Use that filter before you speak

Blogger-friend Keith has written a most excellent post that needs to introduction from me. Thank you Keith … you hit the nail on the head with this one!

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In my efforts not to curse, the above title is a euphemism for what I would prefer to say. My message is to those who have decided to bypass any filters and say the most inflammatory things.

Two public figures – Johnny Depp and Kathy Griffin – decided that they should make suggestions about the demise of the President. And, a Democrat official was appropriately fired for making a statement about how he was glad Representative Scaliae was shot because of his role in passing unfavorable legislation.

There is no call for these comments or actions. I fully understand the President has incited, promoted and condoned violence against others. He has failed to call out violence against minority groups, but has a quick comment for when a Muslim may be the perpetrator. This is not right, either.

So, let me be frank. One set of actions does not condone the…

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It’s Not The Rhetoric, It’s The Guns – Bill Press, 16 June 2017

I almost never do this, copy an article in its entirety, but this one stands out and I think deserves to be heard.  Bill Press is a political analyst/commentator, author, and talk show host.  He is among my favourites because, though liberal leaning, he is always fair and respectful.  The column you are about to read was actually deleted by Opinionated, a weekly op-ed aggregator to which I subscribe.  My curiosity was piqued when I saw that this column had been deleted last Sunday morning, so I went in search of the column to find out why it was the victim of censorship.  After reading the column, I am still not certain why, but I believe these words should be shared.  

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Bill Press

It’s not the rhetoric, it’s the guns – Bill Press, 16 June 2017

No words can adequately describe the tragedy we experienced this week when a lone gunman opened fire on a group of congressmen doing nothing more than playing baseball — getting in one last practice in Alexandria, Virginia, before this year’s version of the last occasion left in Washington where members of both parties actually have a good time together: the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

Within minutes, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA.) was down and one staffer and one former staffer were wounded, as were two brave Capitol Police officers who rushed the shooter and returned fire. Without a doubt, had those two officers not been present, the ballfield would have turned into a slaughterhouse.

In the wake of the shooting, there were those who seized the moment to unite the country in the right mix of outrage and sorrow, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, who told House Members: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” One image of that day he’ll never forget, said Ryan: “And that is a photo I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after hearing the news.”

Sadly, there were also dunderheads who seized the moment to divide the country by scoring political points, led by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who called the shooting “part of a pattern” and told Fox News: “You’ve had an increasing intensity of hostility on the left.” While Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) rushed to blame Democrats: “I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric.”

Turning an attempted assassination into cheap partisan sniping is not only disgusting, it’s dead wrong. Just because the gunman happened to be a Bernie Sanders supporter who hated Republicans doesn’t mean he represents all Democrats, any more than a mass murderer who happens to be a Christian represents Jesus Christ.

Moreover, while it’s true there’s too much hate-filled language in today’s politics and everybody needs to tone down the rhetoric, the most inflammatory language is not coming from the left. It’s from the right. And nobody’s guiltier of it than Donald Trump, who has called James Comey a “nut job,” Barack Obama a “sick man,” Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman,” and journalists “the enemy of the American people.”

Or consider this tweet from Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) campaign, just one year ago, on June 23, 2016, quoting Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano: “Why do we have a Second Amendment? It’s not to shoot deer. It’s to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical.” One can only hope the good Senator had second thoughts about that kind of incendiary rhetoric when he himself was one of those shot at on the Alexandria ballfield.

More importantly, the whole discussion about political rhetoric misses the point. It doesn’t matter whether the gunman was a Democrat, Republican, independent, socialist, communist, or Green Party member. The point is: He had no business being able to buy, own, and tote around an assault rifle and an automatic pistol.

Where’s the outrage about gun violence? In 2016, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 384 mass shootings — defined as four or more killed or wounded by gunfire — in the United States. More than one a day! So far in 2017, there have been 154. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, between 2001 and 2013, 406,496 people died by firearms on U.S. soil. An average 31 Americans are murdered by guns every day.

What happened in Alexandria, in fact, wasn’t the only shooting on June 14. Three people were also gunned down at a UPS facility in San Francisco. Six people were killed and 37 wounded by gunfire on the streets of Chicago last weekend. And, as shocking as it was to see a U.S. congressman struck by gunfire, let’s not forget this: the life of every one of those victims in San Francisco and Chicago is worth every bit as much as the life of any Member of Congress.

What will it take for Congress to act? What will it take before Congress stops protecting the gun manufacturers and starts protecting the American people?

