Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Undergrowth in America's Garden...

So Michelle Obama has written a book about gardening.  She has been vocal about children's health and obesity rates.  One would think such an issue pretty uncontroversial.  We don't want to have kids becoming overweight, leading to health issues of high blood pressure and cholesterol, which themselves lead to major disease of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.  Since we know that diet can significantly affect the course of a person health, why shouldn't she focus on eating healthily?  If we learn these habits early, they can lead to a longer, better quality of life.

Gardening, something I did just this morning, is a perfect way to address these concerns as well as engaging all the senses. Planting a personal garden is exercise, artistic expression (it's always lovely when planting beautiful leaves and flowers, can you say stress relief?), and sustenance providing. All First Ladies pick a Ms America-type platform. Mrs. Obama's is something that I personally believe, practice, and proselytize about to anyone who will listen: healthily eating and growing your own food, as organically as possible.

But as usual, there's always people who have a problem:

Commenter: …then perhaps she should go over to her husbands native land, and teach them how to grow food. What's it been now: 6 thousand years, and those peeps still don't know how to prosper? 
Commenter: I wonder what Michelle's garden is costing the taxpayer. 
Commenter: So if her intensions are so altruistic, then there would be rush to publish this months before re-election. The timing makes everything suspect. Do the Obama's do anything other than campaign? 
Commenter: If she is concerned about obese children, she should work on reducing the mass of that huge rear. Wow, that is one big butt. The gym is calling! 
Commenter: Whats with the Garden thing??? STOP!!!!!!!!! Go to the grocery store. 
Commenter: Or subtitled...American Grown, Kenyan Born 
Commenter: As for her little garden book - who cares? But, being of generations of Washingtonians myself, I feel Mrs Obama's trying to be too "down home" to plant a large veggie garden on the White House lawn and it's disrespectful and worse to profit from a book about it.
Mrs obama has always seemed like an angry woman… 
Commenter: The President and his wife should always use judgement and have class. It's what I dislike about Mrs Obama's huge veggie garden planted on the White House lawn. It's way too "down home" and inappropriate in my opinion.  
Michelle Obama, as the president's wife, should dress according to her position. When she doesn't, it's embarrassing to many Americans.  
I'll be glad when the current "refugee-just-off-the-boat" look has run it's course too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Biased media ain't keeping us informed...

They're at it again....

As many of you know, I've been reaching out to republicans, trying to have respectful conversation about our differences in this very polarized political world we live in. In one of my most recent blogs,  I wrote about how people of all political perspectives should make extra effort to be respectful of other's philosophies and beliefs, even as we may disagree significantly about how to govern the country.  But it's hard to have a conversation if there are two sets of facts out there.

I was reading the Huffington Post the other day and of course there was the provocatively titled article that Fox news watchers are less informed.  But if you read further into the article, you are presented with what I believe is actually more important: Those who watched MSNBC and FOX did poorly on questions about international and domestic news.

Other networks also did badly in some sections; MSNBC viewers and Fox News viewers both fared worse in answering international questions than people who watched no news. - Huffington Post
According to a follow-up survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMindTM,
NPR and Sunday morning political talk shows are the most informative news outlets,while exposure to partisan sources, such as Fox News and MSNBC, has a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge….Ideological news sources, like Fox and MSNBC, are really just talking to one audience,” said Cassino. “This is solid evidence that if you’re not in that audience, you’re not going to get anything out of watching them.” -  Fairleigh Dickinson University study press release

The important part of the quote above is that ONLY watching ideologically based news programs doesn't give you the full picture of the happenings of our world!  Too many people are watching or listening to material which only bolsters their own personal views.  Personally, this bothers the crap out of me!! When I want to get information, a lot of times I get OPINION and editorial. I want the facts of the situation.   In the past, with only the three main networks providing news, all could basically agree on what was actually happening domestic and internationally.  News organizations were not, generally speaking, the profit driven agencies they are now. The big three anchors were trusted to give accurate reports. Shows such as 60 Minutes  and Nightline told you in depth what was going on, and Meet the Press and This Week with David Brinkley fleshed out the political implications of the news of the day. 

