Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for March, 2012

Progressive Budget for All

From Nation of Change
by Dave Johnson
29 March 2012

Every Progressive Should Know About the “Budget for All”

Every progressive should know about the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s “Budget for All.” In fact, every American should know about this budget. But the corporate news media sure isn’t going to tell people. So you should help get the word out. Read and Share the One-Page Handout. Email this post to friends, relatives, and especially to your right-wing brother-in-law.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has put together a “Budget for All” that “puts Americans back to work, charts a path to responsible deficit reduction, enhances our economic competitiveness, rebuilds the middle class and invests in our future.” This budget “makes no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits, and asks those who have benefited most from our economy to pay a sensible share.”

Our Budget Puts Americans Back to Work.

Our budget attacks America’s persistently high unemployment levels with more than $2.9 trillion in additional job-creating investments. This plan utilizes every tool at the government’s disposal to get our economy moving again, including:• Direct hire programs that create a School Improvement Corps, a Park Improvement Corps, and a Student Jobs Corps, among others.• Targeted tax incentives that spur clean energy, manufacturing, and cutting-edge technological investments in the private sector.• Widespread domestic investments including an infrastructure bank, a $556 billion surface transportation bill, and approximately $2.1 trillion in widespread domestic investment.

Our Budget Exhibits Fiscal Discipline• The Budget for All achieves $6.8 trillion in deficit reduction, hits the same debt to GDP ratio as the Republican budget, and has lower deficits in the last five years, but does so in a responsible way that does not devastate what Americans want preserved.• We achieve these notable benchmarks by focusing on the true drivers of our deficit – unsustainable tax policies, the wars overseas, and policies that helped cause the recent recession – rather than putting the middle class’s social safety net on the chopping block.

Our Budget Creates a Fairer America• Ends tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans on schedule at year’s end• Extends tax relief for middle class households and the vast majority of Americans• Creates new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires• Eliminates the tax code’s preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends• Abolishes corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies• Eliminates loopholes that allow businesses to dodge their true tax liability• Calls for the adoption of the “Buffett Rule”• Creates a publicly funded federal election system that gets corporate money out of politics for good.

Protects American Families• Provides a Making Work Pay tax credit for families struggling with high gas and food cost 2013-2015• Extends Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Credit• Invests in programs to stave off further foreclosures to keep families in their homes• Invests in our children’s education by increasing Education, Training, and Social Services.

Let people know that there is a budget alternative that respects We, the People.

Read entire article and watch video at Nation of Change.

More Tortillas Please

Dear Gabriel,

Alma Yanira Flores Hernandez was determined to feed her impoverished family through her own hard work. But to make and sell tortillas, she needed to buy more than a pound of corn at a time.

Let me tell you that making tortillas is a painstakingly slow process to begin with. But buying only one pound of corn at a time made things worse for Alma. She would buy one pound. Then another. Then another. The proceeds were tiny, the work backbreaking, the income pitiful.

And then something changed.

Alma became a FINCA client – and her family’s life changed forever.

With her first FINCA loan, Alma was able to buy a bushel of corn at a lower price – making more tortillas faster and at a greater profit. This was just the beginning of her turnaround:

Her growing income has meant healthier food for her daughters.

A stable business has produced money for her children’s education – for their future.

Alma recently started selling beans, eggs, rice, vegetables and fruit to her customers when they buy their tortillas.

Alma, and millions living in similarly impoverished circumstances, could work every waking hour, but miniscule profit margins make a sustainable, growing income near impossible. FINCA changed this for Alma – and almost one million other self-employed clients just like her.

You can break this poverty trap directly – today.

You can provide – through that first FINCA loan – another woman in Alma’s poverty trap with a hand up and into a new future.

Alma has a message for FINCA supporters like you: “I give thanks to FINCA because our lives have taken such an enormous turn for the better. With all the support you have given me I can create a brighter future for my daughters.”

Many more Almas have an equally powerful call-to-action for you: Help us access that first loan and our families will grab the chance to escape poverty with both hands.

Please, if you can, give the next Alma her first loan today.

