Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

"Let our New Year's resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word." — Goran Persson, Prime Minister of Sweden 1996 - 2006

PAUL AND I just finished delivering 32 books and 32 pairs of new pajamas in gift bags to the Children and Families of Iowa Family Violence Shelter on behalf of Helen's Pajama PartyThe pajamas were purchased by members of the community who care about victims of domestic violence and donated to Helen's. So too money for the books. It's a great little volume with 38 ways, one way per page, to be kind to yourself; I inscribed a note of personal encouragement on the inside cover of each one.

I admit that I was kinda wishing I could stay home and finish sewing the drapes for our AP room instead of running around today with last minute errands needed to complete the packing, labeling and delivery. 

Here's what wiped that bit of selfishness from my thoughts. After we carried everything into the shelter, I asked the staff person who was helping to call me and let me know if there are any new arrivals since the count was made last week. 

She said, "Oh yes, we've had a mom and her four children come in today, and another mother with two children last night and a lone adult woman yesterday, so they're all new here." 

I thought about what it must be like to have to run for your life, sometimes with children, and end up meeting the new year in a shelter with nothing except the clothes on your back . . . and fear . . . and sadness. 

I'm hoping in the coming year that we'll all bend our hearts and will to eliminating violence, hopelessness and hate wherever it exists. 

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Babylon's ark

"I couldn’t stand the thought of the animals dying in their cages." Lawrence Anthony

ANYONE WHO'S READ Hey Look more than a couple of times knows I'm hooked on the New York Times for its thorough and superbly diverse coverage. At the end of each year, The Magazine offers a collection of vignettes, called The Lives They Lived, profiling selected people who have passed away in the last 12 months. 

I enjoy the editor's choices for the anthology. Included are always some very recognizable names, but as many of those featured are individuals who, though they've made a memorable impact in one way or another on the world at large, aren't people you probably would have known or at least known much about. Here's a particularly special one about Lawrence Anthony.

Lawrence Anthony
B. 1950 
written by Charles Siebert

BACK IN 1999, LAWRENCE ANTHONY, a South African wildlife conservationist, received a call from a conservation organization asking him if he’d give refuge to a herd of nine renegade elephants on his expansive reserve, in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal province. The orphans of poaching and culling, many of the problem elephants were exhibiting the erratic and irascible behaviors of juvenile delinquents with post-traumatic-stress disorder: repeatedly escaping from their enclosures, destroying property and threatening other wildlife and humans. The animals would be shot, Anthony was told, if he couldn’t settle them on his land.

Anthony had named his reserve Thula Thula (Zulu for “peace and tranquillity”), a somewhat paradoxical moniker given his penchant for speeding around the property in his Land Rover, blasting Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. He lived with his family in the main farmhouse and built five-star accommodations on the reserve, establishing an eco-tourism mecca to help finance his conservation efforts.

Anthony first tried getting the elephants acclimated in a smaller enclosure within Thula Thula bordered by an electric fence. But a particularly willful one named Nana kept breaking the group out despite the intense shocks she incurred. She and another elephant once uprooted a tree, which smashed against the fence, short-circuiting the wiring. Finally, Anthony set up an encampment directly alongside the enclosure, and for the next three weeks he spent much of the time in face-to-face talks with Nana, pleading with the fiercely protective matriarch not to leave, trying to persuade her that this was a safe place, that she could trust him.

Add caption Survivors of the Iraq war at the Baghdad Zoo
in 2003. Anthony led a zoo-recovery effort there.

“I hoped she’d understand by the tone of my voice and my body language,” Anthony told The Sydney Morning Herald. “And one morning, instead of trying to break the fence down, she just stood there. Then she put her trunk through the fence toward me. I knew she wanted to touch me. . . . That was a turning point.”

After that, the elephants were released into the larger reserve and roamed within its protective boundaries. They made Anthony one of their own, always aware, somehow, of when he was off traveling. No matter how far away their foraging might take them, they gathered at the Anthonys’ front gate upon his return.

“It’s not a case of adopting the elephants,” Anthony once explained. “It’s being patient enough until they adopt you.”

Anthony saved countless animals during his lifetime, but perhaps his best-known rescue came in 2003. He was sitting at home one night in March of that year, watching the bombing in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and his mind turned to the animals in the Baghdad Zoo, the largest in the Middle East. “I couldn’t stand the thought of the animals dying in their cages,” he told The Observer in England. “So I thought, I’ll just go.”

