Saturday, December 31, 2005

Capital Gains
Coupled with my lack of business finesse, my lack of drive in the arena of finance has always perplexed me. And made me feel a little out of the loop, in so far as societal priorities are concerned. During the period of .coms, I felt, for probably the first time in my life, a feeling of missing something. Was I missing something? Everyone was jumping into the stock market and making beaucoups cash. I even went so far as to contact my little brother. But I didn’t jump in. It’s not some fiscal wisdom, but frankly an absolute and total lack of interest. I do not care about money. There. I said it. Usually this is uttered from the mouths of the super-rich because, when you have it, you can act like you don’t care about it. That doesn’t apply here…….even slightly. This is also a lofty statement made by an upper middle class citizen who has never experienced life without cash, and therefore can dismiss its importance. Again. Inapplicable. I have been without. Perhaps it’s because I was not taught by a severe driving example the value of a dollar. I was given an allowance. I wasn’t spoiled but I had what I needed and some of what I wanted. But my dad was a man who detested materialism. He was a doctor and he provided well for his family and his wife, even after he died. But stuff was not important to him. Education? Important. Manners? Important. Kindness to animals? Important. Putting others before oneself? Important. A new car. Not so important. For as much as I rebelled against my racist father, I absorbed and took to heart his lack of materialism. If I had money, I spent it, on fun stuff with my friends. If they didn’t have money, who cares? I do! Let’s have fun! Weird though, when the table turned and friends had money, I couldn’t accept their generosity. My dad also instilled the proverb “neither a borrower nor a lender be”. I used that adage as my retort but in actuality, I was prideful. I could pay for others, but (balk) others would not pay for me. It’s perception really. Within a moment, you can honestly believe that you are behaving for an honorable or trusted reason, when in hindsight the realization is made that you were ducking behind something to avoid a character flaw that needed addressing. Although that lesson has been put before me many times, the lesson of allowing others to give to me is a strength not a weakness, it has taken me years to confront it within myself. And as usual, it had to happen to someone I love before I realized the need for reevaluation of myself.
My older brother, Paul, was left in England when my family moved here. To go to boarding school. At seven. My entire extended family lived in England, but we were here – my mom, dad, sister, and I, and later, my younger brother, who got to stay in the US. Which never made any sense to me, but who was I? Paul would come to visit during the summer and at Christmas, and I adored him. He was like……a present. A funny, cute, quick, athletic guy that came and lit up our family twice a year. I never understood why he couldn’t stay. I always felt the undercurrent of disappointment and anger with him and sadness with my mom, but when you’re a kid and your parents make a decision like that, you just think they know what they’re doing. Family history aside, Paul came home at, I think, 17, full of resentment, frustration and disgust with all of us. He went to Texas A&M, got accepted into the Vet school in his junior year and graduated four years later. To say he is brilliant is an understatement. Witty, artistic, obviously first born, because he grabbed as many of the gifts as he could possible get into his outstretched arms, leaving the rest of us to pick through the remains. He had a veterinary practice that flourished under his incredible example of deep concern and compassion for the animals and their owners. Everyone loved him. His wife, Sam, is a beautiful, simple Christian woman who he adores and who adores him. Then BAM! Is it five or six years now, I don’t know, but he noticed that something was wrong and after keeping it a secret for months finally told all of us that he has Lou freakin Gehrig’s disease – ALS. God. What a blow. You know cancer is horrible but they are making huge strides in combating the disease. As they are with heart disease. But ALS? No advances whatsoever. Your body turns on you and shuts down – you basically lose all capacity of motor function – talking, moving, breathing etc. – until you suffocate. Your mind? Completely intact. His mind is completely intact. Can you even fathom that? Here is a guy who everyone depended on, deacon at the church, rotary club, humane society volunteer doc, Sunday school teacher, two kids and a wife; and his life is slammed into a brick wall. He lost his ability to speak almost immediately, which was truly cruel as his love for the English language was only surpassed by his ability to turn a phrase. Clever, creative and witty. A man that never ever leaned on anyone. He was a reserved, private man. And then he gets laid out. Now, he can no longer give anything to anyone, at least in his mind. Yet, the miracle of the past six or so years is how others have exhibited an unabashed adoration for him and flock to assist him. His family is completely sustained by the community. His church has risen to the task fulfilling all the needs of not just him, but his family. Someone paid for the kids to stay in their private school, until graduation. Someone paid for him and his family to fly, first class, to England to see his family for the last time. Someone built an addition to the house that is handicap accessible. Meals, transport, cars, lawn and pool maintenance, fellowship, a masseuse for his degenerating muscles, the list is endless. For six years it has not lulled in the slightest. And he can give nothing back to the people that help him. In his mind. But you talk to the people who do help, who come and read to him, who take his son out and teach him woodworking or soccer, who mow his lawn, who makes the family a complete dinner, you ask them what they get out of it. Every single one of them has something else to do, a family, a job or two, a house. What do they get out of it? The absolute joy of giving. The sparkle in his eyes. Being able to help someone who has helped so many. Because he did. He helped so many people. When he was diagnosed with this crushing disease, two of his friends took him and his wife to their lake house. It is a beautiful and serene environment, and one of them said that she wanted to pray for the rapture. She wanted the end to come. He stopped her and said, please don’t do that yet. There are members of my family who still aren’t Christians. Please don’t do that yet.

He was talking about me.

In the midst of this mind-numbing horror, knowing that his body would shut down and encapsulate him for an indefinite period of time, he stopped to think about me.

About me?

There are times in your life when you are so humbled that you cannot begin to understand the magnanimousness of that moment. When Paul, in the tornadic whirl that his life had become, asked me to join him in an online bible study of Peter I, promising that it would change my life, I jumped in. He led me to Christ, when he was no longer able to walk, he took my hand and led me to eternal salvation. In the throes of what must have been the most hideous time of his life, he thought of others. Now THAT’S a giver.


Pride. I still struggle with it. But I am getting better. I do allow people to do things for me. I know the joy of giving. Of offering something to someone with no inkling of want for something in return. Giving to other people feels good. Volunteering is a legal high. So I do it as much as possible. And I allow others to do it for me.
But back to money. I think there are people in this world that understand the real value of money, who have all that stuff balanced in their heads, have an aptitude for saving, stocks and bonds, dividends, interest rates……. But that person is not me. Just writing that made me a little dizzy. When my sister starts talking about her 401k and investments my mind is thrust into a kind of white noise, Hans Solo warp speed to anywhere but here. I drift. I fog up. I cannot explain it any other way. And believe me, I have tried to care about this stuff. I went to Texas A&M and studied accounting, for crying out loud! But I’m afraid that gene is missing. The money gene. If someone knows of a therapy or some clinical trial, please let me know.

I suppose there are worse things. Worse things than not being preoccupied with money. I am such a cheap date. I don’t want a lot of stuff. I don’t need a lot of gear. I am not big on jewelry or cars or big houses or items that exude wealth and image. I bore so easily with what I consider to be distractions. I would save my children, my husband and my animals from a burning building. If I had time, I would save my photos. I have always been up for re-starting. Just give me a toothbrush and I’m ready to go. Everything that truly matters to me is documented in my memory. Every moment of my boys’ lives, every friend, every precious moment with my husband, every nanosecond with my family. It’s all here. That’s true wealth, whatever anyone tells you. I am rich because my people value me, and in a moment when the world was imploding, my brother extended his hand, pulled me close and gave me the most prized gift of all, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Uh...yeah! That's racist!
I went to workout today. The place has just opened up and I can ride my bike to it, which is a rarity to say the least. I went and did my obligatory fat burn for thirty minutes. I decided to tour the place since I had never been in, go and check it out, if you will. So I'm wandering around the empty locker room, checking out the steam room (like I need that here - just step outside), the showers (no curtains...hmmm), lockers etc. and this older woman walks up to me.
How do you like it here? She says.
Oh, I like it so far. Pause. Good design, all the right machines. I say.
Yes. Well I like the water aerobics. I used to go to 24 hour fitness but with all the Asians in the pool over there........
scrrrrreeeeeeeeech. I stop short and look at her.
She looks at me.
Not to be racist or anything. She says looking at me with that "solidarity" look so many white people give.
Oh, but that is racist. Believe me, that's racist. I say.
We departed company.
What makes someone say something like that to someone they have never met? Prevalence. Prevalence and acceptance. And no accountability. Especially if you tag everything you say with "I'm not a racist but" or "not that I'm racist". As if that somehow voids anything you are about to say or have said. It is a crazy, crazy time. A time when we are exposed to so much more than we have been before. Yet, the more we are exposed to, the more we are exposed as very insecure beings. Under the armor of the average human being lies a little shriveled being that is deperate to be important, to matter. Bound by all its feelings of inferiority - too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too poor, not educated enough or at the right places, no button nose, no clear peaches and cream complexion - the little being strains against its invisible oppressor. If-I-can-just-elevate-myself-by-stepping-on-someone-else....huge exhale! It's such a ridiculous way of thinking - stepping on an entire group of people in order to make yourself feel superior - but it is absolutely a non-issue it is so commonplace.
So when you hear it, and believe me, you will, don't just sit there. Sure, three minutes after the opportunity presents itself you will have the absolute most perfect thing to say...ever. But don't wait for that. Tell the person that what they said is, in fact, racist, sexist, whatever -ist applies. Tell them, because they don't know, poor dears. Shine a little spotlight and I guarantee you will plant a seed that will make them (please God!) at least hesitate the next time they want to say something even remotely simliar. Maybe we can stamp this thing out, one person at a time.