Even though they failed to act after Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Charleston, or Orlando, you might think they’d consider some common-sense gun safety measures after one of their own is struck.

Think again. Six years ago, Congress did nothing after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot. They’ll do nothing this year after Congressman Steve Scalise was shot. The NRA still rules the U.S. Congress. Shame!

Dear Resistance: It Is Time To Man The Phones, Call The US Senators About The AHCA Bill

Senator Mitch McConnell, who criticized Democrats for working on ACA (Obamacare) behind closed doors, has been working for several weeks on a bill to “repeal and replace” ACA … behind closed doors. A bit of hypocrisy? The bill is designed to repeal ACA, which has a solid foundation but needs some additional work. But the kicker is the ‘replace’ part … the replacement would rob many of the health insurance they currently have. Mitch and his goons are determined to try to ram the bill through prior to the July 4th break with little or no discussion, and likely without an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The bill does NOTHING to serve We The People, but is instead geared toward the wealth. Blogger and friend Gronda is, as always, on top of this and I am sharing her post because she provides valuable information regarding how We The People can … and MUST … make our voices heard by our elected senators. Please take a few minutes today, not only to read this excellent information, but to reach out to your senators and let them know how you feel about their underhanded tactics and about this abominable “health care” bill. Thank you Gronda for your hard work and the information you provide us all!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of 4th july celebrations in washington dcD-Day for the passage of the republican (AHCA) healthcare bill by the US Senate, is set for just before July 4, 2017. This is not a bill that this country wants for its birthday celebration gift. Talk about, “bah-humbug!

By now, most of us, as part of the resistance have heard that for almost two months, 13 republican senators (no women or Black members welcomed) have been working on a SECRET health care bill, based mostly on the AHCA Bill passed by the US House of Representatives and which only 17% of the public favored. Even their fellow republican senate colleagues would have you believe that they are also in the dark about the contents of this bill.

Image result for photos of the 13 senators working on ahcaLed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the 13 architects/ senators  of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) — also known as Trumpcare —have yet to release a text of its work…

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WE THE PEOPLE Are Being Crushed Under The Senate’s Heel

In May, when the House of Representatives passed an unconscionable health care bill, I noted that the bill would not stand a chance in the Senate.  I must retract that statement at this time, for it appears that the Senate has no more conscience than the House, and plays an even dirtier game of pool.

Nobody can say for certain what is in the Senate’s version of the bill that promises to repeal ACA (Obamacare) and replace it with … who knows?  It is apparent that the main goal is simply to repeal ACA, to pander to Trump’s narcissistic desire to erase President Obama’s name from every and anything and replace it with his own.  Never mind that ACA has worked fairly well, despite its entirely fixable problems.  Never mind that the House bill would rob some 24 million U.S. citizens of their ability to even have health care. The goal of the GOP members of Congress has nothing to do with We The People, and everything to do with tax cuts for big corporations.

Republican Senate leaders are now trying to ram through their own version of the the bill the House passed last month, one that, all reports suggest, will differ only in minor, cosmetic ways. And they’re trying to do it in total secrecy. It appears that there won’t be any committee hearings before the bill goes to the floor. Even the senators have not received so much as a draft of the text of the proposed bill.  Some have seen a PowerPoint presentation, but the “slides are flashed across the screens so quickly that they can hardly be committed to memory.”

“Clearly, the goal is to pass legislation that will have devastating effects on tens of millions of Americans without giving those expected to pass it, let alone the general public, any real chance to understand what they’re voting for. There are even suggestions that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, might exploit loopholes in the rules to prevent any discussion on the Senate floor.” – Paul Krugman, New York Times, 19 June 2017

Recently Vox asked eight republican senators what, exactly, the bill is intended to do, what problems it will solve, and who stands to benefit.  Let us look at two of these interviews:

Tara Golshan, Vox and Senator John McCain:

Goldshan: Generally, what are the big problems this bill is trying to solve?

McCain: Almost all of them. They’re trying to get to 51 votes.

Golshan: Policy-wise. What are the problems [in the American health care system] this is trying to solve — and is the bill doing that right now?

McCain: Well, it’s whether you have full repeal, whether you have partial repeal, whether you have the basis of it. It’s spread all over.

Golshan: But based on the specifics of the bill you have heard so far, is it solving the problems [in the health care system]?

McCain: What I hear is that we have not reached consensus. That’s what everybody knows.

Golshan: Right, but outside of getting the votes. From what you hear of the actual legislation being written, is it solving the problems you see —

McCain: It’s not being written. Because there’s no consensus.

