Snarky Snippets Are Baaaack!

It’s been a while since I released a full stream of snarky snippets … been taking it a bit easy, trying to keep the snark at bay, but … well, that only works for so long, y’know.


Say WHAT???

Harry-PotterWhen Miss Goose was young, I read to her the first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (first published as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK).  I liked it much better than she did, and I went on to read the next 2 or 3 in the series … by myself.  Although I’ve never been a fan of fantasy fiction, I have to admit they are fun books.  Harmless fun with lovable characters.  But apparently the Catholic Church doesn’t think so.

St. Edward Catholic school in Nashville has removed the Harry Potter books from its library, saying …

“These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception. The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”

Oh bullcrap!  Yes, that noise you hear is me stomping my feet, not the presence of evil spirits!

According to Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the Catholic diocese of Nashville …

“We really don’t get into censorship in such selections other than making sure that what we put in our school libraries are age-appropriate materials for our classrooms.”

Well if this isn’t censorship, lady, then I must not understand the meaning of the word.  I was not aware, but the Harry Potter series has drawn criticism from religious groups before.  In 2001, the pastor of Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico oversaw a book burning of the Potter books, and a local library responded with a dedicated display, telling the public that “Harry is alive and well at the library”.

While he was still a cardinal in 2003, the future Pope Benedict XVI described the books as “subtle seductions which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly”.

Wake up churches … we have entered the 21st century!  Harry Potter books are fun!  They are harmless!  There ain’t no evil spirits planning to descend upon those who read these books!


A veteran speaks …

Last week, a spokesperson for Bozo in the Oval announced that “in certain cases”, children born to U.S. service members or government employees stationed abroad may not automatically be eligible for citizenship under the new Trump rules.

Tammy-DuckworthTammy Duckworth is a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who has served as the junior United States Senator from Illinois since 2017.  While serving in the Iraq War as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, Ms. Duckworth suffered severe combat wounds, which caused her to lose both of her legs and some mobility in her right arm. She was the first female double amputee from the war. Despite her grievous injuries, she sought and obtained a medical waiver which allowed her to continue serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

Senator Duckworth penned a letter to Kevin McAleenan, the acting director of homeland security, stating her objections to the new policy.  Her letter bears reading …

Duckworth-1duckworth-2.pngDuckworth-3What’s next, folks?  Trump claims to love the military, love veterans, but thus far his policies have done nothing positive for them.


Spittin’ in the wind?

I really didn’t set out with the intention of picking on religion tonight … I try hard to bite my tongue where religion is concerned, but at the moment, my tongue is already bleeding.

Florida is bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian.  I’ve seen countless pictures of people filling sandbags, boarding windows, helping others move inland, stocking up on supplies, and more.  But, these people …pray-ers

… gathered on the Jacksonville Beach Pier to pray the storm away.  Yes, you heard me right!  They say they are telling the storm to “calm down”.  I put this one right up there with people sending “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting, but then admittedly I am a cynic.  The group says they did the same thing two years ago while awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  Did that work well for them?  Well, let’s see …

Hurricane Irma delivered an $85 million hit to the city of Jacksonville, according to the city’s most recent cost estimates.

The biggest share of the total is about $40 million for hauling away all the debris left behind by the storm, followed by $16.6 million for dunes and berms, and $15.3 million for personnel and equipment costs for emergency response operations.

The total financial impact on city government is almost twice the $45 million expense dealt by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

I’m thinking maybe not so much.  And during Irma, they even had the help of some 59,000 people who had the brilliant idea to point fans toward the east and blow the hurricane back out to sea!  Imagine how much worse Irma might have been if she hadn’t been thwarted by all that hot air!fans-Irma

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Okay … I’m done snarking for tonight.  I’m fairly certain I’ll have more soon, though.  Meanwhile, to all my friends and readers in the path of Hurricane Dorian, please keep safe and let us know you’re okay.  Love you all!

It’s Not About Abortion – It’s About Life

Yesterday, Planned Parenthood announced that it would withdraw from the federal family planning program known as Title X.  The Title X Family Planning program was enacted in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies, and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under Trump’s hand-picked Alex Azar, attached a new condition on receiving Title X funding – that the recipients, such as Planned Parenthood, can no longer make abortion referrals.  This, my friends, is nothing more than the federal government attempting to inflict the beliefs of the Christian evangelical community, a vocal minority of the population, on everyone in the nation.  It is an attempt to make religious beliefs into public policy.  It is a huge step away from being the secular nation that we started out to be, that we need to be.

But let’s be clear … while the intent may be to deprive a woman of the right to have an abortion, this is not about abortion.  This is not about whether a woman has a right to decide what is right for her, in some cases having an abortion.  This is about whether a woman has a right to live or not.  Planned Parenthood is not just about helping a woman get an abortion, and in fact that is a very small percentage of what they do.

planned-parenthood-servicesAs you can see, money spent on providing abortions is a mere 3% of their total, AND … NO FEDERAL MONIES are spent on abortion.  Now, look at some of the other things they do …

  • STD and HIV testing and treatment
  • Birth control
  • Screening for reproductive cancers (like breast, cervical, testicular, and prostate cancers)
  • Pap tests and well woman exams
  • Vaccines
  • PrEP and PEP (medicines to help prevent HIV)
  • Pregnancy services and prenatal care
  • Transgender health services, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Vasectomy and other sterilization services
  • Condoms

Planned Parenthood saves lives.  In many rural areas, they are the only provider of the above services that may save a woman’s life.  Or a man’s, for you may note they also do screening for testicular and prostate cancers.  They provide prenatal care … the anti-abortion group might do well to consider that they are robbing that fetus they care so much about of such things as the vitamins to ensure they are healthy, and regular screenings to detect any potential problems that might be avoided with timely treatment.