Within days he’d talked his way across the Kuwait-Iraq border in a car he had stocked with veterinary supplies, and joined an Army convoy bound for Baghdad. Only 35 of the zoo’s 650 animals were found still alive. The rest had been shot by looters, sold on the black market or, in the case of one giraffe, eaten by starving citizens. Flies swarmed rotting carcasses. Monkeys and baboons listlessly roamed the grounds. Escaped parrots and raptors circled above.

Anthony considered humanely shooting the emaciated survivors, mostly lions and tigers and one brown bear. Instead, he began a zoo-recovery effort, even managing to get local mullahs to issue orders that his work not be interrupted. With a band of volunteers, water was soon being hauled in from a nearby canal. Donkeys were purchased from street vendors to feed the carnivores. Workers led camels and ostriches back to their enclosures. Soldiers in Humvees herded home stray lions. Anthony personally rescued one stolen giraffe and the pet lions in the abandoned palace of Saddam Hussein’s son Uday. When Anthony left Iraq six months later, “Babylon’s Ark,” as he dubbed it in a book, written with his brother-in-law, Graham Spence, was afloat again.

One night last March, Anthony was away on business in Johannesburg, some 400 miles from Thula Thula, when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Two days later, the herd of elephants that Anthony had taken in gathered at his Thula-Thula home. It was the first time they had been there in six months. They stood vigil for a couple of hours before turning and heading back into the bush.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Buyback programs work

"People said, 'I don’t want to wait on the Congress. I’m tired of the endless debates about responsible gun control legislation. I want to do my part.'" — Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles 

STRICT GUN LAWS work, and so do buyback programs. Here's a story from NBC News about a successful one just held in Los Angeles.

Rocket launchers surface during Los Angeles guns buyback
By Kari Huus, NBC News

When Los Angeles police moved up their annual Citywide Gun Buyback program to this week, they collected an arsenal that included 75 assault weapons, 698 rifles, 363 shotguns, 901 handguns and — more surprisingly — two rocket launchers.

The weapons, essentially long metal tubes once capable of firing rockets, lacked the projectiles and parts needed to fire them, but even so had no place on the streets, police said.

"Those are weapons of war, weapons of death," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, according to the Los Angeles Times. "These are not hunting guns. These are not target guns... they have no place in our great city."

Police said the people who brought in the weapons told police that they came from family members who served in the military and no longer wanted rocket launchers in their homes, the Times reported.

LAPD was planning to check with the military to determine the origins of the launchers, police said.

As it turns out, these were not the first launchers to turn up at a gun buyback. Last May, when the event was timed for Mother's Day, one of these large firearms surfaced in Los Angeles.

This year, the total number of weapons turned in was 400 more than last year, despite the event being moved forward by several months in response to the recent mass shootings at Newtown, Conn., Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, speaking on Thursday. 

Declaring the annual buyback a success, and an important piece of the city's violence reduction efforts, Villaraigosa said: Assault weapons and even two rocket launchers were included among the firearms handed over to Los Angeles police. NBC's Natalie Morales reports.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the success of the program was "the 166 weapons surrendered by residents in exchange for nothing. They just gave them back."

Most people received grocery store gift cards for turning in weapons — up to $200 per firearm, depending on the type.

Heading into the New Year celebration, Villaraigosa issued a warning to Angelenos who chose to keep their guns: "Firing a gun in the air is a felony. Don't fire your guns in celebration. But if you do in the city of Los Angeles, we will go after you. If you do it in the county, the sheriff will go after you."

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Strict gun laws work

"We do not want the American disease imported into Australia." — John Howard, Australian prime minister 1996-2007

I'M HOPING THAT at least one reader of Hey Look will find useful some part of the information contained in articles I'm forwarding in favor of stricter gun control. I just wrote to President Obama. Next my Senators and Representative.

New York Times
In Other Countries, Laws Are Strict and Work
Published: December 17, 2012

Like other shootings before it, the Newtown, Conn., tragedy has reawakened America to its national fixation with firearms. No country in the world has more guns per capita, with some 300 million civilian firearms now in circulation, or nearly one for every adult.

