Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

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)

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

A Spread of Bloggers

Here I’d been hoping for something along the lines of ‘A Murder of Crows’ like… maybe… “An Intrigue of Bloggers” (oooh… that makes ya kinda tingle, dunnit?) or something at least a little romantic…

oh no…

Bernie Lincicome at I want my Rocky, in “I’ll get the hang of this blogging; just let me hitch up my sweatpants first” comes out with these:

I witnessed a collection of bloggers (what would that be, a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, a barrel of bloggers?) at the Democratic Convention in Denver, and, to be honest, many of them appeared quite human, even in their sweat pants.

Now, my dear friend DJ Cline often opined that one of his favorite things about working remote was: “No Pants” so this sounds pretty accurate.

They had their own lunchroom, with a spread of coldcuts (ah, that’s it, a spread of bloggers) pastries and utensils, not many of which were used.

A ‘spread‘ of bloggers? Now I guess I really am chopped liver (but I love chopped liver… dammit!)

Wait. I have it. A tiding of bloggers. Very distinctive and usually applied to magpies. A perfect fit come to that. Like magpies, incessant noise but without intelligence. Yes. Tiding of bloggers it is.

OUCH. Dude.

At the Super Bowl, during Media Day, where freaks and self-promoters are encouraged, I thought about hanging a sign around my neck that said, “Will Blog For Food.”

I can’t really be angry at someone I think is calling me a freak since he’s now starting into the adventure I survived less than two years ago: eighteen months of desperate unemployment. Dude, I -did- ‘blog for food’ and self-promoted for all I was worth – I built websites, I fixed people’s computers and taught. (Sorry if I keep calling you ‘dude’, I’m kinda buried in the whole ‘sweat pants’ thing. But to be honest – that’s exactly what I’m wearing at this moment, so point given and taken).

I think there IS money in blogging. The folks at Examiner.com think so and appear to be making it work – according to Guy Asakawa, speaking at the recent WordCamp Denver. I’d support pay-for-premium content. I tried the Post’s electronic edition and it stank. Do something better (you’ve got a heckuva start!) and I’ll buy it and encourage others to also.

So… here I sit, trying to imagine Bernie in sweatpants.

Hm. (blinks several times as if in pain)

Welcome to the blogsphere Mr. Lincicome, keep those sweatpants hitched up. (please)

Don’t Sell Kathleen Short

by Mary Pitt

I have been watching the news reports about the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius to the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services. There was a time when she was considered a possible candidate for the job of Vice-President and there is no reason why those who write the news for television should not have done their homework on her qualifications. However, after the announcement was made of her new appointment, they treated her like a total unknown and spoke briefly about her eight-year career as Kansas Insurance Commissioner before she won the governorship of our “red state” not once, but twice.

Kathleen (the name by which Kansans speak of her with varying degrees of reverence, depending on our political leanings), literally imbibed politics with her Pablum since her father, John Gilligan, was Governor of the State of Ohio, and the father of her husband, Gary, was once US Representative from the State of Kansas. She is an accomplished politician and earned honors from both sides of the aisle in establishing many programs in Kansas that are of benefit to the poor and, particularly, to children. The MSNBC newscast early in the day could only refer to her one big defeat as Governor in failing to get full-coverage health care for all children in the State. They did not mention the Kansas Health Wave program which allows working parents of young children to “buy in” to a program similar to Medicaid and provides a means for working, low-income women to provide affordable medical care for their children rather than giving up their jobs and living on welfare.

She also bore ultimate responsibility for the administration of the Federally-funded programs for the poor as well as the Home and Community-Based Services, which saved the State a lot of money by allowing handicapped and retarded people to live in their own homes in the community rather than in nursing homes or the horrendous State institutions. As the parent of a severely handicapped daughter, it was a godsend to have her near home for her remaining years and I will be eternally grateful..

As State Insurance Commissioner Kathleen blocked the takeover of the customer-owned Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas by a national corporation, thus saving the people in the State from the great premium increases that would have been inevitable under the new ownership. She kept honest those insurance companies who did operate in Kansas by strict oversight and enforcement of their policy provisions. Most important, she knows the insurance business thoroughly and will surely hold their feet the fire once the new medical-care plan is ready for implementation.

Kathleen is a sweet, compassionate person and, rather than boasting of her performance, she often appeared apologetic that she could not accomplish even more for the people of her State. She is a good Catholic who ran afoul of the Church for her opposition to measures that would have abolished abortion because she felt that it is a religious matter in which the State has no right to intrude. How sad that such good people are having to choose between Church and State for having stood up for their Constitutional separation!

