Thursday, April 27, 2006

This is from the site : www.gopauctionhouse.org
Pretty revealing stuff.....

How The GOP Auction House Hurts You

Health Care
Under Republican rule, millions more Americans have gone without health insurance, even as health care costs continue to skyrocket. The Republican Medicare bill, which barred Medicare from bargaining for lower prices, kept re-importation from Canada illegal, and punishes seniors with an enrollment cost hike for every year they do not sign up, also provides for an estimated $139 billion in windfall profits for the big drug companies. And despite minimal savings for seniors, it puts the federal budget in the red as far as the eye can see. The Medicare bill is the perfect demonstration of how the Republican Culture of Corruption comes at a cost to the American people every day.
$139 Billion in Windfall Profits for the Pharmaceutical Industry
Blocks Medicare from Collective Bargaining for Lower Prices
Prevents Re-importation from Canada
"The Medicare drug benefit has metastasized from bad policy to bad politics and now to scandal and possible criminality. This law begs to be euthanized. The GOP should pull its plug. As for the perpetrators of this colossal public fraud, the Justice Department should fit them for orange jumpsuits." -- Deroy Murdoch, Contributing Editor to the conservative National Review Online

Gas Prices
Last summer, big oil lobbyists for the oil and gas industry pushed for the special interest legislation that eventually turned into the Energy bill. It was the best legislation money could buy. The bill, which was signed and touted by the Bush Administration and spearheaded in Congress by Joe Barton, Dennis Hastert and the Republican leadership, does nothing to stop the soaring cost of gas or to prevent gas stations from gouging consumers but does send $8 billion to the oil and gas industry in the form of giveaways and tax breaks. Today, gas prices are still on the rise, and the energy legislation passed by George Bush and the Republican Congress last year is seemingly more ineffective than ever. Last summer, gas prices hit a peak of $3.06 per gallon and today the high costs are back and rising fast. At $2.91 for a gallon of gas - nearly double what it was when George W. Bush took office when it was $1.52 - families who have to drive their kids to school and then drive to work are having a tougher time than ever.
Saddles taxpayers with an $8 billion cleanup bill nationwide for the contaminating MTBE.
Nearly $20 billion package of tax breaks and subsidies designed to further rig the market to favor well-connected energy producers
Drills in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, even as The Wall Street Journal reported that no amount of domestic drilling could help reduce prices for natural gas.
"Far from being a solution to the nation's energy problems, the 1,200-page monster is a mishmash of corporate giveaways and special interest kickbacks. If a morsel of responsible governance were to carry the day, the energy bill will be shredded into a million pieces and buried under ten miles of Antarctic ice sheets, with all records of its existence destroyed and the debate over its passage wiped from the public memory." -- The conservative Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Environment
If you're looking for where the environment is on the Republican list of priorities, get comfortable. Wherever and whenever a polluter is in want, Republicans will be there. Whether it's a revolving door with the oil industry that leaves reports on Global Warming in tatters or taking "a meat ax to the Endangered Species Act," there will be less and less of our country's natural beauty left for every year Republicans are in power. "But what has really put Mr. Pombo on everyone's radar is the steady stream of environmentally destructive legislation flowing from the House Resources Committee, which he runs. The legislation would undermine environmental safeguards and raise broad new threats to endangered species and public lands. This is, in short, a sleazy piece of work, written by a man who appears to be able to conceive of property rights as something that only a private individual or a corporation can have; a man who betrays no awareness that the American public has a shared right in the refuge and the national parks and the millions of acres he wants to sell to developers. Mr. Pombo's only idea, and it is a terrible one, is to treat this nation the way he treats his Congressional district, as if it were ripe for exploitation." -- The New York Times

Support for Our Troops
Whenever the Bush Administration's foreign policy has come into question, Republicans in Congress claim that it is our troops who are being criticized. When Halliburton is caught cheating our troops out of equipment, meals and fuel, they are rewarded with another contract. When Democrats call for accountability, Republicans attack. And even as billions go to waste, Republicans deny bonuses to our service men and women even as they serve their second or third tour in Iraq, refuse to extend benefits to the National Guard and Reserves who are dying in Iraq, and propose budgets rolling back Veterans benefits.
Despite repeated allegations of fraud, Halliburton has continued to receive multi-billion dollar contracts.
Duke Cunningham's bribes came from inexperience defense contractors who were also engaged in "promoting democracy in Iran."
That same defense contractor was hired by the Bush Administration for unspecified "intelligence services."
"Is it really true that individual members of Congress, while pocketing loads of dollars from defense contractors, are playing such a pivotal role in choosing which companies get key contracts? And is that the best way to win the war on terrorism? Are things really going so well in Iraq that we can afford to organize our troop supplies by the law of the campaign contribution?" -- Josh Marshall

Education
As if the drastic under-funding of No Child Left Behind were not enough, the Republicans have made sure that when our children graduate it will be that much more difficult for them to get ahead and for America to keep its competitive edge. Even as they push more tax cuts targeted at the richest of the rich, last year's budget included the largest cuts to student aid in American history. About 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs in the coming years will require some post-secondary education.
If current trends continue, the percentage of workers with high college degrees will decrease and the personal income of Americans will fall over the next 15 years.
The average cost of college tuition has gone up by 110% over the past 20 years, but median family income has increased by only 27%.
Republicans in Congress pushed through $12.7 billion from student loan programs, the biggest cut in American history.
"Two controversial industries -- for-profit colleges and trade schools, and private student lenders -- have been the major sources of financing for Rep. John A. Boehner's bid to become House majority leader. Boehner has been an outspoken advocate for each interest, and has used his chairmanship to push legislation that would boost profits by millions of dollars." -- Washington Post

Good American Jobs
For Republicans, there is nothing that comes before the profits of their multinational corporate donors. Whether it's worker safety, overtime pay, hard-earned pensions, minimum wage, or keeping good jobs here in America, nothing is safe from the Republican drive to reward their donors.
Republicans eliminated the right to overtime pay for millions of American workers.
Republicans refuse to even hold a vote on minium wage, with has been at $5.15 an hour since 1997.
The Bush Administration has actively and at times publicly supported the shifting of jobs overseas.
"The real income of the typical household has fallen five years in a row, despite the fact that the last three of those years-2002, 2003, and 2004-have been years of economic expansion. Over these years, our workforce has become a great deal more productive, as output per hour is up 15% from 2000 to 2004. Yet... these productivity gains have failed to reach the typical household." -- Economic Policy Institute

Social Security
They may talk about it less, but Republicans would still love to privatize Social Security. Draconian benefit cuts... trillions of dollars in "transition costs"... elimination of many survivor benefits. That's what President Bush wanted, and Republicans from every corner of the country came out in support. The American people were smarter than they thought, but Republicans made it plain that they are just waiting for their next opportunity.
Under President's Bush's implied plan, a middle-class worker retiring in 2022 would have seen guaranteed benefits cut by 9.9 percent.
Under President's Bush's implied plan, a retiree in 2075 would receive a 46% cut.
Finance and insurance sectors, many of whom were likely to benefit from privatization, funneled $12.14 million to President Bush.
"Even before he became president, Bush had advocated allowing younger workers to divert a portion of their Social Security taxes to personal investment accounts. But he never detailed the cuts to guaranteed benefits that may be necessary to close the gap between the Social Security benefits owed to retiring baby boomers and the taxes paid by a dwindling workforce. Nor has he said how the plan would be financed, since any Social Security taxes diverted to investment accounts would have to come out of benefits owed to current retirees and disabled workers." -- Washington Post

Stem Cell Research

Nancy Reagan put the debate over stem cell research in stark terms: "Science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research, which may provide our scientists with many answers that for so long have been beyond our grasp. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this. We have lost so much time already. I just really can't bear to lose any more." And yet when a bill with bipartisan support came up allowing stem cell research only on embryos that would be discarded anyway, a majority of Republicans voted against it. Even though an overwhelming majority of Americans support such research, Republicans are simply too beholden to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson's extreme right.

58% of Americans approve of embryonic stem cell research, only 31% disapprove.

