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Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 06:02 PM PST

My Road Less Traveled

by lilongo

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I love to travel. Any excuse for me to pack a bag, especially to head to Washington, DC, I’m gone. Without a doubt my favorite city in the U.S. But being there yesterday with 50,000 others to attend the Forward on Climate rally and march was more than just a weekend trip, it was very inspiring, energizing and amazing, and I look forward to hearing from our President and Congress on a few of the pressing  issues that brought us to Washington.

Those include the Keystone XL Pipeline. Hydraulic fracturing and its exemption from basic safety regulation. The billions of dollars gifted to the fossil fuel industry every year. And let’s not forget the millions of acres the BLM leases for oil & gas permits in our name. I think it is time to remind each other, this land is our land, and we can stop extreme extraction on our land, all it takes is a willingness to speak up and the resolve to stand firm.

And it seems to me, though it may feel like the road less traveled, the journey of an activist is actually our common denominator. We have a long and established tradition of activism in this country. From our founding fathers to our feminist mothers, activists have led and bled for the evolution of our society. For fairness. For equality. For protection. For freedom.

Our founding fathers started a revolution rather than live under tyranny. A tradition we see furthered by Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and others. A tradition we now are being asked to continue. And with new leaders. Now it is Bill McKibben who offers us a vision of our future. He reminds us of who we can be. And that we have a duty and power bestowed upon us by our Constitution, to fight to protect those inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Because I assure you, it is our duty to fight, to take part in our democratic process, to speak out, to get elected, and when all else fails, to get arrested. Yes, we need to take part in acts of civil disobedience. And it is here that my road has diverged from that traveled by many of you. I have been arrested for taking a stand. On September 3, 2011 I was one of those who decided to be arrested during the two weeks of the 1st Tar Sands Action. During that two week period, every day, people sat down in front of the White House, and over those two weeks 1,254 of us were arrested.  It is a day I see as one of my finest. And I am proud to be in that select group of activists who has been willing to stand firm, even when it meant getting arrested.

For too long we have sat home and expected others to do our fighting for us. We watched as Greenpeace, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other groups educated members, lobbied legislators, and tried to remind us of our sovereign right and duty to take part in the decisions of our government.

But we were busy. We were raising our children. Falling in love. Or breaking up. We were buying our homes. Or starting a new job. We were going to college. Or relocating. We were on vacation. Taking a sabbatical. Reading a good book. Or volunteering locally. We didn’t have time for meetings or committees. Some days we barely had time to read or watch the news. A few days we double-booked ourselves and missed appointments. We were congenitally running late and finding new ways to manage our time so we could fit in more, but somehow, we were accomplishing less and less.

Our land, money and water were being given to fossil fuel fools. Our schools battered, underfunded and our children fed the same food as our prisoners. Our legislators began paying themselves six figure salaries while our troops were losing their homes and didn’t have sufficient medical care. Our tax code was perverted so that a CEO making millions was no longer prosecuted for embezzlement, he or she was lauded as being great. Corporations were deemed to be people and have a right to free speech. While protestors “occupying” public spaces were denied that same right.

The “grand old party” had a new extreme caucus, the “tea” “party”, and their darlings held the rest of us hostage while they  played Russian Roulette with our economy. Now that same party wants to insist we can’t regulate guns, but it is totally reasonable to insist women undergo counseling, vaginal probes and mandatory waiting periods for medical procedures. The conservatives have stated that the old, aged and injured aren’t “entitled” to care and benefits, but just try to take away those billions from fossil fuel fools or tax corporations, and we hear a different kind of entitlement song.

Women can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves, but those same greedy "thugs", teachers, those who the Republican’s blame for our economic woes with their $70,000 per year salary, health care and pensions, well they should be armed to protect our children while in school, but on the other hand, Republican’s say we don't need to fund education, we don’t need more money for books or better lunches, but they sure do need money for armed guards.

They want us to believe that somehow a reliance on a diminishing resource will lead to economic and energy independence. Sure, just like heroin use somehow leads to sobriety.  The fossil fuel industry and their too big to fail buddies at the investment banks, have been busy picking the pockets of our 401ks and funneling the profits from their machinations to offshore accounts, while the CEO’s fight the debt and suggest that unless we “fix” it, they might have to ruin the economy.  We have to “chain” Social Security payments but their runaway compensation and spending are not regulated at all.

