Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Direct Assault on the Constitution, America and the Poor: H.R. 1: Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

This is the bill, H.R. 1: Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (GovTrack.us), that will cause a government shutdown. It is an outrageously contrived piece of legislation that increases Defense spending to a record level, does nothing to reduce the deficit and directly assaults programs for the poor, for safety and good health and vital services for good of all. It's as if the Republicans went down a list of everything that protects citizens, that saves lives, that limits the spread of disease, that insures safe conditions, clean air and water, and that provides for the poorest citizens in America to kill all of those programs by stopping the funding to them.

It is an astonishingly vindictive Bill against the citizens of America and blatantly pro-corporate.

You can vote against the bill here: https://www.popvox.com/

Here are the amendments in the bill that were approved by the Republican controlled House:

Amendment 170: To prevent funding for end-of-life counseling, the mislabeled "death panels."
Amendment 168: To prevent funding for the National Labor Relations Board to certify the results of a labor organization elections. This is a direct assault on labor unions, making their elections irrelevant.
Amendment 164: To prevent funds being used for management of the National Primary and Secondary Ambient Air Quality Standards in the Clean Air Act.
Amendment 163: To prevent the use of funds for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. (Ain't no place else to keep nuclear waste, people.)
Amendment 161: To prevent the use of funds to pay the salary of anyone officer or employee of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Amendment 159: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds to carry out any of the activities described in section 6A of the Consumer Product Safety Act. (GOP considers this a hardship on corporations.)
Amendment 158: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds by EPA to develop, propose, finalize, implement, administer, or enforce any regulation that identifies or lists fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous waste subject to regulation.
Amendment 157: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds used by the Administrator of the EPA to carry out section 404(c) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
Amendment 156: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds in the decision of the Administrator of the EPA entitled "Partial Grant of Clean Air Act Waiver Application Submitted by Growth Energy to Increase the Allowable Ethanol Content of Gasoline to 15 percent". (An increase of Ethanol percentage in gasoline will directly cut big oil company profits and, of course, cut the quantity of imported oil. So, this amendment helps oil companies and keeps us dependent on oil imports.)
Amendment 154: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds for contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (In other words, no money for studying the effect of climate change.)
Amendment 153: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds for the study of the Missouri River Projects authorized in section 108 of the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2009. (Stops the improvement along the Missouri River.)
Amendment 152: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, New England, or Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
Amendment 151: An amendment to prohibit use of funds to the EPA, the Corps of Engineers, or the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement may be used to carry out, implement, administer, or enforce any policy or procedure set forth in the memorandum issued by the EPA. (There is no text that specifies which EPA memorandum this refers to or describes what the memorandum does.)
Amendment 148: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds to implement, establish, or create a NOAA Climate Service as described in the "Draft NOAA Climate Service Strategic Vision and Framework" published at 75 Feb. Reg. 57739. (This cuts funding for continued work by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's on developing its strategic plan for studying, monitoring and response to climate change.)
Amendment 145: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds for the construction of an ethanol blender pump or an ethanol storage facility. (I believe this refers to strategic reserves, in case of a disaster or war, that stores ethanol for emergency use. Republicans like corn ethanol, that causes the cost of corn to sky rocket, but they don't want to use it wisely. What a contradiction!)
Amendment 144: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds in H.R. 1 for the design, renovation, construction, or rental of any headquarters for the United Nations in any location in the United States. (To not fund the rental of UN space may cause the U.S. UN diplomats huge problems participating in UN matters.)
Amendment 143: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds in H.R. 1 from being used to implement, administer, or enforce the rule entitled "Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida's Lakes and Flowing Waters" published in the Federal Register by the Environmental Protection Agency on December 6, 2010.
Amendment 138: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds in H.R. 1 from being used to pay the salary of any officer or employee of the the Department of Health and Human Services who develops or promulgates regulations or guidance with regard to Exchanges under subtitle D of title I of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (Exchanges reduce insurance cost to citizens. Without the exchanges, insurance companies can continue to raise costs without competition.)
Amendment 136: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds in H.R. 1 from being used to develop, promulgate, evaluate, implement, provide oversight to, or backstop total maximum daily loads or watershed implementation plans for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. (This stops funding to continue the cleanup and management of the polluted Chesapeake Bay that millions use for fishing, crabbing and drinking.)
Amendment 131: An amendment to prohibit the use of funds to be used to develop, carry out, implement, or otherwise enforce proposed regulations published June 18, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 34,667) by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement of the Department of the Interior. (To prevent mining regulations, including safety.)
Amendment 128An amendment to prohibit the use of funds made available by division A of this Act for Department of Defense, Operation and Maintenance, Defense-wide may be used for official representation purposes, as defined by Department of Defense Instruction 7250.13(pdf), dated June 30, 2009.
Amendment 126An amendment to prohibit the use of funds to be used to require a person licensed under section 923 of title 18, United States Code, to report information to the Department of Justice regarding the sale of multiple rifles or shotguns to the same person. (This stops funding for the control of multiple gun sales, such as sold to Mexican gun-runners in U.S. gun stores. A person can then buy lots of guns in a single sale without it being reported.)
Amendment 123An amendment to prohibit the use of funds for the Secretary of Agriculture to implement or enforce Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule, relating to the designation of roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle use, in any administrative unit of the National Forest System. (Without funds, all National forests are free from any regulation and any and all can use any part for any kind of motor vehicle, without any control at all.)
Amendment 121An amendment to prohibit the use of funds to implement the Klamath Dam Removal and Sedimentation Study. (A number of years ago, the pollution and dams in the Klamath River threatened the Chinook Salmon to the point of extinction. California had to stop salmon fishing on the West Coast and began cleaning up the river and restricting its use. Salmon fishing is back, but much reduced, and many salmon fishing companies went out of business. The amendment to stop funding puts us back to where we were before the California clean up.)
Amendment 120An amendment to prohibit the use of funds made available by division B of the Public Health Service Act to implement or enforce section 2718 of the Act. (If doctors makes mistakes that harms you, they don't have the money to report or monitor the mistakes so that insurance companies won't have to reimburse your costs for the mistakes. Section 2718 requires health insurance issuers to submit data on the proportion of premium revenues spent on clinical services and quality improvement, also known as the medical loss ratio (MLR), and payment of rebates to enrollees if this percentage does not meet minimum standards.  The new law also directs NAIC to establish uniform definitions and standardized methodologies for determining what services constitute clinical services, quality improvement, and other non-claims costs for carrying out this provision.)
Amendment 106An amendment to prohibit the use of funds in H.R. 1 to be used by the Internal Revenue Service to implement or enforce section 5000A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, section 6055 of such Code, section 1502(c) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or any amendments made by section 1502(b) of such Act. (Apparently stops funding on the reporting of insurance coverage to the IRS.)
Amendment 105An amendment to prohibit funds in H.R. 1 to be used to pay the salary of any officer or employee of any Federal department or agency with respect to carrying out the provisions of Public Law 111-148 (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), Public Law 111-152 (Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010), or any amendment made by such either Public Law. (Stops all funding of Healthcare Reform laws.)
Amendment 104An amendment to prohibit the use of funds in H.R. 1 to be used to carry out the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or any amendment made by either such Public Law. (Another amendment to stop all Healthcare Reform law funding. --they sure want to stop it--)
Amendment 102An amendment to prohibit the use of funds to pay any employee, officer, contractor, or grantee of any department or agency to implement the provisions of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or title I or subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. (Another one to stop Healthcare funding!!)
Amendment 101An amendment to prohibit use of funds by EPA to implement, administer, or enforce any statutory or regulatory requirement pertaining to emissions of greenhouse gases. (In other words, it's okay to gas us.)
Amendment 96An amendment to prohibit use of funds by the Environmental Appeals Board to consider, review, reject, remand, or otherwise invalidate any permit issued for Outer Continental Shelf sources located offshore of the States along the Arctic Coast under the Clean Air Act. (Prohibits the funds to regulate Alaska off-shore oil drilling of any kind.)
Amendment 95An amendment to prohibit the use of funds for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (Prohibits funding healthcare for the poorest women in America. Note: Only 2% of women who go to Planned Parenthood ask for information on abortion. The other 98% are there for all other women health matters. Note 2: I pulled my blog article on Planned Parenthood because it dawned on me that I might be putting the Planned Parenthood clinic that I wrote about in danger. I'll rewrite it without location and personal identification information later.)
Amendment 94An amendment to prohibit funds for the use of the "Program Integrity: Gainful Employment-New Programs" section of the bill. (Prohibits funds for New Jobs programs!! So much for Republican promises!! They don't keep their promises.)

