Friday, September 29, 2006

Recipes on Thought for Food

FYI, I'm back to posting on my food blog, Thought for Food, since some of my NAWBO ladies asked me to post ideas for how to mix up their eating habits healthfully. I'll be posting what I've been eating and recipes where applicable.

War Profiteering

There has been oodles of buzz in the comments section for the last few days about whether this is a war fought for financial gain. While Harry Truman called war profiteering during WWII treason, this administration seems to consider it just the course of business.

The most glaring example of war profiteering during the current Iraqi war is, of course, Halliburton, of which Vice President Cheney was chief executive before entering office. Cheney continues to receive a six-figure yearly pension and retains stock options worth an estimated $18 million dollars. Meanwhile, Halliburton stock has quadrupled in value since the beginning of the Iraq war.

There's always the long shot that it wasn't Cheney who encouraged the arm forces to give billions of dollars in contracts to Halliburton (and exact number of billions is apparently not know, not even by the government); it could be the nearly $18,000 they gave to the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign that makes this administration feel beholden to them. They, along with the 70 or so other companies with Iraqi contracts have donated more money to Bush than any other candidate in the last two decades. Hmm - I wonder what they knew then?

Regardless of why specific companies were chosen, contractors were supposedly used to reduce the cost of the war... which makes it seem odd that we have paid Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root an estimated $13 billion just for supplies and equipment maintenance for our armed forces. Adjusted for inflation, this is about two and a half times what we spent on the entire 1991 Gulf War and about the same expense of the American Revolution, the War of 1912, the Mexican-American War, and the Spanish American War combined.

A quick dig into the articles about the outsourcing of this war quickly brings to light that filtering tax-payer money through the government and into the pockets of corporate executives is one of the nicest results. A billion + dollar contract with L-3 Communication was used in part to pay contractors to perform some of the heinous torture witnessed in the Abu Ghraib pictures. Of course, while the members of the military who have the honor of taking the fall for the higher-ups who sanctioned the torture rot in their prison cells, these contractors perpetrating the same crimes have nothing to fear thanks to their protected status.

You know, the more I dig, the sicker I get, and the more I mourn what the Bush administration has taken away from us. In all fairness, though, the channels of profit rarely seem to point at the President himself; perhaps for him it is all about power, which he has been gathering like a greedy school kid with a box of crayons. Sadly, in this case, each crayon represents what were once the checks and balances that made this country so great - he is truly working toward a government that looks a lot like a dictatorship.

So yes, David, this has been a very sad year as I have watched a small group of people take the greatest country in the world and turn it into a shameful, fascist state. I am truly, deeply sad.

The saddest part of all is that while I am writing all of this, I can't help but think of the trampling of the Geneva Conventions that was passed yesterday which not only allows the President to order torture and detain people without charge indefinitely, but is worded so loosely that not even American citizens are protected. Were my words construed as aiding terrorism, I too could be locked up, uncharged, for the rest of time. And this the administration so many of you still defend?

The United Corporations of America

Since I have to leave in a minute, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see how many web pages I can find in the next 10 minutes that support my belief that we now have a corportist government.

  1. MyDD (Direct Democracy): Iraq War Profiteering
  2. The Observer: Bush ally set to profit from war on terror
  3. CorpWatch: US: Democrats Say White House again Cozy with Big Oil (there's a ton of proof on here - this was just the first article I came across)
  4. AlterNet: The 10 most brazen war profiteers (in addition to Halliburton)
I didn't mean to find these but how about some proof that going into Iraq was neither spur-of-the-moment or related to 9/11:
  1. CBS: Bush sought 'way' to invade Iraq?
  2. From the Wilderness Publications: Bush advisers planned Iraq war since 1990s
Well, that's my 10 minutes - imagine if I had 20...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Torture is pointless

As devout a fan of 24 as I am, I think the show may have done the country a disservice. In the course of tracking down that day's terrorist attack, Jack Bauer often, and quickly, resorts to the old lamp wires on the nipples interrogation technique.

Of course, the difference between 24 and reality is that Jack always has the right suspect, always knows when that suspect is holding back and is always able to quickly elicit the necessary info through torture. The reality is much different. Even is less severe instances of persuasive interrogation, such as denying the suspect bathroom access or sleep, innocent people are known to confess to crimes just to make the treatment stop. (Mayer, 2005; McCoy, 2005)

Of course, Bush's attempted (and probably to be successful) rejection of the Geneva Conventions is so much more frightening than the prospect of obtaining misinformation whether the suspect is guilty or innocent. And spare me your "gotta get the bad guys at any cost" doomsday exceptions to the rule: there are already concessions in place that allow torture in extreme situations such as the ones presented on 24. If a bomb is about to go off in our country and we don't know where, torture is permissible by law.

