Sunday, March 31, 2013

Be Happy This Easter

I know it's Easter, but I can't help it if we just finished watching a documentary titled "American Winter". Being as it was filmed in Portland by HBO, I figured I'd give it a quick review while it's still fresh in my mind. As usual, I only talk about timely movies. This one's REAL timely!

The film is about 8 families who have called 211 ( like a 911 for social services) due to unforeseen economic circumstances this past winter. It's very upsetting to see people moving into homelessness in the place you live. It's a gradual process beginning with the loss of a job. There's been a lot of that going around in the past few years, and Suzanne and I have experienced it first-hand.

We used to feel pretty secure, with a combined income of around 50-55 thousand per year. Now we're getting near the end of all forms of savings, unemployment insurance, and retirement money, but I don't want to talk about us. We've yet to get to the place these other folks found themselves. We haven't faced eviction, our chidren are grown, haven't had the electricity turned off, and so far we still have water. We'r e a step up from these other folks.

I was taken by the words spoken by the people who have a solid understanding of what poverty means. Their fears not only for themselves, but also for others really touched me. Watching as they slowly went under with what was described as a shredded safety net was just plain frightening. I sure hope we wake up here in Portland/America, sooner than later, and see that we are all in this together. And I don't mean to throw a wet balnket on your Easter festivities, but I'm reminded today that poverty knows no holiday.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Throw the Little Sh!t in Jail!!"

Today is as good a time as any to talk about the Prison Industrial Complex as it pertains to children. Ted Koppel did a report on "Children in Adult Prisons" for 60 Minutes on Sunday, which caused me some great concern. I want to explore the idea here on my blog.

It was reported that there are at least 100,000 minors currently incarcerated in adult prisons. They are kept primarily in solitary confinement as a means to "protect them from the adult predators", who are also incarcerated. They usually have violent tendencies, so locking them up by themselves is best for all involved. Really? Being isolated at 15 or 16 is somehow good for a kid? I don't think so.

Many of these children develop psychoses which stay with them for the rest of their lives. Nothing good about that! They are often undiagnosed AT ALL until they begin to unravel in their cells. In effect, we are adding to whatever problems they may have had, which brought them to prison in the first place. Once they have served out their sentence, they are released back into the community, in worse shape than they were years earlier. Sounds like a lose/ lose proposition to me,

Many people would argue that we're safer with these young Frankensteins behind bars, but I disagree. Especially when you consider someone who does 30 years, leaves prison as a 45 to 50 year old. Now you have someone whose age and strength are ideal (to go along with their screwed up heads) to re offend, released back into the community. That seems like creating a long term problem in exchange for a quick fix.

I believe that (once again) the REAL problem lies in the lack of political will to DO THE RIGHT THING for ALL the people in America. That is to make sure that love and compassion take the lead in the decisions made that effect ALL the people in America. Yes, that means fewer millionaires along with a healthy society. Are ya wimme or aggin me?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Closet Nazis

There are a lot of Nazis that read my blog. They think that because they are self described Liberals that they can fake me out, but they can’t. I know that they have a deep seated hatred for people with developmental disabilities, but they’d never admit to that.

Instead they read what I’m currently writing about, hoping that I’ll say some strange things that will allow them to see me as a side show. I’ll gladly give them what they want...

Abortion is bad. 90% of fetuses who have the Down Syndrome chromosome are aborted each year. There is currently a lot of money going into research to find a way to predict if a child will be Autistic when they get older. Then these babies can also be aborted. The closet Nazis like this idea, though they’ll never admit it (except in thought).

Death With Dignity is bad. The number one reason given for assisted suicide is not wanting to be a burden on loved ones. Number two is not wanting to suffer the indignity of disability. Compassion & Choices (the Hemlock Society) wants you to believe it’s fear of pain. That’s not true, but there are many who choose to believe it is. DWD/Managed Care has also given Support Teams the impetus to withhold treatment from people with developmental disabilities, causing premature death.

Am I a right winged nut case for making these statements? Nope. I’m a card carrying Socialist who cares about these people, and wants to stop the closet Nazis from killing them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Should I Comply??

Last night Suzanne and I watched a film called "Compliance". It was disturbing on a few different levels, but I want to write about the social implications I got out of it. The way it’s described on Netflix is… “Based on a true incident, this tense drama unfolds as a prank caller pretends to be a cop and convinces a restaurant manager to interrogate her teenaged employee about a supposed theft from a customer -- a situation that soon spins out of control.”


