Sunday, December 28, 2008

War Profiteers Vs. Corporate Thieves

One of the most common fears spread around the "internets" is the desire of certain wingnuts for a third world war. One of the primary spreaders is the poster child for fried brain syndrome, Newt Gingrich, who really wants to believe we are already there so we can start nuking Arabs for fun and profit. "Newt's thinking is that five years of false promises, failures, ineptitudes, errors and omissions, is hard to swallow as a mere War on Terror, but that as World War III it would all be just dandy." read more

Of course, the possibility exists that rather than promoting war from the recesses of his demented and rapidly rotting brain cells as some ideological hallucination, he is actually a member of the future feeding frenzy party lined up at the trough and stands to profit from any and all wars. In this, he would be in some familiar company, starting with Bush's grandpa whose thievery and greed inspired Dubya the Dumber to follow in his blood-stained footsteps:

"George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany." read more

Making money from death is not limited to just the horse thieves in the Bush crime family:

"The three major arms manufacturers in the world – the U.S., Russia and France – provide almost 80 per cent of the sales for armaments. By itself, the U.S. sold over half of all weapons in the world marketplace: 18.6 billion dollars. Its sales increased 30 per cent between 1999 and 2000.

Among the principal clients for the armaments furnished by the great powers are the monarchies of the Middle East, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia. While continuing to improve their up-to-date airforces, they
also purchase armored cars to keep internal order. The United Arab Emirates expense for arms in 2000 was 8.4 billion dollars. Other clients for weapons are the African dictatorships like Algeria, which spent 580 million dollars, Angola, (253 million dollars), and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which spent 108 million dollars. All three countries have been ravaged by terrible civil wars which have oppressed and massacred their populations for years. Nothing stops the arms industry – merchants of death – from going after profit." read more

The greed of these war criminals/profiteers is almost endless, but it is matched by their most passionate and vindictive enemy--the corporate whores who already have dibs on any profits  made on the backs of American workers. They've spent a lot of time and money making sure their profits aren't messed with by ideologues like Newt or their other worst enemy--labor unions and workers who struggle to make a decent wage.

"Just after the end of World War II, when the Jeep first became a civilian vehicle, 35 percent of workers belonged to labor unions. That’s significant because union members earn 30 percent higher wages
than non-union workers and are 59 percent more likely to have health insurance. Those better wages and benefits helped create the great middle class in America. Workers earned enough money to buy
refrigerators and homes and cars and, later, college educations for their children. The money they earned and spent churned through the economy and kept it humming." read more

But that wasn't enough profit for the corporate pigs. They realized there was money to be made by keeping wages low and forcing Americans into the endless cycle of debt they needed just to stay alive. After all, a refrigerator can be paid off and then you have to find someone else to sell another refrigerator to. A credit card can return interest investment forever. A refrigerator bought on credit will continue to add money to corporate coffers year after year, even after the refrigerator itself no longer works and is languishing in some landfill for the next generation to deal with.

"The origin of our current culture of debt goes back to around 1973. That's when America's long run of unprecedented economic growth (which began shortly after World War II) hit a wall. OPEC raised
oil prices, and European and Asian nations became industrial competitors. This was the beginning of the decline of the U.S. manufacturing economy and the end of wage growth for the American worker. Thirty-five years later, the U.S. median wage per worker still hovers around the 1973 level. For male workers, most affected by deindustrialization, wages have actually declined slightly since 1973" read more

But in order for the corporations to continue gouging the average consumer by selling them 300 dollar refrigerators that will end up costing them 3000 dollars in a couple years of paying interest on the unpaid balance, they need the cooperation of the government to throw more money their way and refuse to help the consumer in any way that would threaten those corporate profits.

"The principle of government helping big business and refusing government largesse to the poor was bipartisan, upheld by Republicans and Democrats. President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, vetoed a bill to give $10,000 to Texas farmers to help them buy seed grain during a drought, saying, "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character." But that same year, he used the gold surplus to pay wealthy bondholders $28 above the value of each bond--a gift of $5 million. " read more

It also requires taking over all the safeguards put in place to help the consumer or small business person compete in the marketplace.

