What Is Reasonable?

There are some words that have definitive definitions.  Most nouns bring to mind a specific object, for example: coffee, foot, flower.  But other words are more subjective, like ‘reasonable’.  What seems ‘reasonable’ to one person may not seem so to another.  When a man’s life is at stake, or a life has been taken by another, then the definition of the word ‘reasonable’ becomes critical.

Florida, famous for its Stand Your Ground law and its most infamous use as a defense in 2012 when George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, is in the process of altering the law.  As it stands, the law states that a person who kills another in ‘self-defense’ can avoid going to trial if he proves at a pretrial hearing that he was acting in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm. The key concept here being that the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove that he was acting in genuine self-defense.

A new bill that would switch the burden of proof away from the defendant is in the works. The controversial changes to the state’s self-defense law passed the Senate 23 to 15 and is expected to be put to a vote in the House next week.  Governor Rick Scott is expected to then sign it into law.  If enacted, the defendant would no longer be responsible to prove that he acted in a reasonable manner because he believed his life was in danger, but rather it would be the burden of prosecutors to prove that the defendant did NOT act in self-defense. It would make the prosecution responsible for proving that someone who used deadly force instead of retreating from an attack was not behaving reasonably.

But this leads to a subjective argument, a slippery slope argument about what is reasonable and by whose definition.  Let us take a closer look at a couple of cases.

trayvon-martin

Trayvon Martin

We already know of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, where neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman told authorities he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager. Never mind that when Zimmerman first noticed the teen, he was sitting safely in his vehicle and said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.” He based his decision solely on the looks of a teenage boy because the boy was black and was wearing, as all teenagers do, a hoodie.

gun-pointingBut consider this case:  A former police officer got into an argument with another man in a movie theater.  He asked the man to stop texting during the previews prior to the movie, the exchange apparently got heated, the man threw popcorn at the former officer, and the former officer shot and killed the man.  He … threw … popcorn … and he paid with his life.  How, I ask you, is a gun an appropriate response to a handful of popcorn???  In this case, fortunately, the judge was diligent and took the time to investigate the crime scene and match it, or fail to match it, to the claims of self-defense by the defendant, former police officer Curtis Reeves.  The judge ruled that, despite Reeves’ claim of a ‘life and death struggle’, the “defendant’s testimony was significantly at odds with the physical evidence and other witness testimony”.  The judge ruled that the case did not qualify as a Stand Your Ground case and Reeves will go on trial for second-degree murder.

Which brings me back to that pesky question of ‘reasonableness’.  Was Zimmerman acting reasonably when he made the decision to exit his car without contacting local police, then confront young Martin?  Or did he have other options, such as calling local police and awaiting their arrival, meanwhile remaining safely inside his vehicle? Was Reeves acting reasonably when he responded with lethal force to a handful of popcorn?  If we are to give these people the opportunity to get off scot-free after taking the life of another in so-called ‘self-defense’, then we should be able to, at the very least, expect them to prove that they were in danger of losing their own life if they did not act.  Anything less is simply unacceptable.  The judge in the Reeves case wisely determined that Reeves did not act reasonably, but another judge might have seen it another way, might have defined ‘reasonable’ in another way.

In addition to relieving people who have killed another from having to justify their actions, the law has racially discriminatory undertones.  The American legal system’s handling of violent self-defense has long favored white, property-owning men. Nonwhite, female, poor or gender-nonconforming people have always been more likely to be punished for defending themselves and less likely to see the courts come to their aid when they are harmed. We need look no farther than the murder of Freddie Gray and the fact that nobody … not a single person … was convicted of his murder, to understand that racism is alive and well in the U.S.

The Stand Your Ground law, one form or another of which is in force in some 27 states in the U.S., including Florida, is sometimes otherwise known as the “Line in the Sand” law, or the “No Duty to Retreat” law.  In contrast, 17 states actually have “Duty to Retreat” laws that specify you can’t resort to deadly force in self-defense if you can safely avoid the risk of harm or death by running away or other evasive, less deadly measures.  Other states have a modified version of Stand Your Ground, known as Castle Doctrine, which allows a person to use deadly force in self-defense on their own property, such as their home or car, but not in a public venue.

Now, let me ask you, dear reader, a question:  Confronted with a person who you simply ‘thought’ was going to do you harm, as in both the Zimmerman and Reeves cases, what would you do?  Would you try to avoid, to leave the area, or would you shoot the other person?  For me, it is a no-brainer, as I do not own a gun and never will, but with more guns in the U.S. than there are people, and some of the most liberal gun laws in the world, it’s a pretty safe bet that almost adult we encounter may well have a gun tucked into his belt or stashed in her purse.