The “cop” mentioned above uses his authority to get the manager of the fast food joint to do his bidding, by manipulating her into seeing him as a major authority figure. He does the same thing with all the people he speaks with on the phone. Even the girl who is in fact, the victim of this prank becomes (as if hypnotized) convinced by him that she should “comply” with what he wants to happen. This smells of what you see in the USA right now, in regard to the “WAR ON TERROR” and the threat of “MUSHROOM CLOUDS” spoken of repeatedly in the buildup of the military activities in the Mideast. Keep in mind where she is in the power structure of a fast food joint.


There is a boy (peer) who also works at the restaurant who shows enough doubt about the cop’s authority, as to be eliminated from the fiasco altogether, after a little involvement. He represents to me someone who is beginning to question authority, but doesn’t exactly buck the system either. He left it to others. Man, do I know a LOT of people like him! They are unwilling to act when they see something that is obviously wrong to them. These folks are full of fear. Like a big part of the population in America.


The girl allows these restaurant workers to strip search her, and she spends most of the movie naked beneath an apron. To me, her clothes represent a shield, and without them she becomes completely powerless. It’s not unlike what you see in this country, when people have their rights, finances, and safety net taken away. They give up fighting altogether, and give in to the wishes of the people “in charge”. Are you with me so far?


Next we have the fiancĂ© of the manager called into action. He does some very outrageous stuff to the girl, half drunk and confused. He (and all the others) is directed by the cop to call the authority figure “sir”, which he automatically does. When he completes his assigned tasks, he’s obviously ashamed of himself, and hastily exits. What I read into this is the shame and embarrassment many people feel when they realize they have been duped by the media who have been duped by corporate money. They simply stop participating, and stick their heads in the sand.


Finally, the janitor saves the day. He lacks the intelligence needed to allow the cop to continue, and brings the whole thing to a screeching halt. As a janitor you’re usually looked upon as someone who will do what they’re told. The truth is that he had very little to lose by his refusal to participate, as well as some good old common sense. This also sounds like people I know. I have several Facebook “friends” who have little more than a computer, a voice, working fingers, and feet that can get them around. They speak up about injustice with the knowledge that they may be seen as “TERRORISTS” for telling it like it is. I probably fit in with this group the best.


You may think what I’ve described could never really happen. According to the folks who made the flick, it happened 70 times over a 30 day span. That’s not my point. I think it is an excellent example of how people can be used, manipulated, and abused by people they trust to care about them.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ireland With Viv

In 1979 I was 23 years old. That was the year I went with my Mom on a trip to Ireland. Here's that story.

It was the end of Summer, and my Mom, Tom Kelly, and I were enjoying a barbecue in Mom's back yard. It had been a beautiful day, and as the sun began to set, Mom started telling us a story. She spoke of her own mother who had come to the US from Ireland earlier in the century. I believe it was in the 1915ish years.

Every day grandma would cry over missing her homeland. She had accepted her new home (she met my grandpa on the boat on the way over), but  couldn't avoid the call of the Emerald Isle to return, if only for a visit. Next thing I know my Mom starts to cry, telling us she had made a promise to her mother that she didn't keep. She promised her that she would take grandma back for a visit. Said she was just about my age when she made the promise, and then she met my dad, got married, had 4 children, and failed to come through. Grandma died when I was about 7 or so.

At this point the 3 of us were teary as I tried to console her. I told her I was sure her mother understood, but Mom felt bad about it none the less. At that point Tom (who was very close to my Mom) came up with the idea that maybe I could take Mom to visit Ireland myself! Summer was all but over, and my job working in a disco with Tom was virtually done, so why not? When I committed to going Mom's tears stopped flowing, and she became very excited. We'd fly to London, visiting with my brother Terry for a few days before heading over to Ireland. What a great idea!

We left Southampton (NY) a few weeks later, flying over to England. Terry was living in a communal setting at the time, and was able to hook us up with comfortable if not classic accommodations. We tripped around London for a few days (I believe we saw A Chorus Line on stage in the West End), and had a wonderful time hanging out with Terry and his friends. After that we flew to Shannon Airport outside of Dublin, rented a car, and began our trek to Aughnacliffe (pronounced Au-cnah-cliff) in the county Longford.