It is with a great deal of trepidation that Kansas surrenders this great leader to the rest of the nation. There is no really ready replacement among the Democratic leadership of the State but perhaps there will be by the next election in 2010. Do not worry about her ability to cope with Congressional opposition in her new job. She has had six years of experience with a solid Republican Legislature and she drove them like a 20-mule team with a soft voice and a long whip, accomplishing more in the area of social services than any Governor in the last 30 years.

Go with our love, Kathleen! And in the words of the late, great Tip O’Neill, “Never forget where you came from and who sent you here.” In addition, if they don’t treat you right, come on back home! We love you.

The author is a very “with-it” old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for “societal perfection”.

It’s Time for the Madness to Stop

It’s Time for the Madness to Stop

By Sheila Samples

Sometimes it’s hard to come to grips with the truth — especially if that truth is about our own country, and is in direct opposition to everything we’ve been taught since childhood. Patriotism is in our genes, and through the years it has been a national conviction that, if our country needed us, serving in the military to protect our freedom was not only the right thing to do, but the only thing to do. We still believe that. We still leap to our feet at the first beat of a drum at a military parade, clutch our hearts at the sight of the Stars and Stripes, weep at the refrain of the National Anthem. However, far too many of us succumb to the pomp and pageantry of war — of mission accomplished — with little concern for the human beings who made that possible — what they went through, what they’re still going through — so we can maintain our arrogant national pride.

From the beginning, those in the military have served their country with unswerving loyalty. They continued to march even after Henry Kissinger belched out the truth that Duty–Honor–Country is a one-way street because “Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used” as pawns for foreign policy. And, it has long been a dead-end street for those captured or left behind on foreign soil — for those who return from battlefields maimed both mentally and physically, and for those who are innocent victims of malicious life-destroying experiments who have no chance of the extent of their injuries being recognized and are refused the necessary health care.

The most ghastly experiment the military ever conducted was Operation Crossroads, a series of “Manhattan Project” tests requested by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1946 to study the effects of nuclear weapons on ships and equipment. After bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki the year before, US officials knew the effect of massive radiation on human beings and animals. They had to know. So what else were the thousands of navy personnel positioned on ships from five to eight miles from the Bikini Atoll bomb site in the central Pacific if not guinea pigs?

One young sailor stationed at the Bikini Atoll in 1946 was Anthony Guarisco who, like thousands of others, has suffered horribly for the last 63 years as a result of radiation poisoning and like those others, has been denied the proper health care. Guarisco is the founder of both the National and International Alliance of Atomic Veterans. In 1994, Academy Award-winning team Vivienne Verdon-Roe and Michael Porter produced a documentary, “Experimental Animals,” featuring Guarisco who, very calmly, describes the horrors of that 1946 July. (Note: Ecological Options Network has just re-released “Experimental Animals” on-line and as a DVD, because EON filmmaker/activist Jim Heddle says, “we think it’s as relevant today as it was when it was produced.”)

The first bomb — Able — was dropped from a B-29 on July 1. As a health precaution, military personnel in the area were told to “cover their eyes.” Guarisco said it was awesome. He said it immediately “came home to me what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I could see how 55-65 thousand people could die in one-and-a-half seconds.”

But the second one — Baker — was beyond awesome. Guarisco said it was detonated beneath the ocean from a depth of 90 feet, and “sucked a target array of approximately 100 ships into the air like little toys. I saw the U.S. Arkansas soar into the air about 200 feet and come down in two pieces. I saw aircraft carriers just flinging around as if they were toys.”

According to the Navy’s historical report, “The inability to complete inspections on much of the target fleet threatened the success of the operation after BAKER. A program of target vessel decontamination was begun in earnest about 1 August. This involved washing the ships’ exteriors using work crews drawn from the target ships’ companies under radiological supervision of monitors equipped with radiation detection and measurement devices. Initially, decontamination was slow as the safe time aboard the target ships was measured only in minutes. As time progressed, the support fleet itself had become contaminated by the low-level radioactivity in marine growth on the ships’ hulls and seawater piping systems.”

Ironically, although the ships were towed out of the area just 10 days after the blast where the work could be done in uncontaminated water, no warning was given to the human experimental animals, who were allowed to swim in contaminated water, walk barefoot on beaches and breathe poisonous air.

Guarisco said, “We went back into the ground zero area immediately after each of the detonations, and I spent a total of 67 days in the Bikini lagoon within one mile of the epicenter. And I became ill after the second detonation, approximately four or five days after that…I had symptoms similar to having a bad case of influenza. I had welts on my body — I broke out with welts — and it was scary for me. I was urinating blood, I was very sick.”

And Guarisco wasn’t the only one who became ill. In a 1998 National Radio Project interview with Michael O’Rourke, who monitors veterans health issues for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Guarisco said, “Other people on my ship were also feeling very sick. And for many, many years I thought that, well, certainly if there was anything wrong surely they would let me know. But,” he said, “I found out many years later that’s not how it is. You know, the government and the U.S. military are not about to say anything about anybody who’s exposed to high levels or low levels of radiation. It was hard for me to come out of denial, to understand that I was dealing with people who really were not interested in anything else but waiting for me to die.”

