Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Religious nuts whine about the holidays, as usual.


So, JUST LIKE EVERY YEAR FOR THE PAST FEW, even during the Bush years, the criteria for submissions includes not having religious themed ornaments. Which, hey, whatever, considering the stated THEME is ‘Arizona’s Gift, from the Grand Canyon State.’” It is also stated that the ornaments “will provide wonderful opportunities for Arizona school children to demonstrate what Arizona means to them… Whether they represent our world-renowned landscapes, our diverse cultures, or other aspects of our state, the ornaments will help convey the particular beauty that is Arizona.”

But, whining fundies can't deal with that. And one little snotnosed brat gets used as a pawn by the ADF because he is throwing a temper tantrum about wanting to submit JEEEEEEEEEEESUS themed ornaments:

ADF attorneys sent a letter to state and federal officials demanding that they abandon the prohibition of religious viewpoints so that the child may participate in the unique opportunity. One of the ornaments will read “Merry Christmas,” another will say “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” and the third will portray a manger scene with the baby Jesus.

Really? So Jesus was born in Arizona? What does any of that have to do with Arizona? If I'm taking a class, and my teacher tells the class to write an essay about baking a cake, I am going to get a big fat F if I write about how much I love Jesus. And I'll completely deserve it, because I didn't stick to the assignment.

Your kid is free to make whatever ornament he wants. The government does not have to provide a public place to display it. If Christians want a tree with religious-themed ornaments displayed in the Capitol, then they can do it at one of their churches, and invite the public to view it. In fact, I think that would be a really great opportunity for them! They can say, hey, we're rendering unto Caesar, now let's render unto our god and celebrate in our own faith. By opening their doors and inviting people in, they'll promote their own interests in whatever way they want, without having to get lawyers and whatnot. Maybe families will travel to DC to see their kid's ornament displayed. Wouldn't that be cool? After a couple of years, they can do a "best of" tree with ornaments from past years. Perhaps the #1 ornament on the "best of" tree could get reproduced the following year as a fundraiser.

Why the hell do these people not hire me to take care of their PR problems instead of foaming at the mouth and screaming incoherently? WTF man.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The neocon principle of debate: If it disagrees with you, maim it, kill it, or rape it

When I saw this comic, all I could think of was, hey, there's a man intimidating a woman with a knife while dictating his political views to her--not allowing her to actually be a part of the discussion. She even expresses her apprehension of his knife pointing at her with uneasy humor. It is also not lost on me that the creator utilized a man of color to be the vehicle for this implication of violence, but that's a whole other can of worms I'm not going to bring up here.

I doubt Muir intended this, but it probably came out subconsciously. It seems to me to express that the idea of health care reform (and, for that matter, any liberal ideas) are the product of silly emotional girls who need a MAN to tell them what's what, and then make sure to dominate her and show her who's boss; perhaps the knife, along with symbolizing the desire to do violence to liberals, also symbolizes the desire to use one's masculinity to dominate them through sex (regardless of whether there is consent involved, of course--even if there is "consent" in this kind of sex, it's often someone either too intimidated to say no, or someone complicit in their own oppression, which can happen for a variety of reasons).

Is the Fourth Amendment nothing but a pile of ash?

Feds bust Twitter Tweeter, Impound Curious George and Buffy Videos in Terror Probe

(not a joke)

Madison spent his time in Pittsburgh monitoring police calls and using Twitter to report real-time police movements around the G-20 protests. In one contentious tweet, Madison reported on a police order closing a street near the protest and ordering everyone on that street to disperse. Anyone subsequently on that street would be arrested, whether or not they were informed of the closing. People monitoring the Tin Can tweets or subscribing to Tin Can text messages knew to avoid the closure area and hence avoid arrest by eschewing lawless behavior they otherwise might not have known was lawless. MSNBC and local news organizations also provided live coverage of the demonstrations.


Madison's tweeting came to an end, however, after the Pennsylvania State Police stormed his hotel room, guns drawn, and, according to the New York Times, arrested him for "hindering apprehension or prosecution," "criminal use of a communication facility," and "possession of instruments of crime." The hindering charge stems from the tweet in which he essentially acted as a reporter, reporting real-time news about the police dispersal order and street closure. By reporting on the closure and hence dissuading people from breaking the law, Madison allegedly hindered prosecution; thanks to him, there were no laws broken and no one to prosecute.

One could charge a high school guidance counselor with a similar crime if she convinced a student to forgo illicit drug abuse and hence avoid prosecution as a drug offender.

So if it's five minutes before the alternate side parking begins on my street, and I notice my neighbor's car still on the wrong side, with a parking enforcement cop just waiting to slap a ticket on it at the stroke of nine, should I get thrown in jail for knocking on their door to remind them? The cop might be pissed at not making his quota, but he has no right to arrest me. Isn't law enforcement about prevention, not to give the officers the thrill of arresting people or ticketing them? Alternate side parking, for example, is supposed to be about making room for the street cleaners (even though that purpose has been twisted into revenue generation). Did these officers feel impotent as they went to beat down some hippies, only to find their prey vanished?
Madison was eventually released [...]—except one week later the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force stormed Madison's Queens home at 6am, knocking down his front door with a battering ram and raiding his home with over a dozen officers, guns drawn.

After searching Madison's house for 16 hours, police carted away and impounded a Curious George doll, passports, computers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, refrigerator magnets, a needlepoint portrait of Vladimir Lenin, letters, tax records, books, phones, flags, photos, and, according to the New York Post, gas masks, hammers, triangular pieces of metal, some kind of ammo, and about a liquid ounce of mercury. [emphasis mine]

(and I don't actually think it's illegal to possess mercury...a lot of weird men like to have it because it IS a neat, albeit dangerous substance)

I find it frightening that police think it's okay for them to take things like books, flags, Buffy DVDs (how much you want to bet some idiot was a fan and wanted them for himself?) and STUFFED FRICKEN ANIMALS. And I also find it scary that they will take ANYTHING that is legal to possess--hammers?! Do you have any idea how many hammers are in my house? And sure, okay, you don't like Lenin. I don't like Lenin. But this guy's freedom of expression allows him to have a portrait of Lenin in his home. You know what you do about it? You don't visit him or be friends with him if that bothers you. But the police have NO right to confiscate it. Ammo, but no weapon for it--it sounds to me like this guy collected war memorabilia or something, and these cops picked up ancient shell casings, but even if it were live, usable ammunition, it is generally legal to have it, and where the hell is the NRA on this one?

Of course, I question everything they confiscated because I do not see anything remotely resembling probable cause.

