March 19, 2003 and 2013: The Days Democracy Died

Politicians – especially conservative ones  – love to pontificate about our [the poorer classes – you know – the 99%] lack of sanctity for life…how there would be so many fewer deaths if only those from single-mother households could learn how to value their community members and at the very least, obey laws.

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On March 19, 2003, Bush blasted right through our Constitution, preemptively starting a war based on lies, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths.
On March 19, 2013, Senator Harry Reid – aided by what I now believe is a president who does not understand the power his office holds – squashed Democracy once again.  Reid removed the assault weapons ban from gun regulation legislation that his Democratic Party put forth.  Legislation that American people called for and the majority of citizens stand behind.  Because, he said, he “didn’t have the votes.”

I’ve learned – if I want to stay off the “no fly” list, to not send letters to public officials when as angry as I was yesterday.  I waited until today to send Senator Reid my most sincere criticism.  I urge everyone who feels as I do to write to him, and make it crystal clear that we are in the majority on sensible gun regulation:

“Senator Reid – I left you a message a few weeks ago when you said that you didn’t have the votes for an assault weapons ban – telling you how much you are undermining the efforts of citizens like me who are trying to use the last shreds of Democracy in our country to make our voices heard to get some common sense gun regulations passed.
Even if your voice shakes...

Yesterday, when you put politics before people, and denied citizens the ability to see lawmakers  stand up and be counted on this issue, when you let lawmakers instead retreat to their offices, where they could accept the calls from the NRA, promising these public officials more money for your victory, you just squashed Democracy.

You let a very small minority of loud people – who are being used by the NRA every bit as much as you are – to decide the fate of legislation that would have saved lives.

You sir, are responsible – not only for more gun deaths, but for the death of what those of us who have been voting and participating in civic life our entire lives – understand Democracy to be.

While you may have sought to kill Democracy yesterday, understand that it is ours – not yours.

You will find this out when you lose your next election. You should retire now and spare all of us more of this sham of a government. I’m sure the NRA has a well-paying position waiting for you.”

“Man of the People” or Shill for Coal Industry?

If you read a letter to the editor you believe is completely lopsided and inaccurate, write and send a response, like my friend Perry Thomas did:

Indiana State Representative Matt Ubelhor is a former manager for Peabody Energy  – one of the, if not the largest, coal companies in the country. He’s leading the charge to continue coal power in Southern Indiana as well as pushing school ‘vouchers’ to help dismantle public education (of course, while his children attend expensive private schools). 

There was a vapid letter to the editor praising Ubelhor in this past Sunday’s local Herald Times as “a man of the people,” “who unlike so many of the liberal politicians, has worked, and worked hard for a living, providing for himself and his family” and as a man who “loves Indiana and wants to keep it environmentally safe and clean, while providing for growth” – “truly a man for us.”

Perry sent this letter in response:

Coal workers lung

Lung of a coal worker with Anthracosilicosis, showing black pigmentation and fibrosis due to inhalation of carbon pigment and silica.

“In response to Joseph HJ Grott’s L.T.T.E. 2013 Mar 10 giving kudos to Ubelhor: If you want your family, your friends, neighbors and community members to suffer poor health, than Mr. Grott’s right- ‘Ubelhor is a man for the people.’ If you want your family, friends, neighbors and community to suffer increased risk of stroke, asthma, COPD, slowed pulmonary reflexes, reduced lung function, reduced cardiac ability, increased risk of heartbeat arrhythmia, increased risk of heart attack & stroke, increased risk of blood clots, peripheral thrombosis, reduced oxygen in your system, accelerated atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction, vasoconstriction and hypertension- then Ubelhor’s your man.

You see, Mr. Grott was right in one regard “Matt . . . has worked, and worked hard for a living.” Unfortunately for most people he has worked hard in the coal industry (who he is currently shilling for as a government tool of big coal). Coal fired electricity plants regularly shower us with mercury, lead, other heavy metals, sulphur dioxide, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, and other fine particulate matter. All these emissions have horrible sometimes deadly health effects, but Ubelhor doesn’t care. He and his big coal backers are making millions while you get sick and die.”

More Dangerous Than Weapons: Denial

The biggest problem in our country right now is not lack of jobs, violence, education or climate chaos. It’s the inability to look in the mirror, the false sense of control, and extreme insecurity – that breeds dangerous denial.

We witness this denial most with a minority of citizens – yes, let’s be clear – they are a minority – who cling to their guns and think that the mere ownership of a gun – easier to get than a kitten at most adoption agencies – makes them superior not only to felons, but average citizens. They call themselves “law-abiding” when they aren’t even subject to background checks and when they break laws without being caught or reported.

Dr. Deidra Blackmon

Veterinarian Dr. Deidra Blackmon was killed by a 24-year old “law-abiding” gun owner, because her friend was vomiting on his car in a bar parking lot.  The gunman’s life was in no way being threatened.