What is really at risk here is not our safety as a country but the safety of our armed forces. If we reject the Geneva convention, there is no reason for other countries to treat our captured soldiers with any sort of humanitarian concern - we will have cut off our own soldiers' rights to fair treatment.

It continues to amaze me that this administration which claims such patriotism and concern for our troops would subject them to that kind of treatment, and this in addition to ineffective kevlar and other safety equipment, the rejection of Israel's anti-RPG technology, and increasingly cut funding for post-service care.

Likewise, it disappoints me (though that's not nearly a strong enough word) that my own party would support this torture bill - people who allow evil to happen are no better than people who actually perpetrate that evil. As Cenk Uygur says:

Any Democrat who votes for this is the worst kind of coward.
Read more about the word mincing that makes this bill so shameful at The New York Times and TruthDig.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pat Buchanan's unfortunate riff

Tonight, Rob and I caught the rerun of last night's Daily Show with Pat Buchanan as special guest. (Just for the record, we didn't realize he was on until we tuned in; normally, I only like Buchanan when being interviewed by Ali G - idiocy deserves idiocy, even when one is only kidding.)

Buchanan was promoting his new book, State of Emergency, which is apparently a novel-length homage to xenophobia. As though listening to Buchanan's poor excuse for reasoning wasn't enough, he chose to end his interview by saying:

Jon, look at the Indians. They had a liberal immigration policy. Look what happened to them, Jon.

Yup, he was referring to native Americans. Sure 'nuff.

A post for Christspeak

For several years, mostly my college years, I studiously avoided the news. I was in a bad place in my life and didn't need outside negativity adding to the chaos within. I'll admit that being totally uninformed didn't keep me from spouting knee-jerk yellow-dog liberalisms to whoever would listen - in fact, not only did I spout, but I fully believed that I was right.

Recent comments posted on my blog and his by Christspeak Rx remind me of that time. He seems mostly uninformed while towing the GOP party line like the subject the Bush administration thinks they deserve. Often, when I'm driving down the street behind someone with a "W: The President" sticker (as it is very likely Christspeak has on his car), I wonder if these 30% of Americans still backing Bush do, in fact, have enough money to benefit from Bush's policies or if it is disinformation or delusion that leads them to believe that this administration cares about them despite their lack of riches.

This is a corporatist administration - it's why the 400 most wealthy Americans each have a billion dollars or more while our own Gulf coast has barely begun the post-Katrina rebuilding process. Christspeak, Bush would sell you personally to the Taliban to use for target practice if it would boost Haliburton stock one point.

As for President Clinton, Keith Olbermann gives commentary about the Fox interview with more insight and eloquence than I can, but I will say that I'm nostalgic for the days when our biggest concern was a president lying about adultery, and not about the false pretexts upon which more than two thousand of our best and brightest were sent to be killed in an unwinnable war.

My self-enforced news hiatus ended when I got together with my husband who is so well-read and well-informed that not only did he get me turned back on to news and politics but presented facts that pulled me a little closer to center, which is where I believe the truth always lies.

Christspeak, I would like to do the same for you. An argument is only worth having if both parties are well-informed and have something beyond political talking points to add to the mix. So I offer these links, straight from my husband:
non partisan
partisan, but we need someone to break down the lies of the neocon machine
read this and tell me why Bush is a great guy.
Open your mind
read them all and decide
If youÂ’re not afraid
TomorrowÂ’s scandals today, they go after both sides of the aisle


Monday, September 25, 2006

Clinton on Fox

I know this video has been all over the web but if you haven't had a chance to watch it, it's totally worth the 15 minutes. It was the best laugh Rob and I have had from tv in a while. It was also a little sad, too, if only in that it made us nostalgic for a president who was not only well informed on the issues but could also speak in clear, complete sentences. Those were the days.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Chris Wallace in typical Fox News fashion, claims "fair and balanced" questioning of politicians on both sides of the aisles. Always the eager watchdog, scoured the archives and found the obvious: in over 3 dozen interviews with members of the Bush administration, the question of Bush's pursuit of Bin Laden went largely unasked.

