Friday, June 15, 2012

Well, I'm back to reality. Had my first full week back from my four day vacation. I am now crazy busy at work and I forgot how much stuff I do at home on a daily basis--feeding cats, scooping cat litter, cleaning up cat puke, etc. etc. I know I make my life sound so charming -- ha ha. Netroots Nation was a good experience and I very much enjoyed going to the various discussion panels and learning interesting things from interesting people. I also enjoyed having no responsibilities other than getting up in the morning, showering and making it to the discussion panel I wanted to attend on time. Oh, and the king size bed was great too as was five days without having a cat climb my head in the middle of the night.  

The one consistent theme throughout the conference was that the right-wing can outspend us but we have more people. Maybe but some of the panels unnerved me, especially the ones detailing how the Koch Brothers and the looney far right have their tentacles into all of the state legislatures (or most of then, anyway). That's truly depressing. Voter ID laws, stand your ground laws, the attacks on education, it's all eording our country little by little. I wonder, are the stand your ground laws coupled with the National Rifle Association's obsession with gun ownership by anyone with a pulse designed to decimate the minority comunities -- they shoot each other and now "we" can shoot them too if we are threatened by them or perceive ourselves to be threatened by them ala Trayvon Martin? Just something to ponder.

These people behind these laws say or boast that they are "true patriots," but they are far from it. They are financially destroying the working and middle class, attacking unions, attacking the education system, women, minorities, all the "liberal" groups for the pursuit of power and a buck. So, I want to know, how do you fight against this tide? The voters here in America don't give me much hope. Drunk on Fox News and fear they consistently vote against their own best interests. If this shit was going on in Europe, they would be taking it to the streets to protest loud and long. Instead, we elect right-wing nut jobs to local and national government who promptly sell us out at every opportunity. All of us, me included, have been co-opted by material things and fear of the other. This started with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and continues to be the playbook of the right-wing republicans.

So, I don't know how those of us who can still think critically fight this. I guess there has to be a way and we all need to find it. I, for one, am going to try to find a good, left-wing, liberal, pinko group to voluteer for/with and start from there.     

Friday, June 8, 2012

Yesterday was my first official day at Netroots Nation. It's helpful to be surrounded by other progressive people. The sessions that I attended yesterday were pretty fantastic. After staffing "the gay booth" I went to the Pennsylvania caucus where I learned about the hot races coming up in Pennsylvania. The trainer, Michael Morrill, from Keystone Progress, said he thought President Obama would sweep Pennsylvania and that Romney's campain didn't have much of a presence in the state. I hope so, personally I think it would be a great disaster if Romney won the presidency.

The next session I attended was on the American Legislative Exchange Council where the very rich and powerful corporations sit down, behind closed doors in secet, and basically chose the legilsative agenda for states across the country, including Pennsylvania. ALEC is behind the voter registration laws, gun laws, "school choice," and other issues that impact we, the middle class. And have been front and center in Pennsylvania. It was very informative and a true example that knowledge is powerful. One of the speakers mentioned that ALEC was started during the Nixon administration because the right-wing in the Republican party thought Nixon wasn't supportive enough of big business. Nixon was too liberal!! This all goes back to the lessons I have been learning as I read the book Nixonland -- a lot of the right-wing extreme behavior began during Nixon's presidency.

The final session I attended was investigative reporting for bloggers. It was very helpful because the trainers listed all the various resources you can use/access to report on politicians, corporations, non-profits, etc. They used Donald Trump as their example. I took copious notes and learned a lot. Information can also be germane to my day job.

We had dinner and then attended the Planned Parenthood reception where we met a fellow lesbian and spoke to her about Wednesday's LGBT session. Then it was the keynote speakers. All of them were inspirational and especially Lily Eskelsen from the NEA who quite nicely tied up the right-wing, the Koch brothers, money and the right's relentless attack on the middle class. Hearing the speakers last night did fire me up somewhat but I still wonder -- given all the money and ALEC having our legislators in their back pockts, what can I do as an ordinary citizen beside vote which doesn't always seem to be enough. It seems as though the legislation that gets pushed that is very unhelpful to me as a citizen is almost a foregone conclusion. I have to think about this and what I want to do and can do. It just seems so hopeless sometimes. Well, time to get on with my day and the next sessions.   

