Friday, January 29, 2010

The Supreme Court's Unprecedented Precedent Buster by Larry Stopper

The decision by the Supreme Court to allow corporations and unions to directly advertise for or against specific candidates in political races anywhere and at any time is the most dangerous blow to American democracy since Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War. It not only overturns more than one hundred years of Supreme Court precedent, but makes a mockery of the concept that each of us has a voice in our government.

As I and many other commentators see it, no longer will corporations have to hire lobbyists and press for earmarks in behind the scenes negotiations. Now they can just buy senators or representatives. Can anyone imagine a member of Congress from West Virginia opposing mountain top removal mining techniques? Will we now have senator Cargill from Iowa or senator Boeing from Washington State? Corporations are now free to spend as much as they choose on political campaigns and spend they will. It’s just an outrage.

It’s also completely disingenuous to compare labor unions with giant multi-national corporations in terms of resources. Does anyone believe that the airline mechanics union has the same resources as the airline industry? With this decision I’m willing to wager heavily, there simply will never be another law passed granting workers greater rights or protections.

There are many other areas of law today that stand a good chance of being gutted by this decision. Will we see increases to the minimum wage if the senators purchased by the fast food industry and the big box stores say no? Will environmental laws protecting against dangerous chemical contaminants be even possible if the senators from the energy, mining and chemical companies stand against them?

How is it that corporations have come to be viewed as human? I’m currently a partner in two different corporations. These are business entities. They don’t breath, speak, vote or participate in public life. Congress, the peoples representatives, has spent the better part of the last century regulating corporate financial participation in election campaigns. Now five justices of the Supreme Court have blown off a century of their own legal presidents and Federal law and declared corporations free to operate with almost no restrictions?

And where are the fake populists we’ve become so used to seeing on our TV screens. The ones who’ve spent the last year fighting to keep government off the backs of the people in the health care debate. How come there’s no outcry from them? This is not a liberal or conservative issue – this a democracy issue. Most of the corporations I fear are multi-national. I have no reason to assume they feel any loyalty to the United States.

Some of the world’s largest and wealthiest banks were at the center of the recent global financial crisis. These banks will now be free to spend billions, yes billions if they choose ,to help elect congressional representatives willing to prevent any strong regulation. Which means we are in danger of leaving these banks to go right back to conducting business as was usual before we plunged into the great recession.

In my opinion, this decision by the Supreme Court is the worst since the Dred Scott decision, and it poses a grave danger to what we have come to understand as democracy in the US.

                          Larry Stopper is a partner in two corporations in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thinking of Haiti by Chris Edwards

I don’t know what to do as we sit numbly in front of MSNBC, watching bloodied people. Fields of corpses.

I’ve only seen Haiti once, last winter from a cruise ship near sunset, when the island appeared on the horizon like a big, misty, odd-shaped blue and white cloud mass.

Field-hospital doctors ask a mother’s permission to save her young daughter’s life by amputating her gangrenous leg. The woman wails. She does not think her child, as an amputee in poverty, could have much of a life.

It’s never clear why, once the planes land, it takes so long for the food, water and supplies to reach people.
Aid workers say they are used to the so-called “hurry up and wait mechanism,” but a woman posts on Facebook that she doesn’t trust any organization enough to donate.

I feel bad whenever we waste water.

Of course there’s looting, and controversy about coverage of looting. If homeowners in the nicest, gated community one day found themselves without access to food or water, do we think they’d be too civilized to break into a store?

Would they share? I hear on NPR about a ragged quake survivor who had just lost everything; getting on a rickety bus; how other passengers, who didn’t have much more, quickly gave him a fresh shirt, a little money, and food.

Communication system failures don’t prevent Haitians hearing a certain preacher in Virginia say they made a pact with the Devil. A priest reassures newly homeless people, “God didn’t cause this.”

None of the mainstream media says much about Haiti’s history except when Keith Olbermann, reacting to the devil-channeling preacher, tells how the Haitians, after freeing themselves from slavery, had to spend nearly 150 years compensating the French for that so-called “lost property”—themselves. On Wikipedia, I skim through the stories of the gruesome tortures and massacres of slaves; long successions of dictators, coups and schemes; and controversial roles of American government and business in Haiti’s history.

In Newsweek, former commerce undersecretary David Rothkopf lists disasters that have hit poor people in coastal areas hardest. He says they could be forecast and alleviated by seawalls, building codes, response plans, etc. – at less cost than our wars or bank bailouts.

This could happen.

The real question is, do we have the will for it?

We have one friend who’s Haitian. In Vermont, she and her husband learned after days on the phone that her relatives are ok but some friends are lost.

He emails us a photo of her cousin’s demolished store.

“Be glad you are alive. . .” he writes.

