NN13 Day Two – Moms and Storytelling

Reference links – Mother Talkers and MomsRising (session 1) and Kate Stayman-London (session 2)

Friday dawned with a schedule that promised to be more about socializing than sessions. I’ll write a separate post just on the parties and Pub Quiz :)

Session 1 – Parenting Caucus hosted by MomsRising

When I go to Netroots (originally Yearly Kos), I always attend the Parenting Caucus. Run by Elisa Batista who is a founder of the Mother Talkers blog which I joined when it first launched, the parenting group is a small but active group of progressive minded parents. No, it’s not just moms – in fact once year Elisa insisted that her husband participate too (Markos of Daily Kos) along with a bunch of other dads. We’ve had a few “off campus” gatherings but recently it’s been a regular session, and she’s been inviting some great speakers to join in. Now she works for Moms Rising so this was technically their event, but it was still relaxed and fun. Elisa always hands out some great swag such as a sweet MomsRising supermom t-shirt! Oh, plus they fed us what was probably the healthiest food I had the whole weekend! A fabulous array of fresh fruits and vegetables and Naked Juice to drink. I always go in saying I am just going to be there to listen and support Elisa (and eat of course!) and then I always end up joining the conversation no matter what :) We do tend to focus heavily on education of course, but also on issues like women’s access to health care – which allows us to control how many kids (if any!) we have – and also family and sick leave time for working parents. It really does boggle my mind that in a country supposedly as “wealthy” as we are that we have the *least* amount of paid family leave. Whether it’s to be home when a new baby is born or adopted, or to care for an elderly parent, working people struggle trying to balance those needs and remain financially stable in the U.S.

Session 2 – Why Screenwriters Make the Best Organizers: Using Storytelling to Build Empathy

I targeted this session because I thought it would help me with my developing writing skills and I must say I took some awesome notes!

The speaker was Kate Stayman-London – here is snippet from her NN13 bio:

You may know her writing from that one video with the cast of The West Wing, that other video with Cher and Kathy Griffin, or all those emails you get from Change.org (among other organizations). Kate worked for many organizations in the progressive movement (AFL-CIO, CREDO, etc.) before heading to Hollywood to get her MFA in screenwriting from USC.

Kate opened up by making us cry. Lovely! But really, when you watch that 6 minute silent montage at the beginning of Pixar’s UP, you probably start sobbing like a small child too. Why? Because great storytellers know how to build up empathy between characters and an audience. Here is the one sentence Kate told us all to write down to sum up that premise:

“Somebody wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it.”

The idea is to create a character people can relate to who is trying to achieve a goal or solve a problem. There are stakes involved of course. Either the high of reaching the goal or the drama and foreboding of what could happen if they fail. In that opener for UP, the initial sense you are left with is failure. The characters who you want to achieve their dreams are thwarted. First, it is the loss of their dream of having a child, then it is their inability to go on the dream adventure trip (which replaces the dreams of a baby) before Ellie dies. (dear gawd how I both HATE that movie for pulling on my heartstrings so much and also ADMIRE it for what it accomplished)

ANYWAY….(sniffle)

After she ripped us apart with that video, she went on to show how storytelling like that can translate into activism. When you are trying to motivate people to organize and support a cause, you definitely want to tell real life stories that pull people in like a movie, but the difference is you want to end the video with a sense of hope – your target audience needs to believe that they can change the ending. That their efforts will pay off to make life better for themselves and/or the people in the tale.

And that makes total sense doesn’t it? Given that the way you grab the attention of people right now is through images and, particularly, video, you can see how this screenwriter’s strategy would work. Six minutes is all it could take to move you deeply enough to say “I’ve got to DO something about this!”

Huh – look at that – 3 weeks removed from that session and just glancing at my notes brought all those thoughts/feelings/ideas back to me. Well done Kate!

More to come….including a picture of me with…a hip hop artist? Yep. Seriously.