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

 So I got the chance to come to Net Root nation in Providence Rhode Island. Sue and I got scholarships to attend on the condition that we blog about the experience. So here I am. It's very ironic because I am in the company of bloggers and activists and I am really neither anymore. Although I have been thinking about the fact that I don't blog. I mean, blogging should be up my alley. When I was a child I published my own newspaper and wrote books. I can't really explain why I don't blog, maybe its because I am on the computer all day or maybe I don't find I have much to say. Anyway, I do honor my obligations so here goes.

We caught the Megabus to come here. Several frineds have taken the bus to New York City and raved about the experience so we decided to try it. I figured it would beat me driving from Pittsburgh to Rhode Island. The bus from Pittsburgh came on time and got us to New York about a half an hour early. It was a double decker bus although we sat on the first floor. The bus was clean and the ride up was nice. One thing that did happen on the way up pissed me off. We stopped at a "rest stop" on interstate 80 and was I waiting in line for the next cashier when a gentlemen grabbed me by the shoulders and shoved me toward the cashier and made a comment about the line being open. The cashier was not even there. It upset me that he put his hands on me and felt that he had the right to do so. I wondered if it was because of my size -- would he have done that to a full size person? It was also ironic as I had just finished reading an article in Rolling Stone on the actor Peter Dinklage who is small at four foot six.  He said he received a lot of unwanted attention when he lived in New York City.

The trip from New York City was okay -- the bus wasn't as nice but we went through a great part of the city amd I saw a lot of sights I had never seen before including Yankee Stadium. We are staying at the Westin which is a great, swanky hotel. After getting a good night sleep we attended the LGBT pre-conference. It was great to be in a room with 100 plus queer people and the topics we discussed were interesting. One of the panels was on gay mariage and it was affirming to hear prominent gay people share my belief that gay marriage was not the issue that we should be pushing when there are other important rights such as employment discrimination. Tomorrow is the beginning of the official conference. Should be interesting as they are expecting over 2700 people.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with 2011

It's been months since I last blogged. I wanted to do this enough to be journalistic but it quickly fell by the wayside with so many other things in my life competing for my attention.

This year I have had an opportunity to grow and pay attention to the red flags in my life that mean I need to be careful about a person or situation. So that's a big improvement for me. I'm also learning to stand up for myself which is better late than never. I have some new year's resolutions I want to jot down and hopefully I will keep at least some of them.

I used to have this nightmare about my favorite record store, Paul's CDs in Bloomfield closing. And then it was announced that it was going to happen. The great news is that one of his employees is going to keep it open and going strong with more of an emphasis on vinyl records. Which really is an example of everything old is new again -- when I was younger vinyl records  were all we had!! Luckily for me I have a record player so it might be nice to get back to listening to real records again. Plus I got a rad shirt for Xmas that says, "I buy vinyl."

Borders books in the North Hills where I spent a lot of my pre-relationship days closed. Before I found Paul's CDS I would go there to buy my music. I also used to go there just to sit and read and be around other people. Now all we have left is Barnes and Noble. I like book stores although I have to confess I have not bought very many books lately. The Kindle and its ilk intrigue me. Although I still like to hold a book in my hands just like I like to hold a record/CD in my hands.

Things in life come and go. My tabby cat who I had since 1993 died this year. Boris and Natasha who I've had since 1997 are getting older. The last vestiges of my former life. But that's what New Years is for, for reflecting on things. But, its also a time for looking ahead to a new year and maybe some great possibilities. You just never know.     