Guarisco says that, in one — two — blinding flashes, “we saw what World War III will look like. We have seen the firestorm, we have been witness to the sacrilegious devastation that nuclear weapons put forth, and we have seen our brother and our sister veterans die from being exposed to this terribleness.” He says the bottom line of nuclear weapons is the bottom line of the profit margin — that “deterrent” or “first strike” are fear code words used to keep the population at bay and to pave the way for the nuclear industry to keep building more expensive (profitable) weapons.

In his March 2008 tribute to both of his parents, Guarisco’s son, Vincent, goes into greater detail about his father’s lifelong battle, not only with the effects of radiation but with the nuclear industry and government itself. For more than 60 years, both Anthony and Mary Guarisco were out there, militant activists armed with the truth, relentlessly attempting to derail the nuclear train before it goes over the cliff, taking human survival with it.

The United States has more nuclear weapons than any other nation. Although we have avoided the instant, negative repercussions of another Nagasaki or Hiroshima, we have nevertheless managed to contaminate most of the world with Depleted Uranium.

In 2006, Japanese professor Dr. K. Yagasaki, by using the known amount of uranium used in the Hiroshima bomb — about the size of a two-litre milk container — calculated that a ton of DU used on the battlefield results in the equivalent of 100 Hiroshima bombs worth of radiation released into the atmosphere. So, when it was reported that 2,000 tons of DU were dropped on Iraq from 2003 to 2006, we need to understand that what was released in the Iraqi atmosphere, and then spreading worldwide, was the equivalent of 200,000 Hiroshima bombs.
The total amount of DU the US has used since 1991 is approximately 4,600 tons (1,000 in the first Gulf War, 800 in Kosovo, 800 in Afghanistan and a further 2,000 tons in the second Iraq war.) This amounts to approximately 460,000 Hiroshima bombs, ten times the amount of radiation released into the atmosphere from all previous nuclear testing worldwide. And, it’s important to note this calculation was three years ago. Since that time, we’ve had three more years of non-stop DU bombing…

Throughout the ’60s, the US conducted numerous toxic and chemical weapons tests on its military personnel. In July 2008, Nic Maclellan, journalist, researcher and development worker in the Pacific, wrote…

“Under Project SHAD, the US Navy conducted six tests in the Marshall Islands and off the coast of Hawai’i between 1964-68. Pentagon documents released in 2002 show the US Defense Department sprayed live nerve and biological agents on ships and sailors, and sprayed a germ toxin on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“These Cold War-era experiments to test the Navy’s vulnerability to toxic warfare involved about 4,300 US military personnel, mostly from the Navy. Most were never informed that the tests were being conducted, breaching all ethical principles about informed consent for test subjects.”

It’s time that we, as a nation, not only face the truth — but come to grips with it. Those who serve with such trust and loyalty cannot imagine that they are, at best, “experimental animals” to be used and cast aside by ruthless corporate thugs.

How many generations of Anthony Guariscos must we lose before we realize that “support the troops” means protect the troops? Like Guarisco said, we must stand up, stand together and demand the abolition of all nuclear weapons if human beings on this planet are to survive.

It’s time for the madness to stop. Before we are all atomic veterans.

[Sheila Stuff]

Never Forget The Lessons Of Yesterday For The Sake Of Tomorrow

By Vincent Guarisco

February 23, 2009

“You can walk away from these stories today, but if you choose to follow them they will become a profound part of you and will deeply affect your life.” ~~Anthony Guarisco, Founder and director, International Alliance of Atomic Veterans (IAAV, with AAV here in the US), to photo-journalist James Lerager. (Note: Anthony was the first of many Atomic Veterans Lerager interviewed)

In a world full of mind-wrenching turmoil, I am a gentle dreamer searching for some soulful serenity. But in reality, my dreams are not always so pleasant when I revisit the arc of history when our pentagon warmongers worked day and night to demonize our own Stars and Stripes when they unleashed nuclear hell-on-earth to establish the most powerful military presence on earth. Indeed, the Hibakusha people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki know this lesson well. Just as surely as all 300,000 Atomic Veterans (including my father) know they are the government’s best-kept-secret when they were quickly deemed “expendable” by Uncle Sam’s nuclear weapons testing programs.

Sadly, the wars of our fathers are the most unforgiving testament of time.  This testament has filled the Pacific ocean to the brim with blood-soaked tears that will haunt our memory for generations to come. In present-day terms, the Armageddon clock may have notched back a tick or two from the days of President Harry Truman to our new modern day President Barack Obama, but we still have many concerns to worry about before the clock has spider webs.  In reality, the clock-hand did palpitate nervously during the Bush years, and the world is a much happier and safer place without him.  But we have a long way to go before we can call it “safe.”

