No, no, I'm not going to stop blogging. I like blogging. But I've moved Blue Wren over to WordPress, so I humbly as you to click over to me there. I made the move because I wanted a little more flexibility regarding the look of the blog, using my own photos for the header, etc. I hope you'll put my new address, www.bluwren.wordpress.com in your favorites and visit soon.
23 August 2009
18 August 2009
16 August 2009
13 August 2009
Right now one of the big “issues” surrounding health insurance reform is that by putting a mandate for coverage of “end-of-life counseling” costs into the bill, we’ll be condemning the sick, the disabled, the injured and the elderly to euthanasia.
This is ridiculous.
I recently had that counseling myself. I had a routine quarterly appointment with my VA rheumatologist a few weeks ago. During the pre-appointment check-up (weight, temperature, blood pressure, “how are you feeling today?” questions), the nurse surprised me by asking, “Have you thought about doing an advance health care directive?”
Caught off guard, I stammered that I had, indeed, thought of it, but hadn’t followed through.
So she explained exactly what it was and went on, saying gently that while this sort of thing is uncomfortable to think about when we’re relatively young and healthy, we never really know what tomorrow might bring. By filling out an AHCD, the nurse explained, I can make it clear how I wish my family and doctors to care for me should I ever become so severely ill or injured that I’m unable to make that decision myself.
This is both sane and sensible. I wouldn’t want to be a living vegetable, kept alive indefinitely by machines, running up horrendous, impossible hospital and doctor bills that would certainly bankrupt and impoverish my family. What a horror! I don’t know anyone who would want that, personally, but I realize that there are some people who feel that as long as there’s life, there’s hope for recovery. I respect their feelings, even if I don’t agree.
The thing is, by having an advance health care directive available, people who do want heroic measures taken to keep them alive can make that perfectly clear, in writing, in the directive. And it’s a binding document.
The AHCD takes that horrible decision out of the hands of my grieving family members and makes it my decision, no matter what.
The VA nurse at my appointment was doing exactly the “end-of-life counseling” that would be covered by every health care insurance plan if the bill passes. All it means is that rather than having to pay for that counseling, the individual would get it for no cost. I don’t know about you, but I think arguing against free counseling is pretty silly.
The VA nurse didn’t force me to do anything. She simply informed me of the potential importance of such a directive, filled out voluntarily by myself. She told me how to get the paperwork through the VA should I wish to go ahead. She also explained that I could change that directive at any time after it was made. I’d simply submit a new one if I changed my mind regarding what sort of care I wanted at the end of my life.
And that was it. Sure, it was a surprise to find myself talking about my inevitable death in such a routine way. None of us really wants to think about that. But I left that appointment knowing more than I had before I walked in. I left with something to think about. And I’ve decided that I will, indeed, fill out that paperwork and take the simple steps necessary to make it legal and binding. Instead of frightening me, the idea gives me a sense of peace, knowing that when the time comes for me to die, I’ll die. That event will be hard enough on my family without bankrupting them by dragging it out indefinitely.
Want to learn more? Click on this link for a good explanation of what an advance health care directive is.
Update: Well, so much for having your health care provider cover "end-of-life counseling."
"... it appears, according to the Wall Street Journal, that the Senate Finance Committee will not be including a provision to reimburse Medicare doctors who provide end-of-life counseling to dying patients in its bill."
Hooray, health care insurance reform opponents. Your malign misinformation and propaganda campaign won one for the Gipper.
10 August 2009
After zipping down-mountain to take my daughter’s fiancé to the doctor following his shoulder surgery, we stopped at Wal-Mart for a prescription. As we were leaving, we passed an elderly woman with a little dog.
“What a cute dog,” I said.
“I walk him a mile every day,” she beamed. “And I just turned 90!”
“Yes!” she laughed. “I stay real busy. That’s how I do it.”
“Well, happy birthday!” I said. “That’s wonderful!”
A second elderly lady joined us. “I just turned 90, too,”she grinned. They were obviously friends.
“Happy birthday to you, too!”
Now that’s inspiring.
06 August 2009
Well, they don't. Proponents of health care insurance reform want your insurance to cover end-of-life counseling. Think "living will." It's so you can decide what you want done if you're terminally ill. Pull the plug, or don't pull the plug? It's up to you.
In addition, the ugliness we've been seeing at town hall meetings about health insurance reform isn't a "grassroots" movement. It's an orchestrated attempt, by big corporations and the Republican party, to keep Americans like you and I uninformed, terrified, and angry. They're manipulating us into acting against our own best interests, gang.
Here -- watch Rachel. She's just about the only one on TV these days telling the truth.
02 August 2009
House Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) challenges House Republicans to put up or shut up regarding government run health care, which they vehemently oppose, by introducing legislation to repeal Medicare, here and now:
"In the end, despite Wiener’s “double-dare”, all the Republicans voted no (how often do you see a unanimous “no” vote?), thus proving on the 44th anniversary of the signing of the Medicare Act that nobody’s going to mess with Medicare anytime soon."
01 August 2009
Health care reform, with a single payer system like that in Great Britain and Canada – or at least, a public option for health care that’s affordable for all Americans regardless of income – is vital.
Fifty million Americans are without medical insurance in this country. Many millions more are a mere paycheck or layoff away from losing their health insurance. Individual insurance is so inordinately expensive that many people simply can’t afford to buy it. Many of those who can are denied because of pre-existing conditions.
This really has got to change.