So Auld Lang Syne!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My visit to the Greater Pittsburgh Foodbank

I am not a food blogger nor even a foodie although I love food and one of my co-workers said I was a food snob. One of the things about my childhood that I will say was good fortune was that I grew up in the country where my maternal grandparents had a huge garden. My grandpa McCullough grew corn, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, peas, green beans, strawberries, basically you name it. We used to pick peas right off the vine and eat them. My grandma made the absolute best peach pie and apple pie. We got our meat from local farmers. We ate well.

I am still lucky in that I have a job that permits me to visit the farmer's market where I can buy vegetables and fresh fruit  Many people in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas are not so fortunate. On Thursday, September 8, 2011 I was invited to a blogmob (actually Sue set it up) at the Foodbank. I witnessed a Produce to the People distribution. That night the Foodbank would serve 300 plus families providing them with produce as well as canned goods. The Foodbank had a pretty impressive setup. People came into the front, signed in and waited in line for food. We were there to promote the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project which aims to provide Foodbank consumers with tote bags they can use to carry their food.

The Foodbank building is an impressive structure that houses enormous freezers as well as huge rooms where food is stacked floor to ceiling. The Foodbank receives food from stores such as Giant Eagle, directly from producers, from local farms, the US government and also purchases about 40% of their food. The Foodbank serves 120,000 people a month throughout eleven counties. The number is growing thanks to a poor economy and a relentless push by the right-wing Republicans to eradicate anything resembling a middle class. The Pittsburgh Foundation was there and they interviewed me to ask me what could be done to reduce hunger. Being the leftist pinko that I am, I said more better paying jobs where people can actually make a living. Jesus said the poor will always be with us but there is no excuse for thousands of people -- including a fair amount of children (30% ) -- to go hungry. Can you imagine what that must be like? And in the "greatest country in the world?"  

I am, we all are (unless you're Donald Trump or Jay Z) a disaster away from a visit to the Foodbank. Something to remember. Many of the people receiving food from the Foodbank are working either full or part time. So much for the conceit that only lazy people who don't want to work get their food from the Foodbank. Lyndon Johnson tried to address poverty and hunger with his War on Poverty in the 1960"s. Despite his efforts, forty years later, unfortunately, the poor are still with us and growing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Goodbye summer of 2011

It's a Saturday night, the last one before Labor Day. I am sitting here listening to a stream of Wilco's new album/CD (yes, they are making albums again). The album is called "The Whole Love." I discovered Wilco quite some time ago, probably through WYEP and I like them. Their last few albums haven't been critic darlings but I bought them and enjoy listening to them. When I find a group I like I can be loyal to a fault although some of the CDs/albums the critics have hated have been some of my favorite ones. Having said that, I will probably pass on the new Red Hot Chili Peppers CD because no one seems to think it is any good and ocassionally listening to crtics can be a smart thing to do.

Sue and I saw The Debt with Helen Mirren tonight and it was great. Very suspenseful. The critic at the Post-Gazette didn't like the ending, but again, I diverge from a critic because I liked the ending.   A movie very much worth seeing although sixty some years after the end of World War II I wonder how much more mileage they are going to be able to get from the Nazis. A lot I guess.

This summer I had to put my Tabby cat, named Tabby, to sleep because she stopped eating. She was 19. Guess my blog isn't really properly named now. I am losing my beloved pets from my past life, post law school, pre city of pittsburgh. It's like losing a part of your past. I miss her and now I have a little bag of ashes in my dresser drawer next to Ming, my first cat.

I haven't blogged in awhile. I guess this summer has kept me busy and yet I'm not sure where it went. Technically we have two or three more weeks of summer left, but Labor Day always seems like the end of summer to me. And it got hot again and I'm storing up the heat because I like to be hot and I know the freezing cold is coming.

