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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where did my vacation go?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

Check out the chart. Us and Australia are the only countries without significant paid parental leave. The developing world’s parents have it better than we do. The “value voters” (or any voters) don’t really take on this issue from what I can tell, but it would make sense. More sense than some other issues they champion. I mean, more time with your kids and family-wouldn’t that translate to well- or better-adjusted kids? Stronger families? Oh, but it conflicts with the almighty market system, so mothers, pop that baby out and back to work! Pronto!
I look forward to the day when I can quit and take care of the kids. Only problem is, that is more likely to occur by the time they’re in college. Then what’s the point? At that point, we need to work to have something to do with ourselves. We need the year or so off when they are young and they need us most (and we need it most), but no one can afford to do that. Except the very fortunate. It’s so backwards.


As it is now, we get 3 months to take, provided we have the vacation time to do it and your boss doesn’t pressure you to return. Mine didn’t, but it happens. By law, you can’t lose your job. If it disappears, they have to provide an equal one or something like that. From the point of view of mothers, though, 3 months is nothing. You spend most of it hormonal, fat, hair falling out, in pain, and trying to get the hang of breastfeeding and caring for a being that totally depends on you. On my first leave, I was in pain and uncomfortable the entire time-the first half from the c-section and the second from the surgery to fix the breast abcess I had gotten after the antibiotics didn’t work on the mastitis. Having the year off would send women back to work who actually had their minds on their work, instead of worrying about the 6 week old or 3 month old they left behind, trying to stay awake every day on 3 hours of sleep, trying to find time and place to pump every few hours, etc.

Anyway, look at the chart. Sad.

***
The End of Summer Vacation
http://www.slate.com/id/2193389/

We don’t get as much vacation time as other nations. Surprise! Surprise! We would much rather drop dead of a heart attack that take a few weeks off of work to enjoy ourselves and our family. The American dream. Thanks again market economy! You work so you can have more money, then you have no time to enjoy it. If you take the time off, you won’t have the money.
A week or less at Christmas, a few days at Thanksgiving, several days for child care issues and… POOF! No vacation left. People have asked me what I’m doing for summer vacation. I’d love to say we’re going to the Bahamas or even the beach 3 hours away, but no. Summer vacations ended in high school really.

It is also said that Americans don't take the time they have off anyway. Maybe that's why it's disappearing. I saved my leave so I could take a "decent" (by American standards) maternity leave. Some may feel like they can't take off because they'll lose customers or look like a slacker to their boss. Mine accumulates (within a certain limit), so I'm constantly saving it so I can take more than a day off to see family, etc.


http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS130132+15-Apr-2008+PRN20080415
U.S. 14
Canada 17
Great Britain 26
Germany 27
France 31
Spain 37
Italy
Netherlands 28
Austria 28

Poop...and coffee




Picture from: http://www.carlspackler.com/archive/cs_183.jpg

When I heard about the coffee described below, I thought about this scene from Caddyshack. (It's a Baby Ruth bar, if you haven't seen the movie.) Even some fairly innocuous items in different settings can cause a degree of panic...

My husband keeps talking about this coffee. There is a really expensive coffee that is pooped by weasels. Imagine that! Would you pay $48 a cup for civet poop coffee?? I think I’ll pass. Pretty crazy stuff. Chock Full of Nuts or Starbucks will do just fine! Maybe you can get it cheaper "unprocessed". Ew.

But this is funny...
http://www.ravensbrew.com/NewFiles/kopiluwak.html

And Wikipedia comes through with this article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak

Bush sewage plant!

This is for real. Some Californians are pushing to rename a sewage plant after Bush in commemoration of his policies and legacy. This is great. I kind of hope it passes. Only in California! Too funny.
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/17/presidential.putdown.ap/index.html

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Side

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer

This is the latest book I want to read. We'll see if it happens. It seems like I only read a small fraction of the ones I want to read. Some of it is due to the fact that a lot of the books are political and become less relevant 5 or so years down the line. Part of the joy of reading things like the Bush Tragedy is seeing researched and in print what was dismissed as fiction by the neocon right for the longest time (poor Cheney still hangs on to much of it).

