Helen of Marlowe's Blog

What would we have done?

Posted in Government, Politics by helenofmarlowe on July 2, 2017

At our UU forum this morning, the topic was Current Events, and we
were led in our excellent discussion by a member who is a US attorney. We
didn’t spend most of our time talking about our president who
tweets up storms almost daily, but that topic did take some of
our time. And I have a question I’d like to toss out to
anyone who will give thought to this question:
What would we, as a nation, have done, if President Obama had
talked about women (and others) the way Trump does?
I constantly hear people say, of Trump’s behavior, that this is
not acceptable. And I think, yes, apparently, it is acceptable,
because we are accepting it.  So I ask, if President Obama had
said these things, what would we have done? My reason for
asking is because I say, whatever it is that we would have done,
let’s do it.
I don’t want hyperbolic answers such as “shoot him” and I will
delete any such, but I want to think about what we, officially, as a nation,
would have done.
What would we have done?

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Think it doesn’t matter who is president?

Posted in "North Carolina", Ecology, Environment, Politics by helenofmarlowe on October 7, 2016

I have heard intelligent people in recent weeks say that it doesn’t matter who the president is. It troubles me. I want to say to them, imagine if Al Gore had actually taken the White House when he won at least the popular vote and maybe the electoral vote. Do you think the US would have gone to war in Iraq? Think about all the repercussions of that misguided decision to take our country to war.

And climate change: If Gore had taken his place in the White House, we would be much further down the path to dealing with climate change, which is surely the most urgent issue confronting our world.

One of our candidates has said that climate change is a Chinese hoax. He has said that he will get rid of the EPA. EPA doesn’t just invent regulations, it enforces laws passed by congress. (He has also said he’d tear up the Paris climate agreement. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that he can’t do that, but he can take our country out of it.)

As The Guardian says, “Scrapping the EPA … would cause an unravelling of basic protections of air and water. …Trump is demagoguing. It plays to the far-right base but it would have enormous consequences for people’s health.”

And, from The Washington Post,

But more prosaic powers also present grave dangers. U.S. prosecutors have enormous discretion to investigate, or not investigate, and Mr. Trump would appoint his attorney general and a raft of new U.S. attorneys. These have to be confirmed by the Senate; but if you take comfort in that, simply imagine a Gov. Chris “Bridgegate” Christie at the Justice Department, or a Newt Gingrich — who, in Mr. Trump’s thrall, has advocated expelling any American who believes in sharia law — as homeland security secretary.

If Mr. Trump wanted to wield the IRS against that Chicago family; if he tried to use U.S. diplomats to help his hotel business in Russia or Azerbaijan; if he barred disfavored reporters from the White House; if he ignored a judge who told him, say, that immigrants had to be given hearings before being deported — what recourse would Americans have?

We should take comfort in the polls which show Trump unlikely to win. But then,look at the surprising Brexit vote, and the surprising Colombian vote against the peace agreement. Polls can make very very wrong predictions.

Think it doesn’t matter who is president? I go back to Al Gore, and the reminder that we would not have had the war with Iraq, and we would be working seriously on climate change, if the candidate who won the people’s vote had taken his place in the White House.

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Richard Groves: A question about terrorism

Posted in "North Carolina" by helenofmarlowe on December 22, 2015

Richard Groves is a local (Winston-Salem) former pastor with whom I have only a casual acquaintance.   I think his observations here regarding our understanding of terrorism are astute and worth sharing.  This was published in The Winston-Salem Journal on December 18.

Donald Trump, along with the entire right wing of the Republican Party, has been hammering President Obama for refusing to use the words “Muslim (or Islamic) extremists (or terrorists),” sometimes arguing that you can’t fight something until you can call it by its correct name, which makes no sense, but this is campaign season, lest we forget.

I have a different question: Why isn’t anybody willing to use the words “Christian terrorists”? Have you ever seen those words in print or heard them in a network’s “breaking news”?

The chapter on terrorism in the U.S. Code defines terrorist acts as “violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that … appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping …”

Terrorism is about intimidating or coercing a population or a government through the use of violence.