The latest bill, shifting the burden of proof in Stand Your Ground cases in Florida, only adds to the idea that individuals are not responsible for their fellow mankind, but are authorized to act in any way they deem fit, even taking another life, to make themselves feel safe.  These are not laws that make us safer, rather these are laws that say if a person thinks we don’t look just so, he may shoot first and ask questions later.  This was the code of the Olde West … it should not be the code of the 21st century in what was once considered a civilized nation.

Up next … Insane New Gun Laws

Encourage a No vote on the AHCA

As Trump is is bullying and threatening our elected Representatives in the House, demanding a vote be taken today on his terrible healthcare plan, it appears there will not be sufficient votes to pass it. Fellow-blogger Keith has drafted an excellent, short piece that he posted to his representative’s website today, and I recommend that anyone who wishes to “just say ‘no'” to this bill use it as a guideline to send a message to your own representative! Thank you, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

The following is an email posted to my US Representative’s website today.

As a retired benefits actuary, consultant and manager, I encourage you to vote no on the AHCA vote today. The CBO says the modifications made do not alter the expectation that over ten million people will lose coverage. Plus, two hospital groups, two Doctor groups and the AARP have all recommended a no vote.

As a benefits professional, my strong recommendation is to improve the imperfect ACA. It is disappointing that my former party has highlighted the negatives of the ACA, while downplaying the many positives.

I would recommend the ACA be improved with a few changes:
– fully fund the risk corridors to reimburse insurers for adverse selection, the absence of which drove premiums up and forced some insurers out of the market,
– introduce a public option in areas that have no competition,
– encourage the…

View original post 72 more words

Son of a B#$%&!!!

caduceusThe healthcare bill, known in the House of Representatives as the American Health Care Act, but more commonly called Trumpetcare, or Trumpcare, stood very little chance of passing the House, and even if it did, stood zero chance of passing the Senate.  According to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), some 24 million people are likely to lose their healthcare coverage once the bill is passed.  That in itself was reason enough for the bill to fail, and it needed some serious alterations before it would become palatable to We The People.  A number of representatives were committed to voting “nay” for that reason alone.  There was another group of uber-right-wing-conservatives, however, who felt the bill did not go far enough in stripping healthcare from the poor and middle-income citizens.

Trump, realizing that his bill was doomed to fail in today’s vote, understood (or, more likely, somebody explained to him) that changes would need to be made in order for the bill to stand a chance at surviving the initial vote.  So, he made a change.  No, he did not restore any of the benefits we previously had under ACA (Obamacare).  Instead he caved to the demands of the far-right, further stripping away any semblance of a universal healthcare bill.  He opted to remove federal requirements that health insurance plans provide a basic set of benefits like maternity care, emergency services, mental health and wellness visits.  So, in the simplest of terms, if your child is running a fever of 104° in the middle of the night and you need to take him to the emergency room, expect to pay, out of pocket, upwards of $500 just for a doctor to look at him, maybe do a strep test, give him some antibiotics and ibuprofen, then send him home.  Your insurance, unless you opt for the high-premium plan, will not cover it.  And God forbid that you get pregnant and expect your insurance to cover your monthly/weekly doctor’s visits, ultrasound, and other tests.

white men

Notice that there are only wealthy, white males making the decisions here …

Even with the change, legislators were not convinced they would have enough votes for the bill to pass this afternoon, so they delayed the vote until Friday morning, although some doubt that a vote will be held before Monday. As of this writing (7:00 p.m, Thursday 23 March) there are some 47 Republican representatives either undecided or planning to vote against the bill.  This is encouraging in that it says some have managed to remember who their employers truly are.

There are some level-headed people in the House.  Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts urged House Republicans to ‘slow down’, saying, “This health care repeal affects millions upon millions upon millions of Americans. Don’t jam a disastrous bill through the House with patched-up fixes.”  And Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said, “I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low- to moderate-income and older individuals.”  And Representative Andy Harris of Maryland said, “This legislation simply won’t lower premiums as much as the American people need, and lowering the cost of coverage is my primary goal.”

The delay in putting the bill to a vote is intended by boot-licking Republicans to give Paul Ryan a chance to talk the bill through … to convince holdouts to vote ‘yea’ instead of ‘nay’.  But, as noted by the New York Times Thursday evening, “as Mr. Trump and House leaders focus on the Republican Party’s conservatives, they are losing House moderates.”

