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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Appeal to the Wealthy: STEP UP!

I sincerely doubt that those among us - our human "family" - who have been blessed with much will read this. If perchance one or two do, they'll doubtless stop reading quite early on.

So what will I do? I shall still write as though you, the wealthy, ARE listening.

Our government, which ultimately consists of all of us, is in crisis.

You have the resources to put an end to this. To put an end to human suffering which, if we continue on the current path, will be unlike anything formerly seen in our nation, and perhaps our world.

Now, it is much more convenient, easy, comfortable, to live in the insular world you've set up for yourselves. To sit in first class. To avoid associating with the masses. To only attend churches that, rather than challenging you to be better, to be more like Jesus, salve what is left of your conscience. To live a lifestyle of gluttony in every dimension. To give to causes, yes, under the guise of philanthropy... but only if you can get a tax deduction. To endorse, wittingly or not, a system that has become corrupt and, from a moral standpoint, even evil.

What would happen if you stepped up to the plate now, today?

If you VOLUNTARILY "tightened your belt" as you are asking the rest of us to do, and gave a portion of it to end this crisis?

Our nation would prosper. Our states would prosper. Human beings would prosper.

Maybe you'd sleep better at night, as well.

You'd no longer have to hide. You'd no longer have to suffer the disrespect (warranted, in my opinion) of many of us in that 99% who fall, to varying degrees, into the "have not" category. You'd no longer have to worry about strikes or boycotts.

You'd even save money! Yes! If you did not have to funnel so much of your wealth into attorney fees, think tanks, organizations, political campaigns that you feel are necessary to protect yourselves and your "rights", you'd save money.

YOU would profit - because the rest of us would have the resources and much more of a desire to buy whatever it is you are selling.

By writing a check, which likely would have very little impact on your bottom line, you could put an end to the myriad of crises facing us. All of us. Even you.

My Bible says "To whom much is given, much will be required". That's an inconvenient truth, but it's still truth.

I want to leave you with a quote and my ultimate plea:
 
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." - C.S. Lewis

Do the right thing. Help your country and its citizens. Help your world. Be ready to answer God when you stand before him and he asks you:

"What did you do with what I gave you?"
 
 
 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spinning the Numbers: Is Personal Income in Wisconsin UP?

I ran across a VERY interesting story this morning from the MacIver Institute.

You can read it here:

http://maciverinstitute.com/2011/06/wisconsin-has-best-personal-income-growth-in-region/

First off, I'll tell you this: I am extremely skeptical of ANYTHING that comes out of the MacIver Institute. This extremist think tank is funded by groups and individuals with only one purpose: helping the rich get richer by spreading propaganda. How they get away with being classified as a 501 3c "Charitable Organization" is beyond me.

The actual Department of Commerce report is available here:

http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/spi/sqpi_newsrelease.htm

The MacIver spin says that the supposed "increase" in personal income is due in large part to the "durable good (sic) manufacturing".
 
Wait just a minute here! The Department Of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis report itself states that:
A two-percentage point reduction in the personal contribution rate for Social Security accounted for most of the acceleration in first-quarter personal income growth in most states.

So... right off the bat, that 2.1% increase in personal income isn't in any way due in large part to durable goods manufacturing.

I'm going to attempt to add to this blog later - hopefully today! - with further information on just how these numbers are calculated.

I have many questions.

Exactly what socioeconomic group(s) saw these supposed increases?

Are the increases merely due to the very slight (and questionable!) increase in employment - so that some who were collecting unemployment now have obtained jobs?

Perhaps most importantly: are Governor Walker and going to use these extremely questionable numbers to validate and further the Republican (read: CORPORATE) agenda? Is he going to attempt to take credit for this?

Remember: MOST OF THE JOBS THUS FAR CREATED IN WISCONSIN HAVE BEEN AS A RESULT OF POLICIES OF THE DOYLE ADMINISTRATION - NOT THE WALKER ADMINISTRATION!

Don't let him get away with this. Be ready to call him out if he attempts to take credit for it.
 
 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

There and Back Again: A Journey to Walkerville

Recently, I spent two days and nights in Walkerville, Wisconsin.

Walkerville was a tent city set up in the tradition of the Hoovervilles of the Depression Era around the capitol in Madison.
(Hoovervilles were set up around the country by the unemployed, who lived in shanties, shacks, whatever they could build out of whatever materials were at hand. For more information, if you are interested, go to
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooverville)

The purpose of this modern-day Hooverville was a bit different - it was a protest, yes. Yet perhaps the more important intents behind Walkerville were, as I see them:

A. To hold vigil as the most radical, divisive, contentious budget in the history of our state was debated and ultimately, passed by our legislature.
B. To raise awareness of just what this budget and other bills under consideration or passed into law contain, and how they will harm the vast majority of Wisconsin citizens and small businesses.
C. Simply put, to BEAR WITNESS.