Make no mistake about it, terrorism works. Take it from an expert, the online al-Qaida magazine Inspire. In issue 9 (2012) writers gloated, “This is the life of Americans, transformed into fear of either an internal or external attack,” and “The terror felt amongst the people when an assassin strikes in the enemy’s land is of much greater proportion than him striking the enemy on the battlefield.”

The fear that is rampant across America, fear that leads many to advocate banning all Muslims from entering our country, is testimony that terror works.

But what should we call terrorists?

Two scenarios.

Scenario one: A man and his wife walk into a meeting room in San Bernardino, Calif., and open fire on unsuspecting holiday partiers, killing 14 and wounding 21. The community, indeed the entire nation, is terrorized. In seeming contradiction, there is urgent talk about tougher gun laws even as gun sales soar. The couple appears to have been inspired by an interpretation (or misinterpretation) of Islam. They are quickly branded Islamic terrorists.

Scenario two: A man walks into an abortion clinic armed with an assault rifle and opens fire on staff and patients alike, killing several and wounding many more. The community is terrorized. Potential patients stay away from the clinic and others like it. The assailant was inspired by an interpretation (or misinterpretation) of Christianity. He is quickly branded — a domestic terrorist.

Why isn’t he labeled a Christian terrorist?

The answer, of course, is that to do so would invite a firestorm of objections from Christians, claiming that the perpetrators of violence in the name of Jesus do not represent authentic Christianity.  [Jesus] was, after all, the Prince of Peace. Theirs is a perverted form of the faith. To attach “Christian” to their terrorist acts would be to associate all Christians everywhere with obscene acts of violence.

But that is the same argument that mainstream Muslims use when they condemn the bloody acts of jihadists.

According to the World Post (a partner of the Huffington Post), almost 70,000 Muslim clerics recently met in India and passed “a fatwa against global terrorist organizations, including the Taliban, al Qaeda and the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State.” One of the clerics said that he and others who voted to pass the fatwa wanted to say to the world that they don’t consider groups like the Islamic State to be true Islamic organizations — nor do they view members of these organizations as Muslims.

Why does the argument carry weight when it is used in defense of one religion, Christianity, and not when it is used in defense of another, Islam?

Logic and consistency of thought would seem to require that if we are going to speak of Islamic terrorists we should also speak of Christian terrorists when the situation requires us to do so. Or we should fall back on the religiously neutral and much less volatile domestic terrorists and international terrorists, which is the distinction made in the U.S. Code.

But logic and consistency of thought are early victims of rampant, debilitating fear. And this is campaign season, lest we forget.

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Are these football fans the faces of America?

Posted in "North Carolina", Obama by helenofmarlowe on December 17, 2012

I don’t know what a walk-on long snapper is —  sounds like a fish  — but this is the face of America.

http://deadspin.com/5968935/take-that-nigger-off-the-tv-we-wanna-watch-football-idiots-respond-to-nbc-pre+empting-sunday-night-football

I notice that many of the accounts of these human-impersonators have been closed, but not all. Why not all?  Sometimes I wonder if I really, really, believe in free speech.  I think I’d be tempted to turn my head and look the other way if these people were rounded up.

The account of Jarred Faul  has not been closed.  Why not?

The account of Japen__Vans has not been closed.   The account of  Liz Michael has not been closed.

The account of Quiverly Manhammer has not been closed.

The account of Frankie @FTharp31 has not been closed.

The account of Bernie @slow_bern has not been closed.    Why not?

The account of Jeremy Kruger has not been closed.

The account of Geoff Tuthill has not been closed.

Whenever you hear someone say that there is no longer racism in America,  remember this.    When you hear people say that the hatred of our president has nothing to do with race, remember this.

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Is there no limit to the meanness of NC legislators?

Posted in "North Carolina", Government, NC by helenofmarlowe on June 19, 2012

I’d go along with some limits on the kinds of TV inmates could see.   I’d go along with allowing only PBS or only The History Channel, or The Nature Channel, or BBC.   There is much evidence, after all, that movies and video games affect our behavior. If there were a Jane Austen channel, I’d go along with a bill to let them watch only that (dreaming here).  But this?

