Grounded

Those of you who have followed Filosofa’s Word for more than a year may remember a series of posts that I re-blogged by justascottishgirl, a young woman from Scotland who, in late 2015 to mid-2016 took time from her own life to volunteer helping refugees on the Greek Isle of Kos. Her tales were often heartbreaking, but I was so impressed with what she and others were doing – giving of themselves for the cause of humanity – that I shared her story a few times in March 2016. She eventually returned to Scotland, but has now moved to the Greek Isle of Kos. She has started a new blog, titled From Greece With Love, and shares her very astute thoughts on not just the refugee crisis, but the terrible inhumane incidents taking place around the globe. I am sharing, with her permission, the first post on her new blog where she starts with a question: How does one stay grounded with all the terrible things happening around the world? She concludes with: “Stand together, show love where you find hate and don’t let fear win.” Just A Scottish Girl is an excellent writer, thinker, and humanitarian extraordinaire, and this post is well worth the read. Please take a few moments to read her words, for they reflect what most of us are thinking in these troubled times. Thank you, Scottish Girl, for all you do, for your beautiful heart, and for permission to share your thoughts and words.

From Greece With Love

All through life when times get tough, when things start to run away with us or when things start to get too much we often hear the advice “stay grounded.” We are told to “keep our feet on the ground” to balance us, to remind of something solid, something steady that can help bring us down from those dizzying heights that challenging times can take us to. But what happens when that safety net fails, when you can no longer trust the earth to keep you steady?

Recently I experienced a rather nasty earthquake which has left this question playing on my mind. When we live in a world of such uncertainty, how exactly do we stay grounded when we can’t even trust the ground we walk on?

But this idea of losing trust in your surroundings goes further than a shift in tectonic plates, for me personally anyway. Over…

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Raising the Rent …

Dr. Ben Carson, formerly a pediatric neurosurgeon, is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Trump administration.  Dr. Carson was, by all accounts, an excellent surgeon, but as I have mentioned before in this blog, he should have stayed in the medical profession and out of politics.

Yesterday’s news, widely reported among the media, floored me – a jaw-dropping moment.   It turns out that Dr. Carson has a plan … a plan to raise rents on subsidized housing, in some cases as much as 300%.  This comes on the heels of an executive order that Trump signed earlier this month to expand work requirements for low-income Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, public housing benefits and welfare.

Hey … somebody has to pay for all those tax cuts we gave to the already-wealthy last year, right?

Carson also wants to scrap rules allowing deductions for medical and child-care costs when determining rent, which Carson says gives some tenants an unfair advantage.  Now think about this one.  He wants to impose a requirement that all adults under 60 must be employed, but take away the credit for child care?  If I’m a single mom, and I have to work, most likely at a minimum wage job, and I have to pay for child care … ???

Trump, in his budget proposal, suggested that families on food stamps be given, instead, a box of government-issued non-perishable food.  No fresh veggies or chicken, just canned beans and peanut butter.  Oh yeah, that’s healthy.

Let us not forget that it was just last May when Carson said that “poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind.”  And let’s also remember that Mr. Carson and his wife like to live well … they really like nice things.  Such as the $31,000 dining room set he ordered for his new office.  Once the public became aware of it, he canceled the order, but still …

And let’s take a look again at Ben & Candy’s 6,400 square-foot, five-bedroom house …

Carson-house-1And now, how about, just for comparison purposes, some of the homes he plans to triple the rent on …

I do not suggest that Dr. Carson should live like a pauper, but rather that his lavish lifestyle prevents him from having any sense of what those less fortunate go through simply to survive in the world.  Just how little Dr. Carson understands about anything can be seen in his remarks last December when he offered a prayer at a cabinet meeting that included thanks for “the unity in Congress that presented an opportunity for our economy to expand so that we can fight the corrosive debt that has been destroying our future.”  He was referring to the wealthy donor tax cuts that will dramatically increase our national debt!

Dr. Carson’s own net worth is said to be around $30 million.  And although he claims a ‘rags-to-riches’ story of childhood poverty, I am willing to bet that this man has never missed so much as a single meal in his entire life!

Carson justifies his stance by saying he is doing poor people a favour, because the current system creates …

“perverse incentives, including discouraging these families from earning more income and becoming self-sufficient.”

While nobody expects cabinet members to be selected from among the poorest of poor, it would be nice if they weren’t so far removed from the day-to-day reality most of us live with that they cannot even relate to the very people they are supposed to be helping.

GOP Beliefs About Poor People Are Myths To Justify Tax Cuts For Rich/ Cuts To Entitlement Spending

Today’s Congress is the richest in the history of the nation. These wealthy men & women have zero concept what it is like to choose between putting food on the table or taking their sick child to the doctor. They have no understanding what it is like to wonder how to pay the rent or electric bill. And thus, since they have no real life experience, they make up myths to justify cutting social services that benefit the lower income groups in order to increase their own wealth via tax cuts for the wealthy. Our friend Gronda has done an excellent job de-bunking those myths and showing our elected representatives for the greedy, self-focused people they are. Please take a moment to read, and remember this on November 6th! Thank you, Gronda!