#NN13 Day 1 – Blogging and Climate

The first thing that happened when I got to the convention center was a delightful encounter with a young man named Henry Burner.

Here is his site: http://henryburner.com/

Here is the result of that encounter: http://treesflowersbirds.com/2013/06/30/video-interview-from-san-jose/

I arrived in San Jose early enough to kidnap my friend for an off campus lunch outing to In n Out so that he could have his first taste of a Double Double. That, of course, is one of the highlights of my weekend since any one on one talking time I can get with Stormy is rare, but so much more satisfying than our usual 140 character twitter conversations or texts and emails. (OK, we don’t text in 140 or email like that, but you know what I mean!)

Anyway…that all meant that my first sessions were not until the afternoon, and I was able to attend two. As usual, I picked my targeted panels a few days earlier basically based on a combination of either topic, panelists or both.

The first one was right up my alley in terms of topic + panelists, and I chose it since I knew the one it conflicted with was being recorded for later (Mansplaining panel which I will watch right after I hit post on this!)

“Getting Paid to Blog” was the title and with Chris Savage, Digby & Katherine Haenschen on the panel, I couldn’t miss it.

First off – links to their blogs:

Chris Savage - http://www.eclectablog.com/

Digby - http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/

Katherine - http://www.burntorangereport.com/ - this one is particularly prescient right now given the recent activity in the Texas state senate and the monumental filibuster by Wendy Davis.

As someone who has been learning about online marketing for the last two years, it was really interesting to hear them pretty much outline the same strategies to make money online as any non-political business would need to enact. They didn’t necessarily focus on SEO, but they did talk about the importance of excellent content, content worth reading and sharing, and using guest blogging as primary tactics. All of that has to be used to create an audience (website visits) large enough over a sustained period of time, to attract the attention of the blog ad networks. With a politically focused site, they discussed the opportunities for using pop up paid petitions, sponsored content widgets, holding fundraising events, and approaching campaigns early for advertising opportunities.

*As a side note, while my blogs have never meant to be sources of income, I did like the idea of using sponsored or affiliate link widgets on the side as long as they are product or companies that I can personally support. That was a particularly well timed note for me to take – see session #2!*

“Getting Real on Climate” – with my long time twitter friend RL Miller (Climatehawk) & Darcy Burner (mom to Henry). Those two were my reason for attending :)

Links to the sites relevant to this panel:

Darcy’s up and coming business: http://terraheating.com/

A company I wish was in CA – but that will be on my blog soon: https://ethicalelectric.com/

It’s easy to assume when you go to a climate change session that you will hear all sorts of depressing statistics on how we human beings are killing the planet. Well, we are, but thankfully, these panelists knew that we didn’t need to be convinced. We were, as it is, the choir, and we didn’t need preaching! What we wanted, and what they provided, were answers.

First of all, there are the two companies listed above. Different approaches to how energy is provided that will move the country away from fossil fuels and will only invest in other companies that support the same. The continuing explosion in solar electricity has shown that consumers are completely willing to switch to alternative methods of utility deliverance – PARTICULARLY if it saves them money! As always, hit them in their wallets, right?  As someone whose next big home project is to figure out the best way to switch to solar, I get it. An electric car (hey, a Tesla perhaps?!!) would make me giddy. Of course, I need to gather up some money up front in order to save that money over the long haul, but I would happily do it. Since I am getting closer to that being a reality for me, I am going to be exploring every option I can. This session opened my eyes to more possibilites. Including the fact that Ethical Electric has an affiliate sale offer for people willing to list them on their websites. Yes, a widget will be coming to my blog very soon (See?  Tie in to panel #1!)

Also, if the climate is important to you, then please do follow @ClimateHawkVote on twitter and sign up with your email for updates on ways you can help elect politicians who are true climate hawks.

So that was Day 1 – I’ll be back later with more panel write ups and tales of parties and TWiB!

