Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 47% Disney-fied….

Sofia the First with animal "friends"

Ok, it's Sunday morning. My daughter is ill. We got up at 5:45am, that's right…AM. She's not going back to sleep so it's Disney time. Don't judge me, the TV is our friend when kids are sick. Since I can't go back to sleep, I decide to clean the extremely messy kitchen that I left after making catfish fingers for the first time. For some reason, Little J didn't want to see her girl Doc McStuffins(a black female character that of course I root hard for her to watch for obvious reasons). Since Disney wasn't working we watched how Blue, the dog from "Blue's Clues" came to be, and then that was over so we moved back to Disney.  The made for TV movie "Sofia the First" was on. So we watched. I like princesses so I was eager to see it. It was…. confusing.

The first thing was the beginning: The King, who's some sort of British-type European, which is expected, is getting new shoes and falls in love with the lovely shoemaker and marries her. 
They create a blended family: he has two kids, a boy and a girl(no mention is made of who their mom is but its the standard M.O. for fairy tale dads to just magically have children, usually a girl, with no mom in sight) and the shoemaker has a girl named Sofia, hence the name of the series. I was hearing the Brady Bunch theme in the background of my head…Here's a story, of a lovely lady… 

Then the kids all fly off to princess school, which isn't princess school, because there are boys there, but it's still called princess school. Sigh... Just let it go…. But, more importantly, Disney tried to be diverse and having some cultures at least represented in a token fashion: an Indian rajah, a Japanese girl, a light skinned African-type prince, and the rest were European. The prerequisite for being included were really nice costumes a la "The King and I" or "My Fair Lady". But, cognitive dissonance set in as I just thought: ok, so they're going to princess school - with boys - and they are all different cultures, but they are learning European etiquette and dancing. Is there some sort of exchange program where they learn the ways of the other cultures too? So the other cultures have to come to the European school to learn how to be royal?! Turn your brain off Diva, it's a kids show. Just enjoy it.

But here is the coup de grace: The Sofia character can speak to the animals, courtesy of a magic amulet her new "dad" gave her. When the birds, squirrels and "streetwise" bunny come in to Sofia's room...

break - the bunny is voiced by Wayne Brady. And not Wayne Brady from the improv comedy show, but the Wayne Brady from the Chappelle Show. You know the episode where Dave and Wayne are in the SUV and Wayne asking a Ho: "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?" That's the bunny in this cartoon. Back to our regularly scheduled blog…. 

…they tell her that they are not doing all her work for free. Hell naw! You need to pay us: with food!! At this point the cognitive dissonance just made my head explode. They started singing about all this work they did for these princesses all these years. "Pay a n---a, bitch!"  in disney speak, while they dance around eventually ending up with Sofia going to the kitchen to get them a salad.  The "47%" of animals need to be paid fairly for their efforts.  Respect.  

So this show wants my child to believe in mythical princesses that are risen up from essential poverty by her mom marrying rich, they get a multi-cultural "education" which really only teaches one culture knows how to be "royal" and then the black bunny's friendship is conditionally based off of him and the rest of his crew needing to be fed?!  

Oh, and by the way, Sofia is Hispanic or Latina with blue eyes, red hair and porcelain skin. I was wondering why her mom was dark skinned. I just thought she was Italian-like. Now I know that Hispanics come in different shades and colors, just like black people. But the Sofia character was voiced by what was obviously a white actress! (at the end they had this voice over actress live in a princess decorated room, singing one of the songs. She looked white to me)  If I hadn't read that the character was Hispanic, I never even would have known. Could she have a slight accent or something to indicate that she was Hispanic?! I'm not talking a Charo accent, but a Dora accent. The voice of that child sounds Hispanic(I believe she's voiced by a Cuban girl). And don't tell me people can't tell. Doc McStuffins speaks perfectly and you know she's black. You can hear the characters on Ni-Hao-Kai-Lan are of East Asian descent. If Sophia's supposed to be Hispanic, give some indication that she is or else just call her white and be done with it. It was just strange trying to figure out why her dark skinned mom had a white child in a mythical kingdom where everyone else is pretty rigidly defined by their ethnicity.

This was Disney trying to twist the the princess idea into something modern, non-classist/racist and socially relevant to today's culture. 

Well, to this adult, it was so weird, condescending and strange I had problems not yelling at the tv. 

To the child -- it was a cute, sweet tale of trying to fit into a new place with new people and a new family

To the adult - the 47% have spoken, they will be paid well for their time and efforts you rich people! If I have to be at your beck and call, I need to be paid greenbacks, as in lettuce! And does the HIspanic mom have to be a shoemaker who is kneeling at the king's feet putting on his shoes?!  Since it's pure fantasy, why couldn't she be a doctor or a fashion designer or…. well not a frickin shoemaker?! 

To the child -- Wow, that bunny's funny. Of course Sofia should give him a snack. Isn't the Queen's hair pretty? I want to talk to animals, too.

Adult - This is insane!

Child - Goodie!!! Cinderella just showed up!

WIll I let my child watch this post modern drivel? Most likely…. sigh.... I just want to see the dresses and which princesses come out of the amulet next…just don't have Tiana talk about hard work while she's cooking something in the kitchen….Please?!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tragedy hopefully leads to true change...

I had written a whole diatribe about rural vs urban gun control fantasies and how I believe rural people are insanely controlling the ideas about gun control in this country. It makes no sense to me that people who don't live in population centers seem to control the argument about assault weapons, which do the most damage in - you guessed it - population centers, like cities and suburbs. I also was talking quite eloquently about our mental health status in this country and how it sucks. But I saw so many clear little essays on Facebook thought it made more sense to display that rather than my own not always clear thoughts. Here's a couple. 

I didn't want to goto the gun control debates because I find those to be trite and not up to the real challenge that we face. Suffice it to say, if the crazy man had a knife, or a colt handgun with 6 bullets that he had to reload, a lot less damage would have been done. Let's just pray that now, in this environment which seems to be a little more interested in reality and the true causal relationships of events, we will have a discussion leading to legislation that brings assault weapons bans, coverage and the beginning of rationale policy, housing, and treatment of the mentally ill, and though there are no real affects on this type of behavior, address the coarseness of our culture in general. 