Experts from the Harvard School of Public Health, using data from 26 developed countries, have shown that wherever there are more firearms, there are more homicides. In the case of the United States, exponentially more: the American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries, which have much tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.

There’s another important difference between this country and the rest of the world. Other nations have suffered similar rampages, but they have reacted quickly to impose new and stricter gun laws.

Australia is an excellent example. In 1996, a “pathetic social misfit,” as a judge described the lone gunman, killed 35 people with a spray of bullets from semiautomatic weapons. Within weeks, the Australian government was working on gun reform laws that banned assault weapons and shotguns, tightened licensing and financed gun amnesty and buyback programs.

At the time, the prime minister, John Howard, said, “We do not want the American disease imported into Australia.” The laws have worked. The American Journal of Law and Economics reported in 2010 that firearm homicides in Australia dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006. In the 18 years before the 1996 laws, there were 13 gun massacres resulting in 102 deaths, according to Harvard researchers, with none in that category since.

Similarly, after 16 children and their teacher were killed by a gunman in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996, the British government banned all private ownership of automatic weapons and virtually all handguns. Those changes gave Britain some of the toughest gun control laws in the developed world on top of already strict rules. Hours of exhaustive paperwork are required if anyone wants to own even a shotgun or rifle for hunting. The result has been a decline in murders involving firearms.

In Japan, which has very strict laws, only 11 people were killed with guns in 2008, compared with 12,000 deaths by firearms that year in the United States — a huge disparity even accounting for the difference in population. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed on Monday while ratcheting up his national antigun campaign, “We are the only industrialized country that has this problem. In the whole world, the only one.”

Americans do not have to settle for that.

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"Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered." — 2010 Bushmaster catalogue

A FRIEND POSTED a recent blogpost of mine on Facebook. It talked about the Newtown massacre and the need for commonsense changes in the law to help prevent further such tragedies, and oh my, the flaming, almost paranoid responses have been something to behold. But I'm stickin' to my guns — or lack of guns, that is. Here's a New York Times editorial reinforcing my point.

The Deadly Fantasy of Assault Weapons
Published: December 28, 2012 10 Comments

Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., using a semiautomatic, military-style assault rifle made by Bushmaster. William Spengler Jr. used the same type of Bushmaster rifle to kill two firefighters last week in Webster, N.Y. The Washington snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, also used a Bushmaster in a spree that killed 10 people in 2002.

Bushmasters are by no means the only assault weapons of choice among mass killers (the Aurora shooter used a Smith & Wesson), but the brand’s repeated presence in murderous incidents reflects Bushmaster’s enormous popularity in the gun world, the result of a successful marketing campaign aimed at putting military firepower and machismo in the hands of civilians. Gun owners once talked about the need for personal protection and sport hunting, but out-of-control ad campaigns like Bushmaster’s have replaced revolvers and shotguns with highly lethal paramilitary fantasies.

The guns, some of which come in camouflage and desert khaki, bristle with features useful only to an infantry soldier or a special-forces operative. A flash suppressor on the end of a barrel makes it possible to shoot at night without a blinding flare. Quick-change magazines let troops reload easily. Barrel shrouds allow precise control without fear of burns from a muzzle that grows hot after multiple rounds are fired. But now anyone can own these guns, and millions are in civilian hands.

“There is an allure to this weapon that makes it unusually attractive,” Scott Knight, former chairman of the International Chiefs of Police Firearms Committee, told USA Today, speaking of the Bushmaster rifles. “The way it looks, the way it handles — it screams assault weapon.”

The company’s catalog and ads show soldiers moving on patrol through jungles, Bushmasters at the ready. “When you need to perform under pressure, Bushmaster delivers,” says the advertising copy, superimposed over the silhouette of a soldier holding his helmet against the backdrop of an American flag. “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered,” said a 2010 catalog, peddling an assault rifle billed as “the ultimate military combat weapons system.” (Available to anyone for $2,500.)

In case that message was too subtle, the company appealed directly to the male egos of its most likely customers. “Consider your man card reissued,” said one Bushmaster campaign (pulled off the Web after the Newtown shooting), next to a photo of a carbine. “If it’s good enough for the professional, it’s good enough for you.”

