Every once in a while I read something that is so vital, so important, so timely, I must save it for myself and pass it along to others. The information below is essential for us to know, memorise and use in this day when every decision we make has tremendous implications for our future.

It is difficult to know who to trust at any level, especially the people who lead us, whether that be government leaders, the media, educational leaders, public policy leaders, and business leaders. These “lessons” are the framework on which we should base our decisions and our actions going forward. Take what is here and find your own lessons to add to them.

If we are to preserve freedom, this is where we need to start.

Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder writes:

“Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.”

Snyder is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says,

“Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.”

1. Do not obey in advance.

Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given.

In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked.

You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop.

Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution.

Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper.

Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf.

Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics.

When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important.

It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words.

Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.”

Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.”

Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.

When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power.

Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book.

Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language.

Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does.

Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying.

(Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.)

What to read? Perhaps . . .

1. “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel,

2. 1984 by George Orwell,

3. The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz,

4. The Rebel by Albert Camus,

5. The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or

6. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out.

Someone has to.

It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along.

It can feel strange to do or say something different.

But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth.

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.

If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so.

If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.

The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate.

Figure things out for yourself.

Spend more time with long articles.

Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media.

Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you.

Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics.

Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen.

Get outside.

Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people.

Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk.

This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust.

If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world.

Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate.

Do not look away and do not get used to them.

Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state.

The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals.

Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can.

Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life.

Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around.

Scrub your computer of malware.

Remember that email is skywriting.

Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less.

Have personal exchanges in person.

For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries.

Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad.

The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself.

Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries.

When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh.

When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed.

If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things.

Be ready to say no.

(If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can.

If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot.

The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.”


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‘Tis seven years
Since you were taken
From our arms,
Longer still
Since you have lain
Between my breasts,
Slaked of need,
Bedewed with sweat,
And hearts still racing
From a love
So freely given
And returned.

I love you still, and still
My heart does yearn
To hold you close
And whisper love
Upon your ear.

I have gone on
To love another
And build a life
That’s full of joy,
And laughter,
And a million things
We never chanced
To fit into our days.

And yet,
There comes those times
I  gaze about
And ponder unbidden
What if . . .
What if . . .
And my heart spins fantasies
Of time unbroken
And perfect days
By mortal man
Within the realm of time.

I do not understand
What binds me to your love
And keeps me in this prison
Hovering on the brink
‘Twixt life and death.
Yet here I stay,
And grow old,
Remembering days
That never were to come.

— J. E. Clark / 29 June 2016

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In Memory of My Father
Charles Albert Clark
16 October 1922 – 6 June 2016

I see your picture,
The young seaman,
Uniform pressed flat,
The seams and creases
Turned razor sharp,
No wrinkles in sight.

Then I see another day,
So many years beyond
With slackened skin
And sallow cheeks,
With wrinkles everywhere
And life long lived,
Of countless stories
That line the shelves
Between the bookends,
Marble monoliths
That mark the passage
Of your reign
Upon this earth.

I come to pay you homage,
My liege, my laird,
To once again sit at your feet
And drink your presence in,
To marvel at your wisdom
And swim within your depths.

Where once I saw a young man,
There now sits one quite old
And spent of years.

I touch your hand, your heart,
I seek to hold you back
Within that faintest grasp,
Yet, with each touch
I feel the life
Retreating from your hands
And coiling deep within your soul
Where no mere mortal
Will ever see it passing
Along these dusty roads again.

You are my laird, my liege, my lord,
The chieftain of our clan,
Who from my childhood’s depths
Has taught me of this day,
Too soon to come.

I hear the pipes a calling,
I hear the bodhran’s thrum,
I hear the footsteps marching
Of the honour guard that comes,
As rifle butts are beating
On the cobblestones below
And soldier after soldier
Turns to watch you as you go,

As the mist, in turn, enfolds you
Walking toward new life begun
In the still the mountains echo
With the Father’s Voice of love,
“Welcome home, my stalwart warrior,
To the Table you have come,
You have stayed the mighty army,
Yours is victory, Gunga Din, well done!!!”

– J. E. Clark
31 May 2016


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I am livid. I have been involved in politics for nearly 50 years and I cannot remember a point in all of those years when I have been as furious as I am today.

I spent most of my afternoon making phone calls and doing legal research regarding Sen. Mitch McConnell’s announcement that there will be no SCOTUS nomination to replace Justice Scalia until after the election.

I have weighed in with the President and Vice-President’s offices; I have talked to the offices of Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Sen. Ben Cardin from Maryland, Sen. McConnell’s office in Kentucky, and Sen. John McCain’s office in Arizona. And I have told them all the same thing:

Sen. McConnell DOES NOT speak for me and I most assuredly do not agree.

I have been a registered Republican for 24 years. I was a registered Democrat for 20 years before that and spent an additional 4 years before that avidly campaigning for Democratic candidates and causes. Depending on where I have lived, I have worked very hard to be a moderate, a centrist, someone who would work both sides of the aisle in order to find and implement something that was workable, including as many of the competing people’s groups and interests as possible.

I have spent 40 years living in the shadow of Washington, DC. I have watched the politicians become more and more polarised as they have become more and more beholden to special interest groups and big money. And never has their citizen constituencies been less important to them than today.

The politicians of this country, especially the ones on Capitol Hill are not interested in what is good for the country, they only care what will get them the most power, the most money, and the most visible position. Period.

We are caught in the election cycle from hell where the candidates and the powers that are driving them seem to feel that they have the election all sewed up without any input from the voters and we are stupid enough to go where they are driving us, which is right off the edge of the cliff.

This IS NOT a question of Republicans versus Democrats up on The Hill. They have both driven us to, and past, the point where the continued business of this country in protecting the citizenry, providing an infrastructure so the country can function, and keeping the peace are no longer possible because none of the sides are willing to give ground in the stalemate. They are so busy fighting to be “king-of-the-hill” that they are clueless about what actually is assaulting and eroding the security of our country. And we, the people, are caught in the vise grip of these politicians and special interest groups who aren’t even aware that we exist, much less that we are the very reason they have been put in the positions they occupy.

What we need in this country are public officials and people who have positions of public trust who are men and women of integrity and honour. People who actually DO stand for justice for all. People who understand that they are not entitled to the position they have, that they have been gifted with this position of honour and in reality carry a great responsibility to the people, not arrived at it through any merit of their own. And they need to understand that what has been so given to them can be taken away just as easily by the G-d who made them.

What has happened today up on The Hill is yet another announcement in this civil war, this intensely partisan fight to the death, and it is killing this country and destroying the very fabric of the society in which we live.

I do not know where I need to go next and what I need to do to get there, but one thing I know for certain: I want NO PARTS of what is happening. It is morally repugnant to me at every single level that exists because it is completely devoid of any ethics or integrity. And it is increasingly devoid of any practical application.

I am sick and tired of this politician and that special interest group telling me what I want and how to think. I am sick and tired of this media organisation and that one telling me what is trending, what is popular, what is “in” and what is “out.” I am sick and tired of being judged by who THEY think I am, or should be. And I am especially sick and tired of the lures they use to get me to back their man or their position and products. Put simply, each and every one of them is an attempt to bribe me into turning off my ability to think critically and become one of the masses that have already drank the Kool-Aid.

They do not want a vibrant and diverse citizenry capable of critical thinking, they want sheeple.

I fought for years to see the vote lowered to age 18. I have fought for decades to see power given to the people of this country to have a productive life with the opportunities and advantages I did not have growing up, ones that others less fortunate than myself had never had, and, hopefully, put me closer to goals that have been outside of my reach.

It infuriates me that a US Senator could, and would, stand up and announce that he was going to shut down one of the necessary functions of our government in MY name, when in reality it is just another opportunity to strike out and hurt a political opponent in a grab for power.

Once upon a time, a young man of my acquaintance described the U.S. as communism with food. While I laughed at the time, that phrase has stayed with me for decades. Yet, the total disconnect of our governments and our citizenry has never been more polarised. When I ask myself the question of where we are going, it fills me with a terrible dread.

I have been at politics a long time and it takes a lot to get me to the point where I will come out swinging, but I am there.

The goal in what we do in the coming months is not to further polarise and marginalise us, the citizenry, from each other.

The goal is to join hands and work together to get this country functioning again. In order to do that we need to vote, campaign, build bridges, and form alliances that cannot be destroyed by those with more power.

The men and women on Capitol Hill no longer represent, nor do they serve, the interests of the people of the United States. Let’s permanently retire them and send them home. All of them.

Let’s put term limits on all future candidates, reverse Citizen’s United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC and take away their gravy train, so that they are solely dependent on the monies they can raise from their own constituencies. Let’s bring this oligarchy down and return it to the democratic republic of the people, by the people and for the people.