Evangelicals have been calling for the government to ‘de-fund’ Planned Parenthood for decades, but instead of de-funding it, the government set a criteria that they could no longer make abortion referrals.  Planned Parenthood said, in essence, “Okay, keep your money then … for there are times that a woman’s life and health depend on abortion.”

There’s a certain irony here, too, that a large portion of what Planned Parenthood does involves birth control and family planning education, both of which significantly lower the need for abortions, and yet those who claim to be “pro-life” are depriving women of those services as well.

I do not applaud Planned Parenthood’s decision, but I do support it … it was the right thing for them to do.  However, I do not support the government’s imposition of the criteria, I do not support the evangelicals who coerced the government into setting the criteria.  Those evangelicals call themselves “pro-life”, but they are not.  They are not considering the lives of the thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, annual checkups, family planning services, and much more.

There will be backlash over this.  I do not know what the end result will be, but somehow, we must continue to fund Planned Parenthood.  They do not provide abortions with Title X funds, but only with private funding.  They provide a tremendous service to women, they save lives of both babies and mothers, and they are an integral part of women’s healthcare, especially among lower income women.

I came across a short video on Scottie’s Toybox that I think explains the issue quite well … please take a minute or two … well, actually 7 minutes, but it is well worth the time spent.

Are we going to be held hostage in other areas by the evangelicals?  Are we going to let them dictate, for example, that there must be mandatory religious classes in schools?  Are we going to let them tell us that it is okay for employers to discriminate against LGBT people?  The United States is, appropriately, a secular nation, not as some would believe, a Christian nation.  Twenty-five percent, fully one-fourth of this nation are non-Christians.  We are Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists and agnostics.  We have a voice, too.  We pay taxes, too.  We contribute our skills and ideas as much as any.  And 50.52% of this nation are women.  We pay taxes and have a voice, too.

Abortion is not the root of all evil.  Often a woman has an abortion because she is unable to provide for her child.  The world is already over-populated and the last thing we need are more hungry mouths to feed.  Those same people who call for an end to all abortions, also fight against their tax dollars going to help feed and shelter those children once they are born.  Pro-life???  I don’t think so … just anti-women.  If you ever doubted that it’s still a man’s world, doubt no more.mans world

Good People Doing Good Things — Dale Schroeder

Today’s ‘good people’ post is a bit shorter than usual, because … Filosofa forgot that it was Wednesday, and last night I spent a few hours preparing what I thought would be this morning’s post.  And then, as I was setting it up on the schedule for 3:00 a.m., I saw the calendar and … oh sh*t … it’s Wednesday!  I considered going with my original post, making my apologies, and doing the good people post later, or tomorrow, but … I know you guys count on it and in today’s environment, we all need to be reminded of the humanitarians who walk amongst us.  So, it is a bit short, but it is heartwarming, I promise you!


Dale-SchroederDale Schroeder lived his entire live in Ames, Iowa.  He was, as his friend Steve Nielsen described him, “… that kind of a blue-collar, lunch-pail kind of a guy. Went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans.”  Mr. Schroeder grew up poor, never married and worked as a carpenter for 67 years at the same Des Moines business.  Just your average Joe … or Dale.

Now, Steve Nielsen was a friend, but it also happens that he is an attorney.  One day near the end of Dale’s life, he popped into Mr. Nielsen’s law office and wanted to talk about his will.

“I never got the opportunity to go to college. So, I’d like to help kids go to college.”

When Nielsen asked Dale …

“How much are we talking about, Dale?”

The answer stunned Nielsen, who says he nearly fell out of his chair …

“Oh, just shy of $3 million.”

When Mr. Schroeder died in 2005, he owned two pair of jeans – church jeans and work jeans – and a rusted Chevy pickup truck.  But Mr. Schroeder left a legacy that will live forever, for because of him, 33 people were able to go to college and come out debt-free!Dale-Schroeder-2.pngYou may wonder why I am writing about this now, some 14 years after Dale’s death, but I have my reasons.  This month, the group of 33 who have dubbed themselves “Dale’s kids” got together to honor the man who changed their lives. They’re now doctors, teachers, therapists — and friends.

There’s just one thing Schroeder asked for in return. “All we ask is that you pay it forward,” Nielsen said. “You can’t pay it back, because Dale is gone, but you can remember him and you can emulate him.”

One such recipient, Kira Conrad, tells her story …

“I grew up in a single parent household and I had three older sisters, so paying for all four of us was never an option.”