"..since 2003, 15 federal investigations have found that Fortune 500 firms are the actual recipients of most federal small business contracts. It has been estimated that large businesses receive over $100 billion a year in federal small business contracts. ABC, CBS and CNN have all aired investigative reports which have found firms like: Rolls Royce, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Raytheon, IBM, Xerox, Dell, John Deere, General Dynamics, GTSI, Home Depot, Titan Industries, Hewlett Packard, Battelle and British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) have all received millions of dollars in federal small business contracts." read more

In light of this, warmongering morons like Newt Gingrich are powerless to get their war on as they would have to convince the corporate whores that ideology is more important than money and that's not going to happen. There's only one thing that corporations fear and that is the loss of their money flow. They know if a world war broke out and suddenly bombs were dropping on American cities, they'd wake up to a financial catastrophe not even their paid servants in Congress could bail them out from. Think of how you bank, how you pay your bills, how you buy and use services. If cable companies like Comcast can't even keep their service up in a storm, can you imagine what would happen if just a few of their access points were bombed to shit? No one could do banking, no one could pay their bills, automatic payments and deposits would stop.

Their worst fear, and one that is becoming more possible with each bailout that rewards corporate greed and incompetence and refuses to help people who are losing their homes, jobs, savings, and retirement plans, is that people will stop paying their debts. There's no debtor's prison in this country. And when you have nothing left to lose and your credit is already shot, what's to stop an ever growing desperate population from simply walking away from their credit card and other bills the same way they're walking away from mortgages and car loans?

"So until real relief is forthcoming, citizens who are in distress should simply destroy their credit cards and stop paying the monthly bills. People are already doing this. Arrearages and defaults are climbing, and credit card debt is starting to be viewed as the next bubble to burst. But so what? If people have to use a credit card, that means they can’t really afford to buy whatever it is they think they want. If they can afford it, they should use a debit card instead." read more

What is now a trickle of people giving up on their debts would be a tidal wave if war broke out in this country, and because the arms merchants depend on corporate whores to bankroll their deadly toy purchases, they're not going to create a war that will effectively kill their golden goose. The only way a third world war would happen is if everyone lost everything, even the corporations. And even then, without the necessary funding for crime families like the Bushes to profit from it, any war would more likely be a revolution where mobs took to the streets and burned down banks and collection agencies. Any talk you hear of a stimulus package for the ordinary American is to prevent this from happening and not to save anyone from living under a bridge and sleeping in the box that once housed their refrigerators and flat screen televisions.

A funny rat with a sad expression says "After eight years of Bush all I
have left is hope." Great to wear for the inauguration and to celebrate
the election of Barack Obama as President. You can purchase it or other items with this design by clicking on the design or visiting Ursine Logic stores President Obama shop.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

T-Mobile Does the Right Thing

For those of you who read the previous post about T-Mobile raising my rates on the Guam call, this is to let you know they did the right thing and dropped those charges. However, and let me say I can't stress this enough, for a communications company, they sure need to find a way to resolve issues before they get to the stage this one did.

The problem began with me calling when I received the bill and getting told I had no options for a resolution unless I let my bill go into default. I did not consider this a realistic option and after my second call with no one being able to do or say anything consistent, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The problem then increased when T-Mobile responded to the complaint by claiming they had tried to contact me several times by phone and were unable to.

Keep in mind this is a PHONE company who did not leave a voice mail or a text message or even try and call again. I'm not sure WHAT number they were calling "repeatedly" but it wasn't either of mine. I did check on my phone after reading their response and there was a call listed as "customer service" with a phone number from the day after I filed the complaint, but it never registered as a "missed call." Unless I checked I had no way of knowing it was there as they called in the morning while I was asleep.

I called it and was immediately in "no one knows anything hell." I gave up and waited for them to call me back, which they never did. What I suspect happened is that the person calling did not get the message that several months ago we changed the primary phone number to a new one they assigned us because it was getting tons of telemarketer calls and text messages. It's a reasonable assumption that my account would have this noted, or they could simply have called the number the charges were billed to. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable assumption on my part, does it? If you can't get hold of someone, CHECK THE PHONE NUMBER AND MAKE SURE IT'S CORRECT!!!!

Or the other option is "someone" wasn't being completely honest when they claimed they called and tried to work things out with me. Maybe they took off work early and just kind of shoved it aside because who am I but an ordinary powerless consumer against a huge corporate entity that would just ignore my squeaking?

Those who have read my blog over the years know that I am not one to sit back and take stuff like that. I may be shy and have a hard time with in person or on the phone contacts, but I have become very familiar with my consumer rights over the years. I've fought back every time, whether it was getting hit with shipping charges I was promised would be free, a cable company that doesn't know its ass from a hole in the ground half the time, and late fees for payments that weren't late. I've won every one of those battles and others. And every month the cable company screws me around, I demand and get a credit on my bill. It's not a lot but it's the principle of the matter: if they don't provide the service I'm paying for, they need to have my bill reflect that.