No Samaritans Need Apply

If there has ever been a more stark example of Biblical stories coming to life I don’t know if I’ve been around long enough to see it. We all know the story of the good Samaritan….if not here goes.

One day a lawyer came to Jesus and asked, "What should I do to get to heaven?"
Jesus answered, "What does the law say?"
"You should love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself," the lawyer replied.
"That's right," Jesus said. "If you do all of that, you will be able to get to heaven."
But the lawyer, thinking he could ask Jesus a question that could not be answered, asked, "But who is my neighbor?"
Jesus answered him by telling this story:
One day, a man who was traveling from a far away city, suddenly met up with a group of thieves. The thieves took everything he had, and then they beat him up and left him lying half dead by the side of the road.
As he lay there in pain and misery, he heard footsteps. "Ah! Someone is coming!" he thought. "I hope he will help me! . . . I hope it isn't one of the same men who beat me up, coming back to find out if I am dead." He waited and listened for what seemed like hours, as the footsteps faded in the distance. It happened to be a priest who came by, but when he saw the man lying beside the road, he decided to take a different road because he was in a hurry and didn't want to be bothered. The poor man was certainly glad that it wasn't one of the
robbers, but he surely wished somebody would come along to help him. After a little while, he heard footsteps again.... He wanted to call out and get the attention of the person walking by, but
he was in so much pain, all he could do was moan. "Maybe this person will see me and help me," he thought anxiously. This time the man who passed by was a Levite, a well-known teacher in the temple. Surely he would want to help the poor man. But when he saw the man lying on the side of the road, he looked down . . . then turned his head . . . then walked right by, completely ignoring the poor, hurting man. It wasn't long until the man heard another set of footsteps. He wanted to believe that this person would reach down to help
him, but he had already been passed by twice and dared not even hope for relief. By this time, he had given up all hope and was sure he was going to die right there on the side of the road. The man who was traveling down the road this time was a stranger from Samaria. Nobody even liked people from Samaria. It was very unlikely that he would want to help. But as he passed by, he noticed the man who was lying beaten and bloody on the
side of the road. He felt sorry for him and wanted to help. He got off his donkey and bent down next to the man to get a closer look at the wounds. Gently, he wrapped bandages around the sores and helped him to his feet. Then he carefully put the man on his very own donkey, and took him to the nearest hotel. He stayed with the man overnight and took care of him. The next morning he had to leave, but he knew he couldn't take the man with him. When he paid the bill, he gave the innkeeper extra money, saying, "Take care of him, feed him, and make sure he has everything he needs. If he owes you any money after he gets well and leaves, write it down, and I will pay the bill the next time I come by."
Jesus, after finishing the story, asked the lawyer, "Which of these three men was a neighbor to the stranger on the street?"
The lawyer sheepishly answered, "The one who stopped and helped him."
And Jesus said, "That's right. Now YOU go and do the same."

Great story, don’t you think? Sucker! You do that anywhere near a border, you know what will happen? If the Illegal-Immigrant Aid measure gets passed, you go to JAIL for up to five years and your assets can be seized. You’re hanging out near a border and you hear a weak, feeble “help” whispered from the brush. Don’t you go over there! Don’t you give that kid a drink, you treasonous anti-American, terrorist lover! Let him languish. Let him suffer the fate he has visited upon himself. That’ll teach him. That’ll teach all of’em. Boy.
But our leader, resident bush, he’s a devoted born-again Christian, studied in the verse, as it where. Surely he will see the contradiction of our collective faith with this bill. Surely.

From the New York Times
“President Bush has also praised the legislation.
America is a nation built on the rule of law, and this bill will help us protect our borders and crack down on illegal entry into the United States," Mr. Bush said after the House passed the measure. "Securing our borders is essential to securing the homeland."

What a proud moment for our nation.

How it all Vegan
I want you to close your eyes. Ok. Never mind. That won’t work, because then you can’t read what to do next. Hmmm. Alright. I want you to think, focus on your own personal perception of farming. Not corn or rice or wheat. But meat. So maybe that entails “ranching”? What does your perception hold? Is it green pastures, salt licks, free roaming animals – cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys? Does it entail a family waking at dawn or before to care for the animals, milk the cows, grab the eggs? When you look at your steak or ribs or drumstick is that what you see? The thing is, as little as twenty years ago, that was probably the case. Families, land, animals in semi-natural habitats. That was part of the picture of the meat & dairy industry.
Now is a different time. What you are falling for now is a marketing strategy. The cows writing those billboards to “eat mor chikn” are experiencing much more natural surroundings than the ones being used for our consumption. If this were paint being applied to the side of your house, if this were plastic used for the rear bumper of your car, I would understand the nonchalant, dismissive response to the meat & dairy industry. But this is something you put in your body and your children’s bodies. This is your sustenance. This is like the air we breathe and the water we drink. This is our food. This is our food that is being lied about, that is being injected with things that endanger us. If you drink milk, you are drinking a liquid that is not only laced with antibiotics and hormones but also pus. Do you believe that?
Do you believe that male chicks are tossed into dumpsters by the 1000s….thousands….alive because they are not egg producing females and there is no use for them? Writhing, twisting, struggling, BREATHING. Do you know there is such a thing as a dead pile at slaughterhouses? Doesn’t that seem like an oxymoron? But animals are dragged by any means possible to a pile and tossed, alive, on top of each other to struggle sometimes violently to right themselves to no avail. Do you know that calves are taken from their dairy mothers to be shoved into a tiny crate, tethered by a rope no more than a foot long around the neck? They cannot turn, they cannot lie down, they cannot clean themselves. In total darkness, given a diet that keeps them anemic and with continuous diarrhea. They are then removed from the box, usually unable to walk, and they are dragged by a leg or neck whichever is available, or kicked or beaten and thrown around like a sack of potatoes. These animals that you order at the nearest fast food restaurant are kept in total darkness. They never experience grass, fresh air or what God intended for them to experience. They are no longer animals in the era of agribusiness – they are products. They are units.
But I want you to stop for one minute and think about this…please.
If God had meant for us to treat animals in this way – to experiment on them, to warehouse them, - why would He have given them a central nervous systems IDENTICAL to ours so that they could experience pain as we do? Why would He make them social beings? Why would He give them personalities? How is your adored dog or beloved cat any different than a pig or a goat or a cow or chicken? Because they aren’t smart? Boy, that better not be the criteria for being eaten because I have a huge list of names of people to be picked up! No, we don’t eat animals because they aren’t smart, because we really don’t know how smart animals are, do we? Or do we? Have you seen the video of the pig that plays video games? Or the chimps that sign? Now think about this for a second. A chimp was taught our language. I believe other animals have been taught our language. Now, as clever as we are, has anyone learned dogspeak? Cattalk? Cow chatter? Anyone know about a human that has learned an animal’s language? Yet, they learn ours? Oh, because we are so clever and can teach them? Yeah. Right.
A long time ago. Ok not so long ago, black people were referred to as “sub-humans”. Literally. My father said that, so it wasn’t that long ago. Sub-humans. This was the mindset that allowed people to treat black people so horrifically. There was a time when children were in workhouses. Orphans sold off as cheap labor. Recently, we have been made aware of working conditions and the use of child labor in sweatshops. Several years ago, any mental abnormality – autism, mental retardation, schizophrenia – any deviation from what was considered “normal” allowed for the institutionalization of these people. They were warehoused and terribly mistreated – subjected to shock treatment, ice therapy, crazy medications. And it existed for a long time until someone caught wind of what was happening behind the big brick walls of these institutions. . We see it throughout history – ignorance allowing for the terrible mistreatment of perfectly innocent beings. The beauty, however, of this is that someone woke up and said “you know what? I don’t think that someone with autism should be thrown away.” And that person started something. She or he was probably batted down, made to feel foolish, reviled, rejected but as the saying goes “all the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of one candle”. And that is how the film Peaceable Kingdom begins.
This is a film that should be on every channel on every television in every corner of the world. This is a film that says what you have known all your life is wrong. Animals are thinking feeling creatures that are sanctified by God (look it up – and when you find a passage that refers to animals - read the whole passage). The image I have burned in my memory now is how the industry handles chickens – slinging them by the handful like bags of rice on metal conveyor belts and the way the Farm Sanctuary rescuers carefully cradle and soothe each bird saved from a slow miserable death following the destruction of their warehouse by a twister. The owners had left hundreds of thousands of birds to starve to death in twisted and ruined cages. I wonder, which would you be? I believe that most of us want to be perceived as the one that comforts, not destroys. That nurtures, not abandons. That cares, not ignores. The two people that started Farm Sanctuary, ( a place for rescued factory farm animals, bring these wonderful creatures to the community –allowing people to connect with each of the animals and see them for the individual beings that they are. The people who speak in the film for the most part are not just the owners of Farm Sanctuary, but people who were innately involved in the meat and dairy industry. All of the people state an early love for animals – as children. Which is true for all kids – isn’t it? Kids love animals – the intrinsic innocence is a kinship. There are those that like to bring up the brutality of nature. Those that balk at the image of kindness to animals as being naïve. Nature is tough. Nature is vicious. Ahh. True. But not vicious for viciousness sake. Brutal but not for brutality’s sake. Cruel but not for cruelty’s sake. A lion gets the baby deer and we all hope the baby gets away. But the reality is, lion’s don’t have grocery stores. Lions are eating to live and eating what they were meant to eat. They eat as much as they can, and then the hyenas come and feast, then vultures and then the parasites. Brutal but part of a natural order. There is no question about that whatsoever. But do not confuse nature with man’s horrific cruelty for cruelty’s sake. We do not need to pile 100s of thousands of chickens into rows and rows of wire cages for nature’s sake. There is nothing, absolutely nothing natural about the way the meat and dairy industry conduct business. Nothing. God and nature are absolutely absent. There is no grass. There is no fresh air. There is no nature. I heard that the fact that meat consumption is doubling exponentially every year, and the land cannot sustain that kind of demand - that is why we HAVE to have warehousing – for the environment and the demand. That is why we warehouse animals, who by the way prefer to be inside away from the cruel elements – wind, rain, predators, etc. They enjoy being in a controlled environment. Ever seen a dog that has been kept in a cage for too long? Ever seen a man kept in prison too long? This is part of the marketing. The strategy is to lull the average citizen into a false sense of comfort and serenity. The animals are fine. They are happy. They are “free” to roam the “range”. Think green pastures. Think singing, witty cows. It’s all good, people, don’t worry we have it under control. Now eat your burger because it tastes so good, and who the heck wants to eat some soy cardboard burger? Not a real man, by God!
Do you think that the huge corporations that are running the factory farms want you to know any details? Do you think they want you to know that a substance that is banned in England and Europe is still being used here on dairy cows that causes horrible problems for the cows and causes cancer in humans? Do you really think they want you to know that they spray insecticides over the cattle to keep fly infestation down and that pesticide gets into the feed? Do you think they want you to know that as long as an animal can make it to the slaughterhouse – it’s meat? Whether is riddled with tumors, cancerous, has infected sores, it’s all edible? If this was something that was used to make carpet, maybe you wouldn’t really care. But you’re eating this – don’t you want to know where it’s been? I mean, seriously, we all know the five second rule – you drop something –say, a cookie, on the floor, and if you can get to it before five seconds is up then it’s edible. At six seconds do you toss it in the trash? Seconds matter with food on the floor, but you don’t want to know about the months that are involved in your veal? Your cheese? Your bacon? Do you trust corporations that much that you would ingest something without really knowing where it has been?