Lessons from State of the Union

(These are my own humble, not a professional anything responses to last night’s speeches. Grains of salt and all that.)

  • Those politicians seated on the aisles who get to shake hands with all the entering dignitaries and, more importantly, get their faces on camera a LOT? Some poor interns from their offices pretty much warmed those seats all day to secure those. Cracks me up how folks who will stand on that same House floor with cameras rolling and call the President all sorts of names and accuse him of all sorts of anti-American shenanigans – and yet there they are on SOTU night, copies of the speech in their hands asking for his autograph like some sort of geeked out fan as he goes by. Lordy.
  • Whenever the White House in the future – ANY White House – provides an enhanced live feed of the speech complete with charts and supporting statistics – watch it. Those charts and statistics help to illustrate where that particular President is coming from in terms of his policy proposals. Agree or disagree, they help to bring you to an understand of why he or she (someday, I hope!) thinks that issue is important. Also, they sneak in some pretty cool and often funny pictures (like the one last night of POTUS and McKayla Maroney doing the “I’m Not Impressed” scowl.)

Not Impressed

  • You can get a pretty good idea of what the President wants to emphasize by looking at the guest list for the family box where the spouses sit. Whoever, is with them will be featured and probably named in the speech and tied back to one of the policy initiatives POTUS wants to highlight. 
  • I thought this SOTU followed up nicely on his inauguration address. He kept consistent with his visions on where he would like to see his second term focus. What I wish is that EVERY policy idea he outlines would be followed up with “And I’ve appointed “x” or tasked “y”” to start hearings/meetings to write up the legislation” similar to what he did with regards to gun violence after Newtown. Or else, cite the specific legislation that is already making it’s way through Congress so that people can petition their representatives to vote on it or keep it moving. There were a few direct examples like that but not all and not the majority and that left me feeling like the proposal was way too much rhetoric and not yet enough action.  Which, I suppose, is true of every SOTU but is certainly something that feeds into the “All talk, no action” impression that the majority of the public has about DC.
  • Now, this one is IMPORTANT – a CRITICAL lesson we must ALL learn! Ready?…….Mamas – do NOT let your babies grow up to give the response to the SOTU! Got that? Really, I mean it. Ever since I’ve been paying attention to this speech, the response has been just awful. Often it is awful in substance, or awful in delivery, or…well..both! Of course most recently this sorry task has fallen to the GOP, but even the last couple of Democratic responses that I recall were sorely lacking. I do not understand how a supposedly polished politician who has won elections and therefore most likely given a stump speech or twelve can STILL be so so so unprepared to give a PREPARED statement on TV. In a controlled environment! For just 5-10 minutes! With no applause or heckling (that they can hear anyway!)
  • My one particular takeaway from the Marco Rubio response was this – no, not the water thing, I actually listened to it on a radio re-broadcast so I wasn’t distracted by those things – the GOP though, has still not learned it’s lesson from the 2012 election. That response sounded like a word for word repeat of a Romney stump speech from the last campaign. You  know, the one they lost? Yup, the response was completely filled with the same perspective/attacks on Obama and his policies and then the same, rejected solutions. Guys? It’s not that the messenger (Romney) was weak, it’s that your IDEAS are weak! Having a fresh faced young hispanic senator repeat the same thing didn’t make it go down any better. Even WITH an awkward gulp of water ;-)

When will the GOP learn?

Hey hi – I didn’t disappear – I just didn’t want to, you know – GLOAT too much after the election :-)

Instead I have been watching and wondering what sort of reaction would occur on the right. Would they continue to just insanely ignore all facts n the ground and still try to spin the results to avoid those realities? Or would there be some cracks in the bubble?

There have been a *few* cracks. Mostly just the folks who already occasional showed some signs of reason & ability to criticize the GOP. Those people have rightly exposed the media bubble and voiced the need for a re-assessment of policies proposed, not just HOW messages are delivered.

