Thursday, June 23, 2005


Lets all take a moment to mourn for our country. Private property rights died today at the hands of supreme court justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Anthony Kennedy. Remember these names. It's entirely possible they'll be as infamous as King George the Third one day.

Speaking of King George, at least he was insane. What are the justices' excuses?

One of the saddest experiences of my life was watching the Louisville Airport Authority seize Highland park and its surrounding neighborhoods over a decade ago. It still smarts. Smaller middle and lower class homes were forcibly taken to "expand" Standiford Field, creating the "Louisville International Airport." (It's a fine example of creative advertising, as the only way you're leaving Standiford Field/LIA on an international flight is in a UPS box.) Except that the expansion never happened. Instead, a few tacky motels went up. The remainder of the area is derelict; the houses gone, the yards overgrown with weeds and the streets filled with dumpings of debris. (I saw a couple of couches there recently, if anyone needs a mid-seventies foldout in need of a little reupholstering.) Yet once this was an historic area of Louisville. Nearly every family has come through Highland Park at one time, or another. It was cheap real estate, and truly "ethnically diverse." In the early part of the century it housed the railroad workers, the immigrants; in the thirties it was home to families moving from farm life to factory work; in the forties it was full of young families saving for their first home. (My mamau grew up there, and went back with her young husband and a couple of babies while waiting for this very house to be built.) In the sixties and seventies it was one of the few places a single mother or a retiree on a fixed income could afford to buy a decent house. The eighties saw the influx of a new wave of immigrants; Korean, Laotian, Vietnamese; as well as refugees from the Soviet Union. Catholic Charities helped place these families in low income housing, and very often, that housing was in the heart of Highland Park.

It wasn't much to look at. Mostly shotgun houses; narrow streets and alleyways. But there was James Russell Lowell school, where both my grandparents had been students. There was the house where my Uncle was born. There was the house my great grandparents lived in. Most disturbing of all, there was the house inhabited by one of my Mamau's relatives. Losing her lifelong home in her final years almost certainly shortened her life.

It was bad enough when the government could take your home for a public work. (I'd suggest further reading on the "Land between the Lakes" and the "Land between the Rivers" for your edification. I get too angry when I talk about it, I tend to use bad language and villify John F. Kennedy. People get nasty when you speak ill of the dead. Suffice it to say, families who had owned their land since before the American Revolution, were tossed out. Their homes burned, their belongings stolen, sold to tourists, or destroyed. People died. And this happened in our lifetime, under the guise of creating 'public space' for hunting and fishing, as well as more tax revenue. Except the tax revenue never materialised, and the area still doesn't financially support itself. I guess people have better places to go fishing. )

But as horrible as the above examples are, things got worse today. Infinitely worse.

Imagine it. Your home brings in say, 800.00 a year in taxes. That same property, commercially zoned, could be worth three times that in tax revenue, to say nothing of the economic impact of additional job revenue. THERE IS NOW NOTHING TO PREVENT THEM FROM SEIZING YOUR HOME, AND GIVING IT TO A BUSINESS/DEVELOPER/CORPORATION. That's what this decision means. You no longer own your own home. You have it conditionally on the sufferance of your local government, and if they so choose, they can take it. For any reason, or no reason at all.

You know, even Mad King George limited his tax-seeking to import tariffs. He didn't come after the privately held houses, farms, and businesses of the American colonists. And the last time somebody got tax-happy and infringed upon our liberty, we had a little revolution. Maybe we need another one.

Some links for the curious:

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Something worth doing

If you haven't seen this already, check the link. If you can spare some money, please do. The family needs help keeping this woman on life support long enough to bring her baby to term.

And whether or not you can donate, please add this family to your prayers tonight.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Some people shouldn't breed

I pity the poor boy who had to be locked in a basement to protect him from a vicious animal. I wonder what prompted him to come out, and meet his death at the jaws of that animal.

But mostly I wonder how his mother can live with herself. And I'm angry. Very, Very, Terribly angry.

My former in-laws were big dog people. They raised, trained, and showed them for fun and profit. I once saw a picture of my ex husband as a toddler, with chew marks healing on his face. I asked my mother in law about it and she was casual. "Oh, Jody was playing with the dog and he got too rough." Imagine my surprise that she blamed the child. Imagine my shock to learn she'd kept the animal even after it chewed up her baby. But she was insistent; the dog was not at fault, her son was. He didn't know any better, but he was at fault. She even laughed about it; joked that it might be why her son never warmed up to the idea of dog ownership.

I must say I can't blame him.

A dog is a pet. It can be beloved, it can be a part of your family. But it is never, ever equal to your child. And if your dog eats your baby, maybe you ought not to have that dog anymore, hmm? Just a thought.

That mother in the article I linked up there? Is no mother at all. She isn't fit to bear the name. "Mother" is not some hereditary title, it is a job description. She wasn't doing her damned job. And her son died for it.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


You gotta go read this :

I just stumbled across this brilliant site purely by accident, following one link and then another, from page to page. And I'm entranced. It's long, it's wordy- and it's right on target. Why we're the good guys. What's wrong with people who can't recognise the good guys anymore. And everyday miracles we've grown too familiar with, to recognise as such.

My favourite section is below:

"As an exercise in perspective, let’s briefly compare our civilization to another. Let’s compare our supposedly soulless, banal, hum-drum society to the splendors of ancient Egypt.

And let’s tie both hands behind our backs while we do so. Let’s not compare the Great Pyramid to one of our skyscrapers, or airports, or hospitals, or even our shopping malls. Let’s take a moment to compare the Great Pyramid of Cheops with the most common and drab and ordinary structure on the block: The Great Pyramid vs. the 7-11.

Assume that we could transplant a corner 7-11 to the Egyptian desert, with all of the support systems that make it what it is. It is a tiny speck compared to the gleaming white marble sides of the pyramid. It looks small and poorly made. From afar.

Pharaoh comes by barge and litter to inspect the competition, laughing at the mismatch. He and his princes and a retinue of servants approach the plain, unadorned metal doors and step inside.
By the Gods! It is cool inside! As cool as the desert night, here, in the middle of the relentless day! Outside the servants sweat and minor officials fan themselves, but Pharaoh is, for the first time perhaps, comfortable in the middle of the desert sun. He turns to exclaim this wonder to his underlings, and -- By the Ghost of Osiris!! The walls! You can see right through them!

Ten seconds into the contest, and already Pharaoh has been rendered mute by miracles.

He commands endless lines of bucket-laden servants to throw water upon this transparent wall, flinching and then laughing endlessly with his children as the water stops in mid-air and slides to the ground. It is called, glass, Great King. It’s cost? No, hardly a years harvest. It is a trifle, the cost a nuisance should it need replacing.

After an hour or so of pressing hands and faces against the glass, of running inside and out, of feeling the smoothest surface they have ever experienced, Pharaoh reluctantly moves on to the magazine rack. Glancing at one, he recoils in horror, making a sign of protection against evil. There, like a tiny row of jail cells, sits face after face of imprisoned souls, bound into small rectangles. What else can they be? We have all seen Egyptian hieroglyphics: they are entrancing, but photorealistic they are not. How many monuments, how many man-years of backbreaking labor, how many deaths could be averted for a man obsessed with being remembered, if only Pharaoh had been able to be photographed? Immortalized! Captured with a precision and nuance greater than that of all of his artisans working together for a thousand years?

And there, on the rack beside the magazines: newspapers, pictures and text detailing the most significant events across the entire globe, covering an area that makes the Egyptian empire look puny and insignificant. How to explain to a king who must wait weeks or months or even years for critical information that each bundle of paper contains news no later than a day old from every remote corner of the Earth, and sells for about a tenth of what our most poorly paid laborer makes in a single hour? Now he begins to think we are mocking him. Yet there is much more to vex and amaze Cheops.

Toilet paper. Draw your own picture of what the highest-born Egyptian must do in those circumstances. Down the aisle to the back – wonders on either side. And then: Ice.

Likely Pharaoh has never seen ice, let alone touched it. At first he recoils, thinking he has been burned. You grab a handful, and gesture for him to put a cube in his mouth. Pharaoh grows enraged – you are trying to kill him! You do so first, sucking on an ice cube. Tentatively, he tries, for the first time in his life, something cold – a diamond that turns to perfectly pure water in his hand.
Think, for a moment, that you have drunk river water for your entire life. Think what a taste of cool, clear water would taste like. Just imagine that one, garden-variety wonder. Then beers and wines, refined and brewed and filtered, not the murky swill he will have known. And as Pharaoh hesitates with each can and bag and box of food he opens, you will have to reassure him, time and time again, that even though you have no idea where the food was made, or when, or by whom, you know it absolutely to be safe to eat. Corn flakes and potato chips – how many lives would a bag of Ruffles be worth to this man, he who has never seen, let alone tasted a potato? How many men would Pharaoh send to die to obtain another box of Oreo cookies for his sons? An army? An entire fleet? Cans of ravioli. Peanut butter. Eggs and milk, of course, but of a quality and size unheard of.

Grab a frozen lasagna and hand it to the Great King. Frozen, like a brick, and like a brick he gnaws on it. Delicious! Then across the room to a small black box, which opens with the same magic lantern that lights this palace of wonder day and night. A moment of conversation passes, and Ding! What was frozen is now steaming hot! Without fire, and in an instant!

The Princes have been exploring every nook and cranny, reporting back to their father: In back, water which flows endlessly, purer than any they have ever tasted, and some of it is hot! It flows from the walls, father! A stream unending! Behind the counter, scores of small, beautifully-colored cylinders which make fire! Made of – what? Not wood or metal – something smooth and hard and perfect! Soaps, of wondrous scents and soft as pillows! Father! Come and see this!

But Pharaoh hardly notices. He is staring up at a box mounted in the corner of the wall, and there, for the first time in his magnificent life, Pharaoh can see…Pharaoh!

Cheops raises his arm, and the small shwabti Cheops raises his! Pharaoh advances, makes a face! The imprisoned Pharaoh does the same! And there, in one of the four corners! The back of the slave Pharaoh’s head! And in another small square, the Crown Prince! He is not in the room, and yet Pharaoh sees him plainly! When he emerges from the storeroom Pharaoh hugs him as if he had returned from the dead.

Yes King, we can on such boxes see any event of significance around the entire world, as it happens. And we can see singers and minstrels and performers – not only those alive today, but those who may have died many years ago! Yes, as real as any other! Preserved forever in language and form!
What would that be worth to such a man?

Over there, in a corner, another magic tablet that communicates back to you, and upon following a set of instructions you give it, disperses money at your command, a seemingly bottomless pot of gold (although, it must be said, the only flash of disappointment Pharaoh has shown was for the quality of money – gold coins would have made a much better impression.)

The sun is setting, and yet the magic of the palace grows ever stronger. Light does not fade. Having read by candlelight his entire life, the idea of day during night is powerful magic indeed. The princes have fallen silent. They have discovered the Slurpee machine and mortgaged their birthrights, entire kingdoms to the clerk for another refill.

There, behind the counter: a machine that will do mathematical calculations to eight decimal places, flawlessly. Instantly. There sits a machine that can do in five seconds what it would take an entire court of astronomers and scribes five years to calculate. The eyes of the underlings, the Egyptian bureaucrats who must count and account for everything in the kingdom – by hand – begin to glaze over. What they could do in a single day with such a wonder! But Pharaoh now is transfixed by the metal of the countertop. Hard. Very hard. On impulse, he removes his short bronze sword and hacks at the steel. Impervious. Cheops’ prized sword is dented and useless. What a sword and shield such material would make – and it’s everywhere: in the doors, the cabinets…common as sand.
But Pharaoh is no longer happy. Like many of that era, he suffers from terrible toothaches. There is so much sand that even the grinding of flour produces bread that erodes the tooth enamel. Pain is a constant companion for him, and like many of his age – like many of every age, before our own – he suffers in silence. That is his life. This, the most powerful man on the planet, suffers just like the poorest. But here, in this bland, ubiquitous convenience store, there is mercy for rich and poor alike. Cold medicine. Medicines to reduce fever. Medicines for toothache, too. And medicine for pain.

In fifteen minutes, this Great Pharaoh will know a few moments free of pain. His children, whom he loves as we love our own – also free of pain.
What would the most powerful man in the world give for such a thing? How much gold? How much land? How many lives?

The pain subsides. And although perhaps not a good or a wise send off for a man with a toothache, the transcendental look of joy on Pharaoh’s face when he first encounters a Coke and a Snickers bar is a sight that his children will never forget. Even after he is long dead, they will always remember him thus, as they ride toward the river on the dark night of the new moon, the little palace glowing in the dark like a beacon visible for fifty miles and more.

Now, on the other hand, the Great Pyramid of Cheops is a massive, beautifully decorated and cunningly designed pile of stones.

We live in an age of miracles, and we just don’t see it. "

He's right. We're so blessed, and yet we don't even notice it, so commonplace are these modern wonders of the world.