Guest Blog: Occupy Ukraine?

Today’s guest blogging post (and open thread) is by our friend, TerrytheTurtle.

What is happening in Ukraine is awful, bloody, murderously awful. Depending on where you come from in your world view, there are at least three ways of looking at what is happening:

1. If you follow the Western media, it is about Ukraine wishing to “join the EU” (quotes because there are many sources of this over-simplification) and the coverage is dumbed down to this one point time and again. But the EU trade agreement Yanukovych refused to sign after promising to in his manifesto, is only the catalyst, the problems lie much deeper than that.

2. This is part of the Neo-Cold War, pitting American power against the Czar of All the Russias and his part-dictatorship, part-kleptocracy. If you read the full transcript of the intercepted Nuland phone call two weeks ago, there is no question the US is picking sides, and picking which opposition horse to back, the whole point of which seems to be, to use the violence in Ukraine to win ground in a wider struggle. And for his part, Putin, by blaming ‘entirely, the terrorists and radicals’ for the violence, is shamelessly backing his client, Yanukovych, just like he has backed Syria’s Assad. It seems the US and Putin are both ‘playing cards’ and the people of Kiev are doing the dying.

3. The third thesis is that what we are watching is the Occupy movement of Ukraine. Ukraine’s government is controlled by a very small number of hyper-rich Ukrainians who owe their riches to a perpetuation of the same style of oligarchy and kleptocracy that Vladimir Putin sits atop in neighbouring Russia. They want the massive income inequality and lack of social justice to continue – its good for business. But you won’t hear this in the Western media. That kind of discussion is too close to home and would remind people of what Occupy Wall Street was all about. When Yanukovych returned to power, in 2010, as president (in an election the EU certified as fair), mainly because the Orange Revolution had stalled in the world depression after the financial crisis, he changed the constitution away from the 2004 constitution: more power to him and his cronies. Corruption blossomed again. You know the formula: billionaires, owning politicians for favours, closing and selling off factories, looting the old industries where ordinary people made a living and punishing dissent. The Kochs and Waltons would love these people.

What do Ukrainians think about some of this? The most recent poll I could find (Feb 5th) said:

Showing divisions between Ukrainians on foreign policy, 48% said Ukraine should reconsider its rejection of an EU partnership, but 40.3% said it should not.

Asked if the protests should continue, 48% said yes and 45.1% said no.

These divisions have an ethnic and geographic element to them – west is more likely to be ethnic Ukrainian and east and south more Russian. But like the American south, the Russian-leaning part is voting for more income inequality, more Russian-style “democracy”. But Ukrainians seem to distrust the EU only a little less than Russia, especially when it comes to helping them now. It seems to me they feel like they are on their own.

OK, so all this geopolitics aside, you just have to look at the faces of the people in the streets and in the makeshift hospitals to get an idea of which of these theses is closest to the truth and it is complicated, even if I am getting some coaching.  🙂  That ordinary Ukrainians just want the freedom to have their government represent them and protect their freedoms from foreign powers (all of them!) and from their own “entitled” citizens and corporations.  Just spend some time on the blogs (helpfully translated on request and forwarded to people like me by friends). You will see what I am seeing and hearing directly.

Yes, there are protesters with guns now and policemen have died, but today’s toll of death was far unbalanced to the 10s of thousands of mostly unarmed protesters, shot in the square, or beaten by police or paid thugs, the “tituski”, in the side streets as they try to leave to take care of families or escape the bloodshed. Or as volunteers try to treat them in makeshift hospitals while the police try to arrest them from the bloody floor where they lie.

Take a look at two of Putin's "radicals and terrorists."

Take a look at two of Putin’s “radicals and terrorists.”

Finally, and I wish it was finally, this article I was sent today goes roughly like this: A former policeman has come to Kiev to find his 19-year-old son, a student in Kiev. Like all fathers he wished his son did not go to the protests, but as a Ukrainian he was proud of his son to go. He holds in his hand the helmet he wore, covered in blood, a single sniper bullet hole in the helmet where his forehead was. Facebook posts are full of pictures of young people like this….

And yes, like Zooey said Thursday, this could be us too, someday soon.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, 11/14/12: A postlude on the election

Today’s Open Thread is brought to you by our guest blogger, SpiritKat.

