What Have We Learned from The Nelson Mandela Memorial?

So what have we learned from the memorial service/celebration of the iconic global leader Nelson Mandela? Let’s see now, President Obama shook the hand of Cuban president Raul Castro.

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For some, this is proof our president is a commie loving Kenyan socialist traitor. Whatever. What’s in a handshake? A change in US policy toward Cuba? He’s already relaxed some strictures from an embargo against the country that’s better than a half century old. There’s no word from the White House that the handshake means he’ll eliminate the embargo.

Oh yeah, and while we’re at it, why don’t we ask ourselves just what it’s accomplished. The end of the Castros? Nope. What people won’t say about Cuba is that they stood with the liberation movements in southern Africa when American lawmakers were calling freedom fighters terrorists.

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Style over substance number two is Barack Obama’s selfie with the Prime Ministers of Britain and Denmark. For all the media coverage, you’d never even know David Cameron was in the picture. It was all about the “flirty” Obama and the Danish “tart”. Oh, and I forgot the reaction of the first lady, which journalists across the country, thousands of miles from the scene chose to interpret. While it may not have been the smartest thing in the world for the president to do, it’s nowhere near the sexualized encounter some in the tabloid press here in New York have made it out to be.

Issue number three is the non signing of the sign language interpreter who stood for hours gesticulating without actually translating what was going on at the podium. Thamsanga Jantjie maintains he was suffering from a ” schizophrenic episode, and now fears the his safety, as well as that of his family. Should be a tempest in a teapot, like the rest of this stuff.

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So these three things are the “takeaways” from a memorial service that drew tens of thousands of people to a soccer stadium to pay their respects to a man who transcended hate and oppression to forge a free South Africa?

For shame!

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Living Wage, Fast Food?

As fast food workers take to the streets across the nation, we ought to reflect on just what the Republicans’ cut first and ask questions later ideology has wrought in American society. The New York Times has run a couple of stories profiling people who for years were part of the nation’s middle class who now find themselves staring at their 60s working low wage jobs. That’s also happening in fast food. We also need to consider the fact that the average age of an American fast food worker is now 29.

 

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That’s hardly the fresh faced teenager trying to save up for college, or someone who needs a little supplemental income. Fact is, times have changed. That’s why their demand for $15 dollars an hour sounds entirely reasonable to me. Especially in light of what moneymen in expensive suits are getting ready to do to the city of Detroit. How are they connected, you ask? The city is now able to declare bankruptcy (not necessarily a bad thing), and at the same time cut retiree pensions (an awful thing). The rationale? Things have changed. Detroit is broke. It can’t pay an average $19,000 a year to people who’ve worked for their city, no matter what the state constitution says.

Times have changed.

So if that’s true in Detroit, why does the fast food industry cling to an old, timeworn view of who their employees are? Haven’t times changed in fast food? Burgers don’t cost a quarter anymore. The head of McDonald’s makes more than $8 million a year. The industry pushes back against demands for a living wage by threatening to bring in automation. Don’t buy it. Automation costs lots of money. Besides, would you want your burger flipped and packaged by Uniblab?

Long story short, I support fast food workers, even though I rarely eat fast food. The days when the big fast food operators can alibi and excuse their low wage-no benefit behavior are coming to an end. After all…..

Times have changed.

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