Gronda Morin

I have observed the resurrection of the racist myth of the “Welfare Queen” as well as other misleading talking points to describe poor people by members of the GOP.

The GOP in the US Congress cannot be allowed to disseminate these myths as an excuse to enact cuts to current safety-net programs for the poor and/ or to justify additional tax cuts for the wealthy.

See: Why the UN is investigating extreme poverty … in America/ Guardian/ December 2017

Here is the rest of the story…

(Source for below AP report published by the Chicago Tribune on the 19th of December 2017 by Michele Gilman, University of Baltimore: (The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

Excerpts from “3 myths about the poor that Republicans are using to support slashing US safety net:”

Republicans continue to use long-debunked…

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Good People Doing Good Things — More Than Me

They say that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  Today, I bring to you the story of a good person, Katie Meyler, and that first step she made back in 2006 when she left behind an unhappy childhood in New Jersey, joined an international relief organization, and headed to West Africa.  When she first arrived in Liberia, she set out to teach adult literacy classes, and she intended to stay for only six months. Fate had other plans.  One day, Katie met an 11-year-old girl named Abigail.  Abigail, as it turned out, was selling herself on the streets of West Point, Liberia,  in order to get clean drinking water for herself and her family.  Can you imagine?  Abigail told Katie that all she really wanted was to go to school.  More than 40% of girls in Liberia had never been to school, and many were in the same situation as Abigail, exposed to violence on a daily basis.

I will let Katie tell you about More Than Me …

“I founded More Than Me when I was living in Liberia. Kids were asking me to help them get off the street and into school, and I paid their school fees. I told their stories on Myspace, and people donated money to the cause. A New York City tax attorney said to me, “You know, you really should start an organization and make this all legitimate.” I went to my best friend Josh, and I said to him, “I’ve been thinking about forming an organization. I think I want to do it, but I’m afraid. I’m not sure I’m qualified.” He looked at me and said, “Katie, get over yourself. It’s not about you.” Those words played in my head over and over again. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. And that’s where the name More Than Me originated. So the name More Than Me comes from living for something bigger than yourself and getting over your own insecurities. I started it as a means to provide education for vulnerable children in Liberia.”

More Than Me (MTM) works in partnership with the Liberian Ministry of Education to rebuild the education system, and ensure girls like Abigail have access to basic human rights. The objective is that every child will attend and graduate primary school prepared to take their next step in life, which in turn, will bring stability to the country and grow the economy.

“From the beginning, More Than Me provided educational opportunities for vulnerable children. We identified girls who were sexually exploited, and I really wanted to focus on helping them first. Many of these girls were located in a slum called West Point, and that’s where we decided to target our mission.

Through our work, we wanted to make sure we took care of the whole girl. So we started providing after-school activities. We also offered health care, sexual and reproductive health classes, food programs and deworming programs. We opened up our own school, and the president of Liberia gave us a building. Now, we’re looking to rebuild education in Liberia so that when children graduate they feel like they have options and security.”

Through the MTM Academy, K-8 girls attend a tuition-free school that provides high quality education and holistic services like healthcare, family planning, psychosocial support, and a feeding program for the most vulnerable girls in Monrovia. More Than Me Academy continues to pay the girls school fees onward through high school.

In its first year, MTM was able to send only 5 girls to school, but that quickly grew and by 2017 they were schooling 1,500 children. Their goal is to be educating nearly 250,000 kids by the year 2020.

In 2014, the deadly Ebola virus struck at the heart of Liberia.  More than 11,000 people in Liberia would die from the disease.  Monrovia was among the hardest hit, and specifically the West Point area where the MTM Academy was located.  Faced with the decision to leave or stay, Katie stayed.  All schools were closed for an entire year after Ebola struck. Residents were quarantined inside, and most Westerners left. Meyler admits she was fearful.

“What defines you the most is what you do despite your fear, and so I was extremely afraid. I signed my power of attorney away before I left, just in case something happened. There was a real, legitimate concern that I might not return home.

Our plan was do everything you can to keep everybody alive, and then when you can’t do anything else, bring dignity in death, so we did a lot of that, too—singing to people, praying with people while they died. Children that were dying outside, some of them were just laying outside the overflow center. The ones inside were actually worse off, because they were the dead mixed with the living. They could barely move, barely could speak.”

A brief snippet from the More Than Me website:

Why Liberia?

Liberia, West Africa has a population of about 4 million people. The official language is English – the name Liberia derives from “Liberty” meaning freedom. Liberia’s current president (and Nobel Laureate) Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first female head of state in Africa! A 14-year brutal civil war left the country in shambles, including destroying over 80% of its schools. The recent Ebola epidemic further weakened Liberia’s infrastructure.

Liberia’s education system is in a state of emergency.