Back on the campaign trail, as I have previously noted, Trump made certain, specific promises regarding universal healthcare:

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody. here was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

“I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”

“I am going to take care of everybody … Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

It appears that with the bill currently under consideration in the House of Representatives, each of the above promises is an alternative truth.  ‘Everybody’ will not have insurance, many of us will not be able to afford any health insurance, Medicaid will be cut out within the next two years, and Trump is taking care of nobody other than himself and his wealthy backers.

As of March 1, there are 237 Republicans in the House, and 193 Democrats.  What this means is that for a simple majority, it only requires that 23 Republican representatives remember to whom they answer and say ‘NAY’ when the vote comes up.

What happened to his promises?

Note to Trump supporters:  this bill will affect you just as much as anyone.  This is what you wanted?  Whether or not it is, your representatives apparently believe it is, and they are acting ‘on your behalf’, to shove this piece of crap legislation through the House with a speed that they have not seen during the entire past eight years!  I sincerely hope that you will be happy with the choices you made back in November, as this, my friends, is the result.  Enjoy the rest of your short lives.

More Questions Than Answers In Child’s Shooting Death

The story, as I first heard it, went like this:

A mother and her two-year-old toddler were sitting on the bed, while the nine-year-old was sitting on the floor, playing a video game.  The mother had a loaded gun in her hand, but couldn’t find her holster, so she placed the gun (loaded with a round chambered) on the bed next to the two-year-old while she got up to look for her holster.  The two-year-old then picked up the gun, pulled the trigger, shot and killed his nine-year-old brother.  The mother had, in the past, allowed the toddler to pull the trigger on the gun when it was unloaded.

But since I first heard the story Wednesday afternoon, it has changed some.  Now police say there are more questions than answers, and the mother, 28-year-old Wendy Lavarnia and father, convicted felon in two states, Kansas Lavarnia have both been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.  And what led to this turn of events?  Apparently Mr. & Mrs. Lavarnia went to some great lengths to clean up the scene, wasting precious time while their son, Landen, lay dying from a gunshot wound to the head.  Police, in fact, found blood residue in several rooms in the house, as well as in the family car. And lies … initially Ms. Lavarnia claimed her husband was not at home when the shooting occurred, and it was some three hours later when he returned.  But evidence says otherwise … evidence indicates that he actually assisted in the cleanup efforts.  Additionally, when Mr. Lavarnia did return to the house, he had a fresh gunshot wound to his arm that he had tried to disguise by causing additional injury with a screwdriver.  Interesting?  Curiouser and curiouser, if you ask me.

The investigation continues, and all the facts are obviously not known at this time, so I will refrain from saying more about the actual circumstances surrounding the crime. We will never know for certain if young Landen’s life might have been saved if the parents had immediately called for help, rather than wasting precious time destroying evidence by ‘cleaning up’, but we should assume that it is a possibility, which makes the parents guilty of murder no matter who actually pulled the trigger.

It has not been said in whose name the gun was registered, but Mr. Lavarnia, being a convicted felon in both Arizona and Ohio, was prohibited from owning a gun or even being in a home where he knew there was a gun, yet he admits he knew of the gun.  Ms. Lavarnia had allowed the two-year-old to “practice” pulling the trigger of an unloaded gun.  As most of you know, I am against guns in the hands of civilians, however I will not go down that path at this time.  In this case, the gun was not at fault, but two very selfish and stupid people who never should have had children, let alone a gun.

The couple also have a four-year-old who was also allegedly on the bed with the mother, the gun, and his younger brother, and a one-year-old … no word on where the baby was at the time.  The two youngest children were “substance-exposed” newborns, and at one point all four children had been removed from the home by Arizona Department of Child Safety for a period of time, but were eventually returned to the parents.  This, in my book, makes the Department of Child Safety an accessory to murder.

Today there are more questions than answers, and I will update this story when more information is available, but for today, suffice it to say this is a tragedy that has affected many and that will be forever a dark cloud in the lives of the three remaining Lavarnia children.

The Bully Pulpit …

bully-pulpitIn 2013, Doris Kearns Goodwin published The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  It is an excellent book and I strongly recommend it, however the book is not the focus of this post.  Rather, I borrow the term “Bully pulpit” to apply to the current occupant of the Oval Office, Donald Trump.

