Category Archives: Politics

Yilmaz Askan – Handmade Dog Collars & Harnesses

Visit him at his new site: Anatolian Leatherworks!

Simply outstanding work from Kurdish artist Yilmaz Askan living in Istanbul. You can contact him via his Facebook page. His business is called “Anatolian Leatherworks” and there will be a website eventually. These are only a few images of his incredible work.

Yilmaz Askan, maker of magnificent leatherwork!
Yilmaz Askan, maker of magnificent leatherwork!

ArgusStuddedCollar

yilmaz_askan_01yilmaz_askan_02  yilmaz_askan_03 yilmaz_askan_04 yilmaz_askan_05 yilmaz_askan_06 yilmaz_askan_07 yilmaz_askan_08 yilmaz_askan_09 yilmaz_askan_10 yilmaz_askan_11 yilmaz_askan_12 yilmaz_askan_13

A Book Worthy to be Read

A Book Worthy to be Read

I wait quietly, but you do not see me
hidden among the volumes on the shelf.
I am touched by age, tattered with use,
but a book worthy to be read,
filled with tales of love and sorrow,
of days gone by and hopes still to be realized.
Yet you do not look beyond my cover.

My edges may be yellowed and frayed
but my words are strong and true.
So my pages will sing out my words for you
and tell of the marvelous things written within,
etched by time, engraved by experience,
and worthy to be told.

For too long I lingered on the shelf, dusty and muted,
lost between stories that were not my own.
But I have been touched by rays of sun
peeking through heavy curtains
dancing with motes that fall through time and space.

The dust that once buried me, dulled my vision,
now sparkles like so much glitter in the shards of light.
The same sun that once burned, yellowed, faded me
is now my beacon, calling me on through the darkness.
I will not be shut up, shut down or shut in.

Elizabeth Winkelmeyer
November 28, 2009

Printable calligraphy version (PDF)

Did you know?

The original Constitution of the United States that was ratified in 1789 had only one reference to religion: [Article 6] No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

The de facto motto of the United States, adopted as part of the Great Seal of the U.S. by an Act of Congress in 1782, was E. Pluribus Unum (Out of Many,One).
Congress changed it 174 years later (1956) to “In God We Trust.”

The original ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ was written in 1892 by Baptist Minister Francis Bellamy who DID NOT INCLUDE the words “Under God.” Those were added by Congress 62 years later (1954).

The U.S. didn’t issue Paper Currency until 1861, and ‘In God We Trust’ didn’t appear on it for 96 years (1957).

Just after the Red Scare in the 1950’s, CONGRESS CHANGED the Pledge of Allegiance and our Nation’s Motto over the FEAR of COMMUNISM.

In a time when fear is traded like a commodity, and the word SOCIALISM is being used to create the same fear as the old word COMMUNISM, let’s REMEMBER that our country was NOT founded on fear. NO, OUR NATION was founded out of HOPE for a better world where all people were EQUAL – that we were ONE from MANY.

Let’s not let fear change our nation’s great tradition and direction again.

Transcribed from this graphic seen on Facebook:

Lets_not_let_fear_change_our_nation

Not enough soap on earth

I’ve been archiving a complete copy of some of the worst hate-blogging in Longmont – Stephanie Baum’s site ‘By the People and For the People’ for one.

Apparently the ‘has-been mayor‘s wife is trying to clean up her image: I got this today:


Date: April 1, 2013

Indra’s Net, Inc.
5435 Airport Blvd.
Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301

To Whom It May Concern,

This letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized in 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). I wish to report an instance of Copyright Infringement. The infringing material appears on the Service for which you are the designated agent.

1. The copyrighted material, which I contend belongs to me and appears illegally on the Service, is the following:
My former blog titled, By The People and For the People written by Stephanie Baum, posted between December 2009 and December 2011 at http://www.takebacklongmont.com/

2. The unauthorized material appears at the website address:
http://www.macwebguru.com/blog/Archive_ByThePeopleAndFORThePeople.txt

3. My contact information is as follows:
Stephanie Baum
418 Flicker Avenue, Longmont, CO 80501
303-946-9507
skbaum1@comcast.net

4. I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials as described above is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

5. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Stephanie K. Baum
*****

————————————–

This makes me laugh out loud.

I posted the archive of her nasty little political blog in 2009 – over four years ago – and she’s finally upset about it now? I wonder if it has anything to do with the multiple take-down orders I’ve had to do for things stolen from my personal site, my political blog, my FACEBOOK page…

So, rather than just let this wonderful example of how deep her hate for the Democratic party and anything Progressive goes be forgotten, I’ve made a list of some excerpts from her blog just for the record:


How Hard is it to Fill Out a Mail In Ballot?
By the People and FOR the People 12/12/07 10:33 AM Stephanie Baum
Sometimes I wonder, considering the election this past November where only 41% of registered voters took the time to fill out a ballot. FORTY ONE PERCENT! I truly don’t get it? It can’t even be the cost of a stamp that kept people from voting because the ballots could be dropped off. So why? Complacency. Or perhaps ignorance? Either way, it is because of people choosing to ignore their right (or as I feel, their duty) to vote that has landed our city where it is right now.

If you are like me, and love this city, and are horrified by the thought of a small, extreme group determining the economic future of our city, I implore you to VOTE in January for Gabe Santos, and send a message to the council that they caught us sleeping one time, but that it won’t ever happen again.
—–
Oh no, she’s not ‘partisan’ at all. *cough* -MDW


We Have an Ice Rink…and a Freeze on Hiring
By the People and FOR the People 12/13/07 7:47 PM Stephanie Baum
Last I looked, there were job postings on the City of Longmont website for Seasonal Ice Rink Workers. The city council voted to keep the rink, but in light of budget constraints, enacted a hiring freeze. Wouldn’t that mean that the city infact can’t hire the workers to run the ice rink? Am I missing something here?
—-
Take away the kids ice rink? I think that’s pretty damn heartless.


“One Nation…(pause…pause)…Indivisible, With Libery and Justice for All”
By the People and FOR the People 1/11/08 9:43 AM Stephanie Baum

When Richard Juday recites the Pledge of Allegiance, why does he omit the words “under God?” Well, Atheists don’t believe in God so I guess when they pledge allegiance to their flag, they omit those words to be true to their ideals – that’s my best guess anyway.
—-
Hm. Not very tolerant of others beliefs. Not exactly the attitude one would expect from a ‘First LADY’.


The Final Stretch…
By the People and FOR the People 1/22/08 10:03 AM Stephanie Baum
…A bloc who, while yes, is all Democrat, they are more than that – they are extreme left-wing, zero-growth, pro-big government group that their more centrist fellow party members have also come to fear. This vote isn’t about Democrat versus Republican, it IS about Radical Left-Wing versus the rest of us. Hopefully our message will be heard loud and clear this time.
—-
Anyone that opposes the GOP is ‘radical left-wing’ – this is about as hard-core partisan as you can get. Clearly, if you’re a Democrat in Longmont Ms. Baum considers you ‘radical left-wing’ and you don’t deserve representation on council. Again, not very ‘First Lady’-like.


The 4-Way Test
By the People and FOR the People 1/27/08 9:52 AM Stephanie Baum

As a former Rotarian, I try and live my life by the 4-Way Test. The 4-Way Test is a way to apply ethics and integrity to everything you think, say and do. It is a measure by which all Rotarians should strive to conduct their lives socially and in business.

Other ares of the 4-Way Test have been a struggle for me this campaign season. Being fair, building goodwill and being beneficial to all have tested me. I feel I’ve tried to be fair, but in an election, shedding light on the shortcomings of one candidate probably wouldn’t be considered being fair and certainly isn’t beneficial to them. But I guess I justify that by needing to help inform the citizens of our town so that they can make an educated decision of who to vote for. I think what I write is beneficial to the masses and I think it’s only fair to everyone to know the facts.
—-
Which is exactly why this material is being archived, so the people of Longmont can see how Ms. Baum conducts herself during a campaign. Odd that she’d want this removed from the web. Maybe if she really understood transparency and honesty it would be easier for her.


A New Chapter Starts…
By the People and FOR the People 1/30/08 1:36 PM Stephanie Baum
I’ve learned that anonymity can bring out the best and worst in people. Sometimes people are afraid to speak up and give praise for fear of retribution from employers, friends or family (which is fine, I can totally understand that) and the only way they feel free to express their thanks and support is by remaining anonymous. Yet others are compelled to spew hatred and say things they would never dare say in person but feel free to do so when they can’t be identified (similar to a jihadist executioner wearing a hood?)
—-
I find this laugh-out-loud funny. Especially since Ms. Baum is still guarding the identity of the person behind LongmontReport, one of the nastiest anonymous smear-blogs (which also supported Gabe Santos) Longmont has ever seen.


Here’s my last thought on this sad little tale: If it was so awful for Richard Juday to remove things from his blog before the election:

sb_longmont_city_council_mtg_1Changes to Juday’s Website…
By the People and FOR the People 1/10/08 10:46 AM Stephanie Baum
I see today that 2 days after I posted my blog regarding Richard Juday’s website, on which he posted his plans for IGAs to fight the “Big Box” retailers, he made changes to his site to remove his strategies for implementing the sales tax redistribution. My only guess is that he (or one of his followers) has been keeping tabs on my blog and after reading how ludicrous his ideas were, he changed his website and removed the specifics of his plans. I love it! Although I kind of wish he left it up there for everyone to see how “insightful” Juday is!


Then why, oh WHY Ms. Baum are you so eager to scrub your own remarks from the web?

Don’t you want people to see how ‘insightful‘ you were?

Or are you just trying to scrub off the image of a harpy in high heels?

You can try to clean up your badly-tarnished public image all you want – there’s not enough soap in the world to make people forget that face.

Memorial for Scott Alan Hofferber

Scott Alan Hofferber April 24, 1965 - April 10, 2003
Scott Alan Hofferber April 24, 1965 – April 10, 2003

Scott Alan Hofferber, 38, of Littleton, Colorado, suddenly and unexpectedly went home to be with his Lord and Savior on Thursday, April 10, 2003.