All of this information can be obtained from, and you can be kept up to date on Congressional bills at, GovTrack. Keep informed of what you voted for!!

In summary, we will be able to go to war with the highest Defense funding in history, but we can't keep care of our citizens in any way at all.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Planned Parenthood - A Test of the Soul

I've had to return to this post to revise it.  It dawned on me that I may have put people in danger by mentioning places and names.  So, this revision removes specifics and references about the location and names. I really need to be more careful.  I really need an editor, a second set of eyes and brain, to think about these things.  Maybe I should stop blogging entirely.  This is too stressful.  I've also added new information that I've learned since I first published this article.

The Planned Parenthood Health Center that I have personal experience with is located just around the corner, less than a five minute walk, from a Fresh Start center that is located in an Episcopal Church.  Fresh Start attempts to help the homeless and those who are on the brink of becoming homeless.  It has its hands full.  Donations are down and usually limited to donations received between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year when I participate.  Federal assistance disappeared when President Bush channeled all federal money that Fresh Start used to get to his Faith-Based Initiative program in 2001, run in a White House office.  Fresh Start was not one of the "Faiths" favored by the Bush Administration.  That may have changed under President Obama.  I hope so.  The number of homeless is going up.  All of its staff are volunteers, mostly parishioners of the church.  Fresh Start is one of my favorite charities.  It is on the front line of the war against homelessness.  I can't give much, though.