As a consumer I've noticed in the last few years that more and more  corporations do the nickle and dime gouging that multiplied by thousands does increase their bottom line, but what it does to their reputation and consumer loyalty costs them far more. They've forgotten the most important part of being in business: without customers you're just selling to your relatives and those who owe you favors. If you treat the customer well, you'll have a loyal and happy customer who will talk up your company and build your success. Without it you have unhappy and pissed off customers who will trash you in ways that weren't even possible a few years ago.

Or they won't use your services anymore. I'm sure that Circuit City misses my holiday shopping this year but sadly they thought cheating me out of a ten dollar rebate last year was more important than keeping me as a customer. Anyone check how many of their stores are closing this year because of policies like that? That was a fairly expensive ten dollars and if you multiply it by thousands, then yeah they made some money off not paying those rebates and having someone in India blow off those who tried to collect. But those same thousands could have easily been surpassed by treating the customer decently and selling them new HD TVs to go with the change to digital coming up in February. They chose the ten dollars, which is why their company is in the toilet these days.

But the important message is number one, fight back. They count on you caving in to their nickle and diming, their mistakes, their incompetent outsourced customer support frustration. Refuse to do business at all with companies who don't treat you as a respected and valued customer.

And the important thing is get and communicate everything in writing. In this digital age it is easy to just dash off something and leave it to hang in the ether. Make hard copies of everything. If you communicate by phone, keep a record of person talked to, time you called, and a summary of the conversation. Don't assume a communcations company is going to have communication skills.

And if you still can't get a resolution to your complaint, do file a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau. They do an amazing job of communication go-between and it does get the company's attention when they receive notice of a complaint filed. For serious rip-offs and outright frauds, there's the Attorney General's websites of your respective states. There's a lot of information on their websites and the one time I had to file a formal complaint, they helped me resolve it.

I don't recommend the consumer fraud people on local news stations, etc. Most of them I suspect take cases that don't conflict with paid advertisers, or they take on cases with lots of cute kids and handsome men and attractive women. If you're ordinary with an ordinary problem, don't waste your phone call or email on "celebrity" consumer advocates. They won't even answer most of the time.

And a resource many of you might not consider is your local congressional representative, especially if you're trying to interface a bureaucracy at the local or federal level. My local rep helped me get a passport after some federal weenie took a dislike to me and did everything in her power to make me miss my plane to a long planned vacation to Australia. Her last words to me were that as long as it was up to her, she'd make sure none of the expedited fees I was charged to send more paperwork after I was already officially denied would ever be refunded. I received a nice fat check several months later so I assume it was no longer up to her. :-)

Stay active, fight back, and stay loyal to sompanies who treat you well and dump the ones that don't. Together we can reclaim some of the rights and respect taken away from us these last few years. All new beginnings start with a healthy dose of activism directed at the right targets.

Shirt available at Ursine Logic

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare A Shoe?

Bush picks up a nice pair of shoes as a souvenir of his trip to Iraq. He's probably starting a collection for his presidential library as the comic books and treadmill look kind of boring in there all by themselves. Let's give him a real nice send off and mail him a shoe for his collection.

George W Bush Farewell Shoe Drive
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

All designs available at Ursine Logic

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pic Of The Day

From a friend in Athens. :-)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Got Big Old Atheist Balls?

One of the things that separates rational people from outright raging lunatics is politeness. You never ever see a group of militant Atheists blocking traffic with the equivalent of mason jar fetuses shoved in people's faces. You never ever hear Atheists demanding that everyone believe as they do or a group of their specially selected chosen ones will kill you. You never ever read Atheists filling up the letters to the editor, congressional reps mailboxes, and media head offices with demands that all programming, all reporting, all legislation be written to favor just their own select group. Atheists are just too reasonable to stomp all over everyone else's rights.

I'm not advocating violence or mean acts or hard core activism. I'm merely suggesting if Atheists want to enjoy the same rights to live in this country as the religidiots, then we can't just sit back and simmer in our reasonableness. Therefore I'm offering a selection of t-shirts that will at least let Atheists some big old in your face balls. There's nothing violent about a t-shirt, but they are an excellent way to spread the message about a cause that requires a lot of words to explain. And of course, all the following are available on buttons, stickers, and other items as well at Wild World Shirts Anti-Religion Shop if you can't afford a t-shirt. Or just click on the design to take you to the shop where it is offered.