Scott was born April 24, 1965 in Grand Junction, Colorado and moved to Fort Collins with his family in 1968. Scott was a 1982 graduate from Rocky Mountain High School, Fort Collins, CO, and went on to continue his education at Aims Community College, Greeley, CO graduating in 1984 with an AA in Small Business Management. Scott was born with a very serious congenital heart defect; doctors said he would not survive past the age of four or five years of age. He had several close calls but proved the doctors wrong.

Scott truly was a miracle.

Scott married Tammi J. Lockman in March of 1986 and was blessed with four beautiful children, three sons and one daughter. He was a loving husband and father. He was very involved with every aspect of his children’s lives and enjoyed every minute he had with them. His wife and children were his life.

Scott was a member of Englewood First Assembly of God in Englewood, Colorado. He was very involved in the church and a leader of Royal Rangers Program.

Scott was Manager at Crown Trophy in Littleton, CO. Scott loved to camp and be outside as well as riding horses – his latest passion was watching NASCAR. Go #24!!

Scott is survived by his wife, Tammi, four children, Zachary 16, Jeffrey 15, Skyler 13 and Kylie-Jeanne 10; his parents George “Andy” and Maryann Hofferber and a brother, Steve of Fort Collins; a sister, Kimberly of Rio Ranch, NM; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Services will be held Wednesday, April 16, 2003, 11 a.m. at Timberline Church 2908 Timberline Rd., Fort Collins, Colorado with interment at Grandview Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Scott A. Hofferber Family Fund at the Colorado Business Bank of Littleton, Colorado. Donations may also be made at Allnutt Funeral Home in Fort Collins, Colorado.


I had the good fortune to meet Scott’s widow Tammi eight years after his death. Even at that huge distance of time I could feel what a good man he must have been. I wish I could have met him but I’m grateful that his legacy has come to me to preserve and protect. It’s an honor to be associated with the Hofferber family. Rest in peace Scott, you are fondly remembered and greatly missed. – MDW

Occupy Earth – HTML5 Canvas

Cheesehead hackers

1 failed login attempts (1 lockout(s)) from IP: 208.66.135.190

Last user attempted: admin

IP was blocked

IP Address Country (Short) Country (Full) Flag Region City ISP Map
208.66.135.190 US UNITED STATES WISCONSIN MADISON 5NINES DATA LLC

Hm.

If anyone in the Madison, WI area knows the owner of 5 Nines, would you mind reminding them that the Department of Homeland Security really frowns on hackers?

Makes me really question their ‘technical specialist’s claim that they “…strive to make technology your trusted partner” – someone trying to hack my personal site’s password really makes me not trust someone. A lot.

My pal Deb Johnson

The Gifting

I send you roses.  And warm fuzzies.  And Cinderella’s horseshoe I have on my mantle.

I send you sunshine, and blue skies, and white puffy clouds that come in funny animal shapes.

I send you rainbows, and dewdrops, and the soft scent of rain;

the smell of freshly mown grass in the farmer’s field;

meadows of wild flowers; sheep, content.

I send you healing thoughts; your mother’s hands to hold you in warm embrace;

fresh loaves of homemade bread; sunflowers; and a night sky filled with stars.

I send you wind through pine trees whispering; the song of your sisters singing.

I send you your child’s first word; a purring kitten on your lap; fireflies dancing the dark;

and a garden, filled to overflowing, waiting for canning.

I send you a basket, woven of marsh grasses, lined in velvet,

full of wonder and love.

I send you butterflies and the 4th of July; rubies, and Christmas;

a circle of friends to hold you; and a seat by a warm fire.

For you, I light a candle.

I send you peace.

© June 1995 by D.W. Johnson


On a Thought Of Leaving Home and Coming Here

The next time I come (here)

I will go (this way)

I am always coming or going–

Coming to stillness; going out of chaos.

Coming from work; going home.

Coming from home; going to a friend’s house.

Coming from the grocery; going to the book shop.

It is the pattern of my life–

I am coming in; I am going out.

Breathing in; breathing out.

What is left from the wake of the wave.

So if I say, “I don’t know if I am coming or going”, what does it matter?

I am in step with what I am…

A part of it.

©  August 26, 2005 by D.W. Johnson

Photo Rights

The following is from Petapixel and is the text of a reference on photographers rights.

  1. You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it. i.e. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.
  2. You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it. i.e. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.
  3. Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OF their property from a public location.
  4. Anyone can be photographed without consent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. i.e. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.
  5. Despite common misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible:
    • accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities
    • children, celebrities, law enforcement officers
    • bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities
    • residential, commercial, and industrial buildings
  6. Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.
  7. Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.
  8. It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.
  9. You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.
  10. Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.

These are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.


To all concerned – I will continue to take photos of whomever I like in public. Your insinuations will not stop me from exercising my rights. Far from it.

Carbon

By DJ Cline

I am the thing you thought you had destroyed.
My hammered chains and broken rings
Smoke up the chimney
Riding the wind and falling from the sky
The soul from a coal.
The ash from the flash
The grit that grinds
The dust in the very air you breathe
I am everywhere now and cannot go away.
I am part of you.
You could not exist without me.
I am the balance.
Without my comedy
There is only your tragedy.
Be careful what you burn.

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Carbon

The Real American Emergency

by Mary Pitt

While our president is involved in dealing with the many emergencies in which our nation is now foundering, he fails to see the most urgent one.

The dead numbered 137,000 per year through the years of 2000 to 2006, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and, as the depression continues to worsen, the numers will climb even higher on an annual basis. The problem? Simply a lack of health insurance and the inabilty to obtain the needed care on an individual basis!

Granted, these people are the working poor and, thus, are “The Others”. We all know who “The Others” are. They are the people who are not in “our neighborhood”, the unseen people who keep our streets, our clothing, and our children clean, who cook and serve our food, who do the myriad of tasks that we are too busy to do or too comfortable to do for ourselves. They people our back rooms, out of sight, except on the streets where we hardly notice their presence.

They are not the elderly because the elderly have, at least, Medicare with which to maintain their simple lives. The people who are dying for want of care are not the young, healthy people but those who continue to work hard, working through the pains of incipient illnesses such as diabetes and cancer because they have neither the time nor the money to seek medical care.

Suggesting that they should carry private-pay insurance is futile because they simply do not have the funds to pay up to $15,000 per year that would be necessary for a family policy and the idea of fining them for not doing so would also result in further health problems with their undernourished and, possibly, homeless children. We proclaim our care for children by passing the S-CHIP legislation which will allow them medical care but their empty bellies receive nothing but good wishes if their parents work too hard and earn too little to provide them an adequate diet. The dental and eye care provided for them are rudimentary and all medical appointments of any kind necessitate a cash co-payment.

Even before the onset of the “recession”, bankruptcies due to medical expenses were a ballooning problem not necessarily caused by the lack of insurance but by the deductibles and co-payments that those policies require. An elderly person in the United States must live on about $1200 per month, less the deductions for premiums for Medicare Parts B and D which combined total well over $100 per month. From the remaining $1,000 dollars or so, these people are required to pay an additional deductible for their medications, for each doctor’s appointment, and for necessary hospitalizations.

In addition, they face the feared “donut hole” which causes them to end each year with the problem of whether to buy the medication upon which their very lives depend or to pay for their rent, utilities, and food. At this level of Social Secureity, there are few states which allow them assistance from Medicaid.

Every elderly person lives with the fear that they will have a “dizzy spell” or a minor fall which will prompt some kind-hearted person to transport them to an emergency room where a caring physician may decide to keep them overnight for “observation”. Upon release from the hospital the next day, they know they will be burdened with a bill, which they must pay, in excess of $2,000 after Medicare.. (This would be another two months’ Social Security allowance that must be taken from theiir necessary expenses.) Hard as they may try and regardless of their own desire to avoid it, bankruptcy and total devastation looms as an inevitability.

There are those who are obsessed with the possibility that single-payer medical insurance will cause an increase in taxes. However, if they were to add to their annual tax bill the amounts that they now pay for insurance premiums on a private basis, they would realize that the question should be given further consideration. The government already pays 60% of the health care bills in this country while there are many with no coverage at all. If the amounts that are paid to private insurance plans were added to this amount, there would be little or no tax increase to provide complete coverage to all the rest. In addition, the employers who have been paying for medical insurance might be amenable to increasing wages and improving the amounts in the paycheks.

Rather than the “competition” which has been touted as a way to cut the cost of medical insurance, the companies are in contstant negotiations as first one company and then another embarks on a plan of conquest They buy up or take over smaller companies. It would not be much of an exaggeration to compare the insurance situation with that of the nation’s major banks, and for the same reason. The point of the endeavor is to create a monoply wherein one or two major corporations control health care and can name their own price.

However, a single-payer plan could roll together the amounts presently spent in Federally-funded health care along with the subsidies reserved for those providing Medicare Part D, the amount paid for private insurance premiums, and 30% charged out by those companies for administrative salaries, advertising, and profits, there would be a net increase in available funds of some 350 billion dollars per year to apply toward services for the uninsured. Any actual increases in taxation beyond rolling in the money now spent on insurance premiums would not be a great burden but would literally save the lives of many Americans and create the healthy citizenry that will be required in the rebuilding of our nation. As regular examinations, preventive care, and early diagnoses are available, the cost would go down over the years, relieving the taxpayers of much of their burden.

If the President would verify these facts through the Washington number-crunchers and convince the Democrats in Congress, the answer would truly be a “no-brainer”. The question would arise as to the effect on the economy of the loss to the insurance companies. Then, as now, they could contract with the government to administer this Federal program in order to mitigate their losses. However, keeping the current system to protect the private insurance industry can only duplicate the results of the “too big to fail” bank bailouts. If they have become so greedy that they must continue to fatten their pockets with the life-blood of the people of America, perhaps their “failure” would benefit the future of America.