The effect of these marketing campaigns on fragile minds is all too obvious, allowing deadly power in the wrong hands. But given their financial success, gun makers have apparently decided that the risk of an occasional massacre is part of the cost of doing business.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Speaking of pajamas

"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver." Maya Angelou 

ON BEHALF OF Helen's Pajama Party, on New Year's Eve day Paul and I will be delivering 32 new pairs of pajamas to the residents at the Children and Families of Iowa Domestic Violence Shelter. Also included in each gift bag will be a great little book about building self-esteem.

A couple of years ago I was interviewed by Ladies Home Journal about Helen's. Here's a screen capture of it, and the text is below.

Kelly Sargent
Ladies We Love: Kelly Sargent
November 18, 2009 at 3:23 pm , by Sonia Harmon

Kelly Sargent, a marketing professional based in Des Moines, had a thing for buying pajamas—there was something about having a new, comfy pair that seemed to put her at ease. So on one unseasonably cold night, when she got the desire to buy another pair of pajamas, she wondered if women at the local domestic violence shelter might find comfort in a new pair of their own, since they often come into shelters with just the clothes on their backs.

After joining forces with her local Rotary club, friends and family to make donations, Kelly received 150 pairs of pajamas. Two years later, more than 5,000 pairs have been donated to domestic violence shelters in Iowa, Arkansas, Nevada and New York through her non-profit, Helen’s Pajama Party, named after her mother. We love that Kelly thought outside the box—it might seem like just a pair of pajamas, but it’s a warm gesture for women on the first night of their new beginning.

What makes me a lady: Being married to my wonderful husband, and caring about and loving pretty much everything and everyone around me.

Favorite guilty pleasure: Having way too many shoes and clothes! But that’s offset by the fact that I have my black belt in bargain shopping.

Three things on my life list: Write a best-selling book, do a cartwheel and learn to speak Spanish fluently.

If I could have a superpower, it would be: I would like the ability to vaporize hate within a person just by touching them. I’d leave all the other emotions untouched—sad, mad, glad—but I’d neutralize hate.

Ladies I admire: This is a tough one because there are many I admire. Most of those I’d name are women who might be deemed “ordinary” because they’re not famous. The thing they have in common is that they’re all women who have overcome obstacles and tragedies and still manage to take care of the ones they love day after day and be a force for good in the world. Some well-known women I admire include Jane Goodall, Alice Walker, Steffi Graf and Madeleine Albright.
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas breaking

"One can never have enough socks. Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books." Dumbledore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

OH WOW, how I wish I had three weeks off for the holidays like I did when I was teaching or attending university. I want to be home!!! — sewing my drapes or taking a nap or reading a book. I'd even settle for scrubbing my kitchen floor.

I told Paul yesterday that it seemed like cruel and unusual punishment to have to go back to work the day after Christmas. Admittedly, we didn't go very early, but we were here today at 8:30. Stuff to do.

My best Christmas present, well it's always Paul of course, but next to health of self and loved ones, it was having little Anaya purr when I petted her. In some arenas of life, I am exceptionally patient and persistent. The rest, not so much.

Speaking of books as gifts, Paul and I have a friend who's a big Thomas Jefferson buff and looking forward to reading the new biography of him that he got for Christmas. Jefferson, by the way, has been downgraded (by me anyway) since I read an article in the New York Times exposing his darker-than-we-have-ever-known-before side. 

I wrote a post Dec. 1 that contains the whole piece by Paul Finkelmanin case you care to read it in its entirety, but here are some excerpts.

When (Jefferson) wrote the Declaration of Independence, announcing the “self-evident” truth that all men are “created equal,” he owned some 175 slaves. Over the subsequent 50 years, a period of extraordinary public service, Jefferson remained the master of Monticello, and a buyer and seller of human beings.

Jefferson was always deeply committed to slavery, and even more deeply hostile to the welfare of blacks, slave or free. His proslavery views were shaped not only by money and status but also by his deeply racist views, which he tried to justify through pseudoscience. 

Nor was Jefferson a particularly kind master. He sometimes punished slaves by selling them away from their families and friends, a retaliation that was incomprehensibly cruel even at the time. A proponent of humane criminal codes for whites, he advocated harsh, almost barbaric, punishments for slaves and free blacks.

Destroying families didn’t bother Jefferson, because he believed blacks lacked basic human emotions. “Their griefs are transient,” he wrote, and their love lacked “a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation.”

