Monday, October 26, 2015

Five Tats and They're Spelled Right

Here it is, a little more than a year away from the finish line, and I'm already sick to death of politics and candidates. That does not bode well, y'know. So, to give everyone a little breather, I thought I'd catch you all up on what's going down over at Chez Wifely.

First of all, the cancer thing has been a real adventure. Unlike many who have been faced with this terrifying diagnosis...including my husband who lost his battle.... I have had it relatively easy. The surgeries went well, I'm pretty much healed up, and I am now the proud owner of 5....count 'em on yer fingers....five tats. 

Yep. The staid WP is now sporting 3 tats down the center of my torso, then one on each side. I hear they're all spelled right, too. Actually, I can't even find 'em when I look, they're so tiny. I know they are there because the zapper machine was able to read 'em this morning during the radiation dry run. 

The truth is, I'm more nervous about the radiation than I was about anything else. I know it has to be done, and I know it's relatively easy to do, but the concept of purposefully irradiating part of me is vaguely disconcerting. The techs tell me I won't be glowing in the dark anytime soon, and that, I admit, is a little disappointing. I was hoping to be my own Halloween decoration......

Let me tell you what I've learned these last couple of months.  
  • I learned about me. Let's just say I'm a tough ol' bird and likely to remain so.
  • I learned about independence.....or rather, how much I despise being dependent on others. 
  • I learned about my relationships with other people. There were some surprises in there, but overall, it made me rethink how I am when others ask me for help. More than once, Senior Son has commented on my lack of "empathy skills." He's probably right about that, and having to ask for help from others drove that point home. BIG TIME. 
  • I learned that my expensive insurance is really, really good insurance. They paid for things my doctors warned me they might not pay one of the genetic tests (they paid the whole thing) and the cream for radiation (totally covered with no co-pay.) The EOBs are easy to understand and their website a breeze to navigate. 
  • I learned that the company my company pays to manage Leave of Absence stuff must cut down more trees for paper pulp than the The New York Times... based on the number of packets I get from them. About once a day, occasionally two arrive in the same day. Can you say, "ecologically unfriendly," boys and girls?
  • I learned that every day with my nonagenarian parents is a gift of time I never thought I would have. Even while they are dealing daily with end of life issues, their beds are pushed together so they can hold hands in the night. I am in awe of their tenacity.
  • And I leaned that having my mother here while I'm going through breast cancer ...even at my advanced the best medicine of all. Not that she does anything special, or says anything particularly earth shattering... but my mom is here, in the present, able to understand when I'm scared. And we laugh. A lot. 
I'm already back in the office and I'm hoping that three weeks of radiation won't slow me down too much. The ubiquitous they tell me attitude is everything and it's wholly possible I will sail right through the three weeks. Well, their mouths to G-d's ear!

So, enough of this self-indulgent claptrap. Next week, I should be back to being pissed off about watch out. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Self-reliance is not innate, it is a skill.
You must practice it every day.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Stand Up ~ Be Counted: Counting Counts.

Angus Deaton  
Ben Solomon for the NY Times
CrediBen Solomon for The New York TimesCrediBen Solomon for The New York Times
So I read this article in the New York Times about the Nobel winner in economics...a guy named Angus Deaton. What this guy does is to use a whole lotta data to extrapolate a whole lotta information. That's the technical explanation. The practical explanation is that the statistics Dr. Deaton collects ultimately measure standards of living and guides policy. This is not an arbitrary process. It's not something we do only if we feel like doing it. It's the law. 

The U.S. Census is actually established by the Constitution of these here United States, specifically in Article 1, Section 2:
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse [sic] three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
One cannot help but notice some of the racist, exclusionary language in Article 1, Section 2. If you want to read about the history of the U.S. Census, go to Wiki on the subject because I don't want to spend a lot of time here talking about the evolution of the process. What I do want to talk about is the need for the census itself. 

