Homage to Lawrence King. Teach Tolerance To Adults and Children



Love Not Hate

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.

The opposite of art is not ugliness; it’s indifference.

The opposite of faith is not heresy; it’s indifference.

And the opposite of life is not death; it’s indifference.”


~ Elie Wiesel

It was February 14, 2008, Valentine’s Day.  Love was in the air.  However, the expressions of appreciation offered were mournful.  Doctors informed the family and his friends, Lawrence King, 15, was removed from life support.  Two days earlier, young Larry was in the computer lab at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California.  He sat with 24 other students when Brandon McInerney walked into the room with a gun.  The armed classmate, fourteen-years of age, approached Lawrence with intent.  Brandon aimed his weapon, pulled the trigger, and shot Lawrence in the head.  Without hesitation, the shooter ran from the building.  Circumstances led observers and police officers to conclude the act was intentional, calculated, and a conscious choice.  Brandon committed what is commonly defined as a “hate crime.”

Students were locked in classrooms.  Grief and disbelief filled the air.  Adults tried to calm the children.  Teens tried to cope.  Peers were befuddled.  Pupils sought information and shared what they knew.  After the event, fingers flew across cellular telephone keypads.  Text messages were sent and received from schoolroom to schoolroom.  The words were, “Brandon McInerney did the deed.”  ‘Not Brandon McInerney, No way.’

“Brandon wouldn’t do this,” eighth-grader Jessica Lee remembers thinking. “He’s a good kid. It can’t be Brandon.”

But some at the Oxnard junior high school had seen Larry, 15, teased by students in the weeks before the shooting for being gay and wearing high-heeled boots and makeup. Some witnessed confrontations between Larry and Brandon, with Larry teasing Brandon and saying he liked him.

Family members and friends described Larry as a sweet, artistic boy who loved to sing and didn’t understand why people reacted negatively to him.

Brandon, 14, a tall, athletic eighth-grader, was described by friends and acquaintances as a mellow, focused kid, but one who wouldn’t back down in a confrontation.

Brandon had learned his lessons well.  He learned to feel deeply.  Indifference was not part of his repertoire, intolerance was.  Perhaps from within the womb, he began his education.  Those who in an act of love came together to give birth to Brandon, apparently knew nothing more than volatile loathing.  Perchance, Brandon’s mother, Kendra and his father, William were raised to love or hate, but not tolerate.

We can be certain that baby Brandon did as all infants do  after birth, he absorbed all the messages that surrounded him. .  Education is not an isolated entity.  Knowledge is not gained only in a classroom.  Our first school is called home.  Structured lessons may inform us; however, these are never internalized as deeply as the wisdom we acquire at the knees of our Mom and Dad.  Parents have a profound influence on a child.  Those we love most have the power to teach us more.  Definitely, the occurrence taught Brandon what to do when he felt troubled.

Kendra McInerney, Brandon’s mother, claimed a night of partying in 1993 ended in a fight and William shooting her in the elbow, breaking it in several places, according to court records. Still, they married later that year, and Brandon was born in January 1994.

The fighting didn’t stop, and sometimes it was witnessed by Brandon and his two older half-brothers, according to court records. In 2000, William pleaded no contest to a domestic battery charge against Kendra. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and ordered to attend domestic violence classes. The couple separated in August 2000.

Love, or familiarity can breed contempt.  Even when someone no longer shares a physical space with the person that causes him or her distress that individual remains intimately connected in the heart.  Parting is not a sweet sorrow.  Indeed, it is often the source of more pain.  Indifference is rarely evident once an emotional bond is formed.  

For Kendra and William McInerney, separation did nothing to alleviate the angst they felt or expressed. , Nor, did living apart make life more livable for  the children.  Drinking, drugs, and violence were daily transgressions in Brandon’s life.  The stories are stark.  Yet, fortunately, it appeared Brandon survived.  Indeed, some would say he thrived.

Through all the family turmoil, Brandon got involved in activities outside the home, including martial arts and lifeguard training. He seemed to want something more than just the status quo of Silver Strand, Crave said.

“He didn’t want to be involved in that whole thing,” Crave said, gesturing at friends drinking a few beers nearby after getting off work.

Brandon joined the Young Marines – the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a JROTC program – several years ago and became a leader in the group, which disbanded last summer.

“Brandon was a young man that I would never have figured something like this would happen to,” said Mel Otte, his commanding officer.

Otte said he never witnessed Brandon showing a short temper and that he would have been kicked out of the group if he had bullied other kids.

“He was an outstanding young man,” Otte said.  “What happened since I left, I have no idea.”

What occurred did not take place in a instant.  The image of restraint did not transcend an earlier reality.  Change did not come on in a flash.  Often calm is a facade for the chaos that lay beneath the surface of a boy [girl, woman, or man] who battles emotional upheavals.  What was real for Brandon is true for each of us.  We learn and live what we believe is customary.  

Even those of us who “know better,” or are exposed to impressive amounts of information, organized to challenge unhealthy conventions, do as we have seen done, or was done to us.  Some escape the affects of sensory overload for a time.  Few abandon family traditions until long they have repeatedly fallen from grace.  Only an individual forced to face his or her “demons” day in and day out thinks to learn new habits.  

We all love easily.  We loathe with less effort.  What we do not do well is authentically accept others.  Few beings bother to have compassion, to learn from those who look, think, feel, or act differently.  Without empathy, everyone is a possible enemy.

Hate, or fear, of what we do not understand, motivates many a mind to react aggressively.  Apprehension and anxiety are not logical.  None of our emotions are.  Nevertheless, all too often humans, prideful of an intellectual capacity, are galvanized by feelings.  We are threatened by what we feel terrorizes us.  

For Brandon it was a boy who thought him fine.  For adults it may be a secret admirer, or an individual who has authority over us.   The neighbor who was unkind could seem a danger.  Mature men or women may believe the man in the automobile in front of them is a menace.  Even a small girl, on the corner, with her fingers out-stretched in a sign of peace could seem a hazard if our habit is to adopt an angry stance when we feel annoyed.  

People are familiar with what deeply disturbs them.  They know all too well how to demonstrate love and hate. Indifference is doable, as long as an n individual does not see or hear those outside their sphere.  Benevolence, perhaps that is the reaction, the action we do not learn from birth.

We all crave a connection.  Humans have needs.  Individuals long to be included, intimately involved; we wish to feel as though we have the right and power to make decisions for ourselves.  Men, women, and children are not indifferent.  Hence the dilemma.

When it seems we are unable to manage our world, humans freak.  Each of us responds differently, understandably.  Intellectually, people may recognize they cannot control the universe.  However, when stressed, we discover the habits we hold dear remain intact.  Our reactions are not innate, just well studied.  Brandon McInerney was not a bad boy.  He is a human being.  He reacted as he had learned to do.  Barely fourteen years of age, Brandon expressed his deep disdain for a situation and someone he could not control.

Chaos abounds.  Nonetheless, we try.  Too often, we fail.  A senseless murder, and what assassination is not absurd, illustrates what occurs when someone does not feel fulfilled and knows not what to do.  People in physical or psychological pain lash out in the ways they know how.

Brandon McInerney was baffled, no terrified, by the actions of another boy.  Lawrence did not cause bodily harm to his peer.  He did no verbal damage, at least not intentionally.  Paradoxically, when Larry spoke of Brandon, he articulated his sincere admiration.  That is what bothered the young boy Brandon.  Love, especially when expressed unconventionally, caused Brandon’s heart and mind to break.  The young lad, now passed, Larry, did not bully Brandon or his buddies.  Indeed, the other boys hassled Lawrence prior to his final day.

In recent weeks, the victim, Lawrence King, 15, had said publicly that he was gay, classmates said, enduring harassment from a group of schoolmates, including the 14-year-old boy charged in his death.

McInerney, now in custody, refuses to speak of what motivated him.  His lawyer offers the fourteen year old is too young to fully understand his actions.  Perhaps all people are too immature to rationalize the unreasonable, revulsion, repulsion, and feelings of repugnance.

What is hate?  Certainly, it is an emotion, as inexplicable as fondness.  Each can be voiced to the extreme.  Neither is inconsequential.  Perhaps, when humans feel adoration or antipathy they lose all perspective.  The chemistry we feel when we connect intensely is uncontrollable.  If only people could capture the energy and place it in a bottle before they pop.

Assemblyman Mike Eng (Democrat, Monterey Park), chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Hate Crimes, said we would, with a bit of money directed towards teaching diversity, be able to stop crimes against people based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

“My bill is focusing on [hate crime] prevention,” Eng said after a news conference at his El Monte district office. “We already have bills on the books about proper punishment; mine will focus on dealing with hatred in a school setting.”

Eng hopes to create a pilot program by allocating up to $150,000 to establish a diversity and sensitivity curriculum at a few school districts.  The pilot program would serve as a model to be used to develop lesson plans statewide.