Let’s do it now . . . for all our sakes.


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S.C. sheriff fires officer who threw student across a classroom

On Monday, 26 October 2015, a police officer in a high school in Columbia, SC jerked a 16-year-old girl from her desk and threw her across the room before cuffing her and taking her into custody.

The description of her “crime” is that she took out her cell phone, glanced at it, put it away, and when the teacher told her to hand the cell phone over, she refused stating over and over that she had done nothing wrong. When instructed to leave the room, she refused and a confrontation ensued between her, and subsequently an administrator of the school. Although she was somewhat disruptive in class, she posed no threat to anyone. Her behaviour was definitely out of line, but so was the way the entire situation escalated under the direction of the adults handling it. That the police officer was a white male, who already had a record of inappropriate use of force, and the student was a black female has only served to muddy the waters.

I have some very strong opinions regarding this incident, but one question keeps coming back to me again and again.

How did we get here and why did we ever think that having police deal with many of the discipline problems in the public schools was the way to go?

Has NO ONE considered that while police officers can be a deterrent in some instances, their very presence is an unmistakable demonstration to students that they are not trusted by the administration at any speed and can be the one dynamic that takes a manageable situation and turns it into an explosive one?

We all know that children many times do not have the best judgment in the decisions they make, especially when poor impulse control by the child is added to the mix. But the inevitable, and necessary, confrontations between children and adults – thus between students, teachers, and administration – are not usually crimes, nor should they be criminalised, as is happening far too often in the US.

Children need the confrontations in order to learn what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. They also need it in order to become stronger people in character and learn to think their way through the issues confronting them, to problem solve.

Currently, rather than have children who can think through the moral and ethical issues of their choices and the possible consequences of their behaviour, we have a lot of children and adults who have matriculated through this type of environment where they were taught to believe that obedience to all authority and instruction is what is correct and that any deviation is wrong, something that is not true. This same inability to think through the issues at hand has also inhibited and/or destroyed their abilities to stand up to authority correctly and effectively when it is the right and necessary thing to do.

Also from this environment, we have a growing segment of children and adults who are steadfastly defiant at nearly every level. They will not be controlled, they will not abide by the rules, and they do not trust anyone. Sometimes this can be the disposition of the person in question, but many times it is because their life’s experiences have taught them that no one, especially authority figures, are to be trusted at any time for any reason. And reaching them is nearly impossible.

It almost goes without saying that very little of this type of confrontation would have happened when I was in school 45+ years ago. It is easy to blow that assessment off with the canard “another time, another place,” but should we dismiss it so easily?

I do not think so.

The biggest problem we have is the ongoing erosion of moral values. We have allowed ourselves to be rendered impotent in our society when dealing with people who have wronged us individually and our society at large. We have walked away from holding those who have betrayed our trust again and again and again and again and again, ad nauseum, creating in the process a divided society where the the “good people” are in one enclave and the “not good people” are in another, but the “good people” are not strong enough anymore to maintain order. So, for a number of years, “order” has been “enforced” from the authority figures and agencies in our society, primarily law enforcement. And they do not care what they need to do in order to achieve their goal, they will do it. And they do.

The increasing problems we have with police violence and the militarisation of our law enforcement culture WILL NOT go away.

In order to solve these problems in front of us, we must first know what is morally right and what is wrong. There are universally recognised moral laws in most societies and cultures, such as: murder is wrong, abuse of power is wrong, stealing is wrong, lying is wrong, betrayal is wrong. The list of values goes on and on, but what we need the most is to return to the values that made our country great.

It is in the abandonment of, and continued refusal to support these values, that we have done ourselves great harm. To too many of us, it is more important to have a life without these responsibilities where we can be about our business without the headaches, rather than take on the task of making sure the foundations of our cultures and society at large survive. As long as we are not affected by “what is out there” we are content to let it happen “out there.” The problem is, eventually it stops being “out there” and arrives on our door step with a vengeance. That is where we are now.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to stand up to what is wrong in our cultures and in our society.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to stand up to the criminalisation of our children in their developmental hurdles.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to get the police out of our schools and back on the streets.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to stand up against those people who are destroying the right values in our nation.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to confront the way our country is being bought by big money in government and public policy.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to stand against those lawmakers and public officials whose decisions and behaviours are not in the best interest of our citizens.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to do whatever needs to be done in order to return us to a balanced government that cares for its citizenry, protects the country, and provides the necessary infra-structure to keep the country strong and functional.


Where we go in our future depends on what we do with cases such as this one. What the police officer did in this case was very wrong. But what the girl in this case did was wrong as well.

We have a choice. We can chalk it up to yet another case of bad behaviour on the part of one bringing on an out-of-bounds response by law enforcement. Or, we can look at both of these people and see what we can do so that both of them heal and grow into better human beings where incidents like this are not in their futures. Personally, I think that is our best choice.

But “We are not in Columbia, SC,” you say.

Probably not. But we can find this very same scenario in nearly every place in this country. All we have to do is step up to the plate and take a stand for what is right, for what should happen.

It starts with one word: respect. Respect for each other. Respect for healthy societal values. Respect for the value of human life.

Below is a short list of universal values, values nearly all cultures and societies follow. There are many other values that can be added to these. These values work and by following them, we can change the cultures and society in which we live, as well as live much better lives.


1. All people should be addressed with respect, courtesy and honour.

2. All people should be safe from abuse, ridicule, derision, and any other types of disrespect.

3. All people are worthy and have value, no matter what their station in life, their age, their sex, their nationality, their ethnic identity, their religion, their politics, their education, their history, or their origins.

4. All people deserve justice under the law. Wealth, or the lack of it, should never pervert justice.

5. All people deserve to be treated fairly in all levels of our society.

6.All people deserve to be treated equally by their governments. A person’s popular standing in society should never determine their access to governments, nor their treatment by them.


1. Murder is wrong.

2. Kidnapping is wrong.

3. Rape is wrong.

4. Assault and battery is wrong.

5. Abuse is wrong.

6. Neglect is wrong.

6. Stealing is wrong.

7. Betrayal is wrong.

8. Lying is wrong.

What do you think needs to be added to this list???

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The report of the Dutch Safety Board has been completed and released. Conclusions are that a Russian built Buk surface-to-air missile (SAM) of the type used by the rebels in Eastern Ukraine exploded immediately outside of the left side of the cockpit, killing the pilots and resulting in the cockpit and the first class section shearing off from the plane, leaving the remainder to plummet to the ground.

It seems that the SAM which has been identified by the Dutch is capable of reaching altitudes of 80,000 feet, far above the typical flight altitude of 35,000 feet for the Boeing 777-200ER.

The Russians disagree vehemently on the type of missile used, despite the fact that the village of Snizhne, where the missile allegedly originated, was under the control of the rebel forces. They suggest instead that it was a Buk missile no longer used by the Russian military but is in the Ukranian military arsenal, thus implying that it was the Ukrainian military which downed the plane rather than the Russian-backed rebels.

The Dutch believe that the Ukraine should have closed the air space above the combat zone to civilian air traffic. Given the downing of MH-17, it would appear to be correct.


While closing the air space over combat zones is a prudent step to take, this case brings to the forefront another issue of equal importance: the fact that SAMs, which are designed to take out military targets, can also be deliberately used to target and take out civilian air traffic at will.

SAMs are designed to be able to take out military aircraft that can fly at altitudes as high as 80,000 feet, such as the SR-71 and others in the spy plane classes. As such, depending on which side of the missile you are on, the SAMs that can do so are a good military tool  available to do a very necessary job.

To date, there has been a tacit agreement backed up by international law, that civilian air traffic is off limits. The IFF (or Identification, friend or foe) identification system tells the military whether or not the plane they see is civilian or military.

But do terrorist organisations and rebel armies have the same technology available and, if they do, would they use it solely to make the decision to disregard civilian air traffic as targets?

Given the advent of ISIS/ISIL and Boko Haram, both of whom have very brutal methods and total disregard of the normal conventions of war, as well as the growing strength of other terrorist organisations around the world who are obtaining progressively better armaments, it is only a matter of time before someone somewhere decides that threatening civilian air traffic from the ground is good, usable leverage to get the airline industry and governments to acquiesce to their demands. Then what do we do?

The reality of it is that the ways we have dealt with terrorists organisations, rebel factions and their armies, the social issues that produce them, and the people who drive them does not, and has not, worked. Both terrorists and rebel armies have been used in proxy wars between nation states and within nations.

