Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Random Thoughts on the Presidential Campaign & Politics

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time watching MSNBC (love Rachel Maddow), the endless Republican debates (thank you Brian Williams for silencing the audience), reading the amazingly informative, intelligent blog and comments at Skydancing ( and, of course, watching and loving The Daily Show. 

Initially my reaction to Mittens releasing his tax returns was “Ho Hum.”  He’s rich.  Knew that.  He pays his taxes at the legal rate.  Knew that, too.  Then I watched last night’s Daily Show and, thanks to the wonderful staff on the show, Jon Stewart provided some background information that it would be wonderful if every American knew.  Mittens was shown stating that he pays his taxes according to the law and that he didn’t think the American people would expect (or want) a candidate who paid more than they actually owed.  On the surface, that sounds reasonable.  But Jon pointed out that Mittens didn’t tell the whole story.  Back in 2007, Chuck Grassley (a Republican Senator) had sponsored a bill to raise the taxes on capital gains and carried interest.  Mittens and his hedge fund, venture capitalist buddies formed a lobbying group to fight this bill.  And, amazingly, the bill went nowhere.  The tax rate on these ‘funds” remained at 15% instead of being increased to 35%.  Watch the segment here:

On the same show, Jon’s guest was Elizabeth Warren who is running for Senate in Massachusetts against Tea Party favorite, Scott Brown.  Here’s a link for the interview, Part 1:   In the clip Ms. Warren says that the top 50 (I believe) companies in the U.S. spend more money on their lobbying efforts than they pay in taxes. 

But back to Mittens.  After The Daily Show I then moved on to Hardball.  Matthews talked more about Mittens’ wealth -he makes from his investments about $ 58,000 A DAY!  And he doesn’t actually WORK a single day a year.  That’s more than I make in an entire year, working 35 hours or more 52 weeks a year.  It got me to thinking about the Republican rhetoric surrounding the Obama Administration’s and the Democrats in Congress call for letting the Bush tax cuts expire for Americans making over $ 1 million dollars a year.  The Republicans rallying cry:  don’t increase taxes on The Job Creators!  Taxing them more would stifle economic growth.  It would prevent them from creating jobs to the unemployed and underemployed in America.  And I thought, just how many jobs has Mittens created with his tax break during the time he stopped going to work?  He left Bain Capital in 1999.  He served as Massachusetts governor from 2003 – 2007.  For all intents and purposes, Mittens has been “unemployed” for at least 4 years, years when our unemployment rate soared.  If he is the astute business leader he says he is, why didn’t he come to the rescue with his reduced taxes windfall and start a business?  Create jobs for people?  Put that money to work to improve the economic outlook for hundreds or even thousands of Americans?  How many of the other uber-wealthy like him who are living on the interest from their investments have taken the same path as Mittens?  How many have simply sat back and kept their hands wrapped tightly around their wealth while the middle class collapsed, thousands upon thousands of families lost their homes and the ranks of the homeless swelled across the country? 

The 1% are NOT job creators, they are wealth protectors – their wealth and that of their cronies.  It’s THEIRS, all theirs and damn it, they are going to keep it for themselves.  America, stop being fooled by the rhetoric, the empty catch phrases.  The 1% understand self interest and it’s past time for average, every day Americans to do the same.  Vote like your very life and livelihood depend upon it, because they do.  Vote YOUR self interest, not THEIR self interest. 

Monday, January 9, 2012


In 1971, I turned 21 and was old enough to drink and vote.  Not at the same time, mind you, but for people of my age, 2 of the most important things ever to happen in our lives.  Little did I know that in June of that year something that would forever change my life would happen.

From the day I was born my family always had animals -a dog, a parakeet, a turtle, a bunny and even fish.  I never had a cat because my father DID NOT like cats.  He considered them “dirty animals.”  When I was 14 my mother took our boxer Cherie, who was 2 years younger than me, to the vet and had her put to sleep.  Cherie had cancer.  When I arrived home from school, the deed had already been done.  I never got a chance to say goodbye to her.  I was devastated.  On February 16th, 1965 I went into the bedroom to wake up my father to take me to school and found him dead.  My father had been the center of my universe and he was gone.  My mother and older brother fell apart.  I was forced to be the adult in the home.  The loss of my father was a pivotal moment in my young life.  But, unbelievably to me,  something and someone even more pivotal  would be entering my life.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1968 that my mother got me a cat.  Chara Amani was a beautiful seal point Siamese kitten.  In October of that year, I left for college in Orlando.  By the time I returned for Christmas break, Chara was obviously my mother’s cat.  I lived on campus and couldn’t have “a pet”.  By the summer of 1971, home from college, I desperately wanted a blue point Siamese cat of my own.  One of my mother’s co-workers had rescued a blue point Siamese from outside a restaurant she and her husband visited.  This kitty was pregnant when rescued and in early May she gave birth to 2 kittens.  We went to her home to see the kittens.  I was so disappointed because neither of the kittens was Siamese.  Despite that fact, I chose the 5 week old boy, a gray and white tuxedo.  I named him Casey.  He rode home on my lap. 