When FOX news launched it's right-wing leaning programming and started winning ratings, MSNBC came out with a primarily left-ist agenda.  This served to make "non-partisan" news to create even more adversarial based media to attract viewers.  I wrote my song, Talkin Like You Know because I was getting confused, angry, and frustrated with "news" channels reporting stuff that didn't feel like the truth.  It didn't feel like it was informing but rather entertaining people's love of a good fight.  Media today feels like one big op-ed page.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Facebook follies

Didn't work out this way for Facebook though….no extra millionaires for you! (best soup nazi voice)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Don't underestimate the importance of class size

So Mitt Romney believes that class size is not the only issue when it comes to teaching effectively. No duh. But in order for all those good education practices he speaks about to create an environment for learning, you just gotta limit class size to 20 and under. You can't get a handle on the other issues if class size is not a big part of the conversation.  Most importantly, I'd like him and any "education reformer" from either party to come and say that class size is not an issue in an inner city middle public school, after they have taught for ONE DAY. Then grade and lesson plan for all your students for the next.  Then we can have a conversation about class size.

This commenter tells it like it is.  BTW, good for Romney for at least coming into the inner city school.

Texas Public school teacherAs an educator i do have one question for everyone: 
Have you considered that maybe teachers know what works? 
Too many people think that there is just one answer to what works for public education, but you have to stop treating it like it is some scientific equation. There is no ONE correct answer. 
Teaching is an art. It requires constant adjustment to the 150 new variables you receive at the beginning of every year. We struggle to have the kids understand the overwhelming number of concepts the local and federal governments decide we need to teach, knowing full well that without sufficient time to practice these skills will be quickly forgotten. We have constant interruptions to our teaching for standardized testing and then are lambasted for the low results we predicted would happen. 
If you want us to perform better in school have us teach fewer concepts but more in depth. We need to raise the intellectual capacity of the student and equip them with the ability to process unknown information. 
Charter schools can be a good idea, but as implemented most of them try for a strict business structure. This leads to failure in educating everyone. As a teacher i cannot "fire" my unproductive employee. They must be convinced that an education is worth it.
The idea of vouchers would leave behind those the charter schools deem as undesirable condemning them to a poorly funded education with second rate or overwhelmed teachers. We teach not because we can't do anything else. We teach because we truly refuse to leave the children to a lifetime of ignorance. 
By the way. Think about it if you are reading this....How exactly did you learn to read?
your parents are the first teachers and there is no exact science to parenting either.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Corey Booker and Black Republicans: No one should be called names

This past weekend Corey Booker, the charismatic Mayor of Newark,  went on Meet The Press and commented on the various Obama ads about Bain Capitol and the proposed ads of a pro-Romney Super PAC about Jeremiah Wright.  In democratic circles, he was called a traitor at worst, a thoughtless underminer of the president at least.  Republicans are gleeful about using an upcoming democratic star to bolster their points.  Democratic operatives are currently trying to shut him up.  Booker is a very frequent Twitterer, and since the incident on MTP, I've only seen a few inspirational tweets from him in the past couple of days (mind you, I'm a mom and I actually have a life so I may have missed some).

I happen to think he should say what he believes.  Maybe he shouldn't have made such comments in the context of his surrogacy of the president's position, but we need to allow people to say what they feel about things going on around us without being called names.

I bring this up, because I have been having some nice running conversations on Twitter with black republicans.  "Black republicans?!! You mean there are more than one or two?! Are they crazy like Hermain Cain?!" And don't go blasting me because I said Herman Cain was crazy. There are a lot of crazy CEO's and people in power positions who are smart and charismatic.  But yes, there are quite a few black republicans that are regular, thinking, and intelligent people.  (That sounded so pompous, but…c'est la vie…) What I get distressed by is the name calling of them as Uncle Toms, or House Negros, or any other of the usual lingo used to call someone a race traitor or one who is not black "enough" and needs to turn in their black card.  I may not like the stances that Condelizza Rice took during her time as Secretary of State, but she's not a traitor simply because she believes something different from me.