Much has been said and written about “the polls” which show a loss of support for the “health reform” effort in Congress. This is far from that which the people envisioned when they turned out in record numbers to assure the election of Barack Obama. It was begun timidly and fought blindly by the opposition who were not yet recovered from their Rovian trance of “every man for himself”. They recite by rote the right to “own your own insurance policy” when, in fact, they know that they are only renting them for so long as they pay the ever-increasing premiums and don’t have a serious illness.

We can only urge President Obama to “get real” and prepare to proclaim this National Emergency and to exercise his executive powers much as President Bush did to deal with the National Emergency in his time. This crisis is every bit as serious as that faced by the nation in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. It must be treated as seriously before many more people die as the result of it.

This writer is eighty years old and has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own workung-class family. She spends her “Sunset Years” in writing and struggling with The System.

Criticism now ‘attack’

I find this terrifically funny in light of this.

I’d comment further but feel there’s no need to – the silence of Lunaticmont speaks profoundly.

The conservatives are terrified of being likened to… *gasp* {{shudder}} …Boulder.

Horror

But this comment on the Times-Call says it all I think:

Civil Liberties and Freedom of Speech! I know who I won’t be voting for this coming election.
Longmont, 7/24/2009 10:04 AM

Cake

From Lance Mannion hat tip to the Agonist:

A nation full of people trying to have their cake and eat it too

One lesson I learned growing up while watching Pop Mannion at work as our town supervisor is that a lot of people cannot make the connection between the taxes they hate to pay and the services they expect their town, state, and federal governments to provide.

As far as they were concerned, every penny they paid in taxes of any kind went either into the pockets of do-nothing politicians and bureaucrats or lazy bums living on welfare in New York City and other big and dangerous cities in the state and around the country.

You could hardly blame them for thinking the former.  The New York State Legislature was then (and is now) a comfortable hide-out for gangs of crooks and con artists who really did seem to think that taxpayers existed to be fleeced and the only reason we had a state government was to provide them and their families and friends with an easy living.

As for the latter, they just couldn’t be made to hear these questions let alone answer them: How did they think the streets got plowed and paved?  (The highway department crews did nothing but stand around leaning on their shovels all day, collecting time and a half for a quarter day’s work, you know.)  Why did the fire department bother to show up when they were called?  Who built and maintained the fighter jets at the nearby Air National Guard base and trained and paid the pilots protecting us from the damn Rooskies?  Did they think the teachers who taught their kids, the janitors that swept and mopped the classrooms, the bus drivers who got up at four in the morning in the worst sorts of weather to get the kids to school did it out of the goodness of their hearts?

Did they think all this came free?

Well, yeah, they did.

They didn’t know they thought this.  They’d even deny they thought this if you asked them that straight out.  But they did.  What they thought they thought was that they were paying too much for it and that other people weren’t paying enough or anything.

It is a bedrock belief of all anti-tax types that they themselves are the only people in the United States paying taxes.

What it came down to, though, is that they wanted their taxes cut to nothing without a single cut to the services they took for granted.

Most of them.  There were a few who’d have been happy to watch the town’s roads crumble, the schools shut their doors, and the fire department sell off its trucks rather than pay a nickel in taxes.  I almost admired these skinflints.  At least they understood how things worked.  They just didn’t care if things worked.

Another lesson I learned from Pop Mannion, though, was that politicians and government officials who try to explain the facts of life to disgruntled taxpayers are risking their jobs come the next election.

Americans do not want to hear that rather than being over-taxed they are laughably under-taxed relative to the amount and quality of government-provided services they expect as their due.

The loudest complainer about his taxes was very likely to be the first to call our house on a Saturday afternoon when Pop was supposed to be relaxing with us to scream about the giant pothole at the end of his driveway.

He did not want to hear that a crew wouldn’t be able to get to it until after the weekend because the town couldn’t afford to pay the overtime.

He certainly wouldn’t have wanted to hear Pop say that the town would be glad to call in some guys on their day off, fill up the gas tanks on the truck and the roller, and get right to work taking care of that pothole if Mr Angry Homeowner was willing to pick up the tab.

“That’s what I pay taxes for!” he’d have had every right to splutter.

By the way, this is where Libertarianism falls on its keister or I should say bottoms out—nobody’s going to pay out of his pocket every time a pothole on his street needs fixing.  (Dear Libertarian readers, I’m using potholes as a metaphor for all public services, so don’t try to use the minimal government argument on me.  Use it on the guy with the pothole at the end of his driveway.  Again, that’s a metaphor.)  Actually, I’ve never met a self-styled Libertarian who wasn’t a version of those disgruntled taxpayers.  They don’t really want the government to cut back on services.  They just want somebody else to pay for them.

image Now, I used the word keister up there because it’s a great Reaganesque word and it’s appropriate to bring up Ronald Reagan here because Reagan was the great proponent of the You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It philosophy of big government.  That’s Reagan’s legacy.  Lots of government spending at little or no cost.

Reagan liked to point out that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  What he meant, though, was that there’s no such thing as a free lunch for other people.

For the rest of us, lunch was on the house and we got a free dessert too.

I’d like to blame Reagan for infecting the country with this foolishness, but it’s been a strain in American politics—and I mean both definitions of strain—since the get-go.  Reagan rose to office partly on that plank in his personal platform.  His legacy was giving the attitude a smile and an affable shrug with which to express itself instead of the irritable and nasty and skulking look it had formerly worn.

He made Scroogishness feel like a virtue and being Scrooge a pleasant and even admirable way to be.

But California’s Proposition 13, the first and still the most far-reaching and destructive declaration that the people have a right to have their cake and eat it too, had already been enacted two years before Reagan became President.

It’s been said that the Conservative plan is to turn the whole country into California, to have the middle class constantly denying itself necessary services while the rich laugh and cheerfully buy those services for themselves with what, for them, amounts to pocket change.

Which is what happened in California last year.  The state legislature finally came to grips with the state’s financial problems but the voters stopped them from doing what needed to be done.

And now something similar is happening here in New York.

Last night a crowd showed up at a local school board meeting to protest possible cuts in extracurricular activities:

What is school without music, yearbook, honor society or JV sports?

Those are among the extracurricular activities parents and students pleaded with the leaders of the Pine Bush School District to keep at Monday’s budget forum at Circleville Middle School.

With state aid set to be slashed by more than $5 million, and contractual obligations due to rise by about $4 million, the district must somehow meet the needs of the community and deal with the stark reality of some of the region’s highest proposed cuts.

New York State’s practically broke.  The Governor can’t raise taxes because the State Legislature won’t.  (Except on poor people who don’t vote in the form of more sin taxes.)  That leaves it up to the local school districts to make up for the shortfalls themselves.  To his credit, the school superintendent brought up the possibility and put it in stark, realistic terms:

“When you have less to spend you have to spend less or raise taxes,” Superintendent Phil Steinberg told the crowd of some 250. “It’s about making choices.”

The apparent response from the crowd was predictable.

But while hardly anyone could stomach the 18 percent tax hike or layoffs of some 100 school workers needed to keep the status quo, it was the possible cuts to extracurricular activities that drew the most heat on the cold night.

Basically, it sounds like people were saying, “What do taxes have to do with it?  We’re talking about my kid’s fun and future success!”

“If we cut music programs, how am I supposed to continue my life?” asked high school student Jacob Barkman, to ringing applause.

“And what about (getting into) college? Are we supposed to leave the extracurricular part blank?” asked high school student Marielle Darwin, to even louder applause.

If too many activities are cut, it wouldn’t just hurt the kids, many parents said. The cuts would devalue the district that spans three counties and is a magnet for folks moving up from New York City.

“And that would hurt property values,” said Mary Ann Anthony, who has two kids in Pine Bush schools.

OK, I don’t mean to sound like Slate’s Jacob Wiesberg here and call the entire American public childish and ignorant. I know I’m being unfair.  I’m sure there were many responsible and realistic people in that room.

But I’m just as sure that even among the responsible and realistic there were those who would rather let the yearbook go unpublished than give up their cable and use the money to pay the extra in taxes that would save it.

People came to the meeting with suggestions on how to pay for things the district was running out of money to pay for:

Hold fund-raisers, some said. Get tough with the unions and bus company, said others.

Perhaps those who can afford it can pay to play sports, a few parents suggested.

Darwin drew some of the loudest applause when she echoed suggestions made by two Town of Crawford officials: Students should pay to park at the high school.

“If we charge $35, we can raise $4,000,” she said.

Yep.  Bake sales will solve everything.

Now, what do these suggestions have in common, besides being completely inadequate to solving the problem and their usefulness as proof that a lot of people just have no idea how much things cost?

They are all plans for making somebody else pay for my services.

They are all various ways of saying, We can have our cake and eat it too, and by the way slices of said cake will be on sale for a dollar at half time, come on out and support the team.

_______________

Before we progressives get too smug:

Last month, voters in Oregon did the responsible and realistic thing and agreed to raise taxes—on the rich.

Now, it’s true, the rich and the well-to-do do not pay their fair share in taxes and they are doing what they can to see that that they pay even less.  And a minimal increase in their marginal rates would go a long way towards digging the country out of its financial hole.  But the fact is that for the great majority of us the rich are other people and voting to raise their taxes while leaving ours alone is still voting to make other people pay for our services.

Meanwhile, the President is counting on the back-ended stimulus money to start kicking in this spring and help move us towards recovery, but the money from earlier is already running out and the same troubles it was used to forestall are going to return with a vengeance.

And while I’m hoping and praying the Democrats in Congress get it together to pass a useful jobs bill, I have to wonder how they plan to pay for it because there doesn’t even seem to be the will to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the rich, let alone raise taxes a dime on the middle class, and once again we’re talking about freezing spending without cutting any services.

To make matters worse, we have a vociferous and growing political party devoted to one single goal, Having Their Cake and Eating It Too. The tea partiers like to think of themselves as simply anti-tax.  But what they really are are anti-any government spending on other people and pro-making other people pay for their services.