There are legitimate reasons why rebels exist and have armies to fight for their causes within nation states. Internationally, we have regarded these as internal affairs and largely left it up to the combatants to sort the issues out for themselves. But increasingly, the rebels and their armies have become multi-national. Some have crossed the line from rebels to terrorists, some have joined with terrorists, and others were terrorists from their beginnings. As they have grown in size and strength, so have their treasuries and their abilities to obtain more powerful and accurate armaments, especially those which are portable, such as SAMs. Many nations – including the US, Russia, China, and Iran – have historically engaged these factions to fight in proxy wars.

What is going on in the Ukraine that led to the downing of MH-17 is that the rebels, with the backing of Putin’s Russia, is fighting the legitimate government of the Ukraine in order to take the Ukraine over and return it to Russia. Russia will not take on international judgment by attacking the Ukraine directly. It is using the rebels as proxies to fight the war for them.

In the case of the MH-17, the members of the UN need to hold Russia accountable for their supplying the Ukrainian rebels with arms that enabled them to bring down a civilian aircraft as well as their attempts to subjugate an independent nation state. To allow Russia to skate on this is to permit them to continue their persistent encroachment into the governments of independent nation states in their goal of regaining all of the nations they lost in the collapse of the former Soviet Union . . . something we should have never permitted them to do in the first place and should not permit them to do again.

There may seem to be time to address the future danger to civilian air traffic by rebel and terrorist groups which possess the capabilities to target and down these vessels. But unless we are willing right now to take on the nation states which are bankrolling them – including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China – we will find ourselves at a severe tactical and strategic disadvantage when the danger is breaking news instead of behind closed doors conversations between military and diplomatic agencies.


Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – Wikipedia

Identification Friend or Foe – Wikipedia

Surface-to-Air Missiles – Wikipedia

Four Russian Surface-to-Air Missile Systems that Could Have Shot Down the Malaysian Jet

Boeing 777 – Wikipedia

Can a civilian aircraft pilot see a missile coming?

Lockheed unveils SR-72 hypersonic Mach 6 scramjet spy plane
Who holds the altitude record for an airplane?

Ask the Captain: How high can a plane fly?

How high can a (commercial or military) jet aircraft go?

ALTITUDE RECORDS (List of High Flying Aircraft)

What determines the maximum altitude a plane can reach?

Flight altitude record – Wikipedia

High-Altitude Aircraft

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Wikipedia

Boko Haram – Wikipedia

Proxy war – Wikipedia

List of active rebel groups – Wikipedia

Foreign terrorist organizations – US State Department

Minsk Protocol – Wikipedia

Memorandum of September 19 2014 outlining the parameters for the implementation of commitments of the Minsk Protocol of 5 September 2014 – OSCE (Russian only)

Minsk II – Wikipedia

Full text of the Minsk agreement – Financial Times

Conseil de sécurité: le Président de l’OSCE appelle les signataires de l’Accord de Minsk II à mettre en œuvre les mesures préconisées pour un règlement de la crise en Ukraine – UN Security Council (French)

Secretary-General Deplores Unconstitutional Elections Called by Armed Rebel Groups in Ukraine – United Nations Secretary General Press Release

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Once again, we have come to the time of year when the annual federal budget is coming before Congress for a vote. And, once again, there is the intransigent standoff looming between the Republicans and Democrats. In recent history, there has been great willingness on the part of the Republicans in Congress to do everything they can to get the budget they want, including filibustering, shutting down the government, dangling the threat of no Social Security checks for the seniors and disabled. In short, they are willing to do anything and everything to create such an uproar among the citizenry, to create such fear that necessary monies and programs will be taken from those most in need even for a few short weeks, and they count on that groundswell of emotion to drive the Democrats in Congress to acquiesce.

In their annual budget wars, the first target is always “entitlements” – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid monies given most often to seniors and the disabled who are dependent on these monies for their very survival. That makes these issues intensely personal for me as I am a senior, a retiree (having retired with a double disability in my mid 40s), and am dependent on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for everything.

The story according to the Republicans and conservatives in Congress is that the federal budget would be much easier to balance if it were not for the out-of-control costs of paying out these monies. The biggest chunk of recipients for those monies are aging baby-boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. What Congress is not willing to do business with is that for decades they have taken monies out of the Social Security trust fund and replaced it with IOUs backed by the promise of repayment from funds in the national treasury, something that will never be done.


There are no words to adequately express the complete and utter fury I have every time Congress comes up with this completely organic fable about “entitlements.” While we are the people they have courted for votes every time the election cycle comes along, the people who have sent them to Washington and paid their salaries, we are seen as freeloaders when it comes time to pony up, people who are leeches on our society, who are driving our country into the red with no right to what we get and it is due only to their benevolence that we get the pittance we do.

They seem to believe that the answer to the budget crises is to clamp down on us – the horrid, horrid people, the “unwashed masses” – those who seem to think that paying into the Social Security system all of their lives justly and legally entitles them to be given their money back and not have to choose between eating, heat, and medication. This very same Congress that has systematically pillaged the trust fund for decades in order to shore up the national budget which they do not have the guts to manage correctly and yet expect us, one of the most vulnerable populations in the nation, to pay for their complete and total lack of leadership, moral judgment, and human compassion.

That they have the nerve, the utter gall, the chutzpah, to attempt to hold us hostage while they play their games and have their congressional benefits, is beyond infuriating. There is absolutely no difference in what they do to us and the kidnappers who use their captives as human shields. It is reprehensible.

How do we, the vulnerable, address Congress in such a way that they begin to understand that we will cut them off at their very knees? I do not know. I wish I did. I wish we had that power. Because this abuse of the legislative process has to stop.

I know there is a G-d who will mete out just rewards to those who abuse the vulnerable, are in need of assistance, and are all too often denied the life and death help that they so desperately need by people who use them as pawns in their deadly game of brinksmanship. But I want justice now.

I do not want to wait – I cannot wait, nor can any of us dependent on Social Security – until these men and women are dead to see them receive just recompense for all that they have done . . . and not done.

We, the living, need justice, we need to have what we were promised, not the pyramid scheme that the Congress has devised to take in the monies from our paychecks that are designated for one program, then have the money swept out of the Social Security trust fund and poured into the national treasury to be used for other things.

If anyone or any company other than the US Congress did this, they would be sitting in a prison cell next to Bernie Madoff. But Congress does this “legally” because they voted themselves the right to do so. They take the money and issue IOUs from the national treasury, which are not worth the paper they are written on, something which all of us know, especially Congress. The money will never be paid back into the Social Security trust fund, a fact which was known from the very beginning when it began under the Reagan administration in 1985.

So, how do we fix it??? I have no idea. But like Moses before Pharaoh who cried out to G-d for justice for his people, I stand in this place and cry out for justice now. I await the answer.


A Debt Ceiling Showdown Between Republicans Comes Into Focus

Who’s Ready for a 10% Cut to Their Social Security Benefits?

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In this May 16, 2015 photo, former slave fisherman Myint Naing and his mother, Khin Than, cry as they are reunited after 22 years at their village in Mon State, Myanmar. Myint, 40, is among hundreds of former slave fishermen who returned to Myanmar following an Associated Press investigation into the use of forced labor in Southeast Asia's seafood industry. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In this May 16, 2015 photo, former slave fisherman Myint Naing and his mother, Khin Than, cry as they are reunited after 22 years at their village in Mon State, Myanmar. Myint, 40, is among hundreds of former slave fishermen who returned to Myanmar following an Associated Press investigation into the use of forced labor in Southeast Asia’s seafood industry. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Myanmar fisherman goes home after 22 years as a slave

I am struck by how very sheltered my life has been. I live in the United States, and although poor, have lived a life of tremendous privilege when compared with the rest of the world, especially those who live in third world countries.

If the primary problems were the lack of food, potable water, shelter, sanitation, education, medical care, and other life necessities, that would be one thing. We could figure out ways to provide some of those things and build the infrastructure to levels of sustainability over time where many of the remaining needs could be met.

It is the corruption and human rights abuses adding hellish dimensions to each of these challenges which make it nearly impossible to resolve them in any way that will stand the onslaught over time.

The realities of abject poverty and starvation around the world are not new to me. In my work tracking disasters and humanitarian crises around the globe I have become somewhat inured to seeing people living and dying amid dire circumstances. But from time to time I will come across a story that will take my breath away with the depths of utter depravity it shows and the unimaginable courage required of those who are fighting incredible odds in order to just survive. Such is the above story of Myint Naing.

The impact of just one person having to endure this hell is tremendous. But there are literally thousands who have been subjected to these horrors. There is, in reality, no word in the English language that is adequate to describe what they have endured and many more who remain undiscovered are currently enduring. The word “outrage” pales in comparison to their plight.

