Thursday, March 31, 2011

For the second time, the Subversive Librarian gets to know her neighbors a little better.

They say that God never gives you more than you can handle. That, dear readers, is a crock. As a crusty old-timer used to say in meetings, the asylums and prisons are full of people who got more than they could handle. And he's right. But I do believe this: the universe won't give me more than I can handle for one day without a drink or a drug.

Some time between 7 p.m. last night and 8 a.m. this morning, my car disappeared.

At first it was more of a curiosity than an event, like losing my phone. We went outside to leave for the day, my kid and I, and she asked me, "where's the car?" And we looked on the street and in the carport and there was no car. So then I said, "where's the car?" We walked to the end of the driveway and looked up and down the street. Maybe it rolled away.

And then I started trying to think of all the places we could have left the car. I mean, I do lose stuff, you know? Often the last five minutes before I leave for work are spent pacing from room to room and back again, trying to find my keys. Maybe the car is in my other coat.

It didn't take long to consider all the other places we could have left the car (there being none) so I called the police.

All day long, it seemed like the car must be right there and we just weren't seeing it. Maybe it popped into a parallel universe for a holiday. It'll be back.

But no, the bottom line is this: some fucking asshole stole my car.

The cop told me it was probably the work of a professional, since I still had the only key and there was no broken glass or signs of a break-in. I have this sinking feeling that Clarence the Car, who was born way back in 2003, is by now just a little bigger than a breadbox, all squished and scrunched into a dandy hunk of scrap metal.

There was some stuff in the car, although nothing of great value: clothes for the dry cleaner, a wedding dress from the thrift shop (for a costume), probably a book or two. But what really pisses me off is the five big bags of cat food I had in the trunk. It was my regular brand, and Kroger had marked them down to less than half the regular price so I bought 'em up. I stored them in the trunk because my house doesn't have enough closet space. And now they're gone. And I'm almost out of cat food.

I might wish bad things upon the thief tomorrow; the numbness is starting to wear off. But tonight I'm just gonna go to bed.

Fucking, fucking assholes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yeah, well, some of us "latte liberals" are pretty damn tired, too...

Thanks to Cuppa with Candace, who recently posted a response to a fairly typical right-hawk kind of essay entitled "I'm 63 and I'm Tired," about how terrible it is that conservatives have to pay their fair share in taxes while we lefties undermine the American way of life and Completely Ruin Things For All Future Generations. In this particular case, the poster is one Robert Hall, a Marine veteran who served in the Massachusetts legislature for five terms. I certainly appreciate his dedicated service, both in the military and for his home state. But that doesn't make him right. I'm reprinting Candace's response below; I would add the following points:

  • I'm tired of being told that when corporations with near-perfect information and superior bargaining power join forces to lower wages, eliminate regulations, reduce benefits, and send jobs overseas, that's patriotic, free-market capitalism; but when employees respond by negotiating wages and work conditions collectively through unions, it's Marxism.
  • I'm tired of being told that when a public employee accepts a lower wage than she could earn in the private sector, in exchange for job security and retirement benefits, and then does that job for 30 years even if it sucks, she's a lazy good-for-nothing bureaucrat who has a lot of nerve expecting the state to fulfill its contract.
  • I'm tired of being told that government can't do a single thing right, and that only the private sector will provide quality products and service, by people who have apparently never had to deal with Comcast or AT&T customer service.
  • And I'm tired of hearing the chant of "WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?" to justify splitting up families and denying basic human rights to children.

Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. No doubt everyone's list would be different. Feel free to add your own points in the comments.

Here is Candace's post, with permission:

“I’m 57, and I’m Tired, Too”

By Candace Van Auken

     I’m 57. Until I became disabled in 2001, I worked hard at different jobs, routinely putting in 50 to 70-hour weeks. I did call in sick some days as my inflammatory arthritis worsened, but my employers just patched me through to meetings via telephone — there being no rest for the weary white-collar employee. For years, I made a very good salary, and I didn’t inherit my job or my income. In fact I had to work twice as hard to make 3/4 the salary of the average male employee. Now, given the economy and my disability, I’m probably going to end up living under a bridge, and that thought makes me feel both scared and tired. Very tired.

     I’m tired of being told that I’m a parasite when I spent many years paying taxes and Social Security. (I noticed, one year, that according to a newspaper article, I was paying three times the amount in taxes as a politician who earned twice what I did. Unlike him, I paid my fair share.) I was told by the government that I had worked for my Disability insurance, but according to people lucky enough to have never been seriously ill, I’m a drain on society. I’m tired of being told that conservative congressmen will take the money I paid in, and give it to the most obscenely profitable industry in the world — the oil companies — as “subsidies” necessary for “the creation of new jobs.” (It’s a fact: As oil companies profits have risen, the number of people they employ has decreased, a reality that apparently doesn’t trouble conservatives.)

Photograph of member from the Westboro Baptist Church at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, on the day of Pope Benedict's address to the UN General Assembly. Original photograph by David Shankbone. URL:
     I’m tired of being told that Christianity is a “Religion of Love,” when frequently I can read dozens of stories about members of the Westboro Baptist Church calling Catholic priests “vampires” and the daughters of our current president “satanic spawn…of a murderous bastard.” The Supreme Court just upheld the group’s right to stand outside the funerals of military heroes holding signs that say, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The group launched a Web site called “Priests Rape Boys,” and they don’t just save their venom for Roman Catholics. They have claimed that Orthodox Christians are indistinguishable from Catholics, and they also criticize Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and other Baptists. After a 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Chine, the group issued a press release thanking God for the number of people who had lost their lives, and in 1996 they protested at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. saying, “Whatever righteous cause the Jewish victims of the 1930s–40s Nazi Holocaust had…has been drowned in sodomite semen.” And in case you haven’t figured it out, yet: They are just as “typical” of Christianity as Al-Qaida is of Islam.