As president he acquired the Louisiana Territory but did nothing to stop the spread of slavery into that vast “empire of liberty.” Jefferson told his neighbor Edward Coles not to emancipate his own slaves, because free blacks were “pests in society” who were “as incapable as children of taking care of themselves.” And while he wrote a friend that he sold slaves only as punishment or to unite families, he sold at least 85 humans in a 10-year period to raise cash to buy wine, art and other luxury goods.

I can't get past his hatred and racism. I had said in that Dec. 1 post that I would go back and add an addendum to a previous post I'd written featuring some of TJ's soaring quotes, but I've changed my other mind, as Paul calls it. I'm just taking it down altogether.

And speaking of quotes, I only have 24 more to add to the backlog of blog post I've written since I started, and I will be all caught up. Told ya', I'm patient about some stuff.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Home for the holidays

"A cat improves the garden wall in sunshine, and the hearth in foul weather." Judith Merkle Riley, American novelist, teacher and academic

PAUL AND I spent a blissful Christmas eve day and night at home snuggled up on the living room love seat with our furry babies, enjoying the Christmas house while we listened to holiday music, drank hot apple cider and worked the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.

The adorable Miss Shye.

Miss Shiva mid-yawn.

The large and lovable Boy Boy.

Little Anaya on her sunny perch upstairs.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have a very, very merry

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." Charles Dickens

SUNDAY NIGHT PAUL and I spent at Paul's sister, Lori, and her husband, Randy's home, all but two of the immediate family were in attendance. Those present were —

Paul and Lori's brother, Tom
Tom's son, Daniel
Lori's two children, Danielle and Ryan
Danielle's two girls, Kennedy and Quinn
Ryan, his wife Lindsay and their two girls, Marin and new baby Lauren
Paul's mom and dad, Phyllis and Keith
And me

The two missing and missed were Tom's daughter, Darragh and Danielle's husband, Jeff.

Here are a some pictures from the night:

Lori and baby Lauren.

Kennedy holding Lauren. She was everyone's favorite Christmas present.

Marin and her dad, Ryan.

Quinn liked the new hat, scarf and mittens we got her.

Paul and me.

Great Grandma, Phyllis and Quinn.

Great Grandpa Keith holding baby Lauren.

Dessert — yum!

Phyllis, Randy, and Lindsay holding Lauren in the back row.
Daniel and Kennedy in front.

Daniel, me holding Kennedy and Tom holding Quinn.

Quinn was on the run chasing her sister and her cousin.

Danielle and the three girls working on a new toy; Lori in the background

One of the tables set and Daniel.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012


"I'd love to hear people argue that we need 30-round magazines and that that's somehow tied to the right to bear arms." — Dannel Malloy, Governor of Connecticut 

NEWTOWN. It will never be just the name of a town again.

Perhaps if I were a gifted writer I could say something that hasn't already been said, or say it more meaningfully. I'm disappointed in myself for not having lent a louder voice in opposition to the NRA's unabated pursuit of the arming of America. The fact that we, the unarmed, and the laws that govern us are held hostage by this organization is just insane.

There's no reasoning with the NRA

Although I don't personally favor hunting, I understand that human beings are omnivorous and that hunting if properly executed is probably more humane than the cruelty inflicted by industrial meat production. Target shooting seems an acceptable sport. Sometimes I think I might enjoy learning to be a crack shot in a proper indoor facility. And my grandpa was an antique gun collector all his life, so I get that. 

But there are some types of guns and ammunition that no civilian should own, as is the case with let's say, nuclear war heads, weapons grade plutonium, armored tanks or weaponized anthrax. 

Here's what I don't get: 2977 of our citizens were killed on 9/11. In the same year, almost three times as many of us, 8583 to be reasonably exact, were killed with guns, yet our government spent 1.25 TRILLION dollars on the 'war on terror' (no wonder we're broke!) and allocated nothing that I know of to reduce the number of civilian-owned arms in America

The real war on terror needs to be here at home.

Jason Gottlieb wrote that the problem with guns is fairly straightforward: they make it easy to kill or injure someone. It's a brilliantly explicit statement. 

You may have heard the straw-man argument that if we were all armed, we'd all be safe because no one would ever dare try anything. As a friend of Paul's pointed out, that's like saying we can lower the drunk driving deaths by letting more drunks on the road. 