As some of you already know, I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 28 years old. For almost 15 years I suffered frequent, painful flare-ups of the disease that often rendered me temporarily disabled. One day it would be my hands; the next an ankle; the one after that a hip. I even had it in my jaw. Each flare lasted anywhere from 24 hours to five days. Sometimes there would be a brief reprieve between flares; more often there was no reprieve at all.
For a great portion of that time I was under the care of an internal medicine doctor – the nearest rheumatologist was a four-hour drive away. We tried just about everything available to the Army medical system at the time – NSAIDs, injected gold, malarial drugs, aspirin and Tylenol. None of them had any effect at all on the RA, though a lot of them came with bad side-effects. To ease the pain when the flares were unbearable, I was given opiate painkillers in limited amounts. I was even hospitalized once. Eventually, no longer believing that modern medicine could do anything to help me, and fearful of adverse side-effects, I stopped taking any RA drugs – except the opiate painkillers, which were the only ones that worked even a little. They had no effect on the disease, but at least they muffled the pain.
Eventually the RA flares became less frequent. Then they stopped. I was normal again. I could walk without limping and gimping. I could use my arms freely, twist caps off jars and open doors without first steeling myself against the inevitable pain. And oh, I was glad. The RA was in “remission.” I went backpacking, fishing and camping. I hiked. I lived without wondering each morning when I got up which of my joints would plague me that day. And after a while, I started forgetting how it had been.
But rheumatoid arthritis is incurable. For its own mysterious reasons, it sometimes does go into remission, often for many years. It’s a disease of the autoimmune system – the body actually turns against itself, attacking the synovial fluid between the joints and causing inflammation and pain. And it attacks different individuals in different ways. One person might have it for years and years with only minor pain and little or no disability. Another will contract it and be wheelchair-bound, unable to walk, within a couple of years. Some people end up with twisted, gnarled wrists, hands and fingers. RA can also attack the body’s internal organs, like the lungs, the heart, or the vascular system. It can cause blindness.
I lived flare-free for almost ten more years. Then, in 2007, my hands started flaring again.
I was unemployed. I couldn’t afford individual health insurance. Fortunately, I’m a veteran, and although I had to wait nearly a year before I was destitute enough to qualify, I was able to get medical care through the Veterans Administration.
Today I’m being treated for RA by a VA rheumatologist. I’m back on RA meds. I’ve been lucky so far – while my hands ache and twinge nearly every day, they’ve not got so bad I couldn’t use them. Not yet. And so far, beyond a few, thankfully transient twinges here and there, no other joints have been affected.
There are new drugs available now that weren’t the first time I went through a period of “active” RA. The ones I’m taking can slow the progression of the disease, which at least buys me some time. But there is still no cure. It means that I’ll be taking these drugs under the care of rheumatologist for the rest of my life. In time I may, even with the drugs, become permanently disabled because of it.
I have a dear friend who’s been very ill for some years now, plagued by a cascading series of serious ailments, from diabetes to uterine cancer. She’s survived, but she’s bed-bound, no longer able to walk. Her days are spent fighting over the phone with employees of the health insurance company that continues to cover her only reluctantly and which frequently denies care ordered by her doctors. She’s constantly having to appeal the insurance company’s decisions; the appeals take weeks and months, and her condition worsens before resolution can be achieved. She lives in mortal fear of being dropped from their insurance roles – and she is covered by her husband’s medical insurance. He’s a doctor.
In today’s society, with so many pre-existing conditions, my friend could never find new insurance, even for the highest of premiums. Her care has depleted their life savings already; they couldn’t afford individual care for her now, anyway.
And here’s the worst of it. If her insurance company drops her, without affordable care she’ll probably die within a year.
We need to reform health care in this country. Not just for me and my friend, but for the millions of Americans who face potential devastation or catastrophe simply because they fall ill. Please write or call your Congressperson and tell them that Americans must have a public option for health care. That without it, we condemn millions of our fellow citizens to bankruptcy, poverty, untreated illness and even death.
It’s that important.
Note: Jonathan Alter of Newsweek asks "What's Not to Like?" about America's health care status quo. Do read.
I didn’t watch the video, but instead read the transcript, which is conveniently placed directly below the video. And as I read, my blood began to boil.
Moyers was interviewing Wendell Potter, who until he retired recently, was the head of corporate communications for CIGNA, the gigantic health care insurer. Potter, during the course of the interview, proceeded to blow the top off what’s behind the current opposition to health care reform in both American political parties.
We all know that health insurance companies are in the business for profit. What we may not know (or perhaps would rather not believe) is that they’re in the business for profit even if it means bankrupting us with catastrophic health care bills, denying us coverage for vital treatments and care, or even dropping us and allowing us to die. Their bottom line is profit. If you or I get too sick, despite faithfully paying premiums year after year, then to hell with us. Will we die without treatment? Who cares? That’s our problem if we start costing our health insurance provider more than they want to pay. If we start cutting into their profit margin, we’re dead weight.
This didn’t come as huge surprise to me. What did was Potter’s candor. Apparently he’s afraid of going to hell if he continues to sit by, complicit, while the health insurance company he worked for and all the others profit from American illnesses and death. Potter, on a whim, visited a health care expo in Wise, Virginia. There he saw hundreds of uninsured Americans lined up to see doctors who’d volunteered their time and expertise in an attempt to bring some sort of health care to those who couldn’t afford it. Potter was stunned. He went back to his job shaken and unsure about what he and his company were doing to those who relied on them for, in many cases, their very lives.