I feel I should post this, just to remind us:
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The War On Drugs has shit upon this amendment for decades. The Patriot Act took laxatives beforehand, and had a good wank all over it for good measure. I'm disappointed in the current administration's continuation of these policies. Tea protesters complain about taxes being used for health care reform, but it'd be nice to see them protesting the incredible waste of dollars funding operations like these. Aren't YOU angry that American taxpayers' money went toward bagging and logging a Curious George doll as evidence? That they went toward arresting this man because his free speech prevented a potentially violent clash between police and protesters? I'd rather my taxes go toward helping sick people get well rather than this kind of insanity.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Diversify or...demand your customers pay you for what they're no longer buying? What?!

Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.

If you are selling a product that becomes obsolete, you don't get to stamp your feet and demand you get paid for the drop in your product's sales. You certainly don't get a gold star for refusing to even recognize the clear signals that your customers were looking to find alternatives to your product since it is damaging to the environment and would eventually run dry anyway. One commenter in a friend's livejournal said, "That's bloody brilliant. Are we going to compensate the Medellin cartels if cocaine sales drop, too?"

Big oil producers have, for decades, resisted the necessary and inevitable transition to renewable energy sources, not only by putting mere token efforts into researching new products themselves, but also by actively working to shut down research and work by other companies and organizations. After all, if they did enthusiastically pursue "green" energy, that might indicate some small acknowledgment that they know their current product is damaging and nonrenewable.

Yes, lately, these companies have been frantically investing in alternative energy research, because the tide is changing, and they're now realizing that they may not have the power to stop it. Now, they can claim market forces are the reason they're changing instead of having to admit that fossil fuels are problematic for long term, widespread use. You know, "Hey, we don't necessarily believe this is better, but since people want it, we'll provide the market with products."

But of course, for the oil producing countries in the article I quoted, the old business maxim, "Diversify or die," would require actual work. You know, what the rest of us have to do if our products or services become obsolete. I myself run the risk, in my small business, of market saturation, of everyone having seen what I have in to short a period of time, so I have to make sure I maintain a variety of programs, and services that evolve over time. If I hand out the same goody bags, the same postcards, the same stickers, and perform the exact same programs (with the same jokes and scripts), I will lose clientele. Do I get to go to my former clients with a hand out if they decide to stop booking me after several years in a row? Of course not--the onus is on ME to keep them interested enough to invite me back. It's on ME to make sure my material is up to date with the latest research so I don't spread misinformation. It's on ME to market myself and search out new clients. And if, by some bizarre, unforeseeable fluke, it is discovered that being within two feet of a program like mine causes cancer, it's on ME to find a new line of work.

Asking your customers to pay you because they don't want your product anymore is real chutzpah. It's also pretty asinine. I'm sorry that the Saudis have become so desperately dependent on their customers that they feel they have to do this, but the writing's been on the wall for decades. The need for green energy is not a surprise that has caught them with their pants down. It's not their customers' fault that Big Oil has, instead of acknowledging, exploring, and providing for this need when it became apparent, they fought it tooth and nail, deliberately choosing environmental destruction and corporate stagnation over environmental protection and diversity.

In my opinion, this thing that they are doing, this asking to be paid because their customers have decided to reduce their use of a globally destructive product, is evil. Evil, sick, and wrong. They do not even deserve an explanation for a refusal to pay; what they deserve is a slap in the face for even asking.

Thanks to Andrew K for alerting me to this article.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Library-hating creep gleefully makes little girls cry

Note: I am going to be writing future posts about anti-library rhetoric both in the past and now currently spewing from the teabagger I-got-mine-screw-everyone-else contingent. I am starting with this incident because it is a powerful lesson in just how mean-spirited and selfish these people really are.

A wealthy suburb's village board decides to fire most of its library's staff, including the head librarian. A brave 11 year old girl stands up during a council meeting to report that her library use has become much less beneficial without the assistance of educated, experienced staff.

A very nasty, wealthy, 69 year old lawyer, a Mr. Xinos, responds to her in an incredibly rude, hateful way that makes her and her friend cry--and then later brags, "I wanted that kid to lose sleep that night," because he wanted to teach a little girl a "lesson".

He is extremely bitter that the library even exists; he had sued to stop it from being built, and was unsuccessful. So he ran for a seat on the village board in order to do something about the evil, terrible library--and lost. So he has been working to get other people elected to the board who are anti-library.

Xinos has also shown what a totally awesome person he is by successfully fighting against a plan to bring subsidized housing for seniors into town by declaring, "I don't want to live next to poor people. I don't want poor people in my town." Yeah, those senior citizens are really going to wreck the neighborhood, what with grandma prostituting herself on the street corners and gramps selling drugs and spraying graffiti on every possible surface.

Xinos' roots, surprisingly, do not involve a silver spoon or trust fund. He himself grew up poor, worked in a cafeteria, and joined the Marines before becoming a lawyer and making money. He's also quite the classy sort; the Daily Herald stated that he "sprinkles the F-word throughout his conversations. He dismisses a recent library event involving dogs with a blunt three-word rant in which he bookends swear words around the word 'that.'" This poor guy's delicate sensibilities are going to be terribly marred by the presence of senior citizens, educated children, and a library.

A fairly important piece of this puzzle is that Xinos does not actually have children of his own. He seems to believe that because he is childless, he derives no benefit from the children (and adults for that matter) in his community becoming educated or having a safe community space for them to go outside of school. Xinos declares that the government should only build roads, fight fires, and have a police force, but fails to understand that the workers providing these services do not spring forth from the womb in full uniform, ready to fight crime and put out fires. Nor does he acknowledge that all of the people he receives services from on a daily basis, from his secretary, to his favorite restaurant's chef, to the mechanic who maintains his vehicle, and let's not forget the medical personnel needed to keep his senior-aged body working--all of these people have likely required the use of library services during their formative years, their higher education, and their continuing education.

Each of us relies on a number of other people in the world to do their jobs every day. Despite his attempts to live in a bubble (via gated community), even Xinos needs other people for his daily life to run smoothly. He seems to think that his wealth gives him independence, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that it actually makes him more dependent on other people--those who don't have money have to do things for themselves; Xinos likely has a support staff that may include a maid, secretary, landscaper, personal assistant, and similar service personnel that do the things Xinos feels are beneath him. I'm also going to guess that he'd pitch a toddler-worthy tantrum if one of these people quit on him and he had to pick up his own dry cleaning for once, or wash a dish. Being able to throw money around does not mean you're not part of a community; it does not mean you do not rely on that community, and it does not mean you have no responsibilities toward that community.