  • Each one of the 25,000 applicants to the University of Liberia in 2013 failed the entrance exam.
  • 65% of primary school age children are out of school.
  • More than half (51%) of young people aged 15-24 are illiterate and approximately 73% of all women and girls in Liberia are illiterate.
  • Only 17% of teachers have a tertiary degree-level qualification.
  • Only 20% of students enrolled in Grade 1, enroll in Grade 12.

If Liberia is going to build a more stable and resilient future, we cannot stand still.

Why Girls?

According to GirlUp, more than 40% of Liberian girls ages 10-14 have never gone to school. Unfortunately, young girls fall victim to the most frequently reported crime in Liberia, rape. But investing in girls has huge rewards:Why Girls?

  • When a girl in the developing world receives 7 or more years of education, she marries 4 years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10-20%. An extra year of secondary school: 15-25%.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30-40% for a man.

For girls to get to a place where they feel secure, there needs to be education for all.

Meyler believes one of the main contributors to the Ebola crisis was the lack of education, so she approached the minister of education, George Werner, and asked him to consider partnering with private groups to overhaul the public schools. A pilot project began this fall using seven different organizations to revamp 94 schools. More Than Me was put in charge of six of those schools.

Meyler and her staff have helped oversee school repairs and development of new curricula and installation of teacher trainers at each of the six schools. The attention she earned during the Ebola crisis, including being named a TIME magazine Person of the Year, has opened the doors to philanthropists. Meyler hopes to raise $25 million over the next five years to expand to 500 schools. But, ultimately, she hopes the partnership project is so successful that the private partners can relinquish their roles.

“Our goal here is to go out of business. I mean I can tell you for us we’re successful when we’re not needed anymore. We’re successful when Liberia’s government can run these schools, and the teachers are at capacity, and Liberia doesn’t need to have the external support. And that’s what we working toward.”

I hope someday she and More Than Me are able to achieve that goal, don’t you?

Schools Say ‘OK’ to Racism under DeVos/Trump

African-American students in Bryan, Texas, are four times more likely to be suspended than white students.  Even black preschool students are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended from school. Why?  Well, the Department of Education was investigating to try to find the answer to that question.  Was.  And then along came Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVosWith more than 1,500 complaints of racial discrimination in schools across the nation between 2011-2017, the Department of Education under President Obama launched investigations nationwide, from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Oakland, California.  And yes, even Bryan, Texas.  It is nothing short of systemic racism.  DeVos, however, ordered at least 65 such investigations halted, and ordered investigators to limit proactive civil rights probes rather than expanding them.

Bryan, Texas, has a history of discrimination.  When the Supreme Court ordered school de-segregation in 1954 as a result of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the town of Bryan thought the law excluded them, and refused to comply.  Only when one parent filed and won a federal lawsuit in 1963, nearly a decade after the Brown decision, did the courts order Bryan to de-segregate … one grade per year.  Progress comes slow, especially to small, southern towns.school racism-2Which brings us to today, where black students in Bryan are four times as likely to be ticketed, arrested, suspended or expelled as their classmates with lighter skin.  Black students are also less likely to be selected for honours classes or given awards.

When DeVos was asked during her disastrous interview for 60 Minutes about institutional racism in the schools, she replied, “We’re studying it carefully. And are committed to making sure students have opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments.”  Would this ‘studying it carefully’ be the same studies that she has ordered to be halted, such as the one in Bryan?

And now, let me tell you what happened to 13-year-old Trah’Vaeziah in Bryan last October.

Trah’Vaeziah Jackson, a student at Arthur L. Davila Middle School in Bryan, was frequently a victim of bullying – so much so that her mother, Yvola Polk, made frequent trips to the school to protest that the school was doing nothing to keep her daughter, and others like her (black) safe.  The school eventually sent a police officer to Ms. Polk’s home where he issued her a warning citation for trespassing. Trah_Vaeziah JacksonBut back to Trah’Vaeziah and her ordeal on a Friday afternoon last October.  The class was doing some sort of craft project involving hot glue guns and popsicle sticks in the hallway outside their classroom.  The teacher was inside the classroom and could not see the children.  As will happen when children are left unsupervised, a bit of horse play, some joking around started.  Long story short, Trah’Vaeziah accidentally burned another child’s arm with a popsicle stick that had hot glue on it.  The burn was not serious, the other child stated that they were just playing and teasing, but guess where Trah’Vaeziah was sent.  Yes, to the principal’s office, but only long enough to wait for the school police officer to come and escort Trah’Vaeziah to the Brazos County Juvenile Justice Center.

Once there, she cried as employees patted her down, cut off her hair extensions, and took her photo and fingerprints. She was served dinner — chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes and an apple in a plastic container with a carton of milk — but had no appetite.  Trah’Vaeziah had not yet been allowed to contact her mother – remember that this is a child of 13 years!  In the shower room, guards applied thick anti-lice shampoo to Trah’Vaeziah’s hair. As she washed and combed it, clumps fell out. Afterwards, she reluctantly changed from her school clothes, a T-shirt and jeans, into the detention uniform, an orange shirt with matching shorts. Then she was locked in her cell, which contained a sink, a toilet, and, instead of a bed, a stuffed blue mat atop a brick base. High on the wall was a sliver of a window, but she wasn’t tall enough to see outside.