The Census does more than just decide how many people are sent to the House of Representatives. It tells us who we are. Questions the census asks are not specious. They tell us who has indoor plumbing and who does not...yes, folks, there are still places in this country with outhouses. It lets the government know who has electricity and who does not...and  by extension, who has access to an internet connection or cell phones and who does not. It identifies pockets of extreme poverty, food deserts, and insufficient access to education. It provides social scientists with information about where our society works and where it doesn't. In other words, it provides much more important data than where your great-grandparents lived when they arrived in these here United States. 

From The National Journal
It is in the best interest of The GOP to curtail the information-gathering. Right now, they are very good at gerrymandering, better than the Democrats, and let me tell you, both parties lack the moral high-ground on this issue. Gerrymandering is wrong. It's manipulative and it is destructive to the will of We, the People. There shouldn't be the carved-out curlicues we see instead of straight lines though the districts, designed to favor one party or another. And let me assure you, both parties are wrong here.

But gerrymandering isn't the only issue. How the government apportions money spent is:
First, decennial census data on state populations determine the number of seats in Congress each state receives and how those districts are drawn, through processes called “reapportionment” and “redistricting”. Second, the census provides the figures that determine the number of electors each state receives for presidential elections. Third, census numbers determine the allocation of hundreds of billions of federal program dollars. Fourth, federal agencies and private litigants use data on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, age, and disability to monitor compliance with civil rights laws and to determine where disparities exist and remediation is required. Finally, the private sector uses census data to make important decisions about their businesses, including investment strategies, hiring plans, and location of facilities.   The Leadership Conference: Census 2010 Education Kit
Reducing the ability of the U.S. Census to fully perform its function will further reduce the working classes to invisible status. The Census team is often the first line of information for living conditions in this nation. Reduction of their canvassing force coupled with the removal of social issue questions insures that large swaths of We, the People with lose our collective voices. The only ones who will benefit from this loss will be the burgeoning oligarchs who dismiss out-of-hand the working and living conditions of the less affluent. Programs designed to help those segments of the population will disappear because they can no longer be ascribed to sectors in need, since those sectors will become invisible.

And the Republicans are bound and determined not to allow that information to be collected. In June, THE ATLANTIC ran an excellent article: Republicans Try To Curtail The Census. If you're a member of We, the People, you should read this article because it speaks directly to you as a citizen. The curtailment of the Census has far-reaching ramifications that go beyond the internet and indoor plumbing. 

Someone should tell the farmers of the south and west, those stalwart supporters of Libertarian ideals, that getting rid of the census is going to directly impact their crop supports and probably their access to federal grazing land. Tell the Cuban immigrant population of Florida who throw their considerable weight behind Jeb! that a reduced census is going to impact their schools and their access to special services for Spanish-speakers. Tell those fine outdoors-men in Idaho that curtailing the census will reduce the federal supports for utilities and, amazingly enough, internet access and the availability of social media.

Penny-wise, pound foolish, as my British Grandmother used to say. The GOP morons who want to cut back the census are really looking for ways to keep We, the People from freedom of speech and the right to vote. Curtailing the census is one way of keeping democracy at bay....and out of our hands. 

The GOP is working very hard behind the scenes to make sure YOU don't get a voice in government. We are less than five years away from the 2020 census. YOU have a choice. You can throw your hands up in exasperation.....or you can start shouting now. 

The U.S. Census is critical to our survival as We, the People of the United States. Don't let anyone take that away from us. Not the Republicans and not the Democrats. The United States of America may be far from perfect, but name another place you'd rather live right now. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Know anyone turning ONE this week?
Anything with buttons to press can be the perfect gift.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Indigenous People Day!

Happy Indigenous People Day!

Doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Happy Columbus Day, but Indigenous language in this country doesn't exactly roll off our tongues either, so maybe it's just as well we have to work a little harder to say it. 