I think the basic republican ideals of self sufficiency, fiscal conservatism, and a strong national defense have merit to them.  I take issue with how some of these ideas are executed and proselityzed, but I believe that good ideas are good ideas and no one person or party has a monopoly on them.  The frustration from democratic leaning or apolitical blacks is that the some republican rhetoric treats black people like they're stupid. Blacks are not brainwashed as so famously stated by former presidential candidate, Herman Cain.  Black people didn't come by their abortion beliefs because they don't know any better, but through personal and familial experiences. My mom was anti-abortion before she saw the devastation and death caused by women who did do-it-yourself abortions.  Many black people are but a step away from poverty or at least working poor.  However, we have a strong sense of connection our community.  Republicans can't uplift a stay at home mom who has the financial means to remain at home and call her a hero for working for her family, and at the same time, decry the laziness of the "welfare mom" who does the same thing for her household. You cannot have it both ways.  You can't say phrases like, "No one was helping me when I was on food stamps!" or "I learned all that I need to know by reading everything I could about the subject. I went to the library everyday after coming home from public school…"  and then expect me not to see the good side of government.

If you're going to talk to black folk (and frankly any group) and actually get them to listen, you can't  keep throwing stereotypes in their faces and avoiding coming to speak at black churches and community centers. You can't call an entire section of the government socialist while you take advantage of the very programs that you say you don't like.  You may not like affirmative action and be dubious of it's efficacy, but don't tell me that it didn't help at all!  Don't send me, "we want to open our doors to blacks, hispanics, gays, etc…" and then turn around and say and do everything in your power to offend those groups. 

This is why many blacks often feel an allegiance to Democrats.  HOWEVER, it is not smart for any voting block to be homogenous.  Republican ideas and ideals have merit. They have a better relationship with the business community, and understand some of it's needs and wants. The Booker T Washington type rhetoric of self sufficiency and self empowerment is a necessary message that all can hear.  There are times when limited government does make more sense.  I don't believe that any black republican is a an Uncle Tom.  To state that black republicans are traitors or lackeys to the white power structure insults their intelligence as well. It only serves to divide us and frankly make political pundits stars on the news circuit.

This is the issue.  We have quite a bit of common ground, but it makes for a better political story for our differences to be heightened and highlighted.  I think if we actually talked and acknowledged that both sides want what's best for the country, both are patriotic, and both are well thought out, we can find the ways needed to fix the issues that face us.  Lenny McCallister, the noted republican commentator kindly tweeted to me after one of my blogs, "We're all in this together." That about says it all.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Depressing Jobs

Farai Chideya on recently wrote about how unemployment numbers don't show the complete picture of the difficulty of American joblessness.  The current unemployment rate of 8%, while rightly perceived as high, leaves out all the pain and difficulty people are going through right now due to under employment and those who have just stopped looking for jobs. Her article reminds me of a conversation my brother and I were having about friends and family of ours who are in their 40s and 50s. It should be the prime of their lives.  They have worked hard, built up experience and knowledge in their chosen profession. But instead of the reality they expected, they get this:

"…. Hazel Shaw, a 58-year-old Arizona woman with a master's degree in public administration and a 20-year work history. After leaving her job to care for her dying father in North Carolina, she returned to find that the job market had dried up. Shaw had to move into a shelter after spending down her retirement savings. But the same qualities that made her a good human resources employee for most of her career ended up getting her a job as a clerk at the same homeless shelter where she'd lived."

There's nothing ok about this story. While I'm glad she's working now, at 58, she should be getting ready to retire from a high five figure job; pension and/or 401k in hand. There is no retirement for her in the next 20 years…at least. I'm a hustler but it's hard to hustle at an age when you should be calling the shots…It's kinda depressing…

I had a friend who I was very close to who was in a somewhat similar situation. She was depressed, medically. She was on various  medications to help her get through the day. She was trying to go back to school so she could pursue her career aspirations. She just couldn't move. She saw all of her friends and classmates moving forward in their careers, while she just felt like she was stagnant.  She had no family and few friends to help her.  Another friend of mine just told me, "I've been hustling so long, and I'm almost 50 and I just don't know what to do. I haven't gotten anywhere close to where I want to go professionally…" Another friend declared, "It's hard when you have to start your entire life over in middle age after your company goes under.  This is my second time doing this and I'm getting tired of it…" Another friend works as a lawyer and can barely pay his light bill.

