8 years of “suffering” under Barack Obama

Take a moment and think. What have/did we “suffer ” under 8 years of President Obama? An improving economy. Kindness and outreach to all. No scandals in the White House…. 

I say, “Let’s have more of this. Not more of 45’s junk, scandal, and fear mongering.”

Teri Carter's Library

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3C54DC7D00000578-4140672-Barack_Obama_waves_as_he_boards_Marine_One_and_departs_the_Capit-a-77_1484945371469 Photo credit: The Associated Press

The sentence I hear most from well-meaning, conservative friends since President Trump’s election is this: “We suffered 8 years under Barack Obama.”

Fair enough. Let’s take a look.

The day Obama took office, the Dow closed at 7,949 points. Eight years later, the Dow had almost tripled.

General Motors and Chrysler were on the brink of bankruptcy, with Ford not far behind, and their failure, along with their supply chains, would have meant the loss of millions of jobs. Obama pushed through a controversial, $8o billion bailout to save the car industry. The U.S. car industry survived, started making money again, and the entire $80 billion was paid back, with interest.

While we remain vulnerable to lone-wolf attacks, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully executed a mass attack here since 9/11.

Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

He drew down the number…

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Charlottesville White Supremacists Are On the Wrong Side of History | National Organization for Women

Source: Charlottesville White Supremacists Are On the Wrong Side of History | National Organization for Women

Statement of NOW President Toni Van Pelt

08.12.2017
Picture of Toni Van Pelt.

Toni Van Pelt, President of the National Organization for Women

The white supremacists who launched a brutal protest against the city of Charlottesville, Virginia’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee must be held to account for their violence and hate speech, says Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

“Robert E. Lee was on the wrong side of history and so are the Charlottesville racists,” says Toni Van Pelt. “The majority of Virginia voters—like the majority of voters across the U.S., voted for the presidential candidate who defended inclusion over intolerance, healing over division and fairness over bigotry. NOW stands with our courageous sisters and brothers in Charlottesville, who are standing strong against hate and violence.”

NOW has always been committed to eradicating racism. In NOW’s original Statement of Purpose, the group’s founders wrote, “We realize that women’s problems are linked to many broader questions of social justice; their solution will require concerted action by many groups. Therefore, convinced that human rights for all are indivisible, we expect to give active support to the common cause of equal rights for all those who suffer discrimination and deprivation.”

Today’s violent march follows an evening “Unite the Right” rally at the University of Virginia where hate-filled rhetoric from Ku Klux Klan members and other alt-right activists was directed at African Americans, immigrants, and Jewish people.

Charlotte Gibson, president of Charlottesville NOW, said, “The white nationalists, neo-Nazis, armed militias and alt-right extremists who came to Charlottesville and tried to hijack democracy today will not succeed. Their rhetoric is never acceptable in a civilized society, and their embrace of violence must never be tolerated.”

“Donald Trump’s personal reliance on the language of confrontation, combat, and intolerance has alarmed us all in recent days,” says Toni Van Pelt. “Trump may be sending signals and cues to those who would harm peaceful protesters, but the people of Charlottesville are standing up to Trump-inspired bullying and inspiring us all.”

Contact

M.E. Ficarra, press@now.org, 951-547-1241
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What does Lady Liberty stand for?

Lady Liberty. A symbol of freedom and welcoming. We so need to have a government that stands up for these welcoming ideals as expressed by Emma Lazarus in her poem “The New Colossus.”

For those that are interested, The New Colossus is a bit longer than the “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,…” part that is oft quoted. These words occur at the end of the poem. The bronze plaque titled “The New Colossus” is attached to the base of Lady Liberty states and says, in full:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 

For a fuller history of immigration’s connection to Lady Liberty, check out my blog post from earlier this year: “The Statue of Liberty is an Egyptian Woman.