The National Institute of Health states that stem cell research could eventually help patients with cancer, birth defects, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, and diabetes. http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/basics6.asp

"If he's got both his facts and his logic wrong-and he has-Bush's alleged moral anguish on this subject is unimpressive. In fact, it is insulting to the people (including me) whose lives could be saved or redeemed by the medical breakthroughs Bush's stem-cell policy is preventing." -- Michael Kinsley
Does anyone know anything about this?
I ordered Revolution for my four dogs online. Of course, this requires a prescription and the internet company was happy to get that from the vet. I gave all the information and clapped myself on the back for saving 20% on this particular product, which gets rid of fleas, ticks and heartworms. Great. I get a confirmation email from the company. Later that day I get another email. The request has been denied by my vet.
Huh.
That’s weird.
So, I call.
Hello, blank blank Vet’s Office.
Hi. I ordered Revolution online for my four dogs and they said you guys denied to authorize the prescription.
That’s right.
Why.
The Texas Legislature does not allow Internet companies to dispense medications in the state of Texas because there is no way to guarantee the quality.
What?
It’s not our fault. We aren’t allowed to authorize the sale of Internet meds.
Are you kidding?
Do I sound like I’m kidding?
No not really, but you could have a dry sense of humor.
I don’t.
Yeah. I figured that out. So, I have no other option but to pay 20% more for you Revolution.
I doubt it’s 20% less online.
Don’t doubt it.
It’s probably old.

I understand that local vets have to make money, but we give a lot of money to them – four dogs and a cat? Are you kidding? I really resent paying 45 bucks for a three months supply when I can pay 60 for a six months supply from an online company. We have done this before, about a year ago. We ordered flea and heartworm medication for a year.
I went online (the evil, quality un-assured online) and could not find a sliver of information. I went to the Texas Legislature and nothing.
Should you know something about this, please let me know.

This stinks.
Change NOW!
Let’s talk reality.
As winter approached, suddenly natural gas prices sky rocketed.
As spring turns into summer, gasoline prices jump every single day.
As summer approaches, we are being warned that electricity will go up 72%.
I’ll be honest. I care about gas prices right now because it affects me on a daily basis, but I am disgusted with our lack of leadership and ingenuity when it comes to alternatives to oil/gas. I know for a fact that every aspect of alternatives are out there from vehicles to fuels but they are being blocked. Why has Woody Harrelson been marginalized? He has been driving a vegetable oil (used from restaurants) only bus around for ages trying to promote this environmentally friendly alternative with little to no coverage whatsoever. There is a lithium powered car (the same kind of battery that our cell phones use), as well as a multitude of alternative choice cars out there. So, why haven’t any of our representative made this their issue? Dem, indy or repub? Wouldn’t you, if you were in congress and saw this impending crisis? Wouldn’t you want to be the one that could do the press conference about how you had been researching all the alternatives available and you were pushing for legislation to be passed that gives huge rewards to our failing automakers for shifting gears and mass producing lithium or hydrogen or vegetable oil powered vehicles? You were moving to give gas station operators grants to adapt to this new technology so that their stations could become multi-functioning operations – not just for chips and trinkets but for high powered “quick charge” stations, used veggie oil distribution areas. Giving the public a comprehensive plan that covers everyone’s concerns – great tax breaks to anyone who buys these cars. Do you think that guy would have to spend a DIME to be re-elected? Not one cent.
Do not tell me that I am addicted to oil. I would hop a train in a heartbeat over driving in this area.

A heartbeat.
We have NO mass transit in my area.
No bus.
No cabs.
Nothing. You have to have a car. My kids are riding their bikes to school and I am riding mine to the gym. At least while it is still relatively cool outside. But we all know that Australia is having the worst hurricane season in its history, so what do you think ours is going to look like? We have already attained temperatures in the 100s here, regardless of what the weather guy says - I have a thermometer on my back porch. It has been over 95 degrees twenty times since March.
We have a president that refers to oil and gas customers as “our customers”.

We have a president who refuses to acknowledge global warming.
We have a president that has allowed the Gulf Coast to lay in ruins, I guess in the hopes that the next hurricane season will wash all the garbage and decay out to sea for good. That’ll save us some money.
We do not need to criminalize the oil and gas companies, we need to boycott them. I only go to Citgo now – it’s Venezuelan. We do not need to drill anywhere else. Let the oil and gas companies live their dying years out in the dirty wealth they have acquired (Exxon never did pay out for the Valdez oil spill in Alaska). We need to focus on forward thinking. Why are our car companies going under? You know the answer to this! Backward thinking!
How many big-ass, gas guzzling, hemi-engined, macho or sleek car commercials do we see in a day, without one reference to ridding ourselves of the “oil addiction”? When you only offer one thing to the masses you cannot then turn around and say – look! you are only using this one thing! You are irresponsible! You need to break the addiction!

Say what?
What is the alternative? Give us options. Give us a plan – how to get a car that uses something other than oil/gas, where to get it fueled up and repaired. I remember test driving a Prius last year. How long have these things been around – a few years – maybe four? And the car salesman had no idea how to turn it on. These are the guys that should be promoting these cars. They should know everything about them. But the profit isn’t huge and therefore the commission is low. What’s the incentive to them? They want to make a living.
Our country has got to get a grip and see the signs before us. We need to go back to our basic principles. I know that the Orange County housewives with all their wealth and plastic surgery is fascinating stuff as well as the glut of entertainment glorifying excess and decadence, but Rome be burning, y’all. Step away from the hypnotic draw of television and other entertainment and contact your representatives about jumping on alternative fuel automobiles. Tell them we want cars/trucks/vans/ SUVs that do not use oil/gas. We want a reliable transportation that runs off the sun, grass clippings, electronic waste, old paint, anything other than this limited natural resource. No more drilling. No more money into this dying industry. Break the addiction by demanding more choices. Not by 2050 or 2020 or even 2010. This country is packed full of enterprising people. Tap into this resource and get something up and running efficiently by 2008.

