Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

In the not-too-distant past, my Dad and his two oldest brothers served in WWII-Pacific Theatre. His two younger brothers served in Korea. My husband served in Viet Nam. His father and two uncles served in WWII, one saw combat in Italy. An Aunt was a medical worker in Viet Nam. None were drafted, all were voluntary enlistments. These close family members represent Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. They all served overseas during times of war. Every minute they spent during those years is one minute longer than Bush or Cheney or any other of our current chickenhawk leaders or their children did when their time came.

Our current war involvement has been so sanitized that we are not even allowed to see the dead. But this is what memorial day means to me -- a chance to reflect on the war dead, the lives they would've had if war had not intervened. I will be spending Memorial Monday at our local war memorial touching the 20th century names from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, all etched on cold hard granite slabs. It is the centerpiece of our cemetary. I will be thinking about the big blank slab of granite that stands next to them, the one waiting to receive the 21st century names of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan. When that slab is finally carved with names is when we will finally be allowed to honor them, because it will mean those wars are over.

Here is Norah Jones, singing a sultry American Anthem (5-minutes):

Since none of my family has ever really talked about their war experiences, I am left with war movies to try and understand their experience. Here is my short-list of some Classic "War" Movies: Slaughterhouse Five, Catch-22, Dr. Strangelove, Johnny Got His Gun, M*A*S*H, and Apocalypse Now. (note: some of these links are videos). Each of these has helped me to understand different aspects of war. It seems to require some distance in time before a definitive movie can be made about any particular war. If I seem conflicted, it's because I am. Just because war is truly a failure of diplomacy, it does not mean that some wars aren't justified.

The author of Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut, after being released from a German P.O.W. camp, found himself on a troop ship coming back to America. He asked a fellow soldier, "So what did you learn from all this?" ... The soldier replied, "Never to believe your own government".

To our current military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I would like to apologize for our commander-in-chief. Hang on. We are working hard on getting you a better one soon, one that will be bringing you back home to us. Every single one of you, whole and sound.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Did you happen to catch the news crawl today blabbing about the Bush administration's flawed study concluding that a highly infectious animal disease research facility could be safely moved to the mainland? Say what?

Not seeing any actual news story on TV, I googled it. OMG, they're talking about PLUM ISLAND! Isn't that the island that Hannibal Lecter was offered in "Silence of the Lambs" as an alternative to his solitary isolation cell? Even Lecter (Hannibal the Cannibal) refused it, pointing to the Animal Disease Center located there. He preferred to take his own chances on a long-shot escape, risking death, rather than endure living there. Lecter called it "Anthrax Island".

Should it be a shock to anyone anymore that the Bush administration would rely on flawed studies that confirm whatever they are promoting? The Homeland Security Dept and officials from the GAO are conducting hearings today. Perhaps C-Span will show some of the hearings, or maybe Keith Olbermann. This is what our TV news is down to, a quick news crawl and then C-Span or Keith. The administration contends that modern laboratories have the highest security to prevent an escape of the virus.

What virus are they talking about? Foot-and-Mouth disease (FMD), a catastrophic destroyer of livestock. It has been avoided in the U.S. by confining research since 1955 to the 840-acre Plum Island, located off Long Island NY. The Plum Island facility has had a history of accidents, the GAO contends, seven that the GAO is aware of between 1971 and 2004. The secrecy of the facility makes it likely there have been more accidents as well as possible exposure to many deadly diseases beyond FMD. But even just FMD scares the willies out of any rancher/farmer as it would lead to severe losses in meat production as well as milk with millions of livestock being slaughtered in order to halt the spread should FMD escape.

The prime motivator for our Dear Leaders to move this facility onshore seems to be their desire to use Plum Island for a National Bio-and-Agro Defense Facility that will study diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans. This means officially authorizing research beyond FMD-like viruses (which do not directly sicken humans). It's something they've been wanting to do for some time. Local Long Island activists prevented the facility from expanding to include diseases that affect humans in 2000, which would require a Biosafety Level 4 designation. In 2002, Congress again considered the plan. And here we are back again, this time considering moving the FMD facility onshore so as to free up Plum Island. Why am I not reassured that all this is strictly in the nature of defense? Why do I suddenly feel like a penned animal awaiting whatever highly infectious disease might be thrown my way?

There are five mainland sites being studied by DHS: Athens GA, Flora MS, Manhattan KS, Butner NC and San Antonio TX. I think we can safely discount the San Antonio possibility since Bush would never seriously risk harm to Texas beef.

Here's the GAO's concern: the 2002 Agricultural Dept study that Bush is relying on only addressed whether it was technically feasible to do the research onshore. Given the potential for human error at such a facility, this seems a highly selective criterion. Regardless of the degree of technology, all research labs are subject to human error, lack of proper maintenance, equipment failure and deviations from the pristine standard operating procedures.

