naomi Wolf's Facebook page.  Later that day,  I received several messages from Facebook friends letting me that they did not share my "misguided" opinion.    After receiving one of many links that day, I responded to one friend as follows:

    "I appreciate your points. However, I've also read the actual police reports as they were documented by the    And while I would concur that Julian Assange may have acted inappropriately, I believe that the media's repetitive use of the word 'rape' is pure sensationalism."

In reply my friend wrote:

    "So 'the no means no' thing we grew up with only applies if she says 'no' before hand? or does it only apply to men with whom aren't progressive heroes? I read the charges as well. And the legal definition of rape -- this from the woman who said she told him no after the condom broke -- is that it is not consensual if she says no and you continue. I have not watched CNN in weeks and try not to watch Fox News, so the only televised reports I've seen have been msnbc and they have nothing but try to provide cover for him."

Yes, in 2010,  I learned that sometimes you just have to end a discussion before it turns into an argument.  I did, of course, reply to that comment but I promise you that I was polite.

On the topic of Michael Vick .. well let's just say that I often found myself of the opposite side of that debate too.

When the full story of Michael Vick's involvement in dog fighting first broke,  I drew fire from some of my friends for my statement that he deserved jail time and to be banned from professional football.   Later, I drew fire when I wrote a post on my view that parties were using the Michael Vick story to manipulate the animal rights movement.  Subsequent to that, when Michael Vick was released from prison and signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, I took heat for saying that he had served his time in prison and deserved a chance to redeem himself.  So, now I'm sure that you can imagine that my view that if Michael Vick is sincere about ever owning another dog, he should be allowed to begin ( under close supervision) with rehabilitating formerly abused dogs, has thoroughly pissed offed several of my fellow animal lovers.

Let's face it friends, our true national past time is argument and the blogosphere is thriving because of it.  And second to arguing is pointing out each other's faults.  After all, why would people spend their day reading The Huffington Post or watching FoxNews when they absolutely hate them.  I know one person who expresses such a passionate dislike for Arianna Huffington that I wonder exactly what Ms. Huffington did to her. It had to be something personal.

Yes, I've learned this lesson well. 

Fortunately, I learned another lesson a long, long time ago.  The many wonderful people that I've know throughout my life have taught me that we all have more things in common than we have differences.  Basically, we all want the same things for ourselves and our families.  We each just approach life from our personal worldview. So when I am tempted to be too snarky and dogmatic,  I am reminded by the voices from my past, to bite my tongue, listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from.  Honestly, I don't always do this well.  But I do try and will keep trying to do better.

Someone has to keep fighting the spirit of Leland Gaunt :-)

So that's it.  My last post for 2010.   A promise to keep sharing my opinions, listening to your comments and try to understand.  I also have no doubt that I'll probably be on the opposite side of the argument more than a few times next year too. 

I wish you all the very best in the year ahead and thank you for your support.  

I leave you with these thoughts.

" This is the moment of the year when we inhabit inwardly both sunset and sunrise. God created them both, but we ourselves decide how to paint them. Next year will bring whatever next year brings, but what we bring TO it will make all the difference. And the greatest thing we can bring to it is our love. " ---  Marianne Williamson

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not All Rape Victims Are Created Equal

... at least not in the eyes of the media it would appear.

Have you ever heard the name LaVena Johnson?

On July 19, 2005, Army Private First Class LaVena Johnson was found dead in Balad, Iraq. It has been reported that when her body was discovered in a tent belonging to a private military contractor her remains displayed a black eye, broken nose, burned hands, loose teeth, acid burns on her genitals and a bullet hole in the head. The military ruled her death as a suicide.

If you watch DemocracyNow, read AlterNet or are a regular reader of this blog you know Pfc Johnson's story.  However, my guess is that if your sole sources for news are corporately owned broadcast networks you may have never heard of Pfc Johnson. 

On the other hand, if you live anywhere in Europe, the US or Australia,  by now you have undoubtedly  heard more than you ever wanted to know about the sexual exploits of Julian Assange and the charges being brought against him in Sweden.  Sadly, thanks to the over zealous, you may also know the names of the two women who have filed the complaints against Mr. Assange.  In fact, over the past few weeks, you may have hardly been able to turn on a news broadcast, corporately of independently sponsored,  without hearing about "the rape charges" against Wikleaks founder, Julian Assange.   And to add to the controversy there now seems to be a rift between the defenders of Julian Assange and members of the feminist community who want him drawn and quartered, now. 