That’s plenty of time.
Just pretend it’s a war; we can make that happen pretty quick.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Walk For Farm Animals 2006
With the support of my core group of dedicated vegans, I have decided to be the coordinator for the first Walk for Farm Animals in the Houston area. My very dear friend Lori introduced me to Farm Animal Sanctuary, a fantastic organization that has led my husband and I to discussions about emulation (after the boys have gone to college!). What these guys do is take in farm animals that have somehow fallen through the cracks or off the back of a truck, ended up in a dumpster with thousands of other living baby chicks, or maybe are given to the sanctuary by a farmer who just can’t do it anymore. These guys take in the animals – usually sick, physically damaged and psychologically messed up – care for them and allow them to live their lives out as was originally intended – as living beings within nature. I believe 80% of their funding comes from donation, which is a huge chunk of money. It saddens me that we have to have these tiny islands of sanity and kindness in a raging sea of illogical cruelty.
I tossed and turned last night, again, with images of these cognizant, feeling animals having to live in choking ammonia filled darkness, restricted in their every movement, with concrete and steel surrounding them through every second of their day only to be terrorized upon slaughter. I can’t even say that I had nightmares because that would entail falling asleep. I couldn’t. I had gone to a site yesterday ( www.atourhands.org)and it was page after page of horrifying photos. I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing those pictures, knowing that dependent creatures are being so terribly treated. Why do I purposefully go and pay witness to these extremely upsetting photos? Because if they have to endure it, I will, at the very least, give them the veneration that they deserve by making it part of my experience, if ever so slightly, which in turn becomes part of who I am. You cannot witness brutality and not be affected. That’s what post-traumatic stress disorder is all about. We are emotional beings affected deeply by acts or sights that assault our senses. Witnessing is one of the most powerfully engaging experiences one can have. You cannot remain a bystander if you see something that impales your sensibilities . You might think that you can, but it will affect you on some level. It’s kind of like all those people being so upset at the rodeo this year when one of the steers had his neck broken. Traumatizing was the word that was used repeatedly. They will never see a rodeo the same way again. When you go somewhere to be entertained and instead your senses are assaulted, you can never witness that form of entertainment again, untainted. No truer words have ever been spoken than – if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarian. I’ll go a step closer – if people knew what was happening in factory farms there would be a revolution. Complete with pitchforks. We are too kind, generous, and decent to think otherwise.
I want to make something perfectly clear – factory farming is what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beings incarcerated with no interaction with nature or semblance of human kindness or decency is the example of what our society has come to in pursuit of the almighty dollar and cheap meat. Just for a moment imagine that hell. Look at your purring cat - into the eyes that squint with delight at the touch of your hand, listening to the communications of hunger, aggression, fear and happiness – look into your pet’s face and realize that there is absolutely nothing that separates that beloved animal from one that is castrated without anesthesia, who’s teeth are cut out with no painkillers, who is confined for YEARS in a crate that she cannot even turn around in, nothing different except for the human grace that allows one to be beloved over another. Imagine being pregnant, unable to move, barely able to lie down, standing against steel bars and on concrete flooring. Imagine never being able to groom yourself during this time. Imagine not being able to set up for the impending birth. Are we so different? I have always held to the belief, since I was in single digits, that just because animals can’t speak our language does not make them stupid or less deserving of their natural selves. This is the truth. There is no other way to say it. Animals are units in the agribusiness of today. A spokesman for the factory farming industry actually said in court that there is NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LIVING ANIMAL AND MANURE. No difference between the animal curled up in his favorite spot on your couch and what you clean up out of the litter box. This is who is in charge of the animals you eat. What do you think the possibility is that there is any kind of care? Do you have any concept of how hard these guys fight to keep farm animals excluded from any kind of protection? Basic protection. But if you think of it in their terms – why would crap be protected? That’s just plain crazy.
Although I, admittedly, would like to see the release of every animal being used for any reason by any person or institution, released into its natural habitat and protected from persecution, I realize that it is highly unlikely that it will ever happen. But I want to see the end of factory farming. That’s all there is to it. This industry is so big, so powerful that it controls what you eat. Did you know that as long as they can get it to the slaughterhouse – it gets processed? Regardless of what ailment it might have – cancer, hepatitis, gangrene, ulcers, etc. Do you have any concept of how soul destroying this entire industry is? Is this what God intended? There is no God in these warehouses. Not for these beings. They have been abandoned by all of us. Left to live in terrifying fear, hunger, thirst, with no social interaction at all. Left in a box for five months so someone can eat veal. A baby, tethered so that his head can’t even be lifted. Left in darkness separated from his mother at birth. Chicks that didn’t make the cut tossed by the thousands into a dumpster, alive, to starve to death. Ducks and geese immobilized in steel cages having a steel tube jammed down their throats into their stomachs three to five times a day to fill them full of food, expanding their liver to five times its natural size so someone can eat foie gras. 80,000+ chickens shoved together with no opportunity to even spread their wings. All overwhelmed by the smell of feces and urine. What a nightmare. Can you imagine what that must be like?
If your heart isn’t moved by the facts of factory farming life, then be very aware of the real threat that this industry has to your health. Why do you think bird flu is being watched so nervously? Sure, the media loves the fear factor, but that’s not the main reason. The main reason is industry loss. If this virus shows up in one of these factory farms – the industry is going to take monumental losses. You cannot keep birds in such incredibly close confinement, purge anything natural from their environment and not have to pay the virus piper. Think about it. The industry is petrified. As they should be.
But what is it going to take to make these conglomerates reevaluate this approach and consider more natural and ethic approaches to the demand of meat? The argument is that the demand is so high that this is the only way to supply the demand without taking over every square inch of land for conventional farming. I say poppycock…actually I say something different but that was a good substitution. These guys are all about one thing and that is PROFIT. Like everything else in a “free market” society, the conscience and moral compass of the culture is marginalized or out and out dismissed. Think about the animal stories that capture our hearts - the pig or cow that managed to escape the slaughterhouse and run for their lives through the streets of the town. The many, many animals that have been offered human kindness and repay it tenfold. People love those stories. People turn their heads away in shock and grimace with revulsion when an animal is shown being slaughtered by some indigenous person or tribe. I find this absolutely outrageous. This is being done in this country to BILLIONS of animals.

BILLIONS.
Yet we continue to smack our lips over McDonalds, KFC, turkey dinners, big fat steaks without even acknowledging the life and the spirit of the animal that suffered and died for you. The Native Americans used every part of the animal, but they also thanked the animal and the Holy Spirit for the offering. We might say grace at dinner but that is for the meal on the table not for the animal that suffered for it.
So what’s the hang up? Why not get involved in SOME aspect of this? I have found that there are so many issues that I care about – human rights, children’s welfare, the health care system, the educational system, women’s rights, the environment, diseases that affect people I care about and animals – it can be absolutely overwhelming. How does one focus on one thing and ignore the others? I can’t answer that, I have been totally ADD when it comes to focusing on a particular cause. Even if you focus on animals – there are so many different aspects from testing to entertainment to clothing to food in which animals are treated so badly it would make you physically ill. I care about animals in labs – I do, and I write and call and demonstrate whenever I have the opportunity. I care about animals trapped and slaughtered for their skin (frankly, that is such a hideously, grotesque abomination of human insecurity! I can’t even fathom anyone wanting to wear the skin of another being – blach!). I am especially concerned about circuses and the mistreatment of some of the most amazing and social animals in the world. That’s my second focus in regards to animal welfare. But factory farming, AH! That encompasses everything I hate. Corporate greed. The terrible abuse of animals. The devastation of the environment. It’s a hat trick. The trifecta of activism, if you will. How someone in the political arena deals with factory farming speaks volumes about how close to my values that person stands. If I could ask just one question of any candidate it would be this – what is your stand on factory farming and what will you do to get legislation passed banning it altogether? It tells me if this person is in the back pocket of conglomerate lobbyists, if this person cares about the environment being destroyed by terrible pollution running unchecked out of these repositories, if the public’s health is a high priority, and if animals are seen as an intrinsic part of our lives. God did not put animals here for this. I absolutely believe that God cringes and weeps every time the hysterical, desperate cries rise to a fever pitch inside these warehouse crammed full of chickens, pigs, cows, ducks, geese, lambs. I think he shudders and sobs as the cacophony dies down only to rise again.
So, what’s the block? What keeps you from helping to change this? You like meat? Ok. I have to say, I do understand that we go with what we know and for the most part, that is what America knows – meat. But how about not eating meat once maybe twice a week? How about emailing or calling your representatives – local and federal and tell them that factory farming needs to stop and farm animals deserve to be covered under basic animal protection? That’s not too drastic. You might even feel better.

Just looked over the edge, pretty high up here on my soapbox.

The Farm Animal Walk will take place sometime in the early part of October. Pencil it in, we would love to have you there. More details later.
And seriously, if you don’t believe me, google factory farming. Look into it for yourself. You’ll be wiser about the food you eat and serve, if nothing else.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Contributing Writer: Gundl Bhutani

Animal agriculture stresses Earth

One of the greatest ways we can acknowledge Earth Day Saturday and protect the environment is to shift toward a plant-based diet, centered on fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, while eliminating meat and other animal products.

Raising animals for food is a leading cause of resource depletion and environmental degradation. Meat production is inefficient and results in the needless waste of precious environmental resources. One acre of land could produce 50,000 pounds of tomatoes, 40,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 pounds of carrots or just 250 pounds of beef. In the United States and around the world, millions of acres of forests are cleared and burned to create grazing land for cattle and crop lands to grow animal feed.

The nearly 10 billion animals raised for human consumption each year in the United States excrete massive quantities of urine and feces. Because these animals are fed and injected with antibiotics and sprayed with pesticides, their waste is filled with toxic chemicals. Much of it is washed by rains, untreated, into our waters.

Animal agriculture poses a greater threat to our natural environment than all other human activities combined. We directly contribute to massive amounts of ecological devastation by eating meat, eggs and dairy products.

Every dollar spent to purchase animal products subsidizes this devastation.

Each of us can refuse to subsidize environmental destruction every day by boycotting animal foods. If we truly care about the planet and its inhabitants, becoming vegan is crucial for putting our principles into practice. For more information on the subject, see www.vegforlife.org.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What a RELIEF!
I finally heard back from my most excellent lawyer in regards to the X going to court, without informing me or my lawyer, and getting child support for his two teenage sons reduced from $1200 a month to $352.
1200.
Does that seem high? Take into account that this man paid that for less than one year. We have been divorced/separated for twelve years and he has never, ever paid more than 450/month for both boys. When I was living on the edge, staring over the abyss, going without meals, so stressed that I actually contemplated giving up custody because financially I could not hack it and I had to think of the boys, he was making a crap load of money and dragging me through the court system trying to take them from me. He had always said that he was not cut out to care for children, and he has proven that as an invariable fact regardless of the age of the boys. But his mission has always been to punish me. He is a control freak that will never let go of the reality that I left him.