The vast majority though are still encased in fantasy-land.  Blaming things like Hurricane Sandy and the lack of real voting restrictions efforts to be put in place in time. Yes, there are some in the GOP who are being much more open about the fact that their voter suppression efforts WERE designed to keep Democrats specifically away from the voting booth. Somehow, that is more honorable than actually admitting your policies and candidates might be…you know…BAD!

No where is this more evident though, than in Michigan. A state that has districts that have been so gerrymandered that even though it overwhelmingly went for Obama and even though the total votes cast for Congress were also heavily Dem, they still send more GOP reps to Congress than Dems. HUH? Yeah, all about how district lines are drawn folks. Beyond that though is their state government. Currently still dominated by the GOP thanks to the 2010 elections (NEVER ignore the mid-terms Democrats! This is what happens!)

The message sent in November was that the voters FAVOR Democratic policies as laid out by Obama. It wasn’t just HIM, it was what he spoke about specifically that brought them out. Michigan state government though, didn’t quite get that. Governor Snyder who as recently as February stepped back from any union busting legislation (having seen the reaction in Wisconsin and across the country to efforts there)…well, AFTER a pretty clear national referendum in support of unions – he decided that Right To Work laws are suddenly fine and dandy and when both houses of the state legislature passed them, he signed it within hours. Gosh, no fast tracking  there! Next up? Abortion! Let’s restrict access to it as MUCH as possible without quite crossing the Roe v Wade line. Also….go ahead and bring your guns to schools and day care centers. That would be cool. There’s more, but you get the point.

The GOP reaction in Michigan to voters telling them they don’t LIKE those policies? Tough noogies! We are still in power and as long as we are, we don’t care if this isn’t the stuff we ran on, we are going to do it anyway because we CAN. So There!

I think that’s what makes me most angry – even if you can say that Michigan voters got themselves into this mess by voting for these candidates – I do know that NONE of them campaigned on these issues. Union busting and abortion and gun laws were NOT on the agenda in 2010. So why have so many in the GOP legislated on them? It’s a bait and switch.

I just look at all this as such a huge waste of time and money. Michigan voters are fighting mad. Now they have to find legal ways to challenge all these laws and/or repeal them. They will most certainly vote a lot of these folks out of office and then that new administration will have to write new laws to fix these bad ones.

I try not to be TOO cynical when it comes to politics and I absolutely HATE conspiracy theories, but MAN it is getting harder and harder to not believe that so much of what they DO once in power is more as a pay back to a big money donor than it is to benefit the people they represent. And when it turns out that ONE particular set of billionaires (Kochs) and their public policy institute (ALEC) happened to WRITE and then fund the campaigns to get those laws put into place?

Well….speaking of not being able to see reality….perhaps I SHOULD be more cynical about all this!

Voter suppression is a disgrace to our democracy

While I am encouraged that the media has covered this quite a lot this election cycle (well, except for Fox of course because they are not really news)….I am way more enraged that there is anything TO talk about.

First of all there were attempts to require ID to vote across many states. This seems innocuous until you think about the many reasons why people might NOT have a currently valid photo ID – such as my older son who doesn’t have a driver’s license and whose state photo ID card expired recently – even though he has been legally registered to vote since he was 18 and has voted every election, he would be turned away this year if we lived in a voter ID required state. There are a LOT of examples for varying reasons of folks who don’t have photo ID and would not have had the time to get one by tomorrow.

In most cases the voter ID laws were struck down by higher courts because their primary impact is to disenfranchise citizens.

Since the confirmed cases of actual voter fraud are less than 1/10 of a percent nationally this seems like complete overkill. More people would LOSE their ability to vote in just this one election than any proven fraudulent totals over the last four Presidential elections.

So it’s good that those laws were challenged and watered down or delayed or struck down entirely.

But wait – that is not the only effort to suppress the vote that has been going on.