A minor note I wanted to cover here is that, while Xinos is whining that a head librarian is making $98,000 a year, he fails to realize that librarians have to go through a significant amount of schooling (Andrew K, you can back me up here?). Do a web search for "Library Science" to understand just how much there is to becoming and being a librarian. There's also the consideration of the cost of living in that area. A librarian in my small hometown could live quite comfortably on half that, but $98K does not stretch as far in an affluent area like Oak Brook.

Sources and discussions:



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Guest Post: on lynched Census worker Bill Sparkman

Today's post is a guest post from ms_daisy_cutter of livejournal regarding the sickening death of a census worker.

A census worker responds:
I work in the field for the Census Bureau in western North Carolina, deep in the mountains. There are certainly meth labs and grow ops in the areas where I've worked, but the greatest fear for my team and myself comes from the angry and the ignorant.

The overwhelming anger is directed straight at the President. No question. Fear and racism at the core that has manifested into anti-government radicalism. We're threatened and intimidated almost daily, just for trying to earn a days pay and uphold the Constitution. I've been called an "employee of president nigger" and team members have been bitten by dogs and threatened with shotguns.

The Glenn Becks and Michelle Bachmans give these nutjobs legitimacy and a voice. They're bringing this madness into the mainstream fold of our society and stoking the flames of misguided fears.

And a former FedEx driver who worked in "extreme northeast Tennessee/southwest Virginia - same cultural heritage as these Kentucky and North Carolina areas" — was warned on his first day on the job that he might get shot at because the locals didn't know the difference between FedEx and the Federal government. And that was back in 1994.

I agree with this commenter: "If the red-state rednecks in the backwoods are seriously undercounted in the 2010 census, and consequently lose Congressional representation and federal funding, they'll have Bachmann, Beck, and their own stupidity to blame. I'll try not to lose sleep over it."

But I don't want to see them kill or hurt any more innocent people. :-/

ms_daisy_cutter later comments:
if local law enforcement cannot secure the safety of census workers, then census workers should withdraw and count an area as ZERO, with all the consequences that entails. They used to do that in inner city areas torn by crime and gang strife, they should do it again here.

Rio's Comment:
If your views are in such a minority in this country that the only way you think you can get what you want is through terrorism (and what happened to Sparkman was terrorism, plain and simple), then maybe what you really need is to put down the weapons and check yourself into the psych ward.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The most important epidemic

"Cholera and typhoid," [South African Sanitation Minister Ronnie Kasrils] tells me, "kill so many million kids a year, which amounts to two jumbo jets full of children crashing every four hours."

As long as this is going on in the world, we need to stop spending even a single public cent worrying about fat people, and work on making these kids safe.

I'm also thinking that, if these were white kids, it wouldn't be happening.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A quote regarding the glorification of pain

I have no patience these days with the Nietzschean cliché, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I’ve found that the deepest pain holds no meaning. It is not purifying. It is not ennobling. It does not make you a better human being. It just is.

All the worst pain does is reduce us to our most primal animal. We want it to stop. We want to survive. It short-circuits any sense of self, diminishes us to a bundle of biological reflexes.

- Dana Jennings, Source

To be a woman who is nothing without her husband

This vomit-inducing blog post describes the "liberation" of a poor, downtrodden woman who has been a "wage slave" in an office. Her "liberators" are her family and husband, come to take her out of her job forever so that she can be a housewife. Aside from the grotesque appropriation involved in using the terms "slave labor camp" and "concertina wire" (there isn't any of either; they're being facetious, but it really isn't funny), these disturbed cultists spew out their fervent belief that women are actually not worth anything--at all--outside of how they can serve their husbands. This is not a joke, and not an exaggeration. The quote:
"Eve did not have a seperate function apart from Adam. Eve's function was defined perfectly in terms of Adam's function. When we understand what Adam was doing then we can understand why Eve was created...The purpose that God had in bringing Eve out of the side of Adam was so Adam would have a helper for his job, for his vocation...not a seperate vocation of her own."

There's no mention of Adam having no purpose without Eve, of course; he is valuable in and of himself. She's just there as a bonus for him. Isn't that nice?

Now, some people in this LJ post figured that as long as these women are happy, then it's not that big a deal, right? If what you really want in life is to be a stay at home wife and mother, and you really don't want to be working a crappy, dead end job, then you should have that choice. And I agree--women (and men, for that matter) should be able to choose to be homemakers while the spouse has a job. But the keyword here is choose. And this "women belong in the home" subculture doesn't give its women a choice. Their females are raised in a way that drills into them that they are worthless without a husband, that having a vocation of their own is an affront to their deity. They're "happy" to not have a choice because they've never been allowed to even entertain the thought that they could possibly have fulfilling careers that have nothing to do with their spouses.

In the thread here: http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com/2003297.html?thread=35004257#t35004257 --when I read this comment by user pir_anha, "but compare a horrible job to a good marriage -- then the choice isn't at all clear anymore," I felt frustratingly infuriated.

The "rescued wife" in the blog entry had a job she hated, sure, but no one points out that jobs don't *have* to be horrible. However, this woman was more likely to have a job she hated because her religious upbringing didn't include a goal of becoming educated in something more fulfilling for her.

I have to wonder if women in this subculture are kept ignorant and encouraged to work miserable jobs for a while so that they actually set up the "hero husband" rescue situation. Show the little lady just how terrible it is to work for a living, and she'll cry tears of relief when she no longer has to do so--never knowing that not every job is like that, and that many women work fulfilling and interesting jobs that they love.

Growing up in a very secular household, I was encouraged to pursue my dreams, and gained the education and experience to do the kind of work that I truly love. I would be enraged if my family tried to take my work away from me so that I can worship at the altar of my husband's supposedly superior genitalia. I would leave him, leave my family, and live my own life if they pulled a stunt like this, if they dared to imply that I and the work I do had no value outside of how it glorifies my husband.

People can argue that "it's their culture," and "it's what she wants," but these women are groomed from early on for this to happen. They never had the chance to decide for themselves that they are worthwhile and can contribute meaningfully to society all on their own, regardless of their marital or motherhood status. And the very worst part is, some of them are going to have daughters of their own whose wings they'll carefully, deliberately, and smilingly clip out of "love".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Let's find real solutions to the impending doctor shortage

One of the most common arguments I see in opposition of healthcare reform is that there are "not enough doctors" if everyone in the USA were to gain access to health care.

This argument irritates the hell out of me. What this really boils down to is, if those who currently do not have health insurance are, by way of reforms, finally able to access affordable (for them) health care, then those who are currently privileged enough to have health insurance may have to wait longer to get an appointment with a doctor.