One of the first things Fresh Start does for homeless women is to send them to the Planned Parenthood Health Center for a physical exam, including AIDS screening, mammograms, pap smears, pregnancy tests, contraceptives, sex education, tuberculosis screening, treatment for lice, and on and on, anything the woman needs that can be provided by the clinic.  Some of the women have been raped while living on the street and they are always terrified of being pregnant from the rape.  If they are pregnant, abortion is always a subject the woman brings up.  In desperation for enough money to live on, some of them have become prostitutes, and under the control of a pimp, usually an abusive pimp.  Some are women who have run away from their circumstance, a pimp, an abusive husband and others are runaways from abusive parents.  Others are victims of unemployment or other social upheavals.  All of them are looking for a way out of their circumstances.  Nearly all call themselves Christians and believe in God and constantly pray for a way out; a miracle.  A few, but not many are Muslim, Buddhist, Hindus or Jews and not connected to institutions of those faiths.  Apparently lost women of those faiths are taken care of by their own communities if they still have those connections.  These are the lepers of our society.

The greater majority are at the clinic for physical exams or a specific ailment or follow up treatment.  That accounts for 98% of the visits to the clinic.  Two percent are there for abortion referral and counseling.

Next to the health clinic is a small coffee shop catering mainly to the patients and staff of the health center. You can't help but notice the patients sitting in the clinic's waiting room if you go to the coffee shop. Early one morning a year or so ago while I was attempting to visit Fresh Start, I stopped in the coffee shop for a cup of coffee.  On that day, I saw that the waiting room was full with some patients standing; all seats were taken.  I took the last table available in the coffee shop; it was inconveniently jambed in the corner and had three chairs tightly spaced on two sides of the table.  A young girl of about twenty sat down at my table and a minute later a middle-aged woman wearing a lab coat of sorts with a medical logo, the wings, staff and swirling snakes, sat in the last seat at our table.  We made room for her.  The woman was a volunteer at the clinic on her off-days from her regular job.  She was taking a break. She started a conversation with the young girl by asking her if she had gotten her room yet.  Apparently nearby, among the several apartment buildings, was a place where she could get a room.  "Not yet," the girl said.  The woman said that she had better hurry, there were five more women in the clinic waiting room who also needed a room and rooms were always short in supply.  The girl nodded.  She would go there next, but didn't know what she was going to do after that, she said.  She had to return to the clinic that afternoon for her test results.  She hoped that she wasn't pregnant.

I was curious and I asked, "What is this place?"  But, before answering my question, she wanted to know who I was, so I explained that I was in the area to check out Fresh Start since I had given them money.  After more explanation, she finally said that I didn't appear to be a "nut."  She said the clinic receives regular threats and wanted to make sure I wasn't one of "those."  Over our conversation, she explained much of what I've written above.  She went on to say that most of the clinic's support comes from the Episcopal Church and a few other community churches.  Other churches, she said, opposed the clinic, wanting to shut it down and was the source of many of the threats the clinic received.  Personal threats directed at staff members, she said, were passed to the police and investigated but hardly ever resolved.

She went on to say that many women who use the clinic had jobs, but didn't make enough to buy insurance or pay for direct medical care; low-income women.  They typically paid half of their income for one-room studio apartments and generally had very little left for even basic needs, even hygiene and contraceptives which they got from the clinic.  When the subject got around to abortions, she asked me, "Do you see any choice?" These women have no choice in the matter, she said.  They are terrified of getting pregnant, they have no way of preventing it unless they come to us and they have nobody who will support them during pregnancy let alone a child.  "It's heartbreaking," she said.  Her chin quivered and her eyes watered.  "And, we have no way to keep the woman for her to carry the child to birth for adoption," although some do, somehow, and immediately give up the child to adoption as soon as they are born.  These children are not the most desired children in the adoption market, she said.  Many are not adopted.  Apparently they are passed into the foster parent system where they linger until, at eighteen years of age, they are usually put out on the streets.  "Thank God for you," the young girl said to the woman as she got up and left.

"We follow U.S. and California abortion law and the best medical standards of care," she said, but law changes often and we are constantly inspected.  She had no problem with inspections - they were always thorough inspections and they always passed.  At one time the law required that young women under eighteen get parental consent before getting an abortion, but for these girls, she asked, "What parent? These girls usually have no parent," or one that can be located or one that cares.  They've been abandoned in most cases.  That parental permission law was eventually overturned in court as unconstitutional, as a violation of the girl's civil liberties and privacy.  The girls usually have no idea what they want, who to turn to or where to go.  They are just frightened.  "We leave the decision up to them," which appears to be a hopeless choice since they haven't a clue.  All are conflicted and despairing.  If they want to give birth, we'll try to find a home for them through Fresh Start and the churches.  In most cases, no home is found and they return for an abortion, the last resort for them.  For others, she said, giving birth is too dangerous to the woman.  "We get all of the lost and hopeless," she said.  We try to teach them prevention and sex education, she said, but some return pregnant again in spite of their efforts.  Her break was soon over; she returned to work.

Last week Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) led an assault on Planned Parenthood to stop funding for the program, primarily as a way to stop abortions.  The right-wing media, led by Marjorie Dannenfelser, led the media attack with fake videos with the most heinous deceptions and lies about Planned Parenthood.  They accused it of gross negligence, sex trafficking, gruesome abortion procedures and a number of gut-turning descriptions.  But, it was all lies and deception.  Had there been any truth to any of the allegations heard on the floor of the House of Representatives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation should have been called for a criminal investigation, but that wasn't done.  I was very proud of California Representative Jackie Speier for standing up, facing them down with, "But for you to say, on this floor, that somehow abortion is wanted, or cavalier, or done without thought is preposterous."  Actually, for me, it wasn't strong enough.  I was outraged at the lies and false witness against Planned Parenthood.  When I left that coffee shop, I was heartbroken - and speechless.  I couldn't even say, "I'm sorry," or "thank you" to the woman, a courageous volunteer.  So, hearing the outrageous lies told on the floor of Congress got my dander up.

