Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Immediacy of Christmas Giving

…And If You Haven’t Got a Ha’penny…

Christmas is coming, all right.  So is the cold.  And, according to the latest reports, the colder…

It always awakes me when I see those ringers for the Salvation Army standing all day and into the pink-orange dusk brandishing that one-handled bell.  They’re usually standing carefully between the exits and the entrances of grocery stores and mall entrances.  

In fact, they’re told when hired to make sure the pot and stand do not block anyone’s entrance or exit.  If possible, they’re supposed to open the doors for you as you approach the entryway. 

Some wear red and green colors to remind us of the holidays; others don a festive hat and stamp about to keep warm.  One gal I see sings with a little boom-box in accompaniment, and believe me, she can make the ice thaw off the store windows with that sweet southern voice of hers.  She touches people on the arm when they give her something, and her blessing feels like something direct from the Vatican. 

In Illinois, people who ring for the Salvation Army start at about $8.25 an hour.  In other states where there are no minimums, it’s about a dollar less (like MO).  On the upside, you’re not allowed to work more than 40 hours, so you won’t be taken advantage of or dare ask for overtime. 

When I stray a bit from home, it isn’t unusual for me to know the person ringing the bell.  For the homeless, it’s not a bad gig.  $330 a week before taxes.  Of course it’s temporary employment, but nevertheless it might get you a couple of rooms this month, or a few meals, or even a bike for the spring.

Tonight I watched people at the local Jewel entering and leaving to see if there was some kind of pattern to who gave, who didn’t, when they gave, if families made a difference, etc.  But I couldn’t quite make it out.  It was only 10 degrees outside, and I wasn’t able to take legible notes.

I’m sure the Salvation Army keeps stats.

Tonight, not many wanted to stop and give anything either.

But he kept ringing that bell and wishing everyone leaving or entering a “Merry Christmas.”  What a trooper.

A really close friend of mine once listened to my self-absorbed whine about how sad this all seemed, especially during the Holidays, and she said something that changed me from then on:

Her: So what do you give the guy?

Me:  I dunno, maybe a dollar or whatever change I have left.

Her:  You know what I do every time?

Me: Give them a Krugerrand?

Her: No, jerk, but I would if I could.  No, I give the pot a dollar, but I give the ringer $5 or $10. 

Me: Really?

Her: You know them better than I do.  Why wouldn’t you?  And you know what?  They think at first you’re kidding, but guess what?  They can use it better than anyone, appreciate it more than anyone, and – you should know that.

This is not to denigrate the Salvation Army, no, not at all.  According to Snopes.com their CEO Todd Bassett receives a small salary of only $13,000 annually while managing a $2 billion organization.  So, regardless of what you may do, the money you drop in that bucket is doing good.  In fact, nearly the entire dollar goes to assistance for the needy.

Just remember quite often the ringer is the “needy” directly in front of you.

So, here’s an idea, if you haven’t done it yet. 

Me:  Hey, thanks for staying out here in the cold and doing this for everyone, all of us.  What you do means a lot and makes a difference.  Here’s a something for the pot and something for you for all your work. 

Remember when Scrooge awakes on Christmas morning.  It’s the same good feeling.

Chris Hedges on Donald Trump as Demagogue

Below are excerpts from an investigative and personal essay by Chris Hedges in Truthdig (12/12/16) of what is to come and what we may expect after January 20th ; a succinct and soul-curdling view of Donald Trump as leader of our country. 