Others in the community believe the proposed program only serves to comfort parents and Principals, adults, and not adolescents.  Countless argue that similar programs such as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), are ineffective.  These simplistic strategies always were nothing more than slogans used to appease anxious adults.  Although these agendas survive, they do not strengthen the will or the character of the young persons they serve.  At times, instruction is as indifference.  If you do not know what to do,  or say about an open wound, look for an easy answer.  Apply salve, and walk away.  Most of us truly believe the sore will eventually heal by itself.

Here’s a news flash: “Just Say No” is not an effective anti-drug message. And neither are Barney-style self-esteem mantras . . .

DARE, which is taught by friendly policemen in 75 percent of the nation’s school districts, has been plagued by image problems from the beginning, when it first latched on to Nancy Reagan’s relentlessly sunny and perversely simplistic “Just say No” campaign.  The program’s goals include teaching kids creative ways to say “no” to drugs, while simultaneously bolstering their self-esteem (which DARE founders insist is related to lower rates of drug use). . . .

According to an article published in the August 1999 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, DARE not only did not affect teenagers’ rate of experimentation with drugs, but may also have actually lowered their self-esteem. . . .

The findings were grim: 20-year-olds who’d had DARE classes were no less likely to have smoked marijuana or cigarettes, drunk alcohol, used “illicit” drugs like cocaine or heroin, or caved in to peer pressure than kids who’d never been exposed to DARE.  But that wasn’t all. “Surprisingly,” the article states, “DARE status in the sixth grade was negatively related to self-esteem at age 20, indicating that individuals who were exposed to DARE in the sixth grade had lower levels of self-esteem 10 years later.”  Another study, performed at the University of Illinois, suggests some high school seniors who’d been in DARE classes were more likely to use drugs than their non-DARE peers.

Still, Americans, intent on straightforward solutions, quick fixes, and immediate gratification, forget that life is not so simple. The family teaches children from birth.  The lessons we learn in our youngest years are internalized deeply.  In infancy, each day we encounter our mother, father, or guardian, the people we need most, and most want to love us.  As toddlers, we are intimately involved with our caregivers, even if they do not seem to care for us.  When we are children, the only choice that we have, the only option that gives us a sense of control, is to cling to those who help us survive.  Moms and Dads are our first and best, teachers, if only because they are there in whatever capacity.

However, sadly, for some of us, such as Brandon McInerney our mentors did not teach us well.  Schools try to suffice.  Teachers with ten, twenty forty to a class try to create a relationship with each student.  As educators teach Math, Science, Reading, and English, they work to provide a sense of self-worth to each and every young scholar.  For a few hours, five days a week, a troubled youngster can call his or her classroom home.  

For young people such as Larry, school may have been a place to blossom, somewhere where he felt safe, or for both the boys an educational institution may have been the place where lessons begun at birth were reinforced.  Each was teased, bullied, and verbally battered.  Each had friends.  However, they may not have felt they achieved an authentic intimate connection with anyone.  Even acquaintances can say . . .

“He had a character that was bubbly,” Marissa said. “We would just laugh together. He would smile, then I would smile, and then we couldn’t stop.”

An ally in life does more than smile or laugh.  Larry King may have felt he had few real supporters, in a school he attended for only months.  How close can two people be when they see each other only for hours and then each returns to their own abode.  One may return to the place they consider “Home Sweet Home,” the other may reside in an institution, far from those who are “supposed” to love him.

For several months before to the shooting, Larry had been living at Casa Pacifica, a residential center for troubled youths in Camarillo.

Lawrence’s parents are alive and well, as are his four siblings, a younger brother, two older brothers, and an older sister.  While the family spoke lovingly of the dearly departed, they dared not speak of why the lad no longer lived with them.  Many children today are placed in treatment agencies.  The numbers are staggering.  The reasons are astounding.  Yet, when people know not how to love well, and are not indifferent, they do what they may hate to do.

The number of children placed in residential treatment centers (or RTCs) (1) is growing exponentially.(2) These modern-day orphanages now house more than 50,000 children nationwide.(3)  Children are packed off to RTCs, often sent by officials they have never met, who have probably never spoken to their parents, teachers or social workers.(4) Once placed, these kids may have no meaningful contact with their families or friends for up to two years.(5) And, despite many documented cases of neglect and physical and sexual abuse, monitoring is inadequate to ensure that children are safe, healthy and receiving proper services in RTCs.(6) By funneling children with mental illnesses into the RTC system, states fail-at enormous cost-to provide more effective community-based mental health services.(7)

RTC placements are often inappropriate.

RTCs are among the most restrictive mental health services and, as such, should be reserved for children whose dangerous behavior cannot be controlled except in a secure setting.(8) Too often, however, child-serving bureaucracies hastily place children in RTCs because they have not made more appropriate community-based services available.(9) Parents who are desperate to meet their kids’ needs often turn to RTCs because they lack viable alternatives.(10)

To make placement decisions, families in crisis and overburdened social workers rely on the institutions’ glossy flyers and professional websites with testimonials of saved children.(11)  But all RTCs are not alike.(12)  Local, state and national exposés and litigation “regarding the quality of care in residential treatment centers have shown that some programs promise high-quality treatment but deliver low-quality custodial care.”(13) As a result, parents and state officials play a dangerous game of Russian roulette as they decide where to place children, because little public information is available about the RTCs, which are under-regulated and under-supervised.

Yet, parents and community services agencies take those who are perhaps most vulnerable, our young and troubled teens, and place them in Residential Treatment Centers not able to provide minimal care.  When we, as a culture consider other options, and other means for childcare, we cannot but think of poor Brandon and how he suffered at the hands of his mother and father.  We are reminded that Brandon, the tormented shooter, lived in a location he called home.  We might wonder; which situation was better, worse, or can we even compare the traumas each child in this story suffered.

Brandon and Larry are not anomalies.  They are not alone.  Children throughout our country are taught to express love in a violent manner.  The little ones watch adults they admire model cruelty.  The young are trained to demonstrate their contempt similarly.  Sadistic reactive behaviors rule in our society.  Listen to people ruthlessly scream in the marketplace.  Consider the abundance of “hate crimes” in America.  Turn on the television.  Tune into the radio.  Read the “literature.”  Hostile conduct is commended and condoned.

For too many of our offspring, aggression in their daily existence is the norm.  They hear it in their homes; see their parent bludgeon each other.  As toddlers, tots, children, or teens our youth feel the bruises on their back, and remember the bones broken by those they love most.  Ponder the statistics.

During FFY 2005, an estimated 899,000 children in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect.
  • Children in the age group of birth to 3 years had the highest rate of victimization at 16.5 per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population;
  • More than one-half of the victims were 7 years old or younger (54.5%)
  • More than one-half of the child victims were girls (50.7%) and 47.3 percent were boys; and
  • Approximately one-half of all victims were White (49.7%); one-quarter (23.1%) were African-American; and 17.4 percent were Hispanic.

Gender preference did not determine maltreatment when infants and the very young among were involved.  Specific biases are learned as we “mature.”  While many wish to focus on Larry’s identification with the gay community as reason for such a horrific reaction, the cause for Brandon’s response goes far deeper. Scorn is rarely selective.  Disparagement is an equal opportunity employer.

Abusive behaviors are rooted in our personal history.  We cannot dismiss the fact that as a society, our past performances towards those we disdain are deplorable.  As a culture, emotional beings that we are, we embrace love and hate, and ignore indifference.

We must ask ourselves, what are we doing to our offspring from the day they enter this world, and why.  Answers offered after the fact, solutions that do not address the broader question will not stop the violence we see in schools.  Nor will it quash the mayhem or reduce the murders we see on our streets.  Hate crimes are born at home.  Mothers and fathers motivate much that occurs.  Moms and Dads often do what was done to them.

Children ‘learn violence from parents’

Children who witness domestic violence are at an increased risk of having abusive relationships as adults, researchers have found.

Being abused as a child and having behavioural problems also increases the risk of being violent as adults.  Receiving excessive punishment is another risk factor.  US researchers from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute followed 540 children for 20 years from 1975 . . .

If a pattern of violent behaviour towards a partner has been established, it is difficult to change say the researchers. . . .

If a child was hit by their parents, they were much more likely to see violence as a way of resolving problems as adults, the researchers found.

But seeing violence perpetuated between parents was found the be the greatest risk factor for being the victim of a violent partner as an adult.

Both men and women who witnessed domestic violence were likely to grow up to abuse their partners . . .

“This acceptance of coercive, power-based norms as ways of regulating conflict may have direct implications for young adults’ means of conflict resolution with partners, independent of a disruptive behaviour disorder.”