Political Vibes

Bronze Plaque of New Colossus Image Credit National Park Service

This week at a briefing, CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta stated to Senior White House aide Stephen Miller that the new GOP immigration plan did not seem like it was in accordance with American tradition. Then, Acosta mentioned the poem found on the Statue of Liberty called ‘The New Colossus’.

Miller responded, “The poem you were referring to was added later … It’s not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

Yes, Emma Lazarus’ ‘The New Colossus’ was added to The Statue of Liberty seventeen years after the monument arrived in New York Harbor. But, who cares?

Millions of people arrived in The United States over the past 100+ years through New York Harbor and were welcomed by The Statue of Liberty. As a result, this statue has become a symbol of freedom and the American Dream. It is an sign of…

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Congress, DDT Leaving Washington, DC with Little to Show

This blog from Nel’s New Day is a good source for what has (not) happened to 45’s and the GOP’s agenda as they head home for recess.  When they come back in September, Congress will need to pass the budget and 45 will need to sign it before the October 1 fiscal year deadline. They will also need to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a shutdown of the federal government and a potential financial crisis.

But the number of days of session work in September is insufficient. The US House of Representative will be in session for just 12 days in September — on September 5-8. 11-14, and 25-28. The Senate will be a little more active; they’ll be in session for 17 days — September 5-8, 11-14, 18-20, and 25-29. Note that there is one week — September 18-22 —  where the House is glaringly absent from work. Why?

As Nel questions,

“[What will happen] if the House [and Senate don’t] get around to passing the budget and increasing the debt ceiling?”

Surging interest rates? A return to recession?  Another international financial crisis?  Let’s hope not!

Source: Congress, DDT Leaving D.C. with Little to Show

Colina L. Fischer Jordan Seeley – My Feminist Activist Partner 1928-2017

Picture of Colina Jordan Seeley sitting on her back porch.

Colina L Jordan Seeley. Photo courtesy of the family as posted at http://www.rouppfuneralhome.com/notices/Colina-Seeley

On Sunday, July 30 I received an email that my close friend Colina Jordan Seeley had died in Wilkes-Barre, PA from complications of a stroke.  She was an 89-year old fireball.  An activist, a fighter for social justice, a social worker, mother, wife, and a life-long fighter for the rights and safety of all. A real feminist.

She was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands a year after my mother was born.  By the time she was 12, she had become a fighter for the underdog; one of her first acts was becoming a part of the Nazi Resistance in the Netherlands.  Her family told this story in her obituary that came out today – a story she often said to me.  The only part she left out in her storytelling to me was that she was the one that convinced her father to go into hiding. Here’s a clip from the obituary:

She was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands on 7 May 1928.  She grew up in an academic household where her father was [a] professor of anthropology at [the] University of Utrecht, and her mother was a history and geography teacher. 

When the Nazis took over the Netherlands, her father was called in to explain why he no longer taught.  He said that the Dutch students had mostly evaporated and all that was left was Nazi sympathizers.  When Colina heard this story that evening, at age 12 she instantly saw that the Nazis would be coming to pick him up, and made such a scene that her father reluctantly went into hiding that night.  The next morning the Nazis were at the door to pick him up.  Colina became the mainstay of the family consisting of the other 5 children and her not very functional mother.  Colina was the person who scrounged for tidbits of food and coal.  She cooked in the back yard over a tin can.  As a small girl with long blonde braids, she was able to hoodwink the Nazis and lead off men out of the groups being marched to Germany to work in the factories there.

Here’s a bit more to that story.  Colina told me that she helped lead these men away from the Nazis after they crawled through a hidden hole at the back end of the Gymnasium (school) into a safe house that abutted the back of the school. She would go each day and walk the escapee away from the area pretending to the Nazi’s that her “uncle” was so drunk he couldn’t talk and tell them she was taking him home to his wife and kids.