“And it was hard to just figure out. How do I step away from this? What do I do? And this was one of those things that made me decide, "Okay, I can't do this. I can't keep-- I can't." One of the books I read as I was trying to make up my mind here was President Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage."
And in the forward, Robert Kennedy said that one of the president's, one of his favorite quotes was a Dante quote that, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain a neutrality." And when I read that, I said, "Oh, jeez, I-- you know. I'm headed for that hottest place in hell, unless I say something."
Mr. Potter finally got a clue. He testified before Congress in support of a public option that will allow all Americans to get quality health care, regardless of income or health, and in support of health care reform.
Most of us know of someone who’s had medical procedures or medications denied because their health care provider refuses to pay for it, even with a co-pay. Some of us know people who've had their provider drop them entirely. And some of us know people who cannot get health care insurance at all –or who face huge monthly premiums that are beyond their means – because they’re already sick. It would cost the provider way too much to help them, improve their quality of life or even save their lives.
This is a horror.
It is vital that health care reform includes, at the very least, a public option. Please watch the Moyers video or read the transcript. Then call or write your representatives in Congress and tell them to make fair, affordable, quality health care available to all Americans, not just to those who can afford to feed the profits of the health care industry while praying that they never, ever get really sick.
22 July 2009
Sun’s down. Stars prickle the blueblack sky. There is no city light here to dim the view of sparkling red Mars, low on the horizon. The air is soft, a caress of fleeting coolness in harsh mid-summer. A cricket chirrups in chorus with the tree frogs. The robins have gone to sleep in spite of the crazy hilarity of one or 12 coyotes downhill, a cacophony of laughter rippling the still night air like whale songs in deep water. The fan whirls while the dog sighs, sleepy at the foot of the bed. The cat rumbles, snug against my hip.
21 July 2009
I have three big bags full of clothes. I’m donating them to the local hospice thrift store; I need the closet space. Some of the clothes are pretty old. Some are almost new. They’re my “fat clothes.”
They’re all up to four sizes too big for me now. Today I wear the size I wore about 20 years ago.
This is a big step for me. I’ve never banished my “fat clothes” before; I was afraid I’d need them again. But I know I won’t. I’ve learned.
Those stuffed bags represent decades of blumphy discomfort. They no longer weigh me down.
18 July 2009
This is the beginning of an unfinished story I wrote a couple of years ago. I'd love to hear what you think.
I was born on the reservation in Montana on October 25, 1969. My father, Terrell Gray Wolf, was 17. My mother, Rosa Spotted Owl, was 15. They were just dumb kids and they never got married. Terrell died when I was five months old. He got beat up behind a bar by a bunch of drunken Anglos. He probably deserved it, he was always getting too drunk and picking fights. He had a bad temper. That’s what my uncle Henry Spotted Owl says. When I was three Rosa got tired of living so she drank some Drano. There were no more women in the family to take me so Spotted Owl and his woman Jewel Limpy took me.
I found two little stones, a black one and white one. There was also a wolf tooth. This made me happy because I was named for the wolf. There was also a handful of cracked corn and a little, blackish, dry, wrinkled disk. It was about as big as my thumbnail. I knew what it was, even though I’d never seen it with my own eyes before. It was peyote. I remembered what Spotted Owl said. When I found the right place I should stop and wait there. So I stayed. I softened the corn in my mouth until I could chew it, and then I chewed the peyote button. It tasted terrible, but I knew it was right that it did. I just kept it in my mouth and chewed until I could swallow it.
The tree I was sitting under was nice. The shade felt blue. I slept a little because my legs got too heavy to walk more.
I stood up and walked a while but then I got dizzy so I stopped and just sat down. It was a good camas place. There was lots of tall grass. I thought maybe I would die and be like Rosa, except I wouldn’t have holes in me, so I waited. I wondered if I would be a human spirit or an animal spirit. I hoped I would be a wolf, like my name. I wasn’t afraid though.
It took me a while to find all the brown fuzz. Some of it was very deep inside her. But I didn’t have anything else to do. I was too dizzy to walk anymore. I was afraid the wind would blow me away, but if I sat on the ground like a stone it couldn’t. So after a while the brown fuzz was all gone. Ha’hahn’e said she felt better. I was glad for her, but I was very tired then so I went to sleep.
17 July 2009
16 July 2009
Dusk gathers, the shadows beneath the great trees deepening. The earth is dry and spongy from the fir and pine needles slowly, slowly dissolving into the soil but if he steps just so, even in his thick-soled hiking shoes, he makes no sound. The air is sharp and chilly; a light breeze lifts his dark hair and caresses his ears.
15 July 2009
Summertime and peppermint tea. They go hand-in-hand, like winter and gloves or autumn and orange leaves. Spring and changeable weather. You get my drift.
My reasons for loving peppermint tea? Three:
1. Gloriously refreshing on hot days, made strong and mixed with lots of ice.
2. Blessedly therapeutic boiled, steeped, set on a kitchen table and inhaled while tenting a towel over your head. Clears blocked sinuses in minutes.
3. A tea brewed from peppermint leaves is so whimsical and magic, it’s hard to believe it exists. It’s a faerie drink.
14 July 2009
Later, on the train, Tom took his laptop out of his briefcase and, sitting with it on his knees, started typing.