First, the tame offerings for those of you who prefer to keep a low profile and avoid the threat of serious beatings from the "tolerant" folks down at the local church farm.

A noose forms the backdrop for the words on this shirt "Religion is a leash in the hands of the powerful." Perfect gift for Atheists, Freethinkers, and anyone tired of religious extremists.

Here's a great t-shirt to piss off the religious right and their cannibalistic vampire cult: "You've given your love to Jesus and I've rented mine to Cthulhu." At least Cthulhu is an honest monster.

Now, let's step it up a bit with these next two selections:

Next time you're forced to deal with a bible-thumping religious nut, wear this shirt, button, sticker that says: "The Bible was written by the same people who said the earth was flat."

When an organization gets rich from the bottom of the pyramid supporting it through donations and converting others to give money to it as well, it's called a Ponzi or Pyramid scheme...or religion.

Now, let's match some of these loony xtian tax avoiding whackos with some more out there designs:

You don't need anyone doing your thinking for you. You're a freethinking non-believer of anything you can't personally see and touch. Your shirt says: "Jesus saves you from thinking for yourself."

There's one sure way to stop idiots from killing each other and us over whose imaginary playmate should rule the world: Atheism. As the shirt says: "Atheism, the cure for Religious Violence."

And finally, here's a couple that will take some very large Atheist balls to wear in public where you can get beat to death with some Jesus Is Love worshipper's cross:

In nice letters dripping blood are the words "I gave my love to Jesus and now he never calls." Great gift for your favorite Atheist, or buy it for yourself and wear it to scare fundamentalist whackos.

A bewildered pink easter bunny hangs on a cross with colored eggs below it and the words "The Easter Bunny died for your sins." Funny gift for Atheist, Freethinker or get a t-shirt for yourself.

And of course, no Atheist posting would be complete without my own personal favorites:

A bright yellow smiley outlined in blue with blue letters says: "Smile! You just met an ATHEIST." Great shirt or button to wear to let people know Atheists are all around them.

Tired of having religious crap flung at you from the bible-thumping kool aid drinkers? Back them off with these words: "Thou shalt not inflict your religious crap upon others."

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Stewart-Huckabee Smackdown Video

When you get done watching this lovely smackdown of a bigoted moron, do send him a thank you for having the courage to speak up. The link to thank him is here

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Different Kinds Of Dirty

So, let's see if I have this right...there's a new contender for Moron of The Universe and his name is Blagojevich and he's the Governor of Illinois. Let's go over why he deserves the title:

1. Saw Obama's vacated senate seat as a "commodity" to auction off to the highest bidder.

 Historical references that made him believe this was a possibility:

a. "Chicago is unique," lamented Professor Charles Merriam, an early loser in the battle for political reform in Chicago, "it is the only completely corrupt city in America!" read more

(note: I grew up in Las Vegas during the 60's and 70's. I'd have to list it as a contender at the very least)

b. Bribe Payers Index: The BPI is a ranking of 22 of the world’s wealthiest and most economically influential countries according to the likelihood of their firms to bribe abroad. read more

2. Wanted to appoint himself to that seat if the offers weren't to his liking.

Historical references that made him believe this was a possibility:

3. Thought he'd use it as a springboard to the Presidency because he'd twisted enough arms and did his best Tony Soprano imitation and darn it, he wanted it:

Historical references that made him believe this was a possibility:

Design available from Wild World Shirts and Gifts

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Cafepress Ceramic Travel Mugs Back In stock

For those of you who have been waiting, the ceramic travel mugs are back in stock at Cafepress. I have one of them and they are really nice. They make excellent Christmas presents. Here's one I made to celebrate the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009:

Click on image to purchase or visit Ursine Logic

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Chicago Worker Protest

For those who have been following this story, it's really important to keep in front of the public the fact that Bank of America was bailed out with our tax dollars and instead of helping save our tanking economy, they chose to make it worse by cutting off the credit to the this company.

"CHICAGO — Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered all state agencies Monday to
stop doing business with Bank of America to try to pressure the bank
into helping laid-off workers staging a sit-in at their shuttered

The governor wants the North Carolina-based bank to use some of its
federal bailout money to resolve the protest by about 200 workers at
Republic Windows and Doors....