You can't go to school, can't go to the mall, can't go to the movies, can't go to restaurants (Killeen, TX), can't go to church (folks were burning those down), can't stay home (home invasions)...what in the heck can ya do? WTH!!!! - Sharolyn DeWitt

People want to debate gun control, or blame this tragedy on "Evil".
But this is truly about one thing only- Mental Illness. You can't do what this man did and be a sane person. Mental Illness differs from Physical Illness in only one major way-- the mentally ill person, if untreated, can harm others. The physically ill can only harm themselves.
It is paramount that our society begins treating people for mental illness without charge. One of the main impediments for people getting treatment is how expensive it is. Usually mentally ill people can not hold down a job. How are they supposed to get care for their needs?
Trust me....this man's family knew there was a problem here.
But if it was free to get the man cared for, and if there was no dark ages type stigma associated with his condition, those kids would all be alive right now.
- Wayne Wilentz

People of God, please do not use the Newport tragedy as an opportunity to shove Jesus down people's throats. Do better and just show the love of Christ. 
- Jean Baylor

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Magical Thinking Strikes Again

Mr. Norquist is entitled to his magical thinking. But when he uses it to try to intimidate Virginia lawmakers, Mr. McDonnell must push back. - Washington Post Editorial Board

This quote is from an article about the transportation system in the state of Virginia referencing the governor of that state, Robert McDonnell. The basis is that the state budget will not be able to handle the crumbling infrastructure that are the Virginia roads.

"In four years, the state will have no money to devote to any new road, rail or bridge construction. That’s right, zero. At current trends, every available dollar will be sponged up just to repair and maintain existing infrastructure. And if the state’s road-building money dries up, so do millions in federal matching funds."

So it's time to raise taxes right? Raise the sales tax or (God Forfend!) the gasoline tax. Or just put it in something that will have everyone pay essentially the same amount so that the growing population of Virginia can continue to grow and expand without never ending, and I mean, never ending traffic jams.  My family and I drive through Virginia regularly to see family in the south and we all leave very early or very late to avoid the parking lot-like I-95. To get to see friends and family in Northern VA, I have to pack snacks and movies for the kids, leaving at a time where a nap would not be an unnatural to my kid's body rhythms because the trip is so long due to traffic. 

No one wants taxes to go up cause no one wants to pay more. BUT, I have no problem with taxes IF there is a definable benefit like a metro extension, better roads without tire exploding pot holes, a modern air traffic control system, etc...  Taxes help to create that. There are times when taxes are good and there are times when taxes are bad. As I was saying to my daughter last night,(really, she was bawling her eyes out because I made her read a book she didn't want to read...) just because you don't want to do it, doesn't mean "it" doesn't have to be done. You can't make up the world. Rain falls, water evaporates, makes clouds, and rain falls again. Magical thinking only comes true in fairy land....

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Urban" vs "Rural"

Two articles I've read recently  from The Atlantic and The Republic have made it clear that the reasons for GOP going down is linked to geography and population. I have gotten really angry in the past at certain GOP remarks about "real Americans" obviously pointing to rural Americans of a lighter hue as being somehow better than those city slickers. Democrats seem to own urban centers in America. One reason is because you can't get too crazy if you got to pick up the trash, clean and police the streets, educate the populace(though there some crazy's in city government right now concerning this, but that's another story), and transport masses of people to and from work daily. There is no right or left wing bus system.

The main points of these articles is that Republicans have ceded the cities to Democrats because their ideology of rough and rugged individualism doesn't really work there.  I don't know about that, as it simplifies their platform a little too much, but it does bring up the fact that they are not using their ideas in dealing with the challenges that occur in city environments. As more and more people live there from a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds, they cannot be ignored and demonized if one wants to win national, regional, and of course, local elections.
If Republicans are ever going to earn real votes in cities in the future, though, they'll have to do more than just talk about them differently. The real problem seeps much deeper. As the Republican Party has moved further to the right, it has increasingly become the party of fierce individualism, of "I built that" and you take care of yourself. Cities, on the other hand, are fundamentally about the shared commons. If you live in a city and you think government – and other people – should stay out of your life, how will you get to work in the morning? Who will police your neighborhood? Where will you find a public park when your building has no back yard?
However, as usual, it's the comments section below that gets the blood boiling.  It started off with welfare queens of all things, and how living in a city you see that that stereotype doesn't exist, and then it does exist, and then people have babies just to get more money, and then….sigh.

No one seems to ask the right questions. There are people who game the system yes. Why would they do that? Are they just naturally degenerate? Could there be some reason for it beyond their  "degenerate nature"?  The delusion of moral superiority due to geography has to end. We need to look at issues in our democracy square in the face and devise the best solutions for them. These surface bogeymen distract from the issues of making society work so that the gamers of the system have less to game.  The point is that the GOP needs to get their feet into population centers so that there is a vibrant debate which can lead to better governance for all. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Death of White Supremacy

With the election over and Obama re-elected, my brother, who is my political pundit cohort in the family, had a really interesting conversation. What we both came to as a conclusion is something that we as "post-black" "modern" adults have difficulty saying because it's of our parents generation. It's a phrase that is generally associated with sweaty baptist preachers, street-i-fied black academics from ivy league type universities, and red, green and black clad afro-centric protesters. But we came to this conclusion because the blindness is so obvious, so delusional, that there's no other way to say it:

We are watching the death throws of White Supremacy.

Twitter and Facebook are good for something because there was no way to avoid seeing the hysteria in the first few days after the election.  There are all sorts of people tweeting their upset that we are re-electing a "Nigger" back to the white house. Trump called the election illegitimate and said people should march on Washington. Later, Cable TV spewed all sorts of stuff. Bill O'Reilly spoke about the death of "traditional" America with its "Traditional American Values." The Five on Fox News just kept saying over and over again that half of America just voted a certain way so they could get free stuff. When Fox news called the election for Obama, the news anchors interviewed their own election data crunchers because they just couldn't believe that Obama actually won Ohio. 

With the beginnings of political parity in America of people of non-european ethnicity, no longer can others point of views be shunted to the side.  No longer can people believe only what they want to believe, just because it "seems right".  One of my older white Jewish friends basically said to me, now everybody else's voice can be heard! When the delusion is seen by white people themselves, you know it's on it's way out. 

