Thursday, September 29, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nurses On Strike and Wall Street Occupation

Nurses Demanding
Sick Time in Oakland
The California Nurses Association planned a one-day strike for Thursday September 22nd to protest understaffing and a proposal from Sutter Medical that nurses no longer be given paid sick time. I can't even begin to compete verbally with an irony like this one. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka addressed their rally. While Kaiser let the nurses return to work Friday, Sutter Health claimed that their contracted "replacement workers," i.e. scabs, required a full week of work. Cosequently they locked out employees for that period, an action that was clearly intended as a punitive measure.

Under the watch of the scab nurses a patient died. Now, death happens quite a bit in hospitals, in spite of the best of care. The possiblilty of negligence exists as well, even for union workers. But this death has become a political football. The now unabashedly, right-wing San Francisco Chronicle implies that those nasty nurses left their posts. But it is more likely that vindictive management hired incompetent (and amoral) nurses to fill in for the locked out ones!

In other news the Wall Street occupation continues in spite of the mass arrests and sadistic, unwarranted use of mace and pepper spray. It's so good to see large numbers of young folks out in the streets again. Nurses and occupiers, keep on keepin' on. Your success is our success.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Fifties Mentality in the USA Today

Commercials that interview housewives about the efficacy of cleaning products, smiling excessively made-up women going on about their husbands and children, political figureheads, even constructive, liberals like Elizabeth Warren talking about "American families" ad infinitum and the frightening predominance of religious doctrine in political discourse, even progressive political discourse and political landscape, all these factors point to a resurgence of nineteen-fifties-style values in twenty-first century America.

The question I keep asking myself is why is this happening now? In the USA of the nineteen fifties the world was settling in after World War II. and by 1953 the Korean War had also ended. The boys were home and they needed the jobs that women had taken during the war so a publicity campaign was conducted to acculturate women to their new lives as mothers and housewives. Many men had the income capability to support a stay-at-home wife.

We are now in another time of reduced job opportunities. Millions of folks have lost their homes and their assets have diminished greatly. This, in turn, produces great stress causing an increase in substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and economic crime in general; the whole grim package. Part of the fifties resurgence is nostalgia for what was considered a safer, simpler time although, those of us who lived through it, know the fallacy of this kind of thinking.

The lion's share of this mentality is pro-active brain-washing. Don't focus on the money you no longer have or the health problems you may have developed as a result, but instead color your hair, find a spouse, have a baby, go to church and pray for things to get better! What a drag all those heavy thoughts can be!

So, in essence, we are stuck in the nouveau fifties: which means the glorification and idealization of the unexamined life. Instead of fighting back against the Wall Street banksters, the true criminals, we being encouraged to breed like a bunch of fluffy bunnies. But the fluffier the trappings, the more we should worry about the content of the message.

Yet, we must remember that just as dawn follows the longest night, the era that follows the fifties is the sixties. I'm already getting my protest signs ready and airing out my tie-dyed shirts!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Heterosexuals and Committment

I don't see any problems here!
The latest news out of New York State: town clerks are resigning rather than sign same-gender marriage certificates. At least three town clerks have actually tendered their resignations rather than do the part of their job that requires signing the marriage certificate. Laura Fortusky, clerk of Barker in Broome County was the first.Ruth Sheldon in upstate Oswego County grabbed the number two spot, and now Rose Marie Belforti, the town clerk for the small town of Ledyard has declared that she will not sign the marriage document allowing Katie Carmichael and Deirdre DiBiaggio to tie the knot.

Even worse, a right-wing organization with the positively Orwellian moniker "New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms" is offering free legal support for Belforti and other poor town clerks forced into defending some of those pesky constitutional freedoms that keep getting in the way of other folks rights to bigotry and intolerance. Clearly, people have a right to be fascists on a personal level, but in a job the question of upholding the law comes into play and in New York State, same-sex marriage is the law.

The fervent fanaticism of anti-gay religious zealots is problematic for LGBT folks in the US. Studies have shown that queer-hating straight folk feel far more passionately about anti-gay bigotry than queer positive straight folks feel about equality. This simple fact could prove problematic as LGBT civil rights are eaten away by the T(tyranny) Party and right wing sympathizers. 

We queers are in the cross-hairs of the Perry-Bachmann crusaders. The GOP is successfully delaying the emergence of a military free from Don't Ask, Don't Tell. DOMA is still a federal law. Same-sex marriage nationally is a distant dream. We, as LGBTs have no federal protection against job or housing discrimination. And now that corporations are officially people, I don't see things improving anytime soon. 