Golshan: But generally speaking, what are the big problems it is trying to solve?

McCain: You name it. Everything from the repeal caucus, which as you know, they have made their views very clear — Rand Paul, etc. And then there are the others on the other side of the spectrum that just want to make minor changes to the present system. There’s not consensus

Jeff Stein, Vox and Senator Chuck Grassley:

Stein: I want to ask a very broad question: What do you think this health care bill will accomplish that will improve America? What’s the positive case for this bill?

Grassley: Well, I can tell you what it’s going to do for Iowa. We are one of those states that in a couple of weeks if [the insurer] Medica pulls out, we’ll have 94 of our 95 counties won’t have any insurance ,even for people who have the subsidies. That’s what we have to concentrate on now.

Stein: How do you think the bill will fix that problem?

Grassley: Well, by bringing certainty to the insurance market. They don’t have that certainty now.

Stein: By bringing certainty to the insurance market. What certainty?

Grassley: What?

Stein: What do you mean by certainty?

Grassley: Well, they can’t even file. They have to check the rates real high if they don’t know what the government policy is. And so the certainty is that passing a bill gives the health insurance companies certainty.

Stein: Wouldn’t not passing a bill also do that?

Grassley: No, it … well, yeah — it gives them certainty that you’ll have a lot higher rates than if you pass the bill.

Stein: So you’re saying [the bill] will lower the rates?

Grassley: Um, if you’re talking about lowering the rates from now down, no. The rates could be way up here. [Points to sky] And if they — if we get a bill passed, it maybe wouldn’t go up or would go up a heck of a lot less than they would without a bill.

Stein: By “rates,” are you talking about premiums?

Grassley: Yeah, premiums. … I’m sorry I have to go.

There is more, but obviously I cannot replicate the article here … to read the full article click this link.

Both McCain and Grassley came across as having the intellect of a high school sophomore … how did they even get elected in the first place? And these people are the ones who will vote for a bill that they do not understand, simply in order to maintain their standing with a so-called president who also does not understand health care, and to rob the American people of the opportunity to seek medical care when they need it.

One of the biggest problems in health care today stems from the greed of the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. Many health insurers could see significant tax cuts if ACA is rolled back. Repealing ACA’s taxes on the industry, plus the anticipated corporate tax cut, could save health care companies upward of $200 billion over the next decade, by some rough estimates. If anybody still believes that “trickle-down economics” actually works and that the insurance companies will somehow share that $200 billion with people in need of healthcare, then I have a beautiful bridge I will sell you cheap!

health-care-2The senate bill will likely, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has his way, come for a vote very soon.  If passed, it then goes to the House, then to Trump.  If this bill is allowed to go all the way and become law, more people than ever in this country will die because they cannot obtain medical treatment.  It is that simple, folks.  All that is required is for three republican senators to find their conscience and vote against this bill … just THREE!  What can we do?  We can e-mail and call our unconscionable senators and make it very clear that if they vote for this bill, they will be out of a job next time they come up for re-election, either in 2018, 2020, or 2022.  Tell them that we have longer memories than they believe and they will not receive our vote.  If we do not use our voices, WE LOSE!

On Rainbows, Kermit, and … Russians???

Kermit-1Who could NOT love Kermit the Frog?  Remember seeing Kermit singing The Rainbow Connection in The Muppet Movie?  WHAT???  You don’t remember Kermit the Frog???  Oh woe, woe, and thrice times woe! (Did I do it okay, Roger?) Well here … check out the original of Kermit singing the song in the movie, and then we can proceed.

Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?  It’s actually one of my favourite songs and resides high on every playlist on my phone and ipod, though what I listen to is the version sung by the Carpenters.  Well … to get on with this story … no, first I must show you the lyrics so you understand where I am coming from:

♫Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.

So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.

I know they’re wrong wait and see.

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.

The lovers, the dreamers and me.

 

Who said that wishes would be heard and answered when wished on the morningstar?

Someone thought of that and someone believed it.

Look what it’s done so far.

What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing and what do we think we might see?

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.

The lovers, the dreamers and me.

 

All of us under its spell.

We know that it’s probably magic.

Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?

I’ve heard them calling my name.

Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors.

The voice might be one and the same.

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.

It’s something that I’m supposed to be.