RALEIGH, N.C.

A divided House committee agreed Wednesday to prohibit North Carolina death-row prisoners from watching television despite the warning by Central Prison’s warden that removing TVs could increase violence among the condemned inmates. (The Associated Press, June 6, 2012 )

I’d like to suggest that our legislators read Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying.   Read Gaines’s lesson in how a condemned prisoner should be treated.  Do our legislators know or care that the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world? Are Americans really more evil than citizens of any other country, or is there some other reason – such as profits for the private prison industry – that the US fills its prisons with (mostly black) non-violent unfortunates? 730 per 100,000 citizens.  More than Russia or El Salvador or Rwanda. Our 730 per 100,000 compares to 333 in Iran, 310 in South Africa, 160 in Saudi Arabia, 129 per 100,000 in Australia, 30 per 100,00 in India. Are people in America 24 times more dangerous than people in India?

After our legislators read A Lesson Before Dying, they might start on The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. The facts about mass incarceration in America are hard to take, but really should be a part or our national conversation.

In The New Jim Crow, we learn, if we didn’t already know, that a life sentence for a first-time drug offense is unheard of in the rest of the developed world.    “Remarkably, in the US, a life sentence is deemed perfectly appropriate for a first-time drug offender.” (page 89)  Mandatory life sentences are used in the US for non-violent offenders for crimes other countries consider to be minor.    “In fact, fifty years to life was the actual sentence given to Leandro Andrade, whose sentence for stealing videotapes was upheld by the supreme court.” (p. 90).

When I read a book like this, and then hear people say they’re proud to be Americans, I want to respond, Then you’re not paying attention.

Coursera — free online university courses

Posted in Government, Politics by helenofmarlowe on April 19, 2012

I heard about Coursera on NPR. Apparently it’s so new that it’s not yet in Wikipedia – at least, I didn’t find an entry.     Hosted by Princeton, Stanford, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Pennsylvania,  Coursera offers free on-line classes in several dozen subjects. The courses are free, carry no credit or grade and don’t lead toward any degree.

You can find Coursera, look at the course offerings, sign up if you like, at https://www.coursera.org/courses

I’m tempted by several of their offerings, such as History of the World Since 1300, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, Listening to World Music, Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act.  All these tempt me, but I think I’ll start with Securing Digital Democracy.

I’ve been interested in electronic voting since Dr. Avi Rubin’s analysis of the 2004 election (and many other analyses and reports) convinced me that the 2004 election was stolen electronically. I’ve looked for Dr. Rubin’s statistical analysis, which concluded that the reported results could not be accurate, but I’ve changed computers several times since 2004, and my bookmarks didn’t move with me.  I have the printed copy of that report somewhere, but life is too short for me to start looking for it.  I do find some summary comments here

http://www.jhu.edu/jhumag/0204web/vote.htm

But back to Coursera and their on-line course offerings. I followed a link from the Coursera web page, a link found on the  Digital Democracy description page introducing the assistant professor who will teach the course, and read “He recently led a team from the University of Michigan that hacked into Washington DC’s internet voting system. In his spare time, he reprogrammed a touch-screen voting machine to play Pac-Man.”  Why Pac-Man?  

He says, “We could have reprogrammed it to steal votes, but that’s been done before   and Pac-Man is more fun!”

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What’s the Significant Difference?

Posted in Government, Politics, Religion by helenofmarlowe on February 18, 2012

What is the significant difference?

There is something I’m  missing here. The Catholic church went into a frenzy in their moral outrage at the idea that a Catholic institution should be required to provide for their employees an insurance policy that includes birth control, which they say they believe is immoral.

I won’t get into the seeming contradiction that they hate abortion even more than they hate contraceptives, and are sticking by their guns in spite of the evidence that the one reduces need for the other. There’s probably some logic there that I just don’t get.