This one is great. It's the story of the interrogation debacle(s) and the evolution of policy on these issues. What the intel agencies/Bush admin did was use a program (SEER) designed during the Cold War for our people to resist interrogations and use it in reverse to interrogate "suspects". Torture is known to produce forced confessions. Cold War Soviet use of the tactics wasn't even designed to gain real intel; false confessions were fine with them--and we are using and have used these same tactics!

Also interesting is 1/3 in Gitmo were mistakenly picked up. One anecdote is a student identified his teacher as a terrorist for giving him a bad grade. Since we got rid of the Geneva Conventions, we no longer had to check into or even ask about such things. Half of those held are thought to be guilty.

Terror And The Unraveling Of America's Moral Fabric

Fresh Air- NPR 7/15/08- awesome interview

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92528583

Saturday, July 12, 2008

McCain and Iran

McCain singing Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran

http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS/blogs/politicalticker/2007/04/mccain-sings-bomb-bomb-iran.html

I realize it was a joke, but it's really uncalled for when you're talking about bombings that will involve killing innocents. Unless they have those magic weapons that Israel has that don't kill any inncents, right? The "threat" is another resurrected one, so far unsubstantiated, so he should even be talking like that, let alone joking about it.

US Exports Cigarettes and more to Iran-supporting terrorism??
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/07/08/iran.us.buying.ap/index.html

McCain responding to the above report of exporting cigarettes.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080709/pl_nm/usa_politics_mccain_iran_dc

Again, yes, it's joke. But sometimes some kinds of jokes are inappropriate. Especially if you're running to be in charge of such matters in the near future! I want someone that I know will take matters seriously, especially ones that involve life and death. One who will consider the human cost and make absolutely sure there's an imminent threat before we cause harm to us and others.


Speaking of responsible choices... McCain's probable pick for Treasury Secretary is Phil Gramm. THE Phil Gramm. Enron (he and his wife). Forclosure crisis. Is that someone who you wnat anywhere near financial decisions?? Yikes. And recently he said Americans need to stop whining about a mental recession. Where is this guy living? Mars? Anyway, McCain did the obligatory backpedaling, but will we see him kick Gramm to the curb, as Obama has done with controversial figures?
http://www.democracynow.org/2008/7/9/foreclosure_phil_journalist_david_corn_on

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Politics and the pulpit

It’s an election year again and I’m reminded of my unending personal debate. I’m fairly conservative religiously compared to the general population, but fairly liberal otherwise. I grew up listening to my dad, my parents’ friends, and even sermons in church say and imply that the Republican party offers the most Godly platform and positions and candidates and so we Christians should vote that way. The sermons generally wouldn’t say vote Republican explicitly, but you could tell what they were getting at. In my parents’ house, with their friends and to some degree among the Christians I grew up with, liberal was a dirty word- used almost like a slur.

For the Christians, including my parents, that I speak of I have the utmost respect and I agree totally with them on matters of Scripture. I do take issue with when Bible and Christianity mix with religion, though, and I hope if any of them happen to read this that they don’t take offense or think me disrespectful. I’m still trying to muck out my political position exactly. There isn’t really a party that captures my beliefs perfectly, no candidate that I can feel passionate about supporting.

I have a problem with saying candidate or party A is against abortion and gay marriage and the Bible is against them, therefore I must support A. I believe and can provide Scriptural support for their (and my) position that abortion and homosexuality are sin, but I think the fact that you must support candidates that have that position is opinion because it’s not that simple. Let me explain my thought process.

What was and is Jesus’/God’s goal or desire? That all would come to Him, that is, believe and live faithfully. 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 say this quite well. When we look at Jesus’ example, he didn’t want to change (inside or outside the set process of government) the government even though the Romans were quite harsh on Christians and it was far from Godly. His focus was on individual responsibility because that is how we’ll be judged- John 12:48 and Rom 2:6. While I can see some value to having Christian leaders of a country, there are problems, too. One being the issue of having religious influence in government such that laws would be specific to certain denominations or something like that-the slope is slippery and I fear that myself and those who believe like I do wouldn’t be in the majority, so we’d be at their mercy.

