Sretan Ponedjeljak!

I decided to try something new with the title for this post, maybe even turn it into a weekly game.  The title is Happy Monday, but it is in a language other than English.  Each week, I think I will choose a different language and it is up to you, the reader, to see if you can figure out which language!  This week I will help you and give you the answer at the end of the post.

To the best of my knowledge, none of my cats like wine.  Of course, they could be tippling in secret, but I rather doubt it.  I did once have a dog who loved beer, though!  I would sit in the back yard, reading or just soaking up rays, set my beer in the grass by my side, and he would surreptitiously turn it over and lap every last drop if I didn’t catch him in the act!  Alcohol, it turns out, is actually quite bad for pets (probably not all that great for humans, either, but …).  Luckily Gomer was a good-size dog of about 80+ pounds and since he didn’t get beer often, I don’t think it had a lasting effect.

black cat and glass of red wine

Apparently some people (I’m guessing the same people who put rhinestone collars and fur coats on their pets) thought it would be really nice if they could enjoy a nice glass of wine with their feline friends.  (Sheesh, get a life, people)  Well, as we used to say in the Air Force (I was never in the Air Force – bad eyes) where there is a demand, somebody will find a way to fulfill it.  Along comes a company called Apollo Peak with a product just for your little Baboo, or Fifi, or whatever rich snobs name their cats..  The Denver-based company makes drinks for cats that look like wine, but is actually made with organic catnip and water and colored with organic beet juice.  Apollo Peak founder Brandon Zavala said, “It’s made like a tea, but since we got it to look so much like a wine, we want it to be perceived as a wine by the consumer — that way they can feel as though they are having a glass of wine with their pet.”   The product, first released last November, is currently available in stores in Colorado and online.  It is, by the way, veterinarian-approved, as beets are not toxic to animals.  If only for kicks, visit their website Apollo Peak … there is an adorable video of a cat drinking wine on their homepage.  It is a bit pricey in my opinion, but then hey … your companion is worth $12 or so, right?  Personally, I think it would be funny if the human, after a glass or two of her real wine, made a mistake and poured herself some of Fifi’s wine!

I generally try to stick to humorous news and views on Monday, but last week was so filled with tragedy that I am not finding a lot to laugh about.  However I have found some uplifting stories, some tales of generosity and humanity amid the rubble, and thought it might be more appropriate today to report a few of the good things that came out of those tragedies.  It is kind of a heart-warming, good news post, but perhaps falls short of humour.  But then, while I always believe it is good to laugh, sometimes it just seems not to be quite the right response to things.

mailboxes A community expressed their anguish and support for the family of Lane Graves – the 2-year-old who died after being attacked by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday. The community of Elkhorn in Omaha, Nebraska, tied blue ribbons around mailboxes, doors and trees in honor of Lane on Thursday. “As a neighborhood, we hope that they just feel the love, basically of how much we care about them and — we can’t do anything to replace him but we want to let them know that we care,” said neighbor Jeff Nichols.  The neighbors spent the day adorning Elkhorn with the blue ribbons to show that they care, are deeply saddened and are willing to step in and help whenever the family is ready.  Someone even left a bouquet of flowers and white teddy bear on the porch of the family’s home.  Neighbors are organizing a “meal train” and getting volunteers to babysit Lane’s 4-year-old sister, Ella, when the family returns, to help with the mourning process.  On Friday, kids in Elkhorn sold “Lemonade For Lane” from noon to 5 p.m., and all proceeds will go building a memorial for the toddler.  On Thursday, members of St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn held a mass for Lane in which 100 to 150 people attended and Kingdom Strollers in Orlando — which had rented a stroller to Lane’s parents, Matt and Melissa, for their Disney World visit — started a GoFundMe campaign for the family which has already raised over $50,000.
foodFollowing Sunday’s mass shooting, the Orlando food community has come together to support the city.   Chefs, caterers and restaurants have been utilizing the private Facebook group Culinary Cares: In Support of Pulse Orlando to coordinate food donations, as well as to alert one another of places in the city which would benefit from their help in the aftermath of the tragedy. Through the group — which was created by Kendra Lott, publisher of Edible Orlando magazine and her friend Gary Appelsies — thousands of meals have already been provided to people in Orlando.  Appelsies said that the group is just a way for those in the food community to show their support for those dealing with tragedy. In addition to providing food, people have also donated water, utensils, catering trucks and other supplies. Restaurants, restaurant groups, caterers, food writers and others have joined the giving efforts with much of the donations going to individuals in the medical community, blood donors, grief counselors and victims’ loved ones, among other recipients.