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

La-da-da, de-da-da-do

La-da-da-da-da-de-da-do ♫

 

Okay, so now to the point of this post.  The other day, as I was going about my house chores and singing (terribly off-key and with only half the lyrics right … I once mistook the line “Hey, I’ve looked” for “Help me Agnes”) and I found myself, quite unbidden and without conscious thought, singing the following lyrics …

kermit

♫Why are there so many thoughts about Russians and who’s on the other side?

Russians are visions, but only illusions, and Russians have nothing to hide.

So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.

I know they’re wrong wait and see.

Someday we’ll find it, the Russian connection.

The Sessions, the Kushners and Trump. ♫

 

Mind you, this came completely unbidden, without malice aforethought … it just popped out of my brain/mouth as I flapped the towels for rolding. I ask myself, and you, dear readers … have I been spending too much time on the ‘dark side’?

My apologies to Kermit the Frog, the late Jim Henson, songwriters Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher … I meant no harm.

A bit of history, to try to make amends for my faux pas …

The song was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, though it didn’t win either; instead it reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, appeared in every subsequent Muppets film, and has been covered dozens of times. And it all started with Jim Henson’s voice in a swamp.

On March 27, 1996, a New Zealand man invaded a radio station and held its manager hostage. His main demand? That the station, Star FM, play “Rainbow Connection.” Before the song could be played, police retook the station and arrested the man. “Who said that every wish would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star,” indeed.

And still my favourite is the one done by the Carpenters, released in 2001:

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Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears

It would be funny were it not so tragic.  I have tried to stop short of calling Trump supporters stupid.  I have referred to them as lemmings and other terms, but have never outright called them stupid.  Today, I must re-think that and admit what has been obvious for some time now:  Trump supporters fall far short of being the brightest bulbs in the pack.  What, you may ask, has Filosofa stirred up today?

Shakespeare.  Specifically, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Julius Caesar.  This play has been politicized numerous times in the past:

On the eve of World War II, Orson Welles staged a landmark anti-Fascist production with a Mussolini-like Caesar. The Royal Shakespeare Company recently set the play in Africa, powerfully evoking the continent’s dictators and civil wars. Five years ago, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis staged a production featuring the assassination of an Obama-esque Caesar by a group of right-wing conspirators. Even John F. Kennedy was once depicted as Caesar! But never before has it stirred quite so much controversy as it did this week, when a production in New York’s Central Park became the flashpoint for threats of violence around the nation.

caesar-2Oskar Eustis, the director, chose to make his Caesar decidedly Trumpian, giving him a shock of hair, an overlong red tie and a wife with a recognizably Slovenian accent. As all Caesars are, he’s killed in the middle of the play — bloodily — by Brutus and his band of co-conspirators.  And the fallout from right-wing dim-bulbs has been ridiculous!

Delta Airlines and Bank of America have pulled their sponsorship from the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park program. But the most troubling aspect is that New York Classical Theatre, which performs in Central Park, has received a host of threatening messages, as have theaters around the country where Julius Caesar is being performed.  Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, D.C., has received about a dozen caustic e-mails and numerous tweets accusing the company of inciting violence and linking it to this week’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice..

Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts received roughly 40 venomous messages, including one that wished the theater “the worst possible life you could have and hope you all get sick and die.” At Shakespeare Dallas, executive and artistic director Raphael Parry says his company has received about 80 messages, including threats of rape, death, and wishes that the theater’s staff is “sent to ISIS to be killed with real knives.”

One protestor, Laura Loomer, was charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct after interrupting a New York production of Julius Caesar during the assassination scene and shouting: “This is violence against Donald Trump. This is political violence against the right!”  Audience members booed and shouted for her to get off the stage.  I suspect that this was not a random act, but was planned, since the incident was filmed by Jack Posobiec, a rightwing provocateur best known for helping to spread the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. He stood up as Loomer was escorted off stage by security guards and yelled at the crowd: “You are all Goebbels. You are all Nazis like Joseph Goebbels … You are inciting terrorists. The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands.”

caesar-3A Public Theater spokeswoman said: “Our production of Julius Caesar in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.”

Of course the dim-bulbs need someone to tell them when to be outraged, and the majority do not live in New York City, probably have only the vaguest notion who Shakespeare was and even less about who Julius Caesar was.  Enter Fox News and Breitbart who can always be counted on to stir the masses and they did not disappoint this time, either.  True to form, Breitbart led the pack with an article titled “‘Trump’ Stabbed to Death in Central Park Performance of ‘Julius Caesar’”, and Fox News fed the flames, tweeting “NYC Play Appears to Depict Assassination of @POTUS.”