And remember, the Feinstein Foundation will boost your donation today with matching funds that will make its impact go even further. Please don’t allow these funds to go unused.

Thank you for supporting women entrepreneurs,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President, New Business Development
FINCA

Violence Against Women

From MoveOn.Org

“Violence against women is as American as apple pie. I know, not only as a legislator, but from personal experience.”

Yesterday, Wisconsin Representative Gwen Moore spoke of her own sexual assault in an impassioned stand for victims of domestic violence, calling for the immediate reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.1 We need to stand with her today.

The bill to reauthorize the act has enough cosponsors in the Senate to pass, but House Republicans are blocking it—which is why Rep. Moore spoke out so personally and passionately.2

Last year when House Republicans tried to redefine rape as “forcible” rape only, MoveOn members helped spark a public outcry with a massive petition, and House Republicans backed down.3 We need to spark that same kind of outcry right now, in order to keep essential protections in place for victims of domestic abuse.

Tell your Representative: Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act now. No delays, no excuses.

Why the sudden opposition to help for victims of domestic violence? Because some Republicans don’t want protections extended to rural and tribal populations, immigrant women, or LGBT victims of domestic violence.4 But no one deserves to be abused, regardless of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, or immigration status.

Imagine fleeing an abusive partner in the middle of the night, only to find that there’s nowhere to go and no one to turn to. No hotline to call for advice, no shelter to keep you safe, no advocate to help you in court. That could be the harsh reality for victims of domestic violence if House Republicans keep blocking reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

This is just the latest attack in the Republican war on women. From the attempts to redefine rape to limiting women’s access to breast cancer screening and contraception, the war on women’s health and safety is happening across the country.5 But some Republicans are starting to realize the political damage the war on women is doing to their party.

That creates a real opportunity for a grassroots campaign to stop Republicans from limiting protections for victims of domestic violence.

Overturn Citizens United

Dear Gabriel,

I have some exciting news for those of us who want to overturn the horrible Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision, which opened the floodgates for unlimited amounts of corporate money to flow into our political system.

The California state Assembly just voted to pass AJR 22, a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and send it to the states for ratification.

AJR 22 now goes to the state Senate. If it passes there, California will be among the first states to officially call on Congress to amend the Constitution to undo Citizens United.

Tell your state senator, Joe Simitian: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

We deserve a government of, for and by the people — not one where our elected officials are bought and paid for by big corporations.

Sadly, we might need to work really hard to get unlimited corporate money out of politics and re-establish the common sense and democratic view that only people are people, not corporations.

But with 85% of the public opposed to the Citizens United decision, there is a potential for a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who all want to restore our democracy.

Your state senator, Joe Simitian, needs to hear from you, regardless of where he/she stands on this issue.

It won’t be easy to pass a constitutional amendment.

We need to show all the state senators that their constituents are part of a broad movement demanding action — not only to convince them that overturning Citizens United is the right thing to do, but also that it’s possible.

Today, take a step to be part of that movement.

Tell your state senator: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

We can’t allow there to be inaction on this issue. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Citizens United decision fundamentally threatens the integrity of our democracy.

Even before the Citizens United decision, we too often saw the interests of Main Street subverted in favor of the interests of Wall Street.

But with the Citizens United decision now the law of the land, large corporations have the power to spend unlimited amounts of money from their general treasuries to buy elections.

What’s more, Citizen United opened loopholes that allow corporations to hide their campaign expenditures by laundering the money through non-profit advocacy organizations.

And because Congress cannot pass a law that supersedes a Supreme Court ruling, it may take a constitutional amendment to undo the worst aspects of the Citizens United decision and end corporate personhood.

Fortunately, momentum is on our side right now in California. Speak out now to keep it going.

Tell your state senator: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:

http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=5542120&id=37135-266627-8wgdXWx&t=10

Thank you for speaking out.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

The Pink Blanket

From Red Room
Some of my favorite sex scenes in literature.