The attack on Planned Parenthood picked the worst cases of medical negligence to demonstrate and prove its cause, such as this one about Doctor Kermit Gosnell, Abortion Doctor Kermit Gosnell Charged With 8 Counts of Murder, a Pennsylvania physician who gives abortions in an impoverished area in Philadelphia.  In fact, the procedure described in the article is nearly identical to what was said in the House of Representatives, as cause for approval of the amendment to de-fund Planned Parenthood.  The implication, of course, is that all abortions are done in the manner described in the article.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Most state laws would not allow Doctor Gosnell to practice medicine at all, nor would they allow abortions in such late term of the pregnancy as described.  What is really described is a complete breakdown by neglect of standards of care, Pennsylvania law and regulators.  Doctor Gosnell should go to jail on all charges described in the article, if, in fact, the article is true.  He is a monster, not a physician.  It also appears that state regulators should go to jail too, for negligence of their own duty.

But, that's the question: Is the article true?  Or is it an evil distortion of the truth to sway public opinion?  If it is intentionally false, then the person who wrote it, and his editor, should go to jail for fraudulently misrepresenting the facts.  One would assume that some kind of ethical and fact finding editorial standard procedure confirmed the allegations before it was printed.  But, that's not always true now days.  We don't know the truth from the article.

There is also a question about the regulators who should have been inspecting the clinic.  To what extent were those state offices funded?  Or, was it just one more regulating office that Republicans had de-funded or reduced staff.  Republicans are notorious for eliminating regulations and the people who carry out the inspections or regulation.  Republicans don't care for regulating businesses.

If we believe that Doctor Gosnell's practice is common practice, then we have to believe that all medical and surgical procedures are just as barbaric, that all doctors are sadists and nurses are negligent accomplices.  I can't believe that.  I have brothers and sisters who practice medicine in some form or another.  I have friends who do it.  I don't see a single one of them who would accept or do such barbaric methods as described in the article.  While working at the Naval Medical Center, Oakland, I saw constant inspections, both internal and from outside authorities, including the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).  That organization closes hospitals that do not meet high minimum standards of care, and the hospital will be embroiled in a mountain of paperwork and improvements until it gets its accreditation back, or it will go bankrupt or close forever.  The JCAHO is not something taken lightly.  If the JCAHO found such a clinic in a hospital, it would close the doors immediately without notifying management and without any possible management response or excuse.

I also have to believe that with all of the opportunity for Mike Pence, Marjorie Dennenfelser and their supporters such as Tony Perkins, CEO of the Family Research Center, and the National Right to Life organization, and all of those others who have found it profitable to proselytize their propaganda to the Christian Right, to visit Planned Parenthood clinics, the churches that support it and the other organizations who coordinate services to the hopeless and lost poor to find the factual and honest truth about Planned Parenthood, that those attacking Planned Parenthood actually know the truth and are blatantly lying.  They have found it more profitable to cater to the Christian Right, to sell their goods to that market and to glean donations from that quarter, that they would go out of business if they told the truth.  But, the fact is that Pence, Dennedfelser, and others like them are responsible for much of the distortion of the truth, for not only about Planned Parenthood but many other things that I've researched, and it can be for no other reason than their own profit and personal fame.  It is time that politicians and media stop lying and distorting the truth.  They need to be held accountable for doing it.

The situation for the poorest women in the United States is nearly hopeless as it is, because they bear a burden that men have no clue about.  They are easily victimized and then accused of being wanton, they are easily oppressed and abused by superior strength and are not believed, and they carry the child, unplanned or planned, whether they want to or not.  I haven't heard many who have homes and are loved complaining, but one wonders why not.  Closing Planned Parenthood clinics makes it a thousand times worse.  I have to believe there is hope for these people.  I don't see anything else for them.  Society failed long before these women became pregnant and long before they paid a Planned Parenthood clinic a visit.  If the Christian Right wins in this battle, I see no hope at all.  I can't believe that God is against these women and that His heart isn't broken by their pain.  I do believe that God has a bone to pick with the Christian Right, maybe to its ultimate disgrace.  I can hardly wait.

I'm pro-choice because I refuse to condemn these women.  In fact, for the women above, I see no choice.  If I could give them one, I would.  If I could take on their fear, anguish and desperation, I would.  And for other women who are in anguish and are desperate, that I can't know and can only imagine, there can't be many choices either.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don't Feed the {insert animal name here}.

Trout fishing is about the best fishing there is, in my opinion. I haven't been in years. In the '90s, we would pack up the car with tents and food and take off for Kennedy Meadows in the High Sierra Nevada Mountains smack dab in the middle of Stanislaus National Forest. The Stanislaus River runs through Kennedy Meadows. We were close to the origin of the river. If we had gone much farther east on Highway 108, we would have seen the very first drop of water that became the river. Beyond that point, all of the melting snow flowed in the other direction, to the East into Nevada.

