The Hurricane, The Homeless and Humanity

From Florida to New England, Hurricane Sandy chugged and skirted along the eastern seaboard; leaving toppled trees, dozens of deaths and millions without power in her wake.        

It was, no doubt, a terrifying experience for those who’ve never been in the path of a storm this size.  For the seasoned “veteran” it was probably exciting.  But for the homeless, Sandy’s punishing winds and stinging rain, made a difficult life even more strenuous.

As half-a-million New Yorkers were ordered to evacuate, the New York City Department of Homeless Services re-located nine shelters, displacing many of the 47,000 homeless.  Nearly half of which, are children.  And just to the south, in our nations capital, the problem isn’t any better.  According to the Washington Post, Capital Area Food BankBread for the City, and Martha’s Table, all organizations that help feed the homeless in DC, are now closed because of the storm.

Men’s only!  Women’s only!  No pets!  Separated families and too few beds, are problems homeless shelters face on a daily basis.  And while it is normal for shelters to deal with floods of people who live on the street, the floods from this storm forced homeowners to join the ranks of the homeless.  A new problem that has turned already crowded shelters into over-capacity refuges.  For a while, it seems, all those currently living under the shelters’ roofs are indistinguishably equal.        

It is during times like these, however, where people really come together.  The media’s stories of survival, rescues and goodwill gestures will flood the airwaves soon.  Far outweighing the tales of the opportunists who looted or price gouged in the aftermath.  Utility crews from New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are already on site helping restore power to the nearly 7 million people left without.  For those temporarily experiencing what life is like for the homeless, I hope you find your homes still standing when the winds and rains die down.  And for those less fortunate, for those who had no home before the storm, I hope some of those stories of goodwill will find their way to you.  You certainly deserve it.       


Gap & death trap factories

News on Modern Day Slavery

Take Action: Call on Gap to Protect Workers’ Lives

Since 2006 more than 600 garment workers have died in sweatshop factory fires while sewing clothing for giant fashion companies, like Gap, H&M, JCPenney, and Abercrombie.

Future tragic deaths could be prevented if companies like Gap would follow the lead of brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, by agreeing to a fire safety program that includes worker input, transparency, and binding commitments to protect workers.

Six months ago Gap publicly promised it would sign on to a worker safety program similar to the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein agreement. Instead this month GAP reverted to the same old public relations stunts by announcing their own, corporate-controlled, fire safety program – one that includes no legal commitments to workers, no oversight by worker organizations, and no transparency. This is yet another version of Gap saying: ‘trust us; we care about our…

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And he is back, without binders that is……

The man who captivated crowds of 100,000 plus during rallies, skated across Hofstra University’s debate stage, reminding us of one, simple thing: “I’ve got this.”

Body language is telling, and the town hall format showed, not only the president at his most comfortable, it also showed he finally…finally…got his groove back.  Instead of being holed up behind a lectern, Obama strode, sometimes even seeming to glide, across the stage in a confident manner.  Mitt Romney skulked and plodded about, looking like a used car salesman trying to sell us an automobile he knows has far too many miles.

The president was laser focused, besting Romney in nearly every category.  From taxes to Bain Capital.  Even when Mitt tried cornering the president on Libya, staring him down in a defiant manner on the issue of terrorism, Romney was embarrassingly fact-checked on the spot by moderator Candy Crowley, and proven wrong.

But it wasn’t discussion of foreign policy or unemployment that caught my attention.  It was women’s rights.  There was not a single mention of women’s issues during the first debate.  So I was more than grateful to see it come up this time around.  Katherine Fenton, an undecided voter, asked the president, “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?”

Obama mentioned the very first piece of legislation he signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

How did Mitt Romney respond?

Well, he said he, “learned a great deal” about gender pay inequality while constructing his cabinet as Governor.  “And I—and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men.’ They said: ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said: ‘Well, gosh, can’t we—can’t we find some—some women that are also qualified?’ And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”

Binders full of women?  Really?  I never knew it was possible to objectify and dehumanize women everywhere with so few words.  Even worse was this comment from Romney:

“I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said: ‘I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school.’ So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

I give Romney points for flexibility.  That’s certainly important.  But painting the picture of a woman who has to rush home to make dinner for her kids in this century, sounds as dated as someone who still carries around binders of any kind.

If Mitt Romney is elected President of the United States, I’ll tell my daughter not to worry about gender equality or equal pay, because her name will be in a big binder on Mitt Romney’s shelf should she ever need to find a job.  Somehow, I don’t believe that’ll give her much confidence, though.  Even less, I think, when she realizes she falls into that 47% category of his.

14 Year Old Hero Inspires Millions WorldWide

I don’t know if a hero is born or if they’re created. And I’m unsure, exactly, what the precise definition is, seeing as how the word gets so overused these days.

But I do know this: Heroes come to us when we least expect, but always when we need them most. And the world certainly needs Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, a 14-year old Pakistani activist is no stranger to controversy. In 2009, she campaigned for girls’s education, championing her cause by writing anonymous blogs for the BBC. Detailing Taliban atrocities near her home in the Swat Valley, she voiced her opposition to the Taliban. Writing about the burning of girls’ schools, Malala spoke of her desire to set up her own political party and establish an institute for marginalized girls in the area.

Her efforts gained the attention of the Pakistani Prime Minister, who awarded her the country’s first National Peace Prize. Her notoriety also attracted the attention of the Taliban, who put her family on their “hit list” and stormed her school bus as it sat preparing to leave the grounds in Mingora, the main city in the Swat Valley. Claiming Malala’s work as an “obscenity” that needed to be stopped, a Taliban gunman opened fire and shot her in the head.