Did you know that one in two men will experience cancer? One in three women? Do you know that a vegan lifestyle will eradicate – ELIMINATE – your chances of getting heart disease – the number one killer of adults in America?
And of course, who perpetuates the “stereotypical” vegan? The militant cotton wearing no make up activists that berates your selfishness and lack of compassion. I have yet to meet her. Or him. Most of the vegetarians and vegans I have met are exactly what I would expect them to be. Kind. Caring. Funny. Lively. Not all, because really there is no stereotypical anything. I have seen fat vegetarians (that blows that cliché), I have seen Goth and country club vegetarians. The negative image portrayed is being delivered for a reason. If the image of vegans or vegetarians was as normal and as boring as it really is, after all we are just people, then there would be no reason not to be curious about it. But if you can dispel something as weird or difficult or unsafe or militant you can make it unappealing to the vast majority of people. I wonder who would be interested in doing that….hmm.

It’s hard being informed with all the information out there. It becomes like a buzzing ball of mosquitoes – something you just want to shut off, and get away from. And labels! They can put anything they want, with absolutely no guarantee to the consumer that there is actually any truth involved. I see something labeled “dairy free” “lactose free” and I know to check the label. Why? Because the ingredients will tell me if there really is dairy in it, and most of the time, there is. I am a vegan. And it is hard. It is hard because it is not the norm. But it is so worth it. I am no better than any other person on this planet, I do not have super human willpower that allows me to not desire things that are pleasurable. But there is a cost to everything. When you are married, and you see a hot babe, you make a choice based on the ramifications of that choice. If you hook up with said hot babe, you risk everything you have with your spouse. If you don’t, you risk not having the satisfying experience of that particular hot babe. Is the choice worth it? Is the choice to consume something that you find wholly delightful and satisfying to your appetite worth the cost and the risk? Is that burger worth the risk of what that particular piece of meat might contain that will hurt your health? Is that burger worth the cost to an innocent animal? What if dog became the heralded choice for fajitas? Dog fajitas – now at your favorite restaurant. Would you try it? If you would, would you think of your pet and wonder if he could smell it on your breath when you came home or about his safety? If you don’t or say “gross!” at that option – why do you say that? What is the difference? Why is a dog allowed to enjoy an elevated status in our society as opposed to a pig or chicken or cow? Where is the disconnect that allows one animal to sit comfortably on a pillow bed, with his own bowl, his own collar, and his own personal doctor yet another animal is forced into a concrete and metal jail unable to move, fed by machine, castrated without anesthetics, beaten, frightened, isolated, kept in darkness until it is forced to line up and enter a building which vibrates with the screams of his peers? Have you ever witnessed terror in an animal’s eyes? Is that something you can dismiss so easily? If you have a dog, have you ever held it and soothed it as it stood shaking on the vet’s examination table? Does it hit you that all animals experience fear yet billions are subjected to fatal, terrifying consequences devoid of the tender and loving kindness you show your pet while undergoing routine care? Cows, pigs, sheep, turkeys, chickens are electrocuted, kicked, stomped upon, broken, torn, shredded, whipped, beaten mercilessly and this is all they know of human beings. Billions every year. Billions. God, it's just too much to bear.
Get this film. If you don’t know how, contact me, and I will get the information to you. It is too powerful to miss. I am getting a copy of this to every member of my family. Stop buying into the marketing scheme. You are too intelligent and not so busy to be hoodwinked like this. You will be proud of yourself and you will be released from ignorance. And then you can start, even if it is slowly with one meal a week void of animal products, and you can say to yourself – “no animal had to suffer for me today.” And that is the payoff, that is what makes compassionate eating and living so very, very worth it. Nothing had to suffer for me today.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Justice is Blind… Justice

You know, I try to keep this blog devoted to general concerns - animal rights, social awareness, political truthfulness...not a personal confessional. Egads! How nauseatingly self-serving. But sometimes, there are things that come from beyond left field that knock you on your ass and make you think “that really didn’t just happen….did it?”