So now we have a choice to make. To take on this responsibility, to protect our land, to fight for what is ours. To remember, that we are the government and this is our land. To understand that we don’t need fossil fuels, the truth is, they need us, and our money. We can choose to stop feeding that beast. Join the campaign to divest from fossil fuels. And join the movement to get elected. We can stop vaginal probes and decide instead on mandatory counseling for the purchase of certain types of semi-automatic weapons. We can mandate a carbon tax and care for our wounded warriors. We can care for our seniors and stop skewing our tax system and start taxing tax welfare for billionaires.

Don’t tell me you can’t. Don’t say you don’t know how. Now is the time to take the road less traveled. Don’t tell me you are too busy, too inexperienced or too indifferent. Every journey starts with a single, simple step. Start with one simple act, attend a local meeting. Ask questions. What issues are important to you? Your voice and intelligence, respectful discourse and mindful suggestions are welcome.

For more information on the campaign to divest, go to 350.org. For information on getting elected contact me via The Mothers Project at www.themothersproject.org.

Discuss

Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 02:56 PM PST

The Root Of All Evil

by lilongo

What is evil? How do we define it? Can we quantify or classify the characteristics of true evil? Are there degrees of evil? Can someone be both good and evil? Do we as a society really believe in redemption, even of the truly evil? What does our system of commerce say about our values and does it support evil behavior? Can we really identify the root of all evil?

e•vil  
ˈēvəl
Adjective
Profoundly immoral and malevolent.

Noun
Profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, esp. when regarded as a supernatural force.

Synonyms
adjective.      wicked - bad - ill - vicious - malign - sinister
noun.      harm - ill - mischief - wrong - disaster - wickedness

Evil. We have all supposed to know it, to be able to recognize it. We have described it, judged it and even tried to name it. Terrorism. Mass murder. Rampant greed. All are evil right?. But what about the less clear? Bullying. Regulation. Commerce. When does it cross the line from responsible to reprehensible?

What is your line in the sand? At what point do we have to stand up and refuse to cooperate with a system that perpetuates evil?

This week I have been thinking about some big issues: human trafficking, the privatization of our prison system and tax reform.

And each has ties to the most commonly cited “root” of all evil, money. So is money the root of all evil? Does absolute power absolutely corrupt? Or are there shades of grey? Have we as a society abdicated our responsibility to be the final arbiter of evil? Have we allowed the media to give us mindless justifications for evil?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do think I have some ideas and that we need to understand how our values are being devalued by trivial and often irrelevant arguments that we allow the inane and accept the unacceptable.

Do you shop at a big box store? Do you support factory farming? Are you insisting your clothes be made without child or slave labor and your food be processed without toxic chemicals and more slave labor? Do you insist that the businesses you support provide a living wage and benefits to employees? Do you fight for equality for all and the protection of our way of life and national security?

I am sure most people think they do. You are being told constantly by media to buy more and think less. It is a constant barrage of bad messaging, from fracking is good to buying a car will make you rich and handsome to feeding your family processed food is healthy.

We have allowed private prisons to proliferate, basically sanctioning slave labor in this country. We ignore corporations who employ slaves and evade taxes, just so we can have cheap products. We allow ourselves to be castrated with hopelessness and helplessness while extreme factions push extreme extraction, insist we cannot regulate guns, but must absolutely allow trans-vaginal probes.

We can’t have equality for some. Equality is an all or nothing proposition.  I don’t get to pick who is equal anymore than Congress should get to pick and choose who follows basic safety regulations or pays taxes.  We are either all equal and therefore equally responsible, or we can stop kidding ourselves that we have any equality at all.
And this brought me to the conclusion that evil is prevalent when vigilance is absent. When I consider those things I consider evil, I see a correlation between a lack of education and transparency and their existence.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
  Edmund Burke

And it is time for “we the people” to combat evil. To insist on some basic common sense regulation to stop people from sliding down that slippery slope.  We have the ability, and I am going to ask you to exercise it on May 1st. Join in the May Day Lobby Day. Meet with legislators, present them with draft legislation and insist they explain their position, or lack of position, on issues that matter to you.
We can no longer be one of the good people allowing evil to triumph. Are you ready? More information at www.lisalongo.me, and on Facebook at National Women’s Party 2.0.

Discuss

Did you know that when federal programs were cut by the GoP House those cuts resulted in each state receiving far less in federal dollars, and that each state then cut the amount municipalities received, which meant less money to school districts and boroughs, which meant many local taxes had to increase?

The reality of this is, the tax burden is then shifted to the middle and working class as these taxes are not proportionate to income. (This is the math portion of the conversation)

This is the same mathematical issue that arises when Social Security and Medicare are cut, since the tax is only on the first $113,100, up from $110,500 last year, and the main beneficiaries of the benefits are the middle and working class, any change in either benefit or benefit age greatly impacts the middle and working class. Not the wealthy. Why? Well these taxes are not income proportionate either.