It goes without saying that most of us who are the end customers for the goods provided are clueless of what is being done by the people who commit these crimes against their captives. But should we be? What are our responsibilities for knowing where our goods and services come from?

Somewhere between Myint Naing and the fish which appears on our dinner table are people who are aware of what has been happening and have turned a deaf ear to all of it in order to maximise their profits. Somewhere up the supply chain are others who have heard rumblings and done nothing. Somewhere in the companies who put these products on the grocery shelves are people who may not have been aware of these practices, but it is their responsibility to find out. And they have not.

We can say that we could not have known. We can wring our hands and say that this is not our fault. But are either of these things true? Or do most of us go through our lives concerned with only what is immediately in front of us with no regard whatsoever as to how it got there and why?

We need to ask the hard questions and demand answers from the manufacturers; from agribusinesses; from those in the meat, poultry, and fish packing and canning industries; and from our governments. What are the sources of what we are being sold and are human rights guaranteed for all involved along the supply chain?

But more than that, we need to ask ourselves a very important question: When is enough enough? In our relentless drive to acquire more, to experience more, we are going to any lengths to attain our goals. We are out-stripping our resources in any number of areas, yet, we demand more and we demand it faster.

What price has been paid by others so we can live in the opulence we enjoy?

How many men, women, and children have died so that we can gain whatever status points from the society in which we live, empty acknowledgements which mean absolutely nothing? They shift and change like the wind. What gives status today is passé before nightfall.

This man was a slave for 22 years. Primarily in the fishing industry. He was stolen from his family and his community and held captive for longer than he had lived when he was taken. He was maltreated, his life was under constant threat, he was fed swill, and chained so that he could not escape. So we can have fish for fancy cat food?

We say we want justice and fair practices for everyone, yet, our mindless greed to have whatever “they” say we should in order to have “respect” out in the streets is exactly what drives stories like this one.

In truth, many of us do not care one whit about what it takes to get it to us as long as it is there.

The question is not about the outrageous treatment he received. The question is how many others are going through this particular hell and what we are going to do about it?

So, the next time you go to buy fish from Southeast Asia, are you going to ask yourself who died in order to put that catch on your table? Harsh as it sounds, that may very well be the reality of it.

The next time you want fish for dinner and you are shopping at Walmart, Sysco, Krogers, or another company, are you going to ask yourself the question of where the fish came from and whose life and freedom was on the line in order for you to have the catch that is in front of you?

The next time you go to feed your cat Fancy Feasts, Meow Mix, or Iams cat food, are you going to ask yourself if another human being had to go through the tortures of the damned in order for that can to be in your hand?

Or are you going to be aware and responsible for telling the packing and canning companies that you will not support these horrific practices and instead buy brands that verify their sources are companies who guarantee their employees are treated humanely and their human rights are respected?

We each vote with the dollars we pay to these industries for goods and services rendered. It is the leverage we have to either make these practices stop or to allow them to continue.

Vote wisely.

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I was 4 years old the first time I held a pistol in my hands and until I started moving around the country 40 years ago, guns were an ongoing part of my life. I was taught how to use them, when to use them, and how to care for them. And I was sufficiently skilled that I was able to gain the respect of my father-in-law who was a policeman and a marksman of some skill. But the one thing I have never done is confuse myself with a person who is capable of taking on the criminal element and coming out on top.

The NRA lies when it says that the only thing that is necessary to take down a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, as the article below so clearly demonstrates. There is so much involved mentally and physically with being able to make the judgments necessary in cases where a bad guy is threatening others with a gun. Many people insist in the bravado of ignorance that they could take care of business. No, they cannot.

It is one thing to have the gun and possess the skills to use it on the firing range. It is something else entirely to have the coolness of mind necessary to be able to employ the skills required to gain and maintain tactical superiority when facing one or more criminals in a public or private setting. As much adrenaline as flows in those moments, and it can be overwhelming, responses MUST be based on rational evaluation and judgment, not the chemical high that comes from the body’s fight or flight responses. Adrenaline skews our judgment in important ways that can get us killed.

Even if one can remain calm and rational to this point, there always the problem of overcoming the natural adverse reaction to drawing down on a person and pulling the trigger. If we are normally moral people, we are intrinsically wired to abhor death and the killing of another human being. We will avoid it at nearly all costs. We cannot do it naturally. It takes conditioning in order to be able to look at someone, especially face-to-face, and tell them to drop their weapon or we will shoot.

Even if we can get the words out of our mouths, the shaking of our hands will tell the criminal that we do not have the internal strength necessary to do it. They will not believe us and rightly so. To kill another human being means to lose all that we were up to that point and enter into a life where the reality we have killed someone will be a constant thought in everything we do. If we are fortunate, it will be below the surface, but it will change us in way we cannot possibly comprehend.

Very few can handle the consequences of taking someone’s life. For most who do, there is something inside of them that becomes hardened to life and distant from all around them, even when the killing was not only justified, but necessary in order to save other people’s lives.

These are some of the things that the NRA does not tell people in their ongoing campaign to make guns and other weapons available to the general population. There is a tremendous human cost whenever anyone is injured and dies in shootings like Charleston and Newtown. But there is also a tremendous human cost to those who respond whenever the criminal is killed as well.


It is frightening to see and hear the number of people who seem to think confronting the bad guy is as easy as spaghetti westerns make it look like it is. There is nothing easy about it and the vast majority of people need to recognise and acknowledge the fact that as much as they want to believe they can do it, their lack of skill and lack of training makes them as much, or more, of a menace than the criminals.


Once upon a time in 1974 we had some agitators from St. Louis come into my hometown and try to start some racial trouble. This is a small town of then around 20,000 people. The situation became so dire that the governor was set to send in the National Guard in less than 24 hours if it did not stop. Fortunately, it stopped before he had to take those measures.

I was living alone at the time. My then husband was in basic training for the USAF and I was living in a location where no one would have heard anything if someone had wanted to break in and commit crimes. The location was somewhat isolated and my closest neighbors were all elderly ladies who were deaf as posts. They would not have heard a 50 caliber gun go off on the USS Missouri in broad daylight when they were completely alert.

My co-workers at the time were aware of where I lived, how close I was to the action, and were exceedingly concerned for my safety. My comment to them was that I had a six-shot revolver, a shotgun and a bedroom with one door in that was back lit. If eight people wanted to come after me, they were welcome to try, but the first seven would not succeed. The only thing I did was take the revolver out of the holster. Fortunately for all of us, nothing ever happened.

You can say things like that when you are 20. At 61, I would say the same thing, but I understand now that it is far more complicated than I realised at the time.

I have had several situations along the way where I was confronted by someone who wanted to kill me. They were far from pleasant, but the one redeeming factor in all of them was that no one had weapons. If they had, I seriously doubt if all of us would be alive to tell the tale, including me.

So, it is not as easy as it looks in the movies. We need to get real in our discussions about gun violence and understand that having the equipment to go to the OK Corral, being correctly prepared to go, and needing to go are at least three vastly different scenarios, none of which may require the use of guns.

Link to the 10 June 2014 CDN article by Susan L. Ruth.

The NRA lied: A good guy with a gun couldn’t stop a bad guy with a gun

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In the above undated article from 2014 on MrConservative.com, Kanye West says that he leaving the US permanently due to the ignorance and blatant racism we have in this country. Evidently, what pushed the issue over the top for Mr. West was a racially fueled encounter with a teenager and his wife over the fact she married someone of another race. Mr. West’s response was to punch the teen in the face, something which only served to escalate the situation to the point where the teen issued a death threat against Ms. Kardashian. One can only wonder what would have happened if Mr. West had not resorted to violence.

It is not exactly a bulletin that the US is racist. It has been since its inception. We established this country under the premise that it was moral to enslave people from Africa whom we considered no better than animals and to count them as less than human, just 3/5ths of a person, for the purposes of the census. The usage of the “n-word” is nothing new, nor is the abuse and oppression of blacks and other people of colour.

That Mr. West has chosen to declare his intent to leave the country because he is not going to have his daughter subjected to the inherent racism in much of the US culture makes it sound like he has just discovered this heinous set of circumstances exists and is going to nobly withdraw his family to a position of safety. This preys on the idea that we would both understand his response and feel that his solution was prudent.

In reality, Mr. West has long known this country has some very strong racist roots and that his marrying a woman who is white and fathering children of mixed race would inevitably lead to conflict and confrontation. In my opinion, that is what gives evidence that rather than being genuinely affronted, which surely has happened long before this moment in history, Mr. West is instead grandstanding and playing the race card. So, a racist outburst from a teenager spawns racial violence on the part of Mr. West (an adult) and somehow this is supposed to demonstrate the intractability of the problems and support the rationale that Mr. West, the alleged victim in this case, truly has no other option but to withdraw from this frightful sewer of racism and negativity which he is incapable of explaining to his daughter.