“I met the most intriguing young woman today,” he wrote in the journal space under the day’s date. “Her name is Emma. She works in a book shop in the Canal Road. She was wearing black from head to toe, a black clip in her hair, jet chips in her ears, a slim black dress and black Mary Jane-type shoes. Only her skin, rose-tinged porcelain, and her lips, pink as dawn, provided contrast.
“I think she is quite beautiful.”
13 July 2009
It had been a fishing trip, a fact-finding mission. Tom had known the man for years, and he was often a very good source of information, moving as he did through the shadowy world of arms buyers and sellers. A devout Muslim, he had no more moral problem with his work than did the Christians from whom he often bought his inventory. What Mohammed did was perfectly legal; in fact, he’d purchased this particular high-powered automatic rifle from the Americans.
12 July 2009
Church bells sounded through the heavy sea-fog, flat and fey, everywhere but nowhere in the small German city on the sea. The bells competed with lonely foghorns. Seagulls mewed. In summer, when the sun bathed the cobbled streets and stone buildings in clean yellow light, the church bells sounded bright and reverent, a soundtrack for red geranium petals drifting to the sidewalks. But when the wind blew topsy-turvy the Sunday bells wavered and rippled, and in heavy rain the peals sounded underwater, as if they were calling Neptune and his mer-people to worship.
11 July 2009
Mr. Wren and I bought three cords of firewood this week. We had it delivered – read “dumped on the driveway” – and then stacked, all ready to go. We won’t need it for three or four months, but there’s a quiet security to knowing our
winter’s warmth is already paid for and waiting. Now we’ll have the chimney sweep out with her odd, spiky brushes and traditional black clothes. She brings us good luck: no chimney fires in bitter February.
10 July 2009
It was the strangest summer she’d ever spent in sweltering-hot Northern California. Nearly every day in June was gunship gray and cool, but there was no rain. The daytime house looked winterish, flat and shadowy inside. Flowers bloomed without benefit of sunshine. Tomato plants grew. Haunting wind-chimes dingled in the breeze. Twice, thunder ba-boomed. Once, hail rattatatatted for thirty seconds.
09 July 2009
OK. I note that Blue Girl is doing the 100-word, 50-day challenge again. As you may have noticed, I have not written anything for quite a long time. Why? My muse has deserted me. For the last couple of months I’ve been unable to think of anything I care enough to write about. Or maybe I haven’t been able to think of anything to write about that I want to share.
Anyway, I think I’m back. I’m going to follow in the inspirational BG’s footsteps and make myself write 100 words every day for 50 days.
25 June 2009
19 May 2009
Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura calls torture torture on The View:
I'm thankful for people like Ventura for having the guts to tell the truth on national TV. I actually clapped.
22 April 2009
Rep. Barton (R-Texas) seems to think he stumped Energy Secretary Steven Chu with this tricky question:
Incredible. People like Barton are making decisions about our lives in the House of Representatives. No wonder this country is in such deep trouble.
Hat-tip to TPM.
21 April 2009
Daughter and I went out yesterday to buy a new wireless router, a chore neither of us was really looking forward to. But once we'd done our duty, it was lunchtime. We decided to stroll Placerville's Main Street and, once we found a restaurant that was actually open (many businesses in Placerville seem to think no one wants food or anything else on Mondays, for some reason) we'd have some lunch.
We didn't stroll long before we discovered a new restaurant in an old location. Mexican food! We love Mexican food. So in we went.
The meal was fabulous. Much better than we expected, actually. And once we'd eaten, the very nice waitress suggested that we might like dessert, and proceded to reel off the dessert menu for the day. The first choice was "chocolate tower cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla bean ice cream."
For some reason, daughter and I could conjure up no willpower. We decided we'd share a single order of the cake and ice cream, expecting that the portions of both goodies would be rather small. Heh. Well, to the right you can see what the grinning waitress brought to our table a few minutes later.
That's the largest serving of cake -- meant for one person -- that I've ever seen. We laughed and laughed. And then we dug in.
It's been nearly 24 hours since that meal and I haven't gotten hungry yet. This is fortunate, since the calories and sugar I consumed yesterday equal about what I'd eat in a week.
I figure I'll eat again on ... Saturday.
13 April 2009
Dear President Obama:
First, I want to make it clear that I voted for you in November. I did so in part because you inspired me to have hope for America's future. I liked the fact that you'd worked for the disenfranchised as a community organizer in your early career. I liked that you'd been a professor of Constitutional law. You'd proven yourself a good representative of the people in the Illinois state legislature and as a junior senator for Illinois in the U.S. Congress. The story of your life was inspiring, as well. As I listened to you speak during your campaign, paying attention to what you were saying, over time I became convinced that you were sincere, inordinately intelligent and honest – a rare attribute in a politician.
The other reason I voted for you was because you promised change. This was very important to me after eight years of watching helplessly as the Bush administration set about destroying the very things America stands for: democracy, freedom, civil rights, equality and justice. The rule of law. A country run by the People and for the People.
As someone who served in the armed forces and later, as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense in Europe, I was proud of America's reputation overseas. I tried to be a good "ambassador" while I lived there. And so it was terrible to watch President Bush and his henchmen methodically destroy America's reputation both at home and abroad. He changed our system of taxation so that the rich got richer on the backs of the rest of us. All those things America stood for were under attack by our own President. I was apalled.
And I was angry. President Bush had started two wars. The first, in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban, was arguably just. The second, against Iraq, absolutely was not. Our soldiers were dying for no good reason. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were dying because of our President's ego. As a nation, we were spending billions to prosecute a war that was both unnecessary and wrong. President Bush turned America into a nation that tortured her prisoners, held them in indefinite detention and refused them the right of a fair trial. He spied on the people of his own country without the right to do so and without apology. And it went on and on and on.