Anyway, he went to court and got the judge to lower the amount. He does not reimburse for medical expense or insurance which he is mandated to do and we are currently carrying over a thousand dollars in charges that he is supposed to pay within ten days of receipt. Some charges go back to November. He has a rental property. He is opening a restaurant. He has remarried and that poor sod has been working and paying for him for over a year. She also gets child support for her daughter. And he screams poverty.
The court date is set for May 15th. I just want it to be fair. Fair to the boys. Fair to my husband who has carried the burden that the X refuses to shoulder for all these years. I just want it on record that he's a creep. A legal, court record. That would be soooo satisfying. We'll see how it all turns out, but just having the date is a huge relief.

With the impending elections this year, I have decided that I am going to focus on the issues that matter the most to me, and the candidates will have to address these issues in order to obtain my vote. I am going to remain firm in my resolve NOT to be distracted by issues that only surface during election time only to hide out for another two to four years, and I will not listen to any negative attacks from either side.

These are the issues that I expect to be addressed by an incoming hopeful:

  1. National Healthcare. I expect to hear a plan that does not attempt to re-invent the wheel. There are many countries, hundreds, in fact, with a national healthcare system. Let’s check out the best ones, find out what’s good and what’s bad from every angle and adapt it to our country. People are suffering in this country. We will increase productivity and reduce stress related health issues if people don’t have to go bankrupt trying to care for themselves and their families. It is ridiculous that businesses have to bear this burden. Why do they have to carry this load? And tying insurance to work is the biggest idiocy. When you get ill, you end up losing your job and your insurance. Reducing this incredible capital outlay for businesses will free up a lot of cash for number 2.
  2. Increase the minimum wage. And when I say increase it, I mean, INCREASE it. Not by a penny, not by a dollar. But by five, at least. No one can live on five dollars an hour, but ten is a viable number. Congress has managed to give itself a raise almost every time the opportunity arises. The people, especially those known as the working poor, deserve to be able to support their family and themselves. Couple this with national health insurance and our population will not only be healthier they will be happier.
  3. Education. Our educational system needs fixing. A complete overhaul. Most people don’t like change. I have found this out repeatedly in my efforts to have the schools in my area adapt for the needs of boys. It is mostly fear, I believe. Because the crap you are living with is a lot better to most people than the crap that you don’t know anything about. I want to hear a comprehensive plan.
  4. Take the lead on global warming. No more denial. Acknowledge the truth and be strong enough to make sweeping changes to our current approach. The environment has got to be a top priority. I will expect to hear a lot from candidates about their very real plans for change.
  5. Become energy independent within the next five years. Do you remember when we made it to the moon before Russia? What a time of national pride! But we’ve been beaten. Beaten by Brazil! Brazil! When have they ever beaten us in anything besides the number of colored ruffles on a shirt? When? We should be ashamed. But there are a lot more countries that are trying to be second. Can we do it? Yes we can! I want to hear a plan.
  6. Raise Minimum Gas Mileage for all automotive vehicles on the road until we have affordable alternatives to gasoline in place. We need to “iPod” our technology in the vehicular arena. This means, we need to apply all the ingenuity that goes into making an iPod obsolete within six months of its introduction to the market, to all automotives.
  7. Take the lead in ending word hunger and poverty. Sounds so farfetched. But it’s not. It will help with everything from immigration to wars to disease.
  8. Foreign Policy: when a virus is in the water, it doesn’t matter how good that water appears – the water will be contaminated. We are contaminating the Middle East. We are not wanted there. It doesn’t matter what our intentions are. We need to get the people who live there all the time to come together and work out a plan so that the region does not erupt into an all out war. I know we think we are over there doing good, but how receptive are you to others imposing their will on you and yours? We will never be respected until we respect. We will never be taken seriously until we listen and understand. We will never have peace while we are being aggressive. Every parent knows that you can approach parenting with a firm, militant, unyielding hand or a reasonable, flexible, open one. I have chosen the latter. I get a lot of respect. I get a lot done without having to pitch a fit. Sure, this is the Middle East and not a bunch of kids. But don’t all people want to be respected? Don’t all people want to be treated with dignity? There has been this continuous low frequency commentary about how Middle Easterners don’t understand anything but force and power. What a load of nonsense. There goes that broad sweeping generalization brush again. My biggest problem right now is this might makes right mentality. It doesn’t. It makes a mess. We need grownups dealing with these issues. Grownups without a personal, financial interest in the outcome. Grownups who care about all sides.
  9. I want a social safety net in place that helps people with a hand up not a hand out. Like I said before, most people want to live their lives with respect and dignity. It is probably the single most difficult thing to do in this world – to live with any kind of dignity when you are impoverished. We all fall. Our country is strong and good enough to lend a hand.
  10. Federally mandated and funded DNA testing for every incarcerated person to which that procedure applies. This can be funded with the royalties the oil companies have been allowed to not pay for the past, what? Ten years? Twenty years? Should work out nicely.
  11. Federal grants and “rewards” for state and locally based community actions that are innovative. For instance: Programs that help seniors become more involved in the elementary and secondary school system. Successful tree planting, community clean up and composting programs that significantly reduce lawn waste in our landfills, conscientious social change on the grassroots level.
  12. The absolute separation of church and state. I want you to think of it this way – as farfetched as it might seem right now – imagine a candidate that gets elected president that turns out to be a voodoo priest. No one knew, and now he is in office for four years. How important would it be to you then that religion and the state were kept in opposite corners? We want the different faiths in this country to operate, again, with the reassurance that they will be treated with dignity and respect. If you want to give to the church of your choice, that is your prerogative. But I don’t want my tax dollars going to some priestess that makes concoctions from the eye of newt and beetle-juice to relieve inflation.
  13. Remove FEMA from Homeland Security. What a monster that agency has become. Time to streamline.
  14. Immigration. Give me something here. Something that is viable. Something that keeps families together, something that treats these guys as the strong contributors to our society that they are. Enough demonizing. Work with the people involved on this one. Then work out a real border monitoring system. On both sides of the country. Darned Canadians.
  15. Iraq. I only put this in because I know it’s a hot button issue. I consider this to be part of the foreign policy plan. I believe we can get the heck out of there if we a) give their economy back to them (i.e. remove all foreign workers and put locals in their place) and b) bring every nation in the region in to calm things down and work out a plan. Without us intrinsically involved. I have recently heard that all the money that went in to the “reconstruction” effort is drying up with little to nothing to show for it. This, to me, is a direct reflection of the pathetic oversight this administration has administered in the region. The embassy in Baghdad, however, the one the size of Vatican City with its own water and electricity supply is nearing completion. I’m sure this does wonders for the average Iraqi’s morale. What a mess. Someone come up with a plan. Biden has some good insight.

That’s it for now. But you get the idea.

Now a couple of thoughts:

Rumsfilled: When you are working for someone, as most of us who have worked for a living know, you cannot voice your dissent in regards to your higher ups because you will undoubtedly lose your job. However, when you leave that position and those “bosses” can’t affect your life anymore, you are more likely to be honest about the competence and ability of those guys. That’s kind of a no-brainer. Saying these ex-generals have political aspirations or citing examples of when they spoke out for Rum is clouding the truth. But bush was right. He is the “decision maker” and he “makes the final decisions”. I just have a sneaking suspicion that those words will come back to haunt him.

I want to know why it’s ok to hang out and buddy up to China, which last time I checked is a communist nation yet we still have a trade embargo and a general hatred of Cuba. Is it the uniform? What? Are some communist better than others?

A quick point about immigration and the fear of a “Tijuana” nation. Although this is HIGHLY unlikely, I want you to think back about, oh, ten years ago to India. My image of India was the enormous number of people, the unfathomable poverty, dirty water and loads of cattle wandering the street. Now we outsource our work to them and they are instructed that the average thirty-year-old American caller needing help has the mental capacity of a six year old. Things turn around.

I want to know why the legal aspects have become such a point of contention for so many in regards to immigration yet the illegality of bush’s warrantless wiretapping and leaking of classified information is treated like a non-issue.