I am divorced. I will not bore you with the details of my marriage’s demise. We were not well suited for each other at all. I believe that opposites attract, but when someone is so different from you on every fundamental issue, you realize that the image projected was not indicative of the person beneath. Divorce is a horrible, gut wrenching experience that I will, thankfully, never have to revisit again. Having children and going through a divorce is the most devastating experience, next to losing a child, that anyone will have to go through. It was bitter. It was painful. It was laced with false allegations and deceptions. But it is over. Unfortunately, child support is a constant issue. While I was separated from my x, he paid 450 dollars a month for both children. Once the decree was finalized, he pitched his unemployed status and got it lowered to 300 a month. That was what he paid for seven years, occasionally.
Then suddenly, he went through a life-altering emergency that had him on the brink of death, and he called me. Weird considering how antagonistic and spiteful he had been for all those years. Still, my husband came home early from work and I went to the hospital. My x had diverticulitis. I went to the hospital for three days from 8 –2 to help him until his family could come from Colombia. At one point, he says that we should be friends. I say ok. He owed me 3000 in back child support at that time. When he was better, we met and agreed to 900 per month in child support, and I would waive the 3000 in back child support. This was established for two years. The direct payment of 600 dollars to me, in addition to the 300 he paid through the child support collection office, was a constant point of contention. I always had to ask for it. He constantly bitched about it. This guy is a total control freak. How much of a control freak you ask? He wouldn’t let the boys say my husband’s name. He made the boys call him “tubby” or “toy boy”. Funny? Maybe, but for two boys four and five? Not so funny. Selfish. Mean spirited. With no regard for the effect on the kids or understanding of their love for their stepfather. Just ugly. I think the saddest part of all was how it turned the boys. The boys saw him as he is, not what he projected or of what kind of person he tried to convince them he was, they saw through his own actions the person that they didn’t want to become. I tried to help them to understand that he was angry and we all do things when we are angry of which we are ashamed later. However, he permanently scarred his relationship with his children by doing this. They might forgive him, they might attempt to have a relationship with him at some point in the future, which I think is always a good thing, but for now, they detest him. They despise his selfishness, his arrogance, his inability to be truthful, and his temper. Once he feels that you have been disloyal to him, watch out. He is a scary, scary guy. The boys told me about his drinking and driving while they were with him, but they were mortified when I mentioned it, asking him not to drink and drive with the boys in the future. It was almost like a child that reveals that a parent is abusing him, and then having to go be alone with that parent when the abuser knows that the child told. They were panicked. I told them to do what they needed to do to get through the weekend – if that meant denial, then so be it. So they denied it, and it was a smooth weekend. Phew.
In any case, I decided after several altercations, that I had had enough and I contacted my lawyer. It took over a year, but through mediation it was raised to 1200/month. Because, unbeknownst to me, he had been making over 100,000 dollars a year for years. Within a couple of months, he had contacted a lawyer and pushed for a motion to modify child support, even though you aren’t allowed to do so for a year. He lost his job in June and has made no effort to look for employment as he has a rental property, his new wife’s salary and her child support. He is actually trying to start a restaurant – a hot dog station from what I gather – even though he has had zero restaurant experience. Having trouble finding financial backers, shockingly enough. Regardless, I get a call this morning from my attorney. It turns out that there was a hearing this morning. Yes. That’s right. A hearing had been set. But we find out once she gets to the courthouse, that the original hearing was set DECEMBER 14TH. Two weeks ago. Child support had been reduced to 361.00 per month for both boys on December 14th . We received no notification. We had no idea a hearing was taking place or had taken place. Now tell me. How does this work? How do you schedule a hearing that involves the support of two children, that involves two adults and allow a hearing to take place, before the year deadline of the previous agreement, without notifying both parties? I have no idea if the child support was the only issue or if others were discussed. It’s scary to think that he could have introduced anything he wanted, any false documentation of some wrong-doing and I would not have been there to defend myself. Two weeks went by without one word from the court stating that a decision had been made without my knowledge.
I think about this and it is nothing compared to what people are enduring and have endured for years when it comes to our legal system. It is broken. It does not work. I am so thankful that I have a family member who is willing to help me with all this because one of the original problems with getting child support modified in the first place was the cost of getting a lawyer to represent me. When you have two kids and you are getting 150 every two weeks (maybe), you are working, and your x saddles you with huge financial baggage, how on earth are you supposed to get the money together to fight injustice in court? It’s a ridiculous situation. There are no options. But there are people in jail, people who have been executed on circumstantial evidence, who did not get proper counsel, and have no way out. Can you imagine? Being who you are, a law abiding citizen going about your life, and bam! You are accused of something you didn’t do. The more you try to verbally defend yourself the guiltier you look. You lose your job because you are in jail, you can’t afford a lawyer and you are given to someone who is absolutely saturated with vitally important cases. We all aren’t Kobe. We all aren’t Michael. We all can’t afford the top lawyers. So, you risk it. And you lose. You don’t know how, but you lose. Can you imagine being who you are and going through the hell of incarceration? Strip searched, stripped of your rights and liberties. Thrust into a cage, thrust into a society that you don’t understand and for which you are ill equipped? The horror is overwhelming.
That a hearing affecting my children and me can go on without my awareness brings the reality of the brokenness of our system front and center for me. My attorney assures me that this can all be undone and set straight. But not in my mind. In my mind, I now know that the legal wheels of injustice churn on without me and grind our rights to a fine mist that dissipates with the first capricious breeze. That proceedings can go on without the notification of all affected parties proves to me that our legal system is as askew as our government. It is time to fix both. I have read some seriously mind boggling, jaw dropping stories about people having their children taken from them and given to an abuser or a molester because he has the money. In the back of your mind you read this stuff and think – can this really be true? Is it exaggerated? You are, after all, only hearing one side. That is true in my case as well. But this is the fact. A hearing took place that affected me without my being notified. No other side is necessary. Is this right? Is this how the legal system works now? Scary.

One ray of light – the which has helped to exonerate 170 people to date using DNA evidence. To be honest, I believe this should be a branch of the investigation process. A verification department, if you will. The police bring in their evidence, who they think did it, and the DNA is spun to reveal the truth. Why is there such a lag on DNA testing? Why is this not standard procedure? Because it costs a lot? How very shortsighted! How much does it cost all of us to keep someone in prison? How much do appeals cost? How much would restitution cost for erroneous imprisonment? How much would it save to get it right the first time? But how sad that this even has to exist. With all the gnashing of “tough of crime” advocates screeching about making our streets safe and using the old “minimize and dismiss” technique by regurgitating the standard cliché of “everyone in prison is innocent, didn’t you know that?” (hardy har har), it is obvious that we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What happened to the setting of 100 guilty men free rather than incarcerating 1 innocent man? Our legal system can be bought and paid for, plain and simple. If you have the money, honey, they got the crime. And the verdict.

Staggering Swaggering
Sooooo. Are you as sick to death of all this machismo BS as I am? It’s one thing to be tough. It’s another thing to be a bully. Bullies do what this administration and its supporters are doing. Anyone who voices dissent, and is heard, is batted down – perhaps not with fists at first, but with false accusations, misquotes and defamation. Their concerns are minimized and dismissed. The eight second sound bite theory is a constant. Slap and dash is a continuous approach to anyone voicing legitimate queries into illegal acts. Attacking the messenger is always effective. The thing is, people don’t want to deal with this sort of stuff. It’s so…well, messy.
I finally understand how entire German villages could go on with their daily lives while concentration camps existed within walking distance. The villagers were given official answers to their questions – what is that place? Detention camp. Oh dear! Who is being detained? Enemies of our beloved country. Oh my! That’s good that you have all the enemies where you can keep an eye on them! By the by, what is that odious stench? Unfortunately, some of these anti-German scallywags (aka terrorists) die from disease and in order to keep the surrounding villages safe from epidemic, the bodies are burned. Sorry. Has to be done. Oh, thank you so much for keeping us safe, heil whoever. Couple this with a very threatening uniform and disposition and the unwary citizens are satiated. It’s so easy to look back at that time with all the information before us, with all the atrocities laid bare for all the world to see, and judge the citizens. How could they not know? How could they let this guy rise up and inflict this kind of damage? There were warning signs everywhere!
So what’s our excuse now? There is so much skewing of facts because of partisan politics that it is easy to overlook what is really happening. There is a president that swore twice to uphold the constitution so help him God, and it was a bald face lie. We were misled into war. Why is that being dismissed now? Why is the response, we’re there now, so shut up about it, you are undermining the operation?
Hmmm. The police raid your house because of reports that you are torturing your wife, children and pets, and there has been additional information that reveals that you have an arsenal of (gasp) chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. The police storm the house, take you captive, kill two of your kids (sorry, collateral damage), destroy almost all of what you own……and stay there. It soon comes to light, that, the arsenal is actually cooking spices. But hey! The part about you being abusive was true! It is a good thing that you were removed from the home because you are not a good leader, but was it worth the death of the two kids? Was it worth the destruction of life and property? And, gosh, wasn’t there a better way of doing this? And please tell me, why the heck the police are still camped out there?
It doesn’t matter what our representatives and senators did in response to the information – although the vote that keeps being used against them regarding going to war was in fact a vote to use force if necessary. The big deal at the time was that we had to trust our leaders, they were privy to more information than us. They had intelligence…….can’t seem to find it now….but they had it! They had operatives. They had information. Information that we didn’t know about. So, a lot of people said, you know what, they know better, we have to trust our leaders. So they did. When no WMDs turned up, the focus was on the badness of Saddam. Yup. Bad guy. Kept terrorists out of his country, but certainly, a bad guy.
Then there was the Downing Street Memo. There was Richard Clark. There was the lack of proper supplies for our troops – making them vulnerable to attacks. There was the outing of a CIA operative in retribution for not backing this administration. There were bills passed for bridges to nowhere, pork oozing from every orifice during war time, taxes cut for the rich, safety net programs cut for the poor, states scrambling to make up for budget shortfalls, attempts to drill in the artic refuge, lobbyists and ceos heading up key positions in the monitoring agencies of which they were a part, cronyism, cutting of EPA restrictions, and now spying. Spying of anti-war grannies and Quaker groups. Contracts with Georgian database companies with billions of personal records. Hey! But they say they are only spying on the bad guys! Now after all this….you believe that? If you do believe it, then you have no right whatsoever to judge anyone who sat by and allowed evil to flourish. Those German villagers are you. Life is busy. Life is complicated. It is hard to stop what you’re doing and get involved with something messy. It’s easier to get on with your life. To get the kids to their activities. To do your job well. To maintain your relationships, your health, your home, your car, you life. It is a full time job. Does it have to seep into your neighborhood before you do anything? Isn’t it too late then? If you had a filthy toxic sludge seeping into the community next to yours would you continue about your business until it began to ooze into your area? Isn’t it better to deal with things as they happen instead of waiting until the last possible moment when it will cost more time, money and effort? Do you wait for the weeds to completely take over your yard before you address the issue or do you go and pull the first weed and spread weed and feed to prevent infiltration? Being an American means keeping a constant vigil. What we have is precious. What we have is dear to each and every one of us. Why are you willing to allow someone to screw with it? Is it because it doesn’t affect you personally? Is it because you are dealing with your own issues, your own life which is so much complicated than anyone realizes? If you were made aware that your child is being molested would you delay action? Our country’s values and constitution are being molested. Right now. What are you going to do? It doesn’t make you a wimp not to side with george “john wayne” bush. It does not make you unpatriotic to say that people in power are abusing the power we gave them. How is that un-American? Those who speak out are the most patriotic of all. They want the constitution to apply to everyone. They want America to stand for the things that the citizens stand for, not the corporations. We are individuals, unique, quirky, strong and principled. We get things wrong sometimes and we get things right. We screw up. We fall flat on our face. But we get up and try again. Our true nature is evident in our response to crisis. Not our government’s response, but our peoples’ response. We rise up over and over again showing everyone that we are kind and generous and compassionate. The outside world views the American individual this way, for the most part. But their patience is wearing thin. We are being represented badly, and allowing it. We have got to stand up and say that’s it. You can twist and spin all day long, but what you are doing in my name is no longer acceptable. We need an inquiry, an investigation and we need charges. We need to be represented as a people not as business. It is time. Like I have said from the very beginning, give me a president that gets screwed in the Oval Office over a president that screws over the entire country any day!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