Y’know, folks, to most of today’s politicians or wealthy industrialists, $3 million is a drop in their bucket, probably not even worth losing a night’s sleep.  But to Dale, it represented two things:  a life lived frugally, without all the toys and gadgets that we think we simply cannot live without, and an opportunity to give of himself to others, to give others a chance to do what he was never able to do.  I have stated before that I don’t have much use for millionaires and billionaires, but if they were all like Dale, used their money for the betterment of people … what a wonderful world it could be.

Good People Doing Good Things — Lots of ‘Em

This week, the focus is on everyday people doing things that help others in one way or another.  It’s nice to report on those people who are making mega-differences in people’s lives, but sometimes it’s just as meaningful to look at the everyday folks who are doing what is within their power to make a difference.  Sometime, the opportunity to be a ‘good people’ just drops in your lap, as you’ll see in the last story.


Mohan-3Mohan Sudabattula, a 23-year-old student, along with his team of volunteers collect medical equipment from thrift stores and donations. They clean up the gear, which ranges from slings and braces to wheelchairs and walkers, and then send it to disadvantaged medical facilities around the world.Mohan-1.pngSudabattula thought of this idea when he was in school and volunteering in the prosthetics department at a nearby hospital. Whenever a patient outgrew a prosthetic, it would simply be thrown in the garbage. While prosthetics are designed exclusively for the wearer, Mohan wondered if he could recycle other medical equipment and give it a new life.Mohan-2Back in 2006, he went to India with his parents, and while at an orphanage he saw children creating makeshift crutches and wheelchairs out of everyday objects. Now, over ten years later, he was able to donate several dozen wheelchairs and crutches to that very same orphanage because of the work he is doing with Project Embrace.

Since launching the nonprofit in 2016, the group has donated over 900 refurbished medical devices to low-income hospitals in the U.S. and India.


Simon Child works in the very McDonalds in Fayetteville, Florida that he was caught sleeping in. When a woman in the community saw Child asleep in a booth, she photographed him and posted the picture on Facebook, apparently hoping to mock or shame him.Simon-1.jpegThe post had the opposite effect the woman was hoping for, as everyone in the community rallied around the homeless worker. They learned that Child had a child of his own and was working tirelessly to support them both after the death of his mother.Simon-2.jpgNews spread, and soon the entire community was pitching in to help Simon. He got a free haircut from a local barbershop to help him look more professional. A local eatery lent him a car for job interviews. One member even offered to put Child and his son up in a hotel until they found a permanent residence.Simon-3.pngMembers also donated food, clothes, diapers, and more to help the struggling father. They even raised $2,000 for Child to get a life start. As for the woman, Child says he harbors no ill will towards her because, without her post, the community would have never known.


Rita-1Riya Hariharan (16, Palo Alto, California) is the founder Giftkids.net, a global organization that provides critically needed educational and wellness supplies for kids who are orphans around the world with the goal to motivate the kids to stay in school, be well, and change the trajectory of their future.  Through her organization, Riya is helping two severely under-resourced schools, in Haiti and India.

In India, Riya supports an orphanage of children who are primarily from the historically most oppressed (Dalit) community and come from a variety of backgrounds … single mothers, parents unable to provide basic care and mostly children who are orphans. Kids need to walk a good distance to school through the somewhat harsh climates in Bidar – from cold winters to the heavy southwest monsoon. ​ Giftkids shipped colorful sweaters to them in time for the Indian holiday of Diwali.rita-india.pngIn Haiti, the remedial school she helps is comprised of enthusiastic kids who struggle with reading and are first-generation learners. They attend this free school with the hope to be able to attend high school someday. However the kids are often absent in class because they do not have proper shoes to walk the distance to school. ​In 2017, Giftkids shipped new sneakers to them in time for their pre-Kanaval celebration in January.riya-haiti.pngIn the two years since its start, Giftkids today has helped over 100 kids in need in Haiti, India, and San Jose, California.


This last story is a really small thing, but it struck a chord with me, and I think speaks volumes about this man.

Tim Crowley and some buddies were hanging out in Tim’s backyard last weekend, and there was a fair amount of drinking going on when all of a sudden, a baby bird fell out of the sky!  The bird needed help, so Tim, still with some of his wits about him, called the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah and sent them a picture of the bird.Petey-1The staff at the Center told Tim to bring the baby bird on in, but there was one problem:  nobody in the group was sober enough to drive!  So, after some thought and debate, they called for an Uber!  The first Uber driver refused, so they didn’t tell the next driver who the passenger would be, and she gladly delivered the little birdie to the Wildlife Center.Petey-2The staff at the center named the little guy, fittingly, Petey Uber, and they say it is unlikely he would have survived without intervention.  Tim Crowley … the man paid for an Uber to save the life of one little birdie!  Doesn’t that bring a lump to your throat?  How many people do you know who would have done the same?

Petey is reportedly doing fine and will be released into the wild when he is able to survive on his own.  Thanks to Tim Crowley!


And that’s a wrap for today, folks!  If any of you run across a ‘good people’, feel free to send me a link or story, and I will consider it for inclusion in the good people posts!  Meanwhile, let’s all try to be a good people, even if only in a small way.

Good People Doing Good Things — Curtis Jenkins!