It was after 8:00 p.m. when she was finally allowed to call her mother. She was held in the juvenile facility for three days until a judge finally released her on condition that she do 20 hours of community service and write an apology letter. She also stipulated that Trah’Vaeziah would have to keep a clean record until the next court date and couldn’t access social media, cellphones or cash. Any violation of the agreement would result in further detention.  All this for an accident that could have been avoided had the teacher been doing her job.  But wait … there’s more.

The following week, the school held a hearing on the incident, where Trah’Vaeziah was sentenced to five weeks in the district’s disciplinary alternative school.  Her mother argued and was able to get her sentence reduced, but I ask you … if that had been a white girl, would the consequences for an accident have been this severe?  I think not.

Before the investigation was halted, no less than 10 incidents where black students received harsher punishment than their white peers were discovered.  The importance of bringing a stop to institutional, or sanctioned racism in the schools cannot be stressed enough.   When our African-American students are bullied, are treated less fairly than their white counterparts, they feel that they do not belong here.  The dropout rate rises among those students, and when jail or juvenile detention is a part of their ‘punishment’, it is a mark already on their record.  They tend to give up at an early age.  It is what sociologists call the school-to-prison pipeline, a process of criminalizing youth that is carried out by disciplinary policies and practices within schools that put students into contact with law enforcement.

It should come as no surprise that Betsy DeVos is not only oblivious to the situation, but also unconcerned and uncaring.  Ms. DeVos, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, does not, even by her own admission, visit any of the troubled schools for which she is responsible.  She was, after all, the one who referred to historically black colleges as “pioneers of school choice”!  She has no teaching or public school experience and does not even support the idea of public schools, but has expressed her strong preference for charter schools that serve only a few, while draining money from the public school system that serves the majority.  She has called for massive budget cuts to the Department of Education at a time when schools are in desperate need of repairs, new textbooks, and teachers are supplying many of their students’ needs out of their own meager pay.DeVos caricatureBelow is a sample of one page from the investigative report as it stood at the time it was shuttered.  It is plain to see that there is definite evidence of racial disparity, despite what DeVos and her underlings claim.  And, as we all know, it is not just in Bryan, Texas, but all across the nation.  Now the question is:  what do we do about it?  investigative-report.gif

Letter from Senator Thom Tillis regarding Mueller

For a long time now, we … well, many of us, anyway … have been tirelessly writing letters, sending emails and calling our elected representatives to share our views about the direction our government is moving. Our efforts go largely unnoticed, we are either ignored or receive a standard, canned response that leaves us wondering whether our letter was read, or our message passed on. However, there is an exception, and I wanted to share it with you today. Our friend Keith Wilson received the following letter in response from North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, and I was so impressed and encouraged by the response that I simply had to share it with you. Thank you, Keith, for allowing me to share this letter.

musingsofanoldfart

I received the following letter in response to my calling and writing Republican Senator Thom Tillis to compliment him on his bipartisan  legislation to make sure Robert Mueller is given a fair hearing if he is fired. The letter speaks for itself.

**********************************

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe in the rule of law, regardless of who occupies the White House or which party leads the Justice Department. That is why in August I introduced a bill to create a judicial-review process to prevent the removal of a special counsel without good cause.

Over the past several months, Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) and I have been working with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who introduced a similar bill, to reconcile the differences between the two proposals. On…

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If It Worked For Trump …

So many of us have high hopes for the mid-term elections in November.  The republican candidates, democrats say, are running scared of that big “blue wave” — the vast majority of voters who will vote the democratic ticket simply because Trump has been such an abomination, a failed experiment.  And it may well be that the GOP is running … well, if not exactly ‘scared’, at least nervous.  And so … they have developed a strategy:  emulate Trump.  If it worked for Donald Trump in 2016, it can, they believe, work for them in 2018.  What they fail to consider is that in more than a year of Trump, many of us have soured on him, seen him for the brash, crass monster he really is, and we will do everything in our power to ensure there are no more like him.  But, am I right? 🤔

Mike Braun, the Indiana candidate for U.S. Senate, is parroting Trump’s rhetoric, speaking of ‘draining the swamp, disparaging the Mueller investigation, and even calling for those tired old chants of “Lock her up!”  Sheesh … when will they realize that Hillary Clinton poses no threat and leave her alone? Indiana, in fact, appears to have three locos running for the senate seat, and the other two are just as bad as Braun.  Todd Rokita proudly slaps on a red “Make America Great Again” cap in a new ad as he promises to “proudly stand with our president and Mike Pence to drain the swamp.” Oh, puh-leeeze.  And in the spirit of Trump, the third candidate, Luke Messer, refers to Rokita as “Lyin’ Todd”.  Anyone else feeling sick yet?