Chara and our white boxer, Clipper, accepted Casey immediately.  Casey was a delight and so very smart and loving from the very beginning.  When not much more than 3 months old he decided he wanted to be held.  He leaped up to me, only making it as far as my stomach as I stood in front of him.  I looked down and he was hanging by one claw from my stomach.  Once bigger and stronger, he would leap from the floor into my arms.  He did this all his life, and amazed everyone who saw him do it.  He was fearless and like no other animal I had ever had in my life.  He had a mind of his own.  From him I learned what it was like to have a relationship with an animal that overcame the species barrier.  I wasn’t his “master” and he my “pet.”  He viewed me as his equal, a peer. 

When I went back to school, I lived off campus and took him with me.  He astounded me by opening any closed door.  It didn’t matter whether it opened away from him or toward him.  He would leap up, wrap his paws around the door knob (he knew that it required the door knob to be turned to open the door) and shift his weight backwards to cause the door to open toward him.  He’d then drop to the floor and use his paw to open the door wide enough to go inside.  He taught himself to fetch, just like a dog.  Unfortunately, he preferred the more expensive natural bristle makeup brushes to the cheaper sponge applicators.  And, I tried repeatedly to substitute the sponge brushes.  He finally got me trained – I let him have the brushes he wanted.  He would also fetch Hartz Mountain balls with bells inside.  Of course, they could only be the ones that were like a small cage all the way around.  He wouldn’t fetch the ones that were solid plastic on one half and “caged” on the other.  He would pick up the ball in his mouth and carry it back to me to throw over and over again.  I can’t tell you how many friends he would entertain by fetching.  The friends didn’t believe me until they witnessed it for themselves.  I never had to rely on an alarm clock to wake up.  Shortly before the alarm was set to go off, he would lie on my chest and stare at me.  If that didn’t work, he’d nip my nose.  If that didn’t work, he would repeatedly jump back and forth through the Venetian blinds until the annoying sound finally made me get out of bed. 

The biggest impact Casey had on my life was in 1988.  That was the year that South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics.  At that time ABC was the official U.S. network to televise the Olympic Games.  As a lead up to the games, ABC ran a special about Korea.  I was so disturbed as they showed the markets where cats and dogs were sold as food.  Live dogs and cats were shown with wires tying their legs behind their backs.  The dogs had empty aluminum cans fitted over their muzzles, likely to keep them from crying, barking or biting the vendors.  I could not believe that anyone would eat “pets.”  I was enraged, especially when the narrator told that cats were boiled alive.  Cats?  The most wonderful animals on the planet?  That someone could possibly do something like that to my Casey, to any cat?  I was enraged.  It was the first time in my life that I felt hatred for an entire group of people.  But, hatred just wasn’t in me.  What came next to mind was an epiphany for me.

The Korean culture views dogs and cats as food.  That certainly was foreign to me as an American.  We shared our homes, our beds, our lives with these beings.  We loved them.  They were family, friends.   Our culture, on the other hand, viewed cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, lambs, fish, even rabbits as food.  How could I, in good conscience, object to the culture of another country without examining our culture.  In that moment, I became a vegetarian.  To be able to criticize the customs of one culture without being a hypocrite I would have to reject our culture of eating the flesh of any animal.  The thought of anyone eating Casey or any of his relatives appalled me.  But weren’t the lives of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, lambs, fish and rabbits just as valuable?  Of course they were and are.  Casey and the love that I had for him opened my eyes and changed my view of the world and transformed my lifetime love of animals into a respect for the lives of all non-human animals. 

