Tara's Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I published this post six years ago.  It has gotten only more relevant as time passes.  As we reach this year’s Thanksgiving celebration I give thanks for those in public service who actually understand that their jobs exist to serve the public.

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950)  was a playwright, journalist, public speaker and champion of the working class.  He wrote more than 60 plays in his lifetime and was the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name).

Many of us may be surprised to learn that he was also a co-founder of the London School of Economics.  No slouch he.

In stark contrast to the attitudes of so many of our currently elected officials, here is his statement about public service:

“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Advertisements

…if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm.

Yesterday President Obama posted his thoughts on the Republican bill currently on the floor of Congress that would radically change what we know as health care in this country.

I know this post has been widely circulated. But I believe it is important, and hopefully helpful, to isolate a few of his thoughts from the post.  The entire post is included below.

 

 

“We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.”

“For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.”

“I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.”

“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.”

“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

POSTED June 22, 2017; on FaceBook by President Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

words-matter

 

I have long been a fan of the short story form.  In fact, the short story form is far harder than longer forms of writing. Making your intention clear in a limited amount of words is not an easy task. There is a long line of authors whose work I enjoy but top of the list in this regard has always been Harlan Ellison.  There are many reasons I am a life-long, die-hard Ellison fan, but chiefly, my admiration is for his ability to select just exactly the right word for every moment in his stories with never a word wasted.

 Here’s a favorite example: 

 “A foot was planted between my shoulder blades and the fist let go of my shirt, and I was booted forward onto my suitcase, which slid a few feet, carrying me as on a raft.

I fell off, rolled over and tried to sit up. Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death were staring down at me.”

Quoted from All the Lies That Are My Life by Harlan Ellison

 There is no need to give the reader any more detailed description of the four guys who are about to beat up our protagonist. The phrase “Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death” tells you everything you need to know.

 Another master at choosing just the right words is Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who sums up this thought beautifully:

 “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

 

And another famous author offers clarity on the subject. When asked his opinion on cursing Mark Twain had this to say:

“The English language is a poor enough means of communication as it is. I figure we ought to use all the words we got.”

 Notice here that he did not advise using MORE words than needed at one time but choosing the RIGHT words for what you are trying to convey at that moment.

 

 Words matter.  They can offer great kindness but also great sorrow. They can build relationships or tear down entire communities. Words have weight and meaning and sometimes great consequences. 

When you are attempting to evaluate someone’s character listen very closely to the word they choose to use.  Their choices are not casual. They are a result of a lifetime of attitudes and perceptions and are evidence of the state of their inner psychology. 

 The speaker is telling you something about who he is and how he chooses to participate in this thing called Life.  

 Words matter.  Listen closely.

So I am one of the few oddballs who actually watches C-SPAN.  I find it to be a window into a very distant world. But a world whose actions and decisions affect us in ways we only begin to comprehend.  And sometimes those decisions have consequences that we, down here on the ground, only feel after it is too late to do anything about it.Image

In yesterday’s House Sub-committee Hearing on Copyright Regulations and Intellectual Property Law I had a moment of clarity that revealed why, when it comes to legislation about the arts, those mountain-top decision makers so often get it wrong.

The House panel was asking questions of a number of “experts” including Professor Glynn Lunney of Tulane University Law School. The question of the moment had to do with copyright restrictions applied to the music industry that used to exist but that had been recently eliminated.  The Professor was asked if the elimination of the copyright laws had any effect on “content producers” (meaning song writers, composers, music producers, etc.).

The professor cited a study that charted the amount of content produced before and after the elimination of those restrictions.  The study showed that the amount of content produced by the industry before and after the lifting of those artist protections had not changed. So the conclusion the professor and his ilk have come to is that those protections must not have been necessary!!

 WOW!! Talk about a major misunderstanding of your intended subject!!

 The inference here is that the additional protections the laws had been providing would motivate artists to produce more because income from your work is more likely. And conversely, without those protections artists will produce less music.

 This is stunningly wrong.

These conclusions are based on a business model that, I suppose, works for shoes or driveway pavers or plumbing pipe.  But artists produce because we HAVE TO!  Not just because we are getting paid to do it.  Don’t get me wrong, here. Getting paid for what you create is important.  I have always felt the creator of the art should be fairly compensated for each creation. But it is also true that we do not choose to become artists. We are called to it by something greater than ourselves.  And it is a demanding calling.

Whether you are a musician, a writer, a painter, a poet, a sculptor, a clothing designer, a novelist, a choreographer or any other type of creative spirit there is something within you that demands to be expressed.  Those who ignore that demand will pay the price, one way or the other, in personal anguish.

Artists will create whether or not we are fairly treated by society. And that is the crux of the misunderstanding of the politicians and industry experts who are creating the laws that either protect us or leave us to be taken advantage of.

As long as the politicians treat art the same way they treat widgets we will never have a system that truly understands why we create art or that values what artists contribute to society.

 If any of you out there are brave enough to contact Professor Lunney, please explain this to him.