These are the unemployed and under-employed speaking. Their lives look nothing like what they expected. This recession/depression is destroying lives y'all.  When you're down, it's really hard to move…literally. Getting out of bed can be tough. You feel like you're all alone.  I've been there too, y'all…I know what that feels like.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Real life is not a Soap Opera

In light of all that is being talked about around the "first gay president" and the equal marriage debate, I'd like to connect the issue with something a little closer to home:  Soap Operas.  I have been a Days of Our Lives fan since my mother first let me watch it with her when I was about 12 years old.  I've watched it on and off since.  Soap operas used to be the place where important social issues were brought up alongside hot couples, feuding patriarch, cat fights and cheating and lying about it; ie, just like the Maury show…but scripted…and with rich people.  Not so much now.  However, my soap, which once had Marlena possessed by the devil and the evil man obsessed by her, Stefano, saving her from said devil, decided to deal with how a gay teenager comes of age and comes out to his parents and to his family.  I have to say it's been really well done and there's no better scene than when young Will comes out, finally, to his parents: Sami and Lucas.

For a little background, Sami and Lucas were teenage parents. Sami slept with Lucas because she felt like she was unattractive because Austin, her sister Carrie's boyfriend, would not even look at her.  Lucas wanted Carrie and both Lucas and Sami were plotting to make the objects of their desire fall in love with each of them, respectively.  In the moment when Sami feels unloved and ugly, they make love because Lucas feels bad for her.  In true soap fashion, there are paternity tests faked and the parents hated each other for years but of course, in the end, they fell in love and got married.  But they got divorced and…and...well this is not why I'm writing this blog.

True to life, when Will comes out to his parents, one of them just can't take it.  Sami (who's kind of a selfish and self-centered screw up, but I love her anyway because cain't nobody be perfect) just walks out.  But not because she doesn't love her son, but because she sees herself as a screw up that she didn't see it coming.  She was so wrapped up in herself, she missed what was going on with her own son.  She's having trouble accepting her son, not because he's gay, but…because he's gay.

Before I had kids, I wouldn't have been able to understand this.  Just accept your son Sami! He's your son and you love him.  That's it!  But now that I have two little girls, I understand her reaction a bit better.  I wouldn't have reacted that way…at least I hope not.  It's not that as a parent, you would cease to love your child.  It's that every parent has a set of dreams for their children.  These dreams generally are rose colored and ambiguous.  They will be great in school, and popular and smart and fall in love and get married and have children and do well in a job they love and have a nice house, and take care of you when you're old and tired.  Then you can watch your beautiful grandchildren playing on the carpet in front of a fireplace while gentle music is playing in the background and all is well.  Ahhhhh.

But when your child does not fit that script in some way by an illness or a disability, or an accident or being gay…the script changes.  All you can think about is: will they be ok?!?!? Mothers have difficulty when their child gets a paper cut or falls off the monkey bars.  To have their child be in pain is like being water boarded…slowly.  It's excruciating.  I have gay family members, gay co-workers, gay friends, but this is one thing I know nothing about personally.  I can't protect my child all the time! Will they be able to find love, will they be able to have children.  To these questions, the answer is yes, but…I just want my child to be fine and in today's world to be gay is still a tough walk in life to take. I am of the belief it's not a choice, it's who you are.  But still you think: is there something I did, is there something I should have done…How can I smooth the way for my child.  I hope no one bullies or kills them just because someone is affronted by their sexual orientation. Jesus. Please protect my child.

This is what would be going on in my mind. I'm just a mom. I want what's best for my children.  They are mine and I love them…no matter what.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The road to prosperity requires a balanced approach