By the way, interviewer Chris Wallace is, in fact, Mike Wallace's son... those must be some seriously tense Thanksgiving dinners...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Free hugs

Apparently this story is a couple of years old (based on an article I found written in 2004) but the video wasn't posted to YouTube until a few days ago. This guy, Juan Mann, decided everyone just needed a hug... and I tend to agree.

The whole thing reminds me of high school. My freshman year, my friend, Lem, and I used to go on ambush hugging missions - we'd see someone walking the halls alone and would offer a hug. Sometimes they would and sometimes they wouldn't but it was always fun for us.

After high school, Lem became a clown, literally. For years, spreading joy was his living...

Friday, September 22, 2006

GLBTs in the military

Yet again, we need fresh, enthusiastic recruits and we continue to hold onto the senseless and antiquated "don't ask, don't tell."

Sit-ins modernized

People who bemoan the lack of social action in today's society need look no further than the nation-wide string of sit-ins happening now. Gay men and lesbians across the country have gone to military recruiters with a sincere eagerness to serve their country and have peacefully remained in the office when their recruitment interviews were stopped upon admission of being homosexual.

In Greensboro alone, nine people were arrested for trespassing as a result of their peaceful protest.

These are the people, including Greensboro students Jessica Arvidson, Stacey Booe, Matt Hill Comer and Alex Nini, and the others around the country also participating, that fill me with pride. I don't know them, but I admire and respect them. Their actions are brave, conscientious, and should be applauded for attempting to bring about social change in the tradition of the Greensboro Four.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Children need time to be unplugged

This column was originally published in the News & Record on September 20, 2006

Throughout my childhood, my family took twice-yearly road trips to visit relatives in Philadelphia. Sing-along tapes and a pile of toys and books kept us mostly occupied, though I’m sure we tried our mother’s patience plenty.

Recently, my sister, Rachel, made the trip again with our mother, this time accompanied by my nephews, six-year-old Tate and three-year-old Carr. Miracle of modern technology that it is, Rachel also brought her portable DVD player; of the 16-hour round trip, the kids watched maybe four hours of movies.

Not bad considering that a quick drive down Battleground Avenue will attest that many parents think their kids can’t make the trip to the grocery store without an episode of Dora the Explorer.

I don’t have kids but my 17 years as a doting older sister, then aunt, have given me an idea of the patience necessary to handle the often-impulsive demands of kids, and therefore the appeal of a constant TV buffer. But a recent NPR report made me wonder if we haven’t taken the buffer too far.

Pay-per-view grocery carts are popping up in Atlanta Wal-Marts and grocery stores. For a mere dollar, parents can seat their kids in a roaming room with a steady stream of their choice of kids’ programming. The only people more thrilled than the kids are the parents who no longer have to have the obligatory mid-store arguments about Sugar-Coated Mouth-Zinger cereal or the new Diva Dancer Barbie.

Having recently spoken with Rachel about the prevalence of television in modern childhoods, I sent her a link to the report; she replied with an email laden with caps lock and exclamation marks.

“Yes, shopping with kids is hard. Yes, driving with kids is hard sometimes. Yes, TV tends to minimize fighting between sibs and between parents & kids,” she wrote. “But that's part of growing up - learning boundaries - interacting in some way with the world around you to figure out how you impact it - using your imagination - being bored - THINKING.”

The dozens of studies exploring the negative impact of television on kids makes writing about it a chore of what to exclude rather than what to include.

Television occupies the time that most kids would have otherwise spent riding bikes, playing in the backyard or throwing twigs into the neighborhood creek. Coupled with the junk food ads so prevalent during the breaks in kids’ programming, this abundant inert time has been implicated in the growing obesity epidemic.

Of course, rides in cars and grocery carts are already inert time for kids, but as Rachel points out, it is only physically inert time. Staring out a car window is prime time for an active mind to create stories, plan bead-art projects or, gasp, talk with family.

Moreover, unsupervised, uncensored television time opens the door for kids to interpret messages without the guidance of parental insight. While Tom smashing Jerry with a fire poker is funny to those of us who understand the difference between animation and reality, to kids it could be frightening or, worse yet, a funny and seemingly risk-free prank to pull on a sibling.