From Demagogue-in-Chief

“For Donald Trump, the presidency will be a vast stage for accommodating his megalomania and insatiable appetite for money. Those who mock, defy or anger him will feel the wrath of the state. Those who are not obsequious will be cast aside. He will invest most of his energy in his brand. Self-promotion is the only real talent he possesses. Corruption, already rife within the political system, will explode into a full-blown kleptocracy. Manufactured stories about Trump’s prowess, brilliance, sexual allure and goodness, as well as how America is becoming “great again,” will be pumped out by the White House smoke machine. He will demand encomiums that will become ever more outrageous. All love, devotion and allegiance will be to Trump.
“Trump is the sick expression of a dysfunctional political system and mass culture that celebrate the most depraved aspects of human nature—greed, a lust for power, a thirst for adulation and celebrity, a penchant for the manipulation of others, dishonesty, a lack of remorse and a frightening pathology in which reality is ignored. He is the product of our escapist world of constant entertainment. He embodies the mutation of values in American society that has culminated in an enormous cult of the self and the abandonment of the common good.
“’When a population becomes distracted by trivia,’ wrote Neil Postman, ‘when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people becomes an audience and their public business a vaudeville, then a nation finds itself at risk: cultural-death is a clear possibility.’
“Demagogues—insecure and crippled by an unbridled narcissism and seldom of high intelligence—play to the inverted values of a decayed society. They attack all who do not kneel before the idol of “the great leader.” “Saturday Night Live” can continue to go after Trump, but Trump, as president, will use every tool in his arsenal, no matter how devious, to banish such public ridicule. He will seek to domesticate the press and critics first through the awarding of special privileges, flattery, gifts and access. Those who cannot be bought off will be destroyed. His petulant, childish taunts, given authority by the machinery of the security and surveillance state, will be dangerous.”
The entire article should be read here:

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Chicago Tribune: Rauner = Pres. Obama?

According to the Tribune: Rauner = Obama?

Having given John McCormick the leadership of his past position as editorial leader, even Tribune Publisher Bruce Dold has to cringe at the reach of the lead opine under his new protege's direction on December 11, 2016.

In today’s unthinking piece, “Expect Nothing from Springfield,” McCormick’s collection of opinionates create the usual right-wing false equivalency between Senator Mitch McConnell’s 2010 declaration preventing Obama from achieving any legislative traction in order to assure his single term presidency to Governor Rauner’s ersatz symbolic similarity with President Barack Obama.

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.” (U.S. Senator Mitch O’Connell, October 2010)

According to the Chicago Tribune, the national victories in the 2010 mid-term election for both the House and the Senate were hopeful precursors to the incumbent President’s future loss – wrong – but they also outlined a permanent plan of standstill instead of governing for the good of the people of the country.  The Party of NO.  

Now, the Tribune likens our current situation in Illinois with the first-term Governor’s self-made situation in Springfield; that is, if you are willing to equate Rauner’s 44 non-budget demands with Obama’s attempts to pass Immigration Reform, prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,  increase penalties against North Korea for any nuclear development,  oppose privatization of Social Security, increase building energy efficiency, renew an assault weapons ban, train and equip the Afghan army, reduce oil consumption by 35% by 2030, overhaul the corporate tax code for those moving jobs overseas, extend child tax credits, implement women-owned business contracts, establish a credit card bill of rights…

Well, I could go on.  And, by the way these are only mostly Obama’s successful accomplishments, despite McConnell’s promise to block every one of them.

And they are hardly comparable to Rauner's single-minded anti-union wish list.

But only in the Republican leaning and backward world of the Tribune Editorial Board would there be sufficient cheek and intellectual absenteeism to call McConnell Speaker Madigan; and to call Rauner a President Obama.

To paraphrase one famous statement made during a Vice Presidential debate:  “We knew (KNOW) President Obama, Mr. McCormick, and Bruce Rauner is NO President Obama.”

In fact, Rauner’s 44 and dwindling non-budgetary items have made him one of the least approved governors in the country.  A 56% negative count- just behind Rick Snyder, who poisoned a considerable group of his constituency shouldn’t make you feel too good. 

And, if the Tribune wants to throw their number (1,823,627 voters for Rauner) as some kind of mandate, they’re talking about the multi-millions he and his friend Ken Griffin expended to win advertising time – not what thoughtful citizens can see happening around them.

A state budget in stalemate for two years and counting.
And enormous and growing debt of unpaid bills for the state once it finally reaches a decision about a budget – one that will eat up serious amounts of tax increases while we wait.
An educational system – including university level schooling – that will suffer for decades from the current Governor’s drawing his philosophical line (not monetary) in the Winnetka sand.
The lives of thousands of marginalized, homeless, impoverished, single parents, parentless children and mentally ill who will never recover from two or more years of neglect and being ignored.