The headlines that captured my attention:

Trump tells GOP critics of health-care bill: ‘I’m gonna come after you’

Trump Threatens Republicans Who Oppose His Health Care Bill With ‘Political Problems’

Trump warns GOP: Vote for Obamacare repeal or lose your seat

trump-ugly-face

This is not even what could be called ‘subtle manipulation’.  This is nothing short of bullying.  The fact that he is using such tactics against Congress is offensive to We The People, as the fates of every Senator, every Representative, rest in our hands, not those small hands of the blustering, bullying president.  It is we who will decide whether to send our Congressmen & women back to the Capitol next year, or to tell them to go home.  Frankly, from where I stand, if my senators and representatives bow to the pressure from this bully in the Oval Office, I will certainly tell them to go home and I will vote for men and women who have the courage of their convictions, who are not afraid to stand up to this menial bully.

If there was ever a doubt in anyone’s mind, this latest must surely be the final proof that Trump cares not one whit about We The People, since he is threatening and bullying for passage of a bill that will hurt the vast majority of citizens in the nation.  As my friend Ida, a retired special education teacher, posted this morning on Facebook:

“Tomorrow is the day that Congress is voting for cancellation of Medicaid health insurance, against preexisting conditions, no prenatal care for women and children. And large premium increases for folks older than 50 years of age. If you want to do something, make a call to your Congressman and say they work for you not Trump and vote No. Do it today. The vote is tomorrow.”

Yet another friend, Pam, posted this:

“Been calling my Representative for three days now. Message says not accepting calls & mailboxes at both offices are full.

Wanted to ask him to vote no tomorrow on trumpcare.

Now I just want to let him know I’ll be voting next year.”

We The People do not want Trumpetcare, and that even includes a large portion of Republicans!  This may actually end up being the issue that brings the left and right just a bit closer together. It is our right … nay, our responsibility … as citizens of a democracy, to let our elected representatives know our preferences and wishes.  In the case of Trump’s healthcare bill, frankly I see nothing to benefit anybody beyond the wealthy and the insurance companies.  It is a slap in the face to every single person I know in this country.  And yet, our employees, our elected officials, will not even take our phone calls, respond to our emails, or answer our letters?  They have forgotten what the word ‘representative’ means.  And perhaps they have forgotten that we have no commitment to vote for them next time around.

Here is a short snippet from yesterday’s White House Press Briefing:

Q: On healthcare, the President came away from Capitol Hill sounding pretty positive about where he was going to go on Thursday, but then at the same time, Heritage Action came out and said it was going to encourage members to vote “no.”  Club for Growth is taking out ads attacking this bill.  Jim Jordan said the President’s great, but it’s still a bad bill.  This is going to go to a vote day after tomorrow.  What gives the President the sense of optimism that he can get this through, and might he request more changes from Speaker Ryan before it goes to a vote?

Spicer:  There’s been a lot of input from members of Congress, and I think that the meeting this morning really was a huge sign of support. There was a lot of enthusiasm and optimism, not just for the bill itself but for something that, as I noted, conservatives and Republicans and a lot of Democrats, frankly, have been fighting for a while, which is a more patient-centric healthcare system. I think the President is continuing to engage with members. He will continue to do that all the way through Thursday.

So, let me get this straight. In the 2017 version of newspeak, threatening, bullying and browbeating are now known as “engaging”?  And a “patient-centric healthcare system” is one in which only the wealthy are allowed to have healthcare?  Okay … I, or somebody, needs to compile a ‘Newspeak Dictionary’, as Merriam-Webster just doesn’t seem to work anymore.

In response to Trump’s use of his ‘bully pulpit’, Paul Ryan said, “The president was really clear: He laid it on the line for everybody. We made a promise. Now is our time to keep that promise. … If we don’t keep our promise, it will be very hard to manage this.”  No, Paul, the promise was, and I quote:

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody. here was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

“I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”

“I am going to take care of everybody … Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

Those are the promises that Donald Trump made on the campaign trail, and not a single one of those promises will be fulfilled with the bill now on the House floor! Do Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the others think we are too stupid to notice the bait-and-switch that took place between the 2016 campaign and the 2017 administration?

Trump is bullying Congress with a threat that they will lose their seats if they do not pass this bill.  I say they will, and should, lose their seats if they DO pass it!  This is not a universal healthcare bill … it is a scam to profit Trump’s wealthy friends and insurance companies, while ensuring that the average person’s life expectancy will drop dramatically.  Let us hope that enough people have raised their voices loud and clear, and further let us hope that there are at least enough in Congress who will follow their consciences and heed our call to reject this bill!