In other words, "I got mine, screw everyone else, and don't you dare try to inconvenience me so that others can receive care."

Instead of trying to address the actual problem of potential doctor shortages, these people would rather deny healthcare to less privileged people. They will also say things like, "They should get a job and get health insurance like I do, by working for it*," all the while blinding themselves to the obvious fact that if that happened, there would still be the problem of not enough doctors; how those doctors are paid--by insurance companies or by single payer--is not going to matter a whole lot when there still aren't enough of them to care for all of our country's citizens. But of course, the teabaggers are counting on a significant portion of US citizens remaining in the position of not having health insurance. They aren't forward thinking enough to try to work on ways for the doctor shortage issue to be addressed, they just want to make sure they keep the status quo.

So what are some real solutions to this impending shortage of health care professionals (and, actually, despite our having the oh-so-fabulous system we have now, we actually have shortages right now, especially of general practitioners)? Now that we've established that denying health care to a large portion of citizens is NOT an acceptable solution, I have a number of suggestions for both increasing the number of physicians, and for reducing the demand on them:

1. Medical school enrollment hit an all time high in 2008. Obviously, there isn't a lack of interest in the medical profession. However, this makes me wonder how many well-qualified candidates didn't get accepted. Somehow, we need to increase the capacity of our medical schools so that many more good students are able to attend. I feel that anyone who feels a true calling to the profession, and who is intellectually capable, should have access to a spot in a medical school.

2. We also need to de-privilege medical school enrollment. Applicants who show great promise should be admitted regardless of their socioeconomic status, and we need to find ways to help less privileged applicants fund their education.

3. Regions that are experiencing the most severe shortages could offer grants to help a local student pay for medical school, with an agreement that they will return to the region to practice family medicine for a specified time period.

4. These same regions could ease family practitioners' overhead expenses by providing a city- or county-owned clinic facility. They would have an incentive to make these facilities comfortable and attractive so that the physician(s) will want to work there. I have seen some of the incredibly ornate and beautiful public libraries in some places, so why not create similar places for public clinics?

5. Offer similar incentives and opportunities to educate and recruit more nurse practitioners and physician's assistants; they can take a huge load off the doctors by serving patients. For those who are not in the US, people in these two jobs are able to see patients and perform most of the things a family practice physician does, but must practice under a supervising physician.

6. Adopt a single payer healthcare system! Our doctors currently spend an obscene amount of time and money trying to get insurance companies to pay their bills. Insurance companies currently spend an obscene amount of time and money trying to avoid paying doctors what they are due. Between arguing on the phone, filling out and faxing a ludicrous number of forms, and writing a bunch of letters explaining WHY Mrs. Jones really DOES need her lifesaving medication, doctors are cheated out of time spent with their patients and families. They either find themselves rushing through a double-booked schedule and not getting the chance to really connect with their patients, or they are cheated out of the income they would get by booking more patients in the time wasted wrangling with insurance. Many doctors report that Medicare and Medicaid don't give them the same headaches and runaround as insurance companies, and doctors in the UK and Canada often say that the single payer systems in those countries leave them with more time for patients and less overhead spent on staff needed to sort out insurance snafus.

7. Improve our education system so that gifted and talented kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds have a good shot at becoming doctors if that is their dream. Find more ways for our best and brightest to get into college and on the right track to med school. It's ridiculous that we have college recruiters for sports teams, but not for academics. Why isn't there a recruiter sitting in the back row of a biology classroom to pick out the best and brightest, to offer them incentives to pursue a pre-med career? Isn't creating more health care professionals more important than winning a few ball games?

There are surely countless other ideas out there to ward off the physician shortage that don't involve telling 47 million US citizens to suffer and die. What are your ideas?

* There is the fact that many people have jobs that don't give them health insurance--to which the teabaggers will often respond that it's the person's own fault for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and getting a better job. There are countless problems with that, however, with just a few of them being:
- Not everyone has the ability to become an engineer, or a lawyer, or some other profession that has decent benefits

- Teabaggers are anti-union, so they're actually against workers gaining access to better benefits

- They also vote for the corporate whores who send jobs overseas and sacrifice lower level jobs for CEO and upper management bonuses and (temporary and unsustainable) inflation of stock prices (which often end up eventually gutting the corporations for the sake of making a quick buck for investment bankers--and by the way, studies show the seven percent rule is a myth; GE and P&G pulled it off, but they're the exception, and companies trying to emulate their layoff tactics are not getting the results they wanted)

- There are not enough of these health-insurance-providing jobs for everyone; if there were, we'd all be working them

- Regardless of anything else, SOMEONE has to do the "less desirable" work that currently doesn't provide health insurance, and you know these selfish teabaggers are going to be the first to whine when there aren't enough checkout lanes open at Wal*Mart for their liking

- It's inhumane for a person to have to choose to stay with an abusive employer (or an abusive spouse whose employer provides health insurance) because they've got a health condition that would be impossible to manage without insurance (and impossible to get insurance coverage for outside of employer-offered).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A labor of love

Janie L was in pain every single day. She had undergone a major back surgery that stood a chance of paralyzing her forever. She can't get out of bed some days, but she isn't paralyzed.

Janie was also deathly allergic to cats. A couple of hours visiting her sister, who had two cats, would often give her bronchitis and stuffed up sinuses for two days after. Still, she adored animals, especially cats. So when the weather was turning cooler, she felt she had to do something about the tiny black and white cat who had spent the summer in her neighborhood's lawns, chasing squirrels and avoiding humans. Janie got a hav-a-heart trap, and soon she had a very frightened little cat trying frantically to escape from it!

Janie's sister came over to help get the little one into a large kennel; the cat had never been touched by humans before, so this was a real challenge that got sis scratched up. But the cat was safely ensconced in the kennel, with a cozy bed, plenty of food and water, and a litterbox. The two sisters could not tell what gender the quivering furball was, but they did determine (correctly, it turned out) that kitty was deaf.

Janie called every rescue she could, but all were full to overflowing. Her sinuses grew more and more clogged, and she knew that she couldn't keep this up for long--but she could not bring herself to put the kitty back outside, especially now that she knew kitty was deaf.

As luck would have it, she called the rescue I volunteer for while a particularly soft-hearted volunteer was on phone duty. This volunteer felt drawn to the situation, both by the cat's desperate need and by the woman's kindness and courage in trying to help a creature that was making her physically ill.