When Enough Is Enough

It’s time for Republicans to face the fact that the majority of American people just don’t want what they’ve been trying so hard to sell. Can you imagine what the voting numbers would have been in the recent Presidential election if the Republicans had not tried so hard to cheat and rig the election in their favor? Yet, despite all their disreputable attempts to steal the election for themselves, the American people rejected them.

In spite of the fact that the Republicans tried to give the election to Romney by disenfranchising voters with their unnecessary voter ID laws, or maybe even because of this very action, the number of people who made sure they got out and voted was still enough to defeat the Republican Presidential candidate. Then they attempted to cheat their way into the Presidential office when their rich corporate employers tried to extort votes for Romney through threats of job loss to their employees. Yet in spite of this there were still enough votes to reelect Obama.

Through Citizens United, with our own Republican stacked Supreme Court’s help, the Republicans thought they had the perfect solution for rigging the election, but they underestimated the American people, who clearly said a resounding NO on November 6, leaving the Republicans to swallow their own crud when they found that even they with all their wealth could not buy this election after all. That is, perhaps, one of the greatest things to come out of this election. Yes, money may talk, but clearly it doesn’t always talk loud enough, and certainly not enough to sway the voters in this election.

Then there was, of course, the embarrassment of their Presidential candidate, himself, who was so blindly egotistical that even Joe Scarborough dropped his face in his palms. Throughout the campaign, the stances of the Republican candidate changed practically every time he spoke. Mr. “Etch-a-sketch” gave us nothing concrete, just the “same old, same old” tired plan that got our country into this mess in the first place, and to make matters worse, he riddled the rhetoric with lie after lie after lie. “How can such a man be trusted with the welfare of our country?” we asked. By the close of the campaign, it was made even more clear when Romney made his comment about “not caring about the poor”, and even worse later on with his “it’s not my job” to care about the “freeloading” 47% comment behind closed doors with his rich cronies. Ah, at last we saw clearly his true colors.

It was my own great hope that the American people would finally wake from their apathy and beaurocratic induced stupor to take a stand against its tyranny in this election. Thankfully, enough of them did just that. It is also my hope that the Republicans, themselves, will have an epiphany and realize that we, the people, won’t accept what they keep peddling so hard. Perhaps, in light of this loss, they will begin to understand that the American people need, and won’t accept anything less than, honest industry, fruitful employment, personal freedoms, healthcare, a stable economy, and genuine concern for our welfare. We need these things far more than we’ll ever need the unconstitutionally forced religious beliefs of others, or a make-believe “Leave It To Beaver” society. Today, I feel that my faith has been restored, for though they tried, even a Diebold couldn’t win enough votes for the Republicans this time.


Guest Blog by TerryTheTurtle: November 2012 – The First Citizens United Election and the Last of the American Democratic Experiment?

I think there’s no secret that as a foreigner, I view the American democratic system with an outsider’s eye. It’s the view of one who has not been taught in school from the first day that the American Democratic Experiment is unique, unparalleled and somehow ‘divinely ordained’. It may have been once, but IMO it now more resembles the last days of the Roman Empire when a horse could be Senator  (or even higher office?) and seats were bought and sold in order to ‘rubber-stamp’ the sociopaths and megalomaniacal dictators who ran the place into the dust while plying the plebs with ‘bread and circuses’.

IMO, The SCOTUS ruling on Citizens United (CU) has delivered a fatal blow to the American Democratic Experiment. I think many of you sense it, but until this November’s election is done and the impact of the unlimited corporate money which is on its way now from the American fascist establishment into the election process, you won’t be able to appreciate just how deadly that ruling is.

At the time it was passed, dissenting Justice Stevens wrote:

[Citizens United] “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” He wrote: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

And Stevens took a swipe at corporations too:

“Stevens discussed how the unique qualities of corporations and other artificial legal entities made them dangerous to democratic elections. These legal entities, he argued, have perpetual life, the ability to amass large sums of money, limited liability, no ability to vote, no morality, no purpose outside of profit-making, and no loyalty”

Let’s recap briefly the new rules of the game that Citizens United brings.

1. Anyone and that means any person, or corporation (even foreign owned or registered ones like Halliburton) can spend whatever they want to say whatever they want to influence you the voter as to who to vote for. Money equals free speech under Citizens United and it doesn’t matter where the money comes from and it is the money that decides which ‘free speech’ you hear and which you don’t. Spend just one evening watching Fox ‘News’ and you know what this means.

