Sunday, February 26, 2012

I've Been Proven Right

My blog posts frequently try to use humor to make some points, and I often use lists of things that amuse, bemuse or befuddle me. There have been lots of those things since my lasts posts, but they all seem so shallow compared to the absolutely disgusting nature of the battle for the republican party nomination this year. I mean, what does it matter, in the big picture, that I was saddened to realize that I have a GPS that I never need? I go so few places that I seldom go anywhere that I don't know how to get to.

I was planning to ask why we in the United States need all those British chefs coming over here and cursing at us in order to make our restaurants successful? We are a nation of cookie cutter chain restaurants-we don't, as a rule, give a shit what food tastes like-we just want it to be cheap and plentiful. Are the "Brits Behaving Badly" in our restaurants simply getting us back for winning the revolution and overthrowing their monarchy here?

I was also taken aback when I noticed on the wrapper of a Hershey bar that I bought-it was made in Mexico! What about Hershey, Pennsylvania-the city of chocolate streets and chocolate sauna treatments? I couldn't finish the bar once I saw that. Is there no job in this country that is too sacred to outsource to another country?

But all that has come crashing down as I've watched the republicans desperately claw for a party nomination that will not matter to them one whit come November 6 or January 20 of 2013. President Obama gets mixed marks from me, but all-in-all, I think he's done a good job, especially considering what he's been up against.

What frightens me is that there are about ten or twelve million people who will vote for one of these three men, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney. I have never in my life seen such a rag-tag collection of liars and scoundrels-but they are exactly what the right has been asking for. Not in the sense of, "Please sir, I want some more," but in the sense of "Aright, you, you asked for it, now you're gonna get it!" In 2009 and 2010, I watched many stories about tea party gatherings across the country. My mother participated in some where she lives.They were mostly women, bad spellers, upper middle-aged, fat and white. I said "mostly," not all, so please don't say that I'm painting them all with a broad brush and saying that all tea party activists are one way or another. I'm a firm believer that an engaged, informed electorate is crucial to having a country governed by people who are worthy of their titles. But these folks were not informed; they watch only Fox News, which does not inform as much as it inflames. Fox is known for telling its viewers not to watch any other channels because "they won't tell you the truth like we do." Which is a crock-dictated by Fox's fear that their viewers will become informed and abandon them for their lack of truth or balance. No one channel tells the whole truth, and one MUST get one's news from more than one source, then sift through the blather to find the truth for ones self. This is why Fox viewers consistently demonstrate in studies that they are dramatically more uninformed about the real news of the world than viewers of any other news service.

All that aside, and what may appear to be an ADD rabbit chase, I have said for years, even when I was a practicing, though doubting Christian, that the bible (and pretty much all other holy books) were written by men in an effort to keep women in "our places." Ever since the republican victories in 2010, I have been proven right. Homosexuals are also among those whom religion has been meant to keep under control, and I've written about gay rights before; this is about a war on women. Since 2010, an election that was purportedly about the economy and what a bad job President Obama has done in restoring jobs to this country, all these newly empowered republicans have done is intensify its war on women and gays. Utterly dishonest attacks on Planned Parenthood, designed to offer low cost health services to low income women, has been under increasing attack,and is being portrayed in the media as a giant abortion machine, though abortion is only about 3% of Planned Parenthood's activities, and it gets very little funding from the federal government. Publicly funded media is also under attack and threat of defunding, though the truth, once again, is that NPR and other such organizations get very little money from the federal government. It is being attacked because it is "liberal." I know this because my mother says so-though I have personally invited her to watch any program or news show on PBS and point out anything they say that is "liberal." She refuses-back to the Fox dictum not to watch any other channels because they don't tell the truth as Fox does.

Now we have a big argument going on about whether or not insurance companies, not churches, should provide coverage for contraception to women who work for, again, not churches, but institutions owned by churches, such as universities and hospitals. I would venture to say that not every secretary at Notre Dame University is Catholic, and insurance companies should not be denying health care of any kind to women of any kind. This is not a First Amendment argument, though it is being promoted as such by the white men who wish to force their beliefs on every woman. Whatever happened to your god being a personal god who wants a personal relationship with believers? Whatever happened to human free will to choose to follow the dictates of your faith or not? Whatever happened to the belief that morality can't be legislated at all, particularly to unbelievers. Child birth is a health care decision, the United States in 2010 ranked fortieth in the world in maternal death rates (women who die within 42 days after giving birth.) So deciding to have a baby can be a life and death decision. We also have an economy in which having two parents working is no longer a "choice," it has now become a necessity in many cases to have two incomes. Birth control is a health care choice, and not simply a narcissistic way for a woman to have time to "find herself," through a career. It has been nearly fifty years since the advent of the pill, and people have used some kind of prophylactic or another for hundreds of years. But suddenly, in this war on women, birth control, and forty years after Roe vs. Wade, a woman's right to choose are in the forefront again. AGAIN!!! Get used to it, conservatives, this has already been decided-women can choose to prevent pregnancy, and if she chooses to, can end a pregnancy.