In the last few weeks there have been huge problems with early voting. Some of the most critical swing states – Ohio and Florida – made efforts over the last decade to ease up long lines on election day and opened polling places for in person voting for up to 24 days at a time. Allowing for multiple weekend voting and spreading out the crowds. Makes sense right? Voting in person ONLY on the 1st Tuesday in November is ludicrous in 2012. It is one of the most outdated rules we have clung to over the decades and states that have taken steps to change the process are to be applauded. Voting by mail (as Oregon does) and allowing permanent absentee status without conditions (as many states such as CA do) expands the potential participation rates in elections.

Growing up I always heard people lament how low turnout would be and it seems only logical that expanding the days/times/methods of voting is one of the best ways to increase that.

Unfortunately, Ohio and Florida this cycle have taken steps to roll BACK early voting access. In Florida the number of early voting days were reduced, then subsequently added back at the lat minute in certain precincts when lawsuits were filed. And yet people stood in ridiculously long lines – up to 8 hours! to cast their ballot.

In Ohio steps were taken to make the actual ballot used more confusing for early voters thereby increasing the chances that a voter would end up having to vote “provisionally” which then increases the changes that those ballots wont be counted at all. So you stand in the long lines and think you have voted only there is a good chance it wont be counted.

I have YET to hear a logical reason why ANY of these efforts is needed. None. Anyone looking at this would see only one reason why you it would happen like this – those state officials are TRYING to suppress voter turnout and invalidate the ballots of as many voters as possible.

WHY?

Let me digress for a second to pull from a blog post by Steve Benen on the MaddowBlog:

This should not be easy.

This affects every voter, regardless of party or ideology, but because Republicans benefit more from lower turnout and higher disenfranchisement, this is a purely partisan scheme to rig an election in the GOP’s favor.

OK, you’re thinking, early voting in Florida has been disgraceful, but at least voting on Election Day itself will be smoother, right? Wrong — due to Republican budget cuts, there will be fewer polling precincts this year than four years ago, meaning more long lines.

I’ll just conclude with Rachel’s conclusion: “[I]t is frankly an outrage that there are forces at work in our politics right now that not only make this type of situation possible, but that make it inevitable — who see problems like this and go out of their way to try to make it worse…. If you are one of those people being forced to stand in those long lines tonight or tomorrow or on Election Day, honestly, your country needs you to do it. Your country needs you to do it, not only because it’s your civic responsibility, but also because there are people trying to profit politically off of you not doing it.”

 

And then a quote from Rachel Maddow directly “I did not grow up with the expectation that casting a ballot was supposed to be an endurance sport.”

Voting is a right, not a privilege. There is NOT rampant voting fraud that needs to be fixed.  Voting should be EASY, ACCESSIBLE and COUNTED consistently every single time.

Oh…well, there is this one minor detail we should consider here that was alluded to in the quotes.

ALL the states creating these problems? Voter ID laws, early voting cutbacks, provisional ballot rules – ALL have Republican Governors and Secretaries of State.

Because if you cannot convince citizens to vote for you based on your POLICIES, then the next best step is to just stop the people you don’t like from casting their ballot at all.

Presidential Debate #2

What a difference two weeks, a town hall format and a much better moderator and set of questions makes!

Obama was so much better and on point this time. He didn’t let Romney get away with ANYTHING. Neither did Candy Crowley. Her follow up questions to both candidates were very strong. Her on the spot fact check on the Libya section was fabulous and it was about time a moderator took charge like that.

I was very pleased to see Obama challenge Mitt on his changes in position from the primary to the general. I was REALLY pleased to see him bring up the times Romney referred to “self deportation” as a viable immigration policy and also how frequently he brought up Romney’s pledge to pull Federal money from Planned Parenthood and how Obama tied that to the overall health of women and the impact it would have on women’s economic standing.

When Romney slid in yet another line about Obama going on “an apology tour” I was LIVID and tweeted so. I normally don’t like to show such anger at an opponent, but that line always makes me spitting mad because it is SO DAMN offensive and WRONG. Fact check after fact check has proven it wrong and yet he uses that line.