These days more than ever, we need to be reminded of all the good people, people who are giving of themselves to do good for others.  They aren’t hard to find … you sometimes just have to sift through all the noise to find these people quietly going about the business of … being good people.  Today, I would like you to meet a school bus driver for Lake Highlands Elementary school in Dallas, Texas.  His name is Curtis Jenkins and his story is heartwarming … Gronda, get your tissues.Curtis-Jenkins.jpegUp until eight years ago, Curtis owned his own plumbing and electrical company.  Then, his mother became ill and he needed greater flexibility in order to take her to and from appointments, so he sold his business and took a job with the Richardson Independent School District (RISD) driving a school bus.  And it was there he found his passion in life … the kids.

Jenkins makes the trip to and from school fun!  He has created a community inside bus No. 1693. Students apply for their ‘jobs’ and earn “bus bucks” that Jenkins designed himself. Children who don’t work receive a weekly stipend ($5 bus bucks), but they’re taxed $2.  Only recently, he added another wrinkle … each working child contributes one of their bus bucks to help those who aren’t working.  At the end of the week, bus bucks can be redeemed for needed school supplies (purchased by Curtis). Among the ‘jobs’ are sheriff, police officer, banker, administrative assistant, and translator.

bus-bucks.jpg

Students are fined when they break Jenkins’ rules, which are centered around respect and compassion.

“I’m teaching love. If you don’t love, it might cost you some things.”

It’s no classroom, but Jenkins plans daily lessons that he worries are otherwise neglected. He shows students how to fly paper airplanes and tie a tie, among other useful life skills.

“I want to put imagination back in children without desensitizing them.”

Students campaigned for bus president in March and were tasked with creating a budget to add more jobs. But multiplication is tricky. So is public speaking, which is why one fifth-grader dropped out of the race.  A second-grader, trying to offer him words of encouragement, said …

“Look, all you need to say is some fancy words, and something that’s going to make everyone excited or something. Then they’re going to choose you. It’s not that hard.” (I can’t imagine where the kid learned that lesson?)

But Curtis Jenkins’ acts of kindness go much further than that.  He makes each child on his bus a special card on their birthdays, and he and his wife, Shaneqia, purchase turkeys for some of the kids’ families at Thanksgiving.  At Easter, he and Shaneqia put together special Easter bags for the kids.  It’s the little things that mean so much.

Every morning when he arrives at school with his young charges, he gives a brief talk from the front of the bus with advice like, “Walk with a purpose until you walk into your purpose. Everybody deserves a chance. No matter the odds, don’t ever count anyone out — including yourself.”  The kids love him.  One parent reported recently that her child is excited to get up and come to school because he knows Jenkins will be there to greet him each morning at the bus stop.  Another child said …

“My mom got divorced when I was only 4. He’s the father that I always wanted. In some ways, I wish my dad could have been like that.”

Until last December, Curtis had gone quietly about the business of being a bus driver, mentor, helper, with few outside the school noticing.  That all changed the week of Christmas, however, when he and Shaneqia decided not to buy Christmas gifts for each other, but instead to spend the money on gifts for the children.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, he got the kids talking about what they hoped to get for Christmas, and Curtis made mental notes.  In the end, he and Shaneqia ended up also spending the money they had put back for a second honeymoon … they felt this was more important. One of his fellow bus drivers and a parent also chipped in once they discovered what he was doing.

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A teacher took a picture of Curtis standing before his gift-laden bus and the school posted it on Facebook as a way to thank Curtis for going above and beyond the call of duty. The photo and accompanying story went viral.  The post was be shared 13,500 times and his story ran across media outlets in 20 countries, all within 48 hours!  HuffPost and even Breitbart picked up the story, as did CBS and NBC.

Jenkins wasn’t prepared for the nonprofits who claimed they donated to him, even though they hadn’t. A company is turning a profit by sending thank you cards to him on behalf of their customers. His daughter wasn’t ready for the 2,000 Instagram followers who flooded her inbox in search of her dad’s contact information. Jenkins didn’t expect to buy a P.O. box or hire a lawyer to establish a nonprofit.

But that is what, after giving it much thought, he did.

“If I have a platform now, why not use it?”

Jenkins’ nonprofit, Magnifying Caring and Change, is still in the development stages, but will be an extension of what he does for the students on his bus. He partnered with Cozy Coats for Kids to buy jackets for students. His hope is that one day he’ll have a community center for them after school.

“Just take the time to look at yourselves and think, if you were in another position than what you are in right now, how do you want somebody to treat you. I’m not rich at all. But I plan to one day be a blessing to people in need. We need these kids to know they have potential — they are like little apprentices. One day they will be the leaders when we aren’t around.”

Wise words from a wise, kind, and compassionate man.  Two thumbs up to Mr. Curtis Jenkins!

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Good People Doing Good Things — Robert F. Smith

It’s graduation season at colleges all across the nation, but one commencement ceremony will stand out in the minds of many for the rest of their lives.  Graduates of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, will be telling their grandchildren about their graduation “way back in 2019”.  Why?  Because of the generosity of one man, Robert Frederick Smith.