I would like to note that the very definition of conservative means keeping things as they have always been, and this is a highly unrealistic way of looking at the world. A conservative friend of mine once said to me, with great angst, the Obama wanted to "change America!!!" I'm fairly sure I know what this fundamentalist, tea party, deep South conservative really meant, and the advance of the rights of women is included in my assumption. I remember another conversation with her in which she vehemently criticized a woman who had dropped off her baby at a "Safe Baby" site. She said, "If you can't take care of a child, you shouldn't bring a child into the world." Really? This was a child that was not aborted. Parents were probably not using birth control, which now social conservatives are saying is a bad thing. So when the child is born in these cases, who takes care of it? There was, as is so often the case with these conservative positions, no logic to the argument whatsoever. But the greater point is that there is nothing in the world that doesn't change. I must add, that I was in a conversation with a conservative friend who is a woman last night, and she said that she disagrees with her party on these issues, so, again, I can't paint all conservative women with a broad brush. There was also the news story of the wife of a conservative legislator in Virginia, where a law was passed through their legislature and then pulled, forcing any woman who wanted an abortion to undergo a vaginal probe, who denied her husband sex because of his involvement in this legislation. Go Lysistrata!**

Women, I must add, have become quite angry in the last couple of weeks, about just how far these overwhelmingly white, middle aged males are willing to go to put the proverbial thumbscrews to women's rights. Even conservative women, by and large, have benefited from the advances produced by the women's movement from the 1960's and 70's. And over, and over and over again, studies prove that when women can plan the timing of their pregnancies and the size of their families, the children they have, the women, and the whole world benefits from it. Education and birth control have made, at least in part, the world a better place. But for at least one of the men currently running for president, that is the problem. He calls our president a "snob," because he wants every American to have the opportunity to go to college, and when people go to college they come out liberal. There is no way to type how funny I find that whole line of thought, especially when this man has three degrees, including an MBA and a law degree. So I guess higher education doesn't always turn one liberal. Or even smart.

The last point I'd like to make here is that the very use of social issues, whether it is gay rights or women's rights, or the liberality of Hollywood-whichever old red-herring  is used to stir up the social conservative base, this is always an act of desperation from the right. It has worked for them in the past, but maybe the anger among conservative women will break that cycle this time. I don't care to hear one more word about what Mitt Romney thinks about the federal bailout of the auto industry in 2008. I would like to know what he thinks of the bailout of Chrysler in 1980, under a republican president. The result is the same-Chrysler came through its crisis, became profitable again (for a time) and paid back the money to the government, with interest. But why doesn't anyone ask Romney about this? There seems to be no one who is willing to call them on this hypocrisy. But the desperation in the move away from talking about the economy and focusing on the "culture wars" is obvious: they can't get Obama on national security issues-he has won that battle, often using the same methods that liberals hated in President Bush. The economy is getting better, in part because of decisions made by Obama, and in part because these cycles occur naturally and economies routinely move up and down. The right has nothing on which to win against Obama, and so they convince the base that he is a foreign born Muslim socialist, who will force all white people to abort their babies, and will take all the surviving children and send them to re-education camps to turn them into gay socialist Muslim terrorists.

***Lysistrata is an ancient Greek play, written by Aristophanes, in which the women of Athens deny sex to their husbands until they cease fighting a war.  This same tactic was recently used by women in Liberia successfully. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Where Does All the Poo Go?

As a dog lover, and dog owner, I am trapped in a huge conundrum regarding picking up after Abigail when she "does her business." I have the plastic bags, and I usually do pick up after her. Sometimes she goes into places that make it impossible for me to "do the responsible thing." There are many dogs in our apartment complex, and some do and some don't. We have a couple of neighbors who behave like Rumpelstiltskin when they see dog droppings on the ground. One threatens to call the police every time, and blames every illness on dog droppings left to collect bacteria, which then becomes airborne and flies into the noses of every old person and small child to make them sick. I do realize that solid waste can be full of bacteria, and there are times that exposure could make one sick. I'm not sure if poo in the grass can produce flying spores to infect people walking on the sidewalk, but I try to be responsible, and I try to smile and nod just enough to keep these two neighbors from ripping themselves in half. I did recently have the experience of going out to a big hill on our property with my 5-year old granddaughter. She wanted to roll down the hill, and me to roll with her. It was loads of fun-making me feel dizzy, just like spinning when I was her age. Then she moved over to another section, and laid down to roll, and I noticed that if she had rolled there, we would have had an unhappy walk back home. Game over-I don't want to play in poo. So I started picking up at least one other pile each time I picked up one of Abigail's. But I also thought about all the animals and humans who have lived since the beginning of life on earth. There were no water treatment plants, there were no toilets or landfills for the kitty litter. We simply expelled our liquid and solid waste, and let nature take it's course. Bacteria are part of that process. So are snails, which I've observed making use of many of those piles of poo, especially after a heavy rain. It doesn't just sit there making people sick, it gets broken down and reused by "Mother Earth," and when she takes care of things, she makes it useful again. We spend all of our days walking on reclaimed poo and evaporated urine. Every living thing, including microscopic organisms produce waste after they take in nutrition. It isn't something to be afraid of, or to snicker at. It is part of life. I still don't want to play in it, or have my grandchildren play wear it home on their clothes.

There is a great deal of road construction going on in my neighborhood. I've commented on this before, but as I pass by the construction areas I notice giant tanks of something called "non-potable water." I looked this up, though I had an idea what it was before I Googled it. It is water from the water treatment plant (read: sewage) that is not considered drinkable, but can be sprayed onto construction areas as needed. Now-a quick lesson what is known as "the hydrologic cycle." That undrinkable sewer water gets sprayed on work areas, it evaporates, goes through the cycle, falls as rain into our water sources, gets used again by the people who provide our drinking water. It's all the same water. And it's still the same struggle for me about whether to be a zealous poo picker-upper.

I do think the sheer numbers of living creatures converting energy  and eliminating its waste is the crux of the problem. I think about our local dog park and all the dogs running and playing-and urinating there. If owners weren't picking  up after their dogs, it would become a giant sewage swamp. I read an article by a scientist recently that suggested earth needs to lose at least one third of its population in order to be sustainable. I'm sure that number involved waste products in its equation. So, I'll keep picking up when I can-and when she goes where I can't get it, well, no one will step on it there either. But the bigger question still remains. Sigh. Sometimes all we get are questions.