The Meadow is situated about six thousand feet above sea level in a relatively flat meadow among the peaks of three or four mountains. By the time the river enters the meadow, it's about thirty feet wide and it slows and ripples over finer gravel for a mile through the eastern end of the meadows. As it enters the campground, the slope increases and the gravel becomes boulders and the river flows faster and it's wider, picking up steam for the steeper slopes. You can see the trout gliding over the gravel in the slower part, but you can't see them in the rushing river unless you look real close and can catch a glimmer, in an instant, when the water is just right. And, that's where the best fishing is. Nothing good is ever easy, it seems.

What I like about trout fishing is that you have to think about it. It's not like other fresh water fishing, such as for Catfish or Bass. You just don't plop in a worm on a hook with a bob and sinker and wait for the fish to bite. And, you don't toss out a lure, reel it in, and do it again and again until you've faked out a bass. In fact, I don't use a bob and most times I don't use a weight at all when fishing for trout. Just a hook on a light line and a good quality reel. You don't want the thing backlashing all of the time and you want absolutely no drag. Otherwise, you won't be able to cast an unweighted line very far, and you'll need to cast at least twenty feet, at least to the center of the river. You also have to be accurate. You need to put the hook in a perfect place to catch a trout, which of course means that you need to think about where they're at.

I generally use Salmon eggs or Stone Fly Nymphs for bait. Salmon eggs can be bought at a bait store, but you have to find the Stone Fly Nymphs, usually next to or under a rock at the edge of the water. They are the ugliest bugs I've ever touched, and I hate to catch them, but trout love them. Here is a picture, and another picture (right-click on the link and open in a new tab or window). Ugly! Huh?

I suppose fly fishing is better when the water is slower, such as flowing over a bed of gravel, or where larger pools form in a medium flowing river where larger boulders are. I've never tried fly fishing. It seems to me that it's too much work on the flies, the reel and pole and not enough thought about the fish. I don't care for slow-flowing trout fishing where the fish swim around looking for food. The only skill required is just throw it out there. I like the medium-flowing and, in some cases, fast-flowing trout fishing among varied sized boulders. I've caught relatively large trout there. That's where they're at, and it takes a little skill to get the bait where the fish are and keep it there long enough to 1) attract the fish, and 2) hook it.

That location you're aiming for is behind a boulder. As the water flows over and around a boulder, an eddy is formed behind the boulder that traps food particles and bugs in the eddy for a second or two, and trout are waiting, sort of swimming in place, facing upstream with just enough tail-fin motion to not be swept downstream. The best place to be is upstream from the boulder(s) you're aiming at. If you're good, you can hit the sweet spot in a single cast and keep a slight tension on the line to feel the trout hit it. If you need a little practice, cast upstream a little in front of the boulder (in the general area - no need to be perfect) and let the bait flow with the water around the boulder and into the eddy. Slam! You got 'im! Then, you've got to get it to shore. Good luck! He's a fighter and he's got the advantage - he knows the river better than you do, and all of its hiding places to snag your line.

The thing about snags in a quick flowing river is to know what kind of snag your into. If the fish is on and you're snagged, just keep a light tension on the line and he'll usually swim out of it. If your hook is caught between two rocks, let out enough line for the river to work your hook out for you. If your hooked in wood, i.e., a tree limb, give up; jerk the hook into the wood firmly so it won't come lose in the river and cut the line, or you can wade out and unhook it. Don't wade into a fast flowing river, even when it's shallow. The river isn't a wimp.

There have been times when nobody else was catching trout in Kennedy Meadows, and I was happily returning to camp with a full stringer of seven or eight trout. Nothing is more satisfying than a fly-fisher, with the most expensive fly pole and reel, and decked out in hip-waders, hat full of expensive flies, or ones that he spent hours making himself, and an expensive cigar in his mouth look with envy at my full stringer and his is empty. Ha! One feels a little like Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. There is also nothing better than pan-fried trout at a campsite. But, the thing that I'm most proud of is teaching Damon, Adam and Marcus how to fish for trout, including lake trout, although that wasn't as much fun as stream trout. They've taken the art to a level higher than mine, though, and they have developed into skilled fishermen. In fact, I think Adam could be a professional fisherman. He never returns without catching something. The only problem is that I have to hear it. He's the windiest person I've ever been around when it comes to telling a fish tale - every last detail! I hate to mention that the trout that is, at this very moment, in the freezer is getting along in age. It needs to be eaten. But, if I mention it, then I'll have to hear about catching it, so let it lay.

I haven't been to Kennedy Meadows in years, and telling the story makes me want to go again. But, and this is where the title of this story comes in, there is a bear problem there. Or, should I say that "I" have a bear problem there. "Don't feed the bears." I never had any intention of feeding the bears. It was never my thought to unintentionally feed the bears. Had I known better, I would have kept a good sized fire going all night long, but I didn't think of that. In fact, I didn't like the idea of starting a forest fire with an unattended fire, so my first thought was to put the fire out before bedding down for the night. My mistake.

