The Atlantic Monthly just published their “100 Most Influential Americans of All Time” and asked us to suspend our value judgments about dirty-peeper-in-a-robe Hugh Hefner, who tied Tiger Woods for Number 33 on a “Living Influential Americans” sidebar. (The guy who freed the slaves was officially Number One and, at lowly Number Two, the Virginia slaveowner who, according to An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, sent his slaves back to his plantation every six months so they wouldn’t be liberated in the nation’s then-capital, freetown Philadelphia.)
But modern America’s most influential hundred right now has got to be the Democratic Congress’s 100 legislative-hour agenda (a throwback to FDR’s first 100 New Deal days). The 110th Congress’s stopwatch is ticking, and the general verve for reshaping the nation’s priorities even has Dubya talking out the side of his neck about corruption, waste, and fiscal discipline. Last week, Bush sounded like Obama as he balked against “the secretive process by which Washington insiders are able to get billions of dollars directed to projects,” according to a White House press release. (As if pork hadn’t reached an all-time high on his pig-farm watch.)
You, Good Citizen, can join the me-tooism even if you’re not a lawmaker, by being more rasquache — find local groups or go DIY and commit 100 hours over the next congressional term (less than an hour a week) to mirroring the new national agenda.
The CEOs of the Fortune 100 companies make an average of $8,461 per hour. Forty hours a week at $5.15 adds up to $10,712 annually. Increasing the minimum wage would help 8-million working families, estimates say.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a 34-year-old international organization, wants volunteers to agitate for a living wage and better housing, and to rebuild the infectious Cajun-bayou culture in New Orleans. San Antonio ACORN; info: 226-2584. Acorn.org
Pelosi’s pushing the overhaul of the 2003 Medicare law to let the government negotiate directly with drug companies: it’s cheaper, less-complicated, and more people would be served. Throw in “less paperwork” and you’ve just described universal health care.
The House’s Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act, the Senate’s RSSA Act, and Hillary Clinton’s Student Borrower Bill of Rights (S. 3255) could alleviate the pain caused by previous increases in college-loan interest rates, says the Studentloanjustice blog at Tpmcafe.com. The proposed legislation could help 5 million students save $12 billion.
Good Citizen can be a guardian angel to an SA teen, through Empowerment 21, a college-prep program founded by retired Air Force Major Cornelius Betz III, whose website offers this testimonial: “Both mama and big mama raised me to be mindful of my actions, to respect my elders and to do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.“ If only the Republican-controlled 109th Congress had been as mindful. Info: Empowerment21.com
“We are recognizing the miraculous, almost biblical, power that science has to cure,“ Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor, stumping for a bill to increase stem-cell lines in 2005. “Every family in America is just one phone call away, one diagnosis, one accident away from needing the benefits of stem cell research.” Expect more from the Lady Boss in 2007.
Good Citizen doesn’t have to believe a stem cell holds the key to apoptosis-based therapies for cancer-infected cells if he supports groups battling the diseases that stem-cell research focuses on — diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the nervous system, heart disease, and cancer. Promoting scientific freedom is just a side effect. Info: American Cancer Society (San Antonio). 614-4211. Or Volunteermatch.org for other health-related groups.
“De-escalate. Investigate. Troops home now.” Anti-war activists led by Cindy Sheehan shouted down Democratic Representative Rahm Emanuel at a press conference last week. There’s no need to yell at lonesome doves like John Murtha, who chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and said he won’t open the purse for a troop surge in Iraq.
Good Citizen can protest the war at the Peace Vigil, Thursdays, 4 - 5 p.m., on the corner of Main and Commerce (across from Main Plaza near San Fernando Cathedral). The opening event for the peaceCENTER’s Season for Nonviolence is January 28 at 6:30 p.m., 1443 S. St. Mary’s. Info: [email protected]. 224-Hope. Salsa.net/peace
Sure, there’s talk about implementing the 41 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. But did you know the recs include such diverse topics as respecting the Geneva Convention’s rules for the humane treatment of detainees, a reassessment of the U.S.’s relationship with the Saudis, rebuilding CIA intelligence, safeguarding civil liberties, and an increased assignment of radio spectrum for public-safety purposes? Visit Grumet.net/911/recommendations.html to learn more.
When disasters like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina lead to overloaded 911 systems and choked wireless services, amateur radio helps emergency rescuers overcome paralysis. Good Citizen can join the city’s 2,200 licensed amateur radio operators at Sanantoniohams.org. Or, tune into the San Antonio Radio Club’s Swapfest this Saturday 8 a.m. - 3 p.m., Little Joe’s Country Gold, 7405 Old Pearsall Road, and get your Ham license. $4. Info: 273-5927. W5sc.org.
The 100-hour agenda overlooks the public financing of elections and a real discussion of how Big Money special interests guide government (says Barak “I am your new god” Obama in a Washington Post editorial), but at least there’s a serious discussion now of how big a gift bag lawmakers can accept, and who they can skinny dip with.
Good Citizen can be sly, and make business beholden to him by supporting microfinance — a microloan to get a small-business operation running. Through ACCION Texas, help local microentrepreneurs like Alejandro Perez and San Antonio Cab, a co-op born in 1999 with just a $500 loan. Info: 507-4283. Acciontexas.org.
Or, on the financing-of-elections tip, support Texans for Public Justice, which tracks the influence of money in state politics. Info: Tpj.org.
Energy giant ExxonMobil spends $16 million to help dispute that humans cause melting polar caps — ergo, drowning polar bears — and other climate-change consequences linked to Global Warming, says a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. No matter: The 100-hour agenda says expect cuts to oil subsidies and investment in safe alternatives.Cleartheair.org says environmental pollutants from coal plants shortens the lives of 1,160 Texans each year. And if Good Citizen is against cooking the climate and feels like taking on world-class polluter TXU Corp. and the state’s rush to build 11 new coal-fired power plants, he can join the SEED Coalition and Public Citizen-Texas, and be part of an intervention to get Texas off the sooty CO2 pipe. Info: Stopthecoalplant.org.