A bad idea

Word from Winkler

A bad idea

By Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society

I confess that I have never thought of a corporation as a human being. It has never made any sense to me to consider the notion that God created General Motors or Wal-Mart or Goldman Sachs or Smith & Wesson in God’s image. Yet, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 last month that corporations are akin to individual people. The court ruled corporations should therefore have the right to spend as much money as they want to influence elections.

From past experience we know this is a bad idea. In the late 19th century, corporations virtually owned the U.S. Congress. It was no secret. They paid for and arranged the election of many members of Congress and, in return, they expected those representatives and senators to vote as they were directed.

From past experience we know this is a bad idea.

This permitted corporations to create monopolies and oligopolies. The sugar trust, the copper trust, the steel trust and other collusive arrangements existed. Regulations were evaded. Pollution and poisons killed countless numbers of people.

The power of money remains far too influential on Capitol Hill to this day. It is not difficult at all to trace corporate contributions to members of Congress to their voting records. Follow the money trail and you will see that our elected officials are all too beholden to the power of money.

The prophet Amos spoke against those merchants who “sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.” Psalm 15 defines upright persons as those who “…stand by their oath even to their hurt … and do not take a bribe against the innocent.”

If politicians are to focus on the well-being of the people and the nation, they must be able to depend on public financing that would take government away from special interests and return it to the people.

Money, you see, equals free speech.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that individuals can spend as much as they want on their own political campaigns. Money, you see, equals free speech.

That reminds me of the old story from West Virginia when the billionaire John D. Rockefeller IV ran for the U.S. Senate against Gov. Arch Moore. A popular bumper sticker read, “Make him spend it all, Arch.”

The rich and powerful always concoct reasons why they should have prerogatives not available to others. Kings argue they have a divine right to do what they want. The wealthy would have us believe that through their beneficence riches will “trickle down” eventually to the poor.

The Supreme Court decision defies common sense.

The Supreme Court decision defies common sense. In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out that corporations are not people. Corporations should not be permitted to spend whatever money they want to influence elections. Neither should individuals or interest groups. We need elections to be played on an level field.

The United Methodist Church has long supported campaign finance reform. Our highest policy-making body, the General Conference has been calling for campaign finance reform since 1996. It approved a resolution in 2008 that specifically calls for strengthening campaign finance reform laws. The resolution, “Pathways to Economic Justice,” calls for laws “that prevent corporations and special interest groups from dominating elections and the legislative process.”

Our denomination’s efforts to fight the power of predatory gambling, alcohol and tobacco interests have long been thwarted by the fantastic sums of money those enterprises pour into the campaign coffers of politicians.

Fortunately, although they are treated as individuals, corporations don’t vote. We do. Politicians know that. We have to encourage them to do the right thing. Right now, that means contacting them in support of the “Fair Elections Now Act” (S. 752 and H.R. 1826). The Supreme Court has made an egregious error in its ruling. It is crucial to encourage your members of Congress to rectify that error through strengthening laws that will level the playing field for all of us.


Editor’s note: More than 200 faith leaders representing diverse religions sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., this week urging passage of the Fair Elections Now Act.” You can read about their effort in this issue of Faith in Action, at “Pass Fair Elections Now Act”. Date: 2/5/2010

Withholding

The Word from Winkler – News and Views from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. – Word from Winkler

Withholding food

By Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society


My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

—South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R) (The Greenville News, Jan. 25)


I prefer to think of impoverished people as sacred children of God. I read this stunningly uncharitable and unChristian statement several days after reading a posting on a United Methodist Web site that counseled people how and why not to give money to poor people who may approach on the street.

Surely, these are not among those he wants to stop feeding.

In Lt. Gov. Bauer’s own state, 58% of South Carolina school children participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program. Surely, these are not among those he wants to stop feeding.

One of The United Methodist Church’s focus areas is ministry with the poor. Many of our congregations support ministries for impoverished people. I doubt any of them withhold food in order to hold down the population, though.

When times get tough economically, some people always search for a reason to punish the poor. Years ago, the Reagan administration attempted unsuccessfully to classify packets of ketchup as vegetables in an effort to reduce school lunches for impoverished children.

The unfortunate news just arrived that President Obama intends in his “State of the Union” address to recommend no additional money be given to programs that help impoverished people. He’s also squeezing money to education, health and human services, housing and urban development, agriculture, environmental protection, national parks, nutrition and other non-defense spending.

At a time of great need, those in need will have to do without.

The military machine, as always, will be fed. Wars must go on. The merchants of death must receive their due. Regretfully, there will be scant opposition in Congress to the continually growing military budget. Anyone who questions money for war risks being portrayed as soft on terrorism, a charge that frightens many elected officials.

Lt. Gov. Bauer tried to clarify his faux pas by stating he just wants to end the “culture of dependency.” Me, too: I want to see an end to our dependency on military spending and violent solutions to solve problems.

Money spent on nutrition, education, and health and human needs is a wise use of our resources. Well-fed and well-cared for children and adults are more productive and valuable to society. Let’s care for all of God’s creatures.

Date: 1/27/2010
©2010

Daren Gray

Screamingly funny twist on Casey at the Bat.

From the comments at Wired.com’s live coverage of the Apple event

“Jobs at the Bat”

by Daren Gray

(as largely thefted from Ernest Lawrence Thayer)

.

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the older tech that day:

The score stood ten to one against, with but one inning more to play.

And then when Kindle died at first, and Nook did the same,

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest

Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, if only Jobs could get but a whack at that –

We’d put up even money now, and possibly our cat.

.

But first some stuff about that phone, and more of AT&T

And the former was a lulu and the latter an atrocity;

So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,

For there seemed but little chance of Jobs getting out of that.

.

But soon the music swelled and to the wonderment of all,

To ringing chords of Coldplay came Jobs into the hall

And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,

There was Jobs upon the stage, and Ballmer flipped him the bird.

.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;

It rumbled through the building, it rattled down at Dell;

It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,

For Jobs, mighty Jobs, was advancing to the… WHAT THE F*** IS THAT?!

.

There was ease in Jobs’ manner as he stepped into his place;

There was pride in Jobs’ bearing and a smile on Jobs’ face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lofted high the gizmo,

No fanboy in the crowd could hold their ever-building jizzmo.

.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with balm;

Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped it on his palm.

Then while the writhing members ground their hands into their hips,

Defiance gleamed in Jobs’ eye, a sneer curled Jobs’ lips.

.

And now his withered old man finger came whizzing cross the screen,

And Jobs stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur keen.

Close by the sturdy CEO the clock unheeded sped –

”That ain’t my style,” said Jobs. “Strike one,” a critic said.

.

From the aisles, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,

Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.

“Kill him! Kill the blasphemer!” shouted someone on the stand;

And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Jobs raised his hand.

.

With a smile of Christian charity great Jobs’ visage shone;

He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the show go on;

He signaled to the projector, and once more the hype did flew;

But Jobs still ignored it, and the critic said, “Strike two.”

.

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;

But one scornful look from Jobs and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,

And they knew that Jobs wouldn’t let that moment pass again.

.

The sneer is gone from Jobs’ lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;

He pounds with cruel violence the tablet on his pate.

And now the critic holds his tongue, and now he lets it go,

And now the air is shattered by the force of Jobs’ blow.

.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children tweet;

There is no joy in Redmond, but, MAN… this tablet’s sweet!

#

Posted by: daren_gray | 01/27/10 | 2:13 am

Russians

Russian hackers again…

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I see you tovarich…

Great Speech

This speech was incredibly moving to me when I first read it while posting it at the CU Alumni Association’s website. I was doing a year-end review of content and felt moved again to read it through… and was just as impressed as the first time. I encourage you to read the entire piece, it’s an amazing speech, I’m going to have to find the video of it – certainly it’s amazing.

I’ve met judge Arguello a couple of times now and she was very sweet, taking note that I had posted her speech, saying she’d had trouble finding it online – so I hope having it here makes it even easier to find.

Thank you for being ambitious Christine and giving your life to the people to make the law live and breathe. We are honored by your service.

-mdw


Remarks by Christine M. Arguello (Edu’77)

Investiture for United States District Judge for the District of Colorado

December 5, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, cherished family and friends, esteemed colleagues and honored guests:

First let me thank the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and all my dear friends at the CHBA for this beautiful robe – I can think of no better symbol of your friendship and respect than this gift, which I shall cherish.

Words cannot express the emotions I am feeling today as I consider the responsibility that has been entrusted to me by this appointment. Perhaps this is because in my heart, today is really yesterday – a day more than 40 years ago when, as a 13-year-old, I picked up a magazine in the library and found myself entranced by the world of the law, and with the prospect that I could become a lawyer – an advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves.

In the decades that have followed that day, I am privileged to have been such an advocate, as well as a teacher, and now, today, a guardian of the law. In each of these roles, I hope I have been steadfast in my responsibilities as a citizen, and it is with respect for my fellow citizens that I wish today to share, with them, and with you, a little bit of who I am, and what I will bring to the role of United States District Judge for the District of Colorado.

I think the people deserve to know who presides over their courts and what we bring to that enormous responsibility. I bring a number of big dreams realized. Even as a barber’s daughter in Buena Vista, Colorado, I dreamed big. Maybe it was the altitude, or maybe it was my attitude. Either way, I was fortunate not only to have such dreams, but to be encouraged to pursue them by my father, and my mother, my wonderful husband Ron, and by many other key mentors and friends who saw my potential and reached out to grab my hands and help pull me up that steep incline of life.