You promised to make it all right.
Since your inauguration you've worked hard to change and repair many of the things the Bush administration wrecked. Guantanamo is being closed down. You've set a timetable for the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. You've put some good people into important government positions so that they, too, can start the long task of repairing the damage that was done by the previous administration. You've stood up for workers and reversed the ban on stem cell research. You've ordered Bush's CIA "black sites" all over the world dismantled, once and for all. You've made it clear that torture will no longer be used by this country. You've proven your mettle as America's most powerful representative and diplomat during your recent travels across Europe, going a long way toward restoring respect for America and our reputation abroad.
And you've worked as quickly as possible to try to save our economy, which President Bush and his cronies left teetering on the edge of the abyss after enriching themselves, with our money, to the point of obscenity. Time will tell whether your solutions worked or not, but I feel confident that you made your decisions in good faith and with the wellbeing of the people of the United States foremost in your mind. I have hope.
For all these things: Thank you.
Mr. President, you ran for office on the slogan, "Change you can believe in." But recently you've made some decisions which disturb, disappoint, and concern me. I always knew that I wouldn't agree with everything you did – that's impossible and this is a democracy. But these decisions are not consistent with your campaign slogan or the promises you made to us.
I never thought you'd hide, as George W. Bush did, behind the excuse of "state secrets" in the defense of "national security" and continue to defy and break the laws of the land and deny us our civil and constitutional rights without offering a truthful and valid explanation.
So once again, I'm appalled. The laws and constitutional civil rights of Americans apply equally to all of us, regardless of party, gender, skin color or religious affiliation or lack thereof. I'd be a hypocrite if I wasn't upset and angry with you and your administration regarding these decisions. Here's why:
You've decided to maintain the prison at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan, continuing to refuse the detainees there access to a fair trial and the justice that they, as human beings, deserve. Many of them have been held without charges for six years or more, living in limbo, some of them treated like animals.
The only reason? "State secrets." "National security." This is wrong, sir, and you know it.
You've decided to continue wiretapping all Americans without a warrant. I say "all Americans" because Bush's reassurance that he was only wiretapping our overseas communications to the Middle East was a bald-faced lie, as you well know. This is, simply, spying on your own people for your own reasons, just or unjust. We don't know which because once again, the only reasons for your actions we're given are "national security" and "state secrets."
President Obama, wiretapping our communications – listening in – spying – without a lawful warrant to do so is against the law, it's unconstitutional and it violates the civil rights of all Americans. You were a professor of Constitutional law. You know the Fourth Amendment intimately, sir. And yet … you continue its flagrant violation. Why? Why would you thumb your nose at our Constitution just like your predecessor did? This is an ominous development.
Finally, your administration is holding back documents which could, if they were released, indict members of the Bush administration as war criminals. Why would you do this? We've been offered no explanation at all, so far. Could it be that these documents might also incriminate people you've kept in your own administration? If so, buck up, sir. It's crucial that the people who defied the laws of the United States of America and the Geneva Conventions be brought to justice. It's crucial to our democracy and to our respect, standing and credibility in the world at large. And you know this, too.
It is my hope that you are maintaining these atrocities – because that's what they are, sir – only until you know the full scope of the damage that has been done by the criminal Bush administration and have worked out a viable way to stop them once and for all. I hope that you really are the good man I and millions of other Americans believed in strongly enough to vote for as our President. I hope you'll stop hiding behind the craven excuse of "state secrets" and "national security."
I hope you're a better man – and President – than that. We're depending on you to do the right thing, the lawful thing. President Obama, our democracy stands in the balance.
11 April 2009
If the population of the world was represented by a village inhabited by 100 people, what would it be like? How many would be black, or white? How many Christian or Muslim, or Hindu? How many would eat well and how many would go hungry? How many would know how to read? Have computers? Internet access?
Visit The Miniature Earth and find out. You'll be surprised.
10 April 2009
This month marks Blue Wren's third blogoversary. My very first post was on April 5th, 2006, actually, so I missed the Big Day, but I've always had a terrible time remembering birthdays, anniversaries and the like so I'll give myself a pass.
Since then, I've posted 535 times and Blue Wren has collected 44,119 "hits." I know – not many when compared to blogs like Daily Kos, Eschaton, and Firedoglake, but I'm happy. I have a few regular readers who comment occasionally. Who needs more? I consider each of you friends.
07 April 2009
Forgive me, but I discover I have a deep sentimental streak running through my being. After awakening in a foul mood this morning (for no particular reason), I found the video below. And then I was laughing and crying at the same time. I simply find this sort of thing ... wonderful:
Nothing has changed, but my day is looking a lot brighter.
h/t: The usual. Thanks, Andrew.
04 April 2009
When I was a young adult and my idealism less battered by experience and disappointment, I believed that problems could always be solved without resorting to violence. I wish it could be so, but I no longer believe that as a species we'll ever really accomplish it. There will always be one person in the group who won't go along. Peace -- real peace -- doesn't seem to be part of our internal make-up.
And yet ... and yet ...
Maybe it's just a matter of changing weapons. And then sharing a drink.
Tipping my hat to Sully, again. He always finds the best videos.
02 April 2009
So I was sitting here just minding my own beeswax yesterday when the strangest feeling came over me. A thought-voice, not my own, was whispering in my head, as if there was someone else in there besides me.