Now, it has been said that if the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak, liberals would have the same reaction. But … in 2012 the shoe was on the other foot.  The Acting Company teamed up with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to produce a version of Julius Caesar in which the title character was very similar to then-President Obama.  No corporate sponsors pulled out or even made a comment.  No hate mail was sent.  And the New York Times gave it a positive review, calling it a “tough act to follow”.

Two points need to be made.  First, those who have a bit of knowledge of Shakespeare and the play Julius Caesar understand that the entire message of the play is NOT to promote assassination, but rather to warn against it.  Those who have no knowledge of the premise of the play ought to educate themselves before going off the deep end and sending hate mail regarding that which the do not understand. Second, this is a play.  It is art.  Art is always subject to interpretation.  If we allow people, fueled by right-wing media, to ban interpretations of plays, to shut them down through threats of violence, then what is the next step?  Book burnings?  Censorship of the press?  Arrests of peaceful protesters?  Think about it.

No Justice, Once Again … Another Sad Day …

It should have come as no surprise.  My heart should not have dropped into my shoes.  I should not have had any tears left to cry.  But it did, it did, and I did.

Jeronimo Yanez was just acquitted by a jury in the murder … yes it was murder … of Philandro Castile in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Need I state that Jeronimo Yanez is white, Philandro Castile was black?

Sequence of events:

06 July 2016 – 32-year-old Philandro Castile, cafeteria manager at the local Montessori school, was driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds a few minutes after 9:00 p.m., when police officer Jeronimo Yanez, age 29, pulled him over in a ‘routine’ traffic stop allegedly because of a burned-out brake light. Yanez approached the car window and asked Castile for his license and proof of insurance. As Mr. Castile reached for his wallet, presumably to get his driver’s license, Yanez pulled his gun and shot Mr. Castile through the window … not once, not twice, but seven times.  While Ms. Reynolds sat in the passenger seat of the car and her 4-year-old daughter, Dae’Anna, was in the backseat!  Yanez claimed that he thought Mr. Castile matched the description of a suspect in a recent robbery.  He also said that he thought Castile was going for his gun, which was disputed by Ms. Reynolds. The County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Castile’s death a homicide and said he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds.

Diamond and daughter

Diamond Reynolds and Dae’Anna in the aftermath

Ms. Reynolds began video on her phone just as the shooting ended, and livestreamed to Facebook … video that went viral within a short time and that was also presented as evidence at trial.

16 November 2016 – Prosecutors charged Yanez with second-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting, saying that “no reasonable officer” would have used deadly force in the same situation. Yanez was also charged with two felony counts for intentionally discharging the gun.

30 May 2017 – The trial of Jeronimo Yanez begins with jury selection.

12 June 2017 – Closing arguments complete, the jury of 10 white and 2 black people begins deliberations

16 June 2017 – The jury returns a ‘not guilty’ verdict


The trial:

During the trial, Yanez testified that he had been parked in his squad car when he saw Castile drive by, and they ‘made eye contact’.  “He gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look. It’s a trigger.” (Of course he did … just the day before, another black man, Alton Sterling, had been brutally murdered by white police officers!  Black males in this country know what they can expect at the hands of white police officers!)

Yanez said that gave him “strong suspicions” about Castile, whom he believed could be one of the robbery suspects from a robbery that had taken place four days prior.  Yanez said Castile had a nonworking brake light, which gave him legal grounds to conduct a “pretext” traffic stop that’s then used to investigate other crimes.

Yanez claimed at trial that he saw Castile begin pulling a gun out of his pocket, although immediately after the shooting, he told his supervisor that he had not seen a gun and did not know where it was. Ms. Reynolds testified that Castile was reaching into his pocket for his driver’s license.

Yanez also claimed that he smelled marijuana in the car.  Marijuana was, in fact, later found in the car, however … Yanez’ lawyer, Earl Gray, claimed that Mr. Castile had been under the influence of marijuana and delayed in his reactions at the time of the shooting. “We’re not saying that Philando Castile was going to shoot Officer Yanez,” Mr. Gray said. “What we’re saying is that he did not follow orders. He was stoned.” But video from Yanez dash-cam proves otherwise, showing that Mr. Castile was driving normally, pulled over quickly and was alert and courteous when talking to Officer Yanez.

Earlier in the week, the jury was divided 10-2 … I can guess which jurors argued for a conviction and which for an acquittal.  But somehow by Friday they decided to absolve Yanez of all charges.  I will not speculate on those deliberations, but instead leave it to your own imaginings.