But first, back to my “Eureka” moment when the “lawyer” light bulb went on for me. As a child, I was an avid reader. I discovered that marvelous entity known as the public library during the summer after my 4th grade year. And believe me, I was a frequent visitor to that little library in Buena Vista – trekking the two miles from my home on the outskirts of Buena Vista to the library at least 3 times a week during the summer – because I was only allowed to check out 3 books at a time. You can ask my dear sister Elaine and she will tell you that, much to her chagrin, I was the type of kid who would rather spend time reading than doing anything else, and that included playing with her. Because in my family only the “girls” did the housework and cooking and I was the oldest girl so most of the responsibility of helping my mom fell on my shoulders, often, in order to read, I had to sneak off and climb my reading tree, where hidden by the foliage, I could spend hours immersed in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder or Jo of Little Women. And even when I heard my mom calling for me to come in to peel the potatoes or iron the clothes, I just could not pull my nose out of that book, although I knew I was going to get a whipping when I finally did climb down from my reading tree.

One day, as I waited for my friend who was querying the librarian about a book she was looking for, I happened to pick up a news magazine – I don’t remember if it was Time or Newsweek but it was a news magazine of that sort – and, leafing through it, found an article on lawyers and law schools.

I have to say that lightning struck me. I was swept away – partially by images of Harvard University with its stately red brick buildings with the pillars and black iron gates and, of course, its ivy. And partially by the sheer power of what the text conveyed about what the law and its advocates could achieve for people and for our nation. From that moment on, I was on a new mission – I no longer wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be a lawyer and I wanted to go to Harvard Law School.

Incidentally, knocking “teacher” off the top of my list of careers was no mean trick. Based on a previous “Eureka” moment that had transpired about three years earlier, I had committed to become a teacher and inspire kids, just like Mrs. Cole had inspired me. We had just moved to Buena Vista in October of my fourth grade year so that my dad could open up his barbershop, and it was the first time I attended public school instead of Catholic school. Unfortunately for me, my experience with the nuns was not positive. My memories are of strict, humorless nuns with rulers in their hands meting out discipline for such things as speaking Spanish on the playground or putting your shoes on the wrong foot. Needless to say, I hated school and was counting the days until I hit 8th grade (some how I had gotten it into my head that you could drop out in 8th grade) so I could drop out of school and get a job.

Fortunately for me, God had other plans in mind. My 4th grade teacher at Irving W. Avery Elementary School in Buena Vista was Mildred Cole. Mrs. Cole was one of those teachers that when she told the class she wanted the room so quiet she could hear a pin drop, the class immediately quieted down. Mrs. Cole liked me because of my Catholic school manners, bearing, and respect for authority. Every time she called on me I would stand up to address her – “yes, ma’am” or “no, ma’am”. This behavior caused my classmates to giggle, but I could tell it pleased Mrs. Cole, so I didn’t mind. Anyway, one day Mrs. Cole came up behind me as I toiled in my phonics workbook and I froze in terror, expecting the ruler at any minute to slash across the knuckles of my hands. Instead, she leaned down and, noticing I was working on making up the pages I had missed, patted me on the back and whispered kindly in my ear, “My, aren’t you ambitious?”

I didn’t know what “ambitious” meant, but I could tell by the encouraging tone of her voice that she was complimenting me and that “ambitious” had to be a positive word. During recess, I looked up the word in the classroom dictionary and discovered that ambitious meant – “having a strong desire for success or achievement.” I decided that being ambitious was a good thing and I decided then and there that I would be ambitious and instead of dropping out of school when I got to 8th grade, I would stay in school and grow up to be a teacher just like Mrs. Cole – my first teacher mentor.

So, it was not an easy decision to give up that dream and assume my new aspiration of becoming a lawyer and going to Harvard Law School. But from seventh grade through my junior year in high school, I did not waiver in my Harvard ambitions. I didn’t know anything about Harvard, other than that the magazine said it was the “best” law school in the country and that is what I wanted for myself – “the best.” In my simple thinking, I figured that to get into the “best” school I would have to be the “best” student. So, from that day forward, it wasn’t good enough for me to get merely A’s in my classes, I had to have the top grade in all my classes. And if I didn’t get it the first time, I would just work harder and make sure I set the curve the next time. It helped that I had smart and supportive friends like Jolene Flowers Ahrens, who together with her mother Eva Flowers, traveled from Buena Vista today to share in this celebration with me. I remember that at the beginning of our freshman year, Jolene told me that she wanted to be Valedictorian of the class. I asked her what that was, because I had never heard the term. She said it was the student in the class that had the highest grades and that student got to give the speech at graduation. I said, “That sounds good to me. I think I will be Valedictorian.” And, throughout high school Jolene and I were neck to neck in the competition to be class valedictorian. But there was never any jealousy or negative competition, we just helped inspire one another to be and do our best.

And though I did not waiver from my dream, neither did I share my dream publicly with anyone. Deep down I instinctively knew that others would not really understand or accept the idea of Phil the barber’s daughter going to Harvard Law School. This knowledge reached its zenith during my junior year in high school.

On a late spring day – the kind when most students are daydreaming about being anywhere but in school and a few are projecting their lives forward into the future – my high school English teacher, Mrs. Cecilia Poplin decided to go around the room and ask each of us what we were going to do with our lives after we graduated high school.

Each student volunteered his or her big plans. This one was going to be an engineer, that one a teacher, another one a hair dresser. My classmates became enthralled with each other’s possibilities, applauding and offering words of encouragement to each in turn. As I listened with one ear, a raging debate was going on in my head – should I tell them? Will they support me? Finally, my turn came. After hearing all the acclaim of my classmates for one another’s big plans, I let my guard down, figuring they would greet my grand ambitions with the same applause and encouragement they had given to one another.

So, when the question was directed at me, “What about you, Chris?” I forthrightly declared my intentions. “I am going to be a lawyer and I am going to go to Harvard Law School.” I waited for their response, expecting some words of encouragement or support. And I waited—Instead, I got stunned looks and— silence. Deafening silence, for what seemed to me like hours. Then my worst nightmare: a few nervous giggles and then someone broke the silence: “Ha Ha Ha – Chris Martinez thinks she can go to Harvard.”

Although the rest of that day is a blur in my memory, to this day I can still feel that turmoil of emotions and the sharp stab of pain that struck me to the bone. I remember hiding in the bathroom until well after school was out because there was no way I was going to let anyone to see me cry. As I walked down the now silent, empty hallways of my school on the way out to my rusted out 1960 Ford which I had bought for $50, the laughter of my classmates ringing in my ears, I began to doubt myself. “My friends are right. Who did I think I was? What made me think I was so special that I could get into a school like Harvard?” And so, with the echo of laughter ringing in my ears, the flame that was my dream began to sputter and fade. But again, that was not part of God’s Greater Plan for my life. Instead, Mrs. Poplin intercepted me just as I was ready to walk out of the school. In fact, years later I realized she had been waiting for me. She stopped me, looked me straight in the eye, and, unwavering, said “Chris, I know you can do it.” These 7 words from a person that I deeply respected were all I needed to re-ignite the flame of my ambition – one person who believed in me! I returned to school the next day more determined than ever to accomplish whatever dreams or goals I set for myself. And I haven’t waivered since.

I often think about Mrs. Poplin – about whether I would be speaking to you here today, if she had not found me that awful day more than 30 years ago. Later, in my law school years at Harvard, I wrote to Mrs. Poplin and I expressed to her how important her belief in me had been to me at a critical tipping point in my life. A number of years ago, Mrs. Poplin’s daughter contacted me to tell me that her mother had passed away. She told me that she had found my letters and she just wanted to let me know how much those letters had meant to her mother. She told me that she had found them tucked safely away in her mother’s bible and by their condition she could tell that her mother had read them many times.

This story is a tribute to all those teachers out there, like my husband Ron, my sister Elaine, my friends Carol Silva and Rick and Veronica Gallegos who, despite low pay, never have waivered from their dedication to preparing the next generation of kids and inspiring them to be all that they can be. It is because of people like Mrs. Poplin and my husband that I have such a commitment to mentoring others – many of whom are sitting in this courtroom today.

I tell that story when I speak to young people for all the obvious reasons – because they need to know what determination can achieve; because it’s good for them to learn the value of not ridiculing the dreams of their classmates; but also, because I want them to understand that all it takes is for one person to believe in you and to express that belief to help you keep your dreams on track.

As for my friends, I eventually forgave them because I came to understand that their laughter was not of spite, but rather, was of incredulity and an inability to comprehend such grand dreams. No one from Buena Vista, as far as they knew, had ever attended Harvard Law School. I later came to find out that I was a bit ahead of my time – the year I decided that I was going to go to Harvard was 1968 – the year I confided my dream to my classmates was 1972. Harvard did not admit its first Chicana until 1974.

My path to this courtroom was blazed by so many other mentors – great professors at CU-Boulder, Harvard Law and later KU Law School where I taught law; attorneys in the community and at the firms where I worked; and judges in whose courts I have won and lost cases. I won’t go into all of those acknowledgements because that only leads to trouble when you inadvertently leave someone out. Also, I promised to keep my remarks to 15 minutes.

But there are some very special people that I want to acknowledge because they stand out. My dad, Felipe Ramon Martinez and my mom, Emilia Manuela Martinez, both of whom taught their children the importance of a strong work ethic, the value of an education, the responsibility to share the blessings God has bestowed upon us with those less fortunate, and so many other lessons that have made me the person I am today.

Unfortunately daddy died three years ago and my mom was too ill to make the trip from Pueblo so they are not able to be here in body, but I know how proud they both are and I know that both continue to hold me up in prayer – that the Lord will guide me in my new role as a guardian of the law. But daddy, I think it is time for you to stop bragging to all your friends in heaven about your Jita who, even though she didn’t become the first doctor in the family, is now a big shot Federal judge!

Last, but certainly not least, I want to recognize my family – my loving and much loved husband Ron and my wonderful children Ronnie, Tiffany, Jennifer, and Kenny. I was truly blessed when God set Ron in my path my first week at CU more than 35 years ago. Ron and I were just kids when we married and we have essentially grown up together. Ron, thank you for always being there for me, for inspiring me when I needed encouragement, for believing in me when I lost faith in myself, for guiding me when I was lost and floundering. Most of all thank you for the sacrifices you have made in your life and your career so that I could achieve my dreams and my ambitions. Without you Ron, I know I would not be where I am today. You are and always have been the love of my life and my anchor. Ronnie, Tiffany, Jennifer, and Kenny – I hope you know how much I love you all and how proud I am of each of you. A mom couldn’t ask for better kids. I hope you know that all I do, I do for you.

