Enslaved to Ron Paul

“With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies,” the senator said. “It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me.”

“It means you believe in slavery. “It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.” – Rand Paul

Rand Paul (R-Craters of the Loon) is a tough man to like, but I have to give him credit for being remarkably consistent, if not wholly, about his Libertarian beliefs. He believes that toilet regulations are an affront to capitalism that will destroy the vaunted American plumbing infrastructure. He similarly believes a human right to health care is slavery.

Pity the Poor Conscripts
It seems Rand is afraid that as a doctor he’ll be “conscripted” to give health care to a goldbricking, unemployed cancer victim living in an AMC Pacer currently parked in front of their foreclosed home at 1313 Mockingbird Ln. Rand doesn’t mention that he’ll likely be paid handsomely for his conscription. He also hasn’t given up his own health insurance in order to throw off the terrible shackles of slavery.

There are a number of arguments about whether the right to health care or free-flowing toilets are any business of government. There are still logical debates to have, as there should be. However, Rand’s penchant for ideological absolutism and absurd comparisons like health care = slavery cheapens an important debate and makes it impossible to get any work done.

It also makes him look like he has the IQ of a ham sandwich, but that’s a whole other post.

Excuse Me But the Cracks in Your Fidelity are Showing
Although Rand’s often off-the-chart comparisons may sound like total fidelity to his principles he often injects quirks and oddities that left unchecked would harm the country much more than help it. They also point out cracks in his passionate fidelity.

For example, slaves got food and water (two other items Rand thinks aren’t human rights). They got those services because slaves were too valuable to do otherwise. Providing services, even to those you hate, doesn’t make slavery. Slavery comes from the single pin that the enslaved have no choice. Which isn’t the case in Paul’s descriptions.

Paul is a Presbyterian. Can we automatically decide that if he complies with God’s every command that God has enslaved him? After all, God’s slavery is infinitely more total and absolute than a government decree (which isn’t the case, nor will it likely be) that health care is a human right.

I wish Rand would choose his battles, and especially his analogies, more carefully. All they do is muddy the water and keep the country in perpetual rancor and decay.

In other words, stop enslaving the rest of us with your silly, distracting speeches.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Tax day, Passover week: labor, migration & justice, now...and in 2049

From our Restore Fairness blog-

On this year’s Tax Day that has just passed, several organizations including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), MoveOn, Daily Kos and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) joined forces for ‘Tax Day: Make Them Pay.’ The groups organized peaceful protests around the country outside the offices of big corporations and millionaires that have evaded paying taxes for last year, mostly due to government-mandated tax breaks. According to the site, “In 2009, after helping crash the American economy, Bank of America paid $0 in taxes. GE had a tax bill of $0 in 2010. Republicans want to give a $50 billion tax bailout to big oil companies…” These protests came at the heels of news that corporations such as General Electric paid no federal taxes in 2010, something that has infuriated the millions of workers around the country who work hard and are expected to dutifully pay their taxes on time.

The tax break issue is the latest in a series of developments that have recently charged the country’s politics around the issues of immigration and labor rights, with them coming together in the case of migrant workers. Last month, the country witnessed a major standoff in the Wisconsin state government between Governor Scott Walker (and his Republican-led state assembly) and thousands of labor groups and workers in the state as the Governor pledged to enact a bill to severely curtail collective bargaining. After three weeks of fierce debates, Gov. Walker managed to push the bill through. The Ohio state assembly soon followed suit, with other states such as Tennessee and Iowa heading in a similar direction. This steady erosion of worker rights presents an increasing risk not just to the economy of this country but also to its social fabric. It also echoes a past where worker rights were often ignored, especially in the case of immigrant workers.

Last month, several labor groups and organizations marked the centennial anniversary of an incident that highlights the lack of protection of workers – the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of March 28, 1911, in which 146 mostly immigrant workers died. To mark the centenary of the tragedy, many labor rights groups amplified their push for pro-labor rights legislation to challenge the spate of anti-union labor bills that were passed recently. The 1911 tragedy brings to light the plight of immigrant workers and the exploitation that still continues today. At a rally commemorating the tragedy, one union member, Walfre Merida, described the similarities between the condition of migrant workers today and those that perished in the fire a hundred years ago. Merida stated-

I see that a hundred years since this terrible accident that killed so many people, things have really not changed at all…Safety conditions, none. Grab your tool and go to work, no more. And do not stop. When we worked in high places, on roofs, we never used harnesses, one became accustomed to the dangers and thanked God we weren’t afraid of heights. One would risk his life out of necessity.