Officials in the St. Anthony, Minnesota, police department said, they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.”

The murders of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile resulted in the nations of the Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain issuing travel advisories for citizens who might be considering travel to the U.S.

The murders of both Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile are a wart on the nose of the United States.  The absolution of their murderers proves that justice in this nation is prejudiced, that justice here is anything but just if you are an African-American.  Just like the cases of Freddie Gray, Keith Lamont Scott, Michael Brown, Paul O’Neal, Christian Taylor, Tamir Rice, and so many more, once again, justice was not served. As long as we are content to have a proven racist in the position of Attorney General, it never will be.  As long as we turn our backs and wear our blinders, it never will be.  Until we ALL stand up and speak out against racism, against white supremacy, against mistreatment of our fellow human beings, it never will be. Today was another sad day for the United States of America … one of many such days.

sad

On Chocolate Milk, Baby Carrots and Mind Bounce …

A story in The Washington Post this morning caught my eye:

The Surprising Number of American Adults Who Think Chocolate Milk Comes from Brown Cows

Surely this must be a joke, right?  WRONG!

“Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef.”

Now, I did not grow up on a farm, though one of my pseudo-uncles was a rancher, and a friend of my parents’ was an orchardist.  But, I know from whence most of the food I eat originated.  The article, once my initial shock had worn off, brought back some memories.  My sister-in-law used to think that hamburgers came from pigs … ham-burgers.  Okay, I guess I can see that.  And my niece was visiting one summer when I made French fries one night.  Now, I most often eschew the frozen ones and make homemade French fries by peeling and cutting potatoes, then frying them in hot oil.  When I did so, my niece said, “Wow, Aunt Jill, I didn’t know you could make French fries from potatoes!”  Sigh.

“When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California high school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.”

I did learn something new today from a related article:  baby carrots are not baby carrots! They are, rather, sculpted from full-sized adult carrots.  The story:

“In the early 1980s, the carrot business was stagnant and wasteful. Growing seasons were long, and more than half of what farmers grew was ugly and unfit for grocery shelves. But in 1986, [Mike] Yurosek, itching for a way to make use of all the misshapen carrots, tried something new. Instead of tossing them out, he carved them into something more palatable.

At first, Yurosek used a potato peeler, which didn’t quite work because the process was too laborious. But then he bought an industrial green-bean cutter. The machine cut the carrots into uniform 2-inch pieces, the standard baby carrot size that persists today.”

Who knew?  I guess I’m as under-educated in matters of agriculture as the rest!  Today, the ‘baby carrots’ account for 70% of all carrot sales.  It’s rather sad, though, to think of how much carrot is going to waste in this manner.  I typically buy the baby carrots, as they are just the right size for soups and stews, snacking, and roasting, but I think I will go back to buying full-size carrots now … after all, it only takes a minute to peel and cut a carrot!

produce.jpgAs tends to happen frequently these days, one thought sets my mind down a perilous path of many twists and turns, and the original article, about ‘food-ignorance’ led me to an ugly place.  Sigh.  But one must wonder, with the bulk of our population living in urban areas and never having grown so much as a scallion, what happens if … if there is an extended power outage, if through an act of aggression or a natural disaster, we are not able to run to our local supermarket and purchase veggies, cheese, milk and chicken?

We have become all too dependent on our food being always available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we do not give a second thought to how that food got there.  When the weather forecaster says “a chance of flurries in the overnight hours”, the supermarkets are suddenly packed with shoppers who simply must stock up on milk and toilet tissue.  In the past year or so, people have become even more dependent, as now most major supermarkets offer a service where the consumer can go online, select their groceries, specify a pick-up time, then simply drive to the front of the store and pick up their grocery order.  I have not tried this service, and probably won’t, for the bulk of my shopping happens in the produce department, and I prefer to select my own peppers and onions.  But to others, it is a time-and-energy saver, and is gaining momentum, from what I understand.

All of us have become far too dependent on things that could disappear in the blink of an eye, and I am no exception.  I do not pretend to know what the answer is, and certainly we cannot live our lives in fear of the unknown.  I remember during the cold war, families building ‘bomb shelters’ in their back yards, stocking them with surplus food and other essentials.  Even more recently, in response to a panic that computer systems would not be able to handle the date switch to the 21st century, rumour had it that the entire electrical grid of the U.S. might be down for a long period.  Remember Y2k?  So no, I do not think panic is in order, but I do think it would behoove us to at least understand some of the more basic things in life, such as how to grow a few veggies, how to bake our own bread, and most importantly, how to live with less.