Treating minors as adults: this to me is a sign of a broken society, when we even consider that a child should have the maturity, mental, psychological, and emotion capacity of an adult. I know that some kids do really horrible things. But I see the equivalent being child soldiers. These kids don’t want to be involved in killing people but they are threatened with death or maiming if they don’t participate. The drive to survive is extremely strong. Kids that take “adult” actions have serious problems and they need help. Incarcerate, sure, but probe for the origins of this behavior – it will give insight as to warning signs in the future and it will help the kid. The news recently revealed a rash of attempted child abductions in my area. The cool thing is how education has been a huge redeeming feature for these kids because they all seem to know what to do should something like this happen. It was also reported that a ten-year-old boy had told police that someone had tried to snatch him off the street. It turned out to be a fabrication. The alarmists started screaming about false reports, criminal charges, etc.

Sigh.

He’s ten.

10.

Barely double digits. Who know what’s going on in this kid’s life, but doesn’t it seem likely that this kid is just that desperate for attention? Address the issues this kid is having, don’t drag him through the criminal system. Geez.

And finally…
I have to say that I have noticed that extremes grab the headlines, but it is the truly unusual GRACE that stays in my mind. People who wage war, destroy things and lives, hurt others, well, they might get attention but the people who truly impact me are those that embody the truth in Christianity. With this whole court case with that Moussaui (shows how much I have been watching I have no idea how to spell his name!) guy, there has been a lot of emotional testimony and details about his involvement with 911. But it was the people that came out yesterday, those who had lost loved ones because of the terrorist attack that will stay with me forever. They all spoke of not getting caught up in the rage and sorrow, in their own way. They all expressed that their faith in God had deepened, and one even said that we are children of God and broken people.

I heard that and thought about the court case I watched with the woman who sat in the witness box with half of her face blown off, after her boyfriend had shot her from point blank range. I remember being so struck by her tone and composure. And her message of forgiveness. Can you imagine? Forgiving someone who has destroyed your calling card to the world? Given all the options of how to react and respond to this man – and you know that she had the most impact on the jury – she fell back into God’s arms and behaved as he wanted her to. That is what Christianity is all about.

Several years ago it was all the rage to have WWJD on a wrist band, a shirt, on a sticker on your car. What would Jesus do? Would Jesus be involved in protecting our economic interests? Our political interests? Our military prowess? What would Jesus do? If he were here now, would he allow the BILLIONS of animals to be incarcerated, tortured and destroyed in the horrendous conditions of factory farming? Would he take into account the corporations need for a profit? Would he back harsh immigration controls, treating people as criminals? Would he say nuke Iran? Would he nod approvingly at lobbyists who want to destroy forests, lakes, oceans, vast wetlands and beachfronts for capital gain? Would he shake his head in disapproval at the idea of national healthcare and a five dollar hike in the minimum wage? We know the answers to all this. God will deal with the suicide bombers, with those who plot and plan the demise and destruction of other people in ways that boggle our imagination. We are meant to love.

Love!

That’s all.

And that’s enough.

Because that’s hard enough. I don’t want to have to judge people, too. Loving people who get on my nerves, who think the exact opposite of me, who cut me off in traffic, who threaten me, who hurt my children, it is hard enough. We need to get back to basics. To simplicity. It’s not a hippie, way out liberal way of thinking – as much as the neo-cons would have everyone believe - it is BIBLICAL. Imagine! Hippie, liberals being closer to disciples of Jesus than those who others would consider to be much more pious. But think about it. That’s the one thing Jesus said was the most important thing. Love. Are our decisions based in love? Are they? Love for all, not just your buddies.

I have to say, I do believe Jesus was a liberal.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

US Building Massive Embassy in Baghdad
By Charles J. Hanley
The Associated Press

Friday 14 April 2006

The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

"We can't talk about it. Security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.

A British tabloid even told readers the location was being kept secret - news that would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days.

The embassy complex - 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report - is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone," just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial.

The Republican Palace, where U.S. Embassy functions are temporarily housed in cubicles among the chandelier-hung rooms, is less than a mile away in the 4-square-mile zone, an enclave of American and Iraqi government offices and lodgings ringed by miles of concrete barriers.

The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the embassy, almost half listed as security, are far more numerous than at any other U.S. mission worldwide. They rarely venture out into the "Red Zone," that is, violence-torn Iraq.

This huge American contingent at the center of power has drawn criticism.

"The presence of a massive U.S. embassy - by far the largest in the world - co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country," the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group, said in one of its periodic reports on Iraq.

State Department spokesman Justin Higgins defended the size of the embassy, old and new, saying it's indicative of the work facing the United States here.

"It's somewhat self-evident that there's going to be a fairly sizable commitment to Iraq by the U.S. government in all forms for several years," he said in Washington.

Higgins noted that large numbers of non-diplomats work at the mission - hundreds of military personnel and dozens of FBI agents, for example, along with representatives of the Agriculture, Commerce and other U.S. federal departments.

They sleep in hundreds of trailers or "containerized" quarters scattered around the Green Zone. But next year embassy staff will move into six apartment buildings in the new complex, which has been under construction since mid-2005 with a target completion date of June 2007.

Iraq's interim government transferred the land to U.S. ownership in October 2004, under an agreement whose terms were not disclosed.

"Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall.

Original cost estimates ranged over $1 billion, but Congress appropriated only $592 million in the emergency Iraq budget adopted last year. Most has gone to a Kuwait builder, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, with the rest awarded to six contractors working on the project's "classified" portion - the actual embassy offices.

Higgins declined to identify those builders, citing security reasons, but said five were American companies.

The designs aren't publicly available, but the Senate report makes clear it will be a self-sufficient and "hardened" domain, to function in the midst of Baghdad power outages, water shortages and continuing turmoil.

It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewaster-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.

Besides two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, and the apartment buildings for staff, the compound will offer a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and American Club, all housed in a recreation building.

Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says.

Higgins said the work, under way on all parts of the project, is more than one-third complete.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Post Easter Musings

I’ve been thinking about this whole legalistic point of view the right has been taking on immigration. And the thing that keeps getting stuck is how they (the hate radio guys) keep saying repeatedly that they want to get the guys that “cut in line” that “jumped in front of everyone else who is going through the process”. Now, believe me, I hate cutters. I have always hated cutters. There’s an entitlement issue there that really leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I have no problem, none whatsoever, in letting people who cut know that it is not acceptable.

But let’s switch tracks here. Cody fell down the stairs at school. He was in a lot of pain and after calling his pediatrician, I was instructed to go to the emergency room. We went in. I spoke to reception. I filled out paperwork. I elevated his foot. Got him something to drink. Went into the triage nurse, got vitals, went back into the waiting room. Filled out more paper work. And sat. And sat. X came with loud new wife and stepdaughter. And we sat. New wife left.
Man comes in, with wife and two kids. He is crouched over. He is moaning in a way that you know if he weren’t exercising as much control as he could he would be screaming. He was holding his abdomen and his back. I knew right away – kidney stones. My husband had them. Horrid little monsters. Anyway, the wife goes to reception. She fills out paperwork. They go into triage, leaving the kids in the waiting room. A couple of minutes later, the wife comes and gets the kids. They are admitted.

CUTTERS!!

CUTTERS!!

We were here first! We were waiting in line! We filled out all the paperwork! We did everything we were supposed to do and we did it first! Why did he get to go ahead of us?!!!!

Triage.

Triage evaluates and determines the level of need.
But unfortunately, we don’t have triage at the border. We don’t have someone taking applications and then saying – what are you symptoms – i.e. how do you live? Are you in abject poverty and starving to death? Is your family?

Triage.

These guys who came over the border and bypassed the admission process are ambulatory cases. Patients in ambulances don’t have to sit in the waiting room. They go straight in. And that’s how it should be. I don’t want some guy to die in the waiting room because my son’s toes are broken but we were here first and we go in order. We cannot allow schoolyard platitudes to infiltrate a very serious issue like immigration. Yes, able-bodied people with jobs and homes and security are waiting for years to get citizenship and entry into our country. Is it fair that people who live on our physical borders are doing whatever it takes get in? Maybe not. But “fair” isn’t what we are talking about. Issues have been blurred to obstruct the true motives behind all this anti-immigrant rhetoric, and I think that everyone knows it. Xenophobia. Initially, I thought this was fear of female warriors, but now I know what it really means, I see that it is applicable. We have mixed in “national security” and “terrorism” and added a pinch of “fear” and “hysteria” and made a stew of good ole boy racism.