One danger of working with these viruses is that they can be carried in the labworkers lungs, nostrils, clothing, vehicles, etc, making all facility employees a possible mode of transport for virus escape. Employees are not even allowed to have or be in contact with pets or visit zoos while they are working at the facility. Other methods of transmission include mosquitos, bats, birds, even ticks! There is some evidence that Lyme Disease was manufactured on Plum Island and accidentally spread 9-miles away to Old Lyme, Connecticut (the place the disease was first identified & named for).

After a 1978 accidental release of FMD into cattle holding pens on Plum Island, the United States only avoided international quarantine and mass livestock slaughter on the mainland because it was confined to the island. As it is, the whole island had to incinerated, every living thing, in order to contain it.

Leaving aside the moral issue of continuing Plum Island at all, isn't it just plum crazy to consider risking mass exposure to FMD and who-knows-what-other viruses being researched by moving such a facility onshore?

Here's a 3-minute overview by John Siegenthaler Jr, Associated Press:

Government research on the feared foot-and-mouth virus research facility moving from isolated Plum Island, N.Y. to a site on the mainland. The question is if the virus escaped, could an outbreak be contained? from April 2008 ...

If you're interested in seeing more about Plum Island and have the time, here's a longer report from July 2007 (30-minutes):

VVH-TV News Chief Investigative Reporter Karl Grossman interviews author Long Island native and lawyer Michael Christopher Carroll about his work on "Lab 257" taking us on a shocking journey inside the notorious Plum Island biological research facility. Carroll spent five years researching this highly detailed and powerful account of the secretive government installation that sits just off the coast of some of New York's prime real estate, an installation that has had its share of meltdowns, mishaps and downright scary security breaches, including two known releases of deadly viruses into the air.

Owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Plum Island lies just off the coast of the North Fork of Long Island. This otherwise uninhabited, woodsy island has a long history of controversy and secrecy, as Carroll so intricately details, and just may have put the millions of residents of the Tri-State area in utter danger of exposure to fatal animal diseases, including Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus, and even anthrax, time and time again.

VVH-TV News attempted to have an interview with officials from the Department of Homeland Security but were denied.

**** UPDATE: Click here for quick news summary of the hearing conducted today. It was closed-door, not shown on C-Span or anywhere else. Transcript text/video won't be officially available for 90-days.

Alan Rickman is better than christmas

DivaJood and I have a little friendly rivalry over who gets to take Alan Rickman home. Very well, Diva, I will concede him to you for the nonce, as The Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (turn this one up, the sound is low):

Rickman is so versatile. But I have to say, I particularly love him as the bad boy.

Now for both Diva and Enigma, here is Alan, The Magic Man:

lots of Harry Potter scenes ... Hot-cha-cha!

Monday, May 19, 2008


Another Meme Tag ... this time by the unsinkable Utah Savage! Never fear, I will get her for this, sometime somewhere when she least expects it. In the meantime, it's a pretty good way to pass the hours until the OR & KY primaries tomorrow.

1. What was I doing ten years ago? In 1998, I was ... Working long hours, many weekends in my construction-related biz. Not paying enough attention to myself. Spending too much time stuck in gridlock, swearing at people who persisted in pissing me off (hint: everyone ahead of me on the road). On Sundays, hub & I tended our organic avocado grove (this was therapeutic, certainly not a profit-earning venture). Thinking all the "interesting" times were in the past (boy, was I wrong)!

2. Five things on today's To-Do List. I no longer do to-do lists. Here are five "highlights" of what I did today: First, I woke up (hey, don't knock it; someday I won't wake up). Second, I closed all the windows so the house would stay cool for as long as possible since temps were expected to hit 105 today. Third, I met with an architect to review my latest home design (more about that some other time). Fourth, I returned a Library book, Homo Politicus by Dana Milbank (a good read). Fifth, I noticed the temps were 108-degrees, time to go home & clip the dog's nails as well as my own -- actually my car said the temp was 118, but it is always 10-degrees off.

3. Things I'd do if I were a Billionaire. Now I must assume, by the way this is worded, that my "billionaire" status is an ongoing thing, not a recent lottery jackpot, nouveau-riche thing. Well, I'd spend plenty of time managing my billionaire foundation set up to do good works all over the world. I would concentrate on what would help make things better TODAY, not years/decades from now. I want immediate results for my money!

I would have self-sustaining homes, using off-the-grid technology, in places like France, Australia, Switzerland, Hawaii and Antigua. When I was not "in residence", these homes would be available for local university students to study what "self-sustaining" means.

I'd reserve exclusive luxury space on the first commercially available round-trip to the moon. If I liked the trip, I'd buy property on Mars and set up a Biosphere Colony.