The other thing the republican candidates fail to consider is that Trump did not actually win the election … Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million, even though Trump had help from the Russians, from gerrymandered districting, from social media, and from Jim Comey’s ‘October surprise’.  Were it not for the machinations of the electoral college, Trump would still be sitting in Trump Tower sucking his thumb and whining about how unfair it all was.

Don Blankenship, running on the republican ticket for U.S. Senator from West Virginia, says, “We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary,” in one of his campaign ads.  Funny thing about that … Blankenship himself spent a year in prison, being released less than a year ago. Like his hero Trump, he also has almost no experience in government, but is a coal mine operator.  Think on that one for a minute … coal mine owner … senator … oh the opportunities for corruption! Interestingly, I have heard Blankenship referred to as “the most hated man in West Virginia”, as well as “the next Roy Moore”.  I may have to do a profile on this one …

In Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, who is hoping to fill the seat being vacated by Bob Corker, brags about her ‘shooting skills’ and the gun that she keeps in her purse at all times, and then promises to “stand with Mr. Trump every step of the way to build that wall.”

So, one might think that if the republicans are going to push forth with the same messages of hate and violence that Trump did, democrats, being above all that, have yet another thing in their favour, yes?  But don’t jump too soon.  Democratic strategist Philippe Reines is advising democratic candidates to put away Michelle Obama’s slogan of “When they go low, we go high”, and instead get in the pig pen and slough around with the rest of the bunch.

“Trump never says, ‘I’m not dignifying that with an answer. He has no dignity. He leaves no attack unanswered. I spent 15 years recommending ignoring stupidity. ‘It has no legs. Don’t give it oxygen. There’s no pickup.’ I was wrong.”

My personal opinion is that no, Mr. Reines, you were not wrong, that at the end of the day, a strong platform coupled with grace, dignity, kindness and compassion win the race.  But am I right?  🤔

Republican political strategist, Frank Luntz, claims, “Today the goal is linguistic. We are no longer rewarding policy; we are rewarding rhetoric.”

That, my friends, is frightening.  It says that the voters don’t care about, don’t consider policies and platforms, but merely how the candidate speaks.  And the louder, the more brash, the more foul language and threats, the happier the voters are.  Have we really become such an ignorant, shallow nation?

Republican Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general who is running for Senate, has degrees from Yale and Stanford. He clerked for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.  One might expect him to be an intellectual, well-spoken, right?  Yet in a recent speech, he copied Trump almost word-for-word when he claimed there is a big conspiracy between Hollywood, Wall Street, and democrats to rig the system against the republicans.  Say what???

Mid-term elections typically cost the president’s party some seats in Congress, as people are finding the fatal flaws in the president and his policies.  I think that effect should be multiplied this year, as we are caught up in a tangled web of corruption and lies that center around the president.  But, am I wrong?  🤔  Are enough people still enamored of a ‘man’ who consistently lies, cheats and steals, a ‘man’ with a loud and vulgar mouth who cannot even string a few words into a coherent sentence?

Throughout Trump’s 2015-2016 campaign, he never once spoke of actual policies, but rather his ‘policy’ was verbalized in the form of a threat.  A threat to rid the nation of Muslims.  A threat to build a wall to keep our Mexican friends out.  A threat to roll back regulations that were protecting our environment.  A threat to pull out of the Iran deal, the international trade agreements, and the Paris Accords.  A threat to destroy the democratic values that we once held dear.  If the GOP candidates follow in Trump’s footsteps, they should not be able to compete successfully, for we have seen where Trump’s threats have led us.  But … am I wrong?  🤔

Push … and Push-Back

We have all been so encouraged by the young people, led by the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, mass school shooting, and we should be encouraged, we should be proud of these young people.  They are the first generation, with the possible exception of the Vietnam generation, to take a firm stand, to make their voices heard, to say, “ENOUGH!!!”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch … er, the National Rifle Association, commonly known as the NRA, guess what?  Donations to the NRA have more than tripled since February!  In February, the group reported donations of $779,063, and in March, $2.4 million.  That is more than they have raised in any month since at least the year 2000.

bubba with gunWhy, you ask?  It’s what I call the push/push-back.  The students are the ‘push’, the momentum that is having a real impact, their voices have already led to new controls on gun ownership in Florida.  And those who cherish their right to own guns more than they value their own children are the ‘push-back’, scared that they may lose the right to own an automatic weapon.  They might well be in danger of losing the ability to plow down hundreds of people in just a minute or two.  They might even … gasp … have to submit to an extended background check and wait 3-5 days before taking possession of their newly purchased gun.  And God forbid that their 18-year-old son, Bubba, might have to wait until he is 21 years of age to buy his first gun. And because they are scared of losing their right, they are turning to their protector, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA.

gun freakThe NRA is short on morals and values, but they are by no means short on marketing skills, for they knew just how to play their cards.  They used the protests of our youth to their advantage, used them, just as Donald Trump used terrorism and terrorists, to instill fear into those gun-lovin’ fools.  “The threat to our freedom has never been more real,” reads one social media post that includes a link to its membership page. Another post says that gun control proponents “are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment.”