Enough.

Enough!

Focus on the real issues. Focus on what’s really happening. Don’t let the media determine what you see.

For instance, is it just crazy to refuse to remove the “nuclear” option in response to Iran….developing nuclear power? I mean, talk about stupid.

You can’t have this bomb!
Why?
Because you might be able to do this with it! KABOOOOOM! Or threaten, like we do, to do something with it. Don’t say that you are going to exercise the very weak, gasping-and-shivering-in-the corner-from-a-lack-of-any-life-giving-forces – “diplomacy” all the while playing war games with your little buddy, England.

We heard crickets from the right wing pundits when it came to the revelation that our leader is actually our leaker in regards to the leaking of information surrounding a CIA agent. I suppose all of this will come to fruition when Fitzgerald reveals his hand.

And finally.

Last night while driving home with my boys from Easter celebrations with my family at my brother’s house, I popped in a tape that my sister in law had given me. It was my brother giving a sermon at his church, I believe in 1999. Seven years ago. I haven’t heard his voice in five years.

Five years.

I see him.

I talk to him.

I can kiss him and hug him.

I can see his eyes dance when something funny is said.

I can see the brother that I love so dearly – even if he is encapsulated within a body that has betrayed him with ALS.

But for the first time in 5 years, I heard his voice. Both of my boys asked who it was.

God! How incredibly sad. Of course, they wouldn’t know! They were so young when Paul was diagnosed, and the cruelty of this disease was evident by its attack of his speech before almost anything else.

But I got to hear him.

There were endearing moments – like the way he tried to “American-ize” his British accent (just like my dad did) and how he peppered everything with jokes and personal anecdotes. Initially, I was lost in his voice. Mixed with a supreme sorrow for what I longed to hear and joy at finally hearing it, even if it was on an audiotape. I understand why some people never erase their answering machines when a loved one has left a message and then died suddenly. The human voice is such a unique and amazing thing. The warmth and memories it can pull from the deepest recesses is really uncanny.

He spoke about a parable in Luke. Of course, the most difficult one. And made it easy to understand. All that we have is not ours – money, children, property, animals, even ourselves – they are all God’s, on loan, if you will. Using what you are borrowing, the resources you have been given with your eyes permanently fixed on the kingdom of heaven and God, even in ways that might seem to the casual observer as erroneous, using those gifts to bring people to the light and joy of The Way is what we are here for. Being outwardly focused, not sitting in your church with your people saying “God things”. He told of this one guy who was very pious, on Sunday with bible in hand, he would go to his car and go to church. His neighbor would be loading his golf clubs into his own car. The neighbor asked him if he would like to come with him to play a round of golf. Indignant, the pious guy huffed out a “NO!”, got into his car and drove to church. The next two weekends this happened, in the same way. Finally on the third weekend, the golf guy asks the pious guy again if he wants to go play golf. The pious guys says no. The neighbor says you know. I don’t get it. Three times I’ve asked you to come play golf with me and three times you’ve said no, but you’ve never asked me to come to your church.

Bam.

Missed opportunity from being too caught up with the mechanics, all the distractions that come from being a person of faith. My mom has it right. It’s in the way you live every day. Every single day.

Hearing his voice. I can’t say what it meant to me. I could close my eyes and see him up there exuding humble confidence, but knowing that he had the inherent fear of public speaking or public anything where all the attention IS ON YOU! that my whole family has. I can see him pinch his nose between his thumb and his bent forefinger just after saying something funny. I can see his eyebrows raise and a smile cross his face. I can see his whole face soften when speaking of using kindness and generosity to get to non-believers. I can see this man who has the most brilliantly intelligent yet imaginative mind draw in a packed to capacity audience silenced in his presence and knowledge. There is nothing better in this world than a smart person who can convey information in a way that the rest of us can understand. Nothing. Seriously. There were professors at school that left me thinking I had just entered a time warp. No idea. I remember walking into A&M Chemistry 101 and being absolutely staggered that this was the first class in chemistry and not one aimed at graduating chemical engineers. It’s all in the delivery. Jokes. Information. Directions. It’s all in the delivery. And what do you know?! Paul had that too! Being firstborn is so golden – you get to pick from the buffet of personal attributes first and boy did he clean up.

He stood there before all these people from his church community, people who admire him, people who took their pets to his veterinary practice, people who sat in on his very popular bible studies, and you could have heard a pin drop. Except when, with his impeccable timing, he dropped a punch line and the ripple of laughter spread throughout the congregation.

What a man.

What a brother.

It was bittersweet hearing his voice again. I have so much I want to talk to him about. There are times that I so desperately need his counsel, I can hardly find the words to pray. I look into his eyes and I know that he is as desperate to say to me what I need to hear. This tape was huge for me. On Easter of all days. When I needed a little true Christianity the most. There it was.

From someone who can’t move or speak.

He did it again.

Rock star.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Black. White. The final show.
Well. I don’t even know where to start. I am so disappointed in Bruno (white dad). I really thought he would have an epiphany but he stayed as stubborn and self-righteous to the end. At one point during the adult group session the therapist asks Brian (black dad) which is the accurate portrayal of how he feels: agree to disagree with Bruno or he wants him to get the experience, since he had said both. I felt surprisingly emotional at that whole exchange.

And I realize why.

Bruno to me is the embodiment of almost every white person I know. It’s a refusal to understand that you are your past, you don’t pass through stages of existence in this life, you drag it all with you. I did not walk into adulthood without a whole lot of baggage and a physical being full of what I had been taught and had experienced from birth. Who does? Who is not influenced by the experiences of life? People in a state of denial, that’s who. How ridiculous would it be to go through the birth of a child and when asked, the parent looks around all bewildered and says “Gosh, no. Life changing experience? Golly..a child being born? No. Not really. Hadn’t really thought about it, to be honest. Doesn’t that happen everyday? What’s the big deal?” Of course, the birth of a child is monumentally important life experience! Of course, it is going to affect you! We have all these mile markers – when we can sit up by ourselves, walk, talk, first day of school, graduate, get married. Why? Because these are just a few of the life experiences that affect us because as much as people like to pretend the opposite, we are emotional beings. To deny that things don’t affect us does not mean that they don’t. It just means that you will not accept that they do. It’s almost like we expect people to not be a product of their environment and their history. Bruno has never experienced racism. To say that he has would be as meaningless as him saying that he had experienced sexism. A man cannot comprehend being treated differently as a woman. He can empathize. He can attempt to garner as much of that experience from others as he can, but there is a limit. Bruno has the attitude of “I don’t experience, it doesn’t exist. I don’t see it. It’s you and your attitude.” It makes my stomach ball up into a knot, because I have run into this brick wall repeatedly. Even people who appear enlightened will come out of left field and it’s so unbelievably disappointing. What other attitude is Bryan supposed to have? When you go through your life from birth being treated a certain way – sometimes overtly, other times covertly – you get conditioned. You would be stupid not to be. It’s what we do as humans. If you keep running down a hill, down the same line and halfway through you stumble and fall because there’s a gaping hole there, what do you do? Do you learn from your experience and sidestep maybe a yard or so for good measure or do you continue to run that line thinking that something will change?
I have seen it.
I have heard it.
Don’t tell me it doesn’t exist because it does.
It does.
No matter how much you ignore it, it is there.
Pretending it doesn’t makes you the person that denies reality. Do you want to deny reality? You can’t change something you don’t accept is there. It’s like a drug addict that refuses to admit that she has a problem. Nothing can be done. Not until she accepts reality.

Racism exists.
It’s not a card.
It’s not fantasy.
It's not a figment of anyone's imagination.
It’s only people who sit on top and refuse to look down that can say that it is apparition.
It was weird. At the end of the segment they are all packed and they do this group hug. Everyone is together in a circle, tight, intertwined and embraced. And there’s Bruno, on the outside with his arms around everyone but somehow just not…. a part of it, if that makes any sense. Everyone seemed to get something – Nick (black son) finally engaged, Carmen (white mom) and Renee (black mom) seemed to find common ground, and Rose (white daughter) seemed to just go deeper than anyone else, Brian seemed to gather that his son needed serious attention and that you just have to keep on keepin' on trying to open one mind at a time – but Bruno stood there rigidly stating over and over “I don’t see it. I don’t get it.” (figuratively), still flippantly without conscious thought making stupid oneliners ("That sh*t don't fly!" In an exaggerated black intonation. Cringe.