It is beyond comprehension that one offensive, mouthy teenager has produced sufficient confrontation and poses such a danger to Mr. West and his family that he would willingly give up living for the rest of his life in the country in which he was born. It seems much more likely that by leaving the country, he seeks to avoid legal prosecution for assault and to produce an image of martyrdom that he does not deserve.

If Mr. West wanted to do something truly useful to combating racism and the social blight that comes from the institutionalised economic inequality, he could roll up his sleeves, take his celebrity status and his millions, then do something to benefit the people who really do need his help and the help of our entire community. There are a myriad of ways in which he could do this, such as:

    • Lead by example. Rather than assault the young man who insulted his daughter, he could reach out to him and work on building rapport.
    • Provide needed educational supplies and develop new educational programs.
    • Support current job training programs and the development of new ones.
    • Open libraries and recreation centers that have been closed in disadvantaged communities.
    • Work to strengthen peaceful community relations between ethnically diverse populations.

These are just a few possibilities. But rather than choose any of these, he has chosen to whine about something we should all know is fact of American life.

What a tremendous waste of opportunity!

What a graphic demonstration of what is actually more important to Mr. West!

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Grief never ends, but it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith, it is the price
of love. – Anonymous

He was the sun, the moon, the stars, . . . and to my great delight, I learned I loved him more than all those come before. Our life was full, our joy complete, and fairer skies seemed up ahead, . . . inviting, . . . beckoning, . . . so tantalisingly close, this life we sought that hovered just beyond our reach. These ageless moments ran sublimely through each day like dew drops glistening in the morning sun, echoing great love stories of antiquity. And in this verdant valley of our love, our hearts grew strong, nourished by the peace we found together after decades of war and heartache in other climes.

But the future we ached to have was not to be. The day his precious, broken heart ran out of time and lay unmoving in his chest, my world went black and I plunged into such darkness I feared I never would return.

I journeyed many, many months in that dark land, delirious with grief, yet solaced by the love we shared. Then came the day when I no longer walked among the dead, but made my way among the living once again. I do not know where I had walked in that bleak desert when I lived behind the veil, but whatever hell I left behind, these two things I know: it was his love that brought me out and I will forever be a living monument to what he built within my heart.

– J.E. Clark / 25 May 2015

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I wanted to pass along the link to this article on Baltimore by Stacia L. Brown in The New Republic. It gives much us to think about.

Having Black Cops and Black Mayors Doesn’t End Police Brutality

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The older I get, the more I am becoming aware of how very different the home I grew up in was when compared with the homes of my peers. There is so much baggage, so many experiences that I did not have because I was insulated from our culture as much as my parents could possibly achieve, so many things that were not said and possessions not owned so that I was trained to think and evaluate everything in life correctly and did not grow up with the vast majority of the detrimental mindsets that shape the lives and minds of a lot of our children even now.

I went to school with Paul French. He was a couple of years ahead of me and his family was the only black family that lived on the South Side of Hannibal, Missouri. The only black person who was ever in our house was the delivery man for the local cleaners. He was a splendid, very interesting fellow and I was delighted to see him and his wife at the visitation for my mother when she passed away. Some 30+ years after meeting him, he and my mother found out that they shared a birthday, so for my mother’s 65th birthday they celebrated together at his and his wife’s house. Until that time, my mother had never been in the house of a black family. It was an incredibly important experience for her.

For all intents and purposes, until August 1966, my life was devoid of “people of colour”. There was no purposefulness to it, it was just that we lived on the South Side of town where my parents had grown up, went our way, did our thing, worshiped in our small, little church and pretty much did a lot of what my parents had done when they were growing up. Except for one thing.

When I was growing up, I was taught that G-d made all of us equal; that we had equal value before Him; that we were intellectually equal as well as in every other way;  that sin was sin and virtue was virtue, and that neither one had anything to do with skin colour, religion, gender, economic status, country of origin, education, or any of the other bases for racism and discrimination. And that was enforced in everything they did, in everything that was around our house, in everything they modeled. It was pounded into me from a very young and early age that I was to judge people based on what kind of people they were, not on any of the trappings, and I have tried to follow the justice and fairness of that in all that I do.

Did my parents take flak for raising us in this way??? Definitely, but I was shielded from most of that as well. I was well into my adult years before I learned that some of our family members held some distinctly racist viewpoints. For me, because most of it came from the elders, the authority figures in the family, I either wasn’t aware of it, or what I was aware of I handled with “I don’t believe that way, so it is not relevant to me, I am going to keep on doing what I have always done.” There was no opportunity to address the issue and I was very aware that I would have been in a lot of trouble if I had brought it up. So I didn’t. I just went ahead and did what I had been taught.

No, they were not perfect parents. Yes, I was aware that there were endless divisions in our society between people. I knew from the very beginning that I was one of the “have nots,” that I was from the South Side, we were working class poor, and I was never expected to have much more or do much more than I had and did growing up. And definitely never an education. My generation was the first one on both sides of the family where most of us graduated from high school. But I was not really aware of how non-white America lived. I knew they were oppressed. I knew there were people who hated them and throughout our history had killed some of them simply because they were black, Latino, and Asian. But I did not know what that meant, especially in day to day terms.

When my ex-husband joined the USAF, I went from a farming culture to plunging headlong into the heart of the international community. I was around people from all over the world and who spoke a myriad of different languages, ate different food, many times had different religious beliefs. The culture shock was mind-bending and it took me several years to make enough internal adjustments so that I was not feeling like I had walked through a time warp and was on a totally different planet in a totally different universe. But one of the take-aways for me was that I saw people of all races and walks of life working together to accomplish the same sets of goals. Everybody worked together, lived together, fought together, bled together, and died together. I embraced that mindset and did not really look beyond to understand that while the veneer was there, it many times did not permeate the troops as a whole.

When we separated and divorced in 1980, I stayed in Maryland. For the first time in my life, I was in a totally civilian environment below the Mason-Dixon Line, with all that entailed, in a community that was known, in part, as an enclave for the KKK. I did not have a clue, but I was about to learn.

It was all very subtle at first, an undercurrent a little bit below the surface. As a white person, I almost would not have noticed if it had not been for my cabbie friend who told me to go to this restaurant in the center of town that was on a short side street off the main drag. He told me they had great food, but would have a “Closed” sign in the window after 2 PM, even though they were actually open. They only did that to keep the blacks out. I was to pay no attention to the sign, but go on in and tell them that he had suggested I stop in. When I got there, the “Closed” sign was indeed in the window, but the door was unlocked, so I went in, not at all sure what I was walking into. Conversation stopped and everyone looked at me. I explained who I was and gave them my cabbie friend’s name, which was good enough for them to serve me, but not good enough for conversation to go back to normal. I was an unknown, an outsider.

They brought my food to the counter where I was sitting. They were polite enough, but still, not friendly. As I was eating, I looked around. It was a pretty common looking neighbourhood restaurant and visibly patriotic. However, the pictures on the wall behind the counter were interesting. They had pictures of every single American president up to Richard Nixon. Then they stopped. Except for a prominent picture of George Wallace at the end of the photo display. By that time, Ronald Reagan was in office, but they were missing Ford and Carter as well. The question flitted through my head, “Why did they stop at Nixon and Wallace???”

I did not like the answer. Many of my friends were either black, Hispanic, or Jewish. It was not a very friendly environment for me to be in. I finished my food, thanked them, and beat a hasty retreat, never to come back. Years later, the county tore that location down in order to put up a county office building. That the restaurant was gone, and with it their pocket of hate, could not have happened to a nicer group of people. I had no illusions about their hate being gone, just the place where they congregated every day. I am fairly certain that did not deter them, merely change their location.

Having once experienced a few very uncomfortable moments in the “Old South,” I did not need to have a lot of things explained to me that had not made sense before. I had thought that because I had seen what appeared to be a more equitable environment in the military, that the racial bigotry and ingrained prejudice I had heard so much about in the 1960s was mostly a thing of the past. I had been confronted by the inescapable reality that it not only was not a thing of the past, it was alive, well, and flourishing just under the surface . . . and sometimes not even that.

I have learned much in the thirty-five years since then. How I lived for so many years totally unaware of what surrounds me, I neither know, nor understand. It has always been there, only I did not see it. The only reason I can figure out is that because my mind was trained to not think in those terms, I did not look for others to think in those terms either. I should have know better.