And their marketing campaign worked.  $1.9 million of the $2.4 million the NRA reported as donations in March came from small donors, those giving $200 or less.

Want to know what you likely haven’t seen in your local paper or heard on the nightly news about school shootings in the U.S. since the February 14th shooting in Parkland?

  • February 24: Savannah, Georgia — A person was shot on the campus of Savannah State University and taken to a nearby hospital where he later died.
  • February 27: Itta Bena, Mississippi — A person was shot in a rec center at Mississippi Valley State University. The injury was non-life-threatening.
  • February 27: Norfolk, Virginia — A student at Norfolk State University was shot from an adjacent dorm room while he was doing homework. He was not seriously injured.
  • March 2: Mount Pleasant, Michigan — Two people were shot to death at a dormitory on the campus of Central Michigan University.
  • March 7: Jackson, Mississippi — A student was shot inside a dormitory at Jackson State University. His injuries were not life-threatening.
  • March 7: Birmingham, Alabama — One student was killed and another critically wounded after an accidental shooting during dismissal time at Huffman High School.
  • March 8: Mobile, Alabama — One person was hospitalized after a shooting at an apartment building on the campus of the University of South Alabama.
  • March 13: Seaside, California — A teacher accidentally discharged a gun during a public safety class at Seaside High School, injuring a student.
  • March 20: Lexington Park, Maryland — An armed student shot two others at Great Mills High School before a school resource officer fired a round at the shooter. The shooter was killed. One of the students, 16-year-old girl Jaelynn Willey, was taken off life support two days later.
  • April 9: Gloversville, New York — A student shot another student with a BB gun in Gloversville Middle School.
  • April 12: Raytown, Missouri — A man was shot in the stomach in the parking lot of Raytown South Middle School during a track meet.
  • April 20: Ocala, Florida — A student at Forest High School was wounded and a suspect taken into custody.

In just two short months, people!!!  Two months, twelve school shootings!!!

Those who place such value on the ability to own a gun, especially a weapon that can kill hundreds inside of minutes, do not belong to the same branch of humanity to which I belong.  And just how many of these who will take their grocery money to support the NRA and keep their precious guns … how many of those are “evangelical Christians” who scream at the tops of their lungs that every abortion is murder???  But killing people with guns is okey-dokey, hunky-dorey???

Need I say more?

Monday … So Smile for a While and Let’s Be Jolly!

Monday

Good Monday morning, once again.  It sure does seem to roll around fast these days, doesn’t it?  I still think it’s a government conspiracy to take all our free time away from us!  Hey … think I could be a guest on Sean’s or Alex’ shows and promote my conspiracy theories?  I mean heck, mine make every bit as much sense as theirs do!  And I can practice, and probably get that red-in-the-face-rant thing down pat … I shall have to ponder upon this.  But first, let’s enjoy our Monday morning together and find some happy, fun things to start the week out, shall we?


Contributing to the delinquency of … a raccoon???

marijuanaThe folks in the Wayne Township, Indiana, fire department were having a slow night last Monday.  A slow day or night in a firehouse is a good thing … it means nobody has set their kitchen afire like some people who shall remain nameless!  But then … the doorbell started frantically buzzing at 2:00 a.m.

“As many times as the doorbell on the firehouse was pushed, the firefighters were quite certain that something bad was going on outside.”

raccoonWhen Fire Captain Mike Pruitt raced to answer the door, he found a woman holding … a raccoon!  The raccoon was lethargic, and there was no mystery about it, for the woman plainly told the firemen that the raccoon had smoked too much marijuana!  Yes, folks, you heard me right … wacky weed, pot, Maryjane … whatever you call it, the raccoon was high as a kite!  I don’t think he voluntarily smoked the weed, as the woman said he had been exposed to too much of ‘someone else’s’ marijuana smoke.  Ahem … a likely story.

The raccoon will likely be fine, as the firemen told the woman, there was nothing to be done but to wait a few hours for the effects to wear off.  I wonder if he had the munchies?


$500 reward offered for … a teddy bear?

The Earley family of New York vacationed at Disney World in Florida this year, with their three-year-old daughter, Morgan.  On the way home, as they passed through North Carolina, the little girl apparently stuffed her beloved teddy bear out the window.  Nothing too unusual there … some kids actually try to force their younger siblings through the window of a moving car!  But little Morgan was bereft at the loss of her bear.Morgan and bearNow, personally, I would have stopped at the closest Toys ‘R Us, bought the kid another bear, and been done with it.  But Morgan’s parent a) are nicer than I am, and b) have more money than I do.  They are offering a $500 reward for the safe return of the bear, named only Baby Bear.  There is even a Facebook page  with a few thousand sappy, empathetic comments from people around the country trying to be helpful.