On January 10, 2012, Casey will have been gone for 22 years.  I have lost numerous cats and dogs since that time.  Both of my parents are gone, as is my older brother.  Despite that, the loss of my beloved Casey was the greatest loss I have ever suffered.  I miss him as much today as I did the day that I had to euthanize him.  He was 18 ½ years old.  Not only did I stop eating the flesh of animals, but I have rescued many, many cats and dogs since 1990.  Casey helped me realize just how precious each life is and every animal deserves to live in an optimal environment and to realize the full potential of their own individual personality.  Each of them has a distinct personality, no different from each human.  They deserve a chance to experience joy and share joy with another who loves them, someone who will care for them, will protect them and make them a part of their life.  Although Casey is gone, he remains a part of me and I am forever grateful to have had him in my life.  I am a better person because of his love. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Loss, Recovery & Life

It’s hard to believe that it has already been one year since that terrible day in Tucson when 6 people were killed and another 12 were injured by a gunman.  Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic Senator from Arizona, suffered a serious head wound.  At the time this happened I was still making daily visits to Florida Hospital’s Hyperbaric Oxygen unit, being treated for my breast surgery.  Soon after Senator Giffords hospitalization I asked my favorite nurse, Lois, what kind of chance did the Senator have for full recovery based on her injuries.  Lois didn’t think Senator Giffords would ever make a full recovery.

We never know what the future holds.  I recently lost a friend in the rescue community.  She was only 50, healthy and a real dynamo.  She would always step up to take on the real hard luck cases, either cats or dogs.  Her heart and compassion for animals were enormous.  She had suffered a brain aneurysm and collapsed in her home.  Her husband called me about a week after she’d been admitted to the hospital.  On December 23rd the doctor told her and her husband that she would be released just after Christmas.  She passed away in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve.  Her loss sent shockwaves throughout the Central Florida rescue community.  Many people had never met her, but had communicated with her by phone or email.  She was always willing to share her knowledge and expertise – especially with orphaned kittens – with anyone who needed her advice.  Her wonderful husband now has to figure out how he will care for their many, many rescued dogs and cats.  Her friends have offered to help and, hopefully, he will reach out to those who have offered.

Gabby Giffords is continuing to improve with her speech and mobility issues.  Her husband, an astronaut, has diligently supported her in her rehabilitation.  Both women have been fortunate to find such loyal, loving men with whom to share their lives.  

With all that I’ve been through, both personally with my health and the loss of so many of my cats and dogs, I feel the tragedies of these four lives even more deeply.  While my problems have been enormous, they pale in comparison to the unexpected and unfair tragedies experienced by these two families.  I hope both families will find peace and comfort in the love they have shared and the outpouring of concern from those who know them. 

I’m grateful for the joy my animals have brought and continue to bring to me each day.  It is so easy for us to allow small things to stress and/or get us upset.  Life is short and all too often unfair, which is why I feel it is so important to do our best to ignore those day to day annoyances and other small things and keep our focus on what is important – kindness, compassion, integrity, honesty and treating others – whether they have 2 legs or 4 legs – the way in which we want to be treated.  Hug your loved ones each day, tell them you love them and, if you’re lucky, at least one of them will respond with a purr.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The American Taliban

In 2008, under protest, I voted for Barack Obama for President.  When the campaigning began, I was adamantly against Hillary Clinton.  That changed as the primaries started.  There was one reason in particular that made me become a staunch supporter of Mrs. Clinton – her unwavering advocacy for women worldwide.  And, she was a seasoned campaigner, having been a participant in both her husband’s runs for elected office and during his presidency. 

Her competition, then junior Senator Barack Obama was bright, charming but lacked experience on the world stage.  Down the road, I could see him as a leading contender for the Democratic nominee.  He just wasn’t ready.   

My resolve for Hillary strengthened as it became immensely obvious that the Democratic political machine and the mainstream media had made their choice – Obama.  Misrepresentation of election results, misleading propaganda constantly pushing the voters toward Obama and the sidelining of Hillary Clinton by the Democratic Party moved the direction of the election.  It wasn’t much different than what has happened in this election cycle to Ron Paul.  The manipulation of the election by the Democratic Party insiders caused me to change my lifelong Democratic Party affiliation to The Green Party.  

Almost immediately after his inauguration, President Obama proved my worst concerns to be right on target.  Although he had stated he would end Bush’s policy of warrantless wiretapping, he continued this odious policy.  He promised to shut down Guantanamo and 3 years later it is still open and its closing is no longer being discussed.  He promised to end the wars – something that I felt was very important – and it took 3 years to withdraw the troops from Iraq.  Single payer health care wasn’t even on the table during the health care discussions.  Most recently he has, against the advice of his medical advisors, agreed to limit access to the morning after pill to girls under 17 years of age and signed a Defense bill that allows for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist connections, without being charged with any crime.  In short Obama has continued the repressive policies of the Bush/Cheney administration that take away American’s civil liberties. 

