Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What New Dreams May Come?

Dreams often begin in the shadows, until trust, hope, courage, and resilience nourish and encourage them to grow, reach towards, and then shine in the light of the present day.

This year has been the most life-altering, powerful, and positive year of my life, despite the difficulties and pressures of the outside world. So, having had such a great year, am I about to let it rest lightly upon its gilded laurels? Of course not! So, you ask, "What new dreams may come?"

I still plan on completing practical to-do lists such as getting my passport. To-do lists are fine, but dreams are so much more important. Therefore, I will continue to follow my dreams. In that light, I plan on finalizing both of my books and sending them off to publishers. If any of my readers know any publishers, I'd appreciate some assistance with contacts. It would be for a biographical children's picture book and a predominantly non-fiction book of poetry, lyrics, short stories, essays, and some of my photographs.

There are more dreams to reach towards in the coming years. I plan to start saving for professional photography equipment and a summer at Oxford University's Summer Programme in Creative Writing at Exeter. I'm hoping to attend the summer after next. They also have a wonderful Summer Programme in International Human Rights Law for which I am not yet qualified to apply, therefore that will be a few years away.

As this bright year dims, I wish you all sweet dreams. Dreams do foster hope for and create the future, and so, my dear readers, don't be afraid to set high aspirations when you dream. I've found that when I dream and visualize my future, I eventually and literally externalize my dream and create my present. My past now sparkles with many of my old, already-realized dreams. Looking back on those successes inspires me to create new dreams for my future, knowing that I can count on myself to make my own dreams come true. What dreams do you have for your future?

In this twilight of 2009, I wish you all a Healthy, Loving, Successful, Peaceful, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My E-mail Demanding My Senator Support Health Care Reform

As your constituent, I respectfully demand you vote for the current health care reform bill on Christmas Eve. I'm disappointed there is no public option, yet we must do something to move reform forward. The AMA - the organization representing Americas's doctors - endorses this bill, so I'm wondering why you and ALL your fellow Republicans refuse to help your millions of constituents who are sick and literally dying from lack of health care coverage. During the past year, 20% of the U.S. population, almost 60 million people were without insurance all or some of that time.

All Americans are watching you and the Republican Party to see just who you truly represent, either we the people or the insurance and pharma industries. Favoring the very corporations, read domestic enemies, who directly deprive citizens of life by denying them health care, for profits, is against the Constitution you swore to uphold. I'd like to remind you of that Oath and intend to post this both on Facebook and on my blog.

Please stop what you and your Republican comrades have been doing, and do the right thing for the good people of this country.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Child Who Leads

I may be exhausted after a week of Parent/Teacher/Student Conferences. On the other hand, I'm totally blessed to have wonderful children as students. Ever since going to the Challenge Leadership weekend* and reading "The Speed of Trust,"** I decided to develop and implement a leadership program for my students. What follows is a special story about one amazing student who walked into our classroom this past Wednesday.

An 8-year-old boy got up this morning, and without any prompting or recommendations from his parents, decided he needed to shower, wash and fix his hair, and then get dressed. He walked into our classroom for his Parent/Teacher/Student Conference dressed in a suit and tie for his "important meeting." At the end of the conference, I asked him if he had any questions or concerns. He said he did, and retold all the things we'd just discussed, and that he needs to work on those things to improve his grades. He said he's doing this to become a great leader of his own life and to lead others. I cried tears of joy!

*http://www.carolreynolds.com/challenge.htm
**http://www.speedoftrust.com/

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lack of True Leadership in the United States

There is a real lack of truly great leadership in the United States of America. Any Limbaugh, Olbermann, or O'Reilly can lead people, using their rhetoric and editorials to inspire people to finger-point, call each other pinheads, blame each other for their lot in life, create divisiveness, and inspire hate. However, it takes a truly great leader to inspire and empower people from all sides to cooperate and collaborate to create win-win solutions for the serious problems we all face. If the politicians who were elected to be those kinds of leaders can't do their job, they need to step down or be pressured by their constituents to step up or get out. Our country and our citizens are crying for the kind of great leadership that can reinstate our Constitutional rights and get our country back on the track of its first and only job: representing we the people, rather than the corporations, the Fed and Wall Street. I challenge all citizens to demand great leadership in all areas, especially in the media and politics. Demand leaders who can truly lead, inspire, and empower others to solve problems cooperatively. If your leaders can't do their job, write to them about your dissatisfaction with their job, pressure them, protest against them, boycott them, and ultimately, fire them. In general, legally do whatever you can to remove them from office. Definitely don't re-elect them!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Human Rights Paradigm Shift to End Violence, Especially Against Women and Children


All humans and the societies in which they live are different, yet they all have beauty. When all people are valued equally in thought and deed, all people benefit. The impetus for implementing cultural education to end violence against women and girls is coming from honor killings committed in Western countries. Many cultures still consider killings based upon family honor as legally legimate. Honor killings, as these are known, are the murder of women because they have been raped, had sex outside of marriage, wanted to pursue a higher level of education, or refused an arranged marriage. Honor violence and killing is usually committed by fathers and brothers, and has generally been legally categorized under the umbrella of domestic violence in Western countries.

Women from Arabic and South Asian countries are the predominant victims of this form of gender-based violence. When people from these cultures immigrate to Western countries, they also bring their long-held cultural beliefs with them. Many of these women do not have access to the social services of their host countries. They are also trafficked against their will as "brides" back to their former countries. There is a need to be culturally sensitive towards immigrants, up until the point at which another human being's basic human rights are violated. At this point, the interactive acculturation of people from these societies must become a legal and educational priority in those host countries to which they immigrate.

Violence against women is not only found in the original countries from which immigrants bring their belief in honor killings, but in their host countries, as well. All countries have a high level of violence against women and girls, and boys, including murder. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, the UK has committed to an age-appropriate K-12 education program to teach gender equality in the wake of many honor killings. Police from EU member states have recently met with women's organizations, social groups and educators at Europol at the Hague to strategize, seek solutions and crack down on those committing honor killings and the trafficking of women.* No matter the impetus, the education of all people of all countries of the equality, value and rights of all people, especially women and children, is needed. It should also extend to adults, and become a real presence in the media and conversations of all people, in all countries.

Women, children and other marginalized people are often caught between a rock and a hard place, with very little room or the basic human rights with which they may move beyond to a path of freedom to pursue their lives.

In all societies, including Western, the value of women and children is still obviously less than that of men because their very safety and lives are continuously and disproportionately jeopardized by violence, domestic or otherwise. This is also evidenced by the continued devaluing of traditional "women's jobs" and the wage gaps between men and women found in all societies. During the current US recession, many people in higher paying jobs are unemployed, and most of those are men. Yet those workers in lower paid, necessary service industries have retained their jobs, and most of them are women. Obviously society cannot exist without these jobs. So, now, we see lower-paid women supporting their families on low wages that are often not high enough to support themselves and their families. Now, the economic impact of this wage gap is finally being felt by large numbers of men, although it has long been felt by women and children for centuries, in poverty.

What all members of our society are living and grappling with right now is not just an economic, political or legal phenomenon. It is the direct result of a social phenomenon based upon cultural attitudes of the lower value of women and children, whether or not they are as extreme as those in societies that legitimize honor killings. Economic, political, health care, educational, and legal systems don't define a society's cultural and religious beliefs; a society's cultural and religious beliefs defines its economic, political, health care, educational, and legal systems. What is valued is priced high, has high political power, better health care and education, and is well-legislated; what is not valued is priced low, has little political power, health care, and education, and is inadequately legislated.

Economic, political, health care, legal, and educational reform must take place to ensure the equal value of all people, including women and children, as equal members of human society. Legal reform must use a zero-tolerance approach to the marginalization of and violence against any human, especially women and children, in the laws and courts of all countries. Economic reform must also highly value those jobs that perform direct service to individual members of society and society in general, even though the results of that service are not directly and rapidly felt in the economy. This must include such jobs as home health aides and teachers. Political power must be equal for all, and seen and felt in political representation, rather than the marginalization currently found. Educational reform must include teaching all people, and must teach the value and rights of all, to all. This educational reform must also include mediation and conflict resolution training, so all members of humanity can learn more effective ways to solve any problem, rather than resort to violence. Health care reform must grant all people a high basic level of health care, especially women, whose ability to bear and birth healthy children is necessary for the very existence of the human species.