                                                                   -- Chris Edwards is a writer living in Harrisonburg

Friday, January 15, 2010

Growing Up Female by Laura Sobik-Kavanagh

I was on internship finishing my doctoral degree in clinical psychology. During one of my many breaks from writing, I wandered into the bathroom to obsess about my hair and to ask myself a couple of what seemed at the moment to be really important “big” questions - do I need highlights? Should I go red again? How about a cute little haircut? I looked closely. I turned away and looked again. My stomach actually turned as I realized...I had found a gray hair. And it was not even totally gray - only the inch closest to my scalp was gray, as if my body had just decided to start the aging process.

I went through a bevy of reactions all at once. I felt betrayed - as if somehow I’d thought I would get to skip the aging process? I felt excited – was I finally a woman, for real this time? The truth is, I was not sure that I really “graduated” to womanhood when I thought I should – when I graduated from college, or I when lived alone in my own apartment or when I paid off my car, or when I finished my Ph.D. or even when I got married - no, no this was really it. As I stood there, I experienced a crazy sense of acceptance within the context of a childish foot-stomping tantrum.

As a feminist, I fight like crazy against our ageist, sexist society that tells us that pretty young girls have all of the fun and power. I am a woman who doesn't believe in god but apparently has an existential crisis every time I am faced with a physical sign of my own mortality. I am a young professional who’s still looking for a mentor, yet I am already in the position of mentoring others.

As a therapist, my job is to be part of peoples’ journeys – I see every facet of life reflected in what my clients tell me. On a daily basis, I work with people to explore, heal, and accept insecurities, fears, losses – sometimes immense, unthinkable losses. I watch growth, healing, and the endurance of pain that gives me immeasurable hope about humanity and meaning. So shouldn’t I be able to handle having a gray hair a bit more gracefully?

Standing there, looking at my beginning-to-age self in that bathroom mirror, I realize that I’m facing yet another transition, yet another personal change. I both question the person I am growing into and feel empowered by becoming her. Maybe womanhood isn’t about finishing with change; it’s about embracing it.

So, I am now a woman who has gray hair – or at least a gray hair. I have officially started to look the part of a person who knows something about the world. About life. About confidence. About womanhood. And you know, once I stop, take a deep breath, and think for a moment, maybe the truth is, I’m starting to be one as well.

                       --Laura Sobik-Kavanagh is a clinical psychologist at James Madison University

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cowboys by Ellen R. Ivy

One evening, watching my mother at her vanity, I confided my thoughts about cowboys. “I like the Lone Ranger, but the rest of the cowboys are kind of sissy. Dale Evans is okay, but she smiles too much. I don’t think cowgirls should smile. And when are the shows s’posed to take place?”

My mother pursed her lips and smiled at herself in the three-paneled mirror. “I am sure I don’t care. And this cowboy thing of yours is getting out of hand, Little Bit. You’re old enough to know the difference between television and the real thing.” She picked up a hand mirror and aimed it behind her head. Four reflections looked back at her. The real thing sat amidst the reflections, deflecting my questions.

“I know they’re stories. But when are the stories happening?” I persisted. “The Lone Ranger rides on Silver. That’s it. Roy and Dale ride to get supplies in a jeep, but then chase the bad guys on horses. Next thing you know they’re all smiling nice and clean and singing. And, back to the Lone Ranger, why does he wear a mask all the time? I really like the Lone Ranger, but I don’t understand.”

My mother laid down her mirror, and looked straight down at me. “Isn’t that just like you, all excited over nothing. Asking questions about things that don’t matter. Look at you. You wear dungarees all the time. Why don’t you let me fix your hair for you? In a few years you’ll be wearing makeup yourself—and high heels.” Her voice had taken on a kind of cooing. I felt like a baby bird in a nest looking up at its mother getting ready to stick something down its gullet.

“Gee whiz, Mother,” I stuck my arms down straight by my sides, splinting my skinny self up against the thought of bobby-pinned hair and a painted face. “ I’m trying to understand what I care about now. How am I going to, if you won’t answer me?”

“I am answering. You are not listening.” I could almost see her words marching out from between her Coty-red lips. “You need to learn about what will be your real life—like standing up straight, combing your hair, wearing dresses.”
I began to wish I’d never gotten into this. Gadzooks. Who wants to wear shoes you can’t run in, or worry about eyelashes and face powder? Who wants to look like somebody else?

I said, “Never mind, Mother. I just wondered, that’s all.”

Her eyes flashed. “Well wonder this! Why it is you like men who wear masks and not the wholesome, married, real ones?” She picked up the hand mirror once again, checking her drawn-on eyebrows. “Really, Little Bit. Men with masks?“

I wandered out of mother’s room, thinking about the Lone Ranger. His mask really did bother me. A lot. You couldn’t really tell who he was with it on.

As I bolted outdoors for my favorite mimosa tree, it occurred to me that in a few years I really could be wearing makeup. Gee whiz. Seemed to me that then no one would know who I really was anymore, either. Just like the Lone Ranger—and my mother.


About Me

I write for lots of different venues, so this blog provides links to those places. Plus, occasionally, stuff that appears no where else . . .