Neither Rachel nor I believe that television is totally without merit; shows like Popular Mechanics for Kids offer educational lessons, and mindless entertainment provides time to unwind and laugh. But, as Rachel sums it up, “Parents need to moderation AND good sense with TV… by picking age appropriate shows and talking to kids about what they are seeing.”

Advice for businesswomen

I've never worked in corporate America; my only traditional office experiences were not so traditional: a year and a half as an administrative assistant at a neuromuscular therapy center right after high school (read woo-woo women and lots of back rubs) and a six-week stint at an international adoption agency, where extreme boredom and the unfortunate coincidence in co-workers - the mother of my abusive ex - sent me packing post haste.

My entree into the world of business came in earnest when I was 25 and started my personal chef business, Dining with Ease; which is to say that I was indoctrinated into the world of business as a business owner, a rather unconventional intro. Now as a freelance writer and co-owner of Jones Computer and Networking, Inc, I continue to see the business world as a small business owner; it is through this lense that I read Women Leaders: 10 Power Tip in the current Newsweek.

Many of the tips jive with what I have seen. For example, tip #8: Insist on being well-paid. Women are more likely to undervalue themselves which leads to underpricing their services. While IRS guidelines for food service (ingredients should cost no more than a third of the overall price of the job; any more is an IRS red flag), I priced my personal chef service on such a narrow margin that ingredient shopping was a careful balancing act and my hourly rate was pathetic. I have seen other women quickly go out of business because they were so uncomfortable with asking for a profit-turning fee.

What women often forget is that though people love a bargain, even more so they believe that you get what you pay for. There are many stories floating around the business community about a product that couldn't be moved until the price had been increased - counterintuitive, I know, but with the increased price came the appearance of increased value.

Of course, there were a couple of tips with which I take issue though I understand that my disagreement may come of the fact that I haven't worked in corporate America. The first two tips insists in various ways that being nice and wanting people to like you are hindrances in business - which may be true, but for many women I know, being in business is as much, if not more, about quality of life that the subjective measures of stature or income. I am among those. If business ever became an ugly game of backstabbing or ultra-competitiveness, I would quit. I'd rather go back to restaurant kitchens that put so much energy into businesses that make me miserable. Life's too short.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Robinson for SNL

When I saw these ads, I seriously thought they were parodies. Stick them on Saturday Night Live and they'll become cult classics like the cow bell skit. Vernon Robinson: rivaled only by Will Farrell for lunacy.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Abstinence-only education is worse than not working

Back in 1999, my dad and I visited my step-cousin at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. For those of you not familiar with Baylor, it is the largest Baptist university in the world with an enrollment of about 14,000 students.

In enquiring about my cousin's dating life, he told me that the hypocrisy of the student body kept him from doing much dating. It seemed that while the co-eds prized themselves on guarding their virginity, they limited that definition to vaginal intercourse in what turned out to be the "anything but" rule... or, as he described it, the "including butt" rule. Sorry, there was no way around that pun.

His anecdotal experience has been confirmed empirically in recent years. It seems that young people with abstinence-only sex ed, including those who make abstinence pledges are as likely or more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.

It makes sense in an odd sort of way: hormones are pumping and in an attempt to remain true to their promise, they find what seem like loophole: oral and anal sex. Meanwhile, their abstinence-only training means that they are largely unaware of the risk inherent in any sort of sexual contact - especially anal sex. The verdict: kids with abstinence-only training and abstinence pledges are indistinguishable from the teen population at large for contracting STDs.

So why not give kids a little credit by giving them honest, forthright sex ed? Why not teach kids about STDs and about respecting themselves and their bodies and trust that with all the options before them, they will make the right decision? Ultimately, they're going to make their own decisions either way.

Or just tell them what Snoop Dogg said in support of condom use, "Ain't no p*ssy good enough to get burned while I'm up in it."

If you feel as passionately as I do about honest sexual dialog, log onto NARAL Pro-Choice America and sign their petition to support the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, legislation that would set up the first-ever federal sex education program.

Last call for questions

Questions for Congressman Miller will be submitted this very evening - if there is anything you've been dying to ask a politician, any core issues close to your heart that determine with whom you spend your vote, and curiosities about the happenings in Washington, now is the time to send those questions to me at to be passed along to Congressman Miller tonight.

Unadulterated, unedited answers will be posted on October 4.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why Bush terrifies me

My new favorite national blogger, Cenk Uygur, succinctly explained why I'm terrified of Bush, including his aversion to introspection, his reverse-Medusa touch, and his need to feed his undeserved pride.

Read the excellent post here.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Questions for Congressman Miller

Just a reminder: you have until this upcoming Monday, the day after tomorrow, to submit questions to Congressman Miller. So far, we have some great questions about economy, the war, and even his reading list. Even so, please don't worry that your question is repetitive or unnecessary - as they say, the only stupid questions are those left unasked!

Send questions to me at:

Friday, September 15, 2006

Just for fun: Natalie Portman rapping

Most of the videos that make the rounds online don't do much for me - the mentos/soda fountain was cute and the history of dance was good for a chuckle. But this Saturday Night Live skit of Natalie Portman rapping about being a thug always gives me a belly laugh. She's just so damn cute!


I write this from Panera where I wait for a half dozen members of the Winston-Salem/Greensboro chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. As my new role as Vice President of Administrative Services (I just love a good title!) a big part of my job is just making sure that the right people are telling each other the right things at the right time, e.g. my member services liaison giving the member services committee the current roster. We're going to try to make sure that's happening today.

This will be the first meeting I've ever conducted - I've attended plenty but never actually been the lead. That's a big part of why I took this role, though: to learn, move forward, challenge myself with new experiences. It's a terrifying way to grow but oh so effective.

Last night was the NAWBO general meeting. Tamara McLendon of Lede PR gave an excellent talk on do-it-yourself PR and, as usual, the mood was the most pleasant version of business gathering imaginable.

I was asked last night to give a short testimonial on why I think NAWBO membership is advantageous and while I'm not much on selling people on anything (my downfall as a businesswoman) the task itself did make me think.

I started with NAWBO right around the end of the first year of my personal chef business, Dining with Ease. I had been making the rounds of networking groups (having found that groups often pay more attention to guests than members) and ran into then-president Jan Hinton.

My first meeting was a breath of fresh air. While the atmosphere of other business groups seemed to insists that I pretend to be more knowledgeable that I was, and to pretend that my business was more developed and more impressively staffed than just little ole me, NAWBO was a safe haven to admit that I was a small up-start business and that as a businesswoman, I barely knew what I was doing but was eager to learn.

The icing on the cake was that though NAWBO is not technically a networking group, I was able to grow my business through their referrals.

To me, The truly exciting part about NAWBO is that the mission, to support and bolster women businesses, stretches far beyond the membership and into the community. This October, NAWBO WS/GSO will become one of only six chapters to host the Guardian Life Girls Going Places program where 100 young women from area high schools will learn the building blocks to business: how to develop an idea, how to write a business plan and, perhaps most importantly, how to manage their finances wisely.

This piece of graffiti I recently posted says it all: to bolster women businesses in no way hampers traditional male-owned businesses. Quite the contrary: we are working to build a stronger overall business community.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hacking voting machines

Remember the good old days of hanging chads and pregnant chads and corrupt politicians having to do actual work to falsify the vote?

Yeah, those were the days, back before it was possible to hack into computerized Diebold voting machines in the time it takes most of us to vote. My only hope is that hacking these things is so easy (one hacker, about 3 minutes, no password protection) that hackers will think it's beneath them and just not bother.

Diebold spokesman David Bear previously commented:
[Our critics are] throwing out a 'what if' that's premised on a basis of an evil, nefarious person breaking the law. For there to be a problem here you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software... I don't believe these evil elections people exist.

No, politicians trying to steal elections is completely unheard of. I'm sure the current administration would be horrified to think that they or anyone would want to win an election contrary to the will of the people. DON'T BE SILLY.

Congressman Brad Miller now accepting questions!

As you may have read on this very blog, I recently invited Congressman Brad Miller and his opponent, Vernon Robinson to answer reader questions - eventually I did hear back from Miller's campaign but neither hide nor hair of Robinson.

Yesterday, I spoke with Congressman Miller's campaign manager and Miller has agreed to answer reader questions - let's hear it for a politician who is actually interested in his constituents!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

If only he was being funny

This is that great video montage of Bush's blunders - I took the video itself off so it wouldn't start playing everytime you hit my blog. Watch it here.

Kids as tools

Rob and I are nowhere near ready to have kids. We are both open to the idea that we never will be and also that someday we might. Part of our reluctance is that we have a very good idea of the realities of parenthood and aren't sure we're ready for the responsibility. The other part has to do with making sure we have kids for the right reasons, though what those might be, I'm not so clear on yet. We do know, however, that my desire to teach a kid to cook and Rob's desire to have his kid on his knee every Sunday while watching the race aren't good reasons - those idyllic moments are truly the minority of a kid's first 18 years.

But when I read articles like this one on, about a punk fundamentalist church in Seattle which advocates not only a literal reading of the bible (i.e. very very traditional, strictly enforced gender roles) but also a belief that it is their duty to reproduce plentifully in order to spread their brand of Christianity, it makes me wonder if I am doing the world a disservice by not adding my own ideology in the form of my own offspring to the mix to combat such fanaticism.

But really, despite what the Mars Hill Church preaches, who are we doing the disservice to when we have kids so that they can act as tools?

Just say "what?"

Back in March, Walter Cronkite posted a blog entry on Huffington Post about the continued failure of the "war on drugs." His thesis in a nutshell: the definition of insanity is repeating the same action while expecting different results.

Since Nancy Reagan rolled out her oh-so useful "Just Say No" campaign, not a dent has been made in the American drug trade. And yet we keep fighting in the same way: arresting petty drug dealers, imprisoning addicts who need rehab not the narcotic free-for-all that prison provides, and teaching kids about drugs with the antiquated notion that somehow pot is as bad as cocaine.

Another Huffington Post blogger, Maia Szalavitz posted more useful insight to this failed war, suggesting that the only way to combat the deluge of heroin reportedly making its way from Afghanistan to Europe is to offer farmers a fair trade price for their crops and either destroy it or turn it into medicine for underserved countries. After all, I'd be willing to bet that those in the drug trade in order to make a passable living outnumber malicious thugs by a thousand to one.

Moreover, Szalavitz points to a statistic that says 98% of the pot apprehened by U.S. law enforcement is what potheads call schwag - you'd get just about as high smoking that as banana peels.

Ultimately, our drug laws are an unfortunate Puritan throw-back. This recent anti-drug commercial (watch "Pete's Couch") may just be the most honest thing I've seen on tv in a long time: pot isn't going to make people think they can drive 140 down Battleground Ave and pot almost never precedes domestic abuse.

But alcohol does...

Speaking of which, in high school, it was nearly impossible for me to get legal booze and a breeze to get illegal drugs... Just a little food for thought.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The reverberating tragedy of 9/11

Of course we're all thinking about that day five years ago - where we were, what we felt. I was driving, though I can't quite remember anymore where I had been or where I was going. BBC America was playing on the radio when the news came through - I thought it was a War of the Worlds report and I couldn't figure out why they would have one so far from Halloween.

I filled my tank and went inside to pay; on the tv was the footage. I couldn't believe that it was real. Was it an errant plane, off course because of fog or broken gauges? I drove the mile to my sister's house, arriving just in time to watch the second plane hit. My sister was kneeling on the floor, unable to stop watching but trying at the same time to keep her 22-month-old son from seeing.

Two planes don't hit by accident.

This morning the News & Record reran Leonard Pitts' column from September 13, 2001. It is heartbreaking and not because of the sorrow and disbelief housed in his words but because he imagined a national response that never came to be.

Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.
Instead, we have been pulled apart by an administration that has managed to nullify everything that is unique and beautiful about our country. They have violated the Constitution through their illegal wiretapping program; they have defied our humanitarian efforts by using torture; they have embedded us in a war that has done nothing but strengthened the resolve of our enemies.

Five years later, we are neither safer nor more unified. Five years later, the Bush administration has lessened my fear in Islamic radicals but only because that fear is eclipsed by my fear of my own government.

My kind of woman

Kyle Paxman started to cancel all of her wedding plans when she discovered that her now ex-fiance was cheating on her. But when she realized none of the deposits were refundable, she decided to turn the reception into a fundraiser for the Vermont Children's Aid Society and CARE USA, an international relief organization that aims to combat poverty by empowering women.

Talk about lemonade...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Word from the Miller campaign

I just got off the phone with Jason Coley, Miller's field coordinator. While I agreed to keep the contents of our conversation off the record, I do want to report that Jason represents his candidate well and has renewed my faith that whether Miller agrees to answer our specific questions or not, he does make great effort to be available to his constituency.

Jason should be getting back to me with some relevant links - I will pass along when he does.