Now how the heck did I go from what was intended to be a humorous piece to this?  See … this is how my mind works.  I call it ‘mind bounce’, for it is as if there is one of those small bouncy balls inside my skull jumping from one place to another with warp speed.  Welcome to my world!!!

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Chapter IV Of The Flint Water Saga

The first time I wrote about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, was in January 2016 in a piece titled Just Don’t Drink the Water. Since then, I have written twice more about the ineptitude on the part of nearly every party involved from Michgan Governor Rick Snyder to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Today I add Part IV of the ongoing saga.

Today brings the news that …

“Five Michigan officials, including the head of the state health department, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the crisis over lead poisoning in drinking water in Flint.”The Guardian, 14 June 2017

While this is excellent news in the sense of holding people accountable – people who were so negligent in doing their jobs that it caused a loss of human life – it does nothing to rectify the current situation in Flint nor to help the people of Flint, many of whom must still rely on bottled water.

The five who are charged with manslaughter are:

  • Nick Lyon, head of the State Health Department
  • Stephen Busch, regional supervisor for Michigan Department of Environment
  • Liane Shekter-Smith, state head of drinking water
  • Howard Croft, former Director of Public Works for Flint
  • Darnell Earley, the emergency manager who ordered the disastrous water switch

Twelve others have been charged with lesser crimes, including Dr. Eden Wells, the top medical official who is charged with misconduct in office for allegedly threatening to withhold funding for a research project after researchers started looking into the legionella outbreak. Dr. Wells and Mr. Lyon remain in their jobs as of this writing, as Governor Snyder claims they are “instrumental to Flint’s recovery”.

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Nick Lyon and Dr. Eden Wells

As telling as the 17 who have been charged in this disaster is the one who has not:  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.  There has been so much finger-pointing, cover-up, blame-deflection and more cover-up that “who knew what and when did they know it” has long been lost in the chaos.  But there is very little doubt that Rick Snyder knew more than he admits, earlier than he claims, and could have done much to keep the situation from escalating into a full-blown crisis where at least twelve people died from Legionnaires’ disease.  One of those twelve was 85-year-old Robert Skidmore, who left behind three sons, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He had worked at General Motors’ Fisher body plant for 37 years.

As I said, this is good news, to see corrupt officials being held accountable for their actions.  But it is not enough.  No, other than perhaps some bit of personal satisfaction, this really does nothing to help the people of Flint, half of whom are below poverty level, and some of whom are facing eviction by the city for unpaid water bills!!! As I said 17 months ago, the demographics of Flint are primarily African-American, below poverty level – if this were a mostly-white community, would this fiasco have been allowed to go on for more than two years now?  I think we all know the answer to that question.

An interesting footnote:  In my first post I predicted that eventually there would be a movie or two made about the Flint water crisis.  Lo and Behold!  It was recently announced that Cher will reportedly play a woman whose family is affected by the contamination of the city’s drinking water. The Poisoning of an American City by Josh Sanburn will be directed by Bruce Beresford of Driving Miss Daisy fame. Cher, by the way, personally donated thousands of bottles of drinking water to Flint last year. And it is also expected to be the subject of a documentary produced by Paul Haggis, director of Crash. 

For those who may have missed the previous posts or who wish to refresh their memories, here are links to my first three posts about the Flint crisis:

Good People Doing Good Things – Michael Bloomberg

The past several weeks I have focused on good works on a smaller scale, ordinary people going out of their way to make the world just a little bit better for someone. But today I want to shine a spotlight on someone doing some pretty big things, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Many outside the New York area may not be aware of how much good Bloomberg does, but over his lifetime he has given away more than $4.3 billion!  His contributions range from something as small and simple as painting a roof, to the $1 billion he has given to Johns Hopkins University. I have always had rather a soft spot for Mr. Bloomberg, knew he was a good man, but even I had no idea just how much he has given back to the world.

His philosophy on giving is to give to organizations that seek to bring about change on a local level but serve a broader purpose. The majority of his contributions are in the fields of Environment, Public Health, the Arts, Government Innovation, Education, Women’s Economic Development in Africa. Mr. Bloomberg has also signed the Giving Pledge started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, vowing to give away at least half of his wealth over the course of his lifetime. Between 2004 and 2011, Bloomberg was listed as a top 10 American philanthropist each year.