I am a long-standing peace activist who joined the anti-nuclear movement three decades ago to abolish all atomic weapons.  Such weapons have proven unequivocally to cause prolonged, inhumane suffering and death. I entered the activist fray as a young lad back in the late 70’s with my atomic veteran father, Anthony Guarisco who, after his exposure, was battling the government for his VA healthcare, plus working hard to prevent any further annihilation the likes of which he had already seen while serving in the military during WWII.  He was a maverick among men for humanity with a simple dream — that no one should ever have to endure the effects of radiation exposure as he and many others did.

My father was a powerful voice for those in society who seemingly had no voice at all, and he devoted much of his life to this worthy cause. The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was an instant heartfelt relief to everyone involved.  And, on September 24, 1996, when President Bill Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) 25 years of brutal campaigning against nuclear testing came to an end.

Yes, the dream of ending the atomic madness was finally going our way for a change.  Plus, 1996 was the last year a “nuclear reactor” went on-line in the US — the pregnant mother whose afterbirth gave us nuclear weapons production. Indeed, we all hoped this horror show was finally ending, and that we had constricted the nuclear firefly of plant construction, missile production and atomic testing.  However, it was hard to rest easy because we still had enough missiles in our nuclear arsenal to destroy the world several thousand times over. Had it not been for the production of uranium (U-238) which has been ongoing since the days of President Ronald Reagan, we could have licked our wounds and focused most of our attention on weapons disarmament and clean energy to replace nuclear power. But that’s not how the story goes. Thus, we still continue to produce this tough, high-density toxic metal with armor piercing ability, and incorporate it into our military hardware apparatus.

The reality is depleted uranium (DU) munitions are still widely being used on multiple battlefields today. This will breed a whole new generation of atomic veterans. Those of us in the know call it “The Metal of Dishonor” causing many sick veterans to be inflicted with “Gulf War Syndrome.”   I would like to remind everyone of DU’s true meaning to us offspring of atomic soldiers. We call it: “Death Unlimited.”  Remember this well, when DU particles lodge inside your body, the only thing “depleting” is your health — and ultimately, your life.

Astonishingly enough, it is estimated that up to five billion years worth of U-238 (DU) is currently sitting in power plants today and is available for immediate commercial production for building future shielding, bombs, missile warheads and bullets. This is very scary indeed. Especially, in knowing DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.  Even the thought of this should ripple goose-bumps across your skin. It did mine.  And that is why I will never give up the fight in my search for serenity.  People should ever have to feel afraid to close their eyes and dream a lovely image filled with peaceful song.

It always amazes me how the world can continue surviving under the threat of such unsettling madness, I have the right to say this because I have already seen the effects on those who walked the plutonium path of guttering death. I still have flashbacks when I remember what happened to many of my dearest friends and loved ones whose lives were tormented in unimaginable ways.

Such was the case for my father’s friend, John Smitherman.  Like my father, John was a Navy seaman who fought in WWII, one of many unlucky humans to be exposed to radiation at “Operation Crossroads” in 1946.  But he suffered much worse than most. After being exposed, he later developed lymphedema which caused his limbs to painfully swell two to three times their normal size, resembling elephantitus. Eventually, after having both legs amputated, and with his left hand largely swelled, he died in 1983 after the cancer attacked his colon, liver, stomach, lungs, and spleen.

Had his cancer not changed course by attacking his vital organs, John would have become “a living-nub” before dying. He is featured in Oliver Stone’s “Radio Bikini,” which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary in 1987.  Even though his limbs were painfully swelled with cancer, he gladly allowed himself to be wheeled around from one podium to the next tirelessly working with the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV) as a living example of how radiation exposure can hideously tear a man apart bit by bit. Disregarding his own suffering, he tirelessly continued his work as the cancer ate away at him.  Indeed, he bravely fought the nuclear weapons industry with all his might, allowing himself to be exploited with every ounce of life he had left to give.

Aside from my own father, Smitherman is the bravest and kindest man I ever had the privilege of knowing. He was shamefully denied service-connected disability from an uncaring government and Veterans Administration seven times.  How sweet.  God rest his soul.  May he peacefully rest under God’s gracious wing where denial, pain and suffering and “nuclear weapons” will never be included in his vocabulary again.