Research has shown it takes three generations to make such major changes in a society. The very lives of billions of women and children are at risk, as well as the basic well-being and rights of all members of humanity, so the current generation must quickly implement these changes now. When all people are highly valued members of humanity, the myriad benefits of this reform will create a win-win situation. This will lessen the need for violence to demand basic human rights and social services. People will abhor the use of violence by one group of people against another, which will decrease violence, war and genocide. When people realize all humans are of value and utilize mediation and conflict resolution to resolve differences, we will see increased political and economic stability because we will work together to find win-win solutions, rather than compete for resources and power. When all governments adjust their legal, political, economic, health care, and educational systems to honor in thought and deed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they will respect the value and equality of people, while at the same time, retain what is unique and beautiful within all of their independent cultures. Empowerment creates positive change through cooperation, rather than the will to compete, which creates violence and war. This is a win-win solution to a win-lose problem. When all people are valued equally in thought and deed, all people benefit. All we have to do is step into the light of human rights.



*http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/6655561/Honour-based-violence-is-biggest-problem-facing-women.html

Monday, November 23, 2009

Health Care Reform, Abortion, Insurance, and Discrimination

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, in part, that...

"Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection."

Health care is a basic human right, so the access to and quality of health care should be equal for all people regardless of gender, age, religion, pre-existing condition, or income. Anything less denies people their basic human right to health care. Health care reform is largely about providing a basic level of health care for the tens of millions of uninsured and underinsured citizens of this country and making sure that insurance companies don't discriminate against people regardless of their gender, race, income, religion, or pre-existing condition. Insurance companies are interested only in reducing their costs and increasing their profits rather than looking out for the best interests, medical care and human rights of the human beings they insure.

Insurance companies discriminate against women by charging them higher insurance rates than men, and then do whatever they can to actually reduce their medical coverage or not cover anything at all. For example, insurance companies will cover men for Viagra, but not women for birth control. Insurance companies also use domestic violence, rape and c-section as pre-existing conditions in order to deny women health care coverage. All of these tools are used by insurance companies to increase their profits, reduce their costs, and discriminate against women.

Recently, two medical panels were told to put cost reduction as a priority in their studies. One was looking at mammograms, and the other at pap smears. If these were truly scientific panels, why was cost given any thought or priority in the analysis of the data? The recent mammogram panel also did not contain a single oncologist or radiologist, yet it interpreted oncology and radiological findings. So we have economics, as opposed to science in a "scientific" panel. Why convene a second panel on mammograms at all, when they used the very same data as did the first panel? Predictably, the recent panels decided to reduce the availability of mammogram and pap smear tests to women by changing the age and frequency of their recommendations on testing. Amazingly, these very same recommendations are used by insurance companies to determine coverage of mammograms and pap smears. I find the impeccable timing and findings for reduced testing of these recent 'scientific panels' suspect, since their recommendations deny women medical coverage and guarantee higher profits for insurance companies.

Health care reform and the legality of a particular health care procedure are two very separate issues. Health care reform should and will include those health care procedures that are currently legal in the United States. Health care reform is not the place for debating the legality of any procedure. If individual people or groups aren't happy with what is or is not currently legal (I'm not saying their beliefs are right or wrong, just that they are putting their efforts into the wrong place), then they should be spending their time and energy going through proper channels to change those laws, rather than derail health care reform for procedures already established as legal. Those people and groups who are using the debate on health care reform as a platform for pushing their own legal and religious agendas have disregarded and put in jeopardy the health and very lives of those people who so desperately need this reform to pass.

Why do we have such high costs in health care, refusal of coverage, and reduction in insurance payments for services? The problem stems from for-profit insurance and health care. The CEO's of top insurance companies earn approximately 250 to over 500 times the salary of the average American worker. In addition, we now have two-tier health care where there is one facility with two doors. One door for cash customers (patients), the other for those with insurance. Check out the difference in care between the boutique medicine of the rich and the revolving door medicine of the insured in the link below.*

In one study of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the outcomes and their very existence were influenced by their insurance status. Women who had Taft-Hartley and Medicaire insurance had the best outcomes. Women who had commercial insurance (gtoup insurance), such as found in unions and corporations, had the second-best outcomes. Women who had Medicaid insurance had outcomes that came in third place in results. The women who were uninsured had the worst outcome - death. Insurance companies run by the government had the best outcomes, because they covered earlier screening and covered more treatments along the entire course of treatment. Quality health care is a human right for all people, not just an entitlement of the increasingly insular rich. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow exponentially, as does the quality and availability of their health care.

*Follow this link to see the difference in care: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33863680/ns/health-health_care/

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tweed Riding the Vanguard of a Renaissance in Style, Elegance, and Manners

I've been feeling it for some time. It's a reaction to the extreme haste and the lack of manners, respect and depth found in current society. It's also due to the absence of any major definition between styles for men and women and a distinct lack of elegance in the metrosexual look in today's fashions. It's why so many women and young ladies are so drawn to fictional vampires who were born and raised in the Victorian and Edwardian Eras, yet still live in the present: Bill in the "True Blood" series and Edward in the "Twilight" series. It can be seen in the renewed interest in and use of calling cards with which we now provide others our phone number and e-mail address. It's why I'm so obsessed with the costume and production design of movies like "Out of Africa." It's the reason I began collecting antique furniture, bedding, and linen bath sheets, as well as antique and vintage hats; all remnants of a bygone era that I can still touch and to which I feel a distinct kinship.

The desire for the good taste, quality, noble causes, and old-fashioned respect and manners of earlier times is creating a renaissance of the classic tweeds, well-read intellectualism, thoughtfulness, and style of dapper men and elegant women. Those characteristics of bygone days are now being recreated by 20-somethings, as well as older gentlemen and ladies, in Tweed Rides on vintage bicycles through many cities across North America and in Europe. They are scouring vintage clothing stores, J. Crew stores, J. Peterman catalogues, and garage sales in their quest to find the clothing and vintage bicycles that create the look and feeling of those times.

In those days, manly men knew how to dance and recite poetry. They were admired, not only for being rugged, but also for being well-read, intelligent, and elegant. Now, those men who have the courage to exhibit many of these characteristics are often looked upon as "prissy." How did we reach this point? As women entered the workforce in larger and larger numbers right after World War II, and especially in the aftermath of the Women's Movement, they began to dress and behave more like men as part of their effort to break the glass ceiling in the workplace. So men's dress and behavior also changed in response, often becoming more rugged and less elegant. Eventually androgynous behavior and metrosexual fashion became the norm.

Now women make up half the workforce, have broken the glass ceiling, and are CEO's, CFO's and Heads of Households. Women no longer need to dress or behave more like men to achieve equality. In addition, many people simply want a change from the driven, conspicuous consumption, greedy, power hungry, scandal ridden, violent, I want it yesterday, all about me way of life of the past few years. The renaissance of the dress and genteel ways of the Victorian, Edwardian, Belle Epoque, and Gatsby/Jazz Eras is a reaction against all of this. Designers like Alexander McQueen have their finger on the pulse of this renewed desire for old-world style and elegance. The larger question is, will this romanticized renaissance extend past the Tweed Rides, a few designer collections, calling cards, and fictional vampires to make the transition into mainstream society?

I most certainly hope so. As I reminisce about my grandmother, I believe she would be extremely appalled at the lack of breeding and gentility exhibited by many people today. She did not define these characteristics as the result of a generous bank account or high social status, but by the caliber of a person's social skills, manners, integrity, and respect for themselves and others. My grandmother never did possess a large bank account or a place on the social register, however she never left the house without being polished. She would always modestly wear a slip under her skirt or dress, a hat on her head, and gloves on her hands. I never heard her curse, and she always had impeccably good manners. My grandmother had good breeding; she was a genteel lady. I'm truly hoping that there will be a renaissance of good breeding and gentility in mainstream society. This renaissance also gives us the opportunity to combine the equality and independence of modern woman, with the elegant dress, good breeding, gentility, and manners of bygone times. Those of us alive today are very lucky, because we can create the best of both worlds.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/15/AR2009111502672.html?hpid=artslot

http://dandiesandquaintrelles.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Breast Cancer in Women and Men, BRCA1 and 2, and the Patenting of Natural Genes

I want to pass on information about a documentary on breast cancer caused by the BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations. Breast cancer does not solely affect women. I just went for my yearly mammography, and was asked what more I thought my teacher's health trust could do. I explained that they should educate both women and men about breast cancer gene mutations, discuss how a family history of breast and ovarian cancer can be the red flags for both women and men to explore the possibility they may need genetic screening to determine whether or not they have the mutation.