Good People Doing Good Things – Little Kids With BIG Hearts

I have been working on this post for some four hours, and thus far, this sentence is all I have.  I made several false starts … people who seemed to be philanthropists, seemed to be doing good things, but on further digging were merely collecting on other people’s altruism.  Then there were scandals with some of the people/organizations I looked into.  So, as time and energy are running on fumes at this point, and my family members who walk on all fours are determined to drive me nuts, I decided to think small tonight.  Child-sized small, in fact. Children may only be able to do small-scale deeds, but it shows us that though their bodies may be small, their hearts are big. And since these pint-sized do-gooders hold our future in their hands, it is good to see that they already have a sense of caring for others, a sense of humanity.


You are never too young to understand the value of helping others.  Second grader Phoebe Brown was running errands with her mother last week in Independence, Missouri when she came across a winning, $100 scratch-off ticket, just lying on the ground. For a fleeting moment, Phoebe admits, the thought of a spree in the toy department held a certain appeal, but it didn’t take long for her to remember that her school was having a canned food drive that week, and she ended up spending the entire $100 on canned food to donate to those less fortunate.  Her good works even inspired her dad to match every dime she spent!  At the end of the food drive, Phoebe’s class had collected 541 items of food, making them her school’s winner. As a fun reward, Phoebe and her classmates were invited to shave their gym teacher’s beard.

Wed-beard.png


A group of schoolboys in New South Wales, Australia, were about to board a bus and head home after a rugby league game when they noticed an 81-year-old gentleman moving his woodpile from the front of his home to the back, one piece at a time.  Without hesitation, the boys and their dads jumped in and moved every last piece of wood for the man.  A small gesture?  Perhaps, but it is a sign of respect and caring, a sign that these kids are being taught values and compassion.  Hats off to the rugby team at Cooma North Public School!

Wed-boys-woodpile


jaden-sink-3Westboro Baptist Church, best known for its intense hatred of most everything, is located on the East Side of Topeka, Kansas, directly across from Equality House, a resource center established by the non-profit group, Promoting Peace (interesting juxtaposition, don’t you think?).  Equality House and Promoting Peace is a whole story unto itself, but that will have to wait for some other Wednesday, because today’s story is about a six-year-old girl named Jaden Sink. After Jaden’s dad tried to explain to her that Westboro members promote messages of hate, Jayden decided she wanted to raise money toward spreading messages of love and peace. So Jayden opened a lemonade stand … not just any ol’ lemonade stand, but a pink lemonade stand, mind you!  And in the first day of business, she made $1,400!  I think this is proof that love sells better than hate!  By the end of that summer in 2013, Jaden had raised more than $23,000, all of which she donated to the cause of peace.

But Jaden’s story didn’t end there.  The story of Jaden’s pink lemonade stand went viral during that summer of 2013, and other children jumped happily on the bandwagon.  Today, there are some 70 stands worldwide, with all proceeds going toward Equality House’s anti-bullying initiatives.  Says Jaden, “We’re giving [the money] to the rainbow house to help people who are sick, and to help people be nice to each other.”  That’s my kind of kid!

Wed-Jayden-Sink


When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, it made history as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history.  Then-10-year-old fifth-grader Talia Leman, seeing images of the destruction on the news, launched a charity urging kids to trick-or-treat for New Orleans, ultimately raising more than $10 million for the Hurricane Katrina foundation. From there, she founded RandomKid, a nonprofit that provides resources for young people who want to make a worldwide impact on any issue. Among the company’s successful efforts are reusable water bottles, which helped fund a water pump for an African village, and a push to provide crutches and artificial limbs to Haitian earthquake victims. Here is an example of a kid who started out doing small things and ended up doing some pretty big things!


Many of these stories are about small acts of kindness, but these children have the right idea, and I would not be surprised to see them make major differences in the world one of these days.  Hats off to the kids, of course, but also to their parents who have obviously taken the time to instill compassion, kindness and caring about others into the hearts of their children.

R.I.P. Piggy Bank

Today I am sad to report that Omsin, the sea turtle, has died.  I meant to write a post about Omsin earlier this month when her story first crossed my radar, but I was distracted by other stories, mostly political, and eventually Omsin receded to the dusty corners of my mind.  Omsin lived most of her life in a pond near the Gulf of Thailand, south of Bangkok until earlier this month when she was moved to the veterinary faculty at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

Though it is unknown how long Omsin had lived in the pond, it is thought that she had been there for most of her 25 years. It is likely she was initially taken there by fishermen who had, perhaps, caught her in their nets. Long ago, a Buddhist leader told fishermen they’d earn good karma by releasing their catches into artificial ponds, and the tradition came to be known as ‘mercy release’.