from the New York Times:
One of the shabbiest shell games of the year was played out in the closing hours of Congress in its now-you-see-it, now-you-don't offering of some badly needed winter heating aid to the nation's working poor. The climactic moment occurred when Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, huckstering his most treasured goal, tried to sell oil drilling in his state's pristine wildlife preserve by promising it would help finance a long list of shoppers' bonuses for his colleagues: extra money for flu vaccine, hurricane reconstruction, first-responder radios and - if you vote yes right away - $2 billion in extra heating aid for the poor this cold winter.
Mr. Stevens's cunning warning was that all those extras would die on the vine unless Alaska drilling was approved. His cynical flimflammery was deservedly rebuffed as enough opponents stood firm against the oil drilling. And soon enough the word went round that things like flu vaccine and hurricane aid were not endangered after all.
Not so the extra fuel aid for low-income families. There was a heating supplement tied to the Alaska proposal, as Mr. Stevens promised. But there was also a separate $2 billion appropriated for the same purpose elsewhere in the legislation - unconnected to the Alaska floor machinations - that somehow was struck from the final bill as lawmakers rushed to recess. Malice? Who can say? Obviously the poor can't afford a campaign donation PAC to catch Congress's attention for an answer.
The government's home heating supplement now stands at a half or less of what the poor will need if predictions of a harsh winter pan out and fuel bills increase 25 percent. Various studies have established that, in a pinch, the poor scrimp on food purchases in order to meet heating bills. Yet Congress's stinginess is being compounded by the administration's recent decision to reject a request from New York and several other states to increase food stamp outlays to the poor as fuel bills mount.
Lawmakers insist that the $2 billion supplement technically had to be cut - but may be restored yet again next month. Believe that and we have an oil derrick to sell you in Alaska

Friday, December 23, 2005

Off the Chain

My excellent friend, Lori, loaned several documentaries to me recently. One of them, Off the Chain, is especially appropriate now as the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act is part of the bill that was sent back to the house for further discussion and banter. You know that dog in the Little Rascals? The one with the circle around his eye? That's a pit bull. I had no idea. I had no idea, before this film, that this particular breed has a brilliant history saving the lives of people and aiding their masters even if it meant their own demise. These are fiercely loyal and committed animals. But as some humans have inherent to their very existence a need to twist the nature of things into something horrible and destructive, these animals are now banned in many areas through, of course, no fault of their own. The film was graphic with a couple of idiot “experts” claiming to love their dogs and to being devoted to them, all the while destroying the ones that do not perform to expectation (the shame this animal has brought on his owner can cause him to be executed via electrocution for all the spectators to see), pumping them full of steroids, playing amateur veterinarian, and turning devotion, competitiveness, and commitment into a bloody, revolting spectacle bringing loads of cash for the owners.

"They love it" "they want to be in the box" keep telling yourself that, loser boy, and keep referencing boxing as if there is any comparison whatsoever. The film is enthralling, horrifying, yet captivating because, as with all subversive and covert subjects, we know so little, and hear even less. It is pitiful that people turn these beautiful animals into something so aberrant for their own profit and the entire breed suffers.

If you have a chance – check this film out. And for those of you who feel you are too squeamish, who find it too disturbing or upsetting – give me a break. Do you think this doesn't upset people that view it? By not witnessing, you allow it to continue, because it will remain underground, unseen, undisturbed. If you view it, brave soul, it will be a part of you and your actions. Then it might inspire you to do something about it. Don’t we avert our eyes enough in this country? Don’t we plod along worrying about our personal issues – what to have for dinner, stressing over our careers, paying taxes, maintaining our vehicles, safeguarding our children – so absorbed that we allow hugely cataclysmic issues to bead up and roll off our oily skin like water? If you don’t look, will it not exist? These things are going on and if you really want to do something continue reading and then act.

Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act:

Sponsored by Rep. Mark Green (R-WI), this bill increases penalties to a felony level for the interstate traffic in animals for dog fighting, cockfighting, and hog-dog fights and the barbaric weapons used in cockfights. This is important because prosecutors are reluctant to spend time and money on misdemeanor cases, which animal fighting is in a lot of areas..
Please check to see if your U.S. Representative is
already a co-sponsor of this bill. If so, please make a short phone call to his or her office to express your thanks. You can reach your U.S. Representative through the Capitol switchboard at 202-225-3121, or click here to look up his or her phone number. If your U.S. Rep. is not yet a co-sponsor, please send a message asking him or her to help put an end to animal fighting by co-sponsoring the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Isn't it odd
That Cheney can make it back from halfway around the world to break a tie in the senate essentially devastating student loans, welfare work requirements for state funding, child support enforcement and medicaid co-payments for the poorest people in this country, and Bush can't come off vaca inside the US while hundreds of the citizens he is leading are drowning next door. Impressive.
The most shameful thing of all about this latest attempt at budget cuts is that not one cent is going towards bringing down the deficit. No no no. It will offset the impending tax cuts for whom, you ask? Surely you know the answer to this by now. Oh, that's right, you don't live in the same area as me. Where the number of hummers has doubled in the past year, SUV sales are UP, and luxury items, well you can't keep them in stock! To the wealthiest people in America. Golly, they pay so much! Giv'em a break, y'all!
Now real quick for some good news....

The Washington Post
GOP wins on budget cuts, not oil - Democrats send bill back to House for new vote, block Alaska drilling provision
By Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray

The vote was 51-50, with five Republicans and one independent joining 44 Democrats in opposing the measure.
Final victory was denied, however, when Democrats used a parliamentary objection to strike three small provisions from the 774-page measure, forcing it back to the House for a new vote, which may not occur until early next year. That denied President Bush a quick White House signing ceremony and guaranteed more division about the measure but allowed GOP leaders to claim a victory on Capitol Hill in the effort to reduce the deficit.
The Democratic budget maneuver was quickly followed by the Senate's failure to cut off debate on legislation to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. It was another defeat for oil companies and for Alaskan lawmakers who have sought access to the refuge's coastal plain for more than two decades. Despite rising oil prices and growing concern about the nation's dependence on foreign oil, lawmakers still appear unprepared to buck theardent opposition of environmentalists and allow drilling rigs into the Alaskan wilderness.
After hours of negotiations and a bitter denunciation by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who added the drilling provision to the bill, the Senate voted 93-0 to approve the defense bill without the drilling authority. Stevens angrily complained to his colleagues that they were sacrificing billions of dollars in oil royalty revenues that could have gone for domestic priorities such as Hurricane Katrina disaster aid, homeland security funds and heating bill assistance for low-income people.
"I'm going to go to every one of your states, and I'm going to tell them what you've done," said Stevens, the leading advocate of drilling in Alaska. "This was wrong."