I might finally get my anthropology/paleontology degree; then as global warming melts Antarctica, I'd fund & participate in an archeology project to hunt for evidence of pre-ice age man down there. I have a theory that we've been through all this before.

I would sponsor a yearly gathering of the Blogger Tribes, all expenses paid for a fun-filled lost weekend somewhere. Is Ted Turner's Montana Wildlife Preserve/Ranch for sale? We could have a Blogger Retreat there! No hunters allowed.

Finally, I'd pay someone to exercise my body for me while I consume spaghetti and haagen-daz and meditate on the cosmic zipper. I'm sure enough money would make this feasible. I hate to exercise!

4. Three bad habits? A) I am too detailed -- no detail is too small for my small brain to latch on to. B) I am too linear -- if things don't follow my own contrived sequence, I try to force them, often with disasterous results. C) I relate everything to myself -- it can't be all about me (can it?)!

5. Five places I have lived:
San Diego (sun, surf, avocados, what's not to like?)
Spokane WA (holy shit, 52" of snow & white supremecists hiding in the hills)
Hollywood CA (briefly in the 60's, my first non-desert experience)
Palm Springs CA (I liked it; husband hated it)
Las Vegas NV (in the 1950's-60's, not the same las Vegas as today; read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson, for the truth about my final year there, searching for the American Dream)

6. Five Jobs I've held: (I think these are all the same job, really)
Self-Employed, small biz, 25+yrs in construction.
CFO for an Exporter of Comm Equip in the pre-cell phone era (don't ask me too much about Central America).
Accountant (this is my "skill", such as it is).
Waitress (I lasted 2 weeks; quit when I couldn't force myself to be pleasant any longer; I'm sure I would've been fired soon).
Babysitting (don't laugh; this paid for all my clothes & entertainment during Jr High/High School; little kids loved "the redhead with the metal mouth").

Finally, I am supposed to tag five unsuspecting bloggers with this meme. OK, here they are, but I will be surprised if any of them do it:
1. Dada's Dally
2. Grubstreet Journal
3. Enigma Watergate Summer
4. EProf2
5. whoever the hell else reads this and wants to play!

Answer the same questions on your own blog and let the meme grow... or not, it's up to you. I had fun with it and wonder if you really learned anything you did not know.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bush to Abdullah, hey buddy can you spare a drop?

The following transcript was smuggled out of Riyadh today. It appears to be one side of the conversation at President Bush's desparate meeting with an unnamed Saudi Arabian King. We have no idea if it was properly transcribed or even if it is genuine. Translations of the King's side of the conversation are not available. Formal greetings have been purposefully redacted, so we enter in mid-conversation:

Yeah, heh-heh, ya might say I got mysef into a bit of a jam. Been playin fass & loose with mah job re-spon-si-bill-a-tees. Ya see we got oursels this thang called the consteetooshun which I done ak-si-dent-all-ee used to wipe mah arse with. Well yeah, ya might think so, but how was I s'posed to know? It was the only paper in that liddle room with the big glass toilets -- they call it the Smithsonian Drawing Room, which is where I figger ya drop ya drawers when naychure calls. Sure seem like a stoopid place to put 'portant doc-yoo-ments right out there in publick. 'Course normally I'da looked for a more private place, but I was newly ee-leck-tud an I didunt know mah way 'round none too good. They's lucky. If I'da had chili thet night, we'da prolly lost the Declarayshun ah Independunce too. Heck bells though, you'da thought I'd done kilt democracy or sumpthin the way some people carried on. Blame that stoopid Smithson guy for a bad toilet design, I say.

But ... oh yeah, why am I meeting with you about this Smithson guy? Ah ain't! Thet was all jes in the naychure of background info; hit's top secret stuff we yoonahtary egg-zeck-yoo-tiffs are s'posed to keep to oursef. I dunno why, but they tell me thet's how this whole mess done started.

Well yes, I do trust you. Y'alls been mine and my Daddy's frens forever an a day, as we say down on the ranch. Yes, I know what frens do for one another; they hep them out in a time of need. What? 'Course I know 'bout Quid Pro Quo; I didunt go to Yale an Harvord for nuthin! I'm not no appeaser! Ya don't have to remine me.

But I still got another daughter. No, she's not blond. Ya unnerstand the blond one HAD to get married unner a big ole cross in order to satisfy mah party's christian base? Yes, they are similar to your Wahabbists, only we find it more easy to satisfy them with meaningless rituals and religious symbols. You got mah sympathy on that, tryin'a deal with those nasty 'hobbists.

But before we proceed with thet neh-go-she-a-shun for my other daughter, I need to know if you can hep me out. You know what I'm talkin 'bout. Yes, THE OIL, what did'cha think, what else ya got, we don't need no more sand, man!