I went because I care deeply about my fellow citizens. I went because I have and will continue to research the source of much of the legislation that is being considered/passed and KNOW that at the very least, it is questionable. I would go so far as to say corrupt to its very core. I went to add my voice of objection and protest to those of people who also care deeply and passionately about our state.

I loaded my little car up with my tent, a borrowed sleeping bag, my trusty camera, a sign, and those items I thought I'd need for whatever time I could spend in Walkerville with my fellow citizens. I wanted to bear witness, I wanted to hear and share the stories of those who were there, I wanted to observe this unique moment in history.

"WOW" is barely adequate to describe my reaction to what, and more importantly, who, I found in Walkerville.

There were people from all walks of life in Walkerville. PEOPLE. PERSONS. INDIVIDUALS. Fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, children. Homeless people and quite well-off people. Police officers, firefighters, farmers, teachers, small business owners, students, journalists. REPUBLICANS and non-Republicans (yes, there are Republicans who are part of this movement - really!). Christians, Jews, atheists. African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans. Union members and non-union members. Citizens of the United States and non-citizens - some of whom some of you may consider "illegal" (as one person commented, "Explain that to God!").

It is easy to fall into the trap of lumping all of us into one category - whatever you wish to call us. (Believe me, I have been called some terrible things as I traveled this path.) My hope is that the American people are smarter than that. In reality, we were a cross-section of our nation.

I will now endeavor to describe some of my encounters with individuals involved in this movement - people I met and spoke with.
==
Stik. That's the name he goes by on the street. Stik is a veteran of the Vietnam war. Now Stik is homeless. I met him as I sat in the rain, charging my cell phone and camera batteries using an electrical outlet on a light post. We talked fishing. We talked about the jobs he's held in the past. We talked about his family... his son, with whom he has recently rekindled a relationship.He had tears in his eyes as he talked about that son, and I did, as well. I asked him what his real name was, and he told me it was Matthew. Since he had to sleep in the street, in the rain and wind, his sleeping bag had gotten very wet... he said, "It weighs around 400 pounds!".

Matthew told me that he felt he was "in my element" on the street, as a homeless person - "and that's sad". We spent perhaps an hour talking. I gave him a hug when he left, and thanked him for his service to our country.

Matthew and I parted as he said he was going to, "Hop a bus to dry off".

Matthew was not the only homeless person I met. I slept in my tent outside of the church across from the capitol building, and many homeless people slept on the steps outside of the church. I heard them talking at night... about the things that you and I talk about. (Well, maybe there was a bit more "guy talk" than that!) When I was searching in my purse for a nonexistent quarter to feed the parking meter, a homeless gentleman came up and gave me one while folks dressed in expensive suits walked by.
==
Three attorneys from West Virginia, who were staying at the Best Western near the capitol. They'd come to Madison not for the protests, but on business. They asked what was going on, and I told them. Though concerned that they'd have difficulties getting to their destination on the following day due to the crowds, they were sympathetic to what is going on in our state and our efforts to counter it. One said, "People consider West Virginians a bunch of hicks". I know from my research that West Virginia is considered to have the lowest quality of life of any of our fifty states, but was assured that it was really a good place to live and work.
==
Bloggers... Bluecheddar, Appleton Wonk. I had the privilege of spending time with both of them, of watching them work, and even of being interviewed myself. They have become friends.
==
A member of the Capitol Police. He was out there among the protesters; he shared that he spent most of his days off there.

He said that many of his colleagues have found themselves in a very difficult and stressful situation. They support the protesters, directly witness the shenanigans at the capitol, and like all of us, are going to be directly affected by the budget and other legislation.

I encouraged him to take some time away to "de-stress". I could see the weariness in his eyes...
==
A state trooper who was present in the gallery of the Assembly. I had gone late (for me, which is about 9:30 pm!) to hopefully witness the debate over the budget. As luck had it, the Democratic members were in caucus and immediately proposed adjournment for the day when they emerged, so I didn't get to see much. The trooper came up to me afterward and said that he was actually happy that they'd done so - "It gives me one more day to contact my legislators and voice my concerns". He was extraordinarily kind and sweet.