And I won’t yet try to understand why the compromise offered by the White House, that insurance companies would instead provide contraception coverage separately and at no cost, was not welcomed by the bishops.

What I’m really trying to figure out is this:  What’s the significant difference between appeasing the Catholics on this issue, and requiring Quakers to pay for war (via taxes)?

Quakers are  opposed to war and to all forms of violence.

And what about requiring Seventh-day Adventists to support our government’s policies on  factory farming?

 For more than 130 years Seventhday Adventists have practiced a vegetarian dietary lifestyle because of their belief in the holistic nature of humankind. (http://www.sdada.org/position.htm)

Yes, I see that in the case of the Quakers and the Seventh-day Adventists, it is tax policy that pulls them into the fold of a behavior that contradicts their religion, but is that a substantial difference?  Does it follow, logically, that Catholics should impose upon non-Catholics their beliefs (well, just some of their beliefs; institutionally, they are also against the death penalty but I haven’t heard our Catholic presidential hopefuls mention that)?  That they should impose upon non-Catholic employees, for example, a Catholic rule that even 98% of Catholics don’t actually follow?  And what about Christian Scientists?  Should employees at Christian Science establishments be required to forego health insurance altogether and rely upon prayer?

Is there really a substantial difference, or is it just that Quakers and Seventh-day Adventists, and Christian Scientists,  are not trying to defeat our president?

A UU Forum on Occupy

Posted in "North Carolina", corporatocracy, Economy, Government, NC, Politics, Unitarian, UU, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on February 7, 2012

At our Sunday morning forum yesterday (2/5/12), our guest speaker was Ethan Smith, representing the local Occupy Winston-Salem group. Most UUs (Unitarian Universalists) are familiar with Occupy and some have been participants.  I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter and occasional participant.

Here's a screenshot of me (on right) at a protest against Wells Fargo, when the top Wells Fargo management was speaking our the convention center. Since we don’t have a TV, my son Chris sent me this screenshot. I was surprised he recognized me, since it was such a fleeting report, and he didn’t know I was participating (probably didn’t even know about the event).

 

Occupy’s mission includes public education and civic participation to reveal the 1%’s crimes centering in war and money, end the crimes through arrests of the criminals, and enact policies for 100% of Earth’s inhabitants.

A hand-out gave a little bit of the history and philosophy of Occupy, and talked about local issues:

“Occupy Winston-Salem stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the globe as a non-violent, leaderless movement of Americans united to fight the corporate abuse of our democracy, and to take the reins of power away from profit-driven interests and assert our rightful place in the political process.” The handout goes on to mention “the shackles of corporate greed.”

Ethan recounted some of the recent activities of the local group, talked about the commitment to non-violence, and  about the reliance on rotating facilitators at meetings.   Although there have been extreme police reactions to protesters in some cities, the local Winston-Salem police have done their profession proud.  Our local police, our protesters, and our city officials have worked in co-operation.  Some Winston-Salem churches have given strong support.

A UU member (one who is not involved in Occupy, and I don’t know whether or not he sympathizes) objected to the word greed, saying our narrative is wrong. I (though I didn’t speak out) think some of the language often used to describe the Occupy movement reveals a lack of understanding.  I often hear that the Occupiers are pushing for  “redistribution of wealth” (or of income). There are many people who will mis-interpret that, sometimes deliberately.  I think  “redistribution of opportunity” or “expansion of opportunities” is a more accurate description of what we in Occupy want.  Or how about distributive justice.

Ethan talked about our government’s encroachment on liberties, such as the Patriot Act, NDAA, laws and ordinances limiting free speech, arrests of journalists, mass arrests of protesters, such as, in NYC, 700 protesters arrested at once, with journalists being swept up along with protesters.

