Sunday, December 1, 2013

And They Call This Airport Security



When I got to the Denver airport for my return to New York, I allowed enough time for the security check, arriving almost two hours before flight time. After going through the x-ray machine, I was tapped and told that the machine had randomly selected me for a fuller check. I think I stood there with a perplexed look n my face. A machine had selected me at random for a closer security check? Is this how security is done at Denver airport? After rubbing something in my palms, I was then told a complete check was in order as their little procedure had shown that I had a dangerous chemical on my hands (perhaps something to do with making a bomb?) I protested that this whole procedure was ridiculous, but they insisted that since they had found this chemical on my hands, they knew I was indeed someone to check. I remarked that I would change my hand lotion if I ever made it back to Denver.

Did no one have any sense there? When I asked what they did if the machine “randomly” selected a child, the response was a gleeful “Oh, we’d check the mother.” I had the impression that I was the only unfortunate pick that day to get a fuller check. And check they did. My boots came off, my coat came off, and everything, including my handbag was kept from me. And I was told not to touch anything—even if they finished looking through it. They rummaged through all my dirty laundry in my suitcase, they opened and peered into the computer in my backpack, they ran something over the phone in my purse, and they scrounged around any belongings of mine they could find. Looking for what, I couldn’t imagine. Everything had been through the x-ray machine, and nothing remarkable had emerged. But they took my coat, all my shoes, boots, slippers, and a few other things and from what I heard, ran them through three different machines, and then brought them back. I think what annoyed me most was their obvious desire to find something incriminating and their treatment of me as a “suspect.”

When I said I had a plane to catch, one commented that “maybe I would make it.” With the implication that maybe I wouldn’t. And someone else at the end of the ordeal said that I should have come earlier (I was there about one and three-quarter hours before flight), but then I didn’t know I was to be put through this ridiculous charade. I had never been even given a second look at any airport before.

They saved the best for last—the complete pat down in a private room. Two women, one happily giving me a hands-on search from top of head to bottom of feet, making sure to cover every possible spot. She kept up a stream of talk supposedly telling me what she was doing as she did it, but it was in their official lingo and I had no idea what she was talking about, so I kept saying “Excuse me?” And the other woman would say “She’s telling you what she’s doing.” To which I responded, “I think I know what she’s doing, and telling me doesn’t make it any nicer. It is still totally outrageous.” When one finally nodded to the other, it seemed to be with some disappointment that I got the okay to go. Everything in my suitcase was in total disarray. I had no time for anything but to run to the gate before I missed my plane. They were boarding and had already called my section, and I just went on with the last section. I had had no time to even buy a bottle of water, and although I immediately asked an attendant for water, she told me that I wait to wait till we were in flight. I had to wait an hour and a half to get that water.

I think that Denver should be grateful that terrorists do not seem very interested in the city. They trend to gravitate toward cities like New York, Washington, Boston, and the like. Denver seems more likely to spawn local, disturbed gunslingers who wreak havoc in their own horrible way. And none of them are older women either. Strangely enough, they all seem to be disturbed young men.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The So-Called "Right to Work"



Back in the early 1930s, the New Deal’s National Industry Recovery Act (NIRA) for the first time in American history guaranteed labor the right of collective bargaining, and thus began the burgeoning of the middle class. Nothing did more to build and strengthen the American Dream and allow people the mobility of leaving poverty and earning a living wage.

These “right to work” laws, with their lovely rhetoric, have the potential of leading employees back to those pre-New Deal days and into poverty. This cannot be overstated. The right to work act puts power back in the employers’ hands as far as having the right to determine whether people will be able to work for a living wage or toil for sustenance. Without labor unions, there can be no collective bargaining; there can be no one to stand up for the rights of workers. Everyone is in danger of becoming a “Walmart employee,” a situation whereby the employees do not earn a living wage despite working full time. And the rest of us pay for the benefits the employer eschews, such as health care.

Even today, teachers do not earn a professional salary despite the necessity of a master’s degree for certification in many states. Teachers who earn a decent salary do so because of the fight of teachers’ unions for their members. What is most instructive however is that so many people who never belonged to a union benefitted from the work of the unions in fighting for decent salaries. Many however are still struggling to make ends meet. The result is reflected in a shortage of teachers in some areas, the dearth of male teachers in a profession that treats its people like unskilled labor, and our children not getting the education they need. This situation can only be exacerbated by right to work laws. This is only one example of what the future holds in states with right to work laws.