Thirty years ago, the NAACP asked the federal government to open an investigation into cases of police brutality and deaths of black arrestees while in the custody of the Baltimore City Police Department. Aside from knowing that Baltimore, like Washington, DC, was predominantly black, I knew little about it. I had started out my sojourn in Maryland in the Washington, DC suburbs and even though I was then living further east in central Maryland, I had never shifted my “community” orientation. I was still a Washington girl at heart and it is a vastly different city than Baltimore. As the nation’s capital it is an international city and I was used to living in an international environment. I blew off the request of the NAACP as so much grandstanding. Little did I know.

Fast forward to 11 August 1997 when James Quarles was shot in broad daylight at Lexington Market. Yes, he was brandishing a knife, but he was never a danger to any of the four policemen who surrounded him. Mace, pepper spray, a night stick, . . . all could have knocked the knife out of his hand and subdued him without having to resort to lethal force, but he was shot in what police described as an unfortunate mistake by a cop with just four years experience who said Mr. Quarles “lunged” at him and he was afraid for his life. I had heard that story before. A lot.

As I went back in my memory and began to tally the “reasons” given in cases where police brutality and excessive force were in question, it seemed that nearly all of them had explanations of the arrestee either “resisting arrest” or officers “were in fear for their lives.” I questioned myself whether or not the BCPD officers were so untrained or undertrained, or the arrestees so fearsome as to give any credence to their explanations. My conclusion was that no police department encounters that may perps that are beyond their capacity to subdue short of violent means or lethal force.

I saw the video of the shooting of James Quarles again, and again, and again, and again, and again. And each time, there was one inescapable conclusion: despite anything that the internal investigation did to try to explain away what happened, it was not a “righteous” shoot. James Quarles did not have to die that afternoon. But he did.

As the years have passed and the body count of arrestees has risen, there has been no way of escaping the truth that some on the Baltimore City Police Department are guilty of gross brutality which has led to significant injury and, in some cases, death. As Baltimore is predominantly black, so are the victims. And in a never ending litany, the police department and the courts have cleared nearly every single case with the assessment that the police actions were justified. I had long since done business with the fact that the streets were mean enough that you could literally be dying and no one would do anything. But it jarred me to my core that a person could be killed outright without cause by the police and neither the government, nor the courts, would do anything. I understood that, given the right set of circumstances, even the fact that I was a white woman would not exempt me from that possibility. And that made me afraid.

When I married, my former father-in-law was a policeman for our local police department. His father-in-law had been a prison guard in the federal prison system. I was used to thinking in terms of cops being friends and reliable authority figures who would help in times of trouble. That is what I had been taught as a child growing up. Nothing prepared me for thinking of cops as enemies and opponents, someone who could do anything to me and never have to answer for it, if it was legally, morally and professionally wrong.

There was one thing about this entire scenario, however, that I could not wrap my mind around. I could understand this type of police brutality and use of excessive force in cases where there were white officers and black arrestees. What I could not understand was how this could be happening in a police department which had a large contingent of black officers and black leadership, in a city which was predominantly black, with a city council that was predominantly black and a mayor that was frequently black. Until Freddie Gray.

Much has been written about how Freddie Gray was arrested without probable cause, placed in the police van without restraint, was denied requested medical attention several times, and was unresponsive upon arrival at the police station. Disturbing as those facts are, they have been played out countless times without having the fatal consequences that they did with Freddie Gray. But the one facet of this case that has pushed it from “I am watching these situations and am keeping count” to “NOT ON MY WATCH!!!!” is the injuries Mr. Gray sustained.

I am no expert, but I am a retired legal secretary who has had any number of cases cross my desk over the years of people who have been injured, sometimes seriously or fatally. Even I understand that giving somebody a “rough ride” where they are handcuffed behind their backs in the back of a van being driven in such a way as to cause injury is not sufficient to sever the spinal cord by 80%. The physics just does not work. If nothing else, the very fact that the arrestee had his hands handcuffed behind his back will provide a certain amount of protection, except possibly to the cervical spine where a sharp blow could do significant damage. But an 80% severance??? The amount of torque required for that type of injury is tremendous and deliberate. It is also not easily explained away, although I am confident that the defense attorneys for the officers who have been charged in Mr. Gray’s death will do their utmost to make it sound like anything but what it is.

We, in Baltimore, are at a crossroads where everything must pivot on the case of the officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. No matter who wants life to go on unabated with no changes and for these officers to be exonerated, the community will no longer tolerate the status quo. We want answers and we want changes. Now!!! How much we will get depends on how hard we are willing to fight for the changes we need. The price tag for not fighting is entirely too high. It always was.

In order for there to be change, we have to have some extremely uncomfortable conversations.

We need to confront ourselves about our own denial and our own inaction.  We need to confront ourselves, our leadership, and those responsible for the bad things we allow to happen in our communities that we should make sure is stopped. Conversely, we need to confront ourselves, our leadership and those responsible for the good things we need and want in our communities that we continually allow to be delayed by promises never fulfilled, to be stymied by endless red tape, and to be prevented from happening outright by administrations more interested in their own welfare and public perception, rather than the the welfare of and benefits to the communities they were elected to serve. What we need to do is insist upon the infrastructure being established so the necessary programs and opportunities can implemented and completed.

We need to confront ourselves and our leaders about what we allow them to do and say that is destroying us. We need to hold our leaders accountable for everything they do while in leadership positions, including where there is moral failure, and we need to insist that they clean up their act if they want to remain leaders. If they don’t, we need to elect someone else who will be a person of integrity.

We need to stop letting things slide, to stop buying the many lies and excuses we are given by those with glib tongues, to stop using them ourselves to deny problems which are many times self-evident or to diminish how great they are. And we need to recognise and reject the lies and excuses that strip us of our power and ability to fight for changes so justly deserved and long overdue.

The first thing we have to confront is the fact that life in America is vastly different in the white community as opposed to the different ethnic communities that live among us. I say “among us” because “they” do not live “with” us. No matter how thin, there is always, always, always a veil of separation between us. Like the old observation: “Q: When is the most segregated hour in America? A: 11:00 AM on Sunday morning.” Why? Because that is when the vast majority of the “people of colour” – the black, Latino, and immigrant communities of this country – go to their places of worship to be with people who are like themselves, while much of the white community sit in  churches where there are either no people of colour or very few.

We cannot understand what is actually going on in this country and in our communities unless we are willing to listen to all of what is happening, not just what we are comfortable with, or how far we are willing to extend ourselves beyond our comfort zone to hear. We need to hear all of it.

We need to hear the fear, and the anger, and the desperation, and the hopelessness. We need to hear what we are doing wrong and if we are doing anything right. We need to understand realities such as the economic bondage that exists in the low level infrastructures we have built, how when Dollar General types of stores are all there are in the community, nobody can buy decent quality products that they need to live because the stores that sell them are far enough outside of the community as to make them inaccessible on a regular basis, especially for those dependent on public transportation, which includes many inner city residents.

We need to listen instead of talk. We need to respect the communities and their leaders, instead of taking the patriarchal attitude that we know better than they do, that we know what is best for their communities. We need to stop running in fear from everything that is not “just like us” and understand that “our way of life” is not threatened with extinction because someone is not “like us.” We need to instead understand that we are a stronger city because of our diversity, not in spite of it.

The conversations have to start somewhere.

Below are three articles from the NY Times that talk about what it is like to raise a son who is black in America. They deal with what the ingrained obstacles are that have to be faced and overcome, if they can be. Such as, how the abilities of a black child who tries to get a good education are many times met with the assessment in the better school systems and private schools (run primarily by wealthy whites) that they cannot learn because they are black and the reaction of some in the black community that if they do get a good education, then they sound “white.” How does a black child win in that situation? Too many times the answer is that if they do what is best for themselves, then they are seen as anomalies in the white community and traitors in their own. When what they should be seen as is a successful child who has gained a good education, something to be celebrated by everyone.

Please read these articles and watch the videos.

Let’s help start the conversation here in Baltimore and give it more than the cursory lip service it normally gets. Our survival as a community depends upon it.

What Dr. Martin Luther King said has become something of a truism, we have heard it so many times. But it still is the best and only real solution to the juggernaut confronting us. Doing anything less will not work.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!







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Remembering 38 years ago at this very moment when my life hung in the balance and G-d gave me everything I needed in order to make the right decisions to save my life.

Sometimes seemingly little things can be huge.

If it were not for my fourth grade teacher reading to our class the book “The Yearling” where the father was struck by a rattlesnake and had to keep himself very calm in order to save his life, I would not have had the presence of mind to calm down during a very scary medical crisis that left me bleeding profusely. The providence of G-d to put that experience in my mind 13 years before I needed it has always filled me with awe and fascination.

I have since learned that He does that with a lot of things in our lives that prepare us for those moments when nothing else will do.