Knowledge is power. Knowing that you have the mutation gives you the power to determine how you will live and deal with possibilities, rather than not know, be surprised by a late-stage cancer diagnosis, and possibly die. Knowing you don't have the mutation takes away a lifetime of worry. Knowledge of whether or not you have the mutation may also inform your decision on whether or not to have children. Men are the underserved population in this type of cancer. This needs to change so that men can also have the knowledge and power to determine their course in life, and also lift the silence about male breast cancer. I invite men to join women in educating and disseminating information about all forms of breast cancer. Please pass this along to all women and men you know and love. Here is the link to the documentary: http://inthefamily.kartemquin.com/

A key component to the large amounts of people who need genetic screening, actually getting the screening for BRCA1 and 2, or any other genetic mutation, is the availablity and cost of the screening. This is greatly impacted when companies are allowed to patent genes that naturally occur in nature. Ethically, I believe individuals, corporations and/or governments should never be legally allowed to patent natural genes and life processes. This grants the patent-holder untoward and dangerous power over nature and the human population. Financially, this allows companies to charge customers thousands of dollars and reduces the availability of tests because the number and cost of tests is determined by one company, the patent-holder. Health care is a right. The poor should not "be granted" a different level of care or access to testing than the rich, who can afford to go anywhere in the world for the best health care, testing, genetic screening, or treatment.

Rather than competition for services and profits, I'd prefer cooperation for the betterment of all. Competition automatically creates win-lose situations. In health care, losing may mean horrible pain and death. Cooperation invites win-win situations. Here is a link to an article about the legality of patenting natural genes in relation to health care: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech_womens-rights/court-upholds-right-scientists-and-patients-challenge-gene-patents

Friday, November 13, 2009

Open Dialogue and Mediation Could Change the State of the Nation

I recently viewed the PBS POV (Point of View) program documentary "The Fire Next Time," about how extremists with an open mike can incite hatred and hate-crimes in an American town in which people used to agree to disagree. The film also shows the process that conflict resolution expert Melinda Smith used to bring both sides back into open dialogue, the necessary beginning to any possibility of a future resolution to the conflict. There is now hope that this conflict may be resolved. The Q & A on the website about Resolving Community Conflicts is excellent and a must-read for anyone interested in resolving conflicts of any kind.

I posted what follows on their site. I agree that open dialogue and mediation are extremely important in resolving conflicts. The United States could most certainly use this on a national level at this time, due to the divisiveness and hate engendered by some national talk radio hosts and news reporters. As Americans, we used to come together to resolve our differences, to help each other and build our communities and country. Now, it seems like vocal people on the outer extremes of both the left and right are bent on using media outlets to incite hate, instead, which is beginning to tear apart the fabric of our society. Perhaps the majority of moderates who have been drowned out by the few, can come together, find common ground, and speak up to lend a more balanced and cohesive central core through which we can weave a more peaceful resolution to the conflicts in which we currently find ourselves. We could all benefit from learning mediation and conflict resolution strategies.

Here are the links, the first to the documentary, the second to the Q & A:
http://video.pbs.org/video/1239783069/program/1154485580
http://www.pbs.org/pov/thefirenexttime/special_resolving.php

Monday, October 12, 2009

Children and Our Poisoned Environment

Our children's health is being harmed by many pollutants and toxins, including pesticide runoff from lawn chemicals into our water supplies; gmo's; chemicals in shampoos, soap, lotions, and fabrics; pollutants found in the soil in which our food crops are grown, and in which our children play; and pollutants in the air we breathe.

All of these toxins, and many others, are harming our children through chemical overload. Children are at a higher risk for toxic exposure, due to their faster metabolisms and smaller bodies, than the average adult male on which many pollutant and toxicity studies have been based. If you are concerned about this, I'd like to direct you to the book and website, "Healthy Child, Healthy World," at the following link http://healthychild.org/ and the Children's Environmental Health Network at this link http://www.cehn.org/index.html.

Knowledge is power. Since all children are at risk, adults are responsible for protecting them using a combination of knowledge and environmental activism.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Beast in Beauty or How GMO's Got Into the Food Supply


Gmo's are most likely in our food supply due to the "job sharing" between a corporation and a government agency, in order to write policy favorable to the corporation at the expense of US citizens (our health and the environment while using our own tax dollars to do it). The following quotes are from Natural News (link below):

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food…. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” – Phil Angell, Director of Corporate Communications, Monsanto, quoted in the New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1998.

“Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.”
– FDA, “Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties”, (GMO Policy), Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 104 (1992), p. 22991.

These statements seem unrelated, until you learn that Michael Taylor, as a Monsanto attorney, once worked to create the perfect regulatory system that would protect the interests of bio-tech companies, then moved to the FDA to head their policy department when they were writing gmo policy, then rejoined Monsanto as Vice President (information from Responsible Technology, link below). Nice reward for helping out his company, eh? For more information on Michael Taylor, follow this link: http://www.politicalfriendster.com/showPerson.php?id=2590&name=Michael-Taylo

The fact that FDA policy does not reflect the scientific findings of FDA scientists is both no surprise and a testimony to the efficacy of this corporate-government job sharing for corporations. There should be a law against this, as recusal often never occurs! This is only one example of many cases in which "job sharing" has occurred at the expense and to the detriment of human beings and the environment to maintain corporate profits and power. Who is protecting the interests of US citizens?

If you don't know about gmo's, do some research. This affects everyone who eats, is also related to the future of seeds, biodiversity, and the security of the world supply. Remember, corporations seek profits at any cost, and use their billions of dollars in profits to "educate" the public using the propaganda and lies of product defense. Don't buy into it by buying their products. Demand labeling of gmo products and then boycott them. Here's a partial list of products that contain gmo's and those that don't:
http://www.www.westonaprice.org/federalupdate/aa2003/actionalert_072403.html There is also a list of safe foods by Mothers for Natural Law http://www.safe-food.org/-consumer/brands.html

Here are more links with which to begin your research:
The Biotech Brigade - more corporate-government connections
http://www.politicalfriendster.com/showPerson.php?id=4185&name=Biotech-Brigade

Raw Wisdom - gmo information and many links
http://www.raw-wisdom.com/genetically-modified-food

ResponsibleTechnology
http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/Home/index.cfm

Natural News
http://www.naturalnews.com/026897_food_Pepsi_PepsiCo.html

The Future of Food
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3833110324043445440#

FOX News Whistleblower
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trWcqxrQgcc

Vandana Shiva: "The Future of Food and Seed"
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3833110324043445440#docid=-8677740619671601996

BBC's A Farm for the Future
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xShCEKL-mQ8&feature=related

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Response to a Comment That Inept Students Learn from Stupid Teachers

The educational system in America does not live in a vacuum containing only schools, teachers and students; it requires the support of a strong foundation of individual parents, extended family, culture, society, the economy, government, corporations, textbook publishers, health care, and politics. Therefore, when the educational system falls short of a passing grade, focusing solely on "fixing" schools by "holding teachers accountable" will not solve the problem, although it does provide a convenient scapegoat. All components of the foundation must be addressed and strengthened if we want our nation's children, teachers and schools to be high achieving. Children learn what they live while growing up in the world village, whose entire population is responsible for providing exceptional life experiences and education to its children. Finally, and most importantly, the children themselves must also be held accountable by the entire village to work hard, behave and learn in school.

What follows is my response to someone who commented on Facebook that students, who can't count/make change/face money or read/write in cursive, learn all they know from their stupid teachers. So this comment was about the apple from the teacher: Unfortunately, apples don't fall far from the tree, and when the trees don't value or support education, neither will their apples. Apples learn what they live, and many trees often spend little time with their apples, getting them ready for kindergarten and teaching their little apples the manners and life skills they need to acquire even an adequate education. The trees sit apples in front of tv's and video games, don't provide experiental learning opportunities for them, or teach them manners or respect. The cute little apples come to school years behind in both intellectual and social development, and the trees expect "stupid" teachers to make up the difference in care, teaching and responsible parenting that was sole responsibility of the trees. If trees expected their apples to be successful in school and life, they'd actively parent their apples and set high expectations for their apples to work hard, behave in school, and take responsibility for their own learning.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Conflict Resolution and Mediation Training Should Be Required for All People

People aren't born into this world knowing how to solve conflicts. Most of our parents weren't trained either, so they were unable to teach us what they didn't know. We all do the best we can with what we know. As children, we learned how to solve our problems by watching how the adults in our lives solved theirs. We watched everybody: our parents, siblings, other relatives, neighbors, friends, teachers, and our political and business leaders. So, as we matured, we began to randomly use different strategies out of the different problem-solving tools we saw and copied. We continued to use those that worked best, and discarded others that may actually have escalated the problem.