As an aside, I observed that the "rules" of the gallery are quite selectively enforced. The more vocal of those present were chastised (quite rudely, in my opinion) and threatened with expulsion. Others said they'd had their cameras confiscated when their belongings were searched; I did not experience this. The "rules" state that no cameras, cell phones, recording devices are allowed in the gallery, and that observers must remain seated. I asked one of the staff members whether I could use mine, since there was not any activity at that time on the floor, and was allowed to (even though part of me felt that the selective enforcement was wrong, I did use both my camera and my cell phone). Another gentleman stood to relieve his back pain and nothing was said to him, while again, the more vocal protestors were told that they must remain seated in the gallery at all times.
==
A man who told me his name, but I remember only that friends called him "Wild Bill". I'll assume, then, that his name was Bill. Bill had started a Facebook page awhile back - "Real Men Don't Hit Women". It had grown enormously. Now he heads an organization that helps battered women and their children to escape from their abusers. He arranges help for them. I could not help but think of Governor Walker's attempts to defund shelters for abused women while he served(?) in Milwaukee. As a volunteer working with abused women/children, I've heard a lot of stories... and as a survivor of an emotionally/psychologically abusive relationship, I have great empathy for other survivors.

Another aside: I have heard one Republican legislator (Glen Grothman)* resoundingly condemn single mothers and wonder if he realizes how many are abuse victims who have escaped terrible, life-threatening situations. The new budget will make it much more difficult for many to attain educational and other goals, to obtain much-needed counseling, to care adequately for their children.

*He did this at a Tea Party meeting. Attendees applauded. I was appalled.
==
After two days in Walkerville, I reluctantly left. Though I hate to admit it, I'm not getting any younger and sleeping on hard pavement (many thanks to a dear friend who provided some padding!) is difficult. Wind kept me up most of the night as my tent was askew many times and kept blowing against me. I got wet and cold due to the rain that fell on my last night there.

I came home to healthy food (though Ian's pizza was great!), a warm, soft bed, bathtub, indoor plumbing.

I came home with a new appreciation for these things which are luxuries to Matthew, and to so many others.

I came home, I believe, a better person - more compassionate, more focused, more thankful, more determined than ever to continue doing what I can to right the wrongs. Perhaps my voice makes little difference - but I am convinced that OUR voices DO.

The people I met made me proud to be a Wisconsinite.

Thanks for reading. I can be reached at Twitter as @icefishinglady, on Facebook as Nancy Ames, via e-mail at icefishinglady@aol.com. Feel free.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Because I Care

Because I Care...

You ask me why
why I feel and believe as I do
why I fight
why I write
It is because I care

I see the poor, the downtrodden, the exploited, the hopeless
with empathy, compassion
I see the greed that creates human misery
I care

I see the lies that feed the ignorance
that perpetrate fear
anger
hatred
all the while using people as pawns to fulfill an agenda that will ultimately
chew them up and spit them out when they are no longer useful
destroy them
even kill them
Under the guise of patriotism
I feel compassion for them, as well - they "know not what they do"
Because I care


I cannot remain silent
I must speak against the deceivers seeking to enslave us all
Because I care

My religion, intended to speak only love
is being distorted and used to justify hatred and dissent
I weep over this
Because I care

I see those who
see others not as fellow humans, but
as groups to hate, to destroy
not realizing that, just like them, these are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers
with the same desires, hopes, dreams, needs
for themselves
for their children
I care

I cannot stand by while children suffer, starve, die
while others gluttonously indulge every whim
Because I care

I see my state and nation taken over by those enslaved to money
And again, I care

I see selfishness, greed, prejudice
somehow distorted into righteousness
I care

So because I care
I will fight
I will write
I will try to expose the lies, the deceptions, the corruption
shine a light into the dark places
I will seek truth, and share it with all who would listen

Because
I care

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Where would YOU rather live? ALEC State Rankings vs. Forbes Quality of Life Rankings

Now, here's a comparison... complete with a useful, though poorly-formatted, table that I cannot quite manage to pretty up.

Quality of life in each of our fifty states, as reported by Forbes (read: people who live there)

vs.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) states' rankings based on "Economic Outlook".

If you know anything about ALEC, you know that they are NOT looking out for the vast majority of folks!

Each of these are for 2009.

Forbes publishes annual survey results (link below), based on telephone interviews with citizens. Factors considered are related to satisfaction with life, health, happiness with jobs, optimism. Indicators that people are living fulfilling lives.

And what are ALEC's criteria for a "good" state? Lower taxes - for citizens, but they focus (surprise!) on the upper end and corporations. Lowest ratio of public to private employees. A corporate-friendly legal system. Lowest minimum wages. Fewest unionized workers.