Since sea turtles are known for their longevity, custom held that the turtle’s long life would rub off on those who shared their wealth. Thus came the tradition of people tossing coins into ponds where turtles live, and thus began the problems for poor Omsin.  For you see, Omsin liked to eat the coins that were thrown her way.  When Omsin was rescued from the pond in February, she was one very sick turtle, at the point of death, shell bulging, infected, barely able to swim for all the ‘fortune’ she’d swallowed. Scientists and veterinarians named her Omsin, which in Thai means “piggy bank”.

Omsin-4At the rescue center, Omsin quickly came to the attention of veterinary scientist Dr. Nantarika Chansue — Thailand’s leading turtle rescuer. Dr. Chansue, who has been rescuing turtles from filthy ponds for some fifteen years, said she had never seen a case as disheartening as Omsin.  A CT scan revealed an egg-shaped clump, seven inches on the side, glowing silver, and the mass had cracked her shell.  Turns out there were 11 pounds of slimy black coins pressing against the walls of Omsin’s belly. Surgery to remove the coins was the only hope to save Omsin’s life.

The coins could only be removed a few at a time through the 10-centimeter incision, and the surgery took 7 hours to remove all 915 coins. It was hoped that Omsin had a decent chance for a long life at the end of the surgery.

Omsin-2

But Omsin’s problems were not to end there.  At first she seemed to be recovering well, but on Saturday, a checkup revealed intestinal problems that would require more surgery.  This morning, doctors performed a second operation, but sadly, Omsin, aka Piggy Bank, did not awaken and was pronounced dead at 10:10 a.m. Cause of death: blood poisoning. Doctors said the removal of the coins had created a space in Omsin’s stomach that had probably blocked blood flow in her intestine. That became fatal after she suffered an acute intestinal infection.

“I felt angry that humans, whether or not they meant to do it or if they did it without thinking, had caused harm to this turtle, It’s torture for animals after they eat the coins people throw into ponds. Instead of getting merit, you actually commit a sin.” – Nantarika Chansue

Humans, even well-intentioned humans, pose the greatest threat to the earth and all its lifeforms.  R.I.P. Omsin Piggy Bank.omsin-3

2017 World Happiness Report


(Cover photo: Tromso, Norway)

Every year, the United Nations issues a World Happiness Report, which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels.  Who knew?  The star of the show is the Top Ten list … and no, the U.S. is not on that list.  We did, however, rank 14th, which I found quite surprising, as I would have put us at somewhere around 114 out of 155.  A few things are quite interesting about this report.  First is what the report deems to be the things important to a nation’s happiness:  longer healthy years of life, more social support, trust in government, higher GDP per capita, and generosity.  Now you see why the U.S. is not in the Top Ten, right?

iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Another interesting thing … at least to this writer who is NOT a huge fan of cold weather … is that the vast majority of the countries have quite cold climates … for example, Iceland ranks #3 on the list!  Iceland, for Pete’s sake!  Perhaps it is a sign that people are actually happier when they do not get out much and therefore do not have to deal with other humans! Here is the complete Top Ten list:

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

An excerpt from the Executive Summary of the report says:

“All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

Happiness has fallen in America

The USA is a story of reduced happiness. In 2007 the USA ranked 3rd among the OECD countries; in 2016 it came 19th. The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption (chapter 7) and it is these same factors that explain why the Nordic countries do so much better.”

Chapter 7, referenced above, is titled, “Restoring American Happiness” written by Jeffrey D. Sachs. Here is an excerpt that I found to be particularly relevant:

“The central paradox of the modern American economy, as identified by Richard Easterlin (1964, 2016), is this: income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960, but measured happiness has not risen. The situation has gotten worse in recent years: per capita GDP is still rising, but happiness is now actually falling.

The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach. The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis— rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust—rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth, especially since the concrete proposals along these lines would exacerbate rather than ameliorate the deepening social crisis. America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.”

Jeffrey Sachs, the author of Chapter 7, is one of the world’s best-known economists, who has advised successive UN secretary generals. In a stinging critique of policymakers in Washington DC, Sachs criticizes “naive attempts to raise the economic growth rate”. He says this prescription is “doubly wrong-headed” because “most of the pseudo-elixirs for growth – especially the Republican party’s beloved nostrum of endless tax cuts and voodoo economics – will only exacerbate Americans’ social inequalities and feed the distrust that is already tearing society apart”. The general consensus is that happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump’s policies forecast to deepen the country’s social crisis.