Tara Sitser, Proud Singer/Songwriter 

Los Angeles, CA

January 19, 2014

This is a very large, complicated topic. And I am grateful for the chance to air some thoughts.  I have been baffled and frustrated for many years by what I hear people say about Ayn Rand.  She is made out to be the heroine of the Conservative, Right-wing,  Free-market, Libertarian, Trickle-down, Supply-side economics  proponents. But, in fact, I believe, those who profess to be her followers are doing exactly the opposite of what she herself would have wanted.

I started reading Ayn Rand when I was 17. I have read all of her novels; most of them several times.  I am not a Libertarian. In fact I have objections to many Libertarian views. But I have been frustrated for many years by, what I perceive to be, a massive misinterpretation of what Ayn Rand wrote and believed.

As a matter of fact,  she did not call herself a Libertarian. She created her own philosophy that she called Objectivism.  The basis of which is that no one should live their life for the sake of another without regard to their own personal value. A direct push-back against the communist oppression she experienced growing up in Soviet Russia where the State is everything and the individual doesn’t count.

Her writings about enlightened self-interest are often twisted into  accusations of selfishness but are actually more in line with the what they tell you on an airplane: Put your own oxygen mask on first. Then you can help others.  In point of fact, there are many instances in her novels of characters making enormous personal sacrifices for others  in order to live up to the obligations they have committed to.

Ayn Rand grew up in Russia and rebelled against the control of the Soviet government. So It is understandable that she would talk about being free of governmental control.  But the heroes in her novels are quite different from the industrialist and CEOs of our present day reality even though they claim to be aligned with her beliefs.   Ayn Rand was an Atheist, pro-choice and a firm believer in a rational view of reality that permitted no deviation from actual facts.

In Ayn Rand’s novels the heroes are people who create real value – not financial manipulators who just amass more and more money. I see a major difference between her characters and the conservative business owners of today in that her heroes value the contributions of everyone, at every level , who contribute to their success. And her industrialists take care of their employees and their customers, treat them fairly and take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The ethics of her main characters is such that no regulation is necessary because they would never choose to do anything unethical or take advantage of anyone.  No unions are necessary because the employers take such good care of their employees that an outside agency to control wages and working conditions is not needed.  I do not think I am putting words in her mouth when I say that Ayn Rand’s “free market” does  not the take the shape of today’s conservative notion where anyone is free to abuse ethical standards, cheat their customers and employees and destroy the environment in pursuit of wealth and power.

Ayn Rand’s heroes are copper magnates and architects and owners of railroads, yes. But also janitors and gardeners and assembly line workers who do their jobs in an excellent way.  Employer and employee trade value for value and the employer always acknowledges the contribution of the smallest cog in the wheel that allows their businesses to run.

In her novel “Atlas Shrugged” two of the main characters are Dagny Taggart and her brother James Taggart who co-own the railroad.  Dagny is the brains behind the operation and the one who runs the business.  James is the moocher who doesn’t want to put out any effort and wants to live the high life off the company’s  earnings.  James almost gets away with it until, near the end of the story, it is his secretary who finally realizes his true nature and takes him down.  The secretary is one of the novel’s true heroes.

Ayn Rand’s heroes would never play the financial gambling games that have brought us to the brink of economic ruin because – and she is quite clear about this – money is only a tool to be used for the creation of goods and circumstances. She says this over and over: Money is not evil. It is the love of money that is destructive and to be avoided.

The villains of Ayn Rand’s novels are the moochers who think the world owes them whatever they want without any effort of their own.  Her villains try to get away with not doing any of the work themselves and expect others to supply them with whatever  they want.  These moochers believe they are entitled to whatever they want simply because they want  it.  That is very different from the category of people in our country being called “moochers” and “welfare mothers”,  etc.  When your own government has allowed your jobs to be outsourced overseas and Wal-mart has destroyed your cities’ economy to such a degree that there are no jobs to be had in your town it is not “mooching” to accept help from governmental safety-net programs. Our current business model has created a system where no other options are available to help you feed your family. And it is not “mooching” to collect social security after you have spent a lifetime paying a portion of each and every pay check into that system.

The richest, most conservative among us believe that humans are only valuable if they are creating more wealth.  That is why politicians like Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell,  Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan are so callous about the poor and elderly.  THOSE people, the poor, the elderly and the infirm,  can’t create wealth anymore so, in the view of the wealthy conservatives, they have no value and don’t deserve any respect or consideration.

Rand would not have aligned herself with today’s conservative movement which has chosen  to air only bits and pieces of her philosophy  in order to rationalize their own positions. The following quote is from Jennifer Burns, history professor at Stanford University and author of Goddess of the Market : Ayn Rand and the American Right:

“Libertarians who borrowed her political ideas but didn’t buy her epistemology were “a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people,” “plagiarizers,” and “scum.” Conservatives were far, far worse. “Futile, impotent and culturally dead,” conservatives could only “accelerate this country’s uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.” Despite their agreement on capitalism, unlike most conservatives Rand was a forthright atheist who supported abortion rights and opposed the Vietnam War. After her death, her philosophy was liberated from its origins; it was now possible to mix and match bits and pieces of Rand’s ideology to better fit the emerging conservative worldview. “

In the worlds of Ayn Rand’s novels  it is excellence that is valued and rewarded whether that comes in the form of a railroad,  a piece of art or the ability to care for a child.  Everyone’s contribution is valued and the ideals to be aspired to are not limited to financial wizardry.