From nationwide rallies to blood drives to proud PDA displays, the LGBTQ community — and the world at large — shared sympathy and love with one another in the face of tragedy. Here are a few ways the world stood in solidarity with Orlando:

  • American Muslims Sent A Message Of Solidarity To Victims
  • Orlando Residents Showed Up In Multitudes At Vigil For Mostly Queer Latinx Victims
  • Artists Around The World Drew Their Pain And Love For Orlando
  • Thousands Lined Up To Give Blood Just Hours After The Attack
  • Hamilton Star Lin-Manuel Miranda Accepted Tony Award By Reading Powerful Sonnet To Orlando
  • Cities Worldwide Took To The Streets For Orlando In Crowded Vigils
  • World Landmarks Lit Up To Let International Pride Shine Through
  • Anderson Cooper Read Each Of The Victims’ Names Out Loud
  • Nurses Who Treated San Bernadino Victims Sent Love To Orlando
  • JetBlue Offered Free Flights To Orlando Victims’ Family Members


Many sent ‘thoughts and prayers’, which is all very nice, but some of these people actually did something to help someone …. gave of their time and money.  I believe that, despite what we see on a daily basis, there is a whole lot of goodness, compassion and love in most people.  Why does it always take a tragedy to bring out those qualities?  Why can we not treat our friends, our neighbors and co-workers with kindness, compassion and respect every day?

The title of the post is in Bosnian, by the way.  Until next Monday, imaju siguran i sretan danas !


Westboro Strikes at the Scene of Tragedy … AGAIN

I had another post completed and ready to go for this evening, but then this caught my eye:

Westboro Baptist Church Plans to Protest Funerals for Orlando Shooting Victims

Aw, man, say it ain’t so!  But sadly, apparently it is, in fact, ‘so’, as the story is reported in Time, USA Today, The Orlando Sentinal, Washington Post, and others too numerous to name here.

Westboro Baptist ‘Church’ members are, to my way of thinking, the scum of the earth.  Even Christians deny them, saying they are not Christians, but are evil.  They are known only for hatred and more hatred.  Who do they hate?  Everybody, it would seem.  They hate anybody who was ever in the military, they hate LGBT people, they hate Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and the list goes on.

Hating every person in the universe is one thing.  Acting upon that hate is something else altogether.  Let it eat you from within, for it is, after all, your choice, but do not inflict it upon innocent people who, merely by luck of birth or circumstance, happen to be on your hate list!  Westboro members have actively picketed funerals of soldiers killed in action, celebrity funerals, gay funerals, events, etc.  You can read about them for yourselves, as it makes me nauseous and my intent here is not to discuss their filth and hate, but to talk about that which forces us to accept them in this so-called civil society. This much I know.  I have LGBT friends and also family members, and I would inflict serious physical damage to anybody from Westboro who dared to show their face at a funeral of any of them.

It is interesting to note that Westboro members are banned from entering Canada as of 2008, and the UK as of 2009!  Would that we could air-drop them into the middle of a Daesh encampment and ban them from re-entering the U.S.!

So why are we in the U.S. forced to accept these psychopaths disrupting the grieving of families and loved ones after every tragedy?  Why?  We call it the 1st Amendment.  Now those of you who either know me or have followed this blog for a while know that I am a long-time scholar and supporter of the United States Constitution.  As such, I fully support the 1st Amendment.  However, I do not think the framers of this historic document quite had this in mind when they drafted it.

There are a number of interpretational theories regarding the Constitution.  The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a textualist who believed that the constitution should “mean the same thing in 2013 as its writers intended in 1787”.  Justice Hugo Black argued that the First Amendment’s wording in reference to certain civil rights that Congress shall make no law should mean exactly that: no law, no exceptions.  The problem with this line of thinking, of course, is that the world is a far different place today than it was in 1787 and nothing in the framer’s experience could have given them the slightest bit of insight into how the world would evolve, what society would become over 200+ years.  A simplified example:  you set bedtime for your toddler at, say, 8:00 p.m.  That is the rule.  But 15 years later when your toddler is 17, do you still make him/her go to bed at 8:00 because that is the rule?  Probably not, unless you want a mutiny on your hands.  As times change, the rules must also change.  That is one part of the reason we even have Legislative and Judicial branches.