The Pink Blanket

I have been entranced with the novel Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War by Joan Tewkesbury since it was released last year. The story is a literary wonderland of love, hate, darkness and hope and is steeped in the spices and flavors of Latin American magic realism. This is Ms. Tewkesbury’s first novel, though she is well known for her screenwriting (Nashville, etc.), directing and acting.

Among the many delectable and delicious delights that are embedded in this story, are her loving sex scenes between husband and wife Bernardo and Hortence Grace. They flow seamlessly and beautifully into the narrative and are not only believable but palpable. Here are some savory examples.

“Hortense Grace stirred in her sleep and turned over, opened in her sleep for Bernardo who slid into her darkness, her well, her reservoir and they made love in semiconscious cascades. They were one over and over so many times before they drifted into sleep, deeply asleep, a sleep so deep they had no memory of how well they had known each other in the night.”

“Finally, when they were sure Rebecca and Tobia had fallen asleep, Hortense Grace and Bernardo pulled out the pink blanket, the one that Ariel had been conceived on, and unfurled it in the garden. Then they took off all their clothes and made love under the stars and the moon, accidentally rolling off the blanket onto the ground as they pounded into each other’s flesh over and over and fell asleep in a bed of wild sweet peas. Just before dawn they woke up covered in mud and started to laugh. Then they turned on the hose and wdashed each other off, let the water flood them as they slammed into each other one last time before running into the house to make coffee which they took outside and drank as the sun crept up over the morning glory covered wall.”

The beauty of these examples are the respect and intimacy that are shared between the characters. Though I enjoy explicit descriptions of sex (when they are in context), the scenes in this novel have much more impact, because of the development of the story and protagonists. It is raw, real and relative and resonates with experiences of loving consensual and joyous sexuality. That is why I’ve chosen sex scenes from this literary mistresspiece as some of my favorite of all time and encourage readers to pick up this novel and see for themselves.

Read more where the writers are at Red Room.

The Hunger Games Review

Guest article by our son Shona.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games
The McFlurry
25 March, 2012
by Shona Blumeneau

Most people try to compare The Hunger Games to the Twilight films. In my mind, this just cannot be done. One features a strong female lead who sacrifices herself for her sister and district, eventually overcoming all obstacles and defies the oppressive government that controls her life, while the other follows a girl who is torn between a sparkly vampire and a werewolf who lost his shirt. Now it’s time for me to stop writing about a trashy tween movie, and write about a cinematic masterpiece, otherwise known as The Hunger Games.

Do you remember the midnight premier of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two? I sure do. All the anticipation and excitement, with crazy people dressed as wizards and normal people waving wands at each other…dressed as wizards. That same energy has now been transfused into The Hunger Games, or the “Harry Potter Rebound” as I like to call it. But why this film? Why not, say, Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill? This film has gained such a following because of a girl: Katniss Everdeen. Audiences have finally been given a character that they respect, admire, and thoroughly enjoy rooting for throughout the entirety of the film. Unlike Bella (I’m sorry for all the Twilight comparisons, but it just has to be done), the protagonist is a strong, independent girl not searching for love or anyone to protect her. Her courage is repeatedly shown time and time again without fault, and it is her family that she cares for first and foremost, not a boy.

Perhaps what keeps this movie from being another failed book adaptation is the fact that Susan Collins, author of the Hunger Games trilogy, helped write the screenplay and was one of the producers of the film. This, paired with Gary Ross’ (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville, and Big) excellent directing, makes for a stellar film. Collins and Ross clearly understood what elements of the book needed to be cut out to transform the story into a feature length movie, and they did so without at all ruining the overall story or characters.

Ah, the smooth segway into the characters. For me, every single one of the actors portrayed their characters exactly as I had imagined them in the books. Jennifer Lawrence gives us a spectacular performance, securing her spot as the lead. Given that the book is written in the first person, Lawrence was forced to somehow show her thoughts time and time again without saying a word. You cannot only see it in her face, but you can feel Katniss’ emotions as she struggles through dilemma after dilemma, evaluating thoughts and emotions alike. Woody Harrleson’s portrayal of the drunken mentor Haymitch was not as intoxicated and blundering as I had pictured, but Donald Sutherland’s eerie performance left me satisfied and very creeped out, just as Katniss feels when first meeting the tyrannical President Snow.