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said from the shuttered plant that he
would talk to fellow senators about reminding banks that taxpayer
dollars are not for dividends or executive salaries.

'We have been sending billions of dollars to banks like Bank of
America and the reason we have sent them the money is to tell them that
they had to loan this money out to companies just like Republic so that
we can keep these companies in business and not lose these jobs here in
the United States,' he said." Read More

And if you want to help the workers, here's a list of links from a community organizer that covers everything from sending them donations to emailing BOA and demanding they do the right thing. Read More

In the meantime, doesn't it feel fantastic to have a President (elect) who isn't kissing the corporate ass for a change and is actually on the side of the workers? This is what it truly means to have a government by the people instead of bought and paid for by the corporations. It is a welcome change to the cruel policies that began with Reagan busting the air traffic controller's union and bodes really well for the future.

But in the meantime we can't let our tax dollars continue to be paid to companies like BOA who just pocket it and tell us fuck you very much fools. Write and call your representatives now and demand they put the same kind of conditions on this bailout money that a company like BOA would put on us if they were giving us money...high interest rates, a repayment schedule, and a written account of how and what they are spending the money on. Not a dime more until they comply.

Get an 8 pack of these postcards and send a message to your congress critters demanding accountability of our tax dollars being used to bail out these corporate thugs. More political designs available at Ursine Logic stores.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Short term memory and a hungry world

I have a hard time around holidays. Most of my memories of holidays as a kid were not fun things and are best forgotten. I've learned to create my own celebrations around things that matter to me, things that touch more of me than family/community obligations that give nothing back. So every year I do something with the limited resources I have. This year I have hardly any money left over for anything. I've always lived on the edge but this time I'm hanging on with my fingernails.

But the important thing is that I'm hanging on and I have that damn optimist gene that keeps me looking at life as a series of small steps forward. I've always figured that if I wasn't flat out cold on my back, then I was moving forward. That's always been good enough for me.

So this year instead of shirts, I gave buttons and magnets as donations for my favorite fundraising auctions. Last year was dog and cat shelters. This year it's Darfur. I donated some magnets for a fundraiser to some friends in California. They held a dance and auctioned off the magnets and then wrote a nice check for the group they support. It's a great way to give a little and have it turn into a lot. Here's the magnet I made for them:

It's available on a lot of things at My Holiday Store

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Time to put the religious crazies back in their boxes

The religious crazies, having lost the election, have stepped up their hateful efforts to turn this country into an English language version combination of Iran, the Taliban, the Inquisition, and the mother of all door knocking campaigns: the Crusades. And before I get mail telling me I give these loonies too much credit for being able to organize and think their way out of an outhouse, keep in mind I see them, as their puppetmasters see them, as simple tools to be manipulated for control and rampant unchecked war profiteering and financial looting.

It wasn't the crazies who put out conflicting is Obama a Muslim or is he an America hating Christian courtesy of the Reverend Wright? It was their masters, the Fox (fake) News, the Murdochs, the Kristols, and other neocon war profiteers who pulled their strings. read more. And as an aside, as crazy as that preacher sounded, he seems tame in comparison to someone like Falwell or Dobson or others who tried to blame lesbians and liberals for 9/11.

Christian crazies like to think of themselves as an army, and in this sense they are correct. But they are dead wrong in thinking they are an army with orders from god. Their true marching orders come from the neo-cons, the Halliburtons, the corrupt senators and house members who pander to anyone and anything to keep feeding at the trough. They are controlled, directed, and led like obedient sheep to the polls to vote away the rights of Homosexuals, Women, and non-Christians.

They are emotionally brainwashed to sign up for wars that are nothing more than land and oil grabs under the guise of Crusade II, the shameful 21st century sequel. And they are so blinded, so ignorant, so brainwashed that they can't see the hypocrisy of demonizing an entire race of people (Arabs) as religious extremists (Muslim) because their extremism (Islam) is not their own extremism ( Fundamentalist Christianity.) No one tells these poor fools that the very word "fundamentalism" is what makes them no different than the fundies who flew their planes into the twin towers.

But just in case you manage to find someone who both calls him or herself Christian and is actually willing to engage in a civilized dialogue based on the understanding that religion and faith is a personal preference and not a law, here's some excellent sources to begin the conversation:

Is God in the Constitution?