Mr. Smith gave the commencement speech at Morehouse last Sunday.  Watch (pay particular attention to the guy in the lower left-hand corner)

Who, you ask, is Robert Frederick Smith?  Never heard of him, have you?  Well, he is a 56-year-old African-American man, originally from Colorado, currently living in Austin, Texas.  He is a businessman, investor, and philanthropist, a former chemical engineer and investment banker. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners.  Not the sort of person I typically feature in my good people posts, and not the sort we usually think of when we think of ‘generosity’.

Smith’s net worth is estimated at $5 billion, but he is not your typical billionaire.  Smith was not born into abject poverty, but neither was he born into wealth.  Both of his parents were schoolteachers and his was very much a middle-class upbringing.  But Smith had drive, he had ambition, and he knew at an early age what he wanted.

As a junior in high school, Smith landed an internship at Bell Labs — by calling the company every week for five months until he got a slot. Smith tinkered with computers during his summer and winter breaks and went on to study chemical engineering at Cornell University. He earned an MBA from Columbia University, followed by an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs. After advising billion-dollar mergers for tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple, he left Goldman to found Vista Equity Partners in 2000.  Today, Robert Smith is the wealthiest African-American in the nation.

Smith’s gift to Morehouse graduates is far from his first act of generosity.  Prior to the 2003 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., Smith donated $20 million.  In 2016, he gave $50 million to Cornell University for its chemical and biomolecular engineering school, and to support black and female engineering students. He is the founding director and president of the Fund II Foundation. Under his leadership, Fund II Foundation has invested in organizations such as Cornell, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), National Park Foundation, Susan G. Komen, and Global Wildlife Conservation, among many others.

In 2018, Smith was the largest individual donor at the City of Hope Gala, earmarking funds towards prostate cancer treatment for black men and for breast cancer research for black women. Smith also donated $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to advance prostate cancer research among African-American men.

In 2017, Smith signed on for The Giving Pledge, joining such notable philanthropists as Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and currently 190 others.

Robert-Frederick-Smith“I will never forget that my path was paved by my parents, grandparents and generations of African-Americans whose names I will never know. Their struggles, their courage, and their progress allowed me to strive and achieve. My story would only be possible in America, and it is incumbent on all of us to pay this inheritance forward. For these reasons, on behalf of my family, I am privileged to join the Giving Pledge with a commitment to invest half my net worth—during my lifetime—to causes that support equality of opportunity for African Americans, as well as causes that cultivate ecological protection to ensure a livable planet for future generations.”

As you all know, I typically have little or no use for billionaires, as very few use their wealth to help people.  But when a man pledges to pay off the student debt for 396 college graduates, my hat is off to him.

I did a bit of research and found that the average white college graduate leaves school with $28,650 in student loan debt.  But, according to Brookings Institute, the average black student has an additional $7,400 in debt, in part because black parents have less wealth to help pay for their children’s educations.  So, what Mr. Smith has done for these graduates is no small thing, for the total could well end up being around $15 million, according to my calculations.  And what he said toward the end of his speech … he called on those graduates to “pay it forward” … will ensure that his gift is one of those that ‘keeps on giving’.

On Feeding Our Children …

Imagine you are a child in school.  The lunch bell rings, you head to the cafeteria with your friends, stand in line, select your lunch, and when you get to the cashier, you are told that you cannot have your lunch, for your parents haven’t paid your lunch bill.  You are handed a sandwich … or worse, the cashier throws your lunch in the trash and tells you to move out of the line.  Your friends … they are looking at you … you feel as if every single kid in the cafeteria is looking at you.  You are so embarrassed you wish the ground would open and swallow you.  You run to the bathroom in tears.  This is happening all over the United States.embarrassed-child.jpgSome children are eligible for free lunch, but those who are not must rely on their parents to keep money in their school lunch account.  Sometimes perhaps the parents are a bit short one week, or perhaps they simply forgot.  It happens.  Children should not have to go without a nutritious lunch and be shamed in front of the entire school for something over which they had no control.  And yet, that is exactly what is happening across the nation.

In Warwick, Rhode Island earlier this month, the school district implemented a new policy that any child who has unpaid lunch fees or cannot afford to pay for his/her lunch will be denied a hot lunch and given only a “sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich”.  The district claims to have “tens of thousands of dollars” of unpaid lunch fees and can no longer afford to extend lunch credit to the children.

Enter a good Samaritan, Angelica Penta, owner of a local restaurant, who offered $4,000 to help pay some of that lunch debt, but her offer was firmly rejected … twice! She was told that the school would have to decide which children’s accounts to apply the money toward, and so unless she specified whose accounts she wished to pay, or unless she paid the total they claim is owed, they could not accept her generosity.  Meanwhile, children are being embarrassed and subjected to a sandwich made of … sunflower seeds???

But Warwick is only one such example, as I found out on researching for this post.  This is happening all over the country and has been for some years!  In Phoenix, Arizona, children’s arms are stamped with the words “Lunch Money” if their accounts are empty.  In Santa Fe, New Mexico, lunches are thrown in the trash, rather than given to the children if they cannot pay.  What a waste!!! A few states have recently banned what is called “lunch shaming”, but in others it is standard practice.  In Rhode Island, legislation requiring all students to receive the same hot lunch regardless of their financial circumstances is pending, but meanwhile kids in Warwick schools are eating sunflower seed sandwiches and continuing to be embarrassed.