Here's their list:
• Highest Marginal Personal Income Tax Rate
• Highest Marginal Corporate Income Tax Rate
• Personal Income Tax Progressivity
• Property Tax Burden
• Sales Tax Burden
• Tax Burden From All Remaining Taxes
• Estate Tax/Inheritance Tax (Yes or No)
• Recently Legislated Tax Policy Changes
• Debt Service as a Share of Tax Revenue
• Public Employees Per 1,000 Residents
• Quality of State Legal System
• State Minimum Wage
• Workers’ Compensation Costs
• Right-to-Work State (Yes or No)
• Tax or Expenditure Limits

In some cases, the rankings are close between the two - but look at Minnesota. Look at Hawaii. South Dakota.

Where would YOU rather live? In a state where taxes might be a bit higher - but you had a fair shot at a decent, happy life and future for yourself and your children?

Or in a state where people are less happy, less healthy, forced to work for lower wages... but much more profitable for corporate interests?

Yeah. Me too.
 


<><>
Forbes
ALEC
20AK38
33AL16
46AR12
10AZ3
9CA43
4CO2
19CT32
36DE31
30FL11
23GA8
2HI41
27IA35
11ID14
31IL44
45IN17
22KS24
49KY36
40LA18
8MA26
6MD28
29ME47
41MI34
5MN40
44MO23
48MS19
12MT30
16NB29
34NC21
28ND13
13NH37
25NJ46
17NM25
38NV7
35NY50
47OH45
43OK15
18OR39
32PA42
37RI48
26SC20
39SD5
42TN9
21TX10
1UT1
15VA4
14VT49
7WA22
24WI27
50WV33
3WY6






 
ALEC Document: 09RSPS_exec_summ.pdf


Friday, June 3, 2011

"Tea Party"? Or Kool-Aid Party?

Note: "Drinking the Kool-Aid" is defined here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_the_Kool-Aid
So - what's on the menu today? We have a veritable buffet of patriotic-sounding choices. Go ahead, fill your plate with some of the following tempting, red-white-and-blue treats!

  • "Americans for Prosperity"
  • "Citizens United"
  • "The Coalition for Medicare Choices"

In the process, we'll be seeing to it that our only choice (unless we are ??fortunate?? enough to own a LOT of stock or are a high-up in a major corporation) is that we will have little hope of prosperity, that we are not allowed to know who's paying for political ads, that our medical choices will be made for us by companies that will make a lot more moolah if they can figure out how to deny us care while we keep paying more (and they do that already).

There are HUNDREDS of these. I encourage you to check them out. If you need help, I'm always here. :-)

Under a false veneer of Christian values, patriotism, and freedom, these organizations attempt to lure us in by investing obscene amounts of money into the task of creating our reality.

For appetizers, let's bring out the tried-and-true catch phrases - because it is so easy to manipulate us, to whip us into a frenzy using a simple word or phrase such as:

  • "Big Government"
  • "Obamacare"
  • "Socialism"
  • "Terrorist"
  • "Liberal"
  • "Rationed care"
  • "Welfare queens"
  • Don't forget, "They". Always, "They". The "They" who are going to take away our rights, our freedoms, turn our children into drug-crazed dirty hippie commie liberals. The "They" who are anyone who is not like us REAL Americans.

What we are NOT supposed to notice is this: the Tea Party is really only serving Kool-Aid.
If we believe them, if we don't know or care to know or check the facts, we are drinking their poison - and feeding it to our children.

"Talk" radio. Fox News. WorldNet Daily. They'll all tell us how good that Kool-Aid is, and that if we even want to try anything else, well, that's just plain un-American. We don't need anything else. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, most newspapers, NPR... just full of librul lies. We don't even need to listen to, read about, think about any other point of view - Greta and Rush and Glen can certainly be trusted to tell us what "THEY" are saying and what we should think about it.

Since we are so afraid of the "THEY", we won't talk to anyone outside of our tidy little groups of like-minded Real Americans.

We are puppets on a string, destroying ourselves by blindly following these "leaders" who are either fully complicit in (read: evil) or unwitting pawns of (read: like they want US to be) an agenda that will chew us up and spit us out, once we are no longer of further use.

We are also being used as lab rats in an economic experiment that has resulted in some of the worst human suffering of the past century... but that will be another blog, for another day. If you are interested in learning about this tried-and-failed agenda, try reading a book - Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism".
I'll leave you with this to ponder:

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." Sinclair Lewis

Interested in reading about fascism? Google it yourself, or check this out...

http://www.oldamericancentury.org/whitepapers/defining/Hartmann_islamicorrepub.htm