I am very much aware that I am here today not simply because of the force of my own ambitions, but in equal measure, because of the faith, hope, and charity of many, many people, who saw in my ambitions something bigger than my fortunes alone. Who saw something good and lasting for their community, for their country, and for its most vital public institutions. I intend in all matters to be true to them, even as I am true to the law. My own history demands it, but more importantly, the times demand it.

And these are, we must admit, difficult times. Our economy languishes. We are engaged in two military struggles in the Middle East with uncertain ends. We have a new president with a new spirit of optimism and bold confidence, and a new Congress with fresh new faces from all walks of American life. And yet a pressing question remains: can our hearts and minds invest these leaders with confidence and faith? Are we patient enough to let our government function in this, our digital age, where things are expected to move at a lightning pace and arrive at a destination that always pleases us, rewards us and benefits us? Can our government succeed when people measure its effectiveness by a yardstick of satisfaction forged from the material world, and not from the world of values, ethics, and service that is supposed to infuse our civic life?

These questions are no less pressing and momentous for our legal system – the third branch of our government – than they are for the executive and legislative branches. Our justice system, too, suffers from low public esteem and a lack of public confidence. It is plagued by false expectations – that it, and the law itself, should somehow function to always give people what they want, rather to mete out what truth and justice demand.

Alongside these false concepts of the law and our lack of confidence in our justice system, I find even more troubling the degradation of the rule of law itself. While our foreign policy seeks to advance this central tenet of free societies as a public value in other nations, the United States of America seems headed in the opposite direction.

Again we see an apathy, a shrugging-off, a broad disinterest by U.S. society in the need to continue the commitment to the three-part process that has advanced and secured our freedoms up to the present: i) reasoned, civil discourse regarding policy choices on economic and social issues; ii) accurate translation of the results from such discourse into laws and regulations and dedication of adequate resources to enforce them; and iii) adherence to those rules by government officials at all levels – most importantly at the highest level.

If we forsake the rule of law for convenience or expediency; if we sacrifice it out of ruthlessness; if we abandon it out of laziness, history will never forgive us. All who have struggled against tyranny, arbitrary rule, despotism, and even simple injustice, will hold us accountable for all time for this unforgiveable sin. It cannot be allowed to happen. The rule of the law is one of the crowning American legacies – as George Washington reminded us, “The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.”

As guardians of the law, we have a special responsibility at this difficult moment in our nation’s history to restore the rule of law as a living, breathing, working value in American society even as we work to enshrine it in other societies. Likewise, we must embrace the co-equal challenge of restoring confidence in the judicial branch of our government as a key step toward restoring overall confidence in our entire government.

And so the challenge today for us – for me, for all the judges invested today; all the attorneys admitted to the bar today; all the DAs reporting for their first day of work today in Denver and around the nation; all the law students studying for finals at law schools here in Colorado and around the country – with Washington’s admonition – “the administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government” – in mind, is to commit to begin this process anew. As if this were the first birth of our republic, as if all pressing issues were at stake, as if our survival depended upon our efforts – because plainly, it does.

And with this commitment, let us draw not just upon our training, our scholarship, and our dedication as guardians of the law. Let us draw upon our life experience, our deepest humanity and the understanding of human nature we have cultivated in our lives outside the practice of law.

What we need most now, at this moment, is not more expertise. We have expertise to burn. We are not lacking in legal brilliance, erudition, or talent by any measure. No, if we are to summon the public back into a confident compact with our legal system – with attorneys, with judges and juries, with litigants – it must come from a demonstration that the law is relevant and central to people’s lives, not separate and sequestered from their lives.

And so with this in mind, I return to the story I told at the beginning of my remarks: my life story. As a guardian of the law, I am pledging today to stay in close touch with all that I have been, with all whom I have met, with all that I have seen. I will trust in my training, certainly, and in my professional experience, but alone, they will not be adequate to make me an effective judge, or to do the extra work of helping to restore some measure of public confidence in our courts, in our judicial system, and in the law itself.

To do that requires an extra commitment. So as I pledge that commitment today, I ask all of you to do the same. I ask you to infuse your work in the law with the passion that your lives have forged, with the humanity that has informed your work, and with the decency that has grounded your conduct. Nothing is more important than that we do this, and do it now. Our times demand it. The future of the law, and of American civilization, demands it.

And for those of you not involved in the law directly, I ask you to rededicate yourselves to renewing the spirit of civic discourse and to doing the hard work of advancing our republic in your lives and your work. This is important work – as John Adams reminded us: “there are only two creatures of value on the face of the earth: those who are committed, and those who require the commitment of others.” We must become both kinds of people to ensure the blessings of our republic and the promise of our government.

I stand ready and eager to undertake the tremendous challenges ahead and am confident that, with the support and mentoring that the other members of this court have already provided to me, I will be successful. For myself, I hope it is said that my time on the bench was dedicated to these propositions – that I helped to make our courts better, make the administration of justice better, and make the law live, and live vibrantly, in our little corner of America. I would be satisfied with that legacy – the kind of legacy at the center of the great poem “Success” – long my favorite work, which reads: “To know that even one life has breathed easier because I have lived – this is to have succeeded.”

I strive to attain this kind of success. And I wish it for each of you as well. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this supreme honor, for being here with me today, and for hearing me out. Let us commit to helping others achieve what this small town girl, with the help of many of you in this audience, has achieved – a very big dream; indeed, the “American Dream.”

Day of Reckoning

Democratic Senator: GOP on Desperate Mission of Propaganda, Obstruction and Fear

By Sheldon Whitehouse, AlterNet. Posted December 21, 2009.

In his Senate floor speech on the health-care bill, the Rhode Island senator accused the GOP of fomenting the kind of paranoia that led to Kristallnacht and lynchings.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This floor speech was delivered by the junior senator from Rhode Island yesterday, as the Senate remained in session to debate the health-care bill before a procedural vote that will bring the bill to the Senate floor later this week. References to “Madam President” or “Mr. President” refer to the senator who is presiding over the body at the time of the senator’s comments. When Whitehouse began speaking, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was presiding; when he finished up, it was one of the male senators wielding the gavel. Transcription and links added by AlterNet.

Madam President, as we are here in the Senate today, Washington rests under a blanket of snow, reminding us here of the Christmas spirit across the nation — the spirit that is bringing families happily together for the holidays. Unfortunately, a different spirit has descended on this Senate. The spirit that has descended on the Senate is one described by Chief Justice John Marshall back in the Burr trial: “those malignant and vindictive passions which rage in the bosoms of contending parties struggling for power.”

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Hofstadter captured some examples in his famous essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

The “malignant and vindictive passions” often arise, he points out, when an aggrieved minority believes that “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind. Though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion.” Does that sound familiar, Madam President, in this health-care debate? Forty years ago he wrote that.

Hofstader continued, those aggrieved fear what he described as “the now-familiar sustained conspiracy” — familiar then, 40 years ago; persistent now — “whose supposed purpose,” Hofstadter described, “is to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism.” Again, familiar words here today.

More than 50 years ago, he wrote of the dangers of an aggrieved right-wing minority with the power to create what he called “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”

A political environment “in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”

The malignant and vindictive passions that have descended on the Senate are busily creating just such a political climate. Far from appealing to the better angels of our nature, too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, falsehood, obstruction and fear.

Read the rest at Alternet.

Dr. Peter Watts beaten by US border guards

From Boing Boing

by Cory Doctorow

Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border

My friend, the wonderful sf writer Peter Watts was beaten without provocation and arrested by US border guards on Tuesday. I heard about it early Wednesday morning in London and called Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She worked her contacts to get in touch with civil rights lawyers in Michigan, and we mobilized with Caitlin Sweet (Peter’s partner) and David Nickle (Peter’s friend) and Peter was arraigned and bailed out later that day.

But now Peter faces a felony rap for “assaulting a federal officer” (Peter and the witness in the car say he didn’t do a thing, and I believe them). Defending this charge will cost a fortune, and an inadequate defense could cost Peter his home, his livelihood and his liberty.

Peter’s friends are raising money for his legal defense. I just sent him CAD$1,000, because this is absolutely my biggest nightmare: imprisoned in a foreign country for a trumped-up offense against untouchable border cops. I would want my friends to help me out if it ever happened to me.

Sf writer David Nickle writes,

Hugo-award-nominated science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts is in serious legal trouble after he was beaten, pepper-sprayed and imprisoned by American border guards at a Canada U.S. border crossing December 8. This is a call to friends, fans and colleagues to help.

Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him. At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter. On Wednesday, he posted bond and walked across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening). He’s home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.

The charge is spurious. But it’s also very serious. It could mean two years in prison in the United States, and a ban on travel in that country for the rest of Peter’s life. Peter is mounting a vigorous defense, but it’s going to be expensive – he’s effectively going up against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he needs the best legal help that he can get.

He’s got that help, courtesy of one of the top criminal lawyers in the State of Michigan. We, Peter’s friends and colleagues here in Canada, want to make sure he gets the help he needs financially to come out of this nightmare whole.

The need for that help is real. While Peter is a critically successful science fiction writer, he is by no means a best-selling author. Without help, the weight of his legal fees could literally put him on the street by spring.

We can’t let that happen. So there’s going to be fundraising.

We’re going to think of something suitable in the New Year – but immediately, anyone who wants to help can do so easily. Peter’s website, rifters.com, has a link to a PayPal account, whimsically named the Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund. He set it up years ago for fans of the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight and his Rifters books, to cover veterinary bills for the cats he habitually rescues from the mean streets of Toronto. Peter has made it clear that he doesn’t want to use the veterinary money to cover his lawsuit. But until we can figure out a more graceful conduit for the legal fund, that’s the best place to send donations for now. Just let Peter know that the donation’s for his legal defense, and that’s where it will go.