On that night we set up two tents, a small pup tent for Damon and Marcus, who were between nine and twelve years old, and a larger tent for myself, Chris, Adam and Bruno, our Black Lab. Across the campgrounds, perhaps two hundred feet or so, was another campsite that a bunch of guys set up. They had a roaring fire going all night long and I suppose they were taking turns watching it, sort of a night watch. Sometime in the middle of the night, a loud clanging and banging woke us up and we immediately knew what was happening; a bear was raiding the garbage cans. Clang! Bang! Clang! I could tell that the can lids were flying. The guys in the other camp started yelling and turned on their pickup headlights that lit up the area between our camps. And then, after a minute or two, a silhouette of a huge bear glided across the back of our tent and disappeared into the shadow.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "He wasn't as close as you thought he was. You only saw his shadow." Well, I know a thing or two about distance and elongated shadows of objects farther away and closer to the source light, and shadows that are not elongated and that are closer to the surface they are displayed on. That bear was close! And, there was only the thin tent material between us!

Chris said something. I said "shusshh." I heard a soft plunk, then nothing. I picked up a hatchet that happened to be close by and a flashlight and waited and I was determined to split that bear's nose if he stuck it in the tent. We waited. Finally, I unzipped the tent flap enough to peak out into the darkness. Nothing. I opened the flap a little more and stuck my head out a little more, shining the flashlight around. Nothing. I'm not sure how long it took, but I eventually got up enough courage to step outside and look around with the flashlight. What I found, and what apparently made the noise that I heard, was that the tent peg and line holding up the back end of the pup tent had been ripped out of the ground, and that end of the tent was laying flat. Damon and Marcus were still asleep in the tent, having heard nothing. I woke them up and made them sleep in the van and Chris and I went back to our tent. I didn't sleep the rest of the night, but I did hear all kinds of noises the rest of the night.

After thinking about that incident though several times, I have to think that we had the best dog in the world in that tent and that that bear was a mellow soul and wasn't very hungry. For example, it could have raided our food we had in the van. Bears are known to literally tear off a car door to get to food. And Bruno, our Black Lab, - he didn't make a sound. I didn't take time to notice and he was so black that I couldn't see him anyway. I have to believe that he didn't sleep through it, though, that he was wide awake, alert to danger and poised for attack just as I was. But, he didn't make a sound. He was a wise dog. Fortunately, we obeyed the sign in the meadows, "Don't feed the bears." We had no intention of doing that, and I'm glad we didn't. Had I kept a fire going, perhaps the bear wouldn't have come so close. Next time, we're going to have a camp fire.

I heard on the radio this morning that Houston, Texas has a law against feeding the homeless. Now that is an entirely different matter. I'd say feed the homeless whether there is a sign against it or not. I would intentionally disobey that sign, maybe with my hatchet for protection against city bears. Why is it always Texas?

I'll bet that Edward and David are ready to go camping, and maybe do a little trout fishing. That would be fun. We'll make a camp fire, too.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Egypt - What's our next sin?

As I write this, Egypt is in its seventeenth day of revolution and it looks like Mubarak is winning. Yesterday on Public Radio International, a reporter interviewed a number of Egyptians who said that Egypt was returning to "normalcy." A few Egyptians cited several characteristics of what normalcy is in Egypt. For example, one shop owner said that the police had warned him not talk to foreigners. That's normalcy, he said. Another said that gasoline prices, set by the government, i.e., Mubarak, had gone up in the few days the stations were closed for the demonstrations, and that was to be expected. That's normalcy. And, banks, gas stations, bakeries and restaurants were open. The one thing that a number of Egyptians said that was not normal was that a thirty-year martial law had been lifted. Huh? Thirty years of martial law? He went on to say that a "curfew" that Egyptians had experienced for nearly thirty years was canceled. Wow. For most of those younger than thirty years old who joined in the demonstrations, they had lived all of their lives under martial law, never knowing any other system. I have to think that it's a wonder that they demonstrated at all, having never known a free and democratic society. Being controlled by the state would have been so ingrained in their minds that any thought of freedom and democracy would have been their last thought. Maybe that's the reason that it took so long to rise up against Mubarak?

But, there is another reason at the bottom of the insurrection. It should be obvious to all, but I didn't hear many say it out loud. The real cause is the root of all evil - Money. And, with money comes power and, of course, military martial law to keep the power, and the money, through oppression of those who don't have either. All I heard was a hint here, a word there, such as a small byline in the news that a steel magnate was among those who resigned their high positions in Egypt's National Democratic Party and government, along with Mubarak's son. And we also heard, if we were listening, that the price of oil and food commodities went up, even while they were already priced above what most Egyptians could afford. Prices so high that they caused a food-riot a few years ago. If we were paying attention, we would have also heard the reason why commodities were going up. It was not because supply and demand changed, although Fox News said that, because supply had not suddenly decreased and demand had not suddenly increased. There were no more people needing oil and food before the demonstrations than there were after the demonstrations. The population had not suddenly exploded overnight. Nor had shipping been interrupted. But, speculators were guessing that the Suez Canal would be closed, and so they bought oil and food commodity futures which caused prices to rise overnight, or should I say over a market day, but the canal didn't close. Nevertheless, the price of oil and food went up by 15 to 25% in Egypt. Speculators. Wall Street speculators. Gamblers. No wonder Mubarak raised the salaries of state workers by 15%, reported as a concession to demands we heard, but the truth is that Mubarak had no choice. If he hadn't raised those salaries, he would have had even more disgruntled citizens. Citizens who worked for him and who could have stopped government operations in its tracks, for example the police and army who are his primary protection. He is no dummy.