In essence, the entire conservative budget and policy is at this point to continue to cut funds to education and infrastructure (i.e. roads, police, safety and other funds that usually go to each state) and to cut benefits while increasing the age and requirements to receive benefits like social security and medicare. Basically using an income disproportionate methodology to ensure they can say it is about entitlements, ignoring that this method ensure the tax burden falls disproportionately on the middle and working class.

This is the truth about trickle-down theory, it is all about income redistribution from the working poor and middle class to the rich. So let's sum it shall we?

The GoP wants to continue to cut education funds at the federal level, which means each state has less funds for public elementary, high school and college, which means local school and property taxes go up, which is an inherent tax on the middle class and working poor. Remember, these taxes are not income proportionate as Federal and State Income taxes are.

This also means the cost of college increases, which is another burden on the middle and working class, especially since the GoP also wants to cut more funds from Pell Grants and student loan programs.

Why is this unfair? Well, the wealthy don’t use our public schools for the most part. Nor do their children need Pell grants and students loans. Honestly, Romney was clear during the campaign, if kids can’t afford college, they need to pick a cheaper school, or just borrow the money from their parents.

So mathematically, if your property tax increases by 10% on $5,000, that is a $500 increase. Not much if you make $500,000, but quite a bit for the average family who might make $50,000. Let’s add in tuition, instead of $10,000, let’s say tuition increases to $15,000. Again, not much of a problem for our wealthy executive making $500,000 per year, but impossible for the worker at $50,000. Are you beginning to see the problem?

Right. Moving on.

When the GoP talks about raising the retirement age and cutting benefits, once again, that taxes the middle class and working poor. Once again, using candidate Romney as our base line, he is already retired, even though he made over $14,000,000 according to his 2011 tax return (or $21,000,000 according to the 2011 draft tax return), but he is retired. So raising the retirement age does not impact him, nor does a change in benefit. Does this seem income proportionate? Of course not.

And you see this trickle-down policy really become an avalanche in every state that has a GoP controlled state house. Where they further cut education, health, welfare and other programs. Putting further burden on municipalities. Who then have no choice but to raise property taxes.

When you have a borough, let’s call it Phoenixville, with excellent schools and a diverse socio-economic base, our district is left with little choice but to raise taxes to meet our fiduciary financial burdens. This means that all our seniors, whose benefit the GoP wants to cut, have to pay more property taxes with less income. But do people understand and blame the conservative fiscal policy? No, they simply put the blame on our schools and “greedy” teachers, overpaid Administrators and “runaway” spending by School Boards.

It also means that single parents and two parent working families have to pay more to educate their children, pay more in local taxes, saving less, and having less in their retirement account, which they won’t get for another 5 years if the GoP has their way.

While corporations are being given millions in state and federal tax entitlements, the GoP wants to continue to take away our ability to educate our children, care for our seniors, ensure our Veteran’s and disabled receive medical care and our nation can maintain its roads, bridges, tunnels. All this while police forces, firefighters, teachers and post offices are asked to take pay cuts, layoff staff and give up pensions while they insist on more tax cuts for corporations and the wealth. Still not income proportionate is it?

Do you get it now? Do you see the “Grand Plan” the GoP keeps talking about? Do you understand what happens to the middle and working class if this continues?

This constant carping that liberals want to redistribute wealth is a very elaborate evasive tactic to hide the truth from you, the taxpayer. It is not the Democrats who are stealing your retirement or your savings, it is conservatives who are bleeding our bank and retirement accounts to fund their corporate welfare entitlements.

Let’s say enough is enough. Are you ready? Call your Senator, contact your Representative. Write to your Governor. Please share this, email it to family and co-workers, give it to friends for Valentine’s Day. Post it to your Facebook wall, tweet a link. Print flyers and hand them out at Superbowl Parties. This is too important to ignore.

Contact your local Democratic Committee. Attend School Board and Council meetings. Do not accept the simpleton notion that more taxes is “bad” and will “hurt” business and they then won’t create jobs. We have had a decade of that simpleton nonsense, and guess what? They didn’t create any jobs, they did create amazing wealth for the already wealthy.

I’m done for now. Thanks for reading. And please, if you are ready to put an end to the nonsense, let me know. I’m ready too.

Discuss

Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 07:01 PM PST

A Tale of Two Economies

by lilongo

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, so begins the epic tale, and so begins our exploration into economic chicanery and conservative policy.