For too many of our young persons a forceful hand, a furious face, and a vicious voice are identified with those they are most fond of.  Children are confused.  In too many lives, love does not come easily.  Little ones do not know what authentic affection looks like.  As “mature” beings, some people seek the wisdom they did not acquire in their family homes.  They wish to learn of what could not have been fully integrated in a school curriculum.  Grown-up persons harmed by habits that debilitate a mind, body, heart, and soul know to their core, habits die hard.  Adult classes meant to teach as Assemblyman Eng proposed exist at West Virginia University an older person can study How To Communicate Love.  Learners are instructed, “Love comes from within.”  Students are advised to appreciate themselves.

Learning to love yourself will help create your personal appearance of love. If you do not know how to love yourself, you will not be able to love others. Loving yourself also means that you have a loving attitude in your actions and responses toward others; that you look for opportunities to help rather than be helped; that you communicate a loving appreciation of others with “thank you” and “please” as part of your vocabulary; that you forgive others and do not hold a grudge; and that you help people in need without thought of reward or recognition.

However, ultimately pupils are reminded of what Lawrence and Brandon have helped us realize.

How we communicate love to others is learned; we are not born with the ability to communicate love.

Nor are we born with the ability to hate.  Each of us, every man, woman, and child is well-trained.  If we are to truly end the violence that exists in schools, we must eliminate the hostility in our homes.  Assemblyman Eng, perhaps a program in parenting, one instituted in every community throughout the globe might be more effective than any instruction in a school.  If we are to truly teach forbearance to our progeny we must acknowledge parents, adults in every avenue are our life teachers.   Let us not speak of how best to teach the children tolerance.  We, their elders must learn how to love first.  Perhaps, if the elders begin to appreciate each other without brutality, next Valentine’s Day Cupid will not shoot arrow.  He will bestow gentle kisses on each of us.

“God knit Larry together and made him wonderfully complex.

Larry was a masterpiece.”


~ Reverend Dan Birchfield, Westminster Presbyterian Church

Sources, Societal Scars, Scabs . . .

Clinton’s sour note


To view the original art, please travel to Clinton’s sour note

copyright © 2008 Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

Hillary Clinton is a strong candidate: Smart, talented and ready to fight. But she’s not a likable candidate. And, as America looks to get its groove back after two torturous terms of George W. Bush, that lack of likeability appears to be a fatal flaw.

Our nation is hungry for healing. It’s tired of partisan warfare. After more than a decade of red states and blue states, people are ready to try on some purple. Clinton is seen as part of the old way. Democrats respect her – and her husband. But, unfairly or not, the previous Clinton administration is seen as the beginning of this divisive period.

The next president is going to have to build bridges. I don’t think Clinton can do that; she’s red meat for Republicans. And she’s not helping herself in the way she’s gone about “Setting the Tone” this past week.

Clinton and Obama Offer Universal Health Care Plans; No Insurance



Clinton Obama Cleveland Ohio Debate – Health Care Battle

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Senators Clinton and Obama, bicker as you might, neither of you have proposed Universal Health Care plans.  Those who support you [plural] state a semantic argument attests to your authenticity.  Many espouse “universal” means “to affect, relate to, or include the whole.”  Granted, all Americans will be changed by your plans.  However, not everyone will be insured if either proposal is implemented.  

Indeed, every United States citizen can connect to the need for coverage.  Universally, we recognize we are in quite a predicament.  Whatever options are offered, the entire electorate will be forced to consider a personal response.  Universality, or an appeal to the aggregate, perhaps better defines what each of you have designed or delivered.

Have you Hillary Clinton or you Barack Obama introduced an actual Universal Health Care plan?  No.  Constituents concerns will be integrated into the agenda.  However, the proposals you have presented to the public, do Not guarantee that life for those who currently are without health insurance will be any better than it is now.  The only certainty Americans have is that some of what is will be altered, just slightly.  

Insurers will still control costs.  Pharmaceuticals can continue to profit, and the poor persons in Middle America will remain insecure, underinsured, and yes, even uninsured.  As one who for most of my adult life has not had insurance, I can assure you, that if a person lives paycheck-to-paycheck, they cannot afford insurance at any price!

I could recount the times that I lay writhing in pain, slipping in and out of consciousness; yet, unwilling to call for help for I feared the cost.  I might share the stories of how or when I went without treatment for the financial expense seemed far greater than the physical toll on my body.  I might mention my fear of an accident, or an age related concern that I need to attend to.  Preventative medicine, pooh-pooh.  I am among many who hope that my mind will control the matter.

I am among millions who still feel the repercussions of decisions made in the 1990’s.  You may remember then, the headlines screamed of the impending crisis.  Employers Winning Wide Leeway to Cut Medical Insurance Benefits.  People cringed.  The then President stepped in.  I am certain Senator Clinton you recall the day.  Bill Clinton appointed his wife to head a panel, which promised to better circumstances.  

Yet, fight as you say you did Hillary Clinton your combative energies did not cure what ails society.  What was, is.  Circumstances convened more than a decade ago continue unchecked.  So long ago, Americans read of a reality they lived.  Today, this phenomenon is normal.

A rapidly growing number of victims of cancer, AIDS and other serious illnesses are discovering that under recent court interpretations of a law that was originally intended to protect employees’ benefits, their insurance coverage can evaporate when they need it most.

The recent [1992] Federal court rulings have given employers that now act as their own insurers wide leeway to cut back on existing coverage — or to skimp on coverage in the first place.  These “self-insured” employers, a large majority of companies from giant corporations to an increasing number of smaller businesses, have been exempted from state insurance laws governing what ailments insurance companies must cover. . .

At the same time, a Supreme Court decision has made it much harder for patients under all kinds of health insurance plans to sue to get benefits they say have been unfairly denied . . .

In effect, the court rulings and the health plans that take advantage of them are another manifestation of a system of private health insurance in which the sick are increasingly separated from the well.

Americans have no assurance that this situation will improve.  Actually, there is ample evidence to indicate it will not.  The prospects for business are grim.  The economy suffers, as do the people.

The economic situation has become distinctly less favorable since the time of our July [2007] report.  Strains in financial markets, which first became evident late last summer, have persisted; and pressures on bank capital and the continued poor functioning of markets for securitized credit have led to tighter credit conditions for many households and businesses.

Slowing job creation is yet another potential drag on household spending. . .

The risks to this outlook remain to the downside.  The risks include the possibilities that the housing market or labor market may deteriorate more than is currently anticipated and that credit conditions may tighten substantially further.

Lest we forget, illness is the cause for one half of all personal bankruptcies.  Most of those who are infirm realized they cannot cover the debt.  These persons have health insurance.  A Harvard University study, conducted in 2005 revealed the inadequacy of many private insurance plans.  Doctors and lawyers examined the current crisis and offered, many policies offer worst-case catastrophic coverage, but little financial security for less severe illnesses.

“Unless you’re Bill Gates, you’re just one serious illness away from bankruptcy,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of medicine.  “Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick.”

Steffie Woolhandler, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, described what many of us know but do not wish to discuss.  

“Our study is fairly shocking.  We found that, too often, private health insurance is an umbrella that melts in the rain.”

Certainly, Senators Clinton and Obama you have not touched on this tender taboo in your “debate” rhetoric.  Businesses bleed.  Benefits hemorrhage; and Americans lose Health Care coverage, financial stability, or their lives.  The “Universal” not health care for all plans you each offer exacerbate or ignore what is.  Employment is provisional.  Company provided Health Insurance is more and more a luxury.  When institutions do offer the option, an individual is expected to pay a large part of the expense.  As Americans assess the plans put forth, if they bother to, your [plural] proposed policies do not offer much relief.  Sadly, for countless of the under or uninsured voters, such as I, we have been down so long, now a discussion looks like up.  In truth, talk is cheap.

Mandates that require a citizen with an uncertain salary to provide for their personal insurance needs will leave many in a legal predicament.  For the millions who struggle to survive lower rates bring them no hope.

As prices for fuel, food, and shelter rise, those who could not afford to go to the movie theatre, buy clothing, dine away from home, or vacation certainly will not find the funds to purchase medical insurance,  Gainfully, employed citizens who cannot afford to purchase beyond the basics will not be able to pay for coverage.  The tens of millions who fear a minor fall, for they know, even one Emergency Room visit can break the bank will not be moved to purchase what remains out of reach.  Please Senators, before you begin your ascent to the Oval Office reflect on what is real for most Americans.

[O]f the 47 million uninsured people in the United States, 7.3 million come from families with incomes of $75,000 or more, and an additional 6.9 million earn between $50,000 and $75,000, according to 2006 census estimates.

Some of those with moderate or high incomes may have been shut out of the insurance market because of age or pre-existing health conditions.  Researchers believe a majority are self-employed or among the growing number of Americans whose employers do not offer affordable insurance.  Their only insurance options may be high-priced individual policies.