To hear the Right-Wing talk about freedom and democracy, one would expect to hear support for the Egyptian revolution in the streets of Cairo shouting for freedom. But, that's not what we heard. We heard hypocrisy instead. We heard cries for "stability," for continuing Mubarak's dictator and military rule, for the sake of Israel. We heard the same from Israel. We heard fear of the "Muslim Brotherhood." Glenn Beck went on a rant about an Islamic Caliphate, a Muslim Nation, stretching from China to Britain. I think we can no longer say tongue-in-cheek and facetiously that Beck is insane. He really is insane, and it isn't funny. Fear, fear and more fear heaped on us by a propaganda machine, Fox News. Can we deny it any longer? Beck, Palin, Limbaugh and a number of neo-conservatives of the Bush Administration and a majority of Republicans in Congress came out on the side of Mubarak to continue the military rule of Egypt. Simply astonishing!

If we were listening carefully, we may have heard the real meaning of democracy - a government chosen by the people. Of course, there is danger to the United States when "other" countries choose their own government. We hope that they choose wisely. We hope that Egyptians don't choose as Germany did in the 1930s; when they chose Hitler. But, the reason they chose Hitler was primarily listening to, and believing, the lies they heard in the propaganda that Hitler spread which, by the way, was spread through the constant fear mongering over Germany's radio and newspaper media. We hope that Egypt is not listening to propaganda; we hope that Egyptians are smart or knowledgeable enough to know the difference between propaganda and truth. The odds are against them in a corporate controlled world. If you don't believe that or deny it, then you need to watch "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power," a documentary.

And, what about the bogeymen in the story, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Jazeera? These were hyped as the terrible duo in Egypt by the American Right Wing media, O'Rielly, Hannity and Limbaugh and, of course, Mubarak himself. Mubarak's state controlled media was, for a few days, the only source of news in Egypt while the demonstrations were going on. Al Jazeera television was blocked, as was CNN, NBC, ABC and others. Al Jazeera is a news organization headquartered in Doha, Qatar. It was formed in 1996 by a few investigative reporters who worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation World Service. Its creed is to provide truth to the Arab world. I read it regularly. It seems to me that they try very hard to do what they say they will do; to tell the truth as best they can determine it. So, is Al Jazeera a bogeyman? It doesn't seem to be. It is only the Right-Wing media that tells us it is.

I'm so glad that I finally got to hear, straight from the horse's mouth, several different spokesmen from the Muslim Brotherhood. I did not hear what I expected to hear. Instead of pro-Al Qaeda or extremist statements, I heard phrases describing freedom of choice, of speech, for liberty, for a democratic process, for a liberal democracy. I heard phrases and statements very similar to The Moral Majority, an American religious organization. What I heard matched perfectly with the hopes expressed by the ideals in the United States. I did not hear a bogeyman, or something we should fear. I heard an irony that, while the Right-Wing in this country is moving more and more to a police-controlled state, a state where we are under a Patriot Act eavesdropping, subjected to body searches at airports, and our homes can be invaded at police or political whims, I heard hope for liberal ideals in Egypt. I guess what's good for the Gander is not good for the Goose. According to the Right-Wing, what we want for others is not what we want for ourselves. And then? Logic was turned on its head; nobody heard the Brotherhood - it's a bogeyman. All we hear from The Fox is fear!

As far as I'm concerned, Obama and Secretary Clinton came out on the right side of the argument; for the people of Egypt and democracy, a complete contradiction to the United State's policy toward Egypt for the past thirty years. But, democracy is not winning. Mubarak and the military are winning and the people of Egypt are getting tired and revolution is petering out. Mubarak will simply outlast the opposition. It is more likely that Egypt and us will settle back into that old comfortable sofa of the status quo. Too bad. Things were getting exciting there for a moment. I think Thomas Jefferson said of the French Revolution something like, "a little revolution every once in a while never hurt any country." I have to agree with him.

I've seen a few demonstrations in my life, and I'm not talking about a walk down Market Street in San Francisco. I mean real bloody demonstrations; riots and I did everything I could to stay away from them. I've seen police beat students in a Central Market area student riot. In that same market, I watch executions and I saw the charred bodies of Buddhist monks after they burned themselves in protest for peace. But, it was not Vietnam 1964-65 that I thought of first when listening to the stories of Egypt. I thought first of Limon, Colorado where we happened to stop a few years ago.

Limon, CO is the strangest town I've ever visited, and the eeriest. It was spooky. Limon, a town of about 2,000 people, is located on Interstate 70 about 75 miles from Denver. On that late evening we were hoping to make it to Denver for the night, but out in the middle of nowhere, Limon offered a hotel and a better chance for a longer night's sleep. We were driving from Hays, Kansas, on our way to California after a family reunion, and we had stopped at a Prairie Dog Ranch, that highway billboards had advertised for a hundred miles, that had delayed us and it was getting late. We stopped at the second hotel, The Quality Inn, as we entered the town. In the middle of summer, late July, Colorado was experiencing a bizarre cold weather event; it was below 40 degrees. The radio announced the strange weather. As soon as I got out of the car, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. This place is spooky; dark and dreary, right out of Edgar Allen Poe's poems, tap, tap, tapping on my chamber door. The guy behind the counter suggested we look at the "honeymoon suite" before we made a decision on the room we wanted. He took us there. It was a gaudy single room containing a heart-shaped bed with a red satin bedspread, a mirror on the ceiling, an ornate bathtub on a raised pedestal and a toilet in plain sight in the room. "Give it to you for $50," he said. "No, thanks," I laughed, "do you have anything a little more traditional?" "Are you sure?" he said, "that's really cheap!" He smiled, two front teeth missing among his tobacco-stained front teeth; an eerie smile. I didn't want to be rude, but I was losing patience. "I'm sure," I said as benign as I could. "I think we need something a little more simple." He showed us another room more to our liking, a bed and a separate room for the shower and toilet and no ceiling mirror and heart-shaped bed. I recall thinking that we'd happened into an Alfred Hitchcock movie or Twilight Zone television show. He said we could get something to eat down Main Street at the only place that was open, a saloon/restaurant. "Everybody's there," he said. I was tempted to drive on to Denver. It was getting colder and I was getting more uncomfortable, wondering if the town had a chainsaw or hatchet killer among its citizens or wondering if we were in a Franz Kafka novel in which we could not escape. It came to mind.

As we were told, the saloon was full, but we found a place to sit in a booth, the only seats left, with another couple who lived in Limon. Through the front window we could see three other hotels in the town, one named The Pink Cadillac. And, it was painted bright pink. The hotel next to it was a bright blue. Just more eerie clues to me. We learned from the couple in the booth that the entire town was owned by one man, a rancher. I recall asking, "Do you mean nobody owns their house or business?" "Nope," the woman said, "not a thing. Everyone rents." Well, I don't think I believed that, even though her husband nodded in agreement. But, her stories about Limon didn't settle my nerves about staying the night. Bizarre was normalcy in Limon. Later, I asked the waitress how many people lived in Limon. "As few as possible," she said, and laughed. "They leave as soon as they can. That's normal!" Normalcy.

We stayed the night and I awoke at the slightest noise at least twenty times. The next morning I stepped outside for a cigarette and a man came out of the room next to us. He had a Bible in his hand. After a few comments about how cold it was - puddles had iced over during the night - he asked, "Do you believe the Earth will end?" I recall hesitating, since one never knows where a conversation about that will lead, and I said, "I've heard the stories." "Esau was wrong, you know," he said. "Esau?" I asked. "Yes, Esau was Jacob's older brother and is the father of Islam." "That's interesting," I said, "I don't believe I knew that." I asked him where he was going. "I'm a Mennonite," he said. "We are going to a Mennonite convention in support of world peace." "That's good," I said. "Yes," he said. "We want President Bush to continue his war against Islam." I was surprised that a journey for peace actually wanted war, but I don't think I said anything. I was also surprised that a Mennonite congregation existed. I thought that particular sect had died out long ago. I recall thinking that I didn't need any more portents to know that we needed to get the hell out of Limon. I may have even prayed, "Okay! Okay, God! I got the message! I'm leaving! Keep me safe while I get out of here!"

Since we had decided to drive south to the Grand Canyon, we left Limon driving south-west on two-lane Highway 24 hoping to angle across Colorado to Arizona, and I was really glad to leave Limon. As it turned out, we should have taken Interstate 70, the shortest route out of Colorado. Before we left Colorado, we ran into a half-dozen drenching thunder storms and a mountain snow storm on Highway 160 that forced us to turn back a hundred miles to Alamosa and stayed another night in Colorado. Finally, in desperation, we took Highway 285, a route directly south to Albuquerque, New Mexico, just to get the hell out of Colorado. Later I learned that Limon, CO is notorious for one of the most heinous lynchings in American history. A guy convicted of murdering a woman was tied to a stake and burned to death as punishment in 1900. He burned while screaming for someone to shoot him. But, the town watched him burn instead. I will never drive through Colorado again. I will never stop in Limon again.

Why does Egypt remind me of Limon? Limon was as an oppressive place, to me, as I've ever been. I couldn't imagine living there. I can't imagine anyone living there. But, people do live there and they've adapted and succumbed to their fate or fortune in Limon where, apparently, a local wealthy and powerful rancher controls much of their fate or fortune, even if I don't believe he owns everything. In Limon, everyone would benefit if they controlled more of their own lives. In Egypt all Egyptians would benefit if they were allowed to pursue their own government which, by all indications from reliable sources, appears to be a liberal democracy. We really should let that happen and help it along if we can.

It is now several hours after I wrote the above and the revolution momentum has changed. I guess my powers of prophecy are nil to none. It seems that whatever I say will happen, the exact opposite occurs. Instead of tiring out, the largest crowd to date has formed in Tahrir Square, Cairo, demanding that Mubarak resign. I should sell my prophecies to Las Vegas bookmakers. I'm sure they could bet against me and make millions. That should be worth a million or so to me, don't you think?