Let us take a brief look at some of the causes he supports:

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  • Environment
    • Focused on combating climate change and moving toward clean energy sources. In 2011, the foundation partnered with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign and as of this writing he has given more than $80 million to that cause.
    • Partners with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group to curb carbon emissions in major cities around the world.
    • Committed $53 million to Vibrant Oceans Initiative over the course of five years to help reform fisheries and increase sustainable populations.
    • Invested $5 million in Little Sun, a solar-powered lamp company founded by artist Olafur Eliasson and entrepreneur Frederik Ottesen.
  • Wed-Bloomberg-healthPublic Health
    • Donated $100 million to help the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation eradicate polio worldwide.
    • Pledged to donate $600 million to curb tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries.
    • Partnered with the World Health Organization to donate $125 million to reduce traffic-related fatalities, and committed an additional $125 million to combat road traffic deaths in low- and middle-income cities.
    • Committed $50 million to the Global Family Planning Initiative, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation program focused on providing obstetric care and contraceptives to women in developing countries.
    • Pledged $250,000 to support Planned Parenthood, and also donated $8 million to the Bloomberg Philanthropies Maternal Health Program, which focuses on reducing maternal deaths in Tanzania, Africa and Latin America.
  • Education
    • Launched a $10 million program to help top-performing students from low- and middle-income families apply to and graduate from the nation’s top colleges.
  • Women’s Economic Development
    • Works with nonprofit advocacy organizations including Women for Women International and Sustainable Harvest to create economic opportunities for women in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    • Recently announced a $10 million grant to the Relationship Coffee Institute to support the expansion of its ongoing women’s economic development initiatives in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
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Monet’s Water Lilies

  • Arts
    • Announced a $15 million grant to five institutions — Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Botanical Garden, and Guggenheim Museum — as part of the Bloomberg Arts Engagement Initiative to develop mobile applications for visitors.
    • Committed a total of $83 million to cultural institutions around the world.
    • Launched the Public Art Challenge, a competition that invited local leaders and arts organizations to collaborate on temporary public art projects that would celebrate creativity and drive economic development.
  • Other
    • Donated $50 million to the Museum of Science in Boston.
    • Bloomberg has donated $1.1 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, making him the most generous living donor to any education institution in the country.

These are but a few of the good works being done by Michael Bloomberg and the Bloomberg Foundation. Note that in many instances Bloomberg Foundation partners with other organizations, such as Sierra Club or Sustainable Harvest.  “I’d think being a soloist falls apart,” he said. “I think there’s a limit to how much you can do on your own.”  And not all of his gestures are on the million-dollar scale, either.  He partnered with Al Gore once to paint a roof white in Queens, for which he was the subject of many jokes.  The reason for the roof-painting? White roofs, by reflecting heat rather than absorbing it, immediately reduced electricity bills and have since been replicated throughout the borough. His response to the mockers?  “We focused on things we could do in America that made a difference and were replicable elsewhere. It wasn’t solving all the problems. It wasn’t making India and China carbon-neutral, but it was something.”

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One thing that makes Bloomberg stand out in the crowd of wealthy philanthropists is that he is willing to try new things rather than, like some, wait for what they think will be the perfect organization and miss a lot of opportunities along the way. For example, as part of his initiative to cut traffic deaths both here and in other countries, he helped Vietnam implement helmet laws. “I would have bet anything against the idea of getting the Vietnamese government to pass a helmet law and that people would obey to have helmets. They passed it. They did enforce it. They cut the number of traffic deaths by a third overnight.”

Bloomberg has come under fire from time to time, both as a politician and as a businessman.  It is inevitable … one does not live in the spotlight of being mayor of one of the largest cities in the U.S. for 11 years without coming into criticism.  Bloomberg is human, so I am certain that he wasn’t always right, either, but overall I believe he was a good mayor and is a good human being.

A couple of things made me want to spotlight Mr. Bloomberg at this particular time.  One is his focus on the environment, an extremely hot (pun sort of intended) topic at present, with the current administration determined to roll back the gains we have made in attempting to overcome human-caused climate change.  And the other was the fact that Mr. Bloomberg, in addition to being a philanthropist, is two things:  a politician and a very successful businessman.  In recent months, we have had every reason to trust neither politicians nor businessmen, but Mr. Bloomberg is the exception.  He is living proof that politicians and businessmen CAN also be good people.  I thought it important for us to remember that, especially now. I try to keep the Good People posts non-political, but as I mentioned when I first started this feature, to some extent that is not always possible, for sometimes the good people are doing their good things as a result of the political environment.