It took me nearly 5 months to recover physically from that night which changed my life forever. I spent the summer lying in bed being tutored in chemistry with a focus on nuclear chemistry. That knowledge enabled me to get a job in food service when my marriage disintegrated, gave me what I needed in order to understand the problems presented by the Chernobyl and Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear crises many years after that, and continues to underpin everything I do in nutrition and medicine.

I do not begin to understand the principle that sometimes saves the life of one person while taking the life of another. I have pondered that question often over the years, certainly since that very difficult night. To me, all of life is precious and everyone deserves to die full of days, but the reality is frequently much different.

I am always aware that the days are short and there is much less time in front of me to the day I will understand than there are days behind me when I have not understood. I draw comfort from that and am eternally grateful to be alive. But my heart still weeps for the one who is not.

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I have always built into my life a great deal of “down time,” unstructured time to let my mind roam free, learn what is inside of me and outside of me, listen to the Voice within my heart, imagine, plan, design, and try out a thousand different scenarios of how to approach life. It is my belief that all people, especially all children, need such time in order to become whole and live to their greatest potential.

In this day and age, we have become so taken with our children meeting the benchmarks society has set in order for them to be seen as “successful,” “well-adjusted,” “up with the times” that we have totally lost sight of the fact they are children, not adults, and need time to develop, not be driven relentlessly 24/7/365.

Development is creation and requires imagination as imagination requires time and focus. If we are not giving our children the time and tools to do this, then we are robbing them of the most basic foundation which they need to build their lives.

The following article by Jacqueline at the Deep Roots at Home blog discusses in depth the needs of children which nurture their development and the differences between the ways we are raising our children in a highly technologically driven culture in relation to our heritage, the historical ways children have been raised in past generations. She concludes that in our rush to forward and equip our children for the future in which they will live, we are failing to nurture the foundational skills they will need in order to live a healthy, well-rounded life where they can successfully relate to those around them. I agree with her.

What are your thoughts???

Are We Starving The Hearts Of Our Children?

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Gautama Buddha (1), also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, Shakyamuni, or the Buddha was a sage believed to have lived and taught in India between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE (2).

All living beings in the universe want to be happy and avoid suffering.


(1) http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhistworld/buddha.htm
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha

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If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat. (Book title)

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There has been been a horrible maritime disaster off the coast of Libya as a boat carrying approximately 700 – 950 migrants sank. So far, only 28 migrants have been saved and 24 bodies have been recovered.

For more information, see the following story in the Washington Post.

Calls for action in Europe after migrant disaster in Mediterranean

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1-01 Parashat Bereshit
1-02 Parashat Noach
1-03 Parashat Lech-Lecha
1-04 Parashat Vayera
1-05 Parashat Chayei Sara
1-06 Parashat Toldot
1-07 Parashat Vayetzei
1-08 Parashat Vayishlach
1-09 Parashat Vayeshev
1-10 Parashat Miketz
1-11 Parashat Vayigash
1-12 Parashat Vayechi


2-13 Parashat Shemot
2-14 Parashat Vaera
2-15 Parashat Bo
2-16 Parashat Beshalach
2-17 Parashat Yitro
2-18 Parashat Mishpatim
2-19 Parashat Terumah
2-20 Parashat Tetzaveh
2-21 Parashat Ki Tisa
2-22 Parashat Vayakhel
2-23 Parashat Pekudei


*Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei


3-24 Parashat Vayikra
3-25 Parashat Tzav
3-26 Parashat Shmini
3-27 Parashat Tazria
3-28 Parashat Metzora
3-29 Parashat Achrei Mot
3-30 Parashat Kedoshim
3-31 Parashat Emor
3-32 Parashat Behar
3-33 Parashat Bechukotai


[*Parashat Tazria-Metzora]
[*Parashat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim]
[*Parashat Behar-Bechukotai]

NUMBERS | B’MIDBAR | בַּמִדבָּר

4-34 Parashat B’midbar
4-35 Parashat Nasso
4-36 Parashat Beha’alotcha
4-37 Parashat Sh’lach
4-38 Parashat Korach
4-39 Parashat Chukat
4-40 Parashat Balak
4-41 Parashat Pinchas
4-42 Parashat Matot
4-43 Parashat Masei


[*Parashat Chukat-Balak]
[*Parashat Matot-Masei]


5-44 Parashat Devarim
5-45 Parashat Vaetchanan
5-46 Parashat Eikev
5-47 Parashat Re’eh
5-48 Parashat Shoftim
5-49 Parashat Ki Teitzei
5-50 Parashat Ki Tavo
5-51 Parashat Nitzavim
5-52 Parashat Vayeilech
5-53 Parashat Ha’Azinu
5-54 Parashat Vezot Haberakhah


[*Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech]

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The crime is not to play without mistakes; the crime is to play without passion.

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Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

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Popularity is the crumb of greatness.

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20 Oct 2005, CANCUN, Mexico — Hurricane Wilma — Image by © DANIEL AGUILAR/Reuters/Corbis

Every year on this day I am drawn back to 3 March 1993. At the time, I was an executive secretary for a wholesale and retail distributor of health and beauty aids during the week and the assistant to the pastor of a Hispanic church in Laurel, Maryland on the weekends. Much of our congregation was Cuban, many with strong ties to Miami and most with relatives living there. We had watched with horror as Hurricane Andrew swept through Miami in the early hours of 24 August 1992. In the weeks that followed, I went to the president of the company and asked if we could send something down. He agreed and arrangements began to be made.

The only way to describe the next year of my life is miraculous. The goods were acquired and shipped to the parish whose ministry was to the four migrant camps in South Dade County. While making the arrangements for the shipment, I became acquainted with the gentleman running the tent city behind St. Ann’s Parish in Naranja. It was in following up with him several weeks later that I made the acquaintance of the priest who ministered to the families in the migrant camps. Having heard of the work I was involved with in Maryland, he invited me to Miami to see how they did it there and to teach music to the children. Dates were set, but there was no money for plane tickets or materials.

Each day, I searched for guidance during my daily devotions. In 1991, I had begun using Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. The entry for 3 March offered a quote by Dr. John Henry Jowett.

“Evil never surrenders its hold without a sore fight. We never pass into any spiritual inheritance through the delightful exercises of a picnic, but always through the grim contentions of the battlefield. It is so in the secret realm of the soul. Every faculty which wins its spiritual freedom does so at the price of blood. Apolloyon is not put to flight by a courteous request, he straddles across the full breadth of the way, and our progress has to be registered in blood and tears. This we must remember or we shall add to all the other burdens of life the gall of misinterpretation. We are not ‘born again’ into soft protected nurseries, but in the open country where we suck strength from the very terror of the tempest. We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of G-d.” (Emphasis added.)

I felt my heart stick in my throat. I didn’t want to be in the open country, unprotected, vulnerable, required to fight to survive. I wanted to be on much more friendly ground, with people who loved me and leaders who would protect me. I wanted safety at the most primal levels possible. I felt like it was wrong and unfair of G-d to put me in such a position if He truly did love me. The possibility that just in the process of living, I could be badly hurt or killed struck home with a terrifying thud. And I was planning on going to a hurricane recovery zone in the month of August, one year after one of the worst hurricanes in history ran over Miami. Was I nuts???

I had already seen enough of the more difficult side of life to know that was a very real possibility. But I was at a point in my life where I had never been before. Here, I had been minding my own business, or at least I thought I had been, and everything started changing. I didn’t know what G-d was up to, but I knew it was something big and, somehow, I was a part of it. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. When I read this devotional, it went right through me in a way that I knew G-d was talking straight to me. One quote kept echoing in my head.

“We are not ‘born again’ into soft protected nurseries, but in the open country where we suck strength from the very terror of the tempest.”

I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen, but I knew I was supposed to go to school on that quote. So I did. Hundreds, maybe thousands of times, I turned it over and over in my spirit trying to understand what I was supposed to learn from it. I was never comfortable with it, but always felt on high alert any time I was considering it.

Weeks passed. Plans for the music came miraculously in place. Money for the plane ticket arrived at nearly the last possible moment. Everyone who needed to be on board was.

Somewhere in June, after the start of hurricane season, it occurred to me that if it could happen once, it could happen again. So I asked G-d.

“Are we going to have a hurricane while I am in Miami?”

And He replied, “No you aren’t going to have a hurricane while you are in Miami.”

So it was set: no hurricanes, no problems. I continued learning everything I could find out about post-Andrew Miami and steeling myself the best I could for the emotional impact of the devastation.

When I arrived on Friday, 20 August 1993, I was met at the airport by the parish priest. It was 10:30 PM and dark out. Even so, I could see incredible amounts of destruction nearly everywhere I looked. The airport itself, the trees and grounds all bore evidence of the terrible blow that had befallen them.