Another story she told was about her food scrounging adventures.  Apparently, the Nazis had food and milk trucks that rumbled through town on a regular basis.  As a young teenage girl she was able to get near these trucks, and when the Nazis backs were turned, she’d grab milk off of the trucks and run.  A dangerous activity, but she got away with this too.

BTW, she didn’t see or hear or know where her father was throughout the war because the family feared that if the children knew of his whereabouts they might have been tortured to tell.  He came home safely at the end of the war.

After the war, Colina came to the US and obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work.  She married Joseph Jordan whom she met at the University of Minnesota. The moved to State College where they raised their four children – Saskia, Sharon, Naomi, and Adlai.  Joseph died in August 1992, and she married Ralph Seeley in April 2004.  ,

She continued her activism here in the states. Among the things I know that she accomplished were:

  • Successfully advocating for low-income people with mental health issues.
  • Providing mental health care as the sole practitioner in the Penns Valley area of Centre County. For those that don’t know the area, it’s a rural farming community with a large Amish population. I believe her work in Penns Valley also helped foster her love of nature and the work of the Clearwater Conservancy.
  • Forcing the local Elks Club in Boalsburg to open up membership to people of color. She did this by contacting John W. Oswald in 1970 right after Penn State University announced that he was going to be the new University President.  She pointed out to him that his welcoming party was planned at the racially segregated Elks Club in Boalsburg.  He agreed with her that this was wrong and notified the University that he wouldn’t step inside the club as long as this policy continued.  The venue changed, and soon the policy was too.
  • Starting the first NOW (National Organization for Women) chapter and the local women’s domestic violence and sexual assault center in Centre County in the early 1970s.  The Women’s Resource Center is still going strong today. And Colina remained a member of NOW until her death.
  • Using her love of storytelling, she also became active in the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association towards the end of her life.  She thought up and helped create our Out Loud program. This program highlights local poets, poetry, and local storytelling.

I moved to Centre County in 1981.  She was one of the very first people I met. That was at a NOW meeting. We crossed paths on an irregular basis until 1991 when I, along with Colina and a couple of other women founded Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, the current local chapter of the National Organization for Women.  She became my activist, feminist partner in crime.  We spent time listening to each other, traveling to rallies and protests, and organizing actions to improve the lives of women, LGBTQIA, and people of color here in Happy Valley and at Penn State University.

My favorite memory was setting up a protest ladder on Old Main Lawn with her in September of 1992. The day before President George Bush came to campus to speak for his second run for office, she and I brought in a ladder and a banner and laid them on the ground about halfway up the lawn near the area where the general public was going to be admitted.  Our plan was to set up the ladder and put some broken dolls on the ladder with a sign saying something about his lack of support for early childhood care.

The next day we got there, picked up the banner and the ladder. We then set up the ladder with the baby dolls. Almost immediately, a Secret Service agent came up and confiscated the ladder saying it was a “safety hazard.”

So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies; every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

We returned the next day and picked up the banner and the ladder. We then set up the ladder with the baby dolls. Almost immediately, a Secret Service agent came up and confiscated the ladder saying it was a “safety hazard.”  So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies; every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies. Every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

The press soon found out about this confiscation and broadcast the news as a violation of Free Speech – courtesy of Colina and myself.

Afterward, we went up to the Secret Service agent and asked him what they had done with Colina’s ladder.  The Secret Service agent looked shocked and said to Colina, “It’s your ladder!? I can’t believe an old lady would bring a ladder here!”  He obviously didn’t know Colina!  At that time she would have been 64 years old. He then smiled, told us where they had put it, and we picked it up.

Colina, you’ll be missed.  My condolences to your entire family.  And for those wanting to hear more about Colina and her life, the family is holding a memorial service sometime in September at the Unitarian Fellowship in State College.  Instead of flowers, donations can be made in Colina’s name to any organization of which she would approve, many of which are listed here in this blog.

Farewell, my dear friend.