Gun owners who have impulse control and anger issues to where they abuse their spouses and children are breaking laws, but if they’re not arrested and convicted or if they got their guns without background checks, they feel entitled to be considered “law abiding.” Parents who habitually and recklessly leave their loaded guns unlocked are considered “law-abiding” too…all because our public safety laws have been written so that virtually anyone with a pulse and a few bucks can own guns.

If the only qualification for owning a gun is waking up in the morning, here’s a news flash: Owning a gun does not make you morally, intellectually or in any other way superior to the majority of citizens who avoid guns and believe in reasonable regulation of life-ending weapons.  

Discussing this issue upsets me, so I am posting a great comment from my friend Martin Hunter – He says exactly what I believe, and says it most eloquently:

“We are all human. In the heat of a dispute, dark thoughts, even the idea of pulling the trigger, may come to mind. So many folks that seek security with a gun strapped to their leg or in their purse think that they are immune to acting on such an impulse. They only fear that others would act on that kind of impulse. It is a common fallacy that most all have, that they are stronger but others are weak.

But when you hear the hateful and violent curse filled verbal assaults delivered by the NRA gun nuts you just have to scratch your head and wonder why their self perceptions is so distorted. They are all obviously capable of pulling the trigger without a second thought. Instead of retreating from confrontations, the gun gives these folks a dangerous level of bravado and they end up making some very poor decisions.

Zimmerman comes to mind. He would not have followed Travon were it not for the fact that he had a sense of security with his gun. Now a teen, armed with Skittles, is dead. I think anyone easy to anger or prone to violent outburst should be judged unsuitable for conceal-carry. As it is, only the insane will be denied a permit based on mental health issues. That is setting the bar too low from my point of view.”

Letter to VP Biden upon release of gun/public safety recommendations

January 15, 2013
Dear Vice President Biden – I am overjoyed that you were charged with heading up the task force on gun control reform recommendations.

There are millions of us who are now “soldiers” for this cause, since the Sandy Hook devastation. We are grassroots lobbyists -more powerful than the NRA, if we continue to mobilize and put the full force of our power upon Capitol Hill.

This is why I’m so distressed at the news of Senator Harry Reid and Congresssman Mike Thompson publicly talking politics and pre-emptively striking down the possibility of an assaults weapon ban passing.  Correction – I’m am disgusted!!!

I have already left messages at both their offices to tell them that not only do they diminish the work of people like me, but they continue to hurt the Democratic Party when their messages appear to put politics above people.

They need to get out of their D.C. bubble if they think we give a rat’s ass about whether the ban will pass the first time vs. the importance of putting it forth. They have been playing this kind of wimpy politics for years and it needs to end.

We need serious and sweeping reforms on many critical issues that the majority of Americans support:  climate change, election and campaign finance laws, to name just a couple.  But, time and time again, the Dems bow to pressure of funders and lobbyists, leaving us voters who keep putting them in office in the dust.

Let those who would oppose an assaults weapons ban so soon after Sandy Hook stand up and be counted!!!  Why does the Democratic leadership continue to cover for these cowards?  Put their names on the front of every news publication across the country on the sad day they would dare to vote against banning the weapons that killed everyone at Sandy Hook and kill thousands more every year in our country.

I would revel in that day and I hope it’s soon.  You see, VP Biden – the rest of us in this country are not as wimpy as the Democratic senators and congresspeople.  But, I think you knew that already.

So, I urge you to do what you can to give Reid & Pelosi some marching orders for how they need to keep themselves and their people in line.

We are in the majority on this issue and we’re not going to stand for anything less than serious gun reforms.

I leave you with Elizabeth Edwards’ words:  “Those who need a champion cannot afford compromise, in the face of forces that are powerful, persistent and greedy.”

Op-Ed in Arizona Capitol Times: “Wrongful birth, wrongful life” law is anti-motherhood

Wrongful birth, wrongful life: SB1359 is anti-motherhood
Published March 12, 2012 in Arizona Capitol Times

If Karen Santorum — mother of six, wife of GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum — had been subjected to Arizona’s proposed “wrongful birth, wrongful life” legislation back in 1997, she could have very possibly died.

Doctors informed Karen back in 1996 during her 19th week of pregnancy that her unborn child had a fatal defect and would die if she attempted to carry the child to term. In an attempt to save the life of the child, Karen underwent a rare and risky surgical procedure. She herself became sick soon after the surgery, and according to her doctors, her life was in jeopardy.

As many know, the pro-life Santorums ultimately lost the child.

“If the physician came to me and said if we don’t deliver your baby in one hour you will be dead, yeah, I would have to do it,” Karen said to Steve Goldstein of the Philadelphia Inquirer in May 1997.

She said ultimately she would have agreed to intervention for the sake of her other children.

I am hoping that Sen. Nancy Barto and other Arizona legislators who are supporting SB1359 are merely ignorant of the potential outcomes of this proposal. I have to hope for that because otherwise I must draw the conclusion that they are interested in endangering the lives of mothers.

SB1359 encourages doctors to lie by withholding critical, life-saving information from their female patients or failing to perform necessary tests in the first place. Many of these women are already mothers who have other children they need to be there for.