Those comfortably covered love to discuss the individuals who waste their dollars or do not pay for what they believe they do not, or will not need.  In a recent New York Times report readers were introduced to a twenty-three year old lovely who believed she paid her way through taxes.  She smiled and spoke of the free medical clinics available to her.  Ms. Coons mused,

“I’m young and in pretty good shape,” Ms. Coons said one recent afternoon, on her way to the treadmill at the Fitness Factory in Midtown Atlanta.  “I looked at Blue Cross Blue Shield.  But the only thing I could see myself really needing it for are prescriptions and dental  . . .

She continued, “The insurance premium was more than what I would pay for my prescriptions, so I just decided not to deal with it.”

Times journalists asked Americans to consider the circumstances of those who use the system and do not pay premiums.  Fraud was implied, or a “free ride” was defined and accounted for.

Many free riders are assumed to be young and at little risk of major illness, but they do consume health care.  A recent analysis by the New America Foundation, a Washington policy group, found that 16 percent of the patients who received uncompensated medical care in 2004 had family incomes of at least four times the federal poverty level (which would currently be $41,600 for an individual and $84,800 for a family of four).

They accounted for $5.8 billion of the estimated $41.4 billion in uncompensated care that year.

However, what was not discussed was the ounce of prevention and the pounds paid for a hopeful cure.  Ms. Coons might have been me years ago.  She may not have stated or contemplated an illness, or unexpected injury.  I too appeared fit.  An interviewer might have seen me on the way to the pool.  He may inquire of my Health Insurance plan, or lack there of.  I, possibly would not have explained that I severely injured my back long ago, and then, due to the damage lost my job.  At the time, my employer feared medical charges I might incur, and now I must swim daily to remain physically stable.

In embarrassment, in my youth, I could have, would have, given a glib response.  For decades, I did not wish to speak with strangers of the bulimia I battled.  The preexisting condition that I paid for dearly, helped to affirm medical coverage was not available to me.

I know not of Ms. Coons.  I can only speak for myself.  Bulimia or other “disorders” do not burden my life today.  I do not imbibe any alcoholic beverages.  I never did.  Drugs do not deliver me from depression or dismay.  Prescription and street fare were not my medications of choice.  I have no addictions to strain my budget.  I am but one of millions who scrimps, wishes to save, finds it futile, and fears the veracity.

[T]here is also a shift to the privately insured.  Hospitals and doctors raise their fees to compensate for the losses they incur by treating uninsured and underinsured patients, and insurers pass those increases along to consumers.  A 2005 study found that the shift added 8.5 percent to the average premium.

Presidential aspirants, please ponder what the pundits have not.  Numbers on paper may look lovely.  Economists can scribble statistics on scratch paper.  Power Point presentations can graph the details in glorious color.  Experts can pen impressive essays, and America trusts that you, the candidates can eloquently deliver the text.  Yet, as you may know . . .

Neither campaign has provided enough detail about its plan to enable more than guesswork about how it might influence consumers . . . They have not detailed what kind of subsidies would be needed or who would be entitled to them.  Mrs. Clinton has not fully explained how she would make everyone comply with her plan or exactly how she would cap the amount a family would have to spend on premiums.

Each candidate would raise the money needed to subsidize premiums by rolling back President Bush’s tax cuts for high earners, taxing businesses that do not insure their workers and reducing costs through electronic record keeping, preventive medicine and chronic disease management.

But there is little certainty about how much those initiatives might save, or when. . . .  There are also questions about whether the new savings and tax increases would be enough to subsidize insurance for all who need help.

Both candidates are backed by teams of prominent economists from top universities and policy groups.  But with little real-world precedent to guide them, their assessments are necessarily an amalgam of statistical modeling and back-of-the-envelope calculation.

“In a campaign, people put out proposals that aren’t highly specified, that don’t have enough detail to model them effectively,” said E. Richard Brown, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an Obama adviser.  “These numbers are based on a lot of assumptions.”

In speeches, debates and dueling advertisements, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have brandished projections that even their originators acknowledge are tenuous.

Senators Clinton and Obama, when your own authoritative advisors admit the claims are unsubstantiated, formulas are fragile, and the numbers are shaky, there is reason for concern. Stalwart as you each may be, this character trait may not be a strength in times such as these.  Lives are at stake.  Illness and injuries occur in every moment.  Accidents are not preventable.  People bleed as the two of you argue over the specifics of inadequate agendas.  

If you truly wish to insure every American, be honest with yourselves and us [the citizens of the United States].  The only genuine Universal Health Care Plan is a Single Payer, Not For Profit program.

Your passionate pleas, your tears, and talk do not comfort a citizenry or a system sick and in dire need of help.  Please, feel our pain and protect us.  We, the people need a President that cares.  Provide the preventive, practical, and profound programs.  Do not continue to play with language.  We the people languish, as either of you smile and say, “My plan provides Universal Health Insurance.”  I could just cry, but I worry.  What if I were to weep endlessly?  Dehydration might send me to the hospital.  I cannot afford to see a physician, let alone the premiums you [plural] wish to charge me.

Universal Woes; Wounds, Worry, and the Source of Scars . . .

Why Do We Fear Hope?

In this country many of us equate strength with the lack of emotion.  The strong one is the one who can endure life without feeling.  The weak one is the one who shows their emotions and thus are banished to a life of disappointment and tragedy.  With the introduction of the political narrative of Barack Obama there has been a lot of talk about the word hope.  I don’t ever recall this word being dissected to the degree that it has been during his unlikely run towards the White House.  One would believe that no other politician has ever invoked the word in an election before.  So what makes it so different today than say in 1992, when a young upstart politician challenged the status quo?

For his part, Bill Clinton organized his campaign around another of the oldest and most powerful themes in electoral politics: change.  As a youth, Clinton had once met President John F. Kennedy, and in his own campaign 30 years later, much of his rhetoric challenging Americans to accept change consciously echoed that of Kennedy in his 1960 campaign.   Wikipedia

Or what about in 1960, when another youthful hope monger spoke so eloquently of hope for a new world while accepting the oath of office for President of the United States:

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation,”² a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.   American Rhetoric

So if it isn’t that the concept of hope is something new to elections, what can it be?  I remember being a child and towards the end of November I would be filled with hope of the coming season.  I wish I could say it was because I looked forward to exercising the true “spirit of the season” and all the good will towards my fellow man stuff, but that wasn’t what filled me with joy.  I would begin to have hopes of the new toys that I looked forward to receiving for Christmas.  I would watch in excitement at all the commercials of the coming new and latest toys and I would mentally create these lists of must have gadgets that I was sure to see under the tree on Christmas morning.

There was just one small problem, my father was a selfish man who found it difficult to spoil his children.  So for many years there was the promise and hope for all of these things only to be followed on Christmas morning by the stark reality that was less than I had hoped for.  You see as a child I could not understand or accept that my father was the man that he was, you see I wanted him to be like me or who I thought I was.  The truth was that he could only be the man he was, not who I so desperately wanted and maybe needed him to be.  I would awaken on Christmas morning to small tokens and I would end up crying later.  After a while, my hopes began to lessen year by year until they were replaced with the gradual numbing of reality.  The reality that no matter how much I hoped there was always going to be disappointment.  In the end, I just stopped hoping and came to accept the cruelty of life.

As my life continued, I came to the conclusion that my problem in the first place was that I had dared to hope, that I had dared to believe in anything other than myself.  I decided that from that point on that emotions were my problem, I would no longer allow anyone the ability to control my emotions.  In fact I would bury them, my hero became Spock from Star Trek because he had no emotions.  For many years I lived as emotionless as I could.  But after two broken marriages, addiction, and suicidal moments I realized the that the strength I thought I had found in having no emotions was actually my downfall and my weakness.  What I learned was that true strength and power does not belong to the cynic or the emotionless, but to those who are willing to express their emotions and become vulnerable to disappointment and hurt.  True courage is not to never be afraid, but to be afraid and go on anyway.

Barack Obama is not God or a second coming of Jesus and his supporters do not believe this despite the cult analogies.  He is simply a man who dares us to believe beyond ourselves.  He is not promising to solve all of our problems or that the Government can.  What he is offering us is a chance to put behind us many of the things that currently divide us and to focus on the many more things that unite us.  After all what really can one man, even the President of the United States do?  Over the last few decades we have seen what the politics of division and win at all costs has wrought, a country so divided we are on the verge of breaking.  There are many who say that the answer is to continue as we have, that the only way to succeed is to beat the other side to a pulp.  Today we are refighting the Civil War only class has replaced slavery.  Will it take a bloody conflict to resolve our differences?  I don’t know.  There are many who are placing their hopes and aspirations on him and those people will be disappointed, because he can do nothing against those forces without our help and our actions.