Will these laws attract new companies? Who knows? And if they do, what sort of companies will they be, and how will they benefit the community and the state? I suspect the results of these new laws will not reflect a better future for the state any more than they do the workers. Weren’t we told many years ago about how casino would enrich the states they came to? Weren’t we told that profits would be poured into the educational systems of those states? Has anyone noticed that the only people to profit from gambling casinos are the owners of the casinos? And so with these new so-called “right to work” laws, only the employers will benefit. Certainly not the workers. And that means the country loses.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

THE RIGHT TO VOTE

It has been said that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to vote. But there are several amendments that do in fact address voting, and they are as follows:

Amendment XV Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment XIX The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment XXIV Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment XXVI Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment XV was passed after the Civil War and gave the right to vote to black men. Yes, although the word people is used, the Fifteenth Amendment gave suffrage only to men. It was not only 1920, fifty years after this that the nineteenth amendment gave women the right to vote. The twenty-fourth Amendment, part of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s helped blacks in the South overcome Jim Crow to get to the polls. The twenty-sixth amendment lowered the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen, with argument that if eighteen-year olds were old enough to fight and die for the country, they should have the right to vote. So we do have Constitutional rights to vote, but no one amendment that makes voting an absolute right. In other words, there are always ways to keep people away from the poll without saying you can’t vote because of age, race, gender, or taxes. Seems like a comprehensive list.

That is, until the Republican Party saw a new possibility. Photo IDs are now required in many office buildings, and they are in fact easy to obtain if you happen to work in the building. If you are going into a security-conscious building in, say, New York, City, you are usually asked for a photo ID, and the number one form of this is the driver’s license. Hey, thought some Republicans, let’s demand photo ID from voters, claiming that we need it to protect against voter fraud, which by the way is so low these days that the percentage is something lower than 1 percent.

The idea was clever on their part because they realize (as does everyone else) that poor people, people of color, Hispanics, and the elderly are least likely to have photo ID. It has also been found that a majority of these people are likely to vote Democrat. It is no wonder that State Representative Mike Turzai, a Republican and the Pennsylvania House majority leader, gleefully announced in front of a video camera, when the new law in Pennsylvania requiring photo ID to vote passed that “voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done.”

If that weren’t enough, when the law was challenged in court, a Republican judge declared the new voter identification law could take effect. At the same time, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett squashed the plan to allow voters to apply online for absentee ballots for the November election and to register online to vote.

Why, after all these years, do we not have a partisan election commission in each state that works to guarantee that every citizen who is qualified not be deprived of the right to vote? It is long overdue. As for voter ID, it should be sufficient for someone to show a utility bill that came to them through the mail, together with a birth certificate. There are a number of pieces of identification that should qualify, and the fact is that these pieces of ID are good enough to guarantee authenticity as much as a driver’s license or passport, both of which can be forged (for those who claim that’s the reason for the photo ID). Combined with the low level of voter fraud in this country, that should be enough. Indeed, it is not voter fraud we have to worry about but voter apathy.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Great Campaign of Nastiness

Do you remember the Republican primaries? Of course, how can we forget it? Every time a challenger came near Mitt Romney, his machine blasted the opponent with as much mud as possible. Newt vowed to stay positive and not go negative. Much good it did him. It’s like saying to the big bully that it’s okay, “Go ahead. Hit me. I can take it.” Sure and all the garbage being bandied about lands on the poor guy’s head. It’s that old adage about screaming a lie so many times that enough people will begin to believe it. So, Republicans now blame Obama because he is not prepared to be swift-boated by the Romney people without a fight. Are they kidding? Good for him, I say. And despite whatever negatives they come up with, Obama still manages to talk policy out on the stump, and he has never personally insulted Romney or Ryan (unlike the two of them claiming that Obama wages a campaign of divisiveness and hate). Romney must have looked into the mirror when he made that one up. Obama goes after Romney for his policies, for the history he puts out as qualification to be president (such as it is).

Obama has not been a failure; he has been one of the most successful presidents in my lifetime (and I’m no kid). The healthcare law, referred to so sneeringly by Romney as “Obamacare” is a landmark bill and repealing it would leave millions uninsured and others of us without many new benefits that people are already taking for granted. Since Obama came into office, things have begun to turn around---for the better. Slowly, but positively. And things could be even better if there were a Congress that did not decide that it's number one priority was to make sure the president of the United States could not enact his agenda. I don't understand why the folks at home are not doing more than just giving them low ratings. Like why don't you vote out all those nincompoops who don't seem to realize they are supposed to be doing the business of the country, not of their party?

And as for the business of country, let’s get back to Obama’s accomplishments: four million new jobs, flat spending (yes, you can check that), healthcare reform (and it really is), saving the auto industry, getting bin Ladin. Well, there is a long list, actually, if you took the time to check it out. As for the Dream Act, it would be a great step forward. And the executive order, meanwhile, is not amnesty; ir allows people under the age of thirty who have been here many years and can show that they are solid citizens (by getting an education, serving in the military, etc.) that they can have a legal status. Legal status is not an instant citizenship program, but it is bringing out some wonderful kids from the shadows.

Obama has been a great president. Mitt is a hollow man who likes the idea of being president, but I don't think he has a clue about the job, except to do whatever he can to protect the wealth of his family and his friends. Don’t you find it interesting that he was a governor for one term (total political experience) with a VP who has only been in the House, and that the people of Massachusetts don’t seem particularly impressed with him; Massachusetts is solidly behind Obama. Don’t you think that’s a bit unusual that his one and only political job is never discussed, and those constituents don’t want him for president.