No show from Miller and Robinson

Well, the deadline for a response from Miller and Robinson to answer reader questions has come and gone without a word from either. I expected as much from Robinson but sent this to Miller:

Mr. Miller,

I have to confess that I am disappointed to have not received a reply to the below invitation. While I expected to be ignored by Mr. Robinson, I had hoped that you would be more willing to reach out to your constituents.

Should you decide that it is worth a minimal amount of your or one of your staffer’s time to answer questions from my readers, please contact me.

Ultimately, Miller is in the catbird seat; with Robinson as an opponent, he will not only receive the increasingly strong (thanks to Bush's follies) Democratic vote but also the good-god-anyone-but-Robinson vote.

Will I vote for Miller? Most likely - but I will also keep up my search for a politician who truly wants to get back to the people.

Will diet for sex

Last night I saw a new ad for NutriSystem - you know, one of those diet plans where you eat only their prepackaged food but it's okay because it's so darn scrumptious? On the women's version of the ad, the focus is largely on clothes and the chocolate desserts included in the plan.

The ad I saw last night, however, was NutriSystem for men in which two (TWO!) out of five or six men giving testimonials claim that NutriSystem has given them a great sex life.

I'm not sure if these ads are buying into or reinforcing the stereotype that only men want sex... and women want shopping? What year is it again?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Save the date: Winter Walk

This year marks 20 years of Triad Health Project's mission to provide emotional and material support to those living with HIV/AIDS and their families, and to help further HIV/AIDS research. None of the founders thought they would been needed for this long and yet we're still so far from finding a cure.

I have participated in six Winter Walks; every year I tear up at the opening ceremonies and every year I find great hope in the thousands of people of all colors, ages and sexual orientations (more than 2500 last year alone) who turn out in support of this often stigmatized community.

With so much anger and fear in the world today, I can't urge you enough to join the walk on Sunday, December 3rd, if only as a reminder that there is still hope and love in our community.

Click here for more information about Triad Health Project.
here to read my News & Record piece about the Winter Walk from December 2005.

Mourning as parents grow feeble

This piece was originally published on September 9, 2006 in the News & Record.

Barring travel or special event, my husband and I spend our Saturday lunches in Thomasville where my mother-in-law, Caroline, is in her sixth month of assisted living. The path to moving her there began with pills left in every prescription bottle at the end of every month and was wracked with guilt, doubt and second-guessing.

It had been clear for some time that Caroline’s memory had been slipping. Like many in the early stages of dementia, she covered by writing copious notes and often assuring us that she was vigilant about keeping the stove off and the door locked.

Coupled with her convincing memory mask was the natural reluctance on her children’s part to believe that their mother, who had cooked for them, cared for them, and disciplined them, was no longer the best judge of her own safety and welfare. But even as they were able to recognize Caroline’s needs, they had to learn to walk the precarious line between treating her with the respect her age and experience demand, and guiding her with a firmness usually reserved for children.

Only when all these issues had been addressed, could they move to the question of where Caroline should live.

As a country, we have a strong ambivalence about eldercare in terms of the multi-generational homes versus professional care debate. Even while the aging Baby Boomer population fuels the skyrocketing eldercare industry, horror stories like the one the News & Record recently ran about Friendship Care Assisted Living confirms our worst nightmares about professional care: that overworked, underpaid, ultimately uncaring employees will mistreat our defenseless loved ones.

On the other hand, judging by the recurring headlines, caring for an elderly family member ranks with smoking in shortening lives. Which begs the question, how do the Japanese do it?

Sixty percent of Japanese elderly live in multi-generational homes as opposed to a mere 10% of American elderly. The difference is most often attributed to America’s obsession with youth and Japan’s respect for the wisdom that comes of a lifetime of experience.

But what is Caroline’s take?

“A couple needs their privacy,” she says in refusing to live with her children and their spouses.

Which is not to say that Caroline is enthusiastic about her new living arrangements. In these six months, she has come to like the staff, the other residents and the three effortless meals a day at the Oaks, a facility with homey feel and long-standing reputation for great care. Still, Caroline continues to long for her old apartment and decline our offers to bring decor like family photos.

As for us, it wasn’t until we finished the six-week task of sifting through what was left in her apartment - the baskets made by the father-in-law I never met, the hoarded magazines, and bag after bag of notes that unintentionally documented the loss of her memory as certain reminders appeared with increasing frequency - that my husband could start adjusting to his mother’s new home.

Admitting and accepting that, when it comes to your parent, the Golden Years aren’t always as pretty as the name implies is a grieving process in its own right: mourning the independent in your parent as it fades, and mourning, in advance, our own inevitable decline.

