Tag Archives: violence

I must have missed the meeting

downton abbey-Repug versionThe Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired last year and has not been reauthorized. The law has been held hostage by the Republican men on the Judiciary Committee over some asinine pretexts that the law might could be used to expand protection of undocumented or LGBT victims and allow tribal governments to arrest paleface abusers.

VAWA is not your everyday-no-big-deal-who-cares-we-can-live-without-it kind of law. This law changed everything for victims of domestic battering, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes. It also changed everything for those who were trying to help – law enforcement, courts, social services and non-profits. VAWA funded local grants, which brought together and coordinated victim response, funded shelters, rape crisis centers, legal assistance and prevention programs. VAWA made domestic violence a federal crime, and for the first time, began protecting victims with disabilities, victims held hostage by their immigration status, Native Americans, teenagers and families. VAWA became law in 1994, written by then Senator Joe Biden and signed by President Clinton, and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with broad bipartisan support. Going back to 1994 is unthinkable.

Last week, the bill reauthorizing VAWA (S. 1925) finally got out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The vote was 10-8 with all Republican men voting against it. No telling when it could be scheduled for a vote or how many Republican men are planning to try and stop it.

If this isn’t about Republican men versus women, then they need to prove it.

Having spent last week listening to a debate about contraception that would have been out of place in episodes of Mad Men or PanAm, it seems now that the issue may not have been settled, at least not if Republican men have anything to say about it. Catholic Bishops, all men, are also not satisfied with the semantic compromise and now acting as if they wish to debate how their religious freedom extends to their corporate businesses and argue that their church’s freedom is more important than people’s freedom or equal protection.

This “religious” debate is about the minimum standards of coverage for health insurance policies — sort of like the minimum things in peanut butter to be labeled, “peanut butter;” or the minimum things included in a car to make it safe; or the minimum standards for clean air or water. In this case, it is about a list of zero-copay, preventive services and medicines, which have proven – yes, using facts – to lower the cost of health care and save lives. (Author’s note: I personally believe that saving lives is more important than saving souls, but realize there is not a bipartisan consensus on this issue.) Contraceptives are included in the list, not because of politics, but because they have been proven to save lives and money. But this debate is not about cost – inclusion of contraceptives is cost neutral and over time will save money.

There seems to be no “religious” argument about free condoms. Condoms are used by men. Men don’t get pregnant, aren’t at risk to die or endure complications while pregnant, don’t carry or deliver babies, and generally, aren’t even in a child’s life unless they want to be or are required by a court of law.

The “religious” argument is only about those working for corporate businesses owned by churches — churches are exempt from the law. The argument is only about contraception and only about denying access to poor working women, which could save their lives, while, in the opinion of their employer, could at the same time damn them to hell. Okay, it is also about individual privacy. Don’t forget, just last month, the Supreme Court confirmed that ministerial exception extended to church corporate businesses – women who decide they’d prefer to risk hell someday over death now, could easily lose their job without recourse.

If this isn’t about Republican men in cahoots with Religious men versus women, then they need to prove it.

What a time to be a woman? Forty years since ERA passed, but fell short of ratification,* we seem to be going backward. Fast. Traditional women’s issues are really family issues — equality, education, environment, healthcare, childcare, and peace — all under fire from the Republican right.

Also last week, we heard way too much clarification from Santorum, the Republican front runner, of his ideas on women —

On women in combat: “my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position.”

On rape: when asked by Piers Morgan, “Do you really believe, in every case, it [sic: abortion] should be totally wrong, in the sense that — I know that you believe, even in cases of rape and incest — and you’ve got two daughters. You know, if you have a daughter that came to you who had been raped.” Santorum responded with, “Yes.”

On unmarried mothers: “The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”

On stay-at-home mothers: “Respect for stay-at-home mothers has been poisoned by a toxic combination of the village elders’ war on the traditional family and radical feminism’s misogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect.’’

On equal opportunity: “Radical feminists have been making the pitch that justice demands that men and women be given an equal opportunity to make it to the top in the workplace.” — Washington Post

This week’s Republican front runner (Author’s note: at posting the decision had yet to be made whether to recount the Maine caucus results, which could either confirm Romney as the winner and this week’s front runner or make Ron Paul the winner and front runner. Should Ron Paul or Newt officially become this week’s front runner, I will add their hateful statements in an update.), Mitt Romney, is a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and once was bishop of his Belmont, Mass., congregation and later president of the Boston stake (Mormon for division or area). While he seldom goes on record, his beliefs on the roles of women are consistent with his church, “woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband” (McConkie 844), but evolving. Anti-abortion, even at the risk of the life of the mother unless he’s running for Senate and then he’s supportive of women’s rights unless he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Just two weeks ago, the Republican men in the House were, “mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning…

…include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.” – New York Times

Even our beloved and trusted, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, took a stand against women before they reversed their decision and asked for another chance.

