Get Up, Stand Up

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” – Robert Frost.

There was an education rally in downtown Albany on June 8. My wife, who’s not prone to activities such as mass demonstrations, attended; so did her mother, and her brother and sister-in-law, which she didn’t know about until she ran into her brother quite by accident. New York in particular was one of two states that has opted to mandate these idiotic standardized tests for its students even sooner than the rest of the country. This despite the fact that the teachers, by and large, hadn’t been trained in it. I’ve said this before: the tests were a waste my daughter’s education time. (Here’s a defense of education spending.)

I get notices for rallies of one type or another, many of which I agree with philosophically, but if I attended them all, that would be all I do full time. Maybe if I ever work downtown again, or retire (as if)…

When I was younger, I went to countless events for civil rights and against the Vietnam war. No single event may have made a difference, but one felt that the collective effect of these actions might have had an impact.

The demonstrations against the Iraq war, in which I participate, obviously had no effect in preventing it. The Occupy movement, which I didn’t much involve myself with, may have had a longer-term impact than its critics have suggested; among other things, it’s gotten the term “the 1%” in the conversation. Whether that will lead to economic reform, though, is still an open question.

Maybe what we need right now is some mass demonstration against the massive government overreach that are these two sweeping U.S. surveillance programs of our phones and e-mail, in the US and abroad, just to make sure President Obama is quite clear that we don’t his benign analysis of our government’s intrusion. Theoretically, something could change; socialist Bernie Sanders and the Tea Party’s Rand Paul seem to be on the same side of the issue. (This is at least the second time this year I’ve agreed with Paul; the last time was on drones.) I certainly support the ACLU lawsuit against the Obama Administration Over NSA ‘Dragnet’ Surveillance.

Do you know who is gutsy? Rev. Stephen Heiss, a United Methodist minister in Binghamton, NY, my hometown, wrote a letter to his bishop admitting to actions that may cost him his job: “In the last few years I have officiated at several weddings for brothers and sisters who are lesbian or gay. One of those weddings—the highlight of my ministry—was for my own daughter and the woman who is now her wife. They are so happy!”

But these are BIG concerns. When I first started writing this, it was inspired by a much smaller issue in the grand scheme of things, an unreasonable, bullying landlord who [UPDATE – initially seemed to have relented, but the fight goes on.]

Whether the issue is international in scale or merely a neighborhood concern, this quote does seem appropriate: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” – Robert Frost. Now that’s WAY easier said than done, but it is something to aim for.

LISTEN to Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley, as relevant now as it was 40 years ago.

Corporate politic$ in America

I think the Tea Party and the ACLU (or other odd bedfellows of your choice) should get together and think of some strategy to address this issue. It may have to be outrageous.

Folks in America like to think that our elected officials are beholden to Us, The People. We have spirited elections, and if we don’t like Candidate X, we can vote for Candidate Y. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.

Then why does the FAA have a “no-fly zone” over Mayflower, Arkansas being overseen by Exxon Mobil? “In other words, any media or independent observers who want to witness the tar sands spill disaster have to ask Exxon’s permission.” I don’t recall anyone electing Exxon as overseer of our skies. And a technicality has spared Exxon from having to pay any money into the fund that will be covering most of the clean-up costs.

How does Congress quietly pass, unbeknownst to most, even those who voted on it, a secret provision to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 which protects the manufacturers of genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health concerns, such as inflammatory bowel diseases? And check out the waiver Monsanto makes farmers sign.

Most observers believe Monsanto is likely to win a Supreme Court case which one must read to believe; that Justice Thomas, former Monsanto lawyer, doesn’t recuse himself is typical Clarence behavior. Now, if Vermont’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act passes the state legislature, requiring manufacturers to label modified food products as such, Monsanto has threatened to sue the state. Meanwhile, food safety advocates have called out President Obama over his broken promise to label GMOs.

Or, as I mentioned before, how do copyright holders give quasi-governmental powers to cut off Internet services?

The answer, my friend, is money. Money in politics. The ‘Revolving Door’ lobbyists have helped create the corporate betrayal of America. Check out The Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secret website. So that is how one could have an anonymous! member of Congress slip something into a bill that protects the corporations.

None of this is news, exactly – see the FDR quote – but seems to have become both more pervasive and more perverse. So what are we going to do about it? I was watching this TED talk on Arthur’s blog, and it got me to think that there are many people on the political left and the political right who have a common agenda: a sense of fairness. Money trumps fairness, inherently.

I think the Tea Party and the ACLU (or other odd bedfellows of your choice) should get together and think of some strategy to address this issue. It may have to be outrageous.

Let’s face it: governments chug along doing the things they do, often in a self-serving manner, until the people get a bit uppity and sit at a lunch counter where they are unwelcome or refuse to sit in the back of the bus. Not sure what action it is should be yet, but as they say, it could be epic…

As my friend, Dan wrote, in response to the post cited above: “No corporation… has any right to enforce anything. If our government leaders give them that kind of power then we the people have every right to defy their bogus powers…”
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“For someone the right wing press likes to call a socialist,” Obama’s regressive record makes Nixon look like Che.