Of course, I have my opinions on the subject.  But I've watched these stories play out over the years and learned two things:  most people have already made up their minds; and, for them, evidence be damned.    So, I will handle the Julian Assange sex scandal in the same manner that I did the stories of  Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, Eddie Long and other sensational cases.  I wait for the courts to hear the evidence, weigh the merits of the case and render their verdict.  And, I will do my best to keep my humble opinion to myself, for now

However, what I will comment on now is the general handling of  stories involving sexual crimes by the media.. 

Would the US media have given so much airtime to an alleged sexual assault case in Sweden if the accused wasn't the founder of Wikileaks?  My guess is, no.  I suspect that the US media and much of the world would have all but ignored this case or treated it as filler on a slow news day.   In fact, I'll go one step further and say that if this story had broken before Wikileaks had ever released the Iraq documents. the media response to the sex crime allegations would have been minimal. 

The constant focus on the sexual aspects of the Julian Assange / Wiklieaks story is pure sensationalism.  And when you contrast the airtime given to the charges against Assange with the airtime, or lack thereof, given to the brutal rapes of women in the Congo. the so called "corrective rapes" in South Africa and the sexual abuses suffered by women and men in the US military,  you are left with the impression that in today's society, not all rape victims are created equal.

Ironically, just yesterday in his article, "Rape Rampant in the US Military".  Dahr Jamail reported the following:

"Military sexual trauma (MST) survivor Susan Avila-Smith is director of the veteran's advocacy group Women Organizing Women. She has been serving female and scores of male clients in various stages of recovery from MST for 15 years and knows of its devastating effects up close.

"People cannot conceive how badly wounded these people are," she told Al Jazeera, "Of the 3,000 I've worked with, only one is employed. Combat trauma is bad enough, but with MST it's not the enemy, it's our guys who are doing it. You're fighting your friends, your peers, people you've been told have your back. That betrayal, then the betrayal from the command is, they say, worse than the sexual assault itself."

On December 13, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups filed a federal lawsuit seeking Pentagon records in order to get the real facts about the incidence of sexual assault in the ranks.

The Pentagon has consistently refused to release records that fully document the problem and how it is handled. Sexual assaults on women in the US military have claimed some degree of visibility, but about male victims there is absolute silence.

Pack Parachute, a non-profit in Seattle, assists veterans who are sexual assault survivors. Its founder Kira Mountjoy-Pepka, was raped as a cadet at the Air Force Academy. In July 2003 she was member of a team of female cadets handpicked by Donald Rumsfeld, at the time the secretary of defense, to tell their stories of having been sexually assaulted. The ensuing media coverage and a Pentagon investigation forced the academy to make the aforementioned major policy changes"

Just imagine what would happen if the media focused as much attention on these victims as they have on the Julian Assange case.   


Related Posts:

as well as 

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Bipartisan Art of Procrastinating And Rushing?

Rushing -

America was rushed to war in Iraq because "Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to our national security. They said he had weapons of mass destruction. To date, WMDs have not been found.  US troops are still in Iraq.  Anyone who didn't support this rush to war was "unpatriotic."

Procrastinating -

Scientists predicted ten years before Hurricane Katrina that the erosion of the Louisiana wetlands could result in catastrophic consequences for New Orleans in the event of a category 3, or higher hurricane.  Yet nothing was done to improve the city's infrastructure.  Katrina came, the 9th ward flooded,  the Civic Center became hell on earth and people waited for days for help because no one had a plan.  Kanye West hurt the President's feeling when he said, "Bush hates Black people."  The White House and Congress rushed to put together an aid package for hurricane victims.  Months later Republicans were filibustering on the House floor about the mismanagement of those funds.  The former President still hasn't gotten over Mr. West's comment.

Rushing ---

In spite of years of advance warnings from numerous economists, former President Bush's parting gift to the American people was an 11th hour vote on a bank bailout.  We were told that if we didn't rush to bail out the banks: credit would dry up; companies wouldn't be able to make payroll; ATM machines might be empty; and, life as we know it would end.  The banks were bailed out but: they still refused to extend credit; companies downsized; unemployment went up; and the TARP oversight panel had a problem figuring out where the money was spent. 

And now once again,

Procrastinating and Rushing 

The Bush era tax cuts were set to expire at the end of this year.  Both Republicans and Democrats have known this for ten years.   So no surprises here.  Yet, the American people are now being told that if Congress doesn't rush to pass a bill that will include extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% and will add an additional $900 billion to the national debt (short-term they say) that poor and working class people, who have been hit the hardest by the recession, will needlessly suffer when their taxes are increased in January.  Anyone that has a problem with this must be racist, jealous of the rich or a sanctimonious liberal that can't relate to the sufferings of working class people in the rust belt.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Dare Progressives Have the Audacity to Hope For Something More

If you follow US politics, you know that this past Saturday, the House of Representatives failed to pass two measures that would extend the Bush era tax-cuts for the middle class.  One bill would have extended the cuts for persons making under $250,000 per year the other for those making less than $1 million per year.  Both bills failed primarily because House Republicans refused to concede tax breaks for the extremely wealthy. 