There are any number of steps the schools could have taken other than hurting the children.  They could have contacted the parents by phone, discreetly sent a note home with the child, or even called the parent in for a consultation.  The children do not have control of the family finances! donation-jar.jpgThere are a few heroes here, though.  Ms. Penta’s assistance was ultimately accepted by a portion of the district, West Warwick, and she has set up donation jars in her restaurants where patrons can add money to help the cause.  The rest of the district, however, continues to insist that she must specify which children she wishes to help.  She has posted on her Facebook account that if anyone needs help paying for their lunch, to contact her and she would help.

Chobani.jpgChobani, the yogurt makers, has given the district $47,650 to apply toward the debt the district claims it is owed.  Now, oddly, the district first claimed the lunch debt was in the $40,000 range, but just a few days later claimed it was $77,000.  Something fishy here … surely they do have an accountant?  Thumbs up and hats off to Chobani for their compassion and humanitarianism, and thumbs down to Warwick, Rhode Island, where officials are putting profit ahead of the nation’s children.

It is wrong to punish the children for their parents’ oversight, and in most cases it is simply oversight.  We’ve all forgotten to pay a bill, or other important tasks.  We send our children to school to learn, and it’s hard to learn much if you are hungry, or if you have been embarrassed so badly in front of your friends that you just want the day to be over so you can go home.  School lunch … such a simple thing … and yet it has become a monumental issue in this nation.  We are so obsessed with money that we are harming our greatest resource, our children.


Along those same lines …

Remember a few days ago when I posted Nicholas Kristof’s piece about Teresa L. Todd, the good Samaritan who stopped to help three immigrant teens and was arrested by Border Patrol agents for her efforts?  Well, here’s another similar story.

Bonnie-KimballBonnie Kimball was a cafeteria worker at Mascoma Valley Regional High School in Canaan, New Hampshire until recently.  Then on March 28th, she was fired by vendor Café Services for letting a student have a lunch even though his account had no money in it.  Turns out that Café Services’ contract with the school was coming up for renewal and the school was considering switching to another company, so Café Services had head honchos in the school keeping an eye on the staff.  Her letter of termination stated …

“On March 28, a District manager was on-site and witnessed a student coming through the line with multiple food items that you did not charge him for. This is a strict violation of our Cash Handling Procedures, the Schools Charge Policy and Federal Regulation governing free meals.”

Once the story was reported nationally by CNN, The Washington Post and others, the company told The Post that they would offer Ms. Kimball her job back, but it was obvious to all that their purpose was to stop the negative publicity that was having a negative effect on their contract negotiations, and Ms. Kimball declined.

The situation came to the attention of chef José Andrés, a humanitarian who has provided thousands of meals to victims of natural disasters and the homeless.  Chef Andrés tweeted …

“New Hampshire school cafeteria worker fired for giving food to student who couldn’t pay … The hero is Bonnie Kimball! If she needs a job we have openings at @thinkfoodgroup if you know her, let her know!”

Is our society becoming so self-focused, so intent on squeezing every last cent out of people that we punish those who try to help others?  It would seem so.

An Anniversary To Remember …

Yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark decision that established that racial discrimination in schools is unconstitutional.  To honour this anniversary, I would like to share with you a post by the Jon S. Randal Peace Page that tells the story better than I could.

She just wanted to go to a good school, to be with her friends.

She lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, growing up playing with children of all races.

The school she wanted to attend, where her friends were, was only four blocks away.

Her father would take her to that school, the Sumner School. Being a part of the neighborhood, the family received a registration form for the school in 1952. She was so excited, to be able to attend a school nearby with her friends from the neighborhood.

But, when they arrived there, the principal would take her father to the office and close the door. She didn’t know what was happening, why the principal had to speak to her father alone. She heard her father’s voice begin to rise. After a few minutes, her father opened the door, he was upset, and he just took her hand and walked back out of the school.

The school had apparently sent the registration form to her family by mistake. They thought the family was white, Linda Brown and her parents were black and Sumner was a whites-only school.

“I just couldn’t understand what was happening,” she would say, “I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.”

Linda-Brown.jpgLinda Brown did not realize that she was unable to attend the school because of the color of her skin. This was because the elementary schools in Topeka, Kansas, were racially segregated, with separate facilities for black and white children.

“I didn’t comprehend color of skin,” she said later. “I only knew that I wanted to go to Sumner.”

She and other black children were barred from sharing the same buses, schools and other public facilities as whites because of the “Jim Crow” laws.

Brown would be forced to walk 6 blocks through the dangerous Rock Island Switchyard in order to catch a bus to the segregated all-black school.

According to the Washington Post, Linda’s father, the Rev. Oliver L. Brown, an assistant minister at St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, “felt that it was wrong for his child to have to go so far a distance to receive a quality education.”

Linda’s father would join several other parents, and, together, led by a young, NAACP attorney named Thurgood Marshall, would take the case, Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, would rule in their favor, saying that school segregation violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The unanimous ruling declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

Brown v. Board of Education would be the basis for many other rulings that led to desegregation, motivating the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

But, not only did black students benefit from the ruling, Native American children were also affected. Native American communities had to deal with segregation laws as well, with native children being prohibited from attending white institutions. After tribal leaders learned about Dr. King’s desegregation campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, they would contact him for assistance, resolving the problem.