With all this, I had decided to sit out the presidential election.  That was until the Republican campaigning and debates began.  The Republican candidates have not only scared me beyond belief but  have exhibited  a new level of near insanity.  I could never imagine that the America where I was born and grew up could come to this.  To think that the American electorate could so easily be deceived, disrespected and trampled upon and not be able to recognize the difference between truth and lies is incomprehensible to me.  At a time when more people, worldwide, have unlimited access to so much information via the Internet, we seem to be returning to The Dark Ages.  At that time, the vast majority of people could not read, lived in utter poverty as compared to the few in power who controlled all of the wealth and relied upon The Church to dictate how to live and provided them with their understanding of the world.  As the income inequality grows, we are moving ever closer to that long ago world where the majority are merely serfs for their landowning overlords. 

All of the Republican candidates, except for Ron Paul, are ready to go to war with Iran.  

 All of the Republican candidates want to massively shrink the size of government, to get government out of “our” lives – except if you’re a woman.  Government, according to them, should control a woman’s behavior and mandate control over her body.  For this alone, I prefer to call the Republicans by another name – The American Taliban.  For Rick Santorum, in particular, Family trumps everything.  And by family he means one man and one woman married to each other.  He not only opposes ALL abortion, but opposes all forms of contraception.  What if a woman is abused – psychologically and/or physically – by her husband?  What if the husband abuses or neglects his children?  What if the husband fails to provide for his family?  What if the husband is an alcoholic, drug user or criminal?  Should these families remain intact?  The Catholic Church does not sanction divorce, and as a Catholic I would imagine that neither does Rick Santorum.  Portraying all husband/wife families as healthy and happy is a fairy tale, folks.  

All of the Republican candidates, except for Jon Huntsman, deny the overwhelming scientific evidence and support for climate change.  

Do I really need to continue?  For me, the choice is clear in the upcoming election.  No matter how much I disagree with many of President Obama’s decisions and actions, I will once again vote AGAINST whoever wins the The American Taliban nomination.  My America was founded on the precept of freedom of religion and not the establishment of a Theocracy.  In my America, you can choose to pray or not to pray.  In my America, you can be a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Rastafarian, a Mormon, an atheist, an agnostic or anything else you choose.  What kind of America do you want?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Yes, Virginia, Nature abhors a vacuum

....or that other old adage:  the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 Out with the old year and in with new year.  I am moving forward, since there really isn't any other choice.  Courtney, who was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma this past Thursday, Cordelia, with her lymphoma and Celie, diagnosed on Friday with degenerative disk disease, are doing well on their medications.  I'm planning to arrange to have all of Chatsworth's and Cassandra's bad teeth pulled in the next month or two.  Life goes on with me and my menagerie.

In the last few days I have spent a bit more time outside, cleaning up the yard and patio a bit.  Lo and behold a neighborhood cat that I have seen on a few occasions in the past year began hanging out near my driveway.  I've been in this house for 31 years and there have almost always been neighborhood cats.  I and my friend Barb have gotten them fixed over the years and each of us have taken in a few of them.  For me it was Cheech, Sonic, Chavez, Chewy, Ciji and Cinderella.  Ciji is still with me and I found a home for Cinderella.  The others passed on several years ago. 

The day after Barb and I first saw the gray tabby next door, I saw her again with a kitten.  The neighbor's intact white male, who freely roams the neighborhood, was checking out the kitten.  Neither the momma cat nor the kitten would let me touch them.  Momma seemed less wary and let me get within a couple of feet of her.  The kitten raced away whenever I was near.  I planned to trap them and get both fixed before more kittens appeared this spring.  I put out food to get them accustomed to eating at my house.  Well, then a black cat showed up too.  Due to the size of this cat, I figure this is another female.  So, I've been feeding the 3 of them for several days now.  I've been able to pet both Momma and the black cat.  Momma really likes to be petted and vocally gives me a lecture if I don't approach and rub her head.  She also lets me know that the food dish is empty and I need to fill it up.  The 3 of them have decided that they much prefer canned food to dry food.

I put down a dish of canned food this morning and while the 3 were eating, I decided to take a chance.  Of the three, the kitten was closest to me.  I bent down and picked her up.  To my surprise, she didn't struggle at all.  I petted her for only a minute or two and then gently lowered her to the food.  She proceeded to eat.  No harm, no foul.  I may not need to trap after all.  So later today I'll be calling to arrange surgeries for them all, and will hopefully be able to get them in later this week. 

I certainly wasn't looking for any more cats, but I apparently have 3 new friends.  Maybe if I actually ran my vacuum more often I could nullify that "natural vacuum effect."