Let me say quite clearly that the Republican party and all white people are not racists. Most people have no problems individually with anyone. However, white privilege has been so much a part of the American zeitgeist for so many years it has been the natural order of things. Privilege is not just about money and opportunities. Its also about seeing what one want to see because there are enough people like you to block out other's reality.  White supremacy is frankly the best way I can put what Americans of primarily Northern European descent have lived through in America, whether specific individuals oppressed another individual or not.  

Let me explain my view on this further. Part of White Supremist thought is the ability of white people to be completely wrapped up in their own world view thereby negating other's experiences. If other ethnic groups do better economically or politically, or want something different than what white people want, they have difficulty dealing with that reality and either destroy that thing or become delusional and just make up the reality that suits them. In the past destruction was fine (anyone remember the real town of Rosewood. A movie was made  about the destruction by burning of a black town in Florida by whites).   When the Declaration of Independence was written, in order for the statement, "All men are created equal" to make sense while having slaves, the white power structure had to make black people three-fifths of a man and not a "real" man.  You can't enslave another man if all men are created equal.  They created a delusion in order for their world view to make sense. That "fact" was made up to fit a situation.

Fast forward to the 2008 election. Republicans thought Obama's election and turnout was a fluke. A moment in time, not repeatable.  The media was in the tank for Obama. All their pundits believed that minorities would not vote in force again. Not only that, the polls were also in the tank for Obama and were wrong. Nate Silver was wrong. He was an ideologue. By the way, Nate Silver is just an aggregator of polls. He looked at the math that was available to everyone, and said Obama had a much better than 50% chance of winning. But the polls were skewed, so said the Republicans. There was a website, created by Dean Chambers, dedicated to "unsckewing" polls simply based off of belief that the polls were wrong. 

“Most of the polls I ‘unskewed’ were based on samples that generally included about five or six or seven percent more Democrats than Republicans, and I doubted and questioned the results of those polls, and then ‘unskewed’ them based on my BELIEF (emphasis mine) that a nearly equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans would turn out in the actual election this year,”

What did he expect? That blacks, hispanics, and asians would just magically disappear after the last election? This especially after the Republican party did literally everything they could to piss them and women off? The voter id laws essentially energized people that may not have been energized because they knew what it felt like to not be able to vote. My mother grew up in the segregated south and told me flat out that what was happening now felt just like that time. However, the delusion doesn't come from the desire to have an id to vote. The delusion comes from the "fact" that there were significant cases of voter fraud to cause this plan to need go into effect. The delusion also comes from not understanding how people might feel about this especially when it's put into effect right before a major election, and basically disregard and deride the anger it might cause.

The engagement strategy of pandering to delusional thinking had unintended side effects. The most recent one is the Todd Akin debacle.  Todd Akin listened to "a doctor" who just made up what a women's body's does in order to bolster his pro-life argument. The "legitimate rape" statement falls in the white supremacy category because it's nonsensical, equating pseudo-facts with actual facts to back up a skewed world view. Let me be clear: the pro-life argument is not skewed, Akin's argument concerning rape and it's "legitimacy" is.When Akin's delusion was laid out this bluntly, people recoiled in horror.  Yet, many still embraced him. How does one consider sending someone to congress who doesn't understand basic biology?  In the 21st century? He was defeated.

So now that Obama is president again, what the country is learning that we are not a melting pot where all ethnic groups' identities merge into one zeitgeist, but a tossed salad of ideas and concerns. The strategy of delusional thinking and blindness to others interests won't work anymore. You cannot win elections by deciding to kick everyone else's concerns to the curb. White people's concerns are as important as black people concerns, which are as important as hispanic people's concerns…and so on. You cannot pick and choose which facts you are going to choose to believe and still win elections.

Here is Erik Erickson of trying to step away from white supremacy by embracing the facts without laying down his ideals. 

…Romney made a conscious decision to blow off Hispanic voters. Yes conservatives, we must account for this. The Romney campaign to the hispanic community was atrocious and, frankly, the fastest growing demographic in America isn’t going to vote for a party that sounds like that party hates brown people. That does not mean the GOP must offer up amnesty. It does mean that a group that is a natural fit for the GOP on social issues, must in someway be made to feel comfortable with the GOP…. 
As for you conservatives who are convinced today that suddenly we are a socialist nation, sober up and pay attention... Republicans who, overnight, were screaming about the country headed toward socialism are, if we are honest, not yet deprogrammed from defending Mitt Romney. The Romney campaign, truth be told, has been pathetic at defining a real, right-of-center alternative to Barack Obama. It’s hard to say Americans embraced, overnight, socialism, when Americans delivered back the status quo — including the “crazy” tea partiers in the House of Representatives — rejecting only Mitt Romney’s brand of “I’m going to do what the President is doing, but with more tickle.”
Here are the comments underneath and you'll see the delusional thinking.

Commenter #1: The electoral problems do indeed go deeper because Obama has created a very socially liberal urban based coalition, a coalition that is at odds with a large part of the American cultural tradition. Limited government requires a people of self-reliance and moral fiber; without that, our vision of governance is not just unpopular, but kaput.

So…"socially liberal urban based people" don't have self-reliance and moral fiber? They are at odds with "american tradition"? What is that tradition pray tell?  And you know this information how….

Commenter #2: A nation that can RE-elect a man as unqualified as Barack Obama is in deep trouble." We are stocking up on guns and ammo in Texas - on the outside chance Perry decides to defend our border.

So now because Obama has been elected again, you're going to get some guns and secede from the union?! What year is this?!  Watch as someone tries to detach and move into reality.

Response to Commenter #2: Are we going to retreat into wild fantasies of succession? That is not going to solve the basic structural weaknesses in the Republican party. We need to be looking forward and deciding how we can change to become America's inclusive party. Any other course will navigate us unto the shoals of despair.

Do you see it? How does the passage of Obamacare, the bank bail outs and just Obama himself move into a violent hostile federal takeover of a state? Why does one, all of a sudden, have to buy some guns? If it does not fit into the world view they would like to see, they just make up something, some fact to just make themselves feel better. That's how white supremacy works. When someone tries to detach from it, they are being blind to the realities of the "true" situation and are banned from the conversation. Literally.