I keep asking myself, how is all of this possible? If there was an organizing meeting on this war against women, I missed it. Surely this isn’t coming from political consultants. There are more women than men, and more registered female voters. Seems like a political strategy destined to lose. It can’t be totally grass roots — I know some Republican men who treat their wives and daughters as if they were equal. There must be more to it.

The poor are always disproportionately women. How can any Republican person of faith or free thinker (forget that, they couldn’t be Republicans) conclude that good policy is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor? Yes, in the Bible, Jesus says, “ye have the poor always with you,” but that should not inspire Republican men to want to have more in poverty. Surely preventive medical care, adequate nutrition and quality schools costs less than generational poverty, prison and emergency room health care. Or is there more to this? Is it to keep wages low to attract industries and inspire real estate deals?

Or could it be the Tim Tebow corollary – God decides who wins, but won’t necessarily pick you every week?

Could it be that male Republican candidates are just trying to win the favor of God?

Does God really hate women or is the Old Testament God still mad about that garden of eden thing?

Or are Republicans trying to win the favor of religious voters fixated on a time way back when dominating men were relevant, though assholes?

Are Republican elected leaders and candidates really that stupid? How can they be pro-family and anti-woman?

Could the increase in partisan misogyny be a delayed reaction to mothers a generation ago switching from nursing to formula?

Then, I turn on the television. The role models for this type of behavior are all there. The stereotypes. The sexism. The boys club thinking. The wealthy who don’t need two working in a household. The idiotic singles sitcoms. Or Downton Abbey, oh, those were the best of times when all was perfect for the gentry – when roles were right and all others were beaten or jailed – when women could aspire to be a maid, but not a butler. All in prime time. Local news may be worse –  by turning a light on the personal tragedy of the hour and asking the “tough questions” of how battery feels or how could such a fine young man go wrong? And then, of course, there is the cable “news.”

Or is this really just about something Republican men are not able to understand? That women are people, too.

Author’s note:  And that’s just in the US. Around the world, …

*Full text, for those who might have forgotten why the Equal Rights Amendment was so controversial, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”) Just for the record, the ERA needed three more states. Here’s a list of those that did not ratify: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia.

Lessons from the Street

When the guy approached in the strip center parking lot early one Saturday morning and told me his story, I fell for it. He said he had driven all night from Ohio with his family, had no money and ran out of gas. We walked to his car, saw his family and the cynic in me, checked his license tag. He just needed $20 and he’d be able to buy gas and get home. I gave it to him. So did my wife later that day when she came to return what I’d bought. When we shared the stories, we felt like chumps.

Then there was that day when the visibly upset women approached my wife in another strip center early one evening. The woman told the story of leaving her husband who beat her. My wife walked with her to the old car and was introduced to the precious, poorly dressed children. She fell for it and gave her money. When she saw the same woman the next day and was approached again, she felt deeply betrayed.

Then there was that time when a homeless man came to our door and asked for help. We gave him money and food under the condition he never come to our house again. He returned the next day. And the next. He said he wanted to work for the money and food and offered to wash our car. My wife, in a moment of tough love and generosity, told him she’d give him $10 to wash our daughter’s car that had been parked for months and desperately needed it. He, of course, washed our car – the clean car. When he came back the next day, he said he was cold and I gave him one of my coats. The next morning he was at our doorstep again. This time, he said, “I really don’t like this coat. Do you have anything else?” He went on to say that he was ready to go to the shelter we had suggested and if we’d give him a ride to where the bus would take him, he’d go. Half way there, he said, “Damn. I left my cigarettes in your coat.” So, of course, we drove back to our home, retrieved the smokes that he could afford even though he couldn’t afford food and took him to the bus stop. As he was getting out, the man, well, passed gas. I said to my wife, “at least he left us a little something to remember him by.”

We all have stories. When someone needs help, and we can, most of us do. But are we really helping?

A few years ago, a friend had cards printed with addresses and phone numbers of shelters and organizations who help the homeless. He’d tape a MARTA token on it (MARTA no longer uses tokens and MARTA cards are expensive).

Another friend, Clay, kept a box of energy bars in his trunk to give to people who were hungry. He explained to me that helping the homeless should be left to professionals. That it was way too complicated, and potentially dangerous, for individuals to get involved.

When I first moved near Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, being the liberal do-gooder that I am, or pretend to be, I’d stop and engage each person that I thought was homeless. I got to know dozens of men (women don’t do well living in Piedmont Park). I began as a naïve missionary. Each day I’d go for my walks with a budgeted amount of money to hand out if asked and cards or literature on shelters and programs that teach men how to get off the street. One by one, I saw that these men who had asked for my money for transportation shelter or food, instead, spent it on beer. Each would eventually get arrested for public drinking or drunkenness. I don’t give money anymore.