We, as humans, were given some really great gifts … original equipment, if you will.  Among them are the ability to think and apply logic to a variety of situations.  There are currently almost no limitations on the 1st Amendment, as the Supreme Court has been unwilling to restrict the Bill of Rights any more than is absolutely necessary.  I get that, I really do.  However, I also think that when the 1st Amendment rights of a small group (Westboro) deprive a much larger group (all the rest of us) of our 4th and 5th Amendment rights, or even our own 1st Amendment rights, then it is time to draw some boundaries around the 1st Amendment.

Some laws have actually been passed limiting Westboro’s access to funerals, but they are not nearly sufficient, and they cover mainly military funerals.  Indiana, Illinois, Arizona and Michigan have enacted laws that ban protestors from being within 300-500 feet of a funeral, but these are misdemeanors with relatively low penalties and this is only 4 states out of 50!  On a federal level, President George W. Bush signed into law the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act in May 2006 prohibiting protests within 300 feet of the entrance of any cemetery under control of the National Cemetery Administration from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral.  Penalties for violating the act are up to $100,000 in fines and up to one-year imprisonment.  President Obama signed into law another that increased the time frame to 2 hours before and after.  This is better, but note the phrase ‘National Cemetery Administration’.  Military funerals only.  While I am certainly glad that we are protecting military funerals, I do not think it is enough.  The family members of those victims of the Orlando massacre last weekend deserve the same level of protection from harassment as do the family members of fallen soldiers.  Period.  No argument.

There have been a few legal challenges to the Westboro group’s 1st Amendment ‘rights’.  On March 10, 2006, WBC picketed the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder in Westminister, Maryland.  On June 5, 2006, the Snyder family sued both Westboro Church and its members for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The legal battle was long and arduous, passing through the U.S. District Court twice, the Federal Appeals Court, and eventually, in 2010 ending up in the U.S. Supreme Court.  I will not bore you with details, but the ultimate ruling was an 8-1 ruling in favour of Westboro.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion stating: “What Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to ‘special protection’ under the First Amendment and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous.”  Justice Samuel Alito, the lone dissenter, said Snyder wanted only to “bury his son in peace”. Instead, Alito said, the protesters “brutally attacked” Matthew Snyder to attract public attention. “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case,” he said.

Westboro is an abomination, and I include all their members, as well as anybody who would support them in that statement.  There is, however, one bright spot in the Orlando story.  A group of some 200+ people launched a counter-protest, blocking the street in downtown Orlando and preventing the Westboro group from gaining access to the funeral proceedings.  The counter-protest group included bikers, priests, young people, members of the LGBT community and locals carrying signs saying “God is love” and the motto the City Beautiful adopted in response to the massacre, “Orlando strong.”  Yet another group, a line of “angels” clad in white sheets mounted with wings constructed from PVC pipes walked in front of the throng, saying nothing as the crowd cheered. The wings were the idea of the Orlando Shakespeare theater, which outfitted their volunteers with sheets wide enough to block view of the church members.  Just past 11 a.m., the Westboro church members left and retreated toward their vehicles, and the crowd roared. A large contingent of the counter-demonstrators drew in close into a huddle and chanted, “Orlando strong! Orlando strong!”

This was a fairly long post, but when I rant, I do it up right!  Anyway, the moral of this whole thing, as I see it, is that if the Supreme Court feels its hands are tied in cases like these, and if the ‘thinking and humane’ portion of society agree that Westboro is scum that must be stopped, perhaps we take a page from the book of the counter-protestors in Orlando this weekend.  One couple, upon hearing of the counter protest being formed, flew from their home in Pennsylvania to be a part of stopping the Westboro group!  We The People have the power to stop the hatred!  We can first let our representatives in Congress know how strongly we feel about these situations, and when laws fail us, we find other ways, though always within the law and in peace, without violence.  For me, though the headline initially made me see red, I am encouraged to see that there are a lot more good people out there than bad.  I never doubted this, but sometimes we need to be reminded.

Nothing to Fear But … White Males???

Yesterday morning, I, along with most of the nation, awakened to the terrible news of the worst shooting spree ever to happen in our nation, with 50 people killed and 53 others injured.  I knew immediately what the reactions of the vociferous few would be, and I was not to be disappointed.  I intentionally did not post about this last night or this morning, as I needed some time and distance before I could do so. However, my tongue cannot stand being bitten any longer, so this is the first of two posts addressing various aspects of this horrific event.

First, it was inevitable that those who support nearly unlimited rights to gun ownership and use would immediately use this tragedy as propaganda to make their case for less restrictive gun laws and the myth that ‘everyone would be safer if more people carried concealed weapons’.  Second, also inevitable, those who already mistrust and hate Muslims renewed their insistence that Islam is the problem, Muslims should be banned, blah, blah, blah. I suppose those who prefer an easy, immediate answer to the question “WHY?” must seek to blame, must look at the nearest target at which to point their finger.  But in reality, there are no easy or immediate answers.