2. The people and corporations who will spend the most money are the ones who have the most to spend and are most likely to gain from ‘buying’ an election – that is the rich, the 1%, who will have their bought-and-paid-for politicians write the rules in their favour so that they will accumulate even more wealth.

3. They don’t have to tell you who they are in some cases (e.g. 501c4s like the NRA and Karl Rove’s patently fascist SuperPAC for some reason), and even if they do, you won’t know who and how much until *after* the election is decided.

St. Ronald Raygun (yes, really!):

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

So welcome America to the ‘Best Democracy Money Can Buy’ – this 8 minute video recaps all I have said here and more and also calls for a constitutional amendment to redefine persons and therefore undermine CU. I for one, have no confidence that an amendment will go anywhere – to start with it would require 67 Senators who do not owe their office to corporate money to be ready to vote and November 2012 is coming first. IMO CU is an irrevocable and fatal wound to the American Democratic Experiment (1776 – 2010 RIP) – it was a good run everyone.

Civilization in an Eggshell

Guest blog by Hoodathunk

Yesterday we had a brunchfast that relied pretty heavily on the magical chicken egg.   Poached eggs for the wee’uns, Crab Benedict for the more discerning palette and eggnog; so I probably shouldn’t be surprised that I awoke at 4 am thinking about the dream I had about eggs.  Odd things my subconscious plays with in dreamland.

Consider your basic egg.  Nicely packaged, a comfortable incubator (at least for the mom) bringing forth a new generation of bird that can produce more eggs, be edible in its adult form, or provide hours of entertainment and appreciation with their songs or beauty.  All in all, the egg is a wondrous thing.  But I had never looked at it as an expression of society in an eggshell.

Man learned early on that the insides of your basic egg were both edible and nutritious in its natural state.  Then, when Ug learned about fire, it was discovered eggs could be cooked.  I suspect one was accidentally dropped on a hot rock and sunny side up was born.  Since then, eggs have become something of a staple in most societies.  And, as societies become more civilized, so does their treatment of the egg.  No more of this lop off the egg and slurp it down, no that will make you sick; the cholesterol, also a bad thing.

This is where civilized society comes in.  How many have gone to fry up an egg and tossed it because the yolk got broken in the process?  Or boiled and decorated eggs at Easter and ended up tossing some when they got too old?  Eggs are pretty cheap so it isn’t a really big deal — unless you happen to be starving.  But we have, for the most part, gone beyond that point.  We take eggs for granted because there are literally millions, if not billions, of chickens out there just a clucking and a dumping.  We just go merrily along quiche-ing, custard-ing, caking, dressing up our lives with the hard work of hens because it isn’t like they mind being kept in cramped, unsanitary quarters, living on chicken feed so we can use the efforts of their labor to pamper ourselves.

This is juxtaposed to a memory from my childhood.  We would go to the grandparents’ farm on weekends and help out.  This was done so we could get a few good meals while providing my Mom’s parents with much needed assistance in running the farm.  One of my jobs was tending the chicken coop.  I had to collect the eggs, then feed the feathered beasts, and then clean the nests.  I was not allowed to carry the basket of eggs to the house because dropping an egg was something of a minor catastrophe.  The dog liked it but it meant a smaller helping of scrambled eggs for me.  Each and every one of those ovoids were important, just as the chickens themselves were.  Not exactly life or death but they could spell the difference between going to bed with a full tummy or a growling one.

What our civilized society is doing, both on the microcosm and macrocosm level, is that we aren’t taking care of the chickens.  We are gobbling up the eggs, while wasting a great many of them, thinking there will always be more.  We are distancing ourselves from the very things that have brought us to this point.  Our greed blinds us to the workings of nature because we think it will always be there, and if we have this magical paper in our pockets, everything will be fine.

Work in a chicken coop?  Ewwwww, gross!

Guest Blogging: Bridges to Nowhere and Beyond

By Pachydiplax

On November 17, 2005, Congress defeated two earmark bills fromAlaska’s sole Congressman, Don Young and the late Senator Ted Stevens, for bridges in Alaska. The first bill earmarked $231 million for what became known as the “Bridge to Nowhere”, a bridge to provide a connection between the port city of Ketchikan and Gravina Island, the location of Ketchikan’s airport. The second bill earmarked $223 million for a bridge connecting Anchorage with Point MacKenzie across the Knik Arm. Both bridges were touted as being important for economic development in Alaska. The 2005 legislation prevented Alaska from spending any federal funds for planning, design or construction of either of these two bridges. The legislation did not eliminate the bridge projects nor did it eliminate the $454 million fromAlaska’s federal transportation funding that year.

The bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina would eliminate the need for the ferryboat that currently serves the 13 families that live on the island and the 200,000 passengers that use the airport each year. The bridge would have to be taller than the Brooklyn Bridge to allow passage for large cargo and passenger ships. The ferry makes its crossing at a narrow location while the bridge would have to be longer than the Golden Gate Bridge, crossing at a wide point, 6 miles south of the ferry crossing, so not to interfere with airport operations. Even thought the bridge hasn’t been built, Alaska did spend our tax dollars to build a road on Gravina Island. It runs for 6 miles south from the airport… to nowhere.

The envisioned 2.6 mile, 4-lane crossing over the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet would consist of causeways built out from each shore connected by a 1.5-mile long bridge. The cost of the bridge and several miles of roadway and interchanges could reach $1.5 billion. The 81-mile drive from Anchorage to the new Goose Creek Correctional facility at Point MacKenzie would only be 12 miles via the bridge. The deepwater port at Point MacKenzie would also benefit from a water crossing to Anchorage. Construction has begun on a 30-mile spur line from the Alaska Railroad at Houston to Port MacKenzie and work is underway reducing road grades and widening roads for expected increases in truck traffic to and from the port. Proponents of the bridge are currently seeking private investors and environmental studies have begun on the bridge project. Meanwhile, there is a need for a way to cross the Knik Arm

That need was closer to being filled in 2010 with the completion of a new ferryboat, the M/V Susitna. Thanks to Senator Stevens and the U.S. Navy, the Mat-Su Borough now owns a $78 million twin-hulled-ice breaking-catamaran ferryboat. It can operate at 17 knots in high seas drawing 12’ of water or reconfigure itself to operate at 4.5’ draft. Unlike any of the 17 ferryboats the State currently operates in the Alaskan Marine Highway system, the M/V Susitna requires more crewmembers than comparably sized ferryboats and crew members require special training. The vessel carries 120 passengers and 20 vehicles. A building housing a passenger terminal and offices for the ferry operators has opened at Port MacKenzie. Now all that is needed are specialized docking facilities at both Port MacKenzie and Anchorage and the ferry will have somewhere to go.

Daddy Dearest

Guest post by Hoodathunk

Many years ago I read a couple of books by Joseph Campbell about the evolution of religion.  How the warrior father image replaced the Earth mother in the West.  It made lots of sense.  And it certainly helped define the development of Western society along patriarchal lines.  Men know everything.  Or rather, men control everything which, in a weird way, came to mean they knew everything.  I think St. Paul was instrumental in this idea in European society.  Why a closeted gay with delusions of violence would gain a place of eminence in a religion based on love and compassion says a great deal about said religion’s commitment to compassion.

But this is about Fathers.  As in divine Fathers like God and earthly fathers like me.  Supposedly the divine father has the idea that if you don’t do exactly as he wants he will banish you for eternity into hellfire.  This is a core teaching of the Christian religion for over 1,600 years.  Screw up and burn in hell (BIH).  Unless you repent before you die and agree that the Big Daddy is 100% right and you are a worm who has to agree with it.  Just makes you want to be a kid, donit?

Now for my take.  I’m a dad.  Three times over.  And a grand dad, 4 times over.  Contrary to what some might say, I’m human.  If one of my kids (grandkids aren’t old enough yet) decided to embrace ideas contradictory to mine I will damn each and every one of them to eternal hellfire and pain for the temerity of their acts.  Unless they accept every word I say as gospel and the sole reason for their existence, they are less than toast.  As their father, I have supreme and ultimate control over their minds, bodies and souls and it is my right to punish them for any deviation from my will.  I brought them into this world and I have absolute and total control over them.  And if they rebel, it is my right, my responsibility, to damn them to the most horrible and grievous punishment imaginable.

This is what the Fundy Gawd says.  It sells humans into slavery by their birth rather than freeing them to find their path.  I am a father.  A father who would no sooner visit any of that crap on my children than I would stick a nuke up my ass and visit the President.  Fathers are supposed to love their children, want only the best for them.  Not make them puppets to live lives under their control.  Screw every religion and philosophy on the planet that does not embrace this idea.