One way to accomplish this (Jesus’ desire), some might say, is electing Christian officials to enact Christian laws and ones that don’t violate God’s law. This seems a little backwards to me, though there is some truth to the expression “fake it til you make it”. Another, the opinion I hold for now, is to focus on spreading the gospel individually such that people choose not to have abortions, rather than go the more authoritarian route. I think everything has a moral issue to consider whether it’s the abortion stance, how well he will handle money (money God blessed me with and I am to be a good steward of), or whether he will attack countries at will, killing innocent people for no real reason. The point is, is that how to accomplish God’s desire is opinion. Sin is sin and there is Bible proof for that, but who you elect, whether you are pro separation of church and state or against, and other political issues are open for debate. There has been a movement in the past decade to politicize certain religious issues, which has removed the necessity to think for oneself. Not to say that those who disagree with me aren’t thinking for themselves-far from it-but the propaganda doesn’t help us talk intelligently and freely about these issues.
I also have an issue with the fact that the abortion ban poses some problems. It is murder when used as birth control and even in the case of rape and incest (on which most Republicans will take exceptions BTW), but what about ectopic pregnancy or other instances that I can’t think of where the question is to save the baby or mother or both are in danger? Will an abortion ban account for those, albeit, small number of cases? Should it, Biblically? Since I can’t answer that, I have a hard time with saying ban abortion absolutely and vote for those who will work to ban abortion. Never mind the fact that the so-called family values candidates are willing to murder a baby when the mother was raped. It’s a hard situation for sure. Would I make the right decision? I don’t know. But there is a right decision there and Republicans and Christians who support Republicans as the Godly choice have no problem with murder in those cases (or they must not because they say they can’t support a pro choice candidate because he leaves the door open on murder).

Also invoked in election years is how the country needs to get back to its Christian roots. I don’t think we want state established religion, do we? That’s how we started. If you didn’t attend twice on Sunday there were a set of consequences that involved the gallows at sea. And if you weren’t the “correct” denomination, there were harsh consequences including but not limited to prison. Founding Faith is an interesting book to read on this subject. The Founding Fathers and others of the time (who weren’t part of the state enforced denominations) tended to believe, with some exceptions, that separation of church and state would be good for both in different ways. Now, religious folks often look at separation of church and state as evil, worldly, and trying to take God out of schools, etc.

I hesitate to post this as some will probably think it heresy or worse, but this is a pet peeve of mine-politics from the pulpit- and I don’t always say what I want and don’t always have opportunity to say it, so I’ll write it here and move on. I hope you can do the same. I apologize if anyone reads it and it’s hard to follow or if I don’t explain myself clearly-I did my best with the time I have.

I guess I'll post it. Here goes...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Omer's beating: a lesson to innocent Palestinians??

This is something I posted at http://share.triangle.com (N&O). My fellow N Carolinians aren't much interested in foreign affairs it seems. I've got some in politics and current events and no one responds, so I'll turn it into a blog post. Not that anyone will read this, either!

Mohammed Omer was beaten (to put it mildly!) by Shin Bet on his way back to Gaza from London after receiving the Martha Gellhorn Prize for journalism.

http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2008/06/28/israelia_8217_s_beat_and_torture_returni

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/6/30/headlines

10th topic down

Is this proof that the oft repeated claim that if the Palestinians would stop doing x, y or z then Israel wouldn't have to use force is false?

When Palestinians who are obviously innocent and unarmed are treated in this way, what incentive is there for other not so prominent Palestinians to turn from violence or resist joining the violent fringe?

Was this a political statement by Israel? Are they trying to silence his reporting in Gaza?



http://www.democracynow.org/2008/7/7/award_winning_palestinian_journalist_mohammed_omer


Shin Bet response to the issue: Omer “received decent treatment and no extraordinary measures were taken against him.” Read and decide for yourself. Should the US also institute these routine measures? We have learned a lot from Israel about torture-Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, etc. I wonder if these critical safety measures will accompany the taking off of shoes in our security procedure since they are routine and so effective.

Check this link if you want to know exactly what happened to this guy. It was obviously not in the name of security. The agent said we wouldn't have let you out if we knew you were coming back. The guy posed absolutely no threat and did nothing threatening except speak out at conferences, which in a democracy you'd think this would be respected to some degree. The agent reveals that the goal of so called security measures (entry policies, collective punishment, and torture) is ethnic cleansing. Pure and simple. Security is not part of it at all.

If this is how the innocent are treated, how can Palestinians believe that even if they had power over the militant groups to stop suicide bombing, that they would get rights, justice, respect, etc?? Collective punishment so harsh that it involves killing, torture, bulldozing homes, etc of innocents is not proportional or warranted in response to the threat. They have the wrong target and criticize suicide bombers for targeting innocents. Their weaponry is more advanced, precise, and plentiful and still they target or have A LOT of "accidents". Is Israel any better than those suicide bombers?