The whole issue of guns, 2nd Amendment rights, gun regulation/control, is my second least-favourite topic about which to write (religion is my least favourite).  It generally sets in motion more negativity than I need.  That said, I am also rarely, if ever, one to shy away from controversy.

Donald Trump, on hearing of the horrific tragedy in Orlando this weekend (which I will cover in a later post, but today it is still too soon), saw yet another opportunity to propagandize a tragedy in order to promote his Islamophobia and renew his call to ban Muslims from entering the country.  He also insists that if he becomes president he will establish a database of all Muslims in order to closely monitor them.  I cry FOUL!  Apart from the whole ‘freedom of religion’ issue, let us look at some facts. I dug into the statistics, and based on what I found, the group that we really need to ban from this country, if in fact that is the answer, is white males!  Fully 61% of all mass shootings in the U.S. between 1982 – 2015 were committed by white people, mostly males. Only two mass shooters during that time frame were women, one Hispanic and one white.

In the chart below, the statistics show the number of mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and 2015, by race and ethnicity of the shooter(s). Between 1982 and 2015, 44 out of 72 mass shootings were initiated by white shooters.

Mass shootings in U.S. between 1982-2015 by shooters race & ethnicity*:

Race # of perpetrators Pct (%)
White 44 61%
Black 11 15%
Asian 6 8%
Hispanic 4 6%
Native American 3 4%
Other 4 6%

Now seriously, who, if anybody, should be banned or ‘monitored’ via database?  Who are you most likely to trust?  I live in a neighborhood that is about 40% African-American, 25% Middle-Eastern (Muslim), 15% Hispanic, and 20% Caucasian (white).  In the nearly 20 years I have lived here, the only people I have ever had problems with were white, Caucasians.  They are the reason I keep my doors locked.  Think about that for a minute!

While I am on the topic, let us look at the number of people killed each year by terrorism as opposed to those killed by senseless gun violence other than terrorism (see chart below).  So would somebody please explain how the politicians are able to stir such a fear of terrorism in the nation whose citizens have only lost 311 people to terrorism (excluding 9/11), as opposed to 130,347 lives lost due to senseless gun violence?  I am more afraid of the bimbo in the grocery store with a gun in her purse, or the ‘macho-man’ swaggering through a parking lot with a gun barely concealed under his jacket than I am any person of Middle-Eastern heritage!

U.S. Deaths from gun violence and terrorism compared*:

Year Gun deaths Deaths from terrorism
2001 ** 11,348 2,689
2002 11,829 25
2003 11,920 35
2004 11,624 74
2005 12,352 56
2006 12,791 28
2007 12,632 19
2008 12,179 33
2009 11,493 9
2010 11,078 15
2011 11,101 17

Now there is just one more thing I want to address here, and that is the tired old saying that right-wingers and gun advocates throw out when other words fail them: “well, the criminals will get guns anyway, so why bother with stricter gun regulations?”  Let us think about this one for a few moments.  Yes, there is some truth to the fact that a determined criminal who has his mind set on shooting someone will likely find a way to obtain a gun.  Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, certainly would have had no trouble obtaining his weapons. HOWEVER, … why should that stop us from making rational and enforceable laws?  A person who drives drunk will do so if he feels so inclined, so does that mean we should not have laws against DUI?  A speeder will likely do 85 mph down the highway, but does that mean we should just throw our hands up and say, “oh well, no point in making laws against it, as they will only do it anyway.”  Sorry folks, but that is about the absolute stupidest argument I have ever heard.  And for you gun lovers out there … I am not talking about laws to strip you of your guns, but I am talking about stricter regulations to ensure that people are fully vetted and pass a test to prove that they can safely handle a gun, perhaps even a class to teach them about keeping guns out of the hands of children.  Those are not a threat to your ‘rights’, those are common sense!  Get over yourselves and remember that you are not the only person who counts in this world.

Check out this post by Erik Hare of Barataria for a thoughtful, insightful perspective that I think you will enjoy.   Constant Outrage

Okay, enough ranting from me for today.  My fingertips are sore from pounding the keys!  My main point in this whole rant is that we simply must stop blaming all Muslims every time one of them performs an act of terrorism.  There is no more justification for that line of thinking than there is of blaming the entire Caucasian race every time a white person such as Dylan Roof goes on a spree.  Blame the perpetrator of the crime, not his whole race, not his entire religion.  Don’t let the politicians like Trump scare you with ‘monsters in the closet’.  The U.S. has been fortunate that other than 9/11, we really have not been victims of wide-scale terrorist attacks.  Those we have seen have been mostly domestic, lone-wolf terrorism, episodes by self-radicalized individuals.  Stop and put things in perspective.  Think before opening your mouth.  Look at facts, not meaningless rhetoric.  We do not need a wall; we do not need to ban people based on their religion.  We need to monitor ourselves and use a bit of common sense. Think about it.