Fathers are supposed to be protectors.  Guides.  Teachers.  Fathers do not damn their children to hell for any reason and any religion that says differently is based in demonology.  It is based in evil and pain.  There is no place in this universe for that.  That is about control, about making one’s own needs mean more than the need of society, of people.  Any religion that espouses any form of damnation for anything less than outright and clear evil behavior, is selling snake oil.  You can’t go to hell for defying your father.  Nor your mother.  You can’t be damned for eternity for honest love.  Or eating fish on Friday.  Or marrying outside your faith.  Or believing in another deity.  Or believing in no diety.

Fact is, no Father could ever even dream up an idea like Hell unless He was one sick puppy.  And if you want to believe in a deity that would accept the idea of BIH for eternity, you might be one sick puppy.  Good news is, you can heal.

A fundamental lie

By Guest Blogger, Hoodathunk.

Lots of talk these days.  Politics, religion, religious politics.  Some things just naturally go together to their mutual benefit.  Like peanut butter and jelly, or peanut butter and chocolate or Irish whiskey and coffee, or, well you get my drift.  Religion and politics really fall into the category of oil and water, fire and ice, or life and death.  This melding has been something that has been tried many times in Western history and the results have never benefited mankind in general.  You would think that by now we would know better, but such is not the case.

The reason for this is, IMHO, there are a great many people out there who claim to be Christian, but lack the comprehension of basic Christian teachings.  Somehow they keep coming up with the idea that this Jesus fellow was about fighting.  I suspect much of this is due to reading the rather violent Old Testament and some of the books of the New Testament written by folks who never really met the man and that, over the years, interpretations and editing have tweaked the message in the divinely inspired book to fit the more militaristic aspects of human society.

The New Testament is filled with contradictions.  This is to be expected because much of the information was written down a generation after it happened or later.  For me, this places the Bible into legend.  None of it was written by the man himself and, IIRC, only one book was written by someone who actually was with him.  But in spite of this, there is one thing that remains pretty constant and that is the legend of that last week.  Up until then Jesus had done a good job of side stepping the whole Messiah issue.  I suspect it was because there were several factions in the Jewish community who were chomping on the bit, looking for a warrior king like David to lead them so they could get rid of the Romans.

That wasn’t Yeshua’s bag.  He was Gandhi, 2,000 years before Gandhi.  He was the original counter culture revolutionary.  Love, not war.  His teachings were all about suffering anything in this world because it would get you a penthouse in the next.  Read the Sermon on the Mount.  The only slight step out of character was the thing with the money changers in the Temple, and even then his anger was at the money.

So now we are down to the big fundamentalist lie.  The monstrous Christian lie, propagated over the centuries in the name of political power and control and spitting in the face of the man who supposedly founded their religion justified by one act — His dying.  In the final days there were several opportunities for him to either walk away or rally his supporters to fight for him.  He begged his father to take the cup from him, to let him live and finally said, “Into your hands, Father.”  Pilate gave him two chances to duck.  Herod gave him one.  In the end, in all accounts, he bore his cross, suffered and died because of his belief.  Didn’t ask anyone else to do it for him.  Didn’t call up the warriors to defend him.  He died for his teachings.

Had he done what his followers are calling for today and have all across the centuries there would have been a huge revolt in Israel.  The Jews were primed for the return of their warrior-king Messiah.  Blood would have flowed and in the end Judaism would have probably died.  If you don’t agree, check out Masada and the Diaspora.  Might have survived as a minor religion.  Christianity would never have been born.  Rome would have pounded Palestine into submission in their very efficient and brutal fashion.

But the bottom line is the heart of the one legend that shows in the various books of the Bible.  Jesus died for his beliefs.  Didn’t fight for them, didn’t go to war for them, he accepted and died for them.  You can pick any other reading from any other book to try to explain, justify or whatever but the bottom line is Jesus so believed in what he did that he was willing to die for it.  All by himself, not behind a wave of warriors, just him.  Sort of how it always comes down to it, every person is always faced with one last thing.  One on one, with their maker.

No mulligans.

Guest Blogging: Hummingbirds

I have five 32 oz and one 48 oz hummingbird feeders.  They are refilled at least once a day.   I have many ‘locals’ that live here all year – there are sometimes about sixty hummingbirds at the feeders.  Being on the Pacific flyway, we also have visitors in the fall going to Margartiaville in Baja, and returning around February.  Last year, a couple of Rufous stayed and made my backyard their home.

Photos & text submitted for Guest Blogging by Cryptoclearance.