As stories of worker rights violations continue to proliferate, we must take heed from our past mistakes in order to avoid a degradation of these conditions in the future. This week – just as Jews around the world gather at the Passover table to recount their liberation from migrant slave labor in Egypt – Breakthrough’s Facebook game, America 2049, immerses players into discussions around labor rights, especially with regards to the rights of immigrant workers. The game utilizes several events and artifacts from the past to highlight the continued struggles of migrant workers in the United States. In the game’s world in which everyone has an embedded chip to mark their identity, players are given the mission to investigate a counterfeiting ring that helps indentured workers – primarily immigrants, though also citizens who have succumbed to crushing credit debt – to escape their unjust contracts and inhumane living conditions, and begin new lives. The game references the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as a lesson from the past about the respect and rightful treatment of workers. It also suggests a future that is even bleaker because we as a country have failed to recognize the importance of immigrant workers and worker rights to the success of the country as a whole.

Watch a testimonial by a character in the game, Ziyad Youssef, a Syrian man who was lured into a job with promises of good pay and easy hours, but found himself in slavery-like conditions, unable to look after his sick daughter or provide basic amenities to his family:

The United States is currently grappling with an issue that will inevitably affect our national economy and social conditions in the years to come. The denial of legitimacy and basic rights to immigrant workers will only hamper the nation’s growth on the world stage. In a special report on global migration published in 2008, The Economist argued for the widespread acceptance of migrant workers by the richer countries that so desperately need them. Speaking about the United States, the report stated-

Around a third of the Americans who won Nobel prizes in physics in the past seven years were born abroad. About 40% of science and engineering PhDs working in America are immigrants. Around a third of Silicon Valley companies were started by Indians and Chinese. The low-skilled are needed too, especially in farming, services and care for children and the elderly. It is no coincidence that countries that welcome immigrants—such as Sweden, Ireland, America and Britain—have better economic records than those that shun them…Americans object to the presence of around 12m illegal migrant workers in a country with high rates of legal migration. But given the American economy’s reliance on them, it is not just futile but also foolish to build taller fences to keep them out.

Players in America 2049 will discover valuable artifacts from our country’s past that highlight an ongoing struggle for worker rights and have the agency to join the discussion and save the country’s future from the dystopic scenario the game depicts. One of the artifacts in the game is a poem titled ‘A Song for Many Movements,’ written in 1982 by Audre Lord, a black feminist lesbian poet. The poem articulates the connection between suffering and speaking out against injustices, which is what the workers rights protests around the country have been doing and which we must keep advocating until real change is made-

Broken down gods survive
in the crevasses and mudpots
of every beleaguered city
where it is obvious
there are too many bodies
to cart to the ovens
or gallows
and our uses have become
more important than our silence
after the fall
too many empty cases
of blood to bury or burn
there will be no body left
to listen
and our labor
has become more important
than our silence.

Our labor has become
more important
than our silence.

 

 

Recovery Begins With Truth

I am an alcoholic.

I got sober almost 20 years ago.  Before that, I abused alcohol, drugs, sex and money in order to ignore the damage I had done to my life, deluding myself .  I crawled through life in a cycle of being drunk or not yet drunk, making more mistakes that would need more drinking to erase.  I am nobody special.  Absolutely nobody.  Everyone on this planet has problems and I have mine.  I chose to deal with them by 'feeling better', one glass at a time.  All day.  Each and every day...week...month and year - until I turned to someone for help.

(Cross-posted at The National Gadfly)

There's more...

Sexism: The mother of all 'isms'.

Sexism is the 'gateway 'ism'', that makes all other 'isms' possible.  It precedes all other forms of discrimination, setting the example that there are some people that view others as inferior and they use brutality upon them.  What I mean by that is that because our family and society models are built around the model of inequality, injustice and brutality - we accept that behavior as normal.  So, too is racism, classism, speciesism and any other oppression by one group toward another.  The behaviors of sexism are the behaviors of bullying, injustice, intolerance and cruelty.

(Cross posted at The National Gadfly)

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Are we too stupid to save ourselves?

I walked onto the train platform in downtown Chicago today.  A woman had just finished shopping at Macy's and had several red shopping bags.  She was trying to put everything into one bag.  The wind picked up and blew some of the empty bags down the platform.  I took off running and stopped them from blowing out onto the street.

Then, she yells to me that: "It's OK!  They're empty." Then she sits down and waits for the train with her two bags full of stuff.  The 5 empty big red bags are just out there on the platform and she makes no effort to pick them up.  I told her that I didn't want litter for a Christmas present, picked them all up and threw them in the trash (no recycling on CTA platforms...dammit!).

(Cross posted at The National Gadfly)

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