Here’s the link to the backlist page on Peter’s website, rifters.com, or you can just send a PayPal donation to donate@rifters.com.

The link to the Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund is in the middle of the page. The page also links to Creative Commons editions of all his published work, which he’s made available free. Peter would approve, we think, if you downloaded one or two or all of them. Whether you make a donation to the legal fund or not.

Rough God Goes Riding

by Van Morrisson

Oh the mud splattered victims
Have to pay out all along the ancient highway
Torn between half truth and victimisation
Fighting back with counter attacks

It’s when that rough god goes riding
When the rough god goes gliding
And then rough god goes riding
Riding on in

I was flabbergasted by the headlines
People in glasshouses throwing stones
Gaping wounds that will never heal
Now they’re moaning like a dog in a manger

It’s when that rough god goes riding
And then the rough god goes gliding
There’ll be nobody hiding
When that rough god comes riding on in

And it’s a matter of survival
When you’re born with your back against the wall
Won’t somebody hand me a bible
Won’t you give me that number to call

When that rough god goed riding
And then that rough god goes gliding
They’ll be nobody hiding
When that rough god goes riding on in
Riding on in

When that rough god goes riding
When that rough god goes gliding
There’ll be nobody hiding
When that rough god goes riding on in
Riding on in

There’ll be no more heroes
They’ll be reduced to zero
When that rough god goes riding
Riding on in
Riding on in
Riding on in

You may live in Canada…

Stolen wholeheartedly directly from Malcha’s Sound Visions:

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from
September through May,
You may live in Canada .

If someone in a Home Depot store
Offers you assistance and they don’t work there,
You may live in Canada .

If you’ve worn shorts and a parka at the same time,
You may live in Canada .

If you’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation
With someone who dialed a wrong number,
You may live in Canada .

If ‘Vacation’ means going anywhere
South of Detroit for the weekend,
You may live in Canada .

If you measure distance in hours,
You may live in Canada .

If you know several people
Who have hit a deer more than once,
You may live in Canada .

If you have switched from ‘heat’ to ‘A/C’
In the same day and back again,
You may live in Canada .

If you can drive 90 km/hr through 2 feet of snow
During a raging blizzard without flinching,
You may live in Canada .

If you install security lights on your house and garage,
But leave both unlocked,
You may live in Canada .

If you carry jumper cables in your car
And your wife knows how to use them,
You may live in Canada .

If you design your kid’s Halloween costume
To fit over a snowsuit,
You may live in Canada .

If the speed limit on the highway is 80 km –
You’re going 95 and everybody is passing you,
You may live in Canada .

If driving is better in the winter
Because the potholes are filled with snow,
You may live in Canada .

If you know all 4 seasons:
Almost winter, winter, still winter,
and road construction,
You may live in Canada .

(this is my favourite, because how true)

If you have more miles
On your snow blower than your car,
You may live in Canada .

If you find -2 degrees ‘a little chilly’,
You may live in Canada .

If you actually understand these jokes,
you definitely are Canadian and proud to be.

Yet a While

My dear friend Mary Pitt sent me this poem she wrote for her beloved husband. He too, has departed and this poem now has special meaning for me as well.

Thank you Mumzee.

 

 

Ed Pitt

 

 


Yet a While

Walk with me yet a while, dear heart,
The road is dark ahead
I need your light to show the way
Down the path of fear and dread

Our journey started long ago
Skipping gaily hand in hand
Young and eager to face the challenge
Of great adventure and foreign lands

We often stopped to smell the flowers
And pick up burdens along the way
Confident of our strengh to carry
And our ablilties to pay

Later we walked to slower measure
Due to weight we often bore
Tiring from our mainful labor
But willing still to carry more

Uphill and down, through heat or cold
Heedless of the weather
We presevered and carried on
And always clung together

You lent your strength, I added mine
No mountain was too high
You stumbled, I caught you, I fell, you raised me
We let no challenge pass by

And now we near the fearful end
The greatest challenge of all
I fear without you by my side
That I will fail and doubt and fall

So give me once again that wink
And optimistic smile
That tells me you will find the strength
To walk with me yet a while

Mary Pitt 2004

The Political Future

by Mary Pitt

One may hear much speculation as to the future of the Republican Party as that once-august group find their following at a historic low and they have to turn for leadership to radio commentators and historic losers from their past. The most-asked questions in the television fora is, “Where is the future of the Republican party?”

The future of the Republican Party may be seen if one looks closely at the other side of the aisle in today’s Congress as well as in secondary positions in the administration. After years of hearing references to RINO’s, (Republicans In Name Only), we now are beginning to count the DINO’s. A new President who was swept into office on a wave of Progressive support is finding his path to the restoration of our nation blocked by Senators and Representatives who profess to be of his own party.

The most prominent of these may well be Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton. Her history since her failed attempt to establish universal medical care at the beginning of her husband’s first term has been one of compromising and conceding to opponents the very heart of the principles which she professes to espouse. After eight years of watching her husband as his major successes were in the area of maintaing and improving the status quo to the benefit of the financial masters, she was so well schooled in the politics of survival as a politician that her record for supporting the policies of George W. Bush is all but unblemished. In the Senate, she diligently worked to become the leader of a “half-a-loaf coalition” that we may call the DINO’s.

These DINO’s are a combination of the Blue Dog Democrats and some almost-Republican opportunists who insist that we must cling to “the way we’ve always done it.”. (If we have always done it right, why is it not working?) In coalition with a few “moderate Republicans”, they have done an admirable job of foot-dragging and hampering the passage of President Obama’s most progressive proposals. On the other hand, under the influence of Secretary Clinton and the many other re-treads from the Bush and Clinton administrations, the President too often has no choice but to follow their lead into the old tactics of compromise and coalition in order to make any progress at all.

The Progressive movement watches, aghast, as they are marginalized by the title of “fringe groups” and the “middle way” is presumed to be the proper path. The younger members of Congress are held in check by the seniority system which allows them little influence until they have become sufficiently “trained” to be allowed committee chairmanships and other positions which would allow them to assist in the needed reforms. There may be hope if the Progressives can continue to cling together in common cause through another election cycle or two and dislodge many of the bought-and-paid-for old veterans who like things just the way they are.

Both parties are represented in the House and the Senate but that may be misleading. There may well be the same sort of crisis in the Democratic Party as the Republicans now suffer. The result will be a lot of aisle-crossing as more Progressive members are added, pushing the “moderates” to the right and to the left as the parties re-align in an effort to keep their power. The future of both parties is currently represented in Congress but, with the continued efforts of “we, the people”, the lines will be re-drawn. The war-mongers and mind-benders will be pushed out to the Libertarians and other militant parties, the present middle will be the right, and the Democrats will become more Progressive in their attempts to restore a nation that is free and democratic.

This occurence will be dependent upon maintaining the fervor of the common people to re-establish their power. With each election, as more young people are inspired to public service and more war veterans return home with the determination that nothing like the George Bush administration, ever happens again, we will become “a more perfect union”. Then and only then will we be able to proudly boast of the government which was visualized by the Founders in forming our precious Constitution.

Seeds of Truth

From Sheila Stuff:

I have learned over the past decade if I want to know what’s really going on in the United States, I have to cruise through the foreign media to see what’s creating a furor or causing a stink. So, while searching for the status of Spain’s on-again, off-again criminal proceedings against six Bush Administration war criminals, this headline in Der Spiegel caught my eye — “Frankenfood Ban is Neither Populism nor Panic-Mongering.”

A closer look at the article revealed it wasn’t a Norm Coleman ploy to get folks in Minnesota to quit eating burgers and fries, nor a menu for the genetically obscene monster in Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein,” but an announcement by Germany’s Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner that Germany is banning the cultivation of MON 810, a genetically modified (GM) corn produced by US biotech giant Monsanto.

The GM Monster

It appears that MON 810 is also believed to be the “Frankenstein” of GM crops by at least five other European countries — France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg — all of whom have banned its use. MON 810 was approved by the European Union in 1998, and was the only GM crop approved for cultivation in Germany. Aigner said she had legitimate reasons to believe that the genetically modified Monsanto seed “presents a danger to the environment.” The plant produces a toxin that not only destroys the larvae of the corn borer moth, but other, beneficial, insects as well.

Andreas Thierfelder, spokesman for Monsanto Germany, responded that Monsanto would decide “as quickly as possible” whether to take legal proceedings. She said the “matter was very urgent as the planting season was about to start.” Just how urgent was evident days later when Monsanto filed a lawsuit against the German government, claiming that its ban on MON 810 is arbitrary and contravenes EU rules. Although Monsanto sued France in an effort to overturn its ban on genetically modified corn, and lost that battle in March when France’s highest court ruled that the corn “may” harm the environment and wildlife, the German government is justifiably edgy, as it must prove conclusively to the German court that MON 810 damages the environment.

But the feeder GM corn is just one tiny blip on the Frankenfood radar. And, it’s not just Europeans who should worry. As Jim Hightower, former two-time Texas agriculture commissioner warned way back in June 2004…

“For some time, the likes of Monsanto have had their white-smocked engineers tinkering merrily and dangerously with the very DNA of food, genetically modifying the natural composition of things like potatoes so they contain a pesticide in every one of their cells, or altering rice so it contains a diarrhea drug in every bite. This is no mere lab experiment, for unbeknownst to the vast majority of Americans, Monsanto and a handful of other global biotech giants have quietly spread the seeds of these genetically altered Frankenfoods to so many farms over the past decade that about a third of the foods on U.S. supermarket shelves now contain organisms with tampered DNA — everything from baby food and milk to products made with soybean and corn. Thanks to well-placed campaign donations and powerhouse lobbying, this infiltration of our food supply has been done with practically no consumer awareness, since both Bill Clinton’s and George W’s administrations have let these foodstuffs be sold in America without so much as a label on them to tell us that we’re buying something that our families might prefer to avoid.”