*  All data obtained from Statista

** Includes deaths on 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.

Nothing But The Good News Today!

Note:  I inadvertently deleted this post earlier, so this is the same post I posted at 7:00 a.m. 

I made several false starts today … started a post about Mother’s Day, but it wasn’t working out, so I started one about Alabama’s suspended Supreme Court Justice, Roy S. Moore, but that wasn’t going where I wanted it to go either.  Writers of fiction often say that their characters develop minds of their own and sometimes go where the writer never intended.  I get that, but I do not, cannot, write fiction.  I write OpEd, and my writing is supposed to go precisely where my mind thinks it is going, but somedays there is simply a disconnect.  So, instead, I have decided to dig for some “good news” stories for my Sunday morning blog (being written on Saturday night).

‘No-Excuses’ Girl Born Without Hands Wins In National Handwriting Competition

anaya1Anaya Ellick is 7 years old and in first grade at Greenbrier Christian Academy in Chesapeake, Virginia.  She is said by her teacher to be a vivacious child, independent and works hard at her studies.  Oh yes, and Anaya was born without hands.  Yet, she won the Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellence in Manuscript Penmanship.  Anaya does not use prosthetics, but simply buts the pen or pencil between her arms and stands up to write.  This girl’s writing puts mine to shame (see sample below).  Great job, Anaya!anaya sample


Cheerios Giving Bees A Buzz-Worthy 3,300 Acres Of Flowers To Pollinate

CheeriosI like Honey-Nut Cheerios.  You like Honey-Nut Cheerios?  On April 26, General Mills announced that the farms that supply oats for Honey Nut Cheerios will plant approximately 3,300 acres of habitat for bees and other pollinators by 2020.  Since most of us cannot readily visualize 3,300 acres, it is approximately the size of 3,000 football fields.  That help?  We have all heard that honeybees are dying out, in part due to the chemicals used in farming and in part due to global warming.  The problem is that honeybees are responsible for pollinating some 70% of the food we eat, so it is a big problem that must be addressed quickly.  Certainly more than this is needed, but if every major corporation did as much as General Mills, the problem would soon be turned around, it seems. So, hats off to General Mills for doing their part!


33 Rescued Circus Lions Will Feel Like Kings In New South African Digs

lionsI haven’t been to a circus in … oh, probably 30 years.  But I do remember loving the animals.  The clowns always frightened me, the strange people disturbed me, but I loved the animals.  I was never afraid of the elephants, lions or tigers.  I have always loved animals, perhaps more than humans sometimes, and have a deep compassion for them.  It makes me furious when they are abused.  33 lions have been rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia, where they were neglected and abused.  Thanks to the good works of Animal Defenders International, based in Los Angeles, the lions have been flown to South Africa to live out their lives in a private sanctuary, Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo province.    Two thumbs up to Animal Defenders International!

Man Teaches Homeless Woman To Read Over Lunch Every Week

Twenty-five year-old Greg Smith of Orlando, Florida, has lunch with Amy Joe, a homeless woman, every Tuesday on his lunch break from work.  One day she happened to mention that any money she gets, she uses to get books because she is trying to teach herself to read.  Well, Greg Smith immediately wanted to help, so now during their Tuesday lunch together Greg brings Amy a book from the library which they read together, and then she tries to further hone her skills during the rest of the week.  Additionally, Greg is trying to help by using a GoFundMe website to collect donations, not just to help homeless people in Orlando learn to read, but also to help them with such necessities as food, clothing and shelter.  Of Amy Joe, he says he is charmed by “how positive she is even though she really has nothing.”  I don’t know about you all, but I am charmed and heartened to read of a young man who cares so much for others.  Heartfelt hugs to both Greg Smith and Amy Joe of Orlando, Florida!


We in the U.S. have been so caught up in hate lately, in political rhetoric, constantly bombarded by politicians fighting, threatening violence, condoning racism and other forms of hate. Daily we hear friends, neighbors, relatives expound on their political views that differ from our own, and by the end of the day, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that there are good people all over the world, doing things to try to make the world a little bit better place.