We live in a nation that allows children and the elderly to go homeless and hungry while people who play with balls make millions. Our Veteran’s have to beg for care, while CEO’s deduct outrageous salaries and $500 lunches. We have a minimum wage under $10 per hour, but executives can make more than $100,000 per day, be subsidized and, according to conservatives, be “entitled” to our tax dollars. Republican’s will fight to defend those corporate “persons” and their entitlements, but not children, the elderly, or our Veteran’s.

What is going on? And more importantly, why do you feel so helpless, and hopeless, about changing it? We can change everything. It honestly isn’t that hard. We actually have ALL the power, as we proved in November. All the millions the Koch’s and others threw into our election, it didn’t mean a thing. We won. We reelected our President. And now we have an opportunity for real change. What are you waiting for?

A sign? A prophet? A messiah? Really? Do you want to know what I am waiting for? I am waiting for you. Because you are the one person I need most to help get this done.

What can we do? What can you do? Be engaged. We need to insist on real and meaningful tax reform. We have to stop the stupidity that any additional taxes will stop corporations from creating jobs. Corporations don’t create jobs. Demand creates jobs. Republican’s like to think that their supply-side, trickle-down economics creates jobs. It doesn’t. It has never created a single job. And how do I know that? I have 8 years of empirical data. Or as Republican’s call it, the Bush Administration.

They gave HUGE tax cuts to corporations. And Cheney even engineered the largest land and money scam by exempting his company from basic safety regulation. They managed the largest redistribution of wealth we have ever seen, giving millions to billionaires and billions to industries that make trillions. And the American public? They were too busy watching football or basketball to notice.

While you were perusing million-dollar commercials, the conservative machine was writing legislation to invade my uterus and torpedo economic reform. You see, they can’t allow our President to be successful; that would expose their dirty little secret. The Koch funded ALEC scripted NRA protected corporate persons who actually run the Republican Party aren’t going to “create jobs”, they are too busy bilking you for every dollar you have. Sure, watch the “game”, go shopping, ignore the facts, don’t worry about climate change and global warming, just watch the commercials which will explain to you why science is wrong and you should have another beer.

Can you imagine what would happen if millions of people called their legislators? What would our nation be like if instead of “Friday Night Lights” we “Enlightened Friday Nights”? Wow, imagine that!

And honestly, it isn’t as hard as you think. All it takes is a little effort. Go to a meeting. Make a phone call. Send a fax or email. How hard is that?

We have to realize, to remember, that WE are the government. That we have the power. And here is where we start, the 3 e’s. Education. Environment. Equality.
This is our country, it does not belong to “corporate” persons, it belongs to us. Taxes aren’t bad, they don’t hurt the economy. That is a fiction you have been sold by people who don’t want to pay taxes. You have been convinced you are powerless, that you should just shop and watch TV, well, I’m here to tell you, you aren’t, and you don’t have to.

We can change everything. Just by showing up. By speaking out. By how you spend your money.  It really isn’t that hard.

And here is another myth: CEO’s, sports figures and movie stars deserve to be paid millions but you don’t. That is just crap. You have been manipulated, lied to and bamboozled into supporting this redistribution of wealth, and it is time to end it. Here is how, we return to a sane and reasonable corporate tax policy, one that does not reward and legalize embezzlement.

Instead of subsidizing corporate greed, let’s make it tax detrimental. I mean, ‘tis the season. Tax season that is. So, here we go, what happens if we limit the deduction for corporate executive salary to the Social Security wage base? How about instead of allowing executives to fly to New Orleans on a tax-deductible corporate jet to their tax deductible corporate sky-box in the tax subsidized sport stadium while eating and drinking their entitled tax-deductible hot wings and beer, we limit that? I mean, Republican’s are totally into limiting other stuff, like our access to health care and affordable education, why not to tax entitlements for millionaires?

Did you know the sale of multi-million dollar houses is way up? I’m guessing it has increased about the same amount as say, child poverty and homelessness. So today, while you watch those multi-millionaires throw a ball around and see the other multi-millionaires enjoying the game at your expense, just remember, this tax deductible extravaganza was brought to you by the authors of “A Tale of Two Economies” and funded by their corporate sponsors. So if you are in debt, don’t have health insurance, can’t afford to send your child to college, or wonder how you are going to retire, well, just ask a Republican, maybe today will be the day they can explain how giving millions to billionaires and billions to trillion-dollar industries but wanting you to work until you are 70 is in your best interest.  

Enjoy the game. You can bet the millionaires are.

Discuss
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