Voter Suppression Goes National

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that stopped the voter suppressing photo id law. I was part of this suit in 2013 and testified before the PA Commonwealth Court on what I had observed.  The law was overturned in 2014. We successfully made sure that women, the poor, the elderly, and people of color had an equal chance to cast their ballot here in our state.

Yet the argument of voter fraud still continues and has now reached national proportions with 45’s new federal voting commission (aka, the “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity”); many states, including Pennsylvania, have said this commission’s call for the detailed voting records of more than 200 million people across the country is “unwarranted” and is fraught with privacy issues.

What this commission is NOT looking at are the aging electronic voting machines, many of which have no paper trail to verify one’s vote.  Here in Pennsylvania, 80% of voters voted on such machines in the 2016 Presidential election.  And when a recount was requested, there was nothing available to verify the count other than to reread the same aggregated vote count on the electronic machine chips. As the Morning Call in Allentown, PA reported in December 2016,

These paperless digital voting machines, used by roughly 1 in 5 U.S. voters last month, present one of the most glaring dangers to the security of the rickety, underfunded U.S. election system. Like many electronic voting machines, they are vulnerable to hacking. But other machines typically leave a paper trail that could be manually checked. The paperless digital machines open the door to potential election rigging that might not ever be detected.

The machines and voter suppression, not voter fraud, are the problems to be solved.

There is almost no voter fraud — only four cases of voter fraud were found nationwide last fall. In contrast, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego and at Bucknell University found that strict voter id laws do, in fact, suppress votes among minority communities and skew elections toward the political right.

For more about this conflict between so-called voter fraud and the real effect of voter suppression, check out Nel’s New Day blog entitled Voter Suppression Goes National.

GOP Senators Work to Take Health Care from Millions of People

Nel's New Day

While millions of people in the United States were focused on the Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey, the Republicans were sabotaging health care for a large percentage of people in the nation. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced this goal at the annual Road to Majority conference organized by Ralph Reed and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Amidst a drum beat of calling Democrats obstructionists, DDT said that restoring freedom means taking away health care from millions of people. A 13-senator group has been planning in secrecy, hoping to push a vote by July because, according to Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO), “I don’t think this gets better over time.” In other words, they know it stinks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  is desperate because the bill has to meet the approval of both House and Senate by September 30 in order to use the process of reconciliation…

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A Thank you Sonnet to Leadership Centre County

The web of programs and issues in Centre County

On our final LCC retreat, eight groups of members of the 2017 class of Leadership Centre County crafted a visual representation of all of the program issues/days held over the ten months of the program. The top left picture shows our view of how these different issues are connecting in our county.

Over the last ten months, 50 leaders from the for the profit, the non-profit, and the local government groups in Centre County, PA came together for a training and networking to increase our knowledge and multiply our skills to help the citizenry throughout the county.

This program has been held for the last 25 years by Leadership Centre County.The Mission of Leadership Centre County is to increase the community’s pool of servant leaders by:

  • Bringing diverse individuals together for networking, education, and exposure to community issues, opportunities, and needs;
  • Encouraging increased participation for leadership in civic service; and
  • Creating a support network for present and future leaders.

This is my thank you to Leadership Centre County for this wonderful training and experience.

Sonnet to Leadership Centre County

September to June we came together

50 people from around the county

Knowing a little, wishing for better,

We worked together for civic bounty.

 

We joined each other for play and hard work

At camps, wineries, some parks, and two prisons

In towns and museums, streets, and some kirks

We got to see new ideas and great visions

 

Each day was diverse. You could say unique

In juntos often, with programs, we’ll lead

Taking time and effort to share our technique

25 years and counting we can now accede

 

We have loved your wonderful bounty.

So Thank you, Leadership Centre County.

Another Light Sentence for Rape — Nel’s New Day

On July 22, 2014, the Montana Supreme Court censured Yellowstone County Judge G. Todd Baugh for using rape myths that reduced the sentence of a rapist to 31 days in jail. They also suspended him from the bench and remanded the case back to another judge in Yellowstone County to resentence Stacey Rambold.