So I, the volunteer, was able to somehow convince the foster coordinator to let me take on this challenge. I called Janie to arrange for us to come and meet the kitten. Brian and I arrived around 7pm with a carrier and towel. I had Brian hold the towel at first while I removed items from the kennel to get them out of the way. Once the way was cleared, I reached in to see how the cat would react to my trying to pick her up. Janie and her sister were amazed that I would just reach in like that, but I could tell from the cat's behavior that it was afraid, but not aggressive. After it pulled itself back into the corner, I took the towel from Brian and used that to wrap her up and pull her out.

I had Brian hold the wrapped, trembling kitty while I looked it--her!--over. Janie and her sister wanted to pet her before we put her in the carrier, so we let them stroke her head. It was a huge thrill for Janie to touch the scared little kitty she'd rescued! She told me that she had tried every rescue, and that she was crying and praying, asking her mother's spirit to help her find someone to intervene for the kitty. They'd been calling her Oscar, and she is about six months old, short haired, black and white, and POLYDACTYL! I'm a sucker for extra toes.

So we said goodbye and took Colette (we named her that night) home with us. Brian took her straight up to the bathroom while I put together my foster intake kit. Brian sat with her on his lap, a towel underneath her, while I sat on the floor in front of them to do the procedures. Colette was amazingly calm the whole time, and let us do whatever we needed without a peep or struggle. I think her being deaf helped; strange sounds seem to be the most stressful things for scared kitties.

First, I had to trim her nails so she wouldn't shred us if she resisted. She calmly let me trim each claw. When I got to her right rear foot, I was appalled to find that the extra toe, which was halfway up the foot (if it were on your foot, it would be on the inside of your foot, right at the point where the arch is at its highest point), had overgrown the claw all the way into the pad. Cat claws grow in a curve, and regular wear and shedding usually keeps them from overgrowth. On a toe that does not touch the ground, the outer layers don't shed, and the claw doesn't wear down, so it keeps curving around until it grows into the flesh of the toe. I've seen it on polydactyls before; in Colette's case, it was a matter of being a stray who'd never had anyone to groom her, whereas the previous case was a person who was not diligent about nail trimming. Colette did not react at all as I trimmed the overgrown nail, removed the bit from her paw pad, which started to bleed, and then cleaned and disinfected the wound. Luckily, it was not full of pus or necrotic tissue; she will be just fine as long as we keep her claws trimmed!

After the claws, I had to dredge an appalling amount of clotted black goop out of her ears. I was pulling chunks out of her poor ears, and she just sat there and let me do it. It took a long time to get them cleaned; I flushed, I rubbed with cotton balls, and I pulled bits out with swabs. I treated both ears for mites as well; I'll probably have to repeat the whole process in a week or two.

Then came the easy stuff; worming medicine down the hatch, a quick distemper vaccination (she didn't even notice), flea treatment, eye drops for her conjunctivitis, and the first dose of Doxycycline for her URI. She's a bit snuffly, but she's alert, bright eyed, inquisitive, and energetic, so I think we got to her just in time. After that, we just petted her and let her get to know us for a bit before putting her out on the front porch with food, water, and litter box. The front porch is our "extra" foster room when we have a cat that needs to be quarantined.

Janie is going to sponsor Colette's spay, which is scheduled for Tuesday, 9/22. Colette will be tested for FIV and FeLV as well, and I am hoping that she is negative for both. She will be socialized here, and then when we feel she is adoptable, she will go on the rescue's website so we can find her a home.

I don't know what drew me to this cat, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to help her.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Revisiting the "Lucky Ducky" mindset

"Lucky Duckies" may seem like old news, since the term came about in 2002, but I think it's vital that we revisit it at this very moment, because we need to be reminded exactly what we are up against. We need to always keep in mind that the neocon point of view is horrifically sociopathic, and that we are dealing with people who are so mentally ill that they believe people who live below the poverty line are fortunate to be doing so. This may seem ludicrous to you, but it is not a joke, and it is terribly, disturbingly unfunny--made even more so by the fact that this point of view actually instigated policy changes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucky_duckies - Lucky duckies is a term that was used in Wall Street Journal editorials starting on 20 November 2002 to refer to Americans who pay no federal income tax because they are at an income level that is below the tax line (after deductions and credits). The term has outlived its original use to become a part of the informal terminology used in the tax reform debate in the United States.

Here are some excerpts from articles about the "Lucky Duckies" discussion that came about when the term was coined:

Carping critics of the conservative movement have been known to say that its economic program consists of little more than tax cuts, tax cuts and more tax cuts. I may even have said that myself. If so, I apologize. Emboldened by the midterm election, key conservative ideologues have now declared their support for tax increases ? but only for people with low incomes.

The public debut of this idea came, as such things often do, on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. The page's editors, it seems, are upset that some low-income people pay little or nothing in income taxes. Not, mind you, because of the lost revenue, but because these "lucky duckies" ? The Journal's term, not mine ? might not be feeling a proper hatred for the government.
The Journal considers a hypothetical ducky who earns only $12,000 a year ? some guys have all the luck! ? and therefore, according to the editorial, "pays a little less than 4% of income in taxes." Not surprisingly, that statement is a deliberate misrepresentation; the calculation refers only to income taxes. If you include payroll and sales taxes, a worker earning $12,000 probably pays well over 20 percent of income in taxes. But who's counting?

Chait and countless others pointed out that the Journal's argument was both factually wrong -- it considered only the federal income tax, not all the taxes that poor and middle-class people pay, in particular hefty payroll taxes like Social Security -- and culturally out of touch. Had the editors ever met a person of little means? Did they realize that being poor, while perhaps an attractive tax shelter, tended to come with such hard-to-bear downsides as not knowing where your next meal will come from?

Buchanan makes a GREAT point here:
Unfortunately, because tax issues are all about numbers, it is far too easy to introduce confusion into the debate. And conversely, it takes a bit of effort to unsnarl the arguments. But when the facts are laid bare, the brazenness of this new attack on fundamental American notions of fairness is simply stunning.
Indeed, the proponents of "Lucky Duckies" will hurl numbers right and left, but can we honestly say that we need to "unsnarl" those numbers to understand that it sucks to be poor? That having food security and shelter is better than not knowing if you'll have enough to eat today, or whether you'll be evicted from your home at the end of the month? That Joe being able to keep his modest roof over his head is more important than George buying a fifth Mercedes? And, probably even more importantly, that George's fifth Mercedes was paid for by laying Joe (and fifty of Joe's coworkers) off?

Buchanan continues:
The zero bracket is simply a matter of humanity. If someone is working but unable to earn above a basic minimum, then they should not pay income taxes.

EXACTLY. Humanity--the keyword here, and what the neocons seem to be sorely lacking.