OK, here's the deal, 'doolah. You ferget thet ya awready invested so much money inna 'murican financhal trayshurees an reel estate. You ferget that due to my bad management, we done lost it all. You ferget all 'bout the declining Yoo-Ess Dollar which is killin yore bottom line. We all got bottom lines. Instead, you jes start pumpin out sum more of that sweet crude our way, an we'll call it even.

Yes, you unnerstood me, EVEN! Mah other daughter, not-Jenna, to marry the Saudi Royal Prince of your choice, thus uniting our two famblies by blood AND oil. Ah jes luv bein a uniter. WHAT? She's not worth it? I can go screw mysef?

But but, I don't think you unnerstand. We need to git oil prices down so that the 'merican peoples will vote for mah party in November. Yes, we still have ee-leck-shuns, apparently that part of the consteetooshun wadn't too badly smeared. Not for lack of effort on mah part! Yeah, we are working on resolving that issue, but it's not been easy without Karl.

What? Ya say if I send Karl yore way, you might jes think about sending us more oil? Well now! I was sure we could do bidness! Laura, han me the Karl phone, the one that has a pickshure of Jeff Gannon on the display. Yup, the one you keep in yore purse! I think we're about to do us a liddle Texas style bargainin, yeee-hawww!

Jes make sure ya get the oil flowing soon, so our gas prices can start comin down. But not too soon, if ya know what I mean. September and October would be perfeck fer some cheap gas.

Oh a'course you can cut back the flow, so our prices go back up, starting in Mid-November! And this time, you can jes ferget about any restraints. You jes cut back as far as you feel like. Mah stool-pidgeun, Muck-Came, unnerstands we still got us a passle o'money to be made on this oil deal. No, you can truss him. That was just his vote-voice talkin about dee-vel-oh-ping wind and solar power. He unnerstands Quid-Pro-Quo as good as any Yalie, and he's awready workin on sending y'all some really cool military stuff to hep with protectun yore eyeranfren's oil.

Yes, not-Jenna will be heartbroken, but she'll unnerstand. I'm sure she'll get another chance at a patriotic wedding alliance soon. I hear that new Putin Puppet, Meddievevvie, is lookin for a bride. Not-Jenna is already studyin rooskie. I got a Soulsheneetzin layin aroun on mah nightstan with her name on it. It's right nex to the Kamoo and the three Shakespeers. I wunner if that Shakespeer dude has written anythin new lately? I get 'em 3 for a buck at the local Crawford flea market. Hit's a good deal cuz there's yoozhulee a lot more'n 3 fleas inside. Laura uses 'em to set her presriptables on ... the books, not the fleas! The fleas she gives to me, dangit!
Oh wait, ya still here, 'doolah? Well, let's shake, sheik, heheheh ...
Firm Hand-Shake, Kiss-Kiss, Nod, Nod, Wink, Wink, fade to black ...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mom's Day

Today is the day designated by the Hallmark people as Mother's Day. I guess it's nice to have a special day devoted to Mothers on the calendar, but I really think if your Mom isn't in your heart every day, then just flipping a page on the calendar isn't going to put her there.

My mom has been gone for 10+yrs, but definitely not forgotten. Technically dying of ovarian cancer, she had suffered from Alzheimer's for the last decade of her life. Saying goodbye to someone who has Alzheimer's has usually been done years before the funeral, as you watch the grim progression of the disease robbing them of their memories and ability to make sense of the world, bit by bloody bit.

For some reason, I always think of easter egg painting on Mother's Day. My mom was very creative that way, always finding things to do with her children that would provide great memories and learning experiences. Some of our easter eggs took on a Faberge quality while others were simply decorated with rude comments in white wax crayons. These were especially fun to write some cutting insult about a particular sibling with, and then hand the invisibly-inscribed egg to the sibling in question to dip into the dye, hardly able to contain yourself while they watched for the slowly forming jibe to appear. It was like a ticking time-bomb egg message!

For the last two Mother's Days, living in Utah, I have had the pleasure of watching a hummingbird family building a nest, hatching eggs, feeding the nestlings, and finally watching them fly away to parts unknown. I don't know why they have chosen this particular small pine tree on the east side of our home, but they have built their nest on the same branch two years in a row now. It is on a steep rocky slope which has prevented good photos without risking my neck (literally). Last year's nest was so sturdy that it survived our winter winds, rain & snow and was still there, albeit very ragged looking, last month when I finally knocked it down. Maybe that inspired them to quickly build another in the same spot.