As we approached adulthood, we found there were times when nothing we tried worked to peacefully resolve the dispute. However, we continued doing the best we could, having no idea there could possibly be other methods that could have more peacefully and successfully resolved our disputes. Then, we grow up, are now adults and the stakes are much higher. We get into a relationship, begin a job or career, even lead a corporation or a country, and we continue to use the same conflict resolution and mediation strategies we learned as we grew up.

We all, at some time in our lives, may disagree with someone over something. This often results in arguments and intense verbal battles that may escalate to physical violence, enter the cycle of revenge, go to war, or simply kill all of our enemies in a mass genocide. We can even go to war with ourselves when we are overly self-critical and denigrate ourselves, and constantly feed ourselves negative self-talk. I know this personally, because I have used the same conflict reslution methods most of my life and watched others, even government leaders, do the same, without much consistent success. I never knew that such things as conflict resolution and mediation existed and were something that could be taught, studied and practiced. What a revelation! Many other people go through their lives without this revelation, and so the cycle continues. This war against ourselves and others, at whatever level of escalation in which we find ourselves, removes the dignity, respect, compassion, and sense of humanity and human rights that belong to ourselves and others. It's no wonder there's such a pandemic of bullying, domestic violence, abuse, litigation, violence, and war in the world!

I can't help but think, can we do better? Should people have to wait most of their lives to learn how to better solve disputes, simply by accident? Removing this huge deficit of knowledge on how to use mediation and conflict resolution strategies through widespread training and review would help in so many areas. At home, people would be better equipped to peacefully solve family disputes before they escalate into domestic violence or divorce. At school, students would know how to peacefully solve their own problems rather than resort to bullying or playground violence. This could be applied even in elementary schools when there is a simple disagreement on the playground or in the classroom over a ball or pencil. At work, we may have disputes with co-workers, management, contractors, or clients. In government, we may have disputes with other departments, branches of government, or other governments. If we were all taught, and consistently reviewed over time, how to peacefully resolve our conflicts, at any level of escalation, I honestly believe we would live in a very different, more peaceful world than we do now.

As a teacher, I just happened, by chance, to volunteer for my school's Peer Mediation Team to be trained to train others in how to guide people through the mediation process to peacefully solve their own disputes. All members of the team then trained a group of student volunteers to become peer mediators on the school playground during recess. Prior to the introduction of this program we, like many other schools, experienced problems on the playground ranging from disputes over turn-taking or possession of a ball, to outright bullying and the rare occasion of minor violence (shoving, pushing, etc.). These disputes would then follow the students into the classroom and sometimes off school premises after the school day had ended, growing into a much larger, angrier dispute that often now involved many other students, and sometimes their parents. Over the many years that I was a part of this team, we saw a significant decrease in playground disputes, as more and more untrained students were trained by their peer mediators. This program has also decreased problems in the classroom and after school incidents because students are resolving their disputes immediately. As a classroom teacher, I also model and teach the very same strategies to my students, as well as model this to their parents in meetings and phone conversations.

While I firmly believe that conflict resolution and mediation strategies should be taught to all people, I also know that this will not solve all disputes. If, at the same time, people also reflected more about themselves, learned the physical, emotional and experiential origins of their triggers for anger and other emotions, and then truly worked through these to resolve these internal wars, we could end all wars before they could begin. All members of humanity would finally be able to live in peace with themselves, each other, and our environment.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Health Care Reform

Please watch the videos, then hit the back button and read what I have to say.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jng4TnKqy6A

Watch this to get the real truth about Canadian healthcare from the horse's mouth, supported by factual data, rather than the propaganda and lies promoted as truth by our insurance companies who are fighting tooth and nail to maintain their current status of power and level of profit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXBCFnhsUc

Health Insurance
The propaganda being used by the insurance industries is called product defense, which was once very effectively used by tobacco companies - no difference. It's also currently being used by chemical and energy companies, as well. Think of who benefits the most from the status quo, and follow the money.

In the case of health care, here are additional facts to add to those you learned about from the video: 60% of all US bankruptcies are for medical reasons and, of those, 75% are for people who HAD medical insurance. It's rather obvious the status quo doesn't benefit the people; it benefits insurance companies who run up profits by offering physicians incentives to order unnecessary, expensive tests. The US health insurance companies are the ones who use cost-benefit analysis to determine whether or not to deny treatment and medicine to their insured, number crunchers essentially deciding who lives or dies. This has happened to me, my father and many other people I know.

Even if they don't deny care, then they are so slow in paying their claims, patients often end up in collections, which affects their credit rating. When this happens the patient must spend hours and, literally, days trying to call, fax, mail all parties involved to rectify the situation. Many patients don't have that kind of time, especially not in this economy in which many people are working 2-3 jobs to pay for necessities. This has happened to me and many other people I know. The insurance companies are also the ones who have chosen to pay doctors based upon a system in which they're required to see huge quantities of patients as if we were in a cattle call, rather than use a quality of care-based system.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with many of the 9.7% currently unemployed "schmucks" (http://www.bls.gov/) who are being marginalized and portrayed as lazy people who really don't want to work, most of whom do not have, nor can they afford the high cost of, health care and insurance. I have been there, so this really angers me, since I've been working since age 13. All working people, especially the unemployed, also face the issue of pre-existing conditions. People who would prefer to change jobs are trapped if they have an illness listed under insurance companies' pre-existing conditions clauses. Insurance companies utilize this way to deny the right to affordable health care to even more millions of human beings as a method of cost-cutting, while increasing corporate profits.

Health Care
As for our high quality of medical care, we rank below Cuba in infant mortality rate. We are also ranked below Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and most of Europe in both infant mortality and mortality for people age 15+ (both sexes). You can find these statistics in the CIA World Fact Book online and on the World Health Organization website. As for all the talk about socialized medicine in Europe, Germany's health care system is private.

I can personally attest to the not-so-high quality of health care in the US through direct experience since childhood. As a 7-year-old patient hospitalized for three weeks, I refused to take medicine I knew was not prescribed to me. The nurse got very angry, but she checked anyway, and found out I was right. The doctors at this hospital couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, released me into outpatient testing and care. My mother took me to the outpatient clinic for a short time to no avail, then took me to her best friend's doctor who determined what was wrong with a blood test. Many years later, I needed surgery and my doctor authorized a 48 hour stay in the hospital after the surgery. The hospital dismissed me after only 18 hours after spine surgery, telling me they needed my bed. Another time, as a newly-admitted patient in a hospital, I had a doctor come into my room to go over my current meds and he read off an incredibly long list of meds I'd never heard of and had been prescribed to another patient. Most recently, I was in a hospital and didn't see a doctor until 15 hours after I was admitted. By law my ER orders had been cancelled 12 hours after my admission, because a doctor is required to see patients within 12 hours of a patient's admission. Any medications or prescribed treatments are cancelled, essentially leaving the patient without any medical care. This could be potentially life-threatening, and the patient is still being billed for their hospitalization and "high-quality" of medical care. Honestly, if you or your loved ones end up in the hospital, please make certain there is always someone with the patient to look out for and protect them.

As for the experiences of people I know and love, my father would not have had multiple heart attacks after the initial one, if the attending physician at that decisive moment had not refused to do by-pass surgery on discriminatory grounds. He shortened my father's life, increased the number of heart attacks my father suffered thereafter, and increased the amount of heart damage and swelling around my father's heart by his refusal. I know this doctor caused enormous physical suffering and heart damage to my father, and because of this contributed to his death. When my father was dying in hospice, the insurance company decided he wasn't dying fast enough, so they made the hospice discharge him. My mother was forced to retire early and go on medicare, because of the extremely high cost of catastrophic medical illness. This is what I know of and have experienced personally, and this is only the tip of the iceburg of horror stories about American health care.