Now, there's all sorts of stuff about the real Cristoforo Colombo/Cristóbal Colón/Cristóvão Colombo/Christopher Columbus you may or may not the first name on the list above is the name he was born with in 1451 Genoa, Italy. We think. He may or may not have been Jewish, but his voyages were probably funded by wealthy Jews in Spain. And it's also pretty certain that one or more of his crewmen were Jewish fleeing Spain on the day the Inquisition was enacted.

But none of that changes anything that happened once he got here. This guy opened the door to exploration of a New World, and doing what Europeans do best, he planted a flag in the name of the Spanish Crown and declared ownership over land he clearly had no legal right to gift to anyone. 

Cristoforo lived and died; his work was carried forward by many others: Pizarro, Cortez, DeSoto....just to name a few...and none of those guys entered into any negotiations with the people who lived in their own world on their own terms. Living their own lives. Speaking their own languages. Worshiping their own gods. Doing the same stuff people in Europe did to protect their own and raise their kids. Sure, they had fights with the neighbors and there were local wars, but for the most part, their lives were no different from any other community in Europe, Asia, Africa, or anywhere else human lived. 

Cristoforo did not discover this new world, he merely ran aground on it. And the rest is disheartening history.

Across South, Central, and North America, there were attempted and all too often successful attempts at ethnic cleansing and genocide. Governmental archives in every single new world country are littered with documents that suppressed, robbbed, humiliated, or destroyed indigenous lives. These ballsy newcomers took their land without so much as a by-your-leave and forced millions of indigenous residents to leave their traditional homes. I suppose Dr. Ben Carson, Cavalcade Clown, will chalk this up to the Native Americans not being armed before their economic and physical holocaust. See, the Second Amendment didn't apply to them...any more than any other part of the Constitution. 

I don't like the Washington DC football team being called the Redskins. That's just disrespectful. The Fighting Sioux of North Dakota was referred to the local Sioux tribes for a referendum, but the name was retired in 2009. Generally racist logos (see Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves) also need to go. It's time to own up to our own apartheid, shameful past in regard to our own Indigenous Peoples. And this applies to Central and South America as well.

Abuses directed solely at native populations have not stopped. Reservations remain in the United States, and there are still too many anti-Indian laws on too many books. The first step in owning our participation in the wholesale genocide of our own local populations is to ditch Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous People Day. It's a small and insignificant step, but it's a first step.

What no Black American would ever tolerate, we ask our Indigenous peoples to not just tolerate, but accept as the status quo. We think we're helping when state legislatures permit tribes to open casinos.  That is nothing more than a band-aid and a lousy one at that. 

If We, the People want to do something hand-in-hand with the many Indigenous tribes, we should be spending a boatload of money on restoration of language and the preservation of indigenous cultural heritage. Minnesota and Montana are just two states that offer language immersion programs for native language. There are federal laws about providing instruction in Native American language, but it's not even close to being enough.

There can be no meaningful conversation about multi-culturalism in these here United States, unless it begins with and strongly includes the condition of ALL indigenous tribes. They are the ones relegated to ghettos. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are currently 334 reservations in operations, and about one-third (700,000) Native Americans live on the "res." Of that one third, approximately 28.4% live below the poverty line.  The graph on the left gives you a pretty good idea about housing on the res. 

So here's the thing: a website called THE STATE OF WORKING AMERICA - POVERTY cites the following statistics:
Among racial and ethnic groups, African Americans had the highest poverty rate, 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent and whites at 9.9 percent. 45.8 percent of young black children (under age 6) live in poverty, compared to 14.5 percent of white children.
That statement seems wrong. Something is missing. It may be close, but it's wrong. And it's wrong because it reinforces the idea that Native Americans are invisible....because they are. 