Now, I have to say, I would have loved to see Stevens as he blew yet another gasket. When asked about possibly removing that ridiculous "bridge to nowhere" allocation from the last porking he flew into a convulsive fit of "NO!" that had all of us on the floor. Good times. Wonder if he's going to have re-election issues? Hmmm. One never knows. Important to note: it's good to see some repubs doing the right thing - regardless of the motives
Anyway, write and contact your reps and let them know what you think of cutting programs for health and education of our people. The more you speak out the better.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I Spy With My Little Eye Something Beginning wiiiitttthhhh – Illegal

I just want to make sure that everyone understands this, because it is significant, and with the way information is doled out to us, sometimes things get lost.
On December 17th, Saturday, bush said that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the US without first obtaining warrants. Now on the surface, the immediate response of the average citizen would be surprise, but then justification – “well, you know, Madge, they have to listen in on suspected terrorists! That’s the only way to keep us safe.” Bush blasted senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who voted on Friday to block the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, which expanded the president's power to conduct surveillance, with warrants, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11. He said the Senate's action "endangers the lives of our citizens," and added that "the terrorist threat to our country will not expire in two weeks," a reference to the approaching deadline of Dec. 31, when critical provisions of the current law will end.
Geez. Can we come up with a different approach, please? Can someone please drag rove out from the “secret place” where he is not held accountable for his actions, and get him to spit some spin back into this tired old rhetoric. I mean, calling dissent “treason” or “aiding the enemy” is so, like five minutes ago. You don’t go along with the dub then your’ aidin’ n abettin’, pardner. Yawn. Boring.

Sorry, got off task a bit. The thing is, they are spying on EVERYONE. You. Your family. Your grandma. Your brother. Your neighbor. Your teen. Your seniors. You friends. The government has a contract with a database company that literally contains billions of personal records. Billions. Think I’m making it up?

From Media Matters:
Hot Spots
by Hichem Karoui
To help the U.S. government track suspected terrorists and spies who may be visiting or residing in the country, the FBI and the Defense Department for the past three years have been paying a Georgia-based company for access to its vast databases that contain billions of personal records about nearly every person -- citizens and non-citizens alike -- in the United States.

According to federal documents obtained by National Journal and Government Executive, among the services that ChoicePoint provides to the government is access to a previously undisclosed, and vaguely described, "exclusive" data-searching system. This system in effect gives law enforcement and intelligence agents the ability to use the private data broker to do something that they legally can't -- keep tabs on nearly every American citizen and foreigner in the United States.

ChoicePoint is famous for being the largest and most sophisticated aggregator of public records on U.S. citizens and residents. The company has built an enormous electronic cache of more than 19 billion records -- all of which are legally obtained -- that it mines to locate criminals and suspects, their family members and known associates, and their hidden financial assets.

FBI officials have stated publicly that they don't use ChoicePoint for "fishing expeditions," that they tap its services only in the course of an official investigation. But the threshold for what constitutes a "subject of interest" is unclear. FBI spokesman says, “ChoicePoint is "a commercial database, and we purchase a lot of different commercial databases.... They have collated information that we legitimately have the authority to obtain."

This is not some “we’re watching the bad guys” deal. Be very aware of that. Cheney came out with his usual “calm down what’s all the fuss about?” cavalier attitude proclaiming it was just people in the US having conversations with known Al-k-eye-duh operatives. Buzz. Sorry Mr. Cheney. Incorrect answer! This is the era of grannies against military recruitment and peace groups being infiltrated. Watched. Spied upon. Quakers being monitored. This is where we are? I thought we were fighting it over there to keep it over there? I thought we were winning. That’s what the prez said. Doesn’t feel much like we’re winning. Doesn’t feel very victorious, honorable, or satisfying at all. That’s how I usually feel when I have won something. But this feels….I don’t know….. kind of creepy. Like embarrassing and dirty and shame-filled. I wonder why. Maybe because although I don’t have a son or a daughter fighting, even though I don’t have a member of my family serving in the military, even though I am not connected in the most basic and primitive way, by blood or marriage, to this war, I have felt an intense empathy since day one. I want to see the flag draped coffins of the soldiers who have given their life in service for me, I want to hold my pillow to my chest and sob for the mother or wife receiving the folded flag, I want the three rounds of foundation-shattering blasts of a 21 gun salute of honor to a fallen hero. This is the invisible war. But that is so in keeping with the way things are now. Everything sanitized. Everything blocked so that we don’t have to see anything ugly. Guard our vulnerable little eyes from any truth please, oh knowing leaders. You are so wise! That’s why you can go and buy meat, hermetically sealed and sanitized and be completely removed and unaffected by the desperation and misery neatly packaged for you consuming pleasure. An animal was removed from everything natural and that God intended for him to experience, because the taste of its dead flesh is satisfying to you. Something that feels in exactly the same way that you do. The picture is sanitized. No one wants to look at what goes on. They would have to think about it then! “Gah! Ya’ll? Come on? I don’t want to think about something so, like, gross! And everyone knows that those videos are exaggerations! The worst of the worse!” Kind of like the reaction to any video that comes out of Iraq. Bush says 30,000 Iraqis have died. Other sources say it is more accurately in the 300,000 ballpark. I wonder whom I believe? We had embedded reporters before (that’s the way you get real journalism! Real objective writing! Make a journalist part of just one of the teams! Clever.), but I guess it’s maybe thirty seconds on the news about the latest car bomb in a city we can pronounce and “X” amount of people dead, that's the best we can get now. How many maimed? Did you know that they do not count the people who die on their way to the hospital as being “killed” because their death didn’t occur on the scene? Is that crazy? I guess the more you can split up the numbers the lower the count looks, right? But I do want some honor and homage paid to the troops. I think that people would be much more invested in this war – if they were reminded of the cost everyday. But we don’t get that. We are now transporting these guys back in the cargo hold of passenger airlines. Did you know this? In plastic bags. Gotta cut costs somewhere.
I am absolutely fed up with the feeble flag speechifying with “freedom isn’t free” “peace comes at a cost” “if you aren’t with us then you’re genst us!”crap. Shut…………..up. What is the cost again? Your kid? Your son’s arm or leg or both? Your daughter’s life? It’s always people with no vested interest, no investment whatsoever in something so monumentally devastating to everyone and anyone who is truly involved, that say stupid things like this. We are not barbarians. Regardless of what our actions might be shrieking loud and proud to everyone on the planet. This is not the old west, boys, sorry to tell ya. Progress has shown that we are supposed to move FORWARD from the era of the caveman, not run willy-nilly arms out in a desperate embrace for a time gone by. Hostile is not a positive words, guys. Mediating and negotiating does not require the removal of any male part you hold dear. Talking and reasoning, stay with me here, is what separates us from every other creature on earth. We have been walking down the path towards our nation’s adulthood and fallen flat on our faces for all the world to see, and we are soaked in filth. We have two options. We can get up screaming and yelling and fighting and generally making a horse’s rear out of ourselves, or we can pick ourselves off, wipe our collective faces and with eyes straight ahead, yet our hats in our collective hands, apologize for our transgressions, and start walking on with a little dignity. But to say that we have not fallen, that we are not making bigger and bigger mistakes does not make it real, it makes it denial. And pathetic. Seriously, what is more wretched than watching someone make devastating choices and then deny that the choices were made at all. Reality is what it is. We are a young nation experiencing growing pains. Going through middle school, if you will. Surely you remember that time? Or you have someone who is making it a bit too real in your household right now? Making mistakes and bad choices and foolish decisions, as we maturely watched, tsking away, crossing our arms, wondering if they will ever learn. Swaggering around, exercising ego and physical prowess, thinking with appendages deeply affected by puberty. It’s painful to watch, but remember it was painful to experience. We as a nation are surround by countries that culturally, traditionally humble our own infancy. Yet we slap, manipulate, undermine, lie, cheat and steal thinking that we are so clever and they are so stupid. Kind of like teens see their parents. We have an opportunity to grow into a responsible nation. A productive, yet unassuming nation. One that is not looking for the next get rich quick scheme but one that can now see the big picture and look to the future. One that has become wiser in faith and maturity. One that knows that people move closer when you whisper and cover their ears when you shout.
The only reason bush admitted that he had ordered the spying operation of the citizens of this country was because it had leaked out days beforehand and he was powerless to stop it. Wow. Do you think he might gain some insight from this experience of being powerless to stop a force that will systematically destroy everything he holds dear? Perchance gain some empathy? Nah! Wat fo? No benefit to that whatsoever. Daddy’s orchestrating business contracts for the government, Rumsfilled is raking in piles o'cash for the bird flu hysteria, corporations have done the most stealthily hostile takeover of a nation’s government in the history of man, and we are now, officially, in the age of big brother. Yippee.
Golly. I wonder who’s up next? DeLay for prez…maybe Frist? There’s always another bush somewhere. Can’t hardly wait.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

You tell me. Seriously. Is the resemblance uncanny?