Kinda ruins the appetite, doesn’t it? Not just the fact that Monsanto has infiltrated the bulk of our food chain, but that it clearly believes it has the right to do so with or without our knowledge. It has fought oversight, regulation, labeling and scientific research for years. The arrogance with which multinational biotech corporations such as Monsanto are disrupting and modifying life’s natural genetic order — from seeds to food to animals to humans to the environment — is creepy. The Almighty must surely be watching in slack-jawed amazement.

The Profit Plan

These giants are “chemical” corporations, and one of their goals is to create seeds that will withstand more (and more and more) of their herbicides. Monsanto, which gave us the deadly Agent Orange and the toxic weed killer Roundup, is not alone in its quest to manipulate, or to control the world’s order. Germany’s chemical giant Bayer, well known for its popular and effective Bayer aspirin, and for Alleve and Alka Seltzer, was the first to introduce heroin as well as mustard gas, and produces a series of neonicotinoids — insecticides that attack the central nervous systems of insects, such as bees. Other mega-corporations dealing in both pharmaceuticals and pesticides, to name a few, are Merck, Dupont, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta — but Monsanto has been around for more than a century, produces 90-percent of genetically modified seed — and has many friends in high places. Many high places.

Last year, Vanity Fair’s Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele teamed up to present a well-researched background article, “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear,” wherein they listed some, but not all, of these friends…

(…) Monsanto has long been wired into Washington. Michael R. Taylor was a staff attorney and executive assistant to the F.D.A. commissioner before joining a law firm in Washington in 1981, where he worked to secure F.D.A. approval of Monsanto’s artificial growth hormone before returning to the F.D.A. as deputy commissioner in 1991. Dr. Michael A. Friedman, formerly the F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for operations, joined Monsanto in 1999 as a senior vice president. Linda J. Fisher was an assistant administrator at the E.P.A. when she left the agency in 1993. She became a vice president of Monsanto, from 1995 to 2000, only to return to the E.P.A. as deputy administrator the next year. William D. Ruckelshaus, former E.P.A. administrator, and Mickey Kantor, former U.S. trade representative, each served on Monsanto’s board after leaving government. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney in Monsanto’s corporate-law department in the 1970s. He wrote the Supreme Court opinion in a crucial G.M.-seed patent-rights case in 2001 that benefited Monsanto and all G.M.-seed companies. Donald Rumsfeld never served on the board or held any office at Monsanto, but Monsanto must occupy a soft spot in the heart of the former defense secretary. Rumsfeld was chairman and C.E.O. of the pharmaceutical maker G. D. Searle & Co. when Monsanto acquired Searle in 1985, after Searle had experienced difficulty in finding a buyer. Rumsfeld’s stock and options in Searle were valued at $12 million at the time of the sale.

Bartlett and Steele go into some detail about the lengths Monsanto will go to protect its patent rights, not only against GM or GE (genetically engineered) farmers, but organic farmers as well. They write…

Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers’ co-ops, seed dealers — anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds. As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records.

Once you opt to buy Monsanto seeds, you are no longer a farmer, you’re a “grower” — a serf — and you must sign a Technology/Stewardship Agreement wherein you agree, among many other restrictions, to use Monsanto seed for planting only a single commercial crop…not to sell or give seeds to any other person for planting…to pay annual technology fees (in addition to the price of the seed) due Monsanto…to turn over your records and receipts anytime Monsanto asks for them. In short, you sign your life — and your livelihood — over when you become a “grower.” And, if you’re ever taken to court (and it’s likely you could be), and you lose (and it’s likely you will) — you will find you agreed to pay Monsanto and its attorney fees and all related court costs.

The End Game

This goes way beyond garnering profits for agriculture conglomerates such as Monsanto. It is about disrupting the natural order of life — whether plant or animal. And, for those orchestrating this havoc, it is about control. As Henry Kissinger once said matter-of-factly, “If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population.” Kissinger has long been obsessed with two things — depopulating the world and establishing a New World Order.

What better way to control the food than to ban seed saving — what better weapon is there to use against starving populations than food? The answer is laid out in detail in F. William Engdahl’s November 2007 critical book about genetic manipulation, “Seeds of Destruction.” Engdahl is no conspiracy theorist. He is a leading researcher as well as an economist and an associate and regular contributor for the Centre for Research on Globalization.

In his extensive three-part review of “Seeds,” investigative journalist Stephen Lendman reveals “… the diabolical story of how Washington and four Anglo-American agribusiness giants plan world domination by patenting life forms to gain worldwide control of our food supply and why that prospect is chilling.”

Lendman reminds us that Kissinger has been both at the forefront and behind the scenes since the 1960s when, as Engdahl wrote, “the Rockefellers were at the power center of the US establishment (and) Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (was) their hand-picked protege.” Kissinger was there as Nixon’s Secretary of State in 1973 when the food crisis hit and, as Engdahl said, he decided US agricultural policy was “too important to be left in the hands of the Agricultural Department so he took control of it himself.” Even back then, Kissinger’s goal was to go global and seize control of the agricultural food market. Kissinger’s “food diplomacy” was to use food to “reward friends and punish enemies.”

Lendman writes, “Food is power. When used to cull the population, it’s a weapon of mass destruction.” He says “One way or another, the Rockefeller Foundation aims to reduce population through human reproduction by spreading GMO seeds.” And the “world’s number one” in patenting seeds is Monsanto. He explains…

Like it or not, they’re advancing their agenda, and a 2004 Rockefeller Foundation report shows it. GM crop production achieved nine consecutie double digit year increases since 1996. More than eight million farmers in 17 countries now plant them, over 90% in developing nations. Far and away, the US is the world’s leader “with aggressive Government promotion, absence of labeling, and the domination of US farm production.” Here, “genetically engineered crops (have) essentially taken over the American food chain.” In 2004, over 85% of soybeans were genetically modified, 45% of corn, and since animal feed is mainly from these crops “the entire meat production of the nation (and exports) has been fed on genetically modified animal feed.” What animals eat, so do humans.

According to Engdahl, agribusiness giants, aided by the Rockefeller Foundation, the US government and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are progressing relentlessly toward the second pillar of Kissinger’s end game — controlling food to control (and expunge) populations of lesser nations. In December 2007, Engdahl sounded the alarm about yet another seed venture (adventure?), “Doomsday Seed Vault in the Arctic,” a steel-reinforced concrete seed bank built deep inside a mountain on the remote Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. This “program” is funded by the Rockefellers, by such seed giants as Syngenta and Monsanto — and by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who knows a bit about monopoly.

The Way Out

Engdahl says that, since 2007, Monsanto and the US Government together hold the patent for a commercial seed called “Terminator,” designed to commit suicide after just one harvest, and farmers will be forced to return to Monsanto or other seed giants to purchase new seeds each year for crops needed to feed their populations. He said if they’re allowed to continue their reckless pursuit of power, in a decade or so, the small farmer will be but a memory and the majority of the world’s food producers would be little more than feudal serfs in bondage to three or four giant seed corporations. “Those who say ‘it can’t happen here’ should look more closely at current global events,” he wrote. “The mere existence of that concentration of power in three or four private US-based agribusiness giants is grounds for legally banning all GMO crops even were their harvent gains real, which they manifestly are not.”

The good news is that Europe is fighting back against being forced to plant genetically manipulated seeds for plants and food. Countries like Austria and Denmark, France — and now Germany — are standing up, and standing together, to ban biotech products. As is always the case, when those who lust for power and control concoct their grand schemes, they fail to factor in the human response. Lendman says public opinion throughout Europe is strongly opposed to GMO foods and ingredients. He writes…

Several EU countries, including France, Germany, Austria and Denmark, even ban some EU-approved biotech products to further cloud the outlook. Polls show why, with European public opinion strongly opposed to GMO foods and ingredients, with hostility levels in France as high as 89% and 79% wanting governments to ban them. This shows European consumers are far ahead of Americans and much better protected (so far) by their overall exclusion as well as having labeling requirements for those allowed to be sold. That provision is crucial as it empowers consumers to use or avoid eating these foods. If enough people abstain, food outlets won’t carry them.

It’s not that Americans don’t care that the Rockefeller-Gates-Monsanto plan to solve world hunger is but a ghastly scheme to cull the population of its nonproductive bottom-feeders. Thanks to conspiratorial US media, most of us are either blissfully unaware or are unable to make a sound because, as Hightower said, our “Congress and the White House (and the media) have Monsanto checks stuffed in their ears.”

The way out is to become informed — and just say no to having unlabeled, untested products crammed down our throats. If we do nothing, we will reap what we sow. We will, as Charles Galton Darwin, grandson of evolutionist Charles Darwin, wrote in his 1952″The Next Million Years,” be condemned to the status of workers in a beehive.

We must stand up and support Europe’s attempt to organize a ban on genetically modified crops and food. It is the way — the only way — out of this mess. Lendman, who maintains “the stakes are much too high — human health and safety must never be compromised for profit,” suggests that we read Engdahl’s book, which is a “wake-up call” for all of us.

I suggest we start by reading Lendman’s review of that book, which is a much louder wake-up call.

Saw It Coming

Excellent interview with N. Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan

So, another treasured wingnut myth goes down in flames. Not only did eight Senators see this coming, but they tried to stop it – and got steamrolled by the GOP-dominated Congress.

There’s a culture, and the culture is that “Wall Street knows best.” You know, there were only eight of us in the United States Senate that voted no. This was a huge deal to repeal the protections that were put in place after the Great Depression — a huge deal. Eight of us voted no.

This thing allowed these huge financial holding companies, allowed them to bring significant risk into these banks and, you know, they just went hog wild. And now we’re in a situation in 2009 where we’ve seen this financial crisis and collapse, massive taxpayer bailouts. Now the question is how to put this thing back together and get out of this deep hole….

Hat tip to Firedoglake!