Category Archives: Random Blogging

I’ll Walk/Ride With You….

I probably wouldn’t have followed the hostage-taking incident in Sydney, Australia so closely, but my middle son is currently visiting the city. (Knowing his mother–and being a good son–he called even before I’d heard the  news reports, telling me “don’t freak out, I’m nowhere near where this is occurring.”)

We now know that this horrific episode, which cost two innocent people their lives, was not a terrorist act, at least in the political sense; it was a solitary crime comitted  by a mentally-deranged individual. Still, as Reuters reported, the perpetrator’s move to force hostages to display an Islamic flag ” immediately raised hackles in some quarters.”

A man shouting anti-Islamic abuse near the cafe during the standoff was moved on by police, while Muslim community leaders reported women wearing the hijab had been spat on.

Then something heartwarming happened:

Inspired by the Twitter hashtag “I’ll ride with you”, some commuters heading into the city for work on Tuesday gave their support to Muslims who might feel vulnerable amid concerns about a blowback after the hostage drama.

The hashtag was trending around the world, popping up across Asia, Europe, Africa and North America as it featured in more than 300,000 tweets. Actor Russell Crowe, who grew up in Sydney and keeps a home here, added his star power to the campaign.

Sydney is home to around half of Australia’s 500,000 Muslims.

The hashtag began trending on Twitter ahead of the evening commute on Monday, sparked by a Facebook post by Sydney woman Rachael Jacobs who described her encounter with a Muslim woman who took off her head covering: “I ran after her at the train station. I said ‘put it back on. I’ll walk with you’.”

That prompted other Sydneysiders to take to Twitter, detailing their bus and train routes home and offering to ride with anybody who felt uncomfortable, using the hashtag “Illwalkwithyou”.

On Tuesday morning, Jacobs said she was overwhelmed with the campaign she had inadvertently started: “Mine was a small gesture because of sadness that someone would ever feel unwelcome because of beliefs.”

I’d like to believe that something similarly spontaneous and reassuring could happen in the United States–that enough of us would put aside the stereotyping and suspicion of people with whom we don’t share beliefs or skin color or other tribal markers, to see each other simply as humans to whom we should offer reassurance and support.

I’d like to believe that, but given the animus permeating today’s environment, I’m not sure I do.


Speaking of Sexism..

Yesterday, I took Senator Lindsay Graham to task for his sexist response to a speech by Elizabeth Warren. Whether you agree with her positions or not, Sen. Warren is indisputably one of the most thoughtful and informed members of Congress.

But then there are people like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. If those are the sorts of women with whom Senator Graham regularly interacts and upon whom he bases his judgments, perhaps I was too hard on him.

Let me share a portion of Bachmann’s  “farewell” speech (a farewell for which all sentient beings are profoundly grateful).

“And as I look about this chamber, we are ringed with the silhouettes of lawgivers throughout history,”

“And yet only one lawgiver has the distinction of not having a silhouette, but having the full face be revealed by the artist. That lawgiver is Moses. Moses is directly above the double doors that lead into the centermost part of this chamber, and in the face of Moses, his eyes look straight upon not only our nation’s motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ but Moses’ face looks full on into the face of the Speaker of the House. Daily, the Speaker of the House as he stands up in his authority and in his podium recognizes that he is a man under authority, just as Moses was a man under authority.”

“Because you see, Mr. Speaker, Moses is given for the full honor of the greatest lawgiver in this chamber, because he was chosen by the God that we trust to be entrusted with the basis of all law. The ‘basis of all law’ as was written by Blackstone, the famous English jurist, was the Ten Commandments, that were given by none other than the God we trust on Mount Sinai,”

“We know those laws, those laws are the fundamental laws of mankind, and here in the United States, the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses is the very foundation of the law that has given happiness and the rise of the greatest prosperity that any nation has known before.”

“Mr. Speaker, it could be no coincidence that this nation, knowing and enjoying the heights of such great happiness and such great prosperity, that it could be built upon that foundation of the Ten Commandments and of the law given by the God in whom we trust.”

Bachmann never did understand the difference between the Bill of Rights and (her version of) the Ten Commandments. Science and medicine–not to mention logic– likewise eluded her.

Defeating sexism clearly requires more than the elevation of more women into positions of authority. It isn’t a numbers game; quality counts. That said, no one suggests that Louie Gohmert is a representative example of all men….

No, We Aren’t There Yet

It has been abundantly clear for a long time now (and painfully obvious since Barack Obama’s election) that we still have a huge racism problem in this country. My friends in the LGBT community can attest that–despite enormous progress on gay rights–they still face plenty of homophobia. What has been less remarked–but is no less true–is that we women haven’t exactly “overcome,” either.