     I’m tired of being told that out of “Tolerance for Free Speech and Freedom of Religion” we must look the other way when conservative politicians encourage the murder of gay people in Uganda or aggressively proselytizing American Christian missionaries offer to rebuild areas of Sri Lanka devastated by a tsunami only if the homeless and destitute residents abandon their faith and convert to Christianity. (And when Sri Lanka’s government complained, the Bush administration threatened to cut off aid and credit to the country.)

     I’m tired of hearing that American workers must lower their standard of living and give up the right to bargain collectively as union members in order to slow the number of jobs being shipped overseas. Ending up with a living standard comparable to Bangladesh has never been part of the “American Dream.”

Prohibition era poster
     I’m tired of being told that that we can “Win the War on Drugs,” when it is obvious that the millions we pour into it are working just as well as Prohibition did in abolishing the sale and consumption of alcohol. And I am tired of being treated like a criminal whenever I go to buy OTC Sudafed at my local drug store. Are middle-aged, chronically ill women with stuffy noses the leading edge of a new crime wave?

     I, too, am tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I’m tired of people with a bloated sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

     I’m really tired of people who don’t take responsibility for their lives and actions. I’m tired of hearing conservatives blame “big government” or “reverse discrimination,” for all their problems.

     Yes, I’m sick and I’m tired. But I’m also glad to be 57. Because, maybe, I’ll live long enough to see people catch onto the many ways that conservative Republicans pretend to serve US citizens while actually doing the bidding of the large international corporations and interests that fund them. I sure hope so.

Candace Van Auken is a middle-aged woman disabled by autoimmune diseases, who was mightily ticked off by Robert A. Hall’s essay — now going the e-mail rounds — “I’m 63 and I’m tired.”
There is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on! This is your chance to make a difference.

Photo credit:

Copyright © 2011 by Candace L. Van Auken. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let's hear it for the kids!

For a long time I've been troubled by the way we educate children in this country - so much so that I pulled my own kid out of school for kindergarten and sixth grade. I've never regretted either of those decisions, even though my attempts at homeschooling were profoundly flawed at best. My kid never spent a single day in public middle school, and that, to me, is worth everything.

Our educational system -- and here, I mean to include both private and public schools as a whole -- has, for the most part, devolved into a means of warehousing children and training them to take tests inexpensively and with a minimum of fuss. Don't get me wrong -- I think teachers are grossly underpaid considering the importance of the work they do, and they need a whole lot more support from parents, school administrators, and, well, everybody. But most teachers, like most Americans, have bought into an outdated educational model that is better suited for training a productive, well-conditioned, compliant workforce than actually raising up an innovative, inspired citizenry that can solve this gargantuan mess we're so busy making for them to clean up.

Which is why I'm happy to recommend Susan Engel's wonderful editorial appearing in today's New York Times. Engel looks at a project that allowed high school kids to develop their own curriculum, with a minimum of guidance. The results are encouraging, to say the least.

Kids aren't fungible, one-size-fits-all workers-in-training. They're creative, inspiring, thoroughly exasperating little boogers that do their best when they're given boundaries instead of rules; guidance instead of instructions; discipline instead of punishment; and above all, unconditional love. Inconvenient? Yup. But who said this stuff was supposed to be easy?

Give children permission and support to fly, and fly they will; usually in quite the opposite direction of where we pointed them. But then, that's where the best new ideas are usually found.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On doing something about Libya

Okay, I confess. I know very little about the situation in Libya, having been steeped in state politics, where our intrepid representatives are taking care of really important things like debating the value of daylight saving time and making sure future presidential candidates were really born in the United States.

So I haven't kept up with the intricacies of Middle East policy and current events. About all I know is that people are fighting for self-governance, and many are dying for their cause at the hands of a brutal dictator.

Through it all, I've heard a pretty constant undercurrent of noise from the media aimed at the Obama administration: "For God's sake, do something! Establish a no-fly zone. Send soldiers to help the rebels. But don't just sit there!"  They're compelling sound bites, to be sure, and I was about ready to get on the bandwagon myself.

It's never a good idea to make big decisions without hearing all sides. This morning, Maureen Dowd lays out some excellent arguments for proceeding cautiously in Libya -- accompanied by some really satisfying jabs at Paul Wolfowitz, who was Bush II's Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005.

So I'm turning in my I-Know-What's-Best hat for now, and leaving the hard stuff to President Obama and his capable administration.

After all, Obama was born in the United States and everything.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Shout-Out to "My Fabulous Disease"

Just wanted to acknowledge an important milestone for My Fabulous Disease. This terrific blog, written by activist Mark King, is one year old! Full of wisdom and humor, Mark's blog gets more hits in one day than mine has gotten in the five years it's been going. But as long as he lets me go postal on him every now and then, I'm willing to acknowledge - albeit grudgingly - that he deserves every single bit of his success.

Happy first birthday!