Snow is the cause of violence in the story, and the movie does a good job of showing how brutal the games are while maintaining a PG-13 rating. Yes, it’s a movie about teenagers fighting to the death while others watch and bet on them, but this shouldn’t be anything new to people. Things like this have happened numerous times throughout history, and for people to criticize Collins for depicting it graphically is absurd.

Overall, other than a couple of things near the end, I was very happy with this film. It stayed true to the book, the characters were well rounded and I could easily connect with them. The filmmakers chose wisely when cutting material and kept the movie going at a solid pace.

Who will love this movie?
1) A liberal who believes the movie is about the 1% (the capital) vs the 99% (everyone in the districts).
2) A conservative who believes the movie shows the atrocities and downfalls of a government who controls everything.
3) Anyone who just likes a movie starring a hot babe with a bow and arrow (sorry Emma Watson, Jennifer has you beat in bad-assery this time around).

Story and more photos at: The McFlurry

Women’s Day in Rwanda

From ROP Stories

ROP Celebrates International Women’s Day
by Sean Jones
13 March, 2012

To be honest I don’t recall having ever heard of International Women’s Day before I came to Rwanda. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve just been oblivious all these years or if it’s because it’s just not a major holiday in the States. My guess is the latter, but only because America is a country where women for the most part have the equality and respect they deserve. In Rwanda, however, as in so many other developing countries around the world, women are still treated as second class citizens, sometimes by law, sometimes by their society, but usually by both.

The Rwandan government is quite progressive when it comes to women’s rights as far as African countries go. Famously the Rwandan Parliament has the highest ratio of women to men in the entire world, Western nations included. There are numerous laws on the books giving females equal rights to education, employment and even land ownership. As a Westerner it’s easy to be unimpressed, but in most of Africa girls are still not guaranteed access to school and land and property inheritance for women is almost unheard of. Imagine being a wife and mother in Africa and your husband dies. If you have no sons everything your family owns get passed to the nearest male relative. It could be his brother or distant cousin you don’t even know. Whoever he ended up being he wouldn’t have to (and most likely would not) share any of it with you and you would have no legal recourse. This is how it is in many regions of Africa and it used to be this way in Rwanda as well until relatively recently.

Anyway, back to Women’s Day. It sort of sneaked up on us but we decided to have a little celebration after school had finished. As many of you know we do not have any girls living with us at the ROP but we do allow about 30 girls from local poor families to attend our school free of charge. When we first opened our school to these young ladies we had some issues early on with our boys, and outside boys, giving them a hard time. But through several workshops and group chats conducted by our social workers on gender equality and respect for women we have been able to change our boys’ attitudes towards girls and bring most of the problems to an end.

After school everyone made their way into our dining hall – the girls on one side and the boys on the other. It seemed a little strange at first and I considered having them mix together, but in the end it worked out better because we could address the boys as a group and then the girls as a group. Sandrine, our head teacher, spoke to the children first, followed by Elisabeth, our head social worker. Then Jenny spoke to the children, explaining that a man is not more valuable simply by virtue of being male; that we all have strengths and weaknesses and that we should respect each other based on our skills, talents and accomplishments rather than on our sex. My turn came next and I asked our boys to consider a world without women and all the beauty, love and sensibility they bring to the world. I added that a world composed only of men would not be a very pleasant place and probably wouldn’t last very long.

After the speeches we had a short Q&A session with the children and then we wrapped up ceremony. I wasn’t really sure what our boys would take from our words but I think now that they did have an impact. Although Rwanda has many laws proclaiming the equality of women, the fact is that gender bias remains strong in Rwandan society, particularly in the country’s poor rural areas, where most of our children have come from. As I told the children on Women’s Day, it’s most likely too late to change the attitudes of adults in the country, but change comes from the youth, and they all – both boys and girls – have an opportunity to be vehicles for change in Rwanda, and perhaps Africa as a whole.

See more photos at ROP Stories.

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