Other surprises …. at least to me, were that many European nations ranked even lower than the U.S., with Germany in 17th place, the UK in 19th, and France in 32nd. Not at all surprising was that The world’s “unhappiest” countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.

I found the report very interesting and you might also.  Here is a link to the full report, and from there you can, if you wish, download a pdf file for the entire report or for individual sections. I leave you to draw your own conclusions, based on Mr. Sachs’ analysis, of the current administration’s agenda and how it is likely to affect our ranking a year from now when the 2018 report is issued.

netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

 

 

We Have Met The Enemy And …

Much has been said in the last fifteen years, since 11 September 2001, about terrorism and terrorists.  President George W. Bush used it as justification for the Iraq War, the invasion of Afghanistan, and torture abuses. Trump has instilled faux fears of terrorism into U.S. voters as a part of his campaign effort.  Now he continues to use those fears to justify his ban on Muslim people entering the U.S. in search of a safe haven.  But who, really are these ‘terrorists’ everybody is so afraid of?

They are not the refugees that come here trying to find a better life, a place where they and their children will be safe from the daily bombings that are a part of life in their home countries. They are not the women you see in the market wearing their hijabs.  They are not the people gathering in the local mosque.  So who, then, are these ‘terrorists’?  I think you will be surprised by my answer:

pogo

That’s right … the terrorists in the U.S. are, for the most part, walking among us unnoticed, while we are busy fearing the woman in the hijab or the man with the long beard and olive complexion.  Let us look at a few of these real terrorists, shall we:

  • 51-year-old Adam W. Purinton who shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an immigrant from India, for no reason other than he didn’t want immigrants in “his” country.
  • American-born Omar Mateen who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in June 2016 at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in an apparent hate crime against LGBT people.
  • 21-year-old Dylann Roof who killed nine people, all African Americans, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. His reason?  “We already are the second-class citizens. That’s the problem. Y’all raping our women, and y’all are taking over the world.”
  • Jeffrey Allen Burgess, age 54, attacked an Indian man seated next to him at a bar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last November for the crime of … again … simply being of Indian descent.
  • Richard Leslie Lloyd, age 64, set fire to a convenience store owned by a U.S. citizen of Indian descent. His reason?  When he was in the store a few days earlier, he couldn’t find orange-pineapple juice, and it was then he noticed the skin colour of the owner, and assumed (incorrectly) that he was a Muslim.
  • Edgar Maddison Welch shot up a pizza parlor last December in Washington D.C., because he believed a fake news story that a kidnapping ring was operating from within the restaurant.

Not a single one of the above were immigrants, none were Muslim. The list goes on … and on … and on.  And there are rallies to promote this brand  of terrorism, venues where they are starting out young:  Earlier this month at a Trump rally in Maricopa County, Arizona, the following comments were said against protestors:

  • “If she’s Jewish, she should go back to her country,” a 13-year-old said of a protester.
  • “This is America; we don’t want Sharia law. Christian country.”
  • “I just want to let them know that I can’t wait for the liberal genocide to begin.”

The people committing these acts and calling for violence are terrorists just as surely as were Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, three of the 9/11 highjackers.  Donald Trump claims it is important to refer to terrorists as “radical Islamic terrorists”, but the reality is that in this country, terrorists are far more likely to be “radical white Christian terrorists”.

These, folks, are the faces of terrorism in the United States.  Take a close look — see any similarities? These people, and others like them, will NOT be kept out of the country by Trump’s travel ban. The people who will be kept out by the travel ban are innocent people seeking refuge, while the real terrorists are already here.

The reality is that most terrorism by Middle-Easterners is committed against those in the Middle East, not the west.  The U.S. has not, with the exception of 9/11, seen large-scale terrorist attacks and we are not a primary target of Daesh, no matter what Mr. Trump tells us.  But his rhetoric played well with the masses who, apparently, wanted to believe in an identifiable threat that was not themselves.  But when we are looking for that threat, when we seek to identify the real terrorists in this nation, we need to look inward rather than outward, for in the words of Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is us.

A Waste Of MY Money?????

Grrrrrrrrr …. If I choose to ‘waste’ my money on such frivolities as making the air breathable and the water drinkable for those who come after me,  is not it my right to do so???  Not according to John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney, who said “we consider that to be a waste of your money.” Hey Mick!  The keyword here is ‘your’ … it is MY money and personally I think that leaving the world a place where people are able to breathe is a fairly worthy cause!!!  Actually, I think it is a much more worthy cause than your paycheck! I think it is a much more worthy cause than buying more fighter jets to use in killing people.  I think it is more worthy than giving those people who already have millions … nay, billions … of dollars a means for evading their civic responsibility of helping the poor! And I damn sure think it is more worthy than supporting your air-headed boss as he flits down to his ‘estate’ in Florida every weekend.