Money. Everybody needs it.  Everybody wants more. I work hard for it. Most people have multiple jobs (if they have a job at all) to get it. Many of us hustle for it.  Most of us don't want money for the sake of money itself but just want a life that is good: a home, food, nice clothes, an occasional vacation, a car…you know the deal.  But we have been living beyond our means, personally and societally for a long time. Now, a government budget is NOT a family budget.  I do not want to get this twisted. Governments have to cover a lot more in line items than a family does. And if a family wants to cut something out, the only people that are affected are they themselves (unless they choose to not cut their grass, EVER, which pisses the heck outta me because then my property looks like crap and it brings down the value of the neighborhood…but don't get me started). But what to do?
I was reading about how the "baller culture" in the black community has been limiting it's economic growth and prosperity.  We all know this story. I remember working in an urgent care clinic and registering patients from primarily working poor and poor neighborhoods.  I will never forget the woman who came to get medical treatment in the cutest linen orange outfit, with golden sandals, lovely gold earrings and rings on every finger. As she came to the window, she presented her medicaid card. …Sigh…. Really?!  Though most people on welfare do not do this, many of us, regardless of race and class, work hard to keep up with the Joneses at our own financial expense. The US wasn't keeping up with nobody, we just were literally high on making money with no consequences like it was crack. And like many addicts, we hit rock bottom. But as we've started to get out of recession, there's been a problem.  Paul Krugman, one of my favorite economists, says that the problem with our economy right now has to do with lack of demand.

“There is not enough demand,” Krugman said during an appearance at the Economic Policy Institute, where he gave a talk to promote his new book, End This Depression Now. “We focused a lot – too much – on the financial sector’s problems. Yet that is long since gone and we still don’t have a steady recovery. That tells us the crisis was far more about household debt.”

Most of us were spending too much personally.  Though this was not all of the problem, it was and is a significant part of it.  So recently people have been spending less.  But if the US government JUST spends less, we will become Europe, much of which is in a double-dip recession. No one really wants to go in that direction, do we? Households and government need to invest in themselves through sound fiscal management.  Households are rightly, paying down their debt. That's what I'm trying to do.  BUT…and this is a big but…if I do not invest in myself, I will not have the money or the future work opportunities I need to support myself and my children.  

So what am I doing?
  • I am investing in education, seriously, to sharpen my skills in my chosen field of music.  
  • I am investing in equipment, so I can make and play music with more ease and effectiveness. 
  • I am also slowly paying down credit and medical debt incurred.  
  • I am slowly doing small capitol improvements of my home so that when the value of it does rebound, it will be in top form if I need to sell. 
  • I am changing the way I grocery shop so that I can make more food from home to cut down on food costs
  • I am investigating hiring a (very) part-time employee to help me with the massive amount of work that being a musician, educator, mother, entrepreneur entails.(think college student intern like employee)
  • I created another stream of income to help pay for additional expenses. (daycare/pre-school is a bitch y'all. Montgomery county doesn't pay for none of it. Hear me?! NONE! And I live in one of the most expensive areas in the country)

I am investing in myself, paying down debt, and adjusting where I can so that I can secure my present and ensure a positive future.  Cutting costs can't be the only way to sound fiscal management because even when you are purging and organizing to sell your stuff, you need to buy a bag or a box to put it in.  Anybody try to organize a house without a file cabinet and some bins? A balanced approach makes SENSE.

Monday, May 14, 2012

James Lipton offers some great advice to Mitt Romney

This is the funniest thing I have ever seen. Mitt Romney getting advice from James Lipton from the Bravo series Inside the Actors Studio… OMG. The way he talks about the lack of naturalness of Romney's laugh is classic. I know some of my republican friends will not appreciate this very much, but…you gotta admit that Romney has a "lack of cool" issue. Republicans are doing a pretty good job of making the argument that Pres. Obama's cool factor/celebrity isn't enough to run a country, but….come on! You gotta have some kind of swagga', man…Mitt'll be going up against Putin who looks like he could bench press him while at the same time enjoying a forty of malt liquor. I bet you anything Reagan would do Putin just like he did one time to a heavy-coat-clad Mikhail Gorbachev -- walk out in below freezing weather without an overcoat and perkily comment, "Brisk, isn't it?!" Coolness counts dawg…And when you have James Lipton telling you this…well…just watch.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Clair Huxtable was almost as good as my mom...

