Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just put that war on my tab, please...

President Obama plans to give a speech Monday night about military action with NATO over Libya.

I like Obama, but hate that we're still getting ourselves involved in military actions when we have been at war for a decade, with little to show for it but a lot of money spent and people killed and maimed.

I'm not a pacifist. I believe there is a time to fight, and that is when attacked. I believe that in order to hold some sort of moral high ground we go to war when directly threatened and when there is no other recourse. We held that moral high ground after our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, and we invaded Afghanistan to root out Al Qaeda and their protectors, the Taliban. We lost the high ground when political neocons and George W. Bush lied us into a major war in Iraq.

Deposing dictators like Saddam Hussein seemed like a good idea at the time, but at what total cost? And will we still be paying for trying to depose a dictator like Gaddafy 10 years from now? Will future historians deem it worth the money and lives?

So our NATO allies, including some mideastern states like Qatar, are helping us enforce a no fly zone over Libya. Will they be bearing the brunt of the cost, or will we American taxpayers just put it on the tab, where we've put so much else?

My mind was blown when I saw that three B2 Stealth bombers flew from the United States in a 36-hour roundtrip flight to bomb Libya. How much did that cost? I was also astounded to hear that the first day of the campaign we shot 112 missiles from our ships into Libya, at a cost of about one million dollars per missile. What did the missile attack accomplish, and was there cost effectiveness?

I can't believe that so few people seem to worry about the costs of all this military action, especially when they're bawling their eyes out over every other expense the United States government incurs. They scream "Socialism!" and have a fit when it's suggested that government might help pay for medical care. My immediate thought is if the government pays for wars, why can't they pay for universal health care? My guess is that you could put every American on an insurance plan, paying the full cost of their healthcare, and it still wouldn't equal the costs of mounting a military campaign against another country.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ms Yak's yakety-yak

I got a note in my e-mail from Ms Laaibah Justin Yak, a woman I don’t know, but who has reached out to me to help her. Not only am I this African woman’s “Beloved One,” she was led to me by her prayers! I have to admit, I wouldn’t have thought of that as a come-on to bunco.
” Though you may wonder why I am so soon revealing myself to you without knowing you, well, I will say that my mind convinced me that you are the true person to help me.”
Like Mr. Amarachi’s entreaty to me a few weeks ago, I guess I’ll have to let this golden opportunity pass me by. I don’t respond to pleas which come via the Internet. I'm surprised to see these con games still being played; I thought everyone got wise to them a couple of years ago.

If Ms Yak did contact me via her prayers I’m perturbed with God for giving out my e-mail address.
Beloved One,

Let me first introduce myself to you, I am a citizen of Sudan but currently staying in Burkina Faso. My name is Laaibah Justin Yak, 22 years old originated from Sudan. I got your E-mail address/profile through my internet search from your country national chamber of commerce when I was searching for a good and trust worthy person who will be my friend and I believe that it is better we get to know each other better and trust each other because I believe any good relationship will only last if it is built on truth and real love.
My father Dr. Justin Yak Arop was the former Minister for SPLA Affairs and Special Adviser to President Salva Kiir of South Sudan for Decentralization. My father Dr. Justin Yak and my mother including other top Military officers and top government officials had been on board when the plane crashed on Friday May 02, 2008.. You can read more about the crash through the below
After the burial of my father, my uncles conspired and sold my father’s properties to a Chinese Expatriate and live nothing for me. On a faithful morning, I opened my father's briefcase and found out the documents which he have deposited huge amount of money in one bank in Burkina Faso with my name as the next of kin. I travelled to Burkina Faso to withdraw the money so that I can start a better life and take care of myself.
On my arrival, the Branch manager of the Bank whom I met in person told me that my father's instruction to the bank was the money be release to me only when I am married or present a trustee who will help me and invest the money overseas. I have chosen to contact you after my prayers and I believe that you will not betray my trust. But rather take me as your own sister. Though you may wonder why I am so soon revealing myself to you without knowing you, well, I will say that my mind convinced me that you are the true person to help me.
More so, I will like to disclose much to you if you can help me to relocate to your country because my uncle has threatened to assassinate me. The amount is $5.6 Million and I have confirmed from the bank in Burkina Faso. You will also help me to place the money in a more profitable business venture in your Country. However, you will help by recommending a nice University in your country so that I can complete my studies.
It is my intention to compensate you with 10% of the total money for your services and the balance shall be my capital in your establishment. As soon as I receive your interest in helping me, I will put things into action immediately. In the light of the above, I shall appreciate an urgent message indicating your ability and willingness to handle this transaction sincerely. Please do keep this only to your self.