So now it's the 11th hour.  The Bush era tax cuts are scheduled to expire on December 31st, and the tax rate for the lowest income Americans will increase by 50 percent if nothing is done.  In addition, the Republicans are refusing to pass an extension to unemployment benefits ( in a time of 9.8% unemployment) unless the Democrats make cuts to other programs in order to fund the extension. (or so the Republicans say)   Republicans and their kissing cousins, the Tea Partiers have drawn their line in the sand and are standing on the principle of "fiscal responsibility". Meanwhile the Democrats are trying to make the argument for human compassion and decency. The Democrats seemed to be winning the argument in the eyes of the American public. A recent gallup poll indicated that 44% of Americans believe that the Bush tax cuts should be extended but with new limits for the wealthy while 13% believe that the tax cuts should be allowed to expire for everyone.  And, after all, this is the season of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

So what happened yesterday? President Barack Obama held a press conference to announce that he had worked out a deal with GOP leaders to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Angelo Mozillo in order to protect the middle class tax cut and secure an extension of unemployment benefits.   You've also probably heard that the President had more than a few sharp words for the GOP, (for holding the American working class hostage), as well as, for the "sanctimonious" liberal Democrats for daring to hope that he would stand up to the congressional terrorists. 

This is how Washington Post analyst Ezra Klein summed up the proposed agreement in his article, "How the White House cut its deal and lost its base":
"To put this in perspective, consider that last week, all Washington could talk about was the potential for a deal on deficit reduction. This week, it actually got a big deficit deal -- but it was a deficit-expansion deal. In the world that politicians claim they live in -- where the deficit is the overriding issue -- the deal couldn't have worked. But we don't live in that world. In this world, tax cuts, not deficits, are the Republicans' central concern, and stimulus, not deficits, obsesses the Democrats.

Which brings us to the liberals. My conversations with various progressives over the past 24 hours have convinced me that the problem is less the specifics of the deal -- though liberals legitimately dislike the tax cuts for the rich, and rightly point out that Obama swore to let them expire -- than the way in which it was reached. Put simply, Obama and the Democrats didn't fight for them. There were no veto threats or serious effort to take the case to the public.

Instead, the White House disappeared into a closed room with the Republicans and cut a deal that they'd made no effort to sell to progressives. When the deal was cut, the president took an oblique shot at their preferences, saying "the American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories." And this came a mere week or two after the White House announced a federal pay freeze. The pattern, for progressives, seems clear: The White House uses them during elections, but doesn't listen to, or consult them, while governing. In fact, it insults them, and then tells them to quiet down, they got the best bargain possible, even if it wasn't the one they'd asked for, or been promised."

 In one press conference the theme of the Obama presidency transitioned from "Yes We Can" and "Change You Can Believe In" to "No You Can't" and "It's What You Have to Do to Get Things Done When You're Backed into a Corner."

So why did the White House let itself be backed into a corner.  They certainly can't say that no one saw this 11th hour crisis coming.  Sound familiar?

As Joanne Bamberger, known to her fans as PunditMom, commented on Facebook, "The Bush tax cuts were strategically set to expire now -- in a year GOP assumed would see a Dem in the White House and hurt him/her. Now, Obama has agreed to extension for two years, and discussion about what to do about them next time will come during his re-election bid. Dems -- you should be smarter."

Maybe We should have been smarter than to expect anything different.   Now, because no one on the White House staff anticipated that the party who vowed to fight the President at every turn would back him into a corner over their holy grail, tax cuts, the members of the Presidents own party who were begging him to take a stand on principle, get lectured like ungrateful children who fail to show due appreciation for all that their parent has done on their behalf.    

Dear Mr. President, we do appreciate all that you have done but was it so wrong for Democrats to have the audacity to hope that someone would stand up to the banks, the insurance companies,  the unscrupulous mortgage lenders and a GOP who has made it clear that they care for none but the rich.   Maybe it was.  Maybe we were all foolish to think that politics in Washington could ever change.

In the following video clips Rachel Maddow analyzes the President's press conference.  The only thing that Democrats can hope now is that the Obama campaign will come up with a new slogan by 2012