Political Grumblings

It’s frustrating. It’s infuriatingly frustrating when one is trying to make a point, to shine a light on an issue, to be overwhelmed with grandstanding, slap-n-dash tactics and wildly false, inflammatory responses. It seems to be the way of the neocon – when confronted with a legitimate concern to bring out the artillery and fire relentlessly at the subject, not only drowning out any conversation in regards to a matter on the table but attempting to decimate the target as a bonus. I think of Richard Clark. This guy was a major player in several administrations, suffering from inexplicable exasperation by the way the bushies were dealing with terror concerns,so he went public. I remember one person, who shall remain nameless…because I can’t remember who it was……in a dark, menacing tone gravely revealing that Mr. Clark (they always say mister before they lob the grenade) was, well, a tad bit loopy. Crazy. Insane. Lo-co. That’s why, we had to let him go. Sad really. We pray for him.
And then there is Blanco (governor of Louisiana) and Nagin (Mayor of NO) who have been riddled with missile fire over the handling of the Katrina disaster. Although they managed to evacuate 92% of the residents, and they have submitted all documentation in regards to the mess (unlike the bush administration which refuses to), they have been attacked from all sides. Did bush think he did anything wrong? Take his response side by side to Katrina and Rita. See anything different? One would hope so, as he was taking photo-ops, eating cake, and strummin’ the gee-tar while people affected by Katrina tread water, but fully engaged during the days leading up to and following Rita. Will he admit that he did anything wrong? Like putting buddies with absolutely no experience in key governmental roles? No. It is still going on as I write. The big joke is how the wolf isn’t only guarding the hen house, he’s got an electronic key to the gate and a kitchen inside. Heads of pollution control are former huge polluters; directors of forest maintenance are leaders in the timber industry. If it weren’t doing so much damage, it could be comical.
To speak out takes an enormous sense of righteousness and very large, ironclad balls. And you better have an incredibly clean record, never have tried any sort of alcoholic beverage or toked on a doob at an Eagles concert because, by God, they will find out and that is what will matter. That is what will be shrieked repeatedly. That will be the focus. Because it works. Over and over again. Look at Joe Wilson. Does this guy love his wife and his country or what? Relentless. For almost two years he has fought to make the outing of his wife’s identity and the destruction of her career an issue. Purposeful and spiteful backlash smacking of Rove and Cheney. And finally, redemption – bursting through the dark clouds. I heard the collective sigh of relief upon the announcement, because no one expected anything to be pursued. No one expected anyone to get in trouble. It wasn’t what it should have been, but when you are starving for justice, a crust of bread will suffice in lieu of a feast.

It’s funny how often bush projects the way future generations will view this era, and how often I believe we will see the whistleblowers standing like the heroes of yesterday held up as the true patriots during this time. Not the leaders who destroyed the environment, paraded around cloaked in false piousness, Grand Canyon-ized the divide between rich and everyone else, sent thousands of kids off to war for no reason, lied endlessly about every available topic and brought down an empire in less than eight years. Future historians, scholars, and citizens will dialogue endlessly about this quandary, trying desperately to understand how an entire country could have been duped so monumentally by a few people. They will marvel at the clever spinning of intricate webs of deceit and distractions, and some might even try to emulate the antics of this administration, after all it has been incredibly lucrative and beneficial to a few people. But I shrink and shudder, thinking back to what I expected an informed, enlightened and clever society to be, and how it really is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

And now for something completely different....
I am a liberal, vegan, animal rights activist, environmentalist in the land of Oz, followers of the Bushizzard of the same name. It dawned on me today as I pulled into an intersection with yet another well maintained beautifully ornamented median behind and between SUVs holding one adult driving with a cell phone with a kid in the back and a "W" on the back window that this must be very similar to how black people feel. I guess this line of thinking was prompted by one lone black woman walking into a pony league (baseball for early teens) meeting amongst a roomful of white men. She seemed to know some, as they did her, but it flashed in my mind that it must never get easy. It must never get easy or comfortable to be surrounded by people who's lives and beliefs are absolutely opposite to you. No matter how hard you try to show that you are "normal" or that you fit right in, you don't. Everything might be going along at a comfortable and relaxed clip when someone says something and everyone looks at you like "uh-oh!" bet she's offended! Shouldn't mention that pot roast you cooked for your family last night...geez. I have never been one to run screaming from the room or march in with my 8' x 10' VEGAN! flag waving it back and forth dramatically. Sure, I have worn my "I am not a nugget" shirt with the cute little chick on it, and I have a "vegan" shirt that I like, and I will explain what I do and why I do it, but I'm not going to change any minds by being a jerk or antagonistic or militant about it. I find that I am kept at an arms distance from a vast majority of people I know. It hurts occasionally, but my sister explained it to me in a way that I had not thought of before. I make people uncomfortable. Not by anything I say. Not by who I am. But because I am doing something they know is the right thing to do and for whatever reason, they cannot do it. No amount of appeasing will make that any different. It simply does not matter what I say. If a mom who beats her kids is around a mom that doesn't, nothing is going to make the abuser mom feel any better about being around the other mom. Although I don't like to make anyone feel bad, there are some things that are simply out of my control. I'm not going to start tossing trash out the back of my car, chowing down on a burger or backing the Iraq war to make anyone feel better.

But it's hard being different. Inside and out, with my little "W" sticker that drips with blood, I am looked upon as a troublemaker, weird, a socialist, a communist or someone to avoid. And that can be difficult. Especially when you have kids, and even more so when you have one that cares about what people think. But that is one thing that I have to give the boys credit for. They have never, ever asked me to be different or appear to be different to fit in. I know my strong opinions embarrass them at times, but for the most part, at least for now, they seem pretty ok with claiming me as one of their own. Which is good.
I have found through a series of life experiences that it is possible to come from one walk of life, cross the divide and walk, even if ever so briefly, down a different road. I have found that I have become a more empathetic and compassionate person by experiencing the many varied paths that have been offered to me. I have experienced, firsthand, soul shattering racism. I have experienced the humiliation, shame and helplessness of classism. I have been caught in the terrifying downward spiral of poverty. I was fortunate in that I had family. Family that loves and supports me. But you cannot know the debilitating shame that comes with not being able to sustain yourself as an adult unless you have experienced it firsthand. Through a series of events that I had no control over, while in England, I went from a fully functioning, vivacious, healthy working twenty something, to an unemployed, unhealthy girl, who dodged the landlord and sat in her room wondering what to do. Crippled by my own pride, I took freezing showers and stole crackers from the bottom of my roommates packages - hoping they wouldn't notice.

I have lived in the Tenderloin of San Francisco in a horrible hotel surrounded by drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes and every seedy kind of person you can imagine. I have jumped turnstiles to avoid paying. I have washed my clothes in the sink for a job interview, and worn my damp threads as I walked in bitterly cold weather over seven miles, since I couldn't afford mass transit. By the time I reached my destination, I was covered in city filth, my hair was a wind blown mess and I was exhausted from a lack of food and stress. Makes for a stunning interview. Despondency walks hand in hand with poverty. I can still feel the desperation and absolute despair that having nothing brings. And I hold onto that still. I will never let that feeling go. I am no longer there, I am secure and safe, covered financially, yet I grip those experiences in my hand with such fervor and zeal because they are the most life altering things that have ever happened to me. Those experiences changed who I was. I befriended the prostitutes. I smiled at the winos. I said hello to the homeless people. I sparred with the pimps. I validated their existence. There is nothing so dehumanizing than being invisible. Holding your hand out to a stranger in need and being ignored. I will never forget the look in the eyes of the man that told me that. His fingernails were so long and filthy, his clothes were stained and streaked, his hair was an unintentional rasta. At first he had a difficult time looking me in the eye, always looking down in shame. I didn't have money, but I gave him the one thing I did have - time and attention. He never asked me for anything, but he did reveal things to me that changed how I looked at people with addictions, homeless people, minorities and others on the outskirts of our society. He gave me more than I ever gave him. He made it so that I permanently consulted my heart on everything I do. And for that I am will always be grateful to Henry.