If this legislation had been in effect in Pennsylvania at the time Karen was under doctors’ care — doctors who specialize in high-risk births — she very likely could have been given false information or no information at all about her medical condition. There is a very real chance she would have died as a result, leaving behind a husband and children.

Are Arizona’s legislators interested in mothers dying as a result of this legislation protecting doctors from malpractice suits? I sincerely hope not. I and many others around the country will be watching the outcome to see how many Arizona legislators truly care about women’s health and lives.

Featured Activism… Fossil Fuel Divestment

Yes, it’s been almost 2 months since we last visited.  Sandy Hook happened.  Our nation and the world collectively grieved – and continue to grieve –  for the victims.  And,  for our country.  I haven’t taken a break from activism, but did from reporting  it.  More on that in another post.

My earnest and compassionate activist friend Perry in Indiana brought me back here.  He sent me a transcript of his activism this week to post.   I am flattered he wants to share and promote his good works here.  He called one of his favorite podcasts – Best of the Left – to share a great idea.  After reading his plea, visit Go Fossil Free and tell your school or alma mater to divest from fossil fuel companies.  Especially alumni with deep pockets, who give back to your alma mater – they listen to you!

“Jay –  this is Perry from Greene County, Indiana: First I want to say ‘Thanks’ for all you do and especially for putting out the best podcast on the web. Its extremely smart, extremely well-produced, consistent and entertaining. So, keep up the good work.

Second I’d like to leave an activist call for action. My guess is that a good percentage of your listeners are either students or college graduates and for all of those people in those two groups I’d like to urge them to go to gofossilfree.org and sign a petition to get their school to divest from fossil fuels.

We know that 200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves. We also know that colleges and universities have billions of dollars to invest in their endowments. We don’t think that the bastions of knowledge, populated with some of the smartest people who know the most about climate change should be making investments that will destroy the planet that the students they’re teaching are going to inherit.

We’ve already got 210 campus campaigns on the map, so go to gofossilfree.org and sign or start a petition urging your college to hit the fossil-fuel companies where it hurts- in the wallet. Thank you.”

Perry also started a petition for his alma mater a month or so ago and shared it with an on-campus environmental group he used to be a part of. Go Perry – Proud to know you!!!

What Have You Done to Create Change Today?
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Dear Activist’s Diary…”Chasing Ice” & Our Melting Planet

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Please go see the incredible documentary “Chasing Ice”

“Think Globally, Act Locally” was my week’s theme.

Twice this week I saw the documentary “Chasing Ice,” which I believe will help reinvigorate environmental activism on climate change issues once it reaches wider distribution. Photographer James Balog, creator of the Extreme Ice Survey, set up time lapse cameras in multiple locations around the world to document the rapid disappearance of our world’s glaciers, so those of us who will not travel to Iceland, Greenland, etc., can see huge, magnificent glaciers “calving” and falling into the ocean for ourselves.

Combined with scientists’ compelling explanations of why this is caused by industrialization and how it is affecting our weather patterns and our ability to sustain life on our planet, I was left with the overwhelming sense that – as Balog puts it – we are in the middle of witnessing geologic changes of historic proportions – not something that only happened thousands of years in the past, but is happening right now.

I also left with the overwhelming feeling that almost nothing else matters as much, if we  cannot keep our planet alive to sustain human life. Or, as prescient comedian George Carlin said (paraphrasing) – there’s nothing to say that humans are supposed to outlive cockroaches. I have repeated that line kiddingly for years, but “Chasing Ice” brings an intense gravitas and urgency to the problem of global warming/climate change. I saw it a 2nd time to watch without crying throughout.

As an activist, my mind was churning throughout the film: “What can I do – in a big way – to raise awareness, to get our lawmakers to pay attention – what can I do?” Throughout the week, there were reminders that awareness starts in our own backyards.

British industrialization

  • Sierra Club wants us to sign a petition to urge Chicago City Council to embrace clean energy as a follow up to citizens voting for the ballot referendum for the city to purchase power for residents. They are urging this plan to eliminate coal from the energy mix, double the amount of the renewable energy that the city purchases in its energy mix &  secure resources from the chosen energy provider to be used to incentivize solar installations around the city.  Sign the petition here.
  • I indicated that I would be happy to meet with my alderman about this. I would love to watch “Chasing Ice” with him as well.
  • Chicago’s influential Mayor Rahm made another one of his defensive and arrogant remarks:  in response to questions about the expected CTA fare increase, he chided that CTA riders could instead drive a car to work.  He has since refused to back down from his comments, which remind us of the bubble politicians live in and how it us up to their constituents to remind them that not everyone can afford a car, wants a car, and if those who want one drove them, no one would be able to move an inch on our streets, much less breathe. Send a note to the Mayor,  like I did, if his ignorant and careless remarks concern you.
  • I contacted a local education/activism organization to see if there could be some collaborations involving Chasing Ice.

Enormous problems call for enormous response, but my reminder this week was that it is easier to look around my immediate environment for how I could make an impact.

What Have You Done to Create Change Today?
Please share in the comments section and you might be featured here.