The story shown below about Californian Nolan Bruder sounds eerily familiar.  California Judge William H. Follett, just like G. Todd Baugh in Montana used rape myths to explain the light sentence he handed down to this convicted rapist. In the Rambold case, Pennsylvania NOW and Montana took several action steps to stop this type of judicial misbehavior.

Along with Ultra-Violet, we initially circulated a petition to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission and followed that up with an official complaint attaching over 240,000 signatures from outraged people around the world.  Subsequently, when the case was appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, Montana NOW, Pennsylvania NOW, Legal Voice, Sexual Violence Law Center, Women’ Law Project, and Legal Momentum filed an amicus brief before the Montana Supreme Court documenting the rape myths that Baugh used in determining and handing down the sentence he gave to former teacher and convicted rapist Stacey Rambold. These efforts resulted in the aforementioned censorship and suspension of the judge and the resentencing of the sexual perpetrator.

Now others in California are starting the same process with a petition drive to remove Judge Follett.  I signed their petition, and made the following comment to the petition organizers:

To the petitioner organizer, I applaud your efforts to remove Judge Follet from the bench. However because this is a complaint against a judge, the California General Assembly can not take or review this specific complaint. This is because there is a constitutional separation of powers issue [requiring that the legislature not become directly involved in a specific judicial case].

It has to go through the California Commission on Judicial Performance. Details on how to file a complaint can be found at https://cjp.ca.gov/file_a_complaint/. When MT NOW and PA NOW filed their complaint against G. Todd Baugh for similar judicial misconduct in 2013, we included the 240,000 petition signatures that were directed to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission. FYI, there had been other petitions circulated to both the legislature and the governor of Montana re Baugh’s sentencing, but they were not accepted by the Judicial Standards Commission because they weren’t directed to the right place.

If you want more detail, you can contact me. Meanwhile here’s a link to what we successfully did in Montana: https://civilrightsadvocacy.net/2014/12/31/2013-2014-justice4cherise/

I wish the petitioners good luck and hope that their efforts result in a successful retraining of judges in California, much like what happened in Montana.

And if you live in another state where you believe a judge has similarly misbehaved or failed to follow judicial ethics guidelines, Google your state’s name along with something like “Judicial Conduct Board” to find out where you need to file your complaint and what you need to include.  Good luck!  We need to make sure that justice for all rape victims can be achieved, just as it was in Cherise’s case in Montana.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his employer, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), are concerned about stricter laws for drug users (aka blacks), but they have said nothing about rape. In another case of white male entitlement, a judge sentenced Nolan Bruder, 20, to three years with all except 240 days suspended in favor of probation, […]

via Another Light Sentence for Rape — Nel’s New Day

The hydra returns as the Toll Brothers win in Commonwealth Court

This is a cautionary tale from a township just south of where I live. FYI, the Slab Cabin Run that is mentioned below feeds into Spring Creek which runs right through Bellefonte where I live.

Peter is in the Forest

map_of_ferguson_township2c_centre_county2c_pennsylvania_highlighted Ferguson Township, depicted in red, is a Home Rule municipality in southern Centre County. We are about 18,000 people on about 50 square miles of mixed urban, suburban, agricultural, and forested land. The Cottages development discussed in this post would be located along the central eastern border of the township with State College borough. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

As you may know, a Centre County Court of Common Pleas judge’s ordered that a lower court decision be vacated regarding The Cottages, a Toll Brothers development in Ferguson Township where I’m a supervisor. The original lower court decision found that the previous board had “committed an error of law” in regard to the planned residential development (PRD) plan for the Cottages in November 2015.

As the Centre Daily Times reports, “A group of residents filed an appeal against the board” and Judge Grine ruled last July that the supervisors had “committed an error of law…

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