Israel and children

10-year-old subjected to torture by Israeli soldiers
http://www.dci-pal.org/english/display.cfm?DocId=811&CategoryId=1

How many times have you heard this story in the last week?? If this were an Israeli killed or injured by a homemade rocket, we'd hear it several times a day for several days.

We have very cozy relations with this country, one that we call the only democracy in the Middle East. WHY? It is debatable whether or not they have "democratic values" and respect for human rights. Ok, it's not debatable. They flout international law, continue to build settlements in defiance of international law and our restatement of international law on the subject, and think it's just fine to punish/torture a whole population for the crimes of a few.

McCain, Obama and Hillary Clinton all made appearances at the AIPAC, trying obsequeously to win them over. Obama even abandoned his diplomacy theme (which is something that drew me in) for tough talk on Iran. Our Senators and House members preface their comments in the chamber with prolific praise and examples of how their constituents are friends of Israel. This is disconcerting to say the least, but I'll bet you won't hear them reprimanding their "friend" for this abuse, people that have died at checkpoints, use of human shields, settlement building, etc any time soon.

Why not? We hear about every injury and the periodic death by homemade Palestinian rocket. The Palestinian injuries and deaths mount in almost total silence, though they are almost triple the Israeli deaths. Are there just so many, that people would or have gotten tired of hearing about it? Is it because Israelis look and dress like "us" and Palestinians are brown? Are the Territories just too dangerous to report in, so they look to Israel, which has some action, but not too much? Conspiracy, carelessness, desensitization?

Congress can't speak out or they will lose their AIPAC funding or AIPAC will fund their opponent to get a more pro Israel candidate. Where are the journalists? Journalists seem to love covering hurricanes. They will stand there until they themselves blow away and seem to love every second of it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bulldozer attack

The big news is a Palestinian who went on a "rampage", killing three. Given that Israel, with the help of the company, Caterpillar, has bulldozed thousands of homes, made an average of 12 homeless per home, and killed indiscriminately, I'd say we should have expected this a lot sooner. You might call it ironic.

It's called a terror attack, but is it not possible that a Palestinian who's fed up with the Israeli oppression is driven crazy by possibly family being killed by IDF, lack of movement, Israel induced stagnant economy, etc? This one makes the news because the victims are Israeli. The 5000 homes demolished are not worth mentioning because Palestinians are losing everything, sometimes their lives; no Jews were harmed. Rachel Corrie made the news, but our government refused to hold Israel responsible, as it folded to Israel's wishes in the USS Liberty attack. I guess if we gave up our own servicemen to save Israel's rep, why sweat one young girl, right?

Here is the link for the Big Story- Palestinian bulldozes three in terror attack
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/07/02/israel.bulldozer/index.html?iref=nextin

Everyone is calling this a terrorist act, trying to find a group that will claim responsibility, etc. Israel's home demolitions and associated murders are just administrative moves- journalists don't mention terrorism, collective punishment, land grabs, or even do a follow up with the family ot find out what their next move is (as in other disasters) if they report it at all. The President doesn't call with condolences when Israelis are driving the bulldozers that crush homes, kill people, crush cars, etc. Mention "national security" and murder and destruction of property are immediately justified, no matter how unrelated it is to national security and how little sense it makes otherwise.

I heard a good point mentioned recently: Where were the bulldozers razing the family homes of relatives of the guy who assassinated Rabin? That's Israel's policy, right?

Here are some facts on home demolitions and other examples of Israel's continued commitment to human rights:

http://icahdusa.org/facts

http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article1
Terror watch uses local eyes
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_9725077

This sounds scary. Or it could be. It doesn't look that bad in the article, but the fact that things you do and say that aren't even illegal are being recorded and could be pieced together in patchwork fashion to frame you if the need arose is crazy. This opens the door for abuse, big time. On one hand it's great they're being vigilant; on the other, we're all a bad picture away from Guantanamo.


Preparing the Battlefield
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh
Hersh knows what's up. When he wrote about Iraq, I was thinking...naw...Bush isn't that crazy. It would be too hasty, there are too many former officials dissenting, the evidence doesn't seem to be there yet. And we ended up in a disaster there.