Contrary to such oxymoronic thinking, the famous Arthur Kellerman study found that 54% of firearm deaths occurred in the home where the gun was kept and that a gun kept at home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household or a friend than to stop an intruder.

Let's collectively demand change — and perhaps pray for forgiveness for not having done so sooner. 

The first step is to get clear in our own heads that we are not asking for anything unreasonable. Victims of bullying often gradually come to believe that what they want is wrong; and we have most assuredly allowed ourselves to be bullied by the NRA.

I'm going to work for:

• A ban on the sale of assault rifles and guns that accommodate large magazines of ammunition to any private person.

• A national system for instant background checks for those who are attempting to buy guns or ammunition.

• A national data base to register ownership of guns and ammunition.

• The institution of a meaningful national gun buy-back program.

Below are additional facts and figures in support of this reasonable agenda.

• Of the current population of 314,970,028 in the United States, there are approximately 300,000,000 firearms owned by civilians. (US Census Bureau; Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review)

• In England and Wales the ratio of guns to people is 6 guns per 100 people. In the US there are 95 guns for every 100 citizens. (The Guardian, UK; US Census Bureau; Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review)

• There are close to 15,000 more gun stores in the United States than there are grocery stores (51,438 gun retailers vs. 36,536 grocery stores). (ABC News)

• There almost as many gun dealers (retail stores, collectors, pawn shops, importers and manufacturers) in America as gas stations. (ABC News)

• American gun companies made 5.5 million new guns in 2010 and 95% of them were sold to Americans, yet it wasn't nearly enough to satisfy our insatiable demand for guns, so an additional 3.3 million guns were imported in 2010. (ABC News)

• In 2011 there were 8583 people killed by guns in our country. In the UK that figure was about 550. (The Guardian, UK)

• From 2006-2010, 47,856 people in the US were murdered with guns — more than twice as many people as those killed by all other methods combined(ABC News)

• 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles were bought back as part of new gun control measures in Australia after a 1996 mass shooting in which 35 people were killed.

Australia also prohibited private sales of such guns from 1995 to 2006. Homicides by firearms dropped 59 percent, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since then. (ABC News)

I suggest not wasting time writing to the NRA. Instead, write or call your Congresspersons and the President or add your voice to organizations where your impact will be multiplied by others of like mind. Here are some resources:, part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has a petition to sign asking Congress to 1) require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America 2) ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and 3) make gun trafficking a federal crime that includes real penalties for "straw purchasers". This is the website for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. There are all kinds of good resources here including videos and information about the necessity to closing the gun show loophole. This link takes you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. There are many resources here as well.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Old friends

"Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us." — Oscar Wilde 

PERIODICALLY I GO through a spell where I think this blogging thing I've waded into is a silly waste of time. Who knows whether anyone actually reads it?

But then something happens that encourages me. Recently Hey Look was the means for reconnecting two old friends. She and he worked at the same grocery store and dated a little 50 years ago. Mostly they were part of a group of friends from the store. He recently developed cancer, and as often happens when someone encounters a life-threatening event, he began thinking about people from his past who had special meaning along the way and deserved a belated thanks.

He Googled my friend's name and came across a Hey Look, Something Shiny post that mentioned her. He emailed me to ask if I would enquire as to whether or not she would accept email from him. They've since enjoyed a few conversations via email and phone.  

I wasn't romance either sought; both are happily married. It was simply an opportunity for two old friends to connect and reminisce, and for one of them to have the opportunity to say, "Thanks for being such a sweet person way back when." Gratefully, he's in remission, so there's no sad ending to this story. Just warmth and friendship.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rick Santorum is proud

"We did it." — Rick Santorum

WHAT, you may wonder, is Rick Santorum so very proud of? He's giving himself high-fives for putting a stake in the heart of an international treaty that would have improved the lot of disabled people around the world by obligating other countries to provide rights to persons with disabilities on par with those the United States already affords. IOW, the treaty would have required nations elsewhere to improve their standards, not altered ours, yet this ignoramus was against it. (Did I just call Rick Santorum and ignoramus? Why yes, yes I did.)

Former Senator and disabled veteran Bob Dole was wheeled in a wheelchair into the very same Senate where he served for 27 years — after spending eight years as a Congressman following fighting in and sustaining a disabling injury in World War II to save the sorry behinds of people like Rick Santorum — where he made a personal plea for passage, and Rick Santorum and other Senate Republicans repaid his service and sacrifice by spitting in his eye with a no vote. And they were proud of it. 

Read the below op-ed column by Gail Collins from the December 5 New York Times and weep.

And just in case you feel like writing to your senator to voice your disappointment for voting against Treaty Doc. 112-7, I've included the list of nay voters. Unfortunately one of Iowa's Senators, Charles Grassley, is among them.

Santorum Strikes Again
Published: December 5, 2012 

Lately, you’ve probably been asking: “What ever happened to Rick Santorum? The guy who ran for president in the sweater vest? The one who compared homosexuality to bestiality and did 50 push-ups every morning?” It’s certainly been on my mind.

Santorum is still in there swinging. Lately, he’s been on a crusade against a dangerous attempt by the United Nations to help disabled people around the world. This week, he won! The Senate refused to ratify a U.N. treaty on the subject. The vote, which fell five short of the necessary two-thirds majority, came right after 89-year-old Bob Dole, the former Republican leader and disabled war veteran, was wheeled into the chamber to urge passage.

“We did it,” Santorum tweeted in triumph.

Well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

The rejected treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark law Dole co-sponsored. So, as Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts kept pointing out during the debate, this is a treaty to make the rest of the world behave more like the United States. But Santorum was upset about a section on children with disabilities that said: “The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

“This is a direct assault on us and our family!” he said at a press conference in Washington.

The hard right has a thing about the United Nations. You may remember that the senator-elect from Texas, Ted Cruz, once railed that a 20-year-old nonbinding United Nations plan for sustainable development posed a clear and present threat to American golf courses.

The theory about the treaty on the disabled is that the bit about “best interests of the child” could be translated into laws prohibiting disabled children from being home-schooled. At his press conference, Santorum acknowledged that wasn’t in the cards. But he theorized that someone might use the treaty in a lawsuit “and through the court system begin to deny parents the right to raise their children in conformity with what they believe.”

If I felt you were actually going to worry about this, I would tell you that the Senate committee that approved the treaty included language specifically forbidding its use in court suits. But, instead, I will tell you about my own fears. Every day I take the subway to work, and I use a fare card that says “subject to applicable tariffs and conditions of use.” What if one of those conditions is slave labor? Maybe the possibility of me being grabbed at the turnstile and carted off to a salt mine isn’t in the specific law, but what if a bureaucrat somewhere in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided to interpret it that way?

No one should have to live in fear of forced labor in the salt mine just because she bought a fare card at the Times Square subway station! I want some action on this matter, and I am writing to my senator right away.

But about the U.N. treaty.

In the Capitol this week, disabled Americans lobbied for ratification, arguing, among other things, that it could make life easier for them when they travel. Since more than 125 countries have already signed onto the treaty, there will certainly be pressure to improve accessibility to buses, restrooms and public buildings around the globe. It would be nice if the United States was at the table, trying to make sure the international standards were compatible with the ones our disabled citizens learn to handle here at home.

But, no, the senators were worried about the home-school movement. Or a boilerplate mention in the treaty of economic, social and cultural rights that Senator Mike Lee of Utah claimed was “part of a march toward socialism.”

At least some of them were. There would almost certainly have been plenty of votes to approve the treaty if the Republicans had felt free to think for themselves. The “no” votes included a senator who had voted for the treaty in committee, a senator who had sent out a press release supporting the treaty and a senator who actually voted “aye” and then switched when it was clear the treaty was going down anyway. Not to mention a lot of really depressed-looking legislators.

The big worry was, of course, offending the Tea Party. The same Tea Party that pounded Mitt Romney into the presidential candidate we came to know and reject over the past election season. The same Tea Party that keeps threatening to wage primaries against incumbents who don’t do what they’re told. The Tea Party who made those threats work so well in the last election that Indiana now has a totally unforeseen Democratic senator.

The threat the Republicans need to worry about isn’t in the United Nations.

NAYs — 38

  1. Alexander (R-TN)
  2. Blunt (R-MO)
  3. Boozman (R-AR)
  4. Burr (R-NC)
  5. Chambliss (R-GA)
  6. Coats (R-IN)
  7. Coburn (R-OK)
  8. Cochran (R-MS)
  9. Corker (R-TN)
  10. Cornyn (R-TX)
  11. Crapo (R-ID)
  12. DeMint (R-SC)
  13. Enzi (R-WY)
  14. Graham (R-SC)
  15. Grassley (R-IA)
  16. Hatch (R-UT)
  17. Heller (R-NV)
  18. Hoeven (R-ND)
  19. Hutchison (R-TX)
  20. Inhofe (R-OK)
  21. Isakson (R-GA)
  22. Johanns (R-NE)
  23. Johnson (R-WI)
  24. Kyl (R-AZ)
  25. Lee (R-UT)
  26. McConnell (R-KY)
  27. Moran (R-KS)
  28. Paul (R-KY)
  29. Portman (R-OH)
  30. Risch (R-ID)
  31. Roberts (R-KS)
  32. Rubio (R-FL)
  33. Sessions (R-AL)
  34. Shelby (R-AL)
  35. Thune (R-SD)
  36. Toomey (R-PA)
  37. Vitter (R-LA)
  38. Wicker (R-MS)

Not Voting — 1

  1. Kirk (R-IL)
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Honor Pat Summitt

"She was so good that twice, the University of Tennessee asked her to coach the men’s team." — 
Megan Netland

ONCE AGAIN I'M grateful to Paul for noticing this and passing it on to me. It's a petition to name the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship trophy after legendary Tennessee women's basketball coach, Pat Summitt

Coach Pat Summitt

Paul and me at the 2011 - 2012 NCAA regional Women's
Basketball Championship rootin' for the Vols and Pat.

I've got a Lady Vols sticker on my cheek.

She's the winningest coach ever in all of basketball — men's or women's. And wow, I didn't know that Tennessee asked her to coach the men's team — twice! I kind of wish she'd done it just to set a precedent. I always say that I'll be for men coaching women's teams when we have women coaching the men — and not before. 

It's a long link, but just click on it and you can sign the petition. (The text of the petition is below the link so you can read it before you click.)

Name the NCAA: Name the Women’s College Basketball Championship Trophy After My Hero, Pat Summitt

Megan Netland
Minneapolis, MN

Patricia Summitt is my hero, and a hero to many. That’s why I want the NCAA women’s college basketball championship trophy named after her.

When all the talk of basketball focused on men like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Dr. J, Pat Summitt was building the sport of women’s college basketball, practically from scratch.

When Pat Summitt took over the job of head coach at the University of Tennessee in 1974 -- at the age of 22 -- women’s college basketball was hardly a blip on the sports radar. It wasn’t officially recognized by the NCAA. It wasn’t considered an Olympic sport. And many women’s basketball programs had to struggle just to exist, getting nowhere near the resources that men’s college basketball programs received.

Pat Summitt changed all that. She fought to help institute Title IX at colleges around the United States, offering equal rights, equal numbers of sports, and equal scholarships for women’s athletics. She pushed to establish an NCAA basketball tournament for women, just like men had. And she co-captained the first ever U.S. women’s basketball Olympics team in 1976, and went on to coach the Olympics squad in 1984 (winning a gold medal).

At Tennessee, her record would cement her as the best coach ever in the sport of basketball, men’s or women’s. She has more victories than any basketball coach alive. She won eight NCAA championships. She has 18 Final Four appearances. She was so good that twice, the University of Tennessee asked her to coach the men’s team. She declined, and continued to build the Lady Vols into a powerhouse basketball team. In her time as coach, every single player who played for Pat Summitt graduated. Many went on to the WNBA. And at least 45 went on to coach basketball teams of their own.

Last year, Pat Summitt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. She finished the 2011-2012 season, but then stepped down after 38 years as head coach, leaving behind one of the largest legacies in the world of sports. Pat Summitt isn’t giving up her fight, but her health has declined enough that she needed to stop coaching.

That’s why I want the NCAA to name the women’s college basketball Division I championship trophy after her. I can’t think of a greater honor than by naming the chief award in the entire sport after the person who helped make women’s college basketball into what it is today.

Pat Summitt made this little girl in Iowa want to go bigger. I wanted to play for her. I wanted to be her. She was a leader in giving me new role models, and I can't imagine that I am the only one. As women’s college basketball gets underway and the 2012-2013 season moves forward, let’s join together to ask the NCAA to honor Pat Summitt.

She may no longer be coaching. But she is still with us, and deserves this type of honor now.

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