Sincerely yours,
Laaibah Justin Yak

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I'm still walking down memory lane. Here's another of my work stories, with some editing, originally posted May 22, 2007:

I walked into the office of a junior high on my school route yesterday. One of the secretaries told me, "Don't look over at Debbie's desk. There's a kid being sick." Human nature being what it is I had to look. Debbie was typing, which is what I usually see her doing. There was a boy on his knees leaning over her trash can, vomiting.

The girl who told me not to look was grimacing, as was the other girl across from her. They are both young women who don't have children. Debbie, on the other hand, is a mom, so a kid barfing is nothing new to her. Nor should it be in any school. You've got to expect things like that.

Once I talked to a secretary who couldn't stand the sight of blood. I said, "How can you be a school secretary when kids are coming up to you all the time with cut fingers or waving a bloody stump of an arm?" She said, "I ask someone else to put on a Band-Aid." She told me she had five children, so I asked how she survived their upbringing. She said, "If my husband wasn't home I'd call the neighbor to come over and put on the Band-aids."

So entering a school you never know what you'll see. Custodians tell me kids sometimes shit on the floor, and vomiting is common. What the hell are these kids eating that makes them little puking machines? I haven't thrown up twice in the past 20 years, much less twice a week like some of these kids. Or could it be…stress? For some kids just the thought of school, taking a test, or being late with an assignment is enough to cause last night's dinner and this morning's Cheerios to make a quick trip backwards through the esophagus.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Now Junior, behave yourself!

It’s been over two years since I retired from my job, driving a route for a large school district. I’ve been going through my archives, bringing back memories of what things were like as a working guy. With a few changes, here’s a posting from May 27, 2007:

A bad little kid moved into my neighborhood
He won't do nothing right just sitting down and looks so good
He don't want to go to school and learn to read and write
Just sits around the house and plays the rock and roll music all night
Well, he put some tacks on teacher’s chair
Puts some gum in little girl's hair
Now, junior, behave yourself

The other day I walked into an elementary school during an assembly for parents. In the office the principal was pushing a kid, maybe a 5th or 6th grader, onto a chair. She told the secretary, "He's not going to ruin this for everyone else." I assume she meant he had been acting up in the assembly.

I've seen this kid in the office of that school before. I've seen his mom and dad in the office with the principal. Apparently this kid is the school hell-raiser. The office staff just shake their heads, but the custodian told me once he had taken a dump on the boy's room floor. Sounds like a kid who has some problems.

As I was leaving I noticed he was sitting with his arms folded in front of him, his lips set into a thin line, and his eyes were straight ahead, not on anything in particular. I don't know what a child psychologist would call this body language, but to me it says defiance.

Going tell your mama you better do what she said
Get to the barber shop and get that hair cut off your head
Threw the canary and you fed it to the neighbors cat
You gave the cocker spaniel a bath in mother's Laundromat
Well, mama's head has got to stop
Junior's head is hard as rock
Now, junior, behave yourself

I don't speak to students. It's a policy I've had for 30 years, and unless I'm asked a direct question I just keep my mouth shut. This kid, though, I wanted to tell him in as direct a manner as possible: "You can't win."

The deck is stacked against rebellion, defiance of authority, in the school system, in society in general. Some inner programming in some kids makes them kick against the pricks, though. I could tell the kid that, but it wouldn't work. It never does. You've just got to hope they get smart early enough, so that everyone won't give up on them, because that's what happens. Then the real trouble begins.

Bad boys, bad boys
Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do
When they come for you

When you were eight
And you had bad traits
You go to school
And learn the golden rule
So why are you
Acting like a bloody fool
If you get hot
You must get cool

For several years part of my route included one of the kid jails in our county. I call them kid jails but they're official "detention centers" or some other euphemism. But really they're jails for youthful offenders. The worst was a secure, lockdown facility out in the middle of a field, fed into by a single road. If a kid were to go over the wall from that facility he'd be easily picked up because of the distance he would have to travel to get anywhere. I called that one the Young Murderers Program.

A few years ago they were holding a 16-year-old who had invaded the home of a 40-year-old woman, beat her, raped her, kidnapped her, drove her in her own car to the shore of the Great Salt Lake, stripped her nude and left her. This was in the middle of December, too. You can't throw a kid that age into prison, but what he did was so bad he belonged there. So they put him in the youth offender program until he was old enough to go to prison. I was talking about him with a school custodian who told me he'd known the kid when he was five-years-old. He said, "If I was ever to pick a kid who would end up in prison, it'd be him." You've got to feel sorry for the teachers and counselors who tried and failed to reach that boy during his growing up years. You also wonder if there came a point where they all looked at him and said, "We've done all that we could, now just go on out and do your thing and we'll see you when they stick the needle in your arm on your execution day."