What I do know is this, if we are able to appeal to the common good in all of us shouldn’t we to avoid that bloody conflict?  Make no mistake about it if we do not enlist their help to change this country are we prepared to fight to take it?  If Barack Obama’s hope fails it won’t be because he failed, it will be because we failed.  If it is to succeed it will require many of us to overcome our cynicism and partisanship to come together for the greater good.  The reason he does so well among the young is because they are not as jaded as their older counterparts, they still believe in change.  The question now becomes can we transfer that hope into action or will we sit and wait for the disappointment so we can say, “See, I told you so”.  It is no longer enough to vote, the last midterm election should have shown us that.  We must follow up those votes with action.  Just as with any seismic change in America, it must be bottom up, not top down.  Our biggest fear is not that we are doomed, our biggest fear is that our hero will be bested; that the things we cherish love, hope, justice, and kindness to our fellowman will not win in the end.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic – John F. Kennedy

Shame on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton. A Shame for Americans

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Shame seems to be the issue of the day.  The North America Free Trade Agreement is also among the topics discussed.  Health Care plans are reviewed.  As the Presidential campaigns progress, let us reflect, and recall why these matters move the media and the people.

It was a cold day in January.  The year 2007, after much debate and ample discussions, Hillary Rodham Clinton concluded the time was now.  The climate was ideal.  The former First Lady sat poised on a couch.  The colors in the room were warm.  A lamp placed behind the sofa was lit.  Sunlight streamed into the room.  Photographs of the family were visible on a table nearby.  Finally, the stage was set.  The New York Senator looked into the eyes of her visitors.  Gently she smiled.  Hillary Rodham Clinton opened her home and her heart to an American audience desirous of change.  The woman many had hoped would be the first woman President of the United States affirmed “I’m in.”

Hillary Clinton invited us all to join her in a conversation.  She mused, she had a feeling; it was going to be very interesting.  Indeed, it is.  Weeks ago, the candidate realized a deep dip in the contributions.  This drop in donations caused much clamor.  On February 21, 2008, during the Democratic Debate, First Lady Clinton offered her admiration to the man who appeared to be more prominent in the eyes of the people, Barack Obama.  Then, a mere forty-eight hours later Hillary Clinton attacked her adversary.  

The Senator from New York claimed, while in the crowd at an event in Cincinnati, Ohio, just days prior to that State’s primary, she was handed two mailers.  A brilliant woman, organized, and aware, ready to take on the responsibilities of the Oval Office the day she crosses the threshold, did not realize that ten days earlier, the Ohio Daily Blog published an essay which spoke of the brochures.  Jeff received his copies.  Yet, Hillary had not yet sampled hers.  

The experienced, professional politician fumed as she spoke, of the accounts.  As a mother scolding her child potential President Hillary Clinton shrieked, “Shame on you Barack Obama!”  The genteel First Lady pointed her finger and challenged her rival Senator Obama to “meet me in Ohio, and let’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign.”

As Americans listen to the words of the woman we once thought would receive her just coronation into the White House, we are reminded, this political campaign has never truly been about issues.  Personality, popularity, electability, and the ability to connect to wealthy contributors have long been the focus among the candidates and by extension the electorate.  Voters are subject to the voice of those who speak of what is important to them personally.  We might recall the times a candidate or two expressed what is true.  For them, this campaign is personal, full of personal attacks.

A day later, the Clinton Camp announced they would engage in a calculated campaign of smear.  Conduct unbecoming a possible Commander-In-Chief, when named Barack Obama is quite befitting of a potential President Clinton.

In the robo-call voiced by Clinton, she said she wants to set the record straight.  “Sen. Obama has sent out attack mailers that distort my record on NAFTA, but I believe Ohio deserves the truth,” Clinton says, “NAFTA has hurt Ohio families and I have a plan to fix it.  My opponent does not.  I’ll appoint a Trade Prosecutor to enforce our trade agreements, and crackdown on China’s unfair trade practices.  I’ll eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and invest in creating good jobs right here in Ohio.”

The Clinton attack mailer cites press reports of Obama praising NAFTA and other trade deals.  “Don’t be fooled by Barack Obama.” [or Hillary Clinton?]

Might we take a moment to reflect.  Let us begin with the records.  The text of Barack Obama comments may enlighten us on the issue of tactics and behavior, the topics Hillary Clinton would like to discuss in an Ohio debate.  The background also offers insights.

(Alan Keyes wanted to withdraw completely from trade agreements.) “Keyes, the Republican nominee, said the United States should move away from negotiating multinational trade agreements, arguing the country can cut better deals by bargaining one-on-one and imposing tariffs on countries that undercut American farmers with cheap products. ‘Why is it in American economics that you say ‘tariffs’ and everybody thinks you cursed,’ Keyes said. ‘We need to make sure we get a fair deal.’ He also called for complete elimination of the inheritance taxes, as well as the income tax.

“But Democrat Obama said Keyes’ ideas could lead to trade wars that would harm farmers, who are always looking for new markets willing to buy American crops. He said the United State should continue to work with the World Trade Organization and pursue deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the country must be more aggressive about protecting American interests. ‘We don’t want to set off trade wars. What we want to make sure of is that our farmers are treated fairly,’ Obama said. ‘The problem in a lot of our trade agreements is that the administration tends to negotiate on behalf of multinational companies instead of workers and communities.'” (AP, 9/8/04)

Hillary Clinton took a stand on the North American Free Trade Agreement and has for years.  The Former First Lady spoke in support of her husband’s Bill’s legendary policy.

Clinton promoted her husband’s trade agenda for years, and friends say that she’s a free-trader at heart. “The simple fact is, nations with free-market systems do better,” she said in a 1997 speech to the Corporate Council on Africa. “Look around the globe: Those nations, which have lowered trade barriers, are prospering more than those that have not.”

Praise for Nafta

At the 1998 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she praised corporations for mounting “a very effective business effort in the U.S. on behalf of Nafta.” She added: “It is certainly clear that we have not by any means finished the job that has begun.”

Clinton “is committed to free trade and to the growing role of the international economy,” said Steven Rattner, a Clinton fundraiser and co-founder of Quadrangle Group LLC, a New York buyout firm. “She would absolutely do the right thing as president.”

However, as Hillary Clinton herself reminds us, speeches are not solutions.  While at a General Motors plant, the Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton proposes, “That’s the difference between me and my opponent, I offer solutions. It’s one thing to get people excited.  I want to empower you to live your dreams so we can all go forward together.”

“Now, over the years, you’ve heard plenty of promises from plenty of people in plenty of speeches. And some of those speeches were probably pretty good. But speeches don’t put food on the table. Speeches don’t fill up your tank, or fill your prescription or do anything about that stack of bills that keeps you up at night.”  Only jobs and a stable income can keep Americans safe and secure; hence, the need for American policymakers to assess the North American Free Trade Agreement.  As Senator, Clinton could finally take actions that would rescind a policy that haunts her husband and his heritage.  Thus, she did or did not.  Please ponder the documentation.

  • Voted against CAFTA despite Bill Clinton’s pushing NAFTA. (Oct 2005)
  • Voted YES on free trade agreement with Oman. (Jun 2006)
  • Voted NO on implementing CAFTA for Central America free-trade. (Jul 2005)
  • Voted YES on establishing free trade between US & Singapore. (Jul 2003)
  • Voted YES on establishing free trade between the US and Chile. (Jul 2003)
  • Voted NO on extending free trade to Andean nations. (May 2002)
  • Voted YES on granting normal trade relations status to Vietnam. (Oct 2001)
  • Voted YES on removing common goods from national security export rules. (Sep 2001)
  • Rated 17% by CATO, indicating a pro-fair trade voting record. (Dec 2002)

What is a voter to think?  Hillary Clinton Biographer Carl Bernstein avows, Hillary Clinton’s economics, the ones she preached to her husband in the White House are much closer to John Edwards then you would think. She argued with Bill Clinton when she was First Lady, her husband, she said ‘Bill, you are doing Republican economics when you are doing NAFTA.’ She was against NAFTA.  Yet, as the author expresses in his own assessment of the candidate . . .

A new biography’s unflattering portrayal of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton as someone who “camouflages” her real self for political gain is starting to attract attention – and not for the salacious stories, most books recount about the Clintons.

“A Woman in Charge,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, gives scant attention to the tense days the former First Lady spent in the White House when Bill Clinton was sneaking around with his intern, Monica Lewinsky. Instead, the former Washington Post reporter, who helped blow the lid off Watergate, attempts to portray Hillary Clinton as someone who is willing to rewrite her own history to advance the political career she put on hold when she moved to Arkansas with her college sweetheart who would later become president.

“This is a woman who led a camouflaged life and continues to,” Bernstein told TODAY host Matt Lauer on Friday in an exclusive interview. “This book takes away that camouflage.”