He continues, with some more common sense:
in reality, are we anywhere close to such a situation? In 2005, total income reported to the IRS rose by nine percent, but all of the gains went to the richest 10% of the population. Incomes for the remaining 90% actually declined. Every day brings news of ever-greater income inequality, with measured inequality reaching levels not seen since the Roaring Twenties and the Gilded Age.

If we have a redistributive system, therefore, it is not having any noticeable effect on the party in the penthouse. Any concern that our political system is somehow excessively responsive to the poor, and deaf to the cries of the rich is, moreover, hard to take seriously.

Finally, this Ruben Bolling cartoon is an eloquent illustration of the neocon point of view regarding how "lucky" people living in poverty are. I just wish there were some way for Bolling to illustrate how long Ducky had to stand in line at government offices and agencies to receive the meager benefits he got.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bad Benches

I'm looking at these benches...

And I have to say, the slanted one? Pisses me off. The Nike "wet paint" ones are also dickish, but at least they're usable.

For those who don't want to click the link, basically a gym company advertised by putting these benches in public places. The benches were designed so that the seat was tilted so far forward that no one could actually sit on them, the implication being that you shouldn't be sitting down, you should be omg exercising.

The Nike benches had fake wet paint stickers on them to "promote running"...basically to remind us all that we shouldn't be wasting precious exercise time sitting down and relaxing.

Another advertiser placed decals of bathroom scales so that when someone sat on the bench, their feet would be right on the scale. The decals said, "Burn Calories" and were advertising a gym in India. Oh, and the scale's dial registered a horrifyingly OMGFAAAAAAAAAAAAT weight of 95 pounds. You know, if I'm tired and need to sit down for a moment? I don't need eating disorder triggers shoved up my ass for the horrible crime of sitting down.

The latter two suck, but the first one is a kick in the teeth to those of us who have disabilities. If I'm out walking somewhere, and I have a real, sudden need to sit down for a little bit (often my back will be spasming, which is excruciating), encountering one of these useless, mean-spirited benches would probably make me dissolve into tears of pain and frustration. And then I'd probably have to sit down on the ground...which may be muddy or wet, and is not as easy to get up from as a working bench.

I am so damn tired of the neverending "Burn more calories" propaganda. We are cajoled and coerced into engaging in more and more strenuous physical activity, and guilt tripped if we do not. The gym companies barely even need to do their work in this anymore, because they've now got plenty of exercise zealots who LOVE showing off how morally superior they are to people who choose to spend their free time doing other things, or to those of us whose bodies are not able to engage in strenuous exercise.

The marketing weenie responsible for the slanted bench? I'd love to see that jerk get a badly sprained ankle, or come down with mono, and then be forced to replace all his furniture with slanted crap so he can't sit down or even sleep in his bed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kitty pee problems

I recently had a friend ask me for help with a cat issue. It's a pretty common one, so I want to post this to help out others with the same problems.

Hey, I'm writing for my roommate who's having cat pee issues to see if you have any ideas. He has an 8-year-old male cat that's peeing on my friend's bed constantly. He never did this at my friend's old apartment, but he didn't start until 6 months after we moved, so it's not moving stress. He has a history of liver problems (doubt that's relevant). We brought him to the vet, who prescribed antibiotics for a bladder infection (10 days of something) but that didn't take care of it, so not sure it's that. He only pees in the one spot on my friend's bed and he obviously washes the comforter every time it happens. He's had it with this cat, so I'm trying to see what it could possibly be! Thanks. :/

My response:
First: Rule out physical causes
Get the vet to take a urine sample (with a needle) and check it for bacteria, blood cells, and/or crystals. Rule out physical causes. Sometimes a cat will urinate inappropriately because they do not feel physically well, and engage in litterbox avoidance. Once the urine is checked, the vet will be able to prescribe special foods or medications to help; kitty may still pee on the comforter while he isn't feeling well. (Note: If he DOES have bladder/urinary tract issues, get some Glycoflex to give him daily, as it has helped my ex's cat immensely with her interstitial cystitis).

Second: Get that odor OUT.
Cats can smell even the faintest traces of urine. Get your hands on Simple Solution Cat Odor Remover--not the regular stuff, but the cat specific kind. And then:
1. Launder the comforter, then spray the peed on area with the Simple Solution, let it sit for about half an hour, and launder again (don't bother drying inbetween washes)

2. Do the same for the sheet beneath the comforter.

3. Use the spray on the MATTRESS too, liberally on and around the spot. The odor penetrates through, so he's probably still smelling it there. Let it sit for about fifteen minutes, and then blot as much as you can with a towel. Repeat once, and then set a fan blowing over the top of the mattress to dry it out. IF you have a steam cleaner (they are indispensable here), use the upholstery attachment to clean the mattress area both before AND after the Simple Solution treatments. If you don't have one, see if you can borrow one, or rent one.

Third: Replace the "territory" pheromone with a "calming" one
Get your paws on a bottle of Feliway spray. It's expensive, but it WORKS. Spray the mattress with ONE squirt on the spot where kitty pees. Then spray the comforter as well, again ONE squirt. Do this once every day for a week, then space it out to every other day, then two days in between...then go down to once a week.

Fourth: Figure out non-physical causes
Now, if kitty does not have any physical issues? Try to sort out what may be stressing him. What's changed? Is there a new smell or sound in the house? New animal? New person coming over? If you need help figuring this out, after physical health problems are ruled out, we can chat and come up with what it might be. If you think you know what it is, let me know and I'll tell you the strategies I know for dealing with different stressors. If the cat is experiencing anxiety issues, and the cause cannot be found or eliminated, anxiety medications are actually very useful in helping with inappropriate urination behaviors.

I also recommend, for strategies in solving cat behavior problems, the following book by Dr. Nicholas Dodman:
The Cat Who Cried for Help: Attitudes, Emotions, and the Psychology of Cats

Monday, July 13, 2009

Some thoughts on bullying

Edited to add:
It's interesting to note that the bullies who inspired this post have actually come here and left hateful comments filled with abusive language. Of course, they are outraged that I just reject their comments--how dare I "censor" them! They are even more outraged that the incidents that led to this blog entry culminated with their actions being reversed by those in charge; what was stolen from me and the other person involved was restored to us. If you steal something from someone, and then the authorities take it away from you and give it back to the original owner? You're not being oppressed.

Someone in a livejournal community I'm in noted that bullies almost always have a persecution complex. When their victims protest, or fight back, the bully reacts with extreme outrage that would be out of proportion even if they'd just been attacked without provocation.