Dana Oliver at the Huffington Post gave a tribute to Clair Huxtable as her favorite TV mom.  I, like many others would have to second that assertion.  Mrs. Huxtable was finally someone who looked and acted like my mom.  My mom was the first, where-and-when-do-I-not-work mother(I have taken on that mantle, though not quite as effectively). In the DC Metropolitan area, it's easier for you to point out the areas where my mother has not worked.  She worked at Goddard Space center and Bowie Race track.  She worked with dying cancer patients and with patients in South East Washington, DC (the hoodiest of the hood at that time) who were home bound.  My mom had what amounted to a working farm in our backyard and during summers we commonly ate food that came from there almost exclusively. She was and is an amazing cook and we consumed food that easily could have come from a restaurant.  And I mean that literally.  It wasn't just good, it was smack yo mama good, in a food network, she-could-win-easily-top-chef kind of way. She could make chicken gravy and grits along with making shrimp newburg -- for breakfast!

She made clothes, took us to all activities, was active in the PTA, read all the books we read, made a solar panel with my brother, chopped down a tree when she was 8 months pregnant and built a fence when she was 70.  And she looked elegant in an evening gown and a beautiful suit. She's literally superhuman. I didn't know she was fallible until I was about 25.

Chair Huxtable was like that.  She looked perfect. Clair had style and grace.  She was a professional woman who was present for her kids.  She cooked and worked and looked good doing it.  She was fictional, but my mom was not. It was validating.  I did exist. We were not mutants. There were other mothers like mine.  Claire was good.  But my mom was better.  Now if I can just get her to to say thank you when you tell her how good her food is…

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Concerning what it means to be H-U-M-A-N...

After Obama's interview concerning his evolved position on Gay marriage, I felt I needed to respond to all the tweets, blogs, Facebook posts and personal conversations that have been going on around me.  

Isiah Carter says it well

The answer is clear as crystal: there is simply NO non-religious argument against same-sex marriage. The legislation of the bedroom activity and the choosing of life partners by gays and lesbians makes us no different than the blatantly oppressive Islamic nations we have tried to turn into parking lots over the last 10 years in the name of freedom. In other words, we slouch ever closer to the Christian theocracy…. By enacting religion-fueled discrimination, we bring Christianized Sharia law into this country, effectively breaking EVERY law and statute protecting the separation of church and state in the Constitution.

But I believe this neither a religious question nor a legislative question.  It is a HUMAN question. What makes us human? Our sexuality, our race, how much money we make, our religion, land of origin? Blacks in America were once counted as 3/5 of a man.  Are we allowed to be fully human now? Is marriage a human right? What is humanness? Who decides it? 

This is my response. This my question.

Who decides who is human
and if you are human
Who made that decision
Your mother you father your brother your lover
who do you love
Who do you trust
Is this enough to tell us if you are human

Who decides who is human
and if you are human
what are the criterion
your mobile, employer, creator destroyer
Who you've become
Who can you run
Is this enough to tell us if you are human

First there was God
He created the World
When he was done
He made us from the dust

Who decides who is human
and if you are human
do we know how to treat them
Compassion with passion
Infection protection
Who can you touch
Who can you love
Is this enough to tell us if you are human

It all becomes music…it's a healing and questioning force.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stephen King gets it

pretty funny.  Need to read the whole article.

"I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. "  
- Stephen King, Author

If only this sentence could be made into a bumper sticker, I would display this fine piece of writing on my car for all to see. I read just about all the Stephen Kings novels when I was a teenager.  I then had to stop 'cause I scared the crap out of myself. I moved onto the more literary Michael Crichton after that.  I have never even thought to ask what King's political affiliations were, then or now, since…well, I don't really care because he writes really good books that are made into pretty good movies.

However, in his op-ed for the daily beast, he tells you bluntly which side he's on -- America's F&*king side.  He lays down the argument in wonderfully profane language, as to why it doesn't make sense for those rich people who think they should be taxed at a higher rate to just "cut a check to the government". This would be considered charitable behavior.  But charity doesn't deal with the real issues.

"What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry."

I don't believe it is class warfare to want people who have enough money to pay for the privilege of being born in a country that nurtures entrepreneurship.  People didn't make it in America in spite of the societal and economic structure, but because of it.

I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism….
I don't think I can say it any f*&king better...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Queen Latifah: In or "Out", it don't matter

Queen Latifah is headlining this year's Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival.  Some people feel that it means the long speculation is over, and she is coming out as a lesbian woman. Others say that it's irresponsible to come to that conclusion and her personal status is just that: personal and no one's business.  I could personally care less whether she comes out or not.  It's her business, but in light of legislation that passed in North Carolina, if she is gay, she would be another light that points out the absurdity of the position of the legislation.