I know it's not a popular or even a readily acceptable idea...but their lives matter, too. If we're going to have the conversation about the other, then our indigenous population must be included in this conversation. Not to do so, would be apartheid in the classic sense of the world.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
You cannot be invisible unless you are giving yourself permission
to be invisible. And even then, it doesn't always work. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My Dog Has A License

There's a terrific meme going around social media that sums up much of what I am feeling about guns:
How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion — mandatory 48-hr waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he's about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let's close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.
It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?                                                                                                                                                                origin unconfirmed

And not just young men. This should apply to anyone who wants to buy a gun.  

I've written about the Second Amendment so often I feel like it's an alternate address for me. And I keep coming back to the same phrase over and over: well regulated militia. Uh, we don't have a militia, well regulated or otherwise.  

What is it about this country that makes people think gun ownership is the same as home ownership or car ownership?

It's not. I am so damn tired of the argument, "I need a gun for protection. But I'm a responsible gun owner and keep them  locked in the gun safe." Excuse me, but that's idiotic. What? You're gonna tell the robber, "Wait a sec, I have to go get my gun outta the safe so I can shoot you." 

The Gun Violence Archive keeps a running list of statistics. This is the list as of October, 4, 2015:

This is a serious and very scary list. It's important to note that of 39,794 shooting incidents, only 910 have been defensive, and only 1,707 have been for home invasion. It's important to note the these are reported as defensive and home invasion; they do not differentiate for errors in judgement. Translated into percentages, that means .02286% have been defensive and .04289% have been home invasion. That is a total of .06576% of gun incidents are almost reasonable. That's a tad over 1/2 of 1%. Gunshot deaths, on the other hand, represent 25% of all reported incidents. 

Here is a list of mass shootings since Columbine High School in 1999 compiled by David Hodari at the UK's Daily Telegraph:
April 1999 - Two teenage schoolboys shot and killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, before killing themselves.
July 1999 - A stock exchange trader in Atlanta, Georgia, killed 12 people including his wife and two children before taking his own life.
September 1999 - A gunman opened fire at a prayer service in Fort Worth, Texas, killing six people before committing suicide.
October 2002 - A series of sniper-style shootings occurred in Washington DC, leaving 10 dead.
August 2003 - In Chicago, a laid-off worker shot and killed six of his former workmates.
November 2004 - In Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter killed six other hunters and wounded two others after an argument with them.
March 2005 - A man opened fire at a church service in Brookfield, Wisconsin, killing seven people.
October 2006 - A truck driver killed five schoolgirls and seriously wounded six others in a school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania before taking his own life.
April 2007 - Student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 15 others at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, before shooting himself, making it the deadliest mass shooting in the United States after 2000.
August 2007 - Three Delaware State University students were shot and killed in “execution style” by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys. A fourth student was shot and stabbed.
December 2007 - A 20-year-old man killed nine people and injured five others in a shopping centre in Omaha, Nebraska.
December 2007 - A woman and her boyfriend shot dead six members of her family on Christmas Eve in Carnation, Washington.
February 2008 - A shooter who is still at large tied up and shot six women at a suburban clothing store in Chicago, leaving five of them dead and the remaining one injured.
February 2008 - A man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, killing five students and wounding 16 others before laying down his weapon and surrendering.
July 2008 – A former student shot three people in a computer lab at South Mountain Community College, Phoenix, Arizona.
September 2008 - a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people in Alger, Washington, leaving six of them dead and the rest two wounded.
October 2008 - Several men in a car drove up to a dormitory at the University of Central Arkansas and opened fire, killing two students and injuring a third person.
December 2008 - A man dressed in a Santa Claus suit opened fire at a family Christmas party in Covina, California, then set fire on the house and killed himself. Police later found nine people dead in the debris of the house.
March 2009 - A 28-year-old laid-off worker opened fire while driving a car through several towns in Alabama, killing 10 people.
March 2009 - A heavily-armed gunman shot dead eight people, many of them elderly and sick people, in a private-owned nursing home in North Carolina.
March 2009 - Six people were shot dead in a high-grade apartment building in Santa Clara, California.
April 2009 – An 18-year-old former student followed a pizza deliveryman into his old dormitory, and shot the deliveryman, a dorm monitor, and himself at Hampton University, Virginia.
April 2009 - A man shot dead 13 people at a civic center in Binghamton, New York.
July 2009 - Six people, including one student, were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University, Houston.
November 2009 - US army psychologist Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas, leaving 13 dead and 42 others wounded.
February 2010  A professor opened fire 50 minutes into at a Biological Sciences Department faculty meeting at the University of Alabama, killing three colleagues and wounding three others
January 2011 - a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery in Tuscon, Arizona, killing six people including a nine-year-old girl and wounding at least 12 others. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was severely injured with a gunshot to the head.
July 2012 - Masked gunman James Holmes opens fire at midnight cinema screen of new Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 and injuring 58.
August 2012 Gunman kills six people at SIkh temple in Wisconsin before being shot dead by police. Suspect is named as white supremacists Wade Michael Page.
September 2012 – Employee kills five coworkers and himself at Accent Signage in  Minneapolis. [added by WP]
December 2012 - Adam Lanza, 20, forces his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He kills 20 first-graders and six adults. Before arriving at the school, he had killed his mother at their home.
June 2013 - John Zawahri, an unemployed 23-year-old, kills five people in a rampage which begins at his father home and ends in Santa Monica College's library.
September 2013 - Aaron Alexis, a Navy contractor and former Navy man, engages police in a running firefight in the Washington D.C. industrial complex before being shot and killed. Thirteen people were killed and three injured.
May 2014 - Elliot Rodger opens fire in the campus town of Isla Vista, California from inside a black BMW, killing seven people. Rodgers acted alone and written and video evidence suggest the attack is premeditated.
June 2015 - White supremacist, Dylann Roof, begins shooting in a historic black church in an attempt to start a race-war. He kills nine people.
August 2015 - Vester Lee Flanagan II aka Bryce Williams shoots dead two former colleagues from the WDBJ7 news team.