The Bernstein book, which the writer refers to as the first “real biography” of Hillary Clinton, is a recent edition. There is ample, additional information; Hillary Clinton was for, no against, the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA].  Hence, again, we can only do as Hillary advises; look at the votes for verification.  As we observe, duplicity and a commitment to convenience, seem apparent.

This inconsistent configuration is no less obvious in the banter and behavior of Barack Obama. The expressions of Barack Obama and the conduct of Hillary Clinton are, as the First Lady imagined them to be many months ago, interesting.  

Words are not separate from work, whether we speak of one candidate or the other.  Even constituents can be considered complex beings.  We have wants, needs, among these are Universal Health Care.  Barack Obama understood this on that cold frigid day in Springfield, Illinois.  In February, on the 10th day of the month, in the year 2007, Illinois Senator Barack Obama stood in front of the Old State Capitol building.   A throng of supporters frozen; yet full of fervor positioned themselves where they could best see the man they admired.

Dignified as he spoke Presidential hopeful Obama reminded Americans that more than a century ago, on these same steps, Abraham Lincoln called on a divided house to stand together.  Barack Obama stated that in Springfield, Illinois he learned that “common hopes and common dreams still” live.  Then, the man who speaks and writes of the audacity of hope offered . . .

I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States. . .

Let’s be the generation that finally tackles our health care crisis. We can control costs by focusing on prevention, by providing better treatment to the chronically ill, and using technology to cut the bureaucracy. Let’s be the generation that says right here, right now, that we will have universal health care in America by the end of the next president’s first term.

Yes, we can . . .  be the generation that declares we will provide medical coverage for one and for all.  Yet, Barack Obama is, as of yet unwilling to propose that we, the people be insured equally.  Senator Obama, has not worked towards Universal Health Care.  Indeed, he argues against it, and presents a proviso, the plan may changed if need be.

Like former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who outlined his health-care goals in February, Obama would pay for his plan, which could cost more than $50 billion, by increasing taxes for people earning more than $250,000 and reversing tax cuts that President Bush approved. Obama would require almost all employers to offer insurance to workers or face a tax penalty, an idea that many businesses abhor and that is also in Edwards’s proposal. This employer mandate drove much of the opposition to the Clinton plan in 1994.

Like Clinton, who in a speech last week laid out some of her health-care ideas, Obama is focused as much on reducing the costs for those who are insured as on expanding coverage to the estimated 45 million Americans who are not. He called for the federal government to pay part of the costs for patients with chronic illnesses, so that employers would not have to do so, but also emphasized the importance of preventive care. It is important to “listen to our wives when they tell us to stop smoking,” he said, referring to his own unhealthy habit.

Like many Democratic politicians, he blamed drug and health insurance companies for stopping the passage of more expansive health-care proposals.

The lack of new ideas in Obama’s health plan in part reflects his approach. He has emphasized his freshness as a rationale for his candidacy, but that freshness has been much more about his tone and his rhetoric about hope and bipartisanship than his policy proposals . . .

One concept that Obama’s plan does not include is a popular idea from both Democrats and Republicans who work on health-care issues: an “individual mandate” that would require every American to buy health insurance.  . . .

The Clinton and Edwards campaigns quickly criticized Obama for not offering a plan that would require insurance for all. ” . . .

Obama’s advisers argued that such a mandate is less important than adding subsidies and other ways to make health care more affordable.  . . .

“The key is not the mandate,” said David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard, who advised Obama on the plan. “It’s the affordability and the accessibility.”

It seems Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, neither of whom offer a Single Payer, Not For Profit, Universal Health Care can tout as they do with credibility.  Each vocalizes, “I will be the people’s President.”  Yet, as the nation peruses the plans it remains evident, that if either of these aspirants [or the Republican rival] enters the Oval Office in 2009, all men will remain unequal.  Those who lost jobs to Free Trade agreements will likely remain unemployed or become underemployed.  Circumstances for the constituents will continue to be dire.  Millions of citizens will be unable to afford or access medical care at any cost, to say nothing of the twelve or more million migrants who go without health care.  Mailers be damned.  Shame on Barack Obama?  Shame on Hillary Clinton?  It is a shame that the people were never given a voice or entrée into the election.  

Dennis Kucinich, potential President of the people, a live-time Union member, the one person to actively propose an end to the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA], the war in Iraq [remember that refrain?], and Single Payer, Not For Profit, Universal Health Care, I miss you.

Sources of Shame . . .

Why Do We Hate Poor People?

copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

Why is it that when we encounter poor or homeless people they make us cringe? Why do we want to make them disappear into shelters or remove them out of our sights? Since the Reagan revolution we have instead of being at war against poverty, we have been at war with poor people. They litter our streets like so many abandoned cars at a salvage yard. Why has it been so easy to sell the false narrative that people are poor by choice and that if they would just work harder they wouldn’t be poor? I think that our reactions to the poor says more about who we are than who they are. Let’s face it there have been poor people throughout recorded history, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is not that there are poor people, but that there are poor people we could help and don’t.

The reason I think we hate poor people is that rather than reminding of us of the blessings we have received, they instead remind us of our vulnerabilities and our insecurities. They remind so many of us that we are only one missed paycheck or one serious health issue away from their lot and it scares the hell out of us. We need so badly to believe that this could never happen to us, that we are so insulated from them and their fate that it could never be our fate. When the reality is too frightening to consider we create these illusions to placate ourselves. The greatest illusion is that we live in a society that if anyone is willing to work hard enough they can overcome the poverty of their birth. We regale ourselves with these fables of rags to riches, never considering the reality of these tales. The reality is a far cry from the false narratives being maintained by those who would keep us ignorant of the truth.

We are constantly fed the fairy-tale of the poor kid who signs a million-dollar sports contract, the million-dollar recording contract, or the Ivy League scholarship. And for those who have desires that steer towards more iniquitous pursuits we even have the “gangster” or drug dealer chronicles. In other words there is money and wealth to be had by all except the most slothful of our fellow citizens. How prevalent are these scenarios in modern America? The truth is that very little has changed for poor people, the majority of children born into poverty will remain in poverty. How can they not? They are provided with in many cases inferior homes, schools, and sometimes parents. The deck is stacked against them from the moment they take their first breath.

Sure we occasionally give a few dollars here and there with moral superiority and discuss how unfortunate those people are. All the while hoping they would just disappear and not remind us of how tenuous our hold on the American Dream is. Not only do they remind us of our perilous situations they also remind us of our conspicuous consumption and how truly far we have bought and sold the lie of more is better. The truth of this is in the fact that many of us believe that today’s poor are not really poor. We look at poverty in the third world and convince ourselves that those are truly poor people, the ones here are just whiners.

Robert Rector, a Senior Fellow at Heritage and a leading force behind welfare reform, similarly argued that federal studies should highlight the consumption-rather than income-of impoverished households. Many poor families do not record ‘gray area’ earnings because the federal wage threshold provides a disincentive to report joint income or informal earnings. Also, purchasing power varies across metropolitan, suburban, and rural communities. Rector’s study, which utilizes data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, demonstrates that many allegedly impoverished households live in decent-to-comfortable conditions, making poverty somewhat different from John Edwards’ “terrible condition struggling against incredible poverty.”

Rector’s report shows that the “typical,” median poor household owns a car, air-conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a washer and dryer, a microwave, two color televisions, cable or satellite television, a vcr or dvd player, and a stereo. The typical poor family’s house is in good repair and the family is able to afford both food and medical care throughout the year.

With living standards such as these, poverty in America may actually be an enviable state compared to living standards in other nations. According to the Census Bureau, 15.2% of immigrants live in poverty, whereas only 11.9% of natives are below the poverty threshold. Rector claims that 1 in 10 of immigrants in poverty is likely an illegal immigrant, but estimates remain vague; the U.S. census declines to ask immigrant responders whether they have documentation. Heritage Organization

So being poor in America is an enviable state? The Bible says, “Blessed is the poor”. How many of us actually drive by a poor neighborhood or a homeless person and say, “Boy, those folks are really lucky”? I wonder if the author of that report is willing to exchange places with one of these lucky poor people? The reason we need to deny their pain and hopelessness is so we can deny our greed. If poor people aren’t really poor, then I am not actually consuming too much. The world is made up of balances, there is only so many of anything. In order for someone to have more, someone has to have less. We assuage our guilt at ignoring their plight by criminalizing them or demonizing them. We don’t want them around us or bothering us. The thing I don’t like about poor people is that they are so needy. They are always asking for stuff.