From the Associated Press:
North Carolinians voted to change the state constitution Tuesday to say that the only valid "domestic legal partnership" in the state is marriage between a man and a woman, according to the AP's projection. The amendment passed 61 to 39 percent with most counties reporting, making North Carolina the 29th state to pass a voter ban on gay marriage.

The state already outlawed gay marriage, but the constitutional amendment makes it more difficult for politicians to ever change the law. The amendment also means that a handful of North Carolina municipalities that extended benefits to the domestic partners of their employees will no longer be able to do so, since marriage is now the only valid legal partnership in the state.
The article goes on to say that those opposed to the constitutional ban out-raised and out-advertised the proponents of the law 2 to 1.  However, it was reported that voters were unaware the ban changed the domestic partner status, something which polls say most people in North Carolina support. So the ban was passed.  

Can I just say this is not only ridiculous, it's insane! This to me is why Dana Owens' coming out would be important. This woman has been everything in the black community - positive hip hop artist, comedic actor, talk show host, dramatic movie star, musical theater and jazz singer, cosmetic spokesman…if she ain't the cleanest apple pie American, I don't know what is.  There is barely a hint of scandal to her name.  She holds herself with grace and substance.  She showed the world that big girls can not only be sexy, but CLASSY AND INTELLIGENT.

And this law in North Cackie-lackie (I can say this with impunity since the entire matriarchal side of my family is from south cackie lackie) says that if this woman of substance was in a loving relationship, and her partner was sick in the hospital, she couldn't even be considered the closest family member?!  She couldn't pass her benefits to her partner?  Did all the sense just leak out of people's heads?

Let me postulate something flagrantly outrageous to show how insane this is: Just suppose that I have a thief in my family. So a thief can get married and have the financial, social, and cultural benefits of marriage or for the sake of argument, domestic partnership, but the upstanding, clean citizen can't?! What makes the thief better qualified morally to have these benefits of humanhood? Because he does it in the missionary position?! Really?! 

Though Queen Latifah can keep her personal status personal, I think if she came out as gay, especially in the black community, which has issues with homosexuals, she would put a face on this issue in a way that could not be ignored.  She could be your sister or your favorite aunt.  We all have that cool aunt or older relative that everyone wanted to be around.  Mine was my cousin Deanie. She was gorgeous, smart, and hip; everything I wasn't as a kid. I wanted to be her.  If she was gay and wasn't allowed to get married and have the benefits of at least domestic partnership, I'd be hurt.  Cousin Deanie was wonderful to me and it wouldn't seem fair.  Queen Latifah could be a whole lot of people's Cousin Deanie.  

But more importantly, Latifah stands for positivity in America, especially urban america. People would not be able to ignore a woman of her stature.  She's not wacky Ellen Degeneres or slightly crazy Rosie O'Donnell.  She's Queen - U.N.I.T.Y, sing it with me y'all, that'sa unity! - Latifah.  She's Queen "Who you callin' a Bitch!" Latifah. She is strong, powerful, regal beautiful, QUEEN LATIFAH.  You don't tell queens that they can't marry who they want.  It's just not done.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I knew it all along, and I bet you did too...

I was listening to the Diane Rehm show about the power of music in healing; not just the spirit but actual therapies to restore brain function.  After listening, I found this article from PBS detailing similar information about the subject.  As an educator, I have always noticed that those students with a good sense of rhythm tended to function better in the academic classroom, i.e. with behavior and actual reading ability.  In this article, therapists, researchers and doctors are showing that music is increasingly used with positive results in the treatment of early onset dementia, children with autism, and patients with brain injuries like returning veterans. 

While research on the neurological effects of music therapy is in its infancy, what is known is that a number of regions in the brain are activated by listening to music. And scientists say the brain responds to music by creating new pathways around damaged areas.