But with the discovery that there is now an emerging political parity of ethnic groups in America, the blinders are being taken off.  But more importantly, the what's underneath the blinders are being seen and believed!  On CNN's State of the Union, Carlos Gutierrez tries to tell Gary Bauer of American Values that the reason Hispanic voters did not vote for the GOP was because they were frightened of them. Bauer tried to say there was a lot of fear mongering because of the TV ads Obama put out. Gutierrez just kept hammering home that these are people he spoke to and knows. They are afraid! Listen to me!  Bauer refuses like a woman who has been in multiple bad relationships refuses to see a jerk coming a mile a way.

The election also proves is there is no more delusion without consequences. The republican party cannot put a token black, hispanic or asian up and say, "Hey look! We're diverse and we understand you!"  There are already small amounts of those constituencies present in the party. However, they can no longer be used like show pieces.  Their ideas must be taken into consideration and used to reach out to the rest of the electorate. This means that the ideas of small government, low regulation, market supremacy must be translated into practical ideas that relate specifically to their experience. Cultural and religious differences cannot be discounted or dismissed.  Using phrases like the " death of American tradition" to signify change in the party does not feel like a positive shift. Calling the group who did not vote for you "takers" will not inspire those outside the party to vote for you. The GOP must release and repudiate the dog whistles that speak to white supremacy. No more food stamp presidents or welfare queens or socialist or sharia laws scares. This is a delusion. It is not real.

Our two party system should have all people on both sides. But one cannot make up one's own reality because the reality doesn't fit their desired outcomes. One side can have it's own set of interests that they can rally around and fight for. They can come together with other ethnic and cultural interests that may share their beliefs and ideals. But if others don't believe in your ideas, you don't paint them as other/evil. Each way is A way not THE way. We're all just trying to live on the planet as humans. There are philosophies that are dangerous and there is rhetoric everywhere that is over the top. But the delusion that is White Supremacy is dying. Children are growing up with everybody in the sandbox and everybody wants use the digger cause it's cool. Each kid makes up why they should have the digger first, but what ends up happening is they take turns because it's fair. They are equal. They are all human beings. Ding Dong, White supremacy is dead.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Global Warming: The New Normal

Ok everyone. You might not even read or hear this because you my not have any electricity in your home. But I'm going to say it anyway: I can't stand global warming and those who think it's not happening. We just went through a storm that has affected 50 million people across the entire eastern seaboard, flooded New York City, destroyed the New Jersey coastline and caused A BLIZZARD IN THE MOUNTAINS!!!  When I grew up in the Washingon, DC area, there was this large snow storm in the late 70s and it was rough with a couple of feet of snow on the ground.  But it was just one blizzard, it didn't happen that often, and no power was lost. Since I moved back to the DC area we have had thunder snow, blizzards, tornadoes, durechos, extreme draught, heat advisories and hot weather in February (regularly). I have gone thru power outage after power outage and trees falling down on my car and house. The mid atlantic states are supposed to have relatively tame weather. All of these weather incidents happened in the last 4 years. This is what we have to get used to in the future; the new normal so to speak. Face it: global warming is blooming. The chickens are coming home to roost.

Though the science is in concerning global warming, it's the weather that should make us believe.

[Nobel Laureate Mario J Molina, PhD] emphasized that there is no "absolute certainty" that global warming is causing extreme weather events. But he said that scientific insights during the last year or so strengthen the link. Even if the scientific evidence continues to fall short of the absolute certainly measure, the heat, drought, severe storms and other weather extremes may prove beneficial in making the public more aware of global warming and the need for action, said Molina. 
"It's important that people are doing more than just hearing about global warming," he said. "People may be feeling it, experiencing the impact on food prices, getting a glimpse of what everyday life may be like in the future, unless we as a society take action."

However, this is where the internet and it's openness goes horribly wrong and why it's so easy to deny climate change. As we all know, any crackpot with a computer can put any theory up on youtube. And those voices can seriously muddy the waters of common discourse. Who do you believe? With hurricane Sandy, those voices have everybody under the sun but mother nature herself creating it. This Salon article nicely lists all the theories out there. 

The one I hate the most is the HAARP program and chemical trails one. The government controls the weather. Really?! Then they are doing a really bad job! The problem with this theory is that if they created this storm, why didn't they stop the heatwave that destroyed crops all over the US? My favorite is that the gay's did it. God doesn't like gay people and so He sent this storm to chastise us for supporting for gay marriage. This is like when I tell my two year old why it's raining: it's just a giant crying. We can't tell you why it's raining, but it is and here's a nice little story about it to make you feel better.

This stuff is ridiculous. We can debate about why the weather is changing and whether it's man made climate change or not,(but it is, so those crazy scientists say) but the weather is changing. I've experienced it. We've all experienced it. There will always be freak storms and freak times, but we've had a lot of freak storms recently at freaky times. The truly freaky part is that these freaky things happen all the freakin' time now. We better freakin listen and do something about it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Political Carnival of Stupid

Is there something in the air right now? There seems to be a carnival out there. A carnival of stupid. Two are just side shows of stupidity and one is a serious threat.

Donald Trump acted like the carnival barker that he is and announced to everyone that he had something that's going to change the course of the election.  It's like he's saying this:

Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, 
I say, trouble right here in River City

Trouble with a capital "T"
And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!
- from the Music Man

His hyped up youtube video of stupidness lasted approximately 2:30 minutes. Trump basically said: "I'll give the charity of his choice FIVE MILLION DOLLARS!!!(said in best Dr. Evil/Bob Barker voice) If Obama will just release his college records in a way that is satisfactory to me by 5pm eastern standard time. I really WANT TO WRITE THIS CHECK!"  I'm sure the President is real scared and will capitulate immediately….

Then you had Sarah Palin, someone who could sell oxyclean on an infomercial to a man who loves dirt, then get mad at him for not being clean enough when he was done. She posted that Pres. Obama should stop the…

"…shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies...”

Uh huh. It's not racial. Nope. Obama's black, so he knows all about shuckin and jivin. I'm sure he carries a razor wherever he goes and sings ham bone under his breath to amuse his foreign affairs team.

Then there's the serious one. Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock stating in a debate on Tuesday that rape resulting in pregnancy is what God intended. First you have Todd Akin saying that a woman can't become pregnant where there is a "legitimate rape" and now you have this person saying that "legitimate rape"-induced pregnancies are acts of God. Which one is it?! 