While Obama didn’t charge back on that one (letting it lay there is fine because it is really so stupid), he DID get visibly angered at Romney’s assertion/implication that the White House and the State Department employees had purposely made misstatements about the embassy attacks on Benghazi. He rightly told Romney – looking him directly in the eye with a quite a glare – that he was offended by those accusations. I loved that!

I know if you follow me on twitter you saw me so frequently say that I thought Romney’s plan is basically “magic pixie dust” – that’s because he still never stated anything close to a specific detail of what he would do. He just kept declaring “I know how to do it! I know how to create jobs! I know how to grow the economy!” How, how how? I still am not closer to knowing HOW.

Of course the best part was how Obama dropped the 47% statement at the end in a perfect moment of closure. That was an easy mark for him to hit and that he never hit it in the first debate was a clear mistake.

I firmly admit that Obama lost that first debate.

I strongly believe he won this one.

Will the GOP admit their guy was weaker this time? No way. They NEVER admit a mistake. C’est la vie!

And the big takeaway this time? Not Big Bird…(though Obama did awkwardly slide that in)…no…the internet meme that sprung up almost INSTANTLY was this one:

 

I’m pretty sure Mitt Romney’s statement that he asked his staff to bring him “binders of women” to choose from for his cabinet in Massachusetts will haunt him for a looong time.

Or, at least as long as this tumblr keeps getting submissions: http://bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com/

Yep, not sure Romney did himself any favors with women this time:

Romney’s lazy mendacity on Obama, trade agreements

Romney’s lazy mendacity on Obama, trade agreements.

Steve Benen has been Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity on a weekly basis. This particular lie was so so so mendacious that it had to be logged immediately.

Sadly, as the final sentence indicates, the Romney campaign keeps lying because they can – there are no significant media challenges to his falsehoods and he can always run over to Fox News for protection and cover.

Sigh………….

Debate Notes

I didn’t hang out on twitter because I didn’t want other people’s reactions to skew my own. I also knew I couldn’t multi-task nearly well enough to read and listen closely at the same time!

So, I watching while texting with my very a-political boyfriend who follows nothing other than receiving classic chain emails and opinions from a very conservative friend and then whatever he hears from me from the left.

His first text?

“Romney is getting burned right now”

Followed by:

“It just seems like Obama makes more sense”

“POTUS is very calm and collected”

“Romney has a little sarcastic humor!”

I think he fell asleep after that since he’s traveling for work in the Midwest.

Anyway – here are my own notes written into a notebook:

Blue and red ties? Really? How predictable.

Obama uses his “new economic patriotism” line again. It had been mentioned that Romney had been practicing some “zingers” and early on that seemed to be true.

“Trickle down Government” was Romney’s response to New Economic Patriotism. Jim Lehrer picked up on that quickly and asked Obama to respond to it.

“Economic Tax” was thrown out there which you could tell was intended to land something but didn’t land as well as the first.

“You only picked losers” was another one on the topic of investing in new energy companies.

After that he seemed to move away from any zingers until much later on the topic of the role of government specifically in education when he dropped the “You are entitled to your own plane and house, but not your own facts” ha ha.

Outside of the zingers – Marcus was right about their demeanors. Mitt appeared with agitated or amused or most often as if he was lecturing people who Just Don’t Get It. His tone was one of impatience and sometimes exasperation. Obama was his usual cool self. He did scowl and smirk in response to some Romney statements and took notes.

Most though, Obama used Math. He took a note from the Bill Clinton DNC speech and dazzled with facts and arithmetic. You could see it frustrated Romney a few times because he couldn’t answer to those.

Obama gave more detail not only about his own policies he has already put into place, or about his own plans for a second term, but he also gave more detail about Romney’s plans! It truly seemed like he knew much more about them than Mitt did. And, if he didn’t he frequently pointed out that the reason he didn’t is because Romney *hasn’t* put out details on a lot of key topics.