The following photo is from last year. The two babies look full grown and were about a week from finally flying away. The nest is no more than the size of a silver dollar, but very comfy looking, lined with soft downy feathers & pieces of lint. At this point, the babies were so large, the mother could not stay in the nest with them, but was constantly flitting around feeding them. At night, she & her mate would hover around the nest, practically on top of the babies, to provide some warmth. I'm guessing they slept on the same branch.

The next photo is the new nest this year on Mother's Day. There are two eggs, same as last year, but they seem to be a little behind, because by this time last year, the eggs had hatched. I don't know if they could possibly be the same breeding pair, perhaps this nest was constructed by one of last year's nestlings who remembered this spot as a nice place. I will be keeping an eye on them.

The photo is so blurry because I had to hang onto a nearby tree with one arm to keep from slipping & falling down the hillside. With the other arm, I had to reach up to my limit & point down at the nest. Naturally, all this activity scared the mother hummer away. The mother is about the size of a large moth. The eggs are jellybean size.

I think my mom would've loved these hummingbirds, although with her slightly skewed sense of humor, she might've been hoping the mother hummer would abandon the nest so she could give these lovely little eggs to her grandkids to decorate. I miss you, Mom! You always made me laugh!

Happy Mother's Day to everyone, human and otherwise!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Wedding Bell Blues

The following is "snipped" from 23/6 news (motto: some of the news, most of the time) ...

"Saturday is the big day—Jenna Bush is getting married. The wedding will take place in Crawford, since even Jenna doesn't want to be associated with the current White House. The lucky man is Henry Hager, a stand-up guy who, in honor of his country and his new father-in-law's top priority, will go to fight in Iraq immediately after the wedding.

"Just kidding. He's finishing his MBA. But, no doubt, he'll be supporting the troops in his own way, perhaps on the crucial investment banking front.

"The final question: What will Daddy Bush's toast be like? The wedding is top secret, but you can make your own version of his remarks with our George Bush Wedding Toast-O-Tron."

OK, this is Silly, Dumb, Juvenile .... yes! yes! yes! .... click here to fill in the blanks yourself. Here are mine:

Greetings, Christian soldiers.
As the bride's banker, I would like thank you all for coming.
To my daughter's drinking buddy, I just wanna say, she's your problem now.
I have audited his finances and I can say that Henry is a strong man.
To Henry and my daughter, number two, I want to say that the path to a successful marriage is to stay the course.
And so, in honor of the oddly similar-looking couple, let us all make the tax cuts permanent ... or, uh, whatever it was I was talking about.

After the happy nuptials, the handsome bride and pretty groom will be personally instructed by the President in the finer art of ranch management:
Here we see Fraternal Twin not-Jenna modeling her maid of honor outfit and new tattoo:
If that outfit doesn't make it painfully obvious why Jenna is getting married and not-Jenna is not, here is the final proof ... the she-wolf in heat demonstrating the "technique" that won Henry Hagar's heart: Actually, I feel kind of cheated. Previous white house weddings have been pretty lavish public affairs. Is this a sign of how low in popularity Bush is, or is it right in line with how secretive this whole administration is? Perhaps it just means Dick Cheney was the wedding planner. We'll know for sure if we see this wedding banquet item: roasted ranch-captive quail, braised with sweet iraqi oil, served with souvenir buckshot casing on the side.


UPDATE: I've been updating wedding info in the comments, but this is too good not to put in the post. The wedding band is SUPER-T. Click here for some samples (Super Freak, Sexual Healing, Brick House, The Bird). No offense to Jenna, but why would she pick her father's favorite band for HER wedding? These guys have been around 40-yrs, doing the same thang, playing country clubs whenever the good ole boys decide they need to get funky. They are the ones Bush conga-danced through the white house with. Try to imagine the Cheneys and other whitebread conservatives pretending to move to that groove. What a day for Jenna! It would be like as if at my wedding, 32-yrs ago, I had selected Arthur Godfrey or Benny Goodman or Les Brown and his Band of Renown for the dance music.

Finally, here we see the Crawford Angel Sculpture, donated by Bush to the town of Crawford, decked out in bridal veil & flowers in honor of Jenna's wedding. Since it's as close as the tourists could get to the ranch today, they were reduced to taking photos of a hunk of rusty iron. There's something so sad about this, it pretty much sums up the day, wouldn't you say?

Monday, May 5, 2008

High School Memories across the Racial Divide

I went to an experimental high school in the 60's. It was experimental in many ways. It was a brand new high school built to handle the first wave of baby boomers then beginning to clog up the educational system. In its first year of operation, I entered as a 9th grader. In an effort to build up some kind of school history, it was the first high school to allow 8th graders as well. So I managed to avoid the problem of being a freshman low-man/woman on the totem pole.