This, folks, is where we need to step in and write to our senators and representatives in Congress and tell them that no, we do not see science research and controlling our environment as a ‘waste’ of money.  I tried to be generous and give da trumpeter and his minions a chance.  Okay, so I didn’t try all that hard, but still, I tried.  This, however, is the final straw.  When one man comes out and says that he and his ugly, ugly boss have decided how MY money should be spent, we have a problem.

As far as I am concerned, there is not a single Republican in Congress who deserves to be re-elected next year.  They have supported terrible choices for Secretary of Education, EPA Director, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Attorney General, to name just a few.  They are seriously considering passing a healthcare bill that will ensure that most of us who do not have sizable bank accounts will die within the next five years.  They have not stood up to a single issue that Donald Trump wants, and not a single one has stood up to Trump and told him that his way is the wrong way.

Now this … this abomination he is calling a budget, would ensure that a decade from now, our children and grandchildren will be walking around with oxygen tanks, as they will not be able to breathe the air in the atmosphere, and this sorry excuse for a Budget Director has the unmitigated gall to tell me it is a waste of MY money to try to head off such an eventuality???  What you need to understand, Mr. Mulvaney, is that we are not all a bunch of bumbling dolts who do not know what is best for us.  At least half of the citizens of this country are rational, thinking beings who have the ability to understand the difference between helping and hurting, who understand what actually makes America great vs. what makes Donald Trump richer!  Do you want to know what would really make America great again?

For starters, doing our part to help combat the threats of our planet becoming unlivable in the future is something that would make America great.  Providing quality education at little or no cost to the next generation and the ones after that would help make America great again.  Taking care of our land and the flora and fauna that inhabit it would help make America great again.  Giving a helping hand to the people who, through no fault of their own, have less than most of us would make America great again.  Keeping our population healthy would help make America great again.  And welcoming to our shores those who are fleeing persecution in their native lands helps make America great again.

Thus far, Mr. Mulvaney, your boss has done nothing … not one single thing … that contributes toward making America great again.  He has attempted to destroy the very things that once DID make this nation great.  Not one thing.

In the past, Mr. Mulvaney, your boss has referred to climate change as a ‘hoax’.  Just last week, Scott Pruitt said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Guess what???  It does not matter what Scott Pruitt says he believes … scientists have proof that contradicts Mr. Pruitt’s beliefs. This is redolent of Benoit Loueillet, the French official who was suspended just this week for saying of the Holocaust, “there was no mass murder as has been said.” At least France had the good sense to discipline their idiot … we just keep cheering ours on!

I understand, Mr. Mulvaney, that you espouse Trumpetcare, that you eschew all gun regulations.  A regular bloke ye are, Mr. M … everyone should wear a pistol on their hip, nobody should be able to afford their life-saving medications, and what the heck … because in ten years or less, we won’t be able to breathe the air or drink the water anyway, right?  Might as well have some fun while we can, rather than try to spend a few bucks to try to preserve the planet for our children and their children.  Speaking of which, I understand you have triplets, Mick … so I guess you don’t like your kids very much, if you are willing to doom them to an unlivable, uninhabitable planet, eh Mick?

“We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. Meals on Wheels sounds great. […] I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. $20 trillion in debt. We’re going to spend money, we’re going to spend a lot of money but we’re not going to spend it on programs that show they deliver the promises we made to people.”

“They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school. Guess what? There’s no evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no evidence they’re helping results, helping kids do better in school, which is what — when we took your money from you to say, we’re going to spend them on after-school program, we justified it by saying these kids will do better in school and get jobs. We have no proof that’s helping.”

In closing, let me just say this, Mr. Mulvaney.  Nether you nor your boss have the first clue what the U.S. taxpayer/citizen/voter wants our government to spend OUR hard-earned money on.  So let me tell you … we want to help people, plain and simple.  We do not want to have the most sophisticated weapons and be prepared to go to war at the drop of a hat.  We want our elderly, our sick, and our disabled to be taken care of.  We want to welcome people of different cultures into our country to enrich our lives and show us how to be a more diverse nation.  And we want you, your boss, and all your co-minions to go back into the rabbit holes from whence you emerged and let us hire some employees who will work hard to really and truly make America even greater than it already was prior to January 20th!