ERIC WALDON, professor of music therapy, University of the Pacific: It's the rhythmic aspects of music that are providing that structure, that organization within time that are allowing her to learn to walk again or to gain speech sounds.
I think what we find in people that have had brain injuries, sometimes it's easier for them to sing words, rather than to say words. Music is providing that pathway or almost like a cerebral bypass around the damaged areas, allowing someone to regain mobility or regain speech.

The article went on to talk about different music therapy uses such as stress and anxiety relief by listening or participating in musical activities.  They seem to lower heart and respiratory rates in leukemia and other cancer patients.  Music used therapeutically can "soothe the soul" by calming people going through chemotherapy and reducing depression among seniors.

Music is miraculous. It's astonishing what therapists who use music in their treatment modalities are doing.  But can I bring up that this is only science catching up with what many have known for a long time? Music is not an ancillary part of life.  Since now scientists are starting to be able to quantify the effects music has on our nervous system we are starting to be able prove the centrality that music has our existence as human beings.  Because music is so ubiquitous in our society now, we do not see how large a role it plays in how we define ourselves, or spirits, and now, our health.  What do you do when you get home after a hard days work -- you turn on your favorite relaxing music to bring yourself down.  When you want to set a mood romantically, you put on some Marvin Gaye.  When you get ready to praise whatever spirit you call God, you praise that entity in song.  Music is hard wired into our brains, and I am tired of it's importance to our humanity being minimized, especially in education.

As a shameless plug, listen to one of my "mind expanding" songs that someone else created a video for.  I don't know if it'll make new pathways in your brain, but it certainly made me feel good while I wrote and sang it. I love music.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Obamacare in action

Last month I received a letter from my health insurance company.  FYI, I pay for my own family's insurance…out of pocket.  I get no help from any of my (multiple) employers.  The letter essentially said, "we have found that your premium is too high.  We have recalculated and you will be paying less for the same benefit package."  Wow! That's great!  When I got the next bill my insurance premium was about $15 less…uh…yea?  "But don't look a gift horse in the mouth, Diva, $15 is $15 and it can be put toward something else…like one hour of daycare…a month."  Well, I'm not going to complain...too much.  

I just found out how this reduction came about.  I was saying to myself, "Self, what company really tells you that you're paying to much, and then reduces your bill…voluntarily? Either an out-of-business-in-a-minute company…or one that has been coerced."  And that is what happened.  For those of you who don't like the Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare, as it's become more popularly known, the act REQUIRES insurance companies to do the following:

...insurers would have to spend at least 80 percent of what individuals and small businesses pay in premiums -- and 85 percent of what large employers pay -- to cover their policyholders' actual health care costs. If they don't meet those thresholds, they will have to issue rebates.
So my company didn't issue me a check, but lowered my premium.  They were making TOO MUCH MONEY, SO THEY HAD TO GIVE SOME BACK! Why did this happen you say? Wendell Potter further explains.

A study by the accounting firm PricewaterHouse Coopers a few years back revealed just how successful insurance firms have been in meeting Wall Street's demands. PwC found that the average MLR in the insurance industry fell from approximately 95 percent of spending being on medical care in 1993 to around 81 percent being spent on care 15 years later. (my emphasis) That translates into a difference of several billion dollars in favor of insurance company shareholders and executives and at the expense of health care providers and their patients.….I'll never forget when Aetna's stock price fell more than 20 percent on the day it admitted that its first quarter 2006 MLR had increased from 77.9 percent to 79.4 percent. Investors were so alarmed that they began selling shares of other insurers, too, believing that if the MLR was going up at Aetna, it was probably going up at its competitors as well.As I told Rockefeller and his fellow senators, insurers have engaged in a wide range of questionable practices in their constant quest to meet shareholders' MLR expectations, from shortchanging doctors and hospitals to dumping policyholders when they get sick.….It is because of Rockefeller's leadership on this issue that millions of Americans will see something in their mailboxes this summer they otherwise would never have seen -- a check from their insurers for overcharging them. Kaiser estimates that policyholders eligible for a rebate will get checks of about $127 on average. And as Rockefeller and Kaiser noted, many other Americans who won't get a check have benefited. That's because the MLR provision is serving as an incentive for insurers to seek lower premium increases than they otherwise would.
And so fiinally, I get a little something from the insurance company.  For those against Obamacare, perhaps this will get you to reconsider.