Unlike our former President, I'm not given to hearing voices in my head, so this seemed rather unusual.
The voice was distant, yet close. Right there. I couldn't quite make out what it was saying. I closed my eyes, thinking that maybe if I wasn't perusing Facebook and trying to think of witty things to say, I might hear it better.
It was a male voice. "Bagged," he whispered.
Bagged? What in the world? What was bagged? Some groceries? A rabbit? A thief? None of these things had any immediate relevance in my life at the moment, though the word did remind me that I needed to run to the store. I didn't, but today I have to. I'm out of soy creamer for my coffee. That's serious.
I put my hands over my ears to block out the birdsong coming in the window. Little feathery suckers are really loud right now, it being Spring and all. Especially that little wren. I listened harder to the Voice.
"Not bagged," he said. I think I heard a little chuckle, but I'm not sure. "I said wagged."
Right. Wagged. "Wagged what?" I asked out loud, also whispering because I wouldn't want my future son-in-law to hear me talking to people who aren't there. Might make him nervous.
"No! Not wagged!" There was a disembodied sigh. "Tagged! I said tagged!"
"Like, tag, you're it?" I inquired, remembering long, warm, giggly summer evenings playing tag with the neighbor kids on the front lawn, dodging mosquitoes and turning my feet and ankles green with grass stains. I smiled. This could be fun, but I wasn't quite sure how one played tag with a voice in one's head.
"Well, sorta like that," the voice said, going all velvety and persuasive. "I know - go visit the Sprawling Ramshackle Compound. Everything will be clear."
He was gone. I was alone in my mind again and oddly relieved. It's a strange feeling to have someone else talking in there after a lifetime of total mental alone-ness. I took my hands off my ears, opened my eyes and, oddly compelled, clicked on Sprawling Ramshackle Compound in my blogroll.
He was right. It was all clear by the time I'd read the post he'd left at the top of the page. What a relief that the "voice" was that of Bubs, one of the Chicago area's finest, a handsome, friendly family man with a penchant for cocktails, mannequin heads and the weird crime juxtaposition between Germany and Florida. He also has an irrational fear of clowns and alligators, but I won't hold that against him. While I've never heard of alligators stalking the streets of suburban Chicago, I'd be afraid of both if they showed up unexpectedly around here, too. Live and learn! As Bubs says, you can never be too careful!
Now, it seems that Bubs, along with having a twisted sense of humor, has been practicing up on his telepathy skills. I'm here to tell you he's getting pretty good at them, and I'd advise any crooks out there to watch out should they choose the Chicago area in which to commit crimes. Bubs will know. Believe me.
Anyway, what Bubs meant by "tagged" was that he'd tagged six of his blog buddies to complete a meme he'd been tagged with recently himself. He was being dutiful and passing it along, as per The Rules, but decided to test his telepathic powers instead of doing the tagging in the usual way. It's hard to say if he really meant for me to be one of his six 'taggees," but maybe telepathy isn't all that easy to control, after all. His thoughts could have leaked out and infected people at random, all over the country.
For all I know, there may be some confused old lady in Florida who can't figure out what all that "tagging" was that she started thinking about, right after her 4:30 p.m. supper at the hofbrau with her fellow retirees.
"Really, Joseph! You want to play what? You're in a wheelchair!"
Anyway, since I'm still feeling strangely compelled, I'll complete the meme as Bubs ordered. Here it is – but first
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
Well, Bubs certainly followed The Rules, even No. 6, even though he chose to do so in a typical Bubs-sort-of-way. Now I warn you, I'm pretty boring in real life (other than being virtually acquainted with a telepathic, tiki-hut-nut cop), but here goes:
1. I'm a natural blonde, but my hair is falling out, brushload by brushload. It's because of the wicked arthritis drugs I'm taking. My hair isn't falling out in patches but in strands all over my head, slowly, so my hair, which was once luxuriously thick is now distressingly thin. Given the choice between gnarled, useless hands before I'm 55 or wearing quirky, interesting hats for the rest of my life, I'll take the latter. Maybe Bubs will send me one of his old policeman hats. Or maybe I'll pretend to be Sinead O'Connor before she found religion. After all, bald is beautiful!
2. Speaking of Irish people, I hope to go to Ireland someday and spend a year there, at least. I'd like to see the Republic too, but I really want to go to Belfast in Northern Ireland so I can learn first-hand about the Troubles. See, I'm trying to write a novel about the place and its people but it's hard to do having never been closer to Ireland than Massachusetts for a summer vacation with my grandparents. Also, I have no money and the world's economy is falling apart. But I can dream, can't I?
3. One of my favorite poets is Rainer Maria Rilke. This poem, in particular, stopped me cold one day a long time ago. I first read it in a different, more lyrical and less rhymy translation, but it's still beautiful, even translated this way:
I live my life in widening gyres
which spread over earth and sky.
I may not ever complete the last one,
but that is what I will try.
I circle around God's primordial tower,
and I circle ten thousand years long;
And I still don't know if I'm a falcon,
a storm, or an unfinished song.
Those last two sentences got to me. I burst into tears.
4. I wish I could meet Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in Buckingham Palace like President Obama and the First Lady did yesterday. I was so envious! Of course, I'd have to buy new clothes and I hate shopping, so maybe it's better that I don't try for an audience with Her Majesty anytime soon.