For a while, I’d tell homeless men, if they were hungry, I’d feed them. My wife and I quickly turned into a short order cooks. I also stopped that idea – it was impossible to sustain. Though, and as result of the leftovers from LikeTheDew.com’s Deviled Egg Recipe Contest judging, they did ask me, “why did all those deviled eggs taste so different?” They also offered their votes, which were not included in the contest judging.

Over the years, some of the homeless men would come and never be seen again, but others seem to live in the park permanently. I gave them clothes when they needed them, until they started asking too often and I had to stop. Ditto on razors, soap, and dental supplies. Ditto sleeping bags, tarps, blankets, phone cards, MARTA cards and the like. And then, I met Donnie.

Donnie painting Tee ShirtsDonnie was special. He didn’t belong in the park. He was in his late twenties. He had worked as an artist and animator and lost his job. Got depressed and started drinking or doing drugs and lost his family. He was clean now and you could see it in his face. The guy had more charisma and charm than almost anyone I’d ever met. He didn’t ask for it, but one day I bought him a business: paints, brushes, a portable easel, a few dozen blank tee-shirts and a backpack to carry them. Donnie was like a kid at Christmas. He went to work painting the most incredible original art on shirts. He sold them in the park. I told him that when he ran out of shirts, I’d re-stock him and I did. Donnie sustained his life and saved some of the money he made to start over. Then one night, the inevitable happened. He was robbed. When I next saw Donnie, he didn’t ask me to buy him another art kit. He told me, instead that he had called his mother in Alabama and asked if he could come home. She wired him the money for bus fare. He just wanted to say thank you and good-bye. I still hear from him from time to time through his cousin. He now has a job, a place of his own and is still close to his mom and family.

Then there was Terrell. Terrell was also special. When I met him, he was living with a girlfriend and was working in the kitchen of a nearby restaurant. Every few days, he’d prepare a meal, with ingredients donated by his restaurant, and serve it picnic style in the park to some of those, less fortunate. We admired his sharing nature and also contributed. I don’t know if was drugs or booze, but Terrell had a dramatic falling out with the restaurant. He also had one with his girlfriend and started calling the park his home.

Terrell was in his early thirties. Healthy. Smart. And motivated. The park was just temporary. He approached people who lived in the neighborhoods around the park and asked to do odd-jobs – yard work and the like. It worked for a while, but wasn’t enough to get him on his own. My wife and I befriended Terrell. We even broke the cardinal rule and invited him and his new girlfriend into our home. We got him a cell phone from the federal program. We helped him get an apartment with an organization that helped couples get off the street. The apartment deal was pretty straightforward: he was expected to work and pay $100 a month. He also was required to have regular drug testing. He made it on his own the first month. His girlfriend left him the second month and we helped out with the money he needed for rent. The third month he was back in the park. Terrell, we learned, couldn’t – and didn’t want to – pass the drug test. That was almost two years ago. Terrell has been arrested five or six times since then – three times in one month alone – stupid stuff – drinking on the bench near 10th Street and jaywalking. He’s lost about 50 pounds and his eyes are always glazed over.

We don’t have much to do with Terrell, but some months back, he approached me and told me a story. He said that he’d heard about a doctor who would diagnose him as bipolar and about a lawyer who could then get him disability. Disability, plus food stamps were his plan to get his life together. In exchange for a couple of hundred dollars a month, he would never be able to get a real job again – the price of disability. I begged him to reconsider and get help. I saw Terrell last week. He has been approved for disability.

Then there was last week. I met this kid standing near our little midtown grocery store. He was hungry and I walked him inside and bought him a sandwich. I’m sure you have seen him, too. Early twenties. Hair long and unkept. Sad and lonely expression on his face. Layers of dirty clothes with his shirts out. His pants were so low that at least six inches of his underwear was showing. I’m no snob. I’m all for individual expression – in fact, I am sure that many would suggest I have my own unique “style.” But I couldn’t help thinking while I was talking to this young man, “no one will ever get a good job with underwear showing.” (Note: I know that for some of you, this is straight line and there’s some joke that might suggest that is not true for the opposite gender – not PC.)

As strange as it sounds, I sometime fantasize about how to solve the homeless problem. I daydream of getting donated land and building a new form of inexpensive and efficient housing. I consider little things, like lockers to protect what they have. More public bathrooms. Utilizing some of the empty and bankrupt condo buildings. But each time my daydream comes around to one problem that I cannot figure out how to overcome: drugs and booze, which is connected to crime, which is connected to violence. How can it be solved?