Recognizing that we are all different – not only in regards to race but within the races, we all come to adulthood with a history of ourselves and our family and our forefathers. No amount of dismissing or denial will erase that. The sooner we can accept that each of us is so incredibly unique and amazing, the sooner we can see the absolutely phenomenal nature of God in his ability to keep things interesting. My two sons might have experienced much of the same stuff growing up. Does that make them the same? They couldn’t be any more different. And that’s within one family! Now apply that to the billions of people on this earth and you begin to see it. People experience things differently even if they experience it collectively.

Great show. Hope they have another one coming really soon.

URGENT REQUEST!!!!

HSUS just issued a press release that today, peaceful and licensed seal hunt observers from the Humane Society of the United States are under siege from an angry mob of 60 people at a hotel in Quebec. When trying to travel to their helicopters this morning, the observers' cars were run off the road. They are now back in their hotel rooms, under siege at threat of violence, and unable to lawfully witness and film the atrocities of the seal hunt in progress today (yesterday in one day, 120,000 baby seals were blundgeoned or shot (estimated 10,000 slipped away in the water to die long painful deaths, and many were skinned while still alive). The sealers and the Canadian government don't want YOU to be able to see videos about the cruelties taking place.

The Canadian government is doing basically nothing about the siege (as they are a sponsor of the hunt themselves) and there are only 2 police officers at the hotel. HSUS has issued the below forwarded press release and help is being asked from the American Embassy.

If you have not yet called the Canadian Prime Minister's Office (ph. # below) to ask that the seal hunt be ended forever, there will never be a better time to do so than TODAY, as well as to speak your voice that the HSUS observers be protected AND allowed to observe and document the hunt.

From my cell ph. (and I have no special international plan), it only costs .42 a minute to call Canada...I just called and spoke for 3 minutes...it's the best $1.26 I've ever spent. I was actually instantly routed to a real person to hear my comments. I recommend a call over an email or fax if at all possible!

POINTS I MADE:

- I have seen videos of the hunt...I have seen for myself the unconscionable and needless cruelty

- I have boycotted all Canadian products and travel and have inspired a large number of others to do the same...and I am working tirelessly to educate as many people as I can about the cruelty of this hunt.

- I am shocked that a sealer boat purposefully charged and rammed a floating boat of the observers' last week and that now today the siege has happened, and that the Canadian government is not protecting and allowing the observers to lawfully document...and that this only validates to the world that the sealers AND the Canadian government have something to hide...the cruelty that they don't want the Canadian people and the world...to see.

- I am aware that due to thin ice and warm waters this year, the seal pup population has already been severely impacted, and the hunt apart from its cruelty is threatening the species!

- That I am aware that a mega-million dollar business woman in the U.S. offered $16,000,000 to serve as income for the sealers rather than the pelts of the seals...so that the hunt can be ended...and also offered to provide and help raise monies to establish a long-term eco-tourism business in Canada, where the sealer's income would come from stewarding seal-watching tourist activities which could be as lucrative as whale-watching is in many countries. I am aware that the prime minister REJECTED this offer. (Now, this is a big deal. Did you know about this? I hadn't a clue. This speaks volumes about what it is going to take to have Canada ban this hunt.)

- That I am sorry that the new Prime Minister, by supporting a small group (the sealers) and the seal hunt and the extreme cruelty of it, has allowed the global reputation of Canada and its people to be severely blemished.

- The seals do NOT belong to Canada...they are migratory...and they belong to the world.

Prime Minister's Office
Right Honorable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington St. Ottawa
Ontario, Canada K1A OA2
ph: 613-992-4211
Fax: 613-941-6900
E-mail: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

If you receive this email too late to call today, call tomorrow! Visit www.protestseals.org for updates and additional ways to help the seals.

America - The Middle Schooler

I’ve really just had enough. I cannot fathom what the citizens of this country and its leaders are actually thinking. I get that Angelina and Brad’s baby is like the number one most important thing in our nation, the fact that she is opting to give birth amongst lions in Africa is of the utmost importance, and of course, how Jen will handle it. I get that. I also get that no matter what immigrants do right now, the rightwing will have something ludicrous, condescending and racist to say about it. But does anyone see what’s going on? I mean, a lot of attention has been spent on people who are here, doing back-breaking work, busting their butts for minimum wage, who have the audacity to have national pride by waving the Mexican and US flags (I know quite a few Brits who wave the Union Jack but no ones says anything about their allegiance to this country). The fact that they organized has been minimized as kids wanting to ditch school, and lied about with the ridiculous statements that this is a demonstration organized by communists. Give me a break. When in doubt call someone a communist! Call them a socialist! Marxist! Gets’em every time. God forbid we actually give credit to these people for caring about what happens to them and they organize to be heard. But does anyone notice that the price of gas has jumped again and they are trying to groom us like a pedophile grooms a child for three dollar gas – just in time for summer driving!

Bill and Melinda Gates have been sounding the alarm about our schools being in crisis. With a former teacher/librarian/Stepford wife in the White House one would think that education would be on the top of the agenda, but no, we are way too busy stirring everyone up. Give me a break on this whole Iran thing. Been there done that. When your popularity drops here comes a war! Get a new script. Something with a little punch, a little creativity. I know! Here’s an idea! How about we stop acting like big freakin’ bullies, trampling all over everyone’s cultural tenets, other countries inherent rights to be as they are, demeaning and dehumanizing entire regions of people because we just don’t get what they’re all about and frankly, don’t give a crap because they aren’t acting like we want them to.

Bush refuses to talk to anyone who disagrees with him or that has made him mad.

Seriously. He will not talk to North Korea. In the summer of 2003, the former Sunni generals and Sunni and Baathist leaders who were happy to see Saddam go, but did not want America there, wanted to talk to us. Bush wouldn't. Whether it got to bush, who knows but it got to four star generals. Nobody wanted to talk to them. He doesn't talk to the president of Syria; in fact, he specifically rejects overtures from al-Asad to us. And he doesn't talk to the Iranians. There's been no bilateral communication at all. Iran has come hat-in-hand to us. A former National Security Council adviser who worked in the White House, Flynt Leverett, an ex-C.I.A. analyst who's now working at Brookings, wrote a piece a month or so ago, in the New York Times, describing specific offers by the Iranians to come deal on all issues. They were even willing to talk about recognizing Israel. And the White House doesn't talk. There's no pressure from the media, no pressure from Congress. Here's a president who won't talk to people he's walking us into a confrontation with. Is that insane? He refuses to talk to them.

Wow.

He’s like a spoiled child. The problem is he’s not a child and he has a crapload of power that he is abusing. How many more wars are we going to engage in? How about bringing democracy to the region as a GIFT instead of a freakin’ mandate?

Did you know we are 26th in the world in educating our kids?

26th.

A third of all kids drop out of school before graduating. Our schools are falling apart. And we march on to war in a country that we know little to nothing about. Except that it was soooooo much better, and more civilized under the American friendly puppet know as the Shah. But the people WHO LIVE there got rid of him in ’79. It’s over. Let it go. Let them be as they are. Why do we have to run around flippin’ out over everything? Why is every other country so level headed about all this? Can we get some grownups in to work out our problems, please?

In a multicultural world, in a multicultural country we have got to grow up and stop painting people with simplistically broad and erroneous strokes. Do you have any concept of how many people have said to me that Middle Eastern people don’t want to be called “towel heads” anymore, they want to be called “sheet heads”? God.

Do people really find that funny? Really? In 2006 we are still making up stupid stereotypical slams against entire groups of people? Why are we backsliding? Why are behaving like this? People who are reasonable, have what’s good and right and true on their side, don’t do this. People who are wrong, know they’re wrong and feel guilty because of it behave like this. We see it time and time again at protests or outreach events. People who get all adamant, confrontational and angry. “Go rodeo!” “I love beef!” “They’re just chickens!” they screech at us. And it is so painfully obvious that the self-righteous are not right, they are just loud, obnoxious and pathetic. Even our friends, the other countries that “like” us are wondering what the heck we’re doing. Can someone that bush likes (so he will talk and maybe even listen) please sit down and talk to him about the best way to deal with the Middle East? Please?