Will & Kate plus 8 Million Hours of Interminable Swooning over the British Monarchy

Our bloggy friend, 5thState, presents his take on the recent media madness in the U.S. over some wedding in England…

This week the American corporate mass media has shifted into ‘over-bonkers-drive’ coverage of everything to do with Friday’s matrimonial shindig in London, England-shire, of Prince William Windsor (of the Windsor Windsors) and Catherine Middleton; a bit of middle-class crumpet from Buckleberry (best known for its hobbit-friendly, Nazgul thwarting ferry).

Such gushing attention might appear extremely odd given America’s anti-monarchical foundations, until one considers a few facts and features of the WASPy American psyche that has been molded from the nation’s vague subconscious memory of its birth, its awkward pubescent years in search of a moral compass, its first experiences with the sexiness of war (and subsequent depression over war-erectile dysfunction), its personal battle against oil addiction punctuated by episodes of political paranoia to form its contemporary state of ADD, Alzheimer’s and dependence on pseudo-scientific remedies, blockbuster-movie sponsored food-type “Happy-Meals” with the extra spiritual nutrition of toxic choking-hazard toys, and FDA approved pharmaceutical solutions to problems that most Americans probably wouldn’t ‘have’ if drug-company psy-ops departments weren’t such a great source of the advertising dollars and campaign contributions that allow the mental midgets of the media and politics to enjoy the privileged lifestyle of the fabled American Dream of owning time-saving appliances and hanging with the celebrities of human endeavor who usually actually have worked-hard for their life-rewards.

Note: If you struggled with the above run-on paragraph or in fact totally comprehended-it, just getting through it means that you are a contemporary and real American! Continue reading

From the Dragonfly’s Diary: Storm Stories — The Winter of 1957-1958

Photo by Pachydiplax

The winter of 1957-1958 was an eventful one for my family living in a western suburb of Baltimore. To a 13 year old, the 8” snowstorm in early December was an opportunity to make some money shoveling snow off sidewalks and driveways. The snow also closed schools for several days, which disappointed my mother for sure, having seven children to watch over. It was good practice for what was yet to come in the months ahead.

The next major snowfall began on Saturday February 15 and continued until the 17th dropping up to 22” in some areas. Temperatures fell to just above zero and the wind picked up causing drifts that closed major roads, kept businesses from opening and children home from school. None of this would have affected the family but for the fuel oil tank running dry.

The lack of fuel for the furnace resulted in the entire clan sleeping in the living room in front of the fireplace for five nights. It wasn’t that bad, we had electricity that allowed my mother to cook hot meals that we ate in front of the fire and television to hopefully keep seven children occupied.  The telephone worked also, I don’t recall the phone ever not working as a result of snow. Fuel oil would be delivered as soon as the truck could make it down our road, after the snowplow cleared the road, whenever that would be.

On Monday, I learned how to install chains on a car’s tires and I learned that even with chains sometimes the snow on the ground is too deep to drive in.  Later that day, I walked with my father and a neighbor, each of us pulling a sled, the mile and a half to the nearest store at Catonsville Junction. We returned with basics like milk and bread for several neighbors in addition to food for our own needs. One sled carried several cases of beer and a couple fifths of whiskey purchased at the bar across the street from the grocer.

Despite being snowed in, there were many things to do, like splitting logs to burn in the fireplace or sledding on the hilly part of Rockwell Ave. just two blocks away. There was money to be made shoveling snow and going back to the store for other people in the neighborhood. Finally, on Friday, a snowplow went down our street. The fuel oil company couldn’t get to us until Saturday. Friday night my father brought home an empty 55-gallon drum. It was filled with fuel the next day, in addition to the 500 gallons in the tank that fed the furnace. We were set now, or so we thought.

Over the next month it snowed enough to where there were 12” of snow on the ground, then on 19th of March, a slow moving nor’easter  began dumping an additional 24 to 30 inches of heavy wet snow over the Baltimore-Washington region. Of course we were prepared with plenty of food and fuel oil, except for one thing: The snow had knocked down power lines and we were without electricity.

Once again, the family was huddled around the fireplace, only this time we were cooking over the fire too. The snow that had begun falling on Wednesday stopped on Friday. The snowplow came by and the paper man was able to deliver the evening newspaper. There was an article about President Eisenhower leaving the White House to spend time at Camp David, the Presidential retreat in Frederick, Maryland. After reading that story, my father called Western Union and sent a telegram to the President: “Dear Mr. President, seeing how the Whitehouse will be empty this weekend, would you mind if my wife and I and our 7 children who have been without heat and electricity for 4 days moved in to thaw out and take hot baths?”