Today, Malala is receiving treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the UK. A facility which has treated every British battle casualty for the last ten years. Doctors say she “has a chance of making a good recovery on every level.” But while Malala recovers, the cause for which she nearly gave her life continues to struggle.

On Tuesday the Pakistani Supreme Court ordered an investigation into the alleged barter of seven girls to settle a family argument in a remote area of south west Pakistan. The exact ages of the girls were unknown, but the district deputy commissioner, Saeed Faisal, told the court the girls were between four and thirteen.

Malala Yousafzai isn’t just a symbol of resistance against the Taliban’s efforts to deprive girls of an education. She’s a symbol of hope against oppression everywhere. She spoke out. She made a difference. She changed the world. She’s a hero…and she’s only 14.

A few years ago, Bill Gates was invited to speak in Saudi Arabia and found himself in a segregated audience. On the left, four-fifths of the group were men, the remaining one-fifth on the right were women. One of the members spoke up, telling Gates it was Saudi Arabia’s goal to be one of the Top 10 technology countries in the world by 2010. When asked if it were realistic, Gates responded; “If you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get to the Top 10 in anything.”


Let’s start with the definition.

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons: by the threat or use of kidnapping, force, fraud, deception or coercion, or by the giving or receiving of unlawful payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, and for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.1

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Style Can’t Beat Substance: Obama Will Still Win

I have to admit, after the first debate I was in the, “Where was my President?” camp.  I shook my head, gritted my teeth and yelled at the TV.  Turning it off in disgust I marched, like a petulant child, straight to bed. I’m still searching for the remote I threw.

I’d never seen such a performance.  The President was not the inspiring candidate of hope and change I had come to expect.  He was an apologetic political science professor who appeared to simply be enduring the evening.

Romney was relentless.  He dictated the tonality of the debate and churned out one point after another, making his case with relative ease and appearing eminently reasonable on every position.  What I didn’t know, what the 50 million other people watching at home didn’t know, was that while the President was playing defense, Mitt Romney was lying his ass off.  And while he may have gotten away with it on stage, he won’t be able to escape it in the court of public scrutiny.

How many lies did Mitt Romney tell on that stage?  I’m not sure exactly, but I’m guessing it was about 90 minutes worth.

“If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth,” Mr. Obama said at a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin a day after the debate.  And I agree.

Mitt Romney’s “secret” plan DOES raise taxes on the middle class.  Closing the loopholes he’s proposing doesn’t allow him any other options.  He DOES favor a $5 trillion tax cut. He lied about Obama doubling the deficit.  And Romney lied yet again about Obama taking $716 billion from Medicare in order to fund heath care.  And finally, Romney claimed, “You never balance a budget by raising taxes.”  I guess he forgot President Clinton did.

We are in an age, like it or not, where the appearance of being more important than you are is perceived as being more vital than what you’re actually saying. Mitt Romney was successful at doing that.

After the debate, Independent voters across the country felt they were willing to give Mitt a “second look.”  So let’s do that, because one stylistically well performed debate doesn’t erase his 47% comments – or his track record of Bain Capital – or his failure to release his tax returns – or his stance against gay marriage – or his desire to overturn Roe V. Wade – or his willingness to give tax breaks to the wealthiest people in the country – or to screw the elderly with a Medicare voucher system – or to tax the middle class…because that’s the only way to pay for a budget plan he apparently put together with a broken abacas and a few crayons.

Still believe Mitt Romney?  Tell me, then, what is his plan, exactly, on health care?  I didn’t hear it.  Neither did you.  What is his plan, again, to put people back work?  Did you catch it at the debate?  No, I didn’t think so.  Why?  My guess, and I’m just taking a stab at it here…it’s because he doesn’t have one!

Mitt’s Romney’s debate performance may have been a victory for him, but a win in a battle doesn’t mean you’ve prevailed in the war. Will the race tighten?  Yes. Will Obama’s lead in the swing states drop a point or two?  Sure.  But that’s all.  Ohio will still go blue.  And with that, the president’s electoral map now sits at 265 – only 5 away from another term. Mitt’s performance may have turned what was once a crowded path to Washington, into a less bumpy road for him to travel, but it will never be an entirely clear path.  If this had been a month earlier, Obama’s lackluster performance might have made a real difference.  But it’s too little too late for Governor Romney.  Obama’s lead is too great. The gap is too wide to close.

If Romney is going to win, he has to turn 9 swing states red: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Even Romney’s lousy math skills can’t escape the fact he’s trailing badly in all those states, but two.

Unless Jimmy Hoffa is found buried under the White House lawn, Mr. Obama will be a two-term President.

Still think this debate turned the tides in Mr. Romney’s favor?  Consider this:  Going into their first debate, George Bush lost to John Kerry.  Ronald Reagan lost to Walter Mondale.  And Reagan didn’t just lose…he lost so badly the Republican Party outright questioned if Reagan might be too old for the job.

Today’s news from the Labor Department, that the economy added 114,000 jobs last month is welcome news for a President working to get back on message.  Even better news, the unemployment rate dropped below 8.0% for the first time in four years.

I was reminded recently, about loyalty and love. You don’t abandon the one you love because they had a bad night.  You stay loyal.  You help them get up.  You encourage them to have a better today – tomorrow, and everyday after. I won’t abandon my president.  And I’m ashamed the mere thought even crossed my mind. I should have known better.  And if you felt like me, you should have, too.

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