These people are on ballots and you can vote for them to be in office. They are in tight races which means that there are people who either believe this hogwash or are holding their noses and pressing a lever so they can win majorities in government. This is where I now completely understand why character and values are of great importance in a candidate. If these two candidates, Mourdock and Akin are a part of fixing the economy, who are they fixing it for and when they introduce legislation will it be to limit woman's ability to make a horrifyingly difficult choice? It's like we're in the 50's. I'll repeat the reason again why my  formerly anti-abortion Christian conservative southern black mother is pro-choice: She worked in the hospitals as women were brought in bloody and dying from coat hanger abortions. She said she couldn't take seeing the death and destruction and if having abortion legal would stop the suffering she saw daily, she was for it. It was the poor people she said that were dying. The rich people could quietly and safely get whatever procedure they needed. A good economy doesn't matter so much when you have been sexually assaulted.

These side show salesmen and women statements have all happened in the space of 48 hours. It's not like there is not more important news out there that needs to be covered, but when a a confluence of events starts happening, you have to take notice like the Houstons(a reality show about Whitney Houston's family) just premiered. The real hucksters have stood up. Yea, I said it…hucksters. They just need to take their malarky and go back to Europe…. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Character Really Does Matter

 “And I—and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men.’ They said: ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said: ‘Well, gosh, can't we—can't we find some—some women that are also qualified?’ And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” - Mitt Romney, debate #2

The comment by Mitt Romney in the latest presidential debate about "Binder's of Women" has created a thunderstorm of controversy. It's all over my Facebook friends pages and twitter is all a-twitter with comments about it. What this statement has cemented for me is something that I never really believed in before: character really matters.  Now this doesn't mean that I never thought it was important before, but that I just never put it on the same level as competency. When Republicans would state that character is really the most important thing in a presidential candidate, I would just turn off.  I thought it was a cop-out. But now I actually see the merit of this reasoning.

When Romney said that he didn't have any qualified women to fill cabinet positions during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, that right there is a very telling comment. The fact that it didn't happen the way he said it is not as material to me as politicians change past events all the time to fit their version of the story (though this is problematic as well).  He was in business for 25 years and didn't meet and get to know 5-10 women who could fill those positions?! We're not talking about 1965, we're talking about the mid 1990's. There should have been loads of women whom Romney knew at least professionally, that should have been able to fill those posts; he should have been able to name 3 or 4 off the top of his head!  This is a character issue. Say what you will about Bush II, but his friends were of many hues and cultures. He was loyal and supported them with high visibility posts. They were hispanic, black, and female…Kanye wasn't accurate when he said George Bush didn't like black people.

Nonetheless, Romney's limited exposure to people outside his wealthy business lifestyle really concerns me. Maybe he can fix the economy, but for whom would he fix it? He talked about his having given his chief of staff flex time so she could go home and "fix dinner for her kids". I'm going to leave that alone because many women, including my mother, worked a full-time job(s) and fixed world class meals for their children. But there are many positions in today's workforce that can't have flextime. The money IS the important thing. Equitable pay means more take home pay for her and her children, which eventually means more churn in the economy; from the bottom up. 

Romney's limited familiarity with people outside his experience means that if he becomes president, he will have very little clue how his legislation will affect the rest of us who don't have parents who have enough money to send their kids to college or to help start a business. The fact that he has difficulty connecting with average people outside of his church is not because he's rich…it's because that's who he is! There are plenty of people of means who have been able to connect to people outside of their sheltered existence.  When creating legislation and consulting with different parties about how to go about crafting them, one's empathy and understanding of people's needs affects the decision-making process. 

So I say again, maybe Romney can fix the economy. But who's he gonna fix it for?! 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Music is more than just a prep period....

I read this LATimes article and was heartbroken. My husband, who is a saxophonist, and I were talking about his students and how finally, after three years they are starting to be able to really play. This is with kids he gets to see once a week, who do not get to take home instruments because there are not enough for everyone. Music makes kids want to stay around the school. It gives them something to be proud of, something they alone accomplished but do communally. It is one of the first times many children have to work together for a goal where just their personal effort doesn't cut it. If you sing or play the wrong note, everyone looks bad. But when you work hard, try your best, and succeed…there is no better feeling. This skill of playing music with a group is like no other. Parents in upper middle class schools ALWAYS have ridiculously good music and arts programs because it is understood that these programs make for a well rounded child and a well rounded adult.

So why is it that we don't have the same standards for our urban schools? Why is it that the music program is consistently treated like a prep period for a classroom teacher (which is actually how music programs are able to exist…for real)? Music is important to the well being of children. It's a place where creativity, information and cooperative learning mix, which is what every employer is asking for; the ability to be creative in finding solutions and working constructively towards a goal.

In this article a high school music teacher took a group of kids from a tough neighborhood who didn't know anything about music and turned them into an award winning band. And then he was fired.  Oh, he was hired back, did a great job,  and won awards again. And then he was fired again. Kinda makes one feel like people don't appreciate what you do. This teacher decided to just goto another school district where he could just stay and do his job without having to worry whether he would have a job every year. The implication from the article was that the school where he is now employed was not in an impoverished area.

Music is an intangible. Knowledge of music has been the mark of educated upper middle class people for a very, very long time.  There is a reason for this. Good teachers of music can make sure that students walk into the door of a school, especially in the very tenuous high school years when kids need a reason to deal with rigorous homework and class schedule that they don't really feel affects their daily lives or futures. People say they want music in the schools. It's time for us to really understand why.  Middle and upper middle class parents won't let their children out of their house unless they are in choir or take an instrument of some sort for at least 6 months. It's time we as a country understand that just the three Rs won't cut it in our schools.

Although glad to have put a band together in his first year at the school, Vizcarra did not want to settle. He pushed his students, taking the group of new musicians to competitions. 
They soon were winning so many competitions that trophies filled their classroom's shelves and spilled onto the floor. 
"There was just something magical with my students at Fairfax," he said. "I would be in tears by the end of their performances." 
Last month, Vizcarra's former band students threw him a birthday party. They presented him with a scrapbook and photo album depicting silly moments and performances. 
"To the best music teacher we have ever had,"(emphasis mine) they wrote on the scrapbook's first page. "You are such an amazing person. An awesome friend. A father to us most. Thanks for everything you did for us." 
The Fairfax band's absence has been strongly felt this fall. The school's football team is playing on a newly built field, which held its first game this season without music.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Urban gentrification ain't helping everybody....