Another false parallel that is being drawn between Rand’s writings and the actions of today’s conservative power structure is the intention behind, and the consequences of, the growing, gaping separation of uber-wealthy and lower-income populations.  What we see happening in our society is a massive grab by the wealthiest among us for as much wealth, power and as many resources as they can take regardless of the consequences to the rest of the world.  The rich surround themselves with comfort and luxury while allowing the cities around them to suffer.

Again, a reference to Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” comes into play.  The main character of this novel is John Galt. Galt sees that the true producers and creators of the world are being used by those around them.  People with no talent or desire to achieve have come to believe that they have a claim on those that do and are making victims of the creators without any regard for their rights and needs.  Galt decides to create a civilization apart from the world at large where the producers can be free of the moochers and be properly acknowledged and rewarded for what they produce.  He approaches each person who is being drained and shows them how they are being victimized. He then gives them an alternative: Stop supporting your own destruction.  Quit. Leave the moochers behind and live in Galt’s Gulch, hidden from the world, among only those who will also live honorably as responsible creators.

One by one the “brains of the world” disappear and the outside world falls apart because there is no one left who will take the time and effort to reason out how to fix anything.

That is quite different from the power and resource grab we are witnessing today by the wealthy moochers who believe the world is theirs to drink from without ever refilling the pool.

The notion that Ayn Rand would approve of what today’s conservative, right wing,  corporate CEOs and Industrialist Republicans are doing is just plain wrong.  I believe her views are being twisted and used in ways she never intended.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it begets more violence. With violence, you can murder the hater but you just increase the hate.  Hate cannot drive out hate. Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that; only love can drive out hate.”

                                      – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

With the unprecedented emergence of civil unrest around the world  images of massive, coordinated efforts by diverse populations gathering in the streets to make themselves heard by the powers-that-be have been presented to us by the media as never before.   These efforts have been met by governmental violence and suppression of civilian rights in shocking ways.

I chanced upon the following story this morning and was stunned by the simple beauty and courage of this response to violence and hate.

 

In 1992 an artillery shell killed twenty-two innocent civilians standing in a bread line in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Vedran Smailovic, a former principal cellist for the Sarajevo Opera, responded by donning his tuxedo, bringing his instrument to the bomb site and performing alone for the next twenty-two days as the shelling continued. Twenty two days, amid shrapnel and sniper fire, Smailovic played; one day for each of the twenty-two friends and neighbors who had been killed.

http://myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=vedrans

In 1997, after hearing this story, 10-year-old Jason Crowe, was moved to action. He is working to create a tribute to the spirit of the Bosnian people in the form of the Children’s International Peace & Harmony Statue, to be shipped to Bosnia as a gift from peace-loving people around the world, especially children.

“We will inherit the new millennium and we must voice our desire for peace and show the world we are willing to work for it. The statue itself will be our voice giving us a way to shout, ‘Never again must mean never again’.

The Children’s International Peace and Harmony Statue will depict and honor: 1. The spirit of all Bosnians who have lived through or died in the madness of ethnic cleansing; 2. The spirit of harmony that cries on like a lone cello in a world full of violence which refuses to listen; and 3. The spirit of children around the world who want peace and harmony, not war and genocide, as their legacy in the new millennium.

 For more information or to support Jason’s project go to: 

http://myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=jasoncrowe

Local elections are generally poorly attended.  It’s been difficult to get people to understand just how local politics affects their lives. This Letter To The Editor appeared in today’s Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times and it states the case beautifully:

I would like to thank the 82.41% of registered voters of the great city of Los Angeles for having such trust and confidence in the 11.59% of us who voted in Tuesday’s election. 

 Half of the City Council, half of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education and half of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of  Trustees were picked. Voters also weighed a bunch of ballot measures that will decide where some of our tax money will go. 

 Yes, less than 12% of us decided how the city will be run for the next few years.

Dorit Dowler-Guerrero, Los Angeles

It’s very simple.  As long as we still have a democracy, get out and vote. It’s the way our voices are heard.

 


Are You An Acoustic Music Fan?

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!!

As a member of the Americana-Folk/Rock band, John Zipperer & Friends, Tara performs in around Los Angeles, CA (with an occasional out-of-town appearance). Come see for yourself why John Zipperer's CD "Full Circle" has been on the top 25 of the Roots Music Report Album Chart for over a year!

Tara Sitser - Author / Singer/Songwriter

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,339 other followers

Available Soon – Check back for periodic excerpts & updates!

Speaking Truth - the book - image

A new book by Tara Sitser & John Glass

Tara’s Latest Tweets

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: