Monday, October 26, 2009

Death to Traffickers in Children - and Nothing Less

(CNN, October 26, 2009)   Law enforcement authorities have recovered 52 children and arrested 60 pimps allegedly involved in child prostitution, the FBI announced Monday.

More than 690 people in all were arrested on state and local charges, the FBI stated.

I can't let this go.  I WON'T let this go.  As painful as this is to confront, and as near to tears as I am right now, I can't ignore this for another minute.

There are children out there--OUR children--who are being kidnapped, raped, exploited and forced into lives of prostitution and abject misery.  They are CHILDREN. They were babies once.  Infants.  Now they're kids.  They should be living the lives that all kids dream of living.  Free from worry, free from harm, free to be as joyful and as silly and as wonderful as any sitcom kid devised.

In a little over six years, 889 children have been rescued or "recovered" through the efforts of a task force of 34 agencies known as the Innocence Lost National Initiative.   The kids who have now been recovered will never, ever be full time kids again.  Those days, if they ever existed, are behind them.  They may have joyful moments--kids are resilient, after all--but they will carry those days and nights of misery with them forever.

I hate that.

I want those people--the people who did this to our children--dead.  I want them never to walk this earth again, never to inhale the same air we exhale,  never to have one more moment to walk upright among the rest of us.   I don't say this lightly.  I'm not writing this in the heat of passion.  I mean it.

In those six years, there have been around 500 convictions, with some sentences as light as eight years.  The longest sentences work out to around 25 years.  That's not nearly long enough.  When those monsters get out, their victims will still be young enough to have to look ahead to years of persistent nightmares.   What could be worse than knowing your tormentor is walking the streets, free as a bird, free of conscience, human in physiognomy only?

We owe it to the children rescued and to the pitiful children still lost to the child sex trade to become warriors in their name.  We watch animals in the wild protecting their young and think nothing of it.  It's the way of nature, after all.  But where in the wild is exploitation?  What other species of animal creates an environment where helpless, defenseless young are served up to the baser instincts of the most dangerous elements of their kind?   None but humans.

We bring these children into this world.  We're high-minded in our seeming concern for them.  We claim to love them all.  And yet we will not take seriously enough our ability to change their lives for the better. We cannot ignore the enemies of our children.  We are in the frontline of a battle for their very lives.  Every child is a child of ours. We are their only hope.

If it takes a village, we are it.

Innocence Lost National Initiative

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The Cyber Tipline

Amber Alert

FBI Crimes Against Children Unit

DOJ National Sex Offender Website

(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here)

Monday, October 19, 2009

No More Wind Energy Drying Devices for You!

I would imagine my grandmother has been turning in her grave a lot lately, but this latest travesty must have her positively spinning.  She was a true believer in hanging laundry out of doors, even on winter days when they came back inside stiff as boards and steaming from the cold.  Even after her daughters decided she was too old to be out there hanging clothes, she refused to use the dryer they installed in the basement.  Her one rule was that the last load had to be out on the lines before 10 AM.  It was a lazy woman who was still doing her wash in what was practically the middle of the day.

Her reasons for hanging laundry outdoors had more to do with tradition and enjoyment than with saving money or helping the environment.  She genuinely looked forward to Mondays, when the washables were scrubbed clean and dried miraculously by nothing but the very air we breathe.

 So, while I miss her terribly, I'm glad she isn't here to see this.  She simply would not be able to comprehend that there are actually people out there who see clean laundry drying on clotheslines as nothing more than the kind of neighborhood blight that threatens to turn communities into rotting ghettos.

Homeowner's Associations across the country are warning residents that clotheslines and all the attendant paraphernalia, like clothespins and clothespin bags and laundry baskets and actual laundry will not be tolerated in plain sight of other humans.

(Bill Giest went after the story on "Sunday Morning". You can see it here. )

The debate is getting hot and heavy, even to the point of bringing the blasted gov'mint into it. You can go here to sign a petition stating it is the inalienable right of every man, woman and child to line dry. They're asking for a one day photo-op of the First family airing out their (clean) laundry.

Some states are already working toward rescuing the line dryers from the tyranny of the energymongers.  Vermont, for instance, passed the "Right to Dry" for all Vermonters, as described here by Lyman Orton, proprietor of the Vermont Country Store.  Lyman has been "raisin' the dickens" about it for the past few years and. . . .but I'll let him tell you.

Colorado, Hawaii, Main, Florida and Utah already have such bills in place, and Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Oregon aren't far behind.  They're working on it.

Even the New York Times got into it.  This from their article:  “The issue has brought together younger folks who are more pro-environment and very older folks who remember a time before clotheslines became synonymous with being too poor to afford a dryer,” said a Democratic lawmaker from Virginia, State Senator Linda T. Puller, who introduced a bill last session that would prohibit community associations in the state from restricting the use of “wind energy drying devices” — i.e., clotheslines.

A film crew in the UK is producing a film called, "Drying for Freedom", due in theaters not necessarily near you in 2010.   Click here for the trailer.

This is big, folks.  But, wouldn't you know?  Certain people don't like the idea of anybody telling you you CAN hang out your laundry.  They much prefer those who tell you you CAN'T.  Tammy Bruce's take on it is this:  "You can have my dryer…and washer…and refrigerator when you wring them from my warm, smooth hands."  She sees going back to hanging out the laundry as drudgery, and maybe she's right. but what if you just want to?

I have a dryer now, but for the first three years in the house I live in, it was air dry or nothing.  In the summer I hung laundry outside and in winter I hung them on drying racks, thereby adding needed moisture to the dry heat of a closed-up house.

I still love hanging out when the weather is good.  When it's heading toward bad, I often hang out for a while and then throw them into the dryer to finish up.  I like the way clothes feel when they've been wind-dried and I like the way they smell.  I like the idea of saving a few bucks on electricity, too.  And I really like standing out there, clothespins in my mouth (the way my Mom always did), arranging those pieces just so, until they're not only set for optimal drying but are aesthetically pleasing, too.  All of the white tee shirts are hung side by side, shoulder to shoulder.  The socks match up, heels all facing the same direction.  Sometime I even color-code.  You can get much more creative with line-drying than you can by throwing things into a dryer.  That's a definite plus. (And nobody around here would ever dream of telling me I couldn't.)

But what I especially love about this whole argument is that it's like feathers flying instead of poison-tipped arrows.  I haven't laughed so much over a cause I might actually care about in a really long time.


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Americans At War over the Peace Prize: Go Figure

If the [Nobel] award just represented the political views of a handful of left-leaning, self-satisfied Norwegian Eurocrats, as some critics have charged, then it wouldn't matter whether Obama had won it or not. But of course it means much more. The Nobel Peace Prize, irrespective of the idiosyncratic process that selects its winner, is universally recognized as a stamp of the world's approval. For an American president to reject such a token of approval would be absurdly counterproductive.
Obama has shifted U.S. foreign policy away from George W. Bush's cowboy ethos toward a multilateral approach. He envisions, and has begun to implement, a different kind of U.S. leadership that I believe is more likely to succeed in an interconnected, multipolar world. That this shift is being noticed and recognized is to Obama's credit -- and to our country's.  Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, October 13, 2009

I am one of those people who, along with the recipient himself, was astonished at the choice of Barack Obama for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.  Yes, I initially thought it was a dubious choice--coming even before our president had had a chance to prove himself.

I watched some of the comments that day, and I followed some of the blogs, and I saw where this, predictably, was going.  Too soon, too political, too celebrity-driven.  I was prepared for that.  I wasn't prepared for the numbers of liberals and progressives who saw it as nothing short of absolute insanity.  Naomi Klein called the award "very disappointing and cheapening of the Nobel Prize".  She called the committee "delusional".

Michael Moore said, "You have to end our involvement in Afghanistan now. If you don't, you'll have no choice but to return the prize to Oslo."  ( Later, he retracted a little, saying, "I went back and re-read what I had written. And I listened for far too long yesterday to the right wing hate machine who did what they could to crap all over Barack's big day. Did I -- and others on the left -- do the same?")

There are those who bring up Mohandas Gandhi and the fact that, even though he was nominated five times, including a posthumous nomination in 1948, he was never awarded the Prize he so richly deserved.  They bring him up more than 60 years later as an example of why we can't trust the Nobel Peace Prize committee to do the right thing.

There are those who bring up civil rights leader Martin Luther King and say he was only awarded the Peace Prize because the committee felt bad about never having given it to Gandhi.

(There are those on the other side who still haven't forgiven the committee for snubbing Ronald Reagan.  The Obama pick is like rubbing sea-salt in the wounds.)

 I'm trying to look at the bigger picture:  Our president received a prestigious award for which he did no campaigning, no bribing, no begging.  The fact is, he received it, I'm proud that he received it, and now we all, including Obama, should make the most of it.

Instead we're engaged in a debate over whether or not he deserves it, and what the possible motives of the Peace Prize committee might be.  It doesn't matter.  He received it.  It's an honor.  It doesn't tear down the Nobel establishment.  It doesn't make us look bad.  It can only add to the credibility and prestige we've been trying to rebuild across the globe.  But it will only do that if the world is allowed to see us as a nation more proud than outraged over the honor given our president.

But, as usual, we come across like the foolish children the world has known us to be for all too many years.  I expect the Republicans and the Right Wing to tear this action to pieces.  This huge honor going to our new black Democratic president mere months into his presidency?  Right up their alley.  More ammunition to store in their already overflowing arsenals.  (Click here for the 8 Most Outrageous Attacks on Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.)

But the liberals?  The progressives?  The so-called people for peace?  They see it as nothing more than a frivolous attempt at repudiation against George W. Bush.  (Robert Reich said, "The Prize is really more of a Booby Prize for Obama's predecessor. Had the world not suffered eight years of George W. Bush, Obama would not be receiving the Prize. He's prizeworthy and praiseworthy only by comparison."  While there may be a kernel of truth there, and while I might even see it as a good thing, I don't know this for sure and neither does he.)

They see it as a wrong-headed attempt by the Norwegian Peace Prize committee to push Obama toward more aggressive global peace-making efforts.

At the very least, they see it as yet another swelling of what some view as the already humungous Obama ego.

They don't see it for what it is:  Our chance to make an impact on the world; a chance to show them we're not who they thought we were.  Our chance to hold our heads high and be proud of what we've done in choosing Barack Hussein Obama as the President of the United States.

We've been looking for a way to salvage our history, our heritage, our worldview and, maybe especially, our dignity.  We may just have found it in the Nobel Peace Prize.  So can we please let's work at keeping the shine on that medal?

Because, really now--wallowing in the dirt is so. . .yesterday.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

This Wretched, Reckless Approach to Health Care: It's Killing Us

We may be slow learners, but the rest of the industrial world has figured it out: Universal, single-payer or national health care systems. That's the reason why all those other countries cover everyone, have better patient outcomes, cause no one to declare bankruptcy or lose their homes because of medical bills, and spend less than half per capita on health care than we do.
We could do it too, by reducing the starting age for Medicare from 65 to 0. There's still time to act.  -  Michael Moore,  Huffington Post, 9/29/09 _____________________________________________________________________

 It doesn't matter what you say.  It doesn't matter what I say.  It doesn't matter what Robert Reich says.  It doesn't matter what Bill Moyers says.  It doesn't matter what Wendell Potter says.  It doesn't matter what Michael Moore says:

It doesn't matter what Jay Rockefeller says.  It doesn't matter what Anthony Wiener says.  It especially doesn't matter what Barack Obama says.

What matters is this:  We, the citizens and taxpayers, may win a skirmish or two, but in the end Big Business will win the battle.  They owned us yesterday, they own us today, and unless we finally get wise and get tough, they'll own us tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

They own us because they've ceaselessly, endlessly, without thought of the consequences, bought and paid for the loyalties of the majority of our elected officials.

We haven't quite come to terms with it yet--mainly because we can't quite believe it. We expect that sort of maneuvering by the Republicans.  Going against the Common Good in favor of the capitalists is in their DNA.  They apparently can't help it.

But the Democrats?  The Democrats.   The Blue Dogs--those dirty dogs--have sold us out. But the Blue Dogs aren't the only ones.  Not by a long shot.  On the Senate side, Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln, Kent Conrad, Bill Nelson and Tom Carper all voted against the public option.  Not surprisingly, they've all had their fingers in the Health Care honey pot.  According to Raw Story, those five senators have up to now received some 19 million dollars from the opposition to health care reform.  That opposition being, of course, the Health Care industries.  Those industries, I have to remind myself, that are devoted to caring for our health.

Sixty votes is the magic number.  Sixty Senate "yea" votes means a filibuster-proof passage.  It's the number that, if it isn't there, stops everything.  Convenient, isn't it?  It means even those who side with the insurance companies but don't want to admit it have an easy out.  "Can't vote yet because we don't have the 60."  Okay.  So what?

Where are the Dems who, if they're too cowardly to go for Single Payer, will at least put the vote for Public Option out there?  If it's voted down, after jawing about it for hours or days or weeks, then start all over again.  Put it out there again.  And then again.  Wear those filiblustering bastards down.

Millions of sick people are without a safety net.  People who could be saved are dying here. There is no reason, save greed, that we don't have a government-sponsored health care system.  I know it.  You know it.  We all know it.  If it's not in our budget, then shame on them.  They built that bloated budget on taxpayer money coerced from us through fear and outright lies.  Now that we need it for actual Common Good, they're going to pretend it's asking too much.  No.  They've asked too much of us for too long.  Now it's payback time.  They owe us.

So what are we going to do about it?  How long does this conversation go on?  There are people in our government who are intent on holding this up, and they're out there openly, blatantly, recklessly, holding this up.  We know who they are.  And they know we know who they are.  And they don't care.

So what are we going to do about it?  Good God. . .are you as sick of this as I am?  Enough, already. There are some enormous asses out there for the prodding, so. . .where the hell is my pitchfork?


(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)