I looked at the defiant kid in the chair in that elementary school and wanted so bad to tell him what I had to say: You just can't win. No matter how many times you show hostility to authority or act out against your family or society you just can't win. It's not the way our system works. Wise up now, kid. Pay attention.

But what I did was what I always do in that situation: walk out without saying anything, let the professionals handle him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All politics is vocal

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill is author of the famous quote, "All politics is local." My brother-in-law had a letter to the editor published in yesterday's local newspaper about a local political matter:

Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill into law (to take effect July 1, 2011), which would close off public access to electronic communications between lawmakers. The media in my area has been all over this. The Salt Lake Tribune had an editorial the other day titled, "Herbert sells out," where they blamed him for signing the bill because of threats from right-wing tea party types to replace him as a candidate for governor in the next election.

Herbert had been lieutenant governor under Governor Jon Huntsman, who left office to become ambassador to China at the request of President Obama. Huntsman, a Republican, accepted the job because of his experiences in China helping to run his father's company, and because he speaks the language. He's resigning his post, and whether he'll return to Utah or not is an issue. He's bought a house in the D.C. area, and speculation is he'll enter the race for president in 2012.

My brother-in-law is following up on the "Herbert sells out" editorial, which stated "people will have to stiffen [Herbert's] spine" with his joke about a bamboo backbone. I'm used to Randy's approach, which is to speak his mind clearly and forcefully, but the Tribune editorial uses much stronger language than I'm used to from that newspaper. It calls Republican Herbert "weak-kneed" and a "political hack." The newspaper accuses him of being fearful that he will be ousted by the tea party fringe of the party, unable to run for governor in 2012 if he capitulates on the bill. The editorial says he "sees no percentage for himself in standing up for the interests of the public, only in cowering before his party's extreme right wing." Tough talk. Unlike years past, even being a Mormon in good standing doesn't help him politically. Nor does it help former governor Huntsman, Utah senator since 1976 Orrin Hatch, or former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, also a Mormon, also looking to be president.

In today's Tribune, a self-righteous tea party flack, David Kirkham, described as "a businessman who helped found one of Utah's first tea party groups," says, "We oppose all three." Being a faithful Mormon once meant you were practically a shoo-in. Brother, if you live in Utah, if you're a Mormon in good standing, if you're a Republican and conservative in the most Republican and conservative state in the U.S., and other faithful Mormons, feeling giddy with power over the powerful, come after you, then you're in big trouble.

But we're not exclusive in Utah. This sort of internecine warfare is going on all over the country. Demonstrations against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, another tea party guy, as well as demonstrations all over the country against lawmakers trying to limit the power of the middle class through their unions, is one of the first positive steps I've seen in beating back right wing goons who are attempting to hijack our government for their own narrow-minded ends.

My local politicians worry about not getting elected because of the tea party, I worry about tea party candidates being elected and doing mischief like Governor Scott Walker. For too long we're allowed billionaires* to control our politics in this country, and we're paying a heavy price. The tea party doesn't really realize how they're being manipulated by powerful people and groups. It's not in their own best interest, but, as I've observed, having a high IQ or a highly developed bullshit detector is not the strong point of most tea party people. Like lemmings, they will follow each other off the cliff. I don't want to be in the crowd heading for certain self-destruction.

All politics is local, but all politics is vocal, too. People have got to speak out against bad politicians, bad policies, and bad people who manipulate the public.


*I'm talking specifically about behind-the-scenes billionaires, throwing their money around in conservative causes: the Koch Brothers, T. Boone Pickens, Richard Mellon Scaife, etc.

Both Jon Huntsman Jr. and Mitt Romney have great wealth. Huntsman's father is billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr., and Mitt Romney is a very successful businessman whose father, George, campaigned for the Republican nomination for president in 1968, after stepping down from a lucrative career as head of American Motors. Orrin Hatch, although I don't have any current figures, is a lawyer/politician who has done all right for himself over the years, also, but is not in the billionaire boys' club, nor is Herbert, who has relatively humble origins compared to the others.

Happy birthday, Mike, Sly, and Ry

It's a big birthday day, today! Mike Love of the Beach Boys is 70; Sylvester "Sly" Stone is 68, and Ryland "Ry" Cooder is 64.