Juanita Jean–proprietor of the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Shop–got right to the point, after Senator Lindsay Graham dismissed Elizabeth Warren’s objections to the omnibus funding bill by saying

“You’re tired, you’re frustrated, you’re upset about a provision in the bill you don’t like…..”

You’re tired and upset? Oh yeah, that’s the only reason we women fight for anything – we’re tired and upset. The only thing he forgot is that it must be that time of the month.

Oh, but he wasn’t finished.

“If you follow the lead of the senator of Massachusetts and bring this bill down … people are not going to believe you are mature enough to run the place,” Graham said on the Senate floor. “Don’t follow her lead. She’s the problem.”

The only thing absent from this offensively patronizing putdown is any response to her substantive arguments. Because, evidently, when a “girl” has objections to the content of a piece of legislation, the only rebuttal needed is a none-too-subtle reminder of her gender.

If Warren’s objections were wrongheaded, if there were sound responses available to those objections, surely a critique that included those responses would have been appropriate.

Evidently, however, arguments made by women don’t merit serious consideration. After all, how could we girls match the great job that’s being done by all those straight white men?

Pigs Get Fed, Hogs Get Slaughtered

A recent opinion column on Talking Points Memo began

On Tuesday, CNBC asked, if housing is getting more affordable, “why aren’t Millennials buying?” A piece in USA Today last month called us “skittish from the recession”—Hmm, wonder why?—and Bloomberg Businessweek thinks we’re just discerning shoppers. The most egregious of the what’s-up-with-Millennials articles, however, is still a 2012 piece for The Atlantic that called Millennials “The Cheapest Generation.” It expended more than 2,000 words to explain “why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy.”

“The largest generation in American history might never spend as lavishly as its parents did—nor on the same things,” it reads. “Since the end of World War II, new cars and suburban houses have powered the world’s largest economy and propelled our most impressive recoveries. Millennials may have lost interest in both.”

No one, the writer noted, mentioned student debt.

I’ve made this point many times, and I will not belabor it here and now. (Okay, maybe a little.) But the fact remains that the American economy depends upon consumption. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about a consumer economy–there are cultural consequences that are anything but pretty–but at this point in this country, those concerns are beside the point.

Anything that reduces people’s ability to buy what American businesses are selling hurts the economy, and that hurts everyone–be they “makers” or “takers,” Captains of Industry or proprietors of the local Subway.

When the great majority of Americans lack buying power–when large numbers of the working poor have no disposable income, when hundreds of thousands of college graduates (and dropouts) have little or nothing left after making the payments on their student loans–economic growth comes to a screeching halt.

The oligarchs who oppose efforts to raise the minimum wage, the lackeys they’ve installed in elective office who are eviscerating unions under the rubric of “right to work,” and the retail and fast-food operators who are expanding their bottom lines by paying their employees less than a living wage, among others, could learn a lot from Henry Ford. Ford was, from all accounts, a thoroughly unpleasant person, but he understood a key fact that escapes too many of today’s poobahs: his profits–the success of his business– depended upon workers who were paid enough to afford his cars.

He understood something that is becoming clearer every day: pigs may get fed, but hogs get slaughtered.





London’s Bridge Isn’t the Only One Falling Down

WFYI recently shared some sobering news with Hoosier drivers:

 Indiana’s bridges were built to last 75 years, and half are at least 50 years old.  INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning says about 7 percent are in what he calls “poor condition” – not that they’re unsafe, just that it will cost a lot to fix them.

At current funding levels, that percentage will rise to 12.5 percent in 10 years. In order to keep the percentage of bridges in poor condition at about 8 percent, Browning says funding needs to increase about $60 million a year for the next 10 years.  And he says an ideal level is less than 3 percent of bridges in poor condition.

“And in order to achieve that, that’s nearly a hundred million dollars more a year than we have available to spend today for the next 20 years,” Browning said.

I think it was Eric Hoffer who said a civilization should be measured not by the buildings and monuments its citizens erect, but by their maintenance of the built environment–especially its infrastructure. He was right.

Our crumbling roads and bridges testify to how short-sighted and selfish we Americans have become. We don’t plant trees that our grandchildren will sit under. (If we can’t enjoy it tomorrow, then screw it!) We complain when we are asked to invest in public goods that will serve future generations–schools, libraries, public health. When we do pave our roads, we do it on the cheap. (Let the next Mayor/Governor do it over.)

The irony is, we could have addressed the Great Recession by using the cheap money and abundant labor to fix our decaying infrastructure. We could have put thousands of people back to work, ended the recession more quickly, and improved the deteriorated roads, bridges and electrical grids that we will hand off to our children and theirs.

Worse– we all know that when the bridges fail and people are killed or injured, the “fiscal hawks” who’ve been waging war on the very idea of government, the same people who’ve adamantly refused to give that government the resources it requires in order to function properly, will blame…wait for it….government.

I get so discouraged…..