Does Any Citizen Benefit from the Status Quo in the Least?
The US health care system does not work well for so many employed, unemployed, insured, underinsured, and uninsured Americans. Which citizens does the US health insurance system work for, at least at a minimum? 1) The rich and powerful who can afford health care and who can also afford to go to another country to get necessary treatments and medicine; 2) Members of Congress, most of whom are guaranteed a lifetime of health care for serving either one 4-year term in the Senate or two 2-year terms in the House of Representatives, even if they are later tried and convicted of a crime; 3) Retired citizens who receive Medicare and/or fully-paid lifetime health insurance. This lifetime health insurance is being paid for by those currently working, who have seen increases to the cost of their own health care to pay for theirs. These current workers will never receive a pension or lifetime health insurance because most companies have gotten rid of these benefits for current employees (I don't understand why so many people put down the very same unions who fought for, and some of whose organizers and members even died, so that the average American, not just the rich and powerful, could receive these very same benefits).

Xenophobia, Marginalization and Health Care as a Human Right
Another major concern I have that is related to this is the recent trend in which ultra-conservative media outlets use hate propaganda to portray all African-Americans as lazy, shiftless, good-for-nothings and cast aspersions and doubt upon our duly-elected President, in order to incite violence against and marginalize these HUMAN BEINGS and to provoke someone to assassinate the President, all in order to further their own political causes. Some have even stated they hope President Obama fails, in which case our country would fail, as well.

All of this is racist and smacks of the tactics used in Hitler's pre-WWII Germany to unify its "master-race" citizens and incite hatred and distrust of its Jewish citizens who were HUMAN BEINGS, in order to promote agreement with and acceptance of the dehumanization and marginalization of the Jews. It is happening across Europe to the Roma people, and in Russia to immigrant workers from the former Soviet republics. This is similar to what has happened in our country to our own indigenous people, in Rwanda, Chechnya, and in many other countries. This trend of extremism, xenophobia and marginalization here and across the globe is extremely disturbing. I believe that many citizens of the United States have a deep and abiding appreciation for human rights, democracy, and ethics. However, it seems many other citizens are willing to look past the real reasons behind propaganda, and be persuaded by people who hate and will do anything to maintain and increase their position of wealth and power. I hope the majority of US citizens see the light before our country goes down that infamous path, once again.

Finally, the bottom line is that health care is not a choice or a commodity, it is a right that belongs to all human beings, regardless of age, sex, color, physical or intellectual ability, living condition, or bank account. Health care is a human right.

UPDATE 9/16/09:
Additional disturbing information has been recently reported about another pre-existing condition that health insurance companies have been using to deny insurance coverage to women: domestic violence! I find this marginalization and additional victimization of women absolutely egregious!!!
http://www.seiu.org/mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&tag=Domestic%20Violence&limit=20

Additional links:
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/09042009/watch3.html

http://www.truthout.org/090209R?n

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/08/adventures_in_the_rabbit_hole.php

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Corporate Lies and Influence Used to Maintain Profit and Power at a High Cost to Humanity and the Environment

We have all seen corporations use product defense, the hiring of public relations firms and use of dummy "'pro'-environmental" groups used to promote their products that are actually deleterious to the health and lives of people, animals and the environment. They also have very deep pockets with which they can bribe lawmakers and use the threat of pulling their advertising dollars from media outlets to prevent them from airing/printing fact-based news and documentaries that would harm their products and, therefore, profits. US corporate executives are extremely concerned about maintaining their corporate profits and product viability because they now earn 500x more than the average worker, as compared to executives in other countries who earn up to 57x more than their average worker.

We know their high-level executives go back and forth between jobs at corporate headquarters and the very government agencies entrusted with the task of protecting that which their product destroys, in order to write policy and influence the drafting of laws that favorably protect their product and profits. This has been done, for example, by 1) tobacco companies pushing addiction to their products that cause misery to and the death of millions due to lung cancer and/or COPD; 2) chemical companies pushing gmo's into the world food supply, reducing crop diversity, increasing destruction of the environment by increased use of their toxic chemicals, and maiming and killing millions of living beings, people included, by pollution-caused illness; 3) financial and mortgage industries pushing deregulation, mortgage-backed securities, and the writing of bad loans, which have caused poverty, homelessness, an increase in national debts, and brought world governments to their knees; and 4) the big three of energy: oil, coal and nuclear who do anything for profit, even with massive pollution, toxic waste, the illness and death of billions of living beings, and global warming as a by-product.

Why have laws not been passed at every level of the legal system, local through international, to make illegal the false information and lies pedaled like mind-altering drugs by corporate "pushers" in defense of their product(s)? There has to be some way to stop huge corporations from using their billions in profits to garner influence and lie to the public in order to maintain their status quo of enormous profits, power and influence. Why is "job-sharing" (recusal doesn't happen - get real) between corporate and government jobs still legal?

These corporate entities, and the people who control them, are bullies on the world "playground" whose "games" are being enabled by legal systems, governments and mainstream media. This is happening on all fronts because unsubstantiated, non-independently researched "facts" - that are flat out lies - are legally permitted in product defense. We need truth, nothing but the truth, and if they're caught lying, the top echelon and all others responsible should go to prison, lose everything, and be forced to jump out of their position of power with their golden parachute peppered with holes. The philosophy of, 'Ethics, schmethics, the greater good be darned. It's all about me! Power, profit and influence at any cost!' must be bulldozed. These people are literally committing crimes against humanity and the environment, including genocide. They should be held accountable and prosecuted for these crimes! Enough is enough!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Ultimate Checklist

Whatever you are doing, ask yourself whether or not your choices do, on a global scale...

1. equally protect and defend all people from harm and exploitation
2. prevent illness and/or death, without causing harm
3. protect and defend the natural resources of the planet from pollution, overuse, exploitation, and habitat destruction
4. empower all people, including marginalized populations
5. benefit all people and the planet, not just you and yours
6. create equality in justice, safety, economics, and resources (including jobs for fair pay) for all people, including the marginalized
7. improve the living and working conditions of others
8. create peace rather than war

If you cannot answer yes, then how can you modify your choice so that you can answer in the positive? If we are all cognizant of how and what we do affects others, we will have a more humane and peaceful world.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sergio Vieira de Mello - Humanitarian & Peacekeeper

Sergio Vieira de Mello was an educated, young man from Brazil when he began working for the United Nations. Throughout his 34-year career, he used his heart, acute intelligence and multilingual abilities (he spoke 7 languages) to risk his life to bring peace, stability, humanitarian aid, and democracy to millions of people and many nations. He worked tirelessly and diplomatically to bring displaced people back into their own countries. He was the quintessential diplomat and humanitarian who consistently worked for the betterment of all of humanity.

It is my hope that many people watch "En Route to Baghdad" and the most recent Sundance 2009 Film Festival Award Winning HBO documentary film "Sergio" and learn both about and from his life. So many people around the world are still alive and are living better lives because of this one man. On 19 August 2003, when he was killed by a car bomb in Iraq, the world lost an intelligent, talented man who also happened to be one of the best and most effective humanitarians who ever lived. As his mother Gilda Santos Vieira de Mello said, "There needs to be more love in this world."

I believe it is up to us all to continue his work, even if it is with the simple idea of bringing the humanitarian aid of peace, love and reconciliation into our own lives and homes, beginning with ourselves. Then, when we and our families go out into the world, we will treat each other with dignity, respect, humanity and love.

To learn more about Sergio Vieira de Mello, read 2003 Pulitzer Prize Winner Samantha Powers' biography, "Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World," watch her book talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnYLdH-YEdM, and watch her TEDx Talk at the following link: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/395.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Contact Pres. Obama Today! Demand Accountability for Torture & Human Rights Abuses

Today is the day we must all contact President Obama to demand accountability of former President Bush, et al for torture and human rights abuses. Either call him at 1-202-456-1111 or write him an email at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ You may copy and use the following email I sent, if you'd like.

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for your service to our country. I am writing to demand accountability, investigation, and if found guilty, punishment of our leaders from the previous administration on the question of torture and human rights abuses. We cannot turn a blind eye now and expect that the rule of law will continue to be followed in the future. All human beings, in- or outside of government are accountable for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. This, especially, includes those in leadership. President Bush, et al are responsible for their actions and should be held accountable. Defying the Geneva Convention, to which we were a signatory, is a crime. Changing our laws to conveniently remove themselves from the Convention's human rights obligations and to protect themselves from legal accountability is both immoral and unethical. If you and Congress turn a blind eye to their human rights abuses, then you proclaim to all of humanity that the United States of America cares nothing for human rights or the rule of law. As the leader of my country, I demand that you hold Bush, Cheney, et al accountable for torture and human rights abuses! Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Sincerely,
Your signature

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The California Court's Unconstitutional Proposition 8 Ruling

When basic human rights are allocated to one group, and withheld from another, human rights are being violated. It's unconscionable that human rights violations are STILL, not only being committed, but legally enabled by our courts. This is a clear violation of our Constitution, fueled by intolerance, prejudice and religious beliefs.