Although Brown’s family was just one of 13 plaintiffs who sought to ensure the city fully integrated the rest of its schools, Brown would be burdened with the publicity because her family’s name was part of the case name. Her family would briefly leave their home in Topeka, Kansas, when she was a teenager, but she would return to Topeka after her father died in 1961.

She would also take on the civil rights mantle of her father, becoming an educator and civil rights advocate.

Brown was part of a group of Topeka parents who, in 1979, joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to successfully argue for the reopening of the Brown case. The parents argued that because of housing patterns in Topeka, racially segregated schools remained in the city, in violation of the 1954 ruling.

In a 1985 interview for “Eyes on the Prize,” a PBS documentary series on the civil rights movement, Linda Brown said, “I feel that after 30 years, looking back on Brown v. the Board of Education, it has made an impact in all facets of life for minorities throughout the land. I really think of it in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second-class citizenship.”

When Brown died on March 25, 2018, at the age 76, the Kansas governor paid tribute to Brown, saying:

“Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America. Linda Brown’s life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact and that by serving our community we can truly change the world.”

In an interview with the Washington Post in 1994, Brown had said, “We feel disheartened that 40 years later we’re still talking about desegregation. But the struggle has to continue.”

Sixty-five years later.  Everybody accepts that racial intolerance has no place in our schools, in our society, right?  Wrong.  A number of Trump’s recent judicial nominees have flat-out refused to affirm the Brown decision.  One even went so far as to say she did not agree with the decision in 1954. Why???  Are we, in fact, headed on a backward slope in terms of racial discrimination just as we are in terms of women’s and LGBT rights?  Suffice it to say that with the recent rise in white supremacy and Trump’s pandering to the right-wing hate groups, it is something we cannot afford to ignore.

Snarky Snippets — Thriving On Chaos

Never before in the history of this nation has there been a more chaotic government, one that had so little clue what they were doing or what the ramifications of their actions would be.  It is truly as if 7-year-old children are the decision-makers in Washington today!

white-house-chaos.jpg


He wasn’t invited, but nonetheless, Mike Pompeo crashed the meeting.  A group of European foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels yesterday morning to work on how to best handle the situation with Iran that has turned into a mess, thanks to none other than Donald Trump.  The group did not grant Pompeo inclusion in their meeting, but several diplomats from the UK, France, Germany, and the EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, granted him private meetings.

The Europeans have all expressed fear not only about how Iran will behave, but equally about the aggression by the U.S.  British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said …

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side. Most of all, we need to make sure we don’t end up putting Iran back on the path to re-nuclearization. Because if Iran becomes a nuclear power, its neighbors are likely to want to become nuclear powers. This is already the most unstable region in the world, and this would be a massive step in the wrong direction.”

Since Trump reneged on the Iran nuclear agreement a year ago, he has been taunting Iran, as well as our allies who are trying to hold the deal together without any assistance from the U.S.  Iran finally said, “Enough”, and is threatening to cancel the agreement and return to building its nuclear program.

Apparently little, if anything, was gained by the private meetings with Pompeo, as each side dug in, with Pompeo saying that the nuclear deal should be scrapped.  Apparently, he would like to have a reason to go to war with Iran?  Pompeo has enough foreign policy experience to understand that a war in the Middle East will involve many more nations than only Iran and is a no-win proposition that can only make matters worse in the area than they already are.  If, as I suspect, Trump is all too eager to try out his nuclear button … well, you know where I’m going with that.

Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton have put our allies in a tough spot and have increased tensions in the Middle East dramatically and dangerously.  Way to go, Donnie … what else do you plan to destroy?


The trade negotiations between the U.S. and China were reportedly going well and expected to wrap up within a matter of days.  But … sigh … Trump apparently never heard that old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  He prefers to break that which isn’t broken, and that is precisely what he did last week.  He increased the tariffs on some $200 billion worth of goods the U.S. imports from China, causing China to retaliate and impose new tariffs on some $60 billion worth of goods they buy from us.

Remember how Trump has been bragging about that good economy (the one that was already doing very well when he inherited it)?  Well, guess what folks?  Based on the news of all these new tariffs being bandied about, the market took a bit of a nosedive.  Does this ‘man’ understand nothing???  No, Donnie, tariffs are not good, China isn’t the one paying for the tariffs that YOU imposed … WE are!  And NO, Donnie, trade wars are not easy to win!

Trump claimed his reason for increasing the tariffs was that China was reneging on certain concessions, but there is no evidence of that, and people who have long dealt with Trump in the world of real estate say that this is his modus operandi … he throws a fit over some imagined problem at the last minute, then attempts to bully his way into a better deal.  Trouble is … this isn’t a real estate deal and … our economy and our livelihoods are at risk here.  He is playing with the lives of real people.


I got through my first four years of college with the help of Pell Grants and by often working three jobs.  Pell Grants, for those who may not be familiar with them, are subsidies the U.S. federal government provides for students who need it to pay for college. Federal Pell Grants are limited to students with financial need, who have not earned their first bachelor’s degree.  I could not have gone to college had it not been for those Pell Grants.  Today, they are more important than ever, with the high cost of college.  But guess what?  Donald Trump has decided that playing with his space toys is more important than educating our youth.

