[U.S. President Barack] Obama has presided over a massive expansion of secret surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency. He has launched a ferocious and unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers. He has made more government documents classified than any previous president. He has broken his promise to close down the controversial Guantánamo Bay prison and pressed on with prosecutions via secretive military tribunals, rather than civilian courts. He has preserved CIA renditions. He has tried to grab broad new powers on what defines a terrorist or a terrorist supporter and what can be done with them, often without recourse to legal process. The sheer scope and breadth of Obama’s national security policy has stunned even fervent Bush supporters and members of the Washington DC establishment.
Openly gay Latina wins Texas congressional seat
(Courtesy Mary Gonzalez)
Mary Gonzalez told them she was the best candidate to represent them and El Paso voters agreed, but along the way, the 28-year-old doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin broke her share of barriers.
This is a first. Woo!
An openly gay Latina wins a U.S. House seat in a Texas district? And she’s a Longhorn?!
A Parable About America
The first time around in grad school, my class was made of up seven people, one of whom was named Alexei. He was from near Kiev, Ukraine. When he arrived here, he was fresh off the boat: didn’t know much English, had never been more than about 100 miles away from his home. The first year in the U.S. was rough. But he got through it and thrived. Alexei grew up under Communism. He told us that when Chernobyl happened, not far from where he lived, the people in his city didn’t find out for weeks.
One day toward the end of that first year, we were wasting time in the communal office into which we and our desks were packed like proverbial sardines. I casually asked him, “Alexei, what do you like most about the United States”?
His answer remains seared into my mind, years later: "I like that you can go into the stores and there are things on the shelves to buy."
It was such a striking thing to hear, coming from white bread suburban America, the land of limitless resources. Since then, that sentence has caused me to rethink a lot of the assumptions I have made about our nation, our society, and our culture. And it says something significant about the complacency of our people.
As long as the lights come on when the switch is flipped, as long as gas comes out of the pump when the handle is squeezed, as long as there are things on the store shelves to buy, we Americans will never rise up against the social and economic forces that keep so many of them permanently down.
Americans are like a frog in a pot of water on a stove. Throw the frog into a pot of boiling water, and it will immediately leap out. But put the frog in a pot of cold water on stove and slowly, incrementally turn up the heat, and the frog will swim around happily until it is boiled to death. We are now the frog lazily swimming in tepid water as the heat beneath is is being turned up at an ever-increasing rate. Soon it will be too late to prevent becoming cooked.
Over 30 years, we’ve had either stagnating, at best, or declining wages for our low-wage workers. This idea that we can have a thriving economy, when we have a good swath of our workers losing ground in pay decade after decade, while those at the top are making more and more money, that does not make a successful economy.
University of California at Berkeley labor economist Sylvia Allegretto
(Yahoo News ”What The Minimum Wage Gets You”, 30 May 2012)
'At the final stakeholder meeting,' says [Glendale, AZ, orthopedic surgeon Eric] Novack, 'It was 50 representatives of the health-care industry against one person: me.' You can guess who won. 'One physician that was there, representing the Mayo Clinic, claimed that disclosing prices would confuse patients since they might choose cost over quality,' says Novack. 'This got a near-collective head nod from all.'
Wait. So if patients got to see how much health care actually cost, they’d be ‘confused.’ As compared to the clear-as-mud system we have today?
It’s not a credible argument. When it comes to health care, patients will be even more demanding of quality than they are in other aspects of their lives. It’s the providers who aren’t providing high-quality care who should be afraid.
"(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville" (live feat. Mike Mills and Peter Buck)
Alejandro Escovedo and Friends live at the Continental Club, Austin, Texas, 18 March 2012
Mike Mills, Alejandro Escovedo, DeWitt Burton and Peter Buck (Photo by Chloe Johnson)