Perhaps the true difference between Japanese and American eldercare is that the Japanese accept that death is a part of life and Americans keep hoping that some magic bullet will reduce death to nothing but a bad memory.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A whole heap of Oreos

Jerry of Ben & Jerry's is featured in a great cartoon that illustrates the current administration's distribution of the American budget. There are a whole heap of Oreos and they ain't in the education pile. Watch here.

Anne Frank at Triad Stage

Triad Stage's 2006/7 season kicked off last night with what may be the most depressing play of all time: The Diary of Anne Frank.

I swear I wanted to cry from the opening moments, as the Franks and van Danns entered the annex - which surprised me in a way. I feel as though I was born knowing Anne Frank's story. I somehow thought that the familiarity would lessen the sting.

Perhaps the hardest thing about Anne's story is not the potential that was lost in her death, but the ways in which she was so ordinary. We can all relate to our first romantic feelings, to teenage rebellion, and the kind of petty interpersonal conflict that comes in any cohabitation.

In the big picture view, Anne Frank's story is unnervingly present with headlines occurring daily about modernized blood libel charges and the thoughtlessly invoked memory of Hitler in Mumbai's Hitler Cafe and an Italian brochure which used the mocking Auschwitz slogan, "work makes you free".

Anne's final diary entry was, coincidentally, on the exact same day that my mother was born. How quickly we forget.

A forceful decline in education

In the on-going why-do-they-hate-us Middle Eastern debate, I have come to believe that the vilification of liberal education is playing a huge role. It makes twisted sense that a heavily enforced religious education, and the suppression of other forms of literacy that might present a varied world view, would only benefit rulers who want to keep their citizens weak and compliant.

As if to prove my point, Iranian "president" Ahmadinejad, is asking students to force liberal and secular educators into early retirement. What's so brilliant about this is that Ahmadinejad has the power to do this himself - but by enlisting students, he is further drawing them into his party line, making it much more likely that they will continue to act in ways consistent with his beliefs.

In a bizarre way, this is what frats do with hazing: when people do something extreme like streaking through a busy quad, they are backing the party line. If you ever start doubting the party line, you find yourself in a state psychologists call cognitive dissonance - which basically means that you have conflicting beliefs, i.e. the uncomfortable previous action is an investment in the group while doubts make the group less appealing. Humans, by nature, really hate cognitive dissonance and the only way to solve it is to either admit that your previous actions were foolish, or ignore your doubts and continue to tow the line.

Guess which one most people choose?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rummy's ill-advised wording

As most of you have probably read by now, Donald Rumsfeld recently compared Iraq war critics to Nazi sympathizers. Keith Olbermann's commentary covers it all - except this interesting development: Senate Democrats are calling for Rumsfeld's resignation - not because he has run the Iraq war in the worst way possible; not because he continues to subject our troops to poor equipment and insurmountable odds; not because he, like the rest of the administration of which he is a part, is a heinous liar - but because he made a statement which was stupid, thoughtless and unfounded.

Then again, anything that would run Rummy out of his post is good by me...

Taking the low road

A couple of months ago, I was privy to the craziest road rage - a young woman in a white Mercedes (or maybe it was a BMW) SUV was tailing me and I, as is my habit, kept slowing down. This enraged the woman so greatly that she followed me home, stopped in front of my house and abruptly drove away when I got out of my car.

This incident came to mind today when a woman driving a black Lexus SUV (with a license plate holder that read "Happiness is Ice Skating" - just in case you know her) cut me off twice so closely that I was amazed she didn't hit me. I honked the second time, just as we were pulling up to a red light. She stuck her head out of the window and started yelling something to me - I couldn't hear what.

As angry as both of the incidents made me, what struck me even more was what incredible danger these women had put themselves in in the name of road rage. Granted, I'm not the most imposing looking person, but what if I was psychotic? Worse yet, what if I was psychotic and had a gun in my glove box? Such happenings are not unheard of, especially in situations in which adrenaline is flowing and people feel wronged.

If you know the woman with the black Lexus SUV, please advise her to be more cautious. While I pose no threat, others do and in serious ways.

As an unfortunate side note, not a half mile past the Lexus incident, a van passed me in the turn lane, not satisfied, apparently, that I was going 42 in a 35. A police officer sitting on the side of the road did nothing as the van sped by.