Obviously, the Western Union operator contacted someone at the Baltimore Sun Newspaper because the following day a small article about my father’s telegram appeared on the last page of the Baltimore Evening Sun. The one thing that I have remembered about this time, the thing that has allowed me to pinpoint the exact dates was the headline on the front page of the March 22nd edition of the evening paper: “Mike Todd Killed in Plane Crash” (To those of you who have never heard of Mike Todd, he was a movie producer, the inventor of the Todd-AO wide screen projection system and at the time was married to Elizabeth Taylor.)

The winter of 1957-1958 will always be one of my most memorable, a reminder to respect the powerful forces of nature with a lesson in being prepared.


From the desk of Hoodathunk: Just Add Water

Story Time

Many years ago one had to put water in a pan, wait for it to boil and then add rolled oats.  After stirring for a bit (I’m not quite old enough to remember how long it took) you would get oatmeal.  Then Quaker came along with Quick Quaker Oats.  Essentially the same preliminaries, they just cooked in a couple of minutes.  Then, thanks to NASA, the microwave was born and

making oatmeal could be done in a single bowl in about two minutes.  And oatmeal is only the tip of the iceberg.  Since the 60’s the US has been hell bent on bringing K rations to the American table in the name of saving time.  It certainly can’t be because veterans so loved the things that they missed them.

Seriously, it was the birth of the movement to make Americans slaves to time.  They have slowly but surely sold the idea that we need to pack as much as we can into every waking moment, efficiently using every second to maximize our return on our time investment.  Work, where this greedy monster was born, obviously led the way.  We can thank ole Henry Ford for that one.  While this concept has some very valid and useful points, the problem came when it became the sole reason, the dictator of business operation — maximized throughout with the enhanced bottom line.  Yeah, baby, that will make your business thrive, providing management also takes into consideration the fact that the people who do the work are not just another piece of machinery.

That is the part that has been taken out of the equation over the past 30 years:  People are not machines.  Nor do machines totally run themselves.  Nor can machines do everything.  The respect for the efforts of labor has been degraded to the point where it is treated like a commodity.  If you don’t like working here, you can and will be replaced.  And with the population rising and the number of jobs falling it is true.  Someone can always be found who is so desperate for a job that they are willing to do just about anything to put food on the table. Continue reading

From the Dragonfly’s Diary: Iudex, Ecce – Here Comes da Judge

TheZoo has recently decided to accept Guest Blogger posts, in order to inject a little diversity into the gene pool.  Enjoy!

I was a sophomore in college when I was asked by a faculty member to take on the mantle of Appeals Court Judge for the student traffic court. The university I attended had been undergoing significant growing pains when it changed two years earlier from only offering upper level classes, i.e. Junior and Senior level courses and graduate classes, to a four year institution.

Close to 90% of the students commuted to the campus at that time and the influx of freshman and sophomore students created parking problems, particularly at night.

The one and only case that I “tried” was also the first appeal made for a police citation. Prior to the hearing, I learned that a ticket had been issued to a vehicle that was parked in the No Parking Drop Off Zone in front of the University’s daycare center. The ticket was issued at 11:15 PM. The daycare center’s hours were 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM.

The student who appealed this citation was older than me, and I was 42 at the time. He explained that he normally arrived on campus early enough to secure a parking spot but on this particular night he was running behind schedule and parked there so he would not be late to a 7:30 PM class. Since classes ended at 8:45 PM and the library closed at 10 PM, I asked why he was still on campus at 11:15 that night. The reason was that he lived on campus, in one of the apartments near the daycare center. Since he left campus every morning at 7 AM for his job in Jacksonville, he saw no reason to move his car that night after class.

Upon further inquiry, I learned that he had been divorced a year earlier and had already been attending classes at night working on a Masters degree in accounting. His move to on campus housing made working a full time job and taking classes much easier on him.

Then I asked him what he did for a living? Even though I had already decided his case in my mind, when I heard what his job was I immediately rapped my gavel and declared him “Not Guilty!”  Case dismissed!

Oh, you want to know what his job was?  He was head of the Audit Division in the Jacksonville office of the IRS. My mama didn’t raise no dummy!