Any religion can determine what groups of human beings they'll marry, and that is their perogative. They can also state that marriage between a man and a woman is natural. We all have freedom of speech, however, this doesn't make what they say either factual or correct. The State, on the other hand, is secular and is charged with ensuring that all human beings receive equal rights and protection under the law. When the test of the rule of law determines inequality, it is the obligation of the court to rule on the side of equality.

This is neither a religious question nor a question of tradition. Tradition and religious beliefs, justified by scriptural interpretation, were used to pronounce the "fact" that the "negro" wasn't human and could be owned. If neither belief system had been challenged, segregation would still be legal and interracial marriage would still be against the law. It would still be illegal for women and African-Americans to vote and own property, for women to actually control their own bodies, and to pay a woman less than a man for doing the same job. These and many other human rights issues would still be alive, well, and legally "justified" in this country.

The moment someone believes that human rights can be bestowed upon one group of people at the exclusion of another, there's already an inequality. Human rights cannot be bestowed, they simply exist, should be respected and, if not, enforced by the rule of law. Human rights belong to all humans!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ending the War Against Human Rights


Let us all, especially global leaders, focus on stopping the "war" against human rights, as evidenced by rampant domestic violence, rape, trafficking, abuse, and forced low economic, educational, political, and social status. Around the world, in many cultures, societies and religions, people, especially women and girls, are relegated to positions of low value and status, shown little to no respect, are treated as less than human, and regarded and traded as property.

World Health Organization statistics are: 1 in 3 women and girls worldwide are raped, abused, sexually abused,tortured, or raped as a tool of war. I don't know what the statistics are for men and boys, because they suffer from this as well. I personally know many women and a few men, who were raped and/or sexually abused. The prevalence, acceptance and sometime encouragement of this behavior by people in any society, culture or religion is unconscionable. Rape is all about power over another human being. When you have patriarchal societies, cultures and religions, in which one group has power and control over another, really, what do you expect will happen? Until we change the paradigm to one of true equality and shared power, and until human rights are the priority in action, not just in lip-service or the rule of law, this will sadly continue. I, personally, call on all people, especially men, to stand up, speak up and lead by example to change this paradigm. Let us value all human beings and elevate them to a position of equality, respect, and freedom. When a patriarchal society uses its power to control over one-half the population of this planet, you lose that population's potential to more positively impact the planet and our future. I believe that, when all people are truly equal, many other problems found in this world will also be solved.

An organization I support is Women for Women International. This is a wonderful organization that seeks to end violence against women by teaching men to respect and value women and seeks to empower women by teaching them and helping them start a business. Their emphasis is to train women on their rights, teach them the importance of literacy, and give women the education and small business loans to start their own businesses. For more on Women for Women International, please use this link...
http://www.womenforwomen.org/

Here's the YouTube site for videos:
http://www.youtube.com/user/WomenforWomenIntl
I hope you watch "I Am a New Definition of a Businesswoman," which is narrated by Meryl Streep, and "Women for Women's Men's Leadership Training Program."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Believe in Tomorrow Night...

This is a photograph of a passion flower in my backyard. I'm including it with this post as it...

opens itself to the light of life

lives for a short time (as we do compared to the age of the universe)

and it's fragrance leaves a distinctive note, a trace of its passion for life just as we leave the trace of our own unique life's passion and path in the memories of others.

Here are my top 10 reasons to believe in tomorrow night. When you're done reading mine, please leave a comment with yours.

10. The strength and tenacity of an old-growth forest
9. Sunrises
8. Sunsets
7. Twilight, a full moon and stars above a calm sea, while sitting on the beach, at peace, with someone you love
6. The ability to learn
5. The ability to change
4. Friends
3. Family and pets
2. The laughter of a child, inspiring hope for a future

and most importantly...

1. The beauty, joy and wonder of life

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Domestic Violence and Abuse - Did Rihanna "Ask for it?"

I am appalled by the number of people, especially young women, who think that Rihanna somehow deserved what she got. Nobody ever "asks for it!" Chris Brown chose to beat Rihanna to a bloody pulp. He absolutely is an abuser. Rihanna, on the other hand, has the enabling “I love him and maybe he’ll change” syndrome. Face it - he will not change. He chose to do what he did and he is absolutely and always responsible for his actions. Don’t make excuses for him.

On the other hand, abusers are pros at making excuses for themselves. Poor me! I was poor! I was abused! I was mistreated! Puhlease - a bunch of immature whiners! An abuser who blames his childhood and/or his victims would be like Bernie Madoff blaming his Ponzi scheme on childhood poverty and/or his victims who trusted him with their money.

Many people have had problems, but most people also don't use them as an excuse to hurt other people. Abusers, on the other hand, use excuses as their justification for hurting others. Blaming others for their actions is also a strategy commonly employed by murderers and other criminals found in our prisons.

People are responsible for the abuse they rain down upon others, no matter how bad their childhood. Everyone, children over 7 (when most courts agree they understand right from wrong) and adults, male and female, is responsible for their own actions. The more we say, poor man or poor boy, the more we enable abusers. No one can make anyone abuse them; abuse is a choice! Abusers must be forced to take responsibility and be held accountable for their own actions, and others should stop enabling their behavior, or we'll never see an end to the cycle of abuse.

Abuse should also not be a predominantly female conversation. This is so important because many children come from single-parent homes in which the mother is the sole support. There is often little to no contact with a father figure, so positive male role models are desperately needed. It would be wonderful to see non-abusive men get more involved in the conversation and to also stand up to men who abuse. I believe men who set a good example should be recognized and asked to give talks to groups of young people on the positive expectations of behavior and problem-solving in a relationship.

Let us all please work together to stop the cycle of abuse and violence!

Let Them Eat Cake?


Well, 100 years before Marie Antoinette, a princess in the French aristocracy said, "qu'ils mangent de la brioche." This has been incorrectly translated as, "let them eat cake." "Let them eat brioche" was callously uttered by an aristocrat when there was not even enough plain bread to feed the poor people, never mind the delicious, butter-rich brioche. One way or another, this kind of callous disregard by the idle rich towards the working poor of those times led to the French Revolution. In fact, Marie Antoinette was dubbed "Madame Déficit" for her active role in overspending the people's tax money. Therefore, I believe it completely appropriate to dub George Dubya "Monsieur le President Déficit" for taking a surplus and overspending the people's money to create the huge deficit that President Obama and the people of the United States have inherited.

George Bush, et al are responsible for the mortgage and financial meltdown crisis, recession and layoffs we now face. The road to our current recession and deficit is long. Phil Gramm began removal of the regulatory protections put in place after the last Depression. Then Enron officials both laughingly and greedily began the recent power surge in unregulated profit dollars, followed closely by other power companies, Big Oil, and the mortgage and financial industry.

When government and industry conspire to grasp more and more of the people's money, the people will throw the "cake" back into their faces. The American Revolution began with the Boston Tea Party because colonists were being taxed without any representation. When government and corporations conspire against the people, they also seem to think the people don't know or notice they're not being represented.

Whenever unfettered greed and abuse of power create a huge gap in income between the rich and the poor, accompanied by the disappearance of the middle class, there is often a revolution. The US government was afraid of a revolution during the first Depression. I’m surprised it’s not worried now. As a teacher, it never ceases to amaze me that people never seem to learn from history, but keep repeating the mistakes of the past. I am noticing many troubling signs, such as tea parties, comments all over the internet, and hearing talk on the street. Oh, I also noticed that the traditionally served little tea cakes were conspicuously absent from the many and very recently held tea parties.

I absolutely do not want to see a similar, violent history lesson repeated in this country. Honestly, I believe people should resort to non-violent means to effect social and political change. I truly hope the current government rapidly takes the proper steps to close the current income gap, and that President Obama and his administration also address the many other horrors of the Bush/Cheney “Reign of Terror” on the common person.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Dark Side of The Patriot Act

The USA Patriot Act is an acronym for the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (Public Law Pub.L. 107-56). I believe the USA Patriot Act is both unAmerican and unpatriotic, as it has removed the basic human rights for which our founding fathers, and every generation since, have fought and died.

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755.—The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, vol. 6, p. 242 (1963).) The following quotation, a paraphrased and more frequently quoted version of Franklin's quote, is inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the Statue of Liberty: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, along with Lady Liberty, are respectively, the rule of law and symbol of the United States of America. How dare President Bush and members of Congress, who all swore an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, so quickly, easily and readily gut the fundamental protection of our rights in our Constitution. Honestly, all who voted for and signed the Patriot Act most certainly did not represent me when they did this, nor did they protect and defend our Constitution.