Driving was nuts with Mom! She was constantly worried that we were going to crash, driving on the left and all. And every time we'd get out of the car to eat or pee, etc. she'd walk back with the notion that she'd get in on the passenger side, which was in fact, the driver's side. Though the scenery was beautiful along the way, I was overjoyed when we reached our final destination. Now I could relax without someone screaming in my ears.

We stayed at my cousin Shawn's house, where Mom's second cousin Bridget lived.  Shawn ran the meat market, so every day we'd have the freshest delicious meats that his wife Margo cooked to perfection. It was a very tiny town. There was a Catholic church, a small grocer, a pub, the meat market, and very little else. It was kind of like going back in time to the 1800's. Mom loved it! She'd spend the days chatting with Bridget (around the same age) about relatives and various things her mom had talked about to her. We took a ride to the house my grandmother was born in almost 100 years earlier. That was a bit strange.

My mother's first cousin lived there. When we went inside it was pitch black, and I remember a black cat curled up in front of an old stone fireplace, with a fire going. My aunt was far from being a jolly Irish woman. In fact she made me feel like we were inconveniencing her with our presence. Bridget had told us she might not be the friendliest person, and she was right! I took some pictures inside and out, and we got out of there pretty quickly. I felt like we'd been in a witch's house.

Anyway, we went to a dance where I figured out there's very little difference between American Country Music, and Popular Irish Music. Church was especially fun. Long and drawn out services that lasted for what seemed like forever, followed by (seriously!) a race to the pub up the street. While the women were at home fixing an early Sunday dinner after 1 pint, the men were all slamming several pints of Guiness at the pub!

As our trip slowly came to an end, I began to feel a lot of sadness about my aging mother, and all she'd been through in her life. I did manage to find some solace in knowing I'd done something for my mother that she was unable to do for her own. When I dropped her off at the airport (I stayed behind and went back to London for a year) we thanked each other profusely. She for having a wish fulfilled for her and her mother, and me for having such a great Mom of my own.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Let's Take a Ride!

The more I try to make sense of this particular concept, the more confused I become. I'm hoping that writing about it will assist me, and am inviting you along for the ride. So strap yourselves in and smoking's ok. Just crack the window.

If 5% of Americans can be labeled "rich", the other 95% can be called "not rich". If that's the case, why do so many of the 95% see it as important to protect the 5%? I see this on a regular basis among friends on Facebook, and it drives me crazy! It happens in politics on all governmental levels. It's as if the 5% has hypnotized folks into believing their job is to protect them from any form of criticism.

Maybe it has to do with people hoping they will someday crack the 5% themselves, and are covering their asses proactively? Or could it be (as I was told recently) that "there's no crime in being successful", as if that's the reason the rich are rich. The truth is that a vast majority of these people were rich BEFORE they were even born. They were born into wealth. And if not, they were given a lot of help to get rich along the way.

Very few of these people ever had to bust their asses to be where they are. They may have busted other people's asses to get there, but theirs are without a bruise. It could be that many not-rich people have been busting their own asses all their lives for the few crumbs they've gotten as a reward. Now they hope that it all hasn't been in vane.

Well, that's our final destination for now. I hope you've found something to help you with your own questions and opinions. Before exiting, please return your seat to the upright position, and have a nice day.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

RIP Hugo, The "R"Word, and Alvin

Things seem to be coming at/to me in 3's these days. Not sure what that's about, but I 'll go with it. Today I want to write about 3 things that I believe are very important.

Hugo Chavez died yesterday. If you pay attention to main stream media you may see that as something positive. I don't. Hugo was a hero to me and millions of others who believe what's happening in the world with greed is bullshit. He fought for his country and all impovershed people throughout the world for a better place to live.

Today was the international day to spread the word to end the word. The word that is spoken of is "retarded". If the people who use this word so loosely were able to see the number of people it hurts, they might be able to bring anoother kind of death to it.

Finally, I think of the rock musician Alvin Lee; another of my heros. He wrote of the sickness that has been , and continues to hurt ALL OFF US today. He hated war and wrote "I'd Love To Change The World" back in the late 60's, which continues to be an important song today.

May all of these 3 thoughts find their way to graves that bring us all together.