5. I've nearly kicked a lifelong addiction to coffee. I know, that doesn't mean much to you, but it does to me. I still love the stuff, but I can't take the caffeine anymore. I'm down to four cups a day. I savor each one, slowly.
6. I absolutely love maps and I have no trouble at all reading them. When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do on rainy days was peruse the gigantic Atlas that came with the set of Encyclopedia Brittanicas my Dad bought when I was a baby. I'd open it on the floor in the living room and lose myself in it. That Atlas awakened my wanderlust before I even knew what a wanderlust was and made me want to travel all over the world. I've traveled some of it, but not all, so I've still got work to do.
And that's it. Like Bubs, I don't really want to tag anyone and make them feel they have to complete this meme, but I'll try exercising my telepathic powers to contact those of you I'd like to know more about.
There. You know who you are. Start writing.
01 April 2009
Is marijuana part of the solution to our problems?
Our economy is in the dumpster. Maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is long and treacherous and a lot more people are going to lose their livelihoods, their retirements, and their homes before it's all over. And that's just in America.
Once it is over, our world is going to look a lot different. I don't think it will ever again be like it was a year ago, or even six months ago. The era of mindless consumerism and consumption is dying fast.
Now, I don't think that's all bad. As a nation we were on a ruinous road anyway. The silver lining to this economic disaster we're facing may be that we'll somehow save ourselves and the rest of the planet from annihilation courtesy of global warming or nuclear war over oil. That doesn't make the challenges we face easier or less painful, but it does offer a little hope in the middle of the maelstrom.
During the White House's Electronic Town Meeting the other day, a question regarding the legalization of marijuana and the possible economic benefits to be had from its sale and taxation, and that legalization's effect on crime and the costs associated with it, was put to President Obama.
His answer was stunningly un-serious, even mocking, making it sound as if the hundreds of thousands of people who voted for the question be asked were nothing but a bunch of blissed-out stoners.
That's regrettable, because I'd bet the vast majority of those who supported that question are no more stoners than most people who enjoy an occasional cocktail are alcoholics.
Granted, the sale and use of marijuana is illegal right now. But that doesn't stop people from buying it and using it, any more than Prohibition in America between 1919 and 1933 stopped people from buying and drinking alcohol. The prohibition of marijuana powers a huge criminal industry and wastes billions in taxpayer money each year as our government attempts to fight it. The prohibition of alcohol in this country was eventually, wisely overturned – and alcohol is arguably far more harmful to the physical and mental health of those who become addicted to it, to their families and to society at large, than weed is.
And yet even now, in 2009, we can't seem to look at this issue with any real seriousness or clarity.
It's been more years than I like to count since I last smoked a joint. And except for an occasional and rather rare glass of wine with a meal, I don't drink. And yet I support, wholeheartedly, the legalization and government taxation of marijuana. I voted for that question to be put to the President during the Town Meeting. I wanted to know if our government would finally treat it with the sober adult attention it deserves.
Sadly, no. It wouldn't.
I was married to an alcoholic once. It was miserable. I loved him and he was a good person at heart, but the booze made him mean, verbally abusive and irresponsible. He didn't have the willpower to stop drinking. I don't hold that against him, though I did finally leave him for my own and my daughter's sake. There are many, many people in the world addicted to alcohol who, tragically, will also never be able to break their addiction, people who are also good at heart and who, when sober, would never hurt anyone. Just like my ex.
But I've never met anyone who turned mean or abusive after smoking a joint. In fact, most people (to use an old but apt cliché) just mellow out. I have met a few who became so dependent on marijuana that it took over their lives. They and other like them are the unfortunate "stoners" that make President Obama snicker. But I believe they were the exception rather than the rule.
Today, I know that many of my peers smoke their doobies secretly. They're upstanding citizens, parents, taxpayers, and good people all around. They aren't stoners, just like most of the people I know that drink alcohol aren't drunks.
America imprisons more of her own citizens than nearly any other country in the world. A large percentage of those prisoners are people who have dealt or used marijuana. This is insanely stupid. It creates and perpetuates violent crime and ruins people's lives just for selling or using a substance that does them and society less harm than, potentially, a six-pack of beer. I know. A six-pack was all it took to turn my ex from a nice man into a slobbering, irrational monster.
I expect that in reality, President Obama would like to legalize pot. It would make a lot of money that would go directly into the nation's coffers and help pay down the huge debt we're all facing, like it or not. Those who use it won't suffer or cause any more harm than drinkers do now, and perhaps less. But Obama is a very new and different President. He has enemies all around him, hoping to bring him down and make him politically impotent. Backing the legalization of marijuana at this point in his young presidency would probably be disastrous, given the general attitude about it on the right, which unfortunately still represents around half the nation's citizens.
So, while I'm disappointed in President Obama for laughing off the question – I'd have liked it much more if he'd been dead serious – I understand why he said "no" to it's legalization right now, even if I vehemently disagree. But I think that its time is coming. Perhaps in a few years, when we're all adjusting to the Brave New World we're staring down right now, the legalization and taxation of marijuana, just like alcohol, will become a practical reality. And perhaps (I can hope, can't I?) it will mean fewer alcoholics, as those who start drinking as a way to relax and unwind turn to the gentle weed instead.
Oh – and as for the title of this post: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs chortled over the idea of marijuana creating "green" jobs during a presser yesterday. In fact, he chortled a lot (see the video, below) and blubbered through his answer. It was excrutiating to watch -- and it was just as disappointing to me as his boss's reaction to the question of legalizing pot a couple of days earlier.
