May 28, 2012

Some Thoughts on Memorial Day

While most Americans enjoy a long holiday weekend, Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring those who fought to ______________  (insert your own words).  What did you think of?

The wedding photo of an Iraq war veteran and his bride
In the Hunger Games, extra food was given to those who put their names in the pool to be drafted for a fight-to-the-death game. The poor, obviously, did it more often, because they didn't have many  other choices to provide for themselves and family.

In the 19th c. a British cabin boy was killed and eaten so others could survive in the lifeboat. Is something like this unacceptable under all circumstances?

This group, like all other societies, made a decision that some have to be sacrificed to save the community and its values. Often the ones to be sacrificed are given no choice in the matter. When the greater community decides to send off its "cabin boys" to fight in a war, it's understood that sacrifice (death) will ensue.

In a voluntary system, who are the ones who opt for the "hunger games"?

The number was high, we knew that, but here's what I found: 18 current soldiers and veterans (of our last 2 wars) commit suicide every day on average. More deaths by suicide than by combat casualties since 2001. In addition to the 6,500 dead (both wars), the 35,000 injured (some very seriously, crippled for life), the hundreds of thousands civilian deaths, the cost of war is not just in dollars by in changed human lives! Changed, as in seriously and adversely changed!

Life goes on....  and, with benefits, if you're lucky, or if our country makes good choices.

May 23, 2012

Where Job Creation Comes From [hint: not from tax breaks to the super rich]

There are lots of myths in our society, some are good some are horrible. A good one is the idea of natural rights. That is, every person is born with certain unalienable rights, so the concept of a social contract is easier to imagine. I'm not questioning whether every human being should have fundamental rights, but how do you prove that everyone is born with equal rights? At any rate, the point of this essay is to discuss another harmful  myth, and that is, the notion that tax cuts for the rich is a good thing. This belief is an article of faith being constantly repeated by the conservatives, while leaders like president Obama and many in the Democratic Party are afraid to challenge it!

Class warfare is the term that scares many, like an actual war might be. Relax everybody, the war is over and the elites have won it. But, I was very surprised to hear that TED Talks censored a speech critical of this article of faith.

Watch this video by Nick Hanauer--a rich person who clearly makes sense about where job creation comes from. 


May 11, 2012

Celebrating Mother's Day By Uplifting the Status and Rights of Women

This Sunday, we're celebrating Mother's Day. Everywhere in the world a mother is giving birth right now, some by choice, some by the fact of being kept as chattel. Women have attained the highest status in liberal democracies, even though, say, in Norway they fare a lot better than in our own country over all. 

If you want to know a whole lot about a country ask one question: what is the status of women? From the answer, you'll most safely ascertain the level of development, affluence, access to opportunity, legal treatment, economic participation, choices, political regime, and civil freedoms! A great society, a happy society, a more stable society, a healthier society, a nicer society is possible by elevating the status of women to parity with men. This is threatening to traditional societies, primitive cultures, and the American conservatives.

In some places in Africa there's a good chance the mother is infected with HIV/AIDS. It's not here fault, because it's her husband that most likely infected her. And, she's told by her religious leaders that condoms are worst than disease itself.

In Niger, a mother has an average of 8 children, and in much in the poorest countries women spend most of their lives being pregnant and/or caring for little children. In parts of Alabama and Mississippi infant mortality is higher than in Iran. More than one million little children go to bed hungry every night in the US.

Celebrating motherhood has to be more than the activities of one day in the year. We all had mothers, so  it would be nice if we could make their lives better. Take a look at the UN Millennium Development Goals and you'll see that every step we take to fulfilling those goals is a meaningful improvement in the lives of mothers--poverty & hunger, education, gender equality, combat HIV/AIDS, maternal health, etc.

Honoring motherhood begins with treating women better.

The following is from my last year's post, but I think it's worth repeating:

Motherhood cannot be separated from the condition of women in the world today.
UK's The Independent has a great article about that condition. The British government in cooperation with human rights groups have found some very disturbing facts:
  • Two-thirds of the world's 800 million illiterate adults are women as girls are not seen as worth the investment, or are busy collecting water or firewood or doing other domestic chores.
  • Two million girls aged from five to 15 join the commercial sex market every year.
  • Domestic violence kills and injures more people in the developing world than war, cancer or traffic accidents.
  • Seventy per cent of the world's poorest people are women.
  • Violence against women causes more deaths and disabilities among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war.
  • Women produce half the world's food, but own less than two per cent of the land.
  • Of the more than one billion people living in extreme poverty, 70 per cent are women.
  • Almost a third of the world's women are homeless or live in inadequate housing.
  • Half of all murdered women are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.
  • Every minute a woman dies as a result of pregnancy complications.
  • Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, yet earn only a tenth of its income.
  • One woman in three will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
  • 43 million girls are not able to go to school.
  • In 2007, one million HIV-positive women died of AIDS-related illnesses because they could not get the drugs they needed.
  • Human Rights Watch, in reports on 15 countries including Afghanistan, Brazil, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Togo and South Africa, has identified violence against schoolgirls, child domestic workers and those in conflict with the law as on the rise.
  • Women across the developing world are the victims of systematic abuse.

Meanwhile in the good ol' USA

And in our country, the conservatives want to conserve anachronistic views which include discriminating against women. The GOP has insisted on fighting against women's health and choice. It's amazing what these conservatives have been pushing for.. [link]

On the surface someone might think that the recent debate about same-sex marriage is not related to anything else, but indeed, it's an illustration of how a conservative prefers the status quo instead of being open, accepting progressive change. 

While we've waited so long for Obama to ..evolve in his views about the rights people should have, it's becoming clearer by the day that there's a big difference between the progressives and the conservatives in this country and it's getting wider. It's good to see the president finally saying the obvious instead of pandering to those whose vote he would never get. 

Leadership matters in order to change people's views, but most importantly leaders, like FDR, Johnson, and Lincoln, may have to push for changes a conservative society would take so much longer to accept. But, once the benefits of the New Deal, the Great Society, Emancipation, etc, take hold, people accept the new reality and adopt it as their own.  

In 2004, I was working for John Kerry's presidential campaign in Cleveland, OH, and the conservatives had an initiative on the ballot to strictly prohibit same-sex unions. I spoke with many conservative Democrats who simply told me that their marriage would lose value if homosexuals were given legal sanctions! Well, such views were also common in states that were among the first to grand same rights to the LGTB community. Once people saw that MA didn't disappear into the Atlantic ocean and things aren't any different, they accepted the new reality. It's not even an issue anymore in most of the states that have been leaders in this regard.

Wasn't the same for the rights of women back then?...