Will our rights be eaten away slowly like the gradual implementation of the Nuremburg Laws? Are we now the proverbial lobsters in a pot who don't notice the water getting hotter and hotter? But most of all I wonder: Will there be enough straight people to defend our basic right to exist as it deteriorates before our eyes? I hope I never have to witness the answer to this question but, nonetheless, it's a crucial one to be asking. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years Later--September 11th, 2001

Mark Bingham-
Gay Hero of Flight 93
It's hard to believe that it's been ten long years since September 11th 2001, a fateful day that forever altered the political landscape of this country. Early that Tuesday morning I was awoken by a telephone call from a friend who said, "They just attacked the World Trade Center turn on your TV." This was an incomprehensible statement to me then. First of all I had no concept of a "they" that would fit into this scenario and the idea of attack seemed foreign as well.

But I did turn on my television. My automatic response was to get dressed and head in to work. This was because I was used to working for the Chronicle and that's what we did when something momentous, like an earthquake, happened. We went in to work. But by then, I was working at a public library and librarians, as helpful as we may be, are not considered "first-responders." But my place of work was closed for the day and I wound up returning home.

Like many people, I remained glued to my television for days. Taking in the personal accounts. Reveling in the heroic story of Mark Bingham, an openly gay man who initiated a passenger rebellion on flight 93, preventing it from hitting the Pentagon, but losing his own life (and the lives of everyone aboard) in the process.

It is undeniable that this country was permanently altered as a result of that horrific event. Yes, the loss of life on such a large scale was a terrible tragedy. But sadder still is the fact that this event has been and is repeatedly used as an excuse to justify the elimination of democratic and civil rights on a wide variety of fronts from the "Patriot Act" to Guantanamo. All things considered, it is a day to mourn.

The tragic bombing in Oklahoma City did not make the world afraid of crazed, white-male right wing fanatics as well it should have considering what transpired in January of this year in Tucson Arizona where Gabrielle Giffords was wounded along with 19 others. Only six people died in that incident but the profile of Jared Loughner is strikingly similar to that of Timothy McVeigh. Compare that to the fear of the American Muslim Community that has become a firestorm of hatred in the USA today.

Many friends of mine believe that right-wing elements had a hand in what transpired that Tuesday morning in New York City.I can't claim any inside knowledge of this but I will say that considering the liberties they have taken with our civil rights since, I wouldn't put it past them.

However it came to pass, it is a fact that this event has been and will continue to be used to undermine our rights and freedoms on all fronts. This reality combined with the grief over lives lost that day, deserve our deepest grief as well as our incisive, compassionate and rational attention.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day and Nothing to Celebrate

Harry Bridges Addresses a Crowd in
Civic Center, San Francisco, 1947.
Labor Day is here again, that weak, diluted step-child of May Day has fallen upon us once more bringing with it nothing but bad news.

In the USA today, the creation of new jobs has ceased, wages are reaching new lows, health benefits are disappearing and pensions are being taken away, barely a creature is stirring. The concept of populism has been radically redefined to mean working and poor people who have been persuaded to fight against their own interests.

I've also been thinking about issues of work destiny, the trajectory to which we each inherit. The fact is, I was born and raised to be a worker, not an owner or an entrepreneur. It was a given, unspoken, yet understood, even when my mother said, unconvincingly, that I could do whatever work I chose, the implication was always working for some firm or corporation.

The truth that I was groomed for my destiny came to me in my twenties when I was shooting the breeze with a friend whose family was, what was then called, "nouveau riche." Their money came from a chain of stores in New York. One day when we were talking about work, she told me several ideas that were knocking around in her brain: a pick-up and delivery service for disabled people, a chain of organic markets, a referral switchboard for therapists, things on that order. I was floored, amazed. She was truly a self-starter, a go-getter someone who would manage the teaming hordes one day. I, on the other hand, was a lackey, a prole, a terminal working stiff, someone who was continually told that I had no leadership qualities. As Bob Marley sang: "They take the chains off your body and put the chains on your mind."

For me, the die had been cast. I wasn't interested (or psychologically able) to start and run my own business. It was all I could do to just show up for work each day!

I have made the most of being a worker, taking advantage of CETA in the seventies and securing a public sector job with health benefits and pension in the eighties that I still have to this day. I represent a dying breed, the last remnants of the stable, American working class. Newer generations of workers now are expected to be satisfied with low wages, few benefits and some kind of 401K plan instead of a pension. It is both an impossibility and a disgrace.

The only way to "celebrate" labor day is to take back the jobs, salaries and benefits that we have been robbed of. Short of that, we can only mourn.