Why are we treating those from Central and South America as criminals? You tell me, and you have to make some effort to be honest and actually think about yourself in the situation, what would you do if you lived in a cardboard home, with scraps of metal stuck to the top as a roof. You slept in dirt with a few blankets. You were born into this. You are hard working. You are motivated. And you are fiercely loyal to your family. Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get to a place where you could work for more money, enough money to send back to your family? You so would, and you know it! I don’t believe that they are illegal immigrants. America is a continent. We should all be able to move around freely. How many South and Central American people are involved in acts of terrorism? What about the ones from within? It’s the Timothy McVeigh’s that you have to worry about, and guess what? They’re the ones that got the militias together and are patrolling the border. Great. The funny thing is, all these people who claim to know something about history refuse to concede that every single time we have had a wave of immigrants into this country the alarmist started wiggin’ out about the deterioration of our country’s fabric. Jews. Irish. Germans. Polish. Russians. Every single time. Initially, they had ghettos. They refused to speak English. There was an adaptation period. All this BS hysteria about our country becoming a welfare state, a bankrupt health care system and dilapidated schools if we remain “as is” or grant amnesty to those already here is nuts. A) people come over here to work. They pay taxes and usually don’t get anything back. They contribute to our society. B) the health care system in our country is already out of control – when you have seniors who have worked their entire lives, paying $700 a month for insurance because they have had cancer probably from the toxins and crap that’s allowed to flow freely through our waterways, air and land and have to pay $6000 for each treatment they get for some experimental treatment – our system is broken. Don’t tell me it’s not when we have kids dying from asthma in this country. ASTHMA! And C) Our educational system is pathetic. We have kids graduating in the top ten percent of their class, not prepared for college. All these right-wingers attacking the universities for the “liberal” professors have once again missed the boat. The average minority senior in high school who stays in school and is a good student is able to read at the same level as a seventh grade white kid. Those living in the vicinity of poverty get the most atrocious rip off. They are basically handicapped from the onset. The disparity in the schools is absolutely shocking. There is no other way to put it. I saw this coming in, and that’s why I am forced to live where I live. In this ultra-conservative bastion. I want my boys to get a good education. If we were to live where I wanted to live, the curriculum would be a breeze, but their college readiness would not exist.

This is the truth about America. You have a bunch of people who sit around judging others without the first idea of what they are talking about. Enough comparing to when you were in school, ok? That does not apply anymore. For one, your mom probably stayed at home and TALKED to you. Kids today are alone a lot of the time when they get home. You didn’t have the internet, where creeps are searching all day long for some sad kid who just wants someone to notice, to care about them. You didn’t have all the distractions, and sure! You were happy! You didn’t have all these things and you managed, blah blah blah. You are also white, and regardless of what you say, the actual facts about education in predominantly minority areas and white areas makes it indisputable – racism is alive and kicking in our educational system. What’s the standard response to that? They don’t try as hard, they don’t care, they aren’t motivated, etc. Try going in day in day out to a school with a ceiling that is falling to the ground, peeling walls, blocked off bathrooms because of the need for repairs that never come, no electricity, broken windows, substandard equipment. Walk in, get frisked and go through a metal detector. What a way to start your day! The exceptions set the rules. You are surrounded by bleak, dull, broken, rundown all day long. What does that say to you? That this is what you deserve? This is the best we will do for you, because well, we don’t expect a whole lot. We are not losing our youth to music videos, video games, reality (gag) dramas like Laguna Beach, and other external diversions because these kids are stupid, uninspired, or delinquent. Have you seen any of these things? The videos and reality shows are about opulence and excess, something that most of these kids dive into in order to escape their reality. These things are interesting. They are engaging. They are interactive, fun and inspiring. Why are we not clued into this? One of the current problems we have in our schools is that teachers are being forced to teach to a test. Teachers don’t teach for kids to learn –that is why art and music are falling by the wayside – no Mozart or Monet on the standardized test. Every single shred of creativity and fun is zapped out in order for the kids to “sit and learn this stuff”. The school’s accreditation, the staff’s jobs all rely on how well these kids do on the tests. And who do we have to thank for all this? The guy who governed this state and felt it was a good idea, so good we would inflict it on the whole country. This is what I think. If you aren’t involved in the education system, if you weren’t all that good at it when you went through it, I don’t think you should be making decisions about what it needs to be better. All it does is distract away from the fact that our schools and curriculum, applicable to the 50’s are seriously lacking now in 2006. In order to be competitive (upon which I am assuming the whole “free market” premise is based) you have to have people who are creative intellectually. You have to have people in positions that continue to drive this country. At the rate we are going, our youth will be in fierce competition with the migrant workers for the unskilled labor positions.

Do we blame the kids? Do we blame the leadership? No. And yes. But not just the idiot we have now, but all the guys that have managed to drop this ball. Education has floated in and out of our collective psyche for at least thirty years. Time magazine feels it’s worthy enough for a cover. Does it matter? Can we ignore it? If your kid is in a good school does that mean this doesn’t affect you? You can let it pass? What if you don’t have kids? What if your kids are grown and you aren’t integrally involved with the school system, does all this matter? Well, think of it in this way; who will be operating on you when you need emergency surgery? Who will be designing your car? Your freeways? Your home or work space? Who will be building it? Who will be representing you should you have legal difficulties? Who will be caring for you when you cannot care for yourself? Think of all the ways that a good education affects your existence from moment to moment. Then think of all the kids we allowed to drop out of school, to graduate with a substandard education, and then let’s start talking about a welfare state, because that’s when we’ll have one, not now with the current immigration situation but soon with all these kids falling through the cracks. Why do we insist on waiting until it’s too late to correct problems? Why do we collectively run around putting out fires instead of preparing our surrounding to be fire-free? We’re smart enough. It’s not a partisan issue – we all want to be proud of the education we offer kids – liberals, conservatives, right, left, dems, repubs, green, independent – we all want to walk into any school and see kids learning, equipment in good condition, the walls painted and decorated with school spirit, the windows clean, the bathrooms operational, the ceiling keeping out the rain. Don’t we? I know we do. So, what’s the problem?

We are focusing way too much attention on everyone else. I really like that parable in the bible about the guy who needed to concentrate on the log in his own eye before pointing out the splinter in someone else’s. Isn’t that really relevant right now? With systems in place that are in dire need of attention and renovation, not inconsequential systems but vitally important ones like education and health, it is imperative that we focus on our own structural soundness. Take our voting system (please! Harhar). Electronic voting machines are highly corruptible. That’s a fundamental element in a democracy – accurate voting. We don’t have that. Can we get it? We have people leaving their kids at home because we have shut down daycare programs for the needy. Is this the best solution to this problem? We have so many things for which we could be setting the world standard – becoming energy independent, having the most forward thinking approaches to clean air, water and land, developing levees that other countries come to see so that they can emulate. Figuring out creative, “outside the box” ways to solve issues such as immigration, cultural awareness, tolerance, poverty, illiteracy, the right to exercise your religion. Isn’t that what we all want? Everyone in the world looking at us thinking “that’s what we should be doing!” “How do we ____?”fill in the blank. Instead we are the ones running around the world bragging and swaggering and essentially acting like a bunch of ridiculous middle school kids. But the thing is, compared to the rest of the world, that’s about where we are in our nation’s growth. We are not doomed to be a**holes for the rest of eternity. How you are in middle school isn’t how you are as an adult IF you learn from your mistakes and realize that you are part of the whole, not the be all and end all. We are not at our best right now, but that is ok because we still have an opportunity to change. I think America has always wanted to be respected, maybe even envied a little by others. And I believe for the most part that has been the case. But it is not that way now. People disregarding the obvious signs, I’m afraid, are like those parents that allow their child to behave badly all the while making excuses. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. We are, thank God, expected to fall on a regular basis; it is what makes us human. But the true error is not acknowledging our faults and making an effort to correct them. If we stay the course of denial, we will be, truly, doomed.