Republican corporate interests, who happily stay anonymous, are dumping hundreds of millions into ads much worse than anything any group on the Democratic side put out. And more to the point, the Republicans started the Great Campaign of Nastiness. That one should expect that the other side would be a passive patsy as John Kerry unfortunately was is unreasonable. Kerry thought that because he was a real hero, he didn’t have to defend himself. Hah! Politics!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Der Mitt on the Road

Mitt Romney has decided to go abroad and do the aspiring presidential candidate foreign tour to beef up his credit for being able to handle foreign policy. In less than a day, Romney has proven to be as lacking n perspicacity on foreign soil as he is here. Der Mitt is a disgrace to our country; what an embarrassing performance. In his eagerness to show he knows something about the Olympics, he managed to insult our ally, England--the country known for a couple of centuries as "the mother country." Romney virtually no idea what charm is, much less tact and diplomacy. Certainly contrary to Obama. Let's face it, Romney is a moron compared to Obama, and he cannot be trusted to deal with world leaders, much less with world problems. Being well dressed and having a square-jawed Wall Street look doesn't carry you very far when there is nothing between the ears but ego, arrogance, and hot air. Obama is a world leader. Romney is a world traveler; well, admittedly, his money is probably more well traveled. Weirdly enough, Romney becomes animated only when he conveys an honest thought; unfortunately his honest thoughts are not so nice, as in "Well for Pete's sake, I told him I couldn't have an illegal working for me. I was running for president!" Or his "I bet you ten thousand dollars!" The most brilliant political ad of the campaign is one put out by the Obama team, starring a very willing Mitt singing "American the Beautiful" in a rather unbeautiful off-key rendition that either makes you cringe or laugh.When I laughed (because I can't help it; it's a reflex every time that ad comes on), I tell myself it's okay because no one forced Romney to make such a fool of himself. He seemed to decide to do it all by himself ,and doggedly works his way through the entire song. That song will never be the same for many of us. The only thing truly unfunny is what could happen to this country, to us, if he actually became president. People who think they're smart and capable and aren't can be very dangerous.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Citizens United Continues to Show Us What It's All About

We saw big money go into Wisconsin and save Walker from his recall nightmare. Tea Party people with big money interests behind them convinced many to vote against their own best interests. Destroying collective bargaining is a serious issue that could affect the very existence of our middle class. Introducing collective bargaining helped create the middle class. Yet Walker convinced many people that teachers’ unions were the enemy, a situation auguring terrible consequence should Republican governors continue laying off teachers as an “economy,” and attempting to break unions. The states with the top educational standards and highest student achievement are unionized states. Correspondingly, those states (mostly Southern) whose educational standards and student achievement are lowest don’t have unions. Incidentally, teachers in this country do not earn enough money to justify the number of hours they put in and the work they do. If we are to be a stronger contender in this 21st century and bring up the achievements of the next generation in math and science, we recruit and treat teachers better and not act as if they have no right to make a decent living. How can we begin to recruit the top people in our college graduating classes if we don’t stop this assault against teachers? Walker’s continuing in office sounds an ominous note for Wisconsin. Let’s not repeat it elsewhere. Wisconsin, once considered a good education state, has now lost many good teachers, some of whom were forced to leave because their incomes were significantly cut.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Role Model for Women

I have been astonished at the firestorm brought on by Hilary Rosen’s comments. And yet it should not have surprised me because the way things work these days it seems that if any comment can be distorted to suit partisan politics, then it is, and all hell breaks out. And this is what happened with a comment that was in fact quite benign. Ms. Rosen noted that Romney had designated his wife to tell him of women’s concerns, and Rosen wondered how she could since she has never worked. That is a fact. Not an insult. And yet it was quickly turned into an insult. The comment did not demean motherhood (I believe Rosen is herself a mother).

What I believe the comment was about was how Anne Romney does not represent the average woman in any way, not only because she does not work (and we all know that “work” was meant to signify being on someone’s payroll or owning one’s own business). Motherhood, difficult as it is, has nothing to do with this particular issue. Mrs. Romney has never had to punch a clock, keep a budget, or do any one of the usual things most women in today’s society have responsibility for.

In addition, their fortune has cushioned her life, and I very much doubt that she has to do her own cleaning, cooking, or any other chore she does not care to do. It is sad that she has had serious health problems, and the MS is more serious than the cancer. But their money has brought her the top health care that can be gotten in this country (and probably in the world). I know for a fact that she has been under the care of the very best, and that is wonderful, but I don’t know whether that makes her sympathetic to women who have no access, no health care, and no money to do much of anything about serious illness they may contract. Especially if Romney were to have his way about abolishing both the Affordable Health Care Act and Planned Parenthood (and probably Medicaid, which he said the “states could take care of”).

I wonder whether Romney owes the women of this country an apology for daring to suggest that the wife of a billionaire with absolutely no work history outside the home could report on what women in this country want.