Talk about ‘draining the swamp’ …

There is a lesson to be had in this story.  If you’re going to run from the cops, know where you are running to, else just let them put the pretty bracelets on you and go quietly.

Paul Andrew Smith swamp 2Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputies pulled over … or rather, tried to pull over … Paul Andrew Smith last Tuesday after he nearly hit their cruiser.  Only Paul had other ideas and jumped from his car, running as fast as he could run … right into the swamp … where he promptly sunk in up to his neck.

A K-9 named Knox is credited with finding Smith, and it took several deputies and some time to free Smith from the muck.  Knox, it is said, kept licking him.  After being freed from the swamp, do you think Mr. Smith was grateful?  No sir … he cursed the police up one end and down the other, though he did seem to enjoy Knox’ licks, nearly laughing at the dog’s antics.

Turns out Smith was wanted by authorities in neighboring Hernando County, too.  The guy gets around.


It’s just a cat, man!

I came across these adorable pics on Bored Panda last week and I couldn’t resist sharing them today.  This is known as a Sphynx Cat and his name is Loki.  Loki lives with his human family members, Sara and Brent, in Brooklyn, New York and they say he is nowhere near as grumpy as he looks!

“This cat has more personality and sass than any animal I have ever met. We are inseparable. We are best friends. Loki is incredibly affectionate, cuddly and chatty. He loves napping on our bellies, eating chicken and scrambled eggs and receiving hearty head scratches.”

It could be that he isn’t too keen on all the strange outfits his humans keep putting on him.  For more fun pictures of Loki, check him out on Bored Panda


And now, dear friends, it is time for us all to get this week rolling.  You go earn the bacon, I’ll wash the laundry, and the rest of you will go write wonderful books for us all to read!  Please share your smiles, give hugs freely, and remember to be kind.  Keep safe and have a great week!  Love ‘n hugs from Filosofa and the Significant Seven!Mother Theresa quote

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Sunday Afternoon Bits ‘n Pieces …

It’s Sunday afternoon, friends, and I know you have better things to do than listen to me go off on some long-winded tangent that will only serve to anger or depress you.  So, I am going off on a few short tangents that shouldn’t get your knickers into too much of a twist.  (Have you noticed that my UK friends are having an influence on my vocabulary?)  So here are just a few little Sunday snippets, and then you can go back to grilling out, tossing a ball around in the back yard, planting a tree, or hugging your ‘significant other’.

A well-deserved honour

Colin Kaepernick, the man whose humanitarian values far exceed those of a president who so cruelly mocked him, has been publicly acknowledged for putting his knee down for the cause of justice.  Amnesty International awarded Kaepernick its Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2018, in recognition of his sideline protests against racial inequality. The former San Francisco 49ers star was given the award at a gala ceremony in the Netherlands.  A few snippets from his acceptance speech:

“Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation — the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex. How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates, ‘freedom and justice for all,’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there? While taking a knee is a physical display that challenges the merits of who is excluded from the notion of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, the protest is also rooted in a convergence of my moralistic beliefs, and my love for the people.”

Kaepernick is most deserving of this award, for his single, courageous act started a movement whose voice is heard loud and clear by many who would prefer to remain deaf.   However, he does not deserve the treatment he is receiving at the hands of his former team, the San Francisco 49-ers, the NFL, and the ‘man’ who sits in the Oval Office.

Did he find his conscience?

I have largely regarded Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a man without a conscience.  He is a documented racist, and since taking his current position in the U.S. government, has proven himself to be a lap-puppy to Donald Trump, asking ‘how high?’ when Trump tells him to jump.  But last weekend, he did something that indicates he might be developing a late-stage conscience after all.

In a phone call with White House counsel Donald McGahn, Sessions indicated that he is seriously considering resigning his post if Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  True, he only said he “might consider”, but this is more than I would have expected of the Sessions of yore.

An update …

Last month I wrote a post about three men in Kansas who had plotted to blow up a mosque and a community of Muslim immigrants on the day after election day 2016, but were caught by an FBI informant.   The three, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein, had their day in court last week and all three were convicted on Wednesday of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights.  Their sentencing will take place on June 27th, and all three could potentially face life in prison.

Prosecutor Risa Berkower said at the trial, “They wanted to send the message that Muslims are not welcome here – not in Garden City, not in Kansas, not in America.”  Funny, isn’t it, how a few men think they know what the entire nation of nearly 326 million people want?  Who elected  these three to speak for us all?

Another small kudo to Jeff Sessions here for his support of the ruling:

“The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill people on the basis of their religion and national origin. That’s not just illegal—it’s immoral and unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it.”

I hope these three men are given the maximum sentence, for their brand of evil, of hatred, has no place in this world.

When all else fails, blame it on Obama!

The NRA, who in the eyes of most of us bears a large portion of the responsibility for every  single person who dies in a mass shooting where the shooter uses assault-style weapons, has decided who is to blame for the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

NRATV host Grant Stinchfield claimed in a segment on his show Friday that President Obama owes an apology to the survivors of the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead.  The ‘rationale’?  That President Obama put students in danger by implementing school discipline guidelines and refusing to arm teachers.