We've already seen what the lack of oversight and regulation have done to our country's mortgage and financial industries. Ask the millions of unemployed, those whose homes have been foreclosed or whose home values have significantly dropped, and those whose retirement accounts have evaporated down to next to nothing whether or not the Bush Administration's reduced and/or altogether removed oversight policies and regulations have protected them, while the rich and powerful made trillions of dollars.

The USA Patriot Act is the type of ultimate, purposeful removal of oversight and protective regulations for citizens' rights that governments use to get rid of those who oppose them. How easy this can also be for them now, when the media, who are the Fourth Estate, the watchdog over the government, will no longer be granted access to any information about those who are being investigated. The United States of America is not supposed to create the types of laws that can be found in a dictatorship, in which police powers have been augmented, and with which people can be "disappeared," held without charge, representation, or due process. So much for the rights of the 'tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free' who struggled to make it to this country of hope, freedom and opportunity.

Many people are concerned this country is treading on very dangerous ground that may cause some political leaders to slip and fall down the slippery slope of greed and dictatorship. If that doesn't happen, the Uniting and Strengthening America Patriot Act, may very well still be the downfall of our country by creating a rift between citizens who either support or oppose this Act, and by weakening its moral foundation. So now we will wait and see how the results of the current lack of oversight and regulation in our fundamental rules of law will affect American citizens. While we wait, I am one citizen who is on the record to demand that the President and Congress rescind the USA Patriot Act, reinstate our Constitutional rights, and create a new Constitutional amendment that firmly prohibits the removal of our citizens' fundamental rights by anyone in power!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Child's Suicide - Bullying is Deadly


How many more children, women, men, animals have to die because someone has to have power over them? How long will this be allowed, and even encouraged? When will parents teach their children not to abuse by setting a better example of how to behave with respect towards each other, their children and pets? When will government leaders and workplace managers lead by example, by following the rule of law to both respect and defend the human rights of all people? Human trafficking, rape, abuse, bullying, greed, a culture of youth and beauty, a patriarchal society, a sense of entitlement, and a lack of enforcement of laws and protective regulations are all symptoms of a complete and utter lack of respect for others. All of these also dangerously combine with a lack of personal responsiblity and the absence of prosecution of those who abuse human rights to create the society and world in which we live. As long as we, and I truly mean we, as we are each and every one of us responsible, tolerate this, nothing will change.

Trillions of dollars are spent on war, while only a miniscule fraction of this is spent upon peace education, the teaching of mediation, ethics, and the rights of all sentient beings to basic rights; not just for men, straight people, or people of a certain religion, class, or level of educational attainment. Since you do get what you pay for, we have both unfortunately and obviously gotten all of our money's worth!

A patriarchal society, by definition, deprives women of equal rights over those of men. Maybe we should begin there. Religions that deprive women of equal rights are also guilty of promoting a culture of power over others, along with the accompanying abuse, rape, trafficking, etc. that power over others engenders.

Equality and respect for all should be the foundation of any society, culture and religion. When one group is given power over another, there is always someone who will abuse the power. Tolerance and respect for others, instead of inequality, should be expected, regulated and enforced with very real consequences. When we change our expectations, and put our money towards educating all people about human rights and peace, instead of war, things will begin to change for the better.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Palmer's Dream


As I was going to the Las Vegas Aids Walk yesterday, I saw this wild brain institute building, fronted by a Palmer sign and framed by a Mardi Gras mask. I thought, "Am I dreaming?" Talk about deja-vu and goosebumps!

I've been doing the AIDS Walk here, on and off, for about 10 years. My dad was HIV positive, so, for me, this is an important cause. After having a heart attck, a local surgeon refused to perform surgery on my dad, due to his HIV status. He was afraid of contamination of the heart-lung bypass machine, plus probably himself. He mentioned contamination and my father's age as his "reasons for refusal." Due to his prejudice and refusal to perform surgery, my father had multiple heart attacks afterwards, resulting in major permanent damage to his heart. Another cardiothoracic surgeon finally, and successfully, performed the surgery. Thank you to this doctor, and shame on the first! My father died a few years ago, partly because of this and its affect on his COPD.

My dad had always been interested in the workings of the human mind, and had also gone to (pre-Katrina) New Orleans with a couple of his dear friends, before all of this. He absolutely loved his New Orleans trip. When he passed, I decided to use a Mardi Gras theme for his memorial service. My dad was always up for a party, loved cooking, music and travel. He would have loved this! People came together in a true celebration of his life, with zydeco music playing, masks, food, and joy.

So, when I approached this scene, I totally got goosebumps! Okay, Dad, I know you're here! I love you!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Anybody Interested in Stopping the Proposed Oil and Gas Leasing of the Outer Continental Shelf?

Is anybody out there interested in stopping the proposed 2010-2015 Oil and Gas Leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)? The US Department of the Interior's (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar has already held 2, and will be holding 2 more public hearings around the US. If you cannot atttend, you can watch the meeting via live webcast. The next 2 meetings will be held this coming Tuesday in Anchorage, and Thursday in New Orleans, so please spread the word quickly!

The DOI is accepting public comment via e-mail, postal and personal delivery. This is a direct quote from them:
"The MMS is seeking comment on all aspects of the new program including energy development and economic and environmental issues in the OCS areas. Comments are also requested on the specific subjects of size, timing, and location of sales and on the issues of buffer zones, revenue-sharing, and the use of unitization to limit the number of structures. The public comment period is open until September 21, 2009, pursuant to Secretary Salazar’s announcement on February 10, 2009."

You can watch videos and see Power Point presentations of the 2 already-concluded meetings, as well as get contact information from their website:
http://www.doi.gov/ocs/

So, all bloggers, please write or go to the meetings to oppose this proposed program! You can send e-comments here: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=SubmitComment&o=09000064808e9d16
You are required to state your name, address and e-mail. If you want your name and/or addresses removed from public record, you need to state this at the beginning of your comment (limitations may apply, so read their rules). Here is my comment and you're welcome to copy any or all of this:

PLEASE WITHHOLD BOTH MY E-MAIL AND HOME ADDRESSES FROM THE PUBLIC RECORD, THANK YOU!

My name is _______________, United States citizen, and I am writing to oppose off-shore drilling and exploration, in the person of the 2010-2015 Oil and Gas Leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf proposed program. The original reasons for prohibiting offshore drilling (not to mention drilling in ANWR) have not changed. Think about tourism, real estate values, pollution that destroys ecosystems, our climate, and the security of our food supply. Now, put all of this in the same thoughts as offshore drilling and spills. (Spills can be caused by equipment breakdowns; natural disasters like hurricanes; deliberate acts such as terrorism, vandalism, illegal dumping, or war; and just plain, old accidents.) Obviously, they are not compatible.

Remember the Exxon Valdez disaster, anyone? This ship ran aground in March of 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. This spill killed tens of thousands of wildlife and fouled approximately 1,300 miles of beaches and surface water. It only took this one accident to create the worst environmental disaster in history. Fishermen have lost everything, homeowners have polluted land, and many Native Americans have lost their traditional way of life. All the while, the 20-year-old class-action lawsuit against wealthy Exxon is still being dragged through the courts, postponed indefinitely by Exxon Corp.’s expensive legal maneuvers to avoid settlement payments. Valdez, Alaska is still recovering. Are we really now willing to risk yet another accident?

Offshore drilling will also not magically solve the oil crisis, but it will forever change an ecosystem. Experts state the oil will not reach the market for approximately 10 years. This, obviously, will not help us now. Also, let’s not forget that oil companies have untapped reserves. Think about why they're not tapping into what they already have readily available, yet are asking us to open up yet more avenues for them to increase their profits!

As for this offshore oil helping to reduce oil prices, that’s absolutely ridiculous. The United States has only 4% of the world’s oil. Any person, company, or country that owns or controls 4% of anything, has no real power to change prices or policies. Whatever happened to common sense? The United States of America does NOT set oil prices. OPEC member nations set oil prices. The USA is not a member of OPEC, so we do NOT have any influence in setting oil prices.

