Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Controversy

Are kindergartners racist when they dress in costumes as Indians or Pilgrims celebrating Thanksgiving? That's been the question at these two Claremont, California public schools.

"It's demeaning," Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter's teacher. "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."

That is an excerpt from a recent Los Angeles Times article, "Claremont Parents Clash Over Kindergarten Thanksgiving Costumes." Staff writer Seema Mehta explains the beginnings of this controversy. The article states "Raheja is an English professor at the University of California at Riverside who specializes in Native American literature ... Her mother is a Seneca" – a Native American Indian tribe. (See photos and video on link above.)

A comment from another parent, John Garabedian, whose son is a kindergartner at Mountain View Elementary School, to the cities Claremont Courier local newspaper expressed an opposite view: "This woman compared Thanksgiving festivities to the Holocaust, I am sorry but I just do not see the comparison. However, I am offended by her remarks and her insensitivity by this comparison. I am an Armenian and my relatives were killed during the Armenian Genocide in 1915. How dare you compare the Thanksgiving festivities with the Holocaust!"

I have first hand familiarity with this Thanksgiving tradition since my children participated in the event decades ago. My recollection is that the kindergartners highly anticipated this experience. They had been preparing for many days at school while also discussing the history of our country. Students generally made simple headbands with a few multi-colored feathers from construction paper if they were to be Indians. Those who were to be Pilgrims cut out and glued together classic black hats trimmed in white. They may have created additional paper clothing type items, but that is all I recall after so many years have passed.

Alternating years each schools kindergartners would be either Indians or Pilgrims. One school or the other would provide a real turkey dinner to the visitors. The schools are located on the same street several blocks from each other so this was the trek one classroom group would walk each year for their annual Thanksgiving gathering before the actual holiday.

National Public Radio's program "Air Talk" devoted a portion of their show, Weds., Nov. 26th to discussion of these issues by phone callers, and e-mailers. One caller reporting to be a full blood Native American Indian from a tribe whose name I was unfamiliar with described her home environment when she was young. She said her Indian parents taught that Thanksgiving was the beginning of "the big lie." The lies persisted in how Pilgrims and others treated the Native American Indian from that day forward in their view. Her school had a similar Indian Pilgrim Thanksgiving celebration and as a Native American Indian she said she felt embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated over how she and her people were portrayed in this pageant. She believes the experience traumatized her for life.

A few calls later a woman identified herself as a kindergarten teacher at Condit School years ago who engaged her students in this Thanksgiving event. I recognized her name and voice, recalling my son had been in her class. I know first hand her teaching skills, compassion and humanity. She has been a highly exceptional teacher. I am confident every child in her classroom, real Indian, pilgrim or pretending, would have experienced this activity feeling great pride. I'm sure she explained the feelings of gratitude the Pilgrims had toward the Indians. Symbolically, she said she had the Indians carry kernels of corn to the Pilgrims, a generous Native American act that actually had been the foundation enabling these newcomers to this continent to survive. Historians studying actual records agree to the significance of planting corn in the Pilgrims lives.

The Thanksgiving costume controversy continued with television news coverage. Subsequent news items in another area newspaper, The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin featured an article with pictures "Thanksgiving feast draws protesters to Condit Elementary School" by Wes Woods II, Staff Writer, published 11/25/08. He noted parent emotions were strong on both sides of this issue with local police called to place the groups on opposite sides of the street. Each could see the others signs and listen to not always calmly stated opposing points of view.

Unsettling rumors had spread a few days before school district officials determined to allow the kindergartners to continue this decades old tradition. The proviso was the students could not wear Indian and Pilgrim costumes. The timing of when this decision was made and whether or not the choice was correct continues to be in question and may well resonate in the community in the future. This is likely to be especially so, come school board election time, and/or whenever consideration of renewal of the current Superintendent's contract occurs.

Maybe we should all give more thought to the real historic facts surrounding the colonization of this continent. Perhaps a little less romanticizing might be appropriate. But just how much, at what age and how do we reveal to our children some of the more brutal facts, some of which we Americans cannot be proud? I think we're long overdue for a little more realism and truth.

I wonder what others think about all this? Meanwhile, I'll celebrate Native Americans and Pilgrims coming together on what we years later designated as Thanksgiving Day. I know their eating fare was probably quite different than what many of us will have. I hope this holiday is enjoyable for all as some will likely have long four day weekends. Many will enjoy family gatherings.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Evening with Maureen Dowd Concludes

"An Evening with Maureen Dowd" continues from the preceding post with her entertaining observations and unique perspective colored by her inimitable wit.

Ms Dowd's talk included several less than flattering comments about Vice-Presidential candidate Palin's qualifications for governing nationally, Palin's husband Todd and their behavior. Sharing this thought about their home state, Ms Dowd said she understands Alaska is like no other state. She noted having been informed that many of the people there are special in a manner such as has been portrayed on the TV show "Northern Exposure." She added she has been told Alaskan's have a saying that when it comes to matchmaking "the odds are good there but the goods are odd."

Numerous students in the audience were able to ask questions as Ms Dowd's talk ended, but time ran out preventing community members from the same opportunity. A student questioner was interested in the story behind why McCain didn't allow her to travel on his campaign plane during the presidential contest. She was nonplussed explaining that in retrospect his Aides decision to exclude her was quite understandable though she was a long time personal friend of McCain, referring to him as "Johnny" at one point in her talk. (See the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Timothy McNulty for Dowd's specific quote on being kicked off the plane during the campaign trip.)

Because of her long term friendship with McCain she said she hadn't stopped to think about the political complications given the contrary nature of some of the articles she had written about his candidacy. My thought is that she certainly hasn't been hesitant to describe the Bushes in ways they probably don't appreciate though they have given her considerable family contact through the years. Maybe McCain's staff didn't want to place their candidate at risk for similar less than complimentary commentary of a possible pithy nature.

Ms Dowd did express some concern and disappointment writing material fodder was going to be significantly diminished for her, other writers and comedians with the departure of the current administration. She noted conduct of the President-Elect has given all indications quite a different atmosphere from both Clinton and Bush days will prevail in the White House after January 2009's inauguration day.

However, she said, she was "happy" that Rahm Emanuel was going to be President-elect Obama's Chief-of-Staff, that there would be "...someone in the high echelon who has worn tights..." as he is a former ballet dancer and could give a touch different character to the White House operations.

Ms Dowd talked of accompanying Barack Obama on a return flight from Europe during his travel to various nations before he was the official Democratic Party presidential candidate. She was pleased to have been given an interview with him, then surprised when their talk concluded with him dismissing Aides to speak to her alone. His demeanor took on a very serious tone, she reported, as he said to her, "You're really irritating." Furthermore, she added, he repeated the same statement a second time.

She spoke of the ongoing media changes, especially noting those affecting newspapers. Realistically, she observed, "I'm in competition with a multitude of writers. Everyone can write a blog and you could be more interesting than me."

An interesting sidelight she noted that while here in So. Cal. she met with James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the Pasadena Now website. He has outsourced coverage of the Pasadena City Council to two reporters in India. Here's a link to that Los Angeles Times May 11, 2007 article on the subject. I must have missed that news item and have to agree with her in wondering what we have come to in how city news is written, issues understood, and dispensed by individuals on another continent who have no vested interest in the city, our state and country since they aren't even citizens.

Responding to a student question about the challenges of writing at the New York Times, the "pressure cooker" situation and possible competitions with other high powered writers, she observed, "I like being in this pressure cooker and seeing how candidates evolve. There's nothing more fascinating than the human comedy." She noted that an irony of the business has been that with various changes one writer joining the news staff and assigned an office next to hers is an individual with whom she previously had a romantic relationship.

When asked about Michelle Obama in the White House Ms. Dowd spoke of the expectation the First Lady could well determine the success of this beginning administration. She attributes this partially due to the First Lady-elect's unifying emphasis and focus on family. She noted Mrs. Obama is a very intelligent, competent woman for whom raising her daughters in as normal a way as possible is a very high priority as it is for her husband.

Another student asked for her thoughts about John Edwards and his downfall from our U.S.A. political picture. The question was framed in context with comparing the U.S. to the much more tolerant French views toward their government officials sexual peccadilloes. Ms Dowd acknowledged the prevailing differences in attitudes toward sex between our countries. Characteristically of her writing, she offered a perspective I also share regarding topics. She was more intrigued by some of the less obvious issues.

Ms Dowd speculated about the incredible pressure Edwards must have been under trying to hide his secret relationship from the public, press and colleagues. She noted the possible guilt of moral compromise he may have felt as a consequence of his lying to and betraying his wife. His wife, nobly standing by him enabling his reaching his goal while she's dying from cancer must surely have added to his stress. Additionally, Edwards was simultaneously aggressively campaigning for the Presidency, a pressure cooker in itself. All of these behaviors were such a contrast with the man the electorate had perceived.

Personally, I couldn't help wondering if Edwards had never heard of Gary Hart who became a political pariah years ago. Hart had his presidential aspirations extinguished because of an indiscretion of less complications compared to Edwards own. I thought, too, of Newt Gingrich who prior to his prominence in national government was reported to have asked his wife for a divorce when she was battling cancer.

Ms Dowd concluded her talk mentioning her last book titled, Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide published in 2005 which became a New York Times Bestseller. I recalled hearing about the book but hadn't read it. She noted her book would be for sale at the end of her talk, so I decided to purchase a copy. Eye-catching work by talented artist Owen Smith is on the cover of this large size paperback. She spoke of the significance to her of the girl in the picture. Dowd's exact words describing this art in her acknowledgements as making her

"...dream of a pulp noir paperback cover come blazing to lush life. The girl in the red dress will always be my red badge of courage."

Just as I completed purchasing the book Ms Dowd came to the book table. I hadn't thought about this being a book signing and have rarely pursued obtaining author's signatures. In fact, I read once that most books were generally more valuable to collectors in years to come if they had no signatures. I don't know whether or not that's true, but I think of any author's signature I obtain as mattering only to me. I did spontaneously decide to ask her to sign the book. I'm sure I was partially favorably influenced to seek her signature by the fact she's a redhead. Being a natural redhead myself I confess to being automatically prejudiced with an inclination to believe all redheads are uniquely special persons -- until proven otherwise.

She graciously asked for my name to write, then added an "Of course!" preceding her signed given name on the title page in answer to the book title's question. I'd previously had little doubt about the answer to that question -- most of the time. I told her I had read her first book which I greatly enjoyed as I did her New York Times Opinion pieces that I read occasionally. She, smilingly, urged that I should read them more frequently, having actually listened to what I said. Not everyone listens, you know, or even reads all of what you write.

I told her I also liked her talk, that I was one of those bloggers she mentioned and was part of an informal Elderblogging community. I recommended she read Ronni Bennett's blog at "Time Goes By." Ms Dowd seemed genuinely interested and I thought later had warmly responded with some curiosity. Her manner suggested she might have been willing to talk longer which I would have enjoyed doing. However, I saw the line of students waiting for her to sign a copy of their books so I turned and quickly walked away. I drove home, poured a glass of wine and started reading her book after preparing myself for bed.

I suppose I should have promoted my own blog to her, but I think blog-reading newcomers are more apt to be impressed with TGB and want to return to the blogosphere as I did in the beginning because of the quality of writing, topics and features there. I figure they can always find my "Along The Way" blog and the rest of the blogs later. Maybe those of us with blogs should print up business cards to distribute to others we encounter who express interest.

I've been occupied with enough activities for most of this year that I've relished down time, but I think it might be time to take advantage of attending more of the colleges future events. Meanwhile, I can recall the humor and reflect with pleasure on this experience of listening to Maureen Dowd -- oh, yes, and reading her Opinion articles in the New York Times more frequently.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Recent Evening With Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd walked to the podium as an expectant audience watched, waited and listened for her words. She carried a noticeably large book manuscript-size packet of papers she placed on the stand before her. Humorously, she noted that amount of written material appeared to be the equivalent of War and Peace, but she quickly reassured us we wouldn't be hearing it all. She added that speaking wasn't her strongest talent, so she needed this written support.

The occasion was Ms Dowd's recent appearance as a guest speaker at Claremont McKenna College's Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. (CMC was known as Claremont Men's College but, after becoming coeducational some years ago, they finally changed the college's name.) Ms Dowd is one of forty-one speakers throughout this Fall Semester invited to speak to the subject "Critical Topics in World History." Of the six underlying themes her talk was part of the one focused on "Perspectives on Election 2008: The Media Revolution."

This program was preceded by a dinner attended by students. After their dinner, any seats left in the room were available to community members who were admitted free. I learned later Ms Dowd's appearance was of such interest the couple seated next to me had driven from distant Loma Linda when freeway traffic would have extended the time of their drive even longer.

I arrived fifty minutes early to discover there was already a long line of interested individuals outside the Athenaeum waiting to enter. When we were allowed inside, an audible count was being made as we walked through the door, so that once the available seats had been filled they could end the admissions.

Eventually, the walls at the back of the room were lined with people standing. At the room's front from the speaker's podium radiating outward, long tables were lined on each side with students who were now receiving their dessert after having finished the dinner course.

I've enjoyed numerous events in varying campus locations through the years that have been presented by one or the other of the seven independent colleges composing the Claremont University Consortium. Years past I sat in some of their large college auditoriums and have been entertained by a variety of speakers and stage performers. Some that immediately come to mind are Benny Goodman, the clarinetist (without his orchestra, see YouTube video) then Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain (see YouTube video.) I especially recall Maya Angelou's appearance.

Now on this November Monday night, I was on the CMC campus, this time listening to Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed columnist, New York Times, author of a book I read several years ago: Bushworld: Enter At Your Own Risk. She is a 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary. The Pulitzer committee particularly cited her columns on the impeachment of Bill Clinton after his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Maureen Dowd's talk at CMC included a brief description of growing up in Washington, D.C. where her father was a police detective and her mother a homemaker. She noted she still has numerous staunchly Republican relatives. Her family resided in an area where the school student body was composed of mixed races.

She continued recounting her personal history by briefly speaking of how she evolved into becoming a news writer after a beginning stint in sports reporting. In college she had been a Shakespearean fascinated by the social and political intrigues of those long classic stories. Their ageless universal plots center on human nature and the many shades of men and women's behavior from the loving to the perverse, so prevalent through the ages. After graduation, she became gainfully, happily and contentedly employed as a waitress, possibly as a respite from intense studies, I speculate. Eventually, her parents penetrated the comfort level of what might be described as an insulated cocoon that she was in no hurry to leave. They informed her, she said, that having paid for her higher education they expected her to seek work in a more professional arena offering a potential in keeping with her educational level.

Pressed to find and utilize her talents she progressed through various news organizations including The Washington Post and Time. Eventually she covered presidential campaigns and became a White House correspondent. Given her educational background she began to notice the Shakespearean aspect to the events, lives and activities of the individuals she was encountering for her news stories. Her writing, beginning to reflect this influence, has resulted in all those about whom she writes being subjected to her particular commentary perspective and style, regardless of their political party affiliation.

Her intent is to be non-partisan, she says, though she is sometimes accused of being otherwise. She believes those with opposing views equally see her as catering to the other side. Her words and opinions have been variously praised and criticized depending upon each reader's reaction. She clearly employs a biting wit on occasion that has been characterized as being quite acerbic. This facet surfaced in the stories she shared with us. I enjoy how she laces her words on serious issues with an underlying current of humor through the prism of her perspective.

You can enjoy Ms Dowd's observations in some of her thought provoking New York Times opinion pieces.

Her talk referenced many of the stories and individuals with whom she has had contact and/or about whom she has written including Hillary and Bill Clinton, John McCain, Sarah and Todd Palin, Barack and Michelle Obama, the Bushes, and Dick Cheney. The subject of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, their influence and possible lessons to be learned from them, introduced by a student's question after her talk prompted Ms Dowd to recall an experience. She related how her natural curiosity prompted her to ask Stewart in an interview when writing an article published in Rolling Stone how they're able to find so many of the videos they use on their television shows? Stewart, she said, told her very simply, "interns," researching and viewing lots of clips.

Her stories sometimes included references to personal friends, some of whom she has been linked romantically.

More of my experience will conclude in another written piece here about Maureen Dowd to be posted soon. Included will be her entertaining comments regarding some individuals named above, along with a few observational words from Ms Dowd's unique angle screened through her thought processes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Economy, Catastrophes, Bloggers, Hope

My previous post on the exorcism of evil spirits evolved into releasing these thoughts. The past few days news reports tell of a local bank on the verge of bankruptcy. Rumors suggest a different bank which had been presumed to have been rescued by another institution at the beginning of the financial collapse may not be purchased after all. This leaves me wondering what happens to that bank? California Public Employees Retirement System announced extensive losses, but officials hope its broad investments will enable them to weather a long term down turn. Additional news stories speak of California companies and others across the country laying off employees, going out of business and filings for bankruptcy.

Our state of California has been in dire financial straits for years. A previous governor, Gray Davis, had been recalled because he wanted to take some unpopular financial action toward resolving our problems. I was enraged since the recall forced a special election at considerable public expense when our state already had no money to spare. The new governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in office for several years now has yet to rectify the deficits but now wants to institute the very financial action he condemned the recalled governor for wanting to take. Neither governors bear all the blame for our state's poor financial status. Our state legislators and residents have certainly contributed to the mess, too.

Do aspects of that scenario sound familiar? Reminds me of a microcosm of our federal government operations. Our government hopes to resolve some financial issues by manipulating our state lottery. Thank heavens we don't have a federal lottery. Maybe we really do and it's what the U.S. Treasury is doing with our 700 billion loan.

Depending on how these issues all work out I may be more adversely affected than by the limited way I have been so far. I expect my story and/or variations is/are already true, or may gradually become more true for many across this country in their own states. Uncertainty reigns supreme for many, not just Wall Street as I listen to the analysts speculate about the market going up and down, with some saying we've hit bottom. They don't know any more about where bottom is now than when they said the bubble would keep expanding.

They chortled over Alan Greenspan's use of language in his periodic vague reports including his pronouncement years ago about financial world issues of "irrational exuberance." His protecting ordinary people during such times and ensuring enforcement of existing financial rules might have helped but were ignored. Am I supposed to feel compensated now because he says words to the effect, "Oops, I made a mistake"? Financial peddlers and advisors to whom so many listen are easily off the hook with similar simple acknowledgments, "Oh, guess I was wrong this time."

I watch with keen interest the actions of the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, this current administration and legislators. I expect their accountability as to just how much and to whom they are distributing my money in that 700 billion dollar loan. I have a few debts of my own as you might note in earlier posts about major purchases I've had to make this year. So, I don't have a lot of money to line the pockets of those who got us into this mess, or to pad the pockets of any new greedy types.

I listened to the discussion on Charlie Rose's program (Thurs., 11/13)that in the past twenty years the United States has gone from being the largest creditor in the world to the largest debtor in the world. Preparatory to this weekend's Economic Summit, his guest spoke of countries needing to give up certain financial sovereignty to some international monetary organization to provide regulation and govern the world's economy. This interview can be seen at the Charlie Rose Show's website.

Also, since I began writing this the night of 11/13 our local television news has been replete with heart-breaking fire-filled pictures and verbal narrative describing devastating destruction of homes in the Montecito area, an upscale enclave near Santa Barbara, home to many celebrities. Since then additional fires in Southern California have been engulfing more homes in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Miraculously, no known lives have been taken. Injuries have been limited to firemen which is not wanted either though none have been reported to be serious. My heart always goes out to those subjected to catastrophe and those hurt trying to help.

Just before sunset tonight as I drove home my eye caught an awesome view in the southwest sky ahead of me. I saw a gigantic large round fiery red sun that appeared exactly like the link. The sun gradually dropped behind gray streaked clouds before sinking out of sight on the horizon. The sight of the sun was an obscenely spectacular sight when I considered the atmospheric conditions responsible for it's coloring. Resident evacuations are continuing as fires threaten thousands of homes in areas a significant distance south and east of where I live, so I'm not remotely in any danger, nor will I be.

Trying to put all these events, circumstances and many more situations in perspective can be overwhelming. Some more directly affect my life than others. We are all connected to these topics in some way as well as to each other. I am reminded to be grateful for what I currently have. I also know I cannot expend emotional energy over what I cannot control, but determining what I can try to change and what not is not always easy. My life issues seem quite trivial when I consider an overall view of all the issues I've mentioned.

I've understood I must find my own way to maintain joy, pleasure and happiness in my daily life. I learned I have choices as to how I perceive and interpret my experiences even during the most difficult of circumstances. Like many people, I personally have relished finding humor in some of the most bleak situations I've encountered in life as a way of remaining in good spirits.

I think many of the bloggers I've encountered have survived life's extreme offerings in much the same way. Perhaps it is this underlying attitude toward living that permeates most of our writing that not only links us, but provides support enabling each of us to view the future with hope.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Evil Spirits Exorcised

The past year I've exerted much effort in an attempt to banish evil spirits which have intruded into my life. I finally acknowledged their presence when I shared my tale of woe here. I was overwhelmed with a variety of remedies suggested to me by kind readers for dispelling bad juju as described in earlier posts about bottle trees, running around coffee tables and peacock feathers just to name a few curative magical solutions offered for my considered use. I am convinced these evil spirits have finally been relegated to one most appropriate central location in sewer pipes just outside my home from which I now believe they have been exorcised.

Throughout these trials I have laughed in irony in order to maintain my sanity at the continuing onslaught of unexpected events. This all seemed to begin the first of the year with personal health matters followed by periodic introduction throughout the rest of this year of different ailments new to me. Mechanical equipment problems joined the fray conspiring to unnerve me beginning this spring with the stubborn refusal of my home air conditioner to perform its duties during a major three digit heat wave, then having an outside water leak develop endangering a reasonable balance on my water bill. Even my car was subjected to unknown assailants which cost me a pretty penny.

If that wasn't enough, competition ensued between my appliances as to which one could be the first to next cease operation when they learned the oven wasn't working at all. I hadn't been able to get the oven rejuvenated due to it's ancientness. This was age discrimination in it's worst form resulting in my fifty year old oven having to be prematurely relegated to the junk heap for lack of new parts or even a caring repair person. (I still await the replacement oven's installation but hope to have it before Thanksgiving.) First the washer developed a leak I feared could become a flood at any time, then the dryer assaulted my senses with strange noises and a fear this machine would cause a fire. They have now been replaced with high energy-saving and water conserving appliances. There have been other problematic complications but writing of these is more than enough.

Earlier this year I managed a couple of out of state trips that I previously wrote about, only to discover the evil spirits had followed me. Eventually, having resolved some of these aforementioned problems I was feeling quite confident that I had prevailed in this contest with evil, just in time to focus my attention on the 2008 presidential election. I peacefully went to sleep election eve anticipating the morrow. I was convinced my schedule was going to be relaxed on election day once mid-afternoon arrived. Then I could settle down to watch news accounts of the final returns.

In the middle of the night I discovered very slow drains in my bathroom that even a plunger helped very little. My hope that during the time between then and morning might correct the problem was misplaced. I soon found out when I arose election day calm was not to be on my agenda after all. I quickly perceived the evil spirits had congregated in my sewer pipes when it was confirmed to me the commodes in this house had been rendered unusable even though the rest of the water drains worked just fine. My first thought was "Oh, s---!" or as I told my mother when I was young, sometimes smart mouthing, and she questioned my language, "I was only going to say, 'Oh shoot.' "

I want to explain that when I first awaken in the morning and begin to engage in personal care preparatory to work, being deprived of the use of such porcelain works of art as inhabit my bathrooms challenges my stamina, will power and even better judgment. I raced through what activities I could while considering my options though absent was the choice of being able to sit on the throne. I wished I lived in a wooded area. What seemed an eternity to me, but was actually three auto driving miles later through a multitude of consecutive miraculously green lights, I arrived at my work location and none too soon. I was relieved to be there in more ways than one. I got to repeat this feat the next morning after what appeared to have been a false alarm my sewer drain was clear after the plumber's first visit, but that's another story.

Election day afternoon after returning home from work I awaited the magic hour when the plumber was supposed to phone preparatory to his house visit. During the one half hour waiting time my thoughts turned to some I had entertained for many years about how prepared I would be in case of a disaster should power, water, and gas no longer be available. I had thought before just how challenging life could be without the use of bathroom facilities, but I realized this now in a very real way. I spontaneously decided to finally act on an idea I had entertained for years whenever I thought of emergency preparedness such as for earthquake here in Southern California.

I quickly drove to my nearby surplus store and purchased not the most inexpensive, nor the most expensive, but a moderately priced and what appeared to be a reasonably comfortable portable camping toilet. I was back home feeling quite comforted I could now cope and awaited the plumber's call which soon came. Even now, I'm enjoying a very unique peace of mind only we non-camping city folk who possess their own personal portable toilet can appreciate. I somehow feel more in control of my own destiny.

I felt so good about this purchase I was numb to the cost of needed repairs on one commode once the plumber arrived and had the water flowing freely again. Furthermore, I also willingly had a new water-saving commode installed in the other bathroom rather than repair that fifty year old water guzzler. Water had been periodically running inappropriately in that tank, so I had cut the water supply some months ago. I had earlier received a notice from the city to all residents requesting voluntary utility cutbacks, especially water, so I've made my contribution.

I think the evil spirits that have plagued me this year are finally gone, since the plumber ground out a huge ball of roots from the sewer line. The tree to which they once belonged has been gone for a couple of years. I'm convinced those evil spirits wickedly congregated there making that location their den of iniquity. They have been exorcised. Now I can move on to other vital matters of concern.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

U.S.A. 2008 Historic Election

United States of America's democracy is not static but is always evolving to paraphrase President-elect Barack Obama in his speech acknowledging his election.

The electorate of this country continues to change, too, in many ways.

Together, we can all bring change -- yes, we can!

Let's all enjoy this significant time in history that presents an opportunity to bring us together.

Tears of happiness fill my eyes when I think what once was only a dream has become a reality.

These words come to mind:


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Will Your Vote Count?

These are exciting times with the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election only a few days away. Many voters have been able to take advantage of early voting and others have already mailed an absentee ballot. Each state seems to have different rules, guidelines or provisions for early voting. For example, here in Los Angeles County where I live there are a very limited number of early voting sites and none very close to my city. When I've listened to news accounts of those voting early in the city to which I would have to go, the lines have been described as long, sometimes requiring standing in line for two or more hours.

Recently I learned the absentee ballots mailed in before the election here in L.A. County California are counted first as I had been concerned about that process. In fact, as someone commented on that matter on another blog in response to my raising that question, their experience working in an election precinct in their home state (unnamed) had been like the concern I described. Absentee ballots were counted last or not at all if the election wasn't close. I just wanted to know my vote got counted if I voted absentee as my husband did for many years.

Especially this year I didn't want my ballot left in a box somewhere that might conveniently "get lost." That former election volunteer writer suggested we each needed to check our own state and county election rules also. We might want to familiarize ourselves with the voting processes and ballot counting where each of us lives since there can be such a variance. Ask your election officials or call the election office just for your own edification, to let them know you are keeping track of what happens to ballots, however and whenever the vote is cast. Also, this information can help us determine exactly how we might want to vote in all future elections, not just important Presidential ones.

Actually, I decided to follow my usual pattern and vote at my designated voting place on the traditional election day, the first Tuesday of November which falls on the 4th this year. I'm curious to see who the election staff is, how efficient the operation is, what the turn out is like when I'm there and what sort of wait I have, if any, before I can enter a voting booth. Rarely ever have I had to wait, and then only five minutes or less at the most.

In L. A. County we use the Ink-a-vote system. We adopted this system after considerable concerns with the reliability of various computer systems. I've been feeling pretty confident this was a wise move until the touch screen computer voting system is determined to be more trust worthy. I'd not read about any major problems with our current temporary Ink-a-vote system, but I just thought I'd look this up on the Internet. This is the informative web site I located which provides information about most states for the purpose of educating the public.'s mission statement follows:

"The Verified Voting Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization championing reliable and publicly verifiable elections. Founded by Stanford University Computer Science Professor David Dill, the organization supports a requirement for voter-verified paper ballots (VVPBs) on electronic voting machines allowing voters to verify individual permanent records of their ballots and election officials to conduct meaningful recounts. The Verified Voting Foundation is the recognized leader of the nationwide grassroots movement for VVPBs and verifiable elections..."

They have a section about a voting system company "Election Systems and Software" (ES&S) you may be interested to learn states "The company's products can be found in more than 1,700 voting jurisdictions in 47 US states and Canada." Also of interest are some reported malfunctions of their machines in France and New Jersey.

On the VVF site was this section titled
" -- The nation's clearinghouse for election audit information."

They revealed the ES&S company is the manufacturer of L.A. County's Ink-a-vote system " well as the iVotronic systems that made news in Sarasota, Florida in 2006..." Also of note is the company has submitted a new system for California's approval. VVF's ElectionAudit page notes: "ES&S systems were also considered by Ohio’s study last year, which found a variety of security problems."

I'm not suggesting we will experience voting problems with this 2008 Presidential Election. But I must admit I believe a better part of wisdom is for all voters to make themselves aware of the system in which they cast their votes, how they're tabulated and how any needed recount could accurately be conducted. This may be one source we can access to be informed so our votes in any election do not become disenfranchised by default.