Over the years, I have thought of John and my father on many a sleepless night.  I make use of this time by pounding aching fingers across this old keyboard to write articles, letters to editors, or  letters to my representatives to remind them of the many patriots who have paid a very heavy price for the decisions they make.  If I am passionate in my writing, it is because — if we are to have a tomorrow — yesterday’s truth must not be forgotten.  I open doors, but others must enter to fulfill our collective dream of peace.  I have watched many honorable men and women perish as a result of those who inhumanely considered them to be nothing more than test animals and, therefore, “expendable.”  Thus, in memory of those who fell victim to this onslaught of misery, it shall remain my catalyst to inspire all those I can to be one collective vigilant voice without end. Hopefully, with enough involvement, maybe it will finally be enough to deliver us to a much better, brighter and friendlier place for which to rest our aching heads, and heal our weary souls.

Never succumb to the powers that be.  Americans are a powerful force when we combine our efforts under one banner. When I first arrived here at this outermost edge of the anti-nuclear peace movement with my parents so many years ago, we became a mighty collective force that shook the Presidential pillars, and we dried many inkwells for a number of rubber-stamping lawmakers and legislators. We brought them to their knees with truth that even they could not deny. And it paid off, one small victory at a time. It can be done.  Let’s rekindle that old activist spark, let us teach the younger generation to carry the torch of tomorrow. Get involved. Spread the word. We must close this Godforsaken nuclear nuthatch once and for all before more radiated Kool-Aid is doled out or before we destroy not only ourselves but the hopes of those not yet born.

Indeed, change is in the air. We must now hound this new Obama administration and all members of both houses of Congress to come to our way of thinking.  We must not fail. We must engage the “obstructionists” and battle them in our own home theaters. We must enlighten those individuals with narrow vision, rejuvenate healthy minds who have been told lies without end, and we must again dry the inkwells of those individuals who not give it a second thought to snap the peaceful olive branch of hope like a useless twig to be destroyed. Because they are the scoundrels of human arrogance. And because…we serve a higher purpose in life.

Our mission is clear and not necessarily in this order: fix the economy, give us a comprehensive single-pay health care program, nationalize the banking industry, regulate Wall Street, stop our ongoing wars in Asia and the Middle East, refuse to build a stupid missile shield to restart the cold war with Russia, offer a fair and even-handed approach in the Israel-Palestine conflict with equal land rights restored to the original charter and an equal amount of aid money (if offered) given to both Israel and Palestine.  Don’t screw-up the New Deal, No more throwing vets to the waste-bin of time like old worn-out shoes once their services are no longer needed. No more secret, covert actions running amuck, get rid of our Nukes and address the needs and wants of the American people so that even the most vulnerable among us can take part in our continued pursuit of happiness…

Will President Barack Obama will rise to the occasion? Only time will tell. If not, he will quickly be added to a very long list of previous war-mongers before him who did not serve the will of the people and could very well be remembered as just another official assassin of peace who helped to foster our eventual annihilation. The moment is here and the choice is his. For now, I will remain optimistic that he will achieve greatness.  May the wings of change forever inspire all of us to do our part to guide his leadership. God bless and good will to all…


Author’s Bio: Vince is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I’m wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word — it’s past time to take back what is ours — the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It’s time to take it back. For replies, send to: vincespainting1@hotmail.com


They Still Don’t Get It

by Mary Pitt

Just three weeks after Barack Obama was sworn in, we are barraged with complaints because he has not yet wiped out all the vestiges of the Bush administration from the environs of Washington, D.C. We are daily confronted by newspaper items, editorials, and blogs telling us of his shortcomings and failure to correct all the bad Department of Justice decisions, all the illicit Executive Orders, the no-bid contractors, to withdraw all the troops from Iraq, and to restore our country to a state of peace. And yet, the polls show an unprecedented approval by the people!

This is, above all, a man who is measured and prudent in his thinking and has established his priorities for action. He has chosen first to put right our economic state, no insignificant or simple task. Believing in our tri-partate system of government, he allowed the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives to write the necessary legislation, to offer it for a vote, and send it to the Senate where it was amended, passed, and sent to Conference. It moved through the process in record time and is within his recommendations as to the amount of money involved.

This is the way it should be done, people! Are we all so accustomed to the Bush system of change that we expect the President to issue an order and both parties match in lockstep to issue a blank check as they did in his request for authority to “handle” the aftermath of September 11, 2001? Now, that really worked, didn’t it?

In the meantime, behind the scenes, there is a small army of people working feverishly; going through records and subpoena-ing those that are lacking, compiling data, incovering facts, and putting information into presentation form that will be given his attention in the order of his pre-determined order of priorities. Buried in those piles of papers are things of which we, the people, have known nothing and we can expect to find several surprises there which President Obama will deal with as they arrive.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Secretary of State and the various Ambassadors are travelling all over the world, renewing acquaintances with foreign leaders and establishing bases for official talks to try to correct some iof the ills of the rest of the world. Shifts have been made in the accents on the tasks of our troops around the world and in the personnel involved in directing them. There is much yet to be done there and it will be done in due time.