By the way, the Governor of Illinois is required under Article XIII and Section 2 to produce his “State Budget for the ensuing fiscal year,” not his non-fiscal demands before he produces the aforesaid document.

We're coming to year #3.  Will he finally deliver this year?  Don't count on it.

Inversely, President Obama – who represents EVERYTHING opposite Bruce Rauner – enjoys the same percentage support in the positive: 55%.  This despite the last deplorable election.

The Tribune warns us not to expect anything substantive from Madigan’s and Cullerton’s Democrats.  McCormick and Co. want this “blue” state to somehow twist our thinking into believing that Madigan and Cullerton are the problem, and Rauner is indeed the “business” messiah, come to make Illinois the Land of economic Milk and Honey.  Just like his duplicate-elect.    

Blue will become red?  So they hope.

Hold on, Tribune.  Take your time, Mr. McCormick.  Maybe a few more years – even decades – with the loss of the public education system, the gutting of our universities, the elimination of the minimum wage, the work-for-what-we-pay-you, the “lose an arm at work and we’ll help you find it” law, the Prittzker Illinois Park system, etc.

Perhaps less than a million votes against the Republican Party this time around has buoyed your hopes of some imminent change, but the more-than-likely fiasco in Washington/New York is more likely to undermine your momentary euphoria.

Let's get serious.   

There’s plenty to fix in Illinois.  In fact, you may want to find a more thoughtful clarification – one based on authenticity and needed cooperation.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Momentary Victory at Standing Rock!

Momentary Victory at Standing Rock!

From the New York Times, December 4, 2016

“Federal officials announced on Sunday that they would not approve permits for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a dammed section of the Missouri River that tribes say sits near sacred burial sites.
“The decision is a victory for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters camped near the construction site who have opposed the project because they said would it threaten a water source and cultural sites. Federal officials had given the protesters until tomorrow to leave a campsite near the construction site.
Initial gathering of Veterans to support Native American protests.
“In a statement on Sunday, the Department of the Army’s assistant secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said that the decision was based on a need to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.
“’Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Ms. Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.’

“The consideration of alternative routes ‘would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis,’ Ms Darcy said in a statement.
“The Obama administration had blocked construction of that section since September, and in November President Obama, revealed that the Army Corps of Engineers was considering an alternative route for the project.
“Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, expressed gratitude for ‘the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.’
“Tribal officials had criticized the route because of the potential damage to the tribe’s drinking water and that it would disrupt sacred lands.
“The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, has said that it was unwilling to reroute the project.”

Beyond the cost of an alternate route, the other likely reason for the Energy Transfer Partners dismissal of changing the scheme is the President-elect Trump’s promised backing of their plan. 

According to Salon.com, the demonstrations, calls to the White House and Congress, as well as the despicable uses of force and injury to try to turn away protestors gained traction as the month of December arrived. 

“In a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch late last week, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the tactics used by police against peaceful protesters (who have designated themselves “water protectors”) and to deploy federal monitors to Standing Rock as reports emerge of violence against protesters.
“Booker cited ‘ongoing danger to both protesters and law enforcement,’ at the sites of ongoing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which indigenous protesters and their allies believe could contaminate the Missouri River, and desecrate sacred tribal sites.
“Last week, as the nation prepared to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, police used water cannons and rubber bullets on people attempting to halt the pipeline’s construction.” (http://www.salon.com/2016/11/29/congress-finally-begins-to-notice-the-dakota-access-pipeline-protests-at-standing-rock/)

The land, originally deeded to the Native Americans in 1851 and then rescinded by the U.S. government.  Today, over 1000 veterans arrived at Standing Rock to join with Native Americans protesting the action to disturb their tribal grounds and possibly endanger millions of people who depend upon the Missouri for drinking water. 

It is not over: Call the Whitehouse at 202-456-1111 to urge President Obama to maintain the halt to shale oil transfer across sacred land and water resources.