Elections have consequences.  I'm saying that because we as a country have been doing the top down approach for many years. It has made a lot of people really wealthy.  In real estate markets in San Francisco, some parts of Washington, DC and my old hometown, Brooklyn, NY, (I have three hometowns BTW) brownstones in formally destitute and crime ridden neighborhoods are now worth hundreds of thousands, if not million(s) of dollars.  How do I know this? A friend of mine who is in real estate just told me the houses on my former neighborhood in "do-or-die-bed-stuy" were selling for $900,000. WHAT?! You mean the block where guys used to smoke weed all day?! Where Ms Ida sat on the stoop all day long and my neighbors blared their music without even being outside?! Wow, the neighborhood must be great now. I wonder where all the people I know are today? Are they doing any better financially? Are the people that lived on the block benefiting from the real estate boom? Apparently, as I expected, Forbes says no…

...lower middle-class Brooklyn “is pockmarked with empty stores,” Siegel notes. With its once robust industrial- and port-based economy shrunken to vestigial levels, opportunities for Brooklynites who lack high-end skills or nice inheritances are shrinking. Some other areas, like Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay, have been revived through immigration. 
Jonathan Bowles, president of the New York-based Center for an Urban Future, sees a divide between, on the one hand, “the creative class” and some immigrant neighborhoods, and on the other, “the concentrated poverty” in many other struggling areas like Brownsville (where my mother grew up) and East New York. “There are clearly huge swaths of Brooklyn where you don’t see gentrification and there won’t be anytime soon,” Bowles observes.
The article goes on to talk about the structural issues of transportation that can make it more difficult to get to the jobs within the borough. But I think it's deeper emotionally and spiritually than that. The Republican idea that a rising tide lifts all ships is not at work here. There seem to be a lot of rising tides in Brooklyn, but a bunch of ships are sinking or never left the bottom of the ocean. As the people who have money have less identification with the difficulties of living paycheck to paycheck, they see the poor's difficulties as their own fault, completely. What does not seem to be taken into consideration are the difficulties with transportation, higher taxes due to higher housing values, lack of education that prepares children for the jobs that actually exist, crime, frustration, health costs…whew. I'm tired just listing it.  When poor people have a financial problem that might have to do with one of these listed items, they have less of a buffer to handle it as opposed to those who are owners of those hip brownstones.  

I work with this population's children now and have for many, many years. I'm not talking about Shequana, who's a stripper with five "boyfriends" who's taking her kids to school in tight pants and spike heals cause she just got home from the club an hour ago. I'm talking about Jamia who works two jobs and takes her kids to after school choir because it's free and her child can get homework assistance. That woman tis he majority of people in the working poor. The real estate boom before and the little one happening now haven't helped her AT ALL. She couldn't afford to purchase a house even before gentrification happened and if she did, she may not have had the extra money saved to handle any of the problems that inevitably occur with home ownership. (i.e. my hot water heater broke 2 months after we bought our first home and one month later I had to put a new roof on. These kind of expenses can send you into foreclosure real quick if you don't have a savings cushion) There are no jobs in the "new economy" for barely high school educated but hard working Jamia. So gentrification just got her…a higher rent.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration identifies itself closely with Manhattan’s “luxury city” economy. Focused on finance, media and high-end business services, this approach does not offer much to blue-collar Brooklyn. New York over the past decade has suffered among the worst erosions of its industrial base of any major metropolitan area. Brooklyn alone has lost 23,000 manufacturing jobs during that time. 
Inequality in the Bloombergian “luxury city” is growing even faster than in the nation as whole. In fact, the gap between rich and poor is now the worst in a decade. New York’s wealthiest one percent earn a third of the entire city’s personal income — almost twice the proportion for the rest of the country. 
So while artisanal cheese shops serve the hipsters and high-end shops thrive, one in four Brooklynites receives food stamps.
If a rising tide lifts all boats than my boat should be a yacht or at least a 60 footer with a fly bridge and a place to fish. The working poor in cities are struggling, no one in government is addressing it with any seriousness, and a certain group of people says their poverty is completely their own fault; pull yourself up by your boot straps! All I'm saying is that the top down approach to economic empowerment does not seem to be working. Elections have consequences…

Friday, October 5, 2012

Should we fire Big Bird?

At the debate Wednesday Mitt Romney said that he would cut funds for PBS. He loves Jim Lehrer and he LOVES Big Bird. But he's not going to go into debt to China over funding PBS.  Now if any of you all know me, you now that I am an NPR listener! I love Public Television. I grew up on it and so have my kids(Sid the Science Kid anyone? And I love me some Word Girl) Kai Ryssdal on Marketplace is my favorite and I stream the Diane Rehm show on my phone regularly; yes when you see me on my iPhone bopping my head while shopping, I'm probably nodding my head to the beat of a particularly good question being asked.  But Mitt Romney's going to cut all that out if he's elected president.

I just want to go against the grain and even my own likes for a moment. Do we really need governmental support of TV and Radio at this time? We sure did back in the stone ages of TV when there were literally four channels. (anyone remember UHF vs VHF channels?) Public TV was a bastion of educational and quality programming. It actually still is, BUT…. there are literally hundreds of channels that have quality and educational programming. We pay for them through cable subscriptions that nearly everyone I know has. There's a channel for every proclivity that you can imagine and now there's satellite radio with every piece of music, talk, or idea that you can think of.  

I'm not debating quality at this moment. But if the point of government support of Public TV and radio is that we need to have a non-commercial based quality media station for all due to lack of access…well that argument is gone.  What is public TV for? Why do we need it? I love it but I also love shopping at Saks Jandel.  But I can shop at Loemann's and not put myself into a debtor's prison.  This is not me trying to get rid of PBS and NPR, just saying that if we don't know what something's really for, we have to reassess and re-evaluate or we can't pretend that we're serious about fiscal problems in this country. I also know that that this is an easy target budget-wise and looking at Public media funding cuts won't dent the debt or deficit. But…I'm just saying…

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We're "raising" a spoiled brat Congress

WIth the election fast approaching, I have really thought about voting and what makes this particular election so fractious. The people who don't like Obama, really hate him and are basically stomaching candidate Romney just so they can get rid of the current president. It reminds me a lot of how I and many of my friends and family thought about the last president Bush. We just knew the country was going down the toilet with Bush in power, and see: the country actually was circling the toilet, i.e. the great recession began. However, Republicans think the same thing about Obama. 