We hate them because of what they tell us about ourselves and our lives. How we can live in a country that thinks nothing of spending over 700 billion for wars and war machinery, billions in corporate welfare, and every year we cut programs to help the poor. They don’t need early childhood intervention, better schools, or financial assistance. What they need is a swift kick in the butt to get them motivated. It’s no wonder that children born poor suffer from stress related brain trauma. Despite popular opinion being poor even as a child is stressful. We bombard the airwaves with these images of consumption, we tell our children you are not cool, hip, or anybody if you don’t wear these shoes, these clothes, or have these things. Then we act surprised by their actions to get them and call them animals and lock them up. And we’re the civilized ones. There, but for the grace of God, goes I.

Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.  – Author Unknown

Perils of Being a Jew

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear. Town Called Dobson


To view the original, travel to a Town Called Dobson. Perils of Being a Jew

A good friend of mine was telling me a story about some new people he met recently – he was the first Jew they had ever met. In their curiosity, they had a laundry list of questions based on anti-Semitic comments they had heard probably their whole lives.

“No, we do not own the media.”

It is good that uninformed people seek to find the truth, but in the 21st Century, one would hope this level of stuff would no longer be necessary. But alas, Rupert Murdoch is not Jewish. Steve Jobs, the largest shareholder of Disney is not Jewish. Steven Spielberg is Jewish however, but he does not own the media – he is a filmmaker. Robert Rodriguez is also a filmmaker but he is not Jewish and neither of them run the Evening News.

So my ultra-patient friend sat through the eye-rolling questions. No, they do not sacrifice babies. They do not have a secret base on the dark side of the moon.

And no, Israel does not have a fleet of flying saucers.

The Horror of War

copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

Today’s New York Times magazine section has a firsthand story about the horror of fighting in Afghanistan.  Entitled “Battle Company is Out There” the author, Elizabeth Rubin, relates the tale of Capt. Dan Kearney and his troops as the effort is made to occupy and pacify a bit of the Korengal Valley.  Many previous stories tell of the dangers inherent in the valley and in surrounding territory.  This account offers a personal and stirring account of one platoon and their adventures in a very short period of time.

The Korengal Outpost, nicknamed the KOP, was built in April 2006 on the site of a former timber mill and motel.

Relating some of Capt. Kearney’s thoughts the story goes on.

But as hard as Iraq was, he said, nothing was as tough as the Korengal.  Unlike in Iraq, where the captains and lieutenants could let down their guard in a relatively safe, fortified operating base, swapping stories and ideas, here they had no one to talk to and were almost as vulnerable to enemy fire inside the wire as out.  Last summer, insurgents stormed one of the bases in a nearby valley and wounded 16.

The danger of a place like the Korengal Valley is increased by the presence of civilian populations.

As Kearney put it to me one day at the KOP, the Korengal is like a tough Los Angeles neighborhood, “and we’re the L.A.P.D. kicking in the door, arresting guys, demanding information about the gangs, and slowly the people say, ‘No, we don’t know anything, because that guy in the gang, he’s with my sister, and that other guy, he’s my uncle’s cousin.’  Now we’ve angered them for so many years that they’ve decided: ‘I’m gonna stick with the A.C.M.’ ” – anticoalition militants – ” ‘who are my brothers and I’m not gonna rat them out.’ “

How can soldiers be expected to make peace of any sort in a situation like this?  

Years of American and NATO bombing and killing of civilians have led to an ingrained resistance which leads many tribes to seek revenge.

Whom do you want to side with: your brothers in God’s world or the infidel thieves?

The troops are pushed to the limits of human endurance.

The soldiers were on a 15-month tour that included just 18 days off. Many of them were “stop-lossed,” meaning their contracts were extended because the army is stretched so thin. You are not allowed to refuse these extensions.

One mission of the group called Rock Avalanche was typical of the missions the troops undertook.  The goal was the securing of a village, Yaka China, to slow or stop the flow of insurgents across the Pakistan border.  In early fighting decisions had to be made about the use of air power.

The tally was bad – 5 killed and 11 wounded, all of them women, girls and boys.

Meetings the next day with tribal and village leaders were marked by the usual

miscommunication and deception

on both sides that made those interactions more of a performance than a real discussion.  A day after the meeting the tribal leaders had apparently decided the time had come to fight rather than to cooperate.  The story continues with reports of an attack on a hill held by American troops.  The continuing death and destruction is described in vivid detail.

I followed Piosa through the brush toward the ridge. We came upon Rice and Specialist Carl Vandenberge behind some trees. Vandenberge was drenched in blood. The shot to his arm had hit an artery. Rice was shot in the stomach. A soldier was using the heating chemicals from a Meal Ready to Eat to warm Vandenberge and keep him from going into shock.

Kearney lost seven of his men in the Valley up to the end of the reporter’s time.

But the dialogue with the Korengalis was pretty much the same as it had been. Only the winter snows have brought some minor respite to the valley.

The misery that war brings to both sides is beyond the ability of words to convey in adequate terms.  Yet stories like this one bring some measures of reality to the outside world.  How much longer will we stay in Afghanistan?  Can we win against a resistance built on local and family ties?  What will our nation need to look for other alternatives to replace military efforts to instill “peace”?

Until and unless we as a nation and as a global society come to recognize the futility of war we are in trouble as a species.  We must come to recognize the greater good comes from peaceful coexistence and cooperation with one another.  We are all in this together as human beings.  We will stand together or we will fall apart.

Peace.

Where Is the Beef? Where Are the Bees? Planet in Peril



Slaughterhouse Investigation: Cruel and Unhealthy Practices

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

You may wish to review an earlier reflection, California Slaughterhouse; Human Cruelty Exposed

Late in January 2008, Americans read the startling news, Video Reveals Violations of Laws, Abuse of Cows at Slaughterhouse.  Tears were shed by some; most turned away.  The footage was too graphic.  Countless wished to remain removed from a reality they do not wish to witness.  Reports, of brutal treatment towards beefy cattle, were received by many as is steak on a plate.  Those who eat the meat think it  sad that a cow must be sacrificed in order to fill a human stomach.  Nonetheless, numerous persons believe man kills “lower” forms of life; that is the natural order.  

After the revelation, not much changed.  Throughout the nation people continued as they had.  Weeks passed.  Those categorized as the highly intelligent, and humane, had greater concerns than cattle or the cruelty inflicted upon these beast.  Matters of consequence were and are far more critical than fallen cows.  Decision-makers at the morally condemned abattoir understood the more crucial issue would be public relations.  If earnings are to be maintained and profits sustained some action must be taken.  The reputation of the business was at stake [steak].  Embarrassed by the audio-visual documentation of doings within the plant, Chief Executives at the Westland – Hallmark Meat Company, ordered the  Largest Recall of Ground Beef ever.

The meat packaging plant issued a warning.  Consumers were asked to return a full 143 million pounds plus, of beef.  Meat produced over the last two years was included in the cautionary measures.  

More than a third of the 143 million pounds of California beef recalled this week went to school lunch programs, with at least 20 million pounds consumed, Agriculture Department officials said Thursday.

About 50 million pounds of the meat went to schools, said Eric Steiner, deputy administrator of special nutrition programs for the department’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Of that amount, about 20 million pounds has been eaten, 15 million pounds is on hold at storage facilities and 15 million pounds is still being traced, he said.

Conceivably, the scope was too broad.  Consumers became frightened.  The public panicked  Parents feared for the children.  Schools worried; as recipients and distributors of large quantities of the beef would they be liable.  

As awareness increased for the possibly tainted beef, an anxious public cried, “How many people need to get sick, or die, before Congress starts to repair and modernize the nation’s food safety system?”  Americans remembered other recent recalls and clamored, someone must be held accountable.  People blamed the Bush Administration for this “turn” of events.  Periodicals offer resounding criticisms.  No one spoke of the duplicity.  Why is it considered cruel to abuse the animal you are prepared to kill?

Instead of strengthening the government’s regulatory systems, the Bush administration has spent years cutting budgets and filling top jobs with industry favorites.  The evidence of their failures keep mounting: contaminated spinach, poisoned pet food, tainted fish.

There was and is much to speak of, more to scrutinize.  Infected food can cause death.  Yet, no one places the onus on those who passively accept food industry standards, the American people.  The official word of the Federal Food and Drug Administration, which relaxed regulations decades ago, escapes censure as well.  Citizens no longer recall that this branch of government loosened standards, and allowed the industry to define what might be acceptable fodder.

[In] 1958, the definition of pantry goods had changed substantially.  New food products and a newly competitive refrigerated and frozen goods industry that developed in the domestic marketplace after World War II had literally redefined the household pantry.  As the number of new processed and fabricated foods grew, the government spent less time issuing refined standards for products such as raisin bread and egg bread, and more time establishing new standards for products such as frozen orange juice, frozen “TV” dinners, frozen breaded shrimp, freeze dried coffee, and “instant chocolate drinks.”  As soon as the Food Additives Amendment was in place, FDA began to experiment with less restrictive food standards than the strict “recipe standards” that had predominated in the standards program.  