Our campus was college-oriented with much emphasis on critical thinking as the pathway to knowledge. Honor students were allowed to sky-out of any class at half-time. This idea was meant to encourage those students who didn't need intensive teacher time to pursue their own interests in the library or science labs (my two favorite haunts). Classes were 65-minutes long. At the half-time 5-minute break, heralded by muzak over the P.A., the sound of books snapping shut and many feet exiting the classrooms must have been depressing for those non-honor students who were stuck in class for another 30-minutes. The only class you weren't allowed to leave at half-time was Phys Ed (more about that below*).

The classrooms themselves were made up of modules of moveable walls that did not extend up as far as the ceiling. This would supposedly allow for future classroom size changes, but in reality all it did was allow sound to penetrate from classes on either side. For some reason, those other classes always seemed to be having MUCH more fun!

Being a brand-new school, we had brand-new teachers, too. Most of them were only recently credentialed, so this was their first job. We had the highest rate of "single" teachers, too ... at least they were single at the beginning ... by the time I graduated, many of the "singles" had married each other. These marriages usually happened during summer vacations, thus causing great confusion when your new fall curriculum schedule would arrive in the mail at the end of August naming who you thought was the baseball coach as your english lit teacher. These mailed schedules were also when you would find out that not enough other students had signed up for "history of poetry" or "russian revolution" for them to honor your first- or second-choice electives, thus ensuring you would be spending at least a semester studying "typing" or some such third-choice (actually typing turned out to be one of the more useful electives I ever fell into). One year none of my 3 choices were available, so I received a note telling me to call my counselor for an appointment. I ended up with a semester of "Mythology" which turned out to be one of my favorite classes.

Another barrier we broke in our new school was the color barrier. Being a brand-new school, we were also the first school in our city to be part of the mandatory bussing requirements of the 60's. About 1/3 of our school were black students bussed in from the west side of town where no high school, new or otherwise, had ever been built. Another 1/3 of the students came from a very wealthy area of town, the elite kids who for one reason or another were attending public school rather than private. The remaining 1/3 were students like me who happened to live near the new high school. This made for an interesting culture clash. I think I can safely say that most of these groups of students had never had much, if any, contact with the other groups. Throwing us all together in a new high school did not make us any more inclined to be friendly to each other, either.

The student parking lot was telling. Mercedes and BMW's were parked side-by-side with junker corvairs and dented ford fairlanes. Gas was cheap, so every once in awhile a big Dodge Charger or Pontiac GTO would peel out, burning rubber, which nicely covered all the cigarette fumes. Teachers usually went for sensible cars, like impalas or volkswagons, although Mr Fox drove a mustang and Madam Adam drove a pink T-Bird convertible. To the side, the big yellow busses would line up as each school day began and ended. I envied all of the students with cars and even the busriders, because I had to walk to school, pouring rain, winter wind or sweltering heat.

There was much racial tension. Race riots occurred many times as the tumultuous events of 60's America boiled over into flashpoints. The Watts riots were reflected at my high school. When Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, we had race riots for a week. A race riot meant that all the classrooms were locked down. When it came time to go to your next class, teachers would escort the students past throngs of "rioters". During these times, there were no black students actually IN class. They were holding meetings in the cafeteria or other common areas. At some point during these meetings, waves of black students would spill out and roam the hallways, driven by the heat of the moment or pent-up feelings of anger and despair. At these times, we would hear lots of yelling and banging around of lockers and other school property (remember our walls didn't go all the way up to the ceiling). I'm sure these outbursts would seem very tame by today's standards. While the property damage was pretty bad, the amount of actual personal violence was minimal. Since these were the years before metal-detectors or gun-carrying school police became commonplace (meaning we had no use for such things) you might wonder what we were all so fearful of.

It was fear of the unknown. Fear of the other. Fear of people who didn't look like you, talk like you, dress like you, or act like you. Fear was present in all three groups of students, across the racial divide, and between the have-mores and the have-littles, too. Everything and everyone in one of the other groups seemed so strange, and strangers can do you harm, right? So it seemed we were at an impasse in my first couple years of high school. No group really understood what the other groups were so upset about. Aaah, but then came the summer of love, 1967, and a new way of thinking was born, so powerful that it even penetrated my desert backwater of a town. Returning to school in the fall of that year we found the old groupings of students had suddenly morphed into anti-war protestors, long-haired hippies, afro-wearing black-power proponents, feminists, sports jockeys, popular society-types and/or egghead nerds. The original three groups had branched out to encompass a whole range of individual interests!