From my perspective, and not just mine mind you, the Republican house has been especially obstructive since Obama took office; not allowing Obama to get his agenda across to the public.  However, it is his job to find a way to get legislation passed that he is in favor of.  It doesn't matter how hard it is.  But I think the job of governance has become a lot harder because of Republicans, but not in way that many of you may think.  And it is not only Republicans who have benefitted from this or created it. What is it? Gerrymandering of voting districts.  Originally, I was for a certain amount of gerrymandering because it allowed historically oppressed or under-represented ethnic groups to be elected so that the governing body looked more like the population at large.  Now, I think it's destroying our country.  

Gerrymandering has allowed for republican districts to stay reliably Republican, and vise versa for the Democrats.  This has made it so that you can have an Allen West or Michelle Bachmann saying all sorts of wacky things like there are socialists/communists in the congress or that we need to have hearings about the loyalty of people in the government who are of Arabic descent. They didn't just start "getting retarded" after having a vaccination. Since voting districts are reliably one party, the elected official doesn't have to appeal to any other strain of thought, thereby electing representatives that can go into government proudly saying that they will not reach consensus with anyone who doesn't think as they do. 

It's like the congress has forgotten the rules of the playground. You know, the ones that say play fair and when you make up games, everyone has to participate in the rule making process and come to an agreement how the game will be played and then follow the rules that you made up?  Isn't that a novel idea? We EXPECT children to learn to work together and get mad at them when they don't. Parents and teachers know that children will always leave the unpopular or un-athletic kid out and we call that a character defecit to be trained out of children.  We then force all kids to be involved in the game.  At a playdate or a party, we enforce that everyone must have a say and kids must work together to have fun.

Gerrymandering means that no one has to get along. It rewards extreme behavior.  It penalizes humans learned behavior of consensus building.  It limits the efficacy one's individual vote has during an election.  It allows for only winning, no loosing; safety with limited responsibility.  We punish children with timeouts, loss of privileges, extra homework or chores for this type of behavior. We tell teachers that they have to create lessons based around cooperation. We have our children in sports to teach them cooperative competition.  We, the electorate need to start paying attention because we're raising a spoiled brat of a congress, and no one likes that kid…their parents suck….

Here's part of an article from The Atlantic that explains part of the issue. I suggest one read the entire article.

[Former Tennessee congressman John]Tanner says that redistricting’s impact has evolved over time, from simply creating safe seats for incumbents to creating rigid conservative and liberal districts, wherein the primary contests are a race to the extremes and the general elections are preordained. “When the [final] election [outcome] is [determined] in the party primary—which now it is, in all but less than 100 of the 435 seats—then a member comes [to Washington] politically crippled,” the retired congressman told me. “Look, everyone knows we have a structural deficit, and the only way out of it is to raise revenues and cut entitlements. No one who’s reasonable thinks otherwise. But what happens? The Democrats look over their left shoulder, and if someone suggests cutting a single clerk out of the Department of Agriculture, they go crazy. Republicans look over their right shoulder, and if someone proposes raising taxes on Donald Trump’s income by $10, they say it’ll be the end of the world. So these poor members come to Washington paralyzed, unable to do what they all know must be done to keep the country from going adrift, for fear that they’ll get primaried. 
“It’s imposed a parliamentary model on a representative system,” Tanner went on. “It makes sense for Democrats to vote one way and Republicans to vote another in a parliamentary system. It’s irrational in a representative form of government. So what that’s done is two things. First, it’s made it virtually impossible to compromise. And second, as we’ve seen in this past decade, it’s damn near abolished the ability and responsibility of Congress to hold the executive branch of the same party accountable. The Bush years, we were appropriating $100 billion at a time for the Iraq War with no hearings, for fear that [those would] embarrass the administration. Hell yeah, that’s due to redistricting! The Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration became part of the same team. We’re totally abdicating our responsibility of checks and balances.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Is Romney for real?

Mitt Romney's ER comments from 60 minutes are just plain strange. This is why I think he's having difficulty: either he just doesn't see things the way they actually are or he doesn't believe what he's saying. If this man is supposed to be such a compassionate and caring religious man, why would he essentially say the medical version of "let them eat cake…"
PELLEY: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don't have it today? 
ROMNEY: Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance, people -- we -- if someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and -- and die. We -- we pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.  
PELLEY: That's the most expensive way to do it.  
ROMNEY: Well the...  
PELLEY: In the emergency room. 
ROMNEY: Diff -- different, again, different states have different ways of doing that. Some -- some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn't take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, "You've got to take the Massachusetts model."
But we take what other states do well and implement them in other states ALL THE TIME! States are generally the proving grounds to test out theories of good governance. That's one of the benefits of our governmental system.  But The Atlantic makes an excellent point of showing why Romey's statements make no sense fiscally.
His more recent comments appear to be something different: Romney is basically saying that the cost savings don't matter. And that's a strange perspective, as both the pragmatic technocrat and the disciplined fiscal conservative he insists he is. Candidate Romney doesn't provide an alternative explanation for how he'd keep the public from paying for free riders... and that's a huge chunk of taxpayer dollars: a 2004 Kaiser Family Foundation survey calculated that free riders cost the federal and state governments almost $35 billion per year.
I've been emergency rooms quite a bit due to having a child with multiple ear infections, a viral infection that led to my child having difficulty walking, asthma attacks, and fevers of 106 degrees. I knew which emergency rooms to go to to avoid long waits because people were getting primary care services there. I learned after a few of those visits to goto a private urgent care facility for certain things like high fevers and infections because those facilities could handle these issues in half the time. They were also lots cheaper, I could make an appointment very quickly and avoid a long wait(at least if things were going wrong before midnight and after 6am). 

I figured out what Romney, and anybody with half a brain, figured out in Massachusetts: Emergency room care is expensive and a horrible way to get treated unless it is a true emergency. Fiscally and medically, ER care doesn't make sense as a way to treat fiscally indigent patients.  But importantly, the wording of Romney's statement just makes one feel un cared for. Like, thanks(?) I'm glad there is emergency care and we don't let people die in their homes, but I would like to have medical care BEFORE I have the heart attack.  I'd like to see a general practitioner on a regular basis, and not have to be on the hook for thousands of dollars for said heart attack after treatment in said ER.