Instead of spending all this time and energy on oil and gas, why aren’t we pursuing clean, renewable and sustainable energy? Could the answer possibly be the ecosystem-destroying, climate-changing, lethal combination of billions of oil and gas company product defense dollars and political influence and corruption? Hopefully, American citizens are smart enough to not be duped by the public relations of product defense that is full of lies meant to benefit and sustain the incredibly rich and powerful energy industries. Big Oil and Gas will simply do whatever it takes to keep their wealth and power.

In conclusion, I absolutely oppose the continuation of a business-as-usual energy policy, found in the current guise of the 2010-2015 Oil and Gas Leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf proposed program, that will negatively impact marine ecosystems and the environment (by indirectly increasing both greenhouse gases and the rate of climate change), and threaten the security of our food supply. Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Late-Bloomer or Early Achiever?

Were you an early achiever, or are you a late bloomer? Please share your story.

Here's mine...
I am a late bloomer. I only began warming up in the later years of high school and college, due to illness, family and monetary problems. I had always wanted to take some type of music lessons, join the Girl Scouts, etc., but lack of money prevented me from following these dreams. Due to a long-term childhood illness, I was restricted from physical activity. So, a friend of my mom's gave me her old guitar, and I taught myself how to play chords. Another friend of hers paid for art lessons at a local museum. I was also allowed to join the percussion section of the elementary school orchestra, even though I couldn't read music. It was there I began to learn how to read music. Then, I had an awesome music teacher in 7th grade, but we moved across country 3/4 through the school year.

When in my new digs, I didn't have the same opportunities in either art or music until high school, although I did have a brief and unremarkable stint as a cheerleader in eighth grade. During freshman year, I joined the church choir and the school glee club. I learned quite a bit from the music director at school, who had no problem challenging us to sing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, or various a capella pieces while expecting us to stay on key throughout each piece. I became fairly proficient at sight-singing and singing harmony, even improvising a bit. Once in a while, when improvising at home, I used to sing off-key purposefully just to razz my mom.

Once I started college, though, aside from music theory, and a course each in sight singing, voice and piano, I was still essentially a beginner in all. I had also been extremely busy working all through both high school and college to pay for my tuition, holding down two part-time jobs during the semester and one full-time and one part-time job during summer vacation. There was no extra time or money for more music lessons.

As for art, I took classes in drawing, graphic design and photography at college. I worked hard to develop both my eye and visual thinking, and continued taking classes long after I got my degree. I graduated in 3-1/2 years with honors. However, music went by the wayside for decades, as did art after I moved away from my second home-town.

Now, I expend most of my energy just to get through my workday. I still have grand aspirations to buy camera equipment and learn a new instrument, along with taking music lessons in guitar, piano and voice. Of course, money is an issue, as well as my draining job. When I do have energy after work, I write poetry, essays, and this blog, as writing takes little physical energy. So, now I want to work on art, music and writing. I wish humans didn't need sleep, as this would solve the time issue, at least.

I feel like I'm ready to soar creatively, and hope to use my summer vacation to work on my creative pursuits. There are so many wonderful connections among all the arts, that maybe I'll create multi-media pieces and use them to create positive change. All of this, of course, can make someone crazy. Yet I just read the following quote today on www.violinist.com, posted by Roland Garrison: "Sanity is the refuge of those who have chosen not to exceed their limits. Use it as a launch point, not a goal." He is so right! So, I say to all late bloomers: we're not crazy! We're simply, finally, reaching for our dreams...better late, than never!

So, now, what's your story?

Monday, March 23, 2009

May Women Wear Hats Indoors?

Well, this post was prompted by my boss informing me that teachers in my school district are not allowed to wear hats indoors. I had received many compliments on my hats from my colleagues, students, and their parents, as they were classy, elegant, and well-coordinated with the rest of my professional attire.

When an adult is elegantly or classily dressed, this has traditionally included a hat. We are no longer in the hippy or grunge generation, both of which temporarily eclipsed the wearing of hats with a much more casual, uncovered head look, along with helping to create a concomitant increase in skin cancer. Hats are, however, making a comeback. They are increasingly being seen on the heads of many fashionable, professional people.

If one looks at milliner's websites or reads etiquette books, unlike hat etiquette for men, ladies most certainly do wear their hats indoors. Traditionally-styled women's hats (as opposed to gender-neutral baseball caps and cowboy hats) are considered a fashionable part of a woman's complete daytime outfit, and as such, remain on the head both indoors and outdoors.

"Hat head" results when ladies remove their hats, is often unattractive and may also look unprofessional. Personally, I'm embarrassed by hat head and would prefer to look both nice and professional. Unlike my employer, hat etiquette spares ladies like myself this embarrassment by allowing us to keep our hats on indoors, since many of us do wear them outdoors to prevent skin cancer (which, in my case, runs in my family).

Wearing hats outdoors is healthy, and they do help prevent skin cancer. Please don't say, "Well, you can always wear sunscreen." Up to approximately 56% of liquids that you put on your skin, including lotions like sunscreen, are absorbed into one's bloodstream and go directly to the major organs. I prefer to cover my head with a hat, rather than expose my body to nasty chemicals. Hats are passive solar protection that keep you warm in winter, cool in summer and help prevent skin cancer. Some hats even carry an SPF 50+ label, the highest possible SPF rating for a hat.

The American Cancer Society has stated that 1 in 5 people will develop some form of the fastest growing type of cancer in America: skin cancer. Most people receive most of their sun exposure before age 18, and skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in young women ages 25-29. Therefore, schools should encourage all of their students to wear hats, as a form of preventive medicine.

I believe that teachers model, not only learning behaviors, but proper personal hygiene and dress, as well as interpersonal behavior. Hats can be used to teach history, manners, and etiquette. As teachers are models of behavior for their students, shouldn't we be modeling the idea that wearing hats is cool and fashionable, as well as a useful protection against skin cancer?

My classroom behavior program also includes teaching traditional signs of respect, such as the custom that boys and gentlemen wait to allow girls and ladies the chance to enter a room ahead of them. All children stop to allow an adult to pass in front of them, as a sign of respect. The entire behavioral emphasis in my classroom is one of respect, consideration and encouragement of others. I have taught my students ladies' hat etiquette, as well. I have done all of this, without the distraction, but the assistance of a hat worn atop my head, both outdoors and indoors.

What are your thoughts about all of this? Should employers continue to go against traditional rules of etiquette and forbid female employees to wear hats indoors, as part of the dress code? Should employers change their dress code to allow, or even encourage, their employees to wear hats as a form of preventive medicine? At the same time, should they also follow the traditional custom of hat etiquette and allow their female employees to wear their hats indoors so as to spare them the embarrassment of hat head?

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Here's part of an online ad for fashion-trendy hats for women:
"...Proudly carries Betmar's CCMAC 50+ SPF tag, in association with The Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Campaign. Hats are in, Save your skin, Be sunsmart!" (http://www.delmonicohatter.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=HATWOM)

Here's the Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Website:
http://www.ccmac.org/our_story.html

Friday, March 6, 2009

The North Pacific Gyre - the Texas-Sized Plastic Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean

Please watch this 7 minute, 20 second talk from TED (which is my favorite website to visit to learn new and interesting things):




Reduce - Reuse - Recycle. BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag...to the store, any store, when shopping. Buy a reusable bottle and carry your liquids in it, instead of using innumerable plastic bottles. Do anything you can to avoid using plastic. This includes the much-beloved balloons people, especially children, love and which frequently fly away to parts unknown...ending in the guts of both land and ocean animals who thought they were food, to their demise. When you avoid plastics, you'll help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to boot.

In the same vein, avoid polyester fabrics, buy cotton and linen clothing and linens, buy vintage or antique items. Go to your neighborhood thrift store, contribute to a charity, reuse things and help save our environment at the same time! My favorite thrift store is Savers! I also love e-Bay, as this is a great marketplace for vintage and antique items. What's cool, is that the things you buy have a history, instead of just buying something new, using it, and then throwing it away. Bonus...products produced from natural sources tend to be much healthier for our bodies and our environment. The same thing goes for what you ingest and put on your skin. Chemicals found in shampoos, lotions and underarm deodorants like aluminum, parabens and sodium laurel/laureth sulfates are not good for people. Up to and around 56% of what you put on your body is absorbed directly into your blood stream and is ferried straight into your body's major organs. Genetically modified organisms are not good for us and most people have never even heard of them, never mind know just how many of the products that they eat contain them. The gyre is simply the tip of the iceburg.

Also watch the great, fast-paced 20-minute animated video on the stuff we buy, sell and use in our daily lives. Look for it further down the sidebar of this blog. It's from http://www.storyofstuff.com/.