So, what are all the complaints about? Some of the Cabinet choices had to be withdrawn before being confirmed. Has that never happened before? The Vice-President has a bit of a mouth problem, not much of a surprise and at least, he is not running a sub rosa spy program from his basement! Health care and Social Security problems have not yet been solved. Again, not a surprise inasmuch as several administrations have failed in that effort and the President determined that the economy, (the number one concern of the voters), was the most important thing to do first.

The largest and loudest complaint is that President Obama has been unresponsive to the demands for investigation of the previous adminitration for their many instances of illegal actions and violations of the Constitution. His answers have not been sufficiently decisive for those who feel that this should be done as soon as possible. Suspicions are voiced that the President is “in cahoots” with the “Bush criminals”! Yet we have no knowledge of the tasks that have been assigned to the Department of Justice other than the fact that we have been told that, if and when the necessary information reaches his desk, he will be ready to respond.

And yet, when the Congress began to lag in the passage of the economic stimulus bill, he turned to the people. Not just to any people and not just to Democratic strongholds where he would be assured of support but the states where he lost to his Republican opponent. The audience was not vetted and there was no “protest zone”. It was come-one-come-all and the cheers were as supportive as those on his campaign trail. It may not have caused the bill to pass but it certainly did not hurt the effort when Congress was exposed on the evening news to the faces of their own suffering constituents as they voiced their pleas for relief.

This is a different kind of President. He is probably the most intelligent and, so far, appears to be the most thoughtful and mentally-organized person to hold the office in a very long time. He can carry the weight of all the troubles of the world on his shoulders and yet be able to “put it away” and enjoy a fast game of basketball, take the kids to the beach, and treat his wife to a romantic dinner for Valentine’s Day, and then come back to work refreshed and ready for action. He may not be Super Man but he comes close.

The point that the complainers still just don’t get is that Barack Obama was not elected to the presidency simply because we wanted to get rid of the Bushes by changing the person in the White House. The “revolution” was not only against George Bush; it was against the “business as usual” of the Washington culture. We sat through eight years of watching the Democrats in Congress roll over and act in a “spirit of bipartisanship” while Bush and Company raped our nation and destroyed much of the world. Retribution can wait. First, the welfare of the people must be restored and the working class put back on their feet so that our neglected infrastructure can be restored and we can, once again, be a proud nation and a leader of the free world.

Let us give the man time, stop carping and nit-picking, and give him a decent amount of time to show progress. It is a Herculean job that cannot be done overnight. It’s the least we can do, considering what he is trying to do for us.

The author is a very “with-it” old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for “societal perfection”.

The Truth About Your Income Tax

by Mary Pitt

As the spouse of a working man, often in remote areas and long before you woould find an H&R Block firm within easy driving distance, the job of filing the annual income tax forms fell to me. As the rules changed, it was necessary to study the instructions every year to remain current and legal. While that may seem difficult to many, a bit of initial concentration should get one through it. I did it with a bit less than a high school diploma at that time.

As the result of this responsibilty, I became aware of the evolution over the years and can see the pattern of the changes that occurred with the many “reforms” instituted during the Republican administrations. It has always been an article of faith within the party that taxes were a nuisance that should be visited only on the private wage earners and every effort at “reform” will demonstrate their efforts to shift the burdens to the working class. This was accomplished on the pretext of “simplifying” the reporting forms. In fact, it is now so “simplified” that you do not even know how much your tax really is or the means by which it has been increased.

While I make no claim to be any kind of an expert and am speaking only from personal experience, I will attempt to delineate some of these changes that have been made in order to deprive the working class of exemptions and deductions and how their loss impose the greater tax burden upon them while lessening that borne by businesses and the wealthy.

Exemptions:

In 1949, when I was first assigned this task, a family was allowed a personal exemption of $600 per year for the support of each child. Compare that figure with the allowance this year and then compare that figure to the deflated dollar and it will be obvious that this deduction has been radically cut.

Taxes to Other Entities:

Until recent times, the amount of income taxes paid to the State in which you lived was an allowable deduction as was the sales and local tax, based upon a chart which was tied to your total earnings. You were allowed to deduct state gasoline taxes based upon the mileage readings of your automibiles. This alone, is a large factor in any family budget.

Interest payments:

Another large tax deduction that has been lost to the interest of “reform” is the one that allowed people to deduct payments for interest paid. This included interest on your home, your car, credit cards, and store charges for major purchases such as furniture. You could either include statements from your creditors or use the chart on the sliding scale. This deduction, except in special circumstances, is now denied to the working class while businesses are still allowed to deduct it as a “cost of doing business.”

Medical Expenses:

All medical expenses, including prescription medications and medical insurance premiums were allowed in excess of 3% of gross income. You could also deduct any medical equipmant, appliances and supplies that were prescribed by a physician and any payments for disability received from privately- or employer-paid insurance were exempt from taxation. If your medical insurance was paid entirely by your employer, no accounting at all was necessary.