*Time out for sports: We were only required to take 2 yrs of high school P.E. Nothing could have made me happier since I was so small & unathletic. Even though I aced the written tests, P.E. invariably brought down my gradepoint average. Some semesters it almost cost me my honor student status. The only P.E. activities I was any good at were gymnastics and modern dance. Team sports were torture for me. I sure hope no gym teacher today is still allowing team captains to pick their own teams. It is completely humiliating to be among the last to be picked because nobody wants to be stuck with you on their team. This is where the black basketball players taught me a good lesson. Of course, the black girls would always pick their friends first, the same as any other team captain. And at the end of these miserable popularity contests there would always be me & few other klutzes to be forced on whatever team was unlucky enough to still need players. It was 50/50 that I would end up the only white girl on the black girls' team. At first, this terrified me. They were all so big! They were all so fast! They were all so fit & they played to win! I thought they would just run rough-shod over me, pound me into the ground & wipe the floor with my ass. But they didn't. They knew the value of teamwork & they worked hard to give me some unimportant play that wouldn't cost them many points (because they knew I would blow it). I can't tell you how good that made me feel. At some point, they discovered I knew all the rules of any game being played (as I said, the written tests were my ace-in-the-hole to getting a passing grade in P.E.). From then on, they would always say, ask D.K. if this is a foul or if this is allowed or whatnot. Not so when I was forced on the white girl's teams where I was benched & forgotten. One of my fondest P.E. memories was when Althea was a team captain. No one was bigger or faster than Althea. Everyone respected her (if they didn't, she would teach them respect, and they would have the bruises to show for it). I don't know if it was because she knew she would end up with me one way or another, but I'll never forget the times she actually picked me early on, not making me wait with the unwanted until the very end. Althea was also patient in giving me free-throw pointers. She didn't guffaw and make rude remarks when I airballed. She'd just throw back the ball and order me to TRY AGAIN. To this day, I think that was one of the most important lessons I ever learned in high school.

OK, back to post-1967/68: By this time, we'd started having black history assemblies (Bill Cosby spoke at one of them) wherein racial diversity was suddenly seen as something to be proud of, not something to fear. I think it was obvious that something wonderful was happening when the junior class president started dating a black girl. All of a sudden, even the cafeteria, last bastion of separatism, was breached. Black and white students began eating lunch with each other, finding humor in each other's stories and vowing we would NEVER let fear rule us again. We made it through my final high school year without a race riot. We even had a black cheerleader and a black prom queen & king that year. These were major achievements for the once disenfranchised because we ALL had to vote and that meant whites voted for blacks. At graduation, my "escort" down the aisle toward our diplomas was one of the black basketball varsity players. He was so tall & handsome, I think all 400 of our graduating class were jealous!

I bring all this up because in this election year we are suddenly seeing race front & center. It didn't start out that way, but ever since the Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries, we are hearing more and more that many white people simply won't vote for a black man. I never realized closet racism was so rampant. This makes me sad because I thought we were beyond that. Apparently not. Apparently some people think that a candidate's leadership qualifications, their ability to win votes, and their vision for America don't count if they aren't white. If that is where we are in America, 150-yrs after the civil war, 45-yrs after civil rights, then it is a very sad statement about us as a country. I'd like to remind people who find themselves feeling this way, that fear is the way we die. I'm sorry if laying this out so starkly is offensive.

There's a great speech in Spike Lee's "Malcom X" which I think applies to these retrograde racial attitudes that seem to pop up whenever we begin to feel pride in our progress or at least hope that the issue has receded in importance: "You’ve been had. You’ve been took. You’ve been hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Led astray," Malcolm (Denzel Washington) says in the movie (I can find no record that Malcolm X ever said this in real life, but no matter). These words have special meaning for me this election year when I feel it is so important to vote for change, to vote your conscience in spite of (maybe even because of) the diversions being thrown down our throats.

Thanks for allowing me to walk to down high school memory lane, and most especially for enduring my Phys Ed humiliations.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Two for Two

OK, so maybe you gotta be jewish or have a jewish spouse, but husband & I always enjoy Richard Lewis when he gets the final word on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Whether he's following Rachel Maddow or John Dean, he manages to capture the ongoing outrage in my house. The fact that he sputters and flies off on tangents is just indicative of how much there is to sputter about in his 8-minute time slot. Here are his last couple of appearances. Just go with the flow ...

Man on a Mission (why George Bush's "Mission Accomplished" almost wrecked his marriage, and why John McCain's "half-pope my-friends gesture" drives him to despair!):

Nobody does it Bitter (why he's a democrat vs a central-casting photo-op republican):

Yes, he's fixated on lap dancing, he had addiction problems, he gets so tangled up in his own psychoses, he can almost make you lose your mind .... but he still makes me laugh! I hope his jokes and angst help more people realize that McCain is a flag-wrapped war bomb who we must make sure doesn't inherit the vastly expanded unitary powers Bush & Cheney are handing to the next president.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Dancing Around The Flatline

I am in the middle of a full-blown eye allergy attack. Haven't suffered from allergies in years ... 25-yrs to be exact. That was when I finished up a 2-yr allergy desensitization program involving injecting myself with increasingly larger doses of the things I was allergic to so as to force my immune system to realize these were harmless things and not to overreact everytime a cat walked by or a ragweed blew around in the wind. This go-round, I am mainly having eye allergies ... you know the red, itchy, swollen, stayed-out-too-late-drinking-the-night-before eyes, except in this case, I've been fighting a constant battle for a couple weeks. The battle is to keep my hands away from my eyes. They are so swollen & itchy that without mind control, my hands simply cannot restrain themselves.