Freedom of the press in the US has fallen to 47th in the world

Other UUs wondered why Americans are complacent. The data has been out there for years – the data on the wealthy getting richer while the middle class fades into history amidst government policies that favor the powerful.  Why are people so complacent? Is it because we are constantly told we must keep up with sports, fashion, acquisitions and amusements, and so we don’t pay attention to our democracy?  Another UU  suggested the nature of coverage in the news media invites confusion and shallow understanding – everyone tries to look as though they are  “fair and balanced” – and gave as an example the Komen controversy in which news reports did not link this with  faith-based initiatives and the connection of a Komen leader with the congressional investigation of an organization that didn’t need investigating.

I believe there is much than can be done to make America work for all of us.  How about  a tiny tax on stock trades, especially on high frequency ‘flash’ trading.  How about huge fines for corporate criminals, the CEOs of the “corporate people”, aka banks,  responsible for evictions based on robo-signing?

Economic mobility in America has stalled. “Parental income is a better predictor of a child’s future in America than in much of Europe, implying that social mobility is less powerful.” (From The Economist) And as Jason DeParle writes in the New York Times, social mobility is a lot lower in America than in most other developed countries.   The   “work hard and save” formula doesn’t work any more.   Now the best advice for Americans is to choose your parents wisely.

Regardless of where Occupy goes from here, the movement has forced our nation to discuss the increasing inequality that has been hurting middle-income workers for thirty years.

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Credit where credit is due

Posted in Government, Obama, Politics by helenofmarlowe on November 21, 2011

I came across this (click photo to see) post on Facebook. Darrell Garrett, whom I don’t know, is apparently a friend of a friend, and that’s how I saw this. (Anyone with more than 750 friends is bound to cross that six-degrees-of-separation line somewhere.) I wanted to respond to Mr. Garrett’s challenge, since he says that no one has been able to. But I don’t know how to write in the “response” block. I don’t hang out on FB a lot. Perhaps FB allows responses only from Friends. And I think Mr. Garrett and I would agree on one thing at least – that we would not be companionable Friends.

Click to open

I’ve been disappointed with President Obama. He has moved much further to the right than I expected, and he seems to have been very late in discovering that what he called negotiating we called betraying his supporters. He has referred to liberals as “sanctimonious”. And like everyone else in American politics he has become beholden to big money. Some of his largest contributions come from Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Time Warner, IBM. But in this era of he-with-the-most-money gets the most “free” speech, I don’t know what he can do about that.

But he does deserve some credit, so here goes: my late-night effort to look for reasons to support President Obama.

1. President Obama has proposed a Jobs Bill that will reduce unemployment, and will not increase the deficit. Republicans have blocked it, but he has done what he can do get around the blockade.

2. He has created a Consumer Protection Agency, which you will benefit from. The Republicans have tried to gut it of all it’s authority and have refused to accept as its leader the woman who has done the most work on it, but at least it now exists.

3. He has appointed two moderates to the Supreme Court, moderates who actually have legal credentials and high scores from the bar.

4. He has cut taxes for the middle class and for small business, and has tried valiantly to reduce the loopholes that allow the rich to take more and more from the poor. (Yes, hard-earned money from the working poor IS being re-distributed to the rich. And no corporations actually pay the tax rate that Republicans are fond of quoting.)

5. He captured Osama bin Laden

6. He has made some effort to address the very real and serious environmental problems.

7. He has put a stop to the policy of allowing politicians to re-write scientific reports.

8. He has instituted a more humane policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to travel to visit their parents and children.

9. He has removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research.

10.He can put a sentence together, even a compound or complex sentence, complete with subject and verb. This may not be important to you, but it is important to our standing in the larger world.

Would anyone care to add to my list? Or challenge my list?

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Advice From The 1%

Posted in corporatocracy, Economy, Government, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 17, 2011

Listening to Marketplace the last few weeks I’ve heard two commentaries that were so good I had to look them up and read them. Both are about the Occupy protests.

Here’s commentator Elspeth Gilmore.