Leave it to the professionals. Leave it and support those organizations that help large numbers of people survive, while each night having a zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol. Leave it and support those organizations that help one person at a time learn how to believe in themselves and society again. Google or Bing it, search terms: (your city) and homeless shelters. If you are in the Atlanta area, contact the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. They also have a 24-hour help line. Or the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency.

Or, at the very minimum, follow our friend Clay’s example and give them an energy bar.

Holiday Wrap Up

Pardon the pun, but I’ve worked with way too many clever people and there is a long term effect. Anyway, I have this list of things I planned to write about this month and am fast approaching the time where it just isn’t going to happen. Here’s my attempt to plant or at least provoke some metaphorical seeds…

Social Networks Caused Economy Crisis

Or maybe it’s the other way around. Probably too early to tell if this part of the Chicken/Egg Conundrum, but visits to LinkedIn and Facebook are up 20% and 18% respectively. My explanation (using the Colbert approach) is that as people have less and less to do at work, they are spending more and more time looking for someone who will discover them and give them money.Social Networking vs Economy Graph

Here are some links:

CSI North Pole

We moved last year and are using basic cable. My justification was based on cost and the hope that if I didn’t watch HBO for a couple of years maybe they would add some movies we hadn’t seen. Admittedly, using the remote control so much has made the Carpal Tunnel caused by a billion mouse clicks much worse. Not only am I clicking to miss the commercials (they still have commercials on basic cable – 5 minutes worth every 10 minutes – mostly prescription drugs with hilarious side effects for diseases I haven’t yet asked my doctors about), to find something we can watch. We have these rules for program selection: no autopsy shows; no shows with violence against women or children; no shows with laugh tracks; no shows with automatic weapons; no fascist news shows (Lou Dobbs and everything on Fox News); no personal tragedy tonight shows; no shows with snakes; no game shows (that includes all of the survivor genre); and no movie that we have seen more than twice in the last week. That doesn’t leave much.

It Could Be a Wonderful Life.

A rewrite of the original substituting poor old George Bush for George Bailey. George is having a really bad day. This time, all of the Building and Loans had come up short – hundreds of billions short. In today’s version, millions of people who have lost their jobs, their houses and their life savings are on the bridge feeling suicidal. When they hear the splash interrupting their jump and rescue Clarence the angel, in unison they wish that George had never been born. Granting the wish, we walk with the angel through a very different place than we have been used to for the last eight years. A world where Al Gore did become president. The surplus wasn’t squandered with tax breaks for the wealthy, but President Gore worked with the Republican Congress to pay off our national debt and found the accumulating trillions could easily afford to invest in securing Social Security and Medicare. Investments in clean, renewable energy ended our dependence on foreign oil, resulted in a vibrant stock market, millions of new jobs, raised the standard of living for us all and exportable technology securing a positive trade balance. The surplus allowed us to rebuild on infrastructure with thousand of new schools, safe bridges and mass transportation. Trains, clean and cheap, became commonplace, saving the lives of thousands from traffic accidents. Universal healthcare removed the burden from industry and increased our worldwide competitiveness, lengthened lives and made us more healthy, and dramatically reduced bankruptcy which strengthened our financial system. College tuition became free in exchange for community service, resulting in a motivated and smart new generation of productive taxpayers. Teacher salaries were increased and no child was left behind. Lobbyist are banned for Washington and self interest is replaced with common good. With the budget surplus secure, we were able to turn a generous eye to the rest of the world – providing clean water, access to power and sustainable agriculture to the third world; investing in our hemisphere with positive trade practices, the immigration issue was solved; and working with the UN as a partner in the world, peace and democracy spread like wildfire. Oil prices never spiked so the oil dictators lost power. We had a competent government that paid attention to warnings and September 11th never happened, no innocent women and children were bombed, no suspects tortured, religion never became a profile, thousand of our best lived long and wonderful lives with their families. Enron never bubbled or collapsed. Dick Cheney was still serving time for bribery and illegal trading with Iraq. Joe Lieberman was replaced in Gore’s second term with the then new senator from Illinois who is now president elect. Finally, the millions of people who walked with Clarence and viewing this world where W never lived, realized that we could have had “A Wonderful Life” and never chose to go back.

A Free Idea for the Car Companies

Instead of offering me a rebate to buy a new car, offer shares of automotive stock. Admittedly, 5,000 shares of General Motors stock may not be worth very much, but it sounds like more than that $5,000 rebate and I’d have an incentive to make sure they were successful – that includes supporting their quarterly bailouts. Relationship marketing can work for them. Think about it.

A Free Idea for 39 States Who Are Looking for Some Millions

Container deposits. It will immediately raise millions that can help reduce your deficit and more each year thereafter; will encourage recycling; reduce litter; and provide a significant source of income to the homeless, non-profits and enterprising young people. Think about it.