Romney continued to dodge any request for details. He would lean on vague promises with no actual plan on how he would achieve them.

Obama remained hopeful and positive about the country.

Romney, as challenger had to tack more pessimistic about the direction.

That makes sense in the framework of any Presidential election so I don’t necessarily blame Romney for that.

I’m writing this before looking at any other reactions of seeing if any fact checks have come into place BUT –

Did it seem as if Romney was presenting an entirely different tax and healthcare plans than he has ever mentioned before? I swear he was making all new claims about his never properly detailed plans.

Romney also railroaded the moderator and often corrected him or derailed the format as planned.

I thought it was a little insulting that Romney told people over 60 they could stop listening when they started talking about Social Security and Medicare. As if people that age don’t care how policies will impact their kids or grand kids.

I would also like to know what planet he was on when he stated that private insurance companies have ALWAYS covered young adults over age 19 and people with pre-existing conditions?

My disappointment with Obama is perhaps that he was, again, too nice. So many times when I was screaming responses at the TV to nonsense Romney was stating, he just ignored it. So many times he had opportunities to bring up many of the truly extreme things Romney has said in the last few months and he never rose to the bait. I know people can react badly to candidates directly attacking each other but many times Romney attacked and Obama *never* responded and certainly never counter attacked.

If you are a policy hound or, wonk as they say, then Obama was much stronger since he actually laid out specific details and math and facts. If you like mud-slinging and combative battles, then you probably thought Romney did a better job.

Of course, he has a lot of ground to make up. He needed to be aggressive and domineering and he was. It will probably tighten up the race in polling, but polling doesn’t matter one hoot. Voting matters. And I truly doubt any actual voters who are now or intend to cast their votes in the next 30 days had their minds changed. What this might drive is fund raising since it has been rumored that Romney’s big donors have been hesitant to go all in any more. So he might get a poll boost and a money boost. But there are two more debates and one VP debate and I truly doubt that Obama is going to remain this careful and professorial.

Fun stuff! I love Presidential election cycles :-)

A hand out, or a hand up?

When you follow politics as much as I do, it makes you think about WHY you end up with the opinions that you have.

A large part of it, for me, has been watching the GOP steer away from “compassionate conservatism” as described by George W. Bush and drive head on into the judgmental, superiority complex driven attitude of rich vs poor.

Instead of simply championing less government intervention and more personal responsibility,  they are voicing some ugly and cold hearted opinions about the poor and anyone who needs government aid.

While I had heard a few snide remarks about welfare recipients in the past, this has taken an even uglier turn.

I think it is not JUST that conservatives are anti-government assistance anymore – they are anti poor PEOPLE. The anger is no longer focused on the programs, but on the recipients themselves. People. Families. Children. Fellow citizens. They seem to resent that there IS a need that government, or ANYONE must fulfill. I’m not entirely sure they would be pleased to donate to charities that could potential fill some government gaps quite frankly.

For instance, most of the wealthy in my area who I know donate plenty of time and money. But not to homeless shelters. Not to facilities that help the needy right here at home. They LOVE to talk about bringing clothing and toys to kids in orphanages in Mexico. Or they donate to the Arts or Museums or maybe to a youth sports league that caters to special needs children. They *might* take their kids to serve meals on the holidays to the poor – but only then. Make a monthly donation? Go down there every week? Oh heck no.

Then, perhaps in a particularly bad example of a conservative friend – I got into a bit of a Facebook tussle with a high school classmate that resulted in her removing me as a friend. Which is kind of awkward because she lives 10 minutes away, our sons were born in side by side delivery rooms within  minutes of each other and we both go to every reunion and high school gathering there is. So it was very very difficult to see her literally go OFF on anyone who ever used government assistance with a disdain that was palpable even through the computer.

It didn’t matter to her that I told her I had used WIC coupons for the first year of my older son’s life, then rolled off once I gained enough income to cover those costs myself.