In 1961, FDA first deviated from the recipe approach when it issued standards for “frozen raw breaded shrimp” which simply provided for the use of “safe and suitable” batter and breading ingredients, rather than listing all optional ingredients individually.  A legal definition of “safe and suitable” was later codified and used to allow “safe and suitable preservatives” or “safe and suitable emulsifiers.”

This action was taken at the bequest of businesses.  Food producers found the shift necessary.  Congress never challenged the move or the measure.  Communities nationwide did not question the wisdom of this action.  Just as Americans accept that we must kill animals and eat them in order to survive, we also understand that when definitions or circumstances make our daily life more convenient, that cannot be all bad.  Even the skeptical among us have faith no business or government agency would intentionally harm patrons, the people, or the planet.

Hence, as long as industry is regulated, and the government classifies food, or chemical substitutes as safe, there is no reason to question what appears on American plates.  Events such as the one at this particular slaughterhouse are an anomaly.  

Americans trust they system and did as they characteristically do.  They heard the warnings and worried not.  Authorities would take care of the situation.  We will survive.  The world is a wondrous place.

Humans rather not reflect on the possibility the treatment of cows relates to a broader reality.  The planet is in peril.  Downer cows lifted so that they might be butchered for food, speaks of more than a single slaughterhouse or situation.  Yet, Americans and other world inhabitants do not wish to discuss what is.

This story is not merely about how humans murder another mammal with malice, or how the master of the universe, man, with his magnificent mind rationalizes what he knows to be morally wrong.  This tale offers a reflection too long ignored.  Humans hungry, and habitual in nature, do not chew on the thought . . .

The food chain is a complex balance of life.  If one animals source of food disappears, such as from over fishing or hunting, many other animals in the food chain are impacted and may die.

Man in his infinite wisdom has altered the balance of nature.  People do not consider, what they have done to the animals, insects, all the inhabitants they classify as lesser beings.  Humans do not wish to acknowledge they have killed off many species.  One extinction leads to another, then another, and finally, if we follow the chain, to total inhalation.  A productive planet can die just and its inhabitants without insight might perish sooner than later.

Perchance, nature will remind those hard of heart.  Kill fellow organisms, murder the mortal, and Mother Nature will politely, slowly, and subtly punish you for your selfish aggressions.  

The lovely lady who breathes life into man and beast tries to tell man-kind [sic], be cautious.  Earth, in all her elegance gives humans brains enough to realize life on this planet is pained.  The treatment of cattle helps to explain how man threatens Earth.

Humans brutally slaughter the cattle and the cows return the favor.  Life is cyclical.  Relationships are symbiotic.  Try as man might to control Mother Nature, he cannot combat the fluid energy that created him.

The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.

Livestock’s long shadow, a report released by the Livestock, Environmental, and Development [LEAD] initiative tells a tale of woe that is worrisome.  Worldwide, man, in his zeal to eat the flesh of cattle, degrades the land, changes the climate, pollutes the air and water, causes water shortage, and engenders loss of biodiversity.  ? The adage, ‘kill or be killed’ might be better stated, ‘slay and be slain.’

The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land.  The total area occupied by grazing is equivalent to 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet. In addition, the total area dedicated to feedcrop production amounts to 33 percent of total arable land.

In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet. ?Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder.

About 20 percent of the world’s pastures and rangelands, with 73 percent of rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing, compaction, and erosion created by livestock action. The dry lands in particular are affected by these trends, as livestock are often the only source of livelihoods for the people living in these areas.

A society dependent on meat production destroys the delicate balance that sustains life on this globe. Yet, to look at cows in the field, one would never know.  Most who see cattle graze feel a sense of serenity.  Few of us consider cows in the countryside a problem.  After all, we were raised to appreciate these animals for what they provide.

Americans, carnivores and omnivores that we are, can claim, ‘Look at all that life.’  Few satiated humans whose stomach bulge, state, ‘Look at all that death and destruction.’  Climate change, as it slowly creeps into consciousness, does not startle us as it might.  Humans barely notice the nuances.  

With rising temperatures, rising sea levels, melting icecaps and glaciers, shifting ocean currents and weather patterns, climate change is the most serious challenge facing the human race.  ?The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport. ?

The livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The largest share of this derives from land-use changes – especially deforestation – caused by expansion of pastures and arable land for feedcrops. . . .

It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance, and many others.  The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures.

Global figures are not available but in the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55 percent of erosion and sediment, 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources.

The brown-eyed beauties are not the problem.  It is man who has chosen to cultivate a crop of beef that destroys the planet.  Humans, intent on self-service kill the cattle brutally, and will ultimately kill themselves if they continue to ignore the signs.  Currently, the extinction of bee colonies throughout the planet is not considered a priority; yet, it is more evidence that something has gone wrong.  As absurd as it may seem some researchers claim cell telephones emit radiation and this effects the honeybees ability to navigate.  Others argue, that theory is preposterous.  Numerous refute claims they deem science fiction.  

Nevertheless, honeybees are the most important insects in the human food chain.  Little buzzers are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and nuts. In the last three scores years, or more, the number of bee colonies has declined.  In October 2007, as honey bee colonies collapsed, a study by the National Academy of Sciences, Colony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Decline, suggests American agriculture may place too great a reliance on one type of pollinator, the honeybee.  Other investigations focus on the reason for the threat of  an apparent bee colony collapse.

Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple micro-organisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system.  The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.

“That is extremely unusual,” Dr. Cox-Foster said.

Meanwhile, samples were sent to an Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies. Concern has also mounted among public officials.

“There are so many of our crops that require pollinators,” said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat whose district includes that state’s central agricultural valley, and who presided last month at a Congressional hearing on the bee issue. “We need an urgent call to arms to try to ascertain what is really going on here with the bees, and bring as much science as we possibly can to bear on the problem.”

Science is endorsed as the solution. However, the discipline remains part of the problem.  Man cannot study as quickly as Mother Nature moves.  Anthropoids do not understand that nature is fluid, chaotic, and not easily categorized.  It cannot be controlled, but it can be corrupted.  What humans have yet to comprehend is the effect they have on what they have and have not discovered.

Life on Earth is in the early stages of the worst mass extinction since the end of the Cretaceous.  Many species are likely go extinct before they are even discovered and named by biologists.  Of the estimated 10 to 20 million species living on Earth, only 10 percent have been described in the past 250 years. Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, proposes that the remaining 90 percent must be described in one-tenth that time to save millions of species from extinction.

According to Doctor Wilson, a renowned expert on biodiversity, megafauna are dying out.  The tuatara, the lizard-like reptile on New Zealand, the kagu, a crane-like bird with a big plume of feathers in New Caledonia an island in the south Pacific, the Sumatran rhino and the hairy rhinoceros of Europe “were wiped out before humans even had a conscience.”  If we continue to consume or ‘control’ as we do, complete extinction may be inevitable, with thanks or no thanks to the knowledge gained by the study of the physical world.

The statistics are staggering.  Annihilation in the animal kingdom is ample.  If we were only assess to what is observable among the insect community, we might realize there is reason to be startled.  A known fact is, in America alone, 27 states have experienced bee colony collapse.  Countries abroad document the same disorder.

Bee Alert Technology Inc., a company monitoring the problem.  A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March. . . .

These bees may suffer from a diet that includes artificial supplements, concoctions akin to energy drinks and power bars. In several states, suburban sprawl has limited the bees’ natural forage areas.

So far, the researchers have discounted the possibility that poor diet alone could be responsible for the widespread losses. They have also set aside for now the possibility that the cause could be bees feeding from a commonly used genetically modified crop, Bt corn, because the symptoms typically associated with toxins, such as blood poisoning, are not showing up in the affected bees.  But researchers emphasized today that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.

The food now available to the honey bees harms them.  The fodder that humans ingest is arguably not healthy.  The analysis absent in each of these scenarios, stories of beef and bees, is how humans destroy the gift of life.  In our fervor to fulfill self, we sacrifice our souls.  Man, in his infinite desire to control and consume, alters crops, raises cattle only to satisfy a stomach too large, and gratify a spirit too small.  Humans hurt honeybees, the helpers of every man, woman, and child.  All suffer at the hands of those beings who pride themselves on having a brain; yet have forgotten what it might mean to have a heart.



Devour The Earth (Good Documentary)(PART 2)

The Beef, The Bees, The Brutality . . .

GOP spin sounding tired already


To view the original art, please travel to GOP spin sounding tired already

copyright © 2007.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

[Posted 02/19/08]

With the Republican nomination all but wrapped up, John McCain used his TV time following the latest primaries to try out attack lines on Barack Obama. Somehow, I don’t think “The GOP’s Best Argument” is going to hold up against Obama’s youth-driven change tsunami. But November is a long way off, and Obama still has work to do in the Democratic primaries before he can worry too much about McCain.