So with eyes like this, I need to stay indoors, but my time spent watching TV, reading or at the computer is very limited because my eyes are too irritated to focus. It hasn't stopped me from LISTENING to the news however. What I've been hearing has me thinking:

A couple days ago, it was announced that our GDP growth ("the broadest measure of US economic health") for Jan-Mar 2008 was .6% (that's 6/10ths of 1%). Well, that certainly lets Bush off the hook, doesn't it? I mean, now he can officially say we are NOT in a recession! Since there are only three more quarters left in this year, and since a recession is defined as two CONSECUTIVE quarters of negative GDP, I imagine he is breathing a big sigh of relief that he won't be handing an official recession over to the next president.

Nevermind that most other economic factors indicate otherwise: job loss (240,000 jobs lost during Jan-Mar 2008), the ongoing & getting worse home mortgage crisis, inflation (which is offically being estimated at 4% this year, but which we all know is far far higher than that), increased costs of gas, food, everything! Are we looking at an economic FLATLINE, which is the final medical reading before pronouncing the patient's death?

And I have to say, knowing how much money the big war profiteers (oil corps, Halliburton, Blackwater, etc/etc) are making now, OBSCENE amounts of profits really .... just think how bad ALL other economic sectors must be doing for the OVERALL GDP to be an anemic .6% !

So, what does The Fed do in reaction to this news? They LOWER interest rates this week, for the 7th time since last Sept, making the Fed interest rate now 2.00%! Do these guys know what they are doing?

Lower interest rates will cheapen up money, encouraging people and businesses to borrow and spend more, which will in turn drive inflation up even more. Rate cuts put pressure on the US dollar, which in turn raises oil prices. In fact, oil prices are up 50% since last July when The Fed first started making noises about embarking on a prolonged rate cut policy. It sure looks like they are stoking inflation and oil prices just to keep technically saying we are NOT in a recession.

Today, I heard there were another 20,000 jobs officially "lost" in April. But we're supposed to feel good because they had originally projected 75,000 jobs would be lost in April. A total of 260,000 jobs have been lost since January 1, 2008. The CNN analyst reporting this tidbit actually laughed when asked if this portends a rebound!

They didn't even mention what the real economic fall-out is from job loss. Up and down the line, people will be hurting, real people who can no longer afford things like rent, health care and food. And thanks to Bush, the social service network has been cut back so severely, where will these people turn for help to survive? Will the beneficiaries of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy be willing to step up to the plate to help rebuild our social network? Like the CNN analyst, I am laughing at that idea!

I used to have a long standing belief that the wealthy class realized it was in their best interests to ensure a vibrant middle class. Without the middle class, there is nothing standing between them and the poor. I was sure they realized that masses of very poor people are unlikely to play by their rules. I wonder if they've heard of the latest phenomenon known as "home foreclosure rage"? This involves people who have become violent as they are foreclosed out of their homes. They trash everything in the home on their way out, ripping out cabinets, countertops, plumbing & light fixtures, doors and carpets. They use sledgehammers to destroy tile floors & punch big holes in the walls & ceilings. Why not, they figure? They are losing everything they worked for, they will realize no gain from the forced bank sale of their home, they are contemplating bankruptcy. Wealthy people need to take a clue from this. People who are fed up and have nothing to lose, will not refrain from property and maybe even personal violence. Mere anarchy is always about 3 night's sleep and/or 6 meals away!

Of course, the Dow seems to love all this since it finally burst through the 13,000 ceiling this week. Stoking inflation keeps the stock market rallying! After hearing this news, I was not surprised when the next TV commercial break featured LUNESTA "for a good night's sleep". Does anyone remember SOMA? Jeez, we need to be staying awake, not sleeping through this!


I believe that finishes my allergic rant to economic news. I would appreciate any ideas anyone has to help alleviate my itchy red swollen eyes. Right now, I'm taking anti-histamines & using natural tear eyedrops, cool compresses & just waiting for the allergy season to let up, hoping it was just something odd about this year. I can't use steroid meds, even nasal sprays. I really want to avoid having to go through the pain & expense of a desensitization program again. Last time I tested positive for so many thousands of allergens, the allergy clinic said there was virtually nothing I WASN'T allergic to!