Yesterday evening, Trump sent a budget amendment to Congress to take $1.9 billion from the Pell Grant program and give it, instead, to NASA “so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” 

bullshit

Some spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) claims that it will not impact the Pell Grant program … I guess he must think we are all pretty damn stupid.

Trump has already proposed budget cuts for other student aid programs to the tune of $3.8 billion!  It would seem that his ultimate goal is to ensure that only the children of the wealthy can afford to attend college.  Picture the U.S. in 25 years.  Your children and grandchildren will be digging ditches, working in dead-end factory jobs, clerking at a grocery store or McDonald’s, while Betsy DeVos’ and Donald Trump’s grandchildren will be the corporate CEOs and will be the people running our government … if, in fact, there is still a government to run.


And now, I believe I have spent most of my snark, so I shall leave you to find a cheerier blog than mine to read for the rest of the morning.  But never fear, I shall return!

The Face of Ugly

I generally try to avoid ranting.  As a rule, my ‘snarky snippets’ are enough to release the pressure that builds as a result of the chaos and corruption of our government and the idiocy of our society, and then I can go back to breathing and writing more well-reasoned pieces.  But sometimes a number of issues converge, and it is blowup time.  I can either blow up at my family, who do not deserve to be the brunt of my temper, or I can let the steam off here on my blog in an all-out rant.  I choose the latter, so please bear with me.

There are two professions that should be above politics, though there is a necessary correlation:  Teaching and Medicine.  There is only one valid reason to enter into either of these fields, and that is a genuine desire to help people, to make a difference in this world, to be a humanitarian.  Anybody who enters either of these professions for any other reason … well, they ought to get out.  If you have any other motive, then I do not want you teaching my grandkids and I don’t want you being responsible for my life or that of a loved one.

Of late, it seems that some in the medical profession have decided they only want to treat people of one sort, while excluding some of the people who may need their services most.  They are bigots and homophobes, and they ought to go work in an auto plant or a bank, for they are not humanitarians.  I am talking, of course, about the recent push by some to allow health care workers to legally discriminate against the LGBT community.

Discrimination is against the law, just in case anybody has any doubts.  We have something called ‘civil rights’ in this country, or at least we did until just over two years ago.  I would also remind you that this is a secular nation, meaning our government is not tied to any specific religion and does not make laws that discriminate pro or con any specific religion.  Until, that is, the evangelical Christians and Donald Trump came together.  Suddenly, under the Reign of Trump, it is said to be okay to refuse health care to LGBT people.

Why, you ask?  Because the bulk of those who support Trump are these evangelicals and Trump believes he only needs to serve his supporters, not the majority of us who cannot stand the ‘man’!  So, along come the ‘evangelicals’ and they say to Trump, “Hey, Don, our bible says that sex between two men or two women is a sin, and so we want to have nothing to do with those gay and transgender people.  Can you help us out here?”  And so Don helps them out.

From the New York Times

President Trump on Thursday announced an expanded “conscience rule” to protect health care workers who oppose abortion, sterilization, assisted suicide and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

The rule establishes guidelines for punishing health care institutions with the loss of federal funds if they fail to respect the rights of such workers.

“Just today, we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities,” Mr. Trump said in a Rose Garden event for the National Day of Prayer. “They’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.”

The ‘rights of such workers’???  What about the rights of a sick person or a child???  What about the human rights to an education and health care?  What about civil rights???  Only about 25% of the population of this nation identify as evangelical, and yet that 25% … that minority … now gets to decide on the laws of the land for us all?

As those of you who have followed this blog for a time are aware, I am not religious, but I respect the religious views of all others, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Jains, and all others.  I shy away from discussing religion on this blog for that very reason … I recognize that there are many different sets of beliefs out there and I would never willingly offend any.  That said, there is only one qualifier:  don’t shove your religion on others, including myself!  This latest move by King Trump is doing just that.  It is saying that a nurse can refuse to take the blood pressure of a gay person, an ambulance driver can refuse to transport an accident victim who happens to be transgender and instead may leave him by the side of the road to die.Helping othersThis nation was founded in part on religious freedom, and yet now, some 230 years later, the current regime is attempting to force this entire nation to believe as a mere 25% of the population believe.  What is wrong with this picture???

I want you to think about a question:  What’s next?  Yes, what’s next … we know there will be a ‘next’, for when Trump gets his way once, it emboldens him to go on and push for more.  So, by autumn will he sign a new rule saying it’s okay to deny an education or medical treatment to African-Americans?  Far-fetched, you say? I think not.  The bulk of his supporters are evangelicals, and they got what they wanted.  The bulk of his supporters are also white and believe that this nation should favour Caucasians.  Will they get their way also?

Bigotry takes on many forms from homophobia to misogyny to Islamophobia to racism and in every instance it is a result of fear … in every instance it is the face of ugly.  I look around this country … a country I’ve lived in all my life, a country I thought I knew … and more and more I see the face of bigotry, the face of ugly.  I see the arrogance of those who think they are somehow superior based on the colour of their skin, or their religion, or even their gender.  I don’t like what I see, do you?  Think about it.