It didn’t matter to her that people I knew who had used unemployment benefits were members of my close circle of friends and family who only used it because they truly needed it.

It didn’t matter to her that things such as tax credits for childcare, homeowner’s insurance and such are actually government benefits.  (She sure loves those!)

Or that student loans for college are, or that small business loans are (she and her husband had used both of course).

Nope – all that mattered to her was that Newt Gingrich was SPOT ON and all those damn welfare and food stamp recipients were just a bunch of lazy people sucking on the teet of the government and hardworking tax payers and that “those people” had no motivation or self-worth or self-motivation to get them off that dole!

Hmmmm….sorta sounds like the now infamous 47% of the country statement by Mitt Romney doesn’t it?

Anyway, that 48 hour fight was ugly and somewhat painful and as I said, eye opening to reveal such an ugly side to this person who I most likely will have to see next year at our 30 year reunion (ugh!)

But I think it also encapsulates one issue very well.

Does it bother you MORE that some people will take advantage of government benefits funded by your taxes (among many other things your taxes fund which you may or may not support don’t forget!)?

Or does it bother you MORE to think that the government would just turn a blind eye to those in need in order to ensure that NO ONE ever skates by?

Would you rather risk that 1 in 5 people who you reach out to give a hand up will take it too far?

Would you rather walk past ALL 5 and never once reach out a hand?

I choose reaching back to give that hand up.

That’s why I support Democrats.

 

Freedom

In an interview with 60 minutes this weekend, Mitt Romney was asked what his primary focus would be for the country should be win the election. He stated that he would bring “Freedom” to the country. Freedom.

Oh really?

Ok, I am being snarky because I understand what he is doing there completely. It’s all in how to drill down and define “freedom” really.

For the Libertarian/Conservative leaning folks it means freedom from as much, if not all, government intervention in your day to day life.

With some key exceptions of course.

Government still gets to restrict marriage to heterosexuals only. Totally fine to keep an entire group of people as second class citizens without all the rights and benefits of marriage because, you know, they don’t approve. Or really, their church doesn’t approve.

Government still gets to cut funding to Planned Parenthood effectively removing it from some areas.

Government can also allow insurance companies to restrict the health care they cover for women specifically. It will be totally OK to make it tons harder in both those examples for women to pay for birth control, well woman care and to make decisions about their own bodies.

Basically, again, because their church doesn’t approve of women having the ability to make those choices you see.

So government…err..churches…er…government…wait, aren’t those supposed to be SEPARATE?! Yeah, anyway, they can set restrictions – intervene even, in the lives of women and LGBT citizens.

Suffice it so say that my definition of freedom is a tad different.

Those government mandates and regulations that the right seems to think is chaining them to some imaginary fence preventing them from living their lives as they would choose?

Well, those mandates help to pay for a few things that I view as ENHANCING people’s freedom.

Oh, by people, I mean the less fortunate. Gasp! Horror!

Access to healthcare and insurance coverage is a basic need for everyone, rich or poor. Contrary to something else Mitt Romeny said on Sunday night, access to emergency rooms does not exactly suffice as an alternative to insurance and being able to see a regular doctor. I know because I have watched my older son struggle with this.

Emergency rooms wont help if you have ADHD or depression or need cancer treatment or have MS or lupus or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and any other of the hundreds of chronic illnesses that can debilitate someone even IF they have regular healthcare.

In other words, without access to a county/state/federally funded clinic or health insurance, your FREEDOM to maintain your health and your ability to support yourself is greatly reduced.

Without the FREEDOM to marry who you want, you can end up leaving a lifetime partner with no social security benefits, no dependent healthcare benefits. None of the things guaranteed to heterosexual couples. Think of all the inherited government benefits that the widow of Neil Armstrong received upon his death. None of those went to the widow of Sally Ride.

Those are the freedoms that mean something to me.

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