On the trip to the mission compound, I learned that the priest was originally from Cuba and had arrived in Miami from an extended posting in Paris just four weeks before Andrew struck. He had barely had time to say, “Hello!” before he was hiding in the church with some of his congregants during the terrifying ordeal a year earlier.

The week I arrived, his housekeeper had left three days earlier to take care of some family matters and wasn’t scheduled to return for some time, so it was just us, the teaching brother and a couple of Latino guys that helped around the compound. As we continued our nearly hour drive, I had the opportunity to see some of the places along Route 1 with which I had become familiar with through pictures provided by a high school chum who worked at the Miami Herald. Although it was dark, I could tell it wasn’t good.

We arrived at the mission compound and I learned that I would be staying in the trailer out back. Electricity was jerry-rigged because repairs hadn’t gotten that far yet. Interesting. I was allotted: a blanket to sleep on, one to put over me, a couple of sheets and a pillow; a pot to cook in; a glass, cup, bowl, and plate; a knife, fork, spoon and a couple of cooking utensils. That meager collection was all that was available at the compound. Everything else was either being used by someone else or had been destroyed.

The next morning, I was doing breakfast dishes in the rectory when the priest came in and excitedly called for me to come outside. Circling overhead was a Miami-Dade police helicopter doing surveillance of the house two doors down across the street. All that was left after Andrew was the concrete block shell and a roof. Yet, it was the kiosk for the local drug dealers. That is when the priest told me that I was to be very careful and not ever go outside of the mission compound without an escort. I thought he was being a wonderful Latino gentleman and it couldn’t possibly be that bad. He wasn’t; it was worse than even he thought. Two days later he found out that two of the men who were staying at the compound were stealing from the warehouse and selling things on the street for drug money. Even the compound wasn’t secure. For most of the remainder of my stay, I was secured behind wrought-iron gates and wrought-iron barred windows whose fortifications were driven deep into the concrete structure.

Over the weekend, weather reports had begun to talk about a couple of weather systems out in the Atlantic. By Tuesday, 24 August 1993 – the first anniversary of Hurricane Andrew – they were strengthening and organizing. Skies became leaden gray, wind picked up, rain bands began to cycle through. The priest was becoming so distraught at the possibility they might go through another hurricane that his friends bought him a plane ticket and sent him to New York for a week. But I was still there and now the one person I knew was not in the compound.

It had taken me three days after I landed to realize I was dealing with spiritual warfare and demonic forces I had never encountered before. I would pray and Satan would be right in front of me telling me he could do anything he wanted and there was nothing I could do about it. He could shut down my prayers and my cries for help wouldn’t even get past my lips. The oppression of evil was so intense there, I was in second by second submission to G-d, something that had never happened in my experience. I understood I was in a very dangerous place. And now there were two hurricanes coming our direction, one of them straight down the same pipeline Hurricane Andrew had followed the year before. It was very frightening.

The effect of this information on Miami was devastating. Two million people were reliving the trauma from Hurricane Andrew and its aftermath. The priest, the others at the compound, the news, the newspapers, . . . everyone, it seemed, in the county were almost unhinged at the prospect of another hurricane. It had been very hard for me to focus and not be swept up in the mounting anxiety and emotions. I was afraid, but I hadn’t lived through their terror, so I was apprehensive, but not unduly so.

A couple of days after the priest had left, I was coming from the church to the trailer with Satan dogging my steps all the way. At some point, I had made the adjustment to his ongoing presence, but it was like I was walking around in a bubble: the evil could get right up almost next to me, but there was a type of “force-field” all around me which it could not penetrate. I NEVER went anywhere that G-d did not tell me to go, . . . ever. I understood that the force-field was His hedge of protection.

Finally, for the sixteen millionth time, Satan was going on and on about how these hurricanes were coming and I was in the middle of what could very well be the impact zone, so what was I going to do about it. And I got very, very angry!!!

“My G-d said there will not be a hurricane while I am down here and there will not be a hurricane!!!!!” I shouted at the wind and rain in my face.

I was shocked and surprised. Where did that come from??? I quickly thought about what I had said and checked to see if I wanted to change anything. Do I really want to say that??? Yes, I decided, I did. I didn’t really have much choice. Either G-d was with me and had put this whole thing together, or He had not. Either way, I was there now and I would just have to ride it out and see what would happen.

It took another five days to get the answer. After bearing down toward Miami for several days, the storms abruptly turned north and never came anywhere close to south Florida.

At the moment I shouted at Satan that I believed MY G-d and not the winds and rain he was using to terrorize us, I could feel the strength flowing into me like a flood. The harder it blew, the more strength I felt. I finally understood what Dr. Jowett had been talking about because I had lived it. I had seen the tempest and had sucked strength from its very terror. How blessed I am to have been given that opportunity!

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I ran across the article below with some really good, useful suggestions on ways to help the mother of a newborn. Whether for friends, family members, or service workers and professional tradesmen who come to the house, this is useful reading for everyone.

10 Ways to REALLY Help Someone Who Has a New Baby – by Shelly Lopez Gray (Registered nurse)

I would have given a kidney if someone would have done any of these things for me after the birth of my second child. To the people who brought my family food while I was so busy with my baby, you will never know the full extent of my gratitude!

1. Take their other kids somewhere.

Anywhere — just get them out of their house. It’s so much harder when you have to tend to a new baby and to your other kids. So take out her other children as often as you can!

2. Bring food.

And I mean food that comes in a disposable pan or food that you can dump in a crock pot. Do not bring anything that she’ll have to wash and worry about getting back to you. If you just don’t cook, bring paper plates and silverware… so if she’s forced to cook for herself, at least you’ll help her minimize how many dishes she has to clean up.

3. Fork over the money for a stranger to clean the house.

Best. Gift. Ever. But you have to pay for someone else to come clean their house, you can’t be the one to do it. There is no way in hell I’d feel comfortable watching a friend clean my house and sort my dirty laundry. Or put things away in my drawers. Who knows what they’d find! But I wouldn’t feel guilty lying around in my pajamas, nursing a new baby, while watching a stranger clean up my hot mess.

4. Watch their baby while they take a nap.

Before coming over, you have to say… I’m going to come over to watch your baby while you sleep. It doesn’t work if you just show up and say you’re going to do it, because then she’ll play the “oh-no-I’m-fine” game.

5. Recognize signs of postpartum depression.

Although it’s common for women to have “Baby Blues,” it can quickly turn into postpartum depression. If you begin to notice that a new mom does not really want to take care of herself or her baby, encourage her or her family to seek additional help. Be on the lookout for telltale signs that moms might need a little extra help.

6. Get them out of the house.

Sometimes both mom and baby just need to get out of the house. Find a way to encourage everyone to get some fresh air, even if it’s just to take a walk around the neighborhood.

7. Be extra attentive if their baby has any sort of issue.

I once watched a friend’s baby who had really bad reflux. After watching her all day, I thought, “There is no way her mom doesn’t need more help than she’s letting on.” Her baby was so much work! So if a baby has any other issue that makes him or her a little harder to handle, try to go out of your way to help — mom and dad may really need it!

8. Go to the grocery store for her.

Or watch her baby while she goes to the grocery store. I really enjoyed this after I had my baby. I spent two hours at the store once, and when I came home, my friend was like, “and you only came back with two things?!?” But it was so nice just walking around a familiar place with no one to feed or hold…

9. Make a sign for their door that says “Baby Sleeping.”

It never fails… you just put the baby to bed and FedEx or UPS or your neighbor comes over and rings your doorbell, waking up the baby. I always wanted to make a sign, but somehow, I never got around to it. I can’t count how many times I’ve given someone the evil eyeball for just ringing the doorbell. Somewhere out there, there’s a group of Girl Scouts that will never knock on my door again…

10. Always come with a package of diapers or wipes.

Let’s be honest — our kids don’t need more cute clothes! But you know they’re going to go through those diapers like they’re not $23 a box. A less expensive alternative? Bring wipes! You end up using them for everything from wiping a baby’s bottom to wiping up a spill in your car to wiping the makeup off your own hand when you’re in a hurry and can’t find your foundation brush. Always a useful gift!


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Another sterling entry into the “you just can’t make this stuff up” category.

Every once in a while, the thought occurs to me that the halls of government in Washington are not populated by greedy, money-grubbing, politicians bought by big business and clueless as to the needs of the American people. They are populated by politicians who are idiots. This would be one of those times.

Traitor Tom Cotton Is Worried That Iran Already ‘Occupies’ Tehran – It’s Own Capital (VIDEO)

 The link in the article is broken, so here is where you can find it on YouTube.

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