"It has often been seen on the Internet that to find God in the Constitution, all one has to do is read it, and see how often the Framers used the words "God," or "Creator," "Jesus," or "Lord." Except for one notable instance, however, none of these words ever appears in the Constitution, neither the original nor in any of the Amendments. The notable exception is found in the
Signatory section, where the date is written thusly: "Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven". The use of the word "Lord" here is not a religious reference, however. This was a common way of expressing the date, in both religious and secular contexts. This lack of any these words does not mean that the Framers were not spiritual people, any more than the use of the word Lord means that they were. What this lack of these words is expositive of is not a love for or disdain for religion, but the feeling that the new government should not involve itself in matters of religion. In fact, the original Constitution bars any religious test to hold any federal office in the United States." read more

The People, not the Government are America

"The American Constitution begins with the phrase "We the People," and its significance cannot be overlooked. This establishes that sovereign power rests with the people and that all government power and authority derives from the consent of the people. It's a repudiation of older European ideas that governments are established by God and derive their power or authority from God (for example, the divine right of kings). It's also thus a repudiation of the Christian Right's arguments today." read more

In doing some reading on the conflict between Atheists and Christians, I found this great collection of articles and news bites from a group called Atheists of Silicon Valley. Here's some of what caught my immediate attention:

"A British atheist group has a bus ad campaign:

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

The American Humanist Association also has bus ad campaign:

“Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake.”

The Atheist Foundation of Australia tried to do a bus ad campaign: “Sleep in on Sunday mornings.”

Who wants a similar campaign here? Email Mark.

You can contact me (MarkxThomas) at m_w_thomas @ (Remove the spaces around the '@' character.)

Be sure to put Atheism in the subject line so that the spam filter and I will know that it's not spam. I won't open any attachments.


I plan on sending Mark an email, and since I live in Washington state where the very wise Governor has chosen to honor our rights to worship or not worship in equal manner and has therefore allowed both a manger and a plaque promoting Atheism in a government building for the holidays, and in so doing has incurred the wrath of that mouth-foaming nutcase Bill O'Reilly, I encourage you all to protect our rights by speaking up for freedoms the God Party are trying to steal from us one tantrum at a time. Get involved in repealing Proposition 8, requesting that your own beliefs or lack of them be represented at any publicly funded place that allows Christian holiday displays, and not letting your own voice be silenced because the religious extremists think the loudest and most obnoxious side wins.

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Optimism: I haz it

In the last year I learned something very valuable about myself. I have the optimism gene. Now before you start shaking your vitual heads, hear me out first. I may be odd, more than a little bit crazy, idealistic as all hell, and one of those incurable romantics who believes love really can heal the world, but I do know something about real world survival.

I've written about my background before and in so many ways it is not any different than anyone else who came from a place where wars were so much part of their history that you couldn't dig a garden without striking the remains of foolish pissing contests going back centuries.

I'm talking about the people who were stuck in the middle of those contests, my ancestors, my grandparents, my parents, my entire family in one way or another. We can talk about the legacy of war, the lessons of hate that turn future generations into die-hard pacifists, the scars that take generations to heal. Those are all valid and all part of my psyche.

But I'm talking survival here. I'm talking about people who should have died but managed to stay alive. My family history is filled with escapes from death that ranged from actually physically climbing out of a death camp to stories of hiding in basements, back rooms, abandoned buildings, ruins and every imaginable object that could be used to shield oneself from bombs, bricks, rocks and bullets.

It is also equally filled with stories of those who didn't manage to survive, who suffered horribly and never healed from the horrors, who left their humanity somewhere between the world wars and waking up with the wrong name and/or ethnic identity time and time again.

Those are the genes of despair in me, the little voice that whispers I am not strong enough, I am not talented enough, I am not loved enough, I am not liked enough, I am not enough of a whole long list of things I can recite like a liturgy at will--usually on a December night in the Pacific Northwest where conversations take place around the foolishness of calling the dim, gray, diffused rainy mist, daylight, when tabulating how many hours of light managed to break through the day.

But those voices are often quickly drowned out by that optimism gene, that same one that kept my family alive through generations when they should have died. I'm convinced now that I've had enough time to measure my own path through life, that they survived because they never let themselves believe they would not. This didn't work all the time. My history is also filled with stories of blissful, grinning optimists going to their death believing a last minute reprieve was on the horizon.

But enough of them survived to pass on to me the belief that as  bad as things get sometimes, they will always get better. It kept them alive and it keeps me alive. Even in December.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Flies On The Wall #52