Tonight was my high school class reunion of thirty years. Doesn't seem possible but I'm a few years shy of 50, the "mid point" of your life, although not really. Unless I live to be 100 which I'm not counting on and don't know that I would want to. I watched my grandparents decline and it wasn't pretty. But getting back to the reunion. Obviously I didn't go. I wasn't sure I wanted to see most of the people that would be there. I have connected on Facebook with some of my former classmates. I think that's enough, although I did ask myself if holding grudges and ill feelings for thirty years is really productive. And the answer is no. At some point we all have to let go of the past and our grudges and ill feelings.  A very hard lesson to learn but I'm trying. Maybe I'll go to the thirty-fifth if I'm still around.

Not sure what this fall will bring me. Last fall was pretty rocky. Although I usually like the fall. So hopefully it will be better. There are a lot of good albums coming out after what seemed like a long summer drought. And tv is coming back with some promising shows. Some good movies coming out too. So guess I will kiss summer goodbye and try to embrace the new season. And football is back and Penn State won. (I also have to admit that I do like professional football and watch it despite the violence and homophobia).

This new Wilco album sounds good. I have only heard it through once but I liked what I heard. Maybe I can be a rock musician in my next life.

Well, it's 1230 am. New day. New possibilities. Time to go to bed.   

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guns and strippers

Warren Zevon famously sang lyrics to the effect of "bring lawyers, guns and money," Several individuals in the news today had too much or too little of the above.

I am, as are all good liberals, a believer in some type of gun control and not a fan of the wild west mentality. I understand that guns can be necessary to protect oneself and family, but I worry that they are so easy to get and to use that any idiot can (and often does) use them when anyone or anything makes them mad or gets in their way. The most obvious illustration of this is the trial we just went through with Richard Poplawski. Some people have too damn many guns and a state of mind that makes that fact very dangerous to the rest of us. Just today I read an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a gentleman Mr. Fromholz who shot another man over a television. He killed someone's husband/partner/father/brother over a damn television. Mr. Fromholz actually left the bar, retrieved his gun and then came back in to shoot the victim. Mr. Fromholz evidently had some type of major issue if he felt the need to exercise his second amendment right by shooting someone over something so inane. So, what do we as a society do to keep the weapons out of the hands of individuals like Poplawski and Fromholz? I think better screeening, education and taking a step back from the wild west mentality.
Now from the guns portion of our show to the stripper portion. On June 30, 2011, two young brothers died tragically in a fire at their apartment in North Versailles. A babysitter was blamed for leaving the two young boys home alone. Unfortunately it turns out that, just like in a deadly fire several years ago in Pittsburgh, there was no babysitter. Even though the mother in this case, Kiaira Pollard, pretended to call the babysitter when she arrived on the scene. It turns out that Ms. Pollard works evenings as a stripper and routinely left her two young boys home alone while she worked. While her duplicity at the scene of the incident is not very defendable, this case is the perfect illustration of why we as a society need affordable, available daycare/childcare for women who work, even for women who work non-traditional jobs. She had to make a living somehow. Rather than pass a Caylee's law, maybe we should make daycare affordable and available. Or help women like Ms. Pollard find better jobs where they can safely leave their children while they work. I'm not excusing Ms. Pollard, but I feel that this happens a lot more than most people realize, or want to realize.     

Nightline did a story a few days ago regarding the "christian" clinic that Michelle Bachmann's husband runs that has a "cure the homos" program. Mr. Bachmann has also evidently referred to gays as barbarians that need to be educated and disciplined.

You know what, to crib a phrase from Lady Gaga, I was born this way and I'm not a barbarian that needs to be educated and disciplined (I should point out that he was talkng about GAY KIDS!! when he made this comment.) For those who are enamored of the so-called "populist tea-party movement, this is what is being pushed by one of their leading so-called Christian candidates and her husband. All I have to say is that the queers better get out of the bars and to the polling places come time to vote for President. Because even if Ms. Bachmann is a long shot, you can best believe there are a lot of people who feel the same way about our community, and this way of thinking might find its way into the mainstream GOP message. In fact, I would bet on it.