In the words of Peter, Paul & Mary … ‘When will they ever learn?  When will they ever learn?’

And I now return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon activities … hopefully you are doing something fun this afternoon!

Happy Earth Day 2018!!!

Today is Earth Day … the 48th anniversary of Earth Day, to be exact.  I am always surprised by people who say, “Yeah, so???” Or those who say “What the heck is Earth Day?”  So, please bear with me while I explain very briefly.

History – In The Beginning

The concept for Earth Day was conceived in the mind of then-Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Senator Nelson recruited help from Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey and others, and on April 22,1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 2018-4Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest honor given to civilians in the United States—for his role as Earth Day founder.

From Then To Now

Through the years, Earth Day has focused largely on global warming and a push for clean energy. Earth Day 2000 used the power of the Internet to organize activists, but also featured a drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC for a First Amendment Rally. Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders the loud and clear message that citizens around the world wanted quick and decisive action on global warming and clean energy.Earth Day 2018-3Earth Day 2010 saw new challenges:  Climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community all contributed to the narrative—cynicism versus activism.  Still, some 250,000 people showed up at the National Mall for a Climate Rally, launched the world’s largest environmental service project—A Billion Acts of Green®–introduced a global tree planting initiative that has since grown into The Canopy Project, and engaged 22,000 partners in 192 countries in observing Earth Day.

And In 2018???

Under the current administration, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) having been nearly decimated under the auspices of Scott Pruitt, the United States stands alone among all nations in eschewing the science of global climate change, and I am inclined to say that we have no right to even celebrate Earth Day.  However, thankfully, the vast majority of people in this nation are more intelligent than our leaders and understand how critical our environment and our stewardship of the planet earth is.

The Plastics Crisis

A mound of plastics

This year’s Earth Day theme is a call to end plastic pollution.  This year, a six-ton sperm whale washed up on the shores of southern Spain with 64 pounds of plastic in its stomach!  The plastic crisis is a truly global one, and the numbers are staggering: A 2015 study found that between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic makes it into the ocean from land each year. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight.

Plastic is not biodegradable and does not break down in nature.  Some 32 percent of plastics end up in nature, where it often ends up in the bellies of fish, birds, and whales. 83 percent of drinking water samples all over the world were found to contain plastic fibers, even bottled water. Environmental activists are pushing to reduce or end the use of disposable plastics. Curbing plastic pollution is a key theme in this year’s Earth Day and there’s a high-profile campaign underway to ban plastic straws in particular. UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for a ban on plastic straws, swabs, and stirrers. Some researchers last year openly called for an international agreement to control plastic pollution.

Animal Extinctions

We failed to save the Northern White Rhino species, as the last male of the species died last month. His name was Sudan …

There are now only two Northern White Rhinos left in the world, both females.  Why did these animals become extinct?  Two main causes:  poaching and loss of habitat.  Humans must bear the blame for both.  In 1900, there were an estimated half-million of the rhinos.  By 1970, that number was reduced to 70,000.  And today the number is 2.

Global Warming

Earth’s polar regions are warming twice as fast as the average rate of the planet. NOAA scientists reported late last year that the Arctic losing ice at its fastest rate in at least 1,500 years. For the third year in a row. January saw the lowest extent of Arctic sea ice for the month on record. Researchers reported last year that a section of Greenland’s ice sheet suddenly started melting 80 percent faster. Another study found Greenland’s entire ice sheet is melting at its fastest rate in at least 400 years, and that the melt rate sped up drastically in 1990. If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by more than 20 feet.

The climate change deniers can deny until they turn blue in the face, but facts speak louder than bullshit, and the facts tell us that we are losing this battle and will face our own extinction if we don’t take collective action soon.

In Summary

This is a post about Earth Day, but more to the point it is a post about the need for Earth Day.  It isn’t just about one day a year, about marches and articles such as this one, but it is about awareness.  The entire purpose of Earth Day is to raise awareness, to stir people to take action.  The U.S. government and Fox News will continue to deny the need to protect our environment, not because they are as stupid as they seem, but rather because they are as greedy as they seem.  But there is much that each and every one of us can do without the help of our elected officials.  Recycle, pick up trash when you see it on the streets or in your local parks, plant a tree, plant flowers to encourage pollination, turn the thermostat down, conserve water, reduce food waste, turn off lights, consolidate errands and trips in the car, walk more/drive less, take the bus … use some common sense and be a good steward of the planet.  And meanwhile, keep petitioning your elected officials at local, state and federal levels … let them know that a healthy environment is more important to you than the finances of the fossil fuel industry.  Please … my life and yours are at stake, but more importantly our children’s and grandchildren’s lives are at stake.

Happy Earth Day, my friends!  Why not celebrate by planting a sapling or a few flowers in the back yard?