Elspeth Gilmore: I am the 1 percent. I recently marched on Wall Street with the 99 percent. I stand with the 99 percent, but I marched for myself, too. For decades, the U.S. economy has been organized to boost the wealth of the 1 percent.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, 40 percent of all wealth gains between 1983 and 2009 went to the 1 percent. Eighty-two percent went to the top 5 percent. All the rules of the economy have been tilted in my favor. Yet it is not in my interest to allow the disparities of wealth to keep growing. We should not have to hoard wealth in this society in order to keep our families healthy or to get an education. Health and a good education should be rights.
My job at Resource Generation is to organize wealthy people under 35 who want to change this. There are more than 1,500 of us who know that our lives would be better if we personally had less and we could all rely on a collective safety net. We need to re-imagine what is possible.
I want to live in a world where we together provide the basic needs of all people: adequate infrastructure and roads, well-funded school systems, clean water systems, innovative transportation and health care for all.
We need a more just economy — and one of the ways to get there is for people like me to pay higher taxes. Lets change the policies that keep the wealth in the hands of a few. Let’s increase millionaire taxes and end loopholes for corporations. Please tax the income from my investments at least as much as my earned income, it’s common sense.
So let me say this as plainly as I can. Tax me, tax the 1 percent. If the 1 percent had less money, we — a 100 percent of us — would be better off.

Of course, listener/reader responses always include the one about how she can give as much as she wants – nothing to stop her from paying extra. I’m never sure whether people who say that actually expect to be taken seriously.

Josh Brown, Reformed Broker, has toned his language down just a bit from a previous column, but still gets his point across. Better actually, I think.  And his clear summary of our grievances  is worth review.

Josh Brown: In 2008, the American people were told that if they didn’t bail out the banks, their way of life would never be the same. In no uncertain terms, our leaders told us anything short of saving these insolvent banks would result in a depression to the American public. We had to do it! At our darkest hour we gave these banks every single thing they asked for. We allowed investment banks to borrow money at zero percent interest rate, directly from the Fed. We gave them taxpayer cash right onto their balance sheets. We allowed them to suspend account rules and pretend that the toxic sludge they were carrying was worth 100 cents on the dollar. Anything to stave off insolvency. We left thousands of executives in place at these firms. Nobody went to jail, not a single perp walk. I can’t even think of a single example of someone being fired. People resigned with full benefits and pensions, as though it were a job well done. The American taxpayer kicked in over a trillion dollars to help make all of this happen. But the banks didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The banks didn’t seize this opportunity, this second chance to re-enter society as a constructive agent of commerce. Instead, they went back to business as usual. With $20 billion in bonuses paid during 2009. Another $20 billion in bonuses paid in 2010. And they did this with the profits they earned from zero percent interest rates that actually acted as a tax on the rest of the economy. Instead of coming back and working with this economy to get back on its feet, they hired lobbyists by the dozen to fight tooth and nail against any efforts whatsoever to bring common sense regulation to the financial industry. Instead of coming back and working with the people, they hired an army of robosigners to process millions of foreclosures. In many cases, without even having the proper paperwork to evict the homeowners. Instead, the banks announced layoffs in the tens of thousands, so that executives at the top of the pile could maintain their outrageous levels of compensation. We bailed out Wall Street to avoid Depression, but three years later, millions of Americans are in a living hell. This is why they’re enraged, this why they’re assembling, this is why they hate you. Why for the first time in 50 years, the people are coming out in the streets and they’re saying, “Enough.”

Is this Direct Democracy in action? Are any tangible results unfolding?  Will the  ‘Super Committee’ consider and be affected by the Occupy movement?  Are the Occupiers losing public support, as several polls suggest?

It will be interesting these next few weeks as winter, and holidays, and First Amendment lawsuits play out, and the petition asking Mayor Michael Bloomberg to resign in the wake of his eviction of the protesters.  As Thom Hartman puts it, Bloomberg had the wrong target. Instead of evicting the protesters in Zuccotti Park, he should have sent his police  in riot gear to evict Goldman Sachs.

Our  UU (Unitarian Universalist) Fellowship has issued a statement in support of the Occupiers.

Locally, Occupy Winston-Salem has  approval from the City Council’s Public Safety Committee to camp in a parking lot downtown.   The full City Council will have to approve the permit at next Monday’s meeting.  I think they will.

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