Oh well, I guess its the moocher part of my psyche that just tells me to send all my bills to rich people cause as a part of the 47%, I really am embracing my victimhood. I think I'll stop working and go on public assistance right now….

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Breastfeeding is NOT unprofessional

I saw this article in the Washington Post about a week ago and I had another one of those moments where I went: "REALLY?! This is an issue? Still?!" Well, here it is: Breastfeeding.  Apparently a professor at a university upset a bunch of her students when she breast fed her child in class.  She was called unprofessional because she did it while she was giving a lecture. Back story: she was a single mom, her baby was ill, it was the first day of classes at American University, here in DC. She didn't want to cancel her fist day so she brought the child in. She let her TA (teachers assistant) watch the child and when the child became too fussy, she put the child to her breast and continued with the lecture.

Students were horrified! OMG, she's feeding her baby on her titties!!! It's not appropriate. What if a man who was hot just opened up his shirt or needed to scratch himself…down there… and just went ahead and did it.  Same thing right. Nope. It's not.

The issue here is not whether the university provided a space for her to breast feed or gave her parental leave to care for a sick child. The issue is that dang word "professional" and it's connection to a woman. We as a society have lost acceptance of women providing nourishment to babies as normal behavior that is not improper, indecent or lewd. Why is it ok to occasionally bring the child to class, but it's not ok to feed her?  When I was at a funeral, and my child was starting to cry my uncle told me, "Put a titty in her mouth. That'll quiet her down." I'm paraphrasing…slightly…but that was pretty much it. My family's from the country. They saw this behavior all the time. It was normal, natural for a woman to feed her child in this way. Women working in agriculture have always carried their babies with them and breastfed them as needed.

But is it professional? It may not be, but it should. A breastfeeding baby is generally quiet for the length of time they are on the breast. A lawyer or business person can still conduct a meeting while feeding her child because there is no more interruption putting a baby to the breast than getting a glass of water.  The problem is not the mother, it's the people around her. If people become acculturated to working mothers having to take care of their babies needs, then there is no issue. She is not baring her breasts for the public to see. Once the baby is fed, take the child back to it's care givers. The process is over in minutes with barely a pause.  If we are going to accept women into the work force, we have to accept women in the work force and all that pertains to that responsibility.  

We cannot preach to women that they should breast feed for at least 12 months without acknowledging that woman will need to work in this society for at least 6 months of that time; minimum. There may not be the ability to bring a child to work for every position, but it should be a goal as a society to promote healthy parenting habits within work settings of which breast feeding is one.

I went back to work after 6 weeks and breast feed both of my children for 8 and 17 months respectively. When I was on tour, I autographed CDs and talked to fans sitting in a chair in my high heeled boots on with a baby on my breast. They both had teeth by 3 months. Yeah…teeth. You don't want to even go there….

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why teachers are mad....

The Chicago teachers have gone back to work, suspending their strike. I just want to present two ideas as to why teachers feel the way they do. As an aside, I was recently speaking to a new teacher who's kids have adhd. They have been moved through a couple of schools and he had some problems with them at home. After teaching for 2 weeks, here's essentially what he said to me: My kids have no problems at all! They are fine. In comparison to what I see here?! Whew...

Teaching is hard. It's tough to be evaluated based off of your students achievements. You aren't raising these students. You're not in their family. You are there to teach information as best you can. Here's an argument why linking student achievement to teachers jobs can be problematic:

What if your corporate job handed you a team of people you had no say in choosing? You are charged with teaching this team the fundamentals of XYZ in your industry. You have about six hours a day of instruction and you are the sole person teaching. You have few resources for materials. Your group is comprised of people who live with persistent hunger, people who have limited proficiency in English, people who have been sleeping in a shelter or in their car, people who are in pain but have no access to medical attention, people who have no money for books and basic materials, people who require special services, people who are singled out for being different, people who have attention deficit disorders, people who have come from illiterate families, people who cannot see but cannot afford eye glasses, people who come from an abusive relationship, people who want the answers but don’t want to work. This is what a teacher is dealt. And sure, some of these problems are non-issues at private schools. But let me tell you, private school classrooms have their own challenges. That’s where you can have the entitled brats telling their teachers that daddy, who’s on the school’s board, can have the teacher fired. That’s where the students drive nicer cars than teachers can afford, and the socioeconomic totem pole is front and center of all school dynamics. 
Imagine being productive in an environment where you have little control and cannot impact the very basic needs that drive success under your watch. Now imagine you have to fight for every ounce of respect society doles out and every cent on your paycheck. Imagine you are judged solely on what your group can accomplish, with no regard to how hard you tried and how dedicated you were. Imagine the battle teachers face just to be valued, socially, professionally, and financially.

Also, people say that teachers have an easy day. Just 8:30-3:30. That's not that long and they get a lunch and a prep period. Though I am a believer that the school day should be longer, here's why teachers are not so happy about the idea.

I’ll use the example of the elementary school at which I worked: Students were at school from 8:45 am to 3:00 pm every day (Wednesdays until 2:00). Teachers are required to be in their classrooms or working at school at 8:00 am and are allowed, by union contract, to leave after 3:30 pm every day of the work week. During the school day, teachers are scheduled for 22 minutes for lunch, and have a 50 minute planning period. 
Now, just imagine the amount of papers to grade, detailed lessons to plan, papers to copy, bulletin boards to decorate, learning centers to prepare, documents to complete, books to read, spreadsheets to enter, department and school-wide meetings in which to participate, statistical information to compile, parent-teacher meetings to hold, and in-service classes to attend. 
These cannot physically be done in that one 50-minute per day planning period, and 30-minute** span before and after school that’s provided for the teachers. (**I’m being generous with the 30-minute spans before and after children are in the classroom, because in my case, our principal required us to keep our classrooms open and available for students to enter, thus making teachers responsible for the students.) 
I’ve not ever met one teacher, good, bad, or ugly, who can complete all of their required work in that 50-minute planning period and 30-minute span before and after school. 
Teachers want to do the best job for our children. But people need to really understand what is going on in this country's schools. They are on the front lines and it seems that people don't really understand what is involved in actually teaching our nation's children. We can do it, but when you want to fix a problem, it's good to know what the actual problem is...