But President Obama and Mr. Gibbs, the question was sober and pragmatic. It deserves a serious response. Imagine the "green jobs" a new and growing American industry in marijuana would create. The sky's the limit, eh?
31 March 2009
When I was a teen-ager, I had a Boston Terrier named Hector who sang as beautifully as this dog, but he wasn't tall enough to reach the keyboard, so I had to play the notes for him. I'd laugh til I cried, and ol' Hec just loved every minute. Whaddadog.
Should we rely on electronic technology to provide us with books?
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has been posting his thoughts about the Kindle e-book reader for the last couple of days. As a lifelong, voracious reader myself, I've also pondered Amazon's Kindle with a mix of fascination and apprehension. The device is far too expensive, at well over $300, for the likes of me right now, but I'm guessing the price will fall considerably over the next couple of years – or that I'll win the lottery or something. And then maybe I'll get one.
My fascination comes from the idea of being able to have a good book, magazine or newspaper – or many – at hand all the time, tucked into my purse or briefcase for those idle moments at doctor's appointments, etc., without having to cart them around with me. And of course, I'd use my Kindle at home. It's much lighter, weight-wise, than a book, so I'd appreciate it for that quality simply because of my arthritic hands. Holding a book of several hundred pages for extended periods hurts these days and makes reading a lot less enjoyable. It's hard to "fall into" the story when your hands, wrists and fingers ache from holding the book open. And while I know there are stands available in catalogs that will hold the book open for you, they strike me as clunky and inconvenient. You sure couldn't carry them around. But the Kindle would eliminate the problem.
However, like Josh, I'm ambivalent. I LIKE books. I like the look of them on my bookshelves and I love curling up in a chair and reading them. I love the sound the pages make when I turn them and the tactile "feel" of the book in my hands (even as I fight RA), particularly hard-bound books. I love the scent – that unique musty and particular smell of paper and ink, bindings and glue. Libraries send me into ecstasies.
Books have been my dear friends ever since I learned to read. Is there anything as singularly wonderful as opening a new book in anticipation of the journey ahead? Books are chock-full of fascinating people and places and adventures I'll never experience in any other way. Space travel, anyone? A voyage to the bottom of the sea? How about life on a pirate ship or a sword-and-magic battle with goblins?
I feel that way about newspapers too, though not with the same sense of wonder. I get most of my news online now, something I thought I'd never be able to adjust to back when the Internet was still in its toddlerhood. Read a newspaper on a computer screen? Miserable! But I do it without a thought these days and don't mind it a bit. I rarely buy a newspaper anymore, even as I miss the crackle of the pages and the aroma of printers' ink. I even miss having ink-smudged fingers. As a journalist and a long-time reader of newspapers, I'm in mourning over their current demise. I can hardly imagine a world without them. What if the electricity fails? What if I can't afford an Internet connection? This is a real concern, and not just for me. Lots of people still don't have computers at all. What happens if we can't get online? It will be like the Dark Ages.
Yes, there's television. But as with the Internet, these days TV pretty much requires a cable connection or a satellite signal. If you can't afford one, you're in trouble, unless you have a set of rabbit ears or an antenna on your roof. And since the switchover to digital television signals, which has already started in many parts of the country, no cable connection means no television, period.
Besides, I don't know about you, but I'd hate having to rely only on teevee for my news. I'd never know the whole story, and frequently I'd be unable to get both sides. I'd be forced to understand what was happening in the world through a filter of biased opinion and 10-second news bytes. I'd be forever wondering what was propaganda and what wasn't. Television is a corrupt news medium – in all senses of the word.
This whole line of thinking brings me to another problem. Josh mentioned that he can no longer access the college papers he wrote because they were saved on floppy disks – and most computers now don't even have a floppy disk drive, not even for the small, plastic-cased disks that were ubiquitous a decade ago. The big ones of 20 years ago? Forget it. Even if the computer drives were available to read them, the software required to read and translate old word-processing programs aren't. So those papers – that information – is gone unless it was printed on paper and saved by the creator or user.
It was interesting to me that Josh brought that up, because just the other day I was thinking about it myself. There are things I wrote, saved on floppies and in no other place, that I can't access anymore. Worse, I've lost many of the floppies themselves over the years during moves and the occasional clean-out of stuff no longer needed. All that writing, all that thinking – saved indifferently and whether important to others or not – is just gone. Vanished. It made me sad.
If we stop making books out of paper and cardboard, bindings and ink, what will we do when the Kindle is outdated, like floppy disks are now? What if there's no simple way to transfer the electronic data from the Kindle to some newer, even better reader? Will those books, that data, simply be lost forever? The thought is sobering.
Therein lies my apprehension and my ambivalence toward the Kindle. I have several hundred books in my home now, collected over many years. A lot of them are new. A lot of the older ones I re-read every few years, and I enjoy them as much as I did the first time. As long as they live on my bookshelves, quiet, holding worlds inside them, I can enjoy and learn from them. I can take mind-journeys, bone up on a myriad of subjects, from birding to world history, and even teach myself to weave tapestries.
But if all those wonders are turned into strings of zeros and ones, there's a good chance I could lose access to all of them, someday. So could everyone, all over the world. And that would be the saddest thing of all.
30 March 2009
In his column today, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes about the steep decline of American financial prowess and influence in the world:
"Indeed, these days America is looking like the Bernie Madoff of economies: for many years it was held in respect, even awe, but it turns out to have been a fraud all along."