I've come to believe that at least some of them are bullying because they *want* someone to fight back and put them in their place. Perhaps they had absentee or ineffective parents that gave them no structure, or an unstable structure, and they are seeking someone, anyone, that will teach them some boundaries. They constantly test boundaries until they find someone fearless or fed up enough to draw a line and push them away and back over it.

I'm wondering if some of the severe acting out and bullying I see online, including those who engage in a great deal of trolling, are the result of the "self esteem" style of parenting, when many parents failed to teach boundaries and respect to kids because they were fearful of stifling their children's happiness. (Please note that I don't think you should beat your kids, or break their spirit--but kids need reasonable rules and structure.)

Boundaries are very important to self-esteem. They give you a map of where you end and others begin, and vice versa. Without knowing this, it is difficult for a person to have a sense of self without constantly seeking that line by testing boundaries. Unfortunately, the testing usually consists of striking out at other people and seeing what you hit. The seeker then starts to create an identity based almost entirely on the reactions of other people to them; their identity cannot stand alone, but instead is reminiscent of sonar--they send out signals, and get a picture of who they are based on what comes back to them. A healthier person is more able to be comfortable with who they are without needing constant feedback from other people.

A decent person who needs feedback (I will not comment on whether or not this makes them healthy or not, because it's of course variable from case to case) seeks positive feedback from others by doing nice things and helping people. If I cook you a nice meal, and you thank me for it and tell me how good it was, we both feel good and derive benefit. A bully will insult or hurt someone, and derive benefit from their negative response. It's easy to see which way is better--and not just better for the recipient, but for the giver. The question is, what makes a person choose bullying over kindness in their attention seeking behavior? And then, what can be done to get them to choose the latter when they have spent so long doing the former?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Living with Deaf Cats

Varjak Paw* was one of our foster cats. He was a kitten while he was here, and we had his mom, sister, aunts, uncle, and grandmother as well. His mother and sister, like him, are white with blue eyes, but being female, did not develop the deafness associated with that color combination (link goes to excellent article about cat genetics). Varjak, however, is deaf, and that makes him a bit more challenging to live with.

While he was here, he was a kitten, and he was no more a handful than any other kitten of the same age. We had to be careful not to step on him while he was sleeping, since he couldn't hear us coming, and he did scream his fool head off at the spay/neuter clinic (the vet said he drove them all NUTS--he woke up from the anesthesia almost immediately), but he was small and stumbly and still learning about his world.

Last week, my friend asked me to catsit for him for a little while, and she brought me this huge white cat that couldn't possibly be Varjak! He looks just like his beautiful mother, Cyrene (formerly Snowflake, adopted by my friends Catt and Ken), but he's got that big, strong male cat body. He's also got a new name, Max. Max was stressed out by the new surroundings, and by the fact that there were over a dozen unfamiliar cats all around him. So there has been a lot of yowling and hissing coming from him. For their part, my own cats are all saying, "Meh, so what, another cat."

One of the things about having a deaf cat is that they can be VERY LOUD. They don't have any feedback to tell them they are being loud, so they make their sounds without knowing they're being obnoxious. Having to pick Max up and remove him from, say, the counter, the refrigerator, and other situations, I realized that I might have to go tell my neighbor that no, we are not torturing cats here. The blood-curdling shrieks are very much like the ones we've gotten out of feral or abused cats. He isn't THAT mad, but he has no idea he's being that loud.

Another thing about him is that, when he IS being a troublemaker, I have to physically remove him from the situation. Almost all of my cats respond to verbal commands, which is very useful when I'm not feeling well. Max is usually visually focused on the trouble he's causing, so the only thing we can do is make physical contact to get his attention.

And he does like to get into stuff. Most cats would knock stuff over, and then scare themselves off with the crashing sounds. Max is currently pawing at a spoon that is next to a glass object, and making a racket; I don't think any of my cats could stand the noise he is making, and would quit because of it. So he just keeps doing noisy things because it doesn't affect him. He's also more easily bored because he needs more visual and tactile input than a hearing cat, so he seems to go looking for stuff to do.

Having him here has been an educational experience, and while he has been a handful, he is also a very loving, snuggly boy who is a pleasure to cuddle. I hope that as our limited time with him goes on, I will understand his needs better, and be better able to serve a future deaf cat's needs.

* Named for the title character of the books by S. F. Said. His sister was Sally Bones, and his aunt (who passed away) and uncle of the same age were Holly and Jalal, all characters from the Varjak Paw books. Varjak's mom renamed him Max, but Sally's adopter kept the name and actually got interested in the books!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stretch's story


Friday night, I got a phone call from K, who lives a block away. She LOVES cats, but is almost dangerously allergic to them. She has done a lot of TNR (trap/neuter/release) for the neighborhood ferals, and she has feeding stations in her back yard that allow her to monitor them and see who is coming and going. If a cat is missing around here, she's the first person to call. She knows the long time residents, both owned and stray.

She had a new one coming to her house, but he refused food. We're still not sure why he was there, since he wouldn't eat, but she found that he was willing to drink cream or milk, so she gave him a dish of that morning and evening. She was able to coax him into letting her pet him, but she wasn't sure how he'd react to being picked up. When she did reach down to pet him, he would stretch his neck up to rub against her hand, so she called him Stretch.

Friday morning, Stretch had a seizure on K's back porch.

She called another local rescuer to ask her opinion, and it was determined that the cat at the very least needed to be captured and examined. It was suggested that he be euthanized immediately, but K would have been a long time in forgiving herself if she had done that without at least knowing for sure that there were no other options; she would have been wondering and agonizing, worrying that she made the wrong choice. She needed to know for sure.

The biggest obstacle to start with was that she needed to get him into a crate, but she didn't know how badly he'd react, and she can't get scratched or bitten without it requiring a doctor appointment afterward. So she called me to see if Brian was "brave enough" to snag the cat and stuff him in the crate. I told her that I'm actually very good at doing that without getting bitten or scratched, so I went over on Saturday morning to do that. I had K meet me at the front door to hand me his dish of cream, and I crept around back to meet him and give it to him. He was happy to slurp it up--he was very hungry. Stretch allowed me to gently pet him, and when he was done with his treat, I quickly but calmly scruffed him firmly and got him into the carrier. He was pissed, but not nasty.

I went back home, and K made some phone calls to see if she could get him a vet appointment. I told her that if she was able to do that, I could house him overnight so he wouldn't have to stay out in the cold (it was chilly this weekend!), and to spare her allergies. She was able to get the appointment, and brought him over a little later.