I am sure that there are many other exemptions and deductions that may have existed that have quietly disappeared over the years but they do not come to mind at this time, (or perhaps I never had occasion to use them), but these alone would account for a major part of the expenditures of the average family and greatly their restoration would reduce the tax liabilities of the working class.

Where did these privileges of the working class go and why? It’s simple. In effect, these “reforms”, instituted on the pretext of making the tax report more simple, effectively increased the amounts of taxable income and thereby increased to taxes on the average wage earner while preserving the privilege of the ruling class. Even the deductions from our pay checks for Social Security reflect our second-class status. While most of us pay the same percentage of our entire income for this purpose, those who are paid amounts beyond our wildest dreams are allowed to stop contributing. This “cap” is possibly the only tax computation that is adjusted for inflation and that only after near-destruction of the system.

Do not listen to those calamity-criers who are bellowing for a “fair tax” which will further shift the “burden” from the backs of the wealthy, or even to those who tout a “value-added tax” which will radically increase the price of everything that we buy. They tell us, “This would be so easy that you won’t even realize that you are being taxed”, but what they mean is that THEY won’t realize it because THEY will not be paying their fair share! This is their Valhalla and what they have worked toward for all these years, the total exemption of their own class from the burden of paying for our government, their privileges, and any wars into which they wish to send our children.

We have recently accomplished the task of returning to the people the privilege of running our own democracy as The Founders intended but we must not relax. We must hold that responsibility in our calloused fists and wield it wisely. We must get on the backs of our representatives and insist that they keep our welfare and our will constantly in mind if they want to keep their jobs. Any resistance must be met by a wall of voices, using the words of our new President, “WE WON!”

The author is a very “with-it” old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for “societal perfection.”

Basement Zombie Spews More Hate And Politics of Fear…

By Vincent L. Guarisco
February 5, 2009

“Fighting fire with fire only gets you ashes”~~Abigail Van Buren

Goodness gracious, please pass me an oxygen mask –quickly — so I can escape the dreaded plume!  Whoa, I need some fresh air to replace the foul stench lingering from Dick Cheney!  Indeed, Take a bow Mr. Dubious Ex-VP, thanks to you (and the little junior genius), 11 million worried Americans are now out of work and struggling to survive.  How sweet and, just recently, while scrambling for our next meal, we got to hear basement Dick gush on the public airwaves that there’s a “high probability” were going to get attacked with biological agents or perhaps a nuclear device in the near future.

Gosh! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Gee, talk about tying your nutsack in a underwear slipknot! I guess it’s appropriate to say that evil absurdities such as this will always remain a constricted, smelly area without sunshine. Especially, after considering all the corruption, inequality, failure and violence that happened during his horrible eight-year tenure. Am I alone when I say I wish we could quickly remove Cheney from the public airwaves like a bad jar of peanut butter?  Indeed, just last week alone, over 626,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits. And, I would add, this trend has no end in sight.  Yet, Mr. Cheney saw fit to seize the moment — yet again — to instill more fear. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I just witnessed a dangerous jar of talking salmonella spewing vicious venom from a poisonous peanut gallery. “Wow” comes to mind…

It’s so amazing how some leaders can achieve such greatness and others not.  In 1962, John F, Kennedy said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.  How true. And, with Dick Cheney in mind, Abigail Van Buren appropriately coined another keeper: “Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with old age. Nothing does — except wrinkles. It’s true, some wines improve with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place”.

Phooey, all wine-cellars beware — Cheney’s eight year vintage is bitter-tasting spittle at best.

Yes, regardless of Cheney’s feeble scare tactics, our perseverance, courage, diligence and compassion for life will now prevail over his mundane threats. Sorry, Dick, your fear-mongering no longer has the desired effect. The time of hateful redundancy is over. It’s time to look ahead and push forward with this new administration to birth a hopeful tomorrow that will eventually offer promise and prosperity. At the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, on January 18, 2009, two days before his inauguration as US President, President Barack Obama said:

“I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure, that it will prevail, that the dream of our founders will live on in our time.”

And so it is…a new wiser era has begun.  In truth — this short piece has probably wasted more digital space than this jerk deserves!  So I will end it with this: Angry old teeth-gritting salts like Dick Cheney are a useless dying breed. Indeed, Cheney’s dishonorable legacy will be always be remembered (with astonishment) as the world’s only known living heart donor. Yes Dick, slither back to your dark, dank zombie basement and we’ll send you a complimentary case of yummy Kroger peanut butter paste for to chew on. Bye, bye, and Amen.

Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Bullhead, Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I’m wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word — it’s past time to take back what is ours — the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It’s time to take it back. For replies, contact: vincespainting1@hotmail.com

RIAA still slimy

(From a friend with inside experience in the music publishing business and extensive computer networking background, I trust his opinion implicitly.)

RIAA and BSAS favorite lawyers taking top DOJ posts (from Gizmodo)

I am not sure why the DOJ is packed with a bunch of corporate loving lawyers that like to sue people and business. I do not think these jerks can serve the public best because they have a perceived conflict of interest in preserving what they have been advocating. In the RIAA’s eyes, all people that use peer-2-peer technology, of which one use is file sharing, are criminals to be sued.

They want to shut down the first next generation computer communication model since client-server. I do not advocate pirating music, but I have an issue with an organization that sets up a dragnet and abuses our judicial system for their gain when the legal theories being used are questionable (i.e. making available for distribution argument is equal to illegal distribution).

By the way, you do not upload anything to a P2P network, you share a directory on your local machine. So, by having the software they are targeting and a shared directory that contains music might make you a target if they can illegally access your machine.

Currently, the RIAA is making deals with ISPs to police your connection to the Internet. Do you like spying on your communications by non-governmental entities? Do you believe you should be able to download music from the Internet you already own with a end user copyright? Do you think entities like ISPs should self-deputize in order to fulfill the RIAA’s version of justice? The RIAA wants ISPs to shutoff your broadband pipe if they believe you are pirating music. Where is the due process?

The BSA is a front group for Microsoft among other IT companies like IBM, Sun, HP, etc. Essentially, the BSA tries to encourage people to tattle on people if they are using pirated software or try to influence governmental policy either to enforce copyright or entrench MS in government. I am not an advocate of pirating software, but setting up a gestapo-esque atmosphere raises my hackles.

Have you heard of Sen. Orrin Hatch a BSA cyber champion. He proposed a “kill switch” for your computer if you were pirating software. Even more importantly, though, the BSA is used to fight governments considering moving off of MS technology to open source software like Linux and ODF (Open document format). ODF does not imply a move off of MS technology, but it is in MS’ interest to keep all government business in their format.

Why should government keep taxing people to pay for MS licenses that use a format that restricts non-MS applications access to public documents? The non-MS applications have to use a plug-in that can cost a royalty fee. By the way, MS Office can read/write ODF docs with no added expense for a plug-in. I feel strongly about these issues. Nevertheless, I can see that there is a conflict of interest with these individuals with regards to doing what is best for the public versus what is best for copyright holders. I already wrote the White House to let them know that this is “change I can’t believe in.” I urge you to do the same. Right now.

Tons of Bricks Lighter

By Vincent Guarisco

January 23, 2009

“When authoritarian forces seize control of a government, they typically move first against the public’s access to information, under the theory that a confused populace can be more easily manipulated. They take aim at the radio stations, TV and newspapers. In the case of George W. Bush in 2001, he also took aim at historical records, giving himself and his family indefinite control over documents covering the 12 years of his father’s terms as President and Vice President. It was, therefore, significant that one of Barack Obama’s first acts as President was to revoke the Bush Family’s power over that history and to replace it with an easier set of regulations for accessing the records.” ~Robert Parry 1/22/09 (Consortium News) Continue reading Tons of Bricks Lighter

Oral History

From Doug’s Dyanmic Drivel

A Must Read

23 January, 2009 (20:44) | Political

If you only read one article this weekend (ya right like that’s going to happen eh :) ) this oral history of the Bush years, in , is an absolute must. It’s 14 pages long though so grab a cup of joe, take your laptop to a comfy chair and settle in for a very good read as you “listen” to real toss the Bush cabal under the bus, over and over again.

Go read the selected quotes at Doug Alder at Doug’s Dynamic Drivel and you’ll for sure want to read the rest.

Waddaya Gonna Do

by Mary Pitt

Waddya gonna do when you’ve gone about as far as you can go? You want to open a window and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” But, where you live there is nobody to hear you. Go ahead, yell your fool head off but there are none to hear and, if anybody does, they don’t care.

Continue reading Waddaya Gonna Do

The View from the Bottom

by Mary Pitt

The greatest problem as the new President and the Congress attempt ro enact remedies to the very real problems of the poor, the disabled, and the laboring class, (not the much-broader “working class”), is that they do not know or understand exactly what it is that they are trying to “fix”. With the exception of the President, none of them have ever wanted for food, clothing, or medical care, (and even he, Thank God, had grandparents of substance who were able to be of assistance.) Continue reading The View from the Bottom

The Necessary Remedy

by Mary Pitt

With an economy that is sadly in the tank, a stock market that cannot get its feet back under it, with record and growing unemployment, and with working class and poor people suffering with too little income and too many expenses, the economists and politicians are quarreling over what will be required to heal the ills of our nation. Continue reading The Necessary Remedy