October 2015 - Ten people were killed when a gunman opened fire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College. [added by WP]
Those are really the highlights of mass murder more than anything else. 

We demand driver's licenses for all those who would drive a car in this country. We insist they carry insurance in case of the inevitable accident. 

We demand manicurists and hairdressers be licensed. 

We even demand dog owners have licenses.

But we cannot pull our act together to have some sort of gun control laws? Really?

We don't live in a war-torn nation with terrorists blowing themselves up in supermarkets, yet the gun laws in Israel make owning a personal gun an arduous process and almost an impossibility. We don't have roving bands of miscreants shooting tourists or families in cars. And folks, we don't have vigilantes tearing through the countryside taking potshots at illegals sneaking across the border. Nope. We just kill our own.

We, the People, of the United States look totally stupid to the rest of the world. And not just stupid, We, the People, look like violent barbarians, greedy and unrestrained. We live in the richest country in the world, yet we barely provide subsistence services like health care and affordable housing. We treat teachers, the foundation builders of our future, like unskilled labor. And we treat the veterans of our armed services as nothing more than an old inconvenience to be swept up with the trash when they need help most. 

We are the proud owners of an entitled aristocracy that sees themselves above the vast populace with no social responsibility ...not even noblesse oblige. And that includes, but is not limited to, corporate lobbies that fight against the good and welfare of this nation.

In the coming months we will be treated to the idiocy of the GOP Clown Cavalcade and the Democratic Sanctamonium Soirée as they march lock-step toward Election Day 2016. You will be sick and tired and disgusted by the attack ads, swift-boat attempts, lies, accusations, and assorted bullshit lobbed across the airwaves and newspapers. You will hate it for everything that is wrong with the system. You will threaten not to vote at all.


If you don't like what you read above, do something to change it. Get off your butt and fight for sensible laws. Do not sign this nation over lock, stock, and barrel to the the big lobbies who don't give a damn about We, the People of the United States. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

? אם לא עכשיו, אימתי
If not now, when?
                        Pirke Avot 1:14