He stayed on our front porch, which is enclosed; this is where we keep potentially questionable fosters in quarantine (no other fosters are kept there--tested/healthy ones go into our foster room). I let him out of the carrier, and he walked around, looking out windows and examining his surroundings. He seemed to find them acceptable. I also brought him some milk, since he was unwilling to touch real food.

Throughout the day, I went to pet him and talk to him while he was on the back of the love seat, and he didn't mind. I was able to gently lift his upper lip to look at his teeth, and they were really bad. From the tartar buildup and gum pigmentation, my amateur estimate was that he was at least 9 years old. I didn't open his mouth to see if he had sores, because I wanted to be gentle with him. I just let him have some milk to get something into his tummy, and let him enjoy his stay at Casa Rio. He did get a gentle brushing, because he had some stuff stuck to his fur on top, probably gunk from the bottoms of cars. I think he liked getting brushed, and liked the feeling of being cleaner afterwards.

On Sunday morning, I scooped him up, put him into a pet carrier, and said goodbye. I was pretty sure that the vet's assessment would not be a happy surprise, so I was prepared to not see him again. K picked him up and took him to the clinic (she has to put a sheet over the cage and drive with the windows open because of her allergies), and then we both had to wait. It was the spay/neuter clinic at the shelter; Dr. J is absolutely amazing at diagnosing and surgery, so the shelter got super lucky that they were able to hire her. She had 24 cats to spay or neuter that day, so it was about 3:30 before she was able to talk to K about Stretch's condition.

The diagnosis was end-stage FIV, with concurrent infections that included sores inside his mouth. His teeth were in terrible shape; if he were to have any quality of life, he would need twelve of them pulled out at the very least. She felt that the recovery from his infections and dental care would not be easy or even guaranteed, and that he would probably suffer quite a bit before (and if) he was well enough to have a good life. B, the Robin's Nest volunteer who works the spay/neuter clinic, said she would adopt him and pay his vet bills herself if it would give him a good life, but Dr. J was very compassionate and clear on the fact that it probably would not.

Stretch was euthanized at 4pm on May 17.

I don't know how he knew to go to K's house for help, but he did. He didn't go for the food, because he couldn't eat it. But he seemed relieved to be in the care of humans who could do right by him. He was beautiful and sweet, and I wish his life had been better, but it wasn't.

Stretch's life and death could have been made much kinder if whoever owned him in the past had done one simple thing: Had him NEUTERED. A neutered male cat, even if he is outdoors, is far less likely to contract FIV because they aren't engaging in tomcat fights; FIV, like HIV, is relatively fragile, and requires special circumstances to transmit, usually blood contact. Your cat won't get FIV from hugging, sitting on a couch with, using the same doorknob as, or sharing a toilet seat with a cat with FIV. Your cat CAN get FIV through sharing needles, having unprotected sex, and fighting with FIV-infected cats. While the needle sharing is wholly dependent upon humans being careful to use fresh syringes for each injection on a cat (cats don't become heroin addicts on their own or vaccinate themselves, you know), the latter two are pretty easily curtailed by removing the organs responsible for driving those behaviors: The testicles. One very minor operation, and Stretch would have preferred long walks on the beach to Feline Fight Club or wild cat orgies. He also might have been kept indoors, since neutered males smell less pungent, and don't tend to hose down the walls with pheromones.

Please...neuter your cats. Neuter other cats, too. Neuter your neighborhood strays, and offer to get your mom's cat, your friend's cat, and your worst enemy's cat neutered. The cats won't miss those two bits of tissue, and they will live longer, healthier lives. If you run up against some weirdo who projects his own testicular hangups onto his cat's furry little privates, show him Stretch's pictures, and tell him that Stretch would rather have been healthy and neutered than have a mouth full of rotten teeth and sores, starving to death, and who knows what else pains and miseries that he could not give voice to (and we could not begin to guess). To believe otherwise would be nuts.

Here are photos of our dear one, who was with us for but one day...Stretch was a polydactyl cat, meaning he had extra toes, one on each foot, just like our Ptera. Ptera and Stretch both had the same foot structure; one extra on each front paw, making them look like they had "thumbs", and one extra on each rear foot, halfway up the foot so it looked like a dewclaw.

Stretch's toes


Stretch's toes


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Invisible Crutch

The Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege, conceived by Peggy McIntosh, discusses the many things a white person takes for granted, in list form. As a white person, many of these things were uncomfortable to read, but I also saw reflected in them the things that men, wealthy people, and non-disabled people take for granted.

I've decided to build an invisible crutch from things that constitute abled privilege, without repeating too much of what is in McIntosh's list (so read her list, and substitute "disability" for "color" for many of those things).

1. I can, if I wish, arrange to attend social events without worrying if they are accessible to me.

2. If I am in the company of people that make me uncomfortable, I can easily choose to move elsewhere.

3. I can easily find housing that is accessible to me, with no barriers to my mobility.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time and be able to reach and obtain all of the items without assistance, know that cashiers will notice I am there, and can easily see and use the credit card machines.

5. I can turn on the television and see people of my ability level widely and accurately represented.

6. I can be pretty sure of my voice being heard in a group where I am the only person of my ability level represented--and they will make eye contact with me.

7. I can advocate for my children in their schools without my ability level being blamed for my children's performance or behavior.

8. I can do well in a challenging situation without being told what an inspiration I am.

9. If I ask to speak to someone "in charge", I can be relatively assured that the person will make eye contact with me and not treat me like I am stupid.

10. I can belong to an organization and not feel that others resent my membership because of my ability level.

11. I do not have to fear being preyed upon because of my ability level.

12. I can be reasonably assured that I won't be late for meetings due to mobility barriers.

13. I can use most cosmetics and personal care products without worrying that they will cause a painful or dangerous reaction.

14. I can usually go about in public without other people's personal care products causing me painful or dangerous reactions.

15. My neighborhood allows me to move about on sidewalks, into stores, and into friends' homes without difficulty.

16. People do not tell me that my ability level means I should not have children.

17. I can be reasonably sure that I will be able to make it to a regular job every day.

18. I know that my income can increase based on my performance, and I can seek new and better employment if I choose; I do not have to face a court battle to get an increase in my income.

19. My daily routine does not have to be carefully planned to accommodate medication or therapy schedules.

20. I can share my life with an animal companion without my ability to care for them being called into question due to my financial and ability situations.

21. If I am not feeling well, and decide to stay in bed, I will likely be believed and not told that I am lazy and worthless.

I am sure there are more that I haven't thought of. Do keep in mind that I've tried NOT to copy Ms. McIntosh's work, because there's no need--most of what she says definitely applies to this list as well.