Oils Fair in Bush's "Mer-ica"
Oil companies posted amazing profits in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2005. The largest, ExxonMobil, saw a 75 percent increase in profit from the same time last year, earning a staggering $9.92 billion during the 3rd quarter, the single largest quarterly haul in history. Shell was right behind them, with $9.03 billion (up 68 percent), ConocoPhillips reported an 89 percent increase with $3.8 billion, and BP reported $4.87 billion (up 34 percent). 75% increase in profits.....seventy five....sixty eight....eighty nine. Swirl that around your palate like a fine wine you can't afford.
Hey but, the prices have come down, right? That's something to be thankful for...isn't it? Now....when did those prices start mysteriously declining.....AHA! Oh Yeah! Around the time the CEOs of the aforementioned oil comps were brought before the congressional committee to find out what the heck was going on! Interesting coincidence. But really, what do you expect when you have, to coin the Green Day-ism - the resident gas-man living in the white house? A little pittance tossed to those who can't afford heating? Gads no! That loophole for the slackers without bootstraps has been closed up tight, thanks to some mindful people making sure that those creepy old people and non-contributors to the republican party aren't allowed to take advantage of the system.
I wonder what it's like at a get together with these people? What do you talk about when you are taking other people's money hand over fist, while seniors cut up prescriptions and add another blanket to their lap? I wonder how excited you can get over one more house in the Hamptons, lear jet or Cartier diamond necklace....I mean really? How very droll. I guess that's why there has been a huge run on the $200,000 space flights due to be taking off out of Roswell, New Mexico in the near future. You gotta give these guys an outlet, I mean, it takes a lot of effort to screw an entire country. It's exhausting maintaining the charade of Christianity while shoving money into every open crevice and devastating those pathetic soles who are struggling to make ends meet. Give'em a break, y'all. They work rilly, rilly hard.
Thought of the Week....or day if I come with something else tomorrow.

Power like uranium should be dispensed in microscopic quantities and monitored constantly.

This is What A Brain Sounds like on Prescription Drugs. Any Questions?

(from Media Matters)
On November 29, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh read an Associated Press
report about the apparent kidnapping of four Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) activists by an Iraqi insurgent group. Limbaugh announced that "part of me likes this." He explained: "Well, here's why I like it. I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality."
After suggesting that the story "could all be BS ... could all be a stunt," Limbaugh said, "We'll take it face value at first." Addressing the kidnapped CPT activists, Limbaugh said, "[Y]ou've met the bad guys, and you tried your technique on them, and now you're blindfolded in a room with guns pointed at you and knives at your throat. I don't like that." He then added, "But any time a bunch of people that walk around with the head in the sand practicing a bunch of irresponsible, idiotic theory confront reality, I'm kind of happy about it, because I'm eager for people to see reality, change their minds, if necessary, and have things sized up."

After a caller informed Limbaugh that CPT had recently ended an "
Adopt-A-Detainee" letter-writing campaign in which religious congregations and anti-war groups were urged write letters protesting alleged abuses of detainees, Limbaugh added:
LIMBAUGH: [A]s warped as these people are, you know they're going to blame Bush for this. ... They wouldn't have been kidnapped because they wouldn't have been there in the first place if Bush hadn't gone and caused the war and created all these terrorists. I mean, these people are liberals, they're warped. Well, I mean, that's why there's -- I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this. Probably, even with this, though, you know, they're not going to see the light of day. They're not going to --
At that point, Limbaugh paused before saying, apparently to someone in his studio, "I know, let them take me out of context. I don't care anymore."

From the November 29 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: "Aljazeera has broadcasted an insurgent video today, shows four peace activists taken hostage in Iraq, with a previously unknown group claiming responsibility for the kidnappings. The unknown group is the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, and they said the four were spies working undercover as Christian peace activists, according to Aljazeera. Aljazeera said that it could not verify any of the information on the tape. The aid group Christian Peacemaker Teams has confirmed that four of its members were taken hostage on Saturday. German television broadcast photos today showing a blindfolded German woman being led away by armed captors in Iraq. Six Iranian pilgrims, meanwhile, were abducted by gunmen north of Baghdad. The pictures of Susanne Osthoff were taken from a video in which her captors demanded that Germany stop any dealings with Iraq's government, according to Germany's ARD television. Germany has ruled out sending troops to Iraq and opposed the U.S.-led war."
Yeah, all right. Now, let's take this at face value just for a moment. This could all be BS. I mean, we've never heard of the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. This could all be a stunt, but let's take it -- well, let's take it both ways. We'll take it face value at first, then we'll look at it as a stunt second. I said at the conclusion of previous hours -- part of me that likes this. And some of you might say, "Rush, that's horrible. Peace activists taken hostage." Well, here's why I like it. I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality. So here we have these peace activists over there. I don't care if they're Christian or not. They're over there, and as peace activists, they've got one purpose. They're over there trying to stop the violence. Now, if this German group fits the mold, they are probably blaming the United States and coalition forces for all of this. But more importantly, they believe that if they just go there, like these idiotic human shields before the war, if they just go there -- "Mr. Limbaugh, it's real simple, something you wouldn't understand because you've never been to conflict resolution. But it's real simple. If we go there, and we show them that we are people of peace, and that we want to stop the violence, and that we don't hold them responsible, they will see and understand that this is the way to bring peace."
Fine, they get kidnapped. They get kidnapped at gunpoint. If that version of this is true, then -- OK, you've met the bad guys, and you tried your technique on them, and now you're blindfolded in a room with guns pointed at you and knives at your throat. I don't like that. But any time a bunch of people that walk around with the head in the sand practicing a bunch of irresponsible, idiotic theory confront reality, I'm kind of happy about it, because I'm eager for people to see reality, change their minds if necessary, and have things sized up.

LIMBAUGH: Here's [caller] in Fort Wayne, Indiana. [Caller], glad you called, sir, welcome to the program.
CALLER: Thanks, Rush. Yeah, getting back to the Christian Peacemaker Teams that evidently had some people kidnapped, it's sadly ironic that three months ago they ended a year-and-a-half campaign that they called Adopt -- excuse me -- Adopt-A-Detainee, where they were writing letters to U.S. officials and Iraqi officials on a detainee's behalf. And what's ironic or sad about this --
LIMBAUGH: Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Detainee? You mean, by "detainee," you mean prisoners? American prisoners-of-war like when we take Al Qaeda and put them in Al Qaeda [sic] or Abu Ghraib? Those detainees?
CALLER: Yes. Yes, and those in Iraq. A whole campaign. They were writing letters on their behalf to U.S., Iraqi, and other officials. And what's really sad about this is, in this instance, to whom would they write a letter? Who can they write to make sure that these people are going to be treated as well as U.S. people treated Iraqis or Al Qaeda people?
LIMBAUGH: Holy cow, this is amazing. Did they have an Adopt-A-Detainee program?
CALLER: They did. They did. The CPT did.
LIMBAUGH: You are kidding. I was making a joke.
CALLER: No. From March 2004 to --
LIMBAUGH: You mean, you mean, what they did was set up Iraqi -- well, not Iraqi -- but Al Qaeda and terrorist detainees with U.S. citizens or world citizens as letter-writers, pen pals, this kind of thing? So I, if I wanted to, could adopt Mohammed down at
Club G'itmo --
LIMBAUGH: -- and have an ongoing camp -- you've got to be kidding.
CALLER: Absolutely.
LIMBAUGH: This is the bunch that got kidnapped?
CALLER: Yes, yes.
LIMBAUGH: Hubba, hubba, hubba.
CALLER: From March 2004 till September 2005. A year and a half. They had this whole campaign where they were --
LIMBAUGH: Why did they stop the campaign? Do you know?
CALLER: That I don't know. I don't know.
LIMBAUGH: Probably because they didn't get any participants.
CALLER: Well, could be.
LIMBAUGH: Or not enough to sustain it. All right, so they were having all these letters written, and they were having these letters written to government officials in the United States.
CALLER: Protesting abuse.
LIMBAUGH: Protesting abuse at Abu Ghraib and Club G'itmo and so forth.
CALLER: Correct.
LIMBAUGH: Now here they are, held at knifepoint and gunpoint as hostages, and who are they going to write letters to?
CALLER: Who would they write a letter to now? How are they going to try to stand on their own behalf?
LIMBAUGH: Yeah, as warped as these people are, you know they're going to blame Bush for this.
LIMBAUGH: They wouldn't have been kidnapped because they wouldn't have been there in the first place if Bush hadn't gone and caused the war and created all these terrorists. I mean, these people are liberals, they're warped. Well, I mean, that's why there's -- I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this. Probably, even with this, though, you know, they're not going to see the light of day. They're not going to -- I know, let them take me out of context. I don't care anymore.