Happy birthday, guys.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Pucker-up for pin-ups

After showing the Russian pin-ups the other day (look just beneath this post), I got it in mind to check out the local American talent. There's just no end to the beautiful girls. Well, there's an end, heh-heh, many shapely rear ends, as a matter of fact! But I digress. Here are some celebrity pin-ups, old and new. Some of these celebrities I couldn't name, but they're all stars to me.

One way to heat up a cold platter is with hot Chili Williams!

The eyes have it...Amanda Seyfried is starring in Red Riding Hood, starting tomorrow. She's probably met a few wolves in her time.

Yes, lovely Lauren, I do know how to whistle. I'm whistling right now, looking at your pulchritudinous picture.

I wonder if Christina Aguilera blows the horn as good as she blew the national anthem at the Super Bowl?

All the guys want to be Lost and never found with Evangeline Lilly.

I'm fonda Jane in this sexy '60s pic!

K-K-Katy, I'll be waiting at the k-k-kitchen door.

Toreador-able Marilyn, with her cape and peek-a-boob, takes no bull from anyone!

and finally, vivacious Veronica Lake.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The hammer and sickle girls

While researching World War II pin-up pictures (and yes, I consider it research), I came across these fabulous pin-up photos, faux 1940s and '50s pin-up girls, from photographer Irina Davis. They are all Russian models, and as Ms. Davis explains it:
Because of the devastation of World War II, Russian “girls” in the ’40s and ’50s were taught to be tough and work hard. I am saddened by the fact that Russia never had the chance to enjoy the happy pin-up times of America’s postwar period. In fact, cheerful American pin-up art was considered in Soviet Russia to be politically incorrect, decadent and flat-out immoral, the product of a culture that could never understand the true nature of the human condition.

By photographing exclusively Russian immigrant women in traditional all-American pin-up poses, I am inventing my own genre of Russian pin-up. My concept is to portray pure beauty, femininity and sexuality, not to objectify but to empower. To those who identify the clues in my work, hidden to most non-Russian eyes, I am telling the story of a crisis of Russian national identity, and the frustration and confusion of self-identification with the Old Country, the New World and a diaspora caught between them. My goal is to bridge the gap and seduce the spectator with alluring imagery, trapping him into empathizing with a foreign element.
As Ms. Davis wished them to do, these photos have "seduced me with alluring imagery, and trapped me into empathizing with a foreign element." There's one chick with a hammer, another with a sickle. My little Русский Влюбленные,* come and keep your comrade warm!

Copyright © Irina Davis 2007-2009

*Russki sweethearts (iGoogle translation)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Who the hell is driving the bus?

All in all, I'd say that school bus driver Ryan Pleune, 33, had a very eventful first day on his new job. It also became his last day on the job.

On Tuesday Pleune, who was once a high school science teacher, but is now--or, should I say, was, a call-in substitute bus driver, picked up some fifth graders after a field trip. He was supposed to take them directly back to school, but made a detour. He decided that it was important for the kids to see the demonstration going on outside the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. The crowd was there to support Tim DeChristopher, who, in December 2008, made bids for oil leases from the Bureau of Land Management as part of a political statement on the environment, then told them he couldn't pay. He was on trial for placing bogus bids, a fraud against the U.S. government.

While that was going on inside, Pleune stopped the bus, had the kids stay inside, then he joined the demonstration.

Naturally, when the school district found out, what was his first call-out as a sub bus driver because his last call-out.

Tim DeChristopher, who made the bogus bids for political reasons, to protest drilling in wilderness areas of Utah, was found guilty today, and faces several years in federal prison. I hope the people who were supporting him outside the courthouse will be supporting him when he gets out of the joint. Waving signs in protest is one thing, but doing something illegal--an act of civil disobedience--is usually a whole other thing that may or may not get you incarcerated. I stay away from prisons and jails, and I think anyone who risks prison for a political point may be brave, but also must be prepared to face the consequences. When you're behind bars the rest of the cons don't care if you want to help the environment.

Good luck to Tim on that.

Daryl Hannah was in town to support him. I don't remember the last time Ms. Hannah was in a movie, but she was decked out like a movie star, which is what the TV news headline called her, "Movie star attends rally for DeChristopher." She wore a hat and sunglasses. Who'll ever forget the Splash she made--yuk yuk--in her big movie, where she played a mermaid with whom Tom Hanks falls in love.

What struck me especially strange about the story of the detoured school bus driver is that the parents of the misdirected students didn't especially care. Denece Vincent, who is PTA president of the elementary school, said most parents who heard of the incident thought it was "no big deal," but they understand the need to enforce district policies when it comes to transporting students. The district definitely